Hope In The Storm

The level of confusion and bewilderment is sky high.  At the same time, the rate of change barely lets us get used to a “new normal” before the directions and instructions change again.  As a society we went from concern into viscous anxiety in the blink of a dragon’s eye.  Collectively there is little consensus about what we might expect next.

Here in Ledbetter my sense is that it is not what we expect for ourselves that weighs on us but what we think might be happening to us as part of history’s great experiment in governance.  Has liberty, fairness under the law, and freedom failed us?  Will such concepts be “cloroxed” from our consciousness to be replaced by what global intelligence agencies call “total spectrum dominance?”  What gloomy shades color our expectations of what life will be like in the future?  Will it ever be OK again?

If we had only our surface experiences with which to evaluate and extrapolate the future we might live in a state of unsettledness forever.  Like the ocean, weather at the surface is much more difficult to predict.  Scowls erupt out of nowhere, and ships on the surface become victims of the waves.  But at great depths the storms are faintly recognized.

There is a depth at which our souls can find secure anchor.  A place where the fierce tides can’t rip us from the calm harbor.  When faith can find a moment to listen, we see through the mist that someone comes, walking on the water and bellowing, “Don’t be afraid!  It’s just Me.”

This Sunday I want to talk about where we can find a place to anchor in the storm.  My intention is to point in the direction of hope.  Not hope as in wishing something would be true. But hope as in confidence that in the most confusing times, God shows up with some good news.

We are going to read passages from one of the most misunderstood and mysterious books in the Bible.  Behind the picturesque symbols and dramatic images of Revelation is where we find out how deep the assurances of God can go.  John uses larger than life language to point in a direction in which we can begin to know what to expect next and to rest assured that all things are in God’s hands.

Come this Sunday and let’s discover what Jesus says we can expect next.

A Fortress And Shield

There will be no services at Soul Cafe Church this Sunday, July 12.  We will not gather for either the 9:30 am outdoor service or the 11:00 am inside service.

I hope that  you are able to read between the lines of this note to hear how disappointed I am that this is the decision that needs to be made.

For one, there are several new cases of the virus reported in our area and specifically in Ledbetter.  Although it is a bit confusing to know what “best practices” are during this time, we still have to make the best decisions we can.  The number one concern is to not provide a venue that would contribute to the spread of the virus and endanger anyone.

In the meantime there will be a video message up tomorrow morning as a “poor” substitute for being together, seeing each other’s smiles, feel each other’s hugs, and lifted by each other’s blessings of good will and peace.

I’ll just say it out loud.  I hate COVID!  I hate what it has done and what it has allowed others to do.  Now the contrast.  I love what God is doing despite what is going on with this contemptible germ.  We are learning and growing together in ways that may have eluded us during more sane times.  We are learning how much we need each other and how much we need the presence of God in our lives.  With every ounce of my disheveled and banged up faith I believe that God is at work, turning this calamity into something that is in the long term good of those who love Him and are called to understand His purpose in the world.  God will not fail in His tireless and eternal work for the salvation for which we long.

Here is Soul Cafe’s intention for next week, July 19.  We will gather for worship at 9:30 outdoors and 11:00 am indoors. And we are going to rub the devil’s nose in a petri dish full of the c word.

Heavenly Father, we rest our weary souls in our fragile confidence that you are the Lord of the emergencies of life.  We don’t know what to do more than half the time.  We are confused even more than that.  But you, Father, are a shelter for us in the times of our greatest bewilderment.  So we are going to put our trust in you the very best way we know how.  We are going to trust you for protection.  We are going to trust you for our health.  And we are going to trust you for the strength to get through anything life throws at us.  You are a fortress for our psyche.  You are a shield from fiery darts.  We know nowhere else to run but into your loving arms.  In the Spirit in which Jesus prayed, we pray.  Amen.

Prayerful Precautions

Dear Ledbetter and beyond Family:

There continues to be encouraging medical news concerning both the fatality rate and the recovery rate for COVID-19.  Clinical trials and tests from many of the world’s most capable virology labs and medical centers are getting their heads around what we are up against in our battle against this illness.  Most of what is being reported is very good news.  At the leading edge of the reports is that we should definitely take care of the most vulnerable parts of our population.  Up to ages of about 55 the fatality rate for this virus is about the same as the seasonal flu.  Beyond that age identifies the largest number of deaths in the world.

As a precaution and a protection of that population I am going to make the decision that we will not gather for worship this Sunday.  Neither outdoors nor indoors.  We will make this decision one week at a time.  At this time, our best decisions should be on the conservative side of this issue.  Wednesday classes and activities are also cancelled this week.

It is no substitute for being together but beginning this week we are going to resume recording a daily video from the Thicket House and will have a worship video ready for Sunday.

Lorri and I love that God has had His hand on our being planted in Ledbetter. We have been shaped and have grown having you in our lives. We will be back together soon.

