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Monday, November 23, 2009

"I'd like to thank..."

All eyes are on her as she humbly walks up the grand steps up to the glittering stage and is greeted by the handsomely attired power-couple (whose names the press has somewhat cleverly hyphenated). They give her the award and it feels heavy and electric in her hands. She moves forward, chin ducked just a little, trying to take it all in- the lights, the applause, the fruition of years of work- all culminating here and now. She leans into the microphone and the crowd’s cheers respectfully come to a close. “Thank you” she says, not remembering how to begin the practiced speech. She pauses, smiles, and holds the award up, and points at a few people in the audience, as a silent acknowledgement to what they have done for her. Pausing once more, she begins again. “I’d like to thank…”

We’ve seen that awards ceremony on TV, time and time again. The speeches range from an exercise of polished words to minutes of stumbling through a haze of amazement, and from seemingly sincere to disingenuous. Many of the speeches acknowledge that co-workers, bosses, and family have helped them make it to this moment.

With this week being Thanksgiving, I couldn’t help visualize the variety of thanksgiving that is done in these and other settings, both secular and faith-focused, publically and privately. Giving thanks, true thanks from the heart, is always appropriate, not just on the one day our nation sets aside for giving thanks, but each and every day. Take a moment to consider how you give thanks. Do you recognize who it is that provides you with all that you have? Do you recognize that you didn’t get to where you are all by yourself?

My family has adopted a time of acknowledging our thanks around the Thanksgiving table. It is our custom to pray before meals, but during Thanksgiving we make a point of sharing a few words about those things of which we are specifically thankful. Together, we recognize that God is our Provider, and that he has generously given us each other, to love, care for, support, and encourage each other. It is a time to talk about being content with what God has provided throughout the year.

In the good times, in the difficult times, I am steadfastly sure that God is there in the midst of things, whether he is rescuing, protecting, comforting, or binding up our wounds. I am thankful in all these circumstances. I am thankful, for my family, my family in faith, my friends, old and new, near and far. Also, I am thankful that God not only works in my life, but in theirs as well. I hope this week is full of joy for you all, and that you can find plenty of things of which you are thankful.

“I will give you thanks, for you answered me; you have become my salvation” (Psalm 118:21).

“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thess 5:16-18)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Running. Praying. Hoping.

I ran this morning. For those of you who don’t know, being an early riser is not my forte. For me, mornings are usually quiet, a time of prayer, a time of gathering my thoughts and preparing for the day. But today, I woke up earlier than normal, had some quiet, and then felt the urge to run in the morning. By the way, it is a gorgeous day out today- blue, blue sky, 54 degrees, the air is crisp and sweet, and the atmosphere seems electric, charged with thoughts of hope. Cooling down from my run and continuing with prayers and thoughts, in part for a particular friend, my phone rang. Twas that very friend. And that is one picture of how God works. He hears when we call out to Him. He does answer us, sometimes in surprising and unexpected ways. Prayer is not a one way droning recitation of names on a list. It is not just talking to a wall or speaking magical words that cause the universe to bend at your own will.

Prayer is communicating with the One who is responsible for the whole of creation and chooses US as worthy of being in not just a dialogue, but in a loving and caring conversation between the perfect nurturing parent and His children whom He loves beyond all measure and all understanding. I remember so many days during my youth, when I’d curl up in my mom’s lap and she’d ask me how my day had been. If it was good, she’d be excited for me. If it was a hard day, she’d hug me and talk with me till I felt better and ready to face the world again. There were times when I think my dad (aka “MacGyver”) knew I needed a challenge and he’d let me help him with projects in the garage. He’d listen to my questions and show me new things and new ways of overcoming obstacles- obstacles with wood, metal, and life.

My parents listened. They answered me by speaking, guiding, showing, teaching, and sometimes by sitting there silently, allowing me to work through the problem under their tutelage. I didn’t get everything I wanted, and hindsight says, “GOOD” though it was a hard thing to hear back then. Now they weren’t perfect, but God is. He listens and answers with His perfect ways- sometimes with inaudible words for my heart, sometimes with silence while I work through things under His gentle guidance, and sometimes with a clear “no” which is hard to accept at that moment.

