Seriously?

 

Has it SERIOUSLY been over a year since I’ve written? Hard to believe. So much has happened in that year. Way too much to go into detail here. So very much.

Here are some highlights….

  1. October-our son turned 27. Have I ever told you that 27 is one of my favorite numbers?
  2. November-Thanksgiving. What’s not to love about eating turkey, with family, and giving thanks? Not much better than that.
  3. December-my work (church) ended the year $14,000 to the good. (I can never remember if it’s red or black.) I was hoping we’d break even. But hey, I can’t complain.
  4. January-new year. My husband Russ and I took a road trip not knowing where we would end up. The furthest we ventured was Santa Fe, New Mexico, via cotton fields of West Texas, Carlsbad Caverns, Roswell, Ruidoso, etc. It was fun, but I’m not in any hurry to go back to New Mexico. We didn’t see one alien and it really hasn’t changed since we went through there in the late 90’s (or the 70’s when I journeyed through with my parents).
  5. February-what’s not to love about Valentine’s Day? Oh, yeah, my dad died on that day 27 years ago (there’s that 27 again), but since he was my first love, Valentine’s Day is a great day for us…. now.
  6. March-Spring Break. A group stayed at our church for a week. They were in town doing Mission work with Mission Arlington. Some of the bigger churches turned them down. Can you imagine? Like a small church can better afford electricity expenses for a week? It’s all good. They stayed for free and it didn’t hurt us one bit. In fact, they did a lot of good in the community that week.
  7. April-Our daughter turned 24. Is it possible that my “baby” could already be 24? It is. I saw her ID when I carded her.
  8. May-sucked big time. I did get to go to San Antonio and hear great preaching at the Festival of Homiletics. It was a fun road trip with my Presbyterian pastor friend Kate (yes, the one who was a student when I was a teacher at Boles Jr. High) and my United Methodist pastor friend Alfie (isn’t that a beautiful name?). Lots of folks from Central Texas Conference there along with Rob Bell (see Kate’s melting video), Walter Brueggeman, Nadia Bolz Weber, Adam Hamilton, and a host of others who were awesome.
  9. June-considered quitting the professional ministry and going back to teaching math again. Who am I kidding? We used overheads when I left in 2000. Technology has left me behind. Of course, I’m sure the 7th graders could have taught me. Decided not to apply at Arlington Classics Academy. Grass isn’t always greener, ya know? Plus, I AM called by a gracious God who thinks I’m worthy of this calling. He calls me by name which means God actually KNOWS my name. It’s written on the palm of the Almighty’s hand. One day I hope to sit at his right or left hand, or maybe at God’s feet, or heck, I’m just happy to have a place at God’s table, ANYWHERE. Can I get an Amen?
  10. July-I turned 53 and Russ turned 54. We just get better lookin with age as my daddy used to jokingly say as he looked in the mirror. Yes, we are finally middle age, right?
  11. August-whirlwind, tornado, hard to fully describe. I felt like the Spirit had led me to the wilderness and I was finally coming out stronger and prepared for what He was about to bring on. Little did I know what God was going to allow as part of some plan.
  12. September-ended up in the ER of Arlington Memorial Hospital. Splitting headache. Thought  it would explode. Lights hurt. Sounds were magnified. It was a little scary. I had only personally been in a hospital when I gave birth to our two children or when I visited folks. It’s been a roller coaster since that day. My head hurts now just thinking of it (or is that because I only got 45 minutes of sleep last night?)
  13. (Lucky 13) This is all for now. Love you all. Keep the Faith. God is Good. He loves you and I do too. ❤

(Broken Vessels)

 

Advertisements

4 Things We Truly Need, Part 4

LordsPrayer

Now what is the fourth and final thing we truly need? Jesus said to ask for God’s protection. Jesus tells us to pray that God will save us, but from what?…From ourselves…. Jesus knew that we would face temptations in life; That we would place our trust in “things” to bring us security.

But just as Jesus did, we pray for God to lead us NOT into temptation, but along paths following God’s leadership, wherever that may take us, knowing that EVERY detail of our body and soul—even the hairs of our head!—is in God’s care….So even when the road is tough; stay with it—THAT’S what is required. Stay with it to the end. You won’t be sorry; you’ll be saved.

