Archive for August, 2012

Time in a Bottle

By Kathy NickersonAugust 30th, 2012mercy6 Comments

Back in the seventies, Wendell and I grabbed Jim Croce’s Time in a Bottle as Our Song. (Our first song was actually Dead Skunk in the Middle of the Road, but that is a story for another post. We selected the more romantic one later on.) We talked about growing old even before we left high school completely behind. It was as if in all our bell-bottomed wisdom we knew what was going to happen. We knew we would walk down that aisle on a Tuesday evening in May, pledge our eternal love, and then turn around and discover we are the grandparents of the school’s quarterback. (Our quarterbacks are all in middle school right now, but they will be pro’s before we blink again.)

This weekend, we are celebrating Wendell’s fortieth high school reunion. It won’t be much of a splash for us. We will mostly just go to dinner with a few old friends and swap grandchildren stories. But the milestone gives me pause, nonetheless.

And, it also gives me the most amazing revelation. I have no regrets.

Wendell and I have spent thirty-nine of those forty years smack-dab together. We’ve had good times and bad times and times so hard we weren’t sure we’d survive. But, we did. And I am grateful now for every experience. I don’t understand all of them yet, and I’d gladly change a couple of outcomes if it were up to me. But I’m grateful for how we walked through them and how we came out of them stronger. Better.

We have never been able to save time in a bottle (Though the psalmist says God collects our tears that way.) We have bottled a lot of memories, though. And we plan to make a lot more in the next forty years. Then, when we are really, really old we will just shake the bottle up and let the memories explode like champaign around us.

Then, we’ll sing a chorus of Dead Skunk just for fun. Everybody now, “Dead Skunk in the middle of the road, dead skunk in the middle of the road…”

 

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For My Friend

By Kathy NickersonAugust 27th, 2012mercy1 Comment

Today (if you are reading this on Monday) I have a friend in need. Her situation isn’t unique in our broken world. In fact, you could insert the name of your own friend and her need right here and this post and would still say the same thing. These moments remind me of the C.S. Lewis quote, “We are not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be.”

And so, for my friend and yours, I want to post this prayer from Psalm 20 today. If you are fortunate you have heard my daughter Charity sing it at some point in your life.

Psalm 20, NLT

For the choir director: A psalm of David.

In times of trouble, may the Lord answer your cry.
May the name of the God of Jacob keep you safe from all harm.
May he send you help from his sanctuary
and strengthen you from Jerusalem.
May he remember all your gifts
and look favorably on your burnt offerings. Interlude

May he grant your heart’s desires
and make all your plans succeed.
May we shout for joy when we hear of your victory
and raise a victory banner in the name of our God.
May the Lord answer all your prayers.

 

 

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Of Tears and Treasures

By Kathy NickersonAugust 23rd, 2012mercy2 Comments

When you set out to build a thing – a family, a church, a community – you never think about a cemetery. At least, we didn’t when we moved to this intentional community ten years ago. The town was only seven years old then, growing up in the middle of a cornfield. The center piece was the church, where broken hearts were getting healed. And the town spoked out from that hub offering employment, education, and practical experiences for rebuilding lives.

We had only been here a few months when our family became pioneers in a way we’d never imagined. Ellery Blythe White, our glory grandbaby, became the first member of the community to have need of a cemetery. Our devoted friend, Dave, contacted the state and plotted out the land while our brother-in-law, Kris, made the funeral arrangements. It wasn’t the contribution we wanted to make.

Last weekend, we gathered again at the cemetery to bury our town’s beloved Mr. Marshall. More than half a dozen gravestones have been added between Ellery’s and his. Because, that is the way of things. Every building includes some dying.

We don’t think so much about death in our cemetery, though. We think a lot more about life. We buried Mr. Marshall on Saturday, and on Sunday, Mrs. Marshall was at church as usual. Our four-year-old grandson, Simeon, did the typical embarrass-your-parents-at-the-first-opportunity and asked her if it was true her husband died.

“Yes,” she told him. “He died. But he is in Heaven now. Isn’t that neat? I think it is neat.”

Simeon nodded with a solemn face and said, “There are treasures in Heaven.”

Ah, yes, Sims, that is true. And now there is one more.

 

 

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The Ministry of Presence

By Kathy NickersonAugust 20th, 2012mercy7 Comments

I’ve just finished this delightful book, The Unraveling of Reverend G, by fellow Heart of America Christian Writers Network author, RJ Thesman. (And fellow CrossRiver Media author. All disclaimers have now been given.) Thesman tackles the difficult question, “What happens to our relationship with God when dementia steals our minds?” And she does it with such spunk that I came away wanting to:

A.)become a lady preacher

B.)own a cat

C.)eat a big bowl of ice cream

D.)develop a relationship with God that will permeate my every reality.

Out of all the moments I loved in the book, though, this one remains in my mind. When Reverend G. starts looking for some way to serve in her current circumstances, she offers to simply go sit beside someone who is suffering. She calls it “The Ministry of Presence.” (Capitals are mine.)

I think this is brilliant. And helpful. And often the only thing we can actually offer that will be of any real value in a tough time. I plan to exercise it much more than I have in the past. Thank you, Reverend G., for reminding me what really matters when everything else in life is shaking. God, and people, and Presence.

(and, ice cream, of course.)

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No Regrets

By Kathy NickersonAugust 18th, 2012Featured WorkNo Comments

The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. Ecclesiastes 12: 14 NASB

We never know what a day may bring. An ordinary Monday morning may bring a great break-through at work, a brand new baby in the family, or a shining new soul in the Kingdom. Or, it may bring a trip to the hospital and a farewell to someone we love.

