Doing Battle

We all know that the past several months have not been easy and more than likely you thought we would all be out of this much sooner. Back to normal. Back to regular. But in some parts of the world, we are still feeling the effects the global pandemic has brought us. At times we do not know what to call the feelings we are all experiencing. Is it stress? Yes. Anxiety? Yes. Fear? Yes. Frustration? Yes. We can identify many of those feelings and I have brought up in previous posts, how to limit the effects of those overwhelming feelings. Move away from dependence on social media and news, have a quiet time with God, read the Bible, get away and pause to hear from God. But, perhaps we have been overlooking the one feeling, the emotion that might seem unlikely; grief. See, grief can come in many ways, not just from the death of a loved one.

I was reminded of grief this week upon hearing of the sudden passing of a pastor’s father. My Mom passed away five years ago, so I have been well acquainted with grief that hits like a train. Like a tornado. It’s inescapable. It’s overwhelming. It hurts. And it changes everything in our world. It is something that simply cannot be undone. It’s final. Permanent.

Grief can be felt with any kind of loss. A job. A home. A business. A relationship. A reputation. A schedule. A normal life. We often experience this sense of loss and sadness that we can’t shake. We feel guilty for feeling sad over what seems such temporary losses. We know we can find another job, another home, another boyfriend or girlfriend, start another business, create another routine, start over. But we still grieve that which has been lost and what has been changed.

So, how do we deal with it? Well, much in the same way we deal with anxiety, fear, stress. We need to go to God. We need to pray. And we need to realize that the emotions we are feeling do not need to consume us and consume all our thoughts. We must choose our thinking. We must get back to capturing every thought and weighing whether or not the thought is truth or a lie. When we recall the losses in our life, we can remember the good, let go of any guilt, and remind ourselves that God is still in control.

We do not do this battle alone. God is with us and will answer our prayers, even when we are not quite sure what to pray. Sometimes the best answers to prayer I have experienced are after I simply cried out “Help! God I need you” Just a simple request when I’ve realized I am in over my head.

We also need to do battle for our thoughts alongside others. We can encourage each other. Open up to each other and share our personal struggles. The body of Christ should never shy away from a friend who wants to share their struggles. We are all broken vessels, needing God’s help. If we really think we have it all together, we are mistaken. And if anyone looks to Christians to have it all together, they will sadly see us fail miserably. Christians do not have it all together, we just know who to go to when we are overcome by sadness and grief. We do not need to stay in our sad, discouraged places. This is only temporary. Life will get back to normal, even if normal means change.

Finding Rest

Finding rest. Sounds pretty simple, unless you are a workaholic or over achiever. Now I wouldn’t consider myself either of those, but I really do have a difficult time finding rest. My mind seems to keep going long after I decide to sit or rest. Any small item in the farthest reaches of my mind can find their way to the surface and disturb my peace and rest. The same goes for any noise. Maybe that comes from parenthood, always listening for the noises of our kids at night when we first brought them home from the hospital. This was an era before baby monitors or cameras.

Whatever the reason, it has been difficult to rest and relax. We are all a bit wound up right now as we still face challenges in restarting the world that has been on pause over the pandemic. Even when many of us were forced to stay home, we found multiple projects to do around our homes. Here in the US the home improvement stores never closed and were the busiest places, and the most crowded as shoppers found that doing home remodels and “Do it Yourself” projects kept them busy and gave them some sense of normalcy and purpose.

But now, as we start back to normalcy, we still have this sense of uneasiness and anxiety. Most of it is fueled by media, which we can be intentional to reduce. But still, sometimes it takes get away from the noise, the worry, the stress and anxiety and learning to rest. To Sabbath. To relax from our struggles to figure it all out, solve every problem, keep busy, keep working, keep striving. To simply stop and rest.

Here in the US we just celebrated Labor Day. It is a day designed to give the American worker a day off. A day to celebrate all the hard work accomplished. One day out of a year. To rest from labor and celebrate the hard work done. Think about that. One day a year. God knew we needed more than one day, so He created sabbath for us to rest from our labors. Just so we understood it, He himself rested, that is stop creating on the seventh day, the sabbath day.

