Thursday, April 26, 2012

Changing Our World by Tracey Wetterman

My wife recently served as a Table Leader for a Women's Walk in the Brazos Valley Emmaus Community.  This was her first talk and I wanted to share it here: 

August 2001 was to be the beginning of my new and improved life.  I was leaving behind a dead end job and Houston traffic.  I was moving toward wide open spaces and a slower paced country lifestyle.  Our family of three was about to welcome a fourth.  I was excited about being able to stay home and enjoy my new son's early childhood.  We were happy that our older son David would attend a school with a smaller student to teacher ratio.  Everything was going to be perfect.

So, we dropped David off for his first day of Kindergarten, which was three days before the baby was to be born.  About the middle of that day, I started to feel “off.” I was 100 miles away from my doctor in Katy, so my mother-in-law suggested we drive on down to the doctor being so close to the due date.  The doctors decided to proceed with my Cesarean and Kevin was born.  Jaundice isn't an uncommon birth issue, but I was required to stay in town for 2 weeks, away from my older son and my new home, until Kevin was released.

As the next 2 years unfolded, Kevin did not develop speech, nor did he acknowledge basic commands from us such as stop, wait, and come here.  Trips across parking lots became terrifying as Kevin became a flight risk, heedless of the world around him.

I cannot explain or describe all the feelings and issues that I experienced, but I can tell you I fell into a strong depression.  We had no social life or support outside of our family.  We felt unable to leave Kevin to anyone's care, even for an hour, outside of my in-laws.  David was evaluated and labeled ADD and Dyslexic in first grade.  Finally after years of fear and frustration, we had a name for our struggles with Kevin.  At 4 years old, Kevin was diagnosed as Pervasive Developmental Disorder, a form of Autism.  Both boys were now medicated, the youngest with severe development issues.

I had no prior practical knowledge or experience with special needs children.  Ed , my husband, took everything in stride, having experience within his own family and having taught special ed classes.  I was afraid to visit my own family at that time. I didn't want them to find out my kids were medicated, as they did not believe in ADD.  I didn't want to seem a failure as a mother to my own parents.  I wondered what I had done to cause this and what I needed to do to “fix” my children.

My name is Tracey Wetterman, and the title of this Talk is Changing Our World.

This talk concerns a plan for changing our world: making the world a more Christ-centered, just, and loving community.  You have heard about piety, study, and action and about the world's desperate need for Christ and Christian leadership.  But how can you respond to the challenge?

Sometime in the middle of the unfolding of the early years of Kevin's life, when all the doctors and teachers only seemed to have negative comments, when learning that all the experts published said 2/3 of autism spectrum patients were mentally retarded, and when feeling cut off from my family, a ray of hope began to bloom in my heart.  That hope matured into faith when I forcefully told my husband one Saturday night that I was waking early the next day and taking the kids to church with or without him.  To my great surprise, he went with us, but of course, he got to pick the church.

My husband and I were both raised in church as children, but of different denominations.  He had some hurtful experiences with Sunday school teachers in his youth.  He took the attitude that he could be a Christian without attending church.  I had a strong faith and positive church experiences prior to my marriage, but young newlywed life, my job, and socializing with friends distracted me from my faith in God.  Now, when I needed him the most, the Holy Spirit was whispering to me how to  find help.

In What's Wrong with the World, G.K. Chesterton wrote, “The Christian Ideal has  not  been tried and found wanting.  It has been found  difficult; and left untried.”  For the next few minutes, I want to talk with you not only about trying Christianity but also about making a plan to successfully live it and help Christ make a difference in the world.

Changing our world involves four fields of ministry:  yourself, others, your community, and the world.

Micah 6:8 provides a helpful framework for understanding what God requires of us and how we will bring about change: “What does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.”  Your actions within your community and the world should be just.  Show kindness to your neighbors and all “others” that you meet.  Walk humbly with the Lord by making the time for prayer and worship regularly.

In this first field of ministry, you are called to walk humbly with God.  Before you can change the world, you must have a plan for anchoring yourself spiritually.  If you are to bring change to the world, you must start with yourself.

