Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Love and Acceptance for All?

I had a Facebook chat with a friend the other night.  It was a former high school classmate of mine but our friendship goes back further than that.  In fact, if I remember correctly, we met in 5th grade when he moved to our town.  We had lost touch after high school but now, through the magic of Facebook, have reconnected some 20 years later.

I remember back when we were in school, he always claimed he was going to be a politician - or a preacher.  (I'll save the irony of those two vocations being linked for another blog.)  So when we became Facebook friends, naturally I asked him which of those two paths he took.  He answered neither and he had entered the business world.  His reason:  Once he had come to terms with who he was, he realized that a career as a politician or a preacher wasn't possible.  He was a gay man and felt that because of this, neither of his childhood aspirations was possible.

I'm not going to spend the rest of this blog discussing the moral and ethical issues of a gay lifestyle.  It's a topic that most people - for better of for worse - have already decided upon.  What I am going to discuss is people - and how we treat each other.

I remember "talking" with my friend and upon hearing that he didn't realize his childhood dream, feeling my heart break for him.  I felt that again the other night as we were IMing back and forth.  Naturally, the recent news of all of these kids committing suicide because of their sexuality has really struck a chord with my friend.  I had been reading some of his posts where he's been sharing parts of the "It Gets Better" campaign on his wall.  And it got me to thinking.  Then it got me to worrying.  So when I saw him on Facebook, I asked him if life was really that bad for him back in high school.

I remembered him always having friends.  He wasn't unpopular.  And I don't remember people picking on him.  But, as is often the case when we are teenagers, I was caught up in my own little world of drama and didn't see what was really going on.

He was being teased and called names.  He was beaten up.  And worse, he couldn't share any of this with anybody.  None of his friends knew the truth.  His parents didn't know the truth.  He became very adept at pretending to be someone he wasn't.  And it took it's toll on him. 

As he shared some of his experiences with me, my heart broke again and my eyes filled with tears.  To discover that one of my friends had endured horrible things was awful.  What was worse was to realize that, not only did I do nothing about it, I didn't even know it was happening.

This is not about gay or straight.  It's about how we treat people.  As Christians, we are called to love our neighbors as ourselves.  As decent human beings, we need to treat people with respect.  Nobody should have to endure being tormented and tortured by others for any reason.  Nobody deserves to be looked down upon because we perceive them as different.

I wish this behavior could be chalked up to ignorant teenage angst.  But it can't be.  We can be just as bad as adults as when we were kids.  If someone is of a different religion, a different political party, a different sexual orientation, a different ethnic background - a different anything - some people feel as if it's alright to disregard them and treat them differently.  It's not.  Shame on us for thinking it is.  And shame on us for doing it!

Everyone deserves to have a place where they are loved and accepted.  If we can't provide that, Heaven help us all.


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Sometimes being a pastor really sucks!

Please understand that I really love what I do!  There are so many rewards to being a pastor that I truly am blessed for being able to serve as people's spiritual leader.

But occasionally something happens when I wish I wasn't a pastor.  Being a pastor, I need to behave in ways that show an example of God to people: If someone sees me behaving in an un-Christian like way, I could be causing them to stumble and I don't want that.  But occasionally I would like to show the Sodom and Gomorrah side of God!  Here's what I mean.

I had to return a purchase to a store.  I turned into the parking lot to find a place to park my minivan.  You see, I'm still in the soccer mom phase of life and have to haul my kids, their friends and all of their stuff from place to place. 

I pulled into a stall that was a tight squeeze.  On one side was a huge truck with those tires that lift the vehicle about 50 feet off of the ground and the other side was one of those smart cars.  The smart car hadn't pulled in straight and the driver's side tires were on the dividing line.  I pulled in and had to back up to straighten my car around so I would be in the center of the stall.  It was a tight fit but I managed to get in the stall.

I got out and went to the passenger side of my van to retrieve the item to return when the window of the smart car went down and a woman - holding a venti size Starbucks cup - started chewing me out.  "Do you know that you almost hit me?!  Do you know how close you came?!  Do you know where the front end of you car was?! I was scared you were going to hit me!"

Now I admit, I probably did come close to her car.  But there was no need to overreact like she did.  I apologized to her and told her that yes, I did know where the front end of my car was.  That obviously wasn't enough to appease her because she continued to go on and on about my skills.  And after I went into the store, I saw her get out of her car and examine her car as if I might have actually hit it without her being able to feel or see it.

Immediately I began to think of everything I could have said to her.  I believe that we need to be good stewards of our planet and need to take care of it.  However, smart cars are glorified golf carts and I'm not completely convinced they need to be on the road with other cars.  Regardless of this, if someone driving one isn't able to park this tiny thing squarely in a parking space, perhaps they are the one with the driving issue.  I could have pointed the fact out to her that had she not been parked on the line, there wouldn't have been an issue.

I could have told her that while she was waiting to go into the craft store to get her supplies for a day of scrap booking or card making or jewelery designing, I was on my way to hold the hand of a man as he died and help his family plan a memorial service.  While she was sipping her venti white chocolate macchiato, I would be dealing with the resignation of the church organist.  While she thought all of her daily activities were so important, they paled in comparison with what I had on my to-do list for the day.

