This is directed to all those angry posts on social media revolving around politics and political parties by those who self-identify as Christian. I have a question for you: “Do you think God is really glorified with those negative political posts? Do you think those posts reflect HIS Character?”
Truth time: You are dishonoring His Character and misrepresenting His Kingdom. Shame on you! Change my mind about this!
This is the last in my reflections of my recent medical emergency. If you haven’t read the first one, then click here.
When we are hurting–whether physically, emotionally, spiritually, mentally, or relationally–we want the pain to go away and go away quickly. And here is another lesson I have learned in my most recent episode:
The quick-fix rarely, if ever, works.
In my situation of my ruptured appendix, Dilaudid made the pain quickly go away. And for a little bit the quick-fix solved my problem with pain. But guess what? The effects of Dilaudid wore off and the pain returned. Other than making me feel comfortable, the Quick-Fix did nothing to solve the real problem. Can you make the connection here?
In case you did not, allow me to explain. There are things that will help us numb the pain but cannot treat the real condition causing our pain. It’s not just in the realm of physical pain–but all other forms of pain. For example, holding a grudge against someone who wounded you deeply can hide the pain momentarily–but the pain returns. Trust me on this one; I personally know about holding grudges–it won’t heal the pain.
There are a lot of ways–chemical, emotional, and mental–to numb the pain. Yet they fail to heal the cause of our pain. This is why we turn to God in times of pain. God doesn’t offer us a quick-fix–but He does offer us wholeness. And sometimes, wholeness requires both time and a process. In the case of my ruptured appendix, they did not immediately remove that vile and evil beast. To have done so would have exposed my entire body with poisonous toxins that would have put me in further danger. By treating the poisons in me first, it decreases the probability of further complications when they will remove my appendix.
Next Wednesday I revisit my doctor. Hopefully he will tell me when they will schedule surgery to remove my appendix. Doctors have helped me understand why I need to wait–and I trust their knowledge and skills. And you can trust the knowledge and skills of the Great Physician to restore your whole health–spiritually, emotionally, mentally and relationally. You can trust Him because He created you–and offered you redemption through His Marvelous Grace. God doesn’t offer us a day-trip with a quick-fix. He offers us a journey–filled with His more than sufficient Grace–and His Presence to help us when we can’t help ourselves.
Today I’m continuing to reflect on my recent medical emergency and the lessons I am learning. If you didn’t read the first one, here is the LINK to where this all started. So here is today’s Lesson:
Get Rid Of That Poison!
As you probably know, when the appendix ruptures it release a toxic poison into the abdominal cavity. No one really knows the exact function of the appendix–lots of hypotheses–but no certain conclusion. That’s right, our body is locked-and-loaded with poison. As long as it stays where it belongs, no harm, no foul. But when it gets out–the story line changes.
Here’s how it continues to change my story line. I still have a drainage tube which requires my attention. Twice a day I take a 10-cc syringe of sterile saline, take an alcohol wipe and clean the connection, attach that syringe, turn a value and inject half of it into my abdominal cavity, turn the valve again and flush the line, and return that valve to the original position. It may sound painful but it’s not really painful. Then I measure what’s in the drainage bag and record it in a journal for my doctor.
Some may think this is another inconvenience–but my perspective tells me it’s necessary for my healing. If this poison remains in me then sepsis will set in. Sepsis happens when an infection you already have—in your skin, lungs, urinary tract, or somewhere else—triggers a chain reaction throughout your body. Untreated it is fatal. Knowing the outcome of what happens if I don’t flush out my abdomen, it’s not really inconvenient.
And it’s not just the body that internal poison is harmful–it also happens in the heart and mind. Some of those poisons are greed, fear, bitterness, resentment, guilt, shame, anger, lust, revenge, unforgiveness–these are just a few of the poisonous toxins. If untreated, they are as fatal as sepsis to the heart, mind and spirit. And as in my physical case, there are ways to get rid of those poisons. We can’t get rid of the poisons alone–we need our Heavenly Father to show us how to get rid of that poison. And they are worth the effort–because they work.
