Saturday, December 31, 2011

RESOLUTE


Pondering the end of the year, I have come to the conclusion that I am hopeless. I don’t really care that at midnight one year will be gone and another will have begun.  Just remembering what day of the week it is proves to be a challenge to me.  All that a changing year means to me is that I will be messing up some checks with the wrong date very soon.  And, oh yes, at some point I will be a year older. 

On the 26th of February, I will suddenly be a year older than I was on the 25th.  Amazing.  

Remember when it was cool to be “and ½?”  We get over that in a hurry when we pass 20. The reality of course is that we age constantly.  We grow up, then out, then “over the hill” without any special effort on our part at all.  We can stunt the process by ignoring the rules of good health, and we can even end the process sooner than might be expected by breaking the “rules” of healthy conduct.  But as long as we are alive we will get older, no matter.

Many people take the time to look at how they are living so that they can make a few resolutions for the New Year. Me?  I make and break so many resolutions all year long that the New Year doesn’t get me all excited to be all that I could be.  I have to work on that every single day of the year.

There was a time when I was diagnosed with Diabetes 2, and resolved to change my life style and eating habits.  That was in May that year, nowhere close to the “New Year.”  A couple of years later, I had a heart attack.  Even more changes were needed.  I have had some success, but it was not, and is not, easy.  I did find that I had to be resolute about the whole thing.  I had to act on these changes and push through them for any of them to work.

As this year comes to a close I find that I have become quite wishy-washy in my resolutions.  I have become weary of so much thinking about what I am eating.  I still eat 95% good choices, but I definitely eat too much of each choice.  Even food that is good for you has calories and when you are hobbled from serious exercise for awhile, those calories add up fast. 

One thing that brought this subject up, was reading in Hebrews about how resolute God is with His Covenants.  He keeps His Word because He is true to Himself. That forces Him to be true with us.  He doesn’t weary of repeating and keeping His side of the Covenants.  And when He showed that the original Covenant wasn’t working due to our sinfulness, He sent a proper sacrifice for our sins: His Son, Jesus Christ, who never sinned and therefore became a once for all, absolutely acceptable sacrifice for us, and a High Priest, everlasting, who sits at the right hand of His Father and sees to it that we are kept for Him for eternity.  We are truly blessed beyond understanding. 

We are hopeless without Him, but we have Him and that is what we can shout praises to Heaven for this New Year and every New Year.  Hallelujah!  God is Love… and Love has come for us all!

Happy New Year to all…

Tuesday, December 27, 2011


As we remember the glow of celebrating our Savior’s birth and prepare for the New Year coming, I’m thinking it might be a good idea to get back to basics.  Who are we anyway?

As Christians, we often describe ourselves as sinners, saved by Grace.  For us that is meaningful, but for many they don’t quite get it.  Saved from what?  Certainly not sin.  There is not actual sin is there?  Well, yes, there is. And that sin is serious. It is something that we must be saved from and then protected from as we live out life here on Earth.  There are a lot of very scholarly things that could be said here, but today I am borrowing some wisdom from another source.  I cannot resist sharing this with you because it hits the nail so exactly on the head, in a very simple way.

TWO WOLVES

One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said, "My son, the battle is between two wolves inside us all.

"One is Evil -  It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.

"The other is Good - It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith."

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: "Which wolf wins?"

The old Cherokee simply replied, "The one you feed."


Though theologically imperfect, this is a great picture of this truth:  You are what you eat.
Even as the food a pregnant woman eats also feeds her baby, what we eat spiritually also feeds our inner selves.  “The one you feed” really does describe what helps us grow closer to God or further away.

Sometimes we spend a lot of time reading, listening to and absorbing many things besides the Word of God or related books, movies and music, and very little time “nibbling” on the Word.  We may not be feeding on obvious “bad,” but it would seem that we are also not “feasting” on the Word in order to remain healthy.

May God bless us all as we attempt to feed the “good” and starve the “bad” for the year we call 2012.  May we spend as much time as possible listening, reading, discussing and enjoying God’s Word in every way we can for this next year.  Let the Feast begin.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

CHRIST in CHRISTMAS


Lately there has been a lot of noise about keeping Christ in Christmas, and in some ways there is progress being made.  More people seem to be saying “Merry Christmas” this year and Christmas specials are being called just that in some cases.  Our noses got a little out of shape when ”rules” were made that discouraged or even forbade using that phrase and it was insisted that all celebrations be included under the umbrella phrase “Happy Holidays.”  For once common sense and national pride stepped up and demanded that we be free to celebrate our Christmas traditions and Holiday the way we always have.  Good for us.

But how far are we really willing to go to keep Christ in the picture?  Do we have angels, stars, manger scenes or the cross anywhere in our Christmas d├ęcor?  Do the cards we send reflect the reason He was born? Will we be going to church this Sunday, since Christmas falls on Sunday?

There was a time that I attended a church for about 10 years that had a service on Christmas morning no matter what day of the week if fell on.  I had no problem with that, in fact I loved it. But I had no kids. And I had no personal traditions that didn’t fit with that.  I truly enjoyed gathering with my church family on that day and worshiping together the Christ in Christmas.

