Posted by: Nancy Day-Achauer | November 19, 2009

Do I have to?

     Last night I decided not to set my alarm for 6 am because I didn’t need to get up early this morning. Usually, I walk with a friend but she wasn’t going to be available so I thought I’d sleep in. I woke up at 6:10 am; I slept in a whopping 10 minutes! It appears that after forcing myself to get up early for several months 6 am has become my normal wake up time. It goes to show that making yourself do something for awhile can change you. (Did I mention that I’m not a morning person?) Forcing yourself to do something can be a good thing. In my case I get a lot more done when I get up at 6 am.

     Sometimes we benefit from forcing ourselves to do something we don’t particularly care for (or downright dislike). Force ourselves long enough and it becomes a part of us in a positive way. We know this when it comes to things like healthy eating and exercise. Make yourself do it long enough and it will become a lifestyle with benefits that exceed the immediate results.

     This same principle also applies to our Christian life. We don’t always want to live the way Jesus taught but if we make ourselves do those things they can become a part of who we are. When we genuinely follow Jesus Christ we are transformed for the better but sometimes we have to force ourselves to do the things Christ requires. We won’t always enjoy the process, but like healthy eating and exercise, we will benefit from it. What’s even better is that not only will we benefit but the world will benefit as well. Living as Christ taught us will spread love, justice, and mercy to others. The lives we touch will also be transformed – it’s a twofer!

     So if you’re having trouble living as a Christian (I think it’s safe to say we all fall into this category at some time) then make yourself do it just like you make yourself do all those other things that need to be done. At first it might not even be fun but eventually you will be transformed if you allow it. You will gain a way of life that is grounded in love, justice, and mercy and you will experience a peace and joy that will enrich your soul.  Force yourself if that’s what it takes, I have found that the new life born from the transformation is worth it.

Peace be with you.

Posted by: Nancy Day-Achauer | November 11, 2009

Feeling Swamped

     Lately, I have found myself feeling swamped with work. Most of it is little tedious stuff but there are also a couple of big projects I need to do and they need to be done very well. Just thinking about all I have to do gives me anxiety. This adulthood business isn’t as fun as I thought it would be when I was a kid. I know that I’m not alone, I’m certain that everyone else has had similar experiences at one time or another.

     I wonder if God ever feels swamped with work, does God ever feel overwhelmed by it all? I’m not referring to all the work involved with the prayer requests we heap on God. I’m referring to all the work God does reaching out to us and trying to connect with us. There are a lot of people on this planet and God is busy reaching out to all of them in a variety of ways. God wants to be in a mutual, loving, and respectful relationship with us and the amount of work that takes must be astronomical. It must be frustrating too because God is always working diligently to reach people but many people are often too busy or too unobservant to notice and respond.

     Thankfully, God keeps trying. This is where the all powerful aspect of God kicks in, it takes a lot of power to not give up on people. I know that God doesn’t give up because I experience God’s presence with me any time I’m willing to stop being preoccupied with everything else. All I need to do is be open to communing with God. I am so grateful that God is able to be there for all of us and never gets swamped, overwhelmed, and overextended like I do. I am actually feeling less anxious just thinking about how God is available to comfort me and give me strength at times like this.

     Are you feeling swamped or overwhelmed? God’s companionship can get you through it, all you need to do is open your heart and trust that God is there for you no matter how busy God is.

Grace and peace be with you.

Posted by: Nancy Day-Achauer | November 2, 2009

In a Funk

     I haven’t been in a writing mood lately; hence, the infrequent blog posts. I debated about forcing myself to post something each week but quickly changed my mind. Instead, I’ve been pondering why I’ve been in a funk about writing which got me thinking about whether Jesus ever found himself in a funk. Jesus got a lot of flak from people about his ministry and it had to wear on him. We know he got frustrated sometimes but did he ever get in a funk and lack motivation? Did he tire of all the flak he got for doing his job?

