Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” Mark 9:24

Archive for the category “Leading”

Interim Endings

Pastor Mike

The church I attend has been without a permanent Pastor for approximately two years.  Our Bishop called Pastor Michael Kemper, who is a full-time Interim Pastor, to fill in and shepherd our flock. 

After the entrance hymn, opening prayers, and before the readings, Pastor Mike invites the little children to join him on the steps to the altar to sit around him as he shares a story, on their level, based on the Bible readings for the day.  Pastor Mike’s first children’s sermon was a little longer than our church family had ever heard.  The second week, a little boy asked Pastor if he was going to tell them a long story again.  Oh, such honesty.  🙂  As time pressed forward, Pastor Mike told his stories at whatever length was necessary to get the message across and I feel that no one, young or old, concerned themselves with a time limit as he is an engaging story-teller.   My inner child would always run up to the altar, with the little children, to hear their special sermon.   

Pastor Mike never gave a bad sermon to the adults either.  Truly, I wish he would write books as I know he would be my favorite author. 

On October 2, 2011, we will blot tears from our eyes as we wave good-bye to Pastor Mike and his lovely wife, Jane.  The Bishop has a new assignment for our favorite Interim Pastor.  My inner child is throwing a tantrum because I do not want him to leave.  My adult self understands that people must pass through our lives as they serve God’s purpose for our growth as well as their own.  If I feel this way about my Interim Pastor, just think how the people felt in the towns that Jesus passed through during his ministry.  I hope our paths will cross again on this earth, but if not, I will look for Pastor Mike in heaven some day. 

Pastor Mike, you have given our church stability at a time we felt broken, prayed for us when we could not, and shared your smile every time we saw you.  Our congregation is blessed to have been under your leadership.  I pray the church(es) you serve will realize you are a blessing from God.

Mark 1:35-38 (NIV)

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!” Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.”

The Chameleon, The Girl, and Jesus

One of my favorite Looney Tunes cartoons was developed as a sort of documentary about animals and their habitats. A memorable part showed the chameleon standing in front of a slide show of color and he comfortably blended in with each color. One color slide, in particular, had him upset and stepping away in tears pounding on the ground in frustration and screaming, “I just can’t do it!” The color slide was a plaid.

I comfortably wear the colors black and brown in my wardrobe. When I was in high-school in the 80s, I had the coolest yellow pants and a bright orange t-shirt. A matching belt married the two into a super-cute outfit. I stood in front of my mirror on a number of occasions admiring the look, but ending up telling myself that “I just can’t do it” and never left my bedroom with that outfit on. It was too bright.

Jesus comfortably wore tunics and sandals. On the night He was betrayed, He went, with His tired disciples, into the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. While deeply troubled about having to be stripped of His garments and die a horrible death, Jesus sweated blood. He even prayed for this cup to pass Him by. He never said, “I just can’t do it.” Instead He said to His Father, “It is your will and not my own”.

The chameleon and I could not see past ourselves, but Jesus could.

Perhaps you are being challenged today to go beyond yourself. Are you going to react negatively by saying, “I just can’t do it” or are you going to go to God in prayer and say, “If it is your will, Lord, I will follow”?

Mark 14:36(NIV)
“Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”

Silence is the Retreat

My drive from Michigan to Ohio was absolutely beautiful.  Michigan had experienced an ice-storm and every branch of the crystalized trees glittered for miles, superior to any display of Christmas lights I have ever seen, as the sunshine brought them to life.  My simple little camera would not have captured the beauty that was before me; therefore, the photo album is etched in my memory. 

To silence oneself for a few days is not as hard as imagined; I accomplished this during the last weekend in March in a most serene setting in Ohio at a silent directed retreat.  About 25 others attended this quiet-time to contemplate and discern God in our lives.  We were blessed with trained Spiritual Directors to guide us in this journey.   

The first evening, we were able to speak with others while sharing a meal.  I was one of three participants from Michigan, and I met some awesome Ohioans.  We may have talked for 45 minutes or so, but much was shared within those precious minutes.  After the meal, we met in a room together to share what was on our hearts this weekend.  When it was my turn to speak, I explained that about a month ago, I had a very vivid dream of someone telling me to “minister to the church”.  My personal task then was to spend time with God to see just what that meant.

