OK (to be not OK)

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“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

One of my go to girls asked me the other week how I was doing. I told her that I felt like a Japanese anime cartoon who was being bled of color…..turning black and white around the edges. I was feeling leached; like someone had stuck me with a needle and drained all the color out of my life. So – call me dramatic, but in my flair for big, bold adjectives and descriptions – the word I was searching for was …..WEARY.

She wanted to pray for me and I knew it. I trusted her, as a close friend, with what was on my heart. Too often, as humans – especially in this age of independence – we erroneously equate weariness with weakness. I was not weak. I was weary. Bone weary. Weary to the core. Just plain drained.

I was overburdened with work and paperwork and housework. The kid’s practices, school, discipline, events….and well – just having kids was wearing me down. Doctor appointments, schedules, medical issues, finances, family – you name it – I was juggling it.

But I remember this clearly…..in her own special way she encouraged me. She simply smiled. She has this little secret smile that said she knew everything was going to be okay. I don’t think she was cocky that her intercessory prayer would be heard, but rather she knew that in simply saying those words – “I’m not okay” – I was more than 90% of the way to where I needed to be.

Psalm 116:10 says something subtle, but very important to those of us who are weary. It says

“I trusted the Lord when I said ‘I am greatly afflicted’ “.

Being weary as a Christian is NOT the same as being weak. Being able to say – “Hey, God – I’m not OKAY!” is a matter of trust. When we admit that we need God’s comfort it means we have faith that he is going to give us what we need.

God wants us to admit our weariness. He wants us to need him. He wants nothing more than to comfort and cradle us in our most weary, overburdened, stressed moments. He dearly wants to give us rest. Isn’t it amazing that we have a protector who loves us just as we are? He will hear us – and still love us – when we say “I’m NOT okay.”

Resilience Finale this Sunday!

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Every Sunday this month we’ve been learning the art of Resilience from scripture…and life.   One thing is sure, resilient people can take a punch…and get back up!   However, as great as it is to be able to TAKE a punch, wouldn’t it be even better to be able to BLOCK a punch…or even AVOID a punch altogether occasionally???   Jesus promised that “in this world we would have trouble”, but is it possible to get ANY better at dealing with difficult times than just reacting to them after they happen?   This week we’ll finish with an amazing bit of wisdom from King Solomon-

24 You can go to bed without fear;
you will lie down and sleep soundly.
25 You need not be afraid of sudden disaster
or the destruction that comes upon the wicked,
26 for the Lord is your security.
He will keep your foot from being caught in a trap. -King Solomon

(Proverbs 3:24-26) 

Find out HOW at 10:30 am this Sunday!

Directions

 

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“If God is all-powerful then why does he allow suffering?”

BAMM! It’s one of those questions that your teen throws at you when he doesn’t want to go to church. POW! Christians cringe when they hear it and immediately go on the defensive. SPLAT! It’s the question that probably keeps a lot of non-Christians from committing to a life of faith. Frankly, it’s a GREAT question…..and the answer is – I don’t know.

I don’t know why God allows (not causes) suffering and pain.

Maybe – God allows suffering in order to create an amazing testimony. Like the Rhonda Rousey clip we saw on Sunday…..when a celebrity who we look up to admits pain that we can identify with – it helps hundreds of people to heal. Or, maybe something horribly heinous happens – like kamikaze suicide pilots attacking the United States on 9/11 – terrible death, destruction and chaos ensued. But – the result was that thousands of people started praying, churches filled to capacity and neighbors actually started helping neighbors again.

Or maybe – the suffering and pain that God allows in our lives is meant to change us. Personally.

When I look back at the tribulations in my life that have been the hardest, those struggles that have caused the most pain, when the heartache was so unbearable I wished I would die – that suffering that God allowed – changed me. Personally.

The pain brought me to my knees in prayer. The grief devastated me so badly – that only God could heal me. The turmoil that destroyed my own little world forced me to admit that I needed God in my life. I truly believe that God loves us so much that he would do or allow anything that would cause us to turn to him.

You see -when we give our burdens and suffering and heartache to God – he gives only love in return. And then, something incredible happens ….. the pain turns to peace.

