The Need to Reframe

Several years ago, while on vacation, Noah photographed a beautiful sunset on the island of St. Kitts. I loved it – the fading sun creating brilliant colors as it set on a mostly deserted beach.

I framed it in my usual basic black frame and hung it in a room, already decorated with other “beachy” décor. I looked forward to gazing upon the picture and remembering the wonderful time on St. Kitts. However, my plan for gazing on the picture did not have that effect. It just didn’t look right. The beautiful colors of the sunset did not pop as I expected. Why? Maybe it needed reframing?

Back to the store – let’s try another frame.   This time I purchased a white frame. Would that make the difference? YES!

Reframing brought out new colors. Reframing pointed out the house down the beach with a few lights shining in the windows. Reframing made the clouds in the sky looked almost 3 dimensional. Reframing pointed out the ship far in the distance. Reframing showed the reflection of the sun on the sand.   Reframing brought new possibilities to light. Reframing created a new picture.

I’ve been pondering this topic of reframing. I scribbled some thoughts on a sticky note and stuck it on my desk several weeks ago. Until today, I have stared at those notes as I worked.

No, my notes have not been about reframing more pictures in my house.   This reframing is the kind that we do in the circumstances of life. How can we take a situation and gain a new perspective on it? Reframe it. Step back. Change the view. Put it in a new light. Clarify what is true in the situation and what is assumed. Look for the redemptive moments. Is God’s redeeming love and amazing grace still true? Always.

Reframing is something I need to do on a regular basis. People do bring us joy but people also disappoint us. Life happens and sometimes we have absolutely no control over the circumstances. The only control we do have is our response to the circumstance.

The prophet, Habakkuk, stated it this way:

“Though the fig tree does not blossom, and no fruit is on the vines;

Though the produce of the olive fails and the fields yield no food;

Though the flock is cut off from the folks and there is no herd in the stalls,

Yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will exult in the God of my salvation.”

 

Though . . . yet.

 

THOUGH people disappoint, YET I will praise You, Lord.

THOUGH the media speaks of violence and injustice, YET I will hope in You, Lord.

THOUGH the bank account is low, YET I will trust in You, Lord.

 

Fill in the blank with the circumstance:

Though ___________________________, YET I will exult in the God of my salvation.

THIS is reframing, my friends!

 

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Scripture noted is Habakkuk 3:17-18 (NRSV)

Picture taken by Noah Archer, September 2015 on the island of St. Kitts.

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Scheduling the Spirit

“I need to get the Holy Spirit on my schedule,” declared my friend this week.

Always a good idea for a schedule, don’t you think? What’s a schedule without the Holy Spirit?

The statement has two sides:  truth and question.

One side: the daily schedule. Every day needs time with God – time to speak, time to listen, time to read the Word, time to let that Word seep into our heart.

Jesus continually took time away to spend with the Holy One, going up the mountain or to the other side of the lake. He told Mary that she had “chosen the better part which would never be taken away from her” when she chose to sit at His feet instead of doing the dishes. [i]

Henri Nouwen wrote: “Discipline means to create boundaries around our meeting with God. Our times and places can’t be so filled up that there is no way of meeting.” [ii]

For me, it’s my morning routine.  Sometimes it’s rushed. Sometimes it might get pushed a little later in the day. And yes, sometimes it doesn’t happen.

However on most mornings, with Bible, journal, coffee in hand and Hank, my four-legged companion, the Holy One speaks to my heart. Sometimes Hank is waiting for me on the designated meeting spot, reminding me that we have the Holy Spirit on our schedule.

The other side of the statement: Is that the only time that the Holy Spirit gets – just the scheduled time? If the Holy Spirit only gets an hour, 30 minutes, 5 minutes or the prayer before a meal, what is the rest of the day? Probably just a series of appointments, tasks and chores.

Suppose we see all of our days as encounters with the Holy One? All of the day as infused with the Spirit – talking to the salesperson in Walmart, discussing in a staff meeting, listening to the teacher in 4th period, shopping at Barnes and Noble, dining with friends and family . . . all of our time. The Holy Spirit of God flows over, seeps through, undergirds, and infuses all of our day.

Jesus told us that the Holy Spirit, “whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.”[iii]

Just a guess but I’m thinking that Jesus probably did not mean just the “scheduled” time.

Again – just a guess.

________________________

[i] Luke 10:42

[ii] Nouwen, Henri with Michael Christensen and Rebecca Laird. Spiritual Direction: Wisdom for the Long Walk of Faith. New York: Harper One, 2006.

[iii] John 14:26

All the Paths

Psalm 25:10 – “All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his decrees.”

I don’t know about you but sometimes words of Scripture that I have read over and over jump off the page of my Bible in a new way.

Example?

This morning I was reading Psalm 25 – a text that I’ve read many times. Verses 4 & 5 often grab me: “Make me know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth, and teach me.” It always brings to mind the short chorus that my hometown choir would sing after or before the pastoral prayer time. “Lead me, Lord . . .”

Or verse 7 – “Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions” – a reassuring word when I think about some of the mistakes and craziness of my life.

