Pandemic Dreams

My pandemic dreams are getting wilder and louder. Some mornings I wake up exhausted by my dream-saturated sleep. Even in my tiredness, I am grateful for the silence that wakefulness brings. My deep consciousness is flooded with turbulence. I have read that others are experiencing this as well. How about you?

We understand that dreams are the mind’s way of unburdening itself of the daily pressures and disturbances that get shoved away throughout the day so that we can focus on what is at hand. Some posit that dreams are a form of memory processing, or are a type of protective act, i.e. a way to prepare the brain for danger and challenges. In any case, it stands to reason that the current pandemic would result in people having vivid dreams all night long.

In 1 Peter, we read a beautiful picture of life being ”a journey you must travel with a deep consciousness of God.” That image is profound for us pandemic people. Oh, how we long to replace our deep consciousness of despair with the deep consciousness of God’s peace!

And I like that it reminds us that this is a journey, which implies that there is a destination. I am ready, as I’m sure you are, for us to ARRIVE at the end. Let me off this bus!!

Even better, we find God on this journey:

1 Peter 1 (The Message)

17 You call out to God for help and he helps—he’s a good Father that way. But don’t forget, he’s also a responsible Father, and won’t let you get by with sloppy living.

18-21 Your life is a journey you must travel with a deep consciousness of God. It cost God plenty to get you out of that dead-end, empty-headed life you grew up in. He paid with Christ’s sacred blood, you know. He died like an unblemished, sacrificial lamb. And this was no afterthought.

YOU are not an afterthought to God. You call out to him for help, and he responds like the good, responsible father that he is. He has removed us from our sloppy, dead-end, empty-headed way of life.

Even though it has only lately—at the end of the ages—become public knowledge, God always knew he was going to do this for you. It’s because of this sacrificed Messiah, whom God then raised from the dead and glorified, that you trust God, that you know you have a future in God.

Don’t miss that…we have a future in God. This is comforting news in the midst of recent information that we might see a spike in COVID cases in the fall. A second wave may be imminent, and we are so weary of the first. But hang on. We have a future in God.

22-25 Now that you’ve cleaned up your lives by following the truth, love one another as if your lives depended on it. Your new life is not like your old life. Your old birth came from mortal sperm; your new birth comes from God’s living Word.

What must change immediately is that we must “love one another as if our lives depend on it.” We are utterly failing at this. The vitriol, anger, and downright hatred that we see every day on our streets, on the news, and especially on social media must stop. We condemn ourselves with every post.

Just think: a life conceived by God himself! That’s why the prophet said,

The old life is a grass life,
    its beauty as short-lived as wildflowers;
Grass dries up, flowers droop,
    God’s Word goes on and on forever.

This is the Word that conceived the new life in you.

Today is a day to seek the deep consciousness of God. Today is an opportunity to allow God’s Word of hope, salvation, and unconditional love to bring forth a new life in us.

THIS is what I dream of: a world-wide community unified as one body, loving each other through this pandemic, and offering only words of comfort and peace to each other until this is over.

What do you dream of? Are you experiencing disturbing dreams right now? Do you wake up tired? Do you long for peace?

Listen. Stay in the Word, and get out of the world. Find ways, especially at bedtime, to turn everything off and go deep into the consciousness of God. Pray like you’ve never prayed before.

God will deliver us, of that I am sure. The Word will bring new life in us.

Sweet Dreams by Becca Ziegler

Having Epiphanies

Ever have an epiphany? Like, a really, really good one? I recall having an epiphany once about a toxic relationship I was in. For the longest time I had been blinded to the reality of it, following along and taking the negativity toward me as “personality-driven.” Every time something was said that made me wince, I wrote it off to the other person’s stress/having a bad day/quirky humor/maybe I heard it wrong. But I was hearing it right, and when the epiphany finally came that this relationship was causing me harm, I had to begin the painful process of extricating myself from the friendship.

An epiphany happens when we finally see the light. The word harkens back to the time in scripture when people literally saw the light, a star hanging over Bethlehem that lit the way to the manger and thus lit the way to the salvation of the world.

Matthew 2 (New King James Version)

Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also.”

When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. 11 And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

12 Then, being divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed for their own country another way.

The star led them to Jesus, but an epiphany warned them to stay away from Herod. An Epiphany epiphany.

