Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Hashtag Jesus

I find I listen better during the Sunday morning sermons when my hands are busy. I know how to knit but I just can't be the knitter in the church row....so I doodle on my bulletin as I'm taking notes. Sometimes I even bring my colored pencils, experimenting with colors, shapes and fonts. Then I like to pick and choose from my notes attempting to form a cohesive couple of sentences to share with my family and friends via Facebook. I've always thought my intentions were "pure." You know "genuine from the heart sharing because I enjoyed the sermon and learned so much." I never really paid attention to the likes or the comments, sure they were fun to see but I really didn't get excited or care too much-I was just happy that someone else was able to get something from the message I had been so crazy blessed to hear. Then this week came along, I really enjoyed the sermon. I doodled excessively in my bulletin and then excitedly put together my thoughts so that I could share with Facebook world. That evening when I clicked the dreaded Facebook app and saw the notification that the District Superintendent had liked my status I felt like a kid, immediately screenshotted it and sent to our Pastor. Wow, I'm 46 years old and it brought out the goofy teenager inside. He responded with a simple "Thanks" no punctuation, no smiley face...and my stomach sank. Sure I know, I read WA-A-A-AY too much into that one text; that's the trouble with being a middle aged, hormonal, recovering from the crud woman. I thought about it a couple of times yesterday and found myself worrying that he hadn't liked my summary status...did he hate it? Did I get the message completely wrong? Was he irritated that the DS read my summary instead of "really" getting his sermon? Was he thinking, she's so immature? Talk about stress and negative voices in your head, they were on overtime!
This morning at precisely 3:55 a.m. I woke with a start.
All I could think was #Jesus (you have to say that "hashtag Jesus," out loud, quietly in your head so the people around you don't think you're crazy), because a few weeks ago the good Pastor preached a sermon about slowing down like Mary, he tied in the social medias and how some of us spend too much time thinking about clever things to post for the attention it brings-which kind of defeats the purpose of a servant heart when it's doing it for the glory. (There was a really great story about Mary's ability to slow down to listen and how if it had been current day, Martha might have been taking pictures and hashhtagging witty things, with a bit of snarky attitude like #NazareneCuisine #bakingbread4thebreadoflife or maybe even #wishhewouldturnthiswaterintowine.) Right then and there in the middle of the night, I almost sat up but was afraid I'd wake up Ted, I was consumed with guilt:
Was I posting these sermon summaries for the right reasons?
Was I being bossy or pushy, trying to get others to see things from my perspective?
Perhaps on some level I've been posting for the likes and comments?
Then I remembered God knows. God knows my heart, He knows my true intent and I think He's probably even okay with that brief teenage distraction of a like from the district superintendent. I allowed myself to stop the guilt session and mindfully breathed for a little bit, slowly in and out; almost meditating when I remembered the times friends in far away states or of different religions have commented about singing the same song at their church or hearing a message that was similar that morning and I feel connected. It makes my world seem a little closer, a little more intimate to share the Jesus I know and love with my Facebook family. It was then when I was able to see that sometimes forming the "perfect" status really isn't about the likes, it's about being deeply crazy blessed and bold enough to share it with the world! #crazyblessed that is!!
PS In case you're wondering I did share this with my Pastor, he assured me that I was indeed reading way too much into that text. So remember not to read too much into a text, especially when you're a middle aged, hormonal, recovering from the crud woman!

Friday, October 14, 2016

Be Still

Granny Thunder, that's the name of my bicycle.  It was my Mother's Day gift a few years ago, Jessica named it for me.  Her bicycle is "Purple Thunder" obviously it's purple...mine is Granny because it looks like a granny bike!  I ride it almost every day because it's the fastest transportation to my parents house around the curve and three houses down.  It seems I'm always in a hurry or crunched for time, last week I had my first accident because I was in a big hurry!  Let's just say I'll be fashionable with a bandaid on my big toe for a lo-o-ong time.  Being still is the last thing I have time for.

Busy-it seems that we all wear it like some medal we've earned.  We're busy with the house, busy buying groceries and cooking meals, busy with church work, busy volunteering, busy caregiving, busy running the kids, busy with extra curriculars, busy with this, busy with that...we don't even slow down to enjoy a meal because we've got to get to the next place.  We're in a constant state of worrying about or hurrying to our next "thing."

I was crazy blessed to spend a couple of months working on a committee for a ladies retreat on prayer.  It really motivated me to devote more time to my prayer life.  While I've successfully added in dedicated time for prayer, it's almost become yet another "busy."  Now don't get me wrong, my prayer time has enriched my life but I still feel like I need some time for "me."

