Jar of Tears

Connie Jeffery

I have always been a happy, bubbly person, at least on the outside. My friends often describe me as “the Energizer Bunny.” I zip around from task to task with energy, enthusiasm, and a joie de vivre that has been described as contagious.  But over the past couple of years, that energy has been depleted—the lack of joy, palpable. By Christmas of last year, after recovering from a bout of the flu, I found myself at my lowest point. I started using words like “overwhelmed,” “stressed,” and “tired” to describe myself. I found it hard to get out of bed each morning, and I lost 10 pounds in just six weeks.

My family and a few close friends took notice. My husband suggested I see a doctor. Relatives told me I had “lost my spark.” My lack of joy was the thing that concerned me the most and I tried to recapture it in various ways. I read the same Bible promises that had brought me comfort in the past. I tried to pray. But these things were challenges because I had difficulty focusing on simple tasks and I cried for no apparent reason. My general feeling of malaise was pervasive, and I didn’t feel like being around people. I was “too tired” to exercise. These weren’t symptoms I could simply pray away.

I deliberately avoided the word “depressed.” I found it much easier to be “overwhelmed” by an endless to-do list or “stressed” over a new job assignment. Depressed? Not me. In hindsight, I wish I had Googled “depression” and read the list of symptoms that matched my experience so precisely.  I wish I had confided in someone—a trusted friend, pastor, doctor—sooner than I did. But the fear of stigma was a threat; also, I still believed if I simply pushed through it, if I focused on doing “All things through Christ which strengthens me,” I would indeed be able to do all things.

And depression just didn’t make sense. I am so blessed. I have a job I love, an incredibly supportive family, two adorable granddaughters who are the joy of my life, and a faith that has sustained me in both the best and the worst of times. There was no reason for me to feel so low. Even though I feared the stigma of depression, I didn’t stigmatize others who were experiencing issues. I was a good listener when it came to other people’s depression, but felt like there was no one for me to turn to for help. I was wrong, of course. I had resources and people who were readily accessible—I just needed to take that first step, and finally I did.

I started with my family doctor at my family’s insistence and with some trepidation. The problem? He is an Adventist, a family friend, and he knows me far too well. Maybe it would be easier to confide in a stranger, I thought. But I went to my doctor anyway, and he was exactly the right person for me at that point in time. I launched tearfully into my symptoms, and for the first time in a long time, I was totally honest. He handed me a box of Kleenex and kept listening. He treated me with respect and assured me that there was no stigma attached to being depressed. After lab tests ruling out other possibilities confirmed the diagnosis, we agreed on a treatment plan together.

Having opened up about my problems to one person, it became easier to seek help from others. I talked to my pastor, a woman I trust completely and to whom I felt comfortable talking about this part of my journey. She listened to my story, prayed with me, and continues to ask how I’m doing. I walk with my next door neighbor three or four times a week and we talk. (Walking is great for depression.) While she’s Jewish and I’m Christian, we are both women who find strength in sharing our stories. We’ve been next door neighbors for 20 years but only developed our walking relationship recently—and it has turned out to be such a blessing for us both. I also confided in the human resources director at work. She listened, was kind and professional, and made me aware of resources that were available to me.

According to the World Health Organization, 350 million people worldwide suffer from depression. Over 16 million adults in the U.S. have at least one major depressive episode each year—that’s 6.9 percent of us. And those statistics apply to people of faith, too. There is no shame in depression. But I had to learn that this was true for me—not just for other people. I have always known that my church family and friends would offer all kinds of support, spiritual and otherwise, if I had a physical illness. I just didn’t know they’d be there for me in my depression.  While the media shines a spotlight on mental health issues in the wake of celebrity suicides, I hope that we as a church family also keep a light shining—the light of friendship, compassion, understanding, and love. My journey is far from over, but I do see light at the end of the tunnel.  The joy has been returning, slowly, over several months. I’m grateful for the support of my doctor, family, pastor, and friends. I’m thankful that I am able to read God’s promises with clearer eyes.

My father is the first one who shared with me the concept of the “jar of tears” God keeps for us in heaven. Psalms 56:8 tells us that He “keeps a record of your days of wandering and stores your tears in His bottle.” Can you imagine it? He not only counts the hairs on my head, He keeps a record of each tear I shed! Jesus wept, too, and He understands.

Connie Vandeman Jeffery is the host of All God’s People, a weekly short video series highlighting the people and ministries of the Pacific Union Conference, and has had a long career in media.

