Hardship

Survive

So this thought came from yet another meaningful writing by Sean of the South as I enjoy morning coffee.  I am always left with a sense of hope, a reminder of kindness, and in this case, a humbling of soul as I gain perspective on “hard times”’.  You will have to read the story (attached for your reading pleasure) but Sam, the subject, has had what we might call a lifetime of hardships.

Hardships are defined by what we are finding difficult.  It’s all relative to our personal state of life.  Sometimes we can see a broader perspective when the world is experiencing hardship, like now. In pandemic.

At different times, I would have said that having a broken washing machine for a week was a traumatic life event. It WAS!  But it did get repaired. At other times, like now, not being able to get my hair cut (leading to drastic self grooming that would surely be even more traumatic!) is messing up my general satisfaction.  One time I really thought I was experiencing hardship was wanting to go to Florida with all my friends by myself.  My parents kept saying no.  Finally they let me go with two friends during Spring Break, a freshman in college.  I created more hardship for myself in 6 days that you can imagine… details (which might include roomsharing with strangers who got us kicked out for innocent reason from already paid for room (read no extra money); to a broken down car on the way to AND back from Georgia; and. being left to wait on the side of by myself…. ok I will stop there.  That was a hardship learning lesson not to be repeated EVER again. By the Grace of God, I made it through.

In the big picture, these are pretty small hardships.  Each one was formative to my life, brought new appreciations of life, and gives fresh meaning to what is hard.  As some might say, “You don’t know the meaning of hard!”.

No, I probably don’t.  Even in this time of hardship for many in the world, I know things could be much worse.  Again, by the grace of God and the country I was born in, I am aware that I live in a state of privilege.  Are things perfect? No. However, that is not the plan for life.  We can spend a lifetime of achieving perfect and still, in the end, find flaws.  If not in ourselves, in others.

Let’s look at hardship from a faith perspective.  Faith requires that we take a leap into being “good” with the unknown.  Because we will trust in God to accompany us and guide us, ultimately to the best and more perfect ways of living and loving like God.  Jesus revealed what faith and trust look like.  In hardship, in the face of death, Christ looked to God to be the author and perfecter of His life. As we study the life of Jesus Christ we see how Jesus did it.  That is, among other things, face up to hardships.

He named these hardships to all who would listen.  Christ believed that everyone has the potential to be faithful.  To be kind, good, helpful, honest, encouraging, and faithful with God’s help. Jesus named others impatience with His ministry, saying more than once,  “it’s not the time”.  Jesus knew the hardship of misperception of his Godly work and suffered under hardship as leaders of communities lied and manipulated whole groups of people to hate Him for his holy work.  He faced knowing the truth and having it rejected.  His hardship was physical. Jesus traveled without any comforts, took what was offered, and never asked, not once for the best seat, the best meal, the best venues to teach.  However, in the way of God, Jesus used each of these hard times to teach, to heal, to reveal, to bring hope and the message of God’s love to those who would hear.

Therein lies the crux of life.  In order to learn, to thrive, to survive, whether it be physically, emotionally, and/or spiritually, we must listen.  Listen to Jesus. Study His words and God’s Word.  This meditation is not the solution, it only points the way.  To survive.  To make it through hardships, both personal and communal.  Even in the worldwide perspective, it is faith that will bring us through, and trust that God desires good for us. Good in now, good in eternal. 

In the words of a wise preacher, “Everything, (pause for a beat or two of your heart) will be all right.”  It’s the pause that makes this work. That is where we fill in the blank with our worries, anxieties of the moment, the day, the heavy, burdensome hardships that we need help with.  God is a God that accompanies us. In all things. 

You are loved, prayed for, and reminded that truly, in the ways of God, “everything will be all right.”

Pastor Lisa

“Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8: 35-39

For Sean of the South: https://seandietrich.com/tuesday-in-minneapolis/

Orthodox Chant “In the Dark” by the Monks of Svetogorskaya Lavra in Ukraine.
Beautiful, haunting, and meditative, the life of Christ is sung.
Words to the Chant. “In the Dark”

In the dark night, over Bethlehem,
The clear dawn was gone, the earth covered with light.
Holy Virgin, Holy Bride, in the den of the poor Son gave birth.

Refrain:  Sleep, Jesus, Sleep, Little,
Sleep you, star, mine.
Your fate, my dear, I sing to you.

Gently kissed, covered with a cloth, 
She put to bed, quietly started the song:
You grow up, You, Son, You will become an adult,
In the world you will go, My baby.

Chorus: Sleep, Jesus…

The love of the Lord and the truth of God
You, in a world of faith, will bring your people,
The truth will live, the shackles of sin will break
But on Calvary, My child will die.

Chorus: Sleep, Jesus…

Sleep Jesus, Jesus sleep little baby
Sleep, you, my pink blossom
And with hope in You 
The whole world is watching!
 

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Finding “It”

Finding “It”

You know how it is – there is always that undercurrent part of us.  The sub-surface piece of us that is searching, looking, questioning, hoping to establish the “it” that we consider the ultimate place of being.  For me the “it” is knowing and having peace.  Peace that is not out of my own creation, but a wholistic place of being settled in mind, body and soul.  Though fleeting, I am assured, that this state is of God, from God.  Peace is clearly identifiable.  

