On Hope

“Therefore since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.  And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.  Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” Romans 5:1 – 5 (NIV)

This week is the second week of Advent and the theme is Hope. Dictionary.com defines hope as: “The feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best.” I personally like how Annie from the musical of the same name describes hope: “The sun will come out tomorrow…bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow…come what may…” (I bet you sang that line!) But back to hope…

Hope is something we truly can’t live without.  Or at least we don’t live well without hope.  You see when we get to the point in life where it feels that nothing we do will change, when we can work hard to advance in our career, or work hard to change our circumstances and nothing seems to work…if we then give up….we have lost our hope.  We have reached a point where we have “learned helplessness.”

What is learned helplessness you ask?  It is where we are met with negative responses to everything we try to do to improve and it results in our just giving up and we stop trying to improve the situations we are in. We have lost our hope in changing anything about our life.  This is not a good place to live. And this is not where God wants us to live.  Because there is always hope when we lean into the love our creator God has poured into each and every one of us.  We can have hope even in the worst of circumstances.

And speaking of worst circumstances: I found it fascinating what POW’s said kept them going when they were captured. These POW’s, survived horrible conditions during their war time internments and they said what kept them going was their determination to survive and the hope they would be released or rescued.  They also didn’t put a time line on attaining their freedom.  Those who did, would see those dates pass by and eventually they would give up their hope of ever going home.  They would fall into learned helplessness.  But for those who didn’t give up, who didn’t put a time line on their release…would one day make it home.

Romans teaches us that through our suffering we gain perseverance and through our persevering we develop our character and through developing our character we achieve hope…and like Annie we will trust that no matter what our circumstances are today, the sun will shine tomorrow.  In all our tomorrows, we have the opportunity to try again, start over, or just keep pushing through the situations we find ourselves.

Life is not perfect…we will have suffering.  I know that is not much of a news flash!  But here is the thing to remember: How we choose to deal with the suffering in life will determine if we just lay around whining in our learned helplessness…or if we get up, dust ourselves off, and fight another day.

I think I will choose to fight because I know God is on my side.  How can I lose?

Peace,

Beth

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

On Peace

Yesterday was the first day of the Advent season.  Advent is a season of waiting. Waiting takes patience. Waiting makes us slow down.  Waiting makes us stop for a moment in the midst of our hurried up lives.  Waiting gives us pause.  Since Advent is a season of waiting, it is also a season of reflection.

But…you knew there was one coming didn’t you? But…we have filled this season of waiting with the hustle and bustle of shopping, decorating, parties, and everything thing else.  So instead of taking the time our bodies, our very souls desperately need, we are scurrying around trying to get too much done in too little time.  We are not doing ourselves any favors.

You see, Advent, this season of waiting, begs us to slow down and to give ourselves time apart.  Jesus modeled this throughout his ministry.  Jesus always took time after a hectic schedule to go to the lonely places.  It was there Jesus would connect with God the Father and be refreshed.  It was in being refreshed Jesus would have more to give to the people he was teaching, preaching, healing, and loving.  It was in going to the lonely places where Jesus could be one with the Father. It was in being one with the Father that Jesus could offer a peaceful presence in the face of much opposition.

Peace the first theme in Advent.  Question: “How peaceful are you?” If you can honestly answer I am always at peace, then I want to know your secret! But if you are like most people, I would say your answer could be anywhere from “I am a fairly peaceful person” to “I have no peace.” So in this season of Advent…in this first week that highlights peace…I would encourage you to take time each day to find a quiet space and go to God in prayer lifting up all those things that shatter the peace we crave…we need…we desire. It is also recognizing that God’s peace may be different than how we define peace.

In John 14:27, Jesus taught: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” The precious gift of peace is one that will allow us to be calm in the midst of storms, be comforted in the midst of trials, be brave in the midst of fear.  Because the peace we need isn’t one of perfect days.  It is instead the quiet assurance that no matter what we are going through, no matter what life has thrown at us, God will go through it with us and we can find peace in the whirlwind.

My wish for you all this season is that you are able to find the peace only God can give in the midst of the commercialized rush of Christmas.