So, don’t allow those poisonous toxins create spiritual sepsis. Jesus delivered us on that Cross–and He continues to deliver us. It’s not always instantaneously–but He always makes us whole!
Well, in the immortal words of Jack Nicholson. . .
It’s been a while since I’ve put my thoughts, emotions, and questions in blog form. This respite has been intentional; I’ve been in a season of observation and reflection. At this stage of my spiritual journey I have come to understand how priceless observation and reflection are navigating this world as a citizen and warrior of the Kingdom of God.
Some of the observations and reflections resulted in my previous and current sermon series. Some of my observations and reflections have been planted in my “thinking about it” garden to see what grows out of it. And honestly, this was not going to be my “return to blogging” article. But then. . .real life happened.
It started on the afternoon of Sunday, July 12. After preaching 2 services I engaged in my Sabbath Discipline, A.K.A. a nap. When I woke up, I just didn’t feel good. Tried doing a couple of things and nausea set in. Nausea turned into more pain and then vomiting. All Sunday night the pain only intensified. But late Monday the pain eased up and I thought the worst was over. So much for my thinking. Finally, I told Debbie I needed to go to the emergency room. The rules at our small rural hospital meant she could drop me off, but not stay with me. But my high threshold for pain had been exceeded.
I signed in and then had to wait even though, on a scale of 1 to 10, my current pain was at 12.5. When they finally called me back the first order of business was a COVID-19 test, and then the reason why I was there. An injection of Dilaudid became a gift from God to me. Then things started happening pretty fast. A CT-Scan with contrast revealed a ruptured appendix. The nurse came in with the bad news and said “The helicopter will be here in just a few minutes.” It seems the hospitals closest to me that had the facilities to care for me didn’t have any beds.
When I arrived at University of Alabama Birmingham Medical Center, another COVID-19 test, conversation with some doctors, I was sent to the appropriate unit. Once there I was hooked up to IV antibiotics–and constant care. Wednesday was another day of pain and pain killers. Thursday morning was another whirlwind. I was taken for another scan; returned to my room, only to be turned around and taken back for 2 drainage tubes (one of those tubes was inserted into an orifice that shall remain unnamed).
In this same time my IV stick had to be moved 6 or 7 times because my vein had blown. My daily routine was pain, pain-killers, more IVs, and walking the halls for my physical therapy. Sunday morning I was feeling a little better, so I took a shower and even shaved. I was feeling a bit hopeful, that is, until the usual returned on Sunday night. Physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually I had been on the Roller Coaster From Hell.
Finally, on Monday, the numbers started moving in my favor. The pain was subsiding and I was feeling hopeful again. Tuesday morning one of my doctors came in and removed the most invasive drainage tube (remember the orifice I mentioned earlier?) and I wanted to sing the doxology. A little later he cleared me to go home with the other drainage tube. After a “how to flush the drainage tube” lesson and extensive discharge orders, 1 week later I arrived back to where this all started. Now I am home reflecting on these part 2 weeks. Allow me to share one of the lessons I have been learning.
We have no control over most of what happens to us in life
The need to be in control is only adding to the anger and chaos that is consuming and destroying our nation. I looked all through my calendar and to-do list and no where have I found “ruptured appendix” in my plans. The need to be in control over life, relationships, other people, families, even church–goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden when Satan offered that lie to Adam and Eve. Now I want to really upset some people:
We are not equipped to be in control!
Now that the bad news is out of the way–there is one thing over which we have absolute control. No thing or no one can control it for you. It is your reaction to what happens that you and you alone control. No whining and no excuses. Your reactions come from your perspective and no one can give you or choose for you that perspective. While lying in that hospital bed did I have a pity party? Of course I did! In fact, I had more than one. But I had a choice–do I choose to live in that pity party or do I choose to change my focus? I chose the later–and when I focused on God’s faithful presence, which at times I doubted; the pity party ended because I know that regardless of how I feel–God hasn’t abandoned me–and He is loving on me. Tomorrow I will share another lesson.
