What Matters Most: Loving God & Living Simply…part one

It’s getting close to my birthday and there’s nothing like getting a year older to make me stop in my tracks and ponder life. There is no doubt in my mind I want to make changes. How will I go about it? What are my first steps? I ask myself questions:

  1. What matters most?
  2. What have I accomplished?
  3. What do I want to accomplish?
  4. What do I need to eliminate?
  5. What brings me joy?
  6. What needs changed?
  7. What needs to stay the same?
  8. What is God leading me to do?
  9. Are there people I need to distance myself from?
  10. What goals do I need to set right now?

Wow. That seems like a lot of questions. I’ll answer the first one first: What matters most? To love God and live simply. This is what is the most important to me and how I want to move forward with my life.

The next few weeks I will be answering these questions, and I will share my thoughts here. This is my way of taking steps to change my life and to recognize my priorities. I’ve been feeling a bit stuck, like my feet are trying to ice skate in mud. It just doesn’t work. And some things in my life don’t seem to be working, either.

OK, back to my answers of what matters most. This answer has two parts, so today I will address the first part. For me, loving God is where it all starts, where it all leads, and where it all ends. God comes first. Without him, I am nothing. So, how do I plan on loving God?

  • Through daily prayer. My conversations with God can be lengthy or short, complex or simple, tearful or happy. The important thing is to keep the relationship strong and active. I totally believe God understands my frustrations, anxieties, heartaches, sorrows, and joys and wants me to lay them all out to him. Part of the healing is in our communication.
  • With daily devotionals. One book of devotionals I’ve been reading is Jesus Calling. It’s written as though God is talking to me. I am his child, He loves me, and I am important. Most days it touches a part of my heart that needs healed. I will continue with this, and I will add in a variety of other readings from time to time.
  • By studying God’s Word. By not only reading the Bible, but actually studying thoughtfully what it says and gaining understanding, it draws me deeper into a relationship with him. I will read the Bible daily and continue my Wednesday night Bible Study at church.
  • Journaling. My journaling often turns into “Dear God” letters. What I cannot say with my tongue, I can usually write into words. It has been sporadic in the past, but I will strive to make this a daily practice now.
  • Worship. Oh boy…this is where things get really complex and uncomfortable. I haven’t been attending worship services for a multitude of reasons. My agoraphobic issues, for one. The rest I cannot disclose for risk of being fired from my job. Suffice to say things are uncomfortable. This week, I’m going to see if a pastor within another denomination would be willing to talk with me about my concerns and perhaps give me some guidance, or at the very least pray for me.

So there is step one. This step has been relatively easy, thus far, but I know there will be more challenges to come.

If you’d like to follow along with me on this journey toward a new life, subscribe.

Take care of you.

Trish

Pew Thoughts

My faith has been a long journey.  I was not always a Christian, though I tried to be a good person.  I was taught right from wrong and a good understanding of respect for others.  My grandmother gave me a Bible of my own and I read it often, though I didn’t always understand.  It wasn’t until later in life I fully gave my heart to Jesus and accepted him as my Lord and Savior.

I always wanted to belong to a church, and I finally joined one in the small community I grew up in.  It was not my first choice for a church, but it was close and I knew some of the folks there were really good Christians.  Soon, I learned that even in church all was not perfect.  Soon, I learned the difference between Christians and pew dwellers.

We all sin, we all fall short, we all struggle.  Some admit it, some don’t.  It was difficult for me to accept that even Christians had serious flaws.  But I also knew Jesus healed the sinners and made them want to sin no more.  I knew I had to keep my eyes on Jesus, but sometimes I faltered and didn’t.  I was a sinner who needed healing.

I moved out of that community to return to my home.  I gave up on churches for a while.  I visited some other denominations, but none of them felt right.  Then one Sunday morning, I walked into my present church and knew I was home.

I volunteered, I attended every Sunday, I went to a Sunday School class.  Going to church was something I loved.  I loved God and the people in the pews.  There was nothing I liked better than to serve the Lord, and eventually I was hired as the Office Manager.  It felt right.

