Relative?

“What is truth?” – Pontius Pilate( John 18:38)

Can you answer that question? Or do you struggle as Pilate did when Jesus mentioned the word?   Ask anyone today what is truth and you’re bound to get several different answers. Ask about religious truth and you’re bound to get even a few dozen more. But, does it really matter what you believe, so long as you believe something? This question is one that has been circulating for decades. Yes, it does matter.

Let me put it this way, when you pull up to the gas pump to fill your car’s gas tank, does it matter how to you how much you pay per gallon? Well, for some of you perhaps not, but  I know for others of you, it becomes a mathematical science of figuring out which station has the right price, how much you need, what your gas mileage is, etc. But, imagine if you will that each station had its own definition of what a gallon of gas is. For example if one station calls half a gallon a gallon, would you still fill up your tank there? So, does the truth in measurement matter? Yes. There are certain regulatory laws in place to protect the consumer against frauds, such as weights and measures. So why should we fail to accept absolute truth in other areas? Are there any laws to protect against frauds of belief? Is there any standard by which morals can judged be against?

Now, I realize this is a simplistic argument for truth and some of you might argue that in other countries they use liters or imperial gallons for measurement, I get that, but my aim here is to just get you to think; What if there is only one truth. The truth Jesus was talking about? if we can agree that there are laws protecting the measurements of gas to protect the consumer, could there possibly be other moral laws built into this world to protect the people of it? Are all religions equal? Is it okay to take bits and pieces from different ones until you find what is true for you? That would be equal to filling your car up at multiple sights across town just so you will have a full tank in the end. Sounds kind of crazy to me. All religions cannot all be true because in order to do so they would have to contradict themselves. Cars require gas or (electricity) to run properly and we expect to get what we pay for in terms of gas or electric charges, so should we not expect that for life to run well, there must be something we need, something that is truth? We might look different on the outside, but we are al really the same on the inside. We all want to be loved and accepted. We all want to find something to do that we love and someone to love and share life with. We really aren’t that different, no matter what culture we are from. So, why do we question truth about beliefs? We need truth in our lives, not different truths, but truth that will actually fill the needs I just mentioned before. Truth that doesn’t change with the times or with whichever political party is in charge. Truth that sustains when life seems out of control. Truth that is true for all not just for the individual.

 

Prayer

“Rejoice always, pray continually” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-17, NIV)

A short, simple verse but one packed with so much more. Do you struggle to rejoice always? Me too. Some days I’m only able to tolerate life, far from rejoicing about it. Life is a struggle at times. Situations stress us out. People stress us out. A new school year stresses us out. As a parent I have felt the fear and sadness from dropping my children off at school. Would this be a good year for them? Would they make new friends? Did I pack a lunch they will like? Did I remember to sign all the papers I was supposed to for the registration? Am I going to miss them while they’re at school? What am I going to do while they’re at school? My routine is all messed up now.

Well, you might think this is something I dealt with when my children were in elementary school and that it’s long past me now. But, no, this is actually my thoughts this morning. Except for the lunch part. I’m sure they packed their own today. My daughter is the teacher now, but I still get excited for her first day of school with her new kindergarten class. And I still stress over whether my college age son has everything he needs as he starts his junior year. And yes, I miss them a lot. And my schedule has to change as I figure out what to do now that they have returned back to college and to their apartments after a summer with them here. Being a parent means you will always worry and stress about your children, no matter the age. It comes with the job.

So, this morning I want to remind all the parents out there to remember prayer. Pray for your students and their friends, their teachers, their schools. And pray for yourself as well. Parents need prayer too. Don’t be embarrassed to ask for prayer for yourself. My Husband knows how the new year of school can be stressful for me and he knows to pray for me. If someone does ask you for prayer, please do it. Don’t neglect the request or put it off for a “to do” later, just stop and pray at that moment. In fact, we should always be in a prayer moment. That is what it means to pray continually. All through the day.  -God Bless- Nancy

Risk

           “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers” ( 1 Timothy 4:16, NIV).

I thought for a moment about choosing a different title for this week’s blog. Maybe “mediocre” or “status quo” would work instead of “risk”, but what am I really trying to say here?  In the end I hope always to encourage you to move forward. So, it seems “risk” would work better.