This morning, as I ran, I prayed for family, for new and long time friends, for people nearby and across the planet, for those who follow Christ faithfully, and for those (non-Christians and Christians alike) who have yet to understand the all-encompassing unconditional love that Christ has for them, regardless of the label they wear. Today is a new day, full of hope, full of possibilities, and there is no way that I can leave this computer and go out into the world without the full head and heart knowledge that Christ lives, loves and leads no matter what happens in the next moment.

Take a moment to look around today and open up, even just a little bit, to the possibilities that are out there. What if you asked God to listen you today? What if you gave Him room and time to answer you? What if….?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Not a Bad Monday

Monday gets a bad rap. Monday blues, and all those euphemisms that tell the world how much we would rather be anywhere than in the office on Monday morning. This weekend, like most, was packed with plenty to think about, pray about, talk about, plenty to plan and ponder, and plenty to do. Then comes Monday, and though I knew I had a stack of stuff waiting for me in the office, I didn’t grimace at the thought of dealing with it. Truth be told, Mondays don’t bother me and I love getting to do what I do, but paperwork has never been a particular joy.

This morning began like most, at home, with a time of quiet: prayer, getting centered, thinking about projects and people, and preparing for the day. Before I even walked out the door I had dealt with situations that tug at my heart and people that I care about who are struggling with life’s questions and problems. Part of my daily prayers are pleas for guidance in how to respond with compassion, love, wisdom and boldness. So by the time I set foot in my office today, my heart and brain were already in full forward motion.

There is so much going on around me- people with problems (some who want help and others who reject it), people with hurts, people who are upset, and all of these things have the capacity to weigh one down and usher in a feeling of hopelessness. Monday blues. Hopelessness. Those two could easily work in concert with each other and play a dreary tune in a minor key that would become an anthem of lament.

As easy as it could be to fall into that train of thought, I just can’t be pulled down today (or most days for that matter) because I am a person of hope. I see obstacles as a hurdle to jump, not a wall to smash up against. When I find a stack of papers and reports to fill out, I must find a way to overcome my enormous distaste for pencil pushing. When I’m working to plan out an event and come face to face with problems that hinder the project, I see that as a challenge to get creative and figure out how to accomplish the goals of that project or event. Mom would say I’m a little bull-headed, … but in a good way now (my homage to the wonderful teen years), yet I digress…

Say what you want about Rick Warren, but I read a retweeted comment by him saying, "Never let an impossible situation intimidate you. Let it motivate you to pray more, trust more, be more creative." I’m the glass half full girl, not in a blind-to-the-world Pollyanna “everything will be okay” kind of way, but fully realizing the reality of the world around me. I’m surrounded by artwork in my office that reminds me of HOPE and that though things are not always great, that the possibilities for them to become great are… well, great.

Today’s been a good day, full of opportunities to overcome obstacles and to pursue the heart-grabbing, awe-inspiring, grin-producing, faith-increasing moments that are there, … just waiting for me… just waiting for you. I wonder… I wonder what tomorrow will bring.


Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. (Romans 12:12)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Miller Time

Monday 3:39 pm- I just realized that it is only 3 hours and 21 minutes till the Donald Miller book tour. I hope I’m not placing too much pressure on him to be brilliant. I’ve wanted to hear him speak ever since I finished his first book. My daughter told me I should read “Blue Like Jazz,” a “must-read” according to her. Okay, okay… I confess that I thought “how nice” and then promptly ignored it in lieu of other activities. But her continued … ahem… “encouragement” eventually moved me to make time for reading. Suffice it to say that she was right and we have since had great conversations about that book.

Time passes. Miller writes another book, this one entitled, “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years.” But this time, it only takes the brief suggestion of a daughter and a friend to go get the book and devour it. I’ve read it only once (the implication here is that I will be reading it again) and I’m looking forward to hearing whatever it is Miller will be sharing tonight.
Monday 6:45 pm- Arrived at the venue and we have located seats as close to the front as possible. I pull out my notebook and pen. I don’t want to miss anything. I notice I’m not the only one with that thought.