I could have really overturned the tables of her temple just as Jesus did with the money changers!

But I didn't.  Instead, I meekly accepted her rant, apologized and left.  Because this is the example the Christ showed us.

I've often wondered if the humanity of Jesus made him want to react differently.  Did he ever want to say to people, "Look.  You need to get out of my face.  Or else I'm going to prove that 'to dust you shall return' thing to be true."

He never did, though.  He allowed people to mock him, to spit upon him and to hit him all the way to Calvary.  He showed us the ultimate example of how to love people by not fighting back.  That is his challenge to us.

Now if I could just find a substitute for a smart car!


Friday, August 20, 2010

Oh Sh*t!

When my son was two years old, his favorite movie was "The Sandlot."  If you aren't familiar with it the movie tells the story of a group of boys who play baseball in an open field - the sandlot.  The main character - Smalls - is the new kid on the block and isn't very athletically inclined.  In fact, he doesn't know a lot about sports.  He doesn't even know who Babe Ruth is!

The end of the sandlot butts up against a junk yard - complete with its own junk yard dog whom everyone refers to as the beast.  The boys regularly lose baseballs that are hit over the wall of the junk yard and cannot be retrieved because of the beast. 

One day as the boys lose their last baseball, Smalls volunteers to run home and get another ball.  The only problem is that the ball is from his step father's sports collection and it has been signed by Babe Ruth. 

Of course, this ball is hit over the wall of the junk yard and when the boys discover that it is a Babe Ruth ball they devise all kinds of plans to get the ball back.  But none of them work.  Finally, one boy from the team decides he will hop the fence and get the ball back.  He manages to do this but the beast decides to chase him.  The boy manages to get back over the fence but the dog jumps over the fence, too.  When Benny sees this he says, "Oh sh*t!" 

This scene contains the one and only bad word in the movie.  And it is the one and only word that my son decided to repeat from the movie - and at two years old, no less.  He would reenact the scene from the movie for anyone who would watch, proudly saying "Oh sh*t!"  The rest of the movie was filled with all kinds of funny and witty lines.  But my son concentrated on the one bad one.

We sometimes are guilty of the same thing.  There are so many good and wonderful and pleasant things that happen to us and around us.  Yet we can choose to concentrate on the few bad things - the one naughty word so to speak.  We focus on the sh . . .  er, the nasty things instead of the good ones.

Let's try to focus on the good things instead of the bad.  Sure, bad things are going to happen.  But we don't have to dwell on them.  Focusing on the blessings helps us to be thankful for what we have. And we have a lot more to be thankful for than we do to be sad about.


Thursday, July 29, 2010

Are you there, Margaret? It's me, God. (Sermon July 25, 2010)

Our Scripture comes from the book of Revelation. Now some people hear that and go “ugh.” Revelation is one of those books that can be hard to interpret. This vision that John received – is it real? Is it not? Did he maybe just have bad Chinese the night before and have a really weird dream?

Regardless of your feelings on the book of Revelation the words that are contained within do speak to us. I will be reading from Revelation 3:15-22.

“I know your works; you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I am about to spit you out of my mouth. For you say, ‘I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing.’ You do not realize that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind and naked. Therefore, I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire so that you may be rich; and white robes to clothe you and to keep the shame of your nakedness from being seen; and salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see. I reprove and discipline those whom I love. Be earnest, therefore, and repent. Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me. To the one who conquers I will give a place with me on my throne, just as I myself conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.”

There are at least 8-10 sermons in these 7 verses that I just read. But today we’re going to focus on about 8 words. “Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying.”

I think I mentioned in one of my sermons earlier this year that when I have my next birthday, it’s going to be a big one. I hit the big 4-0 this year. But anyone woman who is around my age, probably read a book. It was almost a rite of passage for some of us. It’s by author Judy Blume and the book is titled “Are you there God? It’s me Margaret.” It’s really funny. I went to purchase the book at Barnes and Noble and when I found it I thought to myself I remember it being a lot thicker than one-half inch and 150 pages. I reread it in an afternoon. And it took me back. The first time I read it I was in the 4th grade and a few of my girl friends and I had a pact. There was a boy in our class who was determined to read this book. And at 10 years old we didn’t think he had any business reading it. So when one of us finished, another one of us checked it out so he didn’t have the opportunity to read what we thought was inappropriate for a 10 year old boy to be reading. Oh, the things that are important to 10 year girls. Anyway, I digress.

Margaret is an 11 year old girl. And she is in the process of discovering who she is. She’s becoming a young woman and she is lamenting over parts of her body that she thinks are too big. She’s lamenting over parts of her body she thinks are too small. And she’s not an avid church-goer. He father is Jewish, her mother is catholic and they don’t go anywhere. They’ve decided that when Margaret is older, she can decide what she wants to become as far as her religious affiliation. The one thing, though – Margaret does pray and she prays quite often.  She always begins her prayers with this phrase. “Are you there, God? It’s Me, Margaret.”

