Saturday, September 20, 2014

Hello, gentle readers...

I've been thinking (always a danger) and considering my "ministry."  We know that "ministry" means to serve.  And ministry is truly that to which God has called me.  That ministry finds itself divided into different camps, so to speak.  Today I'm going to try to separate them out and share them with you.

The first is related to the picture above.  I am called to care and to listen.  I love communication. I love discussing things of importance.  Trivial things generally don't matter to me when it comes to knowing a person and caring deeply for them.  I question.  I contemplate the meaning of answers.  I love to help someone question their preconceived ideas and possibly consider a new thought.  The biggest obstacle to communication is not listening to genuinely hear what another says.  We are taught today to answer before listening. I  must admit this is a difficult one for me.  Now that I struggle with memory problems, I'm always thinking ahead and, disturbingly, jumping into conversations before I forget what it was I was thinking.  Because of that, I think I've lost a step or two on the ministry of listening intently to others and helping them see different ways of thinking. 

The second is related to working with those at end of life.  It has been a passion to help people cross over the threshold of heaven for some time.  In many cases, God asks us to just sit with those in difficulty.  We do not have to speak unless the one who is ill asks.  In my experience, most who are lucid at death want their loved ones. They want to talk about how they feel and the wonderful times they had together.  And at death, go peacefully into heaven.  Those who are very ill (or in some cases unconscious) simply need support.  They want someone to sit with them, provide comfort, hold a hand.  It is this eleventh-hour ministry that means so much to me.  When I worked at a cemetery, I had the privilege of burying several small children.  The families didn't want a lot of conversation.  They wanted comfort.  And it is to that ministry of comfort, I feel called and compelled to serve.

And the third, strange as it may seem, is a call to worship in music.  Yes, those who have known me for a long time know my love of music.  I, at one time, had quite a ministry and sang in many wonderful places.  But in His wisdom, God set that on a back burner.  I have wrestled with my health.  I have stopped playing my guitar, drums, piano, bass.  All have been quiet for many years.  I have a draw, a yearning, in my heart to begin again.  I don't know if I will regain my skill level.  Maybe the yearning is for my own edification.  Or maybe it is to share with a select few.  But if God opened the door for a higher calling in that area, I would make myself available to the Lord.  I bought a medium sized Djembe.  I have a small one.  Once my music area is set, I will set those up and begin working with them.  My guitars are tuned and ready.  I want to pick up some worship CDs and get my ear in tune, too.  

So those are the three main areas of the call of God on my life:  Listening and challenging the faithful and the seeking;  caring for those facing death and their families who are bereft and in pain;  using music to bring myself and those God puts on my path to a place of worship and reverence for our Almighty Lord and Savior.

What are your gifts?  What are your areas of ministry, service, to God and man?  We all have gifts given to us to help others.  Maybe you love children and can help in the nursery at your church.  Maybe you like being behind the scenes and help with setting up chairs and tables.  And maybe you like music and want to be the "guitar wrangler" at your church or setting up and breaking down the stage and pulpit.  Do you care about our young people?  Get involved in Youth Ministry helping teens find their way through the maze of temptations before them.

You get the idea.  We all bring something to the table.  So what's your something?  I challenge you to identify it and step out in faith using what you've been given!

Yours in the service of Christ,


Friday, September 12, 2014

It may sound silly, but in the mornings I flip the laptop on and look at the postings on Pinterest.  I know, kind of crazy way to see God, right?  But something or someone always speaks to my heart.  This was the one today.  I hope you'll bear with me.  I'm going to step on some toes.  And I'm going to talk numbers.  And ultimately, we are going to talk about faith.

There are four parts to the prayer in the picture: (1) to have eyes to see the best in folks, (2) to have a heart that forgives the worst, (3) to have a mind that forgets the bad, and (4) to have a soul that never loses faith in God.

I think " have eyes that see the best in people..." is listed first for a reason.  In our world today it is impossible to avoid being bombarded by the worst.  We have 24/7 news that is giving us the terrible things that happen around the world.  We are told in our churches to avoid those who are different.  We are told by our commercials if we are not like those we see in them, we are to be shamed.  Think about how many times a day we are assaulted by the negative.