For the first time in a while, I finally was able to experience a true sabbath day rest. My husband and I were able to travel to a nearby state for the Labor Day weekend. We stayed busy on a couple of the days visiting an aquarium and local sights, but we also made time just to rest by the pool at our hotel. I know that might sound a bit sacrilegious to sit by a pool on a Sunday and rest. To stop and listen to the birds, smell the flowers blooming nearby in the planters instead of being in church. But, it is what I desperately needed. To stop for a moment and cease working. Striving. Trying. Just enjoy what God has created for us to enjoy. To still my thoughts for a moment. To cease worrying and stressing over everything. To breathe. To close my eyes and be in the moment. To let go of taking care of everything and trust God to run the world. My world. Too often I think I am the one who must run the world or else it won’t get done. But, that is of course not true, but let me ask you have you ever felt that way? That it is all up to you? You have a difficult time taking time for yourself. You keep working in your mind long after you have finished your work and drove home? Or maybe you worry over your kids, even though they are fine. Or you worry over your health, or someone close to you’s health.

Whether you realize it or not, you are working, not resting. What you need is rest. It might not be easy for you to find time off. I understand. Sometimes you have to find a place to rest by finding a quiet spot near where you live. Somewhere to get away from the noise and stop and listen to quiet. A place of rest. -God Bless -Nancy

Getting it set

A moment of panic was beginning to set in as I frantically began to enter my email and passwords over and over again. The results were the same. The login was just spinning about like a tornado, albeit a slow tornado. It can be mesmerizing at times to watch those little circles spin. But, it didn’t help to watch for long. The situation was not going to change. All of my digital content had disappeared, ie. no digital books in my online library. I was panicked because this was the first day of classes and without books I could be in trouble. The link from my school showed just the basic Bible versions that had been set up originally, but all the other books were gone. No content. Even when I called the service number the results were the same. They had no name or listing. It was as if I didn’t exist. How is this possible?

I frantically searched for answers as to why this could have happened. Had my school switched vendors? Had I missed an important e-mail about it? Had I done something to delete my library? I was put on hold while being transferred to a nice tech support person. To be honest, I had almost hung up on the call because it was taking too long. But then, like a voice from Heaven, a voice said hello. I explained my problem and then the tech guy asked me something quite simple. What time do you have on your computer? Wait, what? Yes, he repeated, what time zone is your computer in? Hmmm, this sounds crazy but ok. I told him the time on the screen and he said, oh you have the wrong time. You need to change the time on your settings and turn off the auto zone option. I explained that I had recently done an update, well, windows had, but he said yes that was it. When I checked, the hour was correct but the minutes were off by ten minutes. He told me the correct time and I changed it. I went to login and as if by magic, all my books appeared once again. Whew! Crazy stuff. Ten minutes.

Now for all of you techy people, you’re probably finding this amusing, but for those of us who are not so technology gifted, maybe I just saved you from calling for support. It’s all about the timing. It seems like it is always about timing. I have been in the right place at the right time and have seen how God has protected me from accidents. Only at the time, it didn’t seem like the right time. I had been held up or delayed, kept from driving on for whatever reason. I would get back on track down the road, only to see  the remnants of an accident that had occurred before I reached that section of road.

We never fully understand why the timing in our lives is what it is. The corona virus has changed the timing for many of us. We have been forced to slow our speed, change our plans and now are slowly moving back up to our regular rhythms of life. Timing has changed. We have realized through all of this, that it is not our timing that matters, only God’s. I have realized that I cannot control my world as much as I thought I could. If I try to control everything, I might suddenly realize it is my timing that is off. I can presume my timing is correct, but just like my laptop, when its off, it has huge consequences. I can try to log on, try to do new things, force my way, but when I try to do it my way, by my strength, in my name, ironically, like using my e-mail log in, it just isn’t going to work. It’s all about setting myself to God’s timing. Trusting Him.

Last time, I mentioned my plan to keep media from crowding out God. Now today, let me suggest that in addition to quieting ourselves from the crazy anxiety producing news feeds and social media, we all, that is me too, set our minds on God.

Just like needing the correct time on my laptop, we need the correct mindset. Just like the word implies, a mind set, is what you have your mind set on. What are you thinking about? What are you basing your thoughts and actions upon? Yourself? Your desires? Your timing? A favorite verse of mine is Colossians 3:2 “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” (New International Version).

     It’s something I need to remind myself of often. Too often I set my mind on me or on stuff that doesn’t matter much, the earthly things. And then I worry, or get frustrated. Or get angry when stuff doesn’t go my way. The way I want it to go. In the timing I want it to happen. Then I realize, my mind is not on God and His timing. When I stop and turnaround and refocus on God, my mind begins to be set on the things above. The things that matter to God. A great place to start is to read Gods’ word.