 

2018-08-02T11:25:10-07:00July 27th, 2018|Blog|

Pacific Union “All God’s People,” July 27, 2018 Episode 209

NCC Hosts “Summer on the Run” at California Campmeeting

Earlier this week during Redwood Campmeeting, Northern California Conference Youth Ministries hosted “Summer on the Run”—a program that takes all the fun of camp to kids that may not be able to attend the regular summer camp this summer.

The NCC team and local volunteers interact with church and community kids to have fun with them, mentor them, introduce them to the local Adventist church and share the love of Jesus with them. What a great idea—congratulations to their entire ministry team.

Follow Redwood Campmeeting:
https://www.facebook.com/summerontherunNCCyouth/https://www.facebook.com/redwoodcamp/

Follow Summer on the Run: https://www.facebook.com/summerontherunNCCyouth/

Soquel Completes 70th Year of Campmeeting

Central California Campmeeting at Soquel just completed their 70th Anniversary Campmeeting – from July 12-22! Congratulations on a wonderful anniversary event! There are lots more photos and video—and recordings of the presentations on their website. Click below to see more!

Watch the Facebook LIVE videos:
https://www.facebook.com/pg/CentralCaliforniaConference/videos/?ref=page_internal

Watch Soquel Campmeeting on Vimeo:
https://vimeo.com/cccsda

Adventist Health Launches “Together Inspired” Podcast

Adventist Health recently launched “The Together Inspired Podcast.” The inaugural podcast features Adventist Health CEO Scott Reiner sharing his personal testimony, and much more. The podcast host, Pastor Alex Bryan, talks with Adventist Health leaders and associates about living God’s love by inspiring health, wholeness, and hope.

Available on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, and at: https://togetherinspired.ah.org/podcast/

2019-04-30T20:25:53-07:00July 26th, 2018|All Gods People|

Who Are You?

Becky De Oliveira

The movie Anger Management features the following exchange between a man in a group therapy session and his therapist:

“So, Dave, tell us about yourself. Who are you?”
“Well, I am an executive assistant at a major pet products company.”
“I don’t want you to tell us what you do. I want you to tell us who you are.”
“All right. I’m a pretty good guy. I like playing tennis on occasion . . .”
“Also, not your hobbies, Dave, just simple: Tell us who you are.”
“I’m a nice, easygoing man.”
“Dave, you’re describing your personality. I want to know who you are.”
“What do you want me to say? I mean, I’m sorry. I just . . . I want to answer your question. I’m just not doing it right, I guess.”

It’s a difficult question to answer, isn’t it? Who are you? Especially if you take away the option of describing yourself in terms of what you do for a living or where you’re from or what you look like or your affiliations or your likes and dislikes. Who are you? 

You could call a crisis of identity a classic First World problem. After all, if you have the leisure to worry your pretty head about who you are, that means you’ve ascended at least part of the way up Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. You must have enough to eat, shelter, safety. You’ve moved on to belonging, self-esteem, and self-actualization. But I think that identity has everything to do with the way we live our lives—how we see ourselves as part of the larger world, how we relate to and treat others, and how we function as disciples of Christ.

Most of the way we talk about ourselves reveals a need for definition, to stamp an identity firmly into the earth. I drive an SUV. I can play the violin. I like chocolate. I remember my friends’ birthdays. I’m a good dad. I’m a Democrat. I can run a five-minute mile. I never get angry. I’m a faithful Christian. I’m a Seventh-day Adventist. I’m a vegan. I love jazz. I’m an engineer. 

James Clear, along with others, writes about identity as a way of instilling good long-term habits. If you decide that you are the kind of person, for instance, who never misses a workout, you are more likely to actually be that kind of person.

How does this work in relation to faith? Well, it seems pretty obvious: If you decide that you are a faithful disciple of Christ—if that becomes an important part of your identity—then you are more likely to be committed to behaviors that reflect this value. But we run almost immediately into a problem. Or several. What exactly are the behaviors that reflect this value? And what if—gasp!—you think you’re a good Christian, but other people think you’re a heretic? Consider the curious case of these two female friends, meeting up after not seeing each other for years. They’re catching up on each other’s lives—and they’re both in for surprises.

Friend number one: Married, middle-aged, faithfully attends church, and is the mother of teenage children. She sends these children to an Adventist-affiliated self-supporting boarding school—as any good Adventist would. She disapproves of and avoids most popular culture, but sometimes drinks a glass or two of wine with a meal.

Friend number two: Married, middle-aged, faithfully attends church, and is the mother of teenage children. She sends these children to the local public school. She enjoys television shows and movies and listens to pop music on the radio. She never drinks alcohol under any circumstances—no good Adventist would.

