Ground Zero- by Tom

dscn5731

Acting as sponsors for a school trip to New York City, one of our planned stops to see was Ground Zero. This edge sits within the building footprint as well and signifies a gap, a hole, a loss or a void left in so many of us with connections to that day.
Does it explain, “Why?” Of course not. But it does remind us to remember what this attack meant to us that day years ago and how we live differently today, fifteen years later.

At School…
Students at my middle school were born after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. This is history to them. None of them have that moment of, “I remember where I was when I heard about it!” None of them stopped their lives for a moment, an hour or a day or weeks to reflect, ponder and contemplate the implications of us under such an attack searching for meaning, a reason why or just facing the reality of such drastic events playing out on our own soil.

Sister-in-Law…
Fast forward fourteen years, and we arrive at the day I lost my Sister-In-Law, Jayne’s sister, Mary. Cancer, pain and a battle against an unseen enemy where the best treatments were nearly as bad as the disease itself, we struggled with Mary, but not as Mary. She finally relinquished her spirit on the morning of September 11th, 2015, resting peacefully in her own home, after making amends, saying farewell and admonishing reconciliation with everyone around her. Sisters, brother, immediate family and close friends all had come to say goodbye, yet none of that made her departure any easier, better or convenient for us. Yet we all asked WHY?

Why me?
Why would God take her? Of course it was rhetorical because the answer would elude logic. However, the question reminds us of our own selfish nature! (Mine too!) Why would He take her from us? It seemed like maybe he wanted her now! He thought it was time. I can’t speak to our value of her, whether we held her in proper regard, gave her the honor she deserved or held her in the right esteem, but it may not have been enough! Maybe He wanted her home for her benefit? Having this life event occur on 9/11/15 reminds us of the emotional connections already in place surrounding that day. It reminds us that each of us suffer loss.

Anyone?
Then, this morning after the first service, Jayne and I were up in the front wondering if anyone would come join us to share a story of pain, concern or need for prayer. We did not wait long! A parishioner came up and joined us, asking for prayer and looking for a sounding board. She shared a tragic story of an overdose. Behind the story were threads of success, recovery, healing, love, family, forgiveness and reconciliation. Yet, it was still a tragedy. A life was ended, due to all the reasons in the world with no reason in the world to justify it and nobody to explain “Why?” We sought to identify blame, purpose, or any way to explain why this might have happened, yet none was obvious.

Mirror mirror on the wall…
But a theme began to develop. This theme held hope for the victim. Hope for her future. What if this world was not worth her? What if she truly was wanted by Him? What if our own selfish desire to have her here was holding her back? What if our examination of everything was not really based on ourselves but actually what may have been best for the former addict? Maybe asking these questions, however difficult to pose, face and answer, especially if the answers are not about us, are meant to help us look at ourselves as ones to serve, and not to be served?

Blessed or Blesser?
For instance, we may be able to see how God, because of our treatment of her here, would want to bring her home to Himself. Maybe we were not really worthy to have her alongside us? Maybe we truly weren’t worthy? And maybe her departure helped us shift our focus away from the mirror and onto those that struggle, those less fortunate, those with less than we have or those without our faith? Maybe it is about what we believe, tenets we follow and our adherence to morals, justice and a Higher Power that sustains us in our very weaknesses.

Step One: Admit we are powerless to _________, ( fill in the blank with your struggle) and admit our lives have become unmanageable!

Why not?
Why would God allow something like 9/11/01 to happen? Why did we lose Mary, this day last year? Why did she overdose? Why does bad happen? Would we have contemplated this, drawn nearer to God or tightened our bonds with each other without it??? I don’t know yet, but I do feel like sometimes, I am not worthy to have such noble, charming, pleasant and beautiful people around me. Maybe, I’m not worthy!
Tom McCracken

Follow Tom @McCracken63 on Twitter
Follow Journey Church on social media @Journey_MO

Majestic Views — by Tom

MajesticView_McCrackenI used to live on a road named Majestic View in Lampe, Missouri.

Questions?

What draws me back to the mountains? Is it the beauty? Is it because they are gorgeous? Is it the challenge? Is it the overall sense of potential imminent danger? What is the source of the attraction? And, isn’t beauty in the eye of the beholder? Doesn’t everybody argue about the best vacation spot?

Reviewing my Dropbox account revealed a disproportionate number of mountain pictures. (I even tried to make a separate folder of “mountains” and was overwhelmed before I got even halfway there.) Building log cabins in the mountains. Hiking along alpine trails. Even just sitting and watching the views always put me in different frame of mind. Why? Why do mountains hold such fascination and intrigue?

MajesticView_Pano_McCracken

This panorama from the top of a ski run in Colorado almost inspires.

Then, the other morning during Spring Break, while sitting in Missouri and not Colorado, since I had already gone to Colorado for a ski trip this year, I noticed a possible answer. Psalm 76:4 claims about the Lord, “You are more glorious and majestic than the everlasting mountains.”

There it is; a brief but specific feature of our Lord. I began to wonder why use both terms but since we seldom use those in our common vernacular, I Googled them. The mountains are used to form a stepping stone for us to describe God. He is not like the mountains but better. He starts from the biggest and best and most beautiful thing the ancients would have recognized and took it to another level.

Glorious
Defined as “having, worthy of, or bringing fame or admiration” or “having a striking beauty or spender that evokes feelings of delighted admiration.” Of course the mountains do this when we look at them or their pictures but to think of God in these terms? Really?

Majestic
Googled it and I uncovered “having or showing impressive beauty or dignity.” It was when reading the synonyms that I was duly impressed: palatial, monumental, awe-inspiring and that’s just to name a few.