You may call it a “God” moment or you may be learning to identify these times.  I am able to most clearly identify them when I am in times of turmoil, or simply just questioning or seeking.  Likely there is something that I am thinking over, struggling with seeking the right direction.  It is in my prayers and thoughts, dogging me, unsettling me until I think I have exhausted all the options or directions. You notice that I didn’t say solutions, right?  There are always multiple solutions to any circumstance. However, my desire is to function with the best solution which provides the best outcome for the circumstance. Talk about a double edged sword – each of us has our own idea of what is best.  So let me clarify, my best means listening to what God is saying about whatever “it” is.

I have come to wait upon these moments, the times when “it” is given to me.  In this process, I do not – can not – have an expectation of the bigger picture God will reveal. I just know that God comes.  God reveals.  In God’s time.  The identifier that says God is in this, is the peace that over runs the banks of my consternation’s, questions and wanderings.  That is “it”! The understanding is solid, concrete.  These moments are clear as I wake from a night of sleep.  Prayer and meditation can be times of listening and revelation.  As I pray, the prayer and words begin to slow, and my thoughts are moved from where I am to praying to out of what God is revealing.  Listening to God shapes prayer with understandings that redirect me to know God’s will.  And, oddly enough, I am not the only one who has said that “shower time” can be a place of “it” moments. Something about the soothing, pouring waters, surrounded by sound and feel of water displacing all distractions.  Think about baptismal waters.  That extraordinary moment of immersion when you give self over under water and rise in new life in Christ.  I wonder, are shower moments little baptisms at times?

I can only offer out of my own experience is that “it” moments are consistently, truly God moments.  God wants a living relationship with us. God desires to give us peace and hope.  Where ever the place of revelation comes for each of us, we are moved to a deeper part, a quieter awareness of being.  And there “it” is! Out of the blue – “it” comes.  Our being encounters God.

The revelation that I have been seeking, searching, longing for relief from is given.  Knowing God’s will is peace. Peace floods my spirit, there is a quickening of my senses and I know this gift is not out of my own understanding. That alone brings delight!  God is inspiring, shaping, challenging and at times, daring me to take new action, or none.  In fresh insight from God allows me to move in faith with peace and certainty. 

Praying that you will find “it” as you seek, that you will claim your peace as given from God, and delight in the relationship that unfolds with each new day. I love you, am praying for you and God loves you far beyond what we can think or imagine!

Pastor Lisa

Sweet Hour of Prayer
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Its Dark, But…

It’s Dark, But …

I am sure this title is causing some perfectionists of language arts to cringe right now.  I know it’s not proper to end with “but”.  But it works for me.  

Let me explain a bit more.  I am up early, listening to the quiet, praying, sitting. Waiting.  Outside my window, I can see it is dark.  Morning has not yet broken.  I heard the trash truck come by.  Lucy dog snuffling in her sleep.  And the birds are singing.  Not one, but it must be every bird in the area who stops in for food and water that Jack keeps faithfully prepared for them.  I can’t translate their song but I understand it.  

Birdsongs announce, claim, invite, charm, and entertain.  Even someone with a bird brain can hear and appreciate the sound of beauty.  That means I can and I do!  I have a number of favorite birds.  One is the mockingbird.  They are so sassy! Not only do they copy other birds’ songs, but they really show up!  They find just the right position to be appreciated too.  I will never forget. in one of our home searches, we were coming to the end of many disappointing showings. We got out of the car to look at one more home.  Mom was with me, the girls at school, Jack at work.  As I exited the car, there he was.  That sassy bird singing with all he had in a bush by the drive.  You couldn’t ignore him, only appreciate him.  He didn’t move even as we walked past, to go to the front door.  Singing, emphasizing his efforts with his broad grey tail!  We walked in, and by the time I made it to the back of the house to the beautiful kitchen that opened to the den and eat-in area, I knew.  This was it.  Mom said, “Oh, this is perfect.” And it was.  I called Jack at work, called the school to get the girls out early to come and approve our new home.  By the end of the day, we made an offer.  We made some wonderful, lasting memories in that home.  Birthdays, graduations, a wedding, and five Christmas’.  I will always associate the mockingbird with the beginning of a new life. in a new home, creating treasured memories in the last years of family before the girls launched into college.  Sweet.  A song not forgotten.

I could give you a story about each bird I love.  The Eastern Towhee bird, who scruffles through the underbrush for delicacies.  They make this charming, deep-throated “to-wheet” sound.  My dad seemed to think that there was one towhee bird in our back yard that was “his”, and would remind me when we heard that distinctive call.  He has been gone 30 years, and still, the sound of the Towhee bird says, “I am here with you.”.

Bluebirds lift my heart.  They show up unexpectedly, bringing joy in the bright flash of color of their wing.  I will always remember the day I was leaving the home of a family that had just lost its patriarch.  He was a beloved husband to her, father, granddad, and friend.  We stood on the front porch, and in the grey dull afternoon of early spring, there was a call.  The widow stopped to look, and there it was.  A bluebird. Sitting on the wire in front of us.  Singing and chirping.  We agreed.  God was saying “I am with you.”. No doubt.

The stories of hawks, cardinals, and other winged creatures are still flooding my mind.  But, you won’t want to read all of them.  And you have your own memories of birds too.  Stories of wonder, beauty, and delight.  Some from the heat of the day, the cool of the nightfall, or like today, in the dark.

