Friday, February 16, 2018

10 Thoughts about Parkland, Florida

The shooting in Parkland, Florida has caused debates from gun control, to drug control, to having armed guards at every door of our schools. It is crazy.  Then there is the obligatory comment, “Where was God in all of this? Didn’t He care?”  This happens every time there is a tragedy but by next week we will be happily on our way not remembering our questions or the violent discussions between people of different opinions.

While things are still fresh on our minds, may I offer my 2 cents…it won’t buy anything other than a thought or two to consider.

1.     God, Yahweh, is deeply distressed over this incident.  It has hurt the very people He created and came to save.  He is grieved because of the tears of mothers and fathers, wives and children.  Throughout the Bible His character reveals that this is not what He wanted for the very people he formed with His own hands and breathed His very breath. His plan was perfect.  His plan was freedom.  This was not His plan.

2.     God gave instructions to His people as to how to live. Through Abraham, He formed a people to be loved and protected.  He used Moses to free them from tyranny and since they did not know how to live in freedom, He gave His law along with the instructions: Follow these and all will go well! (Grace paraphrase) These same instructions were told to Joshua, and to the prophets and the leaders of God’s people.  “If you follow my commandments, things will go well for you.”  Was God merely a bossy guy who wanted His own way?  Absolutely, not.  He is All-Knowing, All-seeing and All-powerful.  He knew the dangers of living in a fallen world and gave us boundaries to keep us safe.

3.     Just as Adam and Eve wanted to go beyond God’s boundaries, we have done the same thing.  We also fall for the question: “Did God really say?” at every turn.

4.     You might be saying, “Yeah, but that is the Old Testament, and we live in the New Testament.  It doesn’t apply to us?  Doesn’t it?  Jesus clearly stated that He fulfilled the law and the prophets.  He further said, “If you love me keep my commandments.” John 14:23   Our nation, and many other nations, have turned completely away from the commands God gave to us as boundary lines.  Every reminder that was posted throughout our country of the 10 Commandments has been taken down in our public arena. We call it separation of church and state but really it is a separation of God and His protection.

5.     The New Testament church was the first to see the deadly results of secular thought. Any mention of God and His laws was met with death.  Today, the ruler of the world, satan, has so clouded our nation’s vision, we are wandering around in chaos and darkness.  It seems darkness has won.

6.     It is time the church quit saying, “for God and Country.” We have made them equal…or perhaps even have lifted country higher. We hear more about political views than we do biblical views.  We become passionate about a candidate but yawn at the mention of an Almighty God. A look at our nation, would indicate that God has turned its eyes from it. It is time the church quit taking political sides and stood on the side of the one who is Faithful and True.

7.     It is time for the church to stand more firmly than ever before…and I am not talking about boycotting and reacting to the abuse we are given. The early church were people who stood for the truth of God even when they were faced with beheadings and other gruesome deaths. It is time we begin to lift Christ high no matter the consequences and get off the bandwagons of secular remedies to our problems. It is time for the church to begin to believe that God is all powerful again. Do we trust Him?

8.     Perhaps we, the church, are to blame in this situation because somewhere along the way the church stopped being the light…we hid our light under a basket and instead focused on our own preferences of worship, buildings, and programs. Perhaps instead of being salt, we preferred to not offend and let our witness become paving materials for the world to run over.  Perhaps…

9.     The church needs to quit thinking comfort equals being aligned with God. Jesus warned His disciples: “The thief comes only to kill, steal, and destroy; I have come that they have life and life abundant.” John 10:10. This thief is on attack and Christians are not immune. The life He was talking about is eternal life…life the way God meant it to be when He created us.  After explaining all that was going to happen to Him, Jesus spoke these words to His disciples:  John 14: 33 I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

10.  This situation in Parkland Florida, has grieved the heart of our Father but  He gives a pathway to peace.  That way is IN JESUS.  Not in church buildings or programs. When did we quit telling people that?  When did we quit telling our youth in our churches that the only way to peace is through Jesus not through social media or self-esteem?  When did we quit telling the world about this peace when our IRAs and Social Security fails us?  When did we quit believing that peace comes from Him?  These are questions we must answer because of all people on the world, those of us who know Him personally and relationally, have let those kids at Parkland down. We know what we should do…we have a small window of opportunity. Will we do it?