Elie Wiesel tells the story of a Jewish man who set out to change the world.  In making his plan, the man said to himself: Basing myself on the Talmudic saying that if all...repented, the Messiah would come.  I decided to do something about it.  I was convinced I would be successful.  But where was I to start?  The world is so vast.  I shall start with the country I know best, my own.  But my country is so very large.  I had better start with my town.  But my town, too, is large.  I had best start with my street.  No: my home.  No: my family.  Never mind, I shall start with myself.”

When we try to change the world without firm roots in a relationship with God and Christian community, we can fall into traps.

1.                The Pharisee:  Because the Pharisee is not motivated by God's grace, he or she is driven by rigid perfectionism and guided by legalism.  The mission is perverted into attempts to force everyone into one's own mold.
2.                The Do-Gooder:  Do-gooders are often motivated by their own need to be needed or to make a notable difference instead of by true compassion and commitment to meet human needs.
3.                The Savior Complex: Without a sense of God's providence, caring people may feel they must save the world by themselves.  Far-reaching plans or feverish activity may be based more on anxiety for the future than attention to God and discernment of God's will for the present.
4.                The Burnout:  Without a vital relationship with God and other Christians, one's fire for the  mission burns out.  You cannot change the world if you are running on empty.

Our model to follow is Jesus.  The strength of Jesus' ministry came from his relationship with God and close friends, the disciples.  Between times of intense ministry, Jesus withdrew with his disciples to a lonely place to pray and share his concerns. Luke 22:39-41 states, “Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him.  On reaching the place, He said to them, “pray that you will not fall into temptation.”  He withdrew about a stone's throw beyond them, knelt down, and prayed.”

Changing our world begins with changing ourselves and sustaining that change in our piety, study, and action.  Or more clearly, we sustain the change in ourselves through our heart, mind, and will.

Our second call to ministry is to serve others.  We are called to love mercy.  Our most immediate opportunity for changing our world is by sharing God's love in our relationship with others: family members, colleagues, friends, neighbors, and acquaintances. John 12:26 says “Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be.  My Father will honor the one who serves me.”

Your mission is to infuse your network of relationships with the grace of Christ, to make mercy and outreaching love part of your everyday life.  Take inventory of your relationships and the grace they call from you.  Who do you need to encourage?  Who needs what only you can do or give?  Who needs to hear about Christ from you?

Your attitude toward others will either open or close relationships.  “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do for you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” Matt 7:12   Do you affirm others?  A judgmental attitude can be the greatest obstacle to the spiritual growth of another.  Do you only see someone's past and condemn them, or do you encourage them to rise to their potential?  Your attitude toward others can be an offering of love.

Your prayers for others are also acts of love.  Through prayer, God can transform your relationships.  Through prayer, you help others become changed persons and support them in their new life.  Through prayer, God can open opportunities to reach out and witness.  Make sure your ministry to others flows from your prayers for others.

Your friendship with others is the means by which you can share your life and offer Christ.  Remember the motto from the Christian Action Talk:  Make friend, Be a friend, Introduce your friend to Christ.  Seek opportunities to share your relationship with Christ with your friends.  Expect them to be receptive.  Be authentic in sharing your faith and your testimony of your relationship with Christ.  There is no right or wrong way to share your faith, only authentic and inauthentic ways.

When friends make a commitment to Christ, encourage their new way of thinking and living through spiritual support, study of scripture, and involvement in church and meaningful ministries.

In the third field of ministry, we are called to work for justice within our community.  Your world does not consist of one-on-one relationships alone.  You are an integral part of society and culture, groups, families, organizations, institutions, workplaces, and governments.  You influence your society by how you do or do not participate as a Christian.  You are called to help Christ transform your part of the world into a more Christ-centered, loving, and just society.