But I am reminded this year that some Christians wish Christmas would not fall on Sunday because it interferes with the traditions they follow every other Christmas.  This breaks my heart.  But then I am a little fragile.  I was away for a long time and now I cannot stand the thought of not being there unless I am dead, dying or out of town.

Apparently, many of my fellow Christians feel the same way because they come every Sunday even though they are in serious pain 24/7 from the things that ail them.  And many more make it every Sunday, too.

When I had my heart attack, I had to spend Christmas in the hospital.  No big deal. I really didn’t expect to see anyone until evening when my family would come in to bring me Christmas dinner. But as I walked out to the hall to take my walk, there stood one of my pastors and his wife.  They had taken time out from family to come and see me and others they knew in the hospital.  They took the Christ in Christmas to mean sharing their time for the comfort of others.  I was thrilled to see them, to say the least.

Personally, I can’t remember a time when I went out of my way to do anything like that on Christmas day.  Going to church this Sunday and worshipping with fellow believers would be a privilege not a sacrifice.  It is the least thing I could do to keep Christ in Christmas.

God willing, I will be there.  I hope you will be too.  Praise the Lord for all that He is and does!


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

HUH? WHAT?


Have you ever had a conversation with someone you are very close to, and found yourself (or them) suddenly needing to say, “Huh?  What?”  My Aunt and I have many jovial conversations punctuated with this phrase, or at least a look that says the same thing.  It keeps us on our toes, laughing all the way.

Usually it comes at a time when we have gone quiet for a minute, and one of us starts talking about something that we have been thinking about for a minute or two.  And usually this means that we start in the middle of the subject with no introduction and we are expecting the other to know what we are talking about.  Good luck there.  So we end up having to back up and tell “the rest of the story” so the other person can catch up.

As I have been reading the Christmas stories from Matthew and Luke, I was caught by the phrase, “   because there was no room for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:7)  I suddenly saw what appears in my mind to be an “after thought.”  We make a really big deal out of the nativity scene (and it is well that we do,) but we aren’t even told of these circumstances until Luke tells us that Mary “placed Him in a manger, because….”  This could have been a “Huh?  What?” moment for the reader, had he not gone back and briefly explained how that came to be.

Looking at Matthew’s account we find that he tells us Joseph was assured by the angel that all was well and that Joseph then went about his business as was necessary.  He took Mary, who was at least 3 months along, (see Luke 1:56) and they had a very long trip ahead of them.  (I suggest you take a really close look at a map to see how far Nazareth is from Bethlehem.) That was no “over the river and through the woods” little trip. But neither Matthew nor Luke say much about the trip or the inn.  Matthew skips over the whole scene of the angels and shepherds altogether, mentioning only the Angels assurance to Joseph and the fact that the birth happened and the child was named Jesus, as per God’s instruction. 

Have you ever read a story to a child and tried to skip some of it?  Maybe you thought the child had gone to sleep but they called you on it.  Unless it is a new book, the child knows that story by heart and will not accept even one word missing as they listen.  But look at Matthew.  Seemingly out of no where, he is suddenly talking about the Magi, who started on their trip at the time Jesus was born but did not arrive until “the child” was at home with Joseph and Mary and they were receiving guests.  Huh?  What?  Where’s the manger scene?  Where are the angels?  Someone needs to back up and let us in on what happened before the Magi came.

Luke comes to the rescue.  Technically, starting with Luke 1 & 2, then going to Mathew makes better sense for us.  But even in Luke, there is not a big deal made about where Jesus was born.  “It just so happens” that he was placed in a manager, “because there was no room for them in the inn.”  Of course nothing “just so happens” in God’s plans and under His guidance.  It is important that Jesus was born in a lowly place and grew up in a lowly household, with a normal family, learning and working as any child or man should be doing as they grow.

We celebrate everything about Jesus, because everything He did or said or suffered, was all for us, personally.  He knows us very personally and He lived the perfect life for us knowing that we could not do that ourselves. We thank Him for that and we celebrate BIG time, every chance we get.  What He did, even being born at all, was very costly for Him.  We owe Him our lives.  Let’s pull out all the stops and go for it. Praise the Lord!  Praise the Lord!  Praise the Lord!  His name is Holy!

May our celebration be all that it can be in sharing our lives with His and praising Him loudly and clearly at this wonderful time of the year!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The 3 G's


As Christmas approaches, I am reminded that not everyone thinks of Christmas is a time for celebrating.  There are many reasons including painful memories, painful life at the moment, hatred of God and anything to do with Christ, lack of money to buy presents or food.  One that surprised me a few years ago was fear of family.  Yes, a fear of getting together with the family and knowing that the 3 G’s would be there.  Who?  Well perhaps we should call them the 3 Unwise Men or 3 Fools.  They are Grudges, Gripes and Grievances. They are the spoilers.  Is anybody familiar with them?  Can you relate?