The friends eye each other warily, taking special notice of the ways in which the other is “wrong.” Friend number one can’t believe her old buddy would send her children out into “the world.” Friend number two is shocked at her companion’s lax attitude toward alcohol. But the funniest part? Both women consider the other to be a “really conservative” Adventist—and each thinks of herself as mainstream! Both women are forming their respective identities—at least in part—as a response to the values and choices of the other.

True story.

And what does it mean? Well, among other things, it demonstrates that who we are is partly constructed by our relationships to other people. And that we are often pretty clueless about the enormous gap between how we see ourselves and how others see us. The easy answer to the question, “Who are you?”—from a Christian point of view—is “I’m a child of God.” But what does it mean to be a child of God? How does that inform our daily choices and habits? How does that change our identities? Especially when we tend to be pretty sure that our ways are the right ways most of the time?

“What kind of Adventist are you?”

“Well, I’m a vegan.”

“No. I’m not asking what you eat. I’m asking what you are.”

“I’m the kind who believes in the Bible.”

“I don’t want to know what you read. I want to know what you are.”

“I faithfully observe Sabbath.”

“Now you’re telling me about your habits. I want to know what you are.”

We are often told not to think about ourselves at all—to instead “look only to Jesus” or to focus on serving others rather than obsessing about our identities. I agree that it is healthier to avoid navel-gazing and to look to Jesus as the ultimate example—but we do seem to be wired to seek identity and to spend time trying to figure out what our lives mean and where we fit in the structures that surround us. How can we do that constructively? How can I be me without needing to put myself above you? Is it possible—or even desirable—to form an identity that is not created in response to what other people think and do?

Becky De Oliveira is a teacher, writer, and graphic designer working on special projects for the Pacific Union Conference from her home in Colorado.

 

 

2018-07-20T11:56:34-07:00July 20th, 2018|Blog|

Pacific Union “All God’s People,” July 20, 2018 Episode 208

NUC Hosts Pathfinder & Adventurer Camporee in Ogden, Utah

They left their cell phones in the city, forgot about fast food for a few days, and ditched their digital devices for the outdoors. They pitched their tents, rolled out their sleeping bags, and set up camp under the sun, moon, and stars. They participated in arts & crafts activities, practiced outdoors survival skills, paced with precision for drill competition, and paraded through the park to begin Sabbath worship. “They” are the Nevada-Utah Conference Pathfinder and Adventurer families. Over 450 children, teens, and adults enjoyed a weekend of worship and fellowship at Fort Buenaventura Park in Ogden, Utah. Daily activities for Adventurers included singing, science projects, art & crafts, and games. Pathfinders participated in marching and drilling exhibitions, orienteering races, campfire afterglow, and team building games.
Read the full story at:

See more photos at: https://www.facebook.com/pg/NUCAdventist/photos/?tab=album&album_id=2023744604366608

Interview with Associate Director for the Center for Research on K-12 Adventist Education (CRAE)
It is always a privilege for us to tell the stories of the good things happening in our schools, and we were very interested in some research that is being done that looks at the impact that the faith and religious practice of parents has on the kind of educational experiences they seek for their children.
Aimee Saesim Leukert, associate director for the Center for Research on K-12 Adventist Education (CRAE) at La Sierra University and a doctoral student at Claremont Graduate University is seeking to understand this issue. In her research, Leukert is exploring the relationship between religiosity with the component of culture and school choice.
Learn more about CRAE at:

Northern California Conference President Jim Pedersen Retires

After almost 42 years of service to the church, Northern California Conference President Jim Pedersen retires on July 31. Elder Jim Pedersen, longtime President of the Northern California Conference, spent his entire career here in the Pacific Union, as a Pastor in Southern California, and as Pastor and Administrator in Northern California. Thank you for your service, Jim—and may God be with you in your retirement.
Read the article (page 44-45) at: http://adventistfaith.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/0718Recorder.pdf

A Tribute to the Haystack Tradition

We learned recently of the death of Sister Ella May Hartlein, who is thought to be the creator of the Haystack—the quintessential potluck, picnic, and pathfinder favorite for Adventists across North America.
There are many different ways one can assemble a haystack. Like the differences in haystacks, one of the best things about being an Adventist is the experience of coming together with diverse groups of people to worship and fellowship in unity. How wonderful it is that we can come together in our shared hope and faith. There is unity in our diversity, and the fellowship of the family of God in celebrating the many ways we are blessed by His grace.
Read the article at: https://www.adventistreview.org/church-news/story6270-ella-may-hartlein-credited-with-the-invention-of-the-haystack-dies-at-98

2019-04-30T20:25:53-07:00July 19th, 2018|All Gods People|

Turning Aside

By Ray Tetz

None of us really know how we might respond in any given situation, although I agree with the old Flemish proverb that things said while drunk were thought out beforehand. Putting a bumper sticker on your car that says “God hates fags” or  “Christians suck” demonstrates a certain mindset that can’t be easily explained away. Perhaps you did it in the heat of the moment, in response to something upsetting. Maybe your blood sugar was low. No matter. That bumper sticker tells the world a great deal about who you are.