     Doing this is much like going into the settings on our computers and changing our thoughts, our mindsets, and our timing, so that it is in sync with God’s. In the time you have freed up from being tethered to socials, that is if you followed me in my last blog, by limiting your social media addictions, you now have time to read God’s promises, thoughts, and words to us. And if you don’t have a Bible or like to use technology as a benefit rather than an intrusion on our lives, there are many Bibles available as apps. Some Bible apps even offer daily verses or reading plans and reminders. Time to get set.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taking it to the source

So, my dad owns an older home in the country and has as his water source a spring. The spring is located a few hundred feet away from his home and provides water for not only his house but also my brothers and a neighbor. Now, before you think to yourself, wow! spring water that I don’t have to buy from a little bottle or have delivered by the jug!, Must be sweet. Well, it isn’t all that free sometimes for my dad. There is this long pipe that runs down the side of the road he lives on, under his driveway and into the house. Quite often, this pipe springs a leak somewhere along its length.The only way he can tell when this has happened is for his water pressure to drop and puddles start forming along the road and driveway. The only way to fix the pipe is to first locate the source of the break. This is not as easy as it might sound, for water from the spring runs down a hill alongside the road. The break could be nearer to the spring or further down the piping. It is a matter of trial and error (digging up dirt along the sections of pipe) to find the break. Once he finds the location, the source, he can fix it, and restore his water supply to his home.

Lately, I have been feeling, like many of you, like there is a break in my flow of peace. It is not difficult to find the location of the break, just take a look around the current world situation and it is easy to identify the cause, the source. We feel like chaos and anxiety are winning in the battle for our minds and souls. We are stressed and uneasy, we are feeling insecure and unsure of even making the basic decisions. I sympathize with parents of school aged children who must make decisions about the school year. School administrations are right in there with attempting to decide what to do in the best interests of their students and teachers. We feel confused. We read up on the virus and on the recovery rates, we search for answers and we search for peace in the chaos.

On social media and news feeds we are bombarded with many sides of the same story. Which view is right? Which view is wrong? Is there a right or wrong? Or are we all victims of a greater plot to disrupt our unity as humans so that we see each other as enemies rather than men and women who are created by God in His image? We are seeking truth, but finding more chaos. We are looking for a source for truth, a source for peace. It feels as though our water pipe is broken and we are all parched, thirsty, craving pure spring water that will soothe our weary, tired and parched souls and minds.

Even the most highly respected pastors and ministers of the Gospel are feeling this anxiety and lack of peace. The current situation with the pandemic and violence and confusion happening surrounding the protests for social justice cannot be ignored while Christians pretend it is not there. There is a leak in the pipe. We cannot ignore the problem, but can we seek a better way to deal with it all?

I believe there is. Recently, I have been spending time reading some great books by some great Christian writers that deal with this mind and spiritual battle that is going on in their lives as well. What I have taken away from it is this, we can live in this chaos by re-framing our thinking and focusing on Jesus, our source of peace. See the world and the problems of the world are not going to just disappear.We live in the tension of a world that is groaning and grappling with chaos as it longs for the day when everything will be set right again. Jesus told us that there would be trouble in this world.  But He also told us that He was giving us His peace, the peace that was sure and lasting, not the peace the world gives( John 14:27). If you haven’t read the Book of John before, or if it has been awhile, it is a good place to start to calm your chaos. It will remind you and help you understand just who Jesus is and what He taught. He came to earth as a man, fully human, and He knows what we are feeling. He felt pain, suffering, grief, anger, disappointment. He knows well what we are all going through right now. One thing to remember is He often went off by Himself and prayed to God. Theologians sometimes grapple with this concept, after all Jesus is God, part of the Trinity, so why did He have to pray, was He talking to Himself? True, He is part of the Trinity, father, son and Holy Spirit, but each is different in role, and He, Jesus, was seeking to do the will of the Father, so communication was important.

Which brings me back to my final point, and one which I am personally trying to incorporate in my daily routine. I have been challenged and convicted about how much importance I have given to social and news feeds in my daily life. I check my phone before I go to sleep and first thing in the morning and I’ve realized it is too connected to my day. It feeds into my anxiety and chaos. I am deciding to leave my phone out of my bedroom at night while it charges. It is too addicting to check it every time it dings. It seems to be one source in my life that has been feeding my anxiety. My husband has decided to stay off of face book for a while because he has realized it changes him and how he views others. Often our phones are what keeps fueling the leaking of our peace as a society. We can easily find something to upset us, or something to which we disagree on with on our news feeds and social media. Our phones are always with us, feeding this anxiety, non stop. For you it might be your tablets, or laptops or TV. Or maybe the radio or podcasts you listen to as you commute. The basic question to ask yourself is what am I letting into my thoughts? What am I giving my allegiance to? Is it helping me, or hurting me emotionally, mentally, spiritually? Am I giving it greater significance than God? Is it making me a better person? Or a bitter, angry, anxious, stressed out one? As a Christian am I reflecting God, or the world?