Our Father, You are in heaven and see things in ways we cannot see.  Your vision is higher than ours. Your view is above the forest canopy and over the hilly horizon.  You know what our future is, and You are at work making good things out of what we see as very bad things.  Give us the patience that it takes to trust You for the long haul.  Bring us out of this mess stronger, more loving, more courageous, and more useful in Your service. We really do want to be Your children in the world.  In the way Jesus prayed, that is how we want to pray.  Amen.
Grace and Peace,
Doug

Freeing Your Soul to Live in the Future

We use enormous emotional and spiritual energy in reconciling the past. Obsessively thinking about the past is a defense mechanism. We are trying to figure out how not to make the same mistakes again. Reconciliation, in part, is reached by honest reflection on what was our responsibility in the misstep or mistake. Blame and regret keep our souls trapped in the past. We cannot really figure out what went wrong. We become afraid to step toward the future because we are afraid we will make the same mistake again and be hurt again by it. As soon as we face our culpability, we can, with a great amount of reflective effort, decide how we are going to do things differently. It is very empowering. Once resolved we find the courage we need to step forward. We get a new vision of the future not so filled with fear. When we look up we see Jesus toward whom we are walking. He becomes an image of our future. Jesus saves us from the misery of living in the fear of the past and saving our lives to live toward his calling.

Philippians 3:12 (NIV)

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.

Easter Weekend 2020

Dear Soul Cafe Family,

Oh, how we miss one another.  In one more way we are finding out how important being with one another in flesh and blood is to us.  It is bound to be at the root of why Our Father sent Jesus to us in flesh and blood.  It is so crucial in telling us that He is with us.

They will be second best substitutes, but we are going to try something this Resurrection weekend.  We are going to take communion together via YouTube, and we are going to attempt to live stream a sunrise service (for all the early birds out there).

 At about sunset on Friday evening we will post a video on YouTube that will lead us through the Lord’s last meal with his friends before his death.  It will be very simple and brief.  We will read the story from Scripture and then take the supper together.  Here is what you will need to do. First, go to youtube.com on your computer.  Then type in “Soul Cafe Communion” in the search bar.  It will bring up a video of Lorri and I at the thicket house.  I will lead us in taking the meal together. You can do it anytime for the rest of Friday evening or Saturday morning.

The second thing you will want to do is to have something that will represent the body and the blood of Christ.  Lorri and I will be using a biscuit and grape juice.  You can use what you have available to you.  Then put on your best imagination hat and know that somehow we are taking this meal together.

The Resurrection Sunrise Service live stream will begin at 6:40 am April 12.  Sunrise is at 7:03 am here in Ledbetter.  It is our best way of being together.  If you can’t make it at 6:40 you can watch the recording on our Soul Cafe Facebook page anytime on Sunday.

You are the most loving and courageous people on the face of the planet.  Lorri and I love you to pieces and can’t wait to be back with you so very soon.

He is Risen.

He is Risen Indeed!!!

~Doug

Developing A Care Plan

The people of Ledbetter are phenomenal in their care and concern for one another.  The people of our community are showing care as though it is embedded in their cultural DNA. It continually shows who you are as one of the greatest little villages is Texas.

Some care gets expressed spontaneously in the course of our interaction with one another. Most recently, however, care is being demonstrated in more intentional ways. On Saturday afternoon a group of people met to specifically construct a compass of care. A compass that will point us in directions in which we can be strategically helpful to one another as we navigate our way through this viral crisis.

What came to the surface in that discussion was beautifully simple. One: we need a way to communicate with one another. And two, we need a plan for delivering any help that might be needed by members of our community family.

The need for communications is a two way street. We recognized the need for getting out accurate and helpful information rather than information designed to create more fear. Such as, what is the status of our country? What are the best practices for us in limiting the spread of the virus?

It was also apparent that a communication channel needs to have a way for us to hear from you. Much of our concern focused on senior adults. If help is needed in picking up medicine from the pharmacy, or groceries, or a ride to a doctor appointment,  a number to call where someone can meet that need is one plan that is being developed. No one needs to be alone in the time of social distancing.

The added need of communications is more abstract but just as real. We need one another. We need to maintain the connections that have meant so much to our emotional and spiritual well-being.  Worshiping God together is of fundamental importance in creating the kind of community in which we want to live.  Our technology-gifted folks are developing a way for us to connect via the Soul Cafe youtube channel.  We will send a link that will take you to videos that are being created even as early as this morning

The second strategic area was in putting together a delivery system that can get help to where it is needed. That delivery system needs to be robust, flexible, and responsive. In many ways we have to design a delivery system of care not knowing fully what care might be needed. How quickly will this crisis be over? We don’t know that yet. How bad might it get? We don’t know that. The objective will be something of a moving target. The feeling in the group was that we need to be prepared to meet the most severe needs of which we are capable of meeting and living in the hope that it is never needed.

On Monday evening a group of “implementors” is going to meet to flesh out the objectives of communication and delivery. We will prioritize things that must be done first and things that must be done later or as need arises. On Tuesday it will be “all hands on deck” time. I have a feeling that there is going to be a task for every one of us as we build our lives together.

For everyone out there, know that your community is working for you and with you. You are the most wonderful human beings on this planet. We’ll be in touch very soon.