As dysfunctional as my family was and even with all the drinking that went on, one thing we did not do on Christmas was bring the 3 G’s to the table.  We had our traditions, which varied some if we went to Grandma’s house, but even there the traditions were imbedded as Grandma wanted them… Stay up ‘til midnight Christmas Eve to open gifts and then try to remember what you got in the morning!  The 25th was her birthday…

Anyway, at home we always woke to Dad cooking Blina (a German yeast-risen crepe) that we could fill as we pleased and enjoy with bacon and eggs on the side.  NOMS!  Oh, excuse me, that’s cat for YUM!  Then we opened presents, and played a game of Hooklau… have no idea how to spell it… but it means 31 in Hawaiian.  It was fun because it did not require full attention or skill, and people could come and go as they pleased.  That was good because there was a lot of cooking going on across the counter in the kitchen.

Just a few years ago in a small group of women gathered for discussion, 3 out of 5 declared themselves to have fear of family.  For them, the family gathering meant they had to face, once again, the criticisms of those who openly disapproved of them in some, or many ways:  The people who bore the 3 G’s and brought them along to the party.  I was a little shocked, but had enough sense to understand what they were talking about and care that the season was so painful for them.

So what can we do if that describes our family gatherings?  All I can think of is to “put on the whole armor of God,” in order to thicken our skin, choose to not react in the same old way when these things come up, and keep our eyes on Jesus, the Reason for the Season.  And we might also look for that beam in our own eye, which proves that we are just as vulnerable to the 3 Fools, ourselves

Is there someone you have in mind that is surely going to ruin the day for you?  Is now a good time to forgive them and ask God to give you Love for them in place of resentment?  Is now a good time to give them to God and enjoy the Celebration regardless of what they might say?  Is now a good time to Praise God that you have family and friends and Him, above all else?

May God be with you during this season of Love and keep your heart close to His!




Thursday, December 15, 2011

BASES COVERED?


Seems like I should wait for baseball season to bring this up, but it is on my mind now, so…

In the past few years I have been privileged to take several close looks at the life of Abraham, the man God chose to lead the way for people to follow the One True God.  We know that the fact of one and only one true God was not new with Abraham, but God does not tell us much about what was happening on His behalf at this time.  We do know that Abraham and his extended family and the multitudes of people who lived in the area and made up the community were worshipers of multiple gods. They had their BASES COVERED, just in case.  How many even remembered the God of Adam and Eve, Seth, Enoch and Noah is not clearly seen at this point. So my question is, “From whence came Abrams faith?”   (Don’t you love some of the Kings English?)

When I first answered this question for myself, I concluded that he got his faith from God, in a face to face meeting.  I also concluded that we all get our faith the same way.  There is no other way.

The other night at our study of Matthew, Jesus was speaking of the narrow Gate (chapter 7), and as we discussed what this meant and how narrow the Gate is, it occurred to me that the Gate is as narrow as Jesus face.  “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life,”  “I am the Gate.”  The only way to the Kingdom, Heaven, God Himself, is through a face to face meeting with Jesus Christ.

That being true, we need to realize that the world does not want to know that.  They want to believe that “all roads lead to Heaven” and saying otherwise is selfish and cruel.  Thus, the encouraged shunning of Christians and their faith.  “All people will get to heaven somehow,” is the creed of the day. 

How grateful are we that we can KNOW OUR BASES ARE COVERED through our face to face meeting with Christ?  How simple is it to stick to our faith and testify to the truth that without a face to face encounter with God, a future in heaven with all its rewards is absolutely impossible?  Okay, it may be simple, but it isn’t always easy.  Perhaps we should spend more time looking at that beautiful face while reading and praying and even talking, so that what we pass on is buoyed by His very presence in front of us. 

That beautiful [face], that beautiful [face] from sin has power to free us!
That beautiful [face}, that wonderful [face], that matchless [face] is Jesus!*

I encourage you to reach out and touch that face with wonder and awe as you walk daily with Him.

*Hymn, “That Beautiful Name.”

Monday, December 12, 2011

The HOUSEKEEPER


At my age I think it is safe to confess that I am not a good housekeeper.  Oh, I have my moments, but they are few and usually involve a lot of music and a lot of changing things around or cleaning something out and establishing new order.  Those times are a little like sudden storms of energy.

On a daily basis my home is scattered with words. Papers here, magazines there, books piled on every flat surface and pictures hanging around waiting for me to do something with them.  The rest of the clutter shall remain untold, but you can get the picture, I’m sure.  I believe that things I use frequently should be kept handy, one way or another.

But what does that have to do with God?  Well… It’s been a long week.  Last week at this time I was held accountable.  Someone who loves me took me to task for a burst of anger that I didn’t even remember.  I am very good at dropping some memories into a well hidden place and just getting on with life.  I praise God that this is an old ingrained habit that can be worked on as needed, and not a new one.  I keep hoping that I can say, “I don’t need to work on that anymore because I don’t do it anymore.”  Well, we all know that won’t happen in this life.  But we also know that God expects us to grow closer and closer to Him so that He can help us grow farther and farther away from the need to follow old habits while we replace them with new ones, as in “put on”  (God) and “put off”  (those things not Godly.)”

