Turn Your Worries into Prayers

worries

This morning I got up and turned on the news.  I could hear the stress in the anchor’s voice, as she provided updates on what’s happening with COVID 19.  Lena finally said, “Mom, turn that off!”

As I got into the shower, I was still thinking about what I’d heard.  As I thought about it, I realized that I needed to be in prayer as I watched the news.  As I hear about the guidance as to who gets ventilators, I can pray for those who have to make those decisions, and the patients and families of those who don’t get ventilators.  I can pray that they would find the resources to provide all people the care they need.  As I hear about health care workers getting sick, I can pray for them and that resources would be distributed to keep all health care workers safe during this time.  As I hear about the unemployed, who are worried about paying  for food and rent, I can pray that they will find ways to earn money, and that food pantries will be able to continue to provide food to those in need.

The Apostle Paul talks about this in his letter to the church in Philippi.  He is writing from prison, and facing death.  He explains how he is able to find strength and stay hopeful during this difficult time:

6-7 Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.  –Philippians 4:6-7 The Message

The session and deacons took this passage and made one of our guiding principles for this year, “Turn your worries into prayers.”  This is the time to put this into practice.  Not only can we pray for our own worries and fears, we can pray for those around us who are experiencing stress, like the anchor this morning who sounded so anxious.  It truly is wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of our lives.  Turn your worries into prayers, and God will take those worries and give you peace.

Prayer:

Loving God, we confess that there are times when the worry and anxiety of this time feels overwhelming.  Keep us mindful of the power of prayer.  As we watch the news, help us to pray for the people whose stories we hear.

We lift up to you those who are forced to make difficult decisions.

We pray for those who are sick and their families.

We pray for healthcare workers, first responders, and the truckers and workers keeping the grocery stores stocked.

We lift up the lonely, who are isolated from friends and families during this time.

We pray that the resources would be found to care for the sick and protect the healthy.

We pray for individuals and businesses dealing with the loss of income.  Help them find the opportunities and resources they need.

We pray for your peace, that peace that passes all understanding, that we would find our security in you.

We pray through Christ, our hope and our salvation.  Amen.

 

Be Still

The last few days I have been searching for a way to reframe a very challenging time.  I’ve been looking for the upside to all of this.  Today I want to reflect with you on Psalm 46.  Hear the first three verses:

God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change,
though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea;
though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble with its tumult.

I don’t know about you, but there are times when I fear.  There are times when I look at all that is going on in the world and feel so helpless.  There are times I feel like the mountains are shaking.  Sometimes I’m able to remember God is my refuge and strength.  Sometimes I find that knowledge gives me hope and peace in the midst of turmoil, other times it’s harder.  The psalmist continues:

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be moved;
God will help it when the morning dawns.
The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice, the earth melts.
The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our refuge.

Amid the uproar of COVID 19 and the political upheaval and accusations in places of leadership, it can be hard to hear God’s voice.  It certainly doesn’t seem like those in power are going to be quiet long enough to hear God’s voice.  If they can’t hear the scientists and medical doctors who are in the room with them, how are they going to hear God?

Yet still, for the psalmist there is hope, there is always hope:

Come, behold the works of the Lord;
see what desolations he has brought on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields with fire.
10 “Be still, and know that I am God!
I am exalted among the nations,
I am exalted in the earth.”
11 The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our refuge.[d]Selah

We forget the power of God.  It’s hard to remember that God is with us.  In a world that is focused on doing, it can be challenging to be still long enough to see God’s hand at work around us.  Perhaps the most significant verse in this psalm is verse 10:  Be still and know that I am God!  I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth.

If we want to experience God’s presence, if we want to claim God as our strength and our refuge, we need to be still.  We not only need to be still, we need to be silent, and silence all the distractions around us.  One of the challenges we face as a society is that with computers, smart phones, and the internet, we are always accessible.

One of the hardest parts of this pandemic is that we are unable to do the things we normally do.  We don’t know how to sit at home and just be.  Psalm 46 talks about God being a refuge and strength in times of trouble.  It talks about how we don’t need to fear when the whole world is falling apart around us.  It talks about the power of God to stop wars.

