Friday, November 17, 2017

Discouraged?


Discouragement is an ugly thing and it can rare it’s head suddenly.   We can be skipping through life feeling like we are on top of things and then BOOM, it’s there.  Feelngs of “oh no, not this again” or “I just can’t deal with this” or “I really don’t want to live today.” become a constant loop in our heads and we wonder how we got here.

One of the things that sets Christians apart from the rest of the world is that we have hope… not just optimistic positive thinking, but hope in the One who promised to give us a future (Jeremiah 29:11)   The trick is remembering this hope when we need it and not letting discouragement win.   

The enemy has several tactics and discouragements seems to be one of his favorites.  If he can get us to believe that hope is gone, then he wins.

There is hope.   God has promised us a future.   Hold on to that and don’t let the enemy win.



Thursday, November 16, 2017

Is it OK?


Last night I was tired.   Really tired.  I had put in three very full days in a row and it hadn’t been a great day.   I had a headache, was troubled by many things, and decided to listen to Christian radio and pray my way home.

Suddenly I heard these words:
This world is not what it was meant to beAll this pain, all this sufferingThere's a better place waiting for me
I had to admit that tears filled my eyes.   I realized that this was the kind of day when heaven sounded pretty good.

Up until my friend Tom died on September 4th I didn’t think about it much, but for some reason that was a turning point for me and I think about heaven more than I used to.  Maybe it was because Tom lived a lifestyle similar to mine …. worked all the time and didn’t pay attention much to his health and he died way too soon.  Suddenly.  Before any of us were ready.

Maybe it was because that was one more person on the other side waiting for me. Since Tommy has gone to be with Jesus, I have missed my dad more too.  I have had several people that have been close to me in the past move on to heaven in the last six months.   This has all made me realize something.

For all of us, unless we die quite young, there is a tipping point where there are suddenly more people we love in heaven than here on earth.  My mom is 88 and she can definitely say that.  That doesn’t mean she doesn’t live life to the fullest here, but she will be ok when she gets to join them.

Secondly, God created us to age and to become less satisfied in our earthly bodies.  The pain, the memory loss, the challenges of daily all increase as we grow older.   I think it is because He wants us to see that there definitely is a better place waiting for us.

I used to think it was kind of morose for people to talk about wanting to die and that it was somehow unchristian.  But there are days when it just may be that it is most Christian of all to long for home.  That’s what God created us to do.  





Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Busy busy busy days

Yesterday was crazy.  I woke up later than planned at 5:15 and got ready to leave the apartment at 6:05.  Was at Planet Fitness by 7:15 for a quick walk (that was actually one of the best I've had in a decade as far as pain management goes) and at a meeting at my Lynchburg office at.  Had a bunch of back to back meetings until 4:30 when I headed to Walmart to buy a bunch of healthy things for my apartment that can fit on my food plan.   If you didn't know this I'm training for a 2.6 mile marathon in March for Do it For The Kids Day.

By the time I got back here I was SO tired I pretty much just sat at my desk and asked people on Facebook for money, check in with Bart about his day and go to bed.. That's kind of what I do these days, especially since my novel is done.  Did you hear that?  I got that sequel written in 13 days.  Now comes the six months of editing.

Anyway, I never had time to blog and I'm sorry about that.

Yesterday in one of those meetings, our CEO began his prayer, which began our meeting, with these words, "Your loving kindness is better than life."  This  verse in Psalm 63:3 says in the KJV "Because thy lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise thee."

Many translations change out the word "lovingkindness" and just substitute it for love.  But the word means more than that.  Even Wikipedia knows that.  It says, "Loving-kindness is a specific kind of love conceptualized in various religious traditions, both among theologians and religious practitioners, as a form of love characterized by acts of kindness."  

It struck me today that I have never really thought about God performing acts of kindness.   But when I started thinking about it, it’s all around us.   Some of them may even be “random acts of kindness.”

He didn’t need to make sunsets and sunrises that are breathtakingly beautiful.   Music wasn’t a necessity but he certainly created that for us.   Colors …. all the hues and variations … were not required for the world, yet he gave them to us.   And I’m just getting started.

It’s an act of kindness every time we get something good that we don’t deserve (we call it grace) or when we don’t get the consequences we do deserve (we call it mercy).  

People that He allows us to meet through our lives are acts of kindness (well, most of them most of the time :-)   Any gift that comes from Him can be interpreted as an act of kindness.