Now some of the prayers are the prayers of an 11 year old girl. She’s getting ready to attend her first school dance and she feels a need to pray. This is her prayer.

Are you there God? It’s me, Margaret. I can’t wait until two o’clock, God. That’s when our dance starts. Do you think I’ll get Philip Leroy for a partner? It’s not so much that I like him as a person God, but as a boy he’s very handsome. And I’d love to dance with him…just once or twice. Thank you, God.

But some of her prayers are quite profound for an 11 year old girl. Margaret has decided that it’s time to discover who she is spiritually. So she has started visiting different churches with her girl friends. After come home from one church service, she prays,

Are you there, God? It’s me, Margaret. I’ve been to church. I didn’t feel anything special in there God. Even though I wanted to. I’m sure it has nothing to do with you. Next time I’ll try harder.

She visits another church with another church with another friend and prays this:

Are you there, God? It’s me, Margaret. I just came home from church. I love the choir – the songs were so beautiful. [Huh! She came to our church!] Still, I didn’t really feel you God. I’m more confused than ever. I’m trying hard to understand but I wish you’d help me a little.

Are you there, God? It’s me, Margaret.

I wonder if God ever feels this way about us. Does God ever say, “Are you there, Amy? It’s me, God” I think perhaps He does. Because often times, we aren’t listening for Him.

Now we all have our stories and our differences of definition on what hearing and listening in. For instance, wives, can you relate with me? You’re talking to your husband telling him all kinds of important things that need to be taken care of and things that must be done and about half way through your spiel he goes, “Huh?” He’s hearing you but he’s not listening to what you’re saying.

Men, now I’m sorry. I don’t have the male experience to relate to – I’m a woman. I can only relate at a wife and a mother. Moms – how many of you can relate to this? You know when you hear your kids fighting what you can ignore. You hear the ruckus in the background. But immediately you know when to listen. You know when the cry or that scream means something is wrong! We’re hearing what is going on but we listen to what we have to.

I wonder what our excuse is for not listening to God. As I was thinking about this, I came up with several different reasons. The first is very simple - I don’t want to listen to God. “God, I’ve given you years of my service. I’ve done all of this stuff for your glory and your kingdom. And I don’t want to do anymore so I’m not going to listen to you anymore.” It’s almost a form of Christian retirement.

A couple of weeks ago, I shared with you in the report from annual conference that we heard from Adam Hamilton. He has everything from 2 day olds to 90 year olds in his congregation. And he regularly preaches to them that Christian retirement occurs when you die. Until then, keep working!

Take for example Mother Theresa. When I say the name, you immediately get a picture in your mind – I hope – of this little Catholic nun with her blue habit - a very frail looking woman who spent 69 out of her 87 years ministering to people. She began her ministry when she was 18 years old and she did not stop until she died. Even the weeks leading up to her death when she was weak and sick, she was still entertaining people. She was still mentoring them and helping them up until the final days of her life.

Now you might be sitting there saying, “Yeah Amy, that’s great! I ain’t no Mother Theresa!” I would respond, “Yes, you are!” You have your streets of Calcutta somewhere in your life. You have a calling that you were meant to do. There is something God is calling you do to.

One of the favorite shows that our family watches is “Clean House.” It’s a group of four people who go into a house that is just nasty with clutter and filth and dirt. They go in and they clean it and organize it. One of the reasons I watch the show is that I am able to look at the houses on TV then look around my own house and say, “I’m not doing such a bad job!” It’s a real morale boost for me.

The show gets rid of all the stuff in the house by having a huge yard sale and the families always balk at having to give up their things. The host of the show has a saying that goes like this: When your hand is open to giving something up, it is open to receive something even better.

When your hands are open and willing to do something for the Kingdom, they are open to receive wonderful blessings from God.

Maybe we need to start listening more.

Another reason people don’t listen to God is we’re scared to. He might ask us to do something that we don’t want to do. Luke 18 contains the story of Jesus’ encounter with a rich young man. You might be familiar with the story. It says,

A certain ruler asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments” You shall not commit adultery: You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness: honor your father and mother.” He replied, “I have kept all these since my youth.” When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “There is still one thing lacking. Sell all that you own and distribute the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” But when he heard this, he became sad; for he was very rich.                                           Luke 18:18-22

The ruler didn’t want to do what God was telling him to do.

There’s another Biblical story about someone who heard God’s call and said, “No, I’m not going to do that.” His name was Jonah. God tells the Old Testament prophet, “I want you to go down to Nineveh and deliver my message of repentence to the Ninevites.” And Jonah said, “Huh-uh” and went and boarded a boat to Tarshish. What happened to Jonah for disobeying? He became whale food and spent a few days in the belly of whale. He didn’t want to go Nineveh. But he ended up going.

To really drive home the point, I want to remind you of an occurance in the final hours of Jesus’ life. Matthew 26:39 says this:

And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayer, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me.”

In just an hour or so, Roman soldiers were going to be there to arrest Jesus to take him to be crucified. Are we lucky that he listened to the call of his father?

Another reason we might not want to listen to God is that we’re scared He’s going to ask us something we don’t know how to do.