So why don’t we experience that peace?  Why are we afraid?  Why is this so hard for us?  We have forgotten how to be still.  “Be still and know that I am God.”  We have forgotten God’s power.  We have forgotten how to let God be God.  This time of forced isolation is also an opportunity.  It is a time to stop doing and make use of the time to just be.  “Be still and known that I am God.”  Set aside the electronics.  Sit comfortably.  Breathe deeply.  As you breathe in, remind yourself, “Be still,” as you breathe out, “and know that I am God.”  Let go of your cares and concerns.  Let go of your desire to do.  Let go of your desire to know. Let go of the distractions around you.  Let go of your desire to be in control.  Sit.  Be.  Know.  God is still God.  God will still win.  I knew a woman who had a challenging life.  She was caregiver for a loved one, and he could be very challenging.  Every day when she sat down to pray, she would imagine herself climbing into God’s lap to sit, to rest, to talk, sometimes to complain, and always to be comforted.  Be still and know that I am God.  Be still.  Be.  During this time of staying home and staying safe, we have an opportunity to know God.  We have an opportunity to set aside the distractions and just be in God’s presence.  We have an opportunity to remember we are loved for who we are, not for what we do.  We have an opportunity to climb into God’s lap and claim God as our refuge and strength.  We have an opportunity to just be.  Be still and know that I am God.  Be still and know.  Be still.  Be.

 

Let us pray

Loving God we ask you to help us see the gifts in these times of uncertainty.  Help us to set aside our need to do and be in control and just rest and be with you.  Teach us how to quiet not only the world around us, but our own thoughts and fears.  Give us the faith and the patience to just be with you, that you might feed and comfort us.

We give you thanks for all the people who are taking responsibility during this uncertain time and serving.  We thank you for medical personnel and warehouse workers, for truck drivers and child care workers.  We thank you for the ability to keep in touch with one another through our electronic devices.

We pray for those who are living in fear.  We pray for those who are overworked.  We pray for those who are unemployed, and don’t know how they will buy food or pay rent.  We pray for the sick and the grieving.  We lift up those who are charged with making difficult decisions.   We pray that you will help us learn the lessons you can teach us through this time.

We pray in the name of Christ, who regularly took time away for prayer.  Amen.

God Is at Work Around Us

flowers in the desert

Prayer

 Loving God, we come confessing that we are afraid.  We are hearing different things about this pandemic, and we don’t know who to trust.  We cry out, “How long, O Lord?”  Forgive us our fear, and strengthen our trust in you.  Help us to see you at work around us, that we might know and share the hope you offer.  Lift us out of fear, and into the shelter of your love and grace.  We pray through Christ, our hope and our salvation.  Amen.

God is at work around us

 I had an appointment at the vet for my dog and cat on Thursday.  On Wednesday I received a reminder call, along with directions.  When I arrived, I was to call them and wait in my car.  When they had a room ready, they would call me, and we could go in.  That made sense.  About an hour later, I received a second call.  They were cancelling all appointments that weren’t urgent and asked me to reschedule for April.

Things are changing quickly, and it’s hard to keep up.  There is very little good news being shared, as we watch the number of people with coronavirus go up, the number of deaths go up, and the stock market fall.  We look around and wonder where God is.  How can God allow all of this to happen?

Today I focus on the second guiding principle the Session and Deacons wrote for this year: God is at work around us.  Once again, I turn to the prophet Isaiah, who wrote to a people deep in despair and feeling totally cut off from God.

16-21 This is what God says,
the God who builds a road right through the ocean,
who carves a path through pounding waves,
The God who summons horses and chariots and armies—
they lie down and then can’t get up;
they’re snuffed out like so many candles:
“Forget about what’s happened;
don’t keep going over old history.
Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new.
It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it?
There it is! I’m making a road through the desert,
rivers in the badlands.
Wild animals will say ‘Thank you!’
—the coyotes and the buzzards—
Because I provided water in the desert,
rivers through the sun-baked earth,
Drinking water for the people I chose,
the people I made especially for myself
,
    a people custom-made to praise me.

