Category Archives: faith

Faith for Real Life

Infuse Me With Peace

I walk every day. It is partially for physical reasons, partially for spiritual and emotional reasons and partially because my dog is addicted and will not let me do otherwise. She does not understand the concept of a day off from walking or rain or hot or cold. So, we walk.

Sometimes when I walk, I listen to silence. Sometimes, I listen to podcasts. Sometimes, I listen to Christian music. I can always get a soul-read on myself by paying attention to what I listen to. Lately, my soul has been thirsty only for music.

I’ve needed the music of my faith to guide me, to anchor me, to answer my prayers, to provide leadership to me in these trying times.

Our world is in conflict. Our country is in conflict. Our political system is in conflict. Many of our churches are in conflict. We are craving leadership, but who can we trust?

Sometimes I think it might just be me. Maybe I’m interpreting “how things are” in an overly negative way.  This morning however, even my local newspaper had a picture of the events of the weekend along with the headline “A Nightmare Scenario”.  Maybe it’s not just me.

I also know people who are personally going through difficult and trying times. They are living nightmares they did not choose to be in.  Other people, myself included, are just riding out normal life rites of passage that are not easy.

All these reasons are causing me to drink in the songs of my faith.

Everyone seems to be calling for statements, guidance and reassurance. I’ve tried to imagine if I had to issue some kind of statement right now, what it would be. No words seem adequate for all that is happening.

So, instead of issuing statements, I pray, for all of the above.

God, your ways are higher than my ways. You see all things and you know the layers, the complications, the history of all.

Help me now to be a loving, light-bearing citizen of this planet, this country, my family and friendship circles. Remind me again of what Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble…but, take heart, I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

God, have you overcome hate? Because it seems to still live here. I don’t want it to live in me, but it does. Have you overcome racism? I see it and feel it and know it lives in me as well. I know darkness lives in our systems and that I’m a part of those sick systems. Have you overcome disease? Because it still seems to be attacking people I care about.  

It feels like too much. It feels like more than my heart can bear. It feels out of control and wrong.

And so I lift it all to your Light and ask that you guide my feet, my actions, my words.

This morning, on my walk, your song penetrated me, “Peace, peace be still. And like a child my heart obeys.” Infuse peace into my heart, O God. Give me an iv of it if you have to…not the kind of peace the world gives, rather, your kind. These nightmare days require your supernatural peace. I know I absolutely need it. Amen   

 

The Nest

When I was 7 months pregnant with our first child, I led a seminar in the church I was serving on “How to Cope When Your Kids Go to College.” I have a background in Pastoral Counseling so I guess I believed I was using that knowledge to teach. Now, I just think it is hilarious and I’m surprised they didn’t throw things at me for not knowing what I was talking about.

I remember talking about grief, change and how having a child move out alters your family system. I talked about finances and the demand college expenses places on families. At the very end, a man in the back and raised his hand and asked, “Is it possible this could also be very fun?” The teacher (me) and the rest of the class seemed frozen in time for a minute. We looked at each other and quietly decided that fun just might be possible.

Fast forward almost three decades and I feel more qualified to speak on the issue. We have successfully sent two children to college and in about a week we will drop off our third child there  We are about to experience an empty nest.

We have literally been parenting now for 29 years straight. We have had kids in our home that entire time. How incredibly weird it feels to look up, look at each other and say, “Wow, that was distracting.” And, “You look different.”  “What year is it now?”

This time, with this kid moving out it feels different to me. First, for whatever reason, he’s more pleasant at this stage of his life than the other two were. He’s talkative and interesting.  He will cook, mow and run errands happily with no expectation of money or reward. He’s musical and fills our home with piano and guitar music and songs of all types. He’s funny. Secondly, I’ve been able to spend his senior year not working so we’ve bonded. I’m going to miss him. I told him I got a job at his college in the dining hall just so I can see him at meal times. He did not think this was funny nor a good idea.  I loved the idea except for the hair net issue. Thirdly, this time the next will really be empty. No extra kids left to parent after this one.

Yesterday, at church, a lot of moms with kids this age were crying. We needed a support group or something. Some of the kids were too.

It is really hard after pouring yourself into someone and spending 19 years loving, protecting, worrying and hovering, to send them off. It just is.

How I plan to cope:

-I’m going to let myself grieve and acknowledge that I miss him.

-I’m going to stay appropriately in touch. Some soon-to-be college parents were talking about devising a communication code with their kids where the students will text SA if they are still alive. I’m going to ask for more than that, for my sake.