Saturday, August 12, 2017

I Just Needed a Hug

In 1998, things were different.  Computers were just introducing “Windows” while most of us still used DOS with printer paper on a roll. Email was a “new” way of communicating.  The cell phone was called bag phones because they were in a bag, (duh!) were heavy and to make a call on them required a P.H.D.  Social media was the vision of the “My Space” inventors. The world-wide web was still a mystery and .com was not even a thing yet. Yes, in 1998, things were different.

Things were different relationally, as well. In February of that year, my daughter, a freshman in college, had a wreck. We lived in another state and got a phone call pleading for us to come as soon as we could.  Little did we know our daughter was coding in the ER as the nurse was making that call to us.  (We discovered later, our daughter had no heart beat for about 4 minutes but was revived.)  We caught the first plane out but it was still several hours before we arrived at the hospital.  When we arrived, she was in the Critical Care unit but was awake. Her multiple injuries included several fractures in her pelvis, a punctured bladder and a broken back.  We were hit by the realization that this had been a serious accident and we praised God we still had our daughter. While we were happy she was with us, the next steps were not clear.  After taking care of getting articles from her car and getting the insurance paper work taken care of, my husband and son flew back to Florida while I rented a car and stayed for the six-week stent in the hospital. It was my daughter and me in a world where we knew no one.  Yet, God provided His peace and comfort which I will always be grateful for.  

In 1998, there was no Facebook or Twitter or even a laptop to communicate with the world outside of her hospital room…only a telephone. Looking back, that was a blessing for I was able to speak, not text, to many people back home. It was a conduit to something familiar and comforting. One friend in Florida asked what I needed and I answered, “I would love a hug from you.”  We both knew that was not likely to happen but it was a deep cry from my heart.  I needed to have a friend-a human’s touch- to let me know it was going to be ok.  I knew I had God but I also needed human touch.  (That is the way God made us, you know?)  I had family and a couple of friends who lived just 90 minutes away and they came.  That was good. The hospital staff was great. I was blessed. And God’s peace prevailed.  

The 3rd day in CCU, I was dozing in one of those wonderful pull out, vinyl chairs, and heard a knock on the door.  I sleepily called out, “come in” and looked up to see my Florida friend standing in the doorway saying, “I came to give you that hug!”  There are no words to explain how my heart soared.  I knew that no one would drive over 15 hours to give me a hug unless they truly cared and  I desperately needed to know that. She stayed for a couple of days ministering to me, giving biblical wisdom and comfort while also sharing her life with my daughter; letting her know how much God had in store for her. Eventually Hannah had to leave but God wasn’t finished with other hugs He had in store for us.  A youth group from a neighboring church came to visit my daughter bringing movies and fellowship.  They came back several times each week during our stay.  Another church in the town sent their women’s ministry leader to visit me.  For some mini-respites, she took me to the mall and came back several times to take me to lunch.  We were in the hospital for 6 weeks but never had a day that someone wasn’t with us. Hugs were abundant. Yes, things in 1998 were different.  

Facebook has ruined this kind of ministry in many ways.  Today, when tragedy happens, it spreads quickly online, and there are “likes,” and “promises of prayers” almost immediately.  But have we just taken an easy road? Although the promises of prayers are good, do we really pray?  Do we click on the “teary face” in the comment section and believe that is will bring comfort to the hurting person? Remembering February 1998, let me know just how far we have gotten from truly showing our care to people who are hurting. God in a loving way, brought conviction down hard on me about my lack of giving "hugs".  