What has set me on this path today is my daughter. She has been working on researching our family tree. Over the weeks, she has made some impressive discoveries about who we really are. I shared earlier about the puritan movers and shakers in my family tree and of those who were locked in towers and faced beheading for their beliefs. Recently I have learned of knights and of Ladies and Lords in the family tree. A big surprise this week has been finding that John Locke was a relative. John Locke has been credited with ideas that would later shape the United States. He was the great grandson of one of my great, great great (etc) grandfathers -a mover and shaker who once fled to Geneva to keep his head attached to his body in fear of Queen Mary, who was seeking to take his life.

Which made me think about where we are today as a culture.Are we a culture of movers and shakers? Of thinkers? Of philosophers who change countries? Of country builders? Are we so concerned with technology and sciences, that we have forgotten to think for ourselves? Are we leaders or followers?

Recently,  I asked some younger people just what is important to them in today’s culture. Their answer; acceptance, and of fitting in. Which decidedly is not something exclusive to generation Z or  the millennials; its all of us, every generation We all want to feel like we fit in and are accepted, its how God has wired us for relationship with others and with Him.Yet, for many keeping the status quo becomes more important than seeking change. No one likes to stand out and fear rejection by friends and colleagues. When the status quo changes or shifts, so do we and are swept along with the crowd.

I included the quote from Paul’s letter to Timothy as a reminder that status quo was a thing in the first century too. Here, Paul reminds Timothy to live out what he has come to believe for it not only affected him, but those he was teaching. Paul told him to persevere in what he taught and model it in front of those he was teaching.

It is easy to go with the flow of the crowd and to let others think for you. It is harder to think for yourself and go against the current of trends. I am proud to come from a family tree that included those who thought for themselves and refused to go along with the crowd, even risking death for upholding the truths of the Bible, in opposition to what was being taught by the state church. They sought to persevere for their faith and move across an ocean so their children could have a new life, free of religious corruption.

I thought about what this means for me. Am I willing to go against the current? Have I settled into acceptance of popular thought? Even popular christian thought? How does my own doctrine, my own teaching stand up to the criteria of Biblical truth? Do I want acceptance from the status quo, or am I willing to risk standing out from the crowd because I believe the Bible? Standing out might be uncomfortable for a moment, but I am so thankful that those in my family tree did just that. I would not be here if they hadn’t, living in a country where I am free to worship apart from a government controlled church.

So, I encourage you to step out and follow what God has been putting on your heart. If it a little different than what others do, but still compatible with what the Bible teaches, than take a chance. Have you been told you’re too young or too old by culture? Or its just not done by everyone else?  You don’t have to follow the crowd, just follow Jesus. Some day your descendants just might thank you for not accepting the status quo, but on taking a risk, their lives might be impacted just as mine has. I like to think that I have inherited some of my ancestor’s tenacity and stubbornness and maybe even their intellectual keenness as John Locke had, who knows? But I do know that I will not settled on being mediocre or status quo, but will attempt to persevere in my life and doctrine.  -God Bless -Nancy

Bloom

Bloom where you’re planted. Have you ever heard someone say that? What did you think when you heard it? Did you agree? Or did you feel a little bit anxious?  I would probably be in the latter group. Don’t get me wrong, there are times when we just need to stay put and learn to adapt and grow where ever we find ourselves. We need to persevere throughout the difficult places and circumstances we find ourselves in. But, then there are other times when we need to move on. Sometimes change can be good for us, but it is the fear of the unknown that keeps us stuck where we are.

The known is comfortable and safe. We might not like our circumstances, but we are afraid to step out and try something new and different. For some of us we are afraid of getting hurt again. For others we are afraid of failure. Or we are afraid of rejection. So, we stay in our circumstances and become fruitless, rather than fruitful.

When my husband was in the military, we moved to new stations about every three to five years. Every move was a chance to start over, learning a new area, its culture, its best food places and stores, and changing churches. Some people might not understand this nomadic lifestyle, but I actually enjoyed it very much. I really like to travel and I like to discover new places. I actually get bored if I am in a place too long without finding something new to discover.

Over the years I have learned that to be fruitful I need others who will inspire me. When we moved to a new area, my husband and I would always begin with a search for a new church home. We would choose carefully, looking at doctrine and fellowship. There were times when churches shifted their focus and doctrines and we needed to find another church.

