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.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Genesis 50:20

It's been almost a month since I have blogged and it has been quite a month. The more steps we take forward it seems that we have been taking steps backward just as fast or faster. You know that when I first got to my new job I could see quickly how the enemy had created a dysfunctional system. We have made so much progress, and now that we have made progress, the past few weeks, as my boss tells me, "we done made the devil mad." People have been sick, I've had my lower back go out, frustrations are high, it's just nuts.

But I wrote this to my staff this morning. I'm not sure why I am blogging it -- usually when I feel confined to blog something it is because one of you needs to read it....

I'll have to let you translate it into your own situation -- your work, your family, your personal life.... I was going to edit it all so it made sense to the whole world but I'm out of time.

Genesis 50:20 is most likely not a verse you can quote without looking it up. The context is when Joseph’s brothers come back to him years after trying to kill him because there is a famine and they need food. He says:

You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.

On January 11 I told you that this place had been in the midst of spiritual warfare for a long time and that we were not going to let the devil win. I had no idea just how many ways he was going to keep pressuring us or how hard he was going to try. For the first three months we had setbacks as we were making progress as a group, but in the past month we have seen big successes as a group. But now it seems that the last two or three weeks there have been personal attacks: Family and personal issues. Interpersonal challenges. Physical issues and illnesses from the Sr. Leadership team to the houseparents. People in pain, unable to move, throwing up, on medication, unable to breath….

Every time we thought we were making progress something it seems like something held us back. But we we kept pushing forward. So many good things are happening. Do you think that this is the time that the enemy is going to back off? Of course not. He’s amping things up. And the poor guy is still losing.

Last night I was reminded me of the verse above and of the fact that we are involved in spiritual warfare. And I realized that something different this time around. You are not giving up. I am not giving up. We as a team have decided not to let him win.

There have been many times in the past three months that so many of you had good reason to walk away from these jobs. You experienced betrayal, you experienced frustration, but you are HERE….. we are all here… and this time we are NOT going to back down. When I said it on January 11th, I meant it: We are going to be victorious because God wants that — for the saving of many lives!

Hang in there with me. Whatever the enemy intends to do to harm us, God is intending for good to accomplish what is now being done — the saving of many lives.

The words below come from Revelation 12:11 (the end of the book folks — we win!) “And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony,”

We will overcome by the blood of the lamb (Christ’s death is His part, and the most important part) — and the word of our testimony. We have a part too…. we overcome by sharing our testimony of what God is doing in our lives.

I hope this song resonates in your hearts and minds all day long. Read the lyrics. Sing it. Let it become part of who you are. Because we are going to overcome. I can feel it….