Pastor Mark’s Devotions, May 6

“Another Pair of Shoes”

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2

 

Last week I wrote a devotion entitled, “Empathy.” In it, I described empathy, as one who was willing to walk in another person’s shoes. I also used the scripture from Galatians 6:2, which states, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ.”

The burden that Paul encourages his fellow believers to carry carries some important nuances. This burden we are to help carry causes pressure. This burden feels like a weight under increased pressure, as if you are sinking deeper into the sea. This burden is also something that a person has difficulty wrestling. Perhaps a good picture is a wrestler on a mat, trying to secure a solid hold. Also, this burden can tilt toward feelings of grief and loss. This burden might grab ahold of a person grappling with the loss of a spouse, a loved one, a job or even just loss of the way things used to be.

Paul encourages us to recognize that there might be those around us who are feeling under pressure, wrestling, and/or grieving from a loss. This might describe you. You are not alone. Others are wearing your shoes. As a family of faith, we have been called to help carry one another through these challenging times.

Last week, I read a story in the Washington Post. I think some of our people might be wearing these shoes. We hear a lot about the shoes that the doctors, nurses and other essential workers are wearing. There are also some less obvious shoes that can also be pretty tough to wear.

“I apologize to God for feeling this way” by Eli Saslow

(Gloria Jackson is grappling with loneliness in Minnesota. This is her story.)

I try to remember that I’m one of the lucky ones in all this. What do I have to complain about? I’m not dead. I’m not sick. I haven’t lost my job or gone broke. I’m bored and I’m lonely, and so what? Who’s really going to care about my old-lady problems? Lately, when I see people talking about the elderly, it’s mostly about how many of us are dying off and how we’re forcing them to shut down the economy.

I tell myself I should be more positive. I should be grateful. Sometimes I can make that last for an hour or two. A day can drag on forever when you’re isolated all by yourself. I sleep as late as I can. I try not to look at the clock. I go on Facebook and read about all the ways this country is going to hell in a handbasket. I turn on the TV to hear a bit of talking. It’s been almost seven weeks since I’ve spent time with a real, live person. I haven’t touched or really even looked at anyone, and it’s making me start to think recklessly. The other day I went to Walgreens to pick up my medications and I sat in the parking lot and thought about going inside. I was wearing my mask and I had my inhaler. I wanted to run a normal errand, look at the chocolates, maybe find my way into a conversation. But I stayed in the car and went to the drive through. I put on my gloves and handed my card to the clerk through a hole in the glass window. I took the medicine and gave a little wave.

If I get this virus, I’m afraid it would be the end of me. I’m 75. I’ve got all I can handle already with my asthma, fibromyalgia and an autoimmune disorder. The best way for me to survive is by sitting in my house for however many weeks or months it’s going to take. But how many computer games can you play before you start to lose it? How many mysteries can you read? I realize time is supposed to be precious, especially since mine is short, but right now, I’m trying every trick I know how to waste time away.

Negative thoughts creep up like that. I start getting crabby. It’s waves of anger and depression, and I beat myself up for it. People have it a whole lot worse. Obviously!

I’ve got two daughters out of town who call me and check in, but I don’t want to guilt them. I’ve got a high school friend who dropped off groceries. I’ve got a dog and two cats that need to be cared for which gives me something to do. I’ve got my own manufactured home with flowers blooming all over the house. A lot of people don’t realize there’s a big difference between a trailer park and a mobile home community. I’ve spent hours lately driving up and down every block of this neighborhood looking at people’s yards, checking out whatever might be poking through the dirt. One morning I drove my dog to the river. People were walking on the path, and I was worried about the droplets and all that. We sat in the car and cracked the windows and listened to the water.

It feels like everybody here is trying so hard to be cheerful, but boy does it take an effort. The other day was supposed to be the beginning of baseball season, and I love baseball, and the anchor came onto thee local news and said: “Let’s all try to look on the bright side! Let’s find a way to celebrate Opening Day even though nobody is playing.” He showed pictures of fans wearing their Minnesota Twins T-shirts, or rubbing hand sanitizer onto a baseball to play catch, and I thought: You know what I’d really like to do right now if I’m being honest? I’d like to find a bat and a ball and go break a few windows.

