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

 

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.