The source of our anxiety might be the pandemic and social unrest, but are we adding gasoline to the fire by what we are fueling our minds with? To get back to my water pipe analogy, what are we doing that breaks our peace? Are we taking a sledge hammer to our flow of peace by what we devote ourselves to? Are we passively letting the media tell us what to think and believe? Are we letting ourselves be anxious? Are we truly searching for the source of peace?

Its easy to find the leak, its worry and stress, and we can make it worse, as I tried to explain, but what are we doing positively to fix the broken flow of peace in our lives?  In a world that seems out of control,this is something we have control over. Just like my husband and I can choose to put some distance between the chaos that is being fed through our need to be in constant contact with media, and replace it with quiet , you can as well. To stop and give God space in our lives and in our thoughts. To meditate on God and His word. To pray and to be quiet enough to hear God speak.

 

Was it you?

Some days we can let our circumstances get the best of us. And our emotions. We get tired and we get cranky. On the outside we are adults, but on the inside we can act like an unruly two year old. We want our way, and when we don’t get it, we get upset.

The recent events of the world have stretched me and tried my patience to the point of my becoming that unruly two year old.  I feel bad for feeling bad, which makes the situation worse, it seems. I have been the queen of self- criticism before, and on a particular, hot, tiresome August day, I acted both as a temperamental toddler and a self-critic. I was exhausted both physically and mentally. I had been fighting the constant battle of my thoughts. If you read my last blog, you know that I addressed fear versus caution in the midst of this pandemic. Most of the time, I can keep my perspective and my focus on Christ and the things that matter, rather than on the fears that continually get fueled by what I see and read. It is easy to give into fear, especially when you’re worn out and tired.

So, there I was, exhausted, worn out, stressed and alone in a gas station bathroom. I had had enough of it all. The worries of the pandemic, the fears of moving into new chapters of my life, the pressure of resuming my seminary classes after a summer break, the disappointments and disagreements between family members, and the late hour. I felt my eyes well up with tears, but I didn’t want to let myself cry. I’d have to walk back through the store portion of the station, and didn’t want to face anyone, even a stranger with my red eyes and running mascara. I quietly told God I wanted to give up. I’ve had enough. I  knew that much of what had been happening in my personal life was a spiritual attack from the pits of hell, but I was just tired of fighting it.

In those moments of frustration and desperation, it seems like the most logical thing to say or think is to cry “Uncle”. Our faith is being stretched so much. We just want to throw in the towel and tell the Devil he’s won. We’ll stop trying to make a difference in the world. Just look out for number one, forget others, Isn’t that what the world tells us to do? Why go against the current? Why speak up for the truth? Why follow God? Why keep going to school to answer God’s call to be a pastor? How many war wounds and battle scars are enough God? I just wanna give up God, it’s not worth it anymore, can you help me God? If not, I’m giving up!

But, you were there. And you made a difference. I never saw you, might not ever meet you. But I know you had been there and must have listened to God’s voice, that still, quiet voice, to leave me a note in the bathroom that evening. It was such a clear message from God, that in my two- year tantrum mindset,  I tried not to see it. I was just so fed up with everything. I know God it was really a note from you. An answer from you, not just from a person. You are pretty intentional, and you intended for me to see that little piece of folded paper.

There it was, a handwritten note, slightly damp from the water of the sink from others who had seen it, while they washed up. It was written in colored pencil or ink, and some of the writing from the back side of the paper had faded. But there was no doubt about the message; “Jesus loves you so very much” Simple. To the point. And not even a memorized Bible verse. Just the reminder I needed that late evening at a gas station bathroom. I recited in my mind the words over and over again as I walked back out into the parking lot. Jesus loves me. So. very. much. Not just the simple Jesus loves me this I know, of the familiar kids song, but different, personal, and just what I needed to hear from God.

So thank you, who ever you are, you made a difference in my world and hopefully in the world in general. Thank you for not giving up in telling the world that yes, in fact, Jesus does love them so very much. Maybe you were a child, who forget their handwritten picture on the sink earlier that day as you washed your hands, or maybe you were a teen or adult, who knew to hear God’s voice and share the love you know with the world who does not know of God’s love.

We all have a part to play in Christ’s kingdom if we are Christians. Don’t give up and throw in the towel. Your action might be small, like a little piece of paper on a sink. But you make the difference in the world.

