Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Alert and Hopeful

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. Ephesians 6:18 NIV

Over the past few weeks, I have been made aware. Painfully aware that we live in a fallen world, that there are people who live with evil, that there are people who are hurt and broken by evil, that we have to cling all the more to God. 

From my own family which has had its share of broken promises, bad examples, and shattered dreams to the people I come in contact with on a daily basis, we are all in need of hope. Most of us in the US have decent lives but there is always something just under the surface which informs our decisions, our futures, and our hopes. Our hope is in our risen Savior Jesus. We have to cling to the Resurrection for that's where our hope lies. We can rise again to serve in spite of the way yesterday turned out. 

I know it may seem like a daunting task to rise to hope. I have the same reluctance to get out of bed because I know the evil from yesterday will try to cling to today. Some days, it is just too hard to bear. Too hard to think about. But I will because I am called to keep going. I have friends to lean on and prayer partners to hold me up when I am overwhelmed. 

Paul reminds us in his letter from prison to the Ephesians to continue to pray. The New International Version says, "be alert." That is our call always to be alert and prayerful as we encounter the world. We need that high alert in the broken world we live in. 


"Keep on Praying for the Lord's people." 

Friday, June 1, 2012

Ten Things I Learned In The Past 7 Years

I began working at ECUMC on June 1, 2005. To my amazement, they hired me to be their Director of Children's Ministry. I was clueless. Really clueless from the moment that I said yes to this job what it would require or what it would bring. I have learned many more things but you would not want to hear everything I've learned. So here are 10 things I learned in 7 years:

1) Relationships are the most important thing. Allowing people to see you as a human with vulnerable, squishy spots is as important as letting them know you are a leader, strong and capable. Knowing every kid's name is very important because they will know you cared enough to find out.

2) Remembering the baptismal covenant that we make with the families when their children are baptized is crucial when you have to correct a child's behavior and even more important when you have to tell the parent what happened. We have an agreement between us, the parents, and God to help them bring their children to a life of faith. Sometimes we have to give bad news but we can give it in love.

3) Being prepared is for more than Scouts. Children's workers have to be prepared. Either be prepared with lots of activities or be prepared to the fallout when you aren't.

4) God's Word is digestible, and I am not just talking about Bible board books.. Infants can learn "God is love" from the smile and coos of a parent or a nursery worker. Toddlers can sing along to Jesus Loves Me and learn Bible stories if we "feed" them a regular diet of God's Word. The stuff they learn as babies stays with them the longest.

5) Little kids' prayers can make me laugh or cry. Little kids' will pray about anything and everything. They need to know that they can pray about anything and everything. They have stuff to tell God. Let them tell God their hearts desire and teach them to say thank you. Kids' prayers reveal a lot of about them and their families.

6) I will never sing a solo in church but I can sing with little kids. They don't care if I am off tune or off beat. They just love to sing and make a joyful noise. I can't sing with big kids. They know me.

7) Big kids surprise me by the what they think about. They begin looking at the Bible differently when they are in 4th and 5th grades. They ask hard questions. They make me look up stuff more. They see the world differently too. They see our incongruousness and they shake their heads at us.

8) Big kids want to know that God will forgive if their brother or sister won't. They want to know how to calm their bodies so that they can pray. They want to use their words to pray, not our stuffy churchy words. It's ok. God is big enough to hear messy prayers.

9) Big kids are helpers. They want to participate and they are waiting for someone to tell them how. Can they be missionaries in their community - YES! Can they pass the offering plate - YES!  Can they read scripture - YES! Can they pray aloud - YES!

10) Parents who live out their Christian faith in front of their kids - the good, the bad, the ugly, the return - are the best kind of parents. If they allow their humanness show and then let their faith in God shine through all of the circumstances, they can be great role models. The life of faith is like a path through a bed of roses. There are thorns if you get off the path. Parents: I've got your back. Thank you for having mine.

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Thursday, April 7, 2011

When is When

Did you ever play the game of When with your mom? You know the game in which she pours your drink and you get to say when she's poured enough. It is a tantalizing game of trust and endurance, and for a brief moment as a child, we get to be in charge of something.
As a child, it was pure delight to watch the parental unit sweat it out until I said, "When!" As a parental unit being the one to sweat it out, hoping my child would not allow the milk to overflow, causing more unpleasant consequences.

