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Valentine’s Day: A Love/Hate Relationship?

February is American Heart Month, National Children’s Dental Health Month, International Prenatal Infection Prevention Month and African Heritage Month, among others.

But February is also —the month for loveheart

…hearts everywhere…beginning the day after Christmas we have the big run up to Valentine’s Day ….red and pink and hearts to remind us that February is the month for love.

I             Love             Valentine’s Day.

When I started school back in …well, awhile back…we were given colored papers and pencils, glue, scissors and a shoe box to create a decorated box for Valentines to be put into. We were given a list of classmates so everyone would get a card from everyone else…we made handmade cards…craft time with Mom…

I             Love             Valentine’s Day.valentines cards

When we got older, we were no longer given a list of classmates…we were no longer told to bring valentines for ANYONE let alone EVERYONE. In what I remember to be about 4th grade I discovered I had a ‘boyfriend’ who had been waiting for Valentine’s Day to tell me…Donnie. He created the most beautiful card with a hand drawn heart inside…it was the most amazing thing I had ever seen.

…now to be clear, I’m not talking about the traditional symmetrical heart shape

…I’m talking about a hand drawn rendition of a human heart…a human organ with all of its blood vessels with the large ones cut open at the top where it had obviously been removed from its body

—an awesome piece of arthuman heart

I             Love             Valentine’s Day.

When I was about 12 I received a red heart box full of chocolate candy…it was delivered to the door…pretty cool thing for a 12-year-old.  It was from my great uncle who was a bachelor and often stayed with our family when he visited all the relatives. He rarely spoke and it was news to me that he even knew I existed.

 

When I was 15 I dated for the first time…it was more platonic than anything else.

But when Valentine’s Day rolled around I received a pair of chocolate shoes from a local chocolate company…cool…impressive.choc shoes

And the next year my name in chocolate.

Did I mention…

I             Love             Valentine’s Day?

One year I sent a Valentine’s Day card to my husband on the 14th of EVERY month…

I             Love             Valentine’s Day.

As time went by though the gifts I received became expressions of obligation.

…or at least it felt that way.

And, of course, there were those times when there was either no observation of the day at all or a passing mention…Often it is too hard to live up to the hype that commercials and movies put on it.

The pressure is on to suddenly be romantic for people who may not be all that romantic otherwise.

And, of course, for people who are not in a relationship, or in a failing one, it can feel like the world is pointing a finger and making sure that everyone knows it.

What’s the deal with needing a day to be romantic anyway? Or to show love?

As I got more cynical Valentine’s Day felt more like a commercial conspiracy rather than a holiday about love.

I mean…if you have to be reminded to tell someone you love them…well, then, what’s the point?

So Valentine’s Day not only lost its luster but became an irritation, an uncomfortable day to get by.

broken heart

I didn’t marry the boy who drew the human heart…although looking back…(smile)

But I DID marry the boy who sent the chocolate shoes and my name in chocolate…clever.

Married at 18 and after 5 years of hoping for a baby and the doctor telling us that we might want to think about alternatives to giving birth to our own… I discovered I was pregnant.

….and to make up for lost time…I was pregnant with twins.

After a short 7 month pregnancy I went into labor in the middle of the Blizzard of ‘77…in the middle of night 7 of 8 nights of “Roots”…I didn’t tell anyone I was in labor because I didn’t want to miss any of the story.

At some point shortly after the 11 o’clock news began it was clear that I would have to let my family know…we were staying with my parents because of the blizzard and they were asking people to double up to be able to have the power to heat homes….so, out into the blizzard we went.

By the way, did I tell you that I only found out I was having twins 12 hours before that?

So off to the hospital where both babies were born within 2 hours.twin girls

4 lbs 1 and 4 lbs 10….wow…amazing.

Because they were early, they had breathing problems and had to be put into incubators immediately without us even getting to touch them…they lost weight down to near 3 lbs.

The incubator is where they stayed…for 16 days…we visited every day, scrubbed up to our elbows, put on gowns, masks and gloves and stood at incubators and talked to our babies and touched them and tried to let them know…somehow…that we were there.