As long as I can remember, Dad had a garden. I mean a BIG garden. I think it came from his growing up years when times were hard. In spite of those hard times, he absolutely loved planting a garden! I remember him coming home from an 8 hour day at the local Reynolds plant and working until dark. His Saturdays found him working in the garden. And when they decided to build a new home in a subdivision he purchased 2 lots–one for the home and the other for the garden.
Even after my sister and I grew up and moved away, Dad continued his garden. After he retired, I remember my Mother fussing because he was working so hard in that garden. At first I suggested he slow down; but then I realized if he died working the garden, he would have died happy. Lord knows I’ve seen enough people die in misery. But as the years passed, he made his garden smaller. The only way he could do that was to plant some fruit trees so there wouldn’t be room to plant something else.
Finally, time did catch up with Dad and he just couldn’t garden the way he wanted. So he would plant in buckets and the inside of a washing machine tomato plants, squash and sometimes a cayenne pepper. But this spring, I was worried about him. Recently I asked him about his tomato and squash plants he told me, “I don’t think I’ll be doing them this year.” Understanding my Dad, I knew this wasn’t a good sign.
A bit of context. Dad just turned 94 years old. My Mother, his wife of 72 years, died 2 years ago come May. He still lives in that house he had built in 1962. It is filled with many wonderful memories, for him and us. He sounded tired, and I know he is; at times his grief is almost overwhelming. And for him not to plant at least 1 tomato plant and 2 squash plants meant he didn’t see a future for himself here on earth. I know he longs to go home to be with The Father.
But this week, 3 plants changed everything: 1 tomato plant and 2 squash plants. When I called him he proudly told me that he had put out his “garden”. That, my friends, is what is known as hope. Hope doesn’t blossom and become fruitful in the best of times–but in the most difficult of times. My Dad’s hope has grown. I realize that at 94 years old he may not eat a single tomato sandwich or fry up a skillet of fried squash–but he is planning on it. That is when hope becomes visual.
And the lesson, my dear readers, is clear in these days. COVID-19 is scary and there are many, maybe some of you, who have ONLY hunkered down and you do not see a future filled with hope. Let me ask you this question: What are you doing right now to plan for the future? I’m not talking about hoarding toilet paper and hand sanitizer. What are your plans WHEN this pandemic is over? And are those plans simply a reflection of what you are doing now? Where’s the hope in that?
So start “planting” now how to enjoy life more than ever. “Plant” those plans of spending more time with family and friends. “Plant” those plans of reconnecting with the Body of Christ. “Plant” those plans of being kinder in public. “Plant” that plan of a special trip with your family. Don’t wait until the pandemic is over to “plant” your hope. Do it now! Otherwise, your current mindset will continue to control your life. Three plants changed Dad’s perspective. It doesn’t take a whole lot to change your perspective. After all, only you can determine your perspective.
The prevalent question among the sane and those of us blessed with common sense is, “Where is all this fear, panic and hoarding coming from?” I know the answer. But before I share it with you, a little bit of perspective from me. In previous times when we’ve seen this kind of behavior and I’ve been asked “Why is this happening?” My answer was, “They don’t have any perspective.” Well, I was wrong.
Everybody has a perspective. Each person’s perspective is never chosen for them by someone else; each person chooses their perspective. And in these times they may want to blame the Chinese, news media, health care system, pharmaceutical companies, the Illuminati (yes, I’ve heard this as to blame for the current fear and chaos), or the ever favorite scapegoat, President Trump. Not so fast, Buckaroo! NO ONE CHOOSES YOUR PERSPECTIVE AND NO ONE FORCES YOU TO HAVE YOUR CURRENT PERSPECTIVE! It is never chosen for you. People may, and in fact do make many of your choices for you. But perspective? ONLY YOU CONTROL YOUR PERSPECTIVE.
