My sun porch

My sun porch

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Final words that gathered people together....

"For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” -- Matthew 18:20

“Gather to me my faithful ones, who made a covenant with me by sacrifice!” -- Psalm 50:5

Our church is studying a book by Adam Hamilton, Final Words, this Lenten season. Today, because I had a vacation day, I took extra time to read, study, contemplate and let it all seep into my heart. 

This books teaches us and encourages us to look at the final few statements that Jesus said at the end of his life on the cross. As our pastor discussed this last Sunday, when hanging on the cross, speaking would have been very difficult for Jesus. So, why did He do this? Why did he voluntarily endure even more pain? I believe He did it to gather us together.

This thought brought back my own painful memory. My dad was dying. All the family were called home that weekend. We knew it was a matter of only hours, so we were all with him in that living room in his last hours. We were all trying to sleep, on couches, in chairs, on the floor, all the while enduring our own little worlds of despair. At a little before 3:00 am, my dad called out that he had to pee. Since he was so weak, it took several of us to help him with this simple bodily function. My brother and my uncle held him up, my mom helped him and I also gathered there in support. At the stroke of three, his hand dropped and he was gone. As I think back on this memory that ALWAYS brings me to tears, I think about my dad's final words. They weren't words of comfort. They weren't saying goodbye. They weren't elegant words we could treasure always. However, I believe he said those specific words to gather us all together. He knew that it took several people to help him with this simple task, so gathering us all together to help him allowed us all to be around him when he slipped away from this world. He was surrounded by the people who loved him most and whom he loved most. As we all realized he was gone, we clung onto one another. We were surrounded by the people we loved the most. We all supported each other in that moment and in all the difficult moments to come.

This memory is as fresh in my mind and heart as if it happened yesterday instead of 23 years ago. Even though it is a painful moment in my life, I will treasure it always. I believe that was my dad's final gift to the people he loved.

I believe Jesus endured the pain of speaking while hanging that cross as HIS final gift to us. He gathered the people who loved him the most and they listened to his words. The writers of the Gospels interviewed those around the cross and recorded those last few precious statements from Jesus so we could treasure them generations later.

In the coming weeks of Lent, as I study those gifted statements from my Savior, I will look at them in a different way. I will think of the gift my earthly father gave me and be honored by the gift my Heavenly father gave me on the cross. 

Dear Gracious Father, 
Thank you so much for the gift you gave the world through Jesus. In this world of division and frustration, gather people together and let us all feel your love through the gifts you have given us. Let us lean on the people around us. Help us to come together and work on bringing peace to a hurting world. In the precious name of Jesus, Amen.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

God will take care of me...

"Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you." -- 1 Peter 5:7

God is good! I know that is a saying we say, and perhaps it has become trite for some. However, for me, I have found it to be true. Yesterday was an emotional roller coaster ride! It began with a devotional moment in the morning. A verse I read prompted me to hit my knees. So many people that I love and trust have been telling me that my way of thinking is wrong. I am turning into some tree-hugging liberal, apparently, and I am wrong in God's eyes. If that was true, why did I feel so strongly about this? So, right there, beside my kitchen table, I hit my knees and BEGGED God to change my heart and mind if I was wrong. Later in the day, my pastor posted a message from a leader in the Methodist church that reinforced my heart and thoughts. You may not believe it, but in my heart, that was the answer from God I needed! I shared that post and started a heated debate among my friends and family. It breaks my heart that I seem to be so far away from where they are. But...I refuse to be hurtful or hateful...I COULDN'T be because I LOVE these people. I even love the person who was pretty hateful back to me.

I was feeling both strengthened and disheartened yesterday after work, and emotionally drained. I didn't feel like sitting home by myself, as I figured I would spend my evening obsessed with what people were saying on Facebook (I WISH I could just give it up!!!) so I went to a movie. I had been wanting to see Hidden Figures, about the women at NASA who helped John Glenn get to space in the Friendship 7. I am currently working on a display for my library about these women and about John Glenn, as he is out very own hometown hero! 

On the way to the movie theater, I heard a song on the radio about how I should live like I'm loved. I listened to every word and felt reassured that I was right to feel like I feel. I watched the movie, and let me tell you...during the movie there were times when my leg got to shaking so much because I felt this fire building inside me! These women, who were told they had to use separate bathrooms, and that they weren't good enough, were using the brains God gave them and kept pushing until everyone saw what God created them to do! John Glenn, bless his dear, departed soul, saw their worth, treated them like the human treasures they are and TRUSTED them to do the math that was needed to figure out how to bring him home from space. He TRUSTED these women, who most of society were throwing away, with his life!

I walked out of that theater feeling refreshed, rejuvenated and REFUELED! The radio played a song about asking God to bring these dry bones to life! I prayed on the way home that I could explain these feelings to my husband. He never understands my church and God feelings...When he got home from his day, we started talking and it all came spilling out! He listened! He may think I'm a little nuts, but he listened and encouraged me!

This morning, I woke up with the old hymn "God will take care of you" in my head!  As I walked past the coffee table, I picked up my grandmother's old Bible that usually just sits there as a decoration. I opened the Bible and look what I saw:
This is a note, written by my dad when he was a teenager, that my grandma kept in her Bible. I have seen this before, but it has been a LONG time! My dad has been on my mind SO much this month. He has been gone for 23 years this month and I LONG to speak to him again. This note allowed me to hear his "voice" and see that even as a teenager, he was searching for how to live like Jesus. I SOOOOO needed this message today!