Jesus had just learned that his cousin, John the Baptist had been beheaded and he went off by himself to grieve. He had lost not only a cousin but a beloved friend as well. But as so often was the case with Jesus, he went to be by himself and the crowds followed him. “Jesus, heal me.” “Jesus, do this for me.” “Jesus, please I need your help.” And he had compassion on them, even in the midst of his own grief and continued healing them and continued teaching them.

Supper time came along and the disciples tried to make everyone leave so that they could eat. But Jesus rebuked the disciples and said, “Give them something to eat.” The disciples said, “Um, how? We have 5 loaves and 2 fish. How are we going to feed them? There’s got to be 5,000 people out there!” And Jesus said, “Give them something to eat.”

They started to feed the crowd and everyone ate until they were satisfied and there were 12 baskets of leftovers. God makes a way where there is no way. If you don’t know how to do something, He will tell you how to do it – show you how to do it.

Take for example, Moses. He’s out in the field one day tending the sheep and all of a sudden a bush starts burning. He goes to check it out and this bush starts telling him, “I’m going to send you to Pharaoh to bring my people out of Egypt.”

What does Moses do? Well, he doesn’t say, “Let me go home and pack.” He tries to get out of it. He says, “Pharaoh is going to ask me questions that I don’t know how to answer. Well, OK you’re going to give me the answers, but these people aren’t going to believe me. Well, OK you’ll send signs and miracles and plagues to help convince them that I’m telling the truth, but I can’t speak well. You know I stutter. Send someone else.”

But God didn’t send someone else. He showed Moses how to do it – how to fulfill the call he had be given.

Finally, I think one of the reasons we don’t listen to God is that we don’t know how to listen to God. I’ve been on this ordination process for three years now. The end is in sight. But every committee that I’ve come up against, every group that I’ve had to pass inspection with, always asks this question: “Tell us about your calling.”

I’ve often wished that my calling were a little bit more exciting than it really is. I don’t have an impressive calling like Paul on the road to Damascus. I wasn’t struck down blind. And it can be a problem to say, “Well, you know, I just kind of fell into ministry because I didn’t want to go teach music in Fredonia, Kansas.” That doesn’t tend to go over very well. But what I’ve learned in these three years is the Paul on the road to Damascus experience is not the normal form of a calling – it’s unique. The norm is a still, small voice. In the Greek, it’s actually called silence: Listen for God in the silence. The norm are those little, random thoughts that pop into your head that won’t go away, those feelings that there is something you need to be doing. That’s God calling you. Are you listening?

The issue is in our busy, crazy, techno-crazed world, we don’t’ know how to listen for that still small voice. First, we aren’t still long enough. I’m not talking about periods where we sit and veg out and do nothing. I’m talking about specific, intentional periods of inactivity where we are diligently seeking an encounter with God – where we have the opportunity to hear his voice. Second, we aren’t satisfied with the dull and mundane. We don’t want the little, nagging feelings and voice. We want the Paul on the road to Damascus experience to be convinced that it really is God talking to us.

Today, we’re going to take an opportunity to listen to God. I invite you to sit and be still – not just a period of inactivity but a period where you are intentionally seeking an encounter with God.

This can be hard. We’ve been taught that if we just sit and do nothing, we’re lazy – a bum. That’s what our world has taught us. That’s not what Christ has taught us. Listen for what God is saying - what He wants you to do.

Maybe he’s already told you and like Jonah, you’re trying to avoid it. Ask him to help you not avoid it any longer.

Maybe what I’m asking is too much for you to handle right now. That’s OK. Please read the following words of the song “Word of God Speak” by Mercy Me as a prayer. The Holy Spirit wants to meet you here now. Please don’t stand him up. Listen to what he is saying to you.

I'm finding myself at a loss for words
And the funny thing is it's okay
The last thing I need is to be heard
But to hear what You would say

Word of God speak
Would You pour down like rain
Washing my eyes to see
Your majesty
To be still and know
That You're in this place
Please let me stay and rest
In Your holiness
Word of God speak

I'm finding myself in the midst of You
Beyond the music, beyond the noise
All that I need is to be with You
And in the quiet hear Your voice

Word of God speak
Would You pour down like rain
Washing my eyes to see
Your majesty
To be still and know
That You're in this place
Please let me stay and rest
In Your holiness
Word of God speak

I'm finding myself at a loss for words
And the funny thing is it's okay.

I hope you have had an encounter with our risen Lord and Savior. God does want your obedience.  But more than that, He wants your love. I hope you’ve had a chance to show Him your love.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Long & Winding Road

The last time I was in Wilmore, Kentucky attending a class at Asbury, a good friend of mine and I took a walk. We were staying with a professor who rents out extra rooms in his house to Asbury students who come for a week long class. He lives outside of town down a country road.
We started off on our walk and came to something very unusual - the road went underwater! Well, maybe the more accurate way to describe it is that a creek that is usually dry was full and the water running through it came up over the road. It wasn’t very deep. If we had decided to wade across it, the water might have come up to mid-calf level. But we decided to turn around and go the other way so we wouldn’t get our feet wet.

