Thursday, May 19, 2016

What's the Motivation?

I now live in a part of the country where rumors and gossip are a way of life. Small town living combined with communal living can read havoc on any church or organization and it pains me a great deal to see the enemy get a foothold in this manner. Very effective strategy it seems.

I want to do some "thinking outloud" by writing this down because I have come to some conclusions and I would love to be argued with if I'm wrong. I'm trying to figure out the motivation of those who would like to make "anonymous reports" about others. What is the point?

First of all, I think I need to own the fact that where I work we have an anxious system, and that makes people fearful of what will happen to them if they report something and use their name. This is a problem. But if we are going to strive to live as Jesus taught, He already gave us clear instructions

Matthew 18 tells us what to do when a brother or sister has sinned: “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over." In reading this it seems to be that the point of "catching" anyone doing anything wrong is to win them over, and this is done by direct confrontation.

So, if I hear or see something that leads me to believe that a brother or sister has sinned, it is my responsibility to go to that person, myself, and confront them. And if that doesn't work, then the next verse says that I go back again and I take someone with me. Nowhere in scripture does it say, "If you think someone is sinning, go ahead and report them and ask to remain anonymous."

Back to motivation... So, if my motivation is not to win the brother over, what could it be?

1) To "rid the organization of sinners." Well, we kinda need employees, so if we are going to get rid of all the sinners, we wouldn't have employees, so we can't get rid of the sinners. So then do we just get rid of the ones who are the "really bad sinners" and not the "kinda bad sinners." I get the idea here, but I also think that Jesus was much more about grace and restoration. He wanted to get rid of sin... not sinners.

2) To prove that I am right. If I think I know what has happened, I can go and expect someone else to investigate, and if they investigate and find out that I was right, then I can be assured of who was telling the truth and who was lying. Unfortunately, the truth is never quite that easy to discover. And, this seems to be a pretty selfish motive.

3) To get someone else in trouble. This seems kind of mercenary to me. What is the joy is watching someone else get punished? If that person is someone you love and care about, then why would you want them in trouble, especially if you could help them to be healed and restored. Which is preferable?

See? I can't figure out the motivation. I assume the best about everyone, so I don't like to think that I may be surrounded by individuals who have the motivations above. To me, the damage that is caused by the rumors, gossip and reporting is more distracting to the mission than any "sin" that has supposedly been committed.

The conclusion that I have come to is that if a person wants to report something anonymously, they care about protecting themselves more than they care about the person that they are reporting about. If self-protection is the goal -- and not the organization, or the church, or the family -- then this all makes sense. But if the goal is living in unity, restoring others to relationship with Christ and others, and the health of the organization, church, or family system in paramount, then protecting myself is not an option.

I long for the day when people around me have the courage to confront and restore one another. I attempt to model biblical confrontation whenever I can. I strive to err on the side of grace, regardless of how much criticism this brings me. My goal is to restore others, not to condemn them. I remember reading about a guy who said once, "Neither do I condemn you -- go and sin no more."

OK, probably way too heavy for a Thursday morning at 8:20, but my thoughts this morning. I stole the quote above from my friend Anita King, someone I do not know well, but someone who has impressed me more by the way she lives her life than most. It comes up eloquently what I'm trying to say.

Friday, May 13, 2016

A Hymn in the Style of "The Message"

Have you ever thought it would be nice to have hymns translated into familiar words like The Message translated Scripture?

Here’s my words for you today! Not perfect, and done quickly, and even though there is no rhyme or tune, here’s how I translated a hymn into words that might make more sense to you.

Hey you…. who are following Jesus ….
you have a very strong foundation on which to build your life!
It’s God’s awesome word!
What else can He say that He hasn’t already said
to those have run to Jesus to be safe and secure?

Don’t be afraid, and don’t get bummed out!
I’m your God and I’m going to help you!
I”m going to give you strength and help you to stand up through anything you face
because my hand — my all powerful hand — will give you grace as I hold you up!

When I call you to walk through rough waters up to your neck
and you feel like your tears have created a river of sadness,
it won’t overflow!
Because I’m going to be there with you to bless you in the hard times
and make sense of your deepest valleys, using them to make you holy.

When it seems like what you’re going through is burning you up
My grace, which is completely enough, will be constantly available to you.
The flames won’t hurt you… I’m just fulfilling my plan
to make you better and stronger like gold after it has gone through the fire.

