“It pays to take life seriously; things work out when you trust in God.” Proverbs 16.20, The Message

Taking this with me today. Before the day began there were hints of crisis everywhere. People I love who are suffering, hurting, confused and broken. Worries and anxiety right here in my neighborhood. Phone calls and texts and emails and conversations.
And it’s not just one, or two. It is more and more, families and friends and neighbors. Some of you, my friends, need to know that you are not alone. Not only because you are loved and your friends and community are with you, but that you have not been singled out. There is suffering and stress all around us.
At times it seems that there is an oppressive force at work. It coats our souls with despair. It brings us to our knees.
There is only one thing I can do. Rendered helpless by the sheer pain that life sometimes brings, I can only pray for help.
And this I believe – help will come.
“God said this once and for all; how many times have I heard it repeated?
“Strength comes straight from God.” Psalm 62.11, The Message

The Bible And The Bills

Last week, I lost three very important things:

  • my Bible
  • my March church expense statement
  • my January church expense statement (don’t ask)
I looked everywhere; I turned the house upside down. I went through everything in my office three times. No sign of the Bible or the bills.
I assumed the Bible would turn up eventually. It’s quite amazing, actually, that my spiritual life isn’t hindered by the lack of a tangible Bible – there are tons of online resources like Bible Gateway and Youversion that are at my fingertips. I have a few old, tattered copies of study Bibles at home. But my red Bible is sentimental and personal; it means something to me. It’s underlined and dated and I’ve marked some significant moments in it.
As a brief tangent, I’ll reveal that there’s a small piece of paper tucked in between the pages of my red Bible, dating back about eight years. It’s part of a church program, and on it are written thes words:

“Consider yourself hugged.”

Slipped to me during a difficult time in my life, in the middle of a service during which my tears were flowing freely, I keep it to this day. It meant the world at that time. It still does today.
(I believe that my friend who wrote that reads this blog from time to time…wonder if they remember it as clearly as I do?)

Anyway, I’ve got notes like that tucked in my Bible, along with underlined passages with dates and the initials of the pastors who have revealed truth or insight (JR….BCH…JL…LG…DF…) It means something to me, my history intertwined with the writings of Paul and the words of Jesus and the history of God’s people. I missed it.
The bills are another story; suffice it to say that I struggle with deadlines. My monthly efforts to get my work-related finances organized, accounted for and submitted in a timely manner are not always successful. Having just had a roundtable discussion during which we were all rather strongly encouraged to do better in this area, the last thing I wanted to do was to let folks in the financial department know my predicament.
“Uh…hi, it’s Beth. You know how we were going to try to do a better job getting our statements in on time? Well….I can’t find mine…”

Just slap a sticky note on me that says STUPID.
Late last week, I gave up. I wrote the “I AM STUPID” email confessing my ineptitude, and I took a deep breath in preparation to accept Brian’s offer of a new large print Bible to replace my old one (grrr…..muttering and taking GREAT offense under my breath….)
And then, lo and behold, as these things tend to play out, I started finding things. First it was my Bible.
And undoubtedly you’re dying to know where I found my Bible, right? Well, I’ll tell you: it was in the trunk of the car, in my workout bag. Which I haven’t used in…well, long enough to have had no idea that my Bible was in it.
And then, I came into work on Tuesday and found the March financial statement in my mailbox in the office. Hallelujah, praise the Lord, etc! There was much cheering and shouts of “THANK YOU JESUS!” Later, I found out that I not only had Jesus to thank, but also Dennis Green, who admitted to placing the envelope in my box.
“I found it on my desk. I’m not sure how it got there, but I found it. Under some stuff.”

(If you saw Dennis’ desk, this statement would make perfect sense.)
Still waiting on the January statement, I finally decided to take matters into my own hands. With a willing and very clever accomplice, I snuck into Dennis’ office during his absence and flipped through a stack or two of paper.
Voila. All that was lost is now found.
And the point? Well, there is one.
Don’t give up. Own up to your mistakes, but be sure that it’s not over till the fat lady sings – or till Dennis cleans his office.

