Saturday, March 14, 2009

(Editor's note: The house had some electrical problems Thursday evening which carried over into Friday evening which took out our internet capabilities, so the blog did not get posted until now. Problems have been partially taken care of and will be complete hopefully Saturday. Bruce)

Happy Thursday! Just one more day until Spring Break! Yea! I am looking forward to spring break. I have two papers to write and a mid-term review to answer, but I am still looking forward to the time off from school. Geni and Travis also have the week off and Bruce is feeling better, not 100% yet, but better. The Happening weekend begins tomorrow and we are all anxious and excited about this wonderful experience. Please be in prayer for the staff and participants as we all prepare and participate in this weekend of getting to know God through, Word, Sacrament, singing and friends old and new.

Mark 12:30 says, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind and all your strength.”

Jesus was arguing with the Sadducees when a teacher of the Law asked Him, “Which of the commandments is the most important?” Jesus answers, “To love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind and all your strength.” The following passage says that there are no commandments above this.

It seems to me to follow this commandment would be a full time job. To follow this commandment would mean to remove every thought and action that is not of God from our minds and hearts. I must admit that I fail at this commandment a lot. Maybe that is why I pray so often for forgiveness and I begin my prayer time with “Lord, remove every thought I have that is not of You so that I may be forgiven and filled with your love and grace and your instructions for the day.” After reading this scripture I think this commandment is my daily instruction.

In my classroom I have five rules. The first rule is Listen and follow directions. If the children listen and follow directions then the rest of the rules are pretty unnecessary. In the rules set before us in the Ten Commandments, if we just followed this first rule then our hearts and minds would not steal, murder, covet etc…because our hearts and minds would be focused on God and His daily instructions for the day and the lifelong instructions for our lives.

If God has called us to live a godly life, a life mirrored and modeled in the life of Jesus, then we need to practice loving God with all that we are; heart, mind, soul and strength. That type of commitment is the commitment that Jesus made to His Father when He came to earth to show us the Father’s love for us. God loves us with all of His heart, soul, mind and strength and sent Jesus to show us how to do the same. This sounds to me like a life long journey into joy and peace.

Take joy in the journey. Love you all so very much, Bruce, Gaylene, Geni and Travis.

I am not moved by what I see. I am not moved by what I feel. I am moved only by what I believe and I believe God.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Happy Wednesday!! It has been quite a day. First, I was late to school due to an accident on the highway. I sat for a while. Luckily I have a principal who listens to the radio and expected me to call, a school secretary who takes great notes and a student teacher. I finally got to school around 8:10. My class was doing well when I arrived. Yea!!

I left school around noon to attend Robert Brooks funeral service. I prayed the city of Duncanville did not come under siege because it seemed the entire Duncanville police force was in the Lutheran Church attending the funeral service of their fallen brother. The sanctuary was full and the overflow was full. The service was led by Pastor Joel Burkholder from Advent Lutheran Church. The service was very honoring. The color guard folded the flag as Taps was played. A bagpipe player played Amazing Grace as the casket was being prepared to leave the sanctuary and then played another piece as the casket left the sanctuary. There was 21 gun salute and finally the policeman’s “Last Call.” This brief tradition is when the police radios retire the badge number of the fallen officer. Pastor’s sermon was inspiring as his sermons usually are. He spoke of his anger at the death of his parishioner and friend Robert Brooks. And even though Robert died without someone at his side, he did not die alone. Christ was with Robert. Pastor said in his message that the most loving and kind thing He did for Robert was to take him home where there is no more pain, no chemotherapy or radiation, but only light, perfect health and peace. I had never considered what a loving act God provided for Casey and Robert, but I think I do now.

Isaiah 55: 8 says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.”

Have you ever considered God? I mean really. How do you picture God? Do you picture God with arms and legs, a face with eyes and ears like ours? We say that we know God is not human, but spirit. But face it, all we have to consider God and the heavenly realm is through earthly eyes. Tonight, Travis led the youth in worship. The topic Travis chose was on healing and prayer. He used scriptures from James and Matthew as his source and then asked the questions; “For what do you pray?” and “How do you feel when God does not answer your prayers as you had hoped?” Travis spoke of his brother and said that his prayer for Casey was not answered as he had hoped. His hope was that Casey would receive an earthly healing. Didn’t we all pray that!! But God had a different type of healing in mind. God planned for Casey to be healed by Him and with Him in heaven. And even thought the answer to that prayer is not the desired response, and we miss Casey terribly, God had a different plan in mind. For you see, scripture says, that His thoughts are not our thoughts and His ways are not our ways.

The expanse of God is not able to be fathomed by our finite world and our limited sense of Who He is and what He can do. But we can count on God to do the right thing even when we don’t understand.

