Thursday, May 9, 2013

Birds, brokenness, and God's track record

Peregrine falcons are interesting. They are fast and they are committed. These birds keep the same mate for life.

The only reason I have even heard of these particular falcons is from working at the Ironton Tribune and doing a story once about some fledglings that were in a nest on the Ironton-Russell Bridge. The falcons were going to be banded and named in a ceremony of sorts, open to the public.

I was able to climb on the bridge and be close to their nest and get a couple of pictures and it wasn't pleasant. I am terrified of heights and water, so a bridge that is in such bad shape it is about to be torn down was not my favorite. I prayed a bunch.

These tiny falcons were to be temporarily removed from their nests by wildlife experts, taken to a picnic shelter at the base of the bridge, and given a tiny ID bracelet around their tiny falcon legs. Then some students who had been studying them were going to name them.

Though the little falcons would only be away from their parents for a short time, and then carefully returned to their nests, their mom and dad had no idea what had happened to them.

The screeches and squawks above the Ohio River were kind of heartbreaking, knowing that these loving parents were so scared and so helpless, swooping and flying all around the bridge in a panic, and not realizing their babies and their situation were safely in the hands of professionals.

There have been so many times in my life that I have felt like that falcon couple. I felt fear and panic, and began my own screeching and squawking, wondering why something has happened, why it seemed like there was no one to help and nothing I could do. And, like the falcons, I didn't see that I had a Professional in control of the situation the entire time.

My parents' divorce - God was there.
My Mom's sickness - God was there.
My loss of two pregnancies - God was there.

Just a few of my own examples. These situations were ugly and messy and didn't go the way I wanted, but I was never alone for even a second. It may have felt that way sometimes. There were many times I felt desperate and heartbroken.

In Psalm 77, the writer says in verses 1-9,

     "I cried out to God for help;
        I cried out to God to hear me.
     When I was in distress, I sought the Lord;
        at night I stretched out untiring hands
        and my soul refused to be comforted.
     I remembered you, O God, and I groaned;
        I mused, and my spirit grew faint.
     You kept my eyes from closing;
        I was too troubled to speak.
     I thought about the former days,
        the years of long ago;
     I remembered my songs in the night.
        My heart mused and my spirit inquired:
     'Will the Lord reject forever?
        Will he never show his favor again?
     Has his unfailing love vanished forever?
        Has his promise failed for all time?
     Has God forgotten to be merciful?
       Has he in anger withheld his compassion?'"

We aren't the first to feel abandoned. This writer wasn't afraid to let God know how he felt and we shouldn't be either. Our screeching and squawking to God also keeps us listening for His voice. In verses 11 and 12, the writer goes a different direction. He begins to remember all the times God has clearly been present throughout history and focuses on God's power and faithfulness.

     "I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
        yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.
     I will meditate on all your works
        and consider all your mighty deeds."

If you are in the middle of your own squawking and screeching, hurting and brokenness, remember your Professional is close by. Remember the times He has been with you before, and the times before that He has been with others. You probably know some great examples from your own life, the lives of your family and friends. And the Bible is full of some too.

He has it under control. He wants the best for you and He will not leave you.

"...As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you." - Joshua 1:5b

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Teresa and some other stuff

A coworker of mine passed away last week at a young 51 years of age. I didn't get to know her as much as I would have liked, as my position as a reporter was to cover for her while she underwent treatment after a recent cancer diagnosis. For most of my time there, she was on medical leave. But I did have several months during my internship at the paper that she was still there, and weeks here and there when she would be between treatments. Here is what I know about Teresa.

She was helpful. She would often ask if there was any way she could help me, regardless of the work she had to do.
She always smiled. Regardless of her own struggles. Regardless of cancer and divorce occuring simultaneously. She smiled.
She was a hard worker. She took her job seriously and it was obvious she loved what she did.
She loved her daughter. She spent time with her, and on her daughter's days off from school, she would sometimes bring her to work with her.
She was a classy lady.

I wish I had more time to know her.

After her funeral, a few of us from the paper decided to have lunch together. It was good. During conversation, a friend said to us that when she passes away, "If you are still around, please say something about me at my service, or I will haunt you." There wasn't much said about Teresa during her service. It's possible that it is just the way things are done in the Lutheran church. But it left me feeling like Teresa didn't get quite the "send off" that she deserved.

I have written what I thought about Teresa.  I would have loved to hear what others had to say about her.

I've thought a lot about death this week. First with Teresa dying, and then I was listening to a series of sermons about what happens when we die. Great podcasts, and they had me thinking. The pastor mentioned funerals he had led over the years, and that he had, at times, been asked to do funerals for people he didn't know well. During times like this, he would ask the family members to tell a little about the person who died - something they were passionate about, what meant a lot to them. He said once there was a man who died, and as he talked to the family, he asked them the same question.  The room was silent, and finally the recently departed's mom said, "He loved hats. He had the best hat collection."

Sad that after his entire life, hats are all they could muster.

It got me thinking, what would people say about me? At my service, as my coworkers, family, and friends get together for a few minutes to say goodbye, what would be said about me?
I know the things I hope would be said. But are the things I think I feel are important to me, really important enough in my life that other people would notice? Man, I hope so.

During our lunch after the service, one friend mentioned how he hates when people use funerals to try to get people saved. (It didn't happen at this service, just something we talked about in conversation). He said he gets it, just that it isn't the time or the place. I understand why he feels that way.

And I also understand why it is done. There are times that people will only be in a church for a funeral, and no other time. Maybe that will be the only time someone can tell that person how much God loves them. But it did get me thinking, and while I hope that good can somehow come from my death, I hope more good can come from my life. I hope people I know and am around will see Jesus in my life. That they will want it too, becuase I really want it for them. Life is so much better with Him. Peace, love, courage, forgiveness, hope - a whole bunch of stuff that God gives that doesn't come from anywhere else.

I really would love for someone at my service to say, "She was a girl who loved Jesus. She was a girl who loved people like Jesus did."

I know I have far to go for this to be said of me, but it's my goal.

2 Timothy 4:7
      I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.