Thursday, April 30, 2020

Groundhog Day

Anybody feel like the movie Groundhog Day lately?  I wake up and I remember that today is going to be a lot like yesterday, and last week.  

I was reminded of something after a conversation with my mother last night, who by the way, looks like she has beat COVID-19 at the age of 90 (thanks for your prayers).   She is always so positive.  And she told me yesterday that she was expecting surprises from God and that her song of the day was “Oh what a beautiful morning.”

Her nursing home is dreary on a good day.  The space she shares with a roommate, separated by a curtain is small.  But now it’s even bleaker.  More than a dozen people there have died in the last three weeks.  The nursing staff is exhausted with the precautions they are taking.   For several days she couldn’t leave her room for her daily walk down the hall, or go to the lounge to watch TV.   She has had meals delivered to her room for almost a month instead of being able to eat at her table with the same people she’s eaten with for a couple years.

And yet she can wake up singing “Oh What a Beautiful Morning” — not because she can tell — she hasn’t been outside in a month and she doesn’t have a window she can look out — but because she has CHOSEN to be. positive.  A decision, she tells me, she made a a long time ago.

She has learned something that I need to learn.   Regardless of how many things seem the same from day to day, God’s mercies are brand new every single morning.

Check out this familiar verse from Lamentations (ironically, since the name of the book itself indicates that it was a place where Jeremiah whined a lot).

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;[b]
    his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
    “therefore I will hope in him.”

I get to choose how I view today.   Will I focus on my situation, the rain and the clouds outside my window and the monotony of our current situation….

Or will I focus on God, putting my hope in Him, and remembering that His mercies are new this morning and will be every.  single.  morning.

My favorite hymn of all times:

Monday, April 27, 2020

What are you discussing together as you walk along

In the sermon yesterday at our church, Bart read from Luke 24 — the story of the walk to Emmaus.  Now, thanks to modern technology, you can hear it … and I can hear your service, and we can all go to church all over the country all week long on Facebook without leaving our recliners.  But I digress.

You remember the story — a couple of the followers of Jesus are leaving Jerusalem.  They are distraught.  Jesus is dead …. So what now?  Even though he had predicted his resurrection, they weren’t remembering that … instead they were fleeing from the city probably wondering if they would be killed next.

Then Jesus shows up and they don’t even recognize him.  Whether Jesus intentionally kept them from realizing it was him, we don’t know, but my guess is that they were so wrapped up in their current crisis that they didn’t even pay attention to the fact that he was among them.

He asks them, "What are you discussing together as you walk along?”  They respond shocked that  this guy hasnt heard that Jesus was put to death.

Of course, you know the end of the story.  Jesus reveals himself to them as they have dinner later, and even though it was a long way back to Jerusalem we see that they left and headed back to the place they had run away from.

Three observations and a question:

1.  Sometimes we are so caught up in our current crisis of the day that we forget the promises of Jesus.  The several times that Jesus had told the disciples that he would only be dead for three days completely left their minds.   It’s time for all of us to remember the things Jesus taught us and hold on to those promises.

2.  We often neglect to recognize that Jesus is right there with us.   We are so focused on our struggles, that we forget that he is right there…. He is among us walking with us.

3.  When we finally realize that Jesus is here with us, we can turn around and run back into the hard stuff, instead of running away from it.  

?.  What are you discussing together as you walk along?  During these weeks as we journey together through unprecedented trials, what are you talking about?  What are you posting on social media?  What are you saying as you talk with friends and family?  You may not be in a place where you can speak words of faith and hope, but if you aren’t, I encourage you to find people to talk with who are.  If you are struggling with anxiety or depression, think of people in your life who you know will provide you with a balance and seek them out.   Because what we discuss as we walk along will have an effect on how we think and feel during this journey.

This song is an all time favorite that has gotten me through many a tough time...

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Your Children will Ask You...

Children have a lot of questions these days.   In these times that are so different than anything they have experienced, they have so many questions.   In listening to the book of Joshua this week, the phrase “Your children will ask you” popped up and grabbed my attention.

It’s always a bit of a relief when reading (or listening) through the Bible in a year to arrive at the end of the Pentateuch and arrive in Joshua.   Leviticus - Deuteronomy are often laborious and sometimes troubling.

But Joshua starts right out with encouragement to be strong and courageous!  His view of God and the world is hopeful, positive, and dare I say “solution focused.”

Check out these words from Chapter 5-7

So Joshua called together the twelve men he had chosen—one from each of the tribes of Israel. He told them, “Go into the middle of the Jordan, in front of the Ark of the Lord your God. Each of you must pick up one stone and carry it out on your shoulder—twelve stones in all, one for each of the twelve tribes of Israel. We will use these stones to build a memorial. In the future your children will ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ Then you can tell them, ‘They remind us that the Jordan River stopped flowing when the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant went across.’ These stones will stand as a memorial among the people of Israel forever.”

What a great idea!   Building memorials — whether they are photographs or actual structures — reminds us of the fact that God got us through whatever we were dealings with at the time.  

So my question is — in the future, when our children, or grandchildren, or great grandchildren ask us “What do these pictures mean?” I hope that we will be able to look back and tell them about the pandemic.  I hope that we will be able to explain to them how hard it was — how strange it was — maybe even how stupid people were — but also that God brought us through.

