Thursday, August 21, 2014

Because I work night shift and my soul is in a night shift and I'm a watchman




When you wake up at 1 pm after working two night shifts you don't much know what to say or do. But when you sit down to read the news, and you see riots, and genocide, and terror, and then for a split second, you let the reality of the dark things that tempt you to trade everything for temporary pleasures that lead to permanent chains slither into your mind and you shake your head and dash from the horror as fast as you can, one thing becomes very clear: Oh how we need a Savior!!

I'm married to a police officer, so reading about the situation going on in Ferguson is close to home.  Seven (I started with two, but more kept coming as I was typing) things come to mind:

1) Police officers have to make split-second, life-or-death decisions and they don't always make the right one.  That doesn't automatically mean they're cold, hard, racist, murderers.

2) Police officers have tremendous authority and therefore their decisions (even if made wrongly out of a moment of bad judgement) must be held to the highest scrutiny and standard. 
3) Rarely do you hear of a person going about their business, doing good, when a police officer comes up to them out of nowhere and shoots them.  That doesn't happen.  (Maybe it's happened in history.  I don't know.  But it's not a frequent news story that's for sure).   But in most news stories where an officer either wrongly uses his authority, or makes a bad judgement call that injures or kills someone, the person(s) involved are engaged in some bad/wrong/illegal thing.

4) Missouri needs a peacemaker- A person who will step forward and be willing to suffer to bridge the gap between two opposing parties.

5) Race does not equal wrong doing.   A person's actions should not be judged because of their race, but because of their actions.  If you're white, black, brown, purple, green, red, yellow or blue and you steal, vandalize, riot, cause fights, etc. your actions are wrong. Period.

6)  I hate what has been done to the black person in the name of God or superiority or rights in our history!  I hate that the country where I experience so much freedom is the country that built it's economy on the backs of African slaves.  I hate that there are still people in this country (and in the world I'm sure) who still look at their fellow man and make a judgement about their worth and intelligence, person hood and trustworthiness based on the color of their skin.  I hate it!  Those wrongs are not fixed by committing more wrongs.

7)  I am white.  I will never know what it feels like to be given a suspicious stare because of the color of my skin.  When my white, blond boys walk down the street, I don't have to worry that some person in authority may take away their rights, or their life simply because they seem suspicious due to their skin color.  I am not a racist.  But I am white in a predominantly white culture and I have no idea what it feels like to be suspect simply because of the color of my skin.
----------- The above was written Monday.  Below today. ---------------

The situation with ISIS, and the horror of what happened to James Foley, and the horror of what is happening to tens of thousands of people who have been forced out or fled Iraq now eking out an existence in refuge camps or abandoned buildings, slaps me in the face and shakes me right out of the depressive thoughts I deal with every day.  I cannot sit in a mire of despondency when I see the video of the marching of thousands of families into the desert and a photo of a terrified man on his knees minutes before his brutal murder on the news.  I'm snapped out of my slump in despair onto my knees in desperate prayer.  Not only for these people, but for me, and my household and Christ's church in America.

We, I, have no idea what it is like to suffer for our faith or under the macabre rule of violent men who believe they're on a mission from God.  We grumble and complain and protest over our rights and against "injustices" that threaten our comfort and ease and beliefs.  What will we do if our rights are physically taken away?  What will we do if our lives are threatened and our bodies and the bodies of our loved ones are tortured or abused or killed by those in authority over us?  Grumbling, complaining and protesting will do no good.

If we can't take up the commands of God through Paul to the church to pray for and show respect to those in authority while we have it so good, how will we if we're in the situation that the church Paul wrote to was in?  If Paul told the Christians of his day to pray for their "kings and all in high positions" and treat him with respect, what would he say to us in relation to our current president?  What would he say if we were under violent Islamic extremists like ISIS?