Now translate that into how we see other people; those created of God and in His image.  We cherry pick the Scriptures to pick out ways in which others don't meet standards of preconceived ideas of what a Christian is supposed to look like, be like, act like.  When we use those standards to judge (and yes, we judge) others, we see the worst.  Different races, skin colors, religions, politics.    There are so many ways we can tear each other down.  And in so doing, we actually tear down ourselves and the entire Body of Christ.

Yet, there are so many ways to see the best and encourage it in others. "Thank you for holding that door.  That was so sweet of you."  "Oh, you look so nice today. I love your shoes."  "Oh you really helped me by copying that memo for me.  Thank you."  There are a million ways you can bless someone.  Maybe a co-worker needs a new coffee cup for work and you quietly place one on their desk.  Or maybe you could bless your spouse with coffee in bed. (I see a coffee theme here.  Maybe I should bless myself with another cup!)  Maybe someone you know is having a difficult day.  Put a small bunch of wildflowers on their desk with a note that says, "hope this brings a little sunshine."   Have a gay friend?  Invite her to church and let her know you will be by her side.  I had a friend do that for me recently.  And I was doubly blessed! Get the idea?

When you bless others, you bless yourself.

"...a heart that forgives the worst..."  That's a little more difficult, isn't it?  First, let me say that forgiveness does NOT require an apology.  Forgiveness is about the forgiver, not the forgiven.  Forgiveness gives freedom. I've heard it said that not forgiving others is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.  Sounds extreme because it is.  I'm going to go out on a limb here.  I see the Old Testament (OT) as full of judgment.  I see the New Testament (NT) as full of love.  Had not God given us Jesus (NT), God's wrath would have continued (OT).

And how much are we to forgive?  Seven times?  No, seventy times seven.  (Matthew 18:22)  Let's look at the numbers.  Seven in the Bible is a number representing completion.  Our week has seven days.  The week is completed.  Ten is the number of the Law.  God gave ten commandments.  Okay, now let's play that out.  Seventy is ten sevens, right?  Therefore the Law was completed in forgiveness...the forgiveness of God.  Jesus filled all the requirements of the Law (OT).

Therefore, when we are called to forgive, we are called to act as Christ and forgive any and all transgressions.

"...a mind that forgets the bad..."   We've agreed to see the best in people and forgive them with our whole heart. Now, we come to forgetting the bad. Ouch. That hurts, doesn't it?  Forget?  I already had to forgive!  Isn't that enough?  God says it is not.  Psalm 103:12 says our transgressions are removed as far as the east is from the west.  If that was not so, would they be forgotten?  How in the world do we forget the bad?  Honestly,this is a work in progress for me.  I have been through some pretty difficult things.  I can't say I have accomplished the mind that forgets the bad.  Have I forgiven?  Yes, I believe I have in most cases.  There are a few that are more difficult to work through.

I believe my point here is that, as Paul says, (I Cor. 2:16) we have the "mind of Christ."  If that is so, then we have the capability in Christ to forgive and forget.  How many times have we heard that colloquialism?  Oh just forgive and forget!  It isn't easy!!!   But we must forget.  We must tap into that mind of Christ.  Every day I pray for a heart to forgive and the will to forget.  In essence, I am praying for the mind of Christ.  

Take a look at Philippians 2:1-8. (ESV - my favorite)

1So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.3Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,a 6who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,7but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,b being born in the likeness of men. 8And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

I think those verses sum up the first three items on our prayer list.  Verse 2 says to be of the same mind of Christ; same love, in full fellowship with one another. Verse 3 says to not be selfish or conceited but humble.  Verse 4 says you are your brother's keeper, to keep that brother or sister in the best light. And verse 5 sums it up: Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.

Hear that last promise.  The mind of Christ is promised to us all.  And it is that mind that forgives, forgets, and sees the best in all.