Sometimes our life is like this. We’re walking along with things going pretty smoothly and all of a sudden we come across a stream that we aren’t sure we want to cross. It might not even be a deep stream but we don’t want to get our feet wet. So we turn around and go a different direction.

The next day, my friend took another walk. (I had homework to do) She came to the stream and this time it was river. She decided to wade through it and the water came up to the middle of her thigh. She’s about my height so that gives you an idea of how deep the water was. She told me that before she went through, she prayed, “Lord, tell me what to do.” She heard the answer, “Go slowly and you’ll be just fine.” She ended up wading through the river twice – one time going and one time coming back.

Proverbs 3:5 says Trust the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

Our paths often are not straight – even when we are trusting God. We are going to have twists and turns in our road. We’re going to encounter streams and rivers we must wade through. The road can be anything but a straight shot. That’s not what the verse necessarily means. What it means is that when we trust God we travel the road He wants us to be on – even with all the twists and turns.

So wear a good pair of walking shoes!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Big Brother REALLY is watching!

I have to preface my post with three stories.

1. My maiden name was Sifford. My married name is Seifert. This will be important to remember for the next story.

2.  When Todd and I were first married and heading to St. Cloud, Minnesota my dad co-signed a loan with us for a small Toyota pick up truck.  We had discovered that it probably would be a good idea to have a reliable 4-wheel drive vehicle in an area that receives mounds upon mounds of snow each year.  Upon arriving in Minnesota, the Minnesota Tax Commission required everyone listed on the loan to be on the title of the vehicle.  The similarity of the names (see story #1) caused major issues.  Ultimately, the title was issued like this:

Todd Seifert
Amy Sifford
David Seifert (my dad with my new married name)

3.  My dad passed away in November 1999.

16 years after the messed up title was issued, two cross country moves later and almost 11 years after my dad's death, I receive mail addressed to David Seifert.  This is something that has occurred regularly over the past 16 years.  I have received offers for everything from mobility scooters to invitations to join social organizations to club membership offers.  AARP was so persistent in sending mail to David Seifert - even after I called and requested his name be removed from mailing lists - that I finally called and said that since they seemed intent on him receiving a membership that I would take it and make use of the discounts even though I was only 31 years old!!  The membership invitations stopped.

The latest pamphlet came from a local Utah company telling dad how he can improve the quality of the insulation in MY house .  Keep in mind that I moved to Utah after dad died so he most definitely did not co-sign the loan on this one.  So how in the world does the state of Utah know that David Seifert, er uh, David Sifford even existed?!?!

Quite simply actually.  Somewhere over the past 16 years the Minnesota Tax Commission sold their car title list.  Now that really isn't so surprising.  What is surprising is this.  How in the world is his name associated with me 16 years and two states after it was added to the Minnesota state database and 11 years after his death?  After all, this mail comes addressed to him at my current address in St. George, Utah! 

Did you ever read Orwell's book "1984?"  Remember how we all thought that this would never be possible?  Maybe Orwell was a prophet because it seems like anyone can be tracked down anywhere at any time - even people who don't really exist!

I guess what is really funny about this is this fact: Since David Seifert never really existed, apparently he can't die either.  So in the mean time I guess I will keep watch over the offers he receives at his new home in Utah and, if it's a really good deal, maybe I'll order it.  Maybe since he doesn't really exist he won't have to pay for it either!


Friday, July 2, 2010

It's all a matter of perspective

Many years ago when I was a senior in college, I had to prepare for my senior recital. As a music education major, my senior recital was a requirement for graduation. There were many requirements that had to be met in my recital. It had to be a certain length of time with a certain number of songs. Some of the songs had to be memorized. Needless to say, it was a big deal and there was a lot riding on the successful completion of the recital - mainly, my graduation.

I remember my piano teacher giving me this advice one time when she saw how anxious and stressed I was about my recital. She told me that the human body produces the same chemical - adrenaline - when we are nervous and when we are excited. How we choose to look at it is a matter of perspective. "You can choose to be nervous or you can choose to be excited. Which are you going to choose?"

I think that advice applies to a lot of situations in life. How we choose to look at something determines whether or not it's going to be a pleasurable experience or a miserable one. Unfortunately, I think most people navigate toward the miserable experience. I wonder why we willingly choose to be negative rather than positive.

It seems like I've been surrounded by a lot of change in my life lately. Mention the word change around some people and they immediately stick their fingers in the ears and start repeating, "I'm not listening! I'm not listening! I'm not listening!" Some people don't like change and they will do everything in their power to keep a situation the same - automatically choosing to view the change as negative rather than be excited for the possibilities it can bring.

It's funny how, even when a change is for the best, people still rebel against it. Why are we so sure that a change is going to be a bad thing? Why is it hard for us to look at new possibilities? What if by doing something differently, we do it better? What if by embracing change we find something wonderful?

Changes in life are going to occur no matter what we do to try and stop them. Why make them worse by fighting them so much? Try to find the exciting and new possibilities a change brings with it! You might discover hidden blessings!


Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Let Them Eat Pizza

My husband and I try to have lunch together once a week - a time to get away from the office, (not that I ever want to get away!) be with each other without the kids and reconnect. A couple of weeks ago we went to the Pizza Hut lunch buffet.

