Monday, June 29, 2015

Three Jokes, No Point

Today I need a laugh. And if I do, maybe you do too. So here are a few chuckles for you. Remember that laughter is one of God's gifts so laugh out loud and enjoy!

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An Irishman moved into a tiny hamlet in County Kerry, walked into the local pub, and promptly ordered three beers.  The bartender raised his eyebrows, but served the man three beers, which he drank quietly at a table, alone.

An hour later, the man had finished the three beers and ordered three more.  This happened yet again.  The next evening the man again ordered and drank three beers at a time, several times.  Soon the entire town was whispering about The Man Who Orders Three Beers.

Finally, a week later, the bartender broached the subject on behalf of the town.  "I don't mean to pry, but folks around here are wondering why you always order three beers at a time?"

"Tis odd, isn't it?" the man replied.  "You see, I have two brothers, and one went to America and the other to Australia.  We promised each other that we would always order an extra two beers whenever we drank, as a way of keeping up the family bond."

The bartender and the whole town were pleased with this answer, and soon the Man Who Orders Three Beers became a local celebrity and a source of pride to the hamlet, even to the extent that out-of-towners would come to watch him drink.

Then one day, the man came in and ordered only two beers.  The bartender poured them with a heavy heart.  This continued for the rest of the evening.  "Each time he orders only two beers," the word flew around town.  Prayers were offered for the soul of one of the brothers.

The next day, the bartender said to the man, "Folks around here, me first of all, want to offer condolences to you for the death of your brother.  You know -- the two beers instead of three, and all..."

The man pondered this for a moment, then replied, "You'll be happy to hear that my two brothers are alive and well.  It's just that I, meself, have decided to give up drinking for Lent."

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I needed some supplies from a Sunday School cupboard that was seldom used and was secured with a lock. I didn't know the combination, but our clergyman offered to give it a try. Father Jack placed his fingers on the lock's dial and raised his eyes heavenward for a moment. Then he confidently spun the dial and opened the lock. Seeing how impressed I was with this demonstration of faith, he smiled and confided, "The numbers are written on the ceiling."

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Some years ago a New Orleans lawyer sought a direct Veterans Administration loan for a client. He was told that the loan would be approved if he could provide proof of clear title to the property offered as collateral. The title for the property in question was complicated, and he spent a considerable amount of time reviewing all pertinent documents back to 1803. Satisfied with the depth and expanse of his examination, he submitted the information to the V.A. He soon received this reply from the V.A.:

"We received your letter today enclosing application for a loan for your client, supported by abstract of title. The application forms are complete, but you have not cleared the title before the year 1803. Therefore, before full review and possible approval can be accorded the application, it will be necessary that the title be cleared back before that year."

Annoyed, the lawyer wrote the V.A.:

"Your letter regarding titles in case #9378329 received. I note that you wish titles extended further back than I have presented. Your attention is invited to the following information to update your records for the property prior to 1803:

a) I was unaware that any educated person would not know that the United States gained clear title to Louisiana from France in 1803. This title transfer was a result of a real estate transaction known as The Louisiana Purchase.

b) France gained clear title to Louisiana by right of conquest from Spain under the Treaty of San Ildefonso (1800).

c) The land came into the possession of Spain by right of discovery in 1492 by a sailor named Christopher Columbus. He was acting on behalf of Isabella, Queen of Spain, and had her permission to claim newly discovered lands for Spain.

d) The good Queen, being a pious woman and careful about titles -- almost as careful as the V.A. -- took the precaution of securing the blessing of the Pope before authorizing the voyage.

e) The Pope is a servant of God; God created the world.

f) Therefore, I believe that it is safe to presume that God created title to that part of the world called Louisiana and thus was the original holder of the property in question."

