Sunday, November 30, 2008
The summer I was six, I went to camp for the first time. Before I went, I discovered Psalm 27:10 - "Though my mother and father forsake me, the Lord will receive me." I carried that verse in my heart to camp! It kept me from being homesick even one time. In my child's view, "forsake me" included leaving me at camp. My focus was that God would pick up the slack, so to speak. I was able to trust Him to do just that.
"Homesickness" is usually a sadness that might even verge on sickness with a longing for home. When my grandchildren visit and decide at bedtime they want Mommy or Daddy and the tears start, I tell them, "You can go home tomorrow morning. Let's go to sleep now, and I'll call Mom and Dad in the morning if you still want to go home." So far, they always change their mind by morning!
Today the sermon was Luke 17:20 - 37. Jesus answers some questions about the Kingdom of God. Jesus tells His main men (His disciples) that it is a good thing to "long" to see the Kingdom come. This world isn't our final home if we belong to God's forever family! It's okay to be homesick for heaven! I sat there thinking that longing for God's KIngdom to come - for Jesus to come back - longing to go to live forever in heaven is a good thing! In fact, it is what we should feel! We should live every day wanting to be in that better place and ready to go there but still willing to live and work to bring in God's Kingdom on earth as long as we live in this temporary home.
Being homesick for heaven is good! Jesus gives us that longing in our hearts! This world is NOT our real home - thankfully! We are just passing through on our way to our real home if we know and love Jesus!
Thursday, November 27, 2008
"Give thanks with a grateful heart!"
- Be thankful that you can still make a "wish list." Not having everything you could possibly want means you have something to look forward to!
- Be thankful when you don't know something. Not knowing everything and knowing it means you still have opportunities to learn.
- Be thankful for hard times. The difficulties in life push you (and all of us) to grow better (unless we choose to grow bitter which is a VERY bad choice).
- Be thankful for limitations. They give us challenges to improve as we find ways around them.
- Be thankful for every new challenge. In them we build both strength and character.
- Be thankful when you make mistakes. That's how we learn valuable lessons - sometimes the most valuable lessons!
- Be thankful when you're tired and weary. Then you know your efforts have accomplished something - usually meaningful - that makes a difference.
- Being thankful for the good things is easy. Being thankful for hard times, setbacks and pain shows a maturity of soul that only God can bring.
- Be thankful for your troubles, irritations, failures and pain. Then God can turn them into blessings for your heart and demonstrations to the watching world around you that He is the God who can make all things to work for His glory and our good!
~ adapted from author unknown ~
Monday, November 24, 2008
Within a little over an hour, one A Restoration Church family brought a heater over to loan her. Then my husband who can sniff a bargain at 70 paces found two heaters for $14 each after the $5 mail-in rebate. It was Sunday night so the places to shop for heaters were limited. Right on his way was a 24-hour drugstore even willing to take them back if they didn't work.
Staying warm on a really cold night is sort of a necessity of life. We need warm hands!
Even more we need warm hearts - touched by the love of God and others! It is a beautiful thing to see hearts warmed by God's love reaching out to others in need of that same warmth with God's love! That's what A Restoration Church is about doing and being in the South Hills of Pittsburgh!
Saturday, November 22, 2008
One line struck me particularly as applicable in other contexts. Two of the Arab terrorists are talking about truth. One says to the other, "There is no truth in the desert. In the desert the sands shift constantly like the truth. ... The law of the desert demands it!"
What a compelling metaphor of life in 2008! Truth has been diluted and disregarded until the lines between truth and lie are so blurred that even "high-powered magnification" makes it difficult to distinguish between them. Truth is no longer considered absolute in most circles - even by some in the church. Truth is thought to shift like desert sands blowing with the winds of whim or personal preference.
What compels me about the statement the terrorist made is WHERE such "truth" exists - IN THE DESERT! We have come to a desert in many ways in our society. Truth is thought to be relative so that what is truth for me may not be truth for you. Truth is considered adjustable and constantly changing.
No wonder we live so badly most of the time! No wonder we love others so badly! We have no standard for a code or to measure where we are on the continuum of values. We have been taught overtly and covertly by media, education and society that our truth, values and ethics are fluid and situational. Few people understand that there is "TRUE TRUTH" (as Dr. Francis Schaeffer used to describe real truth).
In the desert places of life, shifting sand is no place to anchor. Truth that is real and true exists everywhere and anywhere we are. God has given us standards by which to evaluate and process truth in the words of Scripture. We don't get God's truth by osmosis, however. We MUST read it. We must contemplate it. God's truth must sink deeply into our hearts and minds. God's truth must change how we think and act.
Jesus told a story about two men who each built a house. One built his house on shifting sand. The other built his house on the rock. When the storms of life came, Jesus said the house on the sand "went smash"! Jesus said the house on the rock stood firm!
Storms come in life. God's truth, God's love and grace and grounding on the Rock (Jesus Himself) are the ways we can stand even in the storms of life as well as the sunshine! And that is true truth!
Friday, November 21, 2008
I lived a pretty wonderful life and still do. I didn't recognize much brokenness in myself. I didn't see much brokenness anywhere. I was well loved from before my birth. I lived in comfort and even more most of my life. Of course there were minor bumps in the road. There was loss of dearly loved grandparents and other losses. There was the pain of mistakes, broken promises and unexpected disappointments but there was no catastrophe that touched my life directly.
I really didn't know what real brokenness looks like nor had I experienced it.
