Come.

FB_IMG_1472095871990So here I am. It’s 9:53 pm. I have been at life since 5:27 am. The children are allshowered, brushed, kissed and tucked into their beds. And I’m finally making some hash browns for my dinner because I was so busy during “pizza time” this evening at church, I missed dinner all together along with 22 calls from my poor family.

And that familiar enemy Exhaustion has finally taken up residence. I’m ok with being tired, wiped, sleepy, and done for the day. Exhaustion is more than all of those. It’s all consuming. My emotions are wiped out. My body is tired. My brain is past sleepy and now in pure basic bodily function mode.

There hasn’t been time over the last month to be any of these and now that everything is done, they all came home to roost.

Matthew 11:28-30

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Come. Take one more step. God acknowledges that we are tired and weighed down and He still asks us to take one more step and come. That’s when we receive rest.

Take My yoke and learn from Me. When we were growing up we raised hogs and had to haul feed and corn across a wide open field to take care of them. If the load was uneven or one arm was carrying more weight than the other, we would have to stop halfway across and switch arms because we were to tired to go all the way. Take my yoke; my burden and learn how to carry it so that it doesn’t wear you out.

You will find rest for your souls. My soul needs rest right now. I have run from fear and uncertainty when Momma first got sick to anger and confusion when we learned how serious it was. I was devastated to learn nothing could be done and compassionate when we brought her home to hospice care. I saw unbearable heartbreak when I had to say goodbye and cathartic release when Daddy told me she was at rest at last.

Then peace. A peace that could not be explained and made everyone around me question my sanity even though they were too kind to say so. The peace was replaced with rejoicing as the impact of my mother’s too short life was revealed.

And now I am empty. Too tired to feel anymore and still required to put one foot in front of the other and take the next step.

So I come. And I will find rest. Because He promised.

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The Pancake Burden

“Good morning Uncle Harry!”
“Good morning.”
“Is there something I can help you with today?”
“Yes. I have a job for you.”
“Name it. Anything you need.”
“I need you to come eat pancakes.”
“Great! I’m starving. I’ll be right there.”

True story and it happened twice.

Dad was making pancakes for us Monday morning before we went to Momma’s final service. He loves to cook and he can make pancakes with his eyes closed – or so we thought. The pancake batter was clicking right along until he reached into the cabinet, grabbed a measuring cup and proceeded to pour double the milk needed and created the need to double everything else. Now we had pancakes galore – more than nine people could eat!

And that’s when the phone call happened. At the time I was more than a little tickled and had quite a giggle at my poor father’s expense. But sure enough my cousins arrived with syrup in hand and helped gobble up pancakes.

Dad summed it up with a wink and a smile. “Sometimes you have to ask for help in unusual ways.”

Galatians 6:2
Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.

Matthew 22:35-39
One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the great and foremost commandment. 39 The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”

See, it started out being about the multitude of pancakes that my father’s already overflowing fridge and freezer just would not accommodate. But it became something more. My dad had effectively (and very unintentionally) surrounded himself with people who love him and just wanted to make his day  – an unbelievably emotional and difficult day – a little easier. They wanted to help him bear his burden.

When the pancakes had disappeared, the balloons came out. My momma had insisted all her life that when she died we were not to mope and mourn and bring flowers. We were to sing “I’ll Fly Away” and release balloons to celebrate her trip to heaven. That morning my sister, brother in law, cousins, uncles and father sat on the front porch and filled, tied and prepared balloons with scriptures to be released in honor of my mom. Watching it unfold I easily recognized that it could have been challenging for one or two people and it was certainly emotional for us.

Pancakes and balloons. When Paul was speaking to the Galatian church, he was teaching them how to be a church. The whole passage has all manner of instruction for keeping one another on task but verse two is about helping one another.

14138140_10208467822665616_2016375976677953934_oAs Daddy and I reflected Monday night on the porch, he talked about a variety of people who knew and loved Momma. Over and over, I heard him say, “They’ll need to come have porch time.” “Porch time” is just sitting with coffee on the back deck and talking. Watching the sun go down and the stars wake up and counting the airplanes flying overhead. It is just being with someone else and carrying the burden together for a while.

People are going to ask for help in unusual ways. You may not have to eat pancakes or fill balloons and you may not sit and stare at stars. But a bag of M&M’s, cutting firewood, cleaning a yard, putting up a Christmas tree, or maybe just sitting could be the best help you could be.

Love your neighbor. Bear one another’s burdens. And eat pancakes.

 

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Perfectly Unfair.

To quote one of my favorite movies of all time (which I seem to be doing a lot these days) “And just like that she walked out of our lives forever.”

