Monday, November 26, 2012

The Most Important "To-Do" on the List

This past week was busy and stressful trying to make sure everything was done that needed to be done for the holiday. The holiday celebration with family seemed to fly by so quickly, I hardly remember any of it. I was starting to wonder if there was a lesson I could glean from my running around and confusion before the holiday or the over-indulgences that followed when God seemed to speak to me through a familiar voice.

I've mentioned before that I’m a M*A*S*H nut. I own the whole series on DVD and have been known to watch through all eleven seasons more times than I can count or would like to admit. Today as I was considering what to write, I had it on in the background and heard a particularly inspiring message that seemed to put my whole week into perspective.

Father Mulcahy, one of the characters on the show, was addressing a crowd of people saying, "I want to tell you about two men—each facing his own crisis. The first man you know rather well. (He was referring to himself.) The second is a patient here. Well the first man thought he was facing a crisis. But what he was really doing was trying to impress someone. He was looking for recognition, encouragement, a pat on the back. And then whenever that recognition seemed threatened, he reacted rather childishly, blamed everyone for his problems but himself because he was thinking only of himself. But the second man was confronted by the greatest crisis mortal man can face—the loss of his life. I think you'll agree that the second man had every right to be selfish but instead he chose to think not of himself, but of a brother—a brother! And when the first man saw the dignity and selflessness of the second man, he realized how petty and selfish he had...I...I...I had been! It made me see something more clearly than I've ever seen it before. God didn't put us here for that pat on the back. He created us so he could be here himself. So that he could exist in the lives of those he created in his image."

Amidst the chaos that can sometimes be my life, especially around the holidays, I too often get caught up in my own schedule, in my own tiny priorities. I'm so busy looking at the details of my life on those days that I'm missing the whole picture of my life in the rush to catch up so I can relax later. This past week could have been about so much more than a list of things I needed to do before the office closed for the holiday, or the annual stuffing of the faces on Thanksgiving Day, or crossing off every item on my "to get" list during our family's "Girls-Only Black Friday" shopping trip. The Thanksgiving holiday is meant to call my attention to the abundance of blessings in my life, to give me the opportunity to share those blessings with others, and a reminder to praise the God who created me and blessed me with life, salvation, love, family, home, health, food, and so many other things I took for granted this week as I attended to the details.

In just a few weeks, we will be celebrating the birth of our Lord Jesus and I want to do a better job of preparing for it. Yes, I will be rushing around again, trying to get things doen in the coming weeks - it's the nature of my responsibilities. But I hope to do a better job of making myself available for God to share himself through me with the world around me. I want to be more intentional and tenacious about setting aside time to rest and rejoice in his Presence throughout the days and weeks to come. I want to seek his will over my to-do list. I hope to prepare not just the trappings of the approaching holiday, but also my heart and mind to welcome and worship my Savior on Christmas Day. I hope you will consider joining me.

I'm fallen on my knees
desperate for Your embrace.
I'm giving You my heart, Lord.
I'm clinging to Your grace.
(From my poem "Clinging to Grace")

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Blessing of Lice


I will bless the LORD at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth.  Psalm 34:1

You are my God, and I will give you thanks; you are my God, and I will exalt you.  Psalm 18:28

But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.  1 Corinthians 15:57-58

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil. May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.  1 Thessalonians 5:16-24

There once was a woman who woke up one morning, looked in the mirror, and saw that she had only three hairs on her head. "Great," she said, "I think I'll braid my hair today."
So she did, and had a wonderful day.
The next day she woke up, looked in the mirror and saw that she had only two hairs on her head. "Hmm," she said, "I guess I'll part my hair down the middle."
So she did, and had a wonderful day.
The next day she woke up, looked in the mirror and saw that she had only one hair left on her head.
"Wow," she said, "today I get to wear my hair in a pony tail." So she did, and had a wonderful, wonderful day.
The next day she woke up, looked in the mirror and saw that there wasn't a single hair on her head.
"Thank God!" she exclaimed. "I was running out of things to do with my hair!"


A friend sent this story to me last week via email. I read it, I smiled, and then I quickly deleted it as I went on with my day. However, I went back to find it after watching an old movie on TV today because it so perfectly fits the lighter side of the lesson reiterated in the movie, “The Hiding Place.”

The movie, if you’ve never seen it, is based on the book of the same name by Corrie ten Boom, a Christian survivor of the Nazi concentration camps. The story itself is incredible as God’s stories often are. She and her family provided safe haven to many Jewish refugees during Nazi Germany’s occupation of Holland. Her family was eventually arrested by the Gestapo and she and her sister spent 10 months in three different prisons, the last being the Ravensbruck Concentration Camp. During their time there, many women became Christians because of their witness to God’s love and faithfulness even in that horrible place. After Corrie was released from the camp, she knew she needed to share what she had learned there with the world – that "There is no pit so deep that God’s love is not deeper still" and "God will give us the love to be able to forgive our enemies." Corrie began a world-wide ministry which took her into more than 60 countries in the next 33 years! She testified to God’s love and encouraged all she met with the message that "Jesus is Victor."


She was such an unlikely person – the spinster daughter of a local watchmaker. And if the Nazis had never made it to Holland, she may never have learned the depth of faith the Lord developed in her during that harsh time. What struck me the most was how her sister could find a reason to thank God for every circumstance which they encountered. It is reported that she was truly grateful to the Lord always, even for the lice that infested their barracks in the concentration camp as it gave them a place the guards would not search to hide their contraband Bible.

