Hosanna!

I grew up in a very small town in which high school sports played a big part. We were so small a town that we didn’t even have one stoplight. Oh we did have a few stop signs. However, one of out biggest claims to fame was the multiple state championships we had won for basketball and soccer. Our high school was small and we always felt a bit like David versus Goliath when we went to the state competitions, but for a small town it was a big deal. For those in town who hadn’t snagged a ticket for the big game some two hours away, the local radio station would carry the broadcast and we would all tune in. We all got to celebrate alongside those who would win, usually year after year. Phone calls would be made and a line of vehicles including our two fire trucks would be waiting on the edge of town when the bus carrying the players and fans would return to our small town. When we heard the sirens and horns we would all gather outside on our front lawns with homemade signs, waving and cheering as our state champs rolled into town. It didn’t matter if you knew a player or not. It didn’t matter if you even liked sports. Young and old alike would stand outside and cheer and clap as the parade of buses, trucks, and cars would circle through the entire town multiple times.

I can only imagine that this was what it was like on what we now call Palm Sunday. Crowds gathered on the road to Jerusalem, cheering Jesus on and waving palm branches.Jesus of course knew what would be coming later in the week, and we get insight into this in Luke’s gospel. Before entering Jerusalem He stops and cries over the city. He cried because He wished they would understand what would bring peace.(Luke 19:41-42). Despite the cheering crowds, Jesus knew the real heart of the city rejected Him and did not realize it was He who had come to bring peace. The disciples must have enjoyed hearing the praises of the people as Jesus rode into town on the donkey. They might have even felt good to be a part of the entourage of Jesus, just like the parade of fans I remember from my home town. There was celebrating in the streets as Jesus, their hero. who had performed so many miracles was riding triumphantly into Jerusalem. But their celebrating would soon turn into disbelief and even denial in a few short days.

We, of course, now know what it was all about and understand that Jesus was entering Jerusalem where He would be tried, convicted, tortured, crucified, dead and yet rose again three days later. But, if we had been there, what would we have done?  Would we have joined the celebration parade? Would we have abandoned following when Jesus got arrested?

Sometimes, even now our faith is tested by what we go through and what we see. One minute we are celebrating and the next we face an uncertain time. Remember the greatest celebration isn’t Palm Sunday, but after, it’s Easter Sunday. It is what gives us hope that Jesus has paid our debt in full, defeated death, and will one day return. At that time there will be no more death, no more viruses or diseases that take our loved ones. No more crying, or heartbreaks. This is what Easter is about. It’s a victory celebration with Palm Sunday as just a preview. -God Bless -Nancy

Something Good

We all want it. We are all looking for it. No, its not toilet paper,but we want something good in this world that currently seems spiraling out of control. This new normal that we find ourselves in is stressful and scary at times. What we took for granted, like full grocery stores shelves, seems like something from ages ago. Did we really have stocked shelves? Did we really have jobs we drove to? Did we really get together with our friends and families any time we wanted to? Did we really dine out and go to school?

This good we experienced will be here again as history has shone us. In the meantime can we find the good that still there? Yes, I believe we can, but we have to look for it. I know many of you reading this probably have been negatively impacted by the pandemic in serious ways. Most people have only been inconvenienced. I have a bit of understanding in what some of you are going through as a parent new to staying home with your children and homeschooling them. I stayed at home for all of the years my children were in school and even home schooled for a year. What I’ve learned and can share with you is this;1) Enjoy these moments as your kids won’t always be home with you, 2)When you feel like pulling out your hair, take a break and seek out a quiet place for five minutes.3) It’s okay to let your kids entertain themselves with the t.v or tablet. 4)Homeschooling made me realize just how much schooling can get done in only two to four hours a day- there’s a lot of wasted time at school.5) I learned as my son learned from my homeschooling.6) If you’re married and both of you are working from home, enjoy this time together and allow time in your work schedule to sit down and eat together or cook a meal together. We are all so busy, that we often do not have time to spend together.7) Pray. Do not neglect to pray for others who are having an even more stressful time.8) Get outside and enjoy the fresh air.8) Find out who might need extra help in your neighborhood and offer it.9) If your college age kid is home, remember they are still doing their coursework- do not load them down with projects and chores and treat them like adults- they are. 10) Call and check on older relatives and friends. 11) Encourage your children to video chat with their friends if they cannot get together in person. 12) Video chat with your friends. And as I mentioned before; Look for the good.