When we recognize this, how can we help but say thank you and have our lips praise him?

I used to own this album.  The word album should tell you something.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Saturday Summary

Once again the week has been a blur!   It started with church, Sunday School, church and lunch out as it typically does.  We were excited that Bart declared Chipotle to be an approved place to eat as it had been on the "no way" list for several years.   I was starting a very regimented food plan that day, so I needed a place where I could eat healthy.  Chipotle has a few options that work with the meal plan.

Monday and Tuesday I had Lynchburg meetings and spent Monday night and Tuesday nights in my Brookneal apartment.  I spent both evenings working on the sequel to the novel which I am trying to write in November.  It's going well and I may finish faster than last year's record which was 19 days.  Wednesday was all day staff meeting which was all about TBRI.

I was able to come home Wednesday night for supper and praise band practice and stayed here on Thursday.   Friday, because of the incredible generosity of an anonymous person who loaned Dominyk for a new vehicle, we headed up to Brookneal to get the vehicle for him and my company car as the October 21st accident still isn't resolved.  I worked up there for most of the day.

Between a fun time job, the fundraiser, my novel, and training for the 2.6 mile marathon in March, as well as helping Bart care for grandkids, it has been a packed week.  Add the countless calls regarding the vehicle situation and I was exhausted by Friday night.  Bart and I had dinner with our friend Betty and her friend Sonja and I was nearly falling asleep at the table.  I was in bed by 8, no lie.   And slept until 5 this morning when I started doing some novel writing.

Bart has been cleaning like a crazy person all day while I've been trying to get as many words written as possible.  

Not sure there is much more to tell.  I'm losing weight and gaining muscle at the trainer's and with the food plan.  I'm a third of my way there on my fundraising goal.  May drive people nuts before it's over.

No plans tonight other than taking care of the grandkids.  

I think I may need a nap.


Friday, November 10, 2017

Aren't You Embarrassed?

Well actually, no.   Nothing embarrasses me much.  I am able to do what I think needs to be done even if it involves people unfollowing me on Facebook or calling me annoying or manipulative.    I obviously have a pretty good sense of self.  Very little embarrasses me any more.

There’s a lot of freedom in getting older.   I remember the day when I cared a little bit about what other people thought….. but the combination of being a clergy spouse with twelve kids with special needs kind of ended that for me.   There hasn’t been a day since we adopted our first older child that one of our children hasn’t done something that makes people question our parenting.

My world view, I recognize, is a bit odd and that many of you may believe that I SHOULD be ashamed of a lot of the things that I do and say.  I’m not like everyone else and it’s OK with me that I’m not.

But here is the deal.   Being unashamed of silly or annoying behaviors, personality quirks, or anything that others think should embarrass me might not be wise.  But there is a context in which being unashamed is key… and that is in our relationship with Jesus.

We can live without shame because God has forgiven us through Christ — we don’t need to carry the shame of the past.

We can live without shame when we do things that reflect God’s heart — when we stand against injustice, fight for the rights of the widow and orphan, love fiercely in Jesus’ name.

We can live without shame when we talk about God’s love for us and his redemptive plan in Christ.   We can boldly declare that truth without shame.

There are times when shame might personally give me some social capital and improve my relationships, but not when it comes to being ashamed of my faith….


As Paul said in Romans, 1:16:   For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes

My challenge for all of us is to live unashamedly today.

Thursday, November 09, 2017

For those of you with big plans....


Are you a planner?   Do you love getting up in the morning and planning your day?  When it comes to trips and vacations, do you have almost as much fun deciding what to do and where to go than you do actually going there and doing it?

If so, you are a lot like me.   I love to plan and I have a pretty good idea that my plans are good ones.

So when I was happily listening to this passage from Luke last week, a passage that I had heard many times, this verse from chapter 14 verse 33, jumped out at me.   
Simply put, if you’re not willing to take what is dearest to you, whether plans or people, and kiss it good-bye, you can’t be my disciple.
WHAT?  I had heard the verse before.  I like it much better in the NIV:
 In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.
Sure, everything is fine.  I’ll give up everything.  But when it’s written another way I’m not so sure!

There are people I could give up, some pretty quickly, but my plans?   Now wait a minute, God.

It took me a while to think through all of this as I rode along in my nice rental car that has to be returned today or tomorrow.     I had to remind myself that God’s plans are always better than mine and that things always work best for me if I’m willing to kiss my own plans goodbye.  

