The Election~ yep, I’m going there….

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Imagine a huge earthquake hits the Northwest; buildings collapse, people are injured, food and electricity are sparse, and getting fresh water is an incredible challenge.  I can predict that everyone in every community would attempt to work together, side by side, to care for the needs of those within their reach. I can visualize people opening their homes, sharing what they have, and lending emotional support.   As humans we have a natural tendency to set aside our differences in a crisis.   In a crisis situation the most important focus is helping people regardless of race, gender, income, spiritual beliefs, and yes, even political persuasion.

However, in this heated political season folks with opposing beliefs, are engaging in critical commentary, vicious responses, and fierce accusations between themselves. There is hateful rhetoric flying freely and I am left to wonder, “What’s missing in this season?”

Recently I listened to a great message by Andy Stanley on this very issue and he brought to light what is missing:

The generation that’s coming along behind us are going to take their cue from us. And here’s the cue we’re giving them: ‘Oh my goodness, if we don’t get the right person elected in office, it’s the end of the world. If we don’t fix the economy, it’s the end of the world. If we don’t have religious freedom like my mamma and my grandmama had religious freedom, it’s the end of the world. …

“Nothing could be further from the truth. Government matters. Policies matter. But neither of those matter as much as men and women who understand this word:  Faith

Politics have always been dicey, there’s always been a tiring season of speeches, advertisements, and promises made.  I remember hearing the same things when I was just a little girl  watching the news with my parents. Politics have always created conflict.

My concern is the division we allow it to create in our assumptions that in this process God doesn’t still call us to love people, to speak kindly to others, and to give grace to one another.  I imagine He actually wants us to apply theses things in even greater measure.

If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them.  And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that.  And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back.”Luke 6: 32-34

This is a season for us to remember two things:

  1.  God is still in control.
  2.  People really matter.

Andy Stanley’s final quote was this:

“Republican, Democrat, left or right, we’re all precious in His sight.   This political season is an opportunity for us to showcase our political diversity in a way that honors The God who made us so diverse.  If we get this right, we’ll learn something. We’ll become a more generous and loving people. If we get it wrong, we’ll be an average church.”

How has this political climate affected you? are you anxious? fearful? angry? disengaged? Perhaps it’s time to take a step back, catch your breath, remember how fortunate we are to “get” to make a choice, and choose to trust in God’s promises again.

“Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the LORD your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6

 

 

 

Can we have an honest chat?

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Have you ever had a “down” day?  Have you ever felt “blue”?  I have and I’m sure you have too.  There are times when the challenges of life feel like they are crushing in on us, there are times when situations catch us so off guard that it sends us into a sad tailspin for days or even for a short season.  The ebb and flow of life can bring both sadness and joy.  Even King David had some “blue” days where he cried out to God “Be merciful to me, O Lord, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and my body with grief. My life is consumed by anguish and my years by groaning; my strength fails because of my affliction, and my bones grow weak” (Ps. 31:9-10).

However, what if you found it impossible to move past those “blue” feelings?  What if you’ve tried everything you know to be happy and positive but the heaviness you feel remains?   What if anxiety and depression have become and unwelcome guest on your life journey? Shouldn’t you be able to fix it with enough faith in God?  What’s wrong with you?

Peter Kramer in his article; It Can’t Be Depression, I’m a Christian tells us:

“Christians feel guilty about being depressed. They feel they should “know better.”  This leads to denial, which only makes matters worse. Well-meaning friends, and even pastors, who don’t understand what is going on, encourage them to “snap out of it,” and offer advice on “getting their Christian act back together.”

But clinical depression and anxiety isn’t something a person can “snap out of.”

What if your depression and anxiety required some form of wisely administered medication to assist you in regaining that needed chemical balance? This is where we get religion and physical health mixed up?  With every other physical challenge, thyroid issues, asthma, cancer, heart disease, etc, we find it completely acceptable to require medications to bring greater health and healing, yet historically  the church can get really uncomfortable when medications are required for greater mental health.

Carlos E. Whittaker, a pastor, in a recent article says;

Common myths in the church as it relates to mental illness are:
1. A person struggling with mental illness needs to have more faith.
My faith and my serotonin levels have nothing to do with each other.
2. A person struggling with mental illness should forgo medicine and pray harder.
You wouldn’t tell an asthmatic to pray harder during an asthma attack. You would tell them to suck on that inhaler.

If you are a person who struggles with regular anxiety and depression then you are probably nodding your head in agreement.

Years ago, as a very positive type of person,  I was shocked to find myself in the midst of postpartum depression! I loved my baby.  Why couldn’t I shake off these feelings? Didn’t I have enough faith?  I was ashamed to tell anyone about how I felt and I didn’t know how to make it stop!  Finally, I got some much-needed help and over time I re-gained my emotional balance.

God understands our dark feelings, our doubt, our discouragement, and yes, even our depression; and his desire is to help us. Sometimes, the help we need might include professional counseling and some form of medication. After all, God created the minds that created these medications, and it is not a sin to take them if you truly need them. Sometimes simply making better choices for food, rest, and relaxation rhythms can be all that’s required to move us to a healthier place. Sometimes we need greater intervention.