Monday, June 22, 2015

My Rock and Me and a Plane



When I saw this 10 second video, I smiled ear to ear, not only because it’s so adorable but because it struck me as the perfect picture of my God and me. This is how I go through life—pulling the rope, typing the words, designing the quilt, comforting the broken and grieving people, but it is really God right there with me that is moving the plane, inspiring the words and the quilts, and giving hope and healing to the broken and grieving people through my words and in my embrace. And all the while he’s encouraging me…That’s it! You can do it. Look how strong you are.

If that doesn’t describe the kind of relationship you have with Jesus, the Rock of Salvation, don’t worry. You only have to ask him to bring the miracle of that kind of closeness into your heart and your life and he willguaranteed!

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone?  Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake?  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! Matthew 7:7-11


If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. Romans 10:9

Monday, June 15, 2015

Each Doing What They Can Do

I am a Downton Abbey fan. No really I am—I own all the DVDs. I like to listen to (watch) them while I sew and recently heard again this wonderful quote from Season 3:  "Every man or woman who marries into this house, every child born into it, has to put their gifts at the family's disposal." (Tom Branson, Downton Abbey, Season 3, Episode 8) He then goes on to say that Downton will thrive if they can manage to pool all the gifts, each doing what they can do.

I used to be in awe of those “super” Christians I know or have heard about. Those who give their life to Christ’s ministry in service as pastors, evangelists, missionaries, healers… studying the Bible all their lives to relay God’s message with authority, to be used by God in such powerful ways, they really have to be close to God. At least, closer than me. Right? 

Not really. These people are just that—flawed human beings who are living each moment of the day wondering “what next” just like you and me. They make lots of mistakes and sometimes are just as rebellious as I am. The only difference is the gifts God chose for us. They may speak from pulpits with microphones or in a foreign land in a foreign language they’ve worked really hard to learn or pray in the Spirit so powerfully that miraculous things must occur but that doesn’t mean that my gifts are any less important or necessary to the furthering of God’s kingdom.

Today at the church I work at, we are gearing up for the first night of VBS. Even before the kids step on campus, many of us have been working behind the scenes to make sure we are ready for their arrival. Maybe we are just cutting out Bible buddies or putting stickers on 200 bags, or setting up tables and chairs, or gathering alarm clocks and rubber chickens, or learning songs to teach the children this week, or gathering and preparing food for each night’s dinner…we are all doing what we can do, pooling all our gifts together to see God’s kingdom thrive and grow a little this week in the hearts of 70+ children and their families. Those things don’t sound like anything miraculous and really they aren’t. But when God’s Spirit takes all these seemingly insignificant things and with his power turns them into God sightings and stirrings in little hearts and a newer understanding of God’s love for each and every one of us in Christ, all of a sudden, we are part of something bigger than just setting a table—we are welcoming strangers, breaking bread with them, loving God’s children and sharing our faith with them. Isn’t that what discipleship all about? And how much more of a miracle do you need than to share the presence of God with another?

Out of the generosity of Christ, each of us is given his own gift. He handed out gifts of apostle, prophet, evangelist, and pastor-teacher to train Christ’s followers in skilled servant work, working within Christ’s body, the church, until we’re all moving rhythmically and easily with each other, efficient and graceful in response to God’s Son, fully mature adults, fully developed within and without, fully alive like Christ.  (Ephesians 4:7-16, Selected, The Message)

Monday, June 8, 2015

Laughter, Memories, and Tears

I shared last time where God is in my ordinary life and so this week I spent some time looking for those ordinary blessings that I’ve been taking for granted. I’m not talking about the blessings of home, food and clean water, a working vehicle, a fulfilling job, and the fact that I was born in and live in a country with all the medical and technical advances and the freedom to live as I choose. I’m talking about the subtle blessings God has built into us like memories, laughter and tears.

Have you ever thought of laughter as a blessing from God? Or memories? Or tears? Laughter relaxes the whole body, boosts the immune system, triggers the release of endorphins and protects the heart. Studies have shown that laughter can improve memory recall, increase the ability to learn, and lower stress and its harmful effects on the body.