Sometimes we need to be held accountable for our actions so that we are driven to search our hearts for hidden grudges and irritations.  We need to “clean out the closet," changing things around, throwing some things out and making room for more necessary things that work for our good and His.

Recently, a study we ladies are doing, brought us to the place where Leah, Rebecca’s older sister and first wife of Jacob, laid aside her pride and jealousy which kept her distant from God.  This even though He had blessed her richly in ways that Jacob could not.  With the birth of Judah, she finally bowed her knee and proclaimed thanks that God had indeed blessed her with her sons.  She became humble before Him and quit trying to make her husband love her and gave control of her life to God. 

Some say this was not a real repentance and humbling because she returned to the same feelings and selfish prayers later on.  Consider how many of us have repented of sins that we end up repeating.  Leah was not “cured of herself” by her repentance.  She would always be Leah and it was Leah that God loved.  But she was weak for evidence of someone’s love and came back to struggling to make Jacob love her.  I believe her repentance was genuine.  I also know from personal experience that repentance does not achieve perfection.  It achieves forgiveness and open communication with God that will help us fall into our own traps with much less frequency.  The more hidden secrets we remove from our “heart” closet, the more room there is for the Grace of God to grow us into the “Leah” or “Cheryl” that He wants us to be.  May God grow you well.  And may He do the same for me as I limp along in this sinful body on this sinful earth.  And may those who love us step up to keep us accountable.




Monday, December 5, 2011

THE DANCE


One of the most enjoyable activities I have ever done is dancing.  As a child, I danced in front of the big “picture” Window in the living room of our new house (built in 1950.)  Later, I danced wherever I could, mostly by myself, but sometimes with a partner.  I love to dance!  There is something extremely joyful in dancing.  And it is great exercise as well.

It was not until the fall of 2010 that I discovered the fact that my life with God has been a dance.  That brought tears to my eyes and joy to my heart. And it has put new excitement in my step.

As I look back, I can see that the day Christ introduced Himself to me (at age 8,) He also asked me to dance.  I started with skipping and hopping, trying to share Him with my friends the only way I knew:  Telling them how happy I was, knowing that Jesus loved me.

But soon I was not able to attend church and our dance became a slow dance as I longed to learn more about Him and find a place to go to church.  He always kept in touch and kept me desiring a closer walk with Him.  He allowed some mistakes in my life while protecting me from making other mistakes that would have affected me in even worse ways down the line.

In the summer of 1961, He finally gave me a church home and Christian friends and guidance.  Our dance picked up to a “Swing” or “Jitterbug” as it was called then, where I kept stepping back into the life I was already leading while He kept pulling to Him and His way.  Then He demanded a decision:  “Who will you follow: him (my boyfriend) or Me?  He was very clear about the end result of the two choices.  He gave me wisdom to choose Him. 

Off we whirled in a very exciting Fox Trot, which would have been delightful had I not decided to lead.  Then it became more and more like a bullfight type dance (the Paso Doble) with pulling and pushing and stubborn refusal woven with periods of gentle closeness and successful partnering in the dance.  As the anger in my life built, the push in me to be in control grew stronger and stronger.

Then I changed partners.  And I danced with him until he died.  By then my life was in ruins.  I had won the battle and lost who I was or even was supposed to be.

But God was not finished with me.  He came asking for one more dance.  In fact, He pretty much demanded it.  “It’s time,” He said.  “Stop this reckless rebellion and listen to me!”

We started slow, with a Tango, but one where I was willing to learn to follow.  After about 2½ years, we were able to fall into a beautiful Waltz which now goes on and on. 

This morning I was studying Genesis 29:1-14, which starts with the words “Jacob continued on his journey” after having met God face to face.  It is said that this is translated, also, as “Jacob picked up his feet and went, briskly and cheerfully.”  Meeting God face to face can change our lives forever, and it does, if we let it.  Dancing with God, following His lead day by day, is truly the joyful way to go in life.  Hallelujah!  Amen.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

SKINNY GENES


 
While researching various views on anger and struggles with it, I came across a very interesting conversation about the “warrior gene.”  For all the excuses we make for getting and being angry, this one really takes the cake.   Apparently some people are born with a gene that “fires” them up and they “can’t live without” lots of anger.  They even have “every right” to be angry because it is genetic.

And I thought I had excuses!  I never even considered that one.  The night I “blew off” my anger that was not at all on my list of excuses:  my Mom did… my Dad did… my brother did… the stupid did… the uncaring masses did… the world did.  But never did I think to blame my skinny genes.  By the way, how do you sit down in those unbending, iron clad armor style skinny jeans anyway?  But I digress.