A meditation I once read asked, “How can God be everywhere at one time?” (Who says God is bound by a body?) and “How can God hear all the prayers which come to Him?” (Perhaps His ears are different from ours.) “How can God be the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit?” (Could it be that heaven had a different set of physics than earth?) So when we can’t see and understand the hand of God, then perhaps we just need to trust His heart. We understand His heart because of Jesus.

Let us take joy in the journey even when we are not sure of the destination. Love you friends. Stay dry and warm. Bruce, Gaylene, Geni and Travis.

I am not moved by what I see. I am not moved by what I feel. I am moved only by what I believe and I believe God.

PS The Happening weekend is this Friday, Saturday and Sunday. There are a couple of times during the weekend when the staff and participants receive bags of letters, cards, love gifts etc…A special note of encouragement, small Christian pins or other trinkets like those beaded bracelets, the stretchy rubber bracelets and anything that is encouraging and spiritually uplifting (we call them caritas) or those little pass it on cards for the team and participants is always appreciated. You can bring the notes and cards to Advent Lutheran Church and I will see they are distributed. I think we have about 25 staff and 10 participants. Call me or email me if you need any further help in understanding. From Advent, Travis, Geni, Nichole Burkholder and I are serving on the team. We ask for your prayers throughout the weekend. Thank you all mighty and faithful prayer warriors. Love you! gc

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Happy Tuesday! Grades are done and turned in! Yea!!! I always feel like a load has been taken off when that chore is done. Tonight’s theology class was on Christian Hope. I really love my theology class. We have awesome discussions and I learn so much. Bruce has been in bed for several hours with a fever. I think it may have broken a bit. Please pray for him to feel better soon.

Tomorrow is the funeral service for our friend Robert Brooks. It will be in Duncanville at 2:00. I will leave school around noon to attend. My student teacher will have her first experience at teaching for half-a-day while I am gone. Please pray for Ms. Lee and my class.

And, our friend David Russell, husband of Carme Russell, is back in the hospital. Due to being in a wheel chair he has issues with pressure sores. He has been running a fever for quite some time and the pressure sores became infected. Carme called me today and announced that her hubby was having a “butt job.” Only Carme would find a humorous way to announce her husband’s pending surgery. Something about her having a boob job and now Dave is having a butt job!! My best friend…gotta love her. Please place these two dear people in your prayers. Carme is also facing some repair work with her reconstruction. They both so appreciate your prayers on their behalf. Our church has most assuredly become a House of Prayer.

Mark 11: 25 says, “When you are praying, if you are angry with someone, forgive him so that your Father in heaven will also forgive your sins.”

Do you know what the purpose of “passing the peace” is all about during worship? Its original purpose was to go and tell someone you forgive them or let them say the same to you before you share communion. Most of the time we use the “passing of the peace” time to tell others we love them. I think that is pretty awesome, too.

But what happens when there is someone who has hurt us deeply? A hurt that is so deep and so awful that forgiveness seems out of the question. What do we do? Or what happens if we hurt someone? I mean we have knowledge we have hurt someone. What do we do? I think of this verse, and I remember a few things. First, if someone has wronged me then I must forgive them. I must forgive them because if I don’t then I carry bitterness and self-pity around in me and I am living in a wrong relationship. Second, God has forgiven me so many times so who am I not to forgive someone else no matter what.

And if I have wronged someone and I know it, then as hard as it is, I have to go and ask forgiveness. If I don’t ask for forgiveness from the one I wronged then I carry around guilt. Guilt is the pits!! Guilt builds up in you like smelly trash you haven’t taken out in a while. Once you ask for forgiveness then the trash bin is empty and there is plenty of room for God to fill me with His peace.

The question of the night is…Is there unforgiveness in our lives? If so, what are we going to do about it? Are we going to walk around with smelly trash or are we going to let bitterness and self-pity steal our joy? Let us not allow anything steal our joy. Either way, forgiveness works. And this verse comes with a promise. If we forgive the sins of others then God forgives our sins.

Let us take joy in the journey friends. Lots of prayers tonight. Love you, Bruce, Gaylene, Geni and Travis.

I am not moved by what I see. I am not moved by what I feel. I am moved only by what I believe and I believe God.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Happy Monday!

John 16: 33 says, “I told you these things so that you can have peace in Me. In this world you will have trouble, but be brave! I have defeated the world.”

This morning I was still pretty upset over Robert’s death and thinking about Casey. So I just asked God if I could just be quiet before Him today. My heart was breaking all over again and I cried most of the way to school. When I was almost at Hulen I prayed for God to ease my hurting soul and fill my loss. I told God there were so many people counting on me today that I really needed to get myself together before I began the day at school. Then I remembered I had not listened to my drive time devotion. And the message today was the message of comfort and assurance I so needed to hear.

