Thursday, May 27, 2010

God Is Calling

The most extraordinary thing happened to me last weekend. I was ordained an elder in the church. It all started months ago with a phone call. The woman on the other end of the line asked me to pray about stepping into this leadership role. After a great deal of leadership training and presenting the testimony of God’s work in my life to the current church leadership, God’s call was affirmed in a very traditional and ceremonial display last Sunday.

Along with my fellow officers elect, I was asked to publicly affirm my belief in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and as Head of the Church, in his Holy Word, and in the one true God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I vowed to live by and uphold the tenets of the reformed faith, to reach out in the love of Christ to all, to work for the reconciliation of the world, and to serve the people with energy, intelligence, imagination and love while doing my best to further the peace, unity, and purity of the church. I vowed to shepherd the people he has put in my charge, provide for their worship, nurture and service, and to discipline when necessary while trying to show the love and justice of Jesus Christ to all. Wow! What was I thinking?! I can’t do that! What was God thinking?! There’s an old saying that God never gives you more than you can handle and it’s times like this that I’m absolutely sure that he indeed overestimates my ability.

Anyway, back to the ordination. I was blessed to have some very special people in attendance celebrating this incredible moment in my faith with me. My parents watched on as their daughter knelt before God once again submitting her life and service to his will. While my parents practice a different religion than I do, and may not have fully appreciated the miraculous thing that was happening, they were there for me – The mother who prayed consistently and fervently through my troubled teen years that God would bring me through another day and the father whom God has restored to me after many years of broken relationship. I was also blessed to have the woman whom God has made my sister in faith, if not in flesh. She was the connection that brought me further into his church and his service by her example. Lastly, God blessed me with the presence of the man who has been a father in the faith to me, my mentor and friend. He is to me what Paul was to Timothy in that he has nurtured my faith and taught me to love God with all I am, to seek God with all my heart and to rely on the Spirit to lead me through life in the light of Jesus Christ my Savior.

After we publicly affirmed our beliefs and vows, all the ordained elders of the church were invited forward to lay hands on us as the pastor led the congregation in prayer asking God to fill us with his Holy Spirit and use us according to his purpose as we strive to fulfill his call on our lives. My God-sister and my mentor came forward along with countless others to lay hands on us and for the first time in over a year, I was acutely aware of the Spirit in and around me. I sensed the protective fortress of brothers and sisters in Christ behind me and the warmth of these kind-hearted people radiated up around my back and neck as a cool openness drew my heart to the cross I was facing and a peace settled in me. It was an awesome and humbling moment I won't ever forget.

Part of me is still intimidated by the tremendous responsibility that God has called me to take on. However, in the days that have followed that worship service, I’ve come to realize that the old saying, as we so commonly state it, is incomplete. We too often forget to add the most important element which is “with his help.” God doesn’t give us anything we can’t handle with his help. I can’t do all that stuff I promised to do. And I’m not supposed to – at least not alone. God does the work. He supplies the ability and the power needed to complete his will on this earth and in my life. The only confidence I need to have is confidence in God’s ability and power and when I have complete confidence in God, I feel stronger and more able than I ever could on my own.
About the pictures:
Pittsburgh, PA (May 2010)

Friday, May 21, 2010

Exposing the Battle Within to the Light

I'm a walking contradiction. I want to be special and unique, but I don’t want to be different. Like anyone else, I love attention, but the moment I’m in the spotlight, I want nothing more than to be invisible. I’m not content to blindly follow others, but I fear I lack the leader mentality and I don’t care for change, but I don’t want to be stuck doing the same thing all the time either. Sometimes I grow weary of the internal battles that arise from these conflicting feelings and thoughts. Have you ever felt like that? How do we resolve the conflict and find the peace and joy Jesus came to bring us?

I could blame my predicament on my past. I’m the way I am because of the life I’ve lived. The abuse and pain of my life have screwed me up beyond ever being “normal” or fitting in with the group. However, I know that to be a lie because nothing is beyond God’s power to overcome or heal. Jesus gave sight to the blind, made the lame walk, and brought the dead back to life. He can and has healed my heart and my life from the pain of my past. So much for that excuse.

I could try to rationalize it away. I’m shy and an introvert. I’m never going to be the magnetic personality that my extrovert friends are. It’s never going to be easy for me to be outgoing or “normal” by society’s standards because it’s just not my personality. Well, that’s just wrong too. Perhaps I am wired differently than an extrovert, but that doesn’t mean I am less valuable as a person. Being an introvert doesn’t make me less capable, it makes me capable in other ways. God created me to be what I am and to chastise myself for not being something else sounds rather foolish to me.

As I pondered how to resolve the conflict within me this week, I began to realize that if I am to embrace the peace and joy Jesus brings, I need to first embrace Jesus in my life. I need to look at my life through him. God created me as a unique individual. When you think about it – everyone is created as a unique individual, so in that sense, I’m no different than anyone else. Being the center of attention is never easy for a person who practices humility. And because of the humble heart God is cultivating in me, it is Jesus who is and will be glorified when I find myself in the spotlight. I’m okay with that. And after much soul searching, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m too much of a leader to be a follower and too much of a follower to ever lead well. That is on my own. However, I am committed to following Jesus where ever he leads me and I am comfortable with the idea of encouraging others to come with me. I will follow Jesus and they can follow me. (Sort of like middle management.) Lastly, change is constant. Sometimes it’s good. Sometimes it’s bad. Always, Jesus is with me which means I have my All-Powerful, Loving Savior and God with me in all change - his unchanging nature guiding me through the changes of life. Yes, when I look at my life through him, I can’t help but find the peace and joy he brings.
About the pictures:
Pittsburgh, PA (May 2010)

