On Remembering…

Disney is getting ready to release a “live” action version of their 1994 animated classic The Lion King.  As a quick aside, I think “live” is a funny way to describe the new CGI animated movies. But that is just my quirky opinion.  I loved the original film and one of my favorite scenes is where Rafiki leads the now grown Simba to the water’s edge, touches the water as he insists that Simba remember.  At first all Simba sees is his reflection. So once again Rafiki insists Simba look into the water but this time Simba needs to look harder.  It is in this second look, this harder reflection that Simba finally sees his father in him.

I remember the first time I looked in the mirror and saw my parents.  It was a bit of a shock. I am far more like my Dad as I strongly take after his side of the family.  So as I age, I see my Dad more than my Mom but that doesn’t mean I don’t see traces of her in me.  I think the shock of seeing how much our appearance or our mannerisms is like or in some case just like our parents comes from a desire as children and even as adults to carve out our own identity.  We want to be a unique individual and when we discover we might not be unique it can come as a bit of a surprise/shock.

Which gets me back to remembering. I believe it is important to remember who we are.  Why? Because the bottom line is we are wired to remember and one thing we don’t seem to do well is remember.  We forget where we came from. We forget or in some cases don’t know our own heritage. We forget how we were raised – both the good and the bad.  We forget or at least try to forget our past mistakes.  We forget our history and even try to rewrite it so it is not so ugly.  All this forgetting is a mistake. George Santayana a writer and philosopher said that “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” It would seem then that remembering is important.

It is so important that the writers of the Bible remembered their history.  When you read through the Old Testament you will discover that they remembered all their history.  The good things, the bad, and the ugly and some of the ugly parts are really ugly.  The writers did not shy away from any of it and instead laid it all out there for anyone to see.  They remembered so hopefully they would not repeat the same mistakes. They remembered so we could see that no matter what God loves us and will redeem even our worst mistakes.  They remembered so we would have an example about how important remembering is.

When we remember our own histories we learn why we are who we are.  Simba remembered that he was born to be the king and in order to be the king he would need to return home and confess what he believed he did and seek forgiveness.  When we remember we realize we are a part of our parents, our grandparents, our great-grandparents, our aunts and uncles and cousins.  We have blue, brown, or green eyes because that is the predominant trait in our family.  We are adventurous because we take after Grandpa Henry or we are quiet and shy because we are like Great-grandma Susie.  We can understand who we are when we remember.

The most important thing we can remember about who we are is the simple fact that we are also fiercely loved by God the creator of all that is and we are made in God’s image.   So, the next time you feel as if you don’t measure up to the world’s standards, the next time you think you are a failure…the next time you catch yourself making the same mistake yet again…take a moment and remember who you are: God’s wonderful and amazing child.

Peace,

Beth

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Stephen Ministry

Last month I had the privilege to attend a Stephen Ministry Leadership seminar.  If you are not familiar with Stephen Ministry I would encourage you to go to their web site: https://www.stephenministries.org/default.cfm and check it out.  Basically it is a ministry to hurting people. And our world is filled with hurting people.

Sometimes in life we are derailed by events and our go to tools to deal with tragedy, divorce, death, accidents, disasters, or any other emotionally charged life changing occurrence no longer work.  We feel lost and just don’t know what to do.  Depression, anger or toxic behaviors can begin to rule our life.  We make choices we would not make under normal circumstances.  We are adrift and can’t find an anchor.  That is where a Stephen Minister can help.  Stephen Ministers undergo approximately 50 hours of training and are taught, among other things, how to listen.

The biggest mistake most people make when they try to comfort someone who is hurting is we try to fix the problem.  We can’t fix someone else’s problem.  We can be there with them as they wrestle with their emotions and the pain.  The important thing is being present and letting the other know we care. And we need to be available until the time comes and the pain begins to change and they find the hope they need to carry on and move through all they are feeling.

Being a Stephen Minister is all about knowing when to be silent.  It is in the silence, knowing there is someone there who is a safety net, that people are able to work through all the yuck they are feeling.  BTW…yuck is an important theological term that describes all the piled up messiness of life we don’t want to deal with but have to when it can no longer be contained by the fake smiles we put on our faces. Enter a much needed Stephen Minister who can help us put things into perspective.  Once we have a focused perspective we can begin to deal with “the yuck” and once dealt with we can then jettison “the yuck” from our lives.