What? What’s that you say? Someone just disagreed with me. You said, “No! It’s the fault of the Chinese, news media, Trump that’s causing me to fear!” No it’s not and just because you say it’s the reason why doesn’t make it the reason why. You have taken life as it happens and have chosen your perspective. That’s a fact, Jack! You can disagree with me but…
The mass fear, pandemonium, and chaos comes from the perspective of, guess what? The Perspectives of Fear, Pandemonium or Chaos. And the wonderful thing about perspective is that it can change–for the better or for the worse. Allow me to share some “different” perspectives in these times:
If you have an autoimmune disease, respiratory issues, or are on chemo or radiation therapy, choose to stay at home. Your perspective in this time is to prevent you from becoming sicker than you already are. Call a friend, family member or neighbor to go shopping for you. It’s not just the COVID-19 virus that you should be concerned about, but Type A and Type B flu is a threat to you. More people have died from Type A & Type B flu than from cornavirus.
If you have a sore throat, coughing, fever or sinus issues, get diagnosed by a doctor. Your perspective in this time is to make sure whatever it is, you don’t share it with anyone. Sure, it may be just allergies; but let a doctor make that call. And if you are diagnosed with Coronavirus or the Flu, stay out of contact with anyone until the doctor declares it to be safe for you to go out. And follow the treatment plan your doctor gives you. Don’t stop taking any medicines just because “you feel better now”.
And if you are healthy, no flu or other symptoms, carry on with your life and respect the space of others. Your perspective in this time is to be hopeful and upbeat, kind and encouraging. Now, I’m a hand-shaker and a hugger. It’s just who I am–I love and care about people. And I admit it’s a challenge not to extend the hand or arm for a hug. But it’s a challenge I’m up to–and so can you. Not only is the flu virus and coronavirus contagious, but so is a smile, as well as kind words. Greet people with a “Hello, how are you doing?” or something similar. Choose to be cheerful, optimistic and encouraging. You will be amazed at how social spaces are changed by a smile and kind words.
So, remember, you get to choose your own perspective in these times. In fact, every day you get to choose your perspective–and you DO CHOOSE YOUR OWN PERSPECTIVE. Just remember this scene from the movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade”
You can choose your perspective poorly or you can choose your perspective wisely…
In this time of fear, panic and exponential hoarding people need to be reminded of simple, basic facts about viruses. Perspective helps all of us process what is happening with clarity on any given day; especially in these days. You may say that it’s just not that simple. Oh, yes it is. It’s not easy–but it is just this simple.
1) This pandemic is not the first. For example, the Swine Flu pandemic in 2009. There were more cases and fatalities than in the current pandemic. Yet there were no closings or shortages of toilet paper or hand sanitizer, and life continued.
2) COVID-19 is serious, but not apocalyptic. Basic precautions are enough to keep the wolf at bay.
3) The elderly, young children and people with autoimmune diseases are always at high risk. Upper respiratory infections, Type A Influenza, Type B Influenza and other viral diseases are a serious threat for those in these groups. Every year people in these groups die from these types of diseases or complications from these diseases every year that are projected to die from COVID-19.
4) Do NOT self diagnosis yourself. Don’t assume it’s just a cold or allergies. Get a professional diagnosis before going out into the public.
5) Respect other people’s space. Simply put, STAY PUT UNTIL YOU ARE SYMPTOM FREE AT LEASE 48 HOURS, LONGER IF THE DOCTOR SAYS SO. Because so many do not have the common sense and common decency to stay at home when sick, government officials are having to step in and tell them what to do and not do. This is why “gathering” is being discouraged and “social distancing” is being encouraged. We should not have to depend on the government to regulate our conduct in this time, but because people really DON’T CARE ABOUT OTHERS, government is forced to act. A side note: IF YOU GO OUT IN PUBLIC WHEN YOU ARE SICK IT SHOWS YOU DON’T GIVE A RAT’S TAIL ABOUT ANYONE OTHER THAN YOURSELF. If you disagree with this statement–you’re still wrong.
