Friday, April 27, 2018

A story about a Rabbi

If you know me very well, you know that I have some very interesting dreams.   They are mixed with current stresses and realities (I spent a portion of my night last night working on gala follow up calls in my sleep, for example) and past junk.  They also involve people from different parts of my life interacting together like they know each other, even if they weren’t alive at the same time.   It’s one thing I get from my late father who had the most amazing dreams.  Imagine if you lived to be 90 how complex they could be?

Last night I was talking to a former employee in my dream and I was trying my hardest to come up with this joke in the dream, but I could only remember the last line. I hadn’t heard it in a very long time.   It is so obscure it took me almost 20 minutes to find it on line so that I could share it with you.  It’s one of those jokes with a punch at the end that can be quite convicting.

A man goes to see his Rabbi, and says “Rebbe, my son causes me no end of trouble”, and he lays out a long list of complaints about his son, ending with “I’ve tried to be a good father, but I don’t know what to do.”

The rabbi lets out a long sigh and says to the man “Listen, you have a son, I have a son…” and proceeds to tell the man of all the trials and tribulations that his son has put him through. After this the man leaves, greatly relieved over the relatively minor problems he has had with his own son.

However, after the man leaves the Rabbi is depressed now that he has recalled all the problems his son has put him through, and he begins to pray. “God, my son causes me no end of trouble”, and he lays out a long list of complaints about his son, ending with “I’ve tried to be a good father, but I don’t know what to do.”

Suddenly the Rabbi hears a great sigh and a voice says “Listen, you have a son, I have a son…”

As a teen when I heard this, I thought that the joke ended with God revealing to the Rabbi that He has a son named Jesus.  But reading it decades later, that probably wasn’t the point of this  Jewish joke  :-).   

I don’t know about the rest of you but I have learned a lot about God from parenting.   Sometimes God is as frustrated with us as we are with our own children… or the children we work.   And just as much as we appreciate it when they admit that they need us, or that they are wrong, or that our advice is valuable (wouldn’t that be awesome?), God wants us to come to him admitting our brokenness, acknowledging His wisdom, and confessing our wrongs.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Some songs you probably shouldn't sing....

There are a couple of songs that have come out in the last few years that I have learned it’s not all that wise to sing if you want life to go well.  For example, “Oceans.”  “take me deeper than my feet would ever wander… keep my eyes above the waves …. lead me where my trust is without borders.”   

Yikes.  I remember what happened in my life when I started singing that song.  It was five years ago and my branch lost a state contract …. a very lucrative one — and even though I could blame it on the people who reported to me, it was ultimately my fault.  I learned a lot through that but sometimes I am tempted to wish that I could have avoided the waves and just remained the person I was before I prayed that prayer.  However, I know that God had plans to constantly change me and sometimes, in fact often, He does that through struggle, pain, and trails.  

Two years ago “Lord Keep Making Me” came out and I sang that song out loud apparently one two many times :-)   Those of you who were around two years ago know we had a pretty rough spring.

The song below falls into that category.  I listened to it once, but I’m wary to start singing it.  

Scripture talks about being refined several times.   Necessary but painful.   All of us should be praying the words below, even if it seems like a bad plan.  

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Freedom To and Freedom From

It seems odd to me that we talk so little about the resurrection on a regular basis.  Sure, we devote a Sunday to it every year, but it’s odd that we don’t focus a little more regularly on something so amazing.  We serve a risen Savior!   He isn’t like all the other leaders of religions who spent their time here and died.  He’s still alive.

What kind of power does someone have who conquers death?  It’s an incredible thought.   Furthermore, we can have that same kind of power as His followers.

This song by Chris Tomlin reminds us of what one thing that that power gives.  It gives us freedom.   Freedom from fear.  Freedom from guilt.  Freedom from darkness and sin.  Freedom from worry.   Freedom from hopelessness.  Freedom from anger that debilitates us.  

It also gives us freedom to love.  Freedom to give grace and mercy the way it has been given to us.  Freedom to forgive.  Freedom to be courageous during difficult days.  Freedom to believe.  Freedom to persevere.

I challenge you today to think about the amazing power of the resurrection and the freedom is provides — and then live like you have that power.  Live like you have freedom.

Monday, April 23, 2018

What if....

The video above was the introduction to the speech I gave on Thursday night.   It was just a short, wrap up speech after we listened to the song "For the One."   The song had such an impact on me that I have listened to over and over again this weekend. Here are some of the words:

Help me to love with open arms, like You do 
A love that erases all the lines, and sees the truth
Oh that when they look in my eyes, they would see You
Even in just a smile; they would feel the Father's love

As I listened I started to think, “What if every Christian was like that?  What if every person who called them-self a follower of Christ loved like he did?

What if the lines were truly erased — the lines of race, the lines of socio-economic status, the lines of gender, the lines of denomination … I could go on and on and on.   What kind of world would that be?

Jesus spent his years of ministry erasing lines.  It’s what he did.  He hung out with publicans and sinners, tax collectors and prostitutes, Samaritans.   He spoke to people nobody else wanted to be around.

So I’m picturing a world where every Christian lived like Jesus.   What if every time someone saw a Christian they saw Jesus… they felt the Father’s love every time they looked at us.   Dare I say every time they read a Facebook post?

Imagine it with me.   Pray it with me.   Let’s encourage each other to love that way.   Let’s commit ourselves to being line erasers and see what God does.

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.