We are in rather a dark time in society.  Sheltering-in has “taken” from us.  Personally and communally.  Physically and spiritually.  Emotionally.  That’s what I mean about dark.  It’s hard.  I feel like we will spend a long time, maybe the rest of our lives, working through how this pandemic has altered our perspectives and life.    

But today, even in the dark, I hear sounds of hope, songs of welcome that reached beyond my ear, to my heart.  I know that even in the most difficult of days our God is always reaching out, offering up and promising hope.  God is with us. All is well.  All will be well.  For God, our Creator is with us.

I love you, pray for you and invite you to see and hear God’s hope all around you.

Pastor Lisa

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Matthew 6: 25-6

 

“Morning Has Broken” Cat Stevens
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Who Knows?

Who Knows?

Today seems to be overflowing with questions.  There are days like that! So – who knows?  What is true and what is not? How do we determine truth?  It seems that truth has somewhat relative as each of us speaks “our” truth.  Your truth may not fit my truth. Oh no, this is a slippery slope!  

Lots of questions, very few answers.  How about you? For me, determining what is most important for questions on life, pandemic, relationships, pastoring, serving, or doing ministry must pass the one question I can speak my truth about.  Will this honor God, keep me and others faithful, bring us closer in relationship to God and enable us to be better disciples?  Oops! That was four reflective questions.

Determining the will of God is a spiritual, emotional, physical, and intellectual process.  A number of years ago I lead a study by Leslie Weatherhead The Will Of God. One point still sticks: if we want to know the will of God for our life we must be involved in the Word of God.  Reading and studying the Bible.  Living in God’s will means defining what God requires of us.  The Micah 6: 8 passage comes to mind:

 

“He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.”

It is common, for me at least, in times of questioning and discerning, to depend on the council of others.  During this time of “sheltering in” God has pressed upon me to seek God’s counsel. To listen, to reflect and absorb the word of scripture, the teachings, and then to consult with others.  That means that I am required to wait.  Wait on the Lord in my seeking.  Trust that God holds all things as I wait.  Anticipate that in the waiting God is generating well for me, for my loved ones, for my church family, for our community, for our world.  Because God is a generous God, not one of us being more vital or valued than the other.  I trust that.

Accepting that we are all equally loved by God is the beginning of God teaching us justice. In a world that seems to quantify who is worth more, who contributes most, etc., God looks upon us with one qualifier.  We are all are created in the image of God. Therefore all are beloved children of God.  The fallen, the broken, the misfit, the shamed, the ones who have broken His laws, brought harm to themselves or others.  At times we are any or all of those imperfect humans.  Still, all are held in the embrace of God’s love.  It takes God’s arms to bring this truth to us.  

We all love kindness.  One act of kindness can change our day, someone else’s life, the community, and world.  It is like the ripples that follow a pebble on the smooth surface of the water.  Ever-expanding, wider, deeper until it is no longer seen, but still having been, will remain in memory.  These days, acts of kindness are highly sought.  We need the renewal in our souls of seeing good being done and of taking part in doing good, loving-kindness enough to be kind. 

Finally, Micah reminds us that we are to walk humbly.  Humility is not about diminishing or cheapening our worth, but rather recognizing the power of God.  It is about accepting that God holds all, loves all, offers His Son for our salvation so we can be reconciled to Him by faith.  Living humbly means that our thoughts begin with how God will be shown in my words, actions, decisions, and commitments?  We re-write the script in our heart and mind and now ask, “what does God want… of me, of my commitment, of my time, talent, giving, service and witness…”. 

Perhaps in the questions, you may discover something, about you and God.  I pray that you will have the courage and tenacity to seek God for the questions in your life.  Listen with your soul. May you find yourself joyfully humbled as the Lord meets you where you are.  Proceed on, for God is with you.  God is good and desires good for you, for the world.  That will be my answer today, always.

Praying the peace that comes from God alone, for your peace can change the world.

Pastor Lisa

 

“Lead On O King Eternal” May the words of this timeless hymn be our song!  
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Wait

Wait

Having just re-read the Bishop and Cabinets recommendations for returning to worship on June 22, best practices for worshipping together, and any gatherings that follow, I am having a hard time.  Tears are threatening.  Disappointment is full-on.  Frustration is right at the surface.  You may be reading this having not heard this news.  Maybe you worship with a community that does not have these strictures, but what the Bishop says, well I set my cap on that. 

NOTE: the above was a Public Service Announcement.  I am SO human!  The human in of us wants things the way we want them.  It’s just that what we want is not always best for us. 

Within our human condition, we have been given a spiritual nature.  Our spiritual nature is a necessary piece of our “whole”.  We are not limited by our humanness but have access to a wider understanding of ourselves and of others, and the sure experience that we worship a living God who is listening, caring, loving, and fully present. Our spiritual nature can provide us with new perspectives that sustain us. 

Are you looking for, listening to new perspectives?  Join me in pandemic life! We need new perspectives!  The layers of decisions and responses get more and more complicated.  The limits of our knowledge and practice are being tested. My limits are at an all-time high.  I feel like the little Dutch boy trying to plug the dam with his fingers.  It went something like this: he would put his finger in a hole and two more leaks would spring up.  He couldn’t prevent the leaks due to distance and limited fingers.  