We went shortly after the restaurant opened but it was already almost full. There were tow waitresses there who were frantically trying to seat people takedrink orders and keep the pizza and pasta bar filled with food. We sat down near a table which was occupied with two couples. After watching the behavior of these four people I immediately thought to myself that there were so many theological teaching moments that I wouldn't know where to begin! Let me explain.

We had just sat down with a plate of salad when one of the two servers came out with our drinks. I didn't even have a chance to say, "Thank you" before one of the men of this group leaned way out of his seat to ensure the waitress would see him. He raised his almost empty glass and yelled, "I need more Diet Pepsi!" This happened several more times, the most obnoxious occurring when the waitress was all the way across the restaurant and the man had to scream, "DIET PEPSI!"

It was very interesting - and a little sad - to watch this group when the waitresses did manage to bring out more food. This group was sitting very close to the buffet and every time more pizza arrived, they all jumped, up, grabbed a clean plate and proceeded to pile on the pizza - not just a slice or two but four and five slices each. All of the food was taken by these folks before anyone else in the restaurant got a chance to pick up a piece of pepperoni that had fallen off a slice! This scenario happened several times as well. Wouldn't it be nice if people rushed up to the church like that to feast on the word of God? But that's another blog for another time

Often times we fall into the trap of self-absorption. All that matters is what I want - not what I need but what I WANT. It doesn't matter that there is a restaurant full of others who are hungry and desire pizza. I want all the pizza I want and I want it now! You can wait to get yours!

As Christians, we are called to put the needs - and desires - of others above our own. When the disciples asked Christ what was the greatest commandment was he told them, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength. And the second is like this: Love your neighbor as yourself." This means that you wait to have pizza until everyone else has had some. This means that you are willing to give up something that is important to you so that others can experience God's love.

This means you are following Christ's example.

When your hands are open to giving to others, they are also open to receive the blessings God has to offer you. Are your hands open?

In His Love,

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Random? Not a chance!!

Last week I spent a few days in Salt Lake City on church business. I found myself with a day all to myself to do whatever I wanted! In a town like Salt Lake there are so many choices but we tend to navigate to what we like so I ended up at The Gateway - a huge outdoor shopping complex!

The Gateway is home to the Clark Planetarium. I had see an advertisement on tv for the new IMAX movie showing there called Hubble 3D. The movie is about the space shuttle's launch last year to save the Hubble telescope. If this launch was not successful, there would be no more pictures received from Hubble.

The movie was incredible - if you live close to Salt Lake, take the time to go see it. Immediately I was transported via Hubble to places in the galaxy I would never imagined! I found myself heading for Orion's belt. Just below these three stars is Orion's nebula. This nebula is 1500 light years away from Earth. It is in this nebula that stars are born. And each star has the potential to become a universe. I witnessed the death of a star that lived 10 billion light years away from earth. I was informed that there could possibly be 100 billion galaxies across the universe.

As I was watching all of these incredible sights, the thought occured to me. How can anyone look at this, see how everything happens according to an unwritten plan and think that this just randomly happened? Think of the last time that you left something to chance and hoped that it worked out fine. I am the walking definition for Murphy's Law. Things in my life usually go off without a hitch when I follow a plan. If I leave things to chance, they usually don't go well.

If we have to plan our lives to ensure things will work out the way they are supposed to, how can we think that the universe is a bunch of random occurances? There is a plan created by the ultimate Master Planner. And if He can create stars that exist 10 billion lights years away from me, He most certainly can help me take care of my life!


Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Kill the Boy!!!

My poor kids! They are very close to becoming full-fledged "PK's" (preacher's kids.) Actually, they've already become PK's for the most part because quite often I use them or things that have happened to them as examples when I teach and preach. Emily can breathe a sigh of relief because this time, I'm using Josh.

Josh recently earned his Arrow of Light and became a full-fledged Boy Scout. He's quite proud of this achievement. He likes hanging out with the older boys in his troop. So when the troop planned their first camp out with the "new guys" he was very excited! He spent the week making plans for what he needed to take and thinking about what they would do over the course of the weekend. Of course, my heart broke a little bit having to send my baby away for two nights without me but this didn't seem to be of concern to Josh.

I spent the first few hours of his absence missing him. That ended when I walked into his room. The floor was covered with clothes - dirty and clean alike. They were mixed in with toys, books and various other things that were unrecognizable to me. After fully taking in the scene, the first words out of my mouth were ,"I'm going to kill him!"

Thus, the great room cleaning began. Laundry baskets were filled with clothes to be washed. Trash sacks were filled with all kinds of things to be discarded. Drawers were organized. Toys were put into piles for him to decide what would stay, what would be thrown away and what would come to the church rummage sale - all of this being accomplished with my thinking of ways to dispose of a body! (OK, not really but I think you get my point.)

In one of his drawers I found a CD that wasn't labeled with anything. I turned on his boom box so I could put the CD in to find out what was on it. AS it came one, the radio started playing. I braced myself for some really loud, obnoxious music. But I didn't' hear what I was expecting.

