Can you handle it?

Last Sunday in worship, we had the privilege of joining with three young families as they dedicated themselves to raising their children in such a way that those young ones would come to experience God and accept Jesus as their savior. But, I’m pretty sure that won’t be the last time we get to do that this calendar year. Which, in my opinion, is awesome. Then, following worship I had a conversation about baptism with one of the youth. Also very exciting.

God is working in and through this community of faith, in both small and large ways. And I, for one, am excited about what the future holds for us. However, this growth brings with it a fair amount of concern as well. How do we go about meeting the needs of these young families and these young men and women, while at the same time meeting the needs of their parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents?

How do we help them experience the love of God that has transformed and is transforming our lives? After all, the world has changed (in some ways) from when we were growing up. Technology and other pressures have changed the way in which we communicate with one another, which has altered the very fabric of our society. Even things that might be said to provide a sense of comfort and security may no longer be heard that way.

For example, you may have heard it said “God will never give you more than you can handle.” Did you know that this saying did not come from the Bible? It’s really a paraphrase of something that Mother Teresa once said. And, I’m not sure she was right on this one.

There are a few things that bother me about this saying. First of all, it implies that God is up in heaven doling out every situation to every person on earth. While I don’t think this is beyond God’s ability, I’m not sure that we really like what it may say about God. For example, if the pipes in my house had frozen and burst during that blast of arctic weather, I’m not sure that God would have been directing that action. Or I’m not sure that I believe God directs the paths of storms to only affect those who can handle the aftermath.

Someone recently wrote that the exact opposite is true. That God will give us more than we can handle, because if we could handle things on our own, we wouldn’t need God. I think that’s a bit closer. But I still have trouble with God “testing” us in that way. It just doesn’t seem very God-like. I do believe God allows us to be tested. Just read Job, or about the temptation of Jesus if you need proof that we are tested. But in both of those situations it isn’t God who does the testing, but Satan…

Another issue I have is the phrase indicates that if life has become “more than you can handle,” then your faith must not be strong enough. I know that my experiences don’t necessarily translate to universal experiences, but, I know the weight of too much. And, if we are honest with ourselves, I think we all do. We understand that we need help. Connections. Friendship. Sometimes therapy. We need to know that “too much” is OK, with the church, and with God.

Maybe the sign in one of the restrooms here at the church building says it best, “God doesn’t give us what we can handle, God helps us handle what we are given. Together, as a community of faith, with God’s help, I truly believe we can handle it all, even when it is all too much.

When Sharing Hurts

When sharing hurts

 

As the angel choir withdrew into heaven, the sheepherders talked it over. “Let’s get over to Bethlehem as fast as we can and see for ourselves what God has revealed to us.” They left, running, and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. Seeing was believing. They told everyone they met what the angels had said about this child. All who heard the sheepherders were impressed.

 

Mary kept all these things to herself, holding them dear, deep within herself.

Luke 2: 15-19 “The Message”

 

It is a new year. And a new year often bring with it a feeling of new beginnings, a desire to start fresh, to re-evaluate our lives, and to make plans and goals for the next year. I’ve never been one for making New Year’s resolutions. So often I try to add in a new habit, or remove an old one, only to succeed for a short period of time and the have the effort collapse. The cycle has left me a bit wearied of the whole adventure. But a few things I’ve read recently have caused me to re-think my disdain for New Year’s resolutions.

It all began as I was reading through a daily devotional I had been given for Christmas. Written by former NFL coach Tony Dungy, this devotional gives a coach’s perspective on faith, which I find intriguing for a number of reasons (which may make a nice article in the future.) Anyway, Tony was writing about setting goals and how he asked his players to focus on qualitative, not quantitative, goals.

Briefly the difference is between setting a goal to win a certain number of games (quantitative) or setting a goal to play up to your fullest potential (qualitative.) His reasoning is there are other factors beyond our control in many quantitative goals. Winning games requires more than playing your best, it requires your best to be better than the other team’s effort that day. Or, for me, I may not run my fastest race ever because of weather conditions, the course is a little long, etc.

Realizing the type of goal setting we do is important was helpful for me. This small change made it more about the process and less about the end result. This resonates with me theologically, too. We all still stumble and “fall short of the glory of God.” For some this begins a cycle of shame that is difficult to overcome. Failing at one of our goals, or spiritual practices is not the end of the world. Rather it is an opportunity to reset and re-engage the process of living for God again.

Then I was reading one of my favorite authors (Donald Miller) who was writing about how we should not share our goals or resolutions with others. The rationale is in sharing our goals our brain enjoys the sharing in the same way as it enjoys the achievement itself. So we actually lose a little motivation. He urges us to write down our goals, break them into manageable pieces, and then to follow in Mary’s footsteps and treasure them up in our hearts.

This way we are not motivated by how impressed our friends and family are with our goals. Rather we can be fulfilled in our accomplishment of our goals. So, I invite you to join with me in setting some goals for the future, for this year and the years to come. Then, let’s all keep those goals to ourselves and support one another knowing that each of us is working toward something fulfilling and meaningful in their own life. And may each of us be blessed with the fulfillment of reaching our goals in the coming year.

Cancellation

The yoga session planned for this evening has been cancelled. Most activities at the church will follow with the Marshfield School District. If school is cancelled we will usually cancel the activities as well. (As a general rule, there are exceptions.)

I hope you’ll join us next Monday at 6:30pm for a time of fellowship, fitness and fun! All you need to bring is a willingness to try and a yoga mat 🙂

All activities cancelled

Due to weather and road conditions and a concern for the safety of all, Marshfield Christian Church is cancelling all activities on January 5th. This will also postpone our congregational meeting, originally scheduled for January 12th. We will inform everyone of the new date for that meeting as soon as possible.

Be safe, be warm, and know that you are in our prayers!