Sunday, August 5, 2012

10,000 Reasons

 Life punched me in the gut this week. 
A few days ago, I learned from a former co-worker that a man I used to work with… a man about my age with a bright future… a man I didn’t keep in touch with when I left that company; but whose kind countenance crossed my mind from time to time… ended his life about four months ago.
I couldn’t believe my eyes when I read the email. 
The surreal thing is that I may never have found out if *Sharon hadn’t run across my home email address in her contacts list.  She wrote, “[*John] really thought a lot of you and would want you to know.” 
I wept and thought, “What?  He thought a lot of me?  Why didn’t he think more of himself?  What went so wrong in his life that he didn’t want to be here anymore?”  I knew he had a past history of some depression but I never thought it was that bad.  Maybe it wasn’t that bad until it was.  Or maybe he just hid his pain really, really well.   
It was shocking news that I am still trying to wrap my head around.  So when I was griping about my job, or laughing at a funny TV show… John was suffering at the end of his rope?  So when a lot of us were busy with our Easter plans, John was being buried?  You mean, when my husband and I went to Ireland in May, and I relayed the time John told me that all he had for dinner some nights was a “pint of nutritious Guinness”… he was already gone? 
I want a do-over.  For him and for me… and for all of the people who miss him terribly and wish they would have known about the depths of his sorrow.  I want to go back in time and tell him, “You may not realize it but a lot of people care about you, and more importantly, Jesus cares about you.  You matter.  You matter.” 
If there is anyone in your life whom you’ve been waiting to say that to—don’t wait anymore. 
If you are going through things that make you want to hurt yourself or end your life, please get help.  You matter.  You have always mattered to Jesus, and he is on your couch.  I promise.  Just get to know him. 
It is devastating when any life is cut short.  I pray that John is finally at peace and with Jesus now.
Tim Korry website for original musicMy husband, Tim, is a songwriter and has recently released a song about getting back to the simplicity of how it was before we compiled all of our worries and let them consume us.  I hope it speaks to your heart too….                                                           
 First Heartbeat                                                  

If you’ve read my blog posts, or even the summary of what the blog is about, you are probably asking yourself when I’m going to talk about those “inspiring moments”.  The last two stories I relayed weren’t exactly uplifting.
So here’s the deal.  I am realizing that a lot of the time life hands us crap, and we lose sight of what’s really important.  We lose sight of our purpose.  We forget about the love of God and His only commands—really—to love Him with all of our might, and to love each other. 22:36-40&version=NIV
It’s that simple.
When we focus on that, we will see Him more and more in our lives… not because He wasn’t there before, but because we didn’t notice Him.
This blog is really about ‘seeing’ God all around us. 
Now on to something that IS inspiring….
A couple of days before I found out about John, my husband and I attended church with some friends.  We did not know they would show this video testimony featuring one of our friends, Mitch.

Mitch's Story 

Mitch talks about the loss of his friend (who had also suffered a lot of pain in his life); how music helps him to ‘see’ God; and how he will keep praising God through the good and bad times.  I asked Mitch if I could share his story on my blog and he did not hesitate to have me do it. 
Mitch is a blessing, and it is through people like him that I see God.

Matt Redman- 10,000 Reasons video 

*Names changed to protect privacy.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Riding Down Mercy Street

I had my first ride-along with a local metropolitan Domestic Animal Control Commission officer this week.  “The pound?” you ask.  More like men and women who are “charged with the responsibility of rescuing thousands of lost and homeless animals and animals suffering from cruelty, neglect and indifference.”

Angels of mercy.

I don’t have to tell the other animal lovers out there why the thought of animal cruelty sickens me to the point of obsession.  To the point of vigilante watchfulness.  So I was NOT looking forward to this ride-along.  But I had to do it.

I pictured seizing dog-fighting pit-bulls from gang-bangers, picking up starved and beaten animals…and God only knows what else. 

God must have been watching out for ME that day because there were no calls like that—at least not while I was there.  But let me be clear—there ARE calls like that and worse.  As I listened to some of Officer Robin's stories (censored no doubt for my sake),  I found myself once again asking, "What is wrong with people?!"  

inspirational photograph of rainbow after the storm

I asked Officer Robin why and how she continues to do that job.  She simply said, “because I love animals.”  

I said a silent prayer for her as we were riding…and Jesus was there.  I believe He’s always there with her.  Who else could help her keep doing something so important?  

I may continue to do occasional ride-alongs with Animal Control.  It will be hard to deal with what I might see, but they are doing God’s work… and that I can deal with. 