Fast forward seven years.  A series of heart breaking experiences within the church have questioned my belief in the “church” itself.  Oddly enough, my faith has grown stronger into a relationship with God that keeps my hope renewed.  He is my Rock.  Without him I am nothing.  He has picked me back up every time I have fallen.  My faith stays strong.  In the midst of dissension, God has given me grace and a stronger, deeper love for him.

Yet, I am struggling.  I have once again seen how human nature and the devil can sneak into a church and play havoc.  The devil is a sneaky bastard, make no mistake.  He’s crafty and mean, and he likes getting into the pews every Sunday.  He likes getting into the people sitting there, getting into their heads and hearts.

In my eyes, I am seeing a slow motion movie play before me.  The characters look familiar, they look like Christians, they say they’re Christians, but the stones are flying and no one is safe.  Slowly, they stone each other to death, and at the end of this movie, no one is standing.  I’m watching it play out before me and I don’t know how to stop it.  My body is bruised and bloodied from the fresh wounds of stones against my own flesh.  And I just stand there, waiting for the stones to stop, but they don’t.  I don’t know how to stop others from getting hurt, either.  There are just too many stones.

Sometimes I think there are too many pew dwellers; they outnumber the Christians 2:1.  The devil dances with them during sermons, whispering in their ears so they won’t hear the message from God.  He promises them pride, power, and a religion of their own making.  

I also know the devil does not like prayer.  He seeks to destroy those who call on God, those who praise God’s name.  Yes, that devil is crafty and mean, and he makes the pew dwellers crafty and mean, but he is no match for the power of prayer and God’s saving grace.  

So I pray.  There’s nothing else I know to do but pray.  I will pray for the pew dwellers, and I will pray for God’s people.  I will pray for unity and love and for the stones to stop being thrown.  I will pray for kindness, compassion, and forgiveness to replace all the stones being thrown.  I will pray for that Christian love like Jesus gave to us.

Wherever we are, whatever we’re doing, people are people.  We mess up, we fall down, we get back up, we forgive, we love, we hate, we fight, we laugh, we cry, and we do it all over again.  It is so easy to point the finger at someone else and blame the troubles of the world, and the church, on them.  

I’m praying for a church I can call home again.  Where I feel safe, loved, and respected.  I believe it can happen.  With God, all things are possible.

My faith journey has only begun.
Take care of you.

Trish

So What Now?

May 30, 2017.  Today, I was told I may have cancer.  So…what do I do now?

I wasn’t expecting this.  This happens to women who have family histories of cancer.  This happens to other women.  Heart problems run in my family.  Diabetes runs in my family.  But not cancer.

What do I do now?  I hurry up and wait on an appointment with a specialist.  I patiently wait for the phone call that tells me when and where my biopsy will be.  Calmly, I go about my daily routine as if I never heard those words.  I go to work, I function, I act normal.  No one will know unless I tell them.  No one will know everything that’s going through my mind, how I’m making plans.  Who’s going to care for my pets?  How much recovery time should I expect?  What kind of treatments will they do?  Will I ever be able to sleep again?  Will I ever laugh again?

But nothing again will ever be normal, because I’ve heard those words telling me I may have cancer.

Part of my brain is numb.  This information is still processing and I can’t quite comprehend it all.  I don’t think I’ve fully accepted it.  I haven’t cried yet.

So what do I do now?  Today, I pray.  Today, I ask all my friends to pray for me, too.  I talk to God and somehow find peace with all this.  I ask Him for healing and strength and comfort and I don’t doubt for one second that He will get me through this, and HE WILL HEAL MY BODY.

Today, I was told I may have cancer.  Today, the earth shook a little, the sky darkened a little, and my life changed.  Today, I learned that four words, you may have cancer, would forever be implanted in my memory.

Today, I learn to praise God through the storms.
Take care of you….

Trish

How Disposable Am I?

It’s no secret we live in a disposable world.  There’s not much we cannot replace with something newer and better.  Disposable plates, napkins, utensils, serving trays, and cups are used every day. Disposable diapers, bottles, gloves, and hygiene items are made by the millions.  Cheaply made cars built only to last a few years have been experimented with, remember the Yugo?  I have to ask myself, in such a disposable world, how disposable am I?