A faithful, spiritual grounding is what I need.  I have some soil that has lain fallow, just waiting for this time.  God is saying: pick up your tools and get to work.  Now is the time to begin new ground.  Anticipate what has been learned about Me, about my faithfulness, about the mystery of a community that acts in faith and the Holy Spirit that shows up in the most unexpected times and ways.  With faith, obedience, and trust put the shovel in and begin to dig.  Turn over the soil, the covered over promises, remove the stumbling blocks that surface.  Castaway the stones of impatience, selfishness, set expectations, fear.  Each of us has stones that we will discover about ourselves and our faith that God will reveal, and giving us faith to move them out of our way.

Our 4 1/2-year-old grandson, Luke, is fascinated with earthmovers.  He loves things that make loud noises, have power and size on their side.  His last visit he discovered scraps from his Halloween costume of an “ex-vator”.  We spend an hour or more building his idea for a miniature excavator, adding rope and using Duct tape,  He showed me how to roll up the wheels.  How to make the match!  The cab was to be made out of a small box, he said, so we searched the house for just the right size. Success!  At one point as I was cutting out a cab, he said “Nana, you have ruined it!”.  I said, wait, let’s see how it works out.  So he waited, As Duct Tape did its magic, he began to see shape and dimension being revealed.  Finally, we put it on top.  He was dissatisfied, so we made it smaller.  Trim and tape. Just what he had in mind! 

What began as an idea took shape.  What obstacles we discovered became exciting learning experiences.  Waiting and watching gave way to satisfying results.  Something that was not, came into being as we talked, dreamed, gathered resources, tried some things, started over on some, waited, worked, and finally saw the finished product.  It was pleasing to him, to me.

I am beginning to see a longer view of this unusual season.  We are in a time of upheaval.  Nothing is as we want or expect.  We are in a waiting time.  However, this waiting time is like the creative, generating season of what do we want. WAIT!  That is the human way! The question we must-have is: what does God want?  How can God use us?  Live into the creative spiritual exercise of waiting.  Forget the leaks in the dam and only 10 fingers – God is on the ready with all we need to shore up our life, church, and world.  You just wait and see! 

I love you, miss you, and trust that in all things God is bringing good!  Pastor Lisa

Luke’s Ex-Vator!  
“Wait on the Lord” May these words bring reminders of the goodness of our Lord!
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Stick Shift

 
Stick Shift

Today is Monday.  Everything I expect of a Monday is changed. For some reason, I continue to wake with the idea that the former rhythms of life will be back to what I am used to. Some days I have to spend a moment or to figuring out what day it is.  How about you?

They say that it will be a long, slow process for us to return to any semblance of life patterns as we remember them. We may be looking at well over a year, as we face the possibility of a “2nd surge” now, and a fresh resurgence in the fall along with flu.  There is no timeline we can depend on.  We will have to wait and see.

It makes me feel sort of “jerked around”.  I haven’t thought of that description in a while.  To my recollection, it was a teen phrase lo’ many year ago!  Usually it meant that someone was giving you misleading information, unkindly teasing you, making life confusing.  That is a pretty good description for these days.  I also thought of another experience of being jerked around – literally.

I was 16, learning to drive, and had moved from dating a really fun, kind guy to being great friends.  He had a 2 door red Pinto.  I wanted one just like it when I grew up.  But until then, I had my eye on a used 1967 Mustang. With a stick shift.  I had no idea how to drive one, but Ricky picked up the mantle and started to teach me.  His first level was to teach me how to start and not stall the car.  We progressed to driving and stop signs.  I was a bit anxious every time I had to stop and start.  With more than a few instances of grinding, I finally found the “sweet spot” on the shift pedal. I was feeling pretty good about things.

Then he took me to the bottom of a hill. He had me turn off the car.  Then he said, go up the hill. Stop every few feet and sit on the brake, then start back up.  Now truly nervous, sweaty palms and all, I began.  Stop. Start. Fumbling feet and shifting hands. Stall. Fussing at Rick. “I can’t!”. He laughed and said, “You can.”  Tried again. Failed. Oh – did I mention the jerking? Right before the stall?  Pop the clutch to make quicker transition and you get a big jerk. Of your head. Without a headrest. Again, he said.  Again.  There were thousands of hills to practice on in our neighborhood.  Stop. Start. Jerk. Stall. Start. Ju-ju-er-er-er-K.  At least 900 of those, before finally.  Start. Stop. Move to first gear, ease off the pedal, increase gas and boom! Jerk to move forward success.  After numbers of starts, stops and practice, there was the day.  No Jerking! 

That burgundy 1967 Mustang 3 speed little honey kept me going until I was married and expecting.  Then it was time to graduate to something more functional for life.  But I have never forgotten the fun of driving a stick shift.  Once I got beyond the beginnings, a whole new world opened up for me.  A few jerks was nothing compared to the joy of driving a stick shift.  It’s something you never forget.  All of it.

The desire to learn, the fear of new challenges, the full on anxiety that comes from being in the middle of learning “how to”, the momentary times of beginning to “get it”, the assurance of mastering the seemingly impossible.  Especially looking in the rear view mirror, saying “no more jerking around” and smoothly moving forward. On a hill.

Folks, we may be feeling jerked around, some may be getting the hang of this new normal for now, but one day, you will be able to look in your rear view mirror and say, “I did it.  We made it!”. You might even say, “I can do all things, through Christ who strengthens me.”.

I love you, I am praying for you, and God is with you.