If you are involved in a church, ask if they are a registered Stephen Ministry church.  If not, and you are not personally in need of a Stephen Minister, consider starting Stephen Ministry for your church.  If you are in need of a Stephen Minister, you can contact them through the web site and they will put you in contact with a Stephen Ministry church in your area.

Knowing someone is willing to walk with us during the difficulties of life makes the journey a little less painful.  And let’s face it: we all have times when we need someone who is in our corner.  Since we all need help sometime, don’t be afraid to ask for it. Getting the help we need, when we need it is not a sign of weakness. It shows great strength.

Peace,

Beth

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0 to 60

I have been remiss in my blog postings since the first of the year.  In fact, I believe my only post was on New Year’s Day where I wished everyone a very happy New Year.  Not much of a post, but I sincerely meant it.  My year so far has resembled those car commercials that advertise their vehicles will go 0 to 60 in 6 seconds or less.  I definitely have hit the ground running after a wonderful Christmas with my family.  So I am truly scratching my head as I look at my calendar and see that it is already January 28th and where in the world did this month go? And yet, even in this midst of all the hecticness (is that a word?) the year, so far, has been good and filled with lots of experiences some great…some good….some not so good. And maybe that is the problem.  It has been filled with too much. The good news, for me at least, is that next month is not filled with as many events or activities. But…you didn’t hear me say that out loud!

So, now for something completely different:

I would like to take a moment to recommend a great book and I haven’t even finished it yet. It is titled: “Chasing Francis.”  It is about a Pastor who one Sunday morning kinda loses it in the pulpit.  Not a place you want to let your inner nut show. The rest of the book tells about his pilgrimage to the Assisi region of Italy and all he discovered about himself as he learned about the life of Francis of Assisi.  It is a novel, but one with a very powerful message we would all do well to learn in our own lives about how to follow the real teachings of Jesus Christ.

The journey made by the protagonist, is one we can all relate to.  We all have had our times of doubt, our lives filled with more questions than answers. Some of us have even had that dark night of the soul.  Others have allowed our inner nut to show a little too much! So, we get disillusioned and feel as if we belong more to the frozen chosen than having a vital, vibrant encouraging faith. Here is the thing to remember if you feel you are there now…most of us have been where you are and it does get better if and in this case if really is a mighty big word…if we choose to let God thaw our frozen hearts and allow God to show us how much God loves us and how we can share that same love with everyone in our lives. Sharing is a great concept and it can lead to some wonderful relationships and experiences.

Now, just to be clear, love in a Biblical sense is an action word not a feeling word.  It means in order to love, really and truly love, we have to get out into the world and when we see a need and we have the resources to meet that need….we meet that need.  We don’t say isn’t that awful.  Or what a shame, someone should do something about that.  YOU are that someone and helping others is the fastest way I know to thaw a frozen heart and have a vital, vibrant, encouraging faith. Because faith, being in relationship to God is not about each one of us individually but about us collectively, we are called to live in community.  “I Am a Rock” is not the Christian’s theme song. So…read “Chasing Francis.” You will be glad you did.

Peace,

Beth

If you are interested in reading the book you can get it on Amazon (where else) here:

https://www.amazon.com/Chasing-Francis-Ian-Morgan-Cron/dp/0310336694/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1548705916&sr=8-1&keywords=chasing+francis

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Bells

Here is another offering from the devotional I helped to write in 2015.  I hope you enjoy the post.

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.” I Corinthians 13:1

Years ago, churches were built with bell towers.  The bells were rung to call people to services, they were used to toll for people who had died.  They rang out with joy at weddings and  they gave warnings when danger was imminent for the surrounding area.  In Biblical times bells were sown on the garments of the priest worn in service to the Lord.

Bells have become an important symbol of Christmas as we sing about bells in our carols: “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” or “The Carol of the Bells,” “Silver Bells,” and others.  They all remind us of this special time of Christmas.  They sing to us and call us to respond to the message they ring out for all the world to hear.  The wonderful good news that Jesus, the long awaited Messiah is born!

Just as bells sing different songs, so do we as Christians.  Our lives and how we live them ring out loud and clear to all who can see.  What message are you ringing out to the world around you?  Is it the sweet song of peace, joy, and love?  Or does you life resemble a clanging gong sowing dissonance where ever you go?

My hope and prayer for each of you my friends and family, is that you have a wonderful holiday filled with joy and good will.  May God’s blessings shower down on you and may you be filled with God’s peace.

Merry Christmas!

