Monday, September 24, 2012

The New Normal

North Park, PA May 2010
This past week has been extremely busy, but the Lord did give me an opportunity to reflect upon “the new normal” in my life. I’ll try to explain what I mean. Recently, I was talking with a group of people who are grieving the loss of a loved one. Several of them expressed that they just want things to get back to normal. They’re tired of hurting and missing their loved ones. One woman said that she would never forget her loved one and time won’t change that. For her, life will never be “normal” again. I agreed with her.

I shared with them that on March 26, 1998, I was the mother of a vivacious twelve year old boy and twenty-four hours later, I wasn’t. All of a sudden my life, which had revolved around loving and raising my son, was without purpose. I was a childless mother lost in a haze of old life purpose and habit, walking in this new land of…..what? Every moment of my life had been about seeing to Bryan’s welfare and now, my moments were empty and useless. I had to learn how to traverse the new landscape of my life - a life that didn’t include him anymore. I even had to learn a new way to remember things because everything, up until the moment of his death, was stored in my mind as “when Bryan was two, or when Bryan and I were here, and when Bryan did that…” I needed a whole new frame of reference just to sort my memories. The day my son died, the “normal” of my life died with him.

North Park, PA May 2010
I was stuck in this “new normal” and had to learn how to survive within its confines. As the days and years went by, I was no longer just living within its confines, but exploring this land of “New Normal” and discovering joy and purpose again – not the joy and purpose I had known before, but a new, engaging way of life. Fourteen years later, I can say wholeheartedly that I love my new normal! I like me more now than I ever did before. I enjoy life and look forward to each day.

Everyone has to face change in their lives. And for those who go through a transformative change like a loved one dying, or a divorce, getting married, relocation, going to college, major health issues, or having a child…, these things transform what you know your life to be into something else – a new normal. What I’ve learned in exploring this new normal is that if you look for the joy and hope instead of trying in vain to find what you’ve lost, you will find incredible blessing.

North Park, PA May 2010
It can be uneasy, scary even, to go into the unknown of “the new normal” but we are not alone on the journey. Now this is where you are probably expecting me to say God is with you through the journey and that is true. God is with us in every moment whether we acknowledge him or not. But like world explorers who choose a guide to see them safely through uncharted wilderness and willingly follow their guide deep into the unknown, so we choose in our every attitude, action and decision the guide we will follow on our own personal adventure called life. Will we follow the Holy Spirit’s leading, the Guide sent to us by the Father at Jesus’ request, or will we choose to be led in circles by the guides of this world?

Monday, September 17, 2012

Bless the Lord, Oh My Soul!

Pittsburgh Zoo (April 2012)
This morning, it being Sunday, I went to church and enjoyed a wonderful time of worship, fellowship and being renewed by God’s own Word. I admit, I really wanted to just shut off the alarm and roll back over in bed this morning. But as I lay there, I began to think about why I go to church. I go because I love God. And once a week, I have the freedom and privilege of gathering with my brothers and sisters in Christ to share that experience. I have been redeemed by Jesus and his sacrifice on the cross – how could I not go to express the deep gratitude and admiration I have for him?

But worship isn’t just a Sunday morning, one hour a week thing. How could it be with a God as majestic and wonderful as our God! He created the universe. He created you and me. He is holy and still he seeks to be in communion with us, sinners though we are, because of his great love for us. So much so, that he, himself, did the impossible and unthinkable – left his heavenly throne and robed himself in flesh to pay the price for our sins and to conquer death to open the way into His Presence for us.

I've heard it said that man is a creature of worship. No matter who you are, you have a god in your life that drives you to do what you it the one true God, or success, or the ideal of tolerance, or the ultimate healthy lifestyle...whatever it is, there is something or somethings in your life that you deem a priority over all else. Something you would give up everything else for. What if as it is said your every action, every word, every attitude were an act of worship? What do these things in your life say about who or what you worship. Set your alarm for an hour from now and when the alarm goes off - ask yourself that question?

Recently, I’ve discovered a new favorite song I’d like to share (YouTube video below) called 10,000 Reasons by Matt Redman. The song is about worshiping from the heart. It moves me every time I hear it, so much so that I’ve made it my morning prayer on my way to work. I listen and sing along to this song, not just as a prayer, but as a reminder of who and what my focus and foundation is. God is the reason for all I am, all I do, and all I have - 3 reasons down, 9,997 to go!

