And then he read a passage.
Felt like one of those sacred echoes.
LOVE it when that happens.
ANYways, this past Saturday (my own personal Sabbath - I adore church on Saturday evening. And I lovelovelove sleeping in on Sunday morning...) I drove out to church with some baggage on my mind. And that baggage is seriously not good for me. Physically, it's just not good for me to continue carrying around stuff that I have no control over.
In November 2007, I went to the doctor for some sleeping pills because I was knee deep in a medical crisis with my parents and needed help putting it aside for 6 hours at night. My body was pumping adrenaline so fast and hard my fingertips were 'zinging'. He checked my blood pressure and for the first time in my entire life, he didn't say, "Oh, good. On the low side of normal.'
Since then, whenever he checks it (always when I go in regarding a crisis) he notes that it's high. Finally, last fall, when I was freaking out about those gas attacks (that were really gall bladder attacks) he decided it had been high for too long, he prescribed a water pill that should set things right. I'd been on it for six months, and went in for a renewal a few weeks ago on the exact same day I got a letter that caused me to panic about my finances. He wasn't pleased with my numbers and decided to change my meds.
When I got the prescription filled, the pharmacist recommended I drop by the following week and check my pressure at their free, easy to use, blood pressure station.
So that's what I did on Saturday.
And my numbers?
Which up until now have meant nothing to me?
All of a sudden mean EVERYTHING to me.
It's not til you see the chart of where a person should be do you realize that high score doesn't always win.
Both my numbers are so high, they're not even on the chart.
Weight has alot to do with it.
But so does my inability to deal with stress in a healthy way.
I guess it's not normal to wake up EVERY SINGLE DAY with a stomach sore from worrying. Even before my brain wakes up my stomach is saying, "oh no. It's another day. What's going to happen with x? And y? And, oh my goodness, z?"
Thoughts of my kids/parents/family never leave me. I have very little faith that things will turn out OK. I am a glass-half-empty kinda gal. And then to add to my 'normal' worries, I feel guilty that I haven't done enough for God. You know, like share Jesus with the Safeway clerk or tithe 50% or offer homeless people the use of my spare bedroom.
So I go to church on Saturday night with a whack of baggage - kids, parents, extended family, health, Africa, homeless people, drug addicts, neighbours, friends ... and what my responsibility is to all of it.
It was "family" weekend, and there was a child dedication service at the start of the evening. These always kill me (figuratively) because I remember standing at the the front of three different churches for each of my three different sons, pledging, together with their dad, to
- bring up our children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord, making every reasonable effort, with patience and love, to build the Word of God, the character of Christ and the joy of the Lord into their lives.
And watching these dedication services just makes me feel lousy about the way they ended up being raised. I could have done better. I should have tried harder. I wasn't good enough. Holy enough. Strong enough. Wise enough. My parenting failures bubble up to the surface when I watch idealist young parents promise to raise their children to know and love God.
And then we sang some songs. Good songs. Even some oldies that had been re-worked abit. The one that had my cheeks soaking wet was "Blessed Assurance". And the line? "Angels descending bring from above, echoes of mercy, whispers of love."
Because of the aforementioned 'family service' theme, there was a children's feature about being a farmer. And planting. And what a person needs to do if they want peas and carrots growing in their garden.
You work the soil.
You add fertilizer.
You plant the seed.
You sprinkle with water.
Then he asked the kids... "now what? Now what do I do to get this seed to grow and become a carrot?" And the kids had no answer.
Because there's nothing else to do. The rest is up to God.
And then Jeff started his sermon.
It was based on Mark 4:26 - 32
The Kingdom of God is like ...
1. ... a man scatters seeds on the ground, and it doesn't matter if he sleeps or is awake, the seed sprouts and grows...
2. ... a seed as tiny as a mustard seed that grows into a 15 foot high plant in one season...
So the Kingdom of God grows because God is doing the growing. That's God's job. HE CAUSES THE SEEDS TO SPROUT. And this Kingdom? Is growing. By His design. By His hand. THAT'S HIS JOB.
And this Kingdom? Is growing LARGE. It's gonna be HUGE. Huge like the proportion of a mustard seed to a fully grown mustard plant. And it will get this big because of HIM. He will grow it. We can scatter the seeds, but the growing part? That's God's responsibility.
And then Jeff said, over and over again - "The Kingdom of God grows because of God. It is inevitable. It is unstoppable."
You know how, when, you've recorded a game (hockey or say, soccer) and decide only to watch the game once you know that your team has won? And so even though the other team may be ahead at half time, or even though there's some dirty play early on... they don't mean anything. The setbacks in the middle of the game mean nothing when you know the outcome.
And - with that in mind, we can rest because we know THE outcome. The Kingdom of God is going to win... He has already overcome death. So we can pray with joy because we know where this thing is headed - it's growing.
And then Jeff said some magic words: "God's Kingdom will grow. And it's not our job. We can sleep well because God is on watch."
We can sleep well because God is on watch.
I can sleep well because God is on watch.
I don't have to worry about these mid-game setbacks because I know how the game ends. He won.
God is growing things.
He is in the business of growing things. It's His job and He does it well.
The service ended with Johnny and Brad singing another blast from the past: This is My Father's World.
This is my Father's world. O let me ne'er forget that though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet. This is my Father's world: why should my heart be sad? The Lord is King; let the heavens ring! God reigns; let the earth be glad!
I didn't have a stitch of makeup on by the time I met some friends at the House of James afterwards.
"I'd like a book on prayer", one of my friends says.
So we wander over to the prayer section and look over the titles.
"I wouldn't recommend this one," I said. "I felt so guilty after reading it, I think I threw it away."
"What did you feel guilty about?"
"That all the bad things that have happened to me or my family or to anyone anywhere in the world is my fault because I didn't pray about it. And I didn't say the right magic words. Or invite a large enough group of people to join me in that prayer. Or whatever."
And then my other, very wise, very loving friend, said to me, "that guilt comes from Satan. He is totally messing with you. The writer of that book was excited about what he knows about prayer, and wants to share it with you. Satan took that and messed it up. Don't let him do that."
(It is for this reason that I love going out with friends. I have such smart ones. )
So here we are one day after that sermon and that House of James conversation and it's 3:00 am and I'm praying about another crisis and my mind won't shut off. I am such a slow learner. I suck at application. I get it with my heart. But my head wants to overthink it.
Three things I'm thankful for:
1. Patient, wise friends.
2. Enthusiastic, anointed, wise pastors.
3. A loving, merciful, wide-awake-at-night-looking-after-things God.
You know what's going on, don't you? I don't know what to do, what to say or even how to pray. I'm going to leave it all with you, and rest in the knowledge that You are growing things. I'm going to rest knowing that Your hand is all over this situation and that You'll use it for Your purposes and glory. God? I pray Your will be done.