Conclusion
It seemed like I was not giving God enough credit. I was selling Him short. I just thought he was pretty good. I just thought he was “up there” ranked with other cool things in this world. I though of Him as my “go to” guy. But in fact, it is written, he is more, better than, far greater than the best we have!

He is essentially saying to us, “Think of your best view, picture, art, sunset, scene or whatever and know that I am better!” We look to the mountains as a favorite vacation destination. Do we look to Him as a favorite destination, location, place or objective? Maybe it is a good thing I am from the Show-Me state. I must see something like these mountains to remind me of the splendor of God.

Thanks for letting me share.
Tom

Why Do I Have To Wait? — by Jayne

Waiting_McCrackenWhere does my value come from? It comes in waiting for Him!

EMPTY. USELESS. WORTHLESS. LONELY.

These are words I sometimes hear women say about their lives. These women are industrious, active in church, raising children, working on jobs and careers, devoted wives, sisters, daughters and friends. I sometimes struggle with these feelings myself.

As an active woman, I enjoy staying busy and occupied. I don’t like to stop until the chores are done, the house is clean and the yard is mowed. But these things never bring value; on the contrary, they often wear me out, get me bored and overwhelm me. I’d simply rather take a nap than do that routine again. I have a friend who always prays and studies; she rarely has time to clean. I also heard of a man that prayed 6 to 12 hours each day, neglecting his sleep. How could I ever do that?

I have witnessed overwhelmed women with tears in their eyes, frustrated because of lack of value. It’s a fine line that often can dip into depression. (I wonder if many men have these thoughts). I have these feelings daily but I must remember to go to the rock where He makes my feet like those of a deer, enabling me to go onto greater heights.

Proverbs 1:9 says, “I wear a garland of grace on my head because I am listening to my Father’s instruction …” I wear it proudly, not because of anything that I do or value that comes from self but because of Christ who is in me.

I do what I can when I am able (daily prayer, bible reading, scripture memory, journaling, volunteer, loving, helping, fellowship) so that when I am not able (distracted, lonely, desperate, feeling useless and depressed) I know that I have done all that I can.

The enemy creeps in on me. People talking cruel about me at work, or perhaps I don’t have a job or my job is no fun. He still knows the plans He has for me, plans for wholeness and not for evil, plans to give me a future and a hope.

But I missed that promotion, my teenager is partying, I’m a failure as a parent. Many of us have loved ones that recently passed. I’m a struggling, single parent. My loss is more than I can bear, what good is my life, I’m not happy, where can I turn. Constantly we must turn to Him. He showed us His love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.

For the sake of Christ I am content with weakness, insults, hardships, persecutions and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. How can I give to others when I am so focused on being miserable? Like the Israelites or the apostle Paul, we are sometimes called to wait.

So get creative and cheer up. Although we don’t all have the perfect life/house/family/job, I know beyond the shadow of  a doubt that for those who love God, all things work together for good. It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me, for I am God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good deeds, which God prepared in advance for me to do.

Thus, I am in the perfect place and God is working in me. He promised this and I rest in it.

Even though I fall short and am sometimes confused about God’s plan for me, I can trust Him if I search and wait. He longs to be gracious to us, He rises to show us compassion; the Lord is a God of justice, blessed are all who wait for Him.

Jayne

644299_4722603841617_1788725387_nJayne McCracken and her husband, Tom, are incredible care pastors at Journey Church. If you don’t know them, you should. It’ll be a blessing to your life!

 

 

Friend Journey Church on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @Journey_MO

Back to School — by Tom

Dogwood_McCracken

The dogwood flower, pictured from The Jewel Box in St. Louis Forest Park.

Back to school brings many emotions and reactions – parents with mixed emotions, summer is over but school is beginning, students with tentative excitement looking forward to re-kindling relationships and educators giving everybody a clean slate for the upcoming year. Gradebooks are clean. New plans are put in place. Soft Openings prepare for Grand Openings, and folks everywhere look to grow!

Let’s continue with the gradebook analogy. At the beginning of the year, we have no columns labeled, no one marked tardy, no zeros in any column or absences for anybody! We ALL have a clean slate.

So?

We are all “jacked up!”

Why would this matter to us at Journey? After listening to Jesse’s talks about The Invisible War, we come to grips with what it means to forgive. Forgiveness isn’t just forgetting, but it’s even better. God looks at us with a clean slate, every time! He doesn’t judge us based on last year’s scores, last week’s accidents or even yesterday’s mistakes! He looks at us as perfect, every time, if …

What does He see?

At school, every year, we get new teachers, new chances to make a good first impression and new opportunities for success. With God, we don’t have to wait for a new school year. We don’t have to learn a new locker combination. No new classes! We get a fresh slate. All we need to do is consider, turn and ask; consider our mistakes realizing where we are “jacked up,” turn away from those mistakes and ask Him for a clean slate and fresh beginning believing he will grant that. Through his Son, He sees us as solid!

Why?

We get a new slate at school because of the school year. We get a clean slate from God because Jesus wiped it clean! He did it right! He was not jacked up. He faced it, struggled but overcame and acted as our example, model and guide. Why? Because he likes us! He wants the best for us and knows the only way we will get better is if we like ourselves, too! It’s amazing that He loves us and is crazy about us.

Toughest Part!

Here is the toughest part. How can we like ourselves as much as He likes us? Would we take care of ourselves as well as He will? Do we talk nice about ourselves, like he does? Or, do we talk trash to ourselves? Do we re-live the stress, struggle and low-points? Do we think about the good or do we thing about the bad?

Think right. Don’t think wrong, bad or mean thoughts! It doesn’t help.

Tom

Friend Tom on Facebook or follow him on twitter @McCracken63

Follow Journey Church on Twitter @Journey_MO