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.