Thank you God for people who care enough about anything to put their lives on the line.  Help us all to be better caretakers of the creatures you have entrusted to us.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Jesus on My Couch

colorful stained glass window

Before Jesus on my couch, I had been a “church Christian” most of my life… that is-- a born into Evangelical Lutheran doctrine, go to church on Sunday and religious holidays since you can remember, try hard not to sin because God is watching-- kind of Christian.  Come to think of it, I don’t think my parents ever instilled that in me, but rather it seemed to be the over-arching church culture.  (Okay, I can think of a few family members who are skilled in the guilt-arts, and I even got quite good at ‘the shoulds’ over time.). Not that there’s anything wrong with trying to lead a good life and be a Godly person (after all it’s probably the least we can do after Jesus suffered, died, and fought the devil for us), but let’s face it—even in a church world where guilt is the driver, it is very hard to do.  It sort of leaves you flat after a while of trying and failing.  I had always been taught that all sins are the same in the eyes of God and figured, if Joe Evil over there can rob and kill people and I am ‘just as bad’ by telling a little fib here and there… or over-imbibing on a Saturday… then what was the point in continuing to go to church and hear about my wrong-doings and failures… and trying to pretend I was somehow a better person on Sunday? 
I know, I know… by now, some of you reading this may be saying, “But that’s WHY Jesus died for us silly… so we don’t have to feel guilt and shame every day.  We will NEVER measure up, but He does.”  I get that—now—but realized over time that guilt is often used by humans as a way to make others feel bad or get them to do what WE want.  It’s not that I see no reason for guilt… like if you’re hurting another being or yourself… yeah, I hope you feel enough guilt to stop.  It’s what people do with the guilt… like if you’re using it to hurt another being or yourself.  So sufficed to say, all of that ‘God’s up there and we’re down here always struggling to be good enough (usually for people rather than God)’ disconnectedness got me doubting my faith in my late twenties and early thirties; and there was a long period of time when I did not attend church or talk to God at all.  But I don’t fault my church background because I think it helped me to hold onto the notion deep-down, all-along, that God was up there… somewhere…watching me… but I just didn’t know Him.  And I didn’t really feel like He knew me.  Well, I did NOT know Him, but He knows me… which brings me to the point of this blog.
About six years ago, I was pulling my occasional Saturday night, “My life sucks.  No boyfriend.  No super-sexy, high-powered career.  No fame.  No fortune.  No higher purpose.  I’m bored” routine.  I was lying on the couch in my living room—the same couch I have now in the same living room—flipping through my limited cable TV channels.  I happened upon a conservative televangelism show that was sponsoring a special segment on “The Collapse of Evolution”.  All very cerebral and doctriny.  Here’s where it gets weird.  At the conclusion of the special segment, I decided to continue to watch the broadcasted church service.  Nothing special about that… huge church, gray-haired preacher in dark suit… choir behind singing traditional hymns… the usual, and just like old times.  Are you yawning yet?  I can’t tell you exactly when it happened, possibly during the music, that I felt Jesus on my couch.  But I will NEV-ER, not in a million years, forget the sense of peace that came over me then for a few seconds (more peace than I’ve known in a lifetime)… the KNOWING that it was Jesus—not my dead grandmother or a ghost or even the Holy Spirit, but Jesus—right there with me.  It is a moment that whenever I begin to doubt it happened, my emotions let me know again that it was REAL.  Whenever I talk about it or think about it—or write about it—I begin to cry.  The moment was all too fleeting but it. stuck. with. me.  Did Jesus speak to me?  Not in so many words, but if I had to put a monologue to it, maybe he said, “Hey- I’ve always known you and I’ll always be with you.  I’m with you now.  Now I want you to know me.” 
So did I run out into the street and proclaim my undying devotion to God after that?  No.  Did I run off and become a missionary and try to solve world hunger?  I’m afraid not.  Did I even start praying every day?  Nope.  But I did find a local church to go back to.  Actually, it is more than a church.  It is a place of worship.  It is a faith community.  It is a place where people are filled with the Holy Spirit and ‘get it.’  Don’t get me wrong…they are just people and all that that implies… but they are a blessing.  Now six or seven years later I am transforming into a Christian who is starting (yes I said starting) to get to know God.  I feel Him more now—and want to feel Him every chance I get.  I want to live like I know Him and like I know that no matter what happens to me, I CANNOT BE SEPARATED FROM HIS LOVE… and neither can you.  I want to have more Jesus on my couch moments.  My husband (who is by no means perfect but IS proof in my life that God exists- topic for another blog post) and I were given a plaque that essentially says “Wanted or not wanted, God is Present.”  Ain’t THAT the truth?  Now we just need to tune in. 
Anyhoo – my intent of this blog is not to go on about my past or how I’ve found that church is the answer, but rather how God is the answer.  I want to share my Jesus on my couch moments, thoughts, and ideas; and other people reading to share theirs.  Aside from connecting directly with God, I believe this is the next best thing—connecting with others about spiritual, peaceful, unexplainable moments in our lives and what we do as a result.  Rather than waking up every day and trying to lead good lives, how are we living like we know we are already saved by Jesus Christ?  I don’t know exactly where this will go, but I want to take the journey.  Selah.