It is easy to get overwhelmed and watching too much of the news feeds will tend to make us even more nervous. But try to find something good about your day. I have been so encouraged by my neighborhood in how they have helped each other out. I have seen so many families out for walks and scavenger hunts, laughing and enjoying time together. I have met couples when out walking- from the safe distance of six feet- that I did not know were my neighbors. Normal life used to include watching commuters drive past my house in the morning and returning to their garages where they parked their cars and closed down their garage doors, before I could even see who was inside. It has all brought us closer together as a community. And although we have been told to stay apart, we have actually grown closer together as a neighborhood, community and hopefully as a country as well. Adversity has a tendency to do that when we can look for something good and reach out to help others.

I would be negligent if I didn’t mention that for many of your this isn’t a good time. You are struggling financially, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Please reach out to others who are willing to help. Many churches are offering online services, words of encouragement and prayer daily. They are also able to help if you need food and financial help or if you just want someone to pray with. If you are in a threatening relationship and the stress of the situation is driving you or your significant other over the edge, law enforcement is still available as are caring organizations who will offer safety. Please reach out. If you feel you are going to go over the edge yourself and harm your children, walk into another room or outside until you can calm down and seek out help. Many faith based organizations have trained counselors who can speak with you either over the phone or online to offer help and advice.

For those of you who want to help, pray and ask God where He needs you and keep up with social media posts that are often posting opportunities to help in specific ways. Sometimes we can be the good others are looking for. Jesus told us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves and this seems like opportunity to demonstrate just that. -God Bless Nancy

Going Through The Storm

                   Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you—1 Peter 5:7

We once lived next door to an amazing older woman. She had emigrated to the United States in the early 20th century from Hungary. She had come with her Aunt and Uncle but not her parents whom she had a difficult relationship with, as I recall her telling me. She was quite young, around six years of age and spoke no English. She had a hard time at first in school and with the neighbor boy who also did not speak English, but Swedish.

Why I consider her amazing  was for her take on life. Through every difficult situation she would explain all the difficulties facing her as she aged- her husband’s Alzheimer’s, her own declining vision, a fall that caused her a near fatal broken neck,  relationship stresses caused by her family obligations, and of course weather related storms that worried her. At the end of each discussion of her current hardship she would pause and exclaim; “But what are you going to do?” It was not so much of a question she posed to me as a calm answer to all that she was facing and had faced in her long life.

She had been through many storms in her life and she had this great perspective that there wasn’t anything you could do about certain situations, so why get upset. She didn’t avoid talking about her problems as though they weren’t there, she described them, faced them and decided she might as well accept things as they were. She went through.

I remember my Mom giving me similar advice; “This too shall pass” I always thought of it as kinda cryptic, but now that I am older and have been through the storms, I can now say my mom was right. When we are younger, it is hard to take the advice of our parents. We really do think we know everything there is to know about any given situation. But, given the current worldwide crisis due to the corona virus, I am beginning to get a slight glimpse into what the older generations went through and were forced to go through at young ages, giving them every right to know what they are talking about. They were strong and resilient, because they had to be. It wasn’t something they chose to go through. Oh we have had our own share of armed conflicts and large super storms, earthquakes, tornadoes in the late to early 20th and 21st centuries, but nothing on the global scale of the current COVID-19. Our lives have been disrupted and basic supplies are difficult to find. It is now that I recall my grandparents and even my parents stories of what it was like during World War II. Everyone received booklets that rationed items like, meat and sugar. people did not travel and my Mom told me of the air raids that often happened at night. If you were home you were instructed to turn out all your house lights and if in a car you would pull over and turn off the headlights. Apparently it was a regular occurrence.