"First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for ALL people, for kings and ALL who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.  This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.  For there is one God and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for ALL... " - 1 Timothy 2:1-6 (emphasis added by me)

I choke on the anger in my throat when I read this.  I need this to be my heart if I hope to ever stand amidst true persecution and suffering.  Because if my heart is full of revenge and a clinging to my life and rights I won't stand.

I pray that God would take for himself some of the leaders of ISIS.  That he would conquer their murderous, evil hearts just as he conquered the murderous, evil heart of Saul... Paul, who wrote:

"... though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent.  But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.  The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost." -1 Timothy 1:13-15

I believe in a sovereign God.  I believe in good, sovereign God.  I believe he desires all men, even the men of ISIS to be saved from the wrath that is coming against them.  And I believe he is working all things, even the evils happening around the world to his people, for the good of those who love Him and for the glory of his name!  May he give me the grace to stand.

On a personal note, as I eluded to, I have been struggling through a season of depression for awhile now.  And as I said, contrary to what you'd think, these horrible things going on the world are not adding to my depression, they are actually working to pull me out of it.  When I think of my brothers and sisters in dark places, suffering for the sake of Christ's name, it puts my "suffering" in proper light and I recall Hebrews 13:3 and pray that God would not let me forget them:

Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body. -Hebrews 13:3

But when the shock of what is going on in the world fades, and I find myself slipping back into the quicksand of lies this depression is surrounding me with, my sole comfort and hope is Christ.  The only real escape my thoughts and heart have from the heaviness and despair I'm living with right now is the word of God.  His word to me right now is literally like a breath of fresh air caught through a crack in a cave of poisonous gas.  I press against the rock and breath deep.  But I'm quickly overcome by lies because I can't seem to call the truth to mind when I need to.  This is why I need the body of Christ.

We need each other.  We need to tell each other the truth.

I met with a neighbor today.  We confessed our sins to each other and shared our battles and prayed for each other.  We're the same.  We need Christ.  We need the truth.

I came across this awhile back.  I felt like someone understood.




Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord!      
O Lord, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive    to the voice of my pleas for mercy!  
If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities,    O Lord, who could stand?  
But with you there is forgiveness,    that you may be feared. wait for the Lordmy soul waits,    and in his word I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord    more than watchmen for the morning,    more than watchmen for the morning. - Psalm 130:1-6


Prayerfully,
Sheila

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Thinking of Julie

Summer break is over. The kids begin their first full week of school tomorrow. The first day of school was Wednesday last week. Made for a nice testing of the waters before the full fledged dive in this week.


 I've had much on my mind. Heavy things. Hard things. I can't speak it. I can't write it. I'm just... heavy.

James has been selected to fill a temporary sergeant position at work.  He'll be switching from a 6 am to 4 pm, Monday thru Thursday, come home for lunch if you want, get called in at 3 am and not come home till 9 pm the next day schedule to a 8 pm to 6 am four days a week schedule.  Yep. Night shift.  Which means two parents will be working nights in this house.  I don't think it's gonna fly.

I spoke with my supervisor at work Saturday night to see if I could possibly switch to a days shift position.  I don't really want to work days to be honest.  It's much more... chaotic.  Too many doctors and therapists and managers asking you to do this and that on top of what you need to do to actually see the people in the beds and care for them. I'm not very good at switching from one task to the other in rapid succession without lots of balls being dropped.  And when the balls you juggle as a nurse involve people's lives, dropping is not an option.  Needless to say I feel a bit nervous about possibly going to days.  We'll see.

Suicide has left it's deep, debilitating scar on my life.  When I was 15, one of my best girlfriends from 8th grade shot herself on her elementary school playground.  I had just come home from a mission trip to Mexico with the youth group at my church.  Something, at the time, I really didn't want to do, but was pushed into by my parents who were worried that I was hanging out with the wrong crowd.  I'm so glad they pushed me.  It was a turning point in my life.  A turning toward my Savior.  I'll never forget my mom sitting with me in the parking lot of Fred Myer in Roseburg, Oregon telling me that Julie was dead.


