Friday, March 23, 2012

Teen Suicide Prevention / Bullying Awareness

The North Augusta Hartzog Center of the Department of Mental Health will be sponsoring a Community forum on the “Silent Epidemic” of youth suicide.  The presentation will touch on related topics such as building coping skills among young people in the often challenging social environment in our schools, teen suicide awareness and prevention, bullying, peer pressure, anger management, self-esteem issues and other related behavioral topics.

The forum will be Wednesday, April 4,  11:00 am to 1:00 pm at Holy Trinity Anglican Church, Sweetwater Center, 160 Merovan Drive, North Augusta, 29860 (Merovan Dr. is O.6 miles north of I-20 exit 5 on Edgefield Rd [Hwy 25] on the right).  A map is available at www.holytrinityna.org.  For further information you can call Ms. Karen Johnson at (803) 278-0880.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Your Personal Wilderness

Wilderness is a very prominent theme found throughout the Bible.  For God’s people, times of wandering in arid, desert places are times of transition and preparation.  The “far side” of wilderness brings new life, new purpose, new calling.

The Exodus, of course, is the archetypal wilderness experience in Scripture.  The Children of Israel are led from slavery to freedom, from hopelessness to hopefulness, but the journey involves 40 years in the wilderness.  Their 40 years in the Sinai wilderness was a time of purification, preparation and submission to God’s will, plan and purposes. 

There are many other Old Testament examples of wilderness experiences.  We all know the story of Moses discovering his destiny and calling in the Wilderness of Midian.  Moses hits a rough patch with Pharaoh, is exiled, and settles for tending his father-in-laws sheep in his own literal and figurative, self-prescribed wilderness.  One day, however, on the “far side” of his wilderness, as Scripture tells us, Moses encounters an insistent God with a better plan.

One of my favorite wilderness stories is Elijah at Mt. Horeb because it is descriptive of the wildernesses in which so many of us are stuck.  Life brings its traumas (for Elijah it was no small thing … Jezebel wanting to kill him).  His wilderness involves fear, anxiety, rejection, self-piety and hopelessness.  He hides in a cave on the same mountain from which God spoke to Moses (not a good choice of a place to hide from God).  In what St. John of the Cross would call Elijah’s “dark night of the soul,” God comes to him and whispers, “Elijah, what are you doing here.”  Again, God has a better plan, a better life and abetter use for the life He has given Elijah.

Even Jesus spends 40 days in the wilderness.  He is driven into the Judean wilderness by the Holy Spirit.  Jesus’ wilderness experience is one of wrestling with questions of his identity, calling and fidelity to the Father.  But Jesus emerges on the far side of His wilderness resolutely aligned to God’s will, thus representing, as St. Paul puts it, the “New Adam,”  a model for a new humanity who is tempted, but unlike the old Adam, does not sin.  Jesus’ wilderness wandering set the stage for the transformation of the whole of humanity and our relationship with God.

The problem with wilderness experiences is that they can be uncomfortable, stretching, painful; it was even that for Jesus.  Wilderness times may also be full of fear and confusion, or riddled with anxiety and uncertainty.  Wilderness wanderings are often triggered by trauma, rejection, loss, un-forgiveness, poor health, clinical depression … you name it.  As we all know, wildernesses are spiritually arid places. 

The good news is that God changes us through our wilderness experiences.  Life is full arid places that turn out to be opportunities to be changed and transformed.  Scripture is full of wilderness stories because God is in the transformation business.  Our wilderness experiences, however we encounter them, whether large or small, God can use to take us out of the old and lead us into the new.  After all, that’s what God does.  We meet Him in the wilderness: Moses did; the Children of Israel did; Elijah did; Jesus did.

What, then, does all of this tell us? 
  • First, it tells us that we can expect to spend time in the wilderness.  That’s life.
  • Secondly, we can expect to grow and be transformed because of these times.  We do not exit our wilderness in the same place we went in.  Change should be what wilderness time is all about. 
  • Lastly, we should expect to be more aligned with God’s will for our lives when we emerge on the “far side.”  
What about your wilderness?  Is it a place of challenge and change, or are you stuck there?  Is it a place of transition, or is it where you live?  Is the far side of your wilderness not in sight, or have you quit looking?  

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Lent

What does it mean to have a HOLY Lent?  The word “holy” means ‘set apart’.  So how will this season of Lent be ‘set apart’ by you?
 

I just read The Sword, the Anglican Diocese of the South’s Newsletter.  Bishop Foley is asking us to fast each Tuesday night at 6pm until Wednesday night at 6pm.  He has written an excellent article about it that I commend to you.  In it, he said something that really struck my heart:
 

“During your fast, read your Bible and pray about the issues in your personal life, your church, your community, and our nation. Ask God to reveal to you your sin. Ask God to grant you His wisdom.  Ask God to pour out His power on specific situations.  Let us use Lent to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
 

I was struck by, “Ask God to reveal to you your sin.”  This is what we want during Lent, to see our sin. We can be blind to those things we have seen in distorted ways and used to rationalize our behavior all year.  We want to be ‘right’ or do not want to have to forgive others, etc.  But during Lent, we are encouraged to address those

things that are out of line with God’s ways.  We need Him to open our eyes and to give us the courage to address them.
 

Will you ask God to reveal to you your sin?
Then I let it all out;
I said, "I'll make a clean breast
of my failures to God."
Suddenly the pressure was gone—
my guilt dissolved,
my sin disappeared.  
(Psalm 32:5 The Message Bible)

Pastor Nancy