So,as we are all a little anxious at this moment with our regular predictable lives on hold, let’s remember the words of previous generations. They went through and got through it. We cannot change what is happening, but in those moments when we feel anxious, we can be reminded to turn to God and cast all our anxieties on Him. Sometimes we cannot avoid going through hard times, we just have to. We can’t pretend we don’t have fears or anxieties when we do. It’s okay to describe our difficulties as my elderly neighbor use to do. But once we do, we can go to God and admit we need Him to calm our fears and still our anxieties. I know that’s what I have been doing. -God Bless – Nancy

Not For Sale

The truth is hard to take. It is impossible to take when it is something about ourselves. Ouch! It hurts to face the truth about ourselves. Recently I was reading an article on the rising number of atheists among Gen Z. What was hard to take was that the article mentions the fault for such a thing was not that there wasn’t enough opportunities for them to have heard the Gospel, aka the good news, but that their parents had presented them with a Christianity that just wasn’t realistic.  It is one that was based upon self fulfillment, prosperity gospels, and entertainment. The Gen Z saw right through that, but the parents did not. Gen Z desired social justice, authenticity and acceptance. And they are right in expecting this from Christianity. This message is found in the Gospels. Jesus accepted all people who were willing to follow Him (equality). He came that all men might be saved. He called for community (acceptance) He also treated women with high respect, compared with the religious leaders of the time ( women’s rights).   Examples of caring for the  environment (Environmental justice) is found in the Old Testament as well, as mankind was called to be good stewards of the land and animals (Genesis 1:28). They were given the role of care taker of the earth and to be generous and support the widows and children (social justice) as acts of pure religion( James 1:27).  So the Gen Z’s who want this are actually wanting what Jesus wanted for His followers. But what the Gen Z’s see is a church full of self serving hypocrites. And they are right. So they look elsewhere to find the answers to life. So what happened?

I suspect that we as parents of Gen z and millennials failed our kids by allowing them to be sold out to the highest bidder. What do I mean? We sought out churches with the best youth activities and mission trips, but not always considering whether they were getting the best understanding of the Bible. We sought the best worship music experiences with the best lighting and video effects. However,  we failed to help them learn to disinguish between the true and false teachers taking up pulpit space. We ourselves wanted a blessed life without problems. We wanted to be blessed in our finances and health and fell for the lies of the prosperity gospel that we just have to believe and we can somehow manipulate God into doing our bidding. We thought He was there for us, to serve us and our needs, rather than somehow we were to serve Him? That poverty and lack were to be battled against as an enemy to our happy Christian life. We allowed ourselves as parents to believe the lies that it is an “us” versus”them” world; the” us” that have it and the “those” who do not. We ourselves fell for the clever marketing of the Gospel. We bought the T shirts and attended the concerts and conferences. We loved our churches and branded church emblems more than God. We idolized Christian speakers and leaders and taught our kids to do the same. We watched the leaders we idolized fall away from the faith and were shocked to hear them denounce Christianity.  We taught our kids that acceptance and participation awards were more important than standing out as an individual. We told them it was more important to feel good about themselves and to avoid dealing with negative thoughts. We filled their schedules with activities so they would fit in with their peers and not feel left out. We taught them that feelings were more important than facts. We ourselves did not want to feel bad, so we found ways to medicate pain and difficulties we did not want to face. We failed to give them the truth. We sold them out to a marketed truth that filled the pockets of a Christianity which fell to the same marketing strategies as the corporate world. Give people want they want, and if they do not know what they want, help them to realize that you have what they need. Invent felt needs that only you can fill with your product. Offer to give away some of this magic elixir for free, but just enough so they will desire more. Do not include warnings, except in tiny fine print, for any side effects. or better yet, just omit any warnings and give them only promises of good results if they follow their specific Church plan.