The world is desperate for answers, for peace, and for love. God has all that, and He is offering it freely. We all need to encourage each other about God’s love for us. Of His truth. Of His peace He offers. Of His hope that does not disappoint. Of His answers to prayer, that sometimes come in the form of little notes left on sinks.

Maybe you are looking for answers, be sure not to overlook those little quiet voices, reminding you to look to God for those answers. Be quiet enough to listen so that you don’t miss them. They might come in the form of a little, folded, love note from God. God hears you.

Caution or fear

Life is full of challenges. Too many challenges some days, but overall its our attitude in facing these challenges  that can either hold us back or keep us moving forward. Recent days have demonstrated just how quickly life can change. Lives can be disrupted by a small crown like virus. For some it produces no more than the common cold, for others, a serious medical emergency. But all lives have been affected to be sure in some manner or another.

Yet, time continues to pass, whether that time passes while we sit indoors, or as we venture out to our jobs and schools. Circumstances change, locations change, but time is always moving forward.  We can latch onto this forward movement, or resist it and try to drag our heels.We can either find the good in our circumstances or look for the bad in our circumstances, but we cannot change the fact that even if our world seems to stop, life does not. We get older, and hopefully wiser, as we experience life. As the saying goes, time marches on.

I’ve recently been considering how I address the fears that have cropped up since the pandemic, and found that, I have been letting my emotions have first place. I am, by nature, a cautious person. I make sure not to pull out into traffic without looking carefully. In fact, during my driver’s test, that was the one complaint of the tester, I was too cautious! I will agree to that, I’d rather be safe than crash my car. But sometimes too much caution keeps me from enjoying my life. For example, I’m afraid of roller coasters that turn upside down. I love fast roller coasters- in fact the faster the better- but, I’m just too cautious to go upside down. I’m cautious. But, someday I imagine I will get the courage to face this fear and go on one of those crazy twisty, upside down terror rides.

As the days have passed since the beginning of this pandemic I have noticed there is great debate over the seriousness of the pandemic, some toss all caution to the wind, while others are fearful of everyone and avoid everybody. I admit, at first I was scared to death and followed every update on the news. But, then I began to read more about the disease and also a book that challenged my faith. It made me realize how I had allowed my natural caution to turn into fear and here I was with this question posed at me by the author of the book, “Am I afraid to die?” Wow, that’s heavy for anyone to read in a book about helping your thought life. Thanks? for that, I feel so much better now.  Seriously though,that really put things into perspective. I do believe God has given us all a healthy fear of death, so we will be cautious and not hurt ourselves. But, we can allow this fear to control us and manipulate us.

It’s a good question to ask yourself, what am I afraid of? Am I afraid of all the bad news I hear? Afraid of being rejected? Afraid or being hurt? Afraid of failing? Anyone of these fears are normal, but when moved past the level of cautious to downright fearful, we have a problem. It freezes us from moving forward.We close ourselves off to others, and to God. Difficulties will always face us as a planet. There will be more pandemics, more floods, more wildfires, more famines, more earthquakes, more hurricanes, more betrayals, more hurts, more financial problems, more sicknesses and diseases that claim too many lives too soon. But what matters is how we process all of this. We can be filled with fear and resign ourselves to believe that God is a God who doesn’t care what is going on down here, or we can quietly, take a deep breath, pray, seek God’s face and not His hand, and trust. That’s it. Trust. All of our fear and worry will not change the outcome. This planet will move forward.Time will move forward. All the circumstances that cause us fear will disappear as quickly as they came. In the meantime, trust. God promises that He will never leave us or forsake us. It is what I have banked my life on. God does not leave. God is with us even through this time of stress and anxiety. We can be cautious and wise, but not let fear get the better of us. God’s got this.

 

Understanding The Past

Last time I shared some of my thoughts on Gen Z and how they are reformers and influences that have in the past been overlooked. Well, today my thoughts turn to something which I have been burdened to write about, although I doubt it will be very popular. Forgiveness. Yeah I have written on the topic before, and you can find my previous blog by searching within my archived blogs, but I think the time is right to talk about it now.

Unless you have been in complete isolation, you have been affected by all the protests surrounding the untimely death of George Floyd in Minnesota. No one should be happy to see someone die in front of them, or on their phone or TV screens. Likewise, for all the business owners and workers who have lost their places of employment due to the riots, they have unwittingly become part of a larger problem. To be sure not all the protests have turned into riots, but instead have just been concerned people asking for change for the future.