Eventually the Gene expert and the psychologist finally came down to an agreement that even though the people they were interviewing had this horrible gene they didn’t have to give in to it.  They could choose to avoid the issues that kept them angry.  Meanwhile they agreed that the true issue at hand was one of twisted expectations.  Personally, I could have told them that before they ever went looking for that ridiculous gene.  The world’s failure to meet our expectations is the number one trigger for anger in every case.  But let’s look at a classic example that was given during the show:

This gentleman’s issue was super classic, over blown “road rage.”  (Another had “sidewalk rage” issues, but that is just too much, even for me.)  Whenever he set out to drive somewhere he determined exactly how the drive would go by mapping it in his head.  He left no room for adjusting to what was actually going to happen once he was on the road.  He was prepared to “stomp out” any other drivers who “got in his way.”  He was choosing anger even before he got in his car.  It is his road.  He owns it and NO one better get in his way.

He told how one woman “cut him off” and “made him angry.”  And so, his need to “set the record straight and force others to learn to stay out of his way” kicked in.  He chased her down and pushed her to the side of the road.  He pulled off as well and ran back to tell her exactly what she did wrong and why she should never to it again.  Meanwhile, she was calling 911.  Smart lady.  He was arrested and put in jail.  But he still thinks he was right to do that because “If I don’t tell them what they are doing wrong they will never learn not to do it.”

I admit that I, the queen of anger, was shocked at how far these people would take their vengeful anger in order to correct and instruct the rest of us on how stupidly we behave.  To me, “Be ye angry and sin not,” has a lot to do with premeditated anger and vengeful, “set the record straight” thinking.  May God bless us with peaceful response to upsetting situations that we might allow the Holy Spirit to do His work of growing His gifts within us:  Love, Joy, Peace, Kindness, Goodness, Patience, Gentleness and Self-control.  Against such there is no law.

Choose Peace…

Monday, November 28, 2011

COHESIVE


After a 21 year break from touching a Bible, let alone reading it, I came to the table starving for what it had to say.  I spent hours upon hours reading through the New and the Old testaments.  I could not get enough of it.  Most of it was so exciting to me that I could not put it down; especially Genesis, Exodus, Joshua and Job in the Old and the Gospels and Acts in the New.

My hunger was insatiable. The study groups I was in helped to feed that hunger, as did the Sunday sermons and the emails I got from my missionary preacher cousin.  I read and read and drank and drank and marveled at the wonderful things I was learning and relearning.  I was enchanted by the fact that wherever I looked or listened, it all fit together and made perfect sense over all.  I was amazed.

Then one Sunday a Missionary friend of my close friend came to visit and agreed to speak in our Sunday school class.  When class was over, I happened to mention that I found it exciting to realize that what she said fit so well with the sermon that morning, almost like they had planned it.  She simply replied, “Don’t we find that all of God’s Word fits together that way?”

Talk about a “light bulb” moment!  Of course it does.  Whatever we learn from one place in the Bible we can learn from at least one more place, and probably from more places than we can count.  Our Bible is not a bunch of books put together to make a bigger book.  Our Bible is a cohesive unity of thought very carefully woven together by God, Himself, to show us who He is and what He is about, plus who we are and what He is about with us.

The wonder of it all!  No wonder I can know what I believe and I can be sure that what I learned in all these different study situations within my church is truth that is well grounded by the wholeness of our scriptures.  If someone tries to slip something by me that doesn’t fit, knowing God’s Word will help me to discern that.  Knowing the context of all that is in the Word is what sustains us as we try to discern lies and misrepresentations.  Untruth becomes clearer and clearer the more Truth we devour.

How do we get there?  How do we develop this discernment that we must use in looking around us as the world goes crazy?  We eat and drink His Word.  We Feast on it like a Thanksgiving dinner.  We drink it in until we think we have covered it all and then we start over again.

Now just for fun, let me point out how important understanding the whole is to getting the part right:  In a sentence above, the computer did not like the word “doesn’t” in the next to the last paragraph.  I am absolutely confident that the computer is wrong.  You see, I understand the context of the English language, so I can discern bad grammatical advice and ignore it.  But what if I were a young person who depends on the advice of a computer to get my spelling and grammar right in my reports?  I might just get an error for changing to “don’t” in place of “doesn’t.”  Being young is good.  Staying that way forever could get us a serious error in life. Be brave and study on, day and night, thinking and praying your way into knowledge of God’s Word.  And always keep sharing what you learn. 




Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A Cupful of Sand



As the news reports proclaim the build up of sand at the beaches on the coast, I am reminded of these thoughts I wrote recently…

Having just read the book, The Hope, by Herman Wouk, which captures much of the determination of the newly returned 20th century Jews as they try to settle into the homeland they had held dear, but had scattered from, I find myself wandering in my thoughts about God’s promise to give them the land in the first place. As I study the book of Genesis and the Patriarchs I cannot help but wonder at the promises of God that He cannot fail to keep.

The whole story of Abraham is quite intriguing.  This apparently unknown man was seemingly chosen “out of thin air” and given a promise that would astound the world for centuries to come:  “I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore… and to your descendants I will give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates…”

As numerous as the sands on the seashore” is particularly poignant as I have recently been to the beach and discovered a very natural, but amazing fact:  One of the beaches I have walked on over the years has changed greatly since the last time I was there.  Back around 1980 the beach was practically non existent around the base of the motel where we stayed.  Taking a walk there required perfect timing between the tides.  There just wasn’t much of a buffer between the waves and the cliffs.