-I’m going to continue with all my healthy habits: exercise, journaling, drinking lots of water every day, yoga.

-I’m going to have fun with the guy I married.

-I’m going to focus on the projects in my life that give me meaning, purpose and joy. There’s so much need in our world, so many ways I can love.

-Oh, and I’ve decide it is not an empty nest, at all. It is just a bigger nest. My nest stretches from Grapevine, to Frisco, to Houston and now out to College Station. And actually my nest has more eggs in it than ever with a son-in-law and now, a grandson too.

-If all that fails, I’m getting a hair net and you’ll see me at Duncan Dining Hall at Texas A&M happily distributing scrambled eggs. It’s always good to have a back-up plan.

 

 

 

Their Faces

We are all still trying to enjoy and eke out the best last bits of summer. No one wants to think about back to school things but I have to bring it up because of their faces.

I’m talking about the faces of the school children and their parents. In our community we are less that three weeks away from our 6th Annual Connect GCISD Back to School Fair where the economically disadvantaged students in our school district receive full school supply packs, backpacks, clothing and a huge array of district and community resources all in a one hour stop.

I’ve seen the joy on the children’s faces when they select their own brand new backpack and when they receive a huge bundle of supplies appropriate for their grades. I’ve seen them when they see their principals and teachers there; their school nurse and other adults in the community. I’ve seen the relief on the parents’ faces too as their children are provided for and ready to start school, equipped to learn. The teachers and counselors faces beam as well because they know they won’t have to scramble in those hectic first days of school making sure all their students have the basic supplies to be successful.

Every year we get a little better at the fair’s logistics.  This year, over 1300 children are pre-registered. We know from experience, the children and their parents will show up. This year, for the first time, we are not scrambling through the summer to provide funds for the school supplies. Because of the fundraising efforts of the Women’s Division of the Grapevine Chamber and because of generous donations to Connect, all the school supply packs have already been paid for.  I love our community, by the way.

Our community vendors, civic organizations, police and fire, faith based organizations are all ready to serve these families. Dentists are coming with their toothbrushes; vision screenings will be done by the Lion’s Club (every year we find hundreds of children who need glasses). Families will receive information about parenting and the services of GRACE (Grapevine Relief and Community Exchange). Even children who qualify but didn’t get pre-registered will receive school supplies from GRACE at the fair.

Really, we just need two things:

1) We need elementary age new backpacks. The little kid backpacks are the most fun to buy. Drop them off between now and August 3 at the GCISD Administration office, 3501 Ira E Woods Ave, Grapevine, 76051  Last year some people ordered from Amazon and had them shipped to this address. Do that!

2) And, we need you the day of the fair, Saturday, August 5 from 8-noon at Grapevine High School. 18 and older please! We like every single family to have a guide who walks them through the fair. We will teach you how and make you comfortable. We want these families to be seen, to feel loved and equipped and a personal guide seems to be a great way to do it.  Sign up here: http://www.signupgenius.com/go/20f0b4eaeac23a5f49-6thannual or respond below and we will be in touch.

Last year, a little girl I know from the community, rushed up to me to give me a hug and showed me her new pink princess backpack. She said, “I saw my principal and my teacher from last year and they said they can’t wait to see me when school starts!” Her face was radiant. Faces are attached to hearts. That little girl felt loved and valued….and, I’m sure, ready to learn.

No one wants to think about back to school just yet, but we will, together, because of their faces.

     

Sweet Summertime

Yesterday, I spent a little over an hour relaxing between a lake and a pool. It was a cooler than normal Texas Sunday afternoon, with a breeze. The puffy white clouds provided a regular respite from the sun. I had a good book and a big glass of iced tea. It is ridiculous how happy I felt in that one precious hour, soaking in summertime.

Our family is about to spend a week together at the beach so I’m feeling in vacation mode already as lists are made; the most relaxing clothes packed; our favorite games set aside for fun in the evenings.

For all you moms of older offspring, I had a brilliant idea this year. I decided everyone who is anywhere close to being an adult would be in charge of a day of meals…not just me. I told them if their menus/shopping lists were submitted early enough, their cooking ingredients would be provided by a super shopper. The most amazing thing happened, menus have been planned that I would have never thought up. I will get to do about 1/7th of the work I usually do. The person (who will remain nameless) in our family we thought might not be on board, submitted the most amazing menus which included a Tex/Mex breakfast entrée, an afternoon fresh pineapple appetizer, a sweet fire chicken dish for dinner and some kind of rice wine served (get this) out of a hollowed out watermelon. My sense of awe cannot be measured. Moms, delegate and relax for a change.