I used to be frightened when I thought about the uncertainty of life. But then some of the worst things I’d ever imagined actually happened, and I discovered an amazing fact. God was still there, and He was still good.

Now I just try to live each day with faith and with purpose. When I lie down at night and take an inventory of my soul, I ask myself, “Did I fear God and obey His commandments today?” If I failed somewhere, I repent. And I make a plan to set things right with other people. Then, I sleep.

Tomorrow will always have enough trouble of its own. But, for today, let’s live with no regrets.

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Walk This Way

By Kathy NickersonAugust 18th, 2012Featured Work1 Comment

Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” Isaiah 30:21

Sometimes when I’m trying to make a hard decision, I say to my husband, “I wish you’d just tell me what to do!”

He always responds with, “No way. I’m not playing the Holy Spirit for you.”

He is right, of course. I need to hear from God myself. But I’ve rarely heard Someone actually whispering in my ear. Instead, I rely on some basic principles.

Some things are just obvious. Should I have that last chocolate Pop Tart for breakfast or some whole grain cereal?

Other answers have already been given to me by the voice of my teachers. What would my mom/my boss/my group leader/my favorite teacher suggest for breakfast?

But most of our answers really do come from the voice of the Holy Spirit. Once you establish a relationship with Him through Jesus, the best place to hear Him is in the Bible. Open your heart as you open the pages and you will hear a word behind you saying, “Thus saith the Lord, ‘walk away from the Pop Tart.’” Or, whatever.

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All for One and One for All

By Kathy NickersonAugust 18th, 2012Featured WorkNo Comments

The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. First Corinthians 12:12 NLT

If you happen to see a group of young adults wandering around town in a pack this week, don’t worry. It is probably just the Bible College students involved in a boot camp exercise created by Drill Sergeant Darin Rihanek.

We don’t believe in hazing at this school, but we do believe in learning to function together as the Body of Christ. We don’t want any lone toes trying to make it through life without the rest of the foot. So, the College staff has designed a series of events to introduce unity this week.

Please pray for the College faculty, staff, and students as they settle into college life and get ready to start classes. We do want each of them to encounter God and grow as individuals while they find their place in the Body.

And, if you are having trouble dealing with your own independent spirit maybe you should call Darin. I’m sure he could make room for you in one of the relays.

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A Time to Sift

By Kathy NickersonAugust 18th, 2012Featured WorkNo Comments

Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me… Psalm 139:23-24

Thirty years ago I walked into a Bible study late. To cover my embarrassment, I made a joke about my friend, Margaret slowing me down. Everyone laughed because Margaret was the most together woman among us.

On the way home, though, Margaret said, “Your joke actually hurt my feelings. I hear you say sarcastic things like that to your husband and children sometimes, and I think it is hurting your relationships.”

I cried for three days. But I came out of that season aware of how I used sarcasm as a defense. Decades later, I still remember that morning. It hasn’t kept me from ever saying a sarcastic word again. It has helped me repent quickly when I do.

Our church is in a season of sifting right now. I encourage you to stand still and let the process work. Let God (and your faithful friends) point out any evil way in you. Then ask the power of the Holy Spirit to help you change. I promise your friendships with God and with other people will be better than ever.

If you don’t believe me, we could call up my friend Margaret for a chat.

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Drought Resistant

By Kathy NickersonAugust 18th, 2012Featured WorkNo Comments

So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. Galatians 6:9

I appear to be fixated on trees lately. But have you noticed some of ours are turning brown and dropping their leaves? The drought has stressed them so badly they are going into hibernation as if it were fall. Some of them may never recover.

Others will pull through even though they look dead now. If their roots go deep enough, and if they get some snow this winter, the trees will revive in the spring. A tree with good roots can take a lot more heat and stress than you might imagine.

And, so can we.

I’ve lived through seasons where every leaf fell, and I thought I might shrivel up and die. But then I’d reach down into the core of Who (not just what) I believed. I’d draw from the deep wells buried beneath the soil of my trouble, and I would hang on until the season changed.

And, it always changed.

No matter what you are going through right now, it will pass. If you are planted in the Kingdom of God, if you trust Him as your source and strength, you can make it through the drought. Eventually, the rains will come again. Then you will grow and thrive and become a tall tree where other people can find shade and shelter.

So, don’t let your life be declared a disaster area today. Hold on and become drought-resistant.

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Finding Rehoboth

By Kathy NickersonAugust 18th, 2012Featured WorkNo Comments

Isaac named the place Rehoboth (which means “open space”), for he said, “At last the Lord has created enough space for us to prosper in this land.” Genesis 26:22

This week I felt like Isaac when he was trying to draw water from his father’s wells. The Philistines had filled the wells with dirt after Abraham died, so Isaac and his men dug them open again. But, the neighbors kept arguing over water rights.

Each time someone complained, Isaac moved on. Finally, he came to a place where his enemies would leave him alone. There, he dug a new well and named it Room-Enough-For-Us-At-Last (in the King James Version).

Several times this week I stopped and said, “Ah, yes. Now I have all the details for the day covered and I can take a breath.” Then the phone would ring. Or the computer program I’m trying to learn would reveal a new and confusing level of administration. Or, I’d remember I hadn’t written this column!

Finally, on Thursday morning I just stopped and looked at the lake. I remembered the nearly seventy people baptized there last night. And I thought, Why am I in such a dither about all this earth stuff? God has brought us to Rehoboth. He has filled our wells with Living Water, and He has sent the Philistines on the run.

Let’s just stop and take a drink, shall we?

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