But I have been thinking that while change and reform is clearly needed, one thing has been failing to make the headlines: Forgiveness. All of us can think of our own past experiences and probably name events that deeply hurt us. People who deeply hurt us. Sometimes emotionally- they said things that should not have been said- or even physically or spiritually- a bad church experience or pastor who made us want to leave Christianity behind.

But the key phrase to consider here is the past. We cannot change the past hurts in our lives. The things we wished hadn’t happened. The words we wish we didn’t need to hear. The pain from a punch, grab, or slap. Words hurt, physical violence hurts. We can’t deny that. It was an event that even now stirs emotions inside of us. We know it was not right, that we did not deserve it, yet it happened and as much as we wish it didn’t, the point is it DID. We can’t change the past. But we can change how we deal with the past.

We can demand justice and reparation. Which is right, but sometime the people who have hurt us are no longer with us, so we cannot even get back what we lost. So, what do we do with that? And even if we can get justice, will it erase all the hurt that still lingers in our minds when we bring back the details in our minds? No. We must still deal with the pain within.

For some, escaping the pain within means to take it out on others. If we are hurting we want others to feel what we feel. We want things set right. We want a payment to be made that will fix what we feel owed to us. Or, we might choose to numb the pain through alcohol or drugs- prescription or otherwise- but it is something we will have to keep up forever, since it will not take away the pain permanently.

For some of us, it might mean harming ourselves, for it is something we can control when we feel life is beyond our control. But, it does not get rid of the pain within.

Right now there is a sense of pain worldwide and  of unrest that is constantly fueled by media to play upon the hurts and injustices done in the past. We are under the stress of quarantine and no longer able to move about doing many of the things we enjoyed in the past- dinner with friends, trips to the beach or Disney world. We have been herded like cats into a corner and when trapped we have brought out our claws towards who ever is a perceived threat. If you’ve never tried to corner a cat and get them into a box, then you probably won’t get my analogy. But for those who still have the scars from a cat scratch, you get me. We are hurting now. We are in pain. We do not like what has happened. And rightly so. But, my question is what do we do with all that pain?

Do we lash out at each other? On social media? or in person? Does this change the past? No, it could feel good for awhile, just like numbing the pain, and real change can come through reforms and allowing for good dialogue. But there will still be pain within. There are still people who will be mourning the death of a loved one due to riots. For them the pain will be a reminder every time they sit down at their tables for a meal. Their loved one is never coming back. The past cannot be undone. The pain will be there.

And if they let this pain consume them, it will be like a cancer that destroys within. Pain turns to anger and anger to bitterness and bitterness to resentment and resentment to hate and hate to unforgiveness. Unforgiveness is something few like to talk about because they feel justified in their unforgiveness and hate. They store up the hate and pain until it destroys them from within. They cannot look at another person without finding fault with them. They cannot look at themselves without finding fault with themselves. Grace and mercy are not offered to others when mistakes are made. A narrow view of the world that only seeks the good of themselves and not the good of others. They become self- centered and demanding, prideful even. And while there can be self-loathing, they still feel they are better than others. They point fingers of blame at the rest of the world. It is always someone else’s fault and someone else needs to pay for the wrongs done.

I look back to a time when instead of hate, forgiveness was offered. When a man was offered a warm southern welcome into a weekly Bible study, while unbeknownst to the friendly church people he was full of hate. He did not know them personally, and had never known them before that fateful night. But the hate consumed him. The pain he must have buried overtook him and he decided he needed to get payment by taking the lives of nine people. But then an amazing thing happened. The family of the nine murdered- the innocent Christians gathered that night- forgave the killer. The community gathered to pray for unity when others attempted to infiltrate and cause riots. The riots never happened. There were no businesses destroyed or others killed. But….. There was forgiveness. That does not mean there was not pain to bear by the families. It does not mean that there was not sadness as they saw the empty chairs at dinnertime where there loved ones should have been sitting. But. They found a way to deal with their pain through forgiveness.

They were all Christians who knew what the Bible teaches on the matter. See, for some of you, the Bible is just a book that was written so long ago that it is out of touch with our modern post Christian age. But let me tell you that is a wrong assumption to make. Human nature has not changed over the centuries and the Bible has much to say about how to deal with others. For those who are familiar with the story of Peter and Jesus discussing forgiveness then you know where I’m going with this. But, if not, here it is:

Peter is asking Jesus how many times should he forgive a brother. You know like asking for a friend, LOL. So Jesus replies with the famous “Seventy times seven” Some people actually takes this literally while others smarter than me say it means until you have forgiven them. So, I think we can figure out not everything was always perfect in the relationships between the twelve disciples. There must have been some stepping on each other’s toes. After all, right before Peter asks Jesus about forgiveness, the disciples  wanted know who will be the greatest in His kingdom.  Like what is my job and title? VP, Prime Minister, or what? The disciples still thought Jesus was going to overthrow the Roman government through a revolt and become King. This is all in Matthew chapter 18 if you’d like to follow along. This chapter also covers the lost sheep, the children and Jesus and the unmerciful servant.