Julie is not in this photo.  This was take at my 15th birthday just a year or so before I went to Mexico and before Julie took her life.  My best friend at the time, Delcina, is to the right and one of my other "Mod" friends, Laura, is on the far right.  Both of these girls were part of the group of kids I was hanging out with that had my parents so concerned.  They were good friends.  We were stupid kids.  Completely self-centered.  Totally absorbed with our own inane thinking.  Nothing we obsessed about was worth taking our lives for.   We were thinkers though.  We wanted to be different.  We wanted to live outside the box.  We thought were breaking away.  We had no idea we were dead in our trespasses and sins or what that even meant.  We had no idea we were utterly loved and rescued by the One who created us.  We had no idea we were created to know and be known by God.  We had no idea real life was someone who really was outside the box- a new Man. We had no idea how He loved us!


Julie was a poet, an artist and a drama queen.  She was fun loving and reckless.  When she decided to end her life, her violent act struck the many who loved her too.  It didn't just take her life, it destroyed parts of ours.  My heart aches for Mr. Williams' wife and family and friends.  My heart aches deep in that wound Julie left for Mr. Williams and the dear ones I have known who bought the lie and in the darkness and poison of that lie took their life and irreversibly wounded the lives of those around them.

The Bible says there is Liar out there.  A Father of Lies who's sole mission in this time and space is to kill, steal and destroy.  His lies are alluring.  Violence looks inviting.  Death looks like hope.  Destruction looks like pleasure.  A trap looks like freedom.

The Bible also says there is One who is the way, the truth and the life.  He has come that we might have life... to the full.  And at his side, beyond the cross we bear as we die to ourselves and follow him, are pleasures forevermore.  He is right, if you desire to keep this life you will loose it, but if you loose it for his sake, you'll keep it.



Quieted,
Sheila

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Road trip day #1



Today after church we began our annual road trip to "Oregon"... We always say that but really it's initially a road trip to Redding, CA where my sister lives. Eventually we get to Oregon.

In the past, I'd wake the kids early in the morning, load them in the car, and we make it closer to Sacramento before stopping for the night. But since we didn't get on the road till about noon, after church, I decided to stop for the night in Thousand Oaks, CA.

I like Thousand Oaks. Everything grows here! Only the Santa Monica Mountains separate us from the Pacific Ocean. I wanted to go to the beach tonight but I'm just toast. Working night shift Friday night and then getting up early this morning has my body pretty fatigued. I plan to go to the beach either in the morning with the boys or on the way back home to AZ on Thursday.

I love road trips! There's just something about the open road. I guess I like the feeling that I'm going somewhere. Sometimes life feels like you're going nowhere. When you're on the road, you're going somewhere.

I'm glad I stayed for church this morning. I needed to get my compass pointed the right direction before I hit the road. It's hard to hear the preacher preach on a subject that is a specific point of sin in your own life. As I listened today, I wondered if this is how folks feel when they hear a sermon on divorce after they've gone through one- or more- themselves. It's hard, but it's good.

I'm confident not a single person who's gone through a divorce would hear a sermon on what God has joined together let no one separate and be opposed to what they heard. They, in fact, would probably be the first to stand up and say, "Amen!" They know the pain themselves. They know the damage. They know God hates divorce. They know... they hate it too. The same goes for the woman, who married an unbelieving man, who listens to the pastor preach from Ezra 9 and 2 Corinthians 6. Amen! The damage is extensive. There is no fellowship. The heart is drawn away from God, and then, when won back (if won back), is faced with the heartache of being separate in what God designed to be joined together.

During the sermon my oldest son looked over at me with a, "You're busted," look on his face. He knows. He grieves. He feels the ripping apart that comes with living with unequally yoked parents. Even though I hate it for my kids, I pray that the mercy and grace of my good God will use the pain they experience now to prevent them from going down the same path and cause them to love God's ways, which are good. All the time.