Early on in life, we learn that pretty much everything can be replaced.  A broken doll, a rusty bicycle, tattered socks.  Sometimes it hurt to lose the original item, but that pain was soon erased by the excitement of a newer one, maybe even a little fancier.  But then, we learn that friends can also be replaced.  Your best friend in first grade moves across the country, never to be seen again.  Then a new kid moves to town and the old friend’s memories begin to fade.  The dog you grew up with ages and dies, leaving a world of hurt and emptiness, but your parents say not to worry, they will replace the old Fido with a new puppy.  And they do, and soon the pain begins to lessen as the bond between you and puppy grows.

As a teenager, a boyfriend replaced me with someone who would have sex with him.  As a wife, I was replaced with someone skinnier and blonde.  

A few years ago, my boss told me that I could always be replaced in my job.  He was right, but I wanted to think I offered something special as an employee that no one else did.  I felt valuable, even if I wasn’t.  I didn’t like to think I was that disposable.

How many husbands and wives have you known that were replaced through divorce?  How many foster kids have gotten shuffled from family to family?  How many pets are in animal shelters because their owners thought a different pet would suit them better?   How many employees have quit their jobs in pursuit of one better?  How many employers have fired employees in the pursuit of one better?

I know I am disposable.  I know every day I go to work that I can be fired on a whim just because someone doesn’t like me, or they don’t like the disorganization of my desk, or the Christmas tree in my office.  I know I can be replaced in every Committee or team that I serve.  I know there is no one standing in the sidelines waiting to rescue me or to stand up for me.  I can be replaced in a heartbeat, and it feels kind of lonely.

I’d like to think my pets would miss me.  But the truth is, they would probably only miss me for a while, until someone else took over my roll as parent and caregiver and friend.  There is no “significant other” in my life who would miss me or feel I could not be replaced.  There is no family who would miss seeing me.  There is no need to replace someone who is already missing.

I cannot say I like knowing just how replaceable I am.  But in truth, I’ve done nothing in my life to make myself irreplaceable.  I’ve done nothing extraordinary.  Nothing unique.  I’m not lovable. I’m not beautiful, to be admired.  I’ve not devoted the time to cultivate relationships to a deeper level, always distancing myself before that closer bond develops.  Yes, I am replaceable.

And yet….as replaceable as I am in this world, I know I am worthy of God’s love and grace.  I know that Jesus died on that cross to save me from my sins.  And I know God will never leave me nor foresake me.  His love makes me feel valuable, worthy, and a little less disposable.  


May God’s undying love for you make you feel worthy and unique.

Take care of you….

Trish

The Handshake

Just yesterday, I posted something on Facebook about acts of kindness, some examples of acts I thought were kind, like replacing an empty roll of toilet paper, changing a lightbulb for someone who cannot climb, and a few others.  I asked for the thoughts of folks on what they considered acts of kindness, but no one responded.

Today, while working at the church, I was shown an act of kindness that took me by surprise, and it warmed my heart.

A young man came into the church office and sat down.  It is not unusual for strangers to come into the church and I was studying him as he sat down across from me, on the opposite side of my desk.  Often, I have an immediate sense in someone’s presence whether I should be fearful or not.  I felt no fear of him.

During our conversation, he mentioned he liked our church, he really liked our Sanctuary.  I shared with him of the first time I walked into our Sanctuary and immediately a warm feeling came over me that I was home, and I invited him to visit us some Sunday.  He shared the name of the church he was presently attending, of which I was vaguely familiar with.  Then he thanked me for my time and as he was walking out the door, he said, “I will come back to visit some Sunday.”  Normally when someone tells me that, I think nothing of it.  But I believe he meant it.

Now, here’s the part that took me by surprise.  He must have gotten about half way to the front door when he turned around and came back to the office and asked, “What is your name?”  I told him it was Trish and he walked over to me with hand extended and said, “My name is _____, and I am glad to meet you.”

Wow.

