Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Doug and I took a drive yesterday. Anyone who knows us knows that we like to go off the beaten path. Yesterday, it was across the ferry to Boliver.
We had been wanting to get over there - we had not been in five years. Also, we had seen the devastation in photos Ike had brought and were eager to see the progress that had been made.
As we were driving, this phrase came to mind - "Life Interrupted."
All around us as we drove were signs that the lives of many of the people here had not been stopped, just temporarily interrupted. There were signs of life going forward and renewed. New buildings were going up everywhere, people were out and moving and yes, living. Renewal.
As a Christian, renewal has another meaning for me. He has renewed me into a new creation when I said "Yes" to Him. Daily, God renews me to begin a new day that He has set aside. He can renew me from life's interruptions.
If your life has been interrupted by any of the following, He has an answer.
Death in the family - He comforts those who are mourning
Divorce - He heals the broken hearted
Illness - He is the Great Physician
Loss of job and income - He is our Provider
Loss of Home - if He cares for the sparrow, how much more will He care for you.
Your life has not been stopped, it continues on. Temporarily interrupted, maybe even rerouted or redesigned, but definitely not stopped. The Great Architect and Designer of our lives is at work in you. Be encouraged.
Merry Christmas and may God richly Bless you and your families not only during this season, but in all the years yet to come.
Thursday, December 17, 2009
A couple of months ago, I tried to look at the bookstores (online and walk in) for something to help me with a life challenge. I needed to find a book for parents that helps you deal with adult children. Here is what I found:
Books about before pregnancy, during pregnancy, and the birth of the child.
Books about babies, growing and nurturing, breast feeding and nutrition for both mom and baby.
Books about toddlers, "Terrible Twos and Threes," and the strong willed child.
Books about dealing with your preschooler and elementary age child.
Books about "tweeners", preteens and teenagers (LOTS of books).
Books helping your senior prepare for college (these were wishy-washy at best).
Books about caring for your parents as they age.
Lots of books of how I should be as an adult (fit, trim, emotionally healthy, wealthy and wise).
I did not find even ONE book on how to deal with children who are now adults. I guess I could extrapolate the good stuff from each of the books above and then apply it to what I need...nawww.
Then, I went to the one place I should have started. The Bible. In that one place I found a different way of being a parent to an adult - much patience, lotsa love, listening much, saying little, correcting when needed, directing when asked, and did I say loving lots. More of the same, just less words and much more patience.
I have changed as a person and have to expect that my adult "kids" have changed too. I am excited about the plans God has for them and definitely want to be a part of those plans. I know He has a plan for each of them. I am to be content that He is on the job now.
Psalm 49:3 My mouth will speak words of wisdom;
the utterance from my heart will give understanding.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
I met Molly and Caleb, her young brother, at church one Wednesday night. Their uncle, Sam, was visiting in town and wanted to make sure that the children were in church. He lived in Dallas and had come down to visit his sister's family. He walked with me to see where the children's classes would be.
After we took the children to their classes, Sam asked me if we did home visits when guest came to church. He wanted to make sure that his sister and her family received a visit. I told him that we as a church went out on Mondays and that I would add Molly and Caleb to the list. He shook my hand and told me that he and all of his friends in Dallas would be praying for that visit.
After church, Sam picked up the children and waved at me from the other end of the hall. I smiled and said a small prayer thanking God for Sam and to guide us the next Monday.
Monday came quickly and that evening, we met with other church members and prayed before we all headed out. My husband and I took Molly and Caleb's card and headed out the door. Their home was in one of the neighborhoods near the church so we were there fairly quickly.
We knocked on their door and waited. Sarah, who was the children's mom and Sam's sister, answered the door. We introduced ourselves and she invited us in. We walked into the living room and were introduced to everyone there. Caleb and Molly shyly said hello. We greeted Sarah's mom, Mara, with a nod of our head. We shook hands with Helen, a friend of the family and Lydia, the family's Avon sales person. Baby Joshua toddled up to us and patted my knee.
Introductions done, Sarah brought us each a glass of water. We thanked her for allowing the children to attend the Wednesday night program. She smiled and asked some questions about what the program entailed, if there were any cost, and if the children could go back again. I answered her questions and then asked if she had any other questions.
She paused, looked down at her hands and then looked back at me. She said, "When I was ten, I was baptized in a church." I smile and said, "That's good."
