Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Yo Yo Sunday

You are going to love this Sonshine moment. It’s “Good Shepherd Sunday” and I’m thinking what can I do to help my parish family understand God’s love for them. The theme is “Nothing can take us out of the Jesus' hand.” So the light bulb goes off and I’m on the phone with a Sonshine friend and ask if he can find a vendor to order 100 “yo yo’s.

On Good Shepherd Sunday we read from the Gospel John: “ I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. (John 10:28).

After the reading, I invite all the kids into the sanctuary. I ask: Do any of you have a yo-yo?  Do you know how to do any tricks with your yo-yo?  I brought my yo-yo this morning and I thought I would give a little demonstration.  I'm not really very good, but I can do a few simple tricks.
Then I bring out yo yo’s for all the kids to practice. What a sight!

Then I shared this story as the kids were playing with their yo yo’s. Did you notice that every one of my tricks started and ended exactly the same way?  Each trick began and ended with the yo-yo in the palm of my hand.  Jesus said, "I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand."  When we give our heart to Jesus and place our life in his hands, we know that we are safe and that nothing can snatch us from his hand.  Oh, we may have our "ups and downs."  We may even stray away at times, but just a little tug will pull us right back into His hand.  Even when we really mess up, like I did on the "around the world" trick, he picks us up and dusts us off and there we are, right back in the palm of His hand.

Then I turned to the congregation, I have a surprise for you. I had the kids pass out yo’yo’s to the whole congregation. I told them to get up from their seats and start practicing. It was an incredible moment of grace, 7 year old's and 70 year old's were pulling their yo-yo’s up and down, people were laughing, making a scene, but everyone was having fun and learned the lesson. What an incredible group of folks who know how to laugh and pray!

You know isn't it great to have the assurance that Jesus has put us in the palm of his hand and that nothing can harm us or take us from his hand!
Then I offered this prayer with the children: “Dear Jesus, we thank you for holding us in your hand and for giving us the promise that nothing can take us from your hands.”

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends to remind them that You are always there to hold us in Your loving and compassionate hands. Let us all never forget that. Get your yo yo and starting practicing your “round the world.”

Monday, April 11, 2016

On My Knees


Last night, I received a call from a long-time friend who wanted to share that his doctor has diagnosed him with prostate cancer. His medical team explained his options, and so he’s quite concerned and needs our prayers.

Then another online friend requested prayers for someone whose teenage children have left home. However, the kids came home and trashed their parent’s apartment. At the same time, this mother’s cancer has returned and she feels overwhelmed.

This morning another friend has been waiting for two weeks after his alcohol evaluation to start detox. He plans to drive to the clinic this morning with his overnight bag in hand and scream, “I’m ready for treatment, what’s taking so long!” In the meantime, he needs his pain medication to control his cancer.

Then last night, yes Sunday night, I was requested to conduct a memorial prayer service for a family whose brother committed suicide. Before the service, I met the brother and sister, nieces, nephew and girlfriend. They shared wonderful stories that he enjoyed riding horses and boating along the canal. However, he struggled with depression.

Imagine yourself standing on a dock beside one of those great old-time sailing vassals. It’s standing there, sails folded, waiting for the wind. Suddenly the breeze comes up, and the captain orders the sails to be hoisted and catches the sail full force and carries the ship away from the dock, where you are standing. Inevitably you are bound to say: “Well, there she’s goes!”

Soon the mighty ship is on the horizon where it looks like a speck before it disappears. It’s still grand and mighty, but it’s left us. We’re standing on the dock quite alone. But imagine on the other side of the ocean people are standing in anticipation and the speck on the horizon becomes larger and they begin to cry something different. They are crying with joy, not abandonment. “Here she comes!” And at the landing there is welcome, joy, embracing and celebration.

When you are on your knees and life is drifting away over the horizon, picture Jesus waiting on the eternal shore, who understands the human heart even when everything has gone wrong. And at that moment, instead of despair, fear and confusion, we are filled with life and hope and in the arms of the One who makes all things new again, the one who says, “Welcome little one. Welcome home.

This Easter season let us pray and remember: “He will feed his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms, and carry them in his bosom, and gently lead the mother sheep.” (Isaiah 40: 11).

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends who are “on their knees” at this moment feeling anxious, exhausted and afraid. The Risen Christ stands on the shore waiting to embrace you in his arms to bring his healing and peace

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Running On Empty

An 84 year-old mom celebrated Easter with her adult children and heard her daughter make the comment that she was a tough mother when her girls were growing up. She was hurt by this remark because she felt that she was always there for her kids—through their cancer treatments, unemployment, divorces and assorted problems. She later visited the cemetery and stood in front of the graves of her parents and husband and asked: “Was she a good person?” Her kids had put doubt in her mind despite the fact she made sure her kids had everything they needed in life.

Despite our best efforts, there are times when we feel that we are “running on empty.” On Easter morning, the disciples were “running on empty” and wondered did they make a mistake believing that Jesus was the Messiah?   

In the midst of their confusion, doubt and fear, Jesus shows up and says: “Peace be with you.”  In other words, “Calm down you guys and gals!  Chill out!  Take a deep breath. Relax. It’s going to be ok.” That’s not what they were expecting!  They were expecting Jesus to give them a grilling with questions like, “Why did you abandon me? Where were you when I needed you the most? Why don’t you believe the report of Mary that I have risen from the dead?”

But Jesus doesn’t criticize. He understands how we are feeling when we are “running on empty”. He knows about the confusion, the doubts, the anxiety, the stress, the sickness, and the weariness that fills our lives and so he comes to us and quietly says, “Peace be with you.” Know that I am here with you.  I am walking this journey with you. You’re not alone. You can talk to me in prayer. You can lean on me when you are weak.

When we are “running on empty” Jesus offers us forgiveness. Forgiveness is a huge re-energizer, because the things that cause us to run out of energy and drain us emotionally and physically are guilt, remorse and resentment. Our senior lady nurturing was questioned by her daughter. How do we let go of our doubts and resentments when people make negative comments about us? There’s only one way to do that. Forgiveness. 

This Easter season let us pray and remember: “ There is forgiveness with you, so that you may be revered. ” Psalm 130: 4.

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends who are “running on empty.” The Risen Christ comes to us to renew, refresh and energize our drooping spirits with a simple message: “Peace be with you.” Relax dear friends, for the risen Jesus fills us with hope.