     We know that Jesus got a lot of flak from people; the Bible is upfront about it. A lot of people wanted things to stay the way they were and to do things the way they’d always done them, but Jesus spoke about changing the status quo and that makes people mad. Jesus was always talking about personal transformation and accountability but people liked the way they were so they took offence. Jesus was always telling people what they needed to hear rather than what they wanted to hear and people hate that. The leaders gave him flak and so did some of the people and I suspect that he was weary from it.

     Have people changed or is Jesus still weary? Is the behavior of our churches (thoughts, actions, and inactions) wearing Jesus down and putting him in a funk or have we pushed the envelope to the point where he’s weeping in frustration? Are we willing to be the church Christ calls us to be? Will our heartfelt answer put Jesus in a funk?

Posted by: Nancy Day-Achauer | October 13, 2009

Abandoned by God

     I preached on Job the other day and no, I didn’t preach about having patience – I preached about feeling abandoned by God. Mention Job and people always think of having patience. Funny thing is Job wasn’t very patient. He complained a lot and wanted to take God to court. (Read the book, it’s sooo different from what people expect.) Most of us haven’t experienced loss and suffering on the scale of Job but many people are going through tough times, really tough times, and some of them are feeling abandoned. Many people are wondering where God is in the midst of their suffering. Some people are wondering if God has abandoned us, or maybe doesn’t even exist, because there’s so much suffering in the world.

     Life can be very hard sometimes, things can happen that rock, if not almost destroy, our world. Loved ones become chronically ill, people are killed, and jobs are lost. Our relationships can hurt us deeply, family members betray us, friends let us down, and loved ones leave us. Natural disasters destroy homes and communities. Economies crumble, crime increases, wars break out, and famines and disease run rampant. It is easy to look at our lives, our communities, and our world and think that God must be absent.

     I believe that we often feel abandoned, not because God isn’t there, but because we don’t recognize God at work in our midst. We keep looking for burning bushes, voices of thunder, and larger than life miracles. We fail to see the subtle ways God works and we often don’t recognize it when God works through ordinary people. I believe that quite often people assume that God is not active in the world because God is not doing things the way they think God should. People often want God to be present on their terms rather than on God’s terms. They want miracles, they want God to be like Superman and swoop in to save the day. They want God to live up to their image of the divine.

     God’s Holy Spirit is always out in the world working to compel people to be God’s hands and feet. Sometimes God is present in the form of a friend who quietly listens to you share your pain and grief. Other times, God is present in simple acts of generosity. I was walking my dog in the neighborhood recently and passed a couple of neighbors on the street. The man was handing his next door neighbor a bag of groceries and the woman was shocked and moved by the gesture. It turns out the woman’s husband was fighting in Iraq and she and the children were having trouble making ends meet. The man heard of her situation and felt compelled to help her out by buying her family some groceries. God was present that day on a sidewalk in Delaware.

     All those little inklings you have about saying and doing things to help and comfort others are inspirations planted in you by God’s Holy Spirit. All those times when you find yourself saying, “I wish I could help” that’s the Holy Spirit nudging you to take action. Don’t look for God to speak to you through a burning bush or a voice of thunder. Expect God to speak to you through an inner voice, through circumstances, through the Bible, through prayer, through people, and through the church. God is speaking to you through all of these mediums and God will empower you to do God’s work if you allow it. The world can be a tough place where people feel abandoned but God has empowered us to change that; people are to feel God’s presence through us.

     Folks, God is present and active in the world everyday and in everyplace. God doesn’t abandon God’s children. When it feels like God is absent it’s because people are resisting God’s work in them, they are resisting saying and doing the things that God instills in them. God works through people but God refuses to overpower people and make them do things. Everyday, we have the opportunity to live God’s call on our lives. When we respond to God the people we encounter will know that God has not abandoned them because they will experience the presence of God through us. We are not abandoned.  God works through people, people like you.