We were assigned one of four Spiritual Directors and we broke into smaller groups to meet with them for further instruction about the weekend and to set up our personal meeting times.  After this short meeting, we were excused to begin our journey into silence.

Back in my room, I had a hard time settling in.  Earlier that morning, my mother was rushed to emergency and diagnosed with a treatable form of congestive heart failure.  It was on my mother’s urging that I go ahead and make my journey to Ohio as I had planned for months.  I silently kept in contact with my siblings by receiving updates about my mother’s condition via text messaging. 

One awesome cook made all of our meals.  Eating in silence was an experience I had never encountered.  We acknowledged each other with smiles, but then focused on our food before us and the beauty of the landscape that surrounded us through all the windows in the dining area.  We took turns cleaning up the kitchen after each meal.  I signed up for clean up duty after breakfast on Saturday morning.  I broke the silence in the dining area when I accidently dropped a drinking glass onto the ceramic tiled floor.

Spring was not in the air; however, God gave us sunshine every day.  I bundled up and took a walk along the paths in the woods and I walked around the pond and next to a stream.  I spotted beautiful birds that I never see in Michigan, I heard the jack-hammer pounding of the Woodpeckers high up in the trees, and two sets of geese were making their homes near the pond.  It was so beautiful.

Sitting in silence and letting the Holy Spirit speak to my heart was quite an amazing experience.  Spending time in prayer, God’s word, in His creation, and simply resting in Him, made me realize that He is not quiet at all. 

During our closing session, we went around the room, as we had at the beginning, and shared what the Holy Spirit spoke to us in our silent journey.  This is what I said:

On Thursday, I announced that I wanted to know what my dream meant to “minister to the church”.  I found out that answer this weekend.

To minister means to care for others.  The church are people everywhere.

The Holy Spirit allowed me to search deep inside of me to remind myself that I love to help people.  I have sewing skills, listening skills, writing skills and support skills that I can creatively use to serve God’s people.  Although I have ideas on how to utilize my passions and skills, it will be the Holy Spirit that will lead me.  I will spend more time in prayer and in God’s word as they will strengthen me.

Philippians 4:13 is my take-away verse:

I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.

I did not want to leave the serenity of the weekend.  My Spiritual Director explained that this is an experience.  I can take this experience with me, lean on it, remember it and be thankful for it.  I can create new experiences to spend quality, quiet-time with the Holy Spirit.  When she said this to me, it didn’t make sense.  Only after being immersed into the world once again, do I understand.  It is important for all of us to sneak away, quiet ourselves and let the Holy Spirit speak to our hearts as it is true nourishment for the soul.  Now I understand why Jesus took time alone to pray to his Father.  He was being strengthened for His journey to the cross.

A special Thank You to Sister Virginia, my Spiritual Director.  May God continue to use you for His good works.   

Blessing in Disguise

Yesterday, I had a doctor appointment. I was guided by the medical assistant to my cold room where I waited for the doctor to make her visits to other patients. Through the thin office walls, I could hear the conversation with my neighbor. A celebration was going on because she just found out that she was pregnant. I visualized the balloons flying and confetti falling and the hug of joy shared between the mother-to-be and the doctor who confirmed the blessed news.

The doctor left the party next door and entered my cold room. My diagnosis was not party-worthy. “You have severe endometriosis” she announced. “We can remove the endometriosis and try to salvage your ovaries; however, although the blood tests do not indicate cancer, we cannot rule that out until we cut you open because of the masses in your stomach are rather large. If we do not find cancer, would you like me to attempt to salvage your ovaries?” Knowing that my marriage was heading in divorce I could not imagine bringing a blessing into the world of a broken relationship. “Take it all if you need to” was my heart-wrenching reply.

This really wasn’t yesterday, but it sure feels like it. This happened 18 years ago today. This was absolutely a life-changing decision.

God creates a life path as unique as he creates his children. I was newly divorced and barren; two things I never imagined would occur on my path. I know I would have made a great mom to a little human that shared my DNA; however, that is not my path.

The pain of childlessness is the thorn in my side. After 18 years I realize that I can be a mentor to newly diagnosed barren women. I can utilize my spiritual gift of helper because I can leave at the drop of a hat to help anyone who needs an extra hand or a shoulder to lean on. The thorn in my side has turned into the biggest blessing I have in my life because it created an awesome relationship with my Lord and Savior.