Pastor Lisa

 

 

 

 

Hillsong “You Are My Strength”
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Hardship

Survive

So this thought came from yet another meaningful writing by Sean of the South as I enjoy morning coffee.  I am always left with a sense of hope, a reminder of kindness, and in this case, a humbling of soul as I gain perspective on “hard times”’.  You will have to read the story (attached for your reading pleasure) but Sam, the subject, has had what we might call a lifetime of hardships.

Hardships are defined by what we are finding difficult.  It’s all relative to our personal state of life.  Sometimes we can see a broader perspective when the world is experiencing hardship, like now. In pandemic.

At different times, I would have said that having a broken washing machine for a week was a traumatic life event. It WAS!  But it did get repaired. At other times, like now, not being able to get my hair cut (leading to drastic self grooming that would surely be even more traumatic!) is messing up my general satisfaction.  One time I really thought I was experiencing hardship was wanting to go to Florida with all my friends by myself.  My parents kept saying no.  Finally they let me go with two friends during Spring Break, a freshman in college.  I created more hardship for myself in 6 days that you can imagine… details (which might include roomsharing with strangers who got us kicked out for innocent reason from already paid for room (read no extra money); to a broken down car on the way to AND back from Georgia; and. being left to wait on the side of by myself…. ok I will stop there.  That was a hardship learning lesson not to be repeated EVER again. By the Grace of God, I made it through.

In the big picture, these are pretty small hardships.  Each one was formative to my life, brought new appreciations of life, and gives fresh meaning to what is hard.  As some might say, “You don’t know the meaning of hard!”.

No, I probably don’t.  Even in this time of hardship for many in the world, I know things could be much worse.  Again, by the grace of God and the country I was born in, I am aware that I live in a state of privilege.  Are things perfect? No. However, that is not the plan for life.  We can spend a lifetime of achieving perfect and still, in the end, find flaws.  If not in ourselves, in others.

Let’s look at hardship from a faith perspective.  Faith requires that we take a leap into being “good” with the unknown.  Because we will trust in God to accompany us and guide us, ultimately to the best and more perfect ways of living and loving like God.  Jesus revealed what faith and trust look like.  In hardship, in the face of death, Christ looked to God to be the author and perfecter of His life. As we study the life of Jesus Christ we see how Jesus did it.  That is, among other things, face up to hardships.

He named these hardships to all who would listen.  Christ believed that everyone has the potential to be faithful.  To be kind, good, helpful, honest, encouraging, and faithful with God’s help. Jesus named others impatience with His ministry, saying more than once,  “it’s not the time”.  Jesus knew the hardship of misperception of his Godly work and suffered under hardship as leaders of communities lied and manipulated whole groups of people to hate Him for his holy work.  He faced knowing the truth and having it rejected.  His hardship was physical. Jesus traveled without any comforts, took what was offered, and never asked, not once for the best seat, the best meal, the best venues to teach.  However, in the way of God, Jesus used each of these hard times to teach, to heal, to reveal, to bring hope and the message of God’s love to those who would hear.

Therein lies the crux of life.  In order to learn, to thrive, to survive, whether it be physically, emotionally, and/or spiritually, we must listen.  Listen to Jesus. Study His words and God’s Word.  This meditation is not the solution, it only points the way.  To survive.  To make it through hardships, both personal and communal.  Even in the worldwide perspective, it is faith that will bring us through, and trust that God desires good for us. Good in now, good in eternal. 

In the words of a wise preacher, “Everything, (pause for a beat or two of your heart) will be all right.”  It’s the pause that makes this work. That is where we fill in the blank with our worries, anxieties of the moment, the day, the heavy, burdensome hardships that we need help with.  God is a God that accompanies us. In all things. 

You are loved, prayed for, and reminded that truly, in the ways of God, “everything will be all right.”

Pastor Lisa

“Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8: 35-39

For Sean of the South: https://seandietrich.com/tuesday-in-minneapolis/

Orthodox Chant “In the Dark” by the Monks of Svetogorskaya Lavra in Ukraine.
Beautiful, haunting, and meditative, the life of Christ is sung.
Words to the Chant. “In the Dark”

In the dark night, over Bethlehem,
The clear dawn was gone, the earth covered with light.
Holy Virgin, Holy Bride, in the den of the poor Son gave birth.

Refrain:  Sleep, Jesus, Sleep, Little,
Sleep you, star, mine.
Your fate, my dear, I sing to you.

Gently kissed, covered with a cloth, 
She put to bed, quietly started the song:
You grow up, You, Son, You will become an adult,
In the world you will go, My baby.

Chorus: Sleep, Jesus…

The love of the Lord and the truth of God
You, in a world of faith, will bring your people,
The truth will live, the shackles of sin will break
But on Calvary, My child will die.

Chorus: Sleep, Jesus…

Sleep Jesus, Jesus sleep little baby
Sleep, you, my pink blossom
And with hope in You 
The whole world is watching!
 

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Finding “It”

Finding “It”

You know how it is – there is always that undercurrent part of us.  The sub-surface piece of us that is searching, looking, questioning, hoping to establish the “it” that we consider the ultimate place of being.  For me the “it” is knowing and having peace.  Peace that is not out of my own creation, but a wholistic place of being settled in mind, body and soul.  Though fleeting, I am assured, that this state is of God, from God.  Peace is clearly identifiable.  

