Shooting Stars in Christendom

shootingstarpicYou think it’d be a good thing to be a shooting star. After all, they’re the Maseratis of the sky. The phenomenon that draws your eye as it streaks across an otherwise black canvas. Nobody cares about the boring satellite orbiting overhead, but catch a glimpse of that moving light and you’re treacherously waving your s’more stick with flaming marshmallow in the air and interrupting your friends mid-story.

Shooting stars are special.

My pastor was spot-on this weekend, however, in his definition of shooting stars in Christendom, and exactly why that is the opposite of what we want to be. Why? Because as great as their capacity is to draw attention, as beautiful as they are, there’s still another trait they hold.

Fleeting.

I remember how jarring it was the time my dear friend told me she was rethinking this whole Christianity thing. Sure, there was no lack of people in my life who’d gone in and out of the church doors like a revolving door. I knew plenty who took Christianity about as seriously as a New Year’s Resolution. But this friend? This girl? She was so on fire! How was it possible?

She came to work with a bang the year prior, and her enthusiasm for God made waves across town. It wasn’t long before people were gathering at her apartment, driven to explore this thing called faith. I felt like she’d started a little revival—even in my own weather-worn heart. Sure, she was a bit more emotionally-driven (or was it Spirit led?) than I was used to. Yes, I’d heard of a time she used a “word from God” in a way that was self-serving and out of context from Scripture. But she was only human, and given she’d only become a Christian the year prior—and in the type of way that rivaled the drama of Paul on his missionary journeys—it was nothing less than extraordinary how hearts were revived in her presence.

Eventually she quit, relocating to another state for a healing ministry. And a few months later, she called and dropped the bomb.

While I’ve often prayed for her over the years, I also learned something that day, something I was reminded of when my pastor spoke last Sunday. We all know everybody has different gifts, as 1 Corinthians 12 states. It’s a wonderful thing to be the gal with the smile as wide as Arkansas shaking your hand on Sunday. Likewise, it’s all well and good to be the man with his hands glued to his pockets as Mrs. Big-Grin dances down the aisle beside him. God loves the silent types just as much as the vibrant. But the common thread, what’s oh-so-important about it all, is consistency.

I won’t try to guess what only God knows about my friend (and others), and neither will I pretend there aren’t real hardships that sometimes leave people doubting their faith. But I did learn it is so important to step into the circles of those who sometimes aren’t the most exciting Christians around. To build relationships and glean wisdom from those Christians who’ve been around a few terrifying blocks I haven’t turned yet and still came out with faith like a child. Who are they?

Not necessarily my peers chasing around toddlers, but the ones who’ve lived to see their toddlers grow toddlers.

Not necessarily the books with the mirthful young woman on the cover, but the old man who’s been through wars, and cancer, and still has enough hope in his bones to fold his hands in prayer.

As much fun as it is to see the shooting stars of Christendom fly across the sky—whether on a campus or the front page or on stage—the true test is watching to see if their tail lasts, or if their light fades.

 

To all you seasoned Christians who

share your lives with the younger generation,

many thanks and blessings.

 

Melissa Ferguson

 

P.S. If you’re from the tri-cities and seeking an amazing church home,

you’re going to want to click here!

 

Take Away from My Terrible, Horrible, No Good…Wonderful Birth Story

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I had a horrible birth experience this time around. My doctor decided last second not to deliver our baby. The moment I stepped inside the hospital an announcement went around for all nurses, doctors, residents and janitors to grab their needles and come take a stab at my unyielding veins. My blood pressure dropped dramatically and nurses had a hard time pulling it back up. For twenty-four hours doctor after doctor warned us that this “abnormally large” baby would tear me to pieces, come out with broken shoulders, or die. Die. I got a spinal headache from the epidural that made me pass in and out of consciousness during actual delivery. The blood patch to fix the spinal headache failed.

Ben and I had never been so emotionally wrecked in our lives.

But thankfully, Elizabeth Grace came perfectly at 12:24pm, weighing at a not-so-abnormally-large 9.2 pounds.

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The spinal headache, however, continued on. Day after day I stared up at the ceiling, painfully unable to lift my head a mere ten degrees. Unable to look down at my baby. Hardly managing the excruciating pain of walking to the bathroom. Worst of all, though, was the fear.

What if I was the anomaly who never got better? What if I was the anomaly who went blind from the spinal fluid that I felt leaking into areas of my body it should never be? After all, I was that 1% who got a spinal headache and I was that 10% with a failed blood patch. Why not be that girl who went blind? Why not be that girl who tried the blood patch a second time and got paralyzed? Who never got better?

In the solitude of my sick bed, fears like this surrounded me, sucking away my hope and joy.

In desperation, I sent my first Facebook request asking for prayers, and wept to the ceiling as the responses flooded in. Prayers came. Calls came. Texts came. People came. So many wonderful meals came. And I got better.