I often wonder what I will do when something I truly believe in, as a matter of faith, comes into conflict with something that someone else believes he or she has the right to do as a citizen of the United States. I hope I will have the courage to choose a response motivated by love and not fear. I hope I show the mercy I’ve so often experienced personally rather than the justice I have undoubtedly deserved. I hope I carry the burden with determination for one mile and then carry it with gladness for the second.

I keep thinking of that story in 2 Kings where Elisha’s servant couldn’t see the horses and chariots of God’s protection until Elisha prayed that he might be given understanding. The servant’s eyes were opened and he saw a holy host prepared to protect the prophet of God. But it’s the second part of that story that is instructive here. Elisha prayed—and the aggressive army was struck with blindness. Disabled and dependent, they allowed themselves to be led into the hands of the king against whom they were fighting. Only then were they able to see again—as captives. Scripture records it this way:

Then the Lord opened their eyes and they looked, and there they were, inside Samaria. When the king of Israel saw them, he asked Elisha, “Shall I kill them, my father? Shall I kill them?”

“Do not kill them,” he answered. “Would you kill men you have captured with your own sword or bow? Set food and water before them so that they may eat and drink and then go back to their master.” So he prepared a great feast for them, and after they had finished eating and drinking, he sent them away, and they returned to their master. So the bands from Aram stopped raiding Israel’s territory” (2 Kings 6:20-23, NIV).

So there you have it: with the opposing army in his control, the king asked Elisha, “What shall I do with them—shall I kill them?”

You can just about hear the exasperation and impatience in the prophet’s voice: “No (you ninny)! Treat them as your guests. Take care of them. Send them home with Easter baskets filled with candy. And then watch what happens.”

I wish there were a little more of that spirit in our world. Sure, we have our beliefs and we have our rights, but that’s not all we have. We’ve got plenty—of everything—to go around. We can afford to be generous—especially since all the grace in the world is free and isn’t ours to mete out as if we own it. Maybe there will be a time to discuss why I think you are wrong and I am right—but perhaps that time is not right at this very moment. This is the moment for turning wrath aside with a soft answer. This is the time for replacing the question “Why should I?” with the better question: “Why not?” This is the time to follow the Lord’s lead and see if something miraculous might happen, if the loaf might be multiplied instead of divided, the lost found instead of just . . . lost, the water in the pitcher turned into wine.

T.S. Eliot, who became a Christian late in life, wrote, “For us, there is only the trying. The rest is not our business.” Trying is hard enough. Harder still is learning to keep our hands off the stuff that isn’t our business.

When and if my moment to stand up arrives, I pray that I’ll receive the courage to play nice and be kind, to avoid confrontation if I can, and to respond with the soft word that becomes an invitation to listen and grow. And to better understand.

Ray Tetz is the director of communication and community engagement for the Pacific Union Conference.

 

2018-07-12T10:40:09-07:00July 13th, 2018|Blog|

Pacific Union “All God’s People,” July 13, 2018 Episode 207

WELLNESS WAREHOUSE LAUNCHES IN RIVERSIDE

In the Riverside, California neighborhood, a new kind of thrift store is promoting wellness in the community. The Wellness Warehouse offers household items (such as clothing and furniture) priced 25 to 70 percent less than at other thrift stores. In addition to the thrift store, the Wellness Warehouse offers a growing list of social services, including grocery boxes and food aid, anonymous counseling designed to help discover additional social needs that can be met—and long-term assistance in the form of classes in English as a Second Language. This thrift store is partnering with other organizations to help meet needs.

Read the full story: http://adventistfaith.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/0718Recorder.pdf

Follow the Wellness Warehouse: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Wellness-Warehouse/318247331971769

INNOVATIVE APP TO HELP REFUGEES WINS MAKERS $30K GRANT

Refugees and immigrants with bona fide education and skills are facing challenges getting good jobs in their new homelands because of inaccessible educational and employment records, and a new app—A4Ed—is addressing this need. The team, whose designers include two individuals with roots at Pacific Union College—recently won a $30,000 first place award in the 2018 SIPA Dean’s Public Policy Challenge Grant.

