Tuesday, February 21, 2012

2012? Wow!

Well, I'm just going to jump right in here.  I cannot believe it is 2012!  And, it is already Mardi Gras 2012! 
I just want to give God a big High Five Praise - I met with the oncologist today and I am 10 years NED (No Evidence of Disease) which is pretty miraculous!  CK is doing great - he's 4 1/2 going on 40, talking up a storm and doing some crazy "boy things" that make Momma cringe, but ... I love it! :)
More later!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Lifelines - Everybody need them! #2

As I explained in my previous post, Pastor Mike is doing a series on lifelines. Great stuff. You can check it out at StoneBridge if you want to hear him "in person" via podcast. I don't think this series is online yet, but it should be very soon!

Today's message revolved around James 1:2-8, 12. For those who don't have the whole Bible memorized (in other words, if you're like me) here is the passage, courtesy of BibleGateway:

"2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. 6 But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.

12 Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.

The title "The Truth About Troubles" is quite accurate! As we know, troubles are a very real part of life. Anyone who says that he has no troubles or has never had any troubles in life is either lying or seriously delusional! However, your ATTITUDE throughout the troubles is what matters most! So, did James actually count (consider) trials a JOY? Come on, you gotta be kidding! I don't think so! He isn't saying "enjoy" trials but that we should be thankful for what the trials do for us and that our attitudes throughout them need to be born of that thankful spirit. Think about this for a minute. What choices do we have when facing troubles? We can get mad about them, we can resent them, we can feel depressed by them, we can fear them and their consequences or we can turn to drugs or alcohol to try to deaden our feelings toward them. But, in all honesty, does this make the trouble go away? Mostly, these types of choices just create another problem somewhere down the road. God's purpose is not to make us BITTER, but to make us BETTER! (Pastor Mike's words, not mine)

Example? A wonderful lady in our church was diagnosed with MS, Multiple Sclerosis, about ten years ago. When she was in the hospital, with another woman with MS, a nurse asked them both how they dealt with this disease that was taking control of their bodies. The first one responded "drugs". My friend said "God". It's a choice.

Reread that passage again, and you will see that James, Jesus' brother, is saying that these troubles are to develop your perseverance. He calls it a "testing of your faith". Perseverance or endurance must be developed in order for us to mature, to be a completed work. If it were not for trials, how would we ever really know what is good? Trials deepen our faith, strengthen our roots in our own beliefs and generally make us stronger people. Pastor Mike talked about the "Eden Project" in Cornwall, England. A group of scientists basically set out to recreate the Garden of Eden. Everything seemed to be going well until the trees started to droop. Experts were called in and it was determined that, although the climate was nearly perfect, one thing was lacking: wind. The trees needed wind in order to cause their roots to grow deep enough into the soil to sustain themselves. I think we do too! God wants to deepen our dependence on Him! But, we must BELIEVE that He is there for us, that He really does have our backs, so to speak! He does not want to see any of us destroyed, not one of us! Check out this video Mike showed and imagine yourself as that little bear! Baby Bear Video

Okay, so God is the big bear, always backing us up! But, we have to act like we know it! :) Do you know the lyrics to the Matt Redman song "You never let go"? They sum it all up in that God never lets go of us, even if we let go of Him. Through all of the storms, all of the troubles, God is there! And, the rewards are real. They are not always immediate, but they ARE real! Once again, though, verse 12 reminds us that although He would prefer that no one perish, the real rewards are only "for those who love Him". I know, that sounds harsh, but He has done everything for us to prove His love. He only expects that we return that Love to Him.

An example of persevering through unspeakable trial? A woman in our congregation shared a family tribulation, one that will undoubtedly pale through my retelling, but I will try. Her 15 year-old daughter was out on a cold January night with friends from the swim team. She had been swimming since she was about 9 years old and now in high school was still competing. Upon arriving home, she and her husband were greeted in their driveway by a police officer, holding their daughter's driver's permit. She had been in a terrible accident and was in the ICU at the hospital. The parents were told to "go there immediately". Here's what they learned. Their daughter had been in the back of a Camaro when it was rear-ended, at 40-45 mph, by a much larger vehicle and her two friends were so shocked by the incident that they did not realize that she was not with them when they were getting in the ambulance. One of the girls insisted that someone get her purse (typical girl!) from the car and when the rescue worker did, he saw legs sticking out from the crumpled, mangled back end. It took more than twenty minutes to extricate her. The tow truck crew had already started to put the car up! Remember, this is mid-January in Missouri. Brr. Oh, I forgot to mention that the rescue workers weren't actually called to the scene. They happened to be on the way back to the station from another call when they "happened" on the accident.