You may call it a “God” moment or you may be learning to identify these times.  I am able to most clearly identify them when I am in times of turmoil, or simply just questioning or seeking.  Likely there is something that I am thinking over, struggling with seeking the right direction.  It is in my prayers and thoughts, dogging me, unsettling me until I think I have exhausted all the options or directions. You notice that I didn’t say solutions, right?  There are always multiple solutions to any circumstance. However, my desire is to function with the best solution which provides the best outcome for the circumstance. Talk about a double edged sword – each of us has our own idea of what is best.  So let me clarify, my best means listening to what God is saying about whatever “it” is.

I have come to wait upon these moments, the times when “it” is given to me.  In this process, I do not – can not – have an expectation of the bigger picture God will reveal. I just know that God comes.  God reveals.  In God’s time.  The identifier that says God is in this, is the peace that over runs the banks of my consternation’s, questions and wanderings.  That is “it”! The understanding is solid, concrete.  These moments are clear as I wake from a night of sleep.  Prayer and meditation can be times of listening and revelation.  As I pray, the prayer and words begin to slow, and my thoughts are moved from where I am to praying to out of what God is revealing.  Listening to God shapes prayer with understandings that redirect me to know God’s will.  And, oddly enough, I am not the only one who has said that “shower time” can be a place of “it” moments. Something about the soothing, pouring waters, surrounded by sound and feel of water displacing all distractions.  Think about baptismal waters.  That extraordinary moment of immersion when you give self over under water and rise in new life in Christ.  I wonder, are shower moments little baptisms at times?

I can only offer out of my own experience is that “it” moments are consistently, truly God moments.  God wants a living relationship with us. God desires to give us peace and hope.  Where ever the place of revelation comes for each of us, we are moved to a deeper part, a quieter awareness of being.  And there “it” is! Out of the blue – “it” comes.  Our being encounters God.

The revelation that I have been seeking, searching, longing for relief from is given.  Knowing God’s will is peace. Peace floods my spirit, there is a quickening of my senses and I know this gift is not out of my own understanding. That alone brings delight!  God is inspiring, shaping, challenging and at times, daring me to take new action, or none.  In fresh insight from God allows me to move in faith with peace and certainty. 

Praying that you will find “it” as you seek, that you will claim your peace as given from God, and delight in the relationship that unfolds with each new day. I love you, am praying for you and God loves you far beyond what we can think or imagine!

Pastor Lisa

Sweet Hour of Prayer
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Its Dark, But…

It’s Dark, But …

I am sure this title is causing some perfectionists of language arts to cringe right now.  I know it’s not proper to end with “but”.  But it works for me.  

Let me explain a bit more.  I am up early, listening to the quiet, praying, sitting. Waiting.  Outside my window, I can see it is dark.  Morning has not yet broken.  I heard the trash truck come by.  Lucy dog snuffling in her sleep.  And the birds are singing.  Not one, but it must be every bird in the area who stops in for food and water that Jack keeps faithfully prepared for them.  I can’t translate their song but I understand it.  

Birdsongs announce, claim, invite, charm, and entertain.  Even someone with a bird brain can hear and appreciate the sound of beauty.  That means I can and I do!  I have a number of favorite birds.  One is the mockingbird.  They are so sassy! Not only do they copy other birds’ songs, but they really show up!  They find just the right position to be appreciated too.  I will never forget. in one of our home searches, we were coming to the end of many disappointing showings. We got out of the car to look at one more home.  Mom was with me, the girls at school, Jack at work.  As I exited the car, there he was.  That sassy bird singing with all he had in a bush by the drive.  You couldn’t ignore him, only appreciate him.  He didn’t move even as we walked past, to go to the front door.  Singing, emphasizing his efforts with his broad grey tail!  We walked in, and by the time I made it to the back of the house to the beautiful kitchen that opened to the den and eat-in area, I knew.  This was it.  Mom said, “Oh, this is perfect.” And it was.  I called Jack at work, called the school to get the girls out early to come and approve our new home.  By the end of the day, we made an offer.  We made some wonderful, lasting memories in that home.  Birthdays, graduations, a wedding, and five Christmas’.  I will always associate the mockingbird with the beginning of a new life. in a new home, creating treasured memories in the last years of family before the girls launched into college.  Sweet.  A song not forgotten.

I could give you a story about each bird I love.  The Eastern Towhee bird, who scruffles through the underbrush for delicacies.  They make this charming, deep-throated “to-wheet” sound.  My dad seemed to think that there was one towhee bird in our back yard that was “his”, and would remind me when we heard that distinctive call.  He has been gone 30 years, and still, the sound of the Towhee bird says, “I am here with you.”.

Bluebirds lift my heart.  They show up unexpectedly, bringing joy in the bright flash of color of their wing.  I will always remember the day I was leaving the home of a family that had just lost its patriarch.  He was a beloved husband to her, father, granddad, and friend.  We stood on the front porch, and in the grey dull afternoon of early spring, there was a call.  The widow stopped to look, and there it was.  A bluebird. Sitting on the wire in front of us.  Singing and chirping.  We agreed.  God was saying “I am with you.”. No doubt.

The stories of hawks, cardinals, and other winged creatures are still flooding my mind.  But, you won’t want to read all of them.  And you have your own memories of birds too.  Stories of wonder, beauty, and delight.  Some from the heat of the day, the cool of the nightfall, or like today, in the dark.

