Monday, September 29, 2014

A "Holy" Hare

The month of September has been very difficult spiritually and emotionally. My mother has spent the entire month in and out of the hospital. Even as I write this blog, she remains hospitalized and very ill. Many friends and family members have been in prayer for her recovery. However, I have to admit that my faith has been slipping and my hope fading. At the same time during this month, there has been a rabbit that has been visiting just outside my kitchen window. He has been sitting by the steps, at times resting and at other times eating clover. There were a couple of instances where he appeared to be looking right at me and responding by jumping closer when I spoke to him. I asked the rabbit a few times, "What is it that the Father is trying to tell me? I know from past experiences that God will often speak to me through nature. I assumed this was another instance of God communicating through His creation. Over time this rabbit kept showing up every morning and also in the evening just before sunset. I grew increasingly impatient trying to figure out what was going on. Then, as I was reading through one of my devotional books, "Our Daily Bread" the meditation focused on the language of whistling. The author quoted from Zechariah 10:8, "I will whistle for them and gather them, for I will redeem them." The author went on to talk about meeting a goat herder whose flock recognized his whistle for them. Likewise, God's people are often referred to as sheep with God as their shepherd. (John 10:27; Psalm 100:3) The author of the meditation goes on to say, "God has ways of signaling us, even without words. By events that can be alarming or encouraging. He reminds us of His guiding, protecting, and reassuring presence." After reading this meditation I began to realize that I have been experiencing exactly what the author spoke about regarding hearing God. My mother's illness has been the "alarming" event and the rabbit has been the encouraging event. God was "signaling" me through this rabbit's appearance each morning and evening. Even the rabbit's attentiveness to me and seeming to look at me, drawing close, was God speaking. Instead of trying to figure out some high and lofty reason why this rabbit appeared, God was in essence showing me His guiding, protecting, reassuring and abiding Presence through tragedy and triumph. Many people focus on the bunny as the symbol of the Easter season. However this "holy" hare reminded me of Easter and the resurrection. Hope in the midst of despair and sorrow. As of this writing, I have not seen my rabbit friend for a while. Perhaps God has made His point to continue to trust even in the midst of the unseen. For He has promised, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you." (Hebrews 13:5) Even when that promise comes in the form of a faithful rabbit.
Peace & Blessings,
Pastor Sheree

Monday, September 15, 2014

Trust and Obey

There's an old hymn entitled "Trust and Obey." The chorus tells us, Trust and obey, for there's no other way. To be happy in Jesus, But to trust and obey." I have to admit I have sung this hymn many times with all the enthusiasm I could muster. I sincerely believed what the lyrics and chorus were saying but somehow that did not translate into real life. There have been situations where I haven't trusted nor obeyed, not out of outright rebellion but out of fear. Somehow I didn't believe God was going to do the "right" thing. Recently my mother had a bad fall and ended up fracturing some ribs. The result was a 4 day hospital stay and then discharge to a rehabilitation facility. Before her discharge from the hospital it was necessary to find an open bed in a local rehab facility. Five years ago she had stayed in a rehab after another fall that I really liked and wanted her to return to that same place. However, they had no beds available. The only available bed was at a facility that five years ago I had heard was not a great place. I told the hospital social worker that I was concerned about this particular facility and to keep looking. I went on line to check the ratings of some other rehab centers and found a couple of others that were rated "above average." The facility with the open bed was only rated "average." Of course I wanted my mother in an "above average" facility but it seemed like all the beds were full at other places. I became frustrated with God and asked Him why He wasn't helping me. Wasn't He supposed to be my loving Father who was there in time of need? I was determined that I would hold out until my mother was able to be placed in a facility of my liking. However, I did not have the luxury of time as after 4 days no other beds had opened and my mother was medically cleared for discharge from the hospital. The hospital social worker informed me that if my mother stayed in the hospital beyond the date that she was medically cleared, the insurance company would bill her for the expense. I made a few phone calls to some colleagues who put me in touch with others who knew the ins and outs of the rehabs where I was looking to have my mother placed. To my surprise I began to hear good things about this so-called "average" rated facility. I decided I had no choice but to take a look at the place. When I walked in I was very shocked to see it was beautifully decorated. The Director of Customer Relations greeted me warmly and I shared my concerns with her. She listened and reassured me that they would take the best care of my mother. She then proceeded to give me a tour. The staff were very friendly and the patients looked happy. After I left, I called the hospital social worker and agreed to allow my mother to be discharged to this facility. As promised the staff took good care of her and my mother was happy with her treatment. Once again, I had to learn the lesson that God knew what was best. As hard as I tried God would not allow my mother to be placed any where else. It was amazing that even after my mother's 4 day hospital stay, this particular rehab facility still had an open bed! I am often telling my clients that if God wants something to happen in a particular way or at a particular time, He will block all our efforts to do otherwise. This is not because God is mean or wants us to "suffer" but because of His great love for us. I have been through similar experiences in the past where God has protected me from myself! Scripture is full of promises that call us to trust in God. A popular quoted verse is Proverbs 3:5-6, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight." Even in the Lord's prayer we are called to trust God, "Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." God's will not mine. Trust requires vulnerability and that can be a scary thing, but we serve a Lord who does not change. (Hebrews 13:8) Moreover, Paul reminds us in Romans that we have a God who uses all circumstances for good no matter how uncertain a situation may seem. (Romans 8:28) By the way, prior to my mother's discharge, God was still teaching me a valuable lesson on trust as an acquaintance of mine told me that the facility where my mother stayed was known as the top rehab facility in the area and many of the patients desire to go there. I will think a little differently now when I hear the words to that familiar hymn "Trust and Obey." For there truly is no other way to be happy in Jesus.
Peace & Blessings,
Pastor Sheree