I have always found this passage intriguing, because it begins with reminding the people that God has powerfully delivered them in the past, rescuing them from slavery in Egypt and providing a dry path through the Red Sea so they could cross.  It then tells us to forget about the past and focus on the present.  Are we to remember the Red Sea, or forget it?  How can we do both?

We need to remember that God has delivered us from impossible situations in the past.  God is still at work among us, but God is doing it in new ways.  Don’t get so focused on God creating a dry path through the sea that you fail to see the road through the desert that God is creating.  This time, instead of dry land in the sea, God is providing water in dry land.

So, what does it mean?  What does this have to do with the struggles of social isolation and COVID19 fears?  What does it mean that God is doing something so wonderful that the wild animals will say “thank you?”  As we look around, where do we see signs of hope, signs of God working in this situation?

Fred Rogers often told this story about when he was a boy and would see scary things on the news: “My mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers.  You will always find people who are helping.’  To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers — so many caring people in this world.”

  • There are medical personnel putting their lives at risk to care for the sick.
  • There are people shopping for the elderly and other high-risk individuals.
  • A landlord told restaurants, “Don’t worry about the rent, pay your employees.”
  • In this politically polarized time, governors are working together across party lines to coordinate their responses.
  • Yes, there are people hoarding food (and toilet paper), and there are other people sharing food (and toilet paper).
  • There are singers and musicians offering free online concerts.
  • There are businesses transforming their production to meet the needs of this crisis.
  • Teachers are reading stories online.
  • Educational companies are making their material available free online to help parents while the schools are closed.
  • A trucker told the story of people who had helped him get restaurant food and even pay for it (you can’t drive a semi through the drive through lanes).
  • In a society that had become so “me” oriented, we are beginning to see people thinking of others.
  • Closer to home, our Session chose to view this not as a disaster for the church, but as an opportunity to try new ways of worshiping and being the church together.

This willingness to make sacrifices, to change, to think of others, is a welcome change.  I see it as a sign of God at work around us.  My hope and prayer is that all these good things will continue beyond this current crisis.

Look for signs of God at work around us.  Look for opportunities to do God’s work around us.  Even if you can’t get out, you can make some phone calls to others who are feeling isolated, write some notes, offer encouragement. You can be a helper, you can be a sign of God at work around us.

Prayer

After each phrase, pause to name people you know and add your own prayers.

O Lord, who makes a way through the sea and brings water to the desert, open our eyes that we may see you at work around us, and find hope.  Open our hearts that we might see opportunities to offer help and hope and be your church in the world.

We give you thanks for those who are doing your work during this difficult time.

We give you thanks for those who are working long hours and putting their lives at risk.

We give you thanks for those who are reaching out and offering hope.

We give you thanks for those who are thinking of those around them and reaching out a helping hand.

We give you thanks for those who are working cooperatively to find the best way forward.

We give you thanks for the opportunity to slow down and focus on you.

We pray for those who are sick and those who are mourning the death of loved ones.

We pray for those who are working long hours to provide us with food and other basic necessities.

We pray for the medical personnel who are putting their own lives at risk to care for the sick and the scared.

We pray for those who are lonely and isolated, living in fear.

We pray for the scientists who are looking for answers.

We pray for those responsible for making hard decisions.

We pray for parents struggling to balance the needs of their children with their own work commitments.

We pray for those who are out of work and wondering how they will pay for life’s necessities.

We pray for those who fail to see the danger and are putting others at risk by their behavior.

We pray for the church, that you would help us to discover new ways of serving you and being your people.

We pray all these things in the name of Christ, who even death couldn’t stop.  Amen.

God Is For Us

One of the things that I’ve been pondering since COVID-19 turned our lives upside down is what I could say to you that would point to God and give hope amidst the uncertainty. The sermon series I had planned for Lent didn’t seem appropriate to this new reality. Then I remembered the guiding principles the Session and Deacons came up with in January.