My granddaughter recently had a swimming pool accident where she broke her neck and her back.  She was blessed to not have paralysis and after looking at the scans, the doctors indicated that she was one very “lucky” girl.  (we prefer blessed!)  News spread on Facebook and there were hundreds of “likes,” and “promises of prayers."  These were all greatly appreciated and this is not to point a finger of judgement but there was no “hug”. There were only two voice calls.  Facebook clicks and texts had been made and life went on.

Some might say that it is the world we live in today.  But is it the world we WANT to live in?  Sadly, I fear, social media has taken away the human parts of ministry.  People are lonely.  People are hurting and we have reduced our sympathy to a click.

God convicted that I am among the worst of all.  He reminded me when I needed a hug from a human, there was one who listened to His call and drove 15 hours to give me one. Ministry takes intentionally.  It takes sacrifice.  It takes selflessness to be that kind of person but that is what God has called us, the church, to be: intentional, sacrificial, and selfless.  Perhaps if I (we) quit living in cyber world, we would be able to look deeply into people’s eyes and see the hurt and confusion.  Perhaps we would recognize there are those that need to know we care in a physical, tangible way. Perhaps if we began to do things like they did in 1998, the world would believe the church really does care.  

Today, I am praying for God to show me how to be more than a person who just “clicks” my feelings. I want God to make me into a person who will go out of her way to give a real live hug to a person who just needs to know someone cares.  How about you?

Monday, May 29, 2017

What Do We Do Now?

What Do We Do Now?

Matthew 28:16-20
When the women, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary (vs.28:1,) saw Jesus after the resurrection, He told them to go and tell the disciples to meet Him in Galilee. With joy, they obeyed. We pick up our story there, at the foot of an unnamed mountain in Galilee where the eleven are about to have an important encounter with the risen Jesus. Galilee was home for most of them and so it was a logical place to meet since they would have been traveling there after Passover week. I wonder as they entered the region if they reminisced over the last three years, especially their unusual call to become “Fishers of Men.” Today, they were soon to discover the fulfillment of that call Jesus had spoken to them those years ago. 
“When they saw Jesus, they worshiped Him; but some doubted.” (vs 17) In this short verse, we have two words that unless are defined correctly can lead us astray.  The first is “worship.” In the Greek, the word is proskyneo which means: to pay homage to, revere, but also to place under the authority of. This was more than just bowing, or having an experience with Jesus, this was a total surrendering of wills.  We also need to understand the word “doubted” which doesn’t mean unbelief, but rather, “to have hesitancy or wavering.”  This particular word is seen only one other time in Matthew and that was in Matthew 14:31 when Peter was walking on water and Jesus said to him, “Why did you doubt [or hesitate]?”  This is important to our lesson today because when we are faced with Jesus’ call in our lives, sometimes we “doubt” or hesitate to do it for a variety of reasons but especially our feelings of inadequacy. 
Don’t we “doubt”? Jesus appears to us in a mighty way and we know in our hearts we need to surrender immediately but we hesitate.  For Peter, while walking on the water, that hesitancy caused him to sink. May I submit that when God speaks and we hesitate we will take our eyes off of Jesus, lose focus and we sink. Often, we will fail to follow through with God’s plan for us. Jesus understood this and so to combat our hesitancy Jesus sandwiched some spiritual encouragement around His commands and instruction. 
The top of our encouragement sandwich is Jesus’ absolute authority or power. (vs18) He wants us to know there is not a thing He cannot do or command to take place. The bottom slice of bread is His presence, “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (vs.20 CSB) He is going to be with us every second. We have Jesus’ Power and Presence and in between, we have—the going, the making disciples, the baptizing and the teaching to obey His commandments. Could it be that too often we focus on what we should do and become over-whelmed and hesitate?  In our own sense of inadequacy, we might deem the task too large or the number too many to be able to reach. Perhaps there was a sense of inadequacy in those who “doubted” that day as they thought, “No one is going to believe this.” or, “How will I ever convince them?” Their focus was on what they could do or not do in their own strength but Jesus quickly added, “I will give you the power and be with you.” Luke, in the book of Acts, elaborated Jesus’ directive: Acts 1:8 “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you…” That Powerand Presence Jesus talked about can be seen in the indwelling of the Holy Spirit which each of us as a believer can draw upon. 
It is long past time for the church to believe again in the Power and Presence of God in our midst. There is not a task too great, for we have the Holy Spirit’s power and presence. We are without excuse. 
Matthew’s fellow disciple, Peter, was told to strengthen the brothers after he “turned back.” (Luke 22: 32b) I will close today’s lesson by his strengthening words: II Peter 1:3 “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.” His power will give us everything we need. Let’s quit doubting and surrender to Him.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