Monday 8:54 pm-
The post-tour-bus-ride-home-discussion question of “What did you think” is touched upon. There was a lot to take in tonight, some of which I converse about, some I retain and ponder awhile.

Monday 11:04 pm- I’m finally settling in to finish my thoughts, but my thoughts are still meandering about and not ready to settle down. I can only say Donald Miller’s talk was insightful, entertaining, inspirational and challenging. I appreciate his take on narrative and how we use it (cognitively or without realizing its usage), and his definition of what makes a good story. He shared that a good story has “a character who wants something and overcomes conflict to get it.” A compelling story as a character sacrificing something for others, and it contains conflict. When you merely look at these writing “tricks” as for writers only, you miss out on the richness that it brings to the discussion of what makes a great story in real life.

For quite some time before this book even came out, I was contemplating the narrative of life and how important our stories are. This book has taken that thought to a higher plain and has beautifully described the writing process. His talk tonight connected it to the living process. Too many gems in my notes and in his book to share. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is a writer wanting to write great stories, and to anyone who is ready to live a great story out there. Read it, then go live a great story.

Friday, November 6, 2009

A Nano-Second

I tried to look like I was not looking. The light should have turned green at any second, and I would have only slightly rolled to a pause by then. Besides, I was in a hurry. I had just made a short trip across town to borrow a book from my daughter at her church and take it back to my church. My boss was waiting for it. I didn’t have time to roll to a complete stop and look like I was looking at him… him… the man with sign that said “hungry…”

This had nothing to do with me being afraid of or really wanting to ignore the homeless man. I’ve stopped and helped them plenty of times. It’s not that I didn’t have money in my purse. I did. You see, I was excited about getting back to the office to discuss this new book about… worship, and talk about… worship. So, time and my zeal for doing the new thing God had been showing me about… worship… had me NOT looking at the man on the corner.

Now, in my mind, this whole scenario and dialog within my head lasted an hour. In “actual” time, it lasted a nano-second. In “real” time, I pulled up toward the red light, saw the man standing there and that the light would remain red long enough that I would stop right beside him. I paused that nano-second before coming to a complete halt, and then turned to look at him. I knew, not just what I would do if I were a “good Christian”, but I knew what I really wanted to do. The window came down. “You hungry?” I asked, and he nodded I asked if there was a store on the other side that had food. He nodded and headed that direction to meet me.

Now I have to laugh at myself here, shaking my head over my nano-second hesitation. After all, for some time now I’ve been asking God for those little gems of moments where I can be out of the office and in the community at large where I can meet people and visit with them. Here, on a big in-my-face silver God-delivered platter, was exactly what I had been asking for- and I had been in a hurry to talk about… worship. Pul-eeeeze! What if the light there had been green? I have to laugh and give God a wink and a nod, because He has this way… His unique way of bringing things to my attention so that even if I take that nano-second pause, I’ll see past myself and listen to that voice, “Stop. Pay Attention. Listen. Act.”

This is the day I got to meet Alfredo. Just as I have done many times before with others, I went with this man into the store and had the honor of asking him what he needed. I handed him a basket and repeated the mantra over and over, “What else do you need?” It took a while to convince him I was serious, but finally, the basket was full, he was satisfied, the purchase was made, and we ended up outside visiting.

I say this, NOT to show how wonderful I am or to get my super-Christian points of the day (I did consider doing the “There was this woman who saw a homeless man on the curb” thing instead of “I saw this man…”). I am merely pointing out how close we come to missing out on the very things we pray about- the very things we ask God to show us and provide for us. I was a nano-second away from missing out on the conversation that came after Alfredo tucked his groceries into the recesses of his cart. I was a nano-second away from missing out on what Alfredo had to teach me. I was a nano-second away from missing out on the honor of feeding and caring for a man loved dearly by Christ.

Be diligent in prayer. Be bold in continually asking for the Spirit to guide you. Be careful to listen, and ready to act accordingly. It’s amazing what God can and will do- within a nano-second of time.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Praying is...?

I read Shane Raynor’s blog about group prayer (You can too. Click here) and share his questions about why we miss out on the power of prayer. For me, prayer is hard to keep within a prescribed definition, just as it is hard to define having a conversation with someone.