We are in rather a dark time in society.  Sheltering-in has “taken” from us.  Personally and communally.  Physically and spiritually.  Emotionally.  That’s what I mean about dark.  It’s hard.  I feel like we will spend a long time, maybe the rest of our lives, working through how this pandemic has altered our perspectives and life.    

But today, even in the dark, I hear sounds of hope, songs of welcome that reached beyond my ear, to my heart.  I know that even in the most difficult of days our God is always reaching out, offering up and promising hope.  God is with us. All is well.  All will be well.  For God, our Creator is with us.

I love you, pray for you and invite you to see and hear God’s hope all around you.

Pastor Lisa

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Matthew 6: 25-6

 

“Morning Has Broken” Cat Stevens
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Who Knows?

Who Knows?

Today seems to be overflowing with questions.  There are days like that! So – who knows?  What is true and what is not? How do we determine truth?  It seems that truth has somewhat relative as each of us speaks “our” truth.  Your truth may not fit my truth. Oh no, this is a slippery slope!  

Lots of questions, very few answers.  How about you? For me, determining what is most important for questions on life, pandemic, relationships, pastoring, serving, or doing ministry must pass the one question I can speak my truth about.  Will this honor God, keep me and others faithful, bring us closer in relationship to God and enable us to be better disciples?  Oops! That was four reflective questions.

Determining the will of God is a spiritual, emotional, physical, and intellectual process.  A number of years ago I lead a study by Leslie Weatherhead The Will Of God. One point still sticks: if we want to know the will of God for our life we must be involved in the Word of God.  Reading and studying the Bible.  Living in God’s will means defining what God requires of us.  The Micah 6: 8 passage comes to mind:

 

“He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.”

It is common, for me at least, in times of questioning and discerning, to depend on the council of others.  During this time of “sheltering in” God has pressed upon me to seek God’s counsel. To listen, to reflect and absorb the word of scripture, the teachings, and then to consult with others.  That means that I am required to wait.  Wait on the Lord in my seeking.  Trust that God holds all things as I wait.  Anticipate that in the waiting God is generating well for me, for my loved ones, for my church family, for our community, for our world.  Because God is a generous God, not one of us being more vital or valued than the other.  I trust that.

Accepting that we are all equally loved by God is the beginning of God teaching us justice. In a world that seems to quantify who is worth more, who contributes most, etc., God looks upon us with one qualifier.  We are all are created in the image of God. Therefore all are beloved children of God.  The fallen, the broken, the misfit, the shamed, the ones who have broken His laws, brought harm to themselves or others.  At times we are any or all of those imperfect humans.  Still, all are held in the embrace of God’s love.  It takes God’s arms to bring this truth to us.  

We all love kindness.  One act of kindness can change our day, someone else’s life, the community, and world.  It is like the ripples that follow a pebble on the smooth surface of the water.  Ever-expanding, wider, deeper until it is no longer seen, but still having been, will remain in memory.  These days, acts of kindness are highly sought.  We need the renewal in our souls of seeing good being done and of taking part in doing good, loving-kindness enough to be kind. 

Finally, Micah reminds us that we are to walk humbly.  Humility is not about diminishing or cheapening our worth, but rather recognizing the power of God.  It is about accepting that God holds all, loves all, offers His Son for our salvation so we can be reconciled to Him by faith.  Living humbly means that our thoughts begin with how God will be shown in my words, actions, decisions, and commitments?  We re-write the script in our heart and mind and now ask, “what does God want… of me, of my commitment, of my time, talent, giving, service and witness…”. 

Perhaps in the questions, you may discover something, about you and God.  I pray that you will have the courage and tenacity to seek God for the questions in your life.  Listen with your soul. May you find yourself joyfully humbled as the Lord meets you where you are.  Proceed on, for God is with you.  God is good and desires good for you, for the world.  That will be my answer today, always.

Praying the peace that comes from God alone, for your peace can change the world.

Pastor Lisa

 

“Lead On O King Eternal” May the words of this timeless hymn be our song!  
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Wait

Wait

Having just re-read the Bishop and Cabinets recommendations for returning to worship on June 22, best practices for worshipping together, and any gatherings that follow, I am having a hard time.  Tears are threatening.  Disappointment is full-on.  Frustration is right at the surface.  You may be reading this having not heard this news.  Maybe you worship with a community that does not have these strictures, but what the Bishop says, well I set my cap on that. 

NOTE: the above was a Public Service Announcement.  I am SO human!  The human in of us wants things the way we want them.  It’s just that what we want is not always best for us. 

Within our human condition, we have been given a spiritual nature.  Our spiritual nature is a necessary piece of our “whole”.  We are not limited by our humanness but have access to a wider understanding of ourselves and of others, and the sure experience that we worship a living God who is listening, caring, loving, and fully present. Our spiritual nature can provide us with new perspectives that sustain us. 

Are you looking for, listening to new perspectives?  Join me in pandemic life! We need new perspectives!  The layers of decisions and responses get more and more complicated.  The limits of our knowledge and practice are being tested. My limits are at an all-time high.  I feel like the little Dutch boy trying to plug the dam with his fingers.  It went something like this: he would put his finger in a hole and two more leaks would spring up.  He couldn’t prevent the leaks due to distance and limited fingers.  

