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Friday, April 19, 2019

The Power of Good Friday


Well, I know that I have been very sporadic in blogs lately, and offer some degree of apology for that.  However, our flood relief efforts have been extremely time consuming and valuable.  Many people who have been really struggling have experienced hope because someone gave them a pair of rubber boots from our supply to wear when they were cleaning out the mud, or because we helped purchase some needed items as flood victims try to put their lives back together.  But it has been a very scurrying and taxing effort on our part. As I said to some of my parishioners one day, it isn’t like we can sit back and have some committee meetings to work out all the details of a perfect plan, because people are hungry NOW, people have nowhere to live NOW, people are trying to get the mud out of their homes NOW.  So we have met as we could, planned as we could, and then just worked hard to do the best we could, and I would say I am proud of what the difference we have been able to make, made possible only through the hard work of our people and the generosity of others who have given funds and goods for us to be able to distribute.

I just can’t let Holy Week pass, though, without at least a word to my readers.  I believe in the power, the promise and the hope of resurrection…not only into the eternal sphere after death, but even here.  When life knocks us for a loop, when our plans shatter, when our hope is dashed and we feel like we can’t go on, when problems arise that appear insurmountable and life takes a sudden downward turn, THAT is the time to remember the promise of the resurrection.

When God is part of our lives and planning, defeat and despair never have the final word.  God turned an ugly instrument of torture and execution into a symbol elevated on church steeples and adorned to be worn around our necks because it became the instrument by which God won our forgiveness and salvation, that same God can bring new life and promise out of whatever circumstances have left you broken, confused and despairing.  I cannot tell you how many times I have visited with Christians who have experienced divorce and then years later are able to describe all the ways God used that changepoint in life to open new doors and opportunities, to create new and better relationships, or even to help those individuals turn to God in a deeper way than they had ever experienced before.  And that is just one of the shattering events life can bring, but which God can use anyway.

Resurrection speaks of the promise of tomorrow. Resurrection speaks of a God who is bigger than whatever problem you face.  Resurrection speaks of a hope that mourning may be turned into dancing and joy will come in the morning.

I know it’s Good Friday, the day we remember the ugliness and awfulness of the painful death of Christ upon the cross.  It was OUR sins that he was dying for…it should have been us there, not him!  But even though this is the day we remember the crucifixion, I want to urge you to realize something in the midst of it:  if there had not been a death on the cross, there would have been no opportunity for a resurrection on Easter morning.  

Whatever hard and awful thing you struggle with in your life, no matter how hard and awful it is, it brings with it an opportunity for God to provide a resurrection of your own as he does something good, something fresh, something powerful on the other side of the struggle BECAUSE you went through the struggle, and you went through it with him at your side.

Remember the Lord’s suffering today, remember the promise of resurrection, and rejoice in the hope that is yours for resurrection beyond the troubles of today!  Happy Easter!

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Source of Strength


Sometimes in life, we have things come our way that just sweep everything away.  Here in my part of the country, we have had a lot of flooding come rather suddenly, causing various degrees of devastation in various areas up and down the river. Some homes have been deluged, others washed away, still others have had mud and water in their basements or garages, and some have had no problems at all.  There was little time for many to prepare, to decide what to take when they abandoned their homes, sometimes little warning of what was to come, and yet each person had to make their decisions in a hurry and then face their own particular devastation.  Some people are desperately struggling with the difficult circumstances that have come their way.  Others are franctically working to help others.  This, obviously, has impacted the regularity of my blogs.

Have you ever had your life interrupted by events that come flooding in and suddenly change everything, flooding events that are entirely outside your control.  We can easily experience reversals in life.  Divorce, job loss, sudden death, threatening disease…so many things in life are so uncertain.  How do you prepare for the unexpected?  How do you decide “what to pack up and take with you,” so to speak?  How do you regain your equilibrium?

We simply cannot predict the unpredictable, right? We may know that there is something wrong, but we may not realize how wrong until that moment when it all falls apart.  I have observed a lot of people handling their situations in the midst of this flooding, and noticed that there are some things that help.  One of the biggest things I have heard time and again is people recognizing that what is really important in their lives has not been swept away by a flood:  those they love are safe, they still have their health, they still have their faith.  I have especially noticed a profound attitude among people of faith.  

Even though things seem to have spun out of control, they have a sense that things have NOT spun out of God’s control.  They confess a belief that God will do something good out of the tragedy, just as he did through the cross of Christ.  They trust that God will help them, will guide them, will get them through this tough time.  And, interestingly enough, they are thankful.  They are thankful for the things that did NOT happen to them, thankful for what they DO have, thankful for those who are seeking to help.  These people, it seems to me, have faced their flooding circumstances by remembering what the one stable and unchangeable force in their lives is:  God.  

Many times in the Psalms, God is referred to as “a rock and refuge.”  Watching the floodwaters here in Nebraska, with the sandy soil all around, one gets a real sense of the value of a firm, rocky foundation over the undependability of shifting sands.  
Our world is constantly changing.  Our lives are much more tenuous and fragile than we often care to admit.  But the constancy of God’s goodness, of God’s love, of God’s willingness to take us back, to help us through, to give us hope and purpose can withstand any threatening floods that might come our way.  

The thing is, though, that just as individuals around this region often did not have much time to make choices about their valuables or how to respond, and so acted out of the habit and nature they have developed over the years, so in whatever floods and changes come our way, we don’t always have time to figure everything out in a moment of crisis.  Instead, we have to lean on the habits and strength we have developed in the more calm and settled periods of our lives.  

When your crises comes, what are the sources of strength, what are the stabilizing habits you have developed?  The governor of our state issued a proclamation setting aside time today as a day of prayer for those affected by the flood disaster. But I think it is much wiser to not wait until that crisis and disaster come to turn to God for guidance and strength. In the times of stability of life is the best opportunity to develop your relationship with God and establish the habits of strength and time in prayer that will stand you in good stead when you find your world is unexpectedly turned upside down.