The girl's injuries were severe, they learned. She had seven pelvic fractures, internal bleeding and something else, which of course, I can't remember now! She was in a coma, on life support, including a breathing tube. The doctor's were amazed by the size of her lungs, from swimming, and said that the increased size had kept oxygen going to her brain whereas normal sized lungs would not have been able to. GO SWIMMERS! Mom and Dad were basically told that they should begin searching for a state facility because she would never recover, never walk or overcome her "vegetative state". Mom said "You don't know my daughter and you don't know my God". Mom hung on to God's promises and family and friends were praying and lifting them up! After convincing the doctors to give her just 24 more hours before removing the breathing tubes and doing a tracheotomy (tube through the throat), Mom went into her daughter's room, only to find all breathing tubes removed. When she asked where they were her "comatose" daughter picked them up and waved them around. She had removed them herself! Yes, she really was still in a coma but heard enough to respond!

It was not all pretty and the now 21 year-old still has some issues, such as no feeling in one of her legs, but she is surviving in more than a vegetative state! And definitely not in a state institution! Thank goodness the mother had enough faith and courage to wait it out and see what our God had planned! Honestly, I am not so sure I would have had the intestinal fortitude to stand up to a doctor! I hope that I would hear God's voice louder than the doctor's anyway!

In the end, it comes down to this: how are you going to respond to life's troubles? Do you have a lifeline to grab hold of? Are you already holding fast to it, even if the waters are calm? What is holding the other end of your lifeline? Is it the big unbeatable bear or is it something that is going to give way? If you aren't already holding on for dear life to God, may I suggest you reach out right now? Remember Peter, who believed that he could walk on water, and did until he took his eyes off of Jesus? He didn't say "Hey guys, throw me something!" All he said was "Lord, save me." and Jesus reached out His hand! Matthew 14:29-31


Sunday, July 18, 2010

Lifelines ... Everybody needs 'em!

Pastor Mike has started a new series called "LifeSavers" at SBCC (StoneBridge Community Church) and it's going to be a great one! The question today is: When the storms blow through (your life) where do you turn?

Two women from our congregation shared of times in their lives when the verse Romans 8:28 was a lifeline for them. For anyone who doesn't quote scripture and verse (that is, anyone else out there like ME!), the verse reads: "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose." I realize that a lot of Christians will throw this verse at you when something bad happens as if it makes it all better. It doesn't. That's not the point. As a matter of fact, one of the points Pastor Mike made was that "life happens" to everyone ... good stuff happens to bad people as well as good people and indifferent people ... and so does bad stuff. So, the question is, what do you do when the bad stuff happens to YOU? What do YOU hold on to? What is YOUR lifeline? For these women, the lifeline was holding on to the promise that God can and WILL use our life's happenings "for the good of those who love Him". Now, if you read that carefully, you'll understand that it does not say for the person experiencing the storm. So, I can totally see where non-believers or even believers might find this a bit annoying at first. The hard part is actually looking for, finding and accepting the "good" as well the idea that we may never see that good this side of life. But I digress. This is, as Mike says, one of the "lies" that you must recognize. As Christians, we must remember that Jesus died that we might have eternal life (after our physical death or when He returns), NOT so that we may live a comfortable life without pain.

The first woman shared a time in her life when this verse held her together. She had divorced from an unhealthy marriage, had three children to take care of and finally met a wonderful man. Shortly after they were married they found out that he was diagnosed with cancer. The short version ... he died. Not a happy ending. Why, after finally meeting someone who could make her happy did he have to die? She held on to this verse as a lifeline to keep her from sinking. Life has not been easy for her since then. But, I can tell you personally, that she has been a constant inspiration in my life and that she has an incredible, positive impact on the children that she works with at church! Her life experiences make her the person she is, and how she deals with those experiences are an example for others to follow. Like most of us, someone else is watching us to see what we do in any and every situation. Whom are you watching? And just as importantly, who is watching you?