To begin our work together this year, the Session and Deacons spent some time reflecting on two passages of Scripture, one from the book of Isaiah and one from Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi. As we worked with these passages, we came up with six guiding principles. We thought they would serve us well as we looked at the future of the church.

Between now and Easter, we will be looking at these principles and the hope they offer during this challenging time. I will post reflections on Wednesday and Sunday. So today I start with our first principle: “God is for us.”

Right now, it is easy to wonder where God is. Why is God allowing this to happen? Is this God’s judgment for something we’ve done? Where is God, and why isn’t God stopping this in response to our prayers? As many of you have heard me say, God doesn’t promise protection from suffering and challenges, God promises to be present with us through them. This passage from Isaiah 43 was for the exiles in Babylon (and us). Israel had been defeated, the temple destroyed, and the people forced to move to Babylon. They felt cut off from God and had lost the land God had promised them. They were very discouraged. Into their despair came this message of hope:

43 1-4 But now, God’s Message,
the God who made you in the first place, Jacob,
the One who got you started, Israel:
“Don’t be afraid, I’ve redeemed you.
I’ve called your name. You’re mine.
When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you.
When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down.
When you’re between a rock and a hard place,
it won’t be a dead end—
Because I am God, your personal God,
The Holy of Israel, your Savior.
I paid a huge price for you:
all of Egypt, with rich Cush and Seba thrown in!
That’s how much you mean to me!
That’s how much I love you!
I’d sell off the whole world to get you back,
trade the creation just for you.

                                                     Isaiah 43:1-4 The Message

This passage is from Eugene Peterson’s translation, The Message. I chose to use this translation because it helps us to see the passage in a new light.

It starts with God reminding us that we were created by God and have been named and claimed by God. We belong to God, and are loved by God. God is for us. That doesn’t mean we won’t get in over our heads, that doesn’t mean we won’t experience rough waters, it means that God will bring us through.

During a pandemic we have more questions than answers. How long will this last? Are we going to run out of food (or toilet paper)? Will we get sick? Will loved ones get sick? Are people we care about going to die? How long will this last? When can we get back to our normal life?

I’m not going to try to provide answers, because I don’t have them. It’s literally a situation where only God knows, and as of right now, God isn’t revealing the answers to us. God is asking us to trust, to remember that God’s love for us is bigger than we can even imagine. God is reminding us that in the midst of all of this, God is still with us.

As we live through these challenging times, I encourage you to read Isaiah 43:1-21 and Philippians 4:4-14 daily. What jumps out at you? Claim some guiding principles for yourself, and then share them on the church’s Facebook page, or let me know by phone or email.

Know that you are all in my prayers, and that If you need to talk, I’m available. Let’s continue to pray for one another and reach out to one another in the midst of this challenge. Let’s make this a time when we grow in our faith and learn to trust God more.

 

Thoughts on the Pandemic

First it was in China, and unless we had family members there, it really didn’t concern us. Then it began to spread, and arrived on U.S. soil. Even then it was on the west coast, and the majority of the deaths were nursing home residents. It was still far away, and since we are healthier than nursing home residents we still didn’t worry. Then there were 2 cases in the state, but they weren’t around here. Overnight 2 grew to 12, including one nearby.

Suddenly we were faced with difficult decisions. Should we go to work? What about school? What about our concert tickets? Would it be safe to go to worship? Then the decisions were made for us. Schools were closed, churches were encouraged to cancel worship, and there was talk of needing to stay home for a couple of weeks. If we need to stay home for 2 weeks, would we have enough food? What about toilet paper? What about facial tissues? What did we need to make sure we would be okay?

A look at the store shelves and the things that are out show us the efforts people have made to be sure they have enough for their family. It is easy to get so wrapped up in our own needs and our own fears that we forget about others, who may have bigger needs.

