He Saw and Believed

Dear Cameron Joshua and Erin Marie,

IMG_0659

Today there is a crisis in our nation and the country is in a Stay In Place order due to a virus called Corona virus, which means we aren’t able to meet together for what for us is the most blessed celebration of our faith, Easter Sunday.  I have been missing you both so profoundly as you, Erin, turn 6 weeks old, and you, Cameron, turn 3 in a few weeks. I am missing more of your life than I ever thought I would but today Hope resurfaced.

Today my beautiful grandchildren, today, your Papa got up and made coffee for us, then he showered and put on a suit and tie. I followed his lead and dressed for church as if it was any other normal Sunday. We got in our car and drove off to the church.

John 20:1 Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb.So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb.

Today your Papa went into an empty church, and said to the essential staff that it takes to preach an online message to and said, “The church may be empty this morning but so was the tomb and we are going to proclaim the WORD to more people than we would have reached normally.”

IMG_5078

Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed;

Your Papa met Jesus when he was not much older than you are and he has proclaimed him since. He wasn’t going to stay home and not reach anyone on this day, THE DAY,  our faith is built on. He was going to go to his pulpit and shout it out to the world. This isn’t any ordinary day and this isn’t a day to be taken casually. Is any day really?

IMG_2545

If you’ve ever preached to an empty room it isn’t easy. You get feedback and body language from those who are present and came to hear. It helps you move forward but your Papa has been doing this a long time. And he pushed through knowing he was called by God to give Hope and an invitation.

IMG_4922 3

So today he was a Pastor to a world who is scared that they will get a virus. He preached for you both, that you always know that Jesus is the center of our life. He preached to the ones who still don’t know about Jesus and he reminded me and himself that Jesus is the center of it all. While God has sat us all down, Papa is still doing what he has called to do.

I wrote all of this out in my bible today but just in case it is lost, technology will live on. One thing you will have forever is that Nana and Papa love you with their whole heart and you have a strong legacy of prayer and service to the Church and Jesus Christ. Hallelujah! He is Risen. We have hope and God’s Promises.

IMG_1182

Aiming Faithfully

Garett Kelli

The disciples were asked to watch and pray while their Shepherd soon to be Savior went off to pray. Distracted, not sensing the importance of the training and the hour they found themselves in, they quietly fell asleep. How alone Jesus must have felt. Yet in just a short while he would endure the cross and let God be famous.

Pastors feel this way sometimes too. Lonely. Yet their faithfulness to their calling keeps them steadfast knowing they are truly never alone and that Jesus is nearby. Never wavering to the allure of slumber or limelight although both sometimes seem appealing they keep moving forward. Big boisterous voices wagging fingers in condemnation or watered down gospels get applause and a sensation of grandeur for a moment while the pastors in the trenches of community work year after year to train those at the sound of their voice to listen for the voice of Jesus. Let God be famous.

Beth Moore said, “Cynicism is just arrogance pretending to be smart.” We can criticize the church and/or their leaders, tell you how we would do it, tell you that she is irrelevant but we would be exalting ourselves and not the one who reigns supreme. Let God be famous .

No, it would do us best to serve and love faithfully. When my husband was a young pastor a pastor and mentor told him, “Doug, if you want to make a difference in your community, plant deeps roots in the city, buy a pick up truck, and serve the people.” In other words, don’t quit. Make a difference where you are planted. Serve God faithfully, do what you can do for people and let God be famous.

The Shadow Of Tribalism

When we began to speak of our tribes several years ago, I embraced the concept wholeheartedly. Growing up third generation American my ancestors told stories of why we needed to stick together against racism and for survivalism in a country that didn’t always embrace its diversity. Tribalism embraces a poverty mindset that says we must preserve ourselves in the midst of those who would take away who we are.

Growing up in California I was privileged to have grown up with a wide variety of culture yet even then there was tribalism. When we go to eat Chinese Food in China Town we know there aren’t going to be stores where we can buy tortillas.

So the concept of “streams” and “tribes” didn’t signal any alarms until I began to examine how we use them. We use them to keep people rounded up and to keep others out. We hang onto to a sense of who is in, who is allowed to visit, and who is definitely out.

Jesus came to dispel tribalism or at least redefine it. He brought about the discussion and complexity of community while he mingled with many. When Jesus is among the people his mother and brothers show up to talk to him.

Matthew 12:46 While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. 47 Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.”

48 He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” 49 Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. 50 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

In fact his detractors questioned his choice of dinner companions.

Matthew 9:10 While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

Ultimately the inclusivity of whosoever is what brought him down. The tribe could not fathom sharing their lives with those who did not belong and that is the shadow which we walk in today because tribalism is still our thing. When we determine who is in and who is out not based on qualification but based on standing within the tribe we are acting out of the lack instead of embracing the abundance Jesus tried to bring. When we decide we can’t live in community within the confines of a tribe not because of evil but because of our perceived notions of where we stand within that tribe it shows we have yet to pick up our cross and follow Jesus.