So, what is it that makes us different? It is our perspective on "pain" and on "the good life". When pain and suffering come, which they most assuredly do, what is our perspective on it? The apostle, Paul wrote that any pain we suffer is dwarfed into miniscule proportion compared to the glory that will be revealed in us (Romans 8:18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.) Jesus didn't die for us to have the "American Dream" so what exactly are the good things that we can expect? I think that this is a difficult answer to swallow, especially in our "get it now" immediate gratification society. The good thing(s) that we can expect, that we are promised is that nothing can separate us from Him. What good is it to have all of the material good things that we keep striving to own and to achieve if, in the end, we do not have eternal life, but eternal damnation. His forgiveness of our sins is the ultimate good thing that we can expect in return for the pain we have here on this earth. He has justified us, made us not guilty, by His pain and suffering on the cross. Our sins are erased, like an Etch-a-sketch drawing (Mike's illustration, not mine). You still have to shake that toy to get the drawing to go away, but it is erased, permanently.

Now, this is not for everyone. There is a condition to this, which is found at the end of 8:28. It is for those who love Him and have been called to His purpose. So, the next question is where is your purpose? Where do you find your treasure? If your heart is where your treasure is, then you will be seeking your treasure. In other words, what are your goals and where are they leading you? I found this to be an interesting, even toe-stepping-on, question. What is my goal? In what am I investing my time and energy? It is easy to say my family, my son, my husband, my job and that these things are all God-given and glorifying to Him. And this is true, but, in reality, am I doing this for Him or for me? What do I expect to get out of it? Is Jesus really my treasure or am I pursuing the American dream with a Christian flair? Of course, to those who don't believe, does it matter? If Jesus isn't the One, true God, then what is the purpose of life? If this is all there is, then you may as well do as you please. That is not my belief. If it is yours, I ask you to consider the Christian viewpoint. I think I would rather believe in Jesus to find out that I was wrong than to not believe and find out I was wrong!

Sorry, back to the issue of problems and pain and suffering in the world and in our lives. God does not waste our troubles. He uses them for His good. What exactly is that? It is that we should be conformed into the image of Jesus. My troubles may not make me more like Jesus. But my reactions to them may help someone else be more like him. I don't know about you, but I don't necessarily like the idea of conforming. Sometimes it is good, but generally speaking, I like to think that I am myself, unique and sort of non-conformist, so the idea of being "conformed", while great when speaking "Christianese" is less than palatable. However, if you really look at this, the idea is like metamorphasis; being morphed into the image of Christ. I like that a whole lot more!

The final word-picture that Pastor Mike used was incredibly eye-opening, if you'll pardon the pun (you'll get it later). Have you ever seen Extreme Home Makeover? You know the moment when they bring the homeowners back in, blindfolded and then reveal the great new home? Well, when we, as believers, finally meet our Maker, His glory will be revealed to us. If the new homeowners are awed by what has been refinished in their homes, how much more will we be awed by our own refinishing? When our blindfolds are removed, we will see everything as God wants us to see it! We will have new bodies, no pain, no sin, none of the pain and suffering, none of the troubles that we have on this earth! We have no idea what splendor awaits us!

The moral? Hang in there. Don't bail out now. There is hope, in Jesus, even if it is on the other side of this life. When the storms of this life blow in, where will YOU turn?

Want to know more about StoneBridge? Visit at www.Sstonebridgedp.org You can listen to podcasts of Pastor Mike's sermons there too! :)

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Introductions - Thank a teacher

Hello. Tonight is just a short blog to say hi and to give you just a bit about myself. I am a public school educator in St. Louis, MO. I've been in the field for more than 20 years, in the same district. I have to be honest with you, I am tired. I am tired of being a teacher. Don't get me wrong - I love teaching! I love my students and the time I spend with them. Well, most of the time I spend with them. I have, however, noticed some alarming changes and trends in the students and the American education system over the years. What is scary is that it's not just me. My spouse is teacher; my friends are teachers; my sister is a teacher. Some of us have more experience than others. Some have more than 30, some fewer than 5, but we are all seeing the same disturbing, detrimental trends and signs, causing most of us to want to walk away, run flee ... head for the hills! Yes, sometimes we just think we're getting older and embittered, but that's not really it. We are the ones who are in it for the kids. Obviously, not for the money! ;) I wonder if, in decades past, most other teachers had the same fears for America's future. I wonder when things changed. I would like to know the patterns, the conditions that caused those changes to occur. Ah, but that is for another post. If you've read this far, thanks. I guess I should say, if you've read this far, thank a teacher! But that would be too cliche, right? But, seriously, think about it. And if you had a favorite teacher in your past, one (or more) who touched your life in a positive way, who had an impact ... consider thanking them. A card, a note, an e-mail ... it makes all the difference in the world to him/her. Trust me, I know.

Oh, and by the way, while I do try to spell-check and use good grammar, I'm not perfect. Don't persecute me for typos and such! :)