I learned at least one deep lesson from everything: to never ever make light of the power of encouragement or the sweetness of community. We need each other. I tend to forget that when life is full and busy and I’m running around as a happy, healthy mom.

We need each other.

I will strive to remember others, whether by quick text or intricate deed, because I was changed by the kindness of others. I was given hope and love when I needed it most. And thatnot the to-do lists and dishes— is what life is really about.

                “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’” Matthew 25:34-40

                Blessings,

Melissa Ferguson

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happy daddy!

 

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Sitting up a bit at about two weeks

A Snowy Day Devos

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Moments ago I stood beneath the shelter of my front porch, holding a cup of steaming coffee and watching the flurries drift onto the white canopy around me. There’s something beautiful in the silence and crisp air filling my lungs. Of course, everyone knows this. People across the country aren’t eagerly stepping out of the comfort of their own living rooms to get their feet cold and wet if it wasn’t a fairly universal feeling. There’s just something ethereal in seeing everything—from patches of dead grass to cars in driveways—covered up in delicate white.

But, and here perhaps I’m some depressing anomaly, whenever I stand around in 18-degree weather I also feel a sudden pang and worry, for what is so beautiful about winter is also deadly. What about that homeless man who always sits outside the bagel store? Did he find shelter last night? What about the children in the World Vision catalog from Mongolia, all huddled beside a fabric tent with snow piled high around them? Suddenly that crisp air able to sweep so quickly into my lungs makes me feel desperate.

Both perfect beauty—the content of a hundred jingles around the holidays—and perilous content in one single flurry. I don’t know what to do with the dichotomy of feeling equally so happy and sad.

Then, however, I shut the door and sat back on the sofa, recognizing something as I read the most stirring poem from 16th century poet, Robert Southwell:

 

This little babe, so few days old,

Is come to rifle Satan’s fold;

All hell doth at his presence quake.

Though he himself for cold do shake,

For in this weak unarmèd wise

The gates of hell he will surprise.

 

With tears he fights, and wins the field,

His naked breast stands for a shield.

His battering shot are babish cries,

His arrows made of weeping eyes.

His martial ensigns cold and need,

And feeble flesh his warrior’s steed.

 

(Read it in entirety here! Seriously…go read it.)

What similarity!

When we really think about it, we Christians seem pretty crazy. We gather on Sunday mornings, banging on piano and drums to sing merrily about things so gory and gruesome it would sound like insanity were it not so familiar. Imagine if we went Message version on the words to some of these traditional songs and everyone sang in unison:

Oh, the wonderful electric chair!

Oh, the wonderful electric chair!

Wants me to come and be fried,

To find that I, can truly live!

Tag on smiling old men and women wearing gold electric chairs necklaces as they shake your hand during greeting time and how quickly we would run away from that place, eh?

But the reality is that Christianity as a whole is this dichotomy of gruesome and incredible. Of absolutely terrifying and positively enticing. Of horrifying and exactly all that I need.

I would never wish for the snow to cease existing; I just would like to live in a world where people never suffered. Likewise, I hate everything about Jesus’ willing sacrifice of undue shame, abandonment, whips, glass, nails, and broken bones. I wish there had been some other way. But if His tears are what “won the field” and gained victory, then alleluia. May snow fall and praises ring.

Blessings and Merry Flurrying,

Melissa Ferguson

P.S. If you’d like to pitch in and protect children and families from frostbite, hypothermia, influenza, pneumonia, and death, consider providing clothing and shelter by clicking here: worldvision.org.

 

And some verses for our snow day…

Praise the Lord from the earth,
you great sea creatures and all ocean depths,
lightning and hail, snow and clouds,
stormy winds that do his bidding,
you mountains and all hills…

Psalm 148

Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

Psalm 51

“Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the LORD, “Though your sins are as scarlet, They will be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They will be like wool.

Isaiah 1

Seek the Lord while he may be found;
call on him while he is near.
 Let the wicked forsake their ways
and the unrighteous their thoughts.
Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them,
and to our God, for he will freely pardon.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

 As the rain and the snow
    come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
 You will go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
will clap their hands.
Instead of the thornbush will grow the juniper,
and instead of briers the myrtle will grow.
This will be for the Lord’s renown,
for an everlasting sign,
that will endure forever.”

Isaiah 55:6-13

 

Parenting Riddle: What’s More Fun Than Taking Your Child to the ER Thanksgiving Weekend?

fullsizerender-4 Why, of course, taking both your children to the ER Thanksgiving weekend!

The first merry incident involved a pea and Joy’s finger pressed firmly up her nose. With ten adults surrounding her (including two nurse practitioners) we tried a variety of homespun methods for dislodging the pea. Straws. Snot suckers. Pepper to make her sneeze. At one point Ben pulled out the central vacuum but was outvoted 9-1.

I found him later in the garage (aka temporary laboratory) with the rubber of a slingshot attached to a large and particularly dirty funnel used for changing oil… Again, he was vetoed.