6) Three Last Words: Hygiene, Hygiene, Hygiene! When I was in school, we had a class on Hygiene. It’s time to bring it back. Wash your hands with soap and water multiple times each day. Keep your whole body clean. Put tissues in the garbage can rather than leaving them laying on a desk or table. Use disinfectant cleaners in your homes or apartments. Keep your vehicles clear of trash and clutter. Cleanliness has been said to be next to godliness. Cleanliness also protects you and the people around you.
I’ve made many satirical and snarky comments and analysis about the current News Media fed panic about COVID-19. Some of those comments were made in private conversations among friends and family, and a couple of snarky comments via social media (see the above graphic as an example). But today, though I usually reserve Friday’s for something funny, I want to be serious, transparent and truthful.
Here is your complete, yet simple GUIDE TO MANAGING AND MANEUVERING THROUGH COVID-19 CRISIS. For this to effectively work, you must first take a moment to breathe in deeply. Hold that breath and imagine it’s everything you’ve heard, been told, or assumed about COVID-19. Now exhale and as you do imagine that everything you’re heard, been told, or assumed is leaving your mind with that breath. Have you done that? If you are still have any of what you’ve heard, been told, or assumed still in your mind, repeat the process until you reach ultimate Zen. OK, let’s get going to the truth:
1. Understand the difference between a PANDEMIC and an EPIDEMIC
This is absolutely the first step, and the longest section of this blog. Without this knowledge you will dive deeper and deeper in fear and chaos. The word PANDEMIC is being tossed around like a football. I call your attention to that famous line from The Princess Bride:
According to the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia a PANDEMIC “refers to an epidemic that has spread over several countries or continents, usually affecting a large number of people”. Do not panic at the word EPIDEMIC. By definition (of the CDC as well as epidemiologists) an EPIDEMIC “refers to a sudden increase in the number of cases of a disease above what is normally expected”. Stay calm because we need to understand these definitions and their appropriate applications.
Look at this part of the definition of EPIDEMIC: a sudden increase in the number of cases of a disease above what is normally expected. To help, I’ve emphasized those last 2 words. Here’s an example and application. The World Health Organization and the Center for Disease Control normally expects 3 cases of Spotted Zebra Measles (not a real disease). In 2018 they had exactly 3 cases. Normal, right?
But in 2019 they find 6 cases of Spotted Zebra Measles. By definition, since the number of Spotted Zebra Cases have doubled, from 3 to 6, we have an EPIDEMIC. The 6 cases were not normally expected. Are you with me so far? Good. Now let’s imagine that 2 of those 6 cases were in 2 other countries. You now have a PANDEMIC. Remember that a PANDEMIC refers to an EPIDEMIC that has spread over several countries or continents, USUALLY affecting a large number of people. Two is not a large number–however it does fall outside the parameters of NORMALLY EXPECTED. And notice that word in the definition of PANDEMIC: USUALLY affecting a large number of people.
Not always affecting a large number of people; just usually. And what defines a large number of people? Now apply all this to COVID-19. Less than 1 out of 500,000+ people world-wide have had presumptive positive tests for COVID-19. Only 1 out of 500,000 isn’t a large number. BUT, because of the first case of COVID-19 exceeded normal expectations, you have an EPIDEMIC and because it’s been found in other countries you have a PANDEMIC.
Let’s put all this in PERSPECTIVE. Since 29 September 2019 there have been 207,466 confirmed cases of Type A and Type B Influenza in the United States. Can we agree is 207,466 is a large number? Presumptive Positive cases of COVID-19 are minuscule compared to 207,466. In the same period there have been an estimated 16,000 deaths from Types A and B Influenza in the United States, primarily among young children, elderly adults, and those with chronic health issues. Yet, there is NO Epidemic because these numbers have not exceeded what has been established as NORMAL.