A wonderful example of how I was blessed and became a blessing in Caldwell is through Cub Scouts.  I was invited by a church member, Mendi, to sign up Kevin for cub scouts when he started first grade.  Cub Scouts accepts boys, grades 1-5, of all abilities and skill levels.  Kevin & I experienced a warm welcome and acceptance within our den (grade/small group) and Pack (all grades)  community activities.  In our second year of scouting, I stepped up to be a committee member for the Pack.  During Kevin's fourth year of scouting, Mendi stepped down as Cub Master, as her son moved on from the Pack and other commitments arose.  The new Cub Master had to move during the middle of the school year, and quit with very little warning before a major scouting event. 

With the Pack threatening to unravel, I had to determine if Cub Scouts was worth putting forth more of my personal time and resources.  I was afraid that if I tried to lead the Pack, the other families would abandon scouts, knowing my son was Autistic.  I thought who am I to lead a youth organization when my kid isn't “normal.”  I decided to step up in my role as Chairman for the Pack and opened up lines of communication between the different dens (grade levels) in order to keep us organized.  I was not alone.  I was just the first parent to come forward to preserve our scouting program.  As a Pack, we were able to continue to support our community by supporting our local food pantry through Scouting for food, and by our service to clean the local Davidson Creek Park as part of the Keep Burleson County Beautiful program.  Our Pack is still going strong and in February, I passed the torch to other dedicated parents to keep Pack 181 going. Kevin and I have moved up to BS Troop 181.

          Your mission is to help Christ change your community by acting as an effective Christian influence in it.   In Luke 4:18-19, Jesus said, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners, and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.” 

We are to identify situations of human need.  Jesus identified such situations to which we are called to respond in Matt 25:34-36.  “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,  I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

  He makes clear the significance of our response.  Working to correct the situation calls for both mercy and justice.  Think of mercy as giving a starving man a fish to eat.  Justice is teaching the man to fish so that he can feed himself throughout his lifetime.

In everything you do, be a joyful witness for Christ.  As Christian witnesses, we should seek tolerance and mutual understanding.  Christ's spirit should be evident in what we do and how we do it.

In the fourth field of ministry, Jesus send us out into the world. Luke 6:12-13 says,  “One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God.  When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles.”

 This field of ministry calls us to stretch our hearts, minds, and actions.  Your church or church mission board will offer opportunities. You will need a strong and firm foundation based on faith, study and action.

Now, let me share my plan with you.  I minister to myself each day by prayer in the morning along with the Upper Room daily devotional supplied by my church.  I am the first one up in the house and so the morning is the best time for me to pray.  I also have a wonderful husband that sponsored me on my walk and helps me daily mature in my faith.

I serve as Family Council leader in my church by organizing our monthly fellowship meal.  I serve the Caldwell Boy Scout Troop 181 as Treasurer.  My husband and I also teach Sunday school for the middle school students in our church.  This July, I will accompany our middle school youth for their Big House weekend service project.  For support, I meet weekly with a Christian accountability group to share prayer concerns and fellowship in a small group setting.

As for my boys, I have been blessed.  By listening to the Holy Spirit telling me to find a church home, I actually found help, encouragement, and a lot of teachers in my congregation that give me positive feedback about my kids.  By stepping out in faith, I have provided an example for my kids to follow in the service of church and scouting.  Both Kevin and David are successful in school.  And most treasured in my heart is that my mother told me before she died that I was a good mother and she was very surprised and proud of me for the way I respond and show love to Kevin.  She never once said anything negative about the medicine.

As disciples for Christ, we are not called to be successful; we are called to be faithful.

De Colores

Monday, April 16, 2012

I was Blind, but now I See!

I wrote this back in December, but am only now getting around to posting it.  Praise God for all He does for us.

Jesus, our Savior, part of the Trinity of God, the Son of God, came to us as a human baby to teach us of God’s love, forgiveness, and justice.  He healed the blind so they could see.  He died so we could live eternally with God in Heaven, paying the cost for our human sins, so that we may stand pure in the sight of God.  What an amazing sacrifice for us.  For me.  For you.  He did this, the GOD of the Universe did this, for you and for me personally.  He took every sin you ever committed and sacrificed his body, his blood for you.  Had you been the only one on earth to accept Him, he still would have died for You!  That’s deep.  That’s harsh.  That’s divine love, justice, and mercy. 