We'll talk about it tonight before we go to sleep.  Which is in about 30 minutes.  Time to sign off.


 Quieted,
Sheila

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Martha and I



Every time I read the account of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead, I'm taken back by his exchange with Martha. I see in Martha's words my inevitable human inclination to not get God yet act like I've got him figured out.

It's what Martha says.  Jesus has finally showed up at the scene of his grieving friends' home where Lazarus has been 4 days dead.  Martha, the busy-in-the-kitchen sister, runs to Jesus not for comfort, not for help, but to protest.  "If you had been here my brother wouldn't have died!"  She accuses.  I can hear the anger and disappointment in her voice.  She believed Jesus was powerful enough to have healed her brother when he was sick, but she didn't believe there was a thing he could do now that her brother was dead.

She throws out a hail Mary, "But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask."  When I read the rest of the exchange she has with Jesus it's apparent that she doesn't think Jesus will be able to raise Lazarus from the dead.  So what does she mean by this?  Maybe she's just saying what she thinks she's figured out about God: God gives his Chosen One whatever He asks, but the Chosen One doesn't himself raise the dead.    She's declared what she thinks she's got figure out about God.

Jesus tells her that her brother will rise again and she quips back with more of her authoritative knowledge of God,  "Duh!  I know that!  I know he'll rise from the dead in the end when everyone else does!"  (My paraphrase).

Then Jesus, the only One who really knows God inside and out and who says with absolute authority the exact truth about God declares, "I am the resurrection and the life.  Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying.  Everyone who believes in me will never die.  Do you believe this Martha?"

In my version: I know you think you have God down to a science Martha, but here's the truth.  Do you believe it?

Martha, Martha, Martha.  I'm just like you.  We're all just like you.  Even when face to face with the undeniable truth about God, even with Bible opened, hymns sung, prayers muttered, and orthodox church attended we still take what God has revealed about himself in Jesus, and in stubborn unbelief, hang our heads when faced with what we don't understand and can't do a thing about.  We quote in wrote what we know we're supposed to know and think we have a full handle on.  But we don't really believe a word of what we say we know.

"Yes, Lord," she told him.  "I have always believed you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one has come into the world from God."

She didn't know a single thing she just said.  But she said it.  She was orthodox.  She knew the right answer.  And if she was in a debate with a person who declared what they knew about the gods she would have put them in their place with her authoritative declaration that there is One God and His Messiah would come and set them straight!  If only she really believed what she said.  If only she really knew who it was standing there in front of her.  But she really didn't.

I'm a Christian.  And if you need adjectives I'm an orthodox, Calvanistic, reformed Christian.  I believe there is one God and that He is Father, Son and Spirit.  I believe in the Christ, the only begotten son of the Living God.  I believe I'm made right with God simply and impossibly by my belief in Christ's death as the only propitiation that satisfies the wrath of God for my sins.  I believe that Christ rose from the dead on the third day and that the Spirit of the Living God dwells in me.  I believe one day I too will be raised from the dead and will live forever in abundant life where fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore are mine because I'll be in the presence of my Savior.  And beyond understanding, I believe that in that day, when I see Him, I'll be made like Him- sinless, an Image-of-God Bearer, a Redeemed One.  I believe right now I'm being transformed into that image and am being led by the same God through many tribulations as I follow the steps of my Savior.  And finally, I believe all this that I believe, I only believe, because God made me alive to Himself when I was dead as a doornail.  Even my belief is a gift from Him.

Now that's a loaded paragraph.  I claim to believe all this.  I say I know God to be these things.  But the reality is, like Martha, I claim a lot of things I really know nothing about.  This is not to say they are not true, but that the mountain of truth that they are is greater than my puny understanding.

Like Martha, my belief, my proclamation about God does not show my all encompassing knowledge, but rather, shows that an all-knowing God has rocked my world.  Like Martha.  And despite my unbelief in the things I claim I believe, He's still proving himself to be to me the resurrection and the life.



Quieted,
Sheila