“My soul finds rest in God alone. My salvation comes from him.” Psalm 82:1

In the pain and in the sorrow and in the suffering my all-powerful God is waiting with open arms to hold me and comfort me and assure me of an everlasting relationship.

He is waiting for you, too.

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“In all affairs it’s a healthy thing now and then to hang a question mark on the things you have long taken for granted.” Bertrand Russell

Usually I just shake my head at Josiah’s sarcastic remarks about church signs or “Christian” bumper stickers/t-shirts. But I saw a church billboard recently that just made me want to gag (and agree with Josiah…..in that order) The sign said:

“Don’t wrestle with God. Just nestle.” [insert collective groan]

Disclaimer: A) Sorry if it was your church sign. B) I really love wrestling C) Potential for overuse of air quotes

Later that week a bunch of gals from church showed up at my house for a crazy evening of camaraderie. (Remember girls – whatever happens on the hill….stays on the hill :-) ) One of the “church ladies” noted on social media that it was “not your stereotypical church function….in the best way.” That cracked me up!

You see – we have these preconceived notions of what a church (or a church “event”) should look like and what a Christian should act like. People tend to have ideas about how to read the bible, how to interpret the bible, how to use the bible. Sometimes it seems like there are more stereotypes about Christians than there are actual Christians.

Here’s my opinion (for what it’s worth) – I think God INTENDED for us to wrestle with all of it. True relationships include disagreements and doubts, misunderstandings and forgiveness. God wants to have a true and intimate relationship with each of us. Listen – if God didn’t want me to ask questions or wrestle with the answers in order to overcome my doubts, the bible would have been written more like an actual instruction manual…..Step 1, Step 2 – Diagram A – Attachment B, etc.

Following Christ is not going to be comfortable. Reading (and understanding) the bible is never going to be easy. But, I encourage you to challenge your preconceived notions. We should ask those difficult questions. Take the blinders off – put the boxing gloves on. Don’t follow the herd and take the Word lying down….OK – THAT was just bad….but you get the point.

Over the years at actionchurch, I have often heard Don say – “Don’t take my word for it, read it for yourself.” He isn’t just being humble. He is challenging you to think about everything you ever believed in a different way. I love the fact that we don’t have a stereotypical preacher and I’m going to do my part to make sure we never become a stereotypical church.

“By doubting we are led to question, by questioning we arrive at the truth.”

Peter Abelard

Thanksgiving

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I heard on the radio yesterday about a scientific study that concluded that people who physically write thank you notes are happier (less depressed) than those that don’t take the time to write pretty little notes, address the envelope, paste a stamp in the upper right hand corner and go to the mailbox. I’m guessing (not based on a scientific study) that a test message TY might not have the same effect.

But, clearly, sending a thank you – expressing some form of gratitude – is one way to show that you are THANK – (ful).

Sometimes I think about all the great and wonderful gifts that I’ve gotten over the years…..the savings bonds from Nan and Pop that helped me buy my first car, the engagement ring from my husband AND the macaroni necklace from my pre-schooler…..unexpected, thoughtful, wonderful gifts from my family and friends – for which I am always grateful. And for which I always (at least try) to remember to write a thank you note.

Then I think about the things that God has given me. “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights…..” (James 1:17) True – so true. A home, a family, food on the table…..some might say – too many gifts to mention. Eternal love, Christ’s sacrifice, strength, wisdom, patience…..how do you write a thank you not for those????

I pray. Quick, short prayers of thanksgiving. It’s sunny : “Thank you, Lord, for the warmth on my shoulders.” And then I might break in to a John Denver song (kidding Josiah). It’s raining: “Thanks for the rain that will make those daffodils pop up.” “My teenager is being a jerk – but thank you for the patience I need to deal with him.” Short. Sweet. To-the-point thank you notes.

“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

So, dear parents – amidst the gnashing of teeth and the rending of hair as you struggle to get your little hellion to put pen to paper and thank old Aunt Clara for the footie rabbit pajamas……also remember to help your kiddos form that strong bond with their creator. Pray with them every day. Express praise. Give thanks. Help them to show they are GRATE – (ful) for all gifts great and small.

“Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.” Psalm 100:4-5