Does Christianity come with warnings? Yes, the Bible is full of them. Christians will deal with all of the problems of this world and then some because of their faith. Christians should expect that they are not shielded from real life. There will be hurts, heartaches, disappointments, isolation, loneliness, grief, sadness, financial loss, job loss, diseases, accidents, rejection, suffering, pain, and the deafening silence from God when you seek Him for answers to prayer. This does not sound appealing does it? It would not market well, but it is truth. The God we have been sold by contemporary Christianity has failed us and we in turn have failed our kids. When they, and we, hit real life problems the catchy sound bite Christianity fails us. How do I know? I have been there, done that and bought the t shirt. No pun intended, but I couldn’t resist. I found out the hard way that ministries are not always what they seem and some are for profiting themselves and not helping people find God and grow their faith. The only thing growing are their bank accounts. I have also learned that God’s plans are not mine. We can’t “name it and claim it” to get what we want. It just doesn’t work that way. We shouldn’t expect God to give us everything we want. It is about Him, not us. We will have pain in this life. It is something we must deal with and go through. I know this from losing my Mom. My brand of Christianity almost failed me through the grief I felt in her death. I have also fallen for the false acceptance (over- eager church welcomes) and the free give aways done in clever marketing of churches who are seeking to pad their numbers. I felt accepted and important and needed, until I wasn’t, or until I raised questions about their motivations or programs.

But it is not about the numbers, it’s about real people with real lives and real eternities. What Gen Z’s want is authenticity. Will we give them the truth of what it means to be a Christian? Will we tell them it is not an easy road? I applaud the skeptics of this generation that are asking the tough questions of Christianity and demanding real answers. We should have answers for them, not marketing strategies. We can’t sell them out any longer. God doesn’t need our marketing; He does a pretty good job reaching out to those who are looking for real answers, not false promises. I fear more for those who do not ask enough questions and fall for a less than the truth Christianity. We need to admit we were wrong for giving them this model to follow. We need to help them find the truth among many opposing truths that Peter warns about in 2 Peter chapter 2. I found this verse interesting, “In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up.” (vs. 3, NIV). I think this is what the Gen Z’s have called us out on and they are right. Although this verse refers to what was happening in the first century church, it is also true of today’s churches. They exploit and make up stories so that we will buy what they are selling. A false gospel that will make us feel better and benefit those who teach it. It was a problem then and it is the same today. Human nature has not changed. We are all designed for acceptance and relationship. This is to be met in personal relationships with friends, community, and in marriage, but ultimately is to be met by God Himself. We were designed for a relationship with God. It is not just a “felt” need, but a real one. Gen Z’s are wanting this and have discovered that in some cases, churches are standing in the way of them discovering this truth. They do not want a relationship with a church; they want a relationship with God. Will we continue to tell the younger generations to love their church, idolize their pastors, and seek for blessings? Or will we point them to Christ, who although He had never done anything deserving punishment for a crime, chose to suffer on our behalf, experiencing unbearable pain in the name of loving mankind. Will we tell them that once they realize what Christ has done for them, they won’t need to keep seeking more blessing? This is all the blessing they need. Will we tell them this love for Christ and from Christ will motivate them to suffer and endure things such as pain and even isolation, in His name? The first century church we read about in the New Testament existed in a world that was hostile to them. It was a difficult world, as it is today.  Will we continue to present a false story of Christianity or a true one? Will we teach younger generations to be watchful of false teachings, such as the prosperity gospel? Will we tell them that discernment is an important tool to sift out the scams of Christianity that exist?  Will we warn them about idol worship in the form of churches or pastors?  Will we teach them apologetic methods to help them explain their faith? Will will teach them to learn the Bible and not just memorize Bible verses for a prize? Will we teach them good hermetical practices so they will not fall for false teachers who take Bible verses out of context? Will we do the same for ourselves? Will we realize that the truth is not for sale? I hope so.

Tough Stuff

This week has been a challenging one. Some of you know that I am in the graduate program at Liberty University studying Christian Apologetics. Graduate school has it challenges with the amount of reading and writing required, but sometimes it can be quite difficult when asked to give personal reflections. This week’s assignment was no exception. The class required a personal theodicy of suffering. Why does God allow suffering? What good can come of it, and why aren’t Christians free from the pain and suffering of this world? I decided to share just a small excerpt from the paper here that maybe someone might get the help they need from it.