The person that has leaned on Jesus for rest,
I will not… get that… I will not …. leave to be overtaken by the enemy
That person, even though all of hell tries to mess with them and get them off track
I will never — seriously, I will never…. and I mean never….. leave them.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

The View Beyond the Next Turn

I grew up in Colorado, so this may make more sense to me than to others, but mountain driving in the Rockies involves a lot of trees, a lot of paying close attention the road, and a lot of twists and turns. But often there is one turn that suddenly gives an awe-inspiring view. If you have been on the road before you remember that view that was just around the next bend, but you aren’t sure exactly which corner it is. So you wait for it. You make the turn, and that’s not it. Your focus goes back to the road, to the trees that surround you, and you wait till the next one that seems like it should be it. But that isn’t it either. This can happen multiple times and you’re tempted to get frustrated — and you start to question your memory. But then it happens. Sometimes when you least expect it you turn the corner and see something like picture above.

That’s what I feel like the last three months have been for me. I know that God is working to do amazing things and I know this one last curvy turn will be the one that shows us the view. But I get around that one and realize that there is yet another turn ahead. So I keep going and there’s another turn — certainly this is it, but no.

The important thing though is that I have been down this road before with God and I know that He always comes through. Sometimes when we least expect it, BOOM, it’s there. His handiwork — beyond beautiful — in our lives.

So I’m determined that I am going to keep driving. I’m going to pay attention to the road, I’m going to enjoy the beauty of the trees and rocks around me, and I’m going to wait for it. There is no way that I’m stopping or getting out of the car, I’m just going to keep driving.

I invite you to take this approach with me. Keep driving. Because one of these days, there is going to be a breakthrough and it is going to be “Exceeding abundantly above all we can ask or think.”

You watch, you wait, you’ll see.

Here’s a song by my buddy Steve (OK, so I’ve only met him once, but I’m sure he remembers me and thinks I’m awesome :-)

Thursday, May 05, 2016

I Want Lots of Things

Most of us have lots of things we want. Things like:

1) Basic needs met — food, clothing, shelter etc. times a thousand. :-) We want more than just the basics…. we want the means to be able to have good food, nice clothes, a beautiful home, or at least an adequate one, in the right neighborhood, etc. etc. etc.

2) Stable employment in a meaningful job. We want to go to work and feel as though we are valued and making a difference.

3) We want to be as healthy as we can be so that we can live long enough to see how things turn out for our kids, grandkids, etc.

4) We want our kids, parents, grandkids, etc. to be emotionally, physically, and mentally healthy and spiritually sound.

5) We want to have friends and often a church family where we can fit in and grow.

I was listening to the radio yesterday and heard this great song and it reminded me of Matthew 6:33 which I memorized in the King James Version… Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and ALL THESE THINGS will be added unto you.

All these things — all those things listed above — will be added to us when we seek God’s kingdom FIRST. Instead of trying to get all the stuff above, why not just run for His heart?

Monday, April 25, 2016

30 Minutes of an Ideal Night

Last night I spent two hours in one of our cottages where we house teenage boys. It was not a perfect night. In fact, it was not a fun night at all. I won't go into detail to protect the privacy of our residents, but it was a really bad time. Let's just say it took five adults to get six boys to settle down and go to bed after the troubling event that got them riled up.

But on this perfectly beautiful night I sat with fun people on a porch watching all of the residents on this campus, all boys, play football, ride scooters, and play with each other. There were ten boys ranging in age from 8-18 and for a little over 30 minutes they all got along nicely. The weather was perfect, the grass green, the boys laughing and getting along, the adults joking together. I wanted to stop time and remember that these kind of nights are what it is all about.

I was thinking back to 2004 when my kids were ages 8-18. There were ten of them at that time as well and we spent a lot of time outdoors. We had a membership to an aquatic center and we spent a lot of time at the city park. We had some really great times -- and we had some really not-so-great times.
Ecclesiastes talks about how there is a purpose for everything under heaven. Chinese philosophy calls it the Yin and the Yang. But the bottom line is that in life there is always going to be ups and downs.

I've had a pretty rough week. I have been frustrated with myself. I have not known for sure what to do, but God has very directly given me the message that I need to trust Him. That I need to stop attempting to control things... fix things. My last blog post explained that.

Letting go, shutting up, and trusting God to take care of things is not my specialty. But I'm trying.

And this evening, even though I was tired and didn't say much, I enjoyed watching "our boys" play together. I enjoyed their banter, their hugs, and I'm even getting used to being called "Mrs. Fletcher." I realized that the pain and the crap (figuratively and literally) are all part of the big picture. Without the low times, the high times don't seem as good.

I know this has been a theme in my blog over the years. We have had some really really good times as a family. And we have had some really, really bad times as a family. But we have tried to err on the side of grace and to live, love, forgive and never give up.

I'm learning that this may be the way of life in my job too.