My friend Brandye and I don’t get to see each other often, but we do talk on the phone and email each other. Sometimes our conversations are short, sometimes long, sometimes about our children, our joys, our frustrations. Sometimes we chat about serious heartfelt issues, and sometimes we yammer away about goofy things. It all depends upon the day, the emotions involved, and/or the subject matter. And, that is only one person in my life. Add to that my daughter and other friends and family, and the varied discussions multiply exponentially.

My prayer life is similar in that I don’t believe there is one way or style or occasion to pray. Everyday begins with a quiet time of talking to God and listening for His guidance. Then there are the concerns that others share with me, the little things that come up during the week, and the things that God has given me to pray passionately about each day. Each prayer is different. Sometimes quiet and still, sometimes joyful and running, sometimes deep and full of impassioned pleas. And each answer is different. Sometimes yes, sometimes no, and sometimes…. wait.

Why do I pray? I try to put this down in concise words, but they just can’t encompass what I know and feel. Think about what it is like to spend quality time with someone whom you adore and adores you. A truly loving relationship like that has you wanting to just be there with them, talking, listening or sitting in a glowing momentary silence. You come away feeling loved, strengthened, valued, encouraged, guided, and assured of the bond between you. THAT is how I experience prayer. Enough for now… off to jog, plugged into good tunes and a good God.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Open to a New Thing?

If you're lost you can look, and you will find me, time after time. If you fall I will catch you, I'll be waiting, time after time. -Cyndi Lauper

video

A friend of mine asked me to work on some music with him. It’s not for a worship service or even planned for inside the church building, but for the sheer joy of playing for other people in other settings. On our dream set list (still in progress), you won’t find a single hymn or praise song, but you will find The Police, Cyndi Lauper, and a number of very eclectic things that are new to me.

“What? No God songs?” some of you may query. Some may gasp, “Isn’t that leaving God behind?” Granted, many years ago, I set a “Christian music only” rule in my house for a while because I felt like the smarmy lyrics just didn’t benefit my daughter and me. In the years since, I’ve recognized that I can be selective about lyrics, without cutting myself off from good music with great lyrics. I’ve had youth tell me about a great “Jesus” song that merely repeated the name somewhere, and have heard hymns that were so archaic that the meaning once understood by past generations flew past me. So, can God take something old or secular and make it new? Can He take something from the today's world and use it to talk about hope, joy, peace, and the fullness of His love for us?

Jesus came to make things new. At the last supper, he sat down with His disciples for a Passover meal, a celebration that had been passed down through generations. When I say “passed down”, I mean each little detail of it, all those words, gestures, and acts which made a Passover meal, a Passover meal. Everyone knew what to expect. Everyone knew each prayer that would be said and when and how each item of food would be eaten. Traditions that one just doesn’t stray from… until…

"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. -Jesus (John 13:34)

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! -Paul, the Apostle (2 Corinthians 5:17)

...Jesus interrupted the flow of things by saying something that was not written in the script. He said to them, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me” and "This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.” I can almost hear them gasp. “What? No traditional Passover prayer? Aren’t you deviating from what God said we are to do right here?”

Ahhh, but God’s plan was right on track. They didn’t understand that then. Some of us today barely understand it now. I won’t go into the cultural or theological stances on that right now (i.e., the Middle Eastern customs of sharing a meal, or Christ’s atonement, both of which are highly relevant in this discussion) but I want to take note of how Jesus stepped beyond the accepted description of a Passover meal. That celebration was never just about the format and details of the meal itself. What about the freedom from slavery to Pharaoh that God was providing Moses and the Israelites, and the freedom from slavery to sin and death that Christ offers us. The idea of freedom was taken past being a story, and into a hopeful present and future.

Jesus wasn’t ignoring God during the Passover meal that night, just because he was doing something new and different. Jesus was obeying God and telling us about God’s deep love for all of us. Just because one listens to 80’s rock or has friends outside the church, or spends time doing things that some wouldn’t label “ministry”, doesn’t mean that God is not involved. If you are seeking to love God with all that you are, and then love people the way He loves you, then chances are you don’t tend to ask God to have a seat and wait while you do “secular” things. The labels of “church” and “secular” become less important, because your relationship with Christ is constant. You want to go where He goes, wherever that is. The labels we put on proper prayer or a worship service becomes less of the focus, and the question of discovering or rediscovering Spirit-led worship becomes the central theme. In the midst of it all, something new can happen which honors God and renews His people.