“Is there purpose in the pain suffered in this life? It is evident that in this life there will be pain and suffering. This pain might be physical or emotional but the effects are the same; suffering hurts. Since Christians hold to the belief that God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent, it seems hard to grasp why a loving God who could take away all the evil that causes pain and suffering would not do so. It is especially difficult to come to terms when the suffering is personal, rather than just a textbook illustration, or something that is happening to others, rather than self. But this life is full of hardships, difficulties, pain and suffering.”

What we can hold onto is that we might not ever know the purpose for the pain and suffering of life. We just do not have the ability to understand things as God does. We can try to formulate a bunch of reasons, but often we speak before we think. The only thing that we can be sure of is that God loves us unconditionally. He Himself understands our grief and sorrow. It was God the Father who sent Jesus to the cross to suffer on our behalf. It was Jesus who willingly did so, because of His love for us. Such suffering appears unjustifiable, because Jesus had not done anything wrong. Yet, His love for us prompted Him to do the Father’s will, even if it meant undergoing painful physical suffering.We can be reassured that God understands pain and suffering and is with us in it. Although we might not ever know the reasons, we can trust that God knows. We can also trust Him. We don’t always have to know the why’s in life. God comes beside us and comforts us in times of hurt. We do not always feel it. Sometimes it feels like the silence is deafening. We try to have hope, but it is hard to do so. Hope is only hope when it is unseen according to the Apostle Paul (Romans 8:24-25). We hold onto hope for a future in heaven when we will see our loved ones again and the wrongs of life will be made right. However, its important to remember that God has eliminated evil and suffering in the world through Christ. It does,however, remain to be fully implemented when Jesus returns. We live in the midst of victory, yet while the world remains in a chaotic state. The current state contains pain and suffering, sometimes unjustifiable and lacking any comprehensible reason for it. Someday, all this will make sense and will be a distant memory. We will be free of pain and suffering and live forever with God, as He originally intended. In the mean time, we have hope, which is everything. God Bless- Nancy

Impossible

So, do you have any impossible people in your life? Those difficult ones who you have written off ? The people you’d rather avoid? I’m sure as I mentioned it, you could think of at least one or two. If you didn’t, well then, you’re awesome and do not need to read this blog.

Anyway, I admit there have been people who have crossed my life’s path that well, I thought would always be the way they were. Nope, that person is definitely difficult and I’d rather not hang out with them. Maybe they shared a different political opinion than me, or a different religion or a lack of religious affiliation, but there was just this thing that made them difficult. And I admit, I thought I was a much nicer person than they were. So, I wrote them off as the impossible people in my life. The ones who were too far away from ever changing.

I was reminded yesterday at worship that God does the impossible. As we sang a popular worship song by Sanctus Real that’s chorus says “Unstoppable God let your glory go on and on. Impossible things in your name they shall be done” , God brought to mind a person who I had seen the impossible work of God take place. Many times I think when we sing songs like that, we are thinking of how God will do things for us, rather than thinking of what He can do for others. Those difficult ones. The ones we have written off as impossible. I was reminded of that person yesterday I had written off, the one who would never change and whose heart was hard and cold, especially toward God. But, He did. God did the impossible and reached the impossible person that I had given up on. I found myself praising God as I thought of this amazing impossible thing God had done. This song took on a whole new meaning for me. The story of the rich young man came to mind as I began to write this morning, reflecting on yesterday’s worship..