Posted by: Nancy Day-Achauer | September 21, 2009

Heifer Festival

During the next few weeks I will be busy preparing for Heifer Festival – a fun event to raise money for Heifer International and its work of alleviating poverty around the world. If you are in the Central Ohio area, come join us October 3 from 11 am – 5 pm at the Richwood Fairgrounds in Union County.

FREE Admission! Great live music (Contemporary Christian, bluegrass, folk), fantastic local food, carnival games, cake walk, silent auction, live animals, demonstrations and more. Check us out at http://www.heiferfestival.org and also on our Heifer Festival Fan Page on Facebook.

I will be back to my regular blogging after the festival.

(Heifer Festival is a ministry of the North Union United Methodist Cooperative.)

Posted by: Nancy Day-Achauer | September 9, 2009

Enjoy Life

     This morning I was thinking about what I should write about. There are so many topics worthy of theological reflection and social commentary and yet I don’t feel like thinking about any of them today. Maybe I’m just needing a break from thinking. I’m usually a thinker, the wheels in my mind are always turning, I’m always thinking and reflecting (I’m even paid to do that), so this is out of character for me. So what do I find myself doing? Thinking about how I’m not thinking – yeah, I know, that’s crazy.

     I’m thinking (LOL) that maybe God is giving me a brain block because God wants me to be enjoying this time of not thinking. Why? So I can appreciate life’s pleasures. It’s so easy to get caught up in our work and chores that we forget to simply enjoy being alive. Clearly, I need an appreciation break! I have a great view out my office window that I could be enjoying. I could be having fun playing with my dog right now. I could be enthralled by a fun, fluffy novel or captivated by music. I could be taking pleasure in the Chihuly exhibit downtown. There is an endless supply of things I could be enjoying and most of them are free.

     God’s creation is full of opportunities for pleasure and I need to get out there and appreciate them. It may even take a little effort on my part but it will be worth it. I’m confident that God doesn’t want any of us to be all work and no play – God wants us to enjoy life and be enriched by the blessings that surround us. God wants balance in our lives so we can be happy and healthy – the opportunities are there but it’s up to us to take advantage of them.

     So I’m having an appreciation break this afternoon. I’m taking off my thinking cap, I’m ignoring my chores, and I’m going to enjoy the afternoon. I hope you do the same some time this week. God wants us to enjoy life so let’s do it.

     Blessings.

Posted by: Nancy Day-Achauer | September 4, 2009

Why

     I have been reading Dave Eggers’ What is the What, a novel about one of the Lost Boys of the Sudan. There are many things about this story that intrigue me but I have insufficient space to share all of my thoughts on this powerful and engaging novel. However, there is one issue brought to mind by this novel that touches many of us – how do we maintain faith in God during times of crisis?

     Thankfully, most of us will never experience a crisis like the one experienced by the Lost Boys and Girls of the Sudan but many people do have experiences that test one’s faith. How do we maintain trust and faith in God when terrible things are happening to us and/or those around us? This dilemma is one of the greatest challenges of being a Christian. People often ask, “Where is God, why is God allowing this?” Many people offer answers but rarely is any answer satisfying and some so called answers are annoying platitudes and others are downright offensive. I wish I could offer a definitive answer that would enlighten the world but I can’t. I can, however, offer my understanding and hope that it will be helpful.

     Starting from the beginning, God gave freedom to all of Creation. God could have chosen to be the great puppet master and control everything, God could have created a universe that was nothing more than a big organic plaything so God could play with us like toys, or God could have set up the universe so that it was God’s slave with every movement, every thought, every event carefully ordered by God. But God didn’t do that because God loves Creation and wants it to self-actualize. God wants us to be the best we can be, to love freely, to experience genuine happiness, and to share in the peace and joy of being in a loving and respectful mutual relationship with God. This would not be possible if we were puppets, toys, or slaves – true love cannot exist in such a state of bondage. God has chosen to empower us rather than overpower us.