Peace,

Beth

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Signs

In 2015 I collaborated with a few others to write an Advent devotional for the members of our church to use.  The following is one of my offerings for that devotional.

“Therefore the Lord will give you a sign: The young woman is pregnant and is about to give birth to a son, and she will name him Immanuel.” Isaiah 7:14

There is an old ‘60’s song that sings about signs: signs…signs…everywhere a sign…  Everywhere we look in our world today there are signs.  Signs that tell us where to park, which direction to go, what to see, what to do, what not to do…On top of all the physical signs, we also look for ‘signs’ to tell us what decisions to make.  Signs that don’t really exist but we look for them none the less.  We seek these signs to give us hope…hope that we are making a good decision…hope that we are making the right choice.  The funny thing about all the signs we manufacture is they really can’t give us any hope at all.

In the time of Isaiah, God offers to give Judah a sign of hope.  It was a time in history when the nation of Israel was in crisis and desperately needed to know that God would be with them.  So God gives them a sign: a child will be born and his name will be Immanuel which means “God with us”.  This Immanuel passage in Isaiah is the same passage we see in Matthew when we are told yet again that a child will be born whose name will be Immanuel – God with us.  There has never been a greater sign than the birth of God’s own son.  A sign that offers hope, comfort, grace, love, mercy, forgiveness…a sign that God is indeed with us in all of life’s messiness and joy.

So my prayer for all of you in this season of Advent is that God will be with you as you enjoy each and every day with family and friends celebrating the most wonderful sign: the birth of God’s only son.

Peace,

Beth

 

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Peace

“In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register.” 

Luke 2:1 – 3

I love the Christmas story as told by the good Dr. Luke.  He has a beautiful way with words that speaks to me more powerfully than Matthew’s version.  I find it particularly interesting that Luke doesn’t begin with the details of the birth or even as Matthew does with the details surrounding Mary and Joseph’s betrothal and how Joseph considered calling the whole thing off.  Luke begins the birth narrative with an event that is very secular.  The ruler, Caesar, decides it is time for a census; a head count.  And this head count, will give Caesar a better idea of how many are within his kingdom and consequently how much he will earn from taxing his subjects.  It is an issue of government. And in the middle of this strife and yes there had to be strife since nobody wants to be taxed. (That simple fact was true then and it is still true today.)  So in the middle of all this, we learn that Joseph must go back to his hometown in order to be counted and chooses to take Mary with him.  I am sure he believed she would be safer with him, even though the journey would be arduous for her since she is near her time to give birth.  So off to Bethlehem they go where God will give the world God’s most precious gift: God’s only son.

Jesus was born during a time of political unrest, a very taxing time if you will. (pun intended!) A time, that in all honesty, was probably not unlike our own.  O, we may be more sophisticated, or at least we may think we are.  We definitely have more knowledge and access to that knowledge is as close as the nearest internet connection.  We have an easier life in some ways and a much harder life in others.  And it is in that sort of back drop that Jesus came into the world.  A beacon of light in a world filled with darkness.  A hope of peace.  And it is through Jesus and the influence he has on our lives that we are able to find true peace.  Peace that lasts even in the midst of the most terrible turmoil.  Peace that allows us to know that the events swirling about in our lives and in our world are temporary.  They all come to an end one way or another.  In John’s gospel chapter 14 Jesus is taking some time to offer comfort to his disciples as he is teaching them he will not always be with them.  In verse 27 Jesus says these words to his disciples, “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.” Jesus comforts by giving the gift of peace.

Jesus gives us the precious gift of peace too. Peace that he brought into this world on a night long ago at a time when the world was not at peace.  Peace far different and more wonderful than we can ever imagine.  Peace that allows us to hear the words the angel said to the shepherds, “do not be afraid for I bring you good news….” News that includes being able to have peace in our hearts in all seasons of life.

Peace,

Beth

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Blue Christmas

The first time I heard the song “Blue Christmas” I was a young teenager.  What I remember very specifically is my reaction to that song.  I hated it.  I couldn’t believe ANYONE especially Elvis would record a song that was so sad and all about the loss of a relationship and then have the audacity to call it a Christmas carol.  My indignation over that song reached levels that only a teenager could achieve and for many years every time I heard that song I would react in much the same way as I did when I heard it for the very first time.  Then a funny thing happened…I grew up.  I experienced life in all its ups and downs. So now instead of indignation, I have an appreciation for the fact that on any given year, not everyone will have a Red and Green Christmas filled with joy, happiness, and Norman Rockwellian or Pinterest perfect images.  But will instead, for a variety of reasons, have a Blue Christmas.