Instead, KLOVE started playing. KLOVE is a Christian radio station that is broadcast nationally and plays contemporary Christian music - good music that shares the message about God's love. That is what I'm usually listening to in my car and because my kids have heard the songs so many times there, they know them and sing along. But Josh had it on his own radio in his own room!

Immediately, my heart softened. I forgot about how I wanted to kill him and became proud of him. He had chosen to listen to this station on his own. It was at that moment that I realized that he has been paying attention to everytyhing he's been learning at church all his life.

We never know how what we say or do will affect someone's life and the choices they make. We can affect them positively and help them come to love God or we can affect them negatively and never show them who God truly is. We're not always going to do the right thing. But we can strive to be good sowers of God's love and grace. And just maybe, years from now, you may be surprised at what you reap!

In His Love,

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Awww, poop!

During my devotional time recently, I found myself in Luke 13 where Jesus told the story about the barren fig tree. The tree had remained fruitless for three years and the owner was ready to chop it down. The gardener who cared for the tree talked him into waiting for a year before getting rid of it. The gardener promised to put manure around the tree. We all know what the purpose of that was - to fertilize the tree and make it grow.

I grew up in Kansas and would sometimes go with my dad to his brother's farm. One time while I was there, I wasn't looking where I stepped and - you guessed it - planted my foot in a recently placed deposit left by one of my uncle's cows. It was a mess! And the smell was horrible!

Manure is nasty. It stinks. And when you consider where it comes from, it's no wonder that we don't want to have anything to do with it. And yet, it can help trees and plants to grow.

I have been leading a book study with a group of ladies on Monday evenings. We recently discussed how God does not want or intend for us to remain stagnant. He wants us to grow - to develop into the people He desires us to be. In order to grow, we have to be fertilized.

Sometimes it seems that we have bag after bag of manure dumped upon us. We have to deal with complicated relationships, financial struggles, health issues - the list can go on and on. We are being fertilized when this happens. It's not very pleasant to have it dumped on us but the end result will be a bigger, stronger plant - or person, rather.

You might have seen the bumper sticker that has been around for years. I won't quote it exactly but is says something to the effect that poop happens. And we all know it does. And it happens to all of us. Choose to view it as fertilizer rather than a disgusting substance. And know that God, the master gardener, is helping you to grow stronger!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The only thing that is constant is change

We humans are such creatures of habit! I know I am. I have my routines and I keep them. There's my morning routine. Wake up, read my Bible, do my devotion, and have my prayer time. Then I shower, do my hair, brush my teeth, do my make-up, get the kids off to school, have my orange juice and go to the office. Even my weekend routine doesn't vary much. School is replaced with sporting events or church but other than that, it's pretty much the same.

Then, there's my early morning office routine. I come in and turn on the computer. Check my email, return emails, update the church's Facebook page and start in on the list of daily tasks to accomplish.

Routines are good. They ensure that we accomplish what we need to and that we do so correctly. And they provide comfort - a sense of knowing what we need to do and how we're going to do it.

But with comfort sometimes comes complacency. We get so used to doing what we've always done that we don't stop to think that there may be another - a better - way of doing it. We're afraid to leave our comfortable place - and so we don't. Ever! And that's not a good thing.

I had a conversation with a lady who is taking a class I teach at church. She was confused by a Bible verse she had read. It was Proverbs 25:2 which says, "It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out." She wasn't sure what that meant.

It means that we are not created to remain the same. We are to search, to explore, to grow. God does not intend for us to remain stagnant. He wants us to change because through that change, we come closer to being the creation He intends for us to be.

I encourage you to be open to the changes God places before you. Don't be afraid to leave the comfort of the familiar. There is a saying that goes: When you come to the edge of all the light you have known and are about to step out into the darkness, FAITH is knowing one of two things will happen . . . There will be something to stand on or you will be taught how to fly. Trust that God will provide either way and you will be changed for the better. And be richly blessed!

In Him,

Thursday, February 4, 2010

What goes around - comes around.

I just finished reading the blog of one my husband's employees. She has an adorable 6 month old baby girl. I've seen her twice - at Walmart which tells you something about the extent of my social life. Both times I've been told how good of a baby she is. And how she sleeps through the night. Well, it seems as if those days are gone!

Now that their daughter has figured out how to "break" her swaddle, she wakes herself up. And she's not happy when she does. Her mother's blog post is asking for advice to prevent this.

So what do I do after reading her blog? Come up with different ideas for her to try? Give her suggestions based upon my experience? No. Instead I begin laughing hysterically, thinking mean things and saying, "Ha! Now you get yours!!!"

Don't get me wrong - I don't have it out for this woman. In fact, I really, really like her! But I had to pay my dues and every other mother should have to pay hers, right?

Perhaps I'm bitter because I DIDN'T have a first baby who slept through the night. My daughter didn't have a problem with sleep. She just had a problem with sleeping by herself. She wouldn't sleep unless she was held. If we put her down, she immediately woke up and started wailing. When we first brought her home from the hospital our sleeping schedule went like this. I would stay up until 1 am, letting her sleep on my chest or stomach, until my husband got home from his job at the newspaper. He would take over at that point and stay up with her until around 4:30 am when my mother, who stayed with us for two weeks, got up and started her shift.