You may agree with me or disagree with me, and that’s okay. However, as a Pastor’s wife and a Coach for many years,  I have heard the shame in the voices of those who struggle with the depression and anxiety; this breaks my heart.   Add their need for medication  and the shame triples! I don’t believe they should feel any shame; I don’t believe they are faithless people.  I believe God cares deeply and wants His church to express His heart to hurting people in the midst of a very difficult struggle.  I know you do too.

If you struggle daily with depression or anxiety; please get the help you need. Find someone to talk to, get some medical support, and refuse to let shame or embarrassment keep you from living a life full of purpose, peace, and joy.

Romans 12:15  Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep.

Some Relationships are Worth Extra Effort~

 

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Do you hate conflict? I sure do!! I used to run from it for many years; never expressing myself, wanting to please and appease! But I have learned two things:

1.  It’s so important to address challenges/disagreements in relationships.

2.  It’s so important to be willing to be humble to “not be right” in order to maintain relationships that DO matter.

In my life I am clearly aware that I have friendships/relationships that I want to, well, last forever.  There are times, even in those key relationships, that there may be disagreements.  How do we navigate some of those challenges without losing the friendship? Well, I am still learning.

There are times when it’s important to set boundaries on toxic or untrustworthy relationships…but there are also times when we might want to walk away from a relationship where there has been a challenge and yet, we know in our hearts we want them in our life!

Questions we can ask ourselves in these instances are these:

1. Though there may be a conflict right now, would I be saddened to lose my relationship because of our present challenge?

2.  Could there be a bridge built in our relationship if I humble myself and try to understand the heart and season of my friend?

3. Can I extend grace and am I willing to move forward?

Relationships are so important, take care, wisdom, and a humble heart to navigate~~ but they are worth it!!!

Proverbs 17:17A friend loves at all times, And a brother is born for adversity.

John 15:13“Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.

The Weather is Changing~

It was during my Junior year of college, summertime, that my view of the world was completely rocked!  I spent 3 months serving on a ministry team in Calcutta, India. My life had always been filled with blessing; faithful parents who loved God and provided well for our family of eight.  I enjoyed a good education, warm home, good food, nice clothes, and people who cared for me.  Imagine the shock to my senses as I walked along the streets of Calcutta seeing single mothers caring for their young children under cardboard boxes leaning against a dirty cement walls! I watched elderly people sitting in the same spot for days and days because they simply had nowhere to go; no place to call their own. This was the first time I had come face to face with real poverty, real homelessness.

Why do I choose to write about this today? Well, the weather is changing.  It is in the cold Winter months that those who live in poverty; those without homes, feel the sting of their situation the most. Poverty is not just in India; poverty is in my own town. My sister is a principal in our neighboring community; her school serves numerous families living in poverty, some even living in their cars.  These little children come to school cold, hungry, and tired.

Today I listened to an interview on Focus on the Family with Richard Stearns, the head of World Vision ( an organization the reaches out to meet the need of those in poverty around the world).  In the interview he shared about what it “feels” like to be homeless.  He expressed it this way:

“Imagine that you had only one set of clothing that you had to wear every single day.  Imagine you had no access to electricity; no lights, washer and dryer, no computer or phone.  Imagine you had no fresh water to drink or to wash with; your only way of getting clean would be a lake or pond somewhere.  Imagine you had no access to food; all you have is food you had to forage for.   Imagine you had no access to any medical care; no doctor, Tylenol, cough medicine, etc.  Imagine you had no place to call home; no bed, couch, bathroom, or private space of your own. Imagine experiencing all of this while thousands of people around you are enjoying all those elements of life.

How would you feel?  I imagine I would feel ashamed and hopeless.  I imagine I would wonder if I was invisible to the people around me.

I can hear some of you saying ” but there are people who make choices that cause them to be in a state of poverty”~~ I have said that myself.  But, everyone has a story to tell about how they became homeless; challenges they faced, and I know God’s heart is a heart of compassion.

Well, the weather is changing; snow and frigid temperatures are right around the corner.  How can we help the homeless in this Winter season?  Every town has a shelter that would love your support.  Ours is Bethlehem Inn, http://www.bethleheminn.org.  There are worldwide organizations such as World Vision to which you can give.

There is one need that I am particularly aware of and would like to tell you about:

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Rev. Rick Cole of the Capital Christian Center in Sacramento plans to leave his wallet behind, pick up his sleeping bag and ride light rail to downtown Sacramento. Pastor Cole said he feels his quest might have been divinely inspired. It popped into his head a few weeks ago while he was brainstorming with others about how to fund a program that buses about 100 homeless people on winter nights to area churches and synagogues, where they eat and sleep and get help finding work and more-permanent shelter. Pastor Cole plans to live on the streets of Sacramento until enough funding is raised to meet the incredible need of shelter and food in the winter months! Greg and I have known this pastor for well over ten years and can vouch for his authenticity;  he is not a mere attention-getter.  He sincerely wants to understand what it feels like to be homeless, he sincerely wants to get out of his comfort zone to make a difference in his community!  If you want to learn more go to #revonthestreets

As the weather changes and we nestle by the fire with a hot cup of Starbucks ,let’s ask God to show us ways that we can help those who are in need.

1 John 3:17 says; But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?

Matt 25:35-40 says; “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,  I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?  And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?  And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

Be well.