I apologize to God for feeling this way, but he made me how I am. I’m over this whole thing. I used to be an optimist, but I’m not anymore. I’ve never been this angry, and it’s an ugly way to feel. Maybe when you don’t get to see anybody for weeks, emotions get bottled up and have nowhere to go. I get sucked into Facebook, and I keep scrolling down from one thing to the next, yelling at my computer as the posts get more and more insane. Mike Pence was just here in Minnesota, visiting patients at the Mayo Clinic, and he went against their policy and refused to wear a mask. It’s like: “Really? How arrogant can you be?” Next, it’s someone posting pictures of people crowded together like sardines at a beach in California. “You idiots. Do you care about anyone but yourself?” Then it’s the president’s saying it might be a good idea to inject some kind of bleach or disinfectant. “No thank you, but you go right ahead if you want to poison yourself.” Then it’s a militia group taking over a state capitol. It’s doctors who have to wear garbage bags instead of gowns. It’s how at least most of the deaths are people over 70 with preexisting conditions. “Oh, what a relief. Who cares about them?” It’s some stockbroker or whatever saying the elderly were holding this country back from reopening, and maybe it’s their patriotic duty to be sacrificed for the sake of the economy. “Sorry to be an inconvenience to your financial portfolio. Sorry I’m still breathing.”

It enrages me. I spent my career working for the federal government at Veterans Affairs. I raised my kids by myself. I basically had to raise my ex-husbands. I marched and fought for women’s rights. I volunteered for political campaigns. I pay taxes and fly a flag outside my house because I am a patriot, no matter how far America falls. But now in the eyes of some people, all I am to this country is a liability? I’m expendable? I’m holding us back?

Everyone knows me as a kind person. I used to wear a peace necklace. I’ve gotten old enough that I just say whatever I think with no filter, but I don’t always like what comes out. This isn’t how I used to be.

There’s a lot I don’t recognized about what’s happening now. This country is so completely different from the one I came into. My uncle was at the Battle of the Bulge the day I was born. I arrived right near the end of the war, and most of my life was American boom times. We were the leading country in everything when I was young. My dad left for a while to work as a chef on the Alaskan Highway and he traveled through Canada so we could carve a road 2,000 miles over the Rockies in the dead of winter. We did whatever we wanted just to show that we could. That’s how it felt. I graduated from high school and started working when I turned 18, and within about a year I was earning more than my parents. That’s how it went. It was up, up, up.

And what are we now? We’re mean. We’re selfish. We’re stubborn and sometimes even incompetent. That’s the face we’re showing the world. It seems like some of these other countries almost feel sorry for us. New Zealand and South Korea beat this virus back in a few weeks. We’ve gone from 10,000 deaths to thirty thousand to sixty some, so I guess we’re still leading the world in that.

We can’t get out of our own way. Are we shutting down or opening up? It’s the states against the feds. It’s conservatives against liberals. There’s no leadership and no solidarity, so everybody’s doing whatever they want and fighting only for themselves which means everyone who’s vulnerable is losing big. Minorities. Poor people. Sick people. Immigrants. Elderly. We’re the ones who will never recover. That’s the truth I’m learning about this country, even if I should have known it earlier.

I don’t like feeling this way. Maybe somewhere in this we’ll see a great lightning strike of American ingenuity. I doubt it, but maybe. There’s no choice but to be hopeful. I’m staying alive and sitting in my house and waiting. Where else am I going to go? I’ll be here.

Can you feel the weight of Gloria’s shoes? Maybe you are wearing a pair of them right now.                   The pressure, the wrestling, and the loss that Gloria is feeling is palpable.   

Many people are struggling to walk down this road and hold on to hope.  

If you are feeling her pain, remember that you are not alone. Remember that there is One who has worn your shoes. He walks beside you and is in you. Jesus feels your pain.