When Does Life Matter?

The last couple of weeks I have been in a pondering mood…maybe it is just that time of year but my soul has been deeply troubled.  The summer and fall were filled with stress and conflict with the upcoming election.  I think it began then.  You see the main issue of the election for me was that of life.   It wasn’t a political issue because it is personal to me. I was to be aborted…for the health of my mother.   My mother had spent a great deal of her young life in a sanatorium for those infected with TB.  She had lost a husband and a baby to this dreaded disease but it was “arrested” [their term since it is never cured] and could now enter life again.  She married my father and was told to not get pregnant. She did, however, not long after she married.  After having lost one child she was being told she would have to abort the second one for her own health.  She refused and I was born.  (My mother lived for another 40 years after my birth.)  So, this abortion thing is personal to me.  But this writing is not so much about abortion but to consider when life begins to matter.

January 22, 1973 is a day that changed our country forever. Thanks to women like Betty Freidan and Gloria Steinem, children were relabeled as distractions rather than blessings.  Children after all were the reason women were not achieving all they could. If we could get rid of this distraction, life would be wonderful.  So in 1973, the Supreme Court decided that not allowing the aborting of a baby for any reason was unconstitutional. The ruling was termed Roe vs. Wade. Women were now free to be all that they could be!  No longer would they have back ally abortions…it was legal now to rid yourself of this distraction.  Fast forward several years…women were beginning to feel guilt from these actions.  It wasn’t as easy as they thought.  Depression grew and the freedom they were promised was fleeting by the knowledge of what they had done.  We had to do something to abate these feelings so what we did is redefine when life begins.

When I was in college no one ever questioned when life began.  We had studied basic biology and knew when it began. But now, to soothe the consciences of those who choose to rid themselves of a baby, many tried to justify the act by questioning the beginning of life.  They did this by declaring “It wasn’t really a baby yet…it was a fetus.” Somehow making it clinical would help and we could justify our guilt.

But this issue goes much further than aborting babies in the womb. Since that day in January 1973… murders have increased in our country.  There is seldom a day that goes by that my news app doesn’t mention yet another murder in the capital city!  Unthinkably, we see mothers and fathers killing their own children. Recently, one of the most heinous instances was a mother killing her child to get back at the father for an indiscretion.  She filmed the murder to show him and felt justified.  We are seeing teens as young as 12 killing other teens without remorse.  Why? I have pondered this and came to this conclusion: Could it be that if life doesn’t matter at the start it never really matters?

You see that is the way sin goes…it never takes you where you thought you were going to end up.  Society thought, out of sight (or womb) out of mind but the reality is that if life doesn’t matter in the womb, when does it matter?  At one?  At twelve? At 93?  If it doesn’t matter at the start, sub-consciously, does it ever matter?

It happens on the ending side, as well as our elderly are thrown aside instead of being honored because they are no longer useful to society. They are also considered distractions and it costs too much to maintain a distraction.

