Thursday, February 23, 2017

One body, made of some messy parts...

"Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. " Ephesians 4:2-3
"For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us." Romans 12:4-6
" For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ...." 1 Corinthians 12:12-27

These verses were heavy on my heart/mind today. With my classes I've been using different informational texts for Black history month. We've had some good discussions about the injustices and unfairnesses that occurred and have occurred through history. Today one particular text led to a discussion on bullies.  I found an article that talked about different reasons why people bully others. One of the reasons is that the bully perceives the victim as different in some way - smarter, weaker, whiter, blacker, more easy going, more anxious, etc. The bully might have a big ego and think he/she is better than anyone else, that his/her ways are the best ways or the only ways. The bully might be jealous and have a problem with low self-esteem. There could even be a pack situation.

So here we are in the Body of Christ, a collective of broken people who recognize their need of a Savior. People from all kinds of walks of life come together, called by God, at all different places in their spiritual growth. People with all sorts of different gifts. People with all sorts of different ways of doing things. People who are different from each other. Sometimes very different. Now, whoa, wait - can you figure out what I might be getting at? Bullies within the body. The Apostle Paul must have dealt with this - he writes in 1 Corinthians 12 "The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.”  On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty,  which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it,  that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.  If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together."

We are not going to be just like each other. Some of us may have old habits or behaviors that need the Holy Spirit - or we ourselves may have them and someone else's actions are revealing our personal not-so-good-junk in our reactions. They may want us to be clones of them or we may want them to do things our way. BUT the body needs eyes, it needs knees, it needs hands, feet, ears... It needs some of the parts that some may find less than presentable.  This is where being completely humble and gentle comes in. We need to be patient with others and pray that they are patient with us. We need to humbly realize that we, too, are imperfect and should bear with each other in love. It is our responsibility to make every effort to keep the unity in peace.  We are not the same and YET we are loved by our Lord and should love one another.

As I was writing this, one of my graduate school classmates shared a fantastic devotion with my from John Piper's "Desiring God" page, featuring Philippians 4:6 and 4:19. Don't be anxious, make sure that in all things you pray with thankfulness and let your requests be known to God and rest assured that God will supply all your need out of His riches. Therefore, if you want unity - ask. If you want to be accepted, understood and treated with compassion, pray. If you might be reacting with a less than humble and gentle spirit to another member of the body, present your problem to God. He will supply you with what you need to overcome the battle you are in. Now, it is a shame, that sometimes we must feel like we are in a battle with other members of the same body but again, this is apparently a thing that has gone on since the early church. Nothing is new. People are people and until we meet our Lord, we are bound to experience friction. We must patiently and prayerfully allow the Lord to knit us together.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Being blessed in many ways...

Lately when I run into people who don't see me regularly I am greeted with tender glances of concern and questions regarding how I am doing. Just last week I got three super sweet notes of care in the mail. How precious this is! (I *adore* mail). It has been seven months since Pat passed; I must say, it is extraordinarily sweet to have friends out there who are still reminding me that I'm in their prayers. In the words of Leo Buscaglia, "Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around."    

Langston Hughes once said, "When people care for you and cry for you, they can straighten out your soul."  Daily I'm out there with my James F. Bell attitude telling myself that "Fear is met and destroyed with courage," but I know darned well that it is the folks behind the scenes praying and lifting me up to the Lord who have given me the strength to go through this grieving process, to start two new jobs, to go through all the chaos and craziness that ensues when your partner is torn from you and your  life suddenly does a tailspin.  So - how am I doing? Thanks to the grace of God and the prayers of His people I'm alright. I am really and truly alright.

I'm working two jobs - teaching middle schoolers by day and teaching 5 exercise classes a week.  I can't even begin to say what a blessing this is. Yes, it is hard sometimes to come home and have to rush right out the door again BUT -- and this is a big BUT -- I am doing what I love. How many people get to do what they truly love? Lighting fires, teaching kids to love language, to love learning, to find better ways to communicate -- I adore this. One of my 7th graders told me last week, "Mrs. P, I admire you for your empathy." I was impressed that he understood the word and ecstatic that he saw that in me because I try so hard to feel what they feel, to figure out where each of them is coming from so that I can get them excited and involved in learning. And then there is the gym - To give people a good hard work out, to help them feel good about the things their body can do and to help them believe in themselves and their potential - that energizes me.