(PS. That’s Doc Holliday to Wyatt Earp in Tombstone – but my IndyAnts already knew that.)

Yes, Momma has left us to sit at the feet of her Savior and sing all of her favorite hymns and worship. And no, we don’t like it any more than anyone else does, but we have that Philippians 4:7 peace that passes all comprehension.

Many people have said, “It’s just not fair!” and “I don’t understand.” Ever her own doctor told us how unjust he found it that jerks, mean people, and low down scum could get a disease and somehow beat it and get a second chance at their life. He just couldn’t understand how someone as sweet, kind and wonderful as Momma would not only be hit by cancer but be hit so hard she never had a fighting chance. “It’s just not fair.”

My sister summed it up perfectly. “Those people NEED the second chance. They haven’t found Jesus yet so God is giving them one more shot at meeting Him and getting things right in their hearts. Momma didn’t need that chance – she has her salvation on lock down.”IMG_9607

I’m ok with things being unfair. Primarily because I can hear her in my head telling me that nothing is ever going to be fair. “You get what you get, and you don’t pitch a fit.” But the rest of that story is for things to be truly fair, they would have to be even across the board. Fair means that everything is the same for everyone. Everyone has the same level of joy, pleasantness and delight. And everyone has the same pains, trials and struggles. That is truly fair.

Would you truly take on the same struggle we are facing right now? Would you take on the pain of a person undergoing cancer treatment? So often when we complain about things being unfair, we are only looking for the extra scoop of ice cream or the windfall of finances or the professional success. That’s not fairness or justice.

I’m ok with things being unfair because I have been the beneficiary of perfect unfairness. And yes, it’s another trip through Philippians; it happens to be my favorite.

Philippians 2: 1-8
Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from  selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves;do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but  emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

If anyone on this planet experienced injustice it was our Lord. He had done nothing but preach love and forgiveness. He had called people out on their hypocrisy and false lives and arrogance and they had found loopholes to have him put to death because they didn’t think he was being “fair.”

But we believe His perfect sacrifice is our saving grace. He took our place and our punishment for our sins. It was perfectly unfair. But that saving grace is what allows my family to have hope and peace in our current circumstances. We believe that through Mom’s faith in Christ and his sacrifice and forgiveness we will be reunited with her someday.

Before you bemoan how unfair it is that you didn’t get to say goodbye, or that she was such a presence on earth and why didn’t we get to keep her, consider this. What would you have done with your time if she had been able to stay?

Here’s a follow-up thought. Go do it! If you would have spent more time with her, spend it with the loved ones you still have. If you would have done more for your church, go sign up and get it done. If you would have studied your Bible more, or given more of yourself, go do it. Balance the scales yourself.

We will miss her. But like Wyatt and his Josephine, we will see her again.

(Dear Netflix, You are welcome for the sudden influx of people looking for Tombstone.)

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Don’t be Sorry.

Read this all the way through before you start your inner dialogue please. It’s a much more complex concept than you can get at face value so read, consider and digest. Then we’ll talk.

So often over the last two weeks, I have heard, “I am so sorry!” and it is meant with all the good intention in the world. I understand that. But please don’t be sorry.

I LOVE to take a word and really try to figure out what it means. It’s a hangover from my days as a Christian Studies student and in particular my Hermeneutics class with the amazing Dr. Draper. So of course as I was sitting beside Momma’s bed last week I asked myself what “sorry” actually means.

Per Dictionary.com:
Sorry:
1. feeling regret, compunction, sympathy, pity, etc.
2. regrettable or deplorable; unfortunate; tragic
3. sorrowful, grieved, or sad
4. associated with sorrow; suggestive of grief or suffering; melancholy;dismal.
5.wretched, poor, useless, or pitiful

Don’t be sorry. You have nothing to regret on our behalf. You didn’t cause Momma’s disease. Yes, it’s deplorable but tragic? If you could see all the letters and notes, hear the phone calls, and understand the love and outpouring we have experienced over the last week, you would never say we were in the midst of a tragedy. Yes, we are grieving but only for a time. Melancholy and dismal are so hopeless sounding, that I am avoiding those words at all costs. We’ll come back to #5 in a minute.
What is your alternative then? If I won’t allow you to be “sorry,” how should you feel?
Philippians 4:4-9
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is [c]near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all [d]comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is [e]lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, [f]dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

I think we have confused people a little when we have chosen to make our peace with these circumstances. How can you rejoice? Because we know she will be healed. “I don’t understand any of this.” Neither do we but God’s peace is bigger than our understanding and I can absolutely assure you that there is a guard around my heart and mind right now that I can not explain.

