Weary

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

I don’t know about you, but I am weary. And I suspect many of you are also. We all get weary at times, trying to keep it all going. And keep it together. To keep ourselves together. We carry these burdens for ourselves and even for others. We must maintain our work selves, our church selves, our family selves and society selves- All these roles we find ourselves in. Trying to keep all the roles connected, balanced and producing good results. And if that isn’t enough, there’s this burden we carry around with us as a constant reminder of the problems in the world. We are of course not responsible for the world or its events, yet we find ourselves burdened and troubled by the global crisis’ . Too much bad news, horrible news, incomprehensible news. Earthquakes, bombings, hurricanes, uprisings, Covid. We are all just a little weary right now. And the constant contact through our mobile devices in our pockets, keeps all these problems and global crisis’s on our minds and always within reach, inescapable, it seems.

We might tell everyone around us that we are”fine” when the reality is, we are not “fine”, but far from it. We are weary. We need rest. We need help in dealing with all of this. We need each other and we need Jesus’ peace and comfort.

I admit I am not an expert in dealing with it all, but there are a few steps we all can take to help each other. First, talk with each other openly. If you are not doing well, let someone know. Talk to a friend. Tell them what is going on and what is wearing you down. If you are having serious, suicidal thoughts, tell someone or call a professional hotline. Help is close and people who are trained to listen are waiting for you to reach out to them. You are not a bother. Your friends and family do love and care about you, they need you here. The pain you feel is temporary, it will get better and there are people who can help with your pain.Let them help you.

Second, if you are just tired and weary from too much of the world taking your joy, step away from social media, or block or snooze individuals or pages that are upsetting you and causing you undue stress. Do not keep your phone where you sleep and don’t let it be the first or last thing you check in the day. Instead read, listen to music or take a gratitude inventory.

Third, a gratitude inventory is something I have recently begun. Before your day begins or as it ends, meditate on what you have to be thankful for. At the end of the day, recount the positive events of your day and offer a prayer of thanksgiving to God. Just breathing and living another day is reason enough to be thankful. If it is the beginning of the day, offer thanks for the opportunity for a new day, a new beginning. Even the little things matter. So be grateful for a bed and a pillow, for a meal to wake up to. For your family and friends. God has provided it all. We forget sometimes that not everyone is enjoying these at the moment. Some are homeless, others have lost a loved one or a friend. Some do not have the hope of Jesus. They are trying to do life all on their own,in their own strength.

Fourth, don’t dwell on the negative. Look for the good during your day. Focus on what has gone right, instead of what is going wrong. Focus on positive Bible verses like the one above. Write down these verses and place them on sticky notes everywhere to be reminded of them. Or subscribe to a daily word app that will send you a text or email.

Fifth, to know these verses, you must pick up your Bible and read it. Or get an app for your phone with a daily verse. Remember the Bible is not just a book written by a bunch of dudes in the past. It is inspired by the Holy Spirit. It has power to change minds, challenge you and give you peace and comfort. Don’t believe me? Just try it for a week. It doesn’t mean that suddenly all your problems will disappear, but it will change your perspective. It will change you. Bad circumstances, like those of the world right now, are not going to go away immediately, we cannot change these, but we can change our attitudes and perspectives. And surprisingly, by doing so we change our brains. Our thoughts affect our physical brain chemistry as well as our physical shape. Someone has said that we are what we eat, but scientifically speaking, we are what we think about.

The last step is to take time to pray. God does hear us. It might be we have been neglecting our prayer lives, because we feel like there is a wall between us and God. Or we think He is mad or unhappy with us, but here’s the thing, He knows who you are. He made you. He’s okay with your doubts. He’s okay with you for not being perfect. He loves you. He knows you have messed up, so that’s not a surprise to Him. Just talk to Him, like a friend. He promises rest for the weary and help with your burdens, you don’t have to do this alone.