As I struggle to dispel the concept of tribalism and embrace inclusive community I doubt this will be the last post on the topic but it begins the process of discovering my role in it all.

A Special Gift

As pastors we are handing down our first grandson a treasure of tradition. When he comes to church with us he learns to praise and lift up hands to his Heavenly Father. Papa and Nana in their cowboy boots at the altar and Cameron nearby.

While at Christine Caine’s Propel Conference I heard Lisa Harper explain that the greatest inheritance she received was her father’s bible. In it were notes, highlights and underscores, and old bulletins.

I was reminded of that story at the birth of my first grandson, Cameron. So last year, I purchased a journaling coloring bible.

I began to write sermon notes and special things I want him to read one day. Titles of his Papa’s sermons and little funny things that happen. I was careful not to color on any of the pages but instead leave those pages for him to color as he visits and goes to church with Nana and Papa. At 19 months old he is so attached to his Papa that when he sees him walk to the pulpit to deliver his message Cameron wants to follow him. Will he remember the words spoken? Will he remember the heart in which we serve the Lord?

We are in a post church age and a digital age at that. I admittedly use my bible app more than I do my actual bible, but as Lisa Harper pointed out, there is a great gift in reading what was important in a moment to a previous generation. Maybe it will spark an interest in a renewed look at faith to one who considered Christianity to be a thing of past. As an old pastor told me once, “I don’t know what the future holds but I know it is marvelous.”

As we watch Cameron intensely watch his Papa preach his sermon on Sunday we don’t know the impact. We bought him a toddler microphone and thought we would have to explain what to do with it. Not at all! Instead he began to make noises as he reached for the microphone stand.

Consider getting an old fashioned hands on bible and begin to write out notes and meaningful scriptures to leave for the next generation. You don’t know the lives that will be touched and the hearts that will remember what you loved about your walk with Jesus.

The Strong Women Beside Me

305672_4979475127828_1024276721_n

Today we lay to rest a mighty woman of God. Terri Rivas, on the left in this picture, came to our TLC4Women bible study years ago. A quiet woman with a bible and pen in her hand, she had been invited by a pillar in our group her best friend Bernie, on the right above. Both women had been friends with each other for over 50 years. They each attended different churches but they each loved to study the word. Bernie is a solid, grounded, woman of the word and so I knew her friend would be as well. What does it say that two women are friends for 50 years? In a time when we are offended so easily and friendships tend to come and go, this was something to be admired.

It didn’t take long for me to find out that Terri was not quiet at all. She had a quick wit and would make all of us laugh with that smirk-y smile she would get right before she made a comment.  She celebrated all of our successes and she told about her escapades with Bernie. Bernie and Terri wouldn’t sit together in study because Terri would say she was afraid Bernie would get her into trouble.

IMG_0807.jpg

I discovered that I could go to Terri for anything and she would pray. She wasn’t about gossip and she wasn’t about drama but she could pray. I saw why she and Bernie were such great friends. Two women who stood strong on the word of God and were mentors to each of us in the group. When Terri decided to move her membership to our church, she came with a notepad, scriptures, and a word from the Lord, BUT she wanted to talk to us first to make sure that we knew she would not to be any trouble. She taught me about honor and hearing from the Lord.  She wasn’t going to walk on what she thought was the right thing to do she weighed it out, got counsel, and waited on God.

When she decided to retire from the hospital we talked about it and it turned out she didn’t have to retire she could work from home. She was thrilled to do that but again, wanted us to pray to make sure it was the right thing to do.

When Terri developed Parkinson’s she came to me with a quake in her voice and announced the news. I could tell it had shaken her and I had never seen her scared before, she had faith for so many others, in that moment I needed her to have that same faith for herself. I reminded her that the Great Physician had the final say and we prayed together. I honestly didn’t think I would lose her. I thought she would battle on. She had been through a lot in her life and I thought this would be another victory story. When she determined that she could no longer trust her driving at night she told me bible study would be out. I told her to let Bernie bring her. She instantly replied, “Have you ever been in a car with Bernie? Pastor Susan I want to live.” I answered, “Well, at least you’d go together right?” She laughed and said, “Bernie would probably survive.” But laughter or not, scared or not, there would Terri be, walking in the door of bible study with Bernie.

Terri, I love you, I will miss you. The impact you have made on my life cannot be measured. I was graced by your friendship. I was graced by your love of my children and my grandson. And even though I mourn the loss of you here on earth, you won the victory. I know that you made it home safely. That all of the promises of God are true and that we will one day be together again. I’m sure you are talking to loved ones and strangers and everyone you meet. You’re making people laugh, and you’re awaiting the time when we’re all joined together again.

Proverbs 31:29 “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.”

terririvas

 

What’s Coming Out?