Of course, there is a flip side too. As a parent, I have succumbed to the temptation to allow the milk to overflow even though I knew I should stop so that my child would get the lesson of consequences. Or I have not stopped when I was given the "When!" Then there is a big mess to clean up. And either way, someone loses faith in the other. Trust is held in a delicate balance.

This is for my friend J.F. and others like me who sometimes don't know when to stop even when we are told to. For the love we feel from our Lord and Savior is so sweet that we are sure that everyone we come into contact with are ready to hear it right now! We have to share it! Right?
No. Sometimes we have to trust that the message will get through without our help. Really? Of course! Our well meaning sharing has a time and place to be shared: God's time and place. Ouch!

But wait! Jesus had something to say about when people say, "When!" to the message of His love and grace. In Luke 10, he commissioned the 70 to go out announcing the Kingdom of God is near. He gave instruction to go out in twos (important: you need a partner) and what to do when the people did not welcome His message. ‘Even the dust of your town we wipe from our feet as a warning to you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God has come near.’ I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town." (Luke 10:11-12 NIV)

If we don't listen when we are told our message is not welcomed, we risk being tossed out, not trusted, and there is a mess. Even if we mess it up, God can help us clean it up. We may not see how or when. God is much kinder to us than our kindly mothers who helped us clean up the other messes of our lives. So J.F. I hope this helps.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Who's the Stranger

I gave a lady from Tunisia a ride from one grocery store to another yesterday. I am not saying this to brag. She spoke very little English and no one seemed to understand her questions. The only word that any of the clerks or those of us standing around did understand was Publix. We were in Kroger.
Publix is about a block from Kroger and across a busy intersection. Aisha (I think, is her name) was on foot. She was confused by the language barrier. Someone in the store sent her to the Spanish speaking clerk as a way of being helpful. They tried.
After a little conversation with God, I offered her a ride to the store after the clerk rang up my groceries. Immediately after she accepted my ride, my mind went wild. "You have a headache. You want to get home. Your car is messy (always). You don't know her."
Really? She does not know me and yet, she accepted a ride from me. Would I accept a ride from her if the tables were turned? Would I allow myself to trust the human kindness? Would I?
I have no idea what I would do if I were in her situation but it is not likely, based on past decisions and experiences.
When immigrants come to our country, they choose to be here in unfamiliar surroundings, eating strange food, observing strange customs, and interacting with strange people. They put everything that they hold dear on hold for a dream of a safer place to live, a better economy, better schools, jobs, etc. They trust us. Imagine that.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

School Daze

Don't know about you but the summer days are over for me when school starts which explains my reluctance to have children go back to school so soon. I like the lazy days of summer (although none of my days were allowed to be lazy) when you don't feel the urge to come home from the lake until dark. I like that we have relaxed schedules and that we get to do something called vacation.

I like the sunshine even when it is hot more than I like the dreary cloudy days of winter. My favorite seasons are spring and fall when the humidity does not take away the clean effect of the recent shower.

Could go on and on about this but the thing is, it is time to get back on School Time, whatever that is for you. Time to check your calendar before you say yes to another activity or meeting. Time to start thinking about buying Christmas gifts (on a budget, of course). Time to make sure all the Sunday School teachers are accounted for and the curriculum is ordered. Time to put away the last bit of VBS particles still hanging around the office. Time to think about Fall festivals, football games, and being thankful.

As we begin our School Year programs, let's try to not over-book ourselves. Let's try to plan a day of Summer each week. I am talking about a day of sitting in the sun, reading and reflecting on the Son, and asking the Son what we can do for Him. Perhaps that is all we need to plan...after all.




Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Returning home

Driving toward our neighborhood on Tuesday was difficult. Earlier on Monday morning, we were awakened by the Austell police driving through our neighborhood, with lights flashing and their P.A. announcing, "Please leave your houses immediately. Sweetwater Creek is rising. Evacuate your homes now." or something to that effect. We grabbed the things we could not live without and left.
Now on Tuesday afternoon, as my friend was driving my son and myself back to our neighborhood, we could not get close to it because there were so many others trying to get a peek at it too. Each time we tried, we were stopped further back down the road.
After my husband got home from work, he gathered us for another ride to our street. This time we could get through. It was surreal. The scene was a little like driving to a pier, where cars are parked on the sides and people are walking to get to a closer look at a body of water.
The body of water that they were looking out over is what stands out in my mind too. A smooth sheet of brown water moves past us. Not a creek any longer, a river. We noted that the stop sign that was once covered is now visible. Someone's car is floating over in the brown water.
You see, that river floating past us disguises the new bridge that was built over the spring and summer, and was just opened as school began in August. This new bridge was to be a lifesaver for this community because we watched overhead as it was being built a good 20-30 feet higher than the last bridge. The old bridge was often out with high water but now, this new improved, HIGHER bridge is covered in water, well over the railings. This is what has captured the attention of our neighbors, and friends who are taking picture after picture of brown water before them.
When my family drove out of the neighborhood on Monday morning just after 6, we drove through a little trickle of water. Within four hours, a friend emailed me, concerned because she had seen a photo on a news website of our submerged street sign.
We expect each day to be the same as we wake up and begin our days. We expect the bridge to be there when we get out of our neighborhoods to go to school and work. We expect that we will come home to the same house to the same people. Now we are trying to make sense of the past few days. My family is fortunate. We have been inconvenienced somewhat. We have been loved on by friends who took us into their home. We have our house still fairly dry, just a little water in the basement which many people have had this week.
Our neighbors and others in our community not so much. Houses are sitting under water, houses and cars marked by brown water stains as flood waters recede.
My family was able to walk into the neighborhood and view the scene from the inside. It is eerily quiet and cars are parked on the one little hill by my house. Fortunately everyone was safe throughout the flooding. People are walking around, taking stock of what they have - their families by their side, their friends, their pets, their lives. People are reaching out to one another, greeting each other. Sadly, we don't know many of our neighbors -- we are all too busy to stop to get to know them.
It's not too late. We have a second chance. We can reach across the street and lend a hand in the clean up. We can listen to the stories and hold a hand. We know we can't count on stuff, things. We are reminded that the important stuff that we cannot live without are the people - even those we don't know across the street.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Shall We Gather at the River?

I spent my Sunday worship time in three places: in our traditional service for the congregational singing until I gathered the children for children's worship, then I led the prayer time for children's church, and then joined the Marietta Campmeeting for the sermon. This activity on Sunday gave me opportunity to consider the foundations of my spiritual life.

The old hymns we sang in the traditional service spoke to the deepest part of soul as they were songs from childhood. Foundational faith stirrings came to the surface as I sang with the congregation, "Shall We Gather at the River?" The words resonate with my soul.

"Yes, we’ll gather at the river,
The beautiful, the beautiful river;
Gather with the saints at the river
That flows by the throne of God."

Thinking of the saints that I have encountered through the years, I am moved to strive on a little better, holding my head up high - proud of my spiritual heritage. As I moved to children's church with my little charge, I engage in a conversation of a different nature. The childish joy of the little boy over his recent accomplishment: tying his shoes, also brings me back to a foundational time in my life. I remember a sweet Sunday school teacher who shared those accomplishments with me long ago.


"Thy will be done, in earth as it is in heaven"




The children move their chairs to the center of the room to begin our time of sharing highs and lows (Joys and concerns). I begin selecting children to share their prayers. Young boy with a fresh hair cut is exuberant that his father is home from his military post, a little girl has received a new purse, several of our regular families are traveling on vacation. Summer time boo boos consume our prayer time. But I remember how the death of young child in our community has deeply impacted two of our families and some of our troubled youth are facing more tough decisions. I remember children in a neighborhood are about to be dispersed to new neighborhoods where they will be strangers, not friends.


God is with us.


As I enter the arbor, I moved by the sense of history that I see and feel. The breeze is delightful playing between the rustic pews and blooming crepe myrtles stand in for stained glass windows. The little hymnals and funeral home fans harken me back to a past day. I imagine the Conestoga wagons that may have been pulled by mules and horses from 20-30 miles away a hundred years ago. The "tents" which surround the arbor complete the historic picture. The preacher up front reminds us of our Jesus invited all to His table. That we are all included. And later, he lives up to Jesus' promise as he opens the Holy Communion table to us.

Our faith is ancient and transcends man's division of time. Our faith is our heritage, passed on to us. We get to pass it on to those who are coming along. The Kingdom of God is here with us. The river flows by the Kingdom of God.