That is why we are so encouraged and comforted by every thought and story that is shared about Mom and what she meant to people. We have heard story after story of how she sat with someone who was grieving and provided comfort. How she encouraged someone new in their faith or a new teacher and made all the difference in how they grew as a result. We have heard from all manner of people how Momma shared her gifts of cooking or sewing and made them feel loved, respected, and special.

We hear those stories. We share them with others. We cherish them. We let our minds dwell on the stunning beauty of Mom’s life and we have peace.

So back to definition #5. Don’t be sorry. You aren’t wretched, poor, useless or pitiful! You are loved, precious, purposeful and gorgeous! Look at verse 9 one more time.

The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

Share the good thoughts, fun stories, precious moments with us. We love the encouragement. Think on those things! But more importantly, practice those same things. Love one another through service. Take time to sit quietly with those who are grieving and allow them to cry on your shoulders. Use my personal favorite and bake something for a neighbor! Walk with a new believer who may be a step or two behind you on the faith journey. Respect everyone.

And the God of peace will be with you.

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Planting Seeds

This is going to be one heck of a blog post for being my first one back. So buckle up, snag tissues and chocolate and let’s go.

My momma is dying. No, she is being snatched away from us by the vile, hateful, straight from the pits of hell beast that is cancer. And by IMG_1815(1)snatched I mean, she was healthy 4 weeks ago and today we have hospice care. We have had 21 days to get our heads around the fact that she is even sick.

How does a person wrap their heads around a diagnosis of cancer? Beyond that, when it rampages through and robs you blind, how do you cope? Our family has the gift and blessing of faith. We are leaning into our faith and claiming God’s promises that her healing will come as soon as she shakes off this faulty shell. But I had to find that promise for myself this morning. I had to see it in black and white.

1 Corinthians 15:35-38; 42-44; 53-58

35 But someone will say, “How are the dead raised? And with what kind of body do they come?” 36 You fool! That which you sow does not come to life unless it dies; 37 and that which you sow, you do not sow the body which is to be, but a bare grain, perhaps of wheat or of [k]something else. 38 But God gives it a body just as He wished, and to each of the seeds a body of its own.

42 So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown [l]a perishable body, it is raised [m]an imperishable body; 43 it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44 it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.

53 For this [s]perishable must put on [t]the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54 But when this [u]perishable will have put on [v]the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “Death is swallowed up in victory. 55 O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; 57 but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

As we have fielded phone call after phone call and poured over every card, it has been laid out plainly and in technicolor for us. Momma didn’t wait to shed her perishable body to start growing fruit. Eighteen years of teaching have yielded fields of children, families, and coworkers who have been mentored, amused, and changed by Mrs. Diven’s life and lessons. Call her school and ask to be put on hold – her legacy is found in every voice singing “I Surrender All.” Forty years of friendships are revealing the joy and laughter that Mom brought to everyone who crossed her path. Her gift for sewing is remembered by my senior play cast as they thank her for Fiddler on the Roof costumes from 20 years ago.

We mourn our loss of course. But we know that she will shed her perishable frame and fruit will continue to grow and ripen as a result of her life.

58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.

I am impressed then to find that “bare grain” that was planted in me by my Momma and use it to bring honor and glory to God while I’m still in my perishable packaging. To press forward and know that with His direction and guidance, it will not be in vain but will stretch her legacy beyond me.

For us it was writing. Momma loved to take the tales of her grandchildren, my father’s escapades, or just every day life and pass them through the lens of God and His word. She would call me and say, “Go online and pull up the paper! Captain Splinter Foot (or whichever grandchild had made that week’s cut) is Juniata County famous.” We’ll never know how many people saw those articles. We’ll never know who read them and how they were affected.

So I have decided to pick up that mantle. I fear I will not do it quite as well as an eighteen year veteran steeped in hymns and scripture might but I will try. I will work for the Lord as long as my perishable packaging will allow.

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Jesus and $20

Thanksgiving is three days away and you should probably know that it is probably one of my top five favorite days of the year.  I say top five because I have to take into consideration the first day of summer break, the first day of school and a few other days. (I believe in honesty!)

I love watching the “30 days of Gratitude” that always shows up on social media this time of year too.  People start out sentimental and thoughtful and by the time we get to Thanksgiving Day – the day that is actually about gratitude – the posts tend to be more like “I am so thankful I didn’t step in that cat barf in the dark last night!”

But let’s look ahead four days.  Where will you be?  Will you be out there in all that madness also known as Black Friday scrapping for the best deal on the most popular stuff and stalking the parking lot for a space that’s one space closer to the door?  Better yet, before you even get there what is your budget for Christmas this year?  How many items per person do you plan to buy? 