Now that we are retired, we don’t move as often and there have been times when we have grown complacent with church. It’s too easy to stay than to try somewhere new. We put up with doctrine and people who did little to encourage and spur us on to be fruitful. We needed to be challenged to move on and find others who spur us on to bloom.

Sometimes it is true that we do need to bloom where we find ourselves, but if we aren’t blooming then maybe we need to ask if God is telling us to step out of our comfortable complacency. Maybe we need a new church or new friends.

This morning I was reading Paul’s letter to the Philippians and found myself reminded how much Paul encourages this church. He was an encourager, who prayed for them and wrote encouraging letters to them. He sent others to encourage them and promised to visit them. We all need Paul’s in our life and we need to be Paul’s in other’s lives. we need good friends who will build us up not drain us. We are called to be fruitful, not fruitless and we need others to bloom who encourage us to bloom. The point is to bloom. Blooms produce fruit. Are you blooming?  -God Bless Nancy

Middle

I remember those car rides of my youth very well. I always ended up stuck in the middle of the back seat between my two older brothers. I was the only girl and the youngest  and the most giggliest. Is that even a word? My brothers would tickle me from both sides and I would break out in an uncontrollable giggle. The worst part was that I got in trouble for it.  My parents would tell me to be quiet to which I would always reply “It’s not my fault, they started it!”

Being in the middle is not always our own choice. I am now in the middle of life and often wake up and wonder what happened to the last forty years. It just flew by. By even more than being in the middle age, I find myself in the middle of stages of life. I am not quite the empty-nester and not quite the retiree. I notice many of friends are grandparents already and are looking forward to retirement- even a few have retired already. But, for me, I just graduated from college last Spring and am ready to start the career portion of my life after being a stay at home mom for the first portion.

The middle- the between stage of life- can be daunting and confusing at times as I wonder what my career path will look like. I feel at times that I don’t fit in with the picture carrying, grandchild bragging set and yet maybe I don’t fit in with those with young children at home. I am stuck in the middle.

The middle is not so bad a place to be as the future is open and it is in those middle moments that we hold onto our faith a little more tightly. I am reminded this morning of the disciples  encounter with Jesus in the middle of the lake. The Gospel of Mark specifically makes a point of telling his readers that Jesus saw the disciples straining against the wind in the middle of the lake (Mk. 6:47-48). Jesus had told them to go on ahead while He stayed behind. The were stuck in the middle of the lake, and it was dark and the wind was against them. They were probably not making much progress forward if the wind was against them. It was in this middle moment that they encountered Jesus walking on the water. Mark tells us that Jesus was about to pass by the boat, but they cried out to Him. Mark also tells us they were scared, terrified in fact (vs. 50).

Isn’t this how the middle feels sometimes? Terrifying and dark. You can’t see the shore, the destination you’re heading for and everything is against you. But, thankfully, we can call out to Jesus and He is there for us too. Right there in the middle. For the disciples their terror ended when Jesus stopped and got into the boat with them. The wind stopped and they were able to make it to the other side of the lake. Today, if you’re stuck in the middle trust Jesus to direct your path. Let Him in the boat. he can get you to the other side. God Bless -Nancy

Role (ing)

I heard her before I saw her in the store. She had a distinct voice, not the usual tone for a woman, much lower and slightly booming. Apparently her child riding in the shopping cart ( a buggy for my southern friends) had done something for which she didn’t approve. Her yelling at her son caused me to look up and see who was making all the noise in the store.  She was  a youngish mom and was obviously not happy with what her son had done, but her yelling only made him continue. She continued to yell and shop, completely ignorant of the other customers around her.

As the mom of three,  I’ve been there done that- except for the yelling part. Believe me, I know how long summer vacation can be with kids, but I’ve got to confess, I actually did like having my kids home from school. I still do.

But….. I am a realist, there will be meltdowns when you have children, especially toddlers and teenagers, and it’s not the kids who are doing the melting down- it’s the parents. I have had my own share of meltdowns as a parent.

Parenting is not for the faint of heart, much like marriage it takes work- a whole lot of work and patience. Kids are not mini adults; they are growing and they will act like kids. Eventually they will be adults and as the Bible says you will reap what you sow  (Galatians 6:7).  Children really do model what they see their parents doing. It’s unavoidable, despite what we try to tell them to do, they learn by what they see us doing, and often mimic us. Oh they will hear some of what we say- the gossip about others- and at the most inappropriate time will repeat what they heard. It can be a real eye opener and embarrassing to us as parents.  However, it is what they watch us doing that stick with them the most.

