Monday, September 30, 2013

What Makes a Moment Happy?

This week I had an opportunity to reminisce about happy moments with friends. We were trying to discern what makes us happy and everyone was sharing about times with family and children in particular. (Children truly are our joy, aren't they?) We also shared about how the beauty of nature has the ability to swell a quiet peace within us. We were looking at Philippians 4:10-13 where Paul writes that he had learned to be content whatever his circumstances. He had found the secret to happiness whatever he had, wherever he was.

As I tried to look back on happy moments in my life, I had a hard time envisioning one. It's not that I haven't had happy moments in my life, but so many of my happy memories can also make me cry with sadness. For instance -- playing tag with Bryan while I was still pregnant with him. Sometimes, when he positioned himself just right, I could make out the impression of his foot or hand against my belly. I would push on that spot and he would move and the impression would push out against my belly somewhere else. We played this game often in the last couple of months. That is a very happy and fun memory, but when I'm in a time of really missing him, the memory of it breaks my heart.

Some memories of sad events sometimes make me laugh now. For example, I have a friend who hurt me deeply years ago by telling me the truth in love about my borderline personality behaviors within our friendship. We have a really great friendship now, one that will last our lifetimes and as I look back on that moment, I laugh at how silly it all seems now. With our boundaries firmly in place we have grown closer as friends. I look back on that moment now in gratitude, as a stepping stone to the joy of our relationship now.  

So the question remains--What makes a moment happy? As I examined that question, I came up with this answer: When love is being shared, joy is being sought and worry and concern are being put down, left behind and forgotten. As our group shared, we also discovered that happy moments also contain a connection or intimacy of some kind as we completely immerse ourselves in the moment. As I considered the question further, I realized that I am at my happiest when I am living into the vision of me that God had when he created me. When I am in the center of God's will for me, there is no happier, more fulfilling place no matter my circumstances. 

Want to be happy? Love wholeheartedly! Look for the joy and leave your pain and worry behind at God's feet and above all, be the person God created you to be.

Monday, September 23, 2013

How Is Your Health?

This past week, I was very sick with a bacterial infection and I spent a lot of time making sure I did all the things I needed to do to get healthy. Because this kind of infection has a tendency to trigger my asthma, I do everything I can to stay healthy to begin with, but when I get sick, my only focus is on doing what I need to get better before the asthma kicks in. In fact, I have a check list of things to do:
___ Go to the doctor
___ take medication on time, every time
___ get plenty of rest
___ drink lots of fluids
___ eat healthy
___ DON’T PUSH (I have a tendency to try to keep on with my daily routine even when illness makes that physically impossible.)

That got me to thinking…sin is an infection of the soul, a spiritually terminal disease. What does my spiritual checklist look like?
___ submit my day to God’s will
___ weekly worship
___ daily bible study
___ continuous prayer
___ fellowship with brothers and sisters of the faith

Now there is always the danger of doing each item on the list just to check the item off and not let them effect and change our spiritual health.  So I have to ask myself some questions:
1) Am I really submitting my day to the Lord’s will or am I just saying that to check it off?
2) Am I going to church on Sunday to say I did or am I being changed by the reading and expounding of God’s Word?  Can I explain to someone on Wednesday what the preacher revealed about God’s Word on Sunday and how it’s changed my way of doing things?
3) Am I feeding on Scripture daily, seeking God’s guidance and grace in His Word or am I just reading the words in the book to check it off my list?
4) Am I talking with God all through the day or offering up the obligatory “Good Morning, help me through the day” prayer and tucking God away until the evening “Thanks for the day, God” prayer?
5) Am I meeting with others in the faith during the week to support and be supported or just so I can put it on my spiritual resume?

How is your spiritual health these days?

Monday, September 16, 2013

God Speaks Our Language

This past weekend I traveled with my parents and my best friend from my home in Pittsburgh to a suburb of Cincinnati, Ohio to visit my brother, his fiancĂ©e and their kids. We had an opportunity to meet my future sister-in-law’s parents during our visit. At one point, the discussion turned to her family’s confusion and amusement with my brother’s Pittsburgh accent and his use of the Pittsburgh dialect otherwise known as “Pittsburghese.”  Although they knew what pop is, they had no idea what my brother meant when he said he was redding up the living room, nor did they know what jimmies are! We had lots of fun interrupting for them the strange language their future son-in-law speaks.

Earlier that morning, we had attended worship at a local church where a woman interrupted the words of the minister and the song lyrics in sign language for the deaf congregants. I’ve had a fascination with American Sign Language (ASL) ever since I was a child and nearly lost my hearing to endless ear infections. As Scripture was being read and expounded upon, she expertly conveyed the gospel and the practical life applications preached in the message with her hands. I watched her so intently that I even picked up a few signs along the way.