With school closed for 3 weeks, there are children who will no longer have access to food. The people who will be most likely to be out of work will be those who can least afford to miss a paycheck. With nursing homes closed to visitors, the loneliness of their residents will grow even more. Medical personnel will be overworked, dealing not only with those who have the disease, but with those who fear the disease.

So, now that we are in the midst of it, how do we respond to it? As Christians, what should we do now? I offer some ideas for you.

Pray. In your prayers, remember those who are suffering, whether from the virus, grief, hunger, fear, or just the stress of it all.

Reach out to those who are isolated. Think of those who are isolated and lonely. Call them. Send them a card. Let them know you are thinking of them and holding them in your prayers.

Offer a helping hand. Do you know someone who isn’t going out, and might need some groceries? Give them a call and offer to pick some up for them next time you are at the store.

The church has agreed to allow the Delta-Waverly Rotary Club to use our building for their school backpack program while the schools are closed. They are still figuring out details, so watch for opportunities to help them continue to provide food for our children while they are out of school. Look for other opportunities to help fill in during this crisis.

Even if you aren’t in one of the high risk categories, take appropriate precautions. Some people don’t show signs of being sick, but they can still pass the disease on to others. Your safety precautions not only protect you, they help protect the most vulnerable in our community.

Live. Do something new. Start a project around the house. Play games with the family. Try a new recipe. Write some letters. Call old friends.

Trust God. No matter how bad it gets, no matter how hard it is right now, remember: God always wins.

Welcome God’s Love

Lord Jesus Christ, your light shines within us.
Let not my doubts or my darkness speak to me.
Lord Jesus Christ, your light shines within us.
Let my heart always welcome your love.
Jacques Berthier
©1998, Les Presses de Taizé, GIA Publications, Inc.

 

Over 40 years ago I flew to Colorado to visit my grandparents. It was an unusual week, because the sun didn’t shine. That week was one gray day after another. I was there in the early spring, and it certainly didn’t match my childhood memories of hot, sunny summer days. I enjoyed my time catching up with family, but I missed the sunshine. As I was flying home, the plane broke through the clouds, and there was the sun. I knew, of course, that it had been there all along, but the clouds had seemed so overwhelming that it was easy to forget.
There are times when we allow clouds to obscure our vision, so that we fail to recognize the light of Christ. There are times when the clouds threaten to overwhelm us. These clouds take so many different forms, from personal challenges, to family struggles, to the news and what’s going on in our community and the world. There are times when we allow our doubts or our darkness to speak to us. There are times when our hearts find it hard to remember God’s love, let alone welcome it.

When we open our hearts to God’s love, it is like breaking through the clouds and seeing the sun. Even better, we can leave the clouds below us. As we move into the holidays, it is easy to become so wrapped up in the preparations and activities that they block out the whole meaning of the season. We get so caught up in all we have to do, that it gets in the way of seeing that Thanksgiving is about celebrating our blessings, and Christmas is about remembering God’s great love for us in giving us Jesus. Open your heart and welcome God’s love this holiday season. Soar above the clouds.


	

Beyond Thoughts and Prayers

As I write this the news of mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton is still fresh.  I suspect that like the other mass shootings, they will soon be pushed off the news by another one.  They will be forgotten, except by those who were directly impacted.  I heard a statistic about the number of people in this country who were directly impacted or have a friend or family member that has been directly impacted.  It was horrifying (and of course I can’t find it now to reference in this post.)

It’s time to move beyond thoughts and prayers.  Yes, it is a difficult, emotional conversation when we talk about what to do about these situations.  We must find ways to address the issues while showing respect with those with whom we disagree.  Here are some of the issues I think we need to address:

Us vs. Them Thinking

We are all children of God created in the image of God.

  • Those who worship differently than we do are not terrorists.
  • Those who are a different color are not dangerous.
  • Those who have different political views don’t hate the country and are not the enemy.  They are not stupid.
  • Diversity is not a threat and does not weaken us as a country.