Alas the time came to forfeit large amounts of money and head to the hospital. It wasn’t all bad at least. They did give her a stuffed animal in the end.

Less than 48 hours later, I woke up from a mid-day nap to hear Isaiah’s bloodcurdling screams and discovered Ben hauling the bleeding boy up the stairs. This time the culprit was an old pair of blinds. And off we went again.

The moral of the story?

Stickers. Always bring stickers to entertain your kid at the ER.

No no, I can do better than that.

I was praying this morning a prayer similar to Psalm 51:1-2:

Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.

As a gal who finds herself bending over approximately 300 times a day to wipe up something the twins so carelessly (and gleefully) drop on the white linoleum, I immediately thought about how weary and dreary and unappealing my request to God was, particularly when considering this wasn’t about a bright kitchen with a few spots on it. I was requesting God to go to the very depths of my heart, to help me with my current negativity and blot out the worst parts of me—the parts I work so hard to hide from anyone else on earth.

And I thought, “What is my view of God, the creator of the world, that I so absentmindedly make this request and assume He will just be a happy camper about complying? For that matter, why do I just assume God wants to spend all this time with me, knowing the worst parts of me, working tirelessly with me as I consistently try and fail and try again, when no other human would be interested in such a task?”

I suppose it’s because God makes it so clear throughout Scripture that that is exactly what He wants to do.

And suddenly I’m grateful.

Just like Ben and I didn’t hesitate to break away from our activities, scoop up our children, and get them the medical help they needed, God doesn’t hesitate to go to the depths for us.

In this season of celebrating Christ’s birth on our behalf, of remembering just how dark and deep God went for us, may we find a renewed spirit of joy and thankfulness.

Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

Psalm 51:10

 

Blessings,

Melissa Ferguson

 

Forsaking Your First Love

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It’s the phrase I’ve returned to over and over the past three months, and—of all places—it comes from the book of Revelation. I don’t hear a lot about Revelation (unless someone’s telling me the world is ending in a few days). But I was stopped as I read a passage in Chapter 2 a few months ago, specifically the admonition Jesus, through John, gave to the church in Ephesus:

“I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.”

Super, right? If I’m part of the church at Ephesus, I’d be feeling pretty good about myself.

“Yeah, I am working hard,” I’d say. “Thanks for noticing, Jesus. We here have had some intense temptations to quit and give up on you, crawling back to Artemis and the old Jewish temple, especially when people have dragged off our friends. Especially when we have seen our loved ones killed. It’s terrifying, but we have held firm to our faith. Thanks, Jesus, for acknowledging how awesome we are.”

But then Jesus’ words rip the former praises away as if they were of little significance compared to what really mattered:

Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love.

God Himself. The first love.

“But…Jesus,” my first-century self would reply, aghast. “We are losing work, losing friends, losing our reputations as we look like crazy people following after a poor man who ‘died’ sixty years ago… losing our very lives for you. Isn’t that enough?”

No. Frankly, no.

These Christian Ephesians did so much more than I do, but above all, God wanted loyalty to their first love: Himself.

I’m not one of those people who uses phrases that sound creepily romantic regarding the God-human relationship. I find myself dropping my voice and staring at my shoes when the song plays in church, “And I’m madly in love with you, Jesus…” It’s just…God is God. He’s not a human, and while He loves us, He’s not on par with me.

Like N.T. Wright says when John fell down in Chapter 1, terrified at the sight of Jesus who had eyes like flames of fire, feet like exquisite brass, and looked like the sun in full power:

“For some, Jesus is just a faraway figure of first-century fantasy. For others, including some of today’s enthusiastic Christians, Jesus is the one with whom we can establish a personal relationship of loving intimacy. John would agree with the second of these, but he would warn against imagining that Jesus is therefore a cozy figure, one who merely makes us feel happy inside. To see Jesus as he is would drive us not to snuggle up to him, but to fall at his feet as though we were dead (Revelations for Everyone, p7).”

But sometimes in Scripture, we get glimpses of a God who isn’t just insanely powerful, insanely knowledgeable, insanely bigger than anything we are. Sometimes, like in the Bride-Christ references, we see how God uses intimate wording to emphasize that He really, truly wants an authentic relationship with each of us. A relationship so deep and real—not between a being and a thing, or a being and institution, but a being with another Being—that a marriage metaphor would suit.

“It’s easy to settle down into a vaguely comfortable existence which puts its own

needs first and, sometimes, last as well. The Ephesian church needs to wake up,

to remember how things used to be, to repent and get back on track

(Wright, Revelations, p13).”

And sometimes we do, too.

So yes, stay loyal to the faith. Yes, consider the widow and the orphan and the poor and help them in their needs. Go out and evangelize to your heart’s content.

But above all, don’t forget to do the things that show your love to your first love: God.

 

Pray. Sing. Remember. Listen.

Love.

Blessings,

Melissa Ferguson