The truth is that we all have struggles and issues. I know that the only way I make it through them is because I believe the Christ goes with through it with me. I feel his real presence, comfort, strength and unconditional love. Time after time, when I’m lost, falling and need to be caught, He is always there. Time after time, He waits on me, pursues me, renews me and makes things new, time after time, after time, after time…

Monday, October 12, 2009

Mom the Tech


The Recoup Tour ’09 is now officially two weeks old. For those of you keeping a score card, my mom’s “ER day” was September 28th (see my post “In the General Hospital”). Thank you for all the prayers and kind words so many of you sent in. For the past week mom has been recouping at my house (last week was my sister’s house). She’s been getting stronger day by day, and though she’s been here for the express purpose of healing, I’ve enjoyed her being here. During this time, we’ve had great talks, out of which came her decision to make the move into a more technical savvy world.

Sometime ago mom began Twitter, and has now added Facebook to her repertoire (yep, I needed another Farm Town neighbor). She’s learning about website forums and how to move easily through YouTube. She has realized that those are some of the ways that her children communicate and play, and she wants to participate in that with us. Go mom.

As a “retired” person, she could sit back on her laurels and play the “been there, done that” card. (I say “retired” parenthetically because she continues to work, travel, teach, volunteer, etc.) There are plenty of us out here in the world that, even though we aren’t of retirement age, we play that card, resigning ourselves to become stuck in the mud. But mom sets that precedent of looking for new and exciting things to do, such as signing up for new ministries at our church and our upcoming trip to Australia together next year. But doing new things means… change.

Change is hard. It’s hard for young and old alike. The alternative is to get set in your ways and stay there. It is always tempting to find comfort in whatever way you’ve always done things, and then utter the pestilent recitation, “We’ve never done it THAT way before.” However, that so called “comfort” is a deceptive comfort. Monotony and apathy follow closely behind, wanting to settle into that “comfort” mindset. I’m not saying that all the traditional things we do are wrong. Nay, nay. I’m suggesting that even those comforting traditions can become a heavy load to carry.

Christ came into the world, bringing a new message of love and hope. He was a Jew who held to the beliefs of his forefathers, yet he offered something fresh. Jesus spoke about a new teaching, a new covenant, and a new life. This new message was not inconsistent with the workings of God, as found in the Christian Old Testament, but was an extension of the love that God gave mankind in the first place.

We must also remember that just because something is new, doesn’t mean it is necessarily better. Just because something is attached to the latest fad, doesn’t mean that it has value or benefits us in the long run. The challenge here is to simply listen to the leading of the Holy Spirit. Really listen. Maybe it’s time to hold fast to what you have. Maybe it’s time to release your grip on the past and move forward. That goes for what happens in your church, and yes, even in your job, your schedule, your bank account, and your free time (though we claim we never find any).

How open to change are you?

Monday, October 5, 2009

Labels

Labels don’t always ring true.

There’s an old practical joke that has been played on newlywed couples. They arrive home after their honeymoon, and unbeknownst to them, someone has gone through their pantry and switched all the labels from the canned goods. Dinnertime arrives and they go to open the fruit, however there’s corn inside. They wanted corn, so they open the fruit, however it is tomato soup. The labels are deceiving. Even when the labels are on the correct cans (fruit label on the fruit can), what you get when you open the can is not always what you expect. On the fruit cocktail label you see cherries covering the bowl, but when you open the can, it’s mostly peaches with a cherry or two hidden at the bottom. Do we, the church, give a true representation of who Christ is? Do we hide behind the label of “Christ follower” or is that genuine label (and the lifestyle of loving others) something that has become a natural and authentic part of our daily lives?