Horatio Spafford lived in Chicago during the mid 1800’s. He lost all of his children and all of his possessions in the great Chicago Fire. In the worst possible part of his life he was so grounded in the love of Christ that he found the love and peace of Christ there within the literal ashes of his life. He prayed for the peace, the peace that passes all understanding. God answered his prayer. Through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Horatio penned the beautiful words to the old hymn, “It is Well with My Soul.”

“When peace like a river attendeth my way. When sorrows like sea billows roll. Whatever my lot, Thou hast caused me to say, “it is well, it is well, It is well with my soul.” I needed to hear this passage of scripture and I needed to hear this story. It gave me a peace I had not felt in a while. What this story said to me was that God had placed in each of us enough of Himself, His peace, His faith, His joy, His compassion and His tender mercies so that whatever life throws at us we can draw on His strength and call on His gifts to get us through. This verse and the hymn it inspired reminded me of the assurance of the love of God and that God knows how we feel. God’s gift to each of us is His love. Once the love of God is within us, His love does not leave us. It is sort of like having a bank of resources that are unlimited for us each day and we can draw on those resources at anytime. Isn’t it wonderful that I was given a song of peace and comfort as a balm for healing? God knows me so well that He spoke to me through a man’s tragic loss of his family and through a song.

I now have a new resource to call on when the wave of grief and loss overcomes me. I will remember the words of one who lost everything and I will sing, “It is well. It is well with my soul.” I may still weep tears of pain and sadness, but I know at the end of the night of weeping, the joy will come. The joy will come because God’s love is within me and even when I don’t recognize it, it will be there.

So I guess my question tonight is this…Where do you go when your heart is broken? Do you seek comfort in the world…or do you seek the One who defeated the world?

Take joy in the journey. Love you all, Bruce, Gaylene, Geni and Travis.

I am not moved by what I see. I am not moved by what I feel. I am moved only by what I believe and I believe God.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Blessed Sunday to you all! I hope the worship in which you participated this morning was as wonderful as ours. Advent’s theme this Lenten season is on becoming a House of Prayer. Today, our service was centered on healing and prayer, which we need as our church has lost four members to cancer within the last year. All of those names were a part of the message today. It was a very emotional service in the shadow of losing our friend Robert Brooks in the past days and being reminded of our own son’s recent death. It was such a loving service.

When someone asks me how I am doing I usually respond with this sentence, “We will never get over the loss of Casey. There is a 200 pound hole in my heart that is still wide open and aches on a regular basis. But I think I finally figured out how people get through this kind of hurt. We get through it because of God’s love for us. His love, manifested in Jesus and given to us, the body of Christ, God’s people, in the transforming power of the Holy Spirit is how we get through this. The Body of Christ became, and still is, grace in action in our friends and family for the folks who live at 811 Austin St.

I don’t think I buy that old saying that “everything happens for a reason.” I do, however, think that God uses the events that happen in our lives as possibilities for Him to work His will. It also gives us the opportunity to choose to listen to His prompting to lead us where He wants us to go. Our church became the body of Christ by listening to God and meeting the needs of several families going through the worst hurts people can endure. Our church became the body of Christ on their knees. They knelt at the highest place; at the feet of the Father and begged for the healing of their friends and our family members. Their prayers may not have been answered in the manner in which they would have liked, but they were answered. Paul Scott, Casey, Gretchen Ryason and now Robert Brooks did not get well on this earth, but they were healed.

And we, their families, will be healed too. We will be healed in the same way. We will continue to pray and the Body of Christ will continue to pray and healing will happen in our lives. Remember the power of prayer does not lie in the one who prays, but in the One who receives the prayer. God loves it when we pray. When we pray, we are telling God we cannot do this alone. When we pray we are beginning to develop that heart of surrender; allowing God to take the lead and truly be Lord of our lives.

James 5: 13-16 says, “Anyone who is having troubles should pray. Anyone who is happy should sing praises. (14) Anyone who is sick should call the church’s elders . They should pray for and pour oil on the person in the name of the Lord. (15) And the prayer that is said with faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will heal that person. And if the person has sinned, the sins will be forgiven. (16) Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so God can heal you. When a believing person prays great things happen.”

The hardest prayer I ever prayed was for God to be merciful to Casey. God answered our payer and Casey never did get well, but he was most certainly healed. And I feel certain that Casey’s journey was one of joy.

Take joy in the journey my friends. Love you all, Bruce, Gaylene, Geni and Travis.

I am not moved by what I see. I am not moved by what I feel. I am moved only by what I believe and I believe God.