3342240A-4142-4C19-ACED-B04F1C114160

That’s the problem with the Pounce and Flounce isn’t it? We make definitive statements for drama’s effect only to have it boomerang.

To the significant other: “I’m leaving!”, when we know we aren’t going anywhere for long.

To the family or friend: “You hurt me and I’m not coming back until you say sorry.” Then we take every opportunity to let everyone know why we are feuding, or worse we pretend innocence and point to how people hurt us.

To anyone that will listen: “I don’t know why I stayed this long.”

Or in other words,

“You can’t tell me what to do.” 

To the Authority Figure: “Well if you’re going to do that then I’m not participating.”

Then we walk out as if we’re a commanding general who just won a war. We Pounce on the person and Flounce away to show them. Show them what though? Show them that we are masters at manipulation. This is the adult version of the two year-old trantrum being played out. 

When the trantrum is over and we calm down, and want/need, to come back, now we either have to apologize or have that awkward thing of the pounce and flounce between us that needs to be addressed.

Sometimes we pretend nothing happened. Sometimes we are violent slanderers, sometimes we are silent stew-ers, sometimes we play injured party accepting no responsibility and pointing fingers or worse we act as if all of this is so beneath us and we don’t care a bit about it in retaliation.

If we do it often enough, and with Social Media, we certainly have an easy platform, we develop a reputation of histrionics where people ignore our high drama. We become unsafe because others never know when it will turn on them and they will be the object of the next post.

7C236845-19C4-4E85-98AA-F5602C6B682F

You see whatever is in our hearts comes spilling out. Now that we have a world wide platform people get to see who we really are. Hey, I’m not immune to cringe-worthy posts either. I’m not ashamed to take down posts that  I have posted which turn negative. It is not beneath me to just say no and sorry to something which may inflame people I care about.

Recently our church had 21 Days Of Prayer where prayers were written on cards and then each night we gathered together to pray for each card. There were incredible testimonies of breakthrough, miracles of healing, and in the midst of the profound and sacred some took the opportunity of prayer to chastise another. I called it the pounce and flounce of prayer. The violence of this action shows the power of our world today in which we can hide behind words not spoken face to face. Cowardly at best, the pounce and flounce has taken on new levels. The cards were quickly plucked from the pile and shredded. The Bible says that what is in the heart comes out and I wonder as believers how we think this honors God? I wonder how I honor God?

Proverbs 21:2 All deeds are right in the sight of the doer, but the Lord weighs the heart.

Luke 6:45 The good person out of the good treasure of the heart produces good, and the evil person out of evil treasure produces evil; for it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks.

So while I examine my heart for impure motive, I urge you to take a walk through your heart and settle the issues that so quickly ensnare us into behavior that will never lead us to victory.

 

If Only I Didn’t Know

IMG_0567.JPG

You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you. ~ Matthew 5:4 The Message

Don’t you hate it when your life is cruising along in auto-pilot and you get hit with a revelation you wished you had never known? The awareness it brings is such a shock to the system. Immediately you have to think about what to do with the information. Where is the line or boundary for you? What is the right thing to do?

A friend lets you know that a person with whom you didn’t really have a problem doesn’t like you. I mean, it wasn’t like you were best friends or anything but you thought you two were fine with each other.

You’re doing your monthly breast examine and feel that lump that you thought happened to other people.

You find text messages from a co-worker on your spouse’s phone and discover something you never wanted to know.

You become a Christ follower and discover that there is that little area over in the corner of your life that isn’t consistent with this new life.

Now What?

In each of these cases you can’t ignore the next step for very long. As hard as it is to face facts, you must. They simply don’t disappear without action. Begin with a good assessment of where you are, then begin to pray for what you want the outcome to be.

Do you want to restore the possibility of friendship? Then humility and a conversation will need to take place. Often we excuse our behavior and pin it all on the other person but what is our role in this?

You’ll need a healing miracle as you make a doctor’s appointment and get that mammogram. Don’t panic, don’t delay, and don’t ask God to bless you based on your resume. Instead pray for healing and ask for mercy.

Do you want to see your marriage restored? Then you’ll need to have some tough conversations, some realizations of who the two of you really are, and if this marriage is worth saving. You’ll have to decide to never bring it up again and to begin the process of restoration. Don’t make your case before God for blessings, instead ask God to give you clarity of vision, strategy, and ask him to show himself mighty in this situation.

Do you really want this walk with Jesus to work to its full potential? Don’t make excuses, voluntarily come clean with the Lord and ask Him for His help and guidance.

You can’t ignore what you learn and have a healthy life. You can’t accept what you’re unwilling to accept. You can move forward with knowledge when you examine that area of your life with true acknowledgment of what the reality of the situation is.

Unfortunately, we can’t un-know what we know but we can move forward into an excellent future if we stop making excuses, stop listening to other voices, get clear about what it is we want, and humble ourselves before our Lord.