COMING APART? COME APART.

“Come ye apart, lest ye come apart.” You won’t find those exact words in the Bible, but I once heard a pastor use that phrase to make a point: We all need to step away from our daily grind to catch our breath, gain new perspective and be renewed. It was actually Jesus’ idea. When the disciples reported to Jesus all they had done, He said, “Come off by yourselves; let’s take a break and get a little rest” (Mark 6: 31 The Message). The remainder of the verse explains why: For there was constant coming and going. They didn’t even have time to eat. Does that sound like your life? It sounds like my life when I had small children – that was probably the only time I can say I ever forgot to eat. I was on my feet all day long – constant coming and going – until I shuffled off to bed and fell in, exhausted. The next morning I would do it all over again. My career days as a social worker were literally filled with constant coming and going – I traveled a five-county area making home visits and doing community presentations. It seemed there was always more work than there was time to do it. When I arrived home each night it felt as if I had nothing left – I gave it all at the office. The next morning I did it all over again. Have you ever noticed how daily life can be so…so daily? We would do well to heed Jesus’ advice: take a break and get a little rest. Taking a break can be as simple as sitting down and putting your feet up for a few minutes. When my children were small, I took a rest time when they did. I would set the kitchen timer for ten minutes, lie on the couch and close my eyes. It was during this time of my life that I perfected the art of catnapping. Even in my career days I often transitioned from my hectic work day to the evening with a brief nap. It helped turn off my mind from the cares of the day. Taking a break can also be complex as arranging time away from your usual routine. It may involve hiring a babysitter or planning logistics for an evening out or a weekend away. Browse a bookstore. Listen to music. Read. Attend a concert or a retreat. Take a walk…or just sit. Listen for God’s voice. Did you know that taking a break and resting is an act of trust? When we cease our coming and going, we trust that God can run the world without us for a short while. David wrote, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). “Be still” means to cease striving…Take a break. Get a little rest. Whether it’s a five minute break to put your feet up or a weekend at a retreat, take a break…rest a little. Place your concerns in God’s hands. Be conscious of the fact that God is in control. Avoid burn out and blow ups. Come ye apart, lest ye come...

SEASONS COME…SEASONS GO

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven. Ecclesiastes 3:1 In a few days we will mark the passing of summer and move into autumn. A part of me wants to cry, “No-o-o-o!” I grieve each year when it’s time to hang up my swimsuit and put away the hammock. My summer company is gone. The dead stocks in my flower garden tell me it’s time to let go of the glorious summer we enjoyed. The geese have sealed the deal – they are slipping out of town in the early morning hours, aiming their V’s south. Their honks of good-bye are always poignant, so unlike the raucous announcement in spring that says, “We’re back!” There is a blush of first color on the trees – a promise of the glory to come.  Soon I will remember, “That’s right, autumn is my favorite time of the year!” Give me one warm, sunny Indian summer day, and I will be wishing the calendar would stop there…but it won’t. Just when I’ve come around to reveling in autumn, a fall wind storm will strip the trees bare – an omen of the winter ahead. Winters in northern Michigan come too soon and never pass too quickly. We joke that we have four seasons: Early winter, mid-winter, late winter, and next winter. It isn’t so much the seasons themselves I struggle with. It’s change. For most of us stress is spelled c-h-a-n-g-e. Think of it: a change in health or finances, even the weather…or the season, can result in stress. If it’s true that “The only thing that remains constant is change,” no wonder we feel stressed as often as we do. Change can be a positive thing. I retired last October; that was a very positive change! But any change also involves losses: I miss the camaraderie of my co-workers. And I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss the paychecks! Change is always a process of letting go of the old and getting on with, and even, embracing, the new. The challenge is to do it gracefully. Seasons of life also come and go… My hectic days of parenting young children are long gone. The busy season of single-parenting teens is past. I thoroughly enjoyed my daughters’ college days, but they flew by at the speed of light. I was a happy and proud mom when my youngest daughter Molly graduated, but I grieved when I drove away from Cornerstone University. It was change – a good change, but not without losses. Gone were fun-filled Parents’ Weekends. I enjoyed hanging out with my college-age daughters and their friends. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to them as they scattered to who-knows-where. I loved road trips to Grand Rapids – a 500 mile drive from my home. I hated to say goodbye to all our favorite restaurants, bookstores and shopping malls. Did I mention that I struggle with change? In a few days we will move into autumn. And in a few days, my daughter Molly will move from Minneapolis to Orlando, FL (nearly 1600 mile away) to finish her studies at Full Sail University. How am I doing with these changes? I am doing just fine – actually, I am doing great! I will miss my annual October trek to Minnesota and our apple orchard excursions. During her three year stint in Minneapolis, I came to love Molly’s roommates and friends. We will keep in touch on Facebook, but I will miss seeing them. This move will undoubtedly involve more expensive logistics when it is time to visit her, but at least for now, I am excited to celebrate how God is directing her paths and providing for her. I want to be like the psalmist David – through all the changes and challenges in his life, he wrote, “But I trust in you, O LORD; I say, ‘My times are in your hands’” (Psalm 31:14, 15). Like the apostle Paul, I want to be able to give thanks in all seasons and circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:16), trusting that God’s will is being worked out in my life and in the lives of those I love. Seasons come, and seasons go, but of this we can be sure: There is a time for everything, and our times are in His hands. What season of life are you in? How gracefully do you handle...

