The Invisible Woman

Lying in bed this morning reflecting on the day, the very first day of 2015. I picked up my phone and began to look at my Facebook. What I saw there became increasing obvious to me that there was something missing that I guess I should have been aware of sooner. I was missing. I was looking at all your posts and get togethers, Weddings, parties and gatherings. I wasn’t in any of your pictures not one. Wait this can’t be…. These people are my friends! Right?
Ok so maybe I’m a bit of a dreamer here and please bear with me. As I was reflecting on my lack of face time in your lives I began to realize that I had done the very thing that I have read warnings about these last few years. I had fallen for Facebooks false sense of intimacy. What the heck?! I’m smarter than this…. Or at least I thought I was. Upon further reflection and some discussion with the hubby I have come to conclude that I have allowed ( with really very little choice on my part) my life to become so busy that I have cocooned myself away from people I truly care about. I have allowed Facebook to become my connection to you which in turn severed our real sense of connectedness. I have become the person you read her posts and look at her adventurous pictures of the next place she escapes to but when you think of your friends you don’t think of her…. The invisible woman. She is just someone you know or used to know. She isn’t a part of your life. But here I sit reading you posts and feeling some odd sense of false connection to you all because my life doesn’t or hasn’t allowed closeness the past few years. No wonder I feel lonely every darn day. Wow Sherry get a grip!
Please don’t get me wrong, I am not blaming you all in the least. I have done this! Unwittingly, but yet still it’s there. So even though I don’t make resolutions normally I will this year. I will resolve to be more visible, physically visible no matter how tired I am. I will make more intentional connections and make closer REAL friends not just virtual ones. I will find some way to free up my time even if it’s just for a conversation on the phone.
The thing is I do cherish you all, all who’s faces and small snapshots of lives grace my Facebook page. I pray for you often and genuinely care for you. I just need to show it more. Up close and personal. Look out 2015 Sherry is making REAL friends this year. Wanna come along?

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Good Man

My heart is breaking. I have suffered some loss in my life but no one so close to me that I would call a true friend. Bob was my boss almost 17 years ago and was my boss for 5 years. I came home from maternity leave to find myself with a new boss. He was a little leery he had heard about the “Christian” woman who worked there but had no idea what to expect. I can honestly say Bob was one of the best bosses I ever had and he was wise and kind. We became close friends that maintained contact long after our time together ended. I grew to love his entire family. Several years later when he needed a job I was able to help facilitate getting him a position at my new job. Although Bob was a self-professed agnostic we had many conversations about God and he insisted his wife raise their two girls in the church. He told me that he may be wrong and he didn’t want to damn his children to hell if he was. I know he had faith he was just wounded like so many that come out of the Catholic church. We had so many conversations that I’m confident I will see him again.

Bob was a kind-hearted man. He and his wife hosted Christmas parties at his house for years after our beloved Orthologic tanked. I have strived to pass on his legacy as a great boss by trying to emulate him with my people.

He could always make me smile and there were times I wish he were my father because of his kindness. He was loved by so many of us that it was hard having to tell them all today. The mark of a great man a man of impact is how many that were not his family loved him…. he has so many.

Bob Sassano you were a great man and you will always be in my heart. You will not be forgotten and your legacy of wisdom and kindness will live on in me.

Sherry

Is it just a NUMBER?

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In my mind I am a force to be reckoned with. A smart, funny, mildly attractive woman with lots of energy, who loves to have fun and laugh, but there is that blasted number and the lines that have crept up around my eyes…. Wait how did that happen?

I looked in the mirror this morning and saw a few more gray hairs the last bottle of dye didn’t cover and the strange places I find hair growing. Wait… what’s going on here?  I can’t possibly be about to turn half a century. 

One of the hardest things about getting older for me is what happens to your body. I bet that is the chief complaint for anyone as they age. I don’t seem to be as stable physically as I once was. As I hike now I have to take it slower and try to be surer footed. WHAT THE HECK? Who put the FALL RISK sign on my back?