God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out, his merciful love couldn’t have dried up. They’re created new every morning. How great your faithfulness! I’m sticking with God (I say it over and over). He’s all I’ve got left. – Lamentations 3.22-23 (The Message)

In Search Of Wonder

A photo of my as-yet-unfinished work space at the church. Eventually, I’ll get it done…
Here’s what’s smacking my internal attitude around today – a fascinating and thought-provoking quote from Dan Allender’s book Sabbath, via Pete Wilson’s blog:

Ambition leads to the demand for the shortest path between points to gain the most in the least amount of time; wonder calls the heart to explore the unexpected, nonlinear paths that often create a new unity that could not be expected when one first began.”

This really resonates with me today. I am struggling to make sense of the details of my life in this season, from the responsibilities and requirements of my job and my home to the emotional challenges of my relationships.
I want an answer. I want to get there. I want things to be right, and to be assured that I am doing things right. I want to know that I’m heading in the right direction, and that we – the “we” that collectively embodies my work, family and friends – are moving forward in grace and wisdom.
I want some answers, and I want things to be not-so-difficult.
I’m leaning hard into ambition and not much into wonder. And I hate that though I know better, I can hardly seem to help myself from getting bound up with anxiety and stress and concern.
It’s ridiculous, really, because time and again I have been whacked over the head with the same message.

Trust God.

Let go.
I’ve heard it from friends, read it in scripture, stumbled upon it in books and articles and know it, deep in the core of my being. And yet I am having a heck of a time living into it these days.
“I cry out to God most high, to God, who fulfills his purpose for me. He sends from heaven and saves me, rebuking those who hotly purse me; God sends his love and his faithfulness.” – Psalm 57.2

Pianos And Prayers

We had rehearsal tonight in our new space – our first “regular” Wednesday night rehearsal. Last week was so frenetic and packed with energy that it didn’t seem normal.

Tonight was normal. It was really….weird…to be out of the the little trailer, where we all practically stood on top of one another to practice. Now we’re on this huge expanse of stage.
We’re rehearsing with the Avion in-ear monitors.
We can hear (for the most part).
We’re running video to set up songs.
We can leave our gear out.
I don’t have to perch the keyboard on the conference table.
The singers don’t have to stand in Lori’s office because there’s no room for them in the main room.
It’s “real”.
And it feels so funky.
I’m so, so grateful – there are so many things that we’ll be able to do in terms of our vision and the mission of our church. Having this building opens up so many possibilities. In the long run, it’s going to be terrific.
But these first few initial weeks of change feel a tad bit painful, honestly.
I realized tonight, as we went through “None Like Jesus” (yeah – if you love that song, don’t miss this Sunday…), that I was grieving something specific.
I miss the grand piano at the high school.
I’ve never played at a church that didn’t have an acoustic piano as an option. I am, first and foremost, a pianist. My preference is to play the real deal. I love the keyboards we use, and I’m grateful for them. But the sheer pleasure of sitting on the bench and making music on the instrument that I’ve played for over 30 years now; that’s unmatched by anything in my life.
In this building, that option is gone. There’s no baby grand hiding in the wings.
It makes me sad. I’m hoping that at some point in the future, we’ll be able to get one. Funds are tight right now; although it’s part of the big picture in terms of equipment, it’s sunk pretty low on the list of priorities. Actually, it’s probably not even ON the list any more. There are so many things more necessary right now. Like ceiling tiles and tables. Flooring for the youth room. Asphalt for the parking lot.
So I’m hoping that one day….
Shoot, let’s just be honest. I’m hoping that somebody in Powhatan will read this and remember that there’s a baby grand sitting at home – preferably a Yamaha – that they would love to donate.
I’ll be praying about that….

On Giving Up And Bringing Back

It is Monday. The rhythm of my week is such that Monday often brings a welcome respite of a whirlwind of activity. Many of us who lean into Sunday as the highlight of of our work week find Monday as a necessary day of rest and recovery, not only of physical energy but (even more so) of mental and emotional rejuvenation.

