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Introspective Sojourner

The journey inward following Christ’s path to that person I was uniquely created to be.

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contentment

That’s my son

I knew the second I laid eyes on him, even though his back was to me. No doubts – none at all. I immediately started to cry. Seconds before, at the fish tank, at the entrance of the restaurant, I had just said, “Wow, that kid looks so much like Thomas.”  – our grandson.  They lived on the other side of the country, thousands of miles away. The thought that it was Thomas never entered my mind. 

My husband had decided to take me to lunch. We rarely did that because where I worked wasn’t close. I should have seen that as a clue. They had cleaned the house too. That was the big clue I missed. I wasn’t complaining. Seriously though, really clean, and that was the big clue.

My son and his family had conspired with my husband and daughter to surprise me with their visit. I had absolutely no clue. They had been coming and then there was some valid excuse that they couldn’t. I had no reason not to believe they couldn’t make it. By the time I walked into the little Chinese restaurant, it was forgotten. 

But the second I saw his frame – I knew. The clues fell into place. My son had come home for a visit. My daughter-in-law smiled up at me from across the table with her precious face. It filled my heart. It was the best surprise ever.

Our church uses a word “communitas” – not community. It signifies that deeper relationship – the idea of doing life together or serving together. A little like the way that my small home town was more like a community or the way we made our fellow veterans our family when I served in the Navy.

The type of relationship we all search for. That knowing the second you see them – there is someone I love – who loves me. The way I knew that was my son even though he was facing away from me.

It’s that kind of relationship that gets my super introverted family to go to church. They belong there and people know them and love them exactly as they are, no hidden agendas, no wish list of things they should do better at, or be better at. The smiles of those we’ve known and loved for years now, tell us that we are welcomed. Just the way we are. Just as far along in our journey as we have come. No one there sees us with a big list of how we’ve failed or let them down. They’re just happy to see us – as we are them.

I suppose it isn’t a perfect church – that was never the point. It’s our communitas. Other Christians who aren’t perfect, who love us even though we aren’t perfect, even though we make mistakes.They want us to be there. They want us to be part of their journey and to experience God’s love through the way He moves in all of our lives. It brings us and keeps us closer to Him. The one who called us by name before we ever took a breath. He knew what knuckleheads we would be. He knew the mistakes we would make and yet He loved us so perfectly. There’s no stronger desire than to be loved that way, completely loved and fully known.

We have to lay down our lists. Our lists of the wrongs others have done to us. Our list of the disappointments we have felt. Our past hurts. Our lists of how we think this person in our life “should” be. Expectations that set us up for barriers in our relationships that do exactly the opposite of what we desire. To be truly loved in spite of our mistakes and bad choices.

We have to stop judging our church services and having roast pastor for lunch. Stop the hate. The “I hate this kind of music”.  I hate when the church is too full or too empty, too dark, too loud. I hate when other Christians aren’t perfect…   because just like us, they want to be loved while imperfect. 

God put so many wonderful people in my life and none of them are perfect. What an amazing blessing that is. Others just like me, on a journey to spread the great news about how God loves them and isn’t fooled by their masks, or public faces. He knows my heart and loves me more deeply than I could ask. That’s such great news. He put a whole group of people to journey with me, so we could help each other to deepen our relationship with Him and reach out to those who are yet to believe. What a mind blowing blessing that is, don’t you agree?

I hope you find your communitas, or that you create a communitas. So that everyone can know, somewhere out there is someone who loves me so much that they’ll cry at my sight. They love me so much that they recognize me instantly from far away or with my back to them even if I was supposed to be miles away. Someone who knows what a dunderhead I am, but choses to love me anyway. Just the way our Savior does. Just the way I am.

By

Vicki L. Pugliese

My Father’s Daughter

I miss being my father’s daughter.  Dad has been gone two years and days over six months.  Most times I love to talk about him.  Some memories still bring tears.  Sweet tears.