Mental Health

We talk about the importance of mental health care, yet are reluctant to fund it. It can be very difficult for people to get the help and support they need.  There is a critical shortage of psychiatrists in many parts of the country. There is still a stigma to mental health treatment that results in people being reluctant to acknowledge mental health needs for themselves and/or family members. This is not the first disease to be stigmatized, and just as we have removed the stigma from cancer and various other conditions, we need to remove it from mental health issues.

All or Nothing Thinking

One of the arguments that is used to argue against any kind of gun legislation is that any regulation will lead to the confiscation of all guns.  Much of the legislation being proposed is supported by the majority of gun owners.

  • Closing the background check loophole that allows private and gun show sales without a background check
  • Putting restrictions on military weapons.
  • Limiting the size of magazines.

Acceptance of the Status Quo

It’s easy to think that there is nothing we can do to change things. Yet if we look at the history of our country, we see a very different story.

  • Women campaigned and won the right to vote.
  • Civil rights activists ended “separate but equal” and opened up voter registration. (Even though racism is still a challenge, we are ahead of where we were in the 1950’s.)
  • Mothers Against Drunk Driving were successful in getting stricter drunk driving laws passed.

Take Action

  • Educate yourself about the issues.  There are laws that have successfully reduced gun violence in other countries and other states.
  • Write your legislators to express your views on the issue.
  • Join groups addressing the issue.  Michigan Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence is a good starting place.
  • Pray, not just for the victims and perpetrators of gun violence, but for the wisdom and courage  to make a difference.

Intentional Damage

Image result for Immigrant children in Clint, TXOver a year ago I wrote a post on my old blog about my concerns about the family separations that were going on at the border. After protests and lawsuits, it was agreed that children would no longer be separated from their parents.  There was also a promise of “safe and sanitary” facilities to hold these children and their families. Yesterday I heard attorneys talking about what they had seen in a particular border station in Clint, TX.  I have not been there, so I don’t know how accurate their account is.  I do know that there is some truth to it after hearing a government attorney try to defend what’s happening in court: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0QGLh7JOQHc&t=326s

I am increasingly concerned about the intentional damage that is being inflicted on these children.  I don’t care what their parents may have done, no child deserves to be treated the way these children are being treated.  Many of these children will receive damage through these experiences that will impact them for the rest of their lives.  I know, because I am the parent of a young adult I adopted as a child.  Our lives are still heavily impacted by what she experienced those first 3 years of her life.  Here is my blog post from June of last year:

My daughter had a rough start in life.  She experienced what are now known as A.C.E.’s:  Adverse Childhood Experiences.  (Here is a page on the CDC website where you can find more information: https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/acestudy/index.html)   As a result of these, she has numerous educational, emotional, and physical problems.  She has not been able to hold down a job, she cannot live independently, and the medication that she needs to deal with her medical and emotional issues runs thousands of dollars each month.

As I watch the news, I am horrified to see our government separating children from their parents.  I look at these children and wonder what the future will hold for them.  I begin to count the A.C.E.’s they have already experienced:

  • Whatever it was in their home countries that led their parent(s) to decide they had to flee for their safety. (One ten-year-old boy was told if he didn’t join the gang, they would kill his mother and sister).
  • The long journey to the U.S. border.
  • The separation from their parents, for many the only stability they have had in their young lives.
  • Once in custody, the workers are not allowed to touch the children. Toddlers cannot be held, rocked, or comforted.  My daughter experienced healing through the hours I spent rocking her in the evenings.  After experiencing nightmares, she would come climb in bed with me.  These children are left alone in their fear and terror.
  • Some parents have been deported without their children.

I understand the need to have secure borders.  I understand the need to assure people charged with a crime don’t disappear.  In the past, ankle bracelets were used to track individuals who had entered the country illegally.  This seems to me like a better (and probably cheaper) alternative to sending parents and children to separate detention facilities.

Some families are crossing illegally rather than wait for days to cross at a border station and request asylum.  Again, I suspect it would be more cost effective to add the additional staff needed at the border to deal with the demand in a more timely manner.