This morning, the words of verse 10 leapt off the page: “All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his decrees.”

God highlighted the word – ALL – for me. All means all, not some of the paths but all of the paths. Those paths that are easy and smooth, those that are rocky and difficult and those that are uncertain – ALL of them. The nature of the path doesn’t matter. It’s the nature of our loving and faithful Lord that matters.

Thank you, Lord, that no matter the path before me, You are ALWAYS faithful and ALWAYS extending Your steadfast love.

 

 

Christmas “Wants”

“What do you want for Christmas?”

As a little girl, the question of December was always “what do you want for Christmas?” It was Santa’s main question but it was also a question of my family and friends.  Maybe it was a way to get hints for gift-giving. Maybe it was a comparison of “want” lists. Did Deborah’s list have something on it that I had missed in my thorough examination of the Sears Christmas catalog?

Ah!  The Sears catalog – now THAT was sheer joy – an examination from first page to last of the possible new toys for the list! Sure, there were clothes in the front part of the catalog: matching Christmas pajamas, lovely red velvet Christmas dresses for Sunday School and maybe a new pair of black patent leather church shoes!  But the real fun? The pages of dolls, trucks, games, and chemistry kits (yes, already embracing my nerd-dom – never got one!) gave so many ideas for the “want” list!

Then on December 25, the question shifted to “what did you get?” Early in the morning, brother Gene and I would “patiently” wait for the ok from Mama and Daddy that we could take a look under the tree. Ever wise, my parents did not get us everything on our lists but we were always overjoyed with what we did get!

In the afternoon, we made the trip to Grandma’s house where the question could be asked of cousins: “what did you get for Christmas?” As I got older, I made the call or the ride to see what Elizabeth got from Santa. When we went back to school, we continued to ask the question of classmates. Everyone was comparing, admiring – maybe with a little jealousy – the gifts of Santa!

What do you want for Christmas?
As I’ve talked with clergy and laity this week in my role as ministry coach, I’ve asked each of them: What do you want more of during this Advent and Christmas season?

Hmmm.

Well, one answer may be like the little girl from the Today show story: “a nap” – true story of a little girl (2 or 3 yrs) who when asked the question answered with this wish. Santa was happy to oblige as he reclined and cuddled the little girl for the Christmas wish nap. My guess: it was also the parents’ wish!

What do I want more of this season?
For me: less rush, more quiet, less fixing, more trusting, less activity, more family time

The second question I asked this week: What do you need to do to make this happen?

For me: intentionality, willingness to say no, acceptance that less is more (every Christmas decoration does not have to be put out!)

The third question is an adaptation of “what did you get”: How will you know that it happened?

For me: less frantic running around, a decorated house that brings joy instead of exhaustion, time with family and friends that is easy, and time to actually sit down on Christmas Day!

Most importantly, I want time with God to enjoy his Presence.
I need to spend time each day in moments of gratitude, reflection, reading and writing.
I will know that I’ve gotten my “want” when Advent and Christmas season brings me closer to the greatest Gift that I will ever get for Christmas!

On this first Sunday of Advent:
What do you want for this Advent and Christmas?
What do you need to do to make that happen?
On December 25, how will you know that you got it?

May the joy, love and peace of Jesus Christ, the Gift, be with you!

Stuff, Storage and Simplicity

It’s amazing how much stuff one can collect in 10 years in one office – 15 years in one appointment.

Last week I finished my time at Pine Valley UMC by packing up my office and bringing it all home to my garage. (Of course, now my two-car garage is a one-half car garage.)

Someone asked me if I had purged my office. Uh, yes. At least a “ton” of paper in the recycle bin or shredded. Three boxes of books donated to the Conference Media Center.   Another 3 boxes will soon go to the Rescue Mission. Some of my treasures were given to folks and I’m working on at least another two boxes for the UMW yard sale.

Where did I get all of this stuff ???

I will admit I have this thing for books. More is better. Maybe it makes me feel more intelligent. Maybe I fear that by NOT finishing a book I have somehow failed. So I hold on to it – just in case I finish it. Maybe I need to realize that I will not meet the goal of reading all of the books that I was SUPPOSED to read in seminary. (Note: this May is the 25th anniversary of my graduation from Duke Divinity School.)

The question: what do I really need?

In the midst of this cleaning out, purging, finding a new spot for my things, I’ve thought about simplicity. The pattern for me is usually buying more storage bins to store more stuff.  Maybe I should just rent another self-storage unit!

Simplicity. It’s not just our physical stuff. We carry around all sorts of emotional stuff – never getting rid of the clutter that overwhelms us. We just take on more and more, pushing emotions deeper and deeper.

Maybe what we all need – wait, what I need – is a cleaning out of the emotional stuff, not just the physical clutter of my life. Are there resentments that I’ve packed up and stored for future use? Are there hurts that have never healed – just have been “band-aided” with dust?

I remember the words of a PVUMC saint who told me near the end of his life: “Trish, everything gets a lot simpler at the end.”

Wise words – but there’s no need to wait until the end. Right, Roy?

