Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Where have I been?

I knew it had been a while but didn't know it had been almost two weeks since I blogged.  Sorry about that.  A lot going on.   Let me tell you about it.

1)  Easter.   The picture above is of Gabby, Wilson and Carlos because Wilson was the Easter bunny.  We didn't have anyone extra here, but our worship service was spectacular and we enjoyed those who were here.  Bart cooked an amazing meal which I didn't eat much of because I was leading in a 30 day No Cheat Challenge on Facebook.  I made it thirty days without cheating and lost 6 more pounds.    Posting a picture of everything you eat five times a day is time consuming :-).

(I know I blogged for a couple of days after Easter, but wanted to share this picture above so I threw in something about Easter)

2)  I am in charge of a committee that is having our first gala tomorrow night.  I loved the gala when I was branch director at Bethany because I delegated everything and had very capable people handling the details.   This year, I'm the one with the details and that's not anywhere close to my skill set.  We are in great shape and have 370 people registered to attend, unheard of for a first event.  Super excited but anxious as well.

3)  My kidney stones returned to visit for a couple days.

4)  My mom has been having a really hard time and that is unusual.  She has been my rock for my entire life and now approaching 89 she is needing me more than ever.  Physical problems that are causing falls and a lot of anxiety have her a real confused and it's frightening.  She doesn't want me to come there, so the stress is handled from here.

5)  Dominyk is planning to leave in 3 weeks.  His buddy bought him a ticket back to Minnesota and we feel like it's a really bad plan for him to do that.   He only has housing for a week which is "plenty of time to find a place to live and a job."   We are worried about him and he is anxious and has no motivation to comply ... very similar to the last week Tony lived with us.   It's caused some stress.

6)  It is April and in my life April has had some pretty icky things happen.  Yesterday in particular was filled with trauma triggers and I ended up having a very hard time falling asleep last night and woke up way too early.  Which is the purpose of this post.

None of us chooses to have anxiety.   It creeps up on us and it doesn't always make sense.  The human psyche is very complex, and our anxiety can be tied to things brought up by our emotional memory which aren't even thought of cognitively.   And when it hits it can be awful.

Last night, as I lay in bed, words I memorized as a kid from Philippians 4:6-7 went over and over in my mind.  I can't even find the Living Bible online anymore -- I think it has a new name, but this is how I remember it:

"Don't worry about anything.  Instead, pray about everything.  Tell God your needs and don't forget to thank Him for His answers.  When you do this, you will experience peace which is far more wonderful than the mind can comprehend.  His peace will keep you quiet and at rest as you trust in Christ Jesus."

So last night I spent some time praying.  I told God my needs, and I thanked Him for the times He had answered my prayers.     Eventually, peace came.   Not peace I could find for myself somewhere, but peace from God.

And this song started to play in my memory and I fell asleep to it.  A song that has been reminding me of God's peace since 1985.

Thursday, April 05, 2018

Tired of Doing the Right Things with No Results?

Ever get discouraged because you keep on doing what you're supposed to do but you don't see results?

Jesus and the Apostle Paul both used the analogy of sowing and reaping.   Jesus told a parable in Matthew 13 about a guy was scattering seeds.
As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up.  Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow.  But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants.  Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. 
If anyone knows what it is like to sow a bunch of seeds that are wasted, it is Jesus.   He routinely and daily gives his love and his best to people who reject him in a multitude of ways for a multitude of reasons.

Then Paul told the Corinthians,  "I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow."

Putting those two passages together reminds us that we need to keep doing what we're supposed to be doing.... sowing seed.  Or possibly watering it.  But the results are up to God.  It's only God that makes it grow.

So, if you are discouraged because someone is not responding the way you want them to when you continue to sow and sow and so, don't be.   

God is not asking us to grow plants -- that's his job.

All he's asking us to do is to sow the seeds.

If you replace the word swimming with the words sowing, I hope this song gets stuck in your head not just today... but for the rest of your life.

Monday, April 02, 2018

Skipping the Middle

As a child I grew up in a denomination that skipped Holy Week.   It wasn't that we forgot that Jesus died, it's just that we didn't have special services to talk about it.   We went to church on Sunday and we celebrated Palm Sunday and then the next week we might have Wednesday night regular stuff where it might get mentioned, but basically we jumped over the next few days and came back the next Sunday to celebrate the Resurrection.

We skipped the hard, gut-wrenching icky stuff.   We knew what happened, but we didn't talk about it a lot.  And I never noticed.

Until I married a man a man who had changed denominations and was a United Methodist minister and he pointed that out to me.   Since then, I have spent the last 22 years slowly walking through the week that long week where Jesus went from crowds shouting "Hosanna" to crowds screaming "Crucify Him."  I listened again to Scripture about a Man who had dinner with and washed the feet of men he knew would deny and betray him.   I listened to the prayer that this Man prayed to His Father, begging that he be let off the hook, concluding "Not my will but thine be done."    I heard the court trials where this Man was accused but chose not to defend Himself.  And I heard every word of all of the things that happened to Him physically as he died.

I was forced to feel the pain, not just physically, but emotionally that He endured.  I was face to face with the raw emotion of disciples who betrayed and denied Him and those who were faithful to the end, but then devastated by what they thought was the end.

This week I was in church on Thursday night, and Friday noon, and Friday night and on those days over and over again I was reminded of the price paid for me.

Yesterday we gathered together one more time.  But this time it wasn't to talk about pain, betrayal, denial, suffering or death.  It was to celebrate the One who conquered death itself.  I must say that celebrating resurrection when you truly walk with Jesus through the torture of the week is much more meaningful.   I could barely choke out the words, "He is risen indeed" because of tears as I recalled not just the glorious thought of the resurrection, but the powerful pain of the week before.

Aren't we like that as humans?  We love to skip the middle.  We want to go from mountaintop to mountain top and never pass through the valleys.   But Jesus invites us to share in it all.  In Romans 8:17 it says,
"Now if we are children, then we are heirs--heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in His glory."
The next time you enter a difficult period of your life I invite you to experience the middle.  Seek for what you can learn during the hard times.  Embrace, if you will, the pain, the betrayal, the suffering, because you know that if you share in His suffering, you will share in His glory.

And when you rise again, which you will, the victory will be sweeter, deeper, and more profound than if you try to avoid what leads up to it.

He is Risen!

And so will you.