I’m not insisting that you go forward with reckless abandon and ignore potential dangers. That would be like seeing decaying boards on a swinging bridge over a 5,000 foot deep crevice and saying, “Oh, those decaying board will hold me up!” But there are some simple guidelines you can follow.
2. Practice Good Hygiene
Regularly wash your hands using both soap and water. This ancient practice (FYI–it was given to the Hebrews as a law from God) is time tested and a proven method for remaining healthy. In addition to soap and water, you can use hand sanitizer during the day. HOWEVER avoid using any of the online HOMEMADE VARIETIES. Unless the alcohol contention is greater than 60% they are not effective. You cannot know this unless you have a degree in chemistry and a lab at home to test it. If your local store has sold out of hand sanitizer because of the rush of idiots, you can use undiluted Isopropyl rubbing alcohol or undiluted hydrogen peroxide. Both are proven to kill the COVID-19 Virus as well as both Type A and Type B strains of Influenza.
3. Keep Personal Spaces Clean
Put tissues in the garbage can and don’t leave them on a desk, table, vehicle, or chair. Wipe areas down regularly. Again, simple soap and water does the trick if packaged wipes are unavailable. Remember rubbing alcohol and hydrogen peroxide.
3. Stay Home
If you have sniffles, cough, body aches or fever–don’t share your marvelous presence under any circumstances. I missed my last family Christmas with my Mother before she died because I had the flu. I also missed the first family Christmas after she died because of the flu. Don’t consider it just a simple cold or allergies. Go to a clinic or doctor for an accurate diagnosis. Don’t trust self-diagnosis. This applies to you, your spouse, your significant other, children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, nieces, nephews, cousins all the way to your 7th cousin twice removed, as well as the stranger within your gates. And please don’t expect your pastor to pay you a visit!
4. Don’t Visit Others Who Are Sick
This step is for you compassionate folks. Whether someone is isolated at home, or especially in a hospital don’t go visit them to show that you care. You can call them (letting them know why you are not there in person), send flowers or a fruit/snack basket. If they are at home and you want to bring them over a meal, call ahead and let them know what you are doing and when you get there, ring the doorbell or knock on the door and leave the food in a designated location. Add a nice handwritten note as well. Avoid nursing homes as much as possible to avoid spreading the Influenza or catching Influenza. As much as you may want to see a family member who is sick, show them how much you care by waiting until they are well.
5. Carefully Plan Your Shopping
This step really makes sense. The more often you are in a public setting the greater the probability you will come in contact with someone who has the Flu and has chosen to have no respect for human life and ignored Step 3. Don’t go to a store each time you need something. Change your menu, or adjust your plans as much as possible. Make a list and go once a week or every other week if possible. Some businesses will allow you to order online or with an app and you can simply drive up to the designated location, or walk to a specific location and everything is ready for you.
This is neither Rocket Surgery or Brain Science folks. Simple precautions and a hefty dose of common sense will begin to ease both the panic and stupidity that is currently in over-abundance. You are going to be perfectly alright….unless you see this in your neighborhood…
Pernicious. Virulent. Mephitic. Pestilential. Nefarious. Miasmatic. Pestiferous. Deleterious. Iniquitous. Maleficent. Rancorous. These words are in my Monday Musings. These are big synonyms for a simple word that is at the core of these Musings. The simple word is Toxic. It is my culture, perhaps I should say, my perspective of my culture that is leading this rumination this morning.
But it’s not just my culture–it’s a word, verses from one of the wisest persons to ever live. This sage wrote one of the rawest in terms of human emotions books ever written. Maybe you’ve heard of it: Ecclesiastes. And here’s the part I’m musing on:
For everything there is a season,Ecclesiastes 3:1 (NLT)
a time for every activity under heaven.
Solomon then sets out a series of contrasts about appropriate “It’s Time” moments. I’m drawn into this series of contrasts:
5 A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones.Ecclesiastes 3:5-6 (NLT)
A time to embrace and a time to turn away.
