What is S.U.P.V.?
For those new to our church, website and this blog, here's what it's all about: SUPV stands for the Straight Up Prayer Vigil. It is a virtual prayer vigil that happens every Wednesday (God willing). The Straight Up refers to the times of 6:00 a.m., noon, 6:00 p.m., and midnight--you choose whatever time works for you--and you pray for our church, those on prayer list, and prayer requests that are included in the blog post or are sent by email, normally at the beginning of the week for that Wednesday.
For I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayer and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, according to my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.
Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.
1 Thessalonians 4:17-18
I was at work a couple of months ago, watching the news story of a shooting—I am saddened to say that I do not recall specifically which one it was, as there seem to have been so many of late—but it was one in which the American shooter seemed to have been targeting Christians. If memory serves, if the victim answered in the affirmative, he or she was shot in the head; otherwise, in the leg or another limb. I was in the break room with two of my co-workers, one of which I know is a believer, and the other one was wearing a cross, so I felt comfortable discussing my faith with them both. The former was nonplussed at how evil and terroristic the world had seemed to become, and commented at the shooter’s targeting of Christians. I listened to him share his bewilderment and concern, as well as to our other co-worker sharing his concern about Christians gathering in public places. I couldn’t help but respond, “But guys, imagine the glory we would experience if faced with the prospect of being killed for our faith? One moment we’d be faced with the aspect of dying for that declaration the next, we’d be in heaven, surrounded by the majesty and glory that is the presence of God Himself. No pain, no worries, no fear, nothing but hallelujahs and praise for our King—could there be anything better?” I felt myself beaming! Zeke’s reaction, though, was less than enthusiastic. He sadly shook his head and said, “yeah, but I think I’d like to live to see my children and my grandchildren grow.”
For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.
When I was in high school (you know, back when jelly shoes, Members Only jackets, and Jordache jeans were cool?), I was quite close with three other girls from youth group. Three of us (Susan, Deborah, and I) went to the same high school and the other, Dee, went to another. We were inseparable in Sunday school, church, and youth group, and hung out at Dee’s or Deborah’s house, talking about boys and making prank phone calls. We each had an unspoken identification—Susan was the athletic one with an artistic bent for drawing that showed real talent; Deborah was the socialite whose fashion sense and beauty was impeccable (it was Deborah’s mother who got us going to cotillions, where Susan and I felt out of place) and whose older brother we all had a crush on; Dee was the blonde-haired beauty whose cute laugh and button nose had the boys in youth group just mooning all over her; and I….well, I was the smart one. We fell into our roles easily, and got along famously. It was great to be a part of such a wonderful group of girls. We accomplished a lot through our work and involvement in our youth group, and understood our part in the church body.
I can’t say that there wasn’t the occasional twinge of jealousy on my part, however. Each of my friends seemed to have aspects of everything I wanted to be or to do, and I always judged myself to come up short, regardless of what quality it was I was assessing. Youth is uniquely positioned for critical self-reflection and assessment; and the enemy’s hand was constant in pointing out my flaws and failings. What I couldn’t see at the time, though, was my unique position in the tapestry of our friendship—I was the one whose quiet and empathetic nature made it easy for people to talk to and to share things with; I was the reliable one who could be counted on to pull the group together and get us to where we needed to be; I was the one whose grasp of sentence diagramming and conjugation helped during many a homework blitz.
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?
I have a friend, of whom I may have written before (but just can’t remember), who is one of the hardest working, beautiful, caring people I know. She is successful, kind, and smart, with two wonderful kids who are just as successful in college as she is in business. We have mentored each other professionally, personally, and spiritually. Our lives and experiences have run similar tracks, and that aspect has enabled our friendship to blossom in a way that blesses us both. As in all good relationships, the fluid nature of the help giver/recipient enables our individual strengths to shine and share, and our weaknesses to diminish and be overcome.
She sought help from me the other week, challenged by some work issues that seemed to be adversely impacting her health. She was faced with two potential job opportunities, and wanted me to pray and ask for His guidance on which one she should pursue. I prayed about it the next morning, and asked if I could ask about her job opportunities. I had the fairly distinct impression that I could ask, but He wasn’t going to share it with me. Puzzled, I finally discerned that it was something He wanted her to ask Him. I shared the feedback with her, saying that I felt that it was something He wanted her to ask because He wanted her to spend time with Him. She understood, and told that she still struggles with getting up early and spending time with Him. She has struggled with this as long as I’ve known her. Much of her struggle is due to the amount of charity work she’s been known to do which takes up a lot of her time and energy, causing her to stay up too late and not get enough sleep.