We have no idea how this pandemic will play out. But our hope is not in this world. Our hope is in the one who walked the road to Calvary. He will carry us home.

In the meantime, God help us to carry each other in your strength.

God Bless You All!

Pastor Mark

 

 

 



Pastor Mark’s Devotions, March 27

                                                                                    “PPE”

“Put on the Full Armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” Eph. 6:11

During the Covid19 crisis, we are learning new terms and their meanings. There is no question that people, while they might not comply, understand the meaning of “Safe Distancing”. Also, the phrase, “flatten the curve” will bring a picture to mind not quickly forgotten. Before this pandemic, I could not tell you if I had ever heard the acronym, “PPE”. Now those letters are thrown around regularly and everyone knows what it means; “Personal Protective Equipment”. We are also very aware of the lack of personal gear for our health care providers. When I first heard this term repeated on the news, it seemed a concern that was a healthy distance away. I know that I wasn’t alone. But then I quickly realized the concern is much closer to home. Dawn and my niece, Grace, are on the medical front lines. Grace, my niece, who is an EMT serving the downtown Seattle area, is given one mask per day no matter how many calls. So also, Dawn’s clinic had one box of masks that had to last the entire week for all employees.  

All our health professionals and those serving the public are in great need of greater Personal Protective Equipment. It is no more clear than watching the news and witnessing nurses wrapped in black plastic garbage bags. Prayerfully the Federal Government and private companies will begin flooding the states with the equipment that is needed.

The reality is, we all need Personal Protective Equipment. As Christians, we are called to recognize our need for spiritual protective gear. St. Paul, in chapter 6 of Ephesians, says that we need this equipment in order to protect ourselves from Satan’s scheming. The Bible tells us that Satan is the Father of all lies, who wants to steal, kill and destroy. He wants to destroy our hearts, trample on our faith, and trip up our trust in God. Earlier in chapter 4, Paul states that it is the leadership in the church to help “equip God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining the full measure of Christ. (Eph. 4:12-13) The people of God will not be equipped for works of service nor grow in maturity, if we do not put on the proper personal protective gear. In truth, people are being cut down by our enemy every day! Paul points out that our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but similar to Covid19, he is an invisible enemy. We cannot see him coming, but we can clearly see his effects. If the world can acknowledge the effects of this virus and take global action, why is the world so blind to the effects of the spiritual virus, our enemy, Satan?

To protect ourselves against this hidden enemy, Paul says, “Put on the FULL ARMOR of God so that you can take your stand.” We could not conceive of sending our soldiers out on to the battle field without a weapon and proper battle gear. It seems like we are sending our health workers out to the front lines wearing rags like the militia of the Revolutionary War. And the country is up in arms about this tragedy.  So too, we cannot send our fellow believers out into the world without armor and expect them to stand.

Paul states, “Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.”

Paul identified the personal equipment we need to protect ourselves. Now what? Consider today you are entering bootcamp. Bootcamp is a place where you are broken down, built up, and learn how to become proficient with your armor. Yes, one could argue that it is time we storm the beaches of Normandy. I’m not sure it’s time for a frontal attack. Basic training lasts between 8-12 weeks. It looks like a lot of us could be sheltering in place for 8-12 weeks. Let us use this time to become more mature in the faith. You might have your sights on hoping this crisis disappears as quickly as possible. Friends, another crisis is around the corner. Somehow, somewhere, sometime. A fire, a flood, an earthquake; a cancer diagnosis, a heart attack, a child’s addiction. This time can be training so that no storm nor trial will toss us to and fro. And when we are released, we will move with greater power and purpose. Let our goal drive us to graduate from this basic training with greater faith, deeper trust, broader hope and a convincing confidence in God.