The word epiphany comes from the Greek word meaning appearance or manifestation. We celebrate the day of Epiphany on January 6th as the final day of the twelve days of Christmas. Many people keep their decorations and lights up until this day to commemorate the Light of the World being made manifest on earth.

In all senses of the word, epiphanies are about the breaking of darkness by the sudden intrusion of light-power. That is what happens every time God appears. Yet in the sense that God is always there, perhaps it is more accurate to say that it happens every time we finally are ready to see the light.

The irony of the Epiphany is that the pagan astrologers saw what the religious scholars refused to see. Trapped in their ritual, expectation, scripture memorization, and endless arguments about doctrine, they missed the entire event, while the star-gazers got to see the Messiah.

Take a look around you. What is God trying to show you? Where is he shining a light on something in your life and yelling, “Pay attention to this!”

Epiphanies happen every day. God breaks into darkness every day. God sheds new light on bad situations every day.

Open your eyes, and behold.

The Hiltons’ Epiphany star.

All is Well

In 1989, Michael W. Smith wrote these amazing lyrics in a hauntingly beautiful Christmas song:

All is well, all is well
Angels and men rejoice
For tonight darkness fell
Into the dawn of love’s light
Sing A-le
Sing Alleluia

All is well, all is well
Let there be peace on earth
Christ has come, go and tell
That He is in the manger
Sing A-le
Sing Alleluia

I learned this chorus many years ago when I sang in a church choir, and every Christmas Eve, the words come back to me with a surge of joyful peace. They remind us that no matter what is going on, no matter what shock you have experienced, what disappointment or life-changing event has just come your way, all is well.

I had an opportunity to live out these lyrics one Christmas Eve when all was not well. Just days before Christmas, the pastor whom I worked with was removed from our church under complaints of misconduct. The congregation did not know. The bishop acted swiftly and appropriately according to our denomination’s well-outlined process, and suddenly I was alone, facing Christmas Eve services. All was not well.

Our District Superintendent came to preach, but as the congregation looked at me, confused, heartbroken, angry, and in shock, I felt God calling me to stand before them and assure them that even in that moment of incredible disruption, all is well…or at least it would be, with the passing of time and the completion of process.

So I sang the first verse to them.

In the face of things not being well by any stretch of the imagination, Smith’s lyrics take us back to the time of Jesus’ birth, when he came to set well all that was not well. We remember that the people had walked in darkness, and then saw his light, just as the prophet had foretold:

Isaiah 9 (NIV)

The people walking in darkness
    have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
    a light has dawned.

We remember that darkness fell when the dawn of love’s light was birthed in the manger. We remember that Jesus came to bring peace on earth, and in the fullness of time, we WILL experience peace. Sing Alleluia, for all is well.

What a shocking revelation. To think that in the midst of cancer, war, terrorism, the abuse and neglect of the poor and the elderly, homelessness, personal tragedy…all is well?

Yet Christmas comes to remind us of just that truth. Christ came in a manger to assure us that all IS well. We would do well to heed that truth. In contrast to earthly problems and crises, heaven stands wide open, proclaiming the hope, love, joy and peace of a future where everything and everyone is well.

So in the midst of your dark place, there is nothing better than to sing. Sing in the hope that it might come true for you. Sing in the expectation of God’s intervention. Sing, knowing that the Lord of the Dance has everything under control. Just sing.

In my situation, it took months of pain before wellness began to return. But it did, and it returned in waves. Take heart: your wellness is coming, so just SING.

All is well, all is well
Lift up your voices and sing
Born is now Emmanuel
Born is our Lord and Savior
Sing Alleluia
Sing Alleluia
All is well!

A Light has Dawned by Mary Anne Mong Cramer

The Heat is ON

There comes a moment in everyone’s life when a stark reality…one that has been impending for days…suddenly rears its ugly head. You have to give in, you have to respond, and finally, you have to turn on the furnace. No longer can you pretend that late summer is lingering, or Indian summer is still hanging around, or even that we are enjoying a mild fall. Nope, when your feet hit the floor as you slide out from under the warm covers and your whole body yells “SNOWSUIT!!” it’s time to turn the furnace on.

