Monday, January 26, 2015

My Priceless Dollar-Store Tea Cup

One of my favorite things to do on a cold winter evening is to sit under a nice warm quilt while enjoying a cup of hot tea. I’m very picky about my tea. I don’t like it too strong or too bitter or too cold and over the years I’ve learned to make the perfect cup of tea starting with my very special tea cup. I’ve been using this very same cup for twenty-one years, ever since my, then, seven-year-old son gave it to me for Christmas. It’s your typical dollar store ceramic cup with a child-like drawing on it and the words “My Mom is the Greatest” on one side and a poem on the other:

Roses are red
Violets are blue
I sure am lucky
To have a mom like you!

The words have all but faded from years of use and washing but it doesn’t matter because I can never wear out or wash away the love that gave it to me. Last week I was telling a friend about the memory that comes to mind when I hold this cup in my hands. I’d taken the cup to my workplace—just a little reminder of him to keep with me through the day. A few weeks later, I had decided to have an evening cup of tea at home and he was hurt that I wasn’t using his gift. I explained that I took it to work to show it off to all my coworkers but it didn’t soothe his disappointment because he couldn’t see me using it and enjoying his gift. So the very next day I brought it home and my nightly tea ritual was born.

This got me to thinking about the gifts that we give to God our Father. Bryan only had the money to buy this precious gift because I gave it to him. Likewise, I have nothing to give our Heavenly Father as an expression of love and gratitude that the His love and generosity didn’t already provide. Just as Bryan had the free will and means to do with what he wanted with the resources I provided, so our Heavenly Father gives me the same freedom. Will I use the life experience, the skills and artistry, the opportunities and resources he’s given me for my own selfish desires or will I put my own love into it and give it back to the Savior and Lord I love.

Sometimes, I fool myself into believing that if it isn’t some grand, fantastic gesture, then it’s not a worthy gift. But the truth is that even if it’s as little as giving someone an ear and a shoulder to cry on when they need it, or helping out at a community outreach for a couple hours or giving a warm blanket to a homeless man, these small acts of love offered in his name are as priceless and precious to him as my dollar store tea cup is to me.

How can I say this with such certainty? In the Bible, Jesus says, “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (Mathew 7:11) It occurred to me when I read this (with my tea cup at my side) that if I received my son’s gift with such joy and even now all these years later find great pleasure in his simple gift even though I am evil, then with how much more joy and pleasure will my perfect and holy Heavenly Father have over the simple gifts I offer when they are given with all my heart! It’s not the greatness of the gift that touches God’s heart, but the greatness of the love that gives the gift, no matter how small the gift may seem.

Monday, January 19, 2015

New Year, Same God...2015

Five years ago I saw a sign that said "New Year, Same God" which inspired the January 9th blog of that year. The truth of that message is still so relevant today, I wanted to share it with you again.

Well, we are two and a half weeks into the New Year. How are those New Year’s resolutions holding up? Some people are saying that this is not going to be a good year. Fear, instead of confidence, is inspired when they look at another year of financial insecurity or the actions of our elected officials or the greed of corporate America. Many others are dreaming and hoping that this is going to be “the year.” They are hoping that this year will be different, better. “This is the year I get that new car …go on vacation …get that new cell phone.” These are not necessarily New Year’s resolutions, but a declaration of our determination to have or do that new thing that has been unachievable in the past. We are always looking for that something new to improve our lives. New, better, faster machines. And, oh, by the way, let’s make them as green as possible. Some people have admirable hopes and desires for the New Year – “This is the year I start that retirement fund and spend more time with my family. This is the year they find a cure.” The truth is that no one knows what the next 346 days will hold. It’s only the hope or fear we cling to that determines our outlook on and approach to the future.