Peace,

Beth

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

On Turning 60

Today I enter into my 6th decade.  It seems really weird to write that!  Like George Bailey, I have been blest with a wonderful life so far.  It has had its ups and downs filled with both good times and bad.  And now, today, here I am on my 60th birthday. I wasn’t sure about entering into a new decade and I am also having a hard time wondering where the 60 years have gone! But I am looking forward to what the future holds and the adventures I will have whatever they might be.  I look forward to watching my grandchildren grow up and welcoming any new grandchildren if that is in the plan.  I look forward to spending time with family and friends making new memories.  And I look forward to retirement spending  time with my husband getting into all kinds of mischief.  I am looking forward to each new day with anticipation of all the exciting things each new day will bring.

I am also looking forward to the new ways God will use my gifts and talents in the next decades to come.  As I approach what will become my retirement years, I can’t help but wonder what ministries I will get to participate in and the impact they will have on me as well as the impact I will hopefully have on the people I minister to.  Because I know that while God calls us to have rest, it is why God created Sabbath, God does not call us to retire.  In fact, there are plenty of things we can all do as we get older.  One of the biggest blessings I think we can both give and receive is the blessing of being a mentor to someone who is just beginning.

You see, in our retirement years, we no longer have to be in charge.  We have been there done that.  So now we get the privilege of stepping aside and letting younger folk step up into jobs and ministries where they get to try out their leadership skills and ideas and we get to offer a safety net.  A person they can come to when they need guidance, advice, support, encouragement, even a shoulder to cry on when things fall apart because sometimes they do fall apart.  When they do, we can give them a helping hand as they stand up, dust themselves off, and begin again.  Mistakes no matter how large or small are learning experiences.  They are not places where we should beat each other up and point our fingers to lay blame somewhere other than at our own feet.  Mistakes help us grow, and at 60, I have made my fair share of mistakes and I have learned and grown from each one.

So I think, in these next decades, and I hope God will give me quite a few decades, I will offer my support to those who are just beginning, starting over, or wherever they may find themselves in their own life journey. I hope I will be able to give them the encouragement to not only lead into the next generation but to shine.

So here’s to turning 60 and all the adventures the next chapter of life holds.

Peace,

Beth

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

All Saints Day

Today is November 1st.  In the church calendar it is called All Saints Day.  It is the day we celebrate and remember all those who have left behind their earthly ties and moved beyond the veil into God’s all-embracing arms. But now the question remains about how to move on without our loved ones.  The word “difficult” comes to mind.

In our Bible we have this passage in Hebrews that offers us a way forward:

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.  Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”                                           Hebrews 12: 1 – 2

As we remember our loved ones this day, let us also be mindful they would not want us to stop living. They are a part of that “great cloud of witnesses that surrounds us.” Even though my grandmothers both died decades ago, I still miss them and when I think about them I find myself encouraged as I remember the examples they set for me.  What I know from my experience is what our loved ones would want for us would be to carry on living our best life. And in living our best life, find ways to honor the life they lived no matter how long…no matter how short.

If you would like something tangible to do on this All Saints Day, I would encourage you to take a moment sometime today and light a candle and say a prayer.  If you don’t know what to say, I offer this prayer from the Book of Common Prayer:

Almighty God, you have knit together your elect in one communion and fellowship in the mystical body of your Son Christ our Lord: Give us grace so to follow your blessed saints in all virtuous and godly living, that we may come to those ineffable joys that you have prepared for those who truly love you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting.  Amen.

May you find a measure of peace today in your grief.  May you feel God’s merciful arms wrapping around you.  May you be given comfort and find consolation.

Peace,

Beth

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

On Being Spiritual

Henri J.M. Nouwen wrote that “the spiritual life can be lived in as many ways as there are people.” I find it interesting that once people develop a belief system, it sometimes comes with the idea that if others do not believe in the same way, those other people are wrong.  How they interpret scripture is wrong.  How they live their life is wrong.  Ironically, when God created all that we can see and know, God created great diversity.  Each living creature is different in some way.  And as it pertains to human beings we are not only different in our appearance but we are also different in our desires.  And it is in those differences that God will reveal what is both good for us and what is bad for us.  And this is where we get into trouble in our relationships.  How you may ask? Well…say we have been convicted that something is bad for us…let’s say chocolate milk.  Unfortunately our tendency is that we interpret those convictions to mean if it is bad for me then it is bad for everyone.  This is simply not accurate.  While there may be a few universals, most of the time those things that entice us…those things that come between us and doing what is right or even coming between us and God…are different.  What may be bad for me may not be bad for you.  Because the reality is that God works in each life in a way that is appropriate for that particular life.  And since, according to Jeremiah 1:5 that says: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart…” God knows us better than we know ourselves.  So it would make sense that God will deal with each of us according to who we are, according to who God created us to be.