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Way, the Truth, and the Life in Me

Wow! This week marks the one-year anniversary of “The Parable of My Life.” When I started, it was inconceivable to me that I would be able to write faithfully every week about what God is teaching me in the ordinary moments of my life. I didn’t think I had what it took to achieve something that ambitious and I was sure that I didn’t have anything in my life worth writing about. But here I am one year later amazed at how much God has taught me in the ordinary moments of my life. This year has been filled with pain and joy, grief and celebration. I’ve shared vulnerability and strength, despair and hope. Through it all God was with me. He was the strength in my weakness to keep going and to keep believing that things would be better someday. He brought joy and laughter to fill the empty places of my heart left by the pain and grief and his radiant hope led the way out of the darkness of my despair. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life in me and that is what I hope to continue to share with all the Lord leads to this blog. Blessings to you all!

The Way, the Truth, and the Life in Me
Jesus is creating in me a new life.
One worth living.
One that is filled with love and joy,
with hope and anticipation.
Even when I’m sad and despairing,
His hope fills and embraces me.
His hope is the rock I stand on to gain my footing
and it’s the light that guides me in purposeful living.
Step by step He leads me to be actively involved in my community,
with a servant’s heart sharing my resources, my skills, and my abilities.
He is present in the great celebrations,
in deep devastation,
in every life situation.
He is alive and ingrained in the moments of my day.
He is the spark and the ability,
He is the forbearance and the drive to reach out to the needy,
to comfort the sick and the hurting,
to feed those who are hungry,
to bring peace to the factions,
and cry with those in mourning.
His will brings me to my destination
while His power works through me
to touch the hearts and lives of those I’m meeting.
What a blessing it is when He works through my words, my deeds.
For I too am transformed by those divine interactions.
Still there are times when I am unsure, hesitant.
Do I do this or that?
Do I commit to His will or my own?
Do I ask for courage and believe He will give it?
Or do I make an excuse and retreat?
To often, I go my own way and guilt torments me.
Emptiness fills me causing repentance to rise in me
clearing the way for His forgiveness to cleanse me.
Affirmation resounds that I haven’t lost His love,
His attention,
His salvation.
I don’t need to regain His affection
for He’s already reconciled my sin.
And no matter what I’ve done – I still belong to Him.
I know He will never abandon me
for He has poured His Spirit into me.
Joy is found in the way of Jesus.
Peace resides in the truth of Jesus.
And hope is given in the life of Jesus.
Alleluia and amen.
-Maureen Profeta

About the picture: Pgh, PA (May 2010)

Friday, May 7, 2010

My Faith in the Dark Side

For many years I have been working with a Christian counselor to open myself and my past up to God’s healing. It has been a long painful road and just when I think I see the light at the end of the tunnel, I am plunged into another mile of darkness as we uncover yet another layer of festering feelings and wounded memories. Today, my emotions are raw and my vulnerability is at the mercy of the world. Sometimes the sorrow is so heavy in my heart, my lungs won’t expand and I can’t breathe. Silent tears well up from the depth of my soul and stream down my face and the only thing worse than that is when I’m so numb I can’t cry at all. Yet, even in this dark place, I am at peace because I know that God is with me, healing me, carrying me through to an unimaginably beautiful garden on the other side of this pain. God brings small glimpses of light and joy into this darkness: the unrestrained love of friend’s golden retrievers, a friend who sat with me when I couldn’t bear to be alone, a few moments of laughter with a volunteer, and the anticipation of a weekend with my Godsister - all treasured gems found in the cave of despair.

So where is the hope? If you’ve read my blog enough, you know that there is always hope to be found somewhere. Today, I found it in John 6:5-13 – the story of Jesus feeding the five thousand.

When Jesus asked Philip “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” he already knew what he had in mind to do but Philip couldn’t see past the direct question – Where shall we BUY bread? – To search for heavenly answers. He looked at it from a human perspective and told Jesus it was impossible to buy enough bread to satisfy the large crowd. This tells me that Jesus is not confined to human options or ability and that if my answer is “it’s impossible” than all the more, Jesus is the answer. I can’t change my past. I am never going to look back and see a happy childhood. I am never going to wake up to a world where my first marriage was a beautiful thing. But Jesus can take the pain from the memories and heal the open wounds of my past.

Andrew was able to find a very small amount of food, enough for a small boy, and offered it to the Lord not knowing how or if it would help. Jesus took the small offering and told them to ready the people to eat. To apply this to my own life, I need to offer whatever I have, however small or insignificant in my eyes, to the Lord and then be expectant that his power will make miraculous things happen. My life isn’t much to offer, but as I do I know that he will do more with it than I could ever image (and believe me – I have an incredible imagination.)

Lastly, when the meal was over, Jesus tells the disciples to gather up the leftovers. He says to let nothing be wasted. This is where the hope burst through because God doesn’t stop at enough. God goes way beyond enough to abundance. If I were to be able to gather up all the miracles of my life, I would find that I am abundantly blessed. His blessings overflow and I am able to share his love and healing with others who are hurting and need comfort. Let nothing be wasted. If the pain and anguish I am going through now helps me to live a joyful life in the Lord – that’s blessing. If God uses the pain and anguish I’m going through right now to someday help even one other person to live a joyful life in the Lord – that’s abundance and I expect nothing less when it comes to Jesus.
About the pictures:
North Park (August 2009)