The days ahead may be unpredictable and filled with the anguish and delight of the human condition but our God remains the same. He’s proven himself repeatedly not only in the pages and the books of the Bible but in the days and years of my life. He is the same God who created the universe in the first chapter of Genesis and the same God who caused David to lie down in green pastures in Psalm 23. He is the same God who sent his Son to be born of Mary and who died on a cross and rose again for man’s salvation. He is the same God who gave me life, who placed in me the determination to overcome abuse, and who held the pieces of my heart together when my son died. He is the God who resides in my heart now, guiding me through this river of time we call 2015. When it comes to God, there is no new improvement. There’s no better package. There’s no new formula that can enhance the perfection, the majesty, the power and the love that is the unchanging God we serve. I don’t know what will happen over the next year, but I do know that the same God who saw me through the last will see me through the next. That’s where my hope for 2015 comes from. So I know it’s going to be a good year, no matter what happens, because it will be a year with God at the heart of it.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Rainy Days and Mondays Don't Always Get Me Down

As I look out my window, it’s one of those foggy, gray, misty, winter Monday mornings that make me want to crawl back into bed and sleep through the day. Even though my joints ache a little from the cold and damp, I know that above that blurred horizon, the sun is still in its place in the universe, shining bright and warming the earth. I know that it’s there just as it should be and that I will see the proof of what I know soon. Maybe not today or even tomorrow, but I will see the beautiful light of the sun and feel the warmth of it on my face again.  And as I affirm that belief in my head and my heart, I can almost see the sun breaking through the gloom. It seems just a little brighter, at least in my eyes.

I think that is what the Bible means when it says:  Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. (Hebrews 11:1) There are many things about God that we as human beings cannot explain or understand or prove so we have to choose to believe that when God says he will provide that he can and will even if we don’t know how it works. We must choose to believe that the Holy Spirit is leading us in God’s path and listen until we hear his voice telling us which way. Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, "This is the way; walk in it." (Isaiah 30:21) Even when that way leads us through foggy, gray, misty winter days, we must choose to believe that he is with us and then believe it with all our hearts despite the questions and obstacles that keep us from seeing what we are certain of and with that belief comes a hint of the joy of the Lord that one day will be fully known and understood by us all.

Monday, January 5, 2015

A Resolution You Can Count On

Happy New Year all!

This week has been very busy and informative with work and New Year celebrations and all the commercials and advertisements that showed me just how my life is lacking and of course the solutions they’re willing to bring to me for just a small fee. It’s amazing how unhealthy, unfit, ill-invested, and unprepared for this year’s tax return I am and how easy and quick their solutions are. And of course with all the time and money I save, I can get that new hair care system, wrinkle remover and revolutionary cookware that does all the work for me.

This is the time of year when so many Americans make New Year’s resolutions to change their lives by eating better, losing weight, being more diligent in saving money and starting early on our taxes, etc. We make these resolutions hoping to carry through on the commitment and knowing we probably won’t. A resolution is a promise, a pledge, or vow we make to ourselves which is why so many of them fail. Commitment, resolution, promise, pledge, vow…these words don’t really mean a whole lot in today’s world. Most New Year’s resolutions die before the end of February and you can usually only count on promises until the other party has a good excuse to break it. Non-profit organizations everywhere struggle to meet their budgets every year because of unmet pledges. And vows—have you checked the divorce rate lately? I’m not sure we as a people have a real understanding of what commitment is and maybe that’s why so many New Year’s resolutions fail.

When I want to get a real understanding of commitment, I only need to look as far as my Bible. God made a commitment in Genesis that he would make a way for us to once again be in relationship with him. His commitment never wavered, even when we walked away from him many times (as we read about in the Old Testament) and he stepped out of eternity to squeeze himself into the tiny life of man being born as a baby. He lived with us, loved us, taught us how to be in relationship with him again and then died on a cross and rose from the dead to repair the breach in our relationship with him so that we might once again enjoy and celebrate his glory in his very presence. His commitment still holds as he meticulously renews his creation. He could do this all with a single thought in a single moment, but his will is to work this miracle in and through believers until his glory and grace spreads through every jungle, every iceberg, and every desert—every inch of the earth he created.

His word is unfailing. His promises are sure. His vow is unbreakable.

Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the LORD, who has compassion on you. Isaiah 54:10

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Revelation 21:3-5