I started to climb a tree a month ago and thought “Oh Crap what if I can’t get down?”  Really??? That thought never occurred to me before.. I was never worried about breaking a hip before.  UGH!

I have also picked up a pesky 20lb and those dreaded hot flashes that come with this horrible number. Now I’m constantly fighting the propensity to look like I’m about to pass out from heat exhaustion. DON”T look at me like that kid I may smack you with my cane… I’m fine I’m not about to pass out but I may need towel and nice fan.

Yes I can still do lots of things that I love and enjoy and I’m going to if it KILLS me.

I’m not ready for this…. Ok I’ve decided I’m NOT going there.  I refuse to get older and I’m just not gonna and you can’t make me!

Over-Spiritualizing

Over-spiritualizing

I was raised in a denomination that was very charismatic. There were always lots of speaking in tongues and being slain in the spirit happening any given Sunday. It wasn’t scary it was just what we did. Being a highly observant child I found some very disturbing trends take shape in this microcosm of spirituality. One of the most disturbing was the over spiritualization of daily life. By this I mean to attribute to God or Satan an event or events in our lives that give it a larger meaning or to find the divine or lack thereof, in all things.

Through the years I have observed this phenomenon in the church and in myself and it manifests itself in different ways. I think that it has become increasingly easy for Christians to use Satan as a scape goat for everything that seems like a trial or tragedy. When in reality it may just be a consequence of a poor choice on our part.

 By that same thought process I have come to realize that God in his infinite majesty is not concerning himself with choosing my wardrobe or orchestrating my parking spot near the front of the mall.

When we spend our time contemplating the spirituality of life and all its minutia it becomes too distracting and is in a sense keeping us from our true purpose.

 I found this quote on a blog from http://danwhitejr.blogspot.com/ which sums it up nicely.

 

“The danger in over-spiritualizing something is that we put too much value on one thing and in so doing take away value from the more important things. 

 

  The odd thing is, when we over-spiritualize we actually create emotional confusion about what God is up to in this world.  We create a consciousness that is waiting for a “movement of God.”  We create a God that is without who intervenes in dramatic ways instead of a God who is within in the form of the Holy Spirit striving with us to bear fruit in the routine of our life.”

 

When we over spiritualize our walk with God the end result often isolates us from society in favor or our spiritual over connectedness. We surround ourselves with only godly things and forget that there is a world out there that needs our attention. We consume ourselves with the perceived Godly things that render us ineffective in our witness and ability to relate to the fallen world around us which we were specifically called to reach.

We should guard of our hearts so that we may not fall into sin. But that wall of security is different for each of us and we must not get caught up in making sure everyone’s protective wall is as high as our own.  Not everyone’s temptations are the same. We must strive to know those boundaries that affect us and our families and act on those and not try to drag others into our struggle, for it is our struggle and the way we overcome it that makes us relevant and relatable to the world.

1 Corinthians 10:23 “All things are permissible but all things are not beneficial.” 

It is up to each of us to decide as to what is permissible and beneficial in our lives and what our boundaries are.  Christ said himself that he did not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it. Rather to render it unnecessary. We must not spend our time trying to reinstate it but instead learn the discipline needed to resist the temptations of this world so that we may be a light to all.

It has been my experience that the Christian tendency to over spiritualize turns others away from us and thusly away from Christ.  A tragedy indeed.

Setting the house on fire.

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You spend your whole life building it. Brick by brick you cherish each and every one. You take great pains in putting just the right amount of mortar to ever piece. Love, Hope, Faith in the Lord, fearlessness and Discipline all make each brick adhere to the other.  You shape and mold your house daily on the firm foundation you have set on stone.  It’s solid at least you think it is….

 

 

Matthew 7:24-27

24 “Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. 25 Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. 26 But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. 27 When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.”