I’m wishing for all of us this summer a little extra measure of down time, relaxation, wonder, sea air, mountain air or whatever fills you up. I’m wishing for you homemade ice cream, really ripe, juicy summer fruits, porch time, grill time, a breeze, some shade and all the wonder of nature.

Poet Mary Oliver wrote, I do not know exactly what a prayer is. I do knowhow to pay attention, how to fall down into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass; how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields, which is what I have been doing all day. Tell me, what else should I have done? Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon? Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

We don’t know what the future holds. But, we do have this day. Hopefully, we also have this one wild and precious summer to pay attention to. I pray you drink it in (maybe even served out of a hollowed out watermelon, with someone else doing the hollowing out).

Dr. Cindy Ryan is a pastor, writer, mom, Mimosa, breast cancer survivor and so much more. In honor of sweet summertime, her blog will be on vacation for a bit as she savors a wild and precious summer.         

When Broken Things Heal

Last year, on this very day, I was at our daughter’s home, awaiting the birth of our grandson, when I paused to take a picture of a beautiful sunset. I took one tiny step off their back porch and fell in an ever so slight hole with one foot and broke my ankle on the other foot.

It was about the worst possible time for such a thing to happen. I was there to assist. I was there to be on two feet doing things. I was going to be a whirlwind of helpfulness taking care of people I love.

When I called my daughter from the ER sobbing that it was indeed broken, she said, “Mom, this will be funny some day.” It is still, to me, one of the least funny things that ever happened. When my family tries to bring up my week-long stint with a walker before I received my walking boot, I make them stop because I can’t take remembering that horror.

The doctor told me it would take A YEAR to feel normal again. It still doesn’t. As I write, after walking 3 miles this morning, it is aching. I find it fascinating that it is still bruised in two places. How can it be still bruised?

But every day, I am grateful that broken things can heal.

Breaking my ankle taught me things that I seem to keep having to re-learn:

  1. I am breakable, vulnerable and human. To this day, my husband shows me curbs and holes. I keep saying “Just because I fell doesn’t mean I will fall again.” But, it actually does. I, like you, am capable of falling. I am breakable.
  2. Healing comes on a slow timetable. I have to keep being reminded by pain and aches that I am not yet healed. Healing is slow. One must be patient…more patient than you ever dreamed you’d have to be.
  3. Broken things don’t heal just as they were. My ankle is forever changed. So are people who lose loved ones, receive a diagnosis, endure a broken relationship or a devastating job loss. The good news is, you can heal. The harder news is that your brokenness will still be there even after you heal.
  4. God specializes in brokenness. So many times we believe our God is all about only a pristine perfection….turns out, not so much. Rather, God is perfect at healing real life brokenness. It’s not a clean and sterile kind of healing either. It is a messy, achy, wiser, kind of mending that God does.

Colossians 1:20-21b, The Message: …all of the broken and dislocated pieces of the universe-people and things, animals and atoms-get properly fixed and fit together in vibrant harmonies….You yourselves are a case study of what God does.

Imagine this truth: what is broken in you, on you and around you, can be a real life case study in how God can heal.

I have an achy, bruised, forever-changed, mostly healed right ankle and soul. I am so grateful.

  

30 Years

On Wednesday, I celebrate another milestone, the thirtieth anniversary of my ordination into Christian ministry.

I keep checking the math on that because I cannot believe it is true. On June 14, 1987,  I knelt on the sanctuary steps while the hands of many were placed on my shoulders and head. I remember being surprised by their heaviness and even thinking as I knelt, “I had no idea ordination would feel so heavy.”

I also remember, standing up feeling very much like something spiritual had happened in that exact moment and I was forever changed. That surprised me too.

After that, I never again worried about or argued with the people who tried to tell me  women should not be pastors or that it wasn’t scriptural. I still encountered those people, but I was different. God had called. I had answered. The church affirmed it. I never looked back. Thank God.

I began the week wondering what I’ve really learned in three decades. I wondered what I would say now to a newly ordained person or to any Christian or to someone just trying to make it through the challenges of life and faith.