Now, however, there is a lot of sand built up along that part of the shore and even huge rocks that used to be prominently exposed are now buried in the sand.  The storms, which can seriously erode the sand have instead brought more in and built up the beach to be a great place for walking and playing.  I was amazed.  The beach can be easily eroded and decrease, but it will also be built up and replaced over periods of time

Knowing that the people of Israel were removed and brought back so many times over the centuries, causes me to wonder about the WWII effect in the “promised land.”  At the time of the war it could be said that only a “cupful of sand” remained in Jerusalem and their very survival was precarious to say the least.  But the war had a widespread effect on the Jewish people, including reminding them where home was supposed to be.  They were also reminded firmly that the people where they were living did not want them at all.  This was not a new thing for them through the centuries.  They were, as Abraham was, sojourners in foreign lands.  But getting home would not be an easy task because others living in that area did not want them around either.

Never-the-less, they began to take themselves home. They found many ways to struggle to live in a place that is at the core of their existence. But even with their astonishing victory in the seven day war, they still struggle to keep this piece of their promised land.  The sand has returned to fortify the beach and they are hanging on for the completion of the promise of the God who said, “I will…” and cannot fail to keep His promise.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Me, Me, Me


Please let me share a little more about myself before we go on.  I want you to know that the purpose of this blog is not to teach, preach or even bring conviction on anyone.  The purpose is to share with friends the many quizzical things that come up in my mind when I settle in to think through some of the lessons I, myself, confront.  I enjoy these patterns of thinking and I hope that you will, too.

The story of my life is pretty boring.  Even I fall asleep thinking about it.  Therefore, I will share pieces of it in small quantities as we go along.

There are two main things you all need to know:  One is that I am a Christian and I have been since I was eight years old.  Jesus Christ is everything to me, and my heart’s greatest desire is to bring Him the Glory He deserves and plans for me to bring Him.  I love Him because He first loved me and He continually reminds me that I am forever His.

The second thing you should know is that I spent 61 years growing severely dependent on a slave master called Anger.  Anger is a true slave master and a very demanding ruler.  I was addicted.  I was driven in all that I did, to express myself in anger.  By the time God sat me down and pulled the plug on that life style, I had destroyed people, jobs, my health and every relationship I ever had with anyone.

My life has not been a shinning example of what He really means to me, but He is graciously giving me the opportunity to share with you His Grace working in me, changing me, while drawing me closer and closer to Him.

In the last 6 years, God has “grown me” into peace through lesson after lesson about Him and I and what a fabulous relationship we actually have.  I am not a person who never, ever gets angry.  I can set myself up for anger so easily that it is frightening. 

But I have discovered that I prefer peace. 

And peace is what God offers us on a daily basis.  My hope is that these notes might help you to discover the self-sabotage that keeps peace at bay in our lives and perhaps will help you to find the hope that is God.  God is Love and Love has come… for us all.

In Galatians 5:22-23, Paul tells us that the “fruit of the Spirit is…” and it includes Peace.  He will bring peace into our lives as He grows us to be more like Him.

So I will close for now with, “Choose Peace…”

Friday, November 18, 2011

EASE UP! LOOK UP!


 WHY? – Because I said so!

Before we get too far away, let me share a thought I had during the remembrance of 9/11:

In September, as I watched the many tributes to those who did and did not die on 9/11, one man’s words really stood out to me.  The fireman said, “I must not have done enough.  My friends died, I didn’t.  I must not have been doing enough.  That must be why I lived.”  It broke my heart to hear that and to realize again how confusing life can be without faith in God.

The simplest answer in all of this is that your mother was right.  Remember when you were young and would ask “Why?” every time she told you to do or not do something and she would give you an answer which you followed with another “Why?”  And then she ran out of answers and said, “Because I said so?”  You had to do it or not do it “because” she said so.  Reasons and explanations were not any help to you.  You could not yet connect the dots.  (Plus you really enjoyed driving her nuts asking, “Why?”) That answer usually ended the conversation. She spoke with authority and you had to obey.

Well, we cannot yet connect the dots on God’s answers to why.  His ways are above our ways and beyond our comprehension and His answer is, and always has been, “Because I said so.”

Ever since Cain slew Able, (and Able had every right to wonder:  “Why?  What did I do wrong?”) there has been a string of tragedy and catastrophe through out the history of this world.  Whether natural or man made, calamity and “unfair” loss has plagued the human race.

It is very important for us to remember and know that when a disaster strikes, it is God who decides who will live.  The one thing we can cling to is that God has plans for those who survive.  Even many unbelievers will realize that “somehow” they were kept alive in order to accomplish something and it will change their lives drastically.  What they don’t realize is that all who survive, survive to the Glory of God:

Isaac survived the altar to carry the line of Abraham which would eventually become Israel, God’s chosen people.  Joseph survived his brothers’ plans to kill him and was sent away to Egypt where he eventually became the tool that God used to save the entire Hebrew clan from perishing in a famine.  Moses, a Hebrew boy, who should have been drowned in the river (like hundreds of other Hebrew baby boys,) instead survived to become the voice of God to Pharaoh and the Hebrews and he led them out of slavery in Egypt and into a relationship with their God like no other nation on earth has had. 

