Friday, September 25, 2015

Scheduling Change

Change is never an easy transition. Especially for those that are used to routine. Or those used to our convenient schedules. I have a new job that I love but my old routine schedule is out the window.

Recently, my wife and I have been like two ships passing in the night. When I'm coming home from work, she's heading out to work. I sleep all day and wake up to go work in the evening while my wife and sons sleep. It's been incredibly difficult and trying but at the same time something that hopefully will strengthen our relationship.

It's taken an unbelievably large amount of patience and dedication as a couple, and as parents.

I miss my family, but the same time I know that I have to do this as part of my transition to my new career. It's only for a few short weeks and only a few more shifts remain, but it still is a difficult time for our family.

It's hard to not help with the evening duties and I feel that I'm putting a heavy burden on my wife. I miss reading books and late night snuggles and bath time with my boys. My wife's patience with what I have to do to move forward, deserves more credit than I give her.

She's been more patient and understanding with me and my work than I could ever be. Her positive attitude and strength have shown me that I need to work harder to be better. I miss my family but I have learned that together, we'll get through this time just like we've handled all the other "bumps in the road". I am focused on being thankful for the time I do get with my kids, thankful for my new career, and thankful for my patient wife.

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.
Ephesians 4:2

Eric is a Colorado native who loves to spend time with his family and (self admittedly) gets way too absorbed in the Broncos.  He says that BUMC has been a wonderful addition to their lives and he looks forward to the future with the community.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Becoming a Pearl of Great Cost

I like shiny things, sparkly things: glitter, snowflakes twinkling in the new light of a winter morning, jewels, the subtle sparkle on an African violet’s bloom. I like the way the sun shines through a prism and breaks apart the secret of light into separate colors, in rainbow order (I like order too).  One of the only things that got me through a few university history classes was wearing a ring with a diamond (real or fake, it didn’t matter) and watching the way I could twist it and create my own personal rainbow. I still do this when I’m bored. I think sparkles are one of the earth’s proof that life can be magic.

As I get older, I have begun to appreciate the non-sparkly parts of my world as well. It’s a fortunate accident that I’ve been compelled to learn more about China, and one of their well known exports: the pearl. I’ve been to a street in Guangzhou where they sell nothing but pearls, all sizes and colors. Before the advent of pearl culturing, pearls were incredibly rare and prized above most all other gems.

I learned was that all pearls are the result of an irritation getting inside of an oyster. In an attempt to protect itself, the oyster secretes a smooth compound called nacre to surround the irritation. And it continues to coat the irritant, surrounding it with layers of microscopic crystals. These crystals reflect and refract the light and this is what gives the pearl its depth and luster. The process is slow and laborious and still a little mysterious.

And so it is with us in our lives. For many of us, there was some kind of revelation, disappointment from ourselves or others, whatever; but some kind of irritant that prompted us to make some changes in our lives. We began to do something differently, we began to push ourselves in new directions, trying to remove our own irritation. It’s a long process, for some of us, a lifetime’s worth. The initial irritation still serves as a reminder to us that we are different than we once were.

We have made changes that reflect and refract, allowing our own light to shine, giving us more depth and luster.

Maybe you are experiencing your own irritant right now. Just remember that it is within your power to learn and grow and change and transform this irritant into something beautiful.

Not all pearls are perfect. Neither are we. But as long as we continue to make the best choices we know how, our own nacre will continue to coat our own imperfect irritation. Strive to be the fine pearl that the merchant was willing to sell everything for. In this parable, Jesus used the pearl as a symbol of heaven but I think each of us has within us the capability to be a “pearl of great cost”, we can and have changed our lives with our habits, our thoughts and our actions.

Now all that is left is to share the depth of light that is uniquely ours.
Matthew 13: 45-46

Lisa Forrey is the mom to two daughters who try to make her a better person.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Checking Out to Check In

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

Those words are from Romans chapter 12 and are two of the verses of Scripture that I go back to again and again. In the book of Romans, we read some of the most important writing about how to see our God and how to see ourselves. Paul shares about God's righteousness and plan for our salvation, which is what we call the gospel, for much of the book. Then Chapter 12 comes along about 2/3 of the way into his letter, and Paul shares these instructions about worship with the early Christians.