Galatians 4:27 (NIV)
27 For it is written:
“Be glad, barren woman,
you who never bore a child;
shout for joy and cry aloud,
you who were never in labor;
because more are the children of the desolate woman
than of her who has a husband.”

Beautiful Storm

Stepping outside this morning, I noticed it was a beautiful fall day; the air crisp and the sun warm.

As I was driving after church to run an errand, I continued my contemplation of the blessing of such a beautiful day. A perfect, cloudless blue sky encapsulated the city; however, clouds could be seen in the distance to the west and the north. Seeing the clouds in the distance reminded me of life; sometimes peaceful and beautiful yet the storms will be in our future.

As I crested a hill on the highway, I came upon a police car and a fire truck, both with their lights on. People were standing around discussing with the police officer the details they remembered of the accident that recently happened. Storm clouds moved in on their beautiful fall day in which the air remained crisp and the sun warm.

On my way home, I saw more flashing lights in the distance. An ambulance and a fire truck parked in front of a house on this beautiful fall day. A stretcher was being wheeled into the front yard and paramedics were entering the front door to offer their trained services and to help calm the storm within.

Praise be to God for the beautiful fall day; the air crisp and the sun warm. Praise be to God for the stormy times in our lives as well. God is in the center of each situation. Can you see Him?

Psalm 68:4 (NIV)
Sing to God, sing praise to his name, extol him who rides on the clouds—his name is the LORD—and rejoice before him.

Job Security – Optimistically

I heard the phrase “job security” the other day as people were walking past my table at lunch and it started me thinking. How often has “job security” been used in a sentence? Usually it is uttered in some sort of joking context, but to be honest, there is a bit of uncertainty that goes along with this phrase. It packs quite a punch.

April 2, 2009, I lost job security with my employer. I was told that in 60 days, my job was going to be terminated because it was deemed redundant. Anger, disbelief and fear formed their own job security and punched in to work for me, but I quickly let them go as I found optimism to be more productive. With optimism on my side, I realized I had opportunities ahead of me. I was scheduled to graduate college the following month and I became eager to put my degree to the test and find a new career. I envisioned starting my own business from a business plan I created for an entrepreneurial class, but at the final hour with my employer, I was offered job security in a recently formed full-time position of which I was over-qualified. I accepted the job because it felt better to have job security rather than no job security. I gave optimism a leave of absence soon after settling into the new job.

After a little over a year, optimism knocked on my door looking for work. I reviewed the time we had spent together and remembered what a great morale booster it had been for me. It only costs change in me in order to have optimism work, so I brought it on board again.

I’ve uttered the words job security in a sort of joking context and I felt the uncertainty of this phrase as well. I am thankful for being able to work, but optimistically, I feel I am in training to take a position working strictly for God. I believe there will always be job security working for him until the second coming of Christ. I shall surrender myself and listen to my life direction.

Philippians 3:12-14 (NIV)
12Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Just Need a Hand to Hold

In church this morning, I watched as the children were invited by the Pastor to join him on the steps of the altar so he could lead them in a children’s sermon. Some children run, some children walk alone and some children hold hands with others as they make their way to the altar. Some children seem too afraid to approach on their own, so a parent will lead them by the hand and sit with them, or near them, so they can participate with the other children.

As a child, I feared going forward on my own. I needed the support of a trusted adult to lead me where I was invited…at least the first time. I have not out-grown this fear because as an adult, I fret over the unfamiliar.

Isaiah 41:10, 13
10So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

13For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.

Imagine verse 10. God takes my left hand and leads me with His righteous right hand each and every time I am scared to take a step forward on my own.

Imagine verse 13. In the previous verse, God is known to have a righteous right hand. Now, the most common way for two people to hold onto right hands is to face each other. As God and I reach for each other, I see Him looking gently into my fearful eyes while taking hold of my right hand in his righteous right hand. God says, “Do not fear, I will help you.”

God will lead me where He needs me. I am able to run if I want to, walk if I want to, or just hold the hand of another. With the promises in Isaiah 41:10, 13, I have no room in either hand to keep holding onto fear.

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