As I think back on these two separate events, I realize how very important it is to be able to communicate in the language of the person I am communicating with. I can talk, but if they can’t understand me, I am only making noise. If they can understand my words, then a connection is established and God will make use of that connection. The minister spoke with great eloquence (and a beautiful British accent) and using clear examples he explained that like the lost sheep and lost coin, we are only of use, we only have value, when we are in the Master’s possession and being put to the use as God intends. His point was made clear when he said that a $10,000 gold piece lost in the dust bunnies under the sofa is worthless to the widow. It is only has worth once it is found and she can use it as it is intended to be used…as currency in exchange for her needs, wants, and desires at the marketplace. However, to the deaf congregants, his words were empty and meaningless until they were conveyed in their own language. This woman was the embodiment of the preacher’s message as she used her ability to speak using ASL to share God’s message with those who could not hear his words. Through her, God spoke the message to them in their own language. Whoever you are, whatever dialect or language you speak, God speaks your language and what he’s saying is, “I love you. I died for your sins. I rose from the dead to give you eternal life and I will never, never, never leave you.”

Monday, September 9, 2013

The Word Reveals

Sometimes we just need to remind ourselves of this and keep on keeping on. May God bless your week.

The Word Reveals

You’ve told me I am loved
and cherished
Your bride, Your child
Your very own
ransomed and redeemed
by Your hand alone.
I’m restored and renewed
by Your bloody cross –
So says Your Word
for my sin,
You paid the cost.
I’ve heard Your voice calling me
“This is the way!
Walk and be free.
I’ll be your strength
When you have nothing left to give
I’ll pull you from the pit.
I’ll hold your hand.
I’ll carry you.
My love for you runs deep –
I will not let you quit.”
You Lord have heard my cry
and eased my heart’s dismay.
You are my hope,
the light that shines
to guide me on my way.
You see into my heart and mind.
You know, in sin I’ve turned away.
My regrets, my crimes
I cannot hide.
We both know I’ve disobeyed.
Yet I won’t give into fear,
but shall rejoice and pray.
For your compassion never fails.
Your love and mercy
are new each day.
You’ve given to me life anew,
healed my brokenness.
You bound my wounds,
eased my pain
and made them into gifts.
Gifts of compassion, love and grace
of empathy for all.
And chosen me to love the lost
the hurt, the wounded,
those who fall.
This is Your gift to me,
to them,
to share as You command.
How wonderful it is
to be a part of Your master plan.
Someday, You tell me in Your Word,
You’ll be coming on a cloud.
Your power and glory shining
with trumpets blasting loud.
And on that day it will be said
that Almighty God fulfilled
all that He had vowed.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Everyone Loves a Story Part 5 - Who? Me?!

The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey —the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.”
But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”
And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.
(Genesis 3:7-12)

To continue in our story of Moses and the burning bush—God spells out why he has called Moses. God’s people are being cruelly oppressed and he is going to rectify that by bringing them out of bondage and into a land of beauty and bounty. As we look at verses 11 & 12, we can see ourselves in Moses as he asks God, "Who? Me?!" (Maybe not exactly in those words, but that's essentially what he says.) Maybe he's thinking about the fact that he's just a shepherd, not a leader of a nation. Perhaps he's fearful of the fact that in Egypt, he is guilty of murdering an Egyptian taskmaster and he could be walking right into, at best, a prison cell and, at worst, a death sentence. Yet again, he's rebuilt his life now. He has a new home and a wife, maybe even a family. He has a good steady job that puts food on the table and even though he's middle management (tending his father-in-law's flock) he is essentially his own boss. Isn't that what we all want? He kind of has it made. Why would God call him away from that now? Why didn't God do this before he had a family to take care of and responsibilities?

My goodness this all sounds so familiar, doesn't it? How often does God call us and we have our excuses ready—I'm not gifted in that area or this is not a good time for me. I'm way too busy right now. Or here is a favorite of mine—I don't want to run the risk of being asked to serve on a regular basis, so I just don't say yes the first time. After all, I may be busy or sick or out of town the next time. (Yes, I have actually heard this more than once.) God gave us life and each moment we are sustained only by his power and yet we consider our agendas and schedules first when he call out to us to join in his work. Now I am saying this, not from a judgmental holier-than-thou place, but a I'm-just-as-guilty-in-this-as-everyone-else place. It’s such a struggle to give of "my" time, "my" talents, and out of "my" pocket. But when I remember that I am merely a steward of God's blessings, then it's not so hard to disperse of his time, his talent, and his money in the way he asks of me. Dear God, help me remember that the next time you are calling me to your work.

Here is the interesting thing in this story. God says in reply—I will be with you. There is that "God is with us" idea that we looked at in "Inside the Parenthesis" in July. But in this story, not only do we understand that God IS with us, guiding us, protecting and providing for us, loving us, forgiving us and pulling us from our sinfulness into his holy presence, but he is inviting us into partnership with him to bring about his kingdom here on earth just as it is in heaven—just as God created it all to be before the fall.

He doesn't tell Moses to go free God's people while He waits for Moses to bring them back to him at the mountain. He didn't tell Moses, "Follow me and watch as I do all the work." He says "we will go together and together we will free my people." So often we think that we have to have the answer, perform the right ritual, pray the right prayer, find the right bible study, but it's not about what we do and it's not even about what God does (which let's be honest here, God doesn't really need us to do anything to accomplish his goals). It's about what God does in us and through us in partnership. It's about the relationship he develops with us—us relying on him and him encouraging us and the relationship he fosters between us and others. And when we step out in that kind of faith, we will see God's glory in our hearts, our lives, and in our communities and marvel at God's awesome power. I want to be a part of that! Don't you?