Read the full story: http://adventistfaith.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/0718Recorder.pdf

“BEAUTIFUL RIVER” MUSIC VIDEO BY RIO LINDO ACADEMY CHOIR

Northern California boarding school Rio Lindo Academy produced a beautiful video during this last school year. The music video was created as a joint effort between the Lindaires, their choir, and the school’s video production class. The song, which symbolizes the final reunion between believers and God, was filmed on the academy’s campus.

Watch the full music video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cQUGwHS2R-E

Follow Rio Lindo Academy: https://www.facebook.com/riolindoadventistacademy/

2019-04-30T20:25:53-07:00July 9th, 2018|All Gods People|

He Will Take Great Delight in You

By Mark Witas

“We know, dear brothers and sisters, that God loves you and has chosen you to be his own people” (1 Thessalonians 1:4, NLT).

Do you know what it’s like to be loved, to be truly loved?

I had not dated anyone since I gave my heart to Christ at 22 years of age. For a year I didn’t even look toward anyone resembling a female. Then one day at church a nice old lady pulled on my sleeve and said, “Have you seen the new girl?”

She directed my gaze toward a girl standing across the foyer. I noticed right away that she wasn’t ugly. But I turned my head away. No, I was not going to entertain the thought of dating again, not for a while.

It was just a month later that I was in a room full of people auditioning for a church Easter program when I heard a voice like I’d never heard before. It was the voice of an angel. The voice belonged to the new girl. What was I to do?

I invited her to my house the next day after church for dinner. Six months later, we were married. That was 33 years ago.

We’ve had our ups and downs as a married couple, but my love for my bride and her love for me has been unwavering and unconditional for more than three decades. I can do very stupid things and still be loved. I know this because I’ve tested it and found it to be true. My wife looks at my face, a sight that most people would say resembles the TV character Herman Munster, and sees a handsome prince charming. I am fully immersed in the love of a good woman.

The Bible reminds us, “As a young man marries a maiden, so will your sons marry you; and just as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so your God will rejoice over you” (Isaiah 62:5, ISV).

Do you know that feeling? Do you know what it means to be completely vulnerable to your God and to swim in the pools of love that He has for you?

I know of a young lady that had a hard time with the thought of vulnerability, especially with a man.

When she was just a child she learned not to trust, but instead to be suspicious of men. An uncle close to the family violated her in ways that we don’t like to talk about. She tried to tell her mom what her uncle was doing, but her mother ended up slapping her in the face and shaming her into silence. After all, her mother’s brother worked for the church.

As the young girl went through school, she had her problems. The love she sought was taken advantage of by several young men and soon she was asked to leave the academy she was attending.

She found herself in and out of relationships, finding that, as much as she didn’t trust men, she certainly knew how to make them happy. Before she knew it, she was selling herself, maybe as a way to get a little something back from the men in her town who had treated her like a disposable object.

Prostitution led her down dark spiritual paths so that she started to lose control of who she was and who she wanted to be. The darkness was possessing her, and she was reeling out of control—until one day, when Mary had an encounter with Jesus.

Jesus touched Mary’s life. For the first time in her life she met a man who didn’t want anything from her, He just wanted her. He saw value in her for who she was and not for what she could do for Him. And Jesus said to Mary, “Come, follow me.”

We pick up the story in Luke 7. Jesus is at a prominent religious person’s home for supper. Mary slips in and makes a spectacle of herself because of love. She anoints Jesus with expensive perfume, washes His feet with her tears, and dries His feet with her hair.

The religious people started complaining because they knew her. They knew what she was. They knew what she had done. I love Jesus’ response to their scorn:

Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, ‘Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.’ Then Jesus said to her, ‘Your sins are forgiven’” (Luke 7:44-48, NIV).

Mary realized how deeply in love with her Christ was. She saw that Jesus actually liked her. He wanted to spend time with her. So deep was this relationship, that guess who had the privilege of being the first person to see Jesus after the Resurrection? It was Mary.

When we realize the Love that God has for us and live in that love, it’s life changing.

God loves you. He’s crazy about you.

Do you know this?

“The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing” Zephaniah 3:17, NIV [1984]).

Mark Witas is lead teaching pastor at Pacific Union College Church in Angwin, California.

 

 

 

2018-07-06T11:10:58-07:00July 6th, 2018|Blog|