6 A time to search and a time to quit searching.
A time to keep and a time to throw away.
Now, add that word Toxic. No one would intentionally build their dream home knowingly on top of a Toxic Waste Dump. Yet, many persist and hold onto Toxic Relationships. By the very meaning of that word Toxic, people hold on to relationships that are deleterious to their physical, emotional, mental and spiritual health. Toxic Relationships happen at all levels. Familial. Friends. Spouses. Significant Others. Work. And yes, even in Church.
Allow me to cut to the core of it all. A Toxic Relationship is any relationship that consistently and constantly rips us apart or lives to create chaos. Lots of things can rip us apart. Even more things creates a tornado-earthquake-hurricane-tsunami kind of chaos. Even in the church this happens. I’m watching it in my own Tribe, the United Methodist Chaos, I mean Church.
So, how long should one stay in the chaos? As a traditional, orthodox kind of guy, I will probably be asked to leave. Some of my fellow kindred hearts say we should stay together to change things. Others of my kindred hearts say it’s not fair to ask us to leave–after all, we are the majority, and we embrace the authority of God’s Word.
But then there’s these words of Solomon: A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones. A time to embrace and a time to turn away. Oh, and that next verse: A time to search and a time to quit searching. A time to keep and a time to throw away.
There comes a moment in relationships where the only option is the other option. A time to scatter stones. A time to turn away. A time to quit searching. A time to throw away. And this is where I see this Tribe. I say this not with deep resignation and despair. No! I say this with great hope and greater expectations. The chaos in the United Methodist Church is pestilential.
And you may find yourself in a pestiferous relationship. You can try to ride it out, hope it will change; but it may crush you instead. Or you can accept that some relationships will never be mended. So when is the time to give up? When it poisons your attitude, your mind, your heart, and when you allow it to shape your perspective–Solomon would tell you, it’s time.
But always remember that God has another time, another season for you. And HIS new season for your life will be different–probably difficult–but it will NOT be Toxic. And it will be good.
My Tuesday Thoughts on what to write this morning were running wild–wild as a trio of adolescents on a 3 day binge on candy kind of sugar rush. When my thinking gets like this, I have to really force myself to stop thinking–so that I can listen. Now I have it–it’s Psalm 139 and three words from that Psalm–YOU ARE THERE!
Who’s there? God, of course. Most of us like to consider ourselves Masters Of Camouflage. Like an Army sniper in the field, we think we can hide and no one see us–or see what’s going on inside us. But regardless of how or even where we hide, Even There God finds us. When God asked Adam and Eve, “Hey, guys! Where are y’all?”, He knew where they were.
It wasn’t a question of confusion; it was a question of trust. God was asking Adam and Eve, “Do you still trust me, trust my love and that I am still good even though you did what you did?” Smack dab in the middle of their self-imposed mess, they did trust God. And in this Psalm David seems to be reflecting on his life. He’s known up and downs. He’s been faithful to God and been a rebel against God. He’s hidden in caves from King Saul, and he’s tried hiding from the King of Kings.
And what he could do with Saul, successfully hide, he never could do with God. He found out what Adam and Eve discovered–in the middle of our messes–Even There God Is Present. And in His Presence, He is still trustworthy, He is still loving us, and most of all, He is still GOOD! For the life of me, I cannot figure out why some people think God is out looking for people just to punish them. And if this day you are trying to hide from God because you “think” He’s mad at you, or that He doesn’t want you–Think Again! In your fear, confusion or despair–Even there in that place He is present and He is still Good And Loving On You.
And it’s just not in the places where we try to run and hide from God, but it’s true also in the places where circumstances and consequences have placed us. Problems at work. A “we no longer need your services” moment. Chemo or radiation therapy. A disintegrating family. A nursing home. A funeral home. Even in church.