  Last week I was stricken and blind.  See I suffer from retinopathy caused by diabetes.  This means my eyes bleed internally.  I’ve had several operations to laser the bleeds, to cauterize them, but they kept coming back.  I had been congested and in a coughing fit, my right eye had a major bleed.  I saw the bleed, the blood oozing into the eye, and then I could see nothing, just a thick moving haze of blood.  I wore a patch over the eye for the next few days, and relied on my left eye to see.  I was scared, because I knew that my left eye was vulnerable and if a major bleed occurred I’d be left blind.  My retina specialist had scheduled another laser treatment for both eyes, and I hoped I could make it to those days, just a week away.  Last Saturday morning I was sitting on the couch watching tv, when I coughed and the major bleed I was hoping wouldn’t happen, did.

  I was left blind in both eyes.  I could barely make out the hazy image of my hands held up in front of my face, I could no longer see the tv, read, or even see the faces of my beloved family.  I was lost.
  See, for me, everything I enjoy in this world is sight related.  I love reading, studying, the internet, games, driving, sports…and in a cough, one quick second, it was all gone from me. 

  I immediately began to depend on my wife and children for everything.  They had to help me get around the house, fix my meals, give me my insulin shots, etc.  I was helpless and didn’t know what to do.  I had to wait until Monday to see the Doctor, and time passes very slowly when you have nothing to entertain yourself with.  I went with Tracey and Kevin to clean the local park for the Cub Scouts, though I didn’t help.  I just tried to follow the little red jacket in the hazy distance and not trip on anything.  I had a walking stick, but still managed to stumble quite a bit.  Sunday came and Tracey took me to church.  I stared hard at the cross, just wanting to see it and could occasionally make out its shape, but I was lost in my blindness.

  Monday I went to the eye Doctor, and he told me it was time to do an invasive surgery where they go into the eye, take out the vitreous jelly with all the bad blood, replace it with a saline gel, and cauterize the back of the eye to prevent future bleeding.  The surgery was scheduled for the following Thursday.  Over the next few days my left eye improved some, but I still had to peer through a misty fog to see anything, and my right eye remained totally blind.
That was my state of physical blindness, but what about spiritual blindness?  John 5:3 states that as Jesus and his disciples entered Jersusalem they passed a well that was supposed to have healing properties.  Many people came here to await the stirring of the water to heal them.  In five small areas “lay many invalids- blind, lame, and paralyzed.”  The invalids are those that are unable to live according to the law, blind to the grace of God, living a life of simple survival, with little more hope than a well of water that they hoped might regenerate them physically and spiritually. 

  The blind “may represent men a state of nature, who are ignorant of, and blind to everything that is spiritual; as to the true knowledge of God in Christ, the way of salvation by him, the plague of their own hearts, and the exceeding sinfulness of sin; to the Spirit of God, and his work upon the soul; and to the truths of the Gospel, in the power of them” (Gil’s Exposition of the Entire Bible).

  The “lame” may represent those who are unsure of the holy or spiritual things.  They are hesistant and caught between two conflicting arguments, perhaps the Law vs Grace of God.

  The paralyzed could do nothing, neither accept or seek.  They simply waited, hoping that someone would assist them.

  The waters did not heal.  But Jesus did.  He found a sick man, who was lame spiritually, and paralyzed hoping that someone would take pity on him and help him into the pool of water when the time came as he could not find his way.  He needed someone, but no one was there for him, except for Jesus. Jesus, the Rebel, healed the man on the Sabbath breaking the Hebraic laws of the time.

