Next Saturday, August 19, I’ve been given another opportunity to fill in for our pastor in the pulpit at Sydenstricker UMC. If you’re in the area, come by–I’ll be talking about the problem of pain, and dealing with our pain…something, sadly, I think we all have a lot of experience with, but maybe not always the ability or the tools to address. Come say hi and worship with me!
Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. (Romans 8:35-37)
Can I just share a little of what my July was like? In the space of the previous month, here’s what I’ve faced (in no particular order):
- My mother’s sudden hospitalization for a kidney infection, with the attendant disruption to our everyday lives of being at the hospital frequently (she’s better now, thanks be);
- The unexpected death of a coworker, who in the space of a weekend had an accident around the home and lapsed into a coma from which she could not recover;
- A longstanding friend’s mother was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, same as my mom; and if that wasn’t enough,
- Her husband was taken to the ER with a mild heart attack;
- The utterly unexpected firing of a longtime friend in very, very murky circumstances that leave me worried for what comes next;
- My boss being taken ill with serious abdominal illness, hospitalized, and only gradually returning to work during a very hectic time at the office that I had to cover (on top of the above list); and
- Another coworker’s father in law needing emergency surgery for an aortic aneurysm (they caught it in time)
And that’s just within the span of July, all happening to people around me who are part of my love and my life–and who therefore affect me with all of these goings-on. It’s overwhelming! This is a pretty scary list!
At times like these, we can hear some pretty horrible theology from people. Well-meaning people, to be sure, but still, what they tell us can ruin our understanding of God if we let it happen. Things like, “It was God’s will.” (God does not will us disease! Disease is an effect of the brokenness we brought into the world from our expulsion from Eden.) Or “God never gives you more than you can handle.” (No! If anything, the Bible tells us, it’s more like there is nothing we can’t handle WHEN WE GIVE IT OVER TO GOD, not when we try to take it all on ourselves!)
And yet through this month of madness, I haven’t crumbled, I haven’t curled up into a ball in the corner. I have endured, and I am absolutely, utterly, completely convinced it’s only my faith in the power of Jesus Christ that has kept me together. I have been strengthened, indeed I have become “more than conquerors” by being able to turn to Christ, by placing myself and each of these situations in his hands, and by trusting in him to help me through. There are certainly days this month when it most certainly did not feel like “overwhelming victory,” yet here I am: assaulted, assailed, buffeted, but not breaking in the force of the storm. For that, I can only give everlasting thanks to Christ.
Come on, August, do your worst. I’ve got backup.
She got the call today, one out of the gray,
And when the smoke cleared, it took her breath away.
She said she didn’t believe
It could happen to me.
I guess we’re all one phone call from our knees
We’re gonna get there soon.
–Mat Kearney, “Closer to Love”
I got the call myself this past Wednesday morning: my mom has been taken to hospital. I knew she hadn’t been feeling herself the day before, but I didn’t expect it was this bad. Kidney infection. I rushed over to the ER feeling anxious, more anxious than I had expected I would. She was asleep, and really groggy–not waking up. I was alarmed but the staff reassured me she was sleeping well, and needed rest more than anything.
Over the last few days we’ve learned that the infection had seeped into the bloodstream (boo) but was a bug that was very responsive to basic antibiotics (yay), so it should be on the easier side to treat. She’s still in hospital as I write on Sunday afternoon, four days later, and may or may not be released tomorrow.
But I’ve also come to appreciate how fragile my mom really is now, at 75 and after three decades with Parkinson’s Disease. Her mental acuity is duller, her speech is quieter, it’s harder for her to put into words what she’s thinking. There’s no way she could manage her own care now, and the move into a nursing home, which I’d kinda didn’t want to do last year, turns out to have been a good thing.
At present, the kidney function numbers and the blood test numbers are all moving in the right direction. This doesn’t appear to be more serious. But, of course, when it’s your mom, and it’s a hospital, you start to think about such things. Fortunately, I can say (at least today) that unlike my dad, there isn’t anything I haven’t said to her yet that I need to. And so in that regard, the idea of perhaps having to do this drill over something more serious someday doesn’t leave me with the feeling that I have unfinished business. Having the call come that my mom is in the hospital was a sudden hard turn that threw me on Wednesday. But it wasn’t as hard a turn as it could have been. For that I’m grateful.
This past Sunday I had the third of my scheduled pulpit-fill-ins as I subbed for the vacationing Pastor Garey Eakes at Silverbrook UMC. While they haven’t yet posted the audio for the sermon–and when they do I’ll post the link–I spoke on spiritual warfare, taking my cue from Chapter 5 of my book, Waiting For Life. We all do live in a world at war, whether we recognize it or not. It’s up to us to learn what it is, and how to fight against it, so that we can become warriors in God’s army.
More later when they post their link!
Between June 29 and July 22, I have only three days with a kid in the house…otherwise, it’s just my bride and me, and the dog, alone, for the first time in nearly 19 years.
David is off with Jeremiah Project, working through the summer as their intern, finding projects for the kids to work on. Sarah is in Europe right now, with her school trip to Madrid, Barcelona, Provence and Milan…then she too will be on JP duty with her brother for a week.
In the meantime, we get to be just us. We get to go out to dinner together, which we did hours after taking Sarah to the airport. We get to have friends over, and make the foods *we* want to have, like we did tonight. We get to go hang out with good friends elsewhere, without worrying about the kids or having to get anyone anyplace. And we begin to get a sense of what it will be like in a couple of years when we’re doing this full-time, as the yearlings will actually take flight.
We get to sleep in on weekend days or days off, not having to rush anywhere, We get to curl up with the dog and absolutely make her day with all the attention. And if we decide to pop over to a movie, or go out for a drink…there’s nothing stopping us.
I really think I’m going to like the next chapter!
Sunday, I had the second set of chances to preach recently. This time, I was filling in for our pastor who was at annual conference, and I spoke on the heart–how absolutely essential it is for the Christian, and how we can protect out hearts. Take a listen, and then let me know what you think!
My last (known) upcoming preaching gig is on July 9 at Silverbrook UMC…come and listen!
This past Saturday, I had the privilege of bringing the message in our church’s Saturday night service. I talked about the Samaritan woman at the well, and the lessons that come from it for us as Christians on our walk. If you have a few minutes, give a listen, and let me know what you think!
This weekend I’m covering all three services–I’ll be preaching on how the heart is at the core of Christianity. If you’re in the neighborhood, come by!