Day 16 happened to be the date set for our baby shower so our intention was to visit with our babies then head off to the shower.

However, when we arrived on Day 16…it was clear we would be delayed getting to the shower.

The doctor wanted to see us

…he wanted to know if we wanted to feed them….WHAT?

Feed them?

For the first time they were taken out of their incubators and we were given tiny little bottles and were allowed to hold them and try to get them to eat from the bottle.

WE GOT TO HOLD THEM! Take them in our arms and cuddle them.

(We were very late for the shower)

Our daughters were born on January 29 so if you’re doing the math we held them for the first time on February 14…Valentine’s Day…

I             Love             Valentine’s Day.

Not because of the commercial push to get people to date or buy gifts or pressure people into proposals or dates or things they might otherwise recognize they are not ready to do…

…but because we held our babies for the first time.

Every year we celebrate not so much on January 29 but more so February 14…we celebrate the love between parents and children. Even with the not so wonderful Valentine’s Day experiences that came later, this moment preserved Valentine’s Day for me.

Being a parent gives us just a glimpse into how much God loves us,  God’s children…it helps us to better understand how loving that child doesn’t require they do or be something to earn it..

…that child is loved because she or he is your child…that’s all that is necessary.

It doesn’t matter if you are a birth child or an adopted child or however your family is built…it’s a special kind of love.

That’s how God loves you.god_loves_you

God loves you…on Valentine’s Day and every other day…but if you need a reminder and if you have a love/hate relationship with Valentine’s day like me…let it become a reminder that you are loved…that God loves all of us…each child.

Maybe…you will love Valentine’s Day too.

 

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Where Do I Fit?

Luke 10:38-42 NRSV

 Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying.  But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.”  But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things;  there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”

Acts 18:24-26

24 Now there came to Ephesus a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria. He was an eloquent man, well-versed in the scriptures. 25 He had been instructed in the Way of the Lord; and he spoke with burning enthusiasm and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. 26 He began to speak boldly in the synagogue; but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained the Way of God to him more accurately.

1 Corinthians 12:12-13 NRSV

12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.

 

Isaiah 43:18-19

Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old.  I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?

 

Psalm 96:1-4

O sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth.
Sing to the Lord, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day.
Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples.
For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; he is to be revered above all gods.

John 4:24-26

God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”  The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.” Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking to you.”

 

Are you open to a new thing that God is doing in your life? Is it scary? Uncomfortable?

Do you doubt God has a place for you in that new thing?

Several years ago the church I was serving agreed to study a book called Who Moved My Cheese? This is a book about change and dealing with it in our lives. I had previously studied it when I was working for a Fortune 500 company. Together we talked about the fear of stepping out into ‘the new’ and the anxiety it sometimes caused. One of the questions posed at the end of that book is “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”

We posted that question in foot high letters on the wall of the fellowship hall. Every time we gathered for any reason the question was there before us…reminding us to think about the future…reminding us to consider the possibilities. My hope was that in this study our congregation would be encouraged and emboldened to do a new thing and be church in a new way.

Since that time that congregation has indeed made some real changes in how they are and do ‘church’. But that question, as it turns out, had a real impact on me while I was trying to have an impact on the congregation. When it was suggested to me by more than one person that serving as executive director for Disciples Women was a ‘fit’ I resisted. But that question and my trusted few made me reconsider and re-reconsider…and I submitted my papers…and, answered my call to serve women’s ministries.

Where do you fit in women’s ministries?

What are you resisting? Why are you resisting?

What would you do if you weren’t afraid?

Do you know that God is in control?

When I watch a movie or a television show I absolutely do not want to know the ending…I do not want someone to spoil the movie by telling me the ending. Watching I find myself intent, almost “IN” the movie, reacting as if it were really happening.  When I know the end, my experience is quite different…I am not worried about the lead actress, whether or not she will survive or succeed, because I already know how it turns out.