I wish I could say that things got better as she got older. I can't. This girl had to be rocked to sleep every night until she was 3 years old. Never mind the fact that I was hugely pregnant with her brother and she could barely fit on my lap. Each night we would rock until she fell asleep and then I would place her gently in her crib while muttering the prayer, "Please stay asleep! Please stay asleep!"

Which brings me back to the question of how to respond to this mother's question? The mean, evil-spirited side of me says, "Suck it up, Lisa! Everyone else had to!" However, I guess my best advice is this: Do whatever you have to do to get her to sleep and patiently wait until she becomes a teenager and you won't be able to wake her up!


Thursday, January 28, 2010

Put me in coach - I'm ready to play.

My son Josh has a baseball tournament this weekend. He's a pitcher and he's pretty good - and that's not all a proud mom talking. Because of his Cub Scout Pinewood Derby, he wasn't going to be able to attend baseball practice tonight. His dad wanted him to do some throwing before the derby and was planning to come home from work early enough to play a game of catch before scouts. He called me to tell me to have Josh ready to throw when he got home.

"Wait a minute!" I said. "I can throw with Josh."

"Are you sure?" my husband asked. "He can really zing it and he needs to zing it to practice."

Was he challenging my athletic abilities?! Just because I'm a music geek doesn't mean I don't know how to throw and catch a baseball! I mean, come on!!

"Yes, I'm sure."


When Josh got home from school I told him that he and I were going to go outside and throw the ball. He looked at me like he didn't understand what I was saying. I assured him that I did indeed, know how to throw and catch a ball. He didn't look like he believed me.

We went out to the garage to get our gloves - yes, OUR gloves! I have the glove that I used when I played t-ball and soft ball when I was a kid. My official George Brett signed glove! (I'm dating myself here.) Josh grabbed a ball and proceeded to gently toss it to me. I zinged it back to him. Surprise #1 for Josh. "Oh my gosh! My mom really can throw a ball."

After several more gentle throws, I stopped the game to reassure Josh that I would be able to catch the ball if he threw it harder. He lobbed it a bit harder. Surprise #2 for Josh. "Oh my gosh! My mom really can catch a ball."

Our game continued for about 30 minutes - long enough to loosen his arm up some. As we were finishing I told Josh, "OK. These last few throw like you are pitching in a game."

Surprise #1 for Mom. "Oh my gosh! He throws really HARD!! He's only 10! He doesn't look that strong!!"

For the record, I caught all four of the pitches he threw. And my hand only strung for an hour afterward.


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Jury Duty

I wonder if it's coincidence that the day after I decide to start a blog, I receive a jury duty summons. This is way too good to pass up the opportunity to blog.

Now, I know it's everyone's civic duty to report for jury duty. The judicial system is crucial to our American way of life. Everyone is innocent until proven guilty and has a right to a trial by peers - ya da ya da ya da. The fact that I've made it 30 years since officially becoming an "adult" and have not been called to report for jury duty before now is, within itself, a minor miracle - or major miracle. I guess I should be honored that the computer generated my name from all of the hundreds it has to choose from. I'm not!

When I pulled the pink card from the stack of mail and read that I needed to report, I immediately began thinking of every possible reason why I should not have received the card in the first place. Reason #1 - did they not look at the last name? Hello! Surely, the spouse of the editor of the local paper would not be a good person for the jury pool. I might be privy to inside information on cases that was shared off the record with reporters. I'm not - but I could be!

Reason #2 - One of the judges in town and I are acquaintenances. His daughter and mine play on the same basketball team. I see him every weekend. He has his big, black judges robe - I have my big, black clergy robe. Surely, this should eliminate me from the jury pool.

Reason #3 - I JUST DON'T WANT TO DO IT!!! And of course, it's all about what I want! Oh wait, maybe it's not.

My dad always told me that there are two sure ways to be eliminated from a jury pool. The first is to say, "Excuse me," "Say again," or "huh?" and ask the attornies to repeat the question thereby feigning deafness. (My sincerest apologies to my deaf friends! And also to my attorney friends!) The other is to take a look at the defendent, scowl and say, "That dirty so-and-so looks guilty to me." I can't vouch for either of these tactics, since I've never been called, but he swore by them. I guess spending 25 years working for the federal government in the military prison at Fort Leavenworth taught him a thing or two!

So here I sit brooding and and cursing the little pink card until a week from Thursday when I make my phone call to see if I have to report on Friday morning. I know full well that the probability of my having to report are slim and, even if I do, I'll probably go and sit at the courthouse for a while only to be told "Thanks, but we don't need your services." So, perhaps I should stop feeling sorry for myself and concentrate on more important things. Like having to have my driver's license renewed!


Monday, January 25, 2010

The start of something new

With the start of a new year and a new decade, I've decided to expand my venture into all things technological and create a blog! I'm not sure how good I'm going to be at this, but it is my hope that this will be a place to dialogue about all kinds of things - church, community, family.

Thanks for coming along for the ride! We'll see where we end up.