Indispensable.

John 14:16-21; 25-28
16 I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; 17 that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you. 18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19After a little while the world will no longer see Me, but you will see Me; because I live, you will live also. 20 In that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you. 21 He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him.”….25 “These things I have spoken to you while abiding with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful. 28 You heard that I said to you, ‘I go away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved Me, you would have rejoiced because I go to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.

A year or so ago my mother and I had a little dust up. I had been ridiculously busy “adulting” as they call it these days. Distracted by the demands of being the mother of four, wife of one and working full time, I had not called or returned calls for a while. I was in a foul mood and if there is one thing I have learned about myself, it’s that when I am in that head space, I have nothing nice to say about or to anyone. So I didn’t talk to her.

Momma being Momma called me out on it. “You can’t put people on a shelf, Sarah. You will turn around one day and they won’t be there. Stop being a martyr and look outside yourself for a change.” Needless to say I hung up the phone with my nose out of joint and an even worse mood. How could she say that to me?! She never had four children, a husband with retail hours AND a full time job! She had no clue what I was up against and she wasn’t even trying to understand. Everyone needed me and was making demands on my time and energy. I was indispensable around here and she would just have to deal with the fact that I didn’t have anything left to give. She would live.

Guess what? No one is indispensable. Our physical bodies make that very thing impossible. Jesus in his physical form understood that he had limits. He could not stay forever and be everything to everyone all the time. His physical body had to leave the planet and allow God the Father to send the Holy Spirit in order to meet our overwhelming demand for a Savior and Guide for life.

My arrogance and pride led me to believe that I was so essential that my world just could not function without me. Things wouldn’t get done or would get undone or would fail without my amazing presence, wisdom, and energy. How foolish!

It has become abundantly clear to me over the last month that the world spins whether I am here or not. Things get done. People survive. My sweet family managed for a whole week while I was taking care of Momma without me even having cell service. Granted, laundry was in a precarious state when I got home but I’m sure they would have handled that too. The office didn’t shut the doors and stop ministry because I wasn’t at my desk. They even managed to do my job for me! Who knew?!

So I have taken two lessons from this. #1. Pride is a deceiver. Not only will it make you think you are much more important than you are, it will rob you of your ability to rest. So often we buy this lie that we are critical to the operation of the world. We force ourselves to press forward and do more and more when we should be stopping. We should be resting and healing and allowing others to do more.

You know the saying “Pride goes before the fall”? I’m pretty sure the fall happens because we push ourselves so hard that we collapse face first in a heap of humiliation and exhaustion.

creekbedLesson #2. Only the Spirit is indispensable. Only the Spirit restores, renews and empowers us to do even the small pieces that we can. Only the Spirit has the peace and rest we need and only time with the Spirit will make all that happen. We cannot allow others to impose the title of “indispensable” on us. We have to lean into the Spirit and discern what is really ours to own and let the rest pass. We have to set a timer on our life and give ourselves the room to tend to our spirit, physical body and emotional well being.

I guess that’s what all of you were saying a few weeks ago when you said, “Give yourself time.” ” Be kind to yourself.” “Get rest.” You were reminding me (in a much kinder way) that I am not indispensable.

I encourage you to do the same. Be kind to yourself and rest in the Spirit.

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Unintended

For I know the plans that I have for you, declares the Lord, “plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.  I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and will gather you from the nations an from all the places where I have driven you, declares the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from where I send you into exile.
Jeremiah 29:11-14

I know.  We all see that first verse and take great comfort, don’t we? It’s used every time something happens that we just didn’t see coming.  Something that knocks the wind right out of us.  This is the promise everyone offers up to support the “God’s got a plan” platitude.

I have a very bad (or great maybe) habit of finding these common verses and trying to figure out (as Paul Harvey would say) the rest of the story. The message of Jeremiah was intended for a people who found themselves captives of another world power. They had been exiled from their own homes and sent to a strange land with strange people and strange customs.  But here’s the thing. They were warned!  It wasn’t an out of the clear blue sky thunderbolt! God had sent prophet after prophet to warn them.  He had (like a parent) laid out the consequences at the very beginning. Obey me and the land will be yours and you will live in peace.  Follow other gods, adopt other religions, and deny me, and I will abandon you and let your enemy have you.

So why “Unintended?” As I always do in the wee hours of the morning, I got up thisDSC01913 morning and made my coffee, showered while it was brewing and then grabbed my favorite mug, a spoon, and a saucer.  The mug obviously was for the coffee.  The spoon was
for the cream and the sugar.  The saucer? It was a spoon rest so I wouldn’t get a sticky mess on the counter with the spoon.  When the manufacturer created the saucer, he did not design it as a spoon rest. He designed it to hold a (unacceptably small) coffee cup.  I know what it is for; I just choose not to use it that way.

God did not abandon His people in exile. He didn’t even want them to be there in the first place.  But they had made their choice. So He used it for a new purpose.

***********************************************************************
This post was actually drafted  2 years ago – August 29, 2014 to be precise.

I haven’t seen it since until a few days ago. It took my breath away because this very verse was what Momma asked Casey (her pastor) to share at her funeral. Well, this and the salvation message with an invitation. She made him promise actually.

God knew the plan for her. God knew that her physical work on the planet was done but that Momma wouldn’t let it go without a “last stand.” And what is more future oriented and hopeful than the salvation message?!

I won’t even pretend to understand death or why it swept into our family and washed our feet out from under us. But I know the unfolding plan brings us hope in our salvation, encouragement in the stories we hear about Momma’s legacy, motivation for our future to live out God’s will for us.

Maybe, like my saucer, it’s time to think about being used in a new way. Having just retired in June, Daddy and Momma had a TON of plans. Plans to travel, visit with the grandkids, help grow their church ministries, mission trips, and home improvements just to name a small handful of the myriad they had lined up for retirement. Now Daddy is faced with doing all these same things – just in a new way. I am faced with doing my life in a new way.

If we have done nothing else over the last month, we have certainly sought God’s face with all our hearts. And we have found Him. He is restoring us slowly. He is gathering us to Him from our exile of grief.

And in that we have a future and a hope. It is just not as we intended.

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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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