Labels, Labels, Labels…

I’m a daughter, mother, sister, and aunt. I’m a pianist, guitarist, composer and singer. I laugh at Monty Python, cry over Steel Magnolias, run with Forrest Gump, get adventurous following Indiana Jones, and overcome great odds with Scarlet O’Hara. I am refreshed and challenged by Holy Communion at the seashore (John 21:1-19). I am lifted up and joyful in services where contemporary Christian praise songs are sung (Ps 100:2). I am reminded of my Christian heritage found in traditional liturgy, and thankful for the saints who have come before me (Ps 52:9). I am filled with awe and wonder as I sit in a chapel listening to Bach’s notes and the people’s prayers rise up together as I contemplate the mystery of our faith (Neh 8:6).

And all that… is only a tiny fraction of who I am. How does one perfectly and succinctly describe themselves within the fullness of who they are and how they live out their lives? If I say that being a daughter is the only way to define myself, then I would miss out on the joy of motherhood. If I only play my piano and never sang again, I would feel quite empty. In our complex lifestyles, we move in so many different directions at once and can end up overloaded with information, scheduling problems, and being pulled apart by opposing ideas and values. If you and I lead such complicated lives, maybe it’s time to revisit what it really means to be one who truly follows Christ and get back to the basics of our faith.

Simplify

Is the wearing of that multitude of labels weighing you down? Are you constantly having to justify your choices regarding how you spend your time and money? Are you letting your busy life in the office, in your home, and even in your church steal your passion for Christ? I’m not suggesting that the labels in themselves are wrong. I am suggesting that life is not about the multitude of labels which can build a wall between us and Christ.

When God said that we are to love Him with everything that we are (Deut 6:5), and to worship Him using everything at our disposal (Ps 150), He is saying that He should be our focus. When we make Him the center of everything, then we begin to live our lifves using one big and enduring label, “Christ Follower.” In the simplicity of that heart-set, a new journey begins where the traveler yearns to move according to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, instead of self-focused direction. The old labels still exist and many of them retain their value, but they are moved to sub-category status that easily ranks below the authentic desire to please God first.

Different Mindset

So if pleasing God comes first before all things, then my status as a preacher or mother is not the key issue. If I am putting God first, and God has called me to preach and given me the joyful responsibility of being a mother, then God honors that God-centric lifestyle and uses the my labels within His perfect plan. If we are called to worship God in spirit and in truth (John 4:24), then should the labels of “contemporary”, “traditional” or “blended” services be the focus of worship? Should they take priority over allowing the Spirit to move beyond our preconceptions and opinions?

What if the church came together to for a unified time of seeking God and praising Him without the labels, or music, or format being the drawing factor or a stumbling block? Are you ready to wear the label “Christ follower” in a bold new way by letting Him be the center of all things? Are you ready for God to do something fresh and exciting in you? … in your community of faith? … in the world beyond your church doors?

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

In The General Hospital

Basically I’ve titled this thusly, because my daughter didn’t believe I would (And yes, General Hospital was my favorite soap back in the day). You see, today has been a day of watching the “soap opera” of my family’s life mesh with the “soap opera” that one watches and participates in when one spends a day in a hospital emergency room.

“Today” actually began yesterday. My mom spent the weekend with me and by Sunday she felt quite ill (… uhm, now that I’m reading the previous sentence, that doesn’t seem to speak too well of my hospitality). Actually, a previous condition blossomed and made it clear that mom needed medical attention, so off we went, back to her hometown and her doctor.

By 9 am we were sitting in an urgent care center (as we were advised to do) which had a giant poster with the word “Risk” prominently displayed.

By 9:30 am we had wisely moved on to the area’s General Hospital (as we were advised to do) and were sitting in the ER waiting room. I was reminded, as I looked around, that there never seem to be any Dr. Tony Gates types just hanging around when I’m in the ER (yes, I loved the show “ER”). You semi-expect someone to run through the room flinging their stethoscope around their neck yelling “stat!” However, the room was uncharacteristically quiet and still, affording me the time to be the same. I had been lifting up those little “help me” prayers throughout the morning, but my usual morning time of sitting and conversing with God had been replaced by the morning’s rush. I think God quite understands my change of venue and time frame.