That last sentence of those two verses above sounds a lot like it could have been written today instead of two thousand years ago. Just spend a few minutes on Facebook if you want to find out how easy it is for the culture around us to drag us down to its level of immaturity. Paul says that instead of that, God wants to bring the best out of us if we fix our attention on him. He goes on to say that we can be changed from the inside out and become people who readily recognize what God wants from us and actually do something about it. I know that's what I want out of my life, and I'm sure you do too.

I think that a big part of how we offer our lives to God and fix our attention on God starts with what we do in worship as a community. Each Sunday, each of us has a choice. We can come to church to go through the motions. We can just hear another sermon and some music, close our eyes and listen to some prayers, say hi to some friends and leave. Or we can do as Paul says and fix our attention on God. That means paying attention - not just to the sermon or other parts of the worship service but, more importantly, to what God might be saying to us individually.

How does that happen? For me, I know when I'm engaged with a worship service, really engaged and listening for God, more often than not some part of the service will seem just for me. The rest may, and often will, seem totally useless, but that one part will just jump out. That kind of experience is how I hear God speaking. It's a feeling for me that often comes in an impression - the same kind of feeling as when I think I've left the stove on or when I've said something stupid at home and I know I'm going to have to reconcile it. It's like a little tap on the shoulder, and really nothing more. When that happens at a time when I'm trying to focus on God, I pay attention.

I had a pastor who used to say at the beginning of his sermons, "If God starts speaking to you during my talk, you stop taking notes on my sermon and take notes on what HE'S saying instead." I thought that was so cool. A preacher saying it's ok to not listen? That was gold for me. Each week I'd listen harder to what he said just to see if there was something God was saying to me. And when I heard something that connected, I'd start writing on the church bulletin or the margins of my Bible about it. And guess what? I've talked to Ken about this and he's totally cool with you and I doing this as well. And I know that I'm equally cool about you doing the same thing if a certain lyric or song during a service touches you in the same way. I don't care if you listen to anything else. Check out from the rest of the sermon and just focus on what you felt was God speaking.

If we all did this, how in-tune with God would BUMC be? How much would we cease to look just like the culture around us and instead look like people who have taken our ordinary lives - our sleeping, eating, going to work, and walking around lives - and given them fully to God as an offering?

Joe Mazza is the Director of Worship Arts at BUMC and leads worship at our 8:30, 9:45, and 5:05 worship services.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Dedicated to Care

Several years ago, my mother was diagnosed with Early-Onset Alzheimer’s disease. She had been having some cognitive issues and finally was tested and diagnosed. It was difficult for our family but at least we had a diagnosis and could move forward. The first few years were not that bad. She was still driving and interacting with us. As the disease progressed, she began to slow down but still enjoyed time with her family and grandkids. She still loved all of the things that she always did; gardening, the Farmer’s Market and long walks. It was all just more tedious.

Alzheimer’s is often called “the long goodbye” because it generally progresses slowly. While this is a comfort in the beginning, it is so much more difficult toward the end of the disease. The changes the disease inflicts are difficult, and for our family, became more than we could handle.

We made the difficult decision to move her to a memory care facility a few weeks ago. It was the most challenging thing I’ve ever done. While we are fortunate to have her in a beautiful, top-of-the-line facility, there is finality to the move. She’ll never go home again. She’ll never work in her garden or walk on the path behind her house or eat pancakes on a Sunday morning. We visit her almost every day but it’s hard to remember that this is the same woman who used to be so strong and bright and witty and funny.

The transition has been difficult. We’ve had to answer her tough questions as to why she can’t come home almost every day. However, the comfort has been her wonderful caregivers. I have a new found respect for those that dedicate their lives to the care of others. They have made this onerous time bearable. I have watched them when we visit and I am astounded and humbled by their patience and dedication.

These wonderful people answer the same questions over and over with a smile. They make my mom feel safe and comfortable. I’ve watched them take her hand and lead her cautiously to her room. They’ve painted her fingernails, helped her shower and rubbed lotion on her. Never once have they made her feel bad about what she can no longer do. While they didn’t know the energetic, determined and sparkling woman that was my mother before Alzheimer’s they’ve found some of those attributes in this new version of her.

There is no way that I could ever express my gratitude for these people that do such a difficult job, that take the weight of families who just can’t handle the burden of care any longer. I do thank God that they’ve answered that calling to help others and support my family and all the other families who’ve needed their strength and dedication.

Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
–Philippians 2:4

Cristen Underwood has been a member of BUMC for four years.  She is actively involved in the First Friday Fellowship. She lives in Westminster with her husband, three-year old and seven month old sons.