Unpull the Pulled Plug
Marie Haugh Thoughts
I must say I was blessed to be present for the inspiring sermon given by Tim Ferguson at his beloved Church in Deer Park New York. I was impressed with the ease possessed by Mr. Ferguson while incorporating the children of the Church in a demonstration that pertained to his chosen topic. The children's actions and responses were engaging as well as heartwarming. Young and the young in mind and heart were encouraged to unpull those pulled plugs on their past endeavors that were stalled prematurely. We were motivated to move forward without future plug pulling. His words resonated within me at the time and have taken on further meaning as we entered this New Year.
Mr. Ferguson began his sermon with one of my all time favorite Scripture verses in 11 Timothy 1:7 "For God has not given us a Spirit of fear but a Spirit of power and of love and of a sound mind". Seriously who could ask for anything more? Power, love and a sound mind! Pease count me in. How, where and when is this possible? Mr. Ferguson addressed the how and the where and I am counting on 2016 to be the when. I want ALL the good stuff Our Lord has planned and I want it sooner rather later. Thankfully this New Year we are happily reminded that He has given us a clean slate so I would like to join with Mr. Ferguson and his fellow Church members and echo, " let's not be hindered by fear. Let's begin to change for good."
As Mr. Ferguson declared, "Change is good when it is driven by a Holy Spirit, inspired faith." How many times in the past have we pulled our own plug on a Spirit inspired mission ? Fear that comes from our human nature is surely a culprit of vision smashing. Mr. Ferguson informed us of a statement in a Newsday article by the Reverend William Briscotti who pastors in Wyandanch, New York. Reverend Briscotti stated, "each of us has a choice to be a force for good and to think of making arising situations better or simply reacting in a nonchalant, negative way." I for one have had more than enough of the negative. I am ready to say, "Here I am Lord teach me. I am ALL in for the positive, constructive and joyful! If we don't chose to live in faith Mr. Ferguson explains that our existence will most likely be one of always being at the mercy of the outcomes, some good some challenging. We were told that the definition of faith is saying "yes" to the Word of God which puts us in the driver's seat with the guidance of God's Spirit pointing the way. Yes I am serious, "sign me up!"
Mr. Ferguson shared with us the sayings on two of the plaque's in his study at home. The first says "Let us be silent that we may hear the whispers of God". The second says "Learn to pause or nothing worthwhile will catch up to you". Mr. Ferguson strongly states that time must be made for silence or we have little chance of hearing God". Mr. Ferguson teaches, " When we still ourselves we are ready to learn His calling. It will come to all who listen because there is a calling for everyone."
I believe that the remedy for fear is being strengthened in the Presence of The Lord. I know for myself sometimes the more I need to do something the less I feel like doing it. Well I am making a commitment for 2016 and being I am an individual who enjoys doing things with others, I am actually breeching all of you to join me in committing ourselves for one final time to SPEND QUIET TIME WITH OUR LORD. I truly believe that this will be the antidote to our fear. As our hearing is sharpened and our strength is increased our fears will be overcome making us capable of carrying out our visions and callings. An inverse relationship exists. As we become closer to Our Lord the grip of fear will lessen until His will is done and we surely shall unpull any and all pulled plugs!
Unpull the Pulled Plug ..... October 11, 2015
How many times do we "pull the plug" on a task we began. What initially appeared to be good becomes filled with uncertainty. Uncertainty leads to anxiety and anxiety leads to a fear of failure. Fear wins out and the plug is pulled often before the task gets beyond its initial planning stage.
Pulling the plug is a phrase that has become part of our vernacular. Too often good ideas are stymied by a fear that we do not have the funds or time to complete them. All kinds of "what if's" emerge in our mind and, without thinking, we pull the plug on a good idea that deserved to be pursued. We pull the plug because we fear how the idea will play out over time. Once again the fear of the unknown is the inhibitor of growth.
Yet Paul writes in II Timothy chapter 1 verse 7, "For God has not given us a spirit of fear but a spirit of power and of love and of sound mind." Let me repeat this verse, "For God has not given us a spirit of fear but a spirit of power and of love and of sound mind."
Our church is in the process of change. New tasks are present as well as new goals in the areas of children's ministry and mission projects . And, of course, there is the challenging task of finding the right new pastor to lead us. Change is good when it is driven by a Holy Spirit, inspired faith. Setting new goals is easy. Following through to completion is the more challenging endeavor. Too often we take on a new challenge but, when adversity emerges, we pull the plug on the mission at hand.
What keeps us from completing such tasks? Is it not the fear of failure, a fear that comes from our human nature. It is for this reason that we need the inspiration of God's spirit that is "not a spirit of fear but a spirit of power and of love and of sound mind."
We are not alone amongst the believers in our God who let fear create doubt in their mind. Three thousand plus years ago, God's chosen people were led out of Egypt by Moses. They miraculously walked across the Red Sea,parted for them to pass through, and observed the Egyptian army following them swallowed up by the no- longer parted sea. We all know the story. This observation, one would think, would inspire insurmountable faith amongst its witnesses but it did not. Rather the Israelites shortly thereafter complained to Moses, "Why did the Lord bring us here to starve? We were better off as slaves in Egypt." In essence the Israelites were saying that the uncomfortable circumstances of the past were better than the uncertain risk the future would bring.
