I Saw the Signs

Lately, I have been in need of comfort. Some sign that everything is going to be ok. This time last week I struggled to keep myself together as I said goodbye, hopefully only see you later, to some truly wonderful people in North Carolina. I was Texas bound- back to ‘regular’ life. I expect the challenge of leaving special people behind will continue, but now I must press on. The first day of school waits for no one. I am glad to be back to a sense of comfort & familiarity- family, traffic, H-E-B, friends, church, etc…

 

I left North Carolina for a few days’ retreat in Birmingham with other young adults who had similar summer experiences. While I was there, I got a call that changed the efficient schedule I had set up to get everything done [doctor’s appointments in Houston, dentist appointment, moving, time with friends, time with family, and so on and so on…] that I needed and wanted to do. On to plan ‘B’. Somehow I lost my flash drive with important documents on them en route back to Texas. A few days later I got a call that my apartment in Waco had flooded. This meant that I would partially move out about a week early. Thankfully, the damage was not nearly as bad as I had initially thought. Even so, I’m SO past plan ‘B’… on to plan ‘J’.

 

During the madness of this past week, there have been a few occasions where something briefly caught my eye or ear that in turn caught my heart. Let’s call this a sign. I will continue to receive a scholarship from the M.D. Anderson Children’s Art Project Scholarship for the same amount. A sign that finances will not be as tight as once predicted. On the kitchen cabinet of my new bachelorette pad a few pantry items were left by the previous resident- including ‘Nana tea’. The name for one of my grandmothers is Nana and I have gotten this tea for her before. This week’s lectionary reading comes from Genesis 45. Joseph tells his brothers, “You shall live in the region of Goshen and be near me- you, your children, and grandchildren, your flocks and herds, and all you have.” [v. 10] The church I worked with this summer is named Goshen Baptist Church. What do these ‘signs’ mean? I don’t know, but they have given me comfort in response to the pause and ‘hhmm’ they required.

 

What is the difference between a ‘sign’ and coincidence or superstition? I’m not entirely sure, but the timing is just too strange to ignore or forget. I interpret these signs to be from God because they brought me comfort. When it seemed that nothing was staying on track, these little reminders came up.

 

A few verses for thought:

“Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.” [Isaiah 40:1]

 

“The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He restores my soul.” [Psalms 23:1-3a]

 

“Praise be to the God and Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” [2 Corinthians 1:3-4]

 

I saw the signs. Cue Ace of Base. What signs do you see?

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From the Outside Looking In

This morning, I looked out the window to admire our new baby chicks for a few minutes when I saw something that caused a double take! One of the chicks was out, but no one had opened the gate to let her out! It followed the other chick and Mama Hen from the outside perimeter as they moved about inside the pen. It was chirping in desperation & as a call for attention. It ran around with pseudo-direction, but limited contact with the other hens.

When someone calls them self a Christian, but insists on being separated from a church and/or the global Church for whatever reason, they are like this escaped baby chick. When Jesus Christ established the Church, and the New Testament Church continued, parameters were given. Paul gives lots of instructions in his New Testament letters to churches, communities of Christ followers. The Church matters.

“Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.” [Ephesians 4:15-16]

Whenever there is conflict at church, it is tempting to respond like we would anywhere else- ‘I choose to be here, so I will choose to leave’. This may be necessary in certain situations, but this is America! Go down the road and get plugged in and connected to another church community with faithfulness! Take leaving more seriously than changing potato chip brands- this is a family change.

“Love the LORD, all you godly ones! For the LORD protects those who are loyal to him, but he harshly punishes the arrogant. So be strong and courageous, all you who put your hope in the LORD!” [Psalms 31:23-24]

Do not allow some dispute or frustration or your own pride to keep from the mystical experience of worship and fellowship together. It is not worth it. Worshipping in a community is better than no community. We are made for togetherness.

If this chick stayed out too much longer, it would die. An animal would come on the hunt. The chick would starve. It might get lost without Mother Hen’s guidance.

With all the fuzzy wuzzy talk of church family, we sometimes forget that the mob and gangs call themselves a family. The church must be a different kind of family- humility, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, self-control must be present. The Holy Spirit must reign- not a pastor or committee or deacon. If any of these people try to have authority without the Holy Spirit’s presence, everyone can pack up, go home, and stop kidding themselves that they are at church to worship God. They are really there for a social club or to worship a person.

“Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ. Then, whether I come and see you again or only hear about you, I will know that you are standing together with one spirit and one purpose, fighting together for the faith, which is the Good News.” [Philippians 1:27]

How did the chick get out of the pen? We realized there was a hole under the doorway just large enough for it to crawl out from. If you find a hole in your church that may tempt you or someone else to leave, get to the bottom of it. Work with others to close the hole and communicate with your pastor and/or staff your concern. Perhaps they had not seen the hole. If you find yourself on the outside looking in with your church, change something. Jesus calls you to an earthly home- The Church.

“Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.” [Ephesians 4:11-13]