Day 11: Ghosts

As a teen, I went through a phase when I read many thrillers, especially ghosts stories. They gave me nightmares, but I kept reading anyway. It was addicting. I had a fascination with the supernatural before I found God. I suppose I still have a fascination with the supernatural, but of a different kind.

People ask if I believe in ghosts. It seems silly not to believe. We are spiritual beings. I do not understand how the physical and spiritual realms overlap. However, it makes sense that occasionally we find ourselves with the ability to see beyond. I have never seen a ghost. I have never seen an angel either. Although, the scriptures indicate that sometimes we entertain angels without realizing it (Hebrews 13:2).

In my 29 years as a Believer, I have heard God speak to me many times. More times than I can count. Not audibly. The Spirit speaks to me more like an impression on my soul. It might be compelling, convicting, or healing. I have heard Him speak through the scriptures and sermons and other people. Sometimes it simply comes as a wave of knowing. Intuition, perhaps.

A friend once told me that my experience is unique. He does not believe most Christians have the same level of sensitivity. He suggested I should count myself blessed, and I do. There have been seasons when I have not sensed God or heard Him speak. It is tempting to think God has left and it is my fault. But this line of questioning is more like Paganism than Christianity.

Paganism requires you to perform rituals to keep the gods happy. Christianity has adopted this premise in some circles. We tell people God is not talking to them because of sin in their life. We tell them it is their fault that God is silent, but it does not work that way.

It is true that we can ignore God. We also need to learn to recognize His voice. But His silence is not anger or punishment. Nothing can separate us from the love of God. Even David declares in his psalm that no matter where he tries to hide, God is still there.

We have this promise from Jesus that He will never leave us nor forsake us. Our feelings of abandonment are a lie. He is still here. He is not Elvis and He has not left the building. Rather, we must choose to believe He is still with us.

During Lent, we encourage people to seek God more intentionally. We hope it will help them learn to recognize God’s voice more clearly. It is okay to be frustrated if God seems silent. Even those of us who are highly sensitive experience the same thing. Instead, remind yourself each day that He has not left you. He is there even if you cannot see, feel, or hear Him.

Here is the good news: He can see you and He can hear you. Most importantly, He loves you!

Day Ten: Flowers

I am allergic to flowers. Most of them. The flowers with abundant fragrance are the ones which trouble me most. Lilies, gardenias, hyacinths. It is tradition to have lilies covering the sanctuary on Easter Sunday as a sign of new life and resurrection. This is a problem for a pastor who is asthmatic and allergic to lilies.

On our first Easter after planting the church, we replaced the lilies with daffodils and tulips. They are less fragrant, but still add a boost of color and life. However, there were a few people who were upset that lilies had been replaced by tulips. There had always been lilies. Every church has lilies.

It get it. Change is hard. People move our cheese and we lose our rhythm of routine. I was attending a church once and we elected a new pastor. He made one small change each week for five weeks. I remember holding my breath because I knew what was coming. People were getting restless. Fortunately, he was experienced and knew when to take a break before introducing more changes.

Our brains get overloaded when big changes happen in small windows of time. We call them crises. Change causes our brains to create new neuropathways. It is one reason we are so tired during a crisis. Our brain is re-wiring itself to accommodate the newness of it all.

It will be one year next week. One year since we went into lock down for “14 days to flatten the curve”. Are you making plans to celebrate this momentous occasion? It has been a long 14 days!

There has been a lot of change. I think I will buy the church flowers to celebrate. What type of flowers do you give for a pandemic? Are there break-up flowers? I want to break-up with this pandemic so my flower arrangement needs to communicate “you’re not welcome here anymore”. Black roses maybe?

During this Lenten season, I am contemplating which changes I want to keep. Some of them have made my life and ministry better and easier. I am slowly making a list and praying through each one.

What about you? Are there changes you want to keep? What is the best new practice you have embraced in the last year? In the meantime, buy yourself flowers to celebrate making it through an unprecedented year of change.

Day Nine: Dress

My children were born four and a half years apart. The age gap was enough that I wanted to know the gender before she was born. During my first pregnancy, we wanted to wait until the baby arrived. Thus, we received loads of yellow and green baby clothes. I figured if we knew the gender, then we would avoid the yellow and green onslaught. I was right.

Once we knew we were having a daughter, pink dresses started showing up. I did not know there were so many shades of pink and purple! We received so many dresses that my daughter could have worn a new one every day for a year. She outgrew many of them before she could wear them. I even tried to exchange some for a larger size. My daughter is grown now and never wears dresses. I think she developed an allergic reaction to them after her first three years.

We make a big deal about clothes. How should we dress for this event? What do I wear to the meeting? Some institutions are bogged down by dress code rules. My mom attended twelve years of Catholic School. She said the uniform was the best part. She never had to think about her wardrobe. My children, however, attended a private Christian school for awhile and they were not as thrilled. It was exhausting keeping all of those rules.

Jesus told His disciples not to worry about what they would wear. God knows about it and He will take care of it. But maybe they didn’t have job interviews in those days. I feel like Jesus should give us a 2.0 version of this statement.

People care about what they are wearing. They seem to care even more about what others are wearing. Graphic Tees, rainbows, hair dye, nose rings, and shoes. What is the obsession about people’s shoes? I have belonged to organizations where how I dressed seems to matter more than character.

When I planted a church, I did not want my attire to rule my mornings, especially on Sundays. Ironically, I ended up being ruled by my closet anyway. I would stare into it trying to remember what I wore the week before. My plan was to rotate between casual and more dressy from Sunday to Sunday. I wanted people to feel comfortable to “come as they were”. In the end, I found myself changing my clothes 3 or 4 times and being frustrated each week.

The pandemic has helped me with this problem. I wore lounge or yoga pants so many days in a row that I forgot how to dress. On our first Sunday back to in-person worship, I wore jeans and a t-shirt. My brain did not have the capacity to think about clothes. I didn’t care and I started to understand Jesus’ words a little better.

Tomorrow will worry about itself. Instead of worrying about what we will wear, we can spend our energy on pursuing the things of God. The way we show up has less to do with our clothes and more to do with our character. Love is patient. Love is kind. It is not rude, nor does it boast.

As we move closer to Easter, let’s think about the other ways we clothe ourselves. St. Paul suggests we begin with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience (Colossians 3:12). Good news! I looked these up and they come in every color!

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