Tuesday, April 28, 2015

New Goals and Baby Steps

My Cousin recently had a stroke. As she recovered and is working through rehab, she is diligent about keeping up with her therapy and on staying involved with as many of her old activities as she can. My mother tells me my cousin says, “Baby steps.”

What a point of view.

It’s so easy to want to move fast, to do big things, to accomplish much. But sometimes, more can be accomplished with slow, steady, careful “baby” steps.

I am finding this a lesson which I need to learn again. All my life, I’ve been busy, active, on the move. Almost three years ago, I had a brain injury which caused me to have to quit work—and slow down. I’m having to learn new ways to keep myself busy and useful. This is a humbling experience.

I can remember long days of playing with my children, cooking, laundry, cleaning the house, trying to be an interesting companion to my husband. When I worked outside the home, I put in long hours, often getting up at four-fifteen in the morning so I could be at work by six. I wanted to complete my assigned work and make sure it was done in good quality. I liked when people told me they found me someone they could depend on, and I enjoyed interacting with coworkers and helping students.

Now I find myself unable to physically and mentally perform many of the tasks I used to do. I can no longer work so many hours in a day, and I need to take breaks to rest. Because of this, I have struggled with laziness and depression.

How I thank God that he doesn’t believe an old dog can’t learn new tricks. I am thankful that he stays beside me, whispering in my ear, teaching me that there are still new and beautiful turns my life can take.

I have to laugh at myself. As a person with a visual impairment, I’ve always been resentful when I felt other people didn’t think me capable or competent. Since my accident, it seems I’ve focused on all the new disabilities I have, all the things I can no longer do. Instead, I need to realize that it’s okay for me to have new goals.

My husband still needs my companionship, and we are enjoying spending more time together. My children are grown now and don’t need me to play with them anymore. Yet, since I’m no longer working, I’m able to spend much more time with them. I’m enjoying getting to know them as adults and praying for the wisdom to meet the needs they still have for me.

Slowly, I am accepting the activities and tasks which I am still able to perform. I can encourage friends and family with phone calls, emails, gifts, and prayers. I am encouraging myself to keep up with the simple, necessary tasks that I can still do around the house.

I’m finding it healthy to make a new routine for myself. I’m trying to schedule housework, writing, and/or work on my Braille proofreading class into each day. Maybe I’ll cook a meal each week. Even if it’s in small amounts of time, small amounts of work that I accomplish, I want to teach myself that’s acceptable and useful. Baby steps.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

I Want To Be Like Jesus

We had a guest speaker at our church recently who said some things about evangelism that struck home to me in a new way.

I’ve always heard that as Christians, we should be like Jesus. Well, who can argue with that? We should be like Jesus, more holy, more righteous. Certainly, that’s true. We should try to live more the way God teaches us in his word.

But on this day, we studied a different way that we should be like Jesus. The speaker used Luke chapter 15 to talk about God’s love and grace. She said this probably has one of the nicest things ever said about Jesus, even though that’s not how it was intended.

Luke 15:1-2: “Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

I thank God that Jesus welcomes sinners and eats with them. Including me.

Our guest speaker talked about how people who were lost, people who were the worst sinners, were the ones who loved to be around Jesus. They saw in him the love and concern they needed.

Often I have not found myself the kind of person who draws people to Jesus. I may be too preachy, or as one girl said about me in college, “Kathy is really righteous, isn’t she?”

She did not mean it as a compliment. I was self righteous. I was judgmental. Of course, there are truths in the Bible which we need to stick to and teach to people as they grow as Christians. But it is not our job to teach the lost to obey morals as we see them. It is our job to teach people that Jesus loves them and wants to heal their brokenness.

In the later part of Luke 15, we read the story of the lost son and his older brother who needed a changed heart. At different times in my life, I’ve seen myself as very like both of these brothers.

The younger son took his inheritance and left home to spend it on sinful living. When he had lost all his money and had no one and nothing, he decided to humble himself and go back to serve his father.

But the father was watching for him. While the son was still a long way off, the father saw him and ran to him, embracing him and welcoming him back as his son.

Luke 15:20-24: “So he got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.”

This is how I want to show God’s love to people. I want to hurt as they hurt, care about what is on their minds, show them a father who wants them as his children.

I’ve often seen myself as like the older brother in this story. Here they were celebrating with the one who’d turned his back on his father and wasted his inheritance. The older brother said that he’d stayed home and served the father, but his father had never let him have a party. But the father lovingly explained to the older brother how their family really worked.

Luke 15:25,28-32 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. … The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’ ‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”

Yes, the father celebrated because the lost brother had come home. But he explained to the older brother that he was just as important. Everything that belonged to the father belonged to him.

I want to be like Jesus. I want to be someone who shows God’s love, his grace, his compassion for anyone who hurts—so much that he watches for them while they are far away. I want to be part of the party when they come home.

Friday, April 10, 2015

The Old Country Church

We spent this Easter weekend with my mother on the farm in Missouri. Sunday morning we went to the country church where I grew up, for Easter service and breakfast cooked by the men.

Along a gravel road in central Missouri, miles from any town, is the Oklahoma Church of Christ, established in the late 1800’s. The current building, constructed of local rock, was built in the early 1900s.

They don’t use a sound system and band, or a computer with videos and songs and Scripture flashed up on a screen at the front of the sanctuary. Just a piano player, the ministers standing behind a pulpit, well-loved hymns in well-used hymnals, and the Bible.

Very different from my modern city church, but the message we heard, the hope we shared, was exactly the same.

Luke 23:32-43; Matthew 28:1-10; John 20:1-17.

Jesus died so that we can be forgiven. He rose again on the third day as a promise to his followers that we can live forever with God in Heaven.

His burial cloths were folded and set aside, unneeded. Just as he had the power to promise the thief on the cross that he would be with him in paradise that day, Jesus is alive today and has the power to help us with everything we need, our Lord and brother and friend.

Jesus told the women who came to the tomb that morning not to be afraid, but to share with his disciples that he was alive. We have the same direction from Jesus, to share with those around us that he is alive and wants to be their God, just as he is our God.

No matter where we are in the world, no matter our style of worship, we who have given our lives to Jesus share the same hope and joy and mission.

Matthew 28:5-7: “The angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: “He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.” Now I have told you.’”