To close, as disciples of Jesus Christ, followers whose words and actions are directed by God, we pray each day using the model Jesus set for us, asking for his presence, his provision, his pardon, and his protection, for ourselves and for ALL God’s people.

Let us pray: Father, Reveal who you are. Set the world right. Keep us alive with three square meals.Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others. Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil. Amen.

4 Things We Truly Need, Part 3

Food is the moral right

Second, Jesus teaches us to ask for God’s provision, for our basic physical needs. To have enough to eat each day is a real and present concern, for basic human needs like food are essential to life. Food is the moral right for all who are born into this world, Amen?… But just listen to these facts:

1 in every 9 people on our planet go to bed hungry each night. 

Hunger kills more people each year than AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis combined.

Poor nutrition causes nearly half (45%) of deaths in children under five – 3.1 million children each year. 

Nearly 50% of people living in extreme poverty are 18 years old or younger. 

And 66 million elementary school-age children attend classes hungry across the developing world, with 23 million in Africa alone.

Now we’re NOT talking about stats. We’re talking about human lives. These are children of God, literally CHILDREN, dearly beloved by Him that we’re talking about. I bet they DREAM about 3 square meals a day.  

That’s why as a result of a challenge from our youth, we’re teaming up with Stop Hunger Now at Epworth United Methodist Church in September. Just take a look at this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UH7QdSaNGlE  

That’s going to be us on September 11. We have committed to packaging nearly 12,000 meals that day and at least 50 of us will need to serve, doing our part to see that people, most notably children, will not go to bed hungry or go to school hungry or in the worst case scenario, DIE due to lack of this basic essential need.

We pray for ALL of us, “Keep us alive with three square meals.”

Third, pardon is what Christ asks us next to request. Now, we all know that we have already been forgiven, right? So why would Jesus instruct us to ask for forgiveness again?…I think you already know the answer, for although our salvation, our standing with God is right through the grace of God and what Christ has done, we’re still going to mess up from time to time. We’re still going to do things contrary to God’s will. And for these reasons, we still need to ask for forgiveness, recognizing that sin and selfishness still creep into our lives even after we’ve professed our faith in Christ.  

But we don’t have to only ask for God to forgive us for our wrongs. We need to forgive those who wrong us. You know, those who may have insulted and harassed and bullied us…. Asking God to forgive us, that’s the easy part, for we desire God’s mercy. But forgiving others who may not have even asked US for forgiveness, that’s a lot more difficult to do on our own. We want them to be punished, right? 

Well, that may be what we WANT, but when it comes right down to it, that is a far cry from what we need. For you know who we hurt the most from our unforgiveness, don’t you? … Ourselves. Because we relive the pain of that betrayal or that lie or that offense, and it builds this ugly fungus around our heart. It becomes hard and impenetrable, and leaves no room for our number one need: God’s Presence. There’s no room for God’s Spirit to reside there. 

Almost 20 years ago I remember being mad at a pastor of mine, (can you imagine?), and after walking away from my home church, and staying angry for 3 or 4 months, I finally, FINALLY decided to start praying about it. I prayed for our relationship, which was non-existent at the time. I also prayed that God would forgive me…. And He did.   

About 3 months later we returned to our home church, and God released me from my heart-heartedness, clearing away that ugly fungus that had built up around my heart, and I was free from the bitterness and anger I had felt before.

“Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others,” we pray, for that is one of the basic, essential things that we truly need.

(to be continued) 

4 Things We Truly Need, Part 2

wants vs needs

In our Bible lesson today, (Luke 11:1-4), Jesus is teaching us to ask NOT for what we want, but for what we need. Listen now to the Lord’s Prayer, for a change, in the non-traditional Message Bible translation. It says:

“ Father, Reveal who you are. Set the world right.

Keep us alive with three square meals.

Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others.

Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil.” Luke 11: 2-4 

Jesus is assuring us that his presence, provision, pardon, and protection is available to us, and when you get right down to it, those are really the 4 main things in life we truly need. So first and foremost, Jesus teaches us to ask to see that God is present. Pray for Christ’s very own Holy Spirit living within us to be revealed. It is the presence of God, after all, who is with us right now, longing to expand His Kingdom on earth.  