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Bible Is...

Today's poetic response to Psalm 119:129-136 reads like an answer to the question - Why do you read the bible? Or perhaps - How can you read that over and over again? Doesn't it get boring? There are times when I'm not as diligent in reading my bible as I should be. This poem is a reminder to me of why it is so important to me to make it a priority in my day. Enjoy!

Fichter Fairy Garden June 2011

The Bible Is…
In Your living Word
There is hope and love
redemption and peace
on which to feast.
Understanding and power
words of substance
to devour
to enlighten and teach
to nourish my soul
words of joy
to make me whole.
Words of proof and promise
that Your love never fails.
Word of the living God
to each of us revealed.
Words that show Your holiness
Your perfect love
Your sacrifice.
Words that give me life.
Words in my weakness
that endure and suffice.
Words that guide me
and show me the Way
that open my heart
that teach me pray.
That speak of forgiveness
of passion and grace
that speak of me,
my sins erased
as I rejoice
in Your Holy embrace.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Do You Know Me?

This holiday weekend, I thought it would be fun to look back to August 2009 when I wrote about an email I received and the spiritual understanding God brought from the funny story. Enjoy!

 In a trial, a Southern small-town prosecuting attorney called his first witness, a grandmotherly, elderly woman to the stand. He approached her and asked, “Mrs. Jones, do you know me?” She responded, “Why, yes, I do know you, Mr. Williams. I’ve known you since you were a boy, and frankly, you’ve been a big disappointment to me. You lie, you cheated on your wife, and you manipulate people and talk about them behind their backs. You think you’re a big shot when you haven’t the brains to realize you’ll never amount to anything more than a two-bit paper pusher. Yes, I know you.”

The lawyer was stunned. Not knowing what else to do, he pointed across the room and asked, “Mrs. Jones, do you know the defense attorney?”

She again replied, “Why yes, I do. I’ve known Mr. Bradley since he was a youngster, too. He’s lazy, bigoted, and he has a drinking problem. He can’t build a normal relationship with anyone, and his law practice is one of the worst in the entire state. Not to mention he cheated on his wife with three different women. One of them was your wife. Yes, I know him.”

The defense attorney nearly died.

The judge asked both counselors to approach the bench and, in a very quiet voice, said, “If either of you idiots asks her if she knows me, I’ll send you both to the electric chair.”

I laughed when I read this story and then I paused. God knows me even more intimately than that. If I were to ask him, “Do you know me?” would I be able to endure the shame his answer would bring. There are so many things in my life that are hidden and I’m not just talking about the dumb things I did as a rebellious teenager or the greedy, self-serving offenses of my pre-Christian days. At least with those, I have the weak excuse that God hadn’t redeemed my life yet.

Even if God were to concentrate his answer on the years after I committed my life to Jesus, I couldn’t bear the encyclopedic volumes that would proceed from his mouth. Rebellion and sin are deep in my nature and that’s not going to just go away. I’m not going to wake up one day and never sin again. Yes, I am a Christian and my ambition and hope is to obey God’s will in my life, to become more like Jesus and less like the sinful human being that I am, but that is going to be a lifetime struggle.

So often in this world, a Christian’s sin is used as proof of “the deception” of Christianity. Non-Christians build their case against God with the sins of his people. They judge us self-righteous when we obey God’s will in our lives and hypocrites when we fail. How did any of us ever get the idea that “real” Christians are perfect all of the time? Real Christians are just broken people like everyone else. We are people who, by God’s grace, recognize our brokenness and in faith believe God has paid the price to redeem our lives. In gratitude, we offer our love and service to him, but we are still sinful human beings. God’s redeeming work is available instantly, but requires the rest of this lifetime to take root and flourish.

When I stand before the Lord on the Day of Judgment, all of my sins will be illuminated and measured by his holiness. Though I am sinful, I’m not afraid of that day because, just as he is with me now, Jesus will be standing with me on that day blotting out every last one of my sins with his blood. It’s not a lack of sin that make a Christian different from a non-Christian. It’s a relationship with the Savior that makes us different.
About the pictures:
North Park, PA (May 2011)