My husband and I survived the ordeals and meltdowns of early parenthood and we made our share of mistakes in the process. But we have seen how the good habits we demonstrated in front of our kids have stuck with them.  Praying about everything and helping others are two of the good habits I see them doing now as adults.  We are our children’s greatest role model.  As we grow ourselves in our relationship with Christ, let our children see our faith in action. Yelling at children doesn’t bring about much good- it only models how to poorly handle frustration.  How are you role(ing) this summer? If it’s more than you can handle without losing your peace, reach out and ask for some help. Take a break for yourself so you can regroup, or if you can’t then take a deep breath and count to ten before you yell at your kids. Be patient they aren’t adults yet. Happy summer- Nancy

 

Real (estate)

It was the perfect time of day. The day time sky had not quite given in to the blackness and darkness of the night sky, but was holding on for just a bit to its reflection of blue. It was a soft blue, almost purple, but you could tell it had been a brilliant blue in the brightness of daytime. The sun had set and was casting a loving glow upon the wispy clouds. The clouds were not big and puffy, but just small and wispy, like the contrails of a jet. They as well seemed to be trying to hold on to the last bit of day as they shown in a soft pink color. Some call this time the golden hour.

The sky view was blocked slightly by the house. But the house itself did not seem dwarfed by the sky as it was larger and grander than most. Someone had turned the lights on inside already anticipating the coming nightfall. In fact, each room had the glow of a soft yellow light and because the curtains had not yet been closed, you could see a hint of the room inside. Each window was symmetrical with the large door in the center. I had studied some architecture in college so I knew this would fall into the category of Georgian style. It looked so amazing at this perfect time of night. Almost magical and surreal. So perfect. Almost unbelievable.

And it was. You see it was a real estate listing I was staring at on my phone this morning. No, I’m not looking for a house, it just was one of those social media pop ups, probably because of a word suggestion made earlier by one of my sons. You see both my sons are photographers and videographers who work in real estate. So I am very familiar with how real estate photo shoots are done. When someone is ready to sell their home they typically call an agent to list their home. The agent calls my son and a time slot is given to shoot the home. My son edits the photos to some degree and then they are sent to another editor to finalize the pictures. I have heard from them just how far some home owners want them to edit the photos. Thankfully, my sons will not edit out something that would misrepresent the home- such as a door or window. But gaining in popularity with home sellers is the twilight shot. I have to give my sons quite a bit of credit here as they actually will go out at the golden hour and photograph a home. However some home sellers want an ideal picture with the purplish sky and pink clouds that are not real. The colorization is so intense that it is like a dream sequence, not reality. I’m not sure what people think who actually see the homes in person, but at least it gets them to visit the home.

We all know about air brushed photos of models on magazine covers, but have you ever thought that we too airbrush and edit our lives to look good for others? Let me be even more specific, have you ever thought about the church doing this? If you haven’t then let me assure you it does. I know because I am the church. We all are. If you call yourself a Christian than you are part of the body, the church. And I have been so guilty of this at times. But what if we could just be real with each other and stop showing up on Sunday mornings all edited and air bushed to perfection. Please I am not talking about showing up in our pajamas and without makeup. Makeup is okay as is hair coloring, and tattoos and piercings. Just be yourself and be transparent. Don’t try to hide your struggles and imperfections from each other. If you were perfect than you wouldn’t need God or a Savior.

And for all who read this who think they can’t visit church until their life is all cleaned up and edited, please come as you are. Believe me the church is full of many hurting people with problems that are willing to help you tackle yours. I know some church people are really judgemental, I get that and I have fallen for the lie that I have to act and or dress a certain way to be accepted. We all want acceptance and affirmation. But, we can’t really get that completely from people, we will only find that in God. And not in any god or religion, but THE God, who doesn’t ask us to clean up and edit ourselves first to look good on the outside, but the God who came down to earth as a lowly human, felt pain and hurt and rejection by others. He wants the real us so He can heal us. Not in a superficial way that only looks good on the outside, but in a real and personal way. he knows you and your struggles. If you do visit a church this week or seek out a pastor for help and you get the judgemental, air brushed version of church, keep looking, we are not all bad. we are just imperfect so keep looking and visiting until you find the one that welcomes you without the editing.