There was a time, and still is in certain countries, where people have to share a Bible. People have to guard the scriptures like they are N95 masks because they are in such short supply. We do not face this crisis. More than likely, you have a Bible sitting on a shelf somewhere. If it has been collecting dust, brush it off and begin reading the Gospel of Matthew. If you’ve already been picking up your weapon – “HOORAH!!” – keep going! Take this time and make this commitment to yourself to read through the entire New Testament. If you can picture me sitting in my home writing this devotion to you, read the Bible like you can picture God dictating something he wants to share from his heart to yours. Bootcamp Christianity begins with being handed the Word of God and gaining a greater familiarity with the character and nature of God – for yourself!  The Word of God is the foundation of our Personal Protective Equipment. Miss this one, and any of us will be fully exposed to our enemy’s schemes. Battle tested by God’s Word with prayer and the Holy Spirit – and bound together – we will be a tough out!

God Bless You All!  Chow is at 0600 hours. See you there!

In Christ, Pastor Mark

 

 



Pastor’s April Blog

“The Resurrection of the Dead”

  “If only for this life we have hope in Christ,
we are to be pitied more than all people.
But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead,
the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.”  
I Corinthians 15:19-20
 
In his letter to the Corinthian church, Paul speaks the truth about the resurrection. If we apportion our faith in Christ only to this life on earth, we have missed the mark, and are most to be pitied. If we only apply our faith to circumstances in our everyday life, we have not come to understand God’s grand design. Life here on earth, as much as there is to enjoy, is not our home. We are travelers passing through.
 
David is aware of this as he writes in Psalm 144:4,
“Man is like a breath; his days are like a fleeting shadow.”  
 
But we have been created, we have been painted into God’s great masterpiece, if we are willing to receive it. Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, and his resurrection points us to home – our eternal home – the place of paradise. With our feet firmly planted in this life on earth – I’m not sure that we can truly appreciate God’s plan without supernatural help. The Holy Spirit must open our eyes and hearts to the truth of the reality that life here pales in comparison to the life that awaits us.
 
Lord have mercy! Let us know with certainty, that while everything on this earth will surely fade, there is a life in heaven that will never die.
 
Paul knew with certainty that there was a paradise awaiting him. In 2 Corinthians 12:2-4, he describes getting caught up to paradise and hearing inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell. 
 
Because of this supernatural experience, Paul writes with conviction and confidence, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”  Philippians 1:20-21
 
Recently, I have been reading Mary Neal’s second book entitled, “Seven Lessons From Heaven”. Before Mary died and experienced heaven and had a face to face conversation with Jesus, she would call herself a humanist, a naturalist, a “cultural” Christian. She was a successful surgeon and had a loving family. Mary was living a life experiencing all this life had to offer.
 
But when she experienced heaven – she realized in a flash that she was TRULY home. Everything on earth faded away. Her soul was captivated by the unity, harmony and love that exists in Paradise. This is the home we are promised and which awaits us because of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.
 
That we might KNOW Him fully and the INHERITANCE that awaits us through Him. Come Lord Jesus!
 
Mary Neal describes Seven Lessons that she learned while in heaven. As we approach and celebrate Easter Sunday, ponder these seven lessons and ask the Holy Spirit to do a supernatural work in you – that we might, on this side of the grave, be able to embrace and celebrate all that awaits us in Paradise. God bless you!
  1. Circumstances make sense when seen through heaven’s lens, and the abundant grace we receive from God is the same grace we can freely offer others.
  1. Death is not to be feared, because death is not the end. It is a threshold where we leave our physical selves behind and walk whole into eternity.
  1. Choosing forgiveness releases our burdens and frees us to live fully and joyfully in God’s extravagant love.
  1. Heaven is a reality where we are made whole – no pain, no sorrow, no suffering – understanding prevails, relationships are reconciled, and we will be with God and our loved ones forever.
  1. Big miracles happen sometimes; personal miracles happen often. God invites us to notice His miraculous presence all around.
  1. God has a plan for each of us – full of hope, purpose, and beauty, and He wants us to discover it.
  1. In our mistakes and failures, tragedies and losses, God never leaves us. His goodness and love surround us. In His time, beauty blossoms in all things.
He Is Risen! He Is Risen Indeed! 
Love in Christ,
Pastor Mark