Many of us will soon learn during our upcoming retreat about six men who, over the past five hundred years, did not withdraw from future change for the safety of their past. They stayed true to their calling; they said yes to God's call and made a difference in the world for those they lived with and for you and for me.
Reverend William Briscotti , pastor of Our Lady of Miraculous Medal Church in Wyandanch, was recently quoted in a Newsday article. He said, "The old saying is: work like everything depends on you and pray like everything depends on God." He furthermore stated that each of us has a choice " to be a force for good and think of making arising situations better or simply reacting in a nonchalant, negative way." All of life presents challenges. How do we react? Do we care to make things better or simply look the other way?
We all know situations arise when change is required. Stepping out in faith has consequences. It is hard and sometimes risky to act according to the callings of our faith. But what is the alternative? A faithless existence would most likely be one of always be at the mercy of the outcomes, some good and some challenging. The definition of faith: saying yes to the word of God puts us in the driverâ€™s seat with the guidance of God's spirit pointing the way.
So what is this faith thing really? What does "Saying yes to the word of God" really mean? First of all saying yes is an action. Faith is not simply a fuzzy, warm feeling that all will turn out well if we simply believe. God requires more. But how do we know what it is that God desires of us. What are we supposed to say yes to?
I have two plaques with sayings on them in my study at home. The first reads, "Let us be silent that we may hear the whispers of God". It reminds me of the still small voice Elijah heard on the mountain amidst the thunder and earthquake, powerful sounds that, nevertheless, were void of God. In our busy lives we must take time to be silent ... every day. It may be a silent prayer before a meal or a meditative moment in the morning. Time must be made for silence ... or we have little chance of hearing the whispers of God.
The second plaque in my study reads: "Learn to pause or nothing worthwhile will catch up to you". Can anything be truer. We are in such a rush to get to the next event in our busy schedules that we need to remind ourselves to take that pause, that meditative moment, when the spirit of God becomes real and gives guidance.
At times we sing the hymn, "Spirit of the Living God" in worship. It is a short hymn ... so short that we usually sing it through twice in our services. The hymn has one verse with four lines to it. The first, second and last lines are the same. That common, repeated line is a powerful request of faith. We sing "Spirit of the Living God fall afresh on me." Think about it. Our petition of God as we sing this hymn is for the Spirit of God to freshly come upon us. We need to pause in our busy lives to do exactly as the hymn calls us to do. These moments of being refreshed bring insight. They help us see the world differently because we have taken the time to let the world come to us rather than racing through all that is around us on to the next event in our busy schedules.
Linda and I enjoy going to the beach. We like to walk along the sand and through the small villages of fire island. But what I really enjoy is simply sitting and looking at the water. From a distance it seems to be simply a large body of water but when we walk up close and take a look at the waves breaking upon the shore, we see they are filled with life. Similarly, as we go about our daily lives take time to look around with no other purpose but to look. Like Elijah we won't find God's spirit in the hurricane that pounds our shores. Rather we will see his spirit in the beauty of a poetic psalm or in the eyes of the needy. We will hear him in the voice of the choir or listening to the beautiful melodies of Bill and John as they play for us in the moments of quiet during our service.
When the Spirit of God freshens our souls we are ready to learn his calling. It will come to all who listen because there is a calling for everyone.
Now this may all seem a bit magical. Simply believe and all will be well. Of course life is not so simple. Just two weeks ago a gunman entered a school cafeteria in Oregon, asked individuals about their religious beliefs and shot those who stood by their faith. The same scenario happened sixteen years ago in Columbine, Colorado. I cannot answer why people steadfast in their beliefs become casualties in these tragedies . Psychologists are pondering why people who have never hurt anyone are placed at risk simply due to their beliefs. It makes no sense and yet it is the uncertain world in which we live.
The best answer I can offer is that of a ten year old boy. He and a second young boy were interviewed on an HBO special some years ago. They both had leukemia and the first boy in talking about his disease said, "I don't know why God made me sick. I am a good boy."The second boy responded, "I don't think God did this to us. I think God does good things to the bad things that got into our bodies." He then took a deep breath and continued, ... "If you had all the pain I have, you could not get through one day without God".
How we wish the things of faith could be easy but they are not. In and of itself faith does not make the world a better place. But God helps us through the pain, the discouragement and the fear of the unknown. Faith gives us the courage to make the best of our circumstances and, in doing so, the world becomes better place.
Take the time to find the role you are to play. Faith gives us confidence to move forward, to make plans for ourselves and for our church. When God's call for your life becomes clear, don't hesitate. Say "yes" to his call and move forward into the arena of making the world a better place.
Since we are human, the time comes to all of us when we are tempted to pull the plug on that call from God, to pull the plug on that effort to take a stand for something, which we passionately believe in. The fear of uncertainty may tempt us to pull the plug on that thing our heart tells us we should do. When that moment comes, do not worry about the outcome of your effort ... remember the spirit of our God is not a spirit of fear but a spirit of power and a spirit of love and of sound mind. Unpull that pulled plug ... go forward and make a difference.