This stranger took the time to ask my name and shake my hand.  I know it sounds like something so small, but it seemed so kind at the time.  It was a “moment” that made my day.  Someone took a moment out of their day to know my name.

Maybe too often we don’t do kind things because we think it’s going to take a lot of effort, or cost too much money, or take too much time.  With just a few seconds, a few words, and a handshake, a positive difference was made to my day.  I’m still smiling inside.

Take a moment to be kind to someone.

Blessings
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I Will Not be Silenced

flagWell, it’s over.  The people have spoken by election of Mr. Donald Trump, President-Elect of the United States of America.  For better or worse, he will be our Commander in Chief the next four years.

My feelings have been a roller coaster ride since the night of November 8th.  From my doubt that he would have any real chance of winning, to total disbelief as the polls began turning in their results, to absolute sorrow at the announcement that he had won.  My emotions were blanketed with doom.  Surely, we would never come out of this presidency alive.  There will be wars, men and women will lose their lives fighting senseless battles that should never have been started.  Questions were filling my mind.  How could this have happened?  How could the good, hard working people of our country vote for such a man into one of the most powerful offices of the world?

My television remained silent after the election.  I couldn’t force myself to turn it on.  There wasn’t anything in the news I wanted to hear.  All the speculations of the previous months were shattered on November 8th.  The media was all abuzz over more speculations about where they went wrong, how they could have underestimated his appeal, and it was all the “uneducated white male’s” fault.  At least I knew who to blame now.  But I couldn’t.  I could not blame any one portion of our population for what had just happened.  Throwing blame serves no purpose and solves nothing.

A few days after the election, I noticed a news headline on my Facebook feed that mentioned riots.  I followed the link, and then another, and then another, and that was when I first knew of the riots happening across our country in reaction to the election results.  I was shocked.  I expected riots if Mr. Trump lost.  What on earth were people thinking?  Followers of the Democratic party, like myself, were rioting and causing millions of dollars of damages, people were getting hurt, and to serve what purpose?  Could they not see that what they were doing was exactly what the Republican party was hoping for, thriving on?  What happened to “When they go low, we go high?”  I understood their anger, frustration, and hurt, but this was no answer and would only make the situation worse.  My prayers for peace and for our country took on a more fervent tone.

In the meantime, all my Republican friends were celebrating their victory.  Rude jokes and defamation of the character of anyone and everyone of the Democratic party continued in earnest.  Some became arrogant in their victory.  Others were full of hope for the future, seemingly putting all or most of their hope for our country in one man.  “He’s going to fix America and make it great again.”  Over and over I read those words…he’s going to fix America.  Over and over I read the words that said all Democrats were worthless, unemployed, stupid, and living off government welfare.  Over and over I felt I was also being attacked by my “friends.”

On November 13th, 60 Minutes ran an interview with Donald Trump.  I agonized over whether I wanted to watch it or not.  Did I want to make myself upset again, or live in ignorance of our current President-Elect?  I chose to watch the broadcast.  Trying to keep an open mind, I listened to his answers, watched his demeanor and facial expressions for evidence of true or false statements.  At times, I wondered why he didn’t conduct himself in this manor before the election.  But then I realized if he had, he would not have been able to amass the targeted audience of voters he was aiming for.  He knew exactly what he was doing and who it would affect.  There were brief moments during the interview I felt hopeful, that perhaps our country would be OK, that maybe he could be relied upon to make sound decisions for the good of the people and not just for himself.  No sooner had I felt that glimmer of hope than he would then say something with self assured arrogance about himself and would bring my newfound hope to an abrupt halt.  The ego was still taking over.

It is now nine days post election.  The sadness has eased, but not disappeared entirely.  There is still a foreboding within me of something bad about to happen.  There is also a bit of hope I am wrong, that good changes for our country will be made, an improved health care system in place, and fewer people will be living in poverty within this great nation.  My trust for these changes lie not in our President, but in my faith in God.  I continue to pray.