Now I find it interesting to note that instead of “Set the world right,” or “Your kingdom come,” a few ancient authorities quote this verse as saying, “Your Holy SPIRIT come upon us and cleanse us.” God’s Holy Spirit who is living inside fills us, purifying and refining us and our motives. The Spirit helps us to look beyond our own needs to the needs of others, guiding us to look beyond our own wants to what GOD wants so that ultimately, GOD’s Will shall be accomplished on earth as it is in heaven. 

Jesus is saying “You don’t have to worry about all those needless things you charge on your credit card. Seek me first. Desire first and foremost MY kingdom and MY will, and I’ll take care of making sure you have everything you need. Seek me and you will find me, and all these other things will be put in their proper perspective.” So we pray, “Father, Reveal who you are. Set the world right.” 

(to be continued)

Put God first

4 Things We Truly Need, Part 1

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OOl5zha-9LA  

Wall St. reviewed how Americans spend money and found that we spend about 15% of our household incomes on things that we do not need, to satisfy our vices or to keep ourselves amused. The “average” American household with an income of $63,000 spent more than $8,000 on goods and services that it does not actually need.

In January 2014 the average credit card debt per U.S. household was $15,270. That’s a lot of interest if you keep only paying the minimum. Nearly half of Americans who carry credit card debt from month to month though, often need help affording expenses due to unemployment and out of pocket medical expenses, so if you currently carry an unpaid balance, you might ask yourself if this is the case for you, or if you’re simply spending beyond your means.

Now I’m going to get a little personal and ask: How many of you gamble or buy lottery tickets?… Did you know the average American loses almost $400 per year to gambling, and to give an idea of how lucrative gambling havens are, casinos typically earn a gross revenue of at least $125 billion.

And it turns out that lottery ticket sales have increased every single year since the very first state lottery in 1965, even though a person’s chance of winning the lottery is like 1 in 175 million! The odds of getting struck by lightning in your lifetime, being injured by a toilet this year, getting killed by a shark, and killed by an asteroid or comet are much more likely. (Look, I read that on the internet, so it must be true.) 🙂 

Last but not least, I’ll probably make some enemies out of this, but how many of you make daily coffee trips to… Starbucks? According to a recent survey of American workers, Americans who regularly buy coffee throughout the week spend on average, $1,092 on coffee annually.

So ask yourself, honestly: Are the things I’m blowing my money on wants, or are they needs?

(to be continued)

 

God’s Got This, Part 3

Psalm 146

“We’re just SO busy.” Fortunately we serve and worship a God who is never too busy for us. A God who is never uninterested in even the smallest, most minute detail of our lives. A God who mourns and grieves along with us. A God who longs for our time and attention in the midst of our busy-ness.   

Hear this good news. Psalm 146 assures us that God’s got this, and that our trust should be placed only in God, for He stays true and remains faithful to us forever. It says that genuine happiness comes from depending on God, something my friend, and oftentimes us, have forgotten.

The psalmist praises God who works justice for those who are pressed down by the world; that God’s work of justice is aimed particularly at setting things right for the mistreated, like providing food for those who are hungry, or in my friends case, providing new friends who long to help serve her.   

My friend was married to a brilliant man. A man with a mental illness, but a brilliant man nevertheless. He wrestled with many demons in his lifetime, and ultimately lost the battle. Apparently he had grown weary of the fight.  

Unfortunately, his choices scarred many people along the way, not the least of whom were his family, which helped lead the way down this path that my friend found herself in on Thursday, May 12. But God, when she reached out to Him, gave sight to her grief-filled, blinded busy eyes, as only God can do.  

Take a look at your own life. Examine it. Your struggles may not be the same as my friends, but are you just as stressed out by work, duty, responsibilities? If so, I’m not here to lay anything heavy on you. I’m not here to make you feel guilty. Just know that God lifts up those whose backs are bent in labor. He is here to catch you when you fall and even when you collapse from exhaustion. I know.  

The Eternal will be in charge today, tomorrow, and forever. Hallelujah. Praise the Lord! God’s got this.  

God's Got This

God’s Got This, Part 2

Busy1

Personally, I talk to people all the time who don’t seem to know if they’re coming or going. They are so BUSY, not able to say no to seemingly GREAT things, but at the same time appear to be missing out on saying yes to BETTER things. For example, I know people who will continually miss worshiping together in community because Sunday morning is when they have their “family” time. Now, don’t get me wrong. Spending time with family is a GREAT thing. I LOVE spending as much time as humanly possible with my family, because I think they are wonderful people and fun to be around.