 

Then the storm comes and we see just what your house is truly made of. How you weather that storm shows on whose foundation you have built it.  It doesn’t mean it won’t be damaged in some way or some of the bricks won’t be pushed around a little. Your house might even look a bit different after the storm but it will still stand.

Recently I have a different storm brewing, it doesn’t feel like wind and rain it feel like Fire. It feels like someone has set my house on fire because there is a chip in the tile. It doesn’t feel good to be standing in a burning house.  Often I feel helpless and unsure of what step to take to put the fire out. The reality is I’m not equipped to handle this fire. But I know someone who is.

 

Deuteronomy 4:12

12 Then the Lord spoke to you out of the fire. You heard the sound of words but saw no form; there was only a voice. 

As I stand here in the fire my Savior speaks to me there. I do not always see him but I hear his voice saying “Rest in me, I know what I’m doing”. The unknown is always a bit scary. The prospect that the house just might burn to the ground and then where would I be is terrifying. But he made Israel a promise that I can hold as my own.

Deuteronomy 30:1-5

The Message (MSG)

30 1-5 Here’s what will happen. While you’re out among the nations where God has dispersed you and the blessings and curses come in just the way I have set them before you, and you and your children take them seriously and come back to God, your God, and obey him with your whole heart and soul according to everything that I command you today,God, your God, will restore everything you lost; he’ll have compassion on you; he’ll come back and pick up the pieces from all the places where you were scattered. No matter how far away you end up, God, your God, will get you out of there and bring you back to the land your ancestors once possessed. It will be yours again. He will give you a good life and make you more numerous than your ancestors.

 

So here I stand in a burning house waiting for the restoration the Lord has promised me. It may not be there today or tomorrow but it’s coming just the same. Because I know my foundation is solid and my mortar is strong enough to withstand it till the day of his promise.

Holding my Tongue.

You may not know this about me but I love to read. I love books and I love information. I crave expanding my mind. I enjoy reading things that challenge my point of view and often find myself reading or watching things that people who do not share my fundamental world view post on Facebook or recommend to me. I like a good challenge. I am not opposed to changing my mind if the argument to do so is a good sound one. I know what I believe and I can back it up with facts and logic and scripture. But mostly I hold my tongue. I know you are saying.. REALLY? It doesn’t seem like it. Well trust me there is a whole lot I keep myself from saying so get ready the bonds are being broken.

Many of you may have caught the conversation that happened on my 16 year olds Facebook page yesterday. If you didn’t, you missed a sad diatribe from a few lost teenagers that broke my heart. The subject was Pornography and Sex trafficking and it morphed into these young people defending the benefits and their use of Porn. Now I would like to clarify here these kids were NOT Christians in any way. There were a couple of Christian kids that weighed in and I am very proud of their courage. What disturbed me greatly was that most of these teens had accounts (or said they did) on a certain porn site. My daughter says they talk about Porn daily. Where are these kids’ parents? The truth is they are being failed by everyone in their lives. Their parents have checked out for whatever reason we are left with an unsupervised generation that is feeding their ever narcissistic fantasy. We are churning out a generation that their thought processes are so illogical and colored by their sinful indulgences and social media that they in turn have no Hope and are miserable but have no compass to guide their way. They need Hope, they need guidance…. They need JESUS.

Yes there are many other factors that contribute to this but I feel like we as the church we are failing these kids by the truck load. Heck we are failing our own kids by not passing down our faith. When I was a teen there seemed to be more Christian teen programs and outreaches to our communities. I don’t see them now. At church we are told we need to reach our neighbor and I’m sure that theme is reiterated in the youth department but yet are we reaching them? Does this sermon all too often go over our heads? Because the reality is that it’s scary to talk to someone about coming to church or even scarier to talk to them about Jesus. We need to do better.