She shook her head no and then replied, "I do not understand why I was baptized. What does that mean?" I looked at Doug and could tell that he was quietly praying. He smiled at me and nodded his head.
I looked at Sarah and the other ladies and said, "Sarah, have you ever received Jesus as your Lord?" She looked at me, looked at her mom and her friends and then, "No, I have wanted to - we have all wanted to. Can you tell us how to?"
I opened my Bible and told them what God had done for us. Because of our sinful nature, we are each separated from God. I told them God loves us so much, He sent Jesus to earth as a baby, He became a man and died for our sins. I went verse by verse with them as I explained that if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your hearts that He died for you, a person could be saved.
Tears were washing down their cheeks as I asked, "Who here wants to ask Jesus to be your Lord and Savior." Six people bowed their heads and prayed to receive Christ.
As the last person said amen, we all looked at each other and rejoicing began. Each woman in turn told me of how they had longed to know what to do. Caleb and Molly were excitedly asking what was next. We talked about reading their Bible, about finding a church and getting Baptized. Sarah grinned and said, "This time, I will know why!"
I looked at my watch and realized that we had been there for more than two hours. Doug and I gave hugs and headed for the door. As Sarah opened the door, she said, "God is so good to send someone who can speak Tagalog. Where did you learn to speak it so well?"
I looked at Doug and he looked at me. I turned to Sarah and said, "Sarah, we do not speak Tagalog." She looked at me puzzled and replied, "but my mother speaks no English and neither does Helen, and I heard you"
I shook my head and said, "No, we heard you speak English. I do not speak Tagalog." I smiled and gave her a hug and held her for just a minute. I said, "But God does."
She called out and the family came to the door. Excitedly in Tagalog she told her family what had happened. We again held hands and prayed and thanked God for His miracle. That He loved this family so much, He sent His own Interpreter to meet with us all, The Holy Spirit.
We again hugged everyone. We were each speaking our own language now, but the love was understood.
Doug and I went to our car and just held hands and sat in silence - completely awed by what had just happened.
I called Sam when I got home and gave him the news. Again, we praised God and thanked Him for His goodness. Between the two of us, we found the family a church mission that would help them and that spoke Tagalog. I checked on them from time to time and occasionally would see Molly and Caleb at church on Wednesday nights.
Many years have passed since that night. I think about it and sometimes wonder, "Did it really happen?". Then I look at Doug and he confirms that yes, a miracle did happen that night. I may not speak any other language but English, but God does - it's called Love.
Acts 2:5-12 Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language. Utterly amazed, they asked: "Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in his own native language? ... we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!" Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, "What does this mean?"
Friday, December 11, 2009
I like to read, so my favorite places to hang it is either a bookstore or the library. A while back, I walked into my favorite bookstore to browse through their sale racks. This particular store also had sheet music and a piano where people can play through their selections before they make a purchase.
On this day, there was gentleman sitting at the piano quietly playing. He was very intent on what he was doing.
I went back to the sales racks first to peruse through and then came and started looking at the new release sheet music. I smiled, greeted the gentleman and started to head for another section of the store. From behind me I hear, "Excuse me. Did you just say something to me?"
I turned and faced the man at the piano. I nodded my head yes.
He titled his head and intently looked at me with a puzzled look on his face. "You mean, you actually spoke to me?" I replied cautiously, "Yes, I said hello and how are you."
He smiled and then said, "I have been playing at this piano here every Tuesday now for almost 3 years. In all that time, you are the first person who has ever said a word to me. I am well. Thank you for asking." With that, he turned and looked back at the piano and started playing.
As I walked by him, he looked up. "Don't ever stop saying hello. We need to remember the "and Love One Another" bit and actually do it. Again, thank you. And by the way, Hello to you."
As I left the store, I reflected on my odd meeting with the pianist.
I thought of the times that I hurry through life and never slow down enough to even acknowledge another person, caught up in my own little world of this and that. God did create me as an individual, but He did not create me to be in my own little bubble of "Me World."
This memory is a shake can for me to say hello. To reach out to others, to help when the opportunity comes. To not be so self-involved that I miss the privileges that God brings to be His Hands in the world we live in.
So, in case I have not said it recently, "Hello. God really loves you and wanted me to tell you that. How can I help?"
John 34 "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
I met Adam and his family because of a "God coincidence". His mom and dad walked into our church we served at one day needing to find an answer. They came to the right place. Our Pastor prayed with them and then led them to the Lord. Two days later on a Wednesday night, they were baptized.