Beautiful People

“How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”- Paul, Romans 10:15

Have you ever met any beautiful people? No, I’m not talking about the good looks of some people, or of “the beautiful people” of privilege, or status, or of wealth, fame and education- but, the really beautiful people. Those whose heart’s are open, kind, loving and beautiful.

My grandmother was a beautiful person, full of kindness and of love. I remember her as always smiling. She seemed genuinely glad to see me when I visited. She would come sit beside me on my grandparents over sized couch and talk with me. She also made the most delicious meals and made it look so easy. She was giving and generous towards others and shared her love of painting and art with others as she taught me how to paint and other how to create their own works of art from clay.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that she was perfect. She and my grandfather fought sometimes and she never liked to visit my mom- her daughter- at her home. But, despite her imperfections, she was beautiful. See, its not being perfect all the time or looking perfect all the time that makes a person beautiful; it is something from within that makes us beautiful or ugly.

If someone would have seen my grandmother arguing with my grandad, they would have probably judged her as unkind and even mean. But they would have been wrong. Too often we judge from the outside and miss the beauty within. The beauty of a diamond is the result of intense pressure and of cutting to reveal the sparkling facets. Beauty is often only revealed after the pain suffered. I’m not sure of the reason for my grandmother’s beauty or if she had experienced pain or suffering- I never thought about it much until now to be honest, but I’m sure there was a story. We all have pain in this life that can leave us bitter or better. Beautiful or ugly.

Last time I shared the need to embrace our pain and move forward anyway. Our pain can help others in providing hope of getting through some of the same things we have experienced. I recently watched another beautiful person who had gone through so much share her incredible story of hope. She calls herself nightbirde, in case you’d like to read her story. She did not sugar coat her life, but laid it out for all to hear and to read. She could be bitter, but she chose to be better- to question God about what she was dealt, but realized she discovered the beauty of God in the midst of pain and suffering. The story she told through music was of good news, of hope, despite the odds stacked against her.

It is this message of hope, of Good News, that is so beautiful. We are lowly instruments that get bruised, battered and torn apart because of this life, yet we carry this message of hope; of life; of the beauty and goodness of God. We can share this message, or choose to keep it to ourselves. We can look at the world around us with contempt, or we can embrace it and share God’s love. We have this choice to be beautiful on the inside and reflect God, or remain bitter at life’s unfairness; it is a choice. Our choice. -God Bless Nancy

Embracing Pain

There isn’t anyone alive today that has not experienced pain. Physical pain, emotional pain, relationship pain, financial pain, even spiritual pain. We don’t like it, but yet it is something we will experience throughout the course of our life. We often attempt to avoid pain and hurt by avoiding conflict, finding medicines to dull our pain, and trying to not think about the negative. But, maybe instead of escaping the pain, we should instead embrace it. We will have troubles, the Bible even says we will have them in the Gospel of John (John 16:33). But we are also promised that Jesus has overcome the world. He has taken on our pain and hurt from this broken world and overcome it through His death and resurrection.

It is impossible to escape pain from a broken world, the world that was never designed to be this way in the first place. It wasn’t supposed to be so messed up. We weren’t meant to be so messed up, but it was our choice, at least it was Adam and Eve’s choice to follow their own way and lead us all down the path of brokenness, pain, hurt, suffering and ultimately death.

So why should we embrace this pain? Well, maybe we need to realize that as we are moving forward in this life, down our own paths, maybe, just maybe, we can find some redeeming quality to this pain. Maybe our pain will make us smarter, stronger, and more hopeful than we would be if we hadn’t experienced it. I know of a woman who is posting videos on her journey through cancer. She is creating this documentary, that if anything, inspires me to take each day as a blessing from God and to live each day intentionally, enjoying what I love to do. Her pain is joy to others. It inspires others. I’m sure she does not want this cancer journey filled with both physical and emotional pain. But she is finding peace and joy amidst her struggle as she allows her self to be vulnerable about her own fears, including death.