My beloved Tribe, the United Methodist Church, is in utter chaos; or so it seems to many of us. But even there, God is Present. God Is Faithful. God Is Loving Us. God Has A Plan. And God is still GOOD! What I’m saying is this: Wherever you are–whether it’s the result of you poor choices or whether it’s the result of forces beyond your control–Even There God Is Present. Even there He is still Faithful to you. Even there He still Loves you. Even there He is still GOOD. Even there, He will lead you out and back to where you belong!
Love God with all your heart. Love others the way HE loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to HIM!
Welcome to another Saturday Story. Today’s story is from several years ago; it was such a powerful moment that I still remember it as if it occurred yesterday. Listen to it, and maybe Dad has something to say to you…
TODAY IS NOT THAT DAY
Ernie was a retired sheet metal worker. He and his wife Bettye had retired to Scottsboro. They never had children, so they “adopted” kids of all ages, including me. Both spent many hours serving Jesus at Randall’s Chapel (no, that church wasn’t named after me!). Ernie served Jesus in so many ways. Teaching, leading committees, the men’s group, serving in whatever way he was asked. Needless to say, this pastor fell in love with them.
Ernie was the epitome of an “active member”; but I and several others noticed Ernie didn’t have his usual level of stamina. Ernie noticed it too, so he went to his doctor to find out why. After several tests, Ernie was given the diagnosis of ALS (I refuse to call this evil disease by the name of one of baseball’s greatest players).
Word reached me of this diagnosis. As “pastor”, my job was to give him and Bettye words of encouragement and wisdom. This wasn’t my first encounter with someone dehumanized by ALS. I knew what Ernie’s future would look like. The day after his diagnosis I was going to “visit” with them and share those “words of encouragement and wisdom”. And as I sat in my office that morning, I struggled to find any such words. But it was my “job” to do it, and honestly, I felt like a failure because I simply couldn’t find the right “words”.
Just then (remember that “just then” or “it just so happened” are usually God prepared and ordained moments) I heard Ernie come in. He stuck his head in my office and asked, “Bro. Randy, do you have a few minutes, I need to talk about something.” Of course I had time, I always have time for a good friend; but this time my mind is in panic mode. I still didn’t have those words of “encouragement and wisdom”. In my heart I said, “OK, Holy Spirit, you’re going to have to do the talking because I don’t know what to say!”
And my, oh, my did my Friend, the Holy Spirit, do some talking. But it wasn’t me doing the talking–it was Ernie. “Randy, I know you heard about my diagnosis. And I need you to understand that one day I won’t be able to teach the Sunday School class. One day I won’t be able to be involved in the men’s group. One day I won’t be able to serve this church. One day I won’t be able to do all the things I love doing around here.” And what Ernie said next is still with me.
With a love and fire in his eyes he said, “But today is not that day! I’m going to continue to do all the things I’ve been doing. Whatever you or this church needs me for, I’m here! I know that day will come, it’s just that Today Is Not That Day!” The words of encouragement and wisdom wasn’t meant to be shared by me; that Holy Moment was given to Ernie.
And Ernie kept that Sacred Vow. He kept on working and moving forward with Jesus. And a little over a year later, that day finally came. Bettye asked me to do the funeral service. And the message I shared? It was the very same one Ernie shared with me that morning in my office. Ernie prepared his own eulogy and funeral message: Today is not THAT day to give up. God is with you every step of the way. And on that sad day, God’s Grace abounded.
We all face difficult, even terrifying moments in life. The temptation, even the urge to give up can seem overwhelming. I know, I’ve faced many such moments. And in those moments, I see Ernie, sitting across my desk. He’s smiling and saying to me, “Now Randy, you know Today Is Not THAT Day!”
Whatever it is that you may face in life; whatever you ARE facing right now that is overwhelming you with the feeling of helplessness or hopelessness and you want to give up; remember my good friend Ernie’s words: Today Is Not THAT Day! Ernie lived with the confidence that whatever the future held, HE was held by God and was secure in that knowledge.