We need comprehensive immigration reform, and I hope both parties will work together to come up with a good plan.  However, we need to stop traumatizing these children now.  We need to keep families together now.  Please consider writing your members of Congress to express your concerns. Jesus said, ‘I assure you that when you have done it for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you have done it for me.’  Matthew 25:40

Pride Reflections

On Saturday, my daughter, Lena, and I went to Michigan Pride in Lansing.  The church is considering participating next year, so we went to see it and decide how we could be a part of it in the future.  Lena expressed some concerns about going, “What if people come with guns?”

I offered her reassurance, “I don’t think they will, but if it looks like there is going to be violence, we will leave.”

Lena has some cousins who are out, and her main issue with them coming out has always been concern for their safety.

Saturday morning, we headed downtown.  We went to the end of the parade route, in front of the capitol building, where the speakers would be following the parade.  Lena took in the people who were gathering.  “Mom, look at the way she is dressed!”

I said, “This is somewhere it is safe for people to be themselves and so they dress in ways that they might not ordinarily.”

She continued to watch the people.  We saw some friends and went over to talk to them.  We cheered as the parade started.  There were politicians, various organizations, and an impressive number of churches, including one United Methodist Church, which was a pleasant surprise given the recent General Conference actions.

I could tell Lena was anxious, because she held onto my purse strap so we wouldn’t be separated.  We listened to some of the speakers and watched as the children were invited to join one of the speakers on the capitol steps as she talked about them as the future.

Finally, we headed back to our car.  Before we reached the corner, Lena was crying.  I was a little surprised and asked her what was wrong.  “It’s not right!  People need to look at their hearts, not what they are wearing.  They are people, and they are beautiful inside.  God made them!”

As we walked along, I rubbed her back and listened.  I told her she had a good heart, and I was proud of her.

As I reflected later that day, I thought about her anxiety about going.  Even once we were there, she wasn’t completely comfortable, as evidenced by the tight hold she kept on my purse strap.  Yet she was able to look beyond her fear and discomfort and see the image of God in the members of the LGBTQ community.

We could all learn something from her, not just in our approach to the LGBTQ community, but all those with whom we are uncomfortable, whether it be because of their race, religion, or politics.  We are all children of God created in the image of God.

Showing Christ in Society Today

Strengthening Christ in us,
Sharing Christ among us, and
Showing Christ around us.
Delta Presbyterian Church Vision Statement

Showing Christ around us is not an easy thing, especially in today’s society.  For most of us, the thought that one of our neighbors might not know anything about Jesus seems ridiculous. Recently, a colleague’s daughter was part of a high school production of Godspell, a musical that tells the story of Jesus relying mainly on the Gospel of Matthew.  My colleague’s daughter was amazed by how little her classmates knew of the Christian story, “Oh, he dies!  That’s so sad.” At one point, the director was giving directions with which she disagreed, she asked the director, “Have you read the story?”  The answer to that is increasingly, “no.”

The results of a survey were released recently.  In the 1970’s the largest religious group in the United States was mainline Protestant (including Presbyterians), at 30% of the population.  Now, mainline Protestants comprise just over 10% of the population. Those claiming no religion, Catholics, and evangelicals all hovered around 23%.

It is increasingly important for us to show Christ around us.  The session and deacons have been working through the 7 marks of a vital congregation.  The second mark of a vital congregation is “Intentional Authentic Evangelism vs. “Jesus freaks”; “Christian” hypocrisy; a committee responsibility.”  We have had conversations about how difficult it is for us to talk about our faith.

To begin to overcome our discomfort, in February we began taking time to talk to one another about specific questions that we might hear from someone who is curious.  We started with, “Why do you get out of bed and come to church on Sunday morning?” and then moved on to, “What does Easter mean to you?”  If someone asked you one of these questions, how would you respond?  If you met someone who was curious about the events of Holy Week, what would you tell them?  I encourage you to take time to talk about these questions with friends and families.  Begin sharing your faith in a safe setting, so that when someone sees Christ in you and asks you about your difference, you will be prepared to answer and share something of what Christ means to you.