I miss calling him.  Though anyone who knows me just laughed.  I’d rather chew off an arm than talk on the phone.  Nonetheless I miss his voice; his corny jokes even his pointed questions.  I miss making him proud.  I didn’t do that enough.

All that to point out how amazing it is to be a daughter.  Even when you could be closer, it’s a privilege.  One we take for granted until we no longer are our fathers daughter.  One we search for when that relationship is failed.  One we long for as a child from a broken home.  Daddy’s girl is no joke.  It’s a thing we girls covet.  It’s a thing many treasure and some miss.

Its so important that we make fun of it, as if that could possibly make it less important.  It does not.  We know.

As I think about missing my own father, I look at my daughter and my husband and my oldest son and his daughters, and I know how amazing being loved like that is.      My husband and son have done a better job.  Perhaps they have better daughters.

But I am still a daughter.  Though my own dad is gone and perhaps let me down in life as perhaps I did him.  I have the ultimate father, Abba Father.

I don’t call Him enough either.  I take Him for granted too.  But he doesn’t disappoint me and He isn’t disappointed in me. Satan may try to tell me different.  Satan may have loved that I got separated from my own dad from time to time in my life.  Separated emotionally as well as by miles.  Satan can only lie and hope I’ll fall for his lies when it comes to my Abba Father.

Christ understood the importance of that relationship.  He uses that name when the woman touches his cloak.  You may not know this story.  It’s in Mark Chapter 5.  They had just crossed the water after sending demons into a herd of pigs.  This was so amazing and scary that the people sent Him away.  They could not handle this person who is Christ.  There were crowds around when a ruler Jairus comes running in and begs Christ to come.  Begs for his daughter who was near death. She’s just 12 years old.  Still a child but in those days, almost not.  She’s still his baby girl.  He ran to beg for Jesus to come and heal her.  He’s a man of faith.  A leader in the synagogue.

And Jesus gets up to go.  The crowd pushing in on all sides just to get a glimpse.  So much so that when the woman reaches out and touches his cloak, the disciples completely dismiss Jesus when he asks who touched me.  Completely dismiss the notion that they could even determine who did.

But Christ knows power has gone out of him, healing.  The woman has been ill for 12 years, every year Jairus’ daughter has been alive.  She’s got a bleeding disease.  Technically that makes her unclean in Jewish culture and anyone who she touches or touches her is defiled by her touch.  Except Christ.  She is healed and made clean by His touch.  It goes the other direction there.  Instead of Him being made unclean she is made whole!  She knows it instantly too.  You can’t be sick, probably horribly anemic for 12 years, and when you are healed entirely, not know.  She knows and drops to His feet, afraid.  She’s been called out, Jesus knows.  No getting out of this now.  She had previously spent all of her money on doctors to no avail.  She’s desperate enough, yet has a tiny amount of faith.  She thought if I could just touch His cloak… but now she’s exposed.  And just like the defilement could not touch Him, and only good flowed out, He does not judge or cause her any shame.  Instead He calls her “Daughter”. The most precious word in the world.  She’s no longer an outsider and an outcast but wholly accepted by Him.

Abba Father means the same to His other daughters.  He’s not ashamed of us.  Though we may deserve that.  He does not label us outcasts, outsiders or unworthy.  He should.  He calls us not only child, but daughter.  Such a precious gift to be His daughter.  We are made whole, He is not made low by us.

Jairus’ daughter passes away it takes so long to get there.  Christ is rebuked by the family for saying otherwise.  He kicks everyone but her parents out.  Her dad is there but Christ knows she’s His daughter too. He heals her as well.  She was that ripe kind of dead too.  Jesus makes her whole.  No one questioned she was dead until Jesus says she’s just sleeping.  Why do they never believe Him?

Not only does He heal her returning her to her family, and to her dad.   Maybe to prove she isn’t a ghost or something, He tells them to feed her!  He cares for her health in multiple ways.  There before her dad.  Christ got how important it is to be the daughter.  How loved and special that title is.