Recently, I visited two graveyards.  One was from a town that doesn’t exist any more and the other was the graveyard at my husband’s childhood church. The first was on a hike with my children. We walked around this neglected graveyard of a town long since gone and I was stunned as I read the headstones.  One hit me especially hard:  Emily Rose born June 18, 1883, died June 22, 1883.  Forever, memorialized even though her life lasted only 2 days.  The stone stared up at me screaming out…Emily Rose was alive and her life was important to someone.  She existed.  I looked at all the other grave markers and realized even though I never knew these people, there was a connection with them, I couldn’t deny.  They had lived.  They were.  The grave markers are there to prove it.

The other graveyard was a showing of family heritage. It showed that there were those who came before us with their stories and their trials.  They mattered. Their lives were important. We learned valuable lessons from them.

We lost so much when life became disposable. Life means something to God…heritage means so much to God.  Any bible student will tell you that.  Read Matthew 1. Read the numerous “begats” throughout the Bible and we clearly see it matters.  God knows us while we are in our mother’s wombs.  He created each of us for a purpose and not a single one of us is a distraction to Him!

So as we argue whether black lives matter, white lives matter, blue lives matter…let’s go back to the beginning…when life begins determines what lives matter.  

Thursday, September 29, 2016

The Small Stuff Matters!

Our world says, "Go big or go home!" If what we do isn't large or before thousands we tend to think it is not worth much! Last week I went to the funeral of a great lady. I sat and listened to her accolades and left feeling worthless in my own spiritual life wondering if I would ever do as much for the kingdom as she did! I saw our pastor at the grocery store that week and told him what a wonderful job he did and I added, "boy, do I feel guilty because I will never measure up!" He looked at me and with great wisdom said something like this, "She did small things consistently for a very long time." Wow! He was right! She was in her mid-eighties. She never spoke to a stadium of people or did any of the things the world says you must do to be valuable...she was consistent in doing daily what God led her to do and it added up! Believer, are you not doing what God wants because you are comparing yourself to someone with a bigger stage? Stop! I found a scripture this morning that puts things in perspective: "Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin!" Zech. 4:10 We each have a purpose or as Hebrews says, our own race to run...don't think the small stuff doesn't it consistently and for a long time and others will notice!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Follow up on massage!

You might remember I spoke about a deep tissue massage I had a couple of weeks ago.  Today I went back for my 2nd and it wasn't as bad as the first...I had done all the things she said and my muscles were much less tense...I still have some issues but it is better.  When I left I made another appointment because I know if I don't, I am going to get back into the same shape I was in before.  It is that way with our Christian is not a "one time fixes everything" life! If we treat it like that then we will be faced with deep pain that was not necessary.  If I keep a regular schedule of taking care of my body my body will work better.  If I take care of my spiritual life, that also will work better.

It might have been a long time since you met with God...He loves you and wants you to be healthy.  If meeting with Him cause you some personal pain then it is what He needs to work out of your life so you can be better...but it is not a one time thing.  Continue to meet with Him, daily.  Pray, read His word and depend on Him.  It will keep you strong and feeling great.  Thanks, Kristen for reminding me of what I need to do!

Monday, September 19, 2016


Here is a verse that goes against contemporary thinking: "Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?" Job 2:10b As I read that this morning, I think often of how many times I rejoice in the blessings that God gives me yet wonder where He is when things go wrong. The biggest misconception we have in the church is that if you are a Christian everything will always go "your way" and you will not have trouble. The fact is, nothing could be farther from the truth. We have an enemy who wants to destroy us and times of testing our faith will come. Jesus said while He still walked the earth, "In this world, you will have trouble...but be of good cheer I have overcome the world." John 16:33 Today, believer, perhaps it seems like your world is falling apart and that God has deserted you...He has not. He will never leave you or forsake you. Our good blessings are not an indication of God's presence...His peace in the middle of trouble is. In all things give thanks and you will be surprised at the calm that will come over you.