One of my own blue Christmas experiences was the Christmas of 2002. My divorce was final on November 20th of that same year, so I found myself facing a quiet Christmas day all alone.  My children would be spending the day with their Dad since they had spent Christmas Eve with me. While I could have filled the day crying over what I did not have that year: A day spent with my children opening our gifts and doing whatever else together….I chose instead to fill my day watching old Christmas movies, reading books, puttering around my house doing whatever I wanted to do from cooking, to cleaning, to any one of my many ongoing craft projects.  The funny thing was when my children finally did come home that evening, while I was thrilled to see them I really wasn’t ready for them to come home just yet.  I discovered that I had enjoyed having the day to myself doing what I wanted for a change with no demands on my time except the ones I chose.  I found peace in the midst of my grief over my divorce and the loss of ever having a traditional family again.  I learned, very powerfully, that how I chose to deal with a situation was incredibly important to my overall well-being and peace of mind.

Which reminds me of a story about a young boy who so wanted to be Joseph in the Christmas play…he put everything he had into practicing the part and gave his best ever performance at the try outs but in the end he was chosen to be the innkeeper.  Filled with bitter disappointment that his plans did not go the way he imagined he plotted…he was going to get even with his rival…the boy who did get the coveted part of Joseph.  So on the night of the play, when Joseph came to the inn and knocked on the door and asked if there was any room in the inn…this little boy said: “Sure! Come on in! We have plenty of room!”  Of course that was not the way the script went which is a lot like life.  Sometimes life goes off script.  We write what we want to happen but the lines get changed on us.  We are left to deal with those changes and those changes can leave us feeling pretty blue especially during the holidays – and Thanksgiving and Christmas seem to be the times of year where want or loss of any kind is most keenly felt.  So our holiday ends up feeling less.  It is not as cheerful or as upbeat as we had hoped or wanted because our script has been changed.

Someone we love dies suddenly or after struggling with a long illness

Friends or family members we are close to move away

We struggle with a divorce

We lose our job

Our doctor gives us a hard diagnosis – cancer or some other debilitating disease.

What should have been a Christmas filled with fun and pleasure has now become a Blue Christmas.  And so we find it very easy to sing along with Elvis:

“I’ll have a blue Christmas that’s certain…And when that blue heartache starts hurting

You’ll be doing all right with your Christmas of white…But I’ll have a blue, blue Christmas.”

What we want, what we desire, what we need, at these times is a word of hope something that tells us it will get better.

We find that hope in the pages of Scripture.  A story for the ages about God who loves us so much that he sent God’s only son to this world as an infant to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves.  But if you look hard at the story about that first Christmas so long ago, you will see a story that is messy.  It is a story about an unwed teenage girl pregnant by someone who is not her fiancé.  It is a story of a baby born in a dirty animal stall, a story about the murder of innocent baby boys because King Herod feared one of them just might be the king the wise men came to see. It is the story of our savior born to bring peace into this world and yet was condemned to death…it is the story of light sent to shine in the darkness, the story of God’s never ending, self-giving mercy. It is the story of hope.

And here’s the thing: the story of Christmas cannot and should not be divorced from the cross.  Jesus came into this world as a beautiful baby boy who would grow into a man who would die on a cross to save us from our sins so we can be a people forgiven. That is the hope of Christmas.  The hope offered to us from the cradle in a manger and the hope we can hold onto in all circumstances.  Christmas is not about all the parties, the decorations and tinsel, the lights or the gifts. Christmas instead, speaks to us about the vastness of God’s love, mercy, and grace. Christmas offers us the wonderous gift of hope in a world that is oftentimes scary and incomprehensible. Christmas, the true meaning of Christmas gives us the courage to live life in all circumstances.

One final thought about having a Blue Christmas: In our scriptures you will find the color blue mentioned, particularly in the Old Testament.  It is typically described as the color of the robe worn by the High Priest.  In the New Testament we have a description of Jesus as our High Priest.  The baby whose birth we celebrate each Christmas season is the one who became the Savior of the world through his death on the cross and subsequent resurrection three days later.  When we see the shadow of the cross in the cradle, we can see Jesus wearing a garment of blue…taking the blues from our lives so he can bear them on his shoulders.

Peace,

Beth

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