I have also considered my own journey through grief of losing my mom. This pain that I still feel has brought me much closer to God. And maybe that is the greatest reason to embrace pain. For when it is at its greatest, its most hurtful and bitter as if it is a knife plunging into the flesh, it is then that we cry out most earnestly to God. And He hears. When we are done trying to figure everything our for ourselves, and are completely undone, we fall at His feet and let Him pick us up as a parent scoops up their crying child. -God Bless Nancy

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

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

You Are Not Forgotten

As she was talking I noticed the soft flow of tears from the corner of her eyes. It was not an ugly cry, just a slow leak of tears to wet her cheeks. Why was she crying? She had just lost a loved one and was recounting how she was feeling. Sad, angry, hurting, but calm and peaceful. Why? She knew her loved one was in Heaven and it gave her peace and hope, but she admitted she has moments of anger and frustration.

I have been in her shoes before, when my mom passed four years ago. It hasn’t been easy. Sometimes I still get angry and overwhelmed with sadness. Grief is a process and takes time to go through. It is not an overnight process. It takes time to heal, but in all of it, God is there. It doesn’t always seem like He is, but He is. So, today I just wanted to offer a word to encourage you. I know many people have hurts that they are processing through. The world is a hurting place. We feel hurt. We hurt others. Others hurt us. We live in a difficult world full of hurting things. Things like death, disease, injury, financial problems, breakups, divorces, abuse, accidents, job losses, failures. The world is continuing on a downward spiral until Christ’s return. Now that I’ve bummed you out even more, let me now offer encouragement.

So, how do we deal with all this hurt? Does God even care? Sometimes we might not think He does. Like He’s just walked away from His creation and said, “Well, there you go, figure it all out, I’m going on vacation, see you later when I return.”  Sadly, some believe this is how God created the universe, that He just started the evolution process and walked away. But, this faulty theology is not the truth. God created the universe and all creatures, even you, and He is very much involved with it.

And He is involved in our lives, even when it doesn’t seem that way. He promises to be with us. In Matthew 28: 20 Jesus says,  “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (NIV).  In Joshua 1:5 God promised Joshua “I will never leave you or forsake you” (NIV). If you’ve read the book of Joshua before, then you’ll know that God said this before Joshua was to lead a group of rebellious people to the promise land of Israel. It was not just an easy trip. It had its challenges. There were battles to be fought and people died.  In chapter 5 God asked Joshua to have all the men circumcised. We can only imagine what the guys must have been thinking about Joshua. They probably were not very excited about that. And not to mention the pain involved.  It must have hurt. In chapter 7, Joshua had to deal with the defeat at Ai, because one person disobeyed the direct command not to take the spoils for themselves. People were killed because of one man’s selfishness and Joshua had to deal with it. And he doubted God too, even asking God why “Did you bring us here to the promised land only to destroy us?”. You can read this for yourselves in chapter 7:6-12. Joshua had heard directly from God, but he found himself hurting, confused and doubting God’s intentions. Later, after the disobedience had been dealt with, God gave Joshua victory in defeating Ai. We can read it now and see how it all worked out. Chapter 7 was a problem, chapter 8 we find the outcome. It would be nice if we could fast forward our lives, or turn the pages ahead to see how every difficulty was going to work out, But. well we can’t. I could go on about the Book of Joshua and how God was with him, but I just wanted to point our that God was still with Joshua, even in the difficult stuff. He does the same for us today. He hasn’t changed.

Do I have all the answers as to why we face hurts and challenges in this world when God could take them away? No. We could drive ourselves crazy trying to figure out the whys all the time. But, let me challenge you today, as I have to remind myself on a daily basis; God is for you. He has not forgotten you. He is with you. ALL THE TIME. Even in the bad stuff, the hurting stuff. Sometimes you just have to hold on to God’s promises with white knuckles, when everything in you wants to doubt and throw away your hope. Hang in there, YOU ARE NOT FORGOTTEN. Believe it, repeat it out loud, even through the tears or anger. God is for you. He loves you. He’s invested in you at great cost to Him (Jn. 3:16). God Bless You- Nancy