With Thanksgiving so close, it got me to wondering – how thankful am I? Last week, I talked a little about how grateful I am to know and be loved by “The Lord Who Provides.” I know I am truly blessed. But in times of trial, am I thankful? As I look back on my life and all I’ve experienced, I can say that I am thankful for those too. I’m grateful to God for the work he has done in me as he brought me through some very tough times. Boy, would I love to end this paragraph here, letting you think I possess the depth of faith of Miss ten Boom. But I can’t because the next logical question would be – am I truly grateful in the midst of the confusion and chaos that is my life right now and I have to say I haven’t been very appreciative. No, I’ve been grumbling and wondering when I’m going to get back my nice, quiet, leisurely life. I blame my busyness for my lack of dedication and discipline as if that excuses it. I’m too busy being self-centered and shallow to be grateful. Instead of complaining about the inconveniences, I could look for the blessing from God in that moment and praise him for his generosity. In my hectic schedule, I could be uncovering countless unrealized blessings if I spent less time thinking about me and more time trying to see how God is loving me, providing for me, and working in and through me in the moment.

Happy Thanksgiving!
 
 
Corrie ten Boom Quotes:
Ø  “You can never learn that Christ is all you need, until Christ is all you have.”
Ø  “This is what the past is for! Every experience God gives us, every person He puts in our lives is the perfect preparation for the future that only He can see.”
Ø  “Any concern too small to be turned into a prayer is too small to be made into a burden.”
 
 About the pictures:
Deer Lake Park, PA (October 2009)

Monday, November 12, 2012

Jehovah-Jireh


 JEHOVAH-JIREH = The Lord will Provide.
This week, I had a front row seat to see Jehovah-Jireh (The Lord will Provide) at work in my life. We first see this beautiful name of God in Genesis 22. Abraham is on his way to offer his child, Isaac, in sacrifice to God. God has asked the unthinkable of Abraham – to forfeit the life of his boy in obedience to the Lord. As Abraham is about to sacrifice his son, God steps in providing a ram to sacrifice in Isaac’s place. For this, Abraham names the place “The Lord will Provide” – Jehovah-Jireh.


Actually, I’m probably more aware than most of how much the Lord provides on a regular basis in my life. I once read that if you live above the poverty level, you are in the top 5% of the richest people in the world. Have a car, a TV, or a computer? Welcome to the top 1% of the richest people in the world. I have a roof over my head, a car in the parking lot, a job to sustain me, clothes in my closet, more stuff lying around my apartment than most of the world’s people could ever imagine owning: a computer, a cell phone, a library full of books which I can read myself. I’ve got clean water and indoor plumbing, a kitchen full of food, and inoculations and medications to keep me healthy with access to many, many doctors. Looking at this list, I am embarrassingly wealthy.

But this week, over and above all these riches, I saw the Lord provide even more. There was a day this past week when I desperately needed to be held up in prayer and God provided two dear friends who prayed with me throughout the day. And then later I got together with a few women who are new to many aspects of their faith and God used me to reach out to them in a very powerful way. Yesterday I was on my way to serve at a lunch when I received a call about a family emergency. I didn’t know what to do as I had this commitment but was needed elsewhere. When I got to the kitchen, God had already provided an extra, unexpected volunteer so I was able to attend to my family. Also this week, I felt led by God to buy and gift five bibles and was unsure how I was going to pay for them. I’m blessed, but I’m also on a tight budget. To buy the bibles God wanted me to give was going to cost at least $75 - money I didn’t have in my budget or my bank account. When I went to the store to purchase them, I found that these particular bibles were part of a very special sale - $5 each. Because I stepped out in faith relying on God to provide, five women will have God’s Word in their hands this week. As a friend of mine says, “Yeah God!


These examples were just a few of the abundant blessings God has poured out on me this week alone. A wise woman once challenged me, “If today you had only what you thanked the Lord for yesterday, what would you have?” It gave me pause to reflect on all the Lord provides and how so often I miss the blessing because I’m too busy worrying about what I don’t have. Every morning I wake up and I can thank God for an endless list of blessings I’ve received even before my foot hits the floor starting with “Thank you Lord for another day!” I hope that my sharing what God is doing in my life helps you see a little more clearly the abundant blessings in your own life.

About the pictures:
Deer Lake Park, PA (November 2009 and 2010)

Monday, November 5, 2012

Pondering the Political "ISM"

This is the week when Americans will have the opportunity to vote. Some will vote for their favored candidate and many will vote against their least favored candidate. I applaud everyone who has taken the time to try to discern what the candidates really stand for from their carefully-staged platforms and opponent bashing campaign rhetoric. This Tuesday, many will be making choices to elect the officials who will be ruling over us for the next few years. But remember that when it comes to true power, it is already decided who has dominion over us. As mixed-up and chaotic as this country and this world may seem to be - God really does have control and we will one day see His kingdom come here on earth as it is in heaven. No matter who is elected this Tuesday, God is still King of the Universe and God over them whether they admit or not.
 
I once was tasked to write poems about different worldviews or "ISM's" that we as humans rely on to bring order into our lives and which we allow to guide us in our actions and interactions with others. (ie: relativism, materialism, and politicalism) In honor of election day this week, I would like to share with you the one I wrote about politicalism. Enjoy! 
 
 
Pondering the Political "ISM"
I’ve heard it said
that there is no place
for God in government
and in the social order –
Jesus isn’t relevant.

 
“We know what’s best”
we proudly proclaim
to coexist
in an amiable way.
We have our rules
to live by
to keep us all in line
and they will serve us well –
at least in my lifetime.
 
So what if they create problems,
raise one group above the rest,
take from some to give to others,
don’t you know, we’re doing our best?

So what if God created us
and knows us better than
we know ourselves?
Writing laws upon the hearts
of those that he indwells.
And what does it really matter
that Jesus showed us all the way
to love and respect all human life
each and every day?


Perhaps we need to look again
at what it is we think we know.
Then give back the crown to God
and watch Jesus break the status quo.


About the picture: North Park, PA (September 2011)