Preserve Our Memories Well

Recently I was visiting with a wonderful man who served in the military during World War II.  He told me some amazing stories of love, sadness and deliverance.  I finished my conversation with him expressing a feeling of gratitude for the memories that he clings to reminding him of his life and purpose.  He maintains a spirit of joy even at the ripe old age of 95 years old.

Even though I am not his age, I do understand a little something about memories.  I made a commitment this year to write everyday for a year.  At the end of the year I want to look at my writing and see if there are any themes that seem to pop up over and over again.  My goal is to find common ground with Scripture and my own story.  I want to answer the ultimate life question, “Where has God been present in your life?” 

It just so happens that I stumbled upon a small cassette tape that I recorded back in 1994.  I had turned 30 years old and wanted to give my mother a gift of memories.  I wanted to thank her for giving me a loving family and share with her the not so subtle of ways of teaching me life lessons on forgiveness and healing.  Some of the stories that I recorded where not easy memories; however, they were necessary reflections to my growth as a human being.

Listening to these stories 19 years later has brought me a new appreciation for my family and the path that I had to journey on to get to where I am now.  As I listened to my younger voice, I celebrated the lives of those who are no longer with me but were a very important part of shaping my life.  I listened to my own process of forgiveness and healing as told in my own words.  There was something incredibly liberating to hear a recounting of the many stories that gave me a sense of identity.  I appreciated the lessons that were handed to me as I struggled to find my own sense of worth.

I recently preached a sermon on God’s presence in the middle of darkness.  I told of God’s faithfulness and existence in the blackest of times.  This tape reminded me of a time that I came out of the fog and into the light of God.  As my World War II buddy said, “Memories are powerful and important.”

We hold tight to our past as a reminder of a time when God led us to be free of the pain that we carried.  Our faith keeps us safe and our memories serve to remind us of our journey.  The Israelites would never have gone back into slavery, but every year there is a celebration known as the Passover Seder to commemorate what God did in the lives of the faithful.  As he did for those in physical bondage, The Holy One of Israel led us out of bondage.  Theirs was a physical servitude while ours was a spiritual captivity.  There is not a year that goes by that we remember that from which we have been delivered, the one who delivered us (God), and the absolute joy we have as those who have been redeemed.  We preserve and celebrate our memories.  They have shaped us well.

God Restores Our Joy!

I am a pastor and a parent with two sons with bleeding disorders.  My youngest son has a high titer inhibitor which makes our lives a little more complicated.  To give you some indication as to how rare our situation is hemophilia effects 1 in 5,000 male births.  Of the 1 in 5,000 male births, 5% of those with hemophilia have the special type of inhibitor with which my son struggles.  We are hospitalized quite frequently often for multiple days and sometimes multiple weeks on end.

As a pastor, there are times when the medical needs of my children must be balanced by the spiritual needs of my congregation.  Life at times can be a fine balancing act as I fill the roles of pastor, caregiver, friend, father and husband (just to name a few).  I am moved to fulfill all of my roles to the best of my abilities.  There are times when my life is turned upside down.  I must hold down the fort and manage through the storms of my life and those entrusted into my care.

I deal with all of these various positions while continuing to ponder my own understanding of how in the world God’s beauty can be manifested through the most horrible of life’s moments.  My youngest son recently reached a milestone in his treatment that would take us to the next level.  Unfortunately, he had an allergic reaction to the medication that we were so desperately hoping he would start taking.  The bad news is that we would not be able to take a step forward in his treatment.  The good news is that we didn’t take a step backward.

While I was grieving the fact that we would not begin a new part of our journey, people spoke words of comfort to me.  I appreciated all of those who thought enough of me and my family to remind me that God is found in community.  This is where the beauty of God was found in my situation.  When I thought all was lost and sought refuge, I found it in the words of hope expressed through the many men and women of faith who encouraged me to continue on in my journey.  I was given the strength to continue to cling to hope.