My thoughts this day are:

  • America is a great country right now!  No, it is not perfect.  Yes, it can improve.  But it is an amazing country filled with amazing, hard working people who are trying to get along the best they know how.  For those who don’t believe this is true, perhaps they are the ones who should look into relocating.  This is my country; I love it and I’m staying.
  • President Obama has served and led our country well, with dignity and grace.  He was fought tooth and nail by the Republican party every step of the way.  He was not given the chance to do even greater things because of the never ending roadblocks and the right wing crying “foul.”  Yet, he continued to go high when they went low.
  • I have a right to my opinions, just like everyone else.  My voice will be spoken for the equality of all people, for the rights and respect of women, and for the fight against bullying.

The next four years will be a challenge for everyone, all political parties.  It’s time to work together more than ever.  It’s time to lay down the egos, lay down the prejudices, and lay down the personal grudges.  For those feeling that same sense of sadness and loss that I do, it’s time to make our voices heard for what we believe in.  We can still make changes to our communities for the better.  We can make changes within our homes to promote respect and love for each other.  We can raise our children to know right from wrong.  We can renew our focus on God and rely on our faith to overcome all the challenges ahead.

This is not the time to be silent.

Blessings.

 

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Bible Study Benefits

Bible4We are all so busy.  There’s always some place we need to be, someone we need to see, or something we need to do in our daily life.  We stretch ourselves thin while pursuing the wants and needs we all have.  But what if we are neglecting one of our greatest needs during our busyness?   How do we keep it all together while at the same time increasing our faith?

 

I wish I had all the answers and could say I follow them daily.  But I will be the first to admit I fail to some extent each and every day.  For me, my faith is probably the most important aspect of my life I want to hold onto, and yet I am guilty of setting it aside at times.  I started off missing church because of illness, then it became a habit, and then a practice of not attending Sunday service.  Sometimes I’m uncomfortable in larger groups of people, but I haven’t even tried lately.  True, I’m at the church normally six days a week working, but it’s not quite the same.  Yet, if you were to ask me, I would probably tell you I go to church all the time.  And I do, but I’m not worshiping in a way that God deserves.

A few weeks ago, I began attending a new Bible Study on Wednesday evenings.  I thought maybe if I could do this a few times it will “make up” for missing Sunday mornings.  Well, it has not served that purpose; it has not given me a good out that clears my conscience of not attending Sunday morning worship, but it has given me a few unexpected benefits.

  1. Reading the Bible.  I wonder how many of us could honestly say we read the Bible every day, and be very honest about it.  I imagine not many of us.  It’s so easy to put the Bible on the backburner.  We’ll get to that later and then later never gets here.  Not only has a weekly Bible Study given me more Bible reading time at home, I’ve begun exploring different versions online.  I’ve even become very fond of a couple versions I had never heard of before.  It helps me have a clearer understanding, and it keeps me reading.
  2. Friendships.  Meeting in a small group, reading and studying the Bible together, sharing thoughts…it has created a bond amongst us I wasn’t really expecting.  It has brought together folks who were friendly, and made them friends.  When the pastor was out of town and we had no leader for the group, we went out to dinner together.  We prayed, we ate, we laughed.  We chose to spend that time together rather than go our separate ways.  That is God working a plan in our lives.
  3. Socializing.  I could very easily become a hermit.  Rather than force myself to go out with friends, I would much rather stay at home with my pets and watch a movie or read a book.  I’d rather make a To-Do List in my notebook than have conversations with people I enjoy.  It doesn’t make much sense, but it is what it is and that’s how I am.  Being an introvert isn’t a terrible thing, but there is much about life I sometimes miss because of my tendency to seclude myself.  Bible Study forces me out of the house and among friends.  The group is small enough I feel comfortable.  Granted, if it was a group larger than ten, I might not feel the same way.  Our group is cozy, but not overwhelming.
  4. Laughter.  With most small groups, there is going to be laughter at some point. And you may have heard the old saying, “Laughter is the best medicine.”  If it doesn’t cure you, it’s bound to make you feel a whole lot better!13938387_1114010325302730_9169913728093619050_n
  5. A stronger relationship with God.  Isn’t that what it’s all about?  Studying God’s word, sharing thoughts, supporting each other.  It all adds together to bring us closer to each other and to God.  At the end of every study session, we pray.  We can pray silently or out loud, however the Spirit moves us.  It is a peaceful time, and I usually feel God’s presence in a strong way.