Our job is to discern those things in our life that distract us away from God and keep us from living our best life. So the question becomes: what distracts us? What keeps us from living our best life? Once we can answer those questions then we can work on what we need to work on.  Hopefully in our discernment we also recognize that these are the things/issues WE need to work through and the people around us have their own things/issues God is calling them to work through since we are all different.  God really knew what God was doing when God chose to make each one of us unique.  We are not cookie cutters.  For that I just want to pause and say: Thank you God!

Finally, as we wrestle with our own foibles, make an intentional effort to not judge yourself too harshly for having them and even more importantly don’t judge others for their foibles.  Just like us, they have enough on their plate to deal with and work through. No one needs our judgement heaped on them any more than we need theirs!

My daughter has a saying she uses.  I have no idea where she picked it up. But I like it all the same: “you do you.” It is a great reminder that we are all unique, and we all do life differently.  So…so instead od condemning one another in judgment…let’s support each other through whatever issues we are working on. Let’s all stop trying to make everyone else into exact replicas of one another and give each person the breathing room they need to become the best version of themselves they can become.

Peace,

Beth

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

On Summer

I find it hard to believe summer is over and we are in the first few days of autumn. Autumn: a season filled with pumpkins, cooler weather, brilliant fall foliage, and all the delicious flavors fall brings…unless you live in Florida…if so it is not fall but hurricane season. Either way summer is past and I am left scratching my head wondering where the time went!

And yet I know the answer to that very question. Since June 1st, life has been both hectic and wonderful. The Cocoa Methodist church, The Open Door, has merged with Grace UMC church where I serve as associate pastor. This transition has gone well and has given me the opportunity to get to know and work with many new and wonderful people and experience some new ministries. Most of all, I have seen God working in the lives of all the people as we become one church. Some really cool stuff!

My husband and I anticipated, then welcomed our fifth grandchild and his first from one of his children. (As a blended family we have seven children between us) So our sweet daughter Jenny gave birth to a beautiful baby boy on September 9th. All our other children are doing well and we couldn’t be more pround as parents and grandparents at how our family is growing and thriving for this season in life.

But with all the activity my blog took a back seat. I am looking forward to writing again beginning this fall seaon and I hope you are too. I know I am looking forward to hearing from all who read my posts!

One thing I have learned from all the activity these past four months, (with many activities left unlisted as I gave you all the “cliff notes version,”) is I made one rather large mistake. I took no time off over the summer. No vacation. No long weekend. I don’t think I will do  that again. Why? Self care is very  important. Self care gives us space in our busy days, weeks, and months. So…I have scheduled some downtime. Part of that will be spent in Ohio in the middle of October. So to my Ohio tribe: if you are in town and available, lets get together! I would love to see you all. To everyone else, I pray you are doing well and ya’ll have a very happy fall!

Peace,

Beth

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

On Rain

“Rain, rain go away.  Come again some other day. Little Johnny wants to play. Rain, rain go away.”

This is a nursery rhyme I used to sing when it would rain on days I wanted to go outside to play.  It has come back to mind this summer as it has rained a lot here in Florida.  We are definitely not in drought conditions as we have been in some years.  Everything is green and growing well…almost too well.  In fact there are some areas that are getting a little concerned about possible flooding.  So yes, it has been a summer of rain.

It has also been a summer of gorgeous blue skies.  Sounds like a bit of a conundrum. How can you have rainy days and blue skies?  There have even been times when I was standing under a brilliant blue sky and behind me were foreboding and ominous black clouds!  Welcome to Florida.  As quickly as the rain comes and it comes in buckets…the skies clear and the sun comes out and it is once more a beautiful day with crystal clear blue skies as far as the eye can see.  The day made even more beautiful because of the rain that waters the grass, trees, and flowers making everything a brilliant green in the bright sunlight.  Life can be a little like Florida weather, each season bringing its own beauty and challenges sometimes all in the same day.  The thing is, while it might feel like time has come to a standstill, these seasons do not last a lifetime.  And when we stop to take a good look around, many times what we see is the sun peeking through the clouds.  I personally find there is always something good to see in life, I just have to be willing to see it.  And therein lies the catch…our willingness to see what is good even in what feels like the worst of times.

Peace,

Beth

Leave a comment

Filed under Life insights, Misc..., Uncategorized