And Jesus survived death on the Cross, rising up from the grave to love us and lead us through our lives and into His arms one day.  “Why?”  Because God so loved the world.   “Why?”  Because God had a plan.  “Why?”  Because He created us, loves us and wants us to be with Him always.  “Why?”  Because he said so.” 

Ease up on the guilt and look up to God and accept His wisdom in the choices He makes in your life.  You will find Joy in Him.  Now smile and say "thank you."

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

PERSNICKEY

PERSNICKETY

What to do?  What to do?  What to do?  Yesterday I purchased some fresh vegetables and when I got home I discovered that I had not paid enough for one of them. (Yes, one… I am single, so I think small.) It was a sweet potato which had been rung up as a russet potato, which had been selling at fewer cents per pound.  Sigh.  What to do?

The argument could be made that “it was their mistake.”  But my heart was not in that.  I had to take it back and correct the situation. “But they would be so annoyed with me for that, and I want to eat that tonight, which is why I bought it in the first place.”  No, that won’t work either.  Back it goes. Tomorrow.  And I cooked something else last night.  What a pain.

Then, this morning, I am reviewing Matthew 5:17-48 for my Growth Group Bible Study which will meet tomorrow night and lo, and behold, Jesus is telling me that I had better get that straightened out before I eat that sweet potato.  You see, He doesn’t care how small the infraction, sin is sin, and stealing is stealing.  They are going to be severely annoyed at that store…  But He won’t let me steal, no matter how many excuses I come up with.  He loves me too much for that.

As I read more and more, I began to think of ways in which we try to avoid the letter of the law.  One major area was written about recently in the news.  “How fast can I drive above the speed limit and still not get a ticket?”  Did anybody else see that story?  Well, to quote Jesus, “You have heard” that you can go 4 to 9 miles per hour above the limit (depending on whether you live in WA or OR) before they will bother to ticket you”.  But (Jesus would say,) driving above the speed limit at all is breaking the law.  And setting your Cruise Control to 74 in a 70 MPH area is seriously compounding that sin.  As detectives might say, “You were deliberately planning to break the law.  You are guilty of ‘first degree’ speeding.”  Smile.

Do we need further proof that we are incapable of meeting the requirements of the law?  That we need to rely on Jesus to keep us out of trouble as much as possible in this life on earth and to bring us into the presence of God in the next?  Can we now see that without Jesus and His death, burial and resurrection, we are lost?  We cannot find our way through the maze of sin alone.  May God help us to see our weakness and to come to Him for our only possible salvation through the blood of Jesus and into the power of His Word and His Spirit.

Now off to the store I go… as soon as I finish my laundry.

Monday, November 14, 2011

10% ? R U Sure?

Right now, you are thinking about money. Right?  As Christians and even non-Christians, we tend to be aware of this principle of giving God back at a rate of 10% of what we earn or are given in life.  Our reaction to that is usually, “R U Sure?”  That is an awful lot.  I (we) could never keep up with our expenses if we gave back that much!  Then we proceed to bring up dozens of excuses why that would never work in our case. (Not the least of which is that the idea of cutting our expenses is like planning surgery without anesthesia.)  Obeying the principles and instructions of God does not even enter in. 

The reality that we see about what our needs are and what financial support we need to meet our monthly, yearly and long term goals pretty much wipes out the question of simple obedience, and the consequences that follow that obedience.  We simply don’t trust what God may do if we obey, so we dig in our heels and say “No.”  And we say, “that was under the Law” and now we are not under the Law and we can make up our own principles about how to handle our money.

But some do give a least “some” of their income back to God.  Some of that is regular and a set amount (short of 10%) and some of that is dependent on what we feel we can spare, week by week or month by month.  God’s principle of 10% is just more than we can handle when it comes to simply obeying Him. 

However, money is not the subject of this discourse.  Money and possessions are not the only thing God has given us that He expects us to give back to Him.  Keeping in mind that He owns everything and nothing is really ours, let’s consider the “least” we can do: 

Besides things, He has also given us TIME.  This morning I was struck by the fact that time is a very important possession.  We are not privileged to know how much time we have to live.  But we are privileged to know that as long as we live, we have time.

Then I began to wonder, “How many of us give God at least 10% of our time every day. Let’s see:  Every day has 24 hours and 10% of that would be… That would be 2hrs and 24 minutes.  WHOA!

Now, remember, I am just thinking this through here.  Maybe I had too much coffee this morning and my brain is over active, even jittery.  Maybe we should go to minutes in an hour… Oh, well, maybe that is better because that is only 6 minutes at a time.  But, wait, we would have to do that 24 times in a day.  Well, just a minute (pun intended), I have to work and I have to sleep.  I can’t stop to spend time with God every single hour.  (Actually, I don’t have to go to work, so I am just imagining that possibility.)

