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Not In a Better Place

Marilyn Cunningham is active in our church. She shared this with our Easter Earthquake Bible Study recently, and graciously gave me permission to share it here with you —

When Rev. Clayton Coffey was her brother’s pastor at the United Methodist Church in Sandoval, IL, someone said this regarding a recently deceased friend: “Well, at least we know they’re in a better place.”

“No,” Rev. Coffey said.

Right away you and I know he had the person’s attention with that unexpected response.

“No,” he continued, “not a better place. The best place.”

Somebody say Amen!

 

 

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Draw Your Own Line

Craig Ballantyne recently published this —

In his book, “Lone Survivor,” former United States Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell tells the story of how he nearly died after being ambushed in the unforgiving Afghanistan wilderness.

The other members of his SEAL team were all dead. Luttrell was unable to walk after almost being blown to pieces. He knew the only way to freedom was to crawl.

At a crucial moment, Luttrell made a decision. He was not going to die. He packed his wounds full of mud, grabbed a rock, and drew a line in the dirt. Then he told himself, “Marcus, all you have to do is crawl to that line.” And he did. Then he drew another line in the dirt. And he crawled to it.

Over and over again, with resilience and resourcefulness, Luttrell crawled his way to safety, to freedom, and to recovery.

He did it for his team—and as a commitment to himself. He knew, even when he was on the verge of death, that he was capable of so much more.

He didn’t get down.

He didn’t say, “This is hopeless.”

He didn’t make excuses.

He didn’t wish away reality.

Instead, he dug deep.

He believed in himself …

… and drew a line. And another. And another.

He did the work.

His action beat his anxiety.

His resilience, resourcefulness, and relentlessness allowed him to find his freedom.

If he can do that, then we can do this.

Now I don’t know what your “this” is…

For most of us, it is simply the struggles we’re up against today.

But I know that you’ve done something much harder in the past.

You’ve accomplished big things in the face of incredible adversity.

Maybe you’ve run a marathon, stuck to a diet and lost 20 pounds, quit smoking, got your spouse back after a bad break-up, raised great children despite tough circumstances, survived a bankruptcy, or overcome an illness.

The point is that you’ve overcome great adversity before and you’re going to do it again.

Marcus is the kind of inspiration that pushes us to overcome these adversities. But let me tell you about some of my other inspirations—the ones who keep me going despite the odds—so that you, too, can be inspired to face your challenges head-on.

— St. Paul reminds us that we “can do all things through Christ who strengthens” us. (Philippians 4:13)

And he’s serious.

Where will you draw your own line today?

 

 

 

Needed

Naomi Davidson and I go back a long way. Longer than we’ll admit, because we’re not that old!

She was the District President of the United Methodist Women when I was a pastor in a nearby town several years ago. Our paths continued to cross at district and conference events.

Time went by, we lost touch with each other.

Time went by a bit more, and now I’m retired and on staff of a church part- time. My actual title is Visitation and Other Good Stuff.

It’s in that context that I was surprised to see a Naomi Davidson on my visitation list a couple of months ago. Turned out to be the same Naomi! We picked up our friendship right where we’d left off decades ago.

This past Sunday her health was good enough that she could attend worship. In a conversation after that service, she graciously gave me permission to share a memory and some commentary of hers with you —

Years ago Naomi was the guest speaker at an event where a group sang Great is Thy Faithfulness. That was our closing hymn this week. She told me, “That song, and that chorus, and what it says, I’ve hung onto that and still do.

“Here’s why: ‘all I have needed, thy hand hath provided.”

“That’s what it says.

“That’s what we sing, ‘all I have needed.’

“It doesn’t say ‘all I have wanted.’ But ‘all I have needed?’ That’s what God provides.

“All. I. Have. Needed.”

— Amen, Naomi, and thank you.

I needed that reminder.

Maybe you need that, too.

Not Sure We Say This Enough. If Ever.

He reached up and around me.

This past Sunday morning I was sitting on the floor in the front of our church sanctuary. It was my honor to do our Children’s Sermon, which I always enjoy.

I’d finished, we’d prayed, and I’d invited them to go back to where they’d been.

Okay, well, actually, from what I’m told and from what I’ve seen on the video, I really did say “Ready, set, go! We’re ZOOMING!” and several took off  up the aisle as fast as they could.

Not the boy to my right.

He reached up and around me.

He patted me on the back, leaned over toward me and said, quite seriously, “Thank you.”

Made my day. My week. My — my oh my, when’s the last time you or I thanked our pastor for a sermon?

 

Serenity and Beyond

You’ll know this first part, I hope —

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

— Yup, that’s The Serenity Prayer.  Reminds me of something Tammy Pfrang wrote and let me share here with you yesterday: “Make a choice and make a move to change the things in your life that you can!”

Pop Quiz:

1) What is there you need to start to accept today?

2) What is there you need to start to change today?

Don’t rush too quickly past those two questions; you’re worth the time and effort your answers will take.

I hope the rest of The Serenity Prayer seasons both your acceptance and your changes — 

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.

— Somebody say Amen, and let’s meet back here tomorrow.

Choices and Changes

You’d love Tammy Pfrang! She’s a martial arts instructor I met while doing youth ministry. She recently wrote this solid advice and graciously gave me permission to it with you here —

“Gripe, complain, gripe again and where does that get ya? You are now tired from the energy you expended in that fruitless endeavor.

“Make a choice and make a move to change the things in your life that you can!

“Complaining is a huge weight we place on our own heads and hearts and spirits.

“Bust that thang off and move forward in changing the important things.

“Leave all else behind–including those friends of that same old negative attitude. Drop ’em like they’re hot, sail on into your new reality of love, joy and peace.

Enjoying life and growing as an individual!”

Thank you, Tammy!

Let’s pick up here tomorrow, shall we? See you then.

 

 

Tax Advice

My mom and I lived with my grandparents when I was in second grade, and I learned a lot just overhearing conversations.

When people would complain about having to pay taxes, one of my grandfather’s favorite pieces of advice was succinct: “Be glad you earned enough to even have to pay those taxes.”

Seems to dovetail nicely with this —

The Pharisees plotted a way to trap Christ Jesus

into saying something damaging.

“Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”

He answered, ” Do you have a coin? Let me see it.”

They handed him a silver piece.

He held it up to them, asking,

“This engraving—who does it look like?

And whose name is on it?”

They said, “Caesar.”

“Then give Caesar what is his,

and give God what is his.”

The Pharisees were speechless. They went off shaking their heads.

Matthew 22

Here’s a good idea: let’s remember what both Jesus and my grandfather said about paying taxes.