Elizabeth’s Lucky Day

Friday the 13th usually brings fear of an unlucky day for folks but for Elizabeth, Friday, May 13, 1960 was her lucky day! It was her birthday!

Five months ago, Friday, January 13, Elizabeth died from a long battle with cancer. All of us who loved her were shocked and left wondering why. Certainly this was not a lucky day for us. How could this woman who was so filled with life and love be gone from us?

Elizabeth was one of those people who loved life, who loved her family, who loved her friends and most of all, loved God. She had a way of making everyone around her smile and feel better about their day. She was a bright light of love and friendship!

“LizBeth” was my oldest friend – since the nursery at Norlina United Methodist Church. Most of my childhood and teenage memories involve her – Sunday School, hours and hours of playing Barbies, UMYF . . .

Most of my “firsts” were shared with her:

  • first day of kindergarten and first grade,
  • first time singing special music at church (5th grade duet of “Fairest Lord Jesus”),
  • first dates (double-dating that was approved by my parents ‘if Elizabeth going’),
  • first time seeing a big city (New York City – big deal from 2 teenagers from small town Norlina!)
  • first time being away from home at Conference youth events
  • first rock concert

We were even pregnant at the same time though we were living 800 miles apart. Our sons (Will and Samuel) are graduating on the same day (today) from NCSU School of Engineering. Younger son, Barnes, graduated this week from Louisburg College.

Many women called Elizabeth their “best friend” because that’s who she was! She made all of her friends feel special.

When Elizabeth died, so many of us were shocked because we didn’t know how sick she really was! She attended my Dad’s funeral in August and came over to my Mom’s house after the services. She didn’t look sick. She didn’t act sick. She didn’t want to be sick! She always wanted to concentrate on how others were doing instead of thinking of her self. She only told me about her illness if I specifically ASKED her. Sometimes folks approach illness with an attitude of “enjoying poor health” – telling everyone how bad they feel. Not Elizabeth.

I was privileged to share some time with her in the last two weeks of her life. I watched as her husband, Henry, cared for her. What a testament to his deep and abiding love for her!

We laughed together, cried together and talked about the hope found in Christ’s resurrection.

Elizabeth asked me the week before she died: “Tricia, what do you tell your church members when they have a terminal illness?”

I said, “There’s always hope. But hope doesn’t mean that everything turns out the way we want it to. Our hope is in Christ. Our hope is in the resurrection. Our hope is in the love that we have for one another and the love God has for us.”

I noticed, during this last week, a sign hanging in Elizabeth’s kitchen with a verse from Hebrews: “We have this hope, a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul.” Yes, this hope is Christ – our anchor!

On the day of her funeral, my friend, Angie, sent me this text: “God loved you big through Elizabeth and that love reminds us of His faithfulness to care for His children until the end.”

So true – God loved us BIG through Elizabeth.

Today on her birthday – I give thanks for the love, the friendship and the witness of Elizabeth. I know that she’s continuing to celebrate her lucky day in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ.   Happy birthday, LizBeth!

Next Step on the Journey

It is hard to believe that Will started his last week of undergraduate classes at NCSU today.   It was just yesterday that I was in full “mother hen” form, gathering those things I just KNEW he needed for life away from home.  Don’t worry! – I didn’t write his name in his clothes but I’m sure I thought about it. Then I snap my fingers and he is a senior at NCSU, graduating in less than 3 weeks.

Now the next step on the journey for him . . .

It’s exciting. It’s scary. It’s the unknown. Next steps are all of those things for Will.

And the same is true for me.

After serving for 15 years at Pine Valley UMC, I will be leaving this appointment at the end of August. I will begin a new appointment as a full-time ministry coach, serving with Passion in Partnership. It’s exciting. It’s scary to leave the known for the unknown. But that’s what following God’s call on your life is all about.

Several weeks ago, I found a copy of my application to Duke Divinity School, along with my acceptance letter from the Admission office (dated May 25, 1990). I remember how scared I was to leave the profession I loved to pursue this call that I didn’t understand. I was single. I didn’t have any savings. I had just paid off the loans for my Masters from UNC-CH and now I was biting off even more debt to go to Duke. What was I thinking?!?

I wasn’t really “thinking” as much as I was trusting – trusting that this call to full-time ministry was the next step in God’s plan. I had no idea where God was leading me. I just knew that I needed to take the next right step.

Noah came into my life a few months later and by November 1990 we were engaged.   He finished residency, I finished seminary and then we were off to the next step on the journey. Will arrived in May 1994 and the journey continued.

And now all these years later . . . God is calling again.

This week while reading the book, Know Your Story and Lead with It by Richard L. Hester and Kelly Walker-Jones, I came across a quote by Albert Einstein: “If we knew what we were doing, it wouldn’t be called research.” It leapt from the page because it applies to more than just research. I might rewrite it: “If I knew what I was doing, it wouldn’t be called faith.”

Sounds a lot like Hebrews 11:1 – “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

All I can do – all anyone can do – is take the next right step.

 

For anyone who wants to know more about ministry coaching, check out the Passion in Partnership website: www.pipcoaching.net