I hate first-time-furnace day. The SMELL, ugh. All dormant furnaces smell the same the first time they are turned on. The long months of rest that they enjoy allow every manner of dust, musty particles, dirt, etc. to collect, and these things burn off within the first few hours of firing up your furnace.

Dormancy, accumulation of dust, and sudden burning. This sounds like what might happen in my brain if I sat down to take the math portion of the SAT right now. Some things really do come into a “use it or lose it” situation.

It can also happen to our faith.

What if we went for months without firing up our faith? Can you really take a break from your relationship with God, corporate worship, acts of service, fellowship with other believers, or scripture reading?

Romans 11 (The Message)

11b-13 Keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality.

14-16 Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down. Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody.

17-19 Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody. Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.”

20-21 Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he’s thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness. Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good.

Gosh, this is so good. Keep yourself aflame. Be alert. Be cheerfully expectant. Bless your enemies, feed them lunch, discover beauty in everyone…the list of ways to stay fueled up is long and incredibly helpful.

I suspect as you read that, the Holy Spirit highlighted something for you in a neon yellow color.

What in particular speaks to you today? Laugh with happy friends? Cry with sad ones? Don’t hit back? Stop being stuck-up? Don’t insist on getting even? Stop judging everyone?

Whatever has hit you this day, take it to heart. God uses scripture all the time to fire up our dormant furnaces. Focus on that one thing and make it your mission. Do it with all of your passion. It may smell funny for a moment, but soon you will be fired up again for God’s work and his people. It’s time to burn off your dormancy and light the fire of Christ in you. Bring on the heat!

Morning Heat by Michelle Robertson

Projectors

A projector is an output device that can take images from a source and show them on a screen. Movie theaters use projectors at the rear of the theater to cast moving images on a giant wall screen in the front. Projectors are found in schools, businesses, training centers, etc.

And then there is another type of projecting. This is when someone has a grudge, grievance, anger issue, or mental instability, and projects that onto another person. It is a defense mechanism for coping with undesirable feelings and emotions. People project negative feelings onto others rather than admitting or dealing with the unwanted feelings. A husband constantly accusing his wife of cheating may be projecting his secret behavior onto her. A teenager, frustrated with his lack of accomplishment, may taunt and pick on a younger sibling rather than face his own feelings of inadequacy.

Bullying is a form of projecting. A middle school teacher and I were chatting last week and she talked about how much bullying takes place in school. She is working very hard and deliberately to have kids understand their own emotions and to take ownership of what they are processing internally, rather than project those feelings of anger and shame onto others by bullying. Sadly, many of them will grow up to be adult bullies and continue to project their unresolved issues onto others.

Bullies will probably always project. But that doesn’t mean you have to be their screen.

Luke 17 English Standard Version (ESV)

Temptations to Sin

17 And he said to his disciples, “Temptations to sin are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come! 2 It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin.

3 Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him.

If your brother or sister sins, rebuke them. Jesus never called us to be doormats. We can stand strong in the full armor of God and stand up for ourselves in his might. When the money lenders were defiling the temple, Jesus didn’t capitulate. He threw them out. Turning the other cheek here doesn’t mean offering a bully a second chance to strike…it means turning your cheek away as you walk out the door, closing it behind you on the bully.

Ephesians 6:10-20 The Message (MSG)

A Fight to the Finish

10-12 God is strong, and he wants you strong. So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way. This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels.

13-18 Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life.

God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.

If you have someone who continues to project their misery onto you, walk away. Bury yourself deep in God’s word, and pray for strength. Put on the full armor against evil, and stand up for yourself. Projectors need screens, so as soon as you stop being one, the show will be over and you’ll still be on your feet. God is strong, and he wants you to be strong. Take every weapon he supplies, cover yourself in prayer, and STAND FIRM. You’ve got this, because God’s got you. Thanks be to God.

Peaceful Waters by Kathy Schumacher

Laughing at Death

The history of Halloween is interesting. It began as a Celtic practice called Samhain, which was held at the end of the harvest season, when late fall turns into frozen winter and the death of all the earth’s growing things was imminent. The Celts believed that on the day of Samhain, the veil between the living and the dead was lifted, and the dead came back and walked the earth. So the people dressed in costumes and lit bonfires to confuse the ghosts and ward off the evil spirits and the walking dead among them. Samhain was held on October 31st.