Friday, April 22, 2016

God is God and I am NOT

This has been a rough couple weeks. I am not at liberty to share a single detail, but I ended yesterday feeling like a crazy person. It's hard to even explain it.

But in the midst of it all, a coworker forwarded me a devotional, and I feel like I should share it with you in case some of you are feeling the way I have been the last couple weeks. If it doesn’t apply, be thankful. If it does, pay attention in join me as we try to follow the encouragement found here by Lisa TerKeurst. After telling about a particularly tough day in her life where she heard the words, “Be Still and Know that I am God” resounding in her head, she says this:

I don’t know what hard reality is crushing your heart right now. But I sense I’m not alone. The enemy is on a full-out attack against everything good, sacred, pure and honest. He is the father of lies who wants us to believe that if our circumstances fall apart, then so will we.

But take it from a woman in the middle of my own hard reality: Satan is a liar. God is a Redeemer. A Healer. The Author of hope. The Pathway of restoration. The great I AM.

Right this very minute there are some things you and I must cling and hold to as if our lives depended on it:

1. God loves us and He will not leave us.
2. This battle isn’t ours. The battle belongs to the Lord. Let Him fight for you. Save your emotional energy and use it to dig into His Word like never before. Our job is to be obedient to God. God’s job is winning this battle.
3. The battle might not be easy or short-lived, but victory will be there for those who trust God.
4. God is good even when the circumstances are darker than you ever imagined. God is good even when people are not. God is good even when things seem stinking hopeless. God is good and can be trusted when you feel suspicious of everyone and everything around you.
5. Lastly, God is good at being God. Don’t try to fix what He hasn’t assigned you to fix. Don’t try to manipulate or control or spend all your emotions trying to figure it out. Let Him be God. Free yourself from this impossible assignment.

Be still. And know. He is God.

This is by far one of the most powerful messages I have personally received from God in a very long time. He is clearly saying to me, “I didn’t bring you here to be Me, simply to obey Me."

If you are in the middle of something that is crazy-making, I hope this has been helpful.

Sometimes we all need to be reminded that God is God and we are NOT.

Monday, April 18, 2016

It is the Intention of the Bishop......

It is the intention of the bishop to appoint Rev Bart Fletcher to serve as the pastor of the Mt. Vernon United Methodist Church in Danville, VA.

For the fifth time in my life we have heard sentences beginning this same way and they have signified a major change in our lives.

While I won't go down memory lane too much this morning, we are currently serving our fifth appointment as a married couple -- six very different congregations: a two point charge in very small Minnesota towns, a "Main street" church in a rural county seat town, a college town church in a city of 45,000, a first ring suburb church in a major metropolitan area, and now....much to our shock and surprise... we find ourselves on the border of Virginia and North Carolina in a town that has experienced a great deal of economic depression.

And we couldn't be more thrilled. We love our new congregation! As you know Bart has been serving as the interim pastor in Danville for the past three months. We have grown to really love the church and the people there so we are so excited we get to stay.

Just so you know, people are very surprised at our very happy response, because NOBODY wants to live in Danville. Crime is high, poverty is evident, there are hints of racism, and basically there is no middle class. Industry has left the town and it is a shadow of what it used to be.

But two things remain true: 1) If you want to be the hands and feet of Jesus, Danville is the perfect place to be. and 2) The people who still remain in that city are wonderful people very deserving of a great preacher (who, in case you aren't aware, my husband certainly is).

Most importantly, we are where God wants us. It isn't exactly my first preference in regards to worship style. I'm not thrilled about living an hour and a half away from my husband most of the week. The driving back and forth gets tough. But I know that God wants us here and so all that stuff matters very little in the big scheme of things.

I have to tell you a story. When I first found out about this VERY challenging and EXTREMELY rewarding job and was hired, Bart had no idea what was going to happen to him. For two decades I had followed him from place to place remaking myself wherever we went. But this time he wasn't sure where he was going.

I said to him repeatedly, "God is going to take care of you. He has made it very clear that He wants us in Virginia -- he isn't going to take care of me and leave you high and dry. He's a good, good Father..... that's who He is, that's who He is, that's who He is. I sang that lots of times. I annoyed him.

But I love being right more than anything, and I am basking in my "rightness" to trust God. Our parsonage is bigger than any house we have lived in and Bart loves it. The church is perfect for him.... and the people love us. The town is full of opportunities to minister and we are enjoying ourselves so much.

Once again God has led us to a new place.... And even though this blog post may be more poorly written, you get the point......

He's a good, good Father.... and I am loved by Him. And trusting Him to provide the BEST is ALWAYS the way to go.