10%?  R U sure?  Yes.  I am sure.  It is ingrained in the Will and the Word of God that we give him at least 10% of our time and our money as a gift to Him.  But He does this from the position of knowing that our time and our money are His anyway.  He already owns it all.  He just loans it to us to use to Glorify Him.  So actually, what He wants us to do is to hand it all right back to Him to use however He wants… 100%

So, are we 100% surrendered, knowing that God is God and what we have or do not have is entirely up to Him?  Or are we making dozens of excuses why that is just too much to give and then take our lives and our possessions and run off with them, hoping to control our presence on this earth our way while we are here?  Hmmm…

CONSTRAINT



How much more can God love us than He already does?  Yes, He loves us unconditionally and forever so there doesn’t seem to be room for more.  But do we realize how much that really is?  Maybe not...

Let’s consider the love of Elke.  Elke is a beautiful piece of white fluff who dearly loves her master and mistress.  It has been a great pleasure to love them myself, even though I have never met them in person.  They are part of a family I love deeply and so God has encouraged me to love Elke’s family just as much.  Now one of Elke’s family is gone.  There is a great hole in many hearts and healing is underway knowing that he has gone on to our beloved Savior to be in peace and joy for ever and ever after many years of pain.  He was Elke’s master.  Elke hurts, too.  But her only hope is that he will return someday to be with her again. (hmm...that sounds familiar.) 

Meanwhile, Elke still has her mistress and the rest of the pack (family and friends) so she is adjusting to life without him. She is very aware that there is pain in her human family.  She is aware that she misses something important herself.  So what does she do?  She sits on laps.

As a dog, she knows that comfort and safety come from being together.  The pack lives by that code.  They sense their way along... sensing danger, sensing possible food sources, sensing water, bad weather, a need to move on, a place to go.  They also sense human emotions.  That is at the center of the great friendship they have with man.  And it is certainly the reason they make such wonderful “helpers” for humans with problems.

As I wonder at the sensitivity of dogs, I cannot help but wonder even more at the sensitivity of God.  If Elke has the good sense to seek out her mistress and be close when they are feeling the loss of the one they both love, how much more does God sense our need for comfort and a renewal in our hearts of the truth of His enduring love for us.  How much more does He realize that He needs to draw us close as we cry out to Him.

So here’s what I’m thinking:  God can only love us as much as we let him.  Elke can comfort her mistress and the rest of the pack only if they let her get close to them. And God can hug us and hold us tight only if we let Him get close to us.  Holding our heads up with our “back off” hand out, just leaves us lonely and hurting.  And that often leads to pushing God away altogether because we blame Him for the pain we are feeling.  If we do not cry out to Him, we miss the great opportunity to be comforted and refortified by Him.  We must cry out.  God will hear the music of that cry and will answer it forthwith.

Why constraint?  Constraint is restriction… Repression of natural feelings or behavior.  We have God given emotions and some of those, as with grief, cause us to cry.  That is natural.  God even promises us that Jesus will be there to “catch” our tears.  If we do not grieve, if we do not cry, He cannot catch our tears or comfort us as He has promised.  “Blessed are those who morn, for they will be comforted.”  This   verse from Matthew refers to a specific need today that will change our tomorrows.

But it is also very clear in scripture that God desires to comfort us.  This is because He knows we will need it as we continue in this life.  Do not be constrained, pretending that the hurts do not exist.  Choose joy, growing in the fruit of the Spirit, but let God bring that joy through acknowledging the pain and being comforted by Him, as He desires.  Joy to the world!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Ramdom Thougths of an Old Woman

One of my most joyful experiences in life is settling down in my favorite chair, shortly after rising, and spending time with God.  My Bible is in my lap and my coffee is nearby.  It is quiet and anticipation in high.  God is there with me and I am there with Him and we are bonding.

But sometimes I do not pick up the Bible in my lap right away. And I do not set my coffee aside.  Instead, I hold the coffee in both hands, sipping quietly, while staring out the window day dreaming about God.  That’s when my thoughts wander and my imagination gets involved in our relationship. 

Unlike teachers at any school anywhere, God does not chide me for my wandering thoughts.  Instead, He enjoys the opportunity to prod me into thinking “outside the box,” or a little deeper.  Every time I read a book of the Bible again, or study it with a different study group, He is pleased to give me yet another eye to see things a little differently than I have before.  At this time I am going through the book of Hebrews, which I have read through at least four times before, yet it seems as though I have never seen it.  One thing that helps is that I now have a study Bible that gives me a more succinct introduction to the book and many notes on the passages within.  But what I see is a new glow as I read and a brilliant picture of Christ, the Messiah, which is almost causing me to squint in its radiance.  What a joy this living Word is to those who love Him and feed on His truth.

God is so much more than we can ever imagine in our finite minds, but we can ponder many things about Him, so join me here in a visit to your imagination and mine as we do some not necessarily scholarly thinking about our God.