I do not believe that it was ever in God’s plan to test my family, but I do believe that God can be found in any situation.  Hope can be expressed even when there seems to be no hope at all.  There is Divine light that can be as small as a glimmer that radiates into places of darkness.  With this spark of illumination we are carried to the brilliance of absolute light.  I believe that in the middle of the deepest parts of our souls, God heals us from the inside out.

My sons will most likely never experience the physical healing from their bleeding disorders, but they will experience the miracle of the presence of God that transforms the world.  We hold fast to these acts of God that restore us and make us whole.  We journey forward hoping and praying that regardless of the physical issues that occur, we claim victory through the One who gives us strength and hope.

Let Us Continue the Work!

While we were in Florida we stayed at a place designed for those who are awarded a Make a Wish trip.  The name of the place is called Give Kids the World.  It is an incredible place designed to meet the needs of all those who come to seek a little peace, rest, and relaxation.  The Village (as it is affectionately called) is a resort complete with individual villas for each visiting family.  There are opportunities to eat, swim, eat, horseback ride, eat, ride a train, eat, putt-putt golf, and eat some more.  (Did I mention eating?)  My favorite place was the ice cream shop.  While I was in Florida I had a sugar free vanilla shake every day.  The ice cream shop was sacred ground.
There are approximately 1,500 volunteer positions that are filled each and every week of the year.  That may sound like a staggering amount of people to manage, but we were told that there is never a shortage of people who offer their time and talents to The Village.  Everyone involved does an incredible job to create a special time for the many Make a Wish families who stay in one of the villas.
These people, or angels, volunteer to ensure that all have a good time.  The ones who sacrifice so much of themselves are incredible examples of the workings of God.  No matter what the weather, the mood, or any events, the work of God continues.  Love never stops.  It endures and continues onwards and upwards. 
We can be as effective in our world as the volunteers at The Village are effective in Florida.  The work of God must continue in our own situations.  We must act regardless of the circumstances.  Whether we are ill, busy, or exhausted, love must shine through us.  That is the only way that our world can see the incredible gifts which God offers to humanity.  With love we can move mountains.
I took more from The Village than I ever gave back.  I learned the importance of continuing the good works that are in me.  These are the things that last.  Continuing the works of God forms the basis of my faith.  My faith in the everliving God restores my soul as rivers of living water flow out of my innermost being.  What I do for humanity displays my oneness with the Creator.
Let us continue to make a difference in our world.  We are called to be a people of the light.  We are to live in the presence of God.  Where there is no light, we are called to bring the presence of hope.  In hope there is God.  In God there is only light.  Let us be the vehicle by which the love of God shines into our world.

Our Church Community

This week has been a very stressful yet a rewarding week in the life of my family. My youngest son had surgery on Friday and, as a result of the surgery, has been hospitalized since Friday. We live approximately two hours from the hospital. Needless to say, our lives have been on hold this weekend. My oldest son and I have been spending nights in a hotel while my wife stays with my youngest at the hospital.

I drove the two hour drive to my church this morning and preached. While I was there, it occurred to me that, even though I had the drama of the hospital in my life, my congregation still needs a pastor. That is part of my duty as a servant who has answered the call to ministry. I made a commitment to serve in ministry, and my faith must sustain me so that I can still be the pastor which is needed for my congregation.

Even though I served this morning out of a sense of duty, I felt the presence of the reaffirmation of my calling. Despite what was happening around me, being present in the community of believers gave me a sense of God’s peace. This inner sense of fulfillment strengthens me in times such as these. I mean those times when life tends to become overwhelming.

I kept coming back to an appreciation for my church. It is within the presence of the people of God that I learn that there are many people who love me and support me and my family. This connection to both the presence of the Divine in my single life and my connection to the church as the vehicle which God shares, continues to motivate me and encourage me. This is my strength.

Our sense of connection to one another is vital to our continued development. It is in our relationships with one another that we experience God’s presence. The church, which is a community of believers, gathers its power from those who willingly serve each other to further the kingdom of God. May we be empowered in our affiliations with and to each other as we continue on our journey to perfection.

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