Thursday, June 16, 2016

Be the Grace and Love They Seek

Photo taken from The Blaze website
In these times when grace and love seem to be so hard to find, we as the Church need to be the grace and love that people seek.

All this week I have been listening to the talk and observing the way various people have reacted to the horrible mass murder by a terrorist in Orlando last Saturday night.    

A friend of mine knows someone who was friends of one of the first victims killed. His heart was broken and needed some understanding but he did not see it in a church. This particular church did not acknowledge the tragedy nor did they pray for the victims. 

While in a meeting, I heard people talking about how they couldn't believe all of the publicity the LGBT community was receiving from this awful event. They were talking about how terrible the media was because they felt that if this had been 49 Christians killed, there would not have been as much of a show of support. It was as if they were a little jealous of the media attention.

I do not support the choice of the homosexual lifestyle. BUT I do support love and grace. The people that were shot and killed were fellow human beings. God loved them just as He loves you and me. He wishes that all people be saved. Paul says in I Corinthians 10:33, "For I am not seeking my own good but the good of the many, so that they may be saved."

I told my friend that I wish her friend would have been in our service on Sunday morning. Our Worship Minister and the Preacher both prayed for the victims and their families. But at the meeting I had attended, I did not speak up. I had to process their attitudes a little before I could speak.

The Preacher has said on many occasions, "If we, as a church, are always showing people what we are against, then how will they ever know what we are for?"

I'm sure you have heard the saying, "hate the sin, love the sinner". Do we say it just to be talking christianese and we feel we'll sound more holy? We all deal with our own sins every day but thank God He still loves us in spite of it. 

So as we go forward in the wake of this tragedy, let's not go forward in hate. Let's go forward in love. Let's go forward with grace. 

Be the Church, be the people that Christ wants us to be.

Love from the Preacher and I 

Friday, June 10, 2016

It Is Hard When 'Life Goes On'

In November of 2014 I wrote of the pain that we felt when our son was taken away in a military bus to be taken to an airport and flown to the sight of his basic training. In that post I wrote, This is the hardest thing his father and I have had to go through in all of his life. This is the time where your faith is tested, where you know that your faith in God is the only thing that keeps you going. You have to pray and believe that your son will be okay and that, with the Lord's help, he will get through this. With the Lord's help we will get through this.

Now jump ahead 2 years. Our faith once again is being tested and we are going through another hard time in our life as a family. The training that he received while in the military is now being tested in a real life situation in some distant land.

On the day I knew that he would be taken to an airport to be flown to a place where his training may be tested, I cried. I cried a lot. I didn’t know how to really function. Again my heart and stomach were being ripped from my body. I was trying to put on a better face but to no avail. 

On that same day our church was hosting a get-together picnic in honor of some friends. In the morning I was doing alright but the closer the time came for everyone to gather together to eat and enjoy each other’s company I began to feel like I couldn’t breathe.  I had to leave, I had to go home and just be by myself. The truth is I was not ready for the 'life goes on' conversations and laughter that I knew was waiting there at the picnic.

I feel like I need to confess that since our son’s enlistment two years ago, I find myself not feeling compassion for mothers who lament of their sons or daughters leaving the nest for college or maybe even a summer camp. I find myself thinking so what, you can go pick them up anytime you want, you know they are on the soil of our country that is free, you know exactly where they are, you know that on the weekend they will be home back safely in your arms.

I expressed these feelings to the Preacher one day. He understood because he feels the pain of separation too, but he reminded me of how I felt when our son would go off to camp. He reminded me of how I felt the day we moved our son into his own college apartment. At every milestone there has been a sense of loss and the feeling that you are the only one having to deal with that loss.

We are all mother’s and our children are our lives and we each have to endure their leaving.   So to all of the mothers out there who are feeling the pain of a son or daughter inching their way, little by little, out of your nest, I apologize. I apologize if I have not seemed more sympathetic. I apologize for not understanding your pain. I apologize for not being better at offering my shoulder to cry on. I ask for your patience.

As we did two years ago, the Preacher and I ask for your prayers of safety for our son.  

We are praying for your sons and daughters too.
Love from the Preacher and I 

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Parallel Worlds – So Different Yet So Similar

Our Prison Ministry Team standing outside the Prison
Photo taken by Juan Rios

The Preacher and I were finishing up working in the office on a Friday evening when I received a text from a friend asking if we would like to meet for dinner. We had not been with them in quite some time and they wanted to reconnect. They were dealing with life changes and wanted some advice on life choices and prayer was much appreciated. We met later that evening. We laughed, we ate, we discussed what if's, we reconnected. The Preacher and I then went home with our stomachs full of good food and our hearts full of love for our friends and for each other.

Early the next morning our Prison Ministry Team met to go to a men's correctional facility 60 miles from our church. We were going to this prison to bring songs of praise and words of wisdom through the Message of the Bible. We entered the front doors of the prison and while going through our security checks we were told of a lock down that had occurred the night before. We were to wait for the guards to check and see if we would be able to see the men, the men who are the church inside these barbed-wire, concrete walls. 

We were given the okay and proceeded down the locked door hallways to our little room we use as a chapel and began to set up. The men slowly made their way to the room. They have smiles on their faces, they are happy to see us. One of the prisoners begins to tell us of the events that took place the night before.

While the Preacher and I were having dinner in a restaurant with our friends a man was being stabbed in the prison. The prisoner's cells were being ransacked by guards who were on high alert. They were ripping apart men's beds and personal belongings looking for more weapons. After the confusion and danger subsided, the men went back to their torn up cells and began the clean-up. Sleep did not come easy nor did it come peacefully.

Did this prisoner, who was telling the story, go on to tell us what a horrible, scary place this prison is? No, he went on to say how he loves the Lord and how he asks God everyday for His discernment. This is something he had never done before walking behind those thick, iron gates.

Upon hearing the prisoner praising the Lord, I stopped and reflected on all I had heard. I thought of the events that took place in my life, in my world, the night before. 

Here this man is living in a world where he is confined to small living quarters, his comings and goings are monitored 24 hours a day, and where danger is around every corner, and yet he sits before us proclaiming his love for Christ and is content where he is. Do I proclaim my love for Christ when life throws hard choices, hard situations and hard people in my life? Would I praise Him if I lived in constant danger? I would like to say that I would but I know better. Many times I don't praise Him in my hard days.

I saw our parallel worlds that morning, the prisoner's and mine. Two completely different worlds and yet so similar. Similar in the since that in some ways we can find ourselves imprisoned by our sin. 

His words changed my perspective of my world. In the eyes of God I too am a sinner just as the prisoner. Even though we live in two different worlds, we both still need a Savior. The prisoner is finding his Savior behind barbed-wire fences. I have no fences keeping me locked away, but I still need to find my Savior. We think our life is so much easier, but is it really?

I never would have thought a man locked behind prison walls would ever minister to me but the Lord always finds a way to show His glory, especially in the least likely places.

Love from the Preacher and I