My daughter started attending a youth group about 3 years ago to supplement her church attendance. It’s a small church in Litchfield Park. It happens to be in the church building my father built many years ago and has since been sold to Streams Church. I love this church and their people. They truly have a heart for youth. Since she has been attending she has invited many people with her and they all stick. You know why? Because these kids feel love and connection here. Many of the kids that attend this group don’t have Christian parents but they find the support they need here. They guide these kids through their real life challenges and strengthen them to go to their schools and spread the gospel. They have it right but where are the others?

Ok here is where it’s going to get uncomfortable but I mean this all in love but, I also feel a passion for this subject that angers me to my very core. We the church are failing our kids. We are failing to pass our faith on because we don’t have the discipline to live our Christian lives in our homes. No one here is asking you to be perfect but I am asking you to do better. Lately, I have observed many Christian parents that put on the face of “Good Christian” on social media or publicly and then in their home with their kids live like the devil himself. I get to talk to some of these kids and it’s sad. We are losing them because of our hypocrisy. I’ve been told about Parents screaming insults at teens and calling them names like loser, retarded or stupid. Being degrading and wounding with words and then with the very same mouth Praise the Lord on Saturday or Sunday. Parents that claim Christ publicly but don’t live it at home.

Here is my question to you… Is it more important that your child get good grades or that he/she have a close walk with God? Is it more important for you to get your rest than to take your kid to youth or better yet require them to sit in the Adult service? I can’t tell you how many parents I know when their kids get to high school let them choose whether or not they attend church. Their excuse is that they don’t want to force it on them. The truth to that is if you were living your life the way you should at home and made it a priority in your own life and never made it an option for yourself it wouldn’t be an option for them. The time of their lives they need you to be strong and stick to your guns even when it’s really hard and you cave because it’s too much work. Many Christian parents today let the church teach their kids about Jesus and then complain when their kids don’t turn out the way they think they should. All the successful Christian parents that I know have an active role in the development of good Christian habits and problem solving. They talk to their kids daily about their walk with God and pass down their values by example.
They are not perfect and sometimes a child strays but they know they have done their job and they lean on Proverbs 22:6. “6 Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”

So I have to ask… Which one are you? I want to challenge you today to be better…do better…live better. Reach your kids and encourage them to reach their friends. Where possible you speak into their friends lives. You be the guidance they may not have. It may mean the difference between LIFE and eternal Death to someone.

The End is near!

DSCN0735Okay so maybe not the end exactly just a changing of the digit or two. It’s funny how we celebrate the changing of a number. The three to a four somehow stirs in us a sense of expectancy for in our minds, NEXT year will be better. This morning I lay in bed listening to my sick husband mildly struggle to breathe and I find myself thankful.

This year as in any year prior, was fraught with its challenges. Some physical, some financial some interpersonal…. But many of those challenges were good and amazing steps toward God. I think its human nature to look back on a hard year and wave an angry fist and say under our breath “Good Riddance!” But was it all really a hard year. As I get older I find one of the greatest gifts God has given me is the same one Paul speaks of in Philippians 4:10-13 (NLT).

“10 How I praise the Lord that you are concerned about me again. I know you have always been concerned for me, but you didn’t have the chance to help me. 11 Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. 12 I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. 13 For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.”

Some days are harder than others some I am reduced to a puddle of tears on the floor. But it doesn’t last for long for I feel a hand on my back and whisper in my ear that tells me I’m not alone and HE is there. Some days he sends me people to represent him when I need the hug or the word. The most encouraging days are when the curtain is pulled back and he allows me to see his kingdom and my place in it.

Yes the changing of the 3 to the 4 is just a number. But I can’t wait to see what God has in store this year with the launch of Return Hope International and a renewed sense of being pulled more than gently led.

I’m ready Life for the good and the bad. I’m ready God with what ever you throw at me and above all I will be content.

Blessings and Happy New Year!
Sherry

The Kings and I

kingoyo

The King and IWhile in Uganda I had the pleasure of meeting two kings, both very different from each other and both the cousin of our host Princess Evelyn.