     God gave us some basic rules to live by so we could experience all the good things that God desires for us. The rules are pretty basic – love God, love your neighbor, be kind, be just, be merciful, and be forgiving – it’s not rocket science. God provided some extra details on how to do this and inspired people to write the Bible so people could look this stuff up. God even had Jesus come to earth and re-educate us because we weren’t getting it. We have what it takes for the world to be a great place for every person and every creature to live but the freedom God gave us runs amuck sometimes.

     Nature is free to get out of control and people are free to get out of control too. We can’t have freedom and be controlled by God at the same time and this is where life gets sticky. Stuff happens, real bad stuff. I’m confident that God isn’t happy about all the bad stuff but God chooses not to swoop in and take control because to do so would require taking away our freedom and making us puppets, or toys, or slaves. We can’t have it both ways, we can’t be free and have God control everything (or the select things we want controlled), so we have to deal with the downside of freedom. It sucks sometimes and I believe God suffers with us when we’re suffering. God knows what suffering is like because God experienced it when Jesus was tortured to death.

     We have our freedom and God is there to help us through the consequences of that freedom. We are never abandoned, God can be counted on to be there with us while we’re suffering. God is always available to offer us comfort, strength, and courage but we have to be willing to accept it. I know that’s not very satisfying for most people, it’s probably not the answer you wanted to hear, but I know this is true. I have experienced God’s comfort, as have others, and you can too. God is always reaching out to you in love, please accept the offer.

Grace and peace.

Posted by: Nancy Day-Achauer | August 27, 2009

Forgiveness

     Forgiveness has been on my mind a lot lately. On my Facebook Fan Page (Pastor Nancy Day-Achauer) I started posting daily quotes on forgiveness as a means of keeping the topic in the forefront of my thoughts. I’m not sure why I’m thinking about it so much this week; clearly, the Holy Spirit is trying to get my attention on the matter. I’m wondering, maybe I haven’t really forgiven all the people I need to forgive. Maybe I haven’t really forgiven myself for something. Forgiveness is challenging – we all want to receive it but we’re often not very good at genuinely giving it. Or maybe I’m just self-flagellating.

     I remember back in 1998 when I was deeply wounded after being betrayed by someone. I knew I should forgive the person but I really didn’t want to. Everyday I prayed for God to forgive me for my inability to forgive the person! I eventually was able to forgive that person but now I’m wondering whether I have truly forgiven him. Are there some instances of inauthentic forgiveness floating around my psyche causing me to think about forgiveness a lot lately?

     Unfortunately, the big things requiring forgiveness are the things we never forget which makes forgiveness all the more challenging. Maybe that’s why I’m thinking about forgiveness, maybe I’m just checking in with myself to make sure that I’m still forgiving. Or maybe the Holy Spirit is trying to draw my attention to the fact that I am a forgiving person (albeit eventually). Could it be that the Holy Spirit is giving me a pat on the back? (Hopefully, this isn’t preparation for a humdinger incident that’s about to happen that will require all my forgiveness skills!)

     No one gets through life unscathed. All of us have done things in the past for which we hope to receive forgiveness, we all have people we need to forgive, and we all need to forgive ourselves for something (maybe lots of things). Forgiving is hard but the aftereffects are wonderful. It sounds trite but it is freeing and will feel like a burden has been lifted. If you are having trouble forgiving others or yourself, ask God for help. There are times when only God can give you the strength to forgive – go ahead and ask, God loves to help. And don’t forget to ask God’s forgiveness (we all have something). God is always available to listen and will forgive you.

     So now I think I’m going to have a little chat with God and ask what’s up with all this focus on forgiveness I’m having. Grace and peace.

Posted by: Nancy Day-Achauer | August 20, 2009

Healing and the Church

     The other day a friend posed a question on Facebook asking what came to mind when we heard the words “healing” and “church.” His question got me thinking about my experiences as a church member and how they differed from my experiences in the secular world. As I consider my overall experience in the church, I realize that a lot of healing occurred there. Most of the healing was gradual, I don’t believe I even thought of it as healing at the time, but in retrospect the church truly has been a healing experience.

