Thursday, April 30, 2009

Pandemic Fear

We were returning from a trip to Philadelphia when we saw the first alarming news of the spread of swine flu on CNN in the airport waiting room at Dallas Fort Worth Airport. Since then the news has been grim, but according to the physicians in my life also overblown and exaggerated. Fear is just as contagious as a virus at times. Fear was actually the topic of my last sermon, its difficulties and the way it can freeze us in our tracks. We live in a time of fear---fear of disease and storms and terrorism and economic collapse. The world is a scary place, but it has always been scary to be human. The important question to ask is how do you deal with that fear so that it does not consume your life?

My fear is made manageable by the family and friends who love me and care about what's going on in my life. I heard just this morning from our former Chinese teacher, who has returned to teaching in her university in China. She had seen news of the swine flu in Texas and wrote to ask if we were okay. I wrote back to assure here we are fine at the moment. I'm praying for all of those who have been affected by this disease, including those like my husband, sons and daughter-in-law who are physicians caring for those who are ill.

But mostly the way I deal with fear is by turning to God. The text I preached on the Sunday after Easter was from the Gospel of John and ended with the author's explanation that the gospel was written so that we might believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing we might have life in his name. Not constant fear, which is no way to live, but life abundant and joyful. That's a lesson I have to regularly relearn, and I have my own times of fear and grief and sadness. But I have learned to turn to God for comfort in such dark and fearful times, and I've never been disappointed or left alone when I seek God's presence at such times.

Grace and Peace,
Donna Sue

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Considering the Lilies

I'm slowly emerging from the fog of grief over my dad's death last fall, and I'm realizing how many things passed me by in that time of grief and family angst. I still find myself reaching for the phone to call him, and then remembering that, as my brother says, "It's LONG distance." Most recently it was because I wanted to share the news that he had another great-grandson. In this ongoing process of grief, I'm slowly finding that color and light and joy are gradually returning to my life, in the midst of days that are still unexpectedly bleak, gray and hard.

I found unexpected help a couple of days ago during my weekly trip to the local grocery store. I trudged in with my basket as usual, and there before me were the Easter lilies, scenting the air around them with their sweet smell. And Easter came upon me in that moment with all its promise, lifting the weight on my heart just a bit for good. As I always do, I brought one home with me to scent the air of our home and to remind me of God's promise of hope.

I just finished reading Rev. Dr. Scott Black Johnston's Easter sermon on Day He is a former seminary professor, and an amazing preacher, who is now the Senior Pastor at Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York City. One phrase in particular stuck with me, "Jesus is loose in the world." Praise God. Easter has come again. He is risen. He is risen indeed. Death doesn't have the last word after all. Jesus is loose in the world.

Grace and Peace,
Donna Sue

Saturday, April 4, 2009

The Still Small Voice

I went to a court hearing this past week, something I've not done since I retired from active law practice almost ten years ago. A young man who has been attending our church was arrested and at this hearing plead guilty to burglary, a serious charge. I also know him to have a good heart as I've watched him care for his sisters and brother with wisdom and discipline beyond his years. He's not yet out of high school. I found out about the hearing by accident, and decided it was important to go. I wanted to remind him that he is still a child of God, in spite of the big mistake he made.

Actually, the still, small voice that I've learned to recognize as God speaking to me nagged me mercilessly until I made plans to go. At the hearing they brought the young man in with shackles on his feet and hands, and I was glad our pastor and another friend from church were there along with his mom and one of her friends. His attorney asked the judge to reduce his bond so he could go home while he waits for his sentencing hearing. He's not been in trouble before, so those of us who know him are hoping that he will be able to go to a children's home on probation--a second chance. We're praying for that result at the next hearing.

Who of us has not needed a second chance in our lives? The judge recognized me from my days practicing law, which I hope was a good thing. In any case, he reduced the bond so that the kid was able to go home on a strict curfew the next day. Once again I was grateful that I had listened when God nudged me, and worried about the times when I've not paid close enough attention to recognize God's nudges. Easy to do when life takes over and the daily noise crowds out God's voice, which is indeed still and small. As one of my favorite seminary professors said, "It's not easy to hear God's voice in a place such as this."

Grace and Peace,
Donna Sue