The first we met the day we traveled to the little village near the border to the Congo, a village that Evelyn was raised in. Call Rewesingo (I know I didn’t spell this right) King Edward is King over a territory of the Congo. There is currently fighting in the Congo over Oil. The French have found a good amount there and would like to start drilling. They want to work with the government because it’s easier or perhaps less expensive. But the Government is very corrupt and would not let this progress trickle down to its people. So they are rebelling and fighting, to the point that they are shipping refugees to Uganda from the Congo.

So far the fighting has not reached King Edwards kingdom but it is close and he is worried for his people. King Edward is a very handsome quiet Christian man that trusts the Lord with his whole heart and loves his people dearly.

As a group we prayed with him that day for his kingdom and his people. Brad, my business partner and member of our team had met the King before and brought him gifts. A cowboy hat and silver belt buckle that said “Cowboy up”

I saw in King Edward a gentle loving spirit and a true concern for his people.

The second King I met was King Oyo. He is a very young King that came to power when he was very very young. Like 9 or 10 (I can’t remember exactly.) I am told that his mother ran the country until he grew up enough to take over. He has since fired his cabinet and replaced them with young minds. His reasoning is that the older cabinet was keeping the people from progress. The young could revitalize the country. He is very well like and quite hansom.

We stopped at the same convenience store on the way to and from Entebbe to get a very yummy treat known as chicken on a stick. We also had beef and goat on a stick. (Goat being my favorite) On the way back to Entebbe when we stopped, King Oyo had also stopped. Evelyn being his cousin asks to see him. He said yes and we all paraded ourselves in front of him and shook his hand. He had a very polite smile until Alyssa shook his hand and then there appeared quite a different smile. She seems to have that effect on men. LOL

Shortly after that trip we were stopped by a caravan of large buses. They were refugees from the Congo. It was heartbreaking to see so many families displaced. We prayed once again for King Edward and his people.

We live in a very fortunate place you and I.

Attack!

Sherry Africa 361

I have noticed something very disturbing about my  life.  Whenever I’m about to do something I feel the Lord wants me to do, all hell breaks loose in my life.

I have heard it said all my life that if you are coasting in life with no trouble that you aren’t serving God. The bible even warns us of the trouble of this world.

John 16:33(NIV)

33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

My Father left for Uganda a full two weeks before our trip.  He left some things undone and it seems the second he got on the plane chaos hit.  I was trying to get work to a place where I could walk away, take care of ministry business and help my mother through some very difficult situations. There was a couple of days in that two-week period I wanted to curl up and cry for hours. My stress level had reached its max which for me is hard to do. But I knew it was an attack from the enemy of us all. I must admit that is not always comforting knowing that Satan is throwing stuff at you.  But I made it to the day it was time to leave with an anticipation of something wonderful.

Before I was leaving I was exposed to the adult version of the croup. My boss came to work with it and my department seemed to be dropping like flies.  I started to cough myself the day I was to leave. The trip there is a grueling 2 day trip. When we reached Kampala my roommate Ann ask the group to pray for me because it appeared I was starting to get sick.  They did and i woke the next day fine. Praise the Lord! Then I break a bone in my foot. Only to have the Lord answer my prayers again.  Totally whole the next day.  There were minor frustrations while in Uganda but nothing major until Malaria hit me the last few days of ministry.

I haven’t been that sick in a very very long time. It was not pleasant being on a plane with your body being freaky either.  I had the privilege on our first leg home to sit next to a Ugandan business man on his way to China. When I first sat down he struck me as being intensely sad and he seemed very shy but after he drank a few Johnny Walker Red labels he began to warm up.  He started asking me questions about America and what we were doing in Uganda.  I began asking him questions about his life and his culture. We joked we laughed and he began to tell me some very personal stuff.  He noticed that I seemed sick and he ask me about it.  I told him that I had malaria and I noticed his face changed.  He confessed to me that he had a young daughter recently die from malaria and he sighed deep and ask me why God let his daughter die.  There it was the reason God didn’t heal me from malaria staring me in the face with tears in his eyes.  I got to speak to this man about God’s love and hope. I didn’t claim to know why his daughter died and I was still here. I just told him what I had discovered about the nature of God and how much he loves each of us.  We talked about his role in building a legacy with his family and how important he was in raising his children.  We parted with exchanging emails.