That leads us to our last point, "...a soul that never loses faith in God..."  If we are living the Philippians 2 life, we will not lose faith in God.  We may lose faith in other people, but not in God.  Let me give you some background on this for me:

I came to Christ at 17 years of age, on my knees in my small bedroom, knowing that I needed a savior.  I was born into a non-practicing Christian family.  So my background was that of a Christian.  Not long after my "conversion" I found myself in deep trouble.  I had feelings from the time I was a child that I had no idea what to label.  I found myself dealing with what being "gay" meant.  I was shocked at myself.  I was clueless (a very immature kid).  My dad said it made him "sick."  My mom, who never cared for me, became even more open with her negative view of me.  My church, which I had just turned to for help, kicked me out.  Matter of fact, several churches (even though I never sought a relationship with anyone in the churches), kicked me to the curb.  I was forcibly exorcised, "layed hands" on, preached at, called before churches and deacon boards, etc.  You simply cannot imagine the horrible treatment I received at the hands of the church.  I tried to be what they wanted.  I really tried.  I could not.  And through it all I learned that God hated me, his people hated me, and there was no place for me in God's world.

It's been a long road to seeing that I was the victim of terrible folks doing terrible things in the name of God.  But I now see that they were NOT God.  God loves me. (John 3:16)   God accepts me.  I am fearfully and wonderfully made. (Psalm 139)  He knew me from the time I was in my mother's womb.  He knew.  He knew everything about me.  And GOD loved me.  The church may not, but GOD does.

If anyone has a reason to lose faith in God, I do.  Truly.  But God, in His loving way, brought people into my life who treated me like a "whosoever."  They admited they knew what they were taught, but in some ways cannot reconcile it with who they know God is.

I have worked though my life and understand what it means to have a soul that never loses faith in God.  And I pray, through God's love, I won't lose faith again.  What are your obstacles to keeping faith with/in God?  And how will you knock down those obstacles?  Do not lose faith in God.  He will provide a way you can accomplish the previous three prayers.

So we are full circle.  We commit to see the best in folks.  We commit to open our hearts to forgiveness.  We commit to the mind of Christ in forgiving others and we commit to never losing our faith in God.

Just for today, pray this prayer.  Just for today.  And tomorrow.  And the next day.

God's blessings,
TheLesRev - Cindi

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Hello, Gentle Readers...

It has been several years since I posted to this blog.  I pray now it will be a regular practice as I learn and grow.

The photo posted reminds me of the rest we have in Christ, and of the flow of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  I also see the wonder that is creation and know that every leaf can speak the Word of God to our lives.  As was written (Luke 19:40 -  He answered, "I tell you, if they were to keep silent, the stones would cry out!" )

And I'm sure you are wondering why?  Why post to this blog now?  The answer is simple:  I was lost in a world of paganism following a very hurtful event that drove me away from God.  But the love of God is eternal and ever-seeking those that are lost.  And He found me.  I reaffirmed the Love of Christ in my life.  Yes, I did.  And now I am working my way back to full understanding of the working of the Holy Spirit in my life.

How did that come about?  Through the love, concern and prayers of some wonderful people whom God placed in my life as examples of Christ.  There was the sweet woman and her mom who took my dog training classes and loved me no matter what.  They would come in the store and be so kind to me.  I remained friends with that woman named Diane. And through social media we kept in touch.  Her simple walk with God reached me.

The there were my corgi friends (yep I'm a crazy person for corgis).  Mary Ann, Mary Elizabeth, Marcia, and Rebecca.  Each loved me through my lost state of being.  No pressure, just a wonderful experience of love with each.  And I found myself wondering, questioning.  Could God still love me?  If these women could, couldn't God?

And then there is Haley.  I met Haley and her mom many years ago when Haley was just a teen.  Both had such a sweet, gentle, caring spirit about them.  I knew when I met Haley, she was someone special.  I knew she was chosen by God for great things.  Deep in my heart, the Spirit stirred.  Over time, we became friends.  The middle aged lesbian and the young Christian woman.  No judgments!  I was amazed at this love.  I had not experienced it in Christian circles.  I had been beaten, raped, dragged in front of deacons and preachers, forcibly "delivered", forcibly exorcised.  But here was someone, and her mom, who were just sweet, genuine people.  They hold a special place in my heart.

All of these folks showed me the way.  All of them prayed for me.  All of them loved me.  And all of them celebrated with me when I bowed my head before God and asked Him to take me back.  Much like the prodigal son, I was stunned at the celebration thrown for me.

So, here I am again.  I hope you will walk this journey with me.  I  hope you will be generous in your comments. 

God be worshiped. Jesus be praised.  Holy Spirit come down.

God's blessings to you all,

Rev. Dr. Cindi Green Bautista