So when they did not agree among themselves, they departed after Paul had said one word: “The Holy Spirit spoke rightly through Isaiah the prophet to our fathers, saying,
‘Go to this people and say:
“Hearing you will hear, and shall not understand;
And seeing you will see, and not perceive;
For the hearts of this people have grown dull.
Their ears are hard of hearing,
And their eyes they have closed,
Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears,
Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn,
So that I should heal them.”’
“Therefore let it be known to you that the salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will hear it!”
Acts 28: 25-28
The men in my family used to watch the World Series of Poker, entertained by the characters who played, and the strategies of betting. I’d occasionally catch parts of the televised games, and found it of particular interest when a player would declare that he was “all in” and push his chips to the middle of the poker table. In an instant, the atmosphere was electric, as cards were dealt and turned over. As viewers, we had the advantage of knowing the cards that all the players had, the running commentary by the announcers, and the statistical probability of which hand would win. In a short amount of time, the risky gambler would find out his fate – and celebrate if the risk paid off, or slouch in defeat if his gamble failed. If the former case happened at the last hand, the place would erupt in celebration, and the stacks of cash winnings would be presented to the winner, joy intermingled with relief.
I don’t think I could ever acquire the ability to a) play poker well (come on, every thought, every emotion flitters across my non-poker face just in normal conversation. How in the world would I not reveal any tells if I had a really good poker hand?) and b) go all in, even if I did play poker. I am conservative by nature, preferring to be the proverbial future-planning ant to the in-the-moment grasshopper, or the proverbial “slow and steady wins the race” turtle to the fast-but-spastic rabbit. I prefer to put myself “out there” a little at a time, versus jumping feet first into adventure. To me, the risk does not justify the gain. Just the way I am, I guess.
“As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.”
1 Peter 4: 10-11
I hope you all know that I try to stay away from preacher platitudes and all, but I am grappling with how to start this SUPV about the giving of time and talents without coming across as too judgmental or self-serving, too hypocritical (“why have you signed up for only one timeslot at the Pumpkin Patch, Laura?), too Church Lady-like (“well, isn’t that special?”), and a whole host of other adjectives that describe someone I don’t want to be like. So…I’m going to share a commonly told story that apparently is a riff on a poem written by Charles Osgood called “The Responsibility Poem”. The name of this story is “Nobody Did It.” To wit:
This is a story about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody. There was an important job to do and Everybody was asked to do it. Everybody was sure Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. Somebody got angry because it was Everybody’s job. Everybody thought Anybody would do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it. It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done.
Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
Cast your burden on the Lord,
And He shall sustain you;
I was struggling the other day, overwhelmed and overloaded at the challenges I’d been facing in dealing with some family issues, as well as a number of work-related issues. I felt like a fishing bobbin, floating around at the mercy of the waves of chaos around me, helpless to do anything but react to the strength and power of the waves. I felt a bit battered, and wondered just how long the valley was going to be this time. Yes, I knew I was not alone, and yes, before you say it, I did know that I am supposed to be thankful for trial, as our friend James reminds us in the 2nd verse of his very first chapter: “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.” I think I can probably speak for most of us when I say that it’s one thing to actually count it as joy when it’s happening; it’s another thing to know that you’re supposed to but fall short of it in practicality and reality. All too often, I feel that I fall on the latter.
Logically I knew that a couple of the particular things were issues I was not going to be able to figure out, nor would I be able to come up any viable options. I was very much at my wit’s end. I’d start to pray but the more it seemed I dwelt on the troublesome issues, the larger they became. (I know, I know—it’s now that preacher platitude of “don’t tell God how big your fears are—tell your fears how big your God is!” comes to mind. It didn’t bring me comfort at the time, I’m afraid to say). My mind wandered several times throughout that prayer, and I struggled unsuccessfully to reel my thoughts back in, apparently preferring to wallow in the hopelessness of my fears.
Delight yourself also in the Lord,
And He shall give you the desires of your heart.
Psalm 37: 4
But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.
My older son, Greg, whom most of you would remember, graduated college this past spring with a Computer Science degree from UTSA, and has been working for USAA since June. He had planned to move out of the house into an apartment closer to work the first weekend of the month; the apartment wasn’t ready, though, until this Thursday. So I spent Thursday afternoon and all day Friday moving my son out of my house into his own apartment. I’m proud to say that I stopped crying Friday afternoon (it wasn’t a continual crying session but one that would come and go when there was a lull in activity, like sitting in traffic surrounded with crates and laundry baskets of clothes and groceries), but I can’t take the credit—it was the comfort of Lamentations 3: 22-23 (paraphrased): “His mercies are new every day.”