Now I knew why God allowed me to be bitten by a malaria carrying mosquito. 

I wouldn’t change it for the world.

Sherry

Single White Female seeking Lions

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We had one day to play in the 2 weeks I was in Uganda and that was Safari day.  Daniel drove us to the Queen Elizabeth Game Preserve for a fun day of seeking the native animals.  A couple of the nurses with us had been to Uganda before and had been on this particular safari. One in particular (Alyssa) had not seen Lions the time she came before and was very insistent with Daniel that we find Lions. Daniel would do anything for this beautiful woman so he told her he would do his best.

The Savannah is a very beautiful place and the landscape is very different from where we were staying. It’s like a high desert plain with grass.  As we were driving to get to the Park we stopped to take pictures at the Equator.  It’s pretty cool to be straddling the Northern and Southern hemisphere.  After we got done with our pictures the call of nature hit me and I thought I’d go into the tall brush to relieve myself.  As I walked away Daniel got very upset telling me I shouldn’t and it wasn’t safe.  I assured him that I was fine and that I’d “peed” outside quite often since my family camps and hikes a lot.  But he was very insistent that I NOT do this. So I begrudgingly heeded his advice.   As we got back in the van and pulled away Daniel point and said that is why I would not let you. Sure enough a few yards away from my chosen pee spot was and Elephant family, Momma, Dad and baby hanging out and eating. I can’t think of a worse position to be in with my pants down around my ankles if Momma Elephant decided I was too close and a threat to her baby.  Thanks Daniel!

In the park that day were a couple of buses of school children.  We had the misfortune of turning a blind corner to find a large bus dangerously close and coming too fast to stop.  Daniel through the van in reverse and gave it all the gas he could.  We ended up off the road sideways in a ditch.  We all tumbled out and the bus driver and several other Ugandan men got out to try and lift the van out of the ditch. Lucky for us a Jeep with a winch came by and pulled us out.  Quite the adventure that day but it got better.

We saw very many animals that day and as we were driving around we came upon a group of stopped tourist with the binoculars and zoom lens trained on an ant hill. Sure enough there were lions there but they were very far away and hard to see.  After we looked for awhile hoping to glimpse them moving around we left and Daniel took us back to the ranger station.  He got out and talked to the game warden for a bit then came back.  He told us if we gave the Warden $50 US money he would let us see the Lions closer. So we paid up.   Daniel got back in and drove us back to the spot we were at previously. Only now everyone that had been there had move on to a different angle a ways away.  We all thought the game warden was coming but all of a sudden Daniel made a sharp left off the road and went screaming across the Savannah toward the Lions.   Daniel stopped 20 feet from these 3 female Lions taking a siesta.  He yelled for us to take our pictures as fast as possible.  We did.  One of the Lions looked up at us with some curiosity and then rolled on her back to complete her snooze.  It was cute in a huge kitty cat sort of way.

We were that close for about 5 minutes then Daniel made a U-turn and headed back to the road as fast as the van could go.  We found out our $50 was look the other way money so that there was no fine if Daniel got caught. LOL  Money well spent indeed.

For lunch we dined at a resort on a mountain over looking the Savannah it was breathtaking and we were the only people there.  Then we made our way to a Safari boat ride where we saw. Hippos, Water Buffalo, Crocodiles, Wart Hogs, Hyenas and Elephants. Among other things. It was amazing and Alyssa got to see her Lion.

It truly was a blessed Day.