Women of God, you know how this story ends. You know that God has the last word. Why are we so afraid of the new thing God is doing when we know who is writing the story, when we know who is in control of the end?

“I know that the Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ), sent by God who is the author of the beginning and the end. Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised.

May God bless every act of courage and boldness in sharing the gifts God has generously given you that women of God (and all God’s children) will know they are truly loved and cherished.

 

 

 

Ministry Appreciation Month

Did you know that half of all ministers starting out will leave the ministry within five years, and only 1 out of every 10 ministers will actually retire as a minister in some form?

Does your pastor or minister know you appreciate her or him?

October is Ministry Appreciation Month, a time to let those who serve in ministry know you appreciate their call and their work. It is an opportunity to encourage those in ministry. Pastors hear all kinds of jokes about only working January 2012one day a week and then only for an hour but it takes many hours to properly prepare to deliver a sermon. There is also a great deal more work for a pastor than the weekly sermon and worship service. Often pastors have multiple services as well as Bible studies, meetings, visits, counseling, etc. etc. Additionally, they often carry the burdens of their beloved flock sharing in their struggles, manage a staff, and tend to hundreds of details to keep the ministry moving forward. All of this while graciously accepting the opinions of those who think worship is too long or the music is not to their liking or the children of the pastor were misbehaving during worship.

While it may not be inappropriate to have higher expectations for pastors than some other professions it is also appropriate to be appreciative for the hours and energy invested in the ministry.

How can you show your appreciation?

  • You can express verbally your appreciation.
  • You can offer a small gift, perhaps a Starbucks gift card or a Disciples Women’s Shepherd Pin https://www.discipleshomemissions.org/shop/symbol-pin-clergy/.DW-Pin-Clergy-144x300
  • You can volunteer.
  • You can offer to babysit the pastor’s children.
  • You can be patient when you are unhappy with something your pastor has said or done.

This might be a good time, as well, to remember that not all ministers are full-time, vocational ministers. There are many in our churches who serve as pastors and ministers in many ways and who have received a call to ministry from God. This is an appropriate time to offer your gratitude for living out their call in a way that honors God.

Thanks to all of you who serve as pastors and ministers in the wide variety of expressions of ministry. Blessings for you and your work.

Peace,

Pat

Now What?

This time of year we look for what is coming. We look for the Christ Child in this season of Advent.

Some are looking for what December 22 will hold since we have been told the Mayan calendar holds some special significance in December 21, 2012, being the last day on the calendar.

 

 

 

 

Perhaps we are looking for 2013 in hopes that it will be a year with a better economic outlook or a year with less stress or better health.

We look forward. It is wise to keep our eyes on what is ahead of us so that we can be prepared for changing times.

However, it is also important to experience ‘now’. In this time of baking, shopping, wrapping, attending parties and multiple church and work activities, it is worth taking the time to be in the ‘now’…the moment.

The mystery of our faith is that Christ is present and is yet to come. While we look forward to the journey of Advent and the coming of the Christ, we also in this mystery have the opportunity to celebrate the Christ who is already present. Our hope and wish for you is that you will take time to be present to your family and friends… take time to thank God for these blessings… take time to experience with all your senses the sounds, smells, tastes, sights and feel of all that makes this season a celebration of the coming of the Messiah.

In this present time, we are so thankful for this ministry that God has called us to working with the women of the church and building relationships around the world. We are thankful for all those we serve as well as all those who are partners in ministry. In this moment we celebrate this ministry of presence and preparation. In this moment we pray that each of you will have the opportunity to remember the joy that is Christmas and all it means in the coming of our Savior and our connection through Christ.

 

Merry Christmas from all of the Disciples Women staff!

Pat, Sheila, Arlene, Beverly, Regenia, Patty, Donna

 

Seed and Bread

Stewardship. Often that word strikes fear and trembling into the hearts of Christians…maybe slightly less so than Evangelism. A stewardship sermon? Pastors often don’t like preaching them anymore than congregations want to hear them. Still, God calls us to be good stewards of all we have received. The important point for us, I believe, is not so about how much we give but how we give or, perhaps, why we give. Do we give out of obligation? Do we give because we are coerced? There is a school of thought that says that if you are being a good steward of what you have received from God, that is enough, regardless of how you approach it or process it. I would suggest that there are additional blessings to be received when we give out of gratitude and thankfulness. When we give out of recognition of what God has done for us we open the door to a new appreciation of our blessings.