  Many people today believe they can do life on their own terms.  That God is unnecessary.  They are blind, and worse, they may lead others to such a belief.  For the love of Christ is universal and with it comes peace and understanding, as well as a changed heart, and with Christian action, a changed world.  What is worse is when people falsely teach the Gospel for their own gain or deliberately mislead, divide, or attack rather than showing the love and grace of Christ. Matthew 15 verses 12 to 20 shows Christ’s thoughts about living such a blind life.  The disciples asked if Jesus realized the Pharisees had taken offense at his open challenge to them and the laws.  Christ answered them, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will e uprooted.  Let them alone, they are blind guides of the blind.  And if one blind person guides another, both will fall into a pit.”  Peter asked for him to explain this parable.  Jesus said, “Are you still without understanding?  Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth enters the stomach, and goes out into the sewer?  But, what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart and this is what defiles.  For out of the heart come evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander.  These are what defile a person, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile.”
  Living blind spiritually is much worse than living blind physically.  Such a life defiles the goodness of God’s creation and keeps us from truly understanding the GRACE of God.  When I look back on my life, and the years I spent not following my Savior, I realize just how lost I was.  The blindness left my life in a haze, and I was defiled in my own humanness and weakness.  If you had visited with me then, I had all the arguments down and may have led others to be blind as well.  I said things like, “I can worship God at home, and do not need a church or organized religion.  Christians are nothing more than hypocrites and the Church is nothing more than a money making scheme for the televangelists.”  Yes, I said these things.  Worse, I believed these things.  But Christ’s prevenient grace and love waited for me, wooed me, and continually sought after me, like a love sick groom seeking his bride. 

Many times in life we ask for miracles, but the greatest miracle is that the God of the Universe loves each of us individually, died so we might be reconciled, and offers his FREE Grace to everyone.  Don’t live life blind, lame, or paralyzed.  Discover the freedom of Christ!  Be rejoiceful in all things. 

After my surgery I had to wait 24 hours for the bandage to come off to discover if I could see.  When the nurse removed the bandage and I could see, I felt His presence.  A miracle indeed, but the greatest miracle was that I now know his grace and love and have a desire to share this peace with everyone I meet. 

Do you know the love and grace of Christ?  It is liberating and open to all.  We are all sinners and there is nothing you can do to earn a trip to Heaven.  Nothing.  All works are worthless.  What could you do to equal Jesus’ suffering on the cross?   Are you blind?  Lame?  Paralyzed?  Jesus is telling you to get up, be healed, and live life to the fullest measure showing others God’s redeeming love and grace. 

Peace to all,



Monday, April 9, 2012

Predestination vs Free Will

What is Sin?  What is God’s Plan?  What does Repentance mean?  What are the Commandments of Christ?  These are powerful questions in the Christian Church and many Christians have different answers about this and everyone thinks their own view is right.  I’m no different, but I am willing to hear others ideas and opinions, to study the Bible, and to prayerfully consider these things.

I attended a great Baptist Church last Sunday with my parents to hear an evangelist speak, and while I don’t disagree with the message he taught, I do disagree with one of this premises, but not his conclusion.  In a nutshell, here is what he said,  A tragedy happened in his family and “this was a test from God to prepare me to be able to minister to others about what happened.”  He quoted Romans 5:3  to 5: 5: “And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.”  He said it was God’s plan for his brother to die so he could gain endurance, character, and hope and stated it all happened for God’s Glory.  So what part of that testimony did I take exception to?

Let me try to explain.  The Baptist churches come from the Reformed and Calvinistic movements of the last few centuries.  These basically believe that God has a plan for everything that happens, and everything that happens does so according to his divine will.  Taken to the extreme, as God is eternal, this means he already knows who will accept him, and who will not, which gets into the ideas of Predestination, that is the doctrine that all events have been willed by God.  John Calvin interpreted this to mean that God has chosen “eternal damnation for some people and salvation for others.”  They also teach the absolute sovereignty of God in all things.  The March 12, Issue of Time Magazine had an article called “10 Ideas Changing the World Right Now.” 

In this article the writer states, “Calvinism is back….[It] is Evangelicalism’s latest success story, complete with an utterly sovereign and micromanaging deity, sinful and puny humanity, and the combination’s logical consequence, predestination:  the belief that before time’s dawn, God decided whom he would save (or not), unaffected by any subsequent human action or decision….; it offers a rock-steady deity who orchestrates absolutely everything, including illness (or home foreclosure!), by a logic we may not understand  but don’t have to second guess.  Our satisfaction-and our purpose- is fulfilled simply by “glorifying” him.”