A faithful, spiritual grounding is what I need.  I have some soil that has lain fallow, just waiting for this time.  God is saying: pick up your tools and get to work.  Now is the time to begin new ground.  Anticipate what has been learned about Me, about my faithfulness, about the mystery of a community that acts in faith and the Holy Spirit that shows up in the most unexpected times and ways.  With faith, obedience, and trust put the shovel in and begin to dig.  Turn over the soil, the covered over promises, remove the stumbling blocks that surface.  Castaway the stones of impatience, selfishness, set expectations, fear.  Each of us has stones that we will discover about ourselves and our faith that God will reveal, and giving us faith to move them out of our way.

Our 4 1/2-year-old grandson, Luke, is fascinated with earthmovers.  He loves things that make loud noises, have power and size on their side.  His last visit he discovered scraps from his Halloween costume of an “ex-vator”.  We spend an hour or more building his idea for a miniature excavator, adding rope and using Duct tape,  He showed me how to roll up the wheels.  How to make the match!  The cab was to be made out of a small box, he said, so we searched the house for just the right size. Success!  At one point as I was cutting out a cab, he said “Nana, you have ruined it!”.  I said, wait, let’s see how it works out.  So he waited, As Duct Tape did its magic, he began to see shape and dimension being revealed.  Finally, we put it on top.  He was dissatisfied, so we made it smaller.  Trim and tape. Just what he had in mind! 

What began as an idea took shape.  What obstacles we discovered became exciting learning experiences.  Waiting and watching gave way to satisfying results.  Something that was not, came into being as we talked, dreamed, gathered resources, tried some things, started over on some, waited, worked, and finally saw the finished product.  It was pleasing to him, to me.

I am beginning to see a longer view of this unusual season.  We are in a time of upheaval.  Nothing is as we want or expect.  We are in a waiting time.  However, this waiting time is like the creative, generating season of what do we want. WAIT!  That is the human way! The question we must-have is: what does God want?  How can God use us?  Live into the creative spiritual exercise of waiting.  Forget the leaks in the dam and only 10 fingers – God is on the ready with all we need to shore up our life, church, and world.  You just wait and see! 

I love you, miss you, and trust that in all things God is bringing good!  Pastor Lisa

Luke’s Ex-Vator!  
“Wait on the Lord” May these words bring reminders of the goodness of our Lord!
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Stick Shift

 
Stick Shift

Today is Monday.  Everything I expect of a Monday is changed. For some reason, I continue to wake with the idea that the former rhythms of life will be back to what I am used to. Some days I have to spend a moment or to figuring out what day it is.  How about you?

They say that it will be a long, slow process for us to return to any semblance of life patterns as we remember them. We may be looking at well over a year, as we face the possibility of a “2nd surge” now, and a fresh resurgence in the fall along with flu.  There is no timeline we can depend on.  We will have to wait and see.

It makes me feel sort of “jerked around”.  I haven’t thought of that description in a while.  To my recollection, it was a teen phrase lo’ many year ago!  Usually it meant that someone was giving you misleading information, unkindly teasing you, making life confusing.  That is a pretty good description for these days.  I also thought of another experience of being jerked around – literally.

I was 16, learning to drive, and had moved from dating a really fun, kind guy to being great friends.  He had a 2 door red Pinto.  I wanted one just like it when I grew up.  But until then, I had my eye on a used 1967 Mustang. With a stick shift.  I had no idea how to drive one, but Ricky picked up the mantle and started to teach me.  His first level was to teach me how to start and not stall the car.  We progressed to driving and stop signs.  I was a bit anxious every time I had to stop and start.  With more than a few instances of grinding, I finally found the “sweet spot” on the shift pedal. I was feeling pretty good about things.

Then he took me to the bottom of a hill. He had me turn off the car.  Then he said, go up the hill. Stop every few feet and sit on the brake, then start back up.  Now truly nervous, sweaty palms and all, I began.  Stop. Start. Fumbling feet and shifting hands. Stall. Fussing at Rick. “I can’t!”. He laughed and said, “You can.”  Tried again. Failed. Oh – did I mention the jerking? Right before the stall?  Pop the clutch to make quicker transition and you get a big jerk. Of your head. Without a headrest. Again, he said.  Again.  There were thousands of hills to practice on in our neighborhood.  Stop. Start. Jerk. Stall. Start. Ju-ju-er-er-er-K.  At least 900 of those, before finally.  Start. Stop. Move to first gear, ease off the pedal, increase gas and boom! Jerk to move forward success.  After numbers of starts, stops and practice, there was the day.  No Jerking! 

That burgundy 1967 Mustang 3 speed little honey kept me going until I was married and expecting.  Then it was time to graduate to something more functional for life.  But I have never forgotten the fun of driving a stick shift.  Once I got beyond the beginnings, a whole new world opened up for me.  A few jerks was nothing compared to the joy of driving a stick shift.  It’s something you never forget.  All of it.

The desire to learn, the fear of new challenges, the full on anxiety that comes from being in the middle of learning “how to”, the momentary times of beginning to “get it”, the assurance of mastering the seemingly impossible.  Especially looking in the rear view mirror, saying “no more jerking around” and smoothly moving forward. On a hill.

Folks, we may be feeling jerked around, some may be getting the hang of this new normal for now, but one day, you will be able to look in your rear view mirror and say, “I did it.  We made it!”. You might even say, “I can do all things, through Christ who strengthens me.”.

I love you, I am praying for you, and God is with you.

Pastor Lisa

 

 

 

 

Hillsong “You Are My Strength”
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