Overcoming . . .

There’s some pretty challenging news this week on the US economy. Unemployment has reached 7 1/2 % and massive layoffs will continue in most sectors as the recession deepens. Life as we know it has hit a chaotic cycle.

At my worksite, we’re having all day meetings tomorrow to announce the 4th round of layoffs. Already this year, we’ve sold off three sectors of the business. Our contract has remained unsigned since last February, and we’ve experienced serious workload declines and three staff layoffs. The meetings will announce even further layoffs and changes. People are on edge. My guess would be that a sell-off or total withdrawal from the sector is closing in on us. The company is losing money, and that’s a sure sign of impending changes.

The only sectors prospering are healthcare and government.  (Surprise surprise!) Healthcare costs are about to escalate, as baby boomers hit retirement, pension benefits vanish, and COBRA costs rise. At a minimum $300+ a month for singles, few retirees or unemployed workers are going to be able to afford maintenance care–which will significantly increase healthcare costs for critical care needs.

Pastor Kris Vallotton, from Bethel Church has an awesome message for all of us this week who are feeling anxious or panicked by the situation. His comments about being leaven really speak to me.

I’m not in a church ministry. I work in the private sector–or at least I do this week! It’s been clear to me for a long time now that I am called to be leaven in the middle of  His Kingdom. I’m “embedded” with ordinary working folks.

Leaven’s important. Not everyone can or will reach out to a church or local clergy during stressful times. Most individual stresses occur outside Sunday services. People suffer where they suffer–at home, on the job, in social situations, within families or neighborhoods. Someone has to meet them where they are. That’s where believers come in. We’re all called to heal, deliver, affirm, restore, and reconcile “in place.”

I’ve been in serious prayer this year–actually for a couple of years now, but the panic levels at work have sent me into intercessory overdrive. Folks are suffering. The sector workers who suffer in a downturn are always the sector workers least able to survive without incomes for any length of time. The country sees service and manufacturing industry workers as expendable cogs in shifting wheels. Jobs go overseas, to Mexico or to Latin America, and the poor take multiple part time jobs or, if they’re eligible, go on welfare.

Healthcare issues go untreated, basic needs are put aside for more critical choices, like rent, m0rtgages, car payments and  bills, and eventually the pressure takes its toll on health, families, and lives.

In the face of this, we-who-are-called-to-be-leaven suffer with our brothers and sisters, endure the same stress, are impacted by the same economic downturns, and are called to be disciples, healers, deliverers, restorers, and reconcilers in the face of our own stressors. This is where the talk meets the walk.

Let’s pray together, that we will all find the courage, hope, joy, and fortitude to weather the storms, knowing we are safe in the arms of a loving, provident God. Amen!

Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls! (Hebrews 12:2-3)

God is educating you; that’s why you must never drop out. He’s treating you as dear children. This trouble you’re in isn’t punishment; it’s training, the normal experience of children. Only irresponsible parents leave children to fend for themselves. Would you prefer an irresponsible God? We respect our own parents for training and not spoiling us, so why not embrace God’s training so we can truly live? While we were children, our parents did what seemed best to them. But God is doing what is best for us, training us to live God’s holy best. At the time, discipline isn’t much fun. It always feels like it’s going against the grain. Later, of course, it pays off handsomely, for it’s the well-trained who find themselves mature in their relationship with God. (Hebrews 7-11)

So don’t sit around on your hands! No more dragging your feet! Clear the path for long-distance runners so no one will trip and fall, so no one will step in a hole and sprain an ankle. Help each other out. And run for it!

Work at getting along with each other and with God. Otherwise you’ll never get so much as a glimpse of God. Make sure no one gets left out of God’s generosity. Keep a sharp eye out for weeds of bitter discontent. A thistle or two gone to seed can ruin a whole garden in no time. Watch out for the Esau syndrome: trading away God’s lifelong gift in order to satisfy a short-term appetite. You well know how Esau later regretted that impulsive act and wanted God’s blessing—but by then it was too late, tears or no tears. (Hebrews 12:13-17)


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