Thursday, January 30, 2014

Even the Genealogies Mean Something by Greg York

Even the Genealogies Mean Something


(Foreword: If this blog is designed as a way for Southeastern’s leadership to talk about our spiritual journeys, then this entry will definitely come from the perspective of “in the middle” of that journey, not looking back on some destination reached… I don’t even dream that I’ve fully processed all that I’m writing about here.)


This last week I had the privilege of having a small part in a wonderful funeral service in Louisville for Jeana Garrison’s sister, Jana Rankin.  It was so meaningful to hear from so many different perspectives what an impact her brief life had had in her all-too-brief 42 years.  It was an experience that was sad, sobering, encouraging, and challenging all at the same time.  As a funeral for a believer should be.


I did not know until maybe the day before the funeral that she was to be buried in Resthaven Cemetery in Louisville.  I had already planned, since I was so close, to go from the committal service out to my parents’ for a little while before heading back for class Wednesday.  But when I heard where the committal would be, I decided to make another stop.  Resthaven is where my grandparents, my father’s parents, are buried.


I had not been to Resthaven at all since the day of my grandmother’s funeral almost ten years ago, and it had been cold and snowy that day, so the committal service was held in a chapel there, not at the actual gravesite.  I am ashamed to say I cannot remember the last time before that that I had visited there.


After the committal service for Jana, I drove back deeper into the cemetery.  For whatever reason, I thought I could rely on decades’ old memory to find the spot.  I did recognize a landmark, a brick tower maybe twenty feet in height, with spaces and openings in its upper reaches for birds to build nests (obviously too cold for birds to be around now).  I thought my grandparents’ gravesite was to one side of that tower, but after spending quite a few of my limited minutes wandering through that section to no avail, removing the snow from some of the ground-hugging bronze markers did not reveal the names for which I was searching.  I thought memory had simply failed me, and time was drawing short, but on a whim I drove over to a section about as far from the tower in the other direction.


As I pulled around one curve I saw another landmark, a large sundial, which I had not remembered until that moment.  It was then, as I slowed the car, that I looked to my left and saw the marker.  Even upside down from my vantage point, I could see the name “YORK.”


I turned the car off and just sat for a second or two.  Then I opened the door and walked over to the far side of the marker so that it was now “right side up” as I read it.


Perhaps you will think less of me, perhaps not, when I tell you this.  Whatever you think of it, it is what happened and it is one of those moments that I would not trade regardless of what anyone else thinks about it.  For the next few moments, I just walked around, not really in circles, but not really not in circles, and talked out loud to my grandparents.  It was spontaneous, utterly unplanned.


I have been so blessed in my life that I have both my parents’ still living, as well as my father-in-law, and that my grandmother lived to just shy of her 97th birthday and was still basically “herself” to the end.  I have been so blessed.


What struck me about those moments was how deeply connected I felt.  I am not just an isolated, free-floating entity.  I am part of something so much larger, and family is only a part (though a critical part, for sure) of that largeness.


For some reason, I thought of all of those genealogies in the Bible.  They are not just lists of barely pronounceable names designed to bore us, inviting us to observe the “pass-over” and just skip to the next chapter.  God put them there because they speak of the connection with others that is a huge part of how we are connected to God and to all of his creation.


So much of who we are is tied to, defined by our relationships and how we function in those relationships.


In those relationships, just as in those genealogies in the Bible, there is continuity with people in the midst of God’s ongoing outworking of his purposes.  Even if all the people are (like us) not so perfect.


Continuity.  In the midst of so much disconnect and disintegration.


Perhaps someday one of my grandchildren will stand over my grave marker.  Perhaps he or she will say as I did Wednesday, “Paw Paw, so much has changed since the last time we saw each other.”


Continuity.  In the midst of God’s ongoing work of shaping us and saving us.


I’m not sure, yet, of what all those few minutes visiting my grandparents’ gravesite was all about for me.  But I do know that I felt so strongly the sense that life is a gift, that life is a blessing, and that none of us is “in this alone.”


It was nice to have a reminder of connections that are (temporarily, awaiting Christ’s return) in the past, but that continue to shape who I am.  And I was reminded that I am part of relationships right now where lives are being shaped, mine included, for all eternity.


So I wiped the tears from my cheeks as I walked back to the car, wanting even more than before to drive out to spend some time with still living, wonderful parents, and then later to drive back up here where I knew I’d see my own family as well as my church family.


It was a day that brought glimpses of the past and the present and the future of God’s glorious eternity.  It was a day for remembering that it is all in God’s hands, and so, “all will be well.”  It was a day of deep blessing and deep joy.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Something To Look Forward To by Mike DeCamp

As I write this, I’m sitting in a condo in Orlando, Florida.  A quick look to my left, and I see the bright sun reflecting off of the lake five stories below my room, and this morning I strolled through Bluespring State Park as I watched the Manatees lazily meandering upspring.  Earlier in the week, I soaked in the sun for a little while on Anna Maria Island.  Ahhhh, the life.