By 10 am we were in an examination room. Mom was hooked up to IV’s and started on pain meds. This began an 11 hour wait for the OR. Waiting is hard to do, for patient and family. It can get tedious and worrisome, but our family history is one of facing the situation with patience and humor. This wonderful hospital offers wi-fi, and I just happened to have my laptop with me. With a sad selection of shows on the room’s TV, we turned to the internet and videos for something to take her mind off of her pain (Thank you YouTube and Tiger Woods).

When she nodded off to sleep for those blissful moments of unconsciousness, I admit that boredom raised its ugly head. I found myself considering McGyver projects with the available gloves, tape, tubing, and a stick of gum. And yes, gloves can be blown up into balloons.

By 9 pm we were told about plan…. D, or was it E? The former plan of transporting her to a hospital where there was an empty bed was replaced by the new plan of remaining at the current hospital where a bed opened up. Everything fell into place and surgery happened within the hour.

Waiting, part deaux:

Then we (my daughter and son-in-law arrived by then) were shown to the OR waiting room where we spend time relaying information to family and friends. My brother and sister live out of town and I know they wanted to be there with us, but we will each have a time to help out. As we waited, we prayed, visited, found a coffee machine, Twittered, IM’ed, emailed, jogged (for a bit of fresh air and a necessary trip out to the car), Facebooked, and connected with people that care about mom and about us. The responses to our information and requests for prayer came in overwhelmingly quick and en masse. Being on the receiving end of that compassion and care does lighten the load and make one feel loved.

Within two and a half hours of her surgery, she was in the ICU and we began settling in to the new digs there. Sleep tonight is intermittent, but we are all getting some rest as we are able. Mom is doing well in the scheme of things and is so thankful for the words of kindness and the prayers that have been offered to her and on her behalf.

So, for those of you who have been asking, those are some of the details. Her perfed ulcer is sealed up, and her gall bladder has been removed. But her attitude of gratitude and her expectation of overcoming this remains steadfast.

So now for my thoughts on the day and a couple of things that stand out to me:

Walking in their shoes: I’m being given a refresher course on what it means to sit in a hospital with someone you love. I visit hospitals every week. I’m a pastor. That’s what I do. I care about my congregation and have the honor of sitting with them during a time of struggle, fear, pain, and questions. I had major surgery a number of years ago, and that, along with this foray back into the patient’s perspective, multiplies my compassion for those whom I will visit in the future.

Making lemonade: Life happens. There are ups and downs. I remember my mom saying once that if you never had the great struggles, you wouldn’t fully appreciate the great joys. So in my family, we experience both the ups and downs, all the while knowing that God loves us through everything we face. Because we fully rely on Him, we know the joy of celebrating and also the comfort of being given His strength to persevere and overcome. Because we don’t have to be slaves to worry, we can face a day in the ER with patience, humor, and moments of growing closer together.

Dr. Tony Gates a no-show: When you watch ER, and all those other hospital shows, you see these brilliant doctors and nurses who breeze into the patient’s life with the perfect answer and cure. Everything, for the most part, ends up with a timely and tidy finish. But the reality of it is that in “real life” the doctors and nurses we meet have to earn our confidence. We step out in faith, wanting to trust them for our care. What I am experiencing here (as I and many others do every day) is the expertise and compassion of a medical staff that really do care. I watched the night nurse as she stood over my mother and offered excellent medical care and spoke and acted with gentleness and compassion.

God’s compassion and care goes beyond what we feeble humans can accomplish. Though my trust in a new doctor or situation may waiver, I am able to step out in faith and trust God for my care and for the care of my family, friends, and those whom I visit in the hospitals from week to week. God continually stands at the bedside, offering His most excellent care and He speaks peace and healing into our lives.

In all these things, I’ve witnessed God’s grace and mercy. He has moved through the actions of others, and has been present in every moment of this day. I can only move forward with confidence because I am fully aware of His Spirit filling up the room and flowing through me. So as I end my journaling of the day, I am thankful… just thankful.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

... by our love?

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. - James 1:22


Do you really have to SAY that you are a Christian before anyone can guess it? Is it only the voiced label of “Christian” or “church member” that makes your care for others evident? Hopefully we live our lives in a way that says we genuinely care about people, regardless of who they are or what they believe, of if they agree with our beliefs or opinions.