Our Abba Father understands our need for that kind of care and love.  That kind of status of being adored.  He adores us.  Just as we are.  He heals us, makes us clean without shame.  Instead He adores us.  We must NOT listen to Satan.  Good flows out of Christ, evil does not touch Him.  Though we should never take this love for granted either.  Unlike my dad,  Christ will never leave us or forsake us. He will never let me down.  The perfect family umbrella.

Christ calls me daughter.  How sweet the sound of that word.  How amazing to be whole and clean.  Nothing I could do will drive Him away nor make Him love me anymore!  I am cherished.  Daddy’s girl.  No love can surpass this one.

Still I really should call to Him more…

 

Miss you Dad!

By Vicki L Pugliese

What’s Wrong with Anticipation?

The act of anticipation keeps us from living our present fully.  We look forward to going to school, turning 16, graduating High School or turning 21.  We long for finding that special someone, having children.  Once we have children, we can’t wait until the crawl or walk or talk.  We look forward to them going to school finally.

We get excited about the stages of their life that are in the near future for them.  We dream about the kind of people they will become.  We invest our thoughts in a new job or promotion and how that would affect our lives.  We day dream about getting new cars or a new house.  We even get caught up in holidays.  We anticipate how the holiday will be with family and presents and what food we will eat.  We think about the conversations we will have.  Sometimes down to what we will say if we are asked an uncomfortable question, that we don’t really want to answer.  We know exactly what the other person is supposed to respond, don’t we?!  They never do respond that way though.

We fantasize about what retirement will be like, or winning the lottery even.  We yearn for “empty nest-er” days.  We worry about every little detail that “could” happen.  We refuse to believe something good actually is coming our way until there is no other way for the other shoe to drop.  We are cynical in nature some of us, believing the worst probably will happen.  Meanwhile our thoughts may give us hope but keep us from really enjoying exactly where we are now.

We don’t have any reference when we are children, but we spend less time truly thinking “What if”, when we are kids.  As adults we can spend a significant amount of time, thinking about it, day dreaming or worrying about it.  We get dissatisfied with the here and now, as we propel ourselves into the future in our thoughts.  We pray and long for God to assist us in accomplishing our dreams and hopes.  We ask if He could just help us with this one thing that we are worrying about.  We can even pray fervently for a positive outcome that will occur in the future.

Now there is nothing wrong with those prayers.  We are told to stand before Him and ask, even to ask fervently, and to be persistent.  The issue I have with all of this anticipation, with all of this day dreaming is that, at least for myself, it pulls me out of the here and now.  Sometimes that’s what I think I want.  Things get hard and I would rather dream about how it will be.  That dream is often a lot like those conversations where we give someone else their lines.  Our dream view of the future leaves out all of the things that will make that less than ideal.  We leave out all the bills that come with that great house that we want or having to work harder to earn the mortgage.  We pray, “Could I just win the lottery this once?”  We all know the math behind the lottery.  They wouldn’t do it if it wasn’t tilted heavily in their favor.  Your chances of accidental death are most likely better than your chances of winning.

What is a problem in this, even in the Christian version where you pray fervently for an outcome or to be rescued from some issue, expecting great things from God?  We forget to focus on being grateful for what you have.  Now I have been in places in my life that felt like there was no way I could be grateful for anything, it was so overwhelming.  We are instructed in the Bible to pray fervently as well, to knock on the door until it is opened.  We are told to expect great things from a God who loves us dearly.

But we forget that little part where we ask God, not my will but thine.  I think I’m not a big fan of that concept, but God has shown me over and over that his plan is better than mine.  It may be more painful in some ways but when I look back in hindsight, I can easily see where His plan far surpasses my own.

Trusting in Him is hard.  Occasionally those periods of time in my life that are extremely difficult produce blessings that later are some of the best in my life. I have been blessed by the friends I found during times of struggle; the characteristics in my personality that changed dramatically, the goals I obtained to remove myself from a situation.  All of those are blessings in disguise, where God used a struggle to produce great outcomes.  I would not have chosen that for myself but I’m glad I am who I have become.