So...God has taken care of me in the last two days! THANK YOU GOD! There is a fire in my belly! A refreshed spirit in my soul! I will not fight with those who think I am wrong, but I will speak love. I will try to live like Jesus each day. I will fall...I will sin. It's a good thing I have a Savior who will pick me up, brush me off , forgive me and breathe breath into these dry bones once again!

Thank you, thank you, Lord for taking such good care of me! Lord, I am here. I hear you calling. I will go where you lead me. I will hold your people (ALL PEOPLE) in my heart! Please open the hearts, minds and souls of others who know you and call out to them and let them hear you tell them to LOVE and not let fear hold them back. Amen

Friday, January 27, 2017

The Power of the Cross...

"The power of the Cross is the power of becoming one"
-- Chaplin Will Mullins

Romans 12:16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.

Yesterday morning I had the opportunity to sing with the Campus Choir during our weekly chapel service at Muskingum University. This was good timing for me. I needed an uplifting and reassuring reminder of God's power as I have been having problems having hope and being at peace in the middle of the political, cultural and spiritual division that is currently happening in this country and world. We are SO divided and there is SO much ugliness. 

The song we sang spoke hope to my heart. Here are some of the words:

Gracious Spirit, dwell with me, I would gracious be.
Help me now thy grace to see, I would be like thee...

Truthful Spirit, dwell with me, I would truthful be.
Help me now thy truth to see, I would be like thee.
And, with wisdom kind and clear, thy life in mine appear.

Mighty Spirit, dwell with me, I would mighty be.
Help me now thy power to see, I would be like thee.
'Gainst all weapons hell can wield, be thou my strength and shield;
Let thy word my weapon be, Lord, Thine the victory.

Singing these words made me remember that God IS in control and He IS with me every day. I strive to be like Jesus each day. I fall short, of course, but it is my goal each day to let my words and actions show those around me the love that Christ shows me. They will know I'm a Christian by my love.

When I get frustrated reading people's hateful posts to each other, I need God's power living in me. When people judge others and not know the whole situation, I need God's gentleness living in me. 
When I see our elected leaders throwing away people who need to be remembered and taken care of, I need God's patience living in me. When I am moved to take action against intolerance and hatred, I need God's strength, might, wisdom and boldness living in me.

I know that God created me to be a peacemaker. Those natural skills I have, which if not kept in check make me a people pleaser and make me weak, can also be used for good to help others. I have TOO much empathy sometimes, perhaps I have enough to spare. I just wish EVERYONE could learn to walk in someone else's shoes before they say and do hurtful and hateful things. Can I help people to learn to understand others and be more empathetic? Can live so that people can see Jesus in my heart?

During his message yesterday, our Chaplin spoke about how what Jesus did on the cross has the power to make us one. As divided as we are as a culture? Really? As divided as we are as Christians? Are you sure? YES! God IS that powerful! I think I forget that sometimes. I forget that he is the creator and ruler of the world. If we can harness God's power of what He did through Jesus on the cross, we COULD become one in body, mind and spirit. It seems impossible to me me right now. I have seen families split apart by politics. I have felt the angst of feeling like I don't fit in among my own church family. I have been part of heated political and theological arguments. It feels like there is no way we could all be one in ANY way.

Then I remember: "Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." (Matthew 19:26)

If EACH one of us who believed in the power of Jesus would try to live LIKE Jesus in all we do, we could come to more of consensus more often. Maybe if we lived more like Jesus in all we did, others, who don't believe, would want to know more about how we live. Maybe if we STOPPED hating and arguing with the other side long enough to TALK to them, we might even learn to understand them better!

STOP hating liberals. Try to understand why they think and believe the things they do. TALK with them! Treat them like you want to be treated and listen.
STOP hating Trump supporters. TALK with them and openly and respectfully discuss why they feel so strongly. Treat them like you would want to be treated and listen.
STOP hating women because they are pro-choice. STOP hating pro-lifers. TALK with them. Learn to understand why they believe that way. Work together to discover ways to reduce the number of abortions.
STOP hating Muslims and people of other or no religion. TALK to them. Listen to what they believe. REALLY listen. In my experience, we have more in common than we can even imagine. Even if you think your way is the only way to heaven, LISTEN and work together to solve problems. Are there extremists who are evil and want to part of peaceful solutions? Of course! But there are MORE people who just want to live in peace. 
STOP hating immigrants. Not all of them are evil drug pushers or terrorists. Not all of them are out to steal our jobs and ruin this country. Most of them are just trying to escape a terrible way of life by coming to this wonderful land of opportunity. Of course there are those who are coming into this country for dishonest and hurtful reasons. Is it worth THROWING AWAY the people who genuinely are searching for a better life? If that was the case with our country a hundred years or so ago, I would be an Irish citizen right now. (Hmmmm...those of you that know me know that I am thinking that sounds like a good idea!) 

Gracious Spirit, dwell in me and dwell in the believers in this country. Through the power of your cross, we can learn to be one and work together to show others the love of Christ, even if they don't believe in him at all. Lord, I am a dreamer and dream of a world where we can work together to solve the problems of our world. However, I am not naive enough to believe that this world will ever be perfect. Help me to be an instrument of your peace in the world around me. I love you Lord, and in YOU comes my hope. Amen.