Prayer

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

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

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

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

Nothing

The server worked efficiently and silently as she placed the large platter on the table. As I focused on the newly placed plate, other platters followed, each one more joyous and amazing than the one before. I have to be honest, it was the largest most decadent piece of chocolate cake I have seen. The chocolate cake looked like a mountain of chocolate goodness. It was extra chocolate. As I stared at the huge dessert, that was the equivalent of two normal sized full sized cakes, my mind started to panic. After several different desserts had been placed in the center of the large round table, the server announced  that they were all a gift from the chef who’s child was a student in my daughter’s class. He appreciated her as a teacher and wanted to show it through offering this generous gift.

It was very unexpected and after the server left, those of us at the table began to share our thoughts. We all had had feelings of panic and concern before the server told us it was a gift. We all had wondered who had ordered dessert and who was going to pay for it. None of us at the table were used to such extravagance. We are not fancy people who regularly dine at pricey restaurants. It was not a usual place for us to go out for dinner, but my daughter had received a gift card that she wanted to share with us. The gift card would not cover all seven of us in the party, so we had all decided before how we would split the bill when it came, and now there was going to be this add- on charge for dessert. Needless to say we were all very relieved when the server said it was a gift. We would wash dishes if we had too, but we were glad we didn’t need to.

Have you ever had a moment like that? A moment of panic, when you wondered how you would pay for something? Something you had not planned for. You are unprepared and do not have a means to pay. A similar experienced happened to my husband and I many years ago while driving through Pennsylvania. We had made a wrong turn and ended up on the ramp to a toll road and could not turn around. The toll required was change only, no cards, no bills, just coins. It did not have an attendant. It was a large basket to catch the toll coins. We did not have any. We had not planned on being on this road. We could not move forward because of the bar across the highway and we now could not back up because a car was tight behind us. Then it happened. The person behind us got out of their car and put coins in the basket. The barrier arm raised and we were free to proceed. We thanked them and were on our way. Someone paid for our travel on that road, so we would be free to travel, that is to be allowed to travel on that road.

It is nice when someone else pays. It is even nicer when we really need them to pay because we can’t pay. I have been reminded lately of just how much Christ’s payment on the cross means. It means I don’t have to keep on trying to pay for something I could never fully pay. Paid in full means just that, in full. There is nothing more I can do to pay for something (my sin) because it is already paid for. Once for all time. Hebrews 10:14 says, “ For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.

Yet, at times I  see so many people, myself, included, who feel bad and allow guilt to push them to keep trying to do better. Now, doing better and improving our actions and attitudes is a part of growing in our Christian walk, but trying to change in order to earn a right standing before God is fruitless, rather than fruitful. It is what religion is, trying to reach god or perfection, or nirvana or doing good karma. But, that is not Christianity. Christianity is Christ coming down to save us, not us trying to reach Him.

     There are little habits we all have that we wish we didn’t. I worry and stress too much and the more I worry and stress the more I start to feel guilty for worrying and stressing. And then it leads to a feeling of failure, like I can’t change and will never change. My mind reminds me of sermons I have heard before “that anything that isn’t by faith is sin”  and then the guilt piles higher and higher like that over sized  piece of chocolate cake at the restaurant. Now, I could try to fix myself, get busy trying to do more good and trying to make myself look good, hoping I will replace guilt with contentment with my accomplishments. But, it will be short- lived. It is only when I acknowledge Christ paid for all of it, once, for all, that I can relax and allow God to work on me in His timing and in His way. He will make the changes in my attitude and help me grow in my Christian walk. As the writer of the Book of Hebrews adds;  ” This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord.I will put my laws in their hearts,  and I will write them on their minds. Then he adds: Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.” (v.15-17, NIV).   Writing the law in our hearts and minds refers to the Holy Spirit living within the believer. He enables us to live out this Christian walk. Allow Him to lead you and heal you of those things you are trying to deal with on your own. Christ paid the toll so to speak, we need only to receive it as the gift it is. We are free to travel on the journey before us. But first we must acknowledge that we can never earn it, trying to reach God through good works or religious duties, nor do we need to let guilt overwhelm us and force us to keep on trying to earn it even after its been paid in full. Paid in full, let that sink in for minute. Nothing else will be able to add or subtract from that. God Bless -Nancy

Feeling the Burn…..Out

“Feel the burn”  Have you heard that expression before? It’s usually used in connection with a work out to indicate your muscles are working and stretching and getting into shape. It’s not a nice feeling, but usually if you’re in an exercise class or in a team sport, that’s what the instructor might say to keep you motivated. Well, let’s consider what feeling the burn looks and feels like in other parts of our lives. Do we recognize the burn and burn out in our emotional lives? Maybe you have heard of burnout in first responders. After seeing so much trauma, these brave men and women can experience burnout, where they are no longer able to have the same level of compassion and empathy for those hurting and they distance themselves (emotionally) from traumatic situations.But if you are not a first responder, would you recognize your own burn out emotionally, spiritually, and physically?

Recently, my husband and I took a much needed trip for the two of us. It was to be a time of relaxation in the warm sun, after an unusually cold winter season. It was also to be a time of relaxation for me after a stressed out time with leaving a job and starting a Seminary program. I was feeling stressed out and knew I needed a break, a chance to reset my my direction, and seek God’s direction. What I hadn’t realized was just how much I was stressed, until a perfect stranger told me, “You NEED to take care of yourself.” She emphasized the word “need” and placed her hand on my shoulder as I left our meeting. Her words really sunk down deep. I thought I was taking care of myself. I was trying to eat better, trying to exercise, trying to walk more, trying to drink more water, trying to pray more…..Notice the word trying.  I thought this is what I needed to feel better. And they are all good things to do for ourselves. But this stranger, the one I had trusted with raking bamboo sticks over my tensed shoulders, recognized just how tense and burned out I had become. As she rolled the warm bamboo over my shoulders, I felt pop, pop, pop. My muscles were so tense, she was actually having trouble. But it was her words that stuck with me. I knew I had been stressed, but failed to recognize how stressed out I was. I did not recognize my own emotional burn out. But it showed up in my physical body as a result of the stress I was trying to deal with on my own.

And that’s where the real answer and the real problem lies. Even though I know I need to trust God, I still try to fix my own problems.. and everyone else’s. I try to be all things to all people. Today I was reminded of God’s offer of rest. It’s from Exodus 33:14, “The Lord replied, ‘My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest'” (NIV). In this passage God and Moses are having a conversation. Moses had come down from the mountain with the first of the Ten Commandment tablets, only to find the Israelites dancing around an idol they had made. Moses, in his anger when he saw this crazy scene, threw down the stone tablets, breaking them to bits in the process.Moses had lost his patience with the Israelites. You could say he was a bit stressed when he took the idol, smashed it,  ground it up into a powder, mixed it with water and made the people drink this concoction. (Ex.32:20) But, God wasn’t done with these crazy rebellious people. He still wanted them to go to the Promise Land and He wanted Moses to lead them. Moses was asking God to go with him. To show him what to do and to reassure him that God was with them as they traveled. God’s answer was “Yes!, “I will go with you AND give you rest”. Awwwh, this is the rest I need! The rest that God gives, the rest that lets God lead and for me to follow. The rest that is secure in knowing God is with us, right there in the middle of everything. This is my challenge to get rid of my own burn out and stress, allow God to lead and accept His rest. May it be yours as well. -God Bless Nancy