Epiphany – Connecting Back to the Source

ImageI had an epiphany last night.  And yes, I know that we are on the cusp of Advent not Epiphany.  But, in the midst of talking to my mom on the phone last night about some recent feedback from an evaluation and my overall tiredness lately, I began to realize some of the habits or rhythms that I’ve been unconsciously leaving out.

I’ve generally been really good about reading the Upper Room daily devotional that gets sent to my email box in the morning.  I’ve also generally been okay at reading other religious/devotional/pastoral/thought-provoking materials or at the very least reading along with several small groups at Wesley so that I’m getting fed spiritually.  It took me until last night to realize, oh yeah, you haven’t even signed up for the Upper Room on your new email address.  I’ve been at this new job for close to five months and I’m just now realizing that I completely blanked on signing up for my daily devotional to be sent to my new inbox.

That’s pretty telling.

And I honestly didn’t even realize it.  It didn’t cross my mind until last night.

As we start new jobs, new projects, new paths and as we enter into a season that often looks a lot more like Black Friday with the rush, bustle, mayhem, and angst than the arrival of our Savior into the world, may we remember, may we know, may we connect, may we take time to explore this Advent season anew and afresh.

May God open our eyes to some of our disconnect.  May we realize when we’re drawing from the Source or when we’re just running on fumes.  May we see and know and feel God’s rhythm in our bones as we go about our day to day resting in God’s love, strength, patience and wisdom and not our own will, arrogance, or seeming energy.

I am grateful for a God who loves me even when I’m spinning my wheels.  I am grateful for the Spirit who leads and guides and gives us the nudges and awakening when we need it.  I am grateful for the inspiration of Christ to show us how we are to live, bringing God’s kingdom to earth.  

Just a couple things that have been speaking to me this morning:

This morning’s Upper Room Devotional: http://devotional.upperroom.org/devotionals/2012-11-30 – Very appropriately asking “Am I walking in the Lord’s light, and am I projecting that light into the world?”

Three songs that have stood out this morning – Brandon Heath’s “You Are My King,” Group 1 Crew’s “His Kind of Love,” and TobyMac’s “Get Back Up.”

Be in Prayer for Nancy, Shelvis and Jordan

Shelvis was a friend at Candler and I share the below letter so that we as a community can lift up him and his family.  You can also found out more about him and Nancy’s ministry at http://nancyandshelvis.com/.

Below is a letter from the family:

I am contacting you to request your immediate prayers from my family. As you know my wife (Nancy) and I have been serving in South Sudan.

Nancy was scheduled to return to the US last week because our first child is due in December. Nancy, however, went into labor last Saturday, October 20, 2012. The Medical Team in South Sudan knew a premature birth of this nature might exceed the capacity of their facilities, but they courageously worked to save the child’s life. The doctor initially treated Nancy with a medicine to stop/delay the contractions, but the labor continued. They also injected her with steroids hoping that (with time) the treatment would transfer from Nancy’s blood stream to the baby’s, in order to strengthen baby’s lungs. They hoped that the contractions would stop for 48 hours… but the labor continued. Given the circumstances, once the baby was born, the head doctor advised a medical evacuation out of South Sudan to a hospital with a neo-natal care unit.

During all of these events, Nancy and I felt the presence of God in every step of the birth and evacuation. A short-term Mission Team from Wisconsin arrived days earlier to our town in South Sudan with medical equipment from the US which was used for the first time during Nancy’s delivery. The head of the short-term Mission Team was a Pediatrician and his wife a nurse; they joined the hospital’s staff and worked tirelessly to care for Nancy and the baby. Dr. Jeff Perry, the hospital’s primary doctor, remained composed, attentive, thorough and optimistic throughout the entire procedure. While his wife, Elizabeth, drew from years of experience mothering nine children and her graduate degree in Public Health to coach Nancy during the labor. In addition, we were surrounded by the prayers of dozens of South Sudanese mothers and children who left their own hospital beds to stand at the entrance of our door to pray. Many believe this level of medical assistance is unheard of in a country which was recently identified on International Women’s Day as “the worst place in the world for a woman to give birth.”

When the child was born, the doctor’s assessed that a “CPAP Machine” (also known as a “Continuous Positive Airways Machine” was needed. They, however, did not own this expensive machine, so they used a device which was fashioned together months ago with plastic tubes, a cup of water and several small bands. This device was made “in the event” that a CPAP machine was ever needed. And it worked beautifully, absolutely beautifully. The Medical Team also used the only incubator in town to stabilize the baby.

After the child’s breathing steadied, a chain of colleagues from the Presbyterian Church USA, RECONCILE International, Yei’s Immigration Office(S. Sudan), Juba Immigration Office (S. Sudan), the United States Embassy in Kenya and several NGOs secured an air evacuation plane holding a nurse, a doctor, and all the medical equipment needed to care for our baby. They flew into Yei, landed on the dirt airstrip, fixed the incubator into a Land Cruiser, transferred the baby into their medical equipment and flew us to Nairobi, Kenya. Once we arrived in Nairobi, an ambulance met us on the runway and hurried us to Aga Khan Hospital where the child was admitted immediately into the Neo-Natal Intensive Care Unit (ICU). 

As you can imagine, the last few days have been quite challenging, but we are convinced that through this process the Lord has revealed the height and depth of God’s love through the hands of our South Sudanese, American and Kenyan sisters and brothers. We are happy to report baby continues to improve day by day. To God be the glory. The US Embassy in Nairobi has also informed us that according to their records, little “Jordan Eman Smith-Mather” is the first American born in the new country of South Sudan. (The 1st baby born from American-born parents).

To God be the glory for the life which has been given to our child and the hope which has been shared with us. I am receiving treatment for Malaria, but the doctors believe my condition will improve with rest and medication during the next few days. Nancy continues to make great strides in her recovery from labor and she continues to receive outstanding care. Lastly, the doctors of Aga Khan Hospital believe Jordan’s breathing will become more consistent and he will be released from the hospital soon. We are prayerful that he will continue to improve each day. We ask for your prayers for Jordan’s continued progress and our rest.

Please feel free to share this with anyone who will pray for Jordan and our family.

Thank you for your longtime friendship; I hope we can reconnect our lives and ministries once things settle down.

In God’s Grace,
Shelvis, Nancy & Jordan Smith-Mather