Okay, I’m betting that some of you…maybe all of you…just thought something like:  “That’s not fair!” or “That’s not nice!”

Don’t worry, by the time most of you read this, I’ll be back in the northland enjoying the frigid weather with you.  It was only a short escape.

In the meantime, I understand how you feel.  Just the other day, we were at Universal Studios’ Islands of Adventure Theme Park, and I had a similar feeling.  You see, they have a policy there that allows people with more money to pay extra to be able to go through the “Express Line” to the front and bypass all of us folks who stood in the normal line.  (I kind of figured that I’d paid enough as it was and I wasn’t willing to pay more money just to be able to cut in front.)  At one particular attraction, the line would stop dead for 10 minutes at a time.  We’d done that maybe four times and we were in sight of the end, when all of the sudden a bunch of the “legally paid line-cutters” just showed up to take the front spots.  For one clear time in my life, I think I struggled with envy.  Arrrgh!

My “not fair” siren was going off -- screaming in my head!

Aren’t you glad the ultimate “attraction” is not programmed that way?

Our access to eternal life and our heavenly home is not based on how much money we are willing to pay, and you can’t pay more to get to the front.  In fact, someone else paid the entry fee for us, and all we have to do is accept the trip and make the journey.

Ephesians 2:4-10

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved.  And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.  For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.  For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

I asked Nancy or one of the girls at one point:  “What would happen here if everyone paid the extra for the Express Line?”  Well, the obvious answer was that it would not be very “express” anymore.

The cool thing about God is that all of us who choose to take God’s ride are automatically expressed to the front.  We are in.  It doesn’t matter if you have more money or less money.  It doesn’t matter about your worldly status.  No attention is paid to any social standing.
When you come in, your slate is cleaned and there are no lines.

And, thankfully, when we reach that new Jerusalem, there is no mention of any subzero temperature or piles of snow.  Ahhhh, the life!

I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.  And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look!  God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them.  They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes.  There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”  Revelation 21:2-4

It sure is something to look forward to!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Does God Care About Our Bodies? by Lisa Fleetwood

Romans 12:2 (NIV) "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is-his good, pleasing, and perfect will."

Does God care how we treat our bodies?
What is the connection between faith and health? Have you considered this beyond the prayers lifted for the infirmed? Do Christians have a responsibility to steward their bodies the same way they steward their money? Make 2014 a year to begin the conversation on the faith and health connection.

The Bible shares wisdom on the mind, body, spirit connection.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20

New International Version (NIV)

19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.

Question: How do we honor God with our body?

Romans 12:1

English Standard Version (ESV)

A Living Sacrifice

12 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

Question: How are our bodies a "living sacrifice?"

These words "honor, sacrifice, holy and acceptable" imply that our bodies are noble and worthy of our deepest respect and care. How we treat them makes them either acceptable or unacceptable. Paul urged the brethren to present their bodies to God as a living, breathing, talking, moving sacrifice. This year, as you contemplate your faith walk and take inventory of your spiritual life, reflect on how this spiritual walk impacts your personal health.

Health Tips

1. Add color to your plate.
2. Cut back on sugary drinks like juice and soda.
3. Drink plenty of water everyday.
4. Watch your fiber! Aim for 25 grams a day.
5. Read food labels and avoid trans and saturated fats.
6. Keep sodium consumption low, under 2400 mg a day.
1. Put activity into your day. Park farther away. Carry your own groceries. Push mow your grass and shovel your own snow!
2. Be consistent.
3. Choose activities you like! A lot of different things count as exercise: dancing, walking, gardening, yoga, cycling, playing basketball. To make it easier to get moving, choose whatever gets you moving.
4.  Exercise with a friend.  Finding a workout partner can help keep you on track and motivate you to get out the door.
1. Identify the source. This may sound easy but it isn’t always. Sometimes we may misplace stress blame or overlook deeply rooted emotional sources of stress. To help pinpoint the stressor, start a stress journal.
2. Look into your coping strategies. What you currently do to address stress may not be the most healthy. Coping through eating, anger, withdrawal and sleep may seem to work in the short term but their effects never last. Instead, rely on your faith and friends to find emotional peace and directly tackle stressful circumstances.
1. Always eat breakfast.
2. Control portions.
3. Eat until satisfied, NOT full and certainly NOT stuffed.
4. Avoid dieting, instead focus on improved nutrition and sensible eating.
5. Practice forgiveness (for yourself). When you eat too much or the wrong foods, evaluate, improve, and move forward. Toxic guilt holds you back from making positive changes.