"Me"ditation--last year I was looking for a devotion book, something to help me with my busy.  Several friends recommended, "Peace is Every Step" by Thich Nhat Hanh, I began reading it exactly one year ago today, I absolutely loved it!  The deep breathing technique, focusing on your breath as you breathe slowly in and out through your nose.  For a couple of months I worked at just breathing, I guess you could call it mediation for a few minutes each day, then I got too busy.  Clearly I missed the entire point of "mindfulness" in the book.

My journey toward "be still" continued when a friend selected the book, "How to
be Here" by Rob Bell for our Thursday morning time.  What a great book encouraging you to really learn to be present in the moment.  His analogy of each day being like a cursor at the beginning of a blank document on your computer, full of potential and possibility just waiting for you to be, up to you to create.  It continued my mindshift toward "me."

Last week our Pastor began a new sermon series on STRESS!!  Along with it, he is offering a bonus class on "Mindfulness Meditation."  He gave us a glimpse by sharing Anderson Cooper's 60 Minutes Special.

Wednesday evening we had our first session.  Almost 20 people showed up on a dark, stormy night, pretty incredible considering just a few short months ago our congregation frequently had less than 40 in attendance on any given Sunday.  Twenty people hungry for help in reducing their stress, looking for a way to lift the dark veil of depression, believing that their bodies could heal from chronic pain...twenty people tired of the busy and ready to give this mindfulness thing a try.

For me, I am so excited to be learning to meditate.  You can read the books but having someone actually share their story of meditation with you, someone who has studied with a Zen Master, someone who has had the dark lifted, someone who has seen the benefits in their health makes a huge difference.  We were challenged to spend just 10 minutes each day in mediation.  Ten short minutes to just breathe, what a gift!  "Me" ditation time coupled with a renewed prayer life, I look forward to seeing what happens in my life.  Be watching...this crazy blessed girl is believing that this time mindfulness will take and I can take a step back from the busy and truly "be here now" for my family.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

We the People

I know this is a copy of the
Declaration of Independence
not the Constitution
but it hangs proudly in our home.
This particular copy is 140 years old
and was a printed business advertisement
from 1876.  To me it is a symbol of
integrity and freedom.
The real loser in this election will not be the one who doesn't become president of the United States,  the real loser is 
"we the people."

I'm 46 years old.  The very first presidential election I can remember was in 1976, Gerald Ford-incumbent ran against a little known former governor from Georgia, Jimmy Carter.  I had Mrs. Schultz as my teacher in Weatherford, Oklahoma where she was determined to teach her first graders about the election process.  We studied both candidates, I vividly recall that Jimmy Carter liked jelly beans and peanuts!  We were supposed to "register" as either Republican or Democrat and Mrs. Schultz told us to go home and ask our parents how we should register.  That night at the dinner table I asked my parents what we were, they took a long and serious look at one another before my Mom finally answered,

"Dana it doesn't really matter whether we are Republican or Democrat the important thing is you look at both candidates, what they believe in and who they really are to decide if they represent what YOU believe in."

The 70's were a different time and I was crazy blessed to have parents with the wisdom of discernment.  The news back then wasn't instantaneous and the candidates seemed to talk more about the issues and less about the other candidates personal life.  This election season has really got me down.  Both sides have their negatives.  Neither candidate is perfect but guess what????  You're not perfect either.  Today we are live in a society that is over inundated with sound bytes, news clips, Tweets and videos.  It's like society has almost succumbed to the once science fiction life portrayed by Ray Bradbury in Fahrenheit 451!  We get a micro-clip of a candidate and blow things totally out of proportion.  We begin to post things, sending messages and tweets tearing down one candidate while attempting to make the manure our candidate was walking in seem like sweet cream.

I've watched both debates, read countless articles and tried to discern truth from mud slinging.  Unfortunately the sources all seem to be biased to one side or the other.  How do I know what is true?  How do I know what is lies?  One side is horrified that the other has been caught bragging about some unsavory things, who then turns and tries to spin how the other sides husband actually did those unsavory things.  I was searching for the words to write about that very thing when lo and behold I woke yesterday to a very well written blog by my friend Cathie (C.H. Armstrong).  I asked her if it would be okay for me to link to it in my blog so here it is  Sexual Assault, By Any Other Name, Is Still Sexual Assault.  (Please read her blog and pass it on...it really needs to go viral because it is excellent!!!)