Memories are a fact of life and the older you get the more treasured those memories become. They transport us back to a time and place that is gone now allowing us to exist and live and breathe in that moment once more. Memories can help us make decisions for the future and memory helps us do every day ordinary things—we don’t have to relearn to do a daily task over and over again because we remember how to do it. When we observe people affected by Alzheimer’s or Dementia, we understand how important memories are.

Tears keep the eyes lubricated and clear of foreign matter but they also help us express deep emotion—joy, sadness, hurt, anger, hopelessness, love, gratitude… like steam escaping from a boiling teapot, tears help us from being overwhelmed by these emotions. We don’t have to think about it. It just happens even when we don’t want it to.

Now that I’ve shared the technical aspects of these blessings, I’d like to share the real-life application of these blessings. My mom, a friend and I were meeting for lunch at the mall on Saturday. Mom and I were already there and had a few free moments so we stopped in the Hallmark store to browse. As we were looking, I came upon a tiny stuffed Wizard of Oz Scarecrow. As I held it tightly in my hands, my eyes teared up even as a smile emerged. It triggered the memory of my two-year old son dancing and singing “If I Only Had a Brain” along with the Scarecrow on TV and Bryan plopping down on the ground and pulling Easter grass from his shirt and throwing it up into the air to simulate the hay falling out of the Scarecrow’s shirt. Of course we purchased the toy Scarecrow.

At lunch I showed my friend the tiny scarecrow and I guess she wasn’t expecting to find a stuffed toy in her face at the moment and she jumped back astonished. The three of us laughed long and hard. I laughed so hard, I had tears streaming down my face. When I think of that moment, I still get a smile on my face.

These marvelous blessings: laughter, memories, and tears are just a miniscule sampling of the blessings I’ve been overlooking every day. Life is a most precious gift and too often I forget that. I’m so glad God reminded me of it today.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Where Is God in an Ordinary Life?

I heard a woman talking on the radio the other day about how it is so much easier to trust God when things are going well and life is good then when we find ourselves facing difficult times. I disagree. But I think I disagree because my faith was born out of a difficult time in my life and tempered in adversity. For me, when I am my most hopeless, that’s when hope in God and in his ability and strength to see me through is most obvious. It’s when I am at the end of my rope and the last little fiber slips from my hand that I find that God has been holding me in his hand the whole time. However when I’m facing a situation that I am fully capable of handling, when I don’t “need” to look to the Lord for help that his presence is seemingly absent. And it is this very situation that I’ve been struggling with for some time now. Maybe I’m just not committed enough and that’s why I don’t see or feel God’s presence in my life when things are going smoothly.

There have been many unthinkable and painful situations in my life when I was overwhelmed and my only hope was God’s grace and power. But it seems the tough times are behind me for the most part (with the occasional exception) and now my life is one long gentle stream of ordinariness. I get up, go to work (doing what I do best), go home for an evening of sewing or reading and then to bed to begin again the next day. I’ve been rather hard on myself because I’ve been thinking that I haven’t really been putting much into my relationship with God because I’m not crying out to him every second in need. But today, a thought occurred to me that I need to explore.


God’s Spirit is in me whether I am consciously aware of him or not. It’s his grace and love, his power and inspiration that work through the small acts of service I do every day. A coworker needs someone to bounce an idea off of or help in navigating a computer program and I help them—maybe I’m doing the work, but it is God in me who has trained me up to have the knowledge and wisdom useful to these people in their moment of need. Often people will confide in me a struggle they are facing because God has created in me an understanding, empathetic heart that draws them to me in their time of need. God has placed me right where he wants to use me to further his kingdom and he brings those to me he wants to touch through my everyday ordinariness. Taking a few moments out to give blood or giving someone a ride when they need it—these are all things I do because I love God and he’s taught me how to love him by helping others. Just because there isn’t some huge fanfare or unbelievable miracle every moment of the day doesn’t mean that God isn’t present and involved and it doesn’t mean that he is less important or even forgotten by me if he lets me be the one whose hands are doing the work.