Am I failing Christ if I don’t hand out my church business card to every person with whom I come into contact? Is the Christian’s primary job to grow the numbers of church membership, or to be so passionate about God that we are out in our world, showing the people around us authentic love and care? I don’t mean as an exercise of “things Christians must do”, but as a natural outflowing of love, a love that reflects the grace and mercy one has received and experienced in their own life.

Some think this means you never have to talk about Jesus directly, and some think it means you use the word "Lord" 3 times in every sentence. I think that "authentic" love is demonstrated in how you boldly live out exactly what the Holy Spirit is leading you to say, to do, and perhaps sometimes, to even refrain from saying at a particular moment- and then living it out as the unique person God created you to be.

I’m not saying that we are to show Christ’s love for the sole purpose of bringing “them” into the church (I’ll rant on the “us vs them” ideology later). That is still not the point in what Christ teaches us. Do I hope that my local church will love people and share the Gospel with them, and bring them into the life of the Church? Of course, but that is the fruit of the relationship, not the sole reason for it. Love others, just for the sake and the pure joy of loving them.

Yes we are to listen (quiet time with Him is precious), but unless the church becomes dissatisfied with being pew-potatoes, and are out there “doing”, we are missing the mark. Will they really know we are Christians by our love? or… are those just lyrics of old?

Monday, September 21, 2009

Busy Again…

Wow. Just… wow. This summer I was quite busy with trips to here, there and yonder. I was busy with school, vacation, family and the church, and moving in several different directions at once. Busy. So very busy that I have failed to keep up with my blog since the July 18 posting below. Yikes! But… but… I was busy.

“Busy” is one of those bothersome words- one of those words that is used far too easily as an excuse, and becomes our justification for not doing the very things which we know we should be doing. “How have you been doing?” the question that moves in tandem with questions about someone’s absence, is often met with the reply, “Oh, I’ve been so busy with ________ (insert event/activity here).”

Even though being “busy” is a pet peeve of mine, you see here that I still managed to explain away my bloglessness with my being “busy.” But I HAVE been… busy… ya know. Truth is that we are all pretty… busy… going and coming, doing and being, and before you know it, you look up and realize that you have “busied” yourself into a corner.

All the “doing” we do has a purpose. Yes? But when we fill up our lives on too much busy-ness, we are setting ourselves up to miss out on the reasons that we first chose to be “busy”. For instance, soccer mom takes the kids to practice after school, 2 days a week. The reason the kids are in soccer are because they enjoy the sport. Mom and dad want to support the kids in their enjoyment of soccer. But the kids also want to be in Scouts, dance, and the band, so the schedules are created, and the routes are driven daily. Following the after-school activities is home and homework, chores, and maybe even a family meal together… maybe.

What many families end up confessing is that in the midst of all that activity, they find that at the end of the week, they have spend a quantity of time together, in transit from one activity to another, but no quality time actually talking to each other. The things that they have loaded their calendars with are the very things that are preventing them from having face to face time with each other.

This doesn’t even take into account of the weariness and then guilt that parents feel because their own duties at home don’t begin till late at night. When do you work on your own projects or do the bills or care for the house? Something is defiantly going to suffer from lack of time and energy.

Reading back over this, it could sound as though I am urging people to refrain from sports or band rehearsals. Not so. There is no magic formula for how to raise a family or how to budget your time, energy and money. But I believe that it is so important to be purposeful in taking on that “one more thing” into your schedule. Perhaps we need to schedule in things like “spend 2 hours with Susie after school”, “play Guitar Hero with Bobby”, “take Annie to restaurant of her choice, just to chat” and so on. My daughter was a busy (there it is again) kid who loved being involved with church, school and friends, but to this day, we will both tell you that some of our favorite times were spend cuddled up on the couch on a lazy Saturday, reading aloud to each other for hours, and the long talks about important things and even the “nothing” things.

So just be intentional with creating time with those you say are important to you. Those moments are so precious. I’m going to have to schedule a trip with my daughter this week. I’d have called her earlier, but I’ve been so busy…. oops.

(Note to self... get busy posting regularly again... oh.. oops again)