Steve Jobs hit the nail on the head when he said, "Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do." I know I'm really flinging the quotes around tonight but these words from Kahlil Gibran hit home: “Work is love made visible. And if you cannot work with love but only with distaste, it is better that you should leave your work and sit at the gate of the temple and take alms of those who work with joy." When I'm teaching, I'm teaching out of love, out of wanting to impart some knowledge or start the wheels of cognition grinding in someone's mind - and I love it when the lights come on and I can see the "Aha!" moment like a neon sign flashing. I love when I've challenged someone's body and they thought "I can't do that" and they find themselves saying, "Hey, I DID THAT!"

It is a warm and happy feeling to know that I've got friends out there praying me through this widowhood. I am certain that the road would be much harder if it weren't for your visits to the throne room on my behalf. Every hurdle that arises, every obstacle that looms ahead, I'm hedged in with the knowledge that God's got this. Romans 8 all the way. :)  And -- God has blessed me with a prayer partner who has been praying with me every morning and every night. If I were to write an infomercial script about why everyone should have a prayer partner, it would start with "Would you like your prayer life be transformed with a spiritual practice that will maximize your results?" Matthew 18:19-20 tells us, "If two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them" Praying with a partner is uplifting, encouraging, humbling, and simply beautiful.

And on that note, Mondays are one of my few nights to play "catch up" around the house. After a busy Friday/Saturday, I was waylaid by that nasty stomach bug all day Sunday and it lingered into this morning. I've got mountains of laundry to put away and chores galore.  God bless!

Friday, February 3, 2017

Death and taxes...

Benjamin Franklin once said, "In this world, nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes." These things are said with resignation. As humans, we must be resigned to the undeniable fact that we all are going to die and we are all going to be required to pay/file taxes.  An unfun part of this time of year for me is having these two collide.

I have the task of filing taxes jointly with Patrick for the last time and having to check off a "deceased" box with death info on my 1040. Throughout this whole ordeal there have been times that bring about suffocating horror like taking his name off insurance, documents, property, etc.,  or stabbing pain like being stumped when filling out emergency contact information and not putting his name on the paper. Sitting here seven months from the day his heart attack turned my world upside down, the wound will be torn a bit as I go through the ordeal of taxes and realizing the finality of his death once again. It's not like it's not there in little ways daily, but a big ticket item like this certainly salts the wound. (The fact that I substituted for seven districts last year and have to enter info from ten W-2 forms doesn't help make the chore any easier).

Now, Pat never helped with taxes. It's not like in doing the deed, I'll be missing much of anything. He lurked somewhere at a safe distance while I muddled through the chore; he made himself available for occasional whining or griping. He preferred avoiding the stress and listening to how things were going from just far enough away to hear without being sucked into the ordeal. Nothing has changed - I do the taxes, I do them well.  I randomly complain loudly, I'm sure the dogs will also keep their distance.

Tax time is just another hurdle to cross. I'm sure the burn and the aching reminder of "Yes, my husband is dead" will pass. Then there will be Valentine's Day, birthdays and an anniversary and such is life. A whole bunch of "first withouts" will come, be survived, and time will continue to march forward. I'm doing things - whether I really want to or not - that need to be done. There is a feeling of accomplishment that comes with every item checked off my list. Sometimes it is satisfied accomplishment; sometimes it is the "WHEW!" glad that is over sort. There are things to freak out about, but I know God's got my back and I'm shielded, covered and in the best of Hands. Regardless of what is my current situation, I'm plugging away and moving on to the next "must do."  " Pat's death happened. My husband is gone. The clock ticks, the sun rises and in the words of Miyamoto Musashi "The Way of the warrior is resolute acceptance of death." And hey, the truth of the matter is that in the mundane or in the horrific, the banal tasks or the noble challenges, Romans 8:37 rings true: "In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

"It is only through labor and painful effort, by grim energy and resolute courage, that we move on to better things," said Theodore Roosevelt. Lest I sound too heavy on the "grim" and to light on hope, God has been blessing me. Romans 12:12 says to  "Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, continue steadfastly in pray."  The Lord has definitely been throwing joy into my life with encouragement from friends both old and new, (thank you Anna for the card!), opportunities to talk about Him, and lately a prayer partner to help me start and end each day (thank you, thank you).

Death and taxes may be colliding in my life this month, but dancing around them are irrepressible hope and the certainty that my God's on my side.