It appears that Matthew is making a point by tying all the stories together. We must be humble, not self- seeking,  seeking those who have lost their way and help them, forgive when others hurt us as many times as it takes, which appears like it must take many times because Jesus is either telling Peter, hey you are going to continue to be hurt by your brother, or hey, you probably will be thinking about this a lot and will need to be continually forgiving, and we must show mercy, even to those who don’t appear to deserve it. Why? Because that is precisely what Jesus did for us. He humbled Himself and became a man- He left Heaven where He had a throne- to become a servant, He goes looking for all the lost people who cannot find their way, He forgives us as many times He needs to, and for some of us that’s a LOT – just saying-, and He shows us mercy when we did not deserve it when we deserve to pay for our own debts- our own mistakes. So…

The question is: Why can’t we forgive? Are we going to keep on looking for ways to numb the pain? Are we going to demand payment when sometimes the ones who have hurt us are gone? Will we demand payment from others by lashing out at others- who had nothing to do with causing our pain? Or will we instead, offer forgiveness, seek to talk and understand each other, and pray for God’s wisdom in how to move forward. We can learn from the past and understand from it, but we can never get a full payment from the past. It is done. It happened. We must forgive and move on.- God Bless Nancy

Understanding the Future

You might think that this post is about knowing the future. What will happen in the future or how to control the future. I mean after all this blog is about moving forward. About dealing with all the changes that life seems to throw our way. But, what I want to discuss is how people are viewing the next generation. The z’s. I know some of you are already familiar with all the bad raps the millennials get, but how many of you have realized, all the while the complaints have been made about millenials, there has been a silent generation developing before, or rather behind, our eyes. The future has been quickly growing up and now entering the work force and will soon overtake the number of millennials. But, I doubt few take the time to understand them. To understand the future.

Too often, we look to the past and our own ideologies to force those younger than us into a mold. A mold that has at times been broken, whether we realize or not. The new generation is looking for answers to deal with the world the previous generations have left. They are not the overly sensitive and fragile of generations before. Neither are they materialistic and self centered. I suspect their passion for issues of the environment and social justice will lead them to make sweeping reforms worldwide. Like the greatest generation who fought wars against dangerous ideologies, generation z promises to fight wars not on battlefields far from their homes but locally through their voices and influences.

But, sadly, what they find is a world that is without hope. A future without promise despite their desire to see change, they believe it won’t happen. They are looking for the hope that those of us in Christ have found. If you have been alive on this planet, then I can say with some certainty that you have been through a lot. Physically, spiritually, emotionally. Life is difficult. We know that and have figured it out. Life is not always what we have expected. It changes. But, yet, one thing does remain true….God. It is my faith in God that has gotten me through all the challenges in my life. I really don’t know who I would be today without a relationship with Christ. But, I’ll be honest, I have stumbled at times with belief. If anyone has been a Christian for very long, and is being completely honest, they will agree to the same doubt. Faith isn’t faith until it has been stretched and tested.

And this is what the z’ers need to know. They need to hear us being transparent. They need us to be real and offer them a real hope for their future. A hope that doesn’t claim to be perfect or have all the answers and to never have doubts ourselves. But to offer the real Jesus to them. The Jesus who was all about social change and justice. The Jesus who broke the religious and social norms of his day around who was welcome to eat with Him and for allowing women to learn, that is be discipled by Him, and even travel with Him. Jesus who healed on the Sabbath, talked to a woman from another ethnic group, talked about money. But most importantly talked about the kingdom of God. His kingdom. In which everything will be finally made right, even the planet which groans now awaiting to be redeemed from its current state.  And Jesus talked about who would be in His kingdom. The ones who believed He had come for them. The ones looking for hope. The ones wanting a future. The ones  accepting His justice on their behalf, which He willingly offers to everyone. It doesn’t matter about social status, gender, race or age.

I know we as an older generation have let the younger generation down by not offering them a real hope grounded in Christ. We have offered them religion, but not honest truth about a relationship with Christ. Let’s listen to them and hear what they are saying. What they are asking for. And let’s give them hope.