 

2 Corinthians 9:10
Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness;

This week I was blessed to experience worship at the “Symposium on Preaching Stewardship as Good News”; the speaker was Rev. Dr. James Forbes. This is my second time to have the opportunity to receive a message he delivered. I hope that you will have an opportunity to listen to this man who is brilliant and deep and caring share the Word of God through his lens. You will also be blessed.

 As I have been reflecting on what he spoke about and his recognition that often it is difficult to remember that God tells us about giving and sharing what we have as we follow the Way of Christ while we are also dealing with the everyday realities of feeding our children and keeping a roof over our heads. Sometimes we feel torn between two things that are right…two things that are important…two things that help us identify ourselves as Christians. And still, internal debate and all, we continue to make good choices.

 

Disciples women see these good choices reflected every day in the generous offerings that are received by Disciples Mission Fund (DMF) and Disciples Women through blessing box offerings. We celebrate with those who are moved to give to these ministries; we celebrate the abundant blessings that are recognized through this spiritual discipline. One of the beautiful joys of blessing boxes is that while we rejoice together in the recognition of what God has already done and is doing, the offering that results from that recognition is used to bless many more. Together, Disciples women lift up the amazing works of God and they do so with open hearts and willing spirits, not out of coercion or grudgingly, but in gratitude and thankfulness.Image

1 Chronicles 29:9
Then the people rejoiced because they had offered so willingly, for they made their offering to the Lord with a whole heart, and King David also rejoiced greatly.

 

Deuteronomy 15:10
Give generously to him and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to.

This spirit of gratitude overflows into other works of women of the church as well. These women participate faithfully through the giving of their congregational and regional groups to DMF and other ministries as well as blessing boxes.

Proverbs 3:27 
Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it.

 Disciples women have a long history of generosity in giving of what they have. As we prepare for our Woman-to-Woman Worldwide journey to China this year I have the opportunity to experience the abundance of support given to those who will be part of the delegation who goes to build relationships and stand in solidarity with our sisters there. Whether it be personal gifts, congregational group gifts, regional gifts, or fundraising gifts, Disciples women are showing their support for this important ministry through their stewardship of what God has given them.

2 Corinthians 9:6-8
Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed.

My personal experience is that God truly provides what I need. Sophie Tucker said, “I have been rich and I have been poor. Believe me, honey, rich is better.” I guess that we may agree to some degree with that statement. However, I must also say that I have seen people who have a great deal of material wealth find themselves surrounded by people who are looking for an opportunity to get part of that wealth rather than being friends who are interested in the welfare of the wealthy person. When the wealth goes, so does the entourage.

 

I have seen people who struggle financially who find themselves surrounded by the most caring and supportive people in the world. Often while these friends would love to help financially they may be unable as well and still the blessing of a true and authentic partner on the journey becomes a blessing. I have had my challenges as we all have and just when I was sure that I would not make it through the week, God would show up. God would show up through the mail, through a family member, or through a friend from church. What happens when your husband is out of work for a long time and you have to decide which bills you can actually pay worrying about having the gas turned off or a bill collector calling? Tensions run high and then God shows up. In the mail you find a check that you weren’t expecting or a refund on an overpayment. It happens to me all the time.

Knowing that God is working, that God cares for and about us, that God is in our midst, we need not worry about a shortage when we choose to support ministries and efforts that care for  the welfare of others. Disciples women live this understanding everyday offering financial support that follows the support and leadership they give in caring, nurturing and ministering to all God’s people….sisters and brothers. I am blessed to serve and to work with women of faith who know their God is a God of abundance, women who care for one another, women who rejoice in their blessings while sharing them with others.

May each of us recognize our God of abundance among us,

Pat