What will you say when you are asked ten years from now “what did that mean."

One of my favorite songs that Dave Frett reminded me of the other day speaks to the issue of being able to pass on our faithfulness to those we love.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

You're Going to Get Angry

I woke up MAD!   It’s not worth explaining why but I typically wake up happy and today I woke up angry.   I think my anger is justifiable (don’t we all?).  And I know that I will work through it.  But I’m not a happy camper this morning.

Growing up in a denomination where we went to outdoor revivals and sang “Holiness unto the Lord is our watchword and song” (anyone else know THAT hymn?) it was made very clear that some things were wrong.  And for the longest time I thought that anger was a sin.  In fact, when Jesus turned over the tables in the temple I was taught that that was “righteous indignation.”

But as I grew older I realized that anger is an emotion.  It is not controllable.  It is going to be there.  It's part of the human condition.   It’s what we do with the anger that matters.

In Ephesians 4 we are told this, "“In your anger do not sin”:  Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry,  and do not give the devil a foothold.”

Here’s what we can learn from these two verses.

1). We are going to get angry.  It doesn’t say “If you get angry” it says "In your anger.”  It’s bound to happen.

2). We have til the end of the day to work through it.   Bart and I have had this rule since our first night of marriage.  We don’t go to bed mad.  Early in our marriage we stayed up SUPER late.  :-).  On our first anniversary we had 2 toddlers, our 2nd we had kids ages 2, 3, 9 and 11 (and the oldest two were HARD kids.   We argued more about them than anyone else).  By the next anniversary we had 8…. But we didn’t double after that.   Needless to say we had a lot of long arguments, but never once have we gone to bed without resolving it.

3).   When we sin in our anger … or hold on to it too long, we give the devil a foothold.   This is his opportunity (that we are handing him) to get in and start to wreak havoc on our emotions destroy our lives.

So I will work through it. I will find ways to turn things around. I will take the steps I need to take to get over the situation and myself.  I will have it resolved before bedtime and I will determine that this situation isn’t going to give the devil a foothold.

What will your response be?

My first step was to watch this video.  It always lifts my spirits.

And then this happened.

I feel much better now.  

Monday, April 13, 2020

It was a morning like this

Did anyone else walk outside yesterday morning and find Sandi Patti resounding in your head with the question, “Was it a morning like this?”      (Of course not, if you’re under 40 but otherwise maybe…)

Yesterday was such a beautiful morning. Whether you just stepped outside for a few minutes or had energy to get dressed up for family Easter pictures or went to a church that had a drive in service, you had to have noticed the glory of a beautiful Easter Sunday.

You may have already thought about this, but I think that yesterday, more than any Easter Sunday, was much more like the first Easter.   Life was so uncertain for the disciples.  They were not gathering together in massive crowds to celebrate.  Instead they were in hiding — fearing for their lives.   Nothing made sense.  The future was incredibly uncertain and they had no idea how things were going to play out now that Jesus was gone.   

It was in the midst of this uncertainty and confusion, fear and doubt, that they were made aware of the resurrection.  On that day they saw that their past made sense and that their future was brighter than ever.   The thing that they had spent years fearing turned out to be the ultimate game changer.

Because of the resurrection we can plan on that day coming for us as well.  We can hope that during what some are calling “The Great Pause” that we can come out of this knowing that we are different…. Better even … than we were before.   

And in case she wasn’t with you yesterday, she can be with you today:

Thursday, April 09, 2020

Come To The Table

Today is Maundy Thursday … the night we remember the final meal that Jesus had with his disciples.     For years I have been profoundly moved by this remembrance because of who was at the table with Jesus for that meaningful event.  It may be because we have twelve children who have a variety of different relationships with us who we have dined with often.... in the same way that Jesus had a unique relationship with the twelve folks he had dinner with that night.

You probably know a lot about some of these men.  We don’t need to talk about each of them but we know that one was a tax collector….. not popular back in the day.  James and John were brothers and called the “Sons of Thunder” and I’m guessing that was not because they were mild mannered.   Peter was an impetuous dude who always seemed to be putting his foot in his mouth.   Can you imagine Jesus looking around and thinking about each of them “He’s come a long way the last three years!”

But Jesus not only had the ability to look behind, he had the ability to look ahead.  He knew that he was having dinner with a guy who was going to completely doubt his resurrection.  He could see into the future to know that one of the guys at the table was going to deny him publicly three times.  And most sobering, he knew that one of the folks around the table was going to betray him and turn him over to the authorities to be killed.

But the character of Jesus and the purity of who he was led him to treat each of those men the same way.  He fed each.  He washed the feet of each of them…. The one who referred to himself as the “disciple Jesus loved” AS WELL AS the one who would turn him over to be killed.

So no matter where you’ve been, and no matter who you are … your personality quirks, your bad habits, your faithlessness and doubt…. And no matter what you’ve done, and maybe even more surprisingly, no matter what you are going to do you are always welcome at the table of Jesus.

This video is one of the most moving videos I’ve ever seen.  I can’t even explain to you how much I love it.

This is your invitation today.