 

Focus

So, I need to ask you a question. Are you, like me, having trouble focusing on life? I mean there are so many distractions out there, that at times I just find it hard to keep the main thing the main thing. Since this post is all about dealing with change and moving forward in life, I think it is important to take a look, no pun intended, at our focus these days. I have been trying to keep pressing on, working from home, attending online classes and adjusting to a different way of doing things,but, honestly, I can’t focus.

I know the stuff I should be doing, but I have gotten pretty bored of all the shoulds and wanna do all the cant’s. Like going to eat out, and by out I do not mean outside in our car, while we drive back to our house after picking up through the drive up window. I mean at a real restaurant, sitting down at a table. Or what about going to the beach? Yup, the beaches are open, But……. You can’t actually go to them unless you happen to live at the beach. I secretly suspect that the beach house homeowners wish they could come to my neighborhood, because they are bored with going to the beach all the time. Well, maybe they aren’t. But I’m guessing they are having trouble with focus too.

So, how do we get back our focus? I asked myself this question quite a bit this week and searched for answer. The answer I found was this; it is not the should’s and the oughto’s I need to focus on and get back on track with doing life, but it is the who. No, not the world health organization, but the WHO: God.

With everything that is happening around us, it is easy to lose our focus on God. We start to look at our problems and they get bigger and bigger in our field of vision, crowding out our focus on God. Let me give you an example to think about:

I’ve mentioned before that my sons are photographers/ videographers and I have learned quite a bunch about the technical side of the industry. You see, their professional equipment has specific guides for the focus of a shot. Whatever lines up within the box will be in focus, whatever is outside will be blurry. when you look through the viewfinder the whole scene is before you, but you can choose to only place one object within the yellow box, with the background completely blurred. Or you might focus on the background with the closest object to you blurred. The scene is the same, but the object of focus changes, as you decide to change it.

I realized whenever I am feeling overwhelmed or uneasy, it is when I have changed my view finder to focus on the problems right now, and take my focus off of God. When I stop and catch myself feeling anxious, I stop and get back into my focus of Jesus. Practically, it looks like this, stop, pray, pick up my Bible and read a passage, close it, then meditate on what I just read.

Hebrews 12: 2 tells us what we should be doing during the difficult times; “Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”  We have a race to run in this life. A race of faith that isn’t always easy, but let’s keep our focus on Jesus, and not the distractions along the way, which are only temporary. God Bless- Nancy

 

Certain.

There’s a popular phrase circulating around the media these days; “In these uncertain times”. I’m not sure who started this phrase, but advertisers have been quick to join others in using it over and over again to promote whatever they are selling. But, are you buying it? Is it really an unprecedented, uncertain times we live in? From the perspective of a pandemic, then no, this world has seen them before. Haven’t we already been living in uncertain times? I mean, does anyone know the future? Life is short and often we are caught unaware when someone close to us passes away unexpectedly. Tornadoes, floods, and earthquakes often hit unexpectedly as well. We could add fires and accidents to the list too. Any one of these tragic events can alter our lives forever or just temporarily. Jobs can be lost, and businesses close overnight. Disease can be lurking within us without our knowing until one day we receive a difficult diagnosis. Life is uncertain at best. Without a major pandemic hitting the world. But is there anything that is certain? Please don’t say the obvious two; death and taxes, but think beyond those.

We can be sure that any event we are going through right now is temporary. We can be sure that there is more to our existence than this life. There is an eternal life past what we can see now. We can be certain that God is still in control. He always has been and always will be. We can be certain that God can work out all things for good. Why? Because we read it in the Bible and we can be certain it is true for the Bible is God’s word for us. We can be certain because what God says in His word is true and His promises are true. We can be certain of the Bible as historically accurate since there is less than five percent inaccuracy between the earliest copies and today’s versions, and of those mistakes, they were misspelled words. So, we can be certain that what God intended to say to us has passed through the generations to us who are living now. We can be certain that God does love the world and that He sent Jesus for us. We can be certain He has plans for us and a future. We can trust Him. We can be certain our peace is found in Him. We can be certain that He prepares a place for us in Heaven. We can be certain that He knows the pain and stress we are going through because He felt it too when He came as a man and dwelt among us. We can be as certain as David when he wrote;  “Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from Him. Truly He is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress, I will never be shaken.” (Psalm 62:1-2, New International Version Bible).

For those familiar with David’s story, you can recall he didn’t have a perfect life or even act perfect all the time, but he knew what he was certain of: God. So, I challenge you to think about what is certain in these times and avoid getting caught up in believing that somehow God isn’t aware of what you are going through or that everything is out of control or beyond His control. God is still in control and He can use something of our pain and difficulty to help us grow closer to Him. God is certain and we can trust Him. God Bless -Nancy