All Saints’ Day, a festival for remembering the saints, was set by Pope Gregory III on November 1st in order to co-opt this pagan tradition and connect it to a Christian practice. Samhain thus became known as All Hallows’ Eve, which we now call Halloween. In many ways, the two traditions are related. All Saints’ Day recognizes the work of the faithful who have died in the previous year and have gone on to experience God’s glorious eternity. Samhain was a day when people actively defied death, laughing at the very notion of it.

As it should be.

Nobody wants to die. We are designed by God to seek life, preserve life, protect life, and frankly, we spend most of our days trying to make the best of this life that we’ve been given. So while we don’t look forward to dying, we also can live our lives as those who are prepared to die, because living or dying, our life is with the Lord. God designed us for life, but death is a part of God’s design as well. Because of the resurrection of Jesus and his promise to take us to the place where he went upon his death, we can live in such a way that, while we don’t seek death, we don’t dread it either. We can even put on a Buzz Lightyear mask or Mickey ears and laugh at death on All Hallow’s Eve, because in the end, death has no lasting power over us:

1 Corinthians 15

51-57 But let me tell you something wonderful, a mystery I’ll probably never fully understand. We’re not all going to die—but we are all going to be changed. You hear a blast to end all blasts from a trumpet, and in the time that you look up and blink your eyes—it’s over. On signal from that trumpet from heaven, the dead will be up and out of their graves, beyond the reach of death, never to die again.

At the same moment and in the same way, we’ll all be changed. In the resurrection scheme of things, this has to happen: everything perishable taken off the shelves and replaced by the imperishable, this mortal replaced by the immortal. Then the saying will come true:

Death swallowed by triumphant Life!

Who got the last word, oh, Death?

Oh, Death, who’s afraid of you now?

I know a man who is not afraid of death, despite his ongoing battle with brain cancer. He has sought treatments, has had surgery, and has received miracles of love, healing, and friendships from the Lord. A new tumor has stabilized, and the original tumor bed has another tumor growing in it. This will be dealt with through prayer, positivity, medical treatments, and the power of God. In the meantime, guess what this man did last month? He offered to lead a men’s Bible study and support group this year. That, my friends, is laughing at death. Who gets the last word? Jesus. Always Jesus. We ain’t afraid of no ghosts.

58 With all this going for us, my dear, dear friends, stand your ground. And don’t hold back. Throw yourselves into the work of the Master, confident that nothing you do for him is a waste of time or effort.

So mote it be.

Hatteras Campfire by Melissa Herring

To Fly

Have you ever dreamed that you can fly? Not fly in an airplane, but do you ever have that dream where you can actually fly through the air, in your best Superman pose? I have had flying dreams ever since I was a child. It is always on a moonlit night in the little town where I grew up. The weather is mild, and I start off by standing on the sidewalk. In my mind, I simply decide to fly! My heels lift up behind me and suddenly I can fly over the houses and trees. I fly over my elementary school, the library next door, and down to the post office with the creepy woods behind it. From the air, the woods never look as creepy as they did in real life. But the feeling! To fly through the air, unencumbered and free….gosh, I hope heaven has an element of flying to it.

Psychologists suggest many reasons for flying dreams. They are an expression of the need for freedom, escape, a spiritual awakening, joy, and elation.

If, by chance, you don’t happen to fly in your dreams, take heart. At the end, we all will fly, straight into Jesus’ arms.

1 Thessalonians 4

6 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.

18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.

So dream along with me for a minute. The Lord himself will come down for us. He will call us to himself. We will hear the call of the archangel and the trumpet, and we will arise. We will arise! We will met the Lord in the air, flying with our Superman arms extended, free, joyful, elated, and at peace.

No more tears. No more anger. No more hate. No more pain, death, cancer, divorce, disease, terrorism, war, and even no more political debates and taxes. This world will all fall away and we will FLY.

So for now, do what it says: encourage one another. Lift up one another. Build one another up and spur each other on to good deeds, loving each other, serving the needy, and telling the good news of our impending departure to everyone who has not heard yet. Get ready to defy gravity! Together we will be caught up in the clouds, and fly away.

I’ll fly away, oh Glory!

I’ll fly away.

When I die, Hallelujah, by and by,

I’ll fly away!

Feather Sunrise by Michelle Robertson.

For Billy Baldwin, who just earned yet another set of wings. Fly away home, sir.