It was before my morning prayers that Thursday, when I had my only bit of down time when the house was quiet, that I was ruminating on how the household dynamics were going to change. Greg’s little dog Oreo, a rescue terrier whom he’d had about 18 months, jumped on the sofa next to me and promptly presented her belly for “scritches” (you know…scritch, scritch, scritch…”). I started to tear up, knowing that the opportunities for belly rubs would soon diminish, as would shared TV viewing of Modern Family and the Dallas Cowboys with Greg. In an effort to redirect my thoughts lest I get too emotional, I took a deep breath to clear my mind and prepare for communion with Him. It was either right as I bowed my head and started to pray, or a nanosecond before, the thought of “What are the desires of your heart?” came, unbidden, into my mind. The Psalm 37 reference of “….and He shall give you the desires of your heart.” came to mind at the prompting of the first question. “Oooh! What an opportunity I have!”, I thought at first. “Is this where I tell Him that I’d like everything to be as it was before….before the boys got older and still needed me? Or was this the chance to ask for Him to make good now on those future plans I understood Him to have shared with me? Do I pray, unselfishly, for my loved ones? Or, was this where I turn into a Miss America contestant and ask for world peace? Thoughts tumbled in, one after another, as I pondered the question, and I considered each one quickly, almost as if I had a time limit in which to answer.
And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And He said, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” Moreover God said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel: ‘The Lord God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you. This is My name forever, and this is My memorial to all generations.’
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
“And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”
Shakespeare’s Juliet asks Romeo, “”What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Here, she conveys to Romeo the level of importance she confers on his last name—it is of little significance to her that his last name is Montague. He is the object of her love, not his name.
Names today, at least in Western culture, can carry some artifact of tradition (family names) and cultural references (the naming of one’s son, for example, after a most excellent Hall of Fame Dallas Cowboys quarterback, or the middle name of little Luke Tiberius Smith (awesome, btw, Angie & Bryan)), but I contend that they don’t carry the same significance as they did, say back in the times of the Bible.
“But when the morning had now come, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus.”
“For as yet they did not know the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead.”
We were in the study of the Holy Spirit Sunday school about a month ago or more, and I’d made a comment about the disciples that in retrospect I wish I hadn’t. I don’t recall specifically what I said, but the gist of it was “my goodness. They walked with Him day and night and still didn’t get it? Out of everyone in the world to understand, I would have expected that they would.” Oh, how judgmental of me! I was later humbled by the Lord for thinking that, because couldn’t I say the same thing about me? I walk with Him day in and day out, and there are so many things about His inspired word and promises that I fail to see and understand.
For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise:
“For yet a little while,
And He who is coming will come and will not tarry
Now the just shall live by faith;
But if anyone draws back,
My soul has no pleasure in him.”
Remember the concept of the genie in Aladdin’s lamp—that if you were the lucky soul who rubbed the lamp the right way, he’d come out and grant you three wishes (“and no wishing for more wishes!”)? There are websites dedicated to debating the perfect wishes, many a mother-in-law or ex-wife joke about them, and wonderful stories and Disney movies about Aladdin’s relationship with his genie. So, in that vein, I’m going to ask you to think of your three wishes, but prescribe that one of them has to be for the Stone Oak Cumberland Presbyterian Church. Okay… now think…prepare your answers… ready?
Focus now only on the single sincere wish for our church. There are hundreds of responses that could have been generated… were any of these yours:
Different Sunday School classes or Bible studies?
Jazzercise classes in the evenings?
Shorter sermons? Longer sermons? Dramatic demonstrations of the sermon? No sermon at all?
Shorter service? Longer service?
Black Ivory coffee in the church coffee pots for consumption during and after Sunday School? (you know, a brand of coffee produced by the Black Ivory Coffee Company Ltd in Northern Thailand from Arabica coffee beans consumed by elephants and collected from their feces. It runs about $1,100 per kilogram).
More folks to attend?
Others in the church to step up into leadership positions instead of the same ones who always do, so that we can avoid burnout?
A food pantry or other cause that we could for the community?
A coffee shop and bookstore in the narthex?
Increased tithes and money in the coffers?