Perhaps today, I could anticipate tomorrow a little less and just enjoy today.  I will choose to focus on the many blessings in my life instead of the strife.  I will remember they often happen in tandem.  Even some of the most memorable stories in the Bible show that struggle and blessings may occur in tandem.  He is good.  He is able.  Today though, what He has already given me is enough.  I will worry about tomorrow, tomorrow.

 

By Vicki L. Pugliese

God Doesn’t Write Disney Endings

God doesn’t write Disney endings. God doesn’t write “… and they lived happily ever after.” Sometimes we wish He would but He doesn’t. In the Bible our big God moments often come in the midst of struggle! I’ll let that sink in. God doesn’t even wait until the struggle is ended. He doesn’t end the struggle, He brings His amazing grace and mercy in the midst of struggle. Now look back at your life and how many times have you just wished that things could go right at work and at home at the same time? How many times have things finally went right at home and work and then your kid’s or parent’s lives start to fall apart? Struggle is part of the human condition. We are built to have concerns for one another, to be relational, just as God himself is relational.

So let’s take an example from the Bible, Joseph. Joseph was used to save God’s people. Without him there would be no Israel, no Jews, no Jesus. Powerful right! He’s a big deal. But Joseph starts out in a family full of jealousy; one big blended family mess. And Joseph is as far from a blessing or an inheritance as you can get, but he’s dad’s favorite. Dad even gave him a fancy coat. You know things like that never go well with siblings. Favoritism is never unnoticed. Then God gives Joseph these awesome dream’s about how important he is going to be and that his brothers are going to bow down to him. Of course Joseph in his 17 year old wisdom doesn’t keep that to himself. Hindsight might have helped him here. Although in Joseph’s case I think his brother’s kind of go a little off the deep end, plotting to kill him and selling him into slavery. After all did they think he made it up? Do you really want to mess with God’s plan? Joseph went for years faithfully following this crazy plan of God’s. He even goes to prison under false accusations and serves God to the best of his abilities there. The cup bearer forgets him for two years and yet Joseph is faithful. Now would you be? I’m such a big whiner that I’m sure way back in the “sold me into slavery”, I would have messed up. Not Joseph, he is faithful until the end.

And God fulfills those dreams. Joseph saves a nation; God’s nation.  He is so important that he over sees all of the store houses. That’s his job. That’s his big happy ending. Sure he gets to save his family too and all of Egypt. But he gets his happy ending in the midst of a seven year famine! Hungry people are showing up at his door step wanting what he saved to save Egypt and his family. He is making life and death choices every day. People on forced diets. That must be a great job. Who wouldn’t sign up to turn away people on a forced diet? That’s his reward for being faithful for years and years! Well he does get to save a nation. He does get to redeem a family. He is a very important story in the Bible. God loves redemption and Joseph’s story is all about redemption and waiting on the Lord.

But there is a whole lot of “just be content with your life in the midst of your struggle” woven into Joseph’s story. God’s story isn’t written like a Disney movie. Life doesn’t work like a Disney movie. We wish it would and so we miss out. Your story connects to your neighbor’s story. Their story connects to their sister’s story and her coworker’s story and their kid’s story. All of these stories weave together in a beautiful symphony that only God truly sees the entire score. This masterpiece that still plays on, that ebbs and flows. This song that is written to glorify His name, has more depth than we can possibly be aware of. Only God can truly understand the full connections. Joseph could never understand that saving his family would lead to the birth of a Messiah and saving the world. Only God could do something that cool.

Don’t forget to celebrate all of the successes in the midst of your struggles. All of the things that you know you should be grateful for. Don’t focus on the struggles they are just a small portion of the overall symphony. Just a minor key change. God uses all of it for his glory, even the times when you are in prison or in slavery. He uses those times when you are falsely accused. He is a God of redemption and all things must be redeemed. As we move from the Garden of Eden to the great city in Revelation. All things must be redeemed. Your part of the story is important, the light and the dark. You will see there is much to be grateful for. And you will be more content with your life even midst your struggles when you do.

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