     As an adult, I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area with my young daughter. We knew no one there and the nearest relative was two hours away. It’s challenging to get to know people and become part of a community when you relocate to a new area. We started attending a nearby United Methodist Church and became part of that community. We formed friendships with people and experienced camaraderie; it was like Cheers without the alcohol. I was healed of my feelings of loneliness and isolation. Sure, I would eventually make friends elsewhere (at work, recreation, etc.) but the bond of friendship in the church is different because of the commitment to being a community.

     At times when I was feeling beat down at work the church affirmed my worth. My boss and clients may not have always appreciated my work but the church provided a counterbalance. When I shared my work frustrations I received words of encouragement. When I served food to homeless people, visited people in nursing homes, and helped out at Vacation Bible School my sense of worth was affirmed by others and by the experience itself. Healing is experienced when your self worth is affirmed.

     When my daughter went through her “bad stage” as a teenager it was the church that got me through it. People shared their experiences with me and I learned that not only was I not alone, there was hope for a positive outcome. Parents can go through some tough patches while raising their kids, there are times when we have doubts, we sometimes feel like failures, and we occasionally experience pain and regret. The church is a place where parents can be healed of the emotional baggage of parenting.

     My experiences in worship (e.g. sermons, prayer, music, and scripture) also proved healing in a variety of ways. Worship helped deepen my experience of God and nurtured my personal relationship with the divine. I noticed over time that I was becoming healed of old wounds, including the ones I didn’t talk about. The wounds from an abusive and domineering brother, the wounds of growing up in a community whose culture did not value my gifts, talents, and interests, the wounds of a lifetime of things said and unsaid that hurt me deeply, all those old wounds that hide under the surface. Am I completely healed? No, some wounds get reopened and new ones occur, but the church helps me find my way back to God’s healing power.

     I am a happier, healthier person because of the healing I have received from God. I have experienced that healing in the church because God is at work there through people. Yes, God is everywhere but God likes to work through people. We all are in need of healing, often times we don’t even realize it, and our lives improve during the healing process and are better than we imagined after we are healed. I pray that you find a church community where you can experience the deep healing that only God can provide. I know it’s available because I have experienced it and I want the same for you. Grace and peace.

Posted by: Nancy Day-Achauer | August 10, 2009

Holy Spirit Power Grab

     While taking my morning shower today I felt the Holy Spirit speaking to me. That happens a lot in the shower. Maybe it’s because there aren’t any distractions, or maybe it’s because having the water pour down on me subconsciously reminds me of my baptism. Who knows! The one thing I do know is that the Spirit is at work at all times and in all places and clearly has no qualms about talking to me in the shower. The important thing is that I listened and here’s what I heard.

     The Spirit is at work trying to take over our churches. That’s right folks; the Spirit is vying for power in “our” churches. After looking in on us and seeing too many stagnant hearts, the Spirit realized that a power grab was necessary. We’ve been doing things our way and it hasn’t been working too well. We have dying congregations falling on the sword of we’ve always done it this way and we have “popular” congregations full of attendees but not converts. Yes, there are exceptions but not enough of them.

     We should have allowed the Holy Spirit to have control of our churches from day one but we haven’t let that happen. It’s not intentional; we just get caught up pursuing our preferences and our ideas. We fight the leading of the Holy Spirit whenever we’re called to do something that doesn’t suit us. We blame our failures on outside forces such as demographics and culture or we blame the pastor or the denomination – anything but ourselves. We lull ourselves with shallow faith rather than allow ourselves to be transformed into the image of God.

     We’ve gotten ourselves into a selfish mess again so the Spirit is at work trying to take over and turn “our” churches into God’s church – a place where we can be transformed and God’s mission can be actualized, a place where the heart of Christ is found within all of us. All we have to do is open ourselves up to the power of the Holy Spirit. We have to allow the Spirit to speak to us and use us. I challenge you and your congregation to give up your power and let the Holy Spirit take control.

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