The media and the conservative christian crowd are claiming he has apologized that it is was just "locker room banter," the men boys from high school junior high are bragging that's how ALL the men talk in private and if we think our husbands are different we are wrong.  As the mother of three intelligent, beautiful, full of possibility daughters I cannot in good conscience think about voting for a man who thinks that it is okay to talk about women like that in the locker room or anywhere else.  I'm concerned it is encouraging our society to continue going down the tubes.  I don't believe that is the legacy we need to leave our children.

Just so you know, way back in that 1976 election, I cast my vote for Jimmy Carter.  I think the jelly beans may have had something to do with my first grade decision.  I know he was strongly criticized as being a "weak" president but he was a good man.  I am proud that as a child I was on the side of such a good human being.  Look at all the positive he has done in this world since he was president.  I would go so far to say he has done more good, real good, hands on, getting dirty good by working hard than any president in my lifetime.  Countless people have been crazy blessed by his perseverance and dedication to helping others.  From the Habitat for Humanity website:
A tireless champion for social justice 
As president of the United States, Jimmy Carter was deeply committed to social justice and basic human rights. He and his wife Rosalynn left the White House in search of meaningful ways to contribute in these areas.
When I cast my vote next month, I will cast it with the belief that the person I vote for will leave a similar legacy.  Sadly, we the people can't put back in the can the ugly worm that has reared it's head.

We the people
will have to heal from the bitter remarks, the fighting and the bickering.  
We the people
will have to talk to our children and teach  model for them the way they should act.
We the people
will have to live like the crazy blessed nation we really are and 
behave like good, rational people. 
We the people
 may need a few jelly beans to help us find the Jimmy Carter inside-committed
to social justice and basic human rights.  
What legacy will your vote leave?

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Be Thou My Vision

There is something comforting in hearing a familiar hymn.  One that you've heard over and over through the years.  The other day, I read a blog written about the song "It is Well" it explained how the man who wrote it did so during one of the most tumultuous times a parent can go through. His son caught pneumonia and died then a short 2 years later his four daughters died when the boat they and his wife were traveling on from the U.S. to Europe experienced a collision and sank.  Yet he was still able to write this beautiful hymn that would be a comfort to others on his journey across the ocean to join his wife.

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.
It is well with my soul,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

My sin—oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!—
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.

But, Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul!

And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.

In May, I found myself the president of our United Methodist Women unit.  Our church had been through some trials.  I wasn't really prepared mentally or emotionally for the task so I began to pray-for guidance, direction, strength and wisdom.  Around the same time I took my first course in the Methodist Lay Servant Ministry and one of the chapters in our required reading was on Leadership.  I learned so much about the Methodist way of leadership, did you know Robert's Rules of Order aren't used?  We come to agreement by consensus, we discuss options and ideas; everyone gets a say and comes away feeling more a part of the decision than in a simple show of hands type of vote.  A couple of more suggestions were to set up a focal point in the room for every meeting-a candle or cross...something and don't have "bookend" prayers.

I continued praying and took it to heart.  At my first meeting I was so nervous, I was honestly afraid that no one would show up.  We had ten ladies that night.  My heart was full.  I had taken to heart the advice of having a focal point by offering a "reflecting point" along with a color page.  We set up a table at the front of the room with candles, the color page and used "Be the Miracle" from Bruce Almighty as our reflection.  It was such a positive and encouraging meeting.

Lately the word "refuge" has been on my heart.  I was led to the scripture Psalm 91:2 for UMW tonight.
I shared it with a friend.  Her response to me was:

HE is my refuge. But Christians get shot, get diseases and come under attack.
HE is their refuge but the disease or bullet still comes.

This shook me.  I ran to my bible and read and reread Psalm 91, all of it.  I did some research and found that it is known as the "Soldiers Prayer," it talks of being safe and not afraid of terrorists.  But bad things still happen.

This morning I saw the sky:
Suddenly I realized I was whistling "Be Thou My Vision" which happens to be one of my favorite hymns.  It's an old Irish hymn dating back to an 8th century monk who wrote it as a tribute to St. Patrick's wholehearted loyalty to God.  He had loyalty to God through the good and the bad, the easy and the difficult.

Our pastor is beginning a new sermon series on STRESS.  Let's face it we all have more than enough to go around.  Today as I was preparing for UMW and working on the bathroom stall calendars, I was focusing on stress, what a negative to focus on stress!  I traditionally use the reflection for that month from UMW on the bathroom stall calendars-this month the reflection is refuge.  Suddenly I felt a calm, a peace that yes while we may have stressful times-we may have diseases, we may have bullets coming at us-but He is our vision and we are crazy blessed that no matter what storms or trials come our way He dwells within us.  We may not understand why bad things happen, God gave up his only son...trust and believe.  Our stress can be counterbalanced when we look to Him as our REFUGE.