And we DO spend a lot of time together: Wednesday night dinners, Sunday lunches, mid-week lunches. We love eating and being together, reconnecting and laughing; sometimes crying; sometimes shouting. But even better than that, and I’m not just saying this because I’m getting paid to be a pastor, even BETTER than spending time with my family, is spending time worshiping our Lord together, surrounded by others who also know, God loves us. 

You may disagree and you certainly have that right, for I know there are oftentimes when families come together as a small group and worship together on their own, glorifying and praising God with all their souls. But I’m not sure how much worship is taking place out on the golf course EVERY Sunday morning, know what I mean?

But let me give you an example. I was talking to a young 6th grader. His family doesn’t really go to church. We were talking about God and Jesus and worship and he told me, from his perspective, why they didn’t attend. “We’re just SO busy.” We’re just so busy.  

It seems to me that we wear our busy-ness as some sort of badge of honor in our society today. The saying used to be “He with the most toys wins.” Perhaps these days it’s become, “She with the least amount of free time succeeds,” at least in the eyes of the world.  

If success is measured by the amount of stressed-out, weary, and simply overwhelmed-by-life folks walking around like zombies, then we are a very successful society. We don’t have to worry about making America great again because this is how we now define greatness today.

“We’re just SO busy.” The words from a 6th grader haunt me. “There never seem to be enough hours in the day,” I hear shared over and over again wherever I go. “Sunday’s my only day to sleep in,” the other refrain I hear from overworked, ultra-busy people.  

Look, we all make time for what’s important to us, right? We all have 24 hours in a day. We all have priorities. Work is a priority. Our health is a priority, or should be. Family is a priority. But where does our relationship with God fit in? Why does worship and daily devotions and Bible reading and prayer always seem to slip to the bottom of the list in the name of busy-ness?   

As I was preparing this message, I received a text from my friend saying, “Busy day!” Maybe if my friend wasn’t so busy; maybe if WE weren’t always SO busy, we would remember that we’re not alone. We never were alone, even though it sometimes feels like it. Maybe we would remember that God’s in charge—always. That we can put our hope in God and know real blessing! 

After organizing some folks from our church to meet code enforcement at my friend’s house later that Thursday, busy folks just like everyone else who dropped everything to help, I told my friend, “God’s got this.” “Really?” she asked. “Yes really,” I replied. “I don’t even know what to say…. Words cannot express my thanks.” “No thanks necessary,” I said. “We love you. Even those who don’t know you.”  

My friend said, “I still can’t believe this! Love you too.” “Believe it,” I said. “My phone’s blowing up with offers to help.” She said, “I’m amazed. Not used to anyone helping…. I cannot believe you are helping.” “Believe it!” I said again. “I so appreciate it. I am overwhelmed.” I said, “Glad we can help.” 

By 4:40 that Thursday afternoon she wrote, “I now have some hope which I have been missing for so long. Love you.” “It’s going to get better,” I wrote. “God’s got this. You’re not alone.” And then the words I was longing to hear from her: “I actually believe you.” Later after a little snag she wrote, “Please help me stay positive…. I am so used to disasters. Hard to have hope…. I am worn out. Tell me we will get through this.” “We will definitely get through this,” I assured her. “Don’t worry.” 

The part of this story I haven’t shared with you yet is that this friend and I had not really talked for a very long time. You know why? I’VE BEEN BUSY. That’s right. I’ve been busy: working, helping to raise children, helping others where I can. I’ve been busy!  

The truth is, for most of my adult life, I’ve been too busy to nurture friendships. They just take up so much precious time. Time I could spend doing what I want to do. Time I could spend with my own family. Time I could spend trying to relax. 

There have been times, in the not so distant past, when I was too busy to nurture my relationship with Christ. It just took up so much precious time; time that I needed to do my work. Time I could spend on church-related tasks. Time I could spend trying to meet new people to invite to worship.

Is that not one of the most ridiculous things you have ever heard? A Christian too busy to pray? A Christian too busy to study the Scriptures? A Christian too busy to get a real rest with Jesus, nurturing her spirit and soul and life, so that she in turn could nurture others?

(to be continued)

Busy2