I do not apologize for being a Wesleyan in my understanding of the Bible.  We don’t believe that God is “micromanaging” the planet or our individual choices.  In the age-old argument or Predestination or Free Will, I fall on the side of Free Will.  My understanding is that God desires a relationship with each of us, in fact Jesus states that the greatest commandment is to love God with all our heart and all our mind, and second to his is to love all mankind.  God wants us to choose Him!  Yes, he is eternal, and yes he knows everything that is going to happen, and yes he can and occasionally does take a direct hand in performing miracles.  But does God choose to make a child suffer from retardation, cancer, or autism?    I don’t believe so.

If there is no choice, and all is set, then why give humanity a choice at all?  Why not just create automatons to worship him all the time.  It is the choice that matters.  Humanity matters so much to God that he took human form and died on a cross to repair the broken relationship man has to God.  It is not what man does, but what God does that is important in overcoming Sin.  All we have to do is accept His free grace.

According to the Reformed Churches’ line of thinking all suffering comes from God.  Again, I disagree.  I believe we live in a fallen state, we each sin, and we will all stand before God with unrepented sins, but these sins are forgiven as Christ was the sacrifice to redeem us of all our sins.  All we have to do is accept him and the gift of Grace he offers to everyone.  I do believe the Holy Spirit, the comforter, can use out fallen states, our difficulties, our tragedies, and provide us with understanding, endurance, character building, and hope in any situation we face.  This is why bad things happen to good people.  It is the fallen world we live in, our own sinful natures, and the choices we make.  It is our choice.  Therefore I disagree with the preacher’s premise, but not his conclusion.

I will be posting more about Sin, Repentance, and God’s plan soon.  Please do not be offended by my views.  I realize I am a student in the John Wesley tradition, and I do not apologize for that.  We must all seek God with “fear and trembling.”  We must always seek, study, and pray for understanding.   My parents go to a wonderful Baptist church full of wonderful, Christian people.  I just disagree with their basic concepts of God’s Plan, though it is all for His glory.


Thursday, April 5, 2012

Now ya got my Dander up!

This is what I'm talking about when I say the biggest problem with Christianity is often Christians!  I grew up and attended a Church of God in Lufkin.  The rampant ignorance of the church is ...well...stupifying.   Something was said to me when I was about 16 that didn't jive with my understanding of the Bible and Jesus' teachings and it drove me away from the Church for 20 years. 

We must let the world know about God's Divine Grace if we are going to spread the Good News.  This is the great commission of Christ.  If anything you or your church does that does not further the Kingdom of God by sharing God's Grace and the Good News, then you are NOT doing what God has called, and is calling, you to do.  Does this sign reflect Grace?  The Good News?  Salvation in Christ?  Love for God and for our nieghbors (EVERYONE ELSE ON THE PLANET)!  Is this sign bringing people to Christ or driving them away with absolutely ignorant, judgementalism taken to an extreme that frankly causes my blood to boil.

So...allow me to get a little tongue in cheek here.  The first Surfers...Jesus and Peter.  Musicians... umm King David!  Artists....have ya ever seen the Sistine Chapel?  the Pieta?  Isn't God the ultimate artist and sculpter?  Vegetarians....while I love my meat, no where in the Bible does it say, "Thou shalt only eat meat and be carniverous!"  Occupiers and Activists...well, everyone of the disciples was an activist, some were Revolutionaries who wanted to get rid of the Roman rulers.  Jesus was the ultimate activist and often stood, debated, and taught through actions and words those in power, especially the Jewish Sanhedrin.  As to addicts there are plenty of people in the Bible that were good and went to Heaven despite various frailties and addictions, for NO ONE Is perfect before God.  We have all sinned and fallen short of Christ.  As to Fornicators, well...none of us would be here......

Just blows my mind!  Please, please, please do not read such idiocy and think that they represent Christianity.  If you want to know Jesus, have a personal relationship with the God of the Universe, know peace, love, acceptance, and joy, let me know and I'll help you understand these things.

Only the Holy Spirit can change people.  All you can do is plant a seed.  God waters and nurtures it according to His will, not yours.

God Bless.