However, my schedule has been such that I couldn’t take Mondays off. There’s too much to do to prepare for the week. This afternoon I have a meeting scheduled.
But I gave myself permission this morning to escape the massive amount of pressure looming around my personal and workplace responsibilities. It’s been a quiet day at home, with a few work-related things tended to, but mostly just being here. I was here to braid my daughter’s hair and talk about…well, stuff. I was here to get dinner started in the crock pot. I was here to talk to my mom on the phone without feeling rushed. I was here to listen to a recording of my brother’s most recent talk at his church, and to find out that he just finished an application to begin seminary studies (that’s me you see, the big sister beaming with pride.)
I’ve been thinking about Lent, and about how little my life changes to observe this season of sacrifice. I cling to the writings of those who practice Lent, but it’s from afar. It’s not internal. I just watch. I don’t think you get credit for voyeuristic Lenten sacrifice.
So I’ve wrestled with the notion of “giving up” something – chocolate? The internet? Caffeine? Soda?
I decided on none of those things, because, to be honest, my heart is not in it. I would be engaging in the practice simply to keep up appearances. As necessary as it is to cleanse my soul of some things and to make a sacrifice, the frenetic reality of my current circumstances makes “giving up something for Lent” simply another thing to check off on my to-do list. And I am convinced that to offer sacrifice like that renders it pretty much worthless.
But this morning, I balanced these thoughts with something definitive and specific, an action that I took in order to observe the brilliant opportunity of the day and the utter luxury of the time and space around me.
I held to my own time apart. I stayed home, spoke with my daughter. Fixed a meal for my family.
And I was quiet. I turned off all electronics and sat on the couch. When the rain began, I heard it and I noticed.
In the interest of full disclosure, I will admit that I fell asleep for a short time.
But somehow, I think that this quiet is exactly what my Sabbath ought to look like.

Don’t Forget

The Haitian government estimates approximately 230,000 died in the quake

It estimates a further 300,000 people have sustained injuries

An unknown number of others have died from untreated sepsis, illness, and injury

One million remain homeless

Fifty thousand families have received tent-type emergency shelters

Tents donated by the Cirque du Soleil might soon house the Haitian government

More than 500,000 children are orphans

More than 20,000 children under the age of five are severely malnourished

The Miami-Dade School District has enrolled 1,000 Haitian children

Most of Port-au-Prince’s schools are planning to reopen

Doctors have treated more than 100,000 people, performing 2,000 to 4,000 amputations

More than 7,000 babies have been born

Eighty percent of Port-au-Prince remains without power

One thousand planes are waiting for permission to land at Port-au-Prince’s airport

Haiti’s airport, under the direction of the U.S. Air Force, is landing 100 airplanes a day; prior to the earthquake, it handled three to five

Cruise ships continue to dock in gated zones in northern Haiti

The drive from the Dominican Republic, which formerly took six hours, now takes 18

Economists estimate the earthquake impacted half of Haiti’s GDP

International donors have committed at least $3 billion to the rebuilding effort

The United Nations Development Program has started an initiative to pay Haitians $3 a day to clear rubble and help rebuild, to infuse cash into the economy

Nearly half of American families have donated to Haitian disaster relief organizations

The United States has caught the first ship of 78 Haitians attempting to immigrate into the United States illegally — it sent them back

The United States might cut non-Haiti disaster programs by 40 percent, possibly leading to smaller programs for Congo and Sudan.

The rainy season has just started, soaking Port-au-Prince, collapsing many temporary homes, and increasing risks from water and sewage-borne illnesses

Let’s Fight.

Holly Furtick wrote an incredibly powerful blog post last week.

You should read it.  Especially if you are part of Powhatan Community Church – or any church – you should read this post.
And, after you’re done reading, do something.

And leave a comment and let us know what you did.

Here’s an excerpt; the emphasis is mine.
I’m just saying – this is truth. I have experienced it this week.  Maybe you have, as well.
Let’s fight. 

“…do I think that there are forces in this world that want to attack and/or distract us during a time of year when many many people will come to church for the first time (or maybe first time in a long time). Absolutely.

How do I fight? Well first of all I am aware. I see a negative attitude that rises up inside me as an opportunity for there to be a tension in my marriage. I am sensitive to the Holy Spirit. I try to spend more time meditating and praying as I go throughout my day.

I am also not going to bring up a conversation that may cause a disagreement…If the enemy cannot get at my marriage through a moral failure, he is going to attack through the seemingly small.

You may be reading this post and think, this is not for me. I am not in the ministry. This post is for everyone.

If you are in the ministry, open your eyes. Be aware, be sensitive, be prayerful.

If you are not in the ministry, be in extra prayer for your church, your pastor, your church leaders and for their families. Pray for smooth services, functioning equipment, plenty of volunteers, good health, the list can go on and on.

This is a fight worth fighting because people’s lives are at stake. Put up your dukes.”

You can read the entire post here.