Or since I believe in honesty…What’s on YOUR Christmas list?  What kind of budget is needed to fill your list?

I’ve been feeling very convicted for the last two days as we have volunteered with Operation Christmas Child.  You know – Operation Christmas Child – the shoeboxes?  Filled with love, prayed on and sent to children all over the world to bring Christmas to those who wouldn’t have it otherwise.  Read that again “who wouldn’t have it otherwise.”  This is all they get.  This shoebox full of things you and I picked up at the Dollar Store last Thursday.

I did a little math.  A friend and I made seven shoeboxes between us and the average cost was…$21.50.  Our boxes had to be tied, banded and prayed shut but still – $21.50 per box.

Look at those faces.  Really look at every. single. face.

If you got $21.50 and the message of Jesus this Christmas, would your face look like that?

Guess what.  Mine probably wouldn’t either.  But I want it to.  I want to remember these faces and I want to reflect even a shadow of that very delight on Christmas morning before even a single gift is opened or a single candy cane is snuck off the tree for breakfast.

So as we give thanks for the remaining five days of social media gratitude and as we head into the chaos that is Christmas shopping and decoration and baking and parties let us never stop asking.

What if all I got was Jesus and $20?

Micah 5:2-4
But as for you Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel.  His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity.  Therefore He will give them up until the time when she who is in labor has borne a child.  Then the remainder of His brethren will return to the sons of Israel.  And He will arise and shepherd His flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord His God and they will remain, because at that time He will be great to the ends of the earth.  He will be our peace.

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What’s the Why?

You may have noticed that I’m not terribly good at consistent motivation.  Once I build a habit, I’m good to go!  Case in point. This morning I brain drafted this post while I unloaded and reloaded the dishwasher, made the beds and started laundry.  My brain was in another place because my body was used to doing all those other things out of habit.  I don’t even really think about it.  As a matter of fact, I don’t even really care too much about those other things. I just do them because they are habits.

Our two weeks are up on our review of “what we believe” and this past Wednesday I asked two questions of my class.  I would read a line of the Creed and ask, “Do you believe this?”  After the nods came the dreaded, “Why?”  I was quite the two-year old with that second one!  But why?  What’s the proof?  How do you back yourself up? 

Yesterday during worship I scooted back to my old Back Row Baptist roots and sat at the back of the church and watched the congregation.  I kept asking myself why?  Why am I here right now?  Am I here for worship?  Am I hear to learn?  Am I here because I was on volunteer duty this morning?  Am I here because I want to be here? 

Am I here because it’s my habit?

When I was younger that time you spent with your Bible, prayer and God was called “doing your devotions.”  Out of curiosity I hit up my dictionary app on my phone (yes, I have a dictionary app!) and looked up that word.

Devotion:
1. Profound dedication; consecration
2. earnest attachment to a cause, person, etc.
3. an assignment or appropriation to any purpose, cause, etc.
4. religious observance or worship; a form of prayer or worship for special use.

A few words stood out from that for me – “profound, earnest, and special” in particular.  I don’t know that those words would ever be associated with any of my habits.  They take a deeper meaning than something I do by rote. 

But “devotions” is the old word for it.  Now we call it “quiet time.”  You can’t even look that phrase up in the dictionary app.  It’s even vaguer than devotions.  I mean quiet time can be just turning off all the apps, radio, TV and any other noise and sitting still waiting for God to “hollah!”  Quiet time seems to be one of those things that we can squeeze in a few minutes here and there. 

Now let’s go antique for a minute.  How about “spiritual discipline?”  When was the last time you used that phrase in association with your personal worship?

Discipline:
1. training to act in accordance with rules; drill
2. activity or exercise or a regimen that develops or improves a skill; training
3. the rigor or training effect of experience, adversity, etc.

Or what about the verb form?
1. to train by instruction or drill
2. to bring to a state of order and obedience by training and control

Oh wow!  What if that was the “why” behind our worship?  What if we were really in it to train our behaviors, attitudes, and outlook?  I’m not good at self-discipline.  Just look at the log of my gym attendance – sporadic is a better word!  What if I DID approach the Bible and prayer and worship with the desire for discipline? 

1 Timothy 4:7-10
But have nothing to do with worldly fables fit only for old women. On the other hand, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.  It is a trustworthy statement deserving full acceptance.  For it is for this we labor and strive, because we  have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially believers.

Discipline holds a worth beyond me and beyond now.  Discipline paves the path for this life and the next and sets the example for those to come.

So what IS your why?  Why do you worship?  Is it a surface level, squeeze it in quiet time, a time of devotion or are you seeking discipline?  I send my prayers with you as you journey on a path toward discipline.  May it take you deeper and plant you stronger as you go!

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