Here’s what I know today:

  1. Knowledge is overrated. You would think after 30 years I would know more. I don’t. I always knew I didn’t know much. That’s actually why I got my doctorate. After my Bachelors and Masters degrees, I was so aware of what I didn’t know that I just kept going. The funny thing is even the doctorate didn’t help too much. I have learned to embrace mystery and wonder and to shamelessly admit I don’t know things. My favorite is when people assume you know where everything is in the Bible just because you are a pastor. I finally learned to say confidently, “I don’t know, google it.”
  2. Life is such a mixed bag of everything. Life is so sweet, tender, hard and gut wrenching at the exact same time. I don’t have words to adequately describe it. I wish I would have embraced this truth sooner and saved time being stunned and completely blown away by the bittersweet nature of things.
  3. Pastors are not that great at pastoral care. My doctoral degree is in Pastoral Care so I can say that. We aren’t. People are. People who love each other in the real life context of the community of faith are excellent at pastoral care. We clergy should stop believing this is our job and hand it over to the people. I also suggest we just start calling it what it is, People Care not Pastoral Care. 
  4. Humility is the best skill any of us can work on. We would be well served to stop trying to know all things and be all things and just be humble, human, broken and more relaxed.
  5. Speak up. This is definitely the hardest one because it comes at a great cost, like getting demoted, moved, labeled, not liked. Oh yes, and crucified. Looking back, I wish I had spoken up more about injustice, racism, sexism and how Christians treat people who they perceive as wrong, different or other. I think now I shortchanged some of the congregations I served by being careful  and not sharing everything I really felt.
  6. Pace yourself. Honor yourself. I believed for the longest time that if I loved Jesus, I needed to push through. I did not honor my body, my time off or the Sabbath. I believed I was invincible right up to the point when I clearly wasn’t. This was the opposite of humility.
  7. Trust God. Trust God with absolutely everything. There is no other good way to do ministry or life.

Jesus Calling, Evening Edition, had a line this week that jumped out at me. I tear up now even thinking about it. The author, Sarah Young, imagines Jesus saying to us, “One of My most challenging tasks is renovating your mind, and My Spirit is always at work on this project….”  Immediately, I turned it into a brave prayer, “Renovate me, God.” When I pray it, I want to cry because it seems so bold and scary.

Thirty years of ministry has absolutely renovated me. It has never once been what I expected. I am changed. I am a new creation.

God took a very shy young woman and made me a pastor, of all things. I am renovated. And the good news is, the project is not yet over. Thank God.

Milestones

In days gone by, a milestone was literally a stone or pile of stones which marked the distance along a route. A milestone reassured a traveler of the distance he/she had traveled and that they were still on the right path.

Now it also means an action or event that signifies a change in a stage of life or in one’s development. I think some seasons just have more milestones. May and June seem filled with them: weddings, anniversaries, reunions, school years ending and graduations.

Sometimes milestones seem to come along mildly and well-paced so you have time to mark them, to realize you are there, to feel all the feelings attached to that milestone and to move from where you are to the next phase.  You have time to breathe, take pictures and wipe your eyes with a special hanky. Sometimes you have time to make speeches,  celebrate and have parties and toasts.

And then, there are other seasons, when the milestones just fly by, one after the other with such a fastness about them that you feel out of breath, overwhelmed and wondering what just happened.

In the past week, our youngest child graduated from high school, accepted some scholarships and spoke at church on senior Sunday. We had three different family and friends gatherings, entertained relatives from out-of-town, celebrated his friends’ graduations and told him over and over how proud we are.

In the same week, I had a doctor’s visit where I learned for sure that I can stop taking the medication I’ve been on five years which has caused me countless side effects. I learned I only have to see the oncologist once a year now and can now do mammograms just like other women do, once a year. In the midst of all the other milestones, I cried in the parking lot happy tears of joy because it felt like a giant healing milestone. I wanted to feel it and to give God thanks for it.

Now, while we are still putting away graduation decorations, we are packing for our son’s college new student conference which begins in the morning. We will continue hovering around the milestone of getting him ready to leave the nest in just a couple of months.

In the midst of it all, our baby grandson was trying to play the piano while holding a toy (he’s a multitasker) and fell right on the corner of the piano bench getting his first big boy face boo-boo. His mom and dad were great saying, “Oh he will be fine and kids get bruised.” I could barely take it. I didn’t want that milestone to be at my house.

Milestones. They are everywhere…with so many feelings attached. Psalm 25:6, The Message translation, shares it as a prayer, “Mark the milestones of your mercy and love, God; Rebuild the ancient landmarks.”

God, be with us in our milestone moments. Help us breathe, pause and reflect at each one. Help us to notice the Holy, sweet, difficult passages in our lives and to let your mercy and love enfold each one. Amen