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing


Jeremiah is called the “Weeping Prophet” but it appears that at least for a couple verses in chapter 33 he was able to see things from an optimistic point of view.  In the message verse 16 is paraphrased:

’Dear God, my Master, you created earth and sky by your great power—by merely stretching out your arm! There is nothing you can’t do. You’re loyal in your steadfast love to thousands upon thousands

It is funny how we forget that this God of power loves us and that we have access to Him.  We pray to him, not only because he loves us and listens, but because He has the power to do anything.   There is nothing He can’t do.   Nothing.

Human nature is funny.  So often, we run into a challenge in our lives and we try everything we can think of to fix it.    We ask around, talk to friends, get advice, try one thing, and then another.   When we finally get to the end of ourselves, we pray.

Picture this scene.  I have a daughter who is 4’11” on a good day and her fiancĂ© is at least six two.   They look kinda cute together, but the height difference is sometimes comical.

Imagine if they  standing in the kitchen and Sadie needed something in the top cupboard.    She’s a pretty independent little thing, so she might try and reach it with her own arm, stretching and doing her best to get there, but she’s just too short.   She tries climbing on the counter, but it seems to precarious.   She searches frantically for a stepping stool or something she can use to reach the handle to pull it open.

Meanwhile Matt is standing there, just waiting (which he probably would do according to his personality.)  He knows how stubborn she is, and that he will probably get snapped at if he tries to help.  So he smiles and watches.

Eventually she turns to him and says, “OK.   Fine.  Can you get that plate for me?”

That’s you and me.  We forget that the tall guy is in the room, watching and waiting for us to ask for His help.  He can reach anything, do anything, fix anything.

I think, at least I hope, that as I am getting more mature and more wise, I am learning to ask God for help before I bother with all my other puny attempts.   It seems to make the most sense.


Monday, November 06, 2017

A Lifetime Rehearsal


As usual, on Monday morning I'm still thinking about Bart's sermon on Sunday and often blog about it. I guess you could consider yourself blessed if you don't go to Mt. Vernon that you get a synopsis, because he is really a great preacher.  I'm not even biased.

Yesterday he challenged us to reframe the way we see our time in church on Sunday mornings.   Typically people think that when they go to church it is like a play or a concert.   The congregation is the audience, the pastor and the choir/bell ringers/praise band are the actors, and God is somehow the conductor of it all.   

But yesterday based on this passage, Bart explained it differently.  These are the verses from Revelation 7:9-17 in the NRSV.

After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. 10They cried out in a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!” 11And all the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12singing, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”

13Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?” 14I said to him, “Sir, you are the one that knows.” Then he said to me, “These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15For this reason they are before the throne of God, and worship him day and night within his temple, and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them. 16They will hunger no more, and thirst no more; the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat;17for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

In his sermon, Bart suggested that maybe we have it all wrong.  Worship really means that we are the actors, the prompters are the pastor/choir, etc. and the audience is God.  He asked if knowing that would change the way that we approached worship.

Since it was All Saints Sunday, we were reflecting on those who had gone before us.   He painted a wonderful picture of them in white robes waiting to welcome us so that we could join them in worshipping God.  not getting into all of the end times and prophetical interpretations of the book, he simply suggested that the great ordeal was our earthly life and that for those who have come out of it, the reward is eternity with God.

As he preached I could picture my dad, my friend Tom, and many others who have gone on to heaven standing and waiting to greet me.

If this is the case, then, he suggested, we need to practice that kind of worship.  While we are hear, living through the great ordeal of life, we need to recognize that this is just a sampling of the life to come… a life of worshipping the eternal God.   Our worship on Sunday mornings as well as our daily lives, which are an act of worship.  

The older I get the more people I know who are waiting for me to join them.  The great ordeal becomes more troublesome as we age, part of God’s design, because it makes us long for a the new life that awaits us.

Soon after my Dad died, we were singing this song in church and I could see him in my minds eye, standing with the great crow of witnesses, singing these words.  Powerful.

The great ordeal is just that some days, but I am more determined than ever to let my life be the kind of worship that is a rehearsal for my spot in that choir.



Saturday, November 04, 2017

Saturday Summary for November 4, 2017


Now that I have been faithfully writing Saturday Summaries it seems like the weeks are going by faster than ever!  As usual, it's been pretty crazy at the Fletchers.