WHAT TO DO?

She did what she could. Mark 14:8 “What to do?” Like most Americans, I asked myself that question during the week after September 11, 2001. As I stared with disbelief at the images of Ground Zero on TV, my heart cried out with the need to do something, but what? What could I do that would make a difference? It was not feasible to travel to New York City to cheer on the rescue workers, but it occurred to me that there were things I could do right here at home. I thought of the story in the Bible of the woman with the alabaster jar: she broke it, and anointed Jesus with the expensive perfume it contained. Jesus commended her, “She did what she could.” (Mark 14:8). In the midst of desperate times, we may not be able to do great things, but let it be said that we did what we could. My flag flew 24 hours/day to show my support for my country. My final thoughts of the day were prayers for our president, his advisers, and our military. I asked God to bless America and keep her safe from harm. I wore a lapel pin of the stars-and-stripes. There was a sense of unity as I saw others in public, proudly wearing their colors, too. Without a word, when we looked at each other’s pins, it communicated, “We’re in this together.” I gave bags of cans and bottles to a fundraising effort done by our local high school. Our teens wanted to contribute to the NYC Victims’ Fund. I wanted to encourage their sense of compassion and patriotism, and cheer, “Way to go!” On a day off, I made a large pot of chicken soup. Carrots from my Dad’s garden seemed to add to its therapeutic value. I invited my pastor and his wife to dinner after church that Sunday. Their daughter was teaching overseas in a country near Afghanistan. I wanted to assure them of my prayers. With a bowl of homemade chicken soup, I wanted to say, “Everything will be okay.” I brought leftover soup to my 90-year old Uncle Reino. He lived alone, but managed remarkably well, in spite of having lost a leg to cancer. He was widowed the year after my husband died; a special bond was forged out of our losses. We sat in his front porch and exchanged a few words of disbelief about that week’s events. Mainly, we just sat. I shared the ministry of presence with him. A container of soup and a brief visit told him, “I’m still here. I love you.” I baked cookies to send in a care package to my daughters, Aimee and Molly, who lived downstate. On top of each box, I placed patriotic dishtowels I purchased on clearance after the Fourth of July. I intended to give them the towels the following year, but their message, “God bless America,” was needed then. The care packages were my way of saying, “I can’t be with you now, but I’m sending this hug through the mail.” Aimee and her husband, Andy were just weeks into their new careers when the whole world changed. I sent a card of congratulations celebrating their new beginning. I wanted to assure them, “Life will go on. We’ll get through this.” Molly was a senior in college, getting ready to launch out into life. To my Communications major, I conveyed this thought, “We may not know what the future holds, but we know Who holds the future. Keep the faith.” Two days after the terrorist attack, I was scheduled to present a workshop at a women’s retreat.  The retreat director asked if I would cover two keynote presentations as our speaker’s plane was grounded in California. In our closing session, I reminded the women of the famous words of Winston Churchill. During the terrible bombing of London during WW II, he urged his countrymen to conduct themselves so that if the British Empire and its Commonwealth should last for a thousand years, men will still say, “This was their finest hour.” I prayed over the women before we left for home, “May the love and light of Jesus shine through us in the days ahead. As Christian women, may it be said that this was our finest hour. Amen” As we mark the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, our country is experiencing a prolonged financial crisis. We witness political bloodbaths every day on our networks. We are reminded of our nation’s vulnerability. As Americans, most of us will not be privileged to do heroic feats in the line of duty for...

HAVE A GOD DAY

This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it! Psalm 128:24 There are two typos I frequently make. The first is the word “from” – when I type it as “form,” I groan, backspace and retype it.  The second typo makes me stop in my tracks, smile and prompts me to pray. When I write to a friend and type the usual, “Hope you have a good day,” I inadvertently leave out an “o” and my wish is that they have a “god day.”  My intended lame wish that all goes well for my friend that day then becomes a prayer: “Hope you have a God day. I pray that God shows up in the midst of your comings-and-goings and blows your hair back with the blessings of His presence and His favor. Whatever comes your way, may you end the day knowing this: God loves you, He is with you and He is for you.” For me, a God day is one that begins with a quiet time. Before rushing into the busyness of my day, I take time to be quiet before God, to listen for His voice by reading His Word. I pray for wisdom to discern His will for me that day and for the strength and willingness to carry it out. I wrap my mind around the thought that God is in control of the circumstances of my life and of the world that day. When I start my day with God, I can go into the day confident that “If God is for me, who can be against me?” (Romans 8:31, paraphrased). I can praise the Lord and rejoice that this is the day that He has made (Psalm 128:24, paraphrased). A God day means I have another day of new beginnings – a day to live intentionally and see God work out His purposes in my life and in lives around me. It means that even on a day that includes struggles, I know that in all things God is working for my good, according for His purposes for me (Romans 8:29, 30, paraphrased). Any day that is a God day is a good day. That is great cause to rejoice! I do hope you have a good – even great – day. I hope that all goes well for you on this Labor Day.  But beyond well wishes, here is my earnest prayer for you today, my friends: Have a God day! P.S. I am interested in hearing from you: What  helps you to have a God...