My personal life metaphor of brokenness can be summed up in the experience of one September Saturday afternoon. I was driving my new car minding my own business when suddenly - out of "nowhere" - a car smashed into the rear of my car. The boxes of green ware porcelain pieces in my trunk were pulverized into powder. My car was pleated like an accordian. My neck was broken. In seconds I was left with broken clay, broken car and broken me.
The broken clay could be replaced with new green ware. The broken car could also be replaced. Broken me required a little more work accompanied by a lot of sweat, tears and pain. I spent months in a halo cast screwed into my skull front and back to immobilize my neck. I endured surgery and significant pain.
If I could turn back the clock and rewind and put the broken pieces back together (clay, car and me), I wouldn't do it. God knew I needed to understand brokenness on a deep personal level. God was working on my heart in the "afterwards" following the accident. God got my attention and taught me to trust Him in the process!
"Life [does] break us all ... " It's what happens in the "afterwards" that matters! Do we learn to trust and cling to God for help, hope and strength? OR do we turn turtle - draw into our shells and even turn bitter deep in our hearts? We do one or the other.
The difference between brokenness leading to trust or brokenness leading to bitterness is in our willingness to walk with God and trust and depend on Him or not. God wants to lead us in His path. God wants to be our hope, help and strength! Even brokenness can be a good thing when God is involved in the "afterwards" process!
Thursday, November 20, 2008
At A Restoration Church we are dancing with disabilities! Actually close inspection reveals that we all have some area of brokenness in life. Those of us who have more obvious brokenness are labeled by society as "disabled." What I have learned is that "disability" isn't so much about not being able in some aspect of physical, mental or emotional function as it is about having limitations and challenges outside the "norm." It may be a distinction without a real difference since we all deal with limitations and challenges to some extent. The real distinction comes in the significance of the limitation and challenge.
My friend is blind in one eye. She is significantly more impaired than I am with my sight challenges and limitations in both eyes. I can turn on a brighter light and wear my glasses. My friend's blind eye doesn't benefit from either light or lens. However I probably struggle more with my "sight issues" than she does with hers. She accepts her blind eye and actively and aggressively finds ways to compensate. Not only that, she demonstrates joy and humility in the process.
Dancing with people who have disabilities is far more exciting than "dancing with a star" on TV. Dancing with disabilities is literally people choosing to partner together to share and care for each other in a faith family. The lateral dimension of this dance is enriched by our differences and what we are learning from each other. The vertical dimension of this dance is how we participate together to worship and serve God. In our worship and service each partner in the dance brings his or her own unique contribution to the beauty of that dance. And I imagine God smiles while He watches because, of course, He is our Choreographer!
"Dancing with the Stars" is a glitzy production designed to capture the imagination of the observor. Our dance with disabled people at A Restoration Church isn't about fancy costumes, well choreographed moves and drama. It's about REAL! It is real people willing to share real needs, real joys, real pain and even real failure together in this dance so that we encourage and support each other. It's about learning God's ways and showing God's love. And most of all, it's about God's peace and joy working their way deeply into our hearts in this radical community of faith called A Restoration Church!
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Family Retreats (and being an STM friend) is an incredible experience! It is amazing how two strangers can be assigned to each other and how each pairing becomes such an great opportunity for giving and receiving love!
There is a picture of these two guys in my mind. I take it out often just to smile over. They both have big smiles on their faces! One of them is in a wheelchair; the other is riding on the back of the same wheelchair. The one in the wheelchair has a spinal cord injury and brain trauma which have changed his life forever. The one riding on the back also has a spinal cord injury from his birth process gone bad. He too has to use a wheelchair (or sometimes a skateboard) to transport his paralyzed lower body around. Both guys are young adults. They are wheeliing over the grass - two buds together!
Both of these buddies knows his limits but neither is focusing on the limits of his disability in this sunshine moment. Both are celebrating just hanging out together - an experience made all the sweeter by their shared disability!
Parables are stories told to teach truth. This "parable of disabiity" can teach us all:
- to enjoy all the life we can pack into each moment
- to focus on what we can do rather than on what we can't
- to be willing to give love and support to a brother or sister in need - thinking outside-the-box
- to receive what someone with a different perspective on life can show us
These two friends wheeling across the grass weren't thinking about their limits in that joyous moment. They were celebrating life and friendship. They were showing a better way of handling life's challenges - even the challenge of disability! They gave me something to remember. They unknowingly challenged me to live life with healthy balance. They gave me a whole new way of seeing in their enjoyment of life on that sunny summer afternoon in California!
Monday, November 10, 2008
I got a really great "snap-shot" for an answer this past Sunday.
We always gather for lunch after worship. After we ate and were just sitting talking, our five-year-old twins (sons of one of the pastors) started a game of chase around the tables with Bobby. Three guys running around the tables racing each other doesn't sound so special except that Bobby has no legs. Bobby was racing in his wheelchair - great BIG smile on his face! Nathan and David were running as fast as they could to try to catch up - almost as big smiles on their faces, too! It was fun to watch! It was joy in motion!
O, did I forget to say - Bobby is 32. He was having fun and giving great fun to two little guys who have found a great new friend in Bobby!
At A Restoration Church we intentionally want to provide a loving, joyous, serving church family particularly for individuals and families affected by disability. That's just about all of us in one way or another - disabled, that is! So, together we are learning to be a community of faith and reaching out to others to include them in our joy!
So, I guess that's sort of what a typical Sunday at A Restoration Church "looks like" - It looks like joy in motion! The joy comes from our hearts. We get our joy from Jesus and it is contagious! We'd love for you to come catch some of that joy with us any Sunday!