I would encourage everyone to join a small group for Bible Study.  Not only has it strengthened my relationship with God, it is time well invested in making my life more balanced, more meaningful.  And maybe, just maybe, I will be a better person for it.

Blessings

 

My Favorite Book

Bible2From the earliest of my memories, books have been a fascination to me.  It first puzzled me how adults could sit for hours reading a book without pictures.  How could anyone enjoy something that didn’t have pictures?  I mean, in my four or five year old mind, pictures told the entire story.

My grandmother would read to me quite often.  Storybooks.  Faerie tales.  Books about Spot the dog and Harriet the goat, or something along those lines.  Thin books full of pictures I loved to look at.  Puppies, farm animals, kittens…books about animals were my favorite then.

Like all children, I started school and began to learn to read the words that went with the pictures in my books.  I learned a lot of words simply because I knew the stories by heart by then and I could put them both together.  I’m not sure how long at a time I would read, but the time was increasing.  Reading out loud was one of my favorite things to do.

One night, and I remember it clearly, my grandmother was reading her book silently to herself, but I was reading my book out loud, and it annoyed her.  She told me I was a big girl and I no longer had to read the words out loud, I could say them to myself.  This felt pretty odd at first, but I soon got the hang of it.  Grandma was a lot happier then and we could sit side by side for hours reading silently to ourselves.

I think I was about 12 when Grandma gave me my first Bible.  It was white, with gold lettering on the front.  I thought it was the most beautiful book I had ever seen and I dived right in reading it.  It was King James Version, so it wasn’t always the easiest to understand, but it seemed to have a poetry about it.  The words were beautiful even before I started paying attention to the meaning.  That Bible was the first of several over the years.  It’s the one that started it all.

When I was 13, my mother and I attended a little country church, nestled in the woods, for a little while.  It was during our Sunday School lessons at Joppa Methodist Church that I became aware that there were other versions of the Bible, versions I could understand better.  Who knew?

For Christmas when I was about 15, I asked my mother for a Bible called The Way, The 9780842378208-us-300Living Bible.  Amazingly enough, she got it for me.  I loved it!  It opened up a whole new world for me.  The words in the Bible took on more meaning.  My mind was reaching more understanding of God’s Word.  How could anyone not read the Bible?  It was a fantastic book, full of hope, war, hate, faith, and love.  There was sex, scandals, miracles, and sadness.   It had everything any bestseller on the market had, and a whole lot more.

As happens with many young people, I began drifting away some from reading the Bible.  There was the dating thing, the marriage thing, the working and going to college thing.  I worked most Sundays, or at least tried to, for the extra pay.  In my mind, I was way too busy to go to church.  But during those years, I kept my Bibles on the floor under my side of the bed.  When my husband was out of town during the week, I would read a little, at least a few verses.  There was just something about reading God’s Word that made me feel better.  It got me through some pretty rough times by giving me hope.  And it was through those words in those Bibles that made me want to pray, and I prayed a lot.  I felt like God and I were getting to know each other a little better.

Bible4Fast forward a few decades and I have collected several Bibles.  I like exploring different versions.  Some I can read like a novel, some take more time, like the King James Version.  Sometimes, I’m just in the mood for one version or the other.  Do I read my Bibles as often as I should?  No.  And I’m not proud of that.  But to this day, it is still my favorite book of all time.  It’s the one book that can give me hope, comfort my grief, celebrate my happiness, and make me believe in miracles.  It was that first white Bible my grandmother gave me that put me on the path to become a Christian later in life.  It helped plant a seed.

If you don’t have a Bible, I urge you to get one.  If you cannot afford one, stop in a church and ask them for one.  They will gladly give you a Bible of your own.  If you live in my neck of the woods, stop in at Rockland Church and I will make sure you have a Bible.  It’s an amazing story you don’t want to miss.

 

Blessings