In the Book Of Matthew 19:16-26, Jesus is questioned by a young man what he should do to live forever. Jesus knows the young man’s real problem, despite his good life, is that he lacks compassion and is holding onto his riches for his security rather than trusting God. We might call him a rich man or a self-made man, who although he appeared to do everything right, Jesus saw his heart. And then Jesus asked him to give away all he had and follow him. The man turned away sadly as apparently he didn’t want to do this. Jesus then began to teach that it is difficult for the rich to enter the kingdom of God. I know you might be thinking” Wow, does this mean I’m supposed to be poor to follow Jesus?” No, Jesus’ point wasn’t that , He just saw how much the young man placed his stuff before Jesus. Even the disciples questioned Jesus about this, so relax, you’re not alone in your thinking. They wondered  what Jesus had meant and asked Him ” So, WHO can enter the kingdom Jesus?” It is impossible for anyone if the standards are so high that you’re telling us this rich young man, even though he does what’s right in every other area of his life, can’t make it. To this Jesus replied; “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (ESV)

So, what is Jesus talking about? Men might look at the outside appearances and circumstances, as the disciples had done; they saw the young man walk away from Jesus and heard Jesus say it was difficult if not impossible for the rich to inherit the kingdom of God and write the person off. It is Jesus who sees the hearts of men and works the impossible from the inside out. The people we think will never change, God can change. He is the God who does the impossible. He did the impossible in my heart, so why should I limit what He can do in another person’s heart. Someone might have written me off  before I became a follower of Christ, but God did the impossible and while I might still be difficult, I mean we all aren’t perfect!, I know God is the God of the impossible; I have seen it for myself. I have learned to not be so quick to write others off as the unreachable or unchangeable. -God Bless Nancy

Letting Go….

Hi, my name is Nancy and my superpower is worrying and overthinking. Everything. Or at least it was. With the new year I have decided to let go of my superpowers for a bit. Or at least try to. If you’ve read my posts before, then you know I over plan and over think and over worry. Is that really a thing? I think it can be. I think there is nothing wrong with a bit of concern, but when we take it too far and what ever we are concerned with takes up all our thoughts, well yup you got it!, over worry.

So, while I might not admit to making a New Year’s resolution, I usually do; I just don’t tell anyone, so that way if I fail, no one has to know. Pretty good plan, huh? Well, this year it isn’t so much what I am adding to my resolve, like exercise, but what I’m leaving behind. I’ve decided to leave the past, right where it should be, the past. Everything that went wrong and everywhere I fell short, or others fell short. I’m just going to not bring it up in my mind. This year is a new chance for falling short, both mine and others.

When we hold onto those past short comings we label people and ourselves in such rigid ways, that we end up only seeing ourselves and others in that way. So we enter a new year expecting the worst from ourselves and others. We limit them and us and restrict any growth.

I really don’t like labels. People can move forward and grow. We are all capable and with God’s help we will continue to grow in our faith walk and in life in general. No one would expect a kindergartner to do Algebra and neither would they stay at the kindergarten level. They will grow and learn. Adults can grow too. We learn from the past and give ourselves the grace to move forward despite making past mistakes. We should offer this grace to others as well. Putting the past behind and moving forward is not just a cliche, but is a part of living.

But what about worry? Are you going to mention that again? Yes. Yes, I am. I am still a work in progress in this area and a verse came to mind this morning as I thought about what to write. It’s from Matthew: Here’s Jesus’ words on the subject of worrying: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?(6:25-27, NIV).

Many of you might be familiar with this passage, but I think the best part is found further on in the reading of chapter 6 from verse 34;  “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for today is its own trouble” (ESV).

Ahh, see there’s my biggest nemesis! Being anxious and worrying about things that haven’t happened yet. Today is enough for today. And this is also where letting go of the past comes in. I think much of what we base our worry and anxiety on is from our past. If something went wrong before, surely it will go wrong in the same way tomorrow, right? Well, no. Yesterday’s mistakes were so yesterday, tomorrow’s mistakes will be tomorrow’s, we need to be concerned about today. And when we focus on that, the part about not worrying about our stuff, as mentioned in verses 24-27 about food and clothes comes in to play. Don’t be anxious about tomorrow. Think about today. And oh yeah don’t worry about today. God’s got this. That might be a unofficial version of the text, but I think that is what it is saying. Just something to think about. God Bless -Nancy