Sunday night Bart and I both packed to get ready to leave for a couple of days, but we were going in different directions.  That doesn't happen often.  And Salinda had a friend coming to visit, meaning that she took off four days in a row.  That doesn't happen often either.

Bart was heading to Richmond for a clergy training, and I was Lynchburg, Brookneal, Lynchburg, Brookneal, Lynchburg and Danville bound over three days.   What this meant was that we were both gone for Halloween.  This meant for the first time in 20 years I was blissfully alone on Halloween, except for the 8 kids having a bonfire outside my window.  But they were having fun and I could turn up my music and put on my headphones if I needed to.

Here is one of the pictures that got sent to me that night.  I found it interesting that I was perfectly content to sit in my small one room apartment alone and receive pictures instead of being part of the chaos.  Halloween has never been my favorite.  I've been saying Boo Humbug for years.



The rest of the week is a blur because NaNoWriMo started.  NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month and so I began writing my sequel.  I got up and five that day and was kind of an overachiever, making me quite tired the rest of the week.

I've also been doing a bit of fundraising.  If you are my Facebook friend and haven't stopped following me or unfriended me yet, you know that I'm super motivated to raise money for Patrick Henry Family Services, the agency where I work.   I have somehow managed to make it to 25% of my goal in less than two weeks but it hasn't been without trying hard.  If you haven't seen the page yet, you should check it out.

Part of all this has involved training with a trainer.  I have been three times in the past week and even though I am sore I am seeing a slight difference.   Committing to this has been tricky but having people sponsor me for the fundraiser both for writing my novel and for my training has been super motivating.

In addition, we managed to babysit three extra kids Thursday night.  They were really good up until the last half hour when they started doing loud laps around the parsonage and Bart and I realized that our tolerance level might have shifted over the last twenty years.

Dominyk started a job as a pizza hut delivery driver, which lasted about a week until his truck broke down today.  Hopefully pizza hut has other things he can do besides deliver, or he'll be out of a job again already.

Today Bart and I took a trip to Greensboro, NC for haircuts and grocery shopping.   Now I'm getting ready to do my newsletter and write a bit more on the novel.   All three kids are working tonight.... so it's just Bart and I and the grandkids.   So far it feels pretty quiet.

Thanks for caring about what goes on in our world enough to read it all!



Thursday, November 02, 2017

It Might Be Time....


Check out these verses from Luke Chapter Five 1-7 as paraphrased in the Message:

One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God. He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat.

When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”

Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”

When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.

I love this story because it teaches us that obeying Jesus is a really good idea.  It also teaches us that we never know when it might be time for a miracle.

The disciples were super tired.  They had fished all night and caught nothing and it was time to go to bed.   They had given up.  It wasn’t their night.

But then they obeyed Jesus and suddenly their hard work resulted in so many fish their nets were breaking.

Are you at that moment in your life right now?  Are you feeling like you’ve done absolutely all you can do and it just isn’t going to work?

I talked to a coworker yesterday and she and I told each other stories of the ways that God had opened floodgates this week in a couple of conversations we had had with people.  Neither of us were feeling very positive or very hopeful about things, and then BOOM …. God showed up big time.   And we truly felt as though our nets were bursting with fish.

I just heard this song yesterday for the first time even though it’s been around for a while.  I love this line:

I will stand my ground where hope can be found

Don’t give up hope.   At that very moment when you’ve been fishing all night and caught nothing, Jesus is going to show up.   

And you’ll walk away with more fish than you’ve ever seen.   

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Giants? Mountains? Uncrossable Rivers?


What's standing in your way?   Are you trying to get somewhere and it just doesn't seem like there is any way to get by the obstacles in your path?

There are all kinds of verses in Scripture that metaphorically show us that we can make it past whatever giants are in our way.   Verses like "Nothing is impossible with God."  (Luke 1:37).   Or “if you have faith the size of a mustard see you can say to a mountain "Be cast into the sea" and it will obey you!  Nothing will be impossible for you!"  (Matthew 27:20). 

We can go to Scripture to find stories of huge bodies of water parting, of small shepherds with a few rocks killing a giant, and walls falling down just because somebody marched.

So why do we look at the things in our lives that are small in comparison and feel timid or afraid?  We've got this!   If God is for us who can be against us?  (Romans 8:31).  The question is rhetorical -- because we all know that there is nothing that can overpower God.

So as you start your day today, look at whatever is standing in your way and realize that even though they seem as big as giants, those giants are going to fall because all of God's strength is available to you.