Adam, their thirty year old son, was in the hospital under Hospice care near the church and his family had just been told that it was just a matter of time. Three years before, he had his hand crushed in a construction site accident. In order to save his life, the doctors had to give him a blood transfusion. Unfortunately, the blood given to him was infected. He and his wife found out a year later.
As one of the staff members of the church, we all agreed to go daily to the hospital and to be on call for the needs of this family. My day to go was on Tuesdays. I would go and quietly sit next to his bed and pray, or if he had visitors, would pray with them. We met regularly with Adam's parents and encouraged them and loved on them.
One day as I got ready to leave, my son asked if he could go with me. He was in eighth grade. I paused and considered his request and then said yes. On the way to the hospital, we talked about what he needed to do and how he was supposed to act. I did not tell him about Adam.
When we got to Adam's room, a friend of the family was already there. Adam was quietly sleeping but woke up when we came in. We greeted both, talked for a couple of minutes, and then I asked if we could pray. Adam nodded his head and reached out his hand and I took it. His friend looked at me in surprise: I looked at him and smiled and quietly said, "I know." My son had Adam's other hand.
We prayed, asked God for peace and comfort and healing. I heard Adam say, "Amen."
I gave Adam a quick hug and shook his friend's hand and we walked quietly to the elevator. My son was very quiet. As the elevator doors shut he asked, "He's dying, isn't he?" I replied, "Yes, he is."
As we walked back to the car, I took a glance at my son's face. I saw understanding, resolve and compassion. When we got to the car he asked, "He has Aids?" I shook my head yes.
He sat back in his seat and closed his eyes and took a deep breath. When he opened his eyes there were tears in them. He said, "You know, I have watched the news and read the papers about the epidemic that is out there. But it was out there. It was distant and did not seem real. Now I know it is real. Adam is a real man with a real family and Aids is real." Tears welled up in eyes and he began to cry and I cried with him.
We both grabbed some tissue and wiped away tears. I started the car and headed home.
Adam died a week after that visit and his mom and dad went back home. It has been many years since that day.
I still think about Adam and the lessons I learned from being around him. I learned about peace in the face of fear; about compassion in the presence of prejudice. I learned about hope in uncertainty.
I learned that the world is a very small place and that it is here from my son.
Monday, December 7, 2009
I have been meditating on something lately. It seems every verse I read, every song I hear and every sermon I listen to has some, if not all the elements of what has been moving in and around my heart. Simply it is this:
GOD IS WILDLY IN LOVE WITH EACH OF US!!
Even though we are diseased with sin and smelly with the taint of the world within which we must reside - HE loves us - you and me - He LOVES US!
Now, here is the kicker. For me, it is hard to wrap my mind around the fact that God loves me so much that He is patiently pursing a relationship with me, that He actually does want to hear my voice, and see my face, and be near me constantly. I know that my husband loves me, and he did pursue me till I actually said yes to him, but it is no way even close to the love affair that God wants to have with me and you.
In the world we live in, that kind of passionate love just is not seen. Sure, we can watch stuff on the movies and snicker behind our hand about how unrealistic is it for "that guy" to chase "that girl" - and depending on whether or not we are watching a love story or a stalker movie, we comfortably leave the theater knowing that in real life it just does not happen like that. We may sigh and long for it, but we are totally grounded people who know it "ain't" gonna happen. Or will it?
So, where is this going. For born again believers, those who have truly said yes to Jesus, we know that pursuit in a small way. We say yes, and then forget that Jesus wants more than just a moment in our histories that ends with bowed heads and an amen. He wants us to love Him back, in essence be wildly, madly in love with Him as a person, to receive His love in the tangible peace and joy and expression of the knowledge that He is intimate with the very substance of our soul and spirit.
Let's put this in perspective. Imagine this for a moment. You are walking along and fall into the nastiest septic tank there is. You get up and you are saturated with all the muck, refuse and waste from the top of your head to the bottom of your feet. Not only that, but due to the toxic nature of that particular septic system, a smell like sulfur and rot immediately permeates and infuses every pore in your body. Our spouses would probably get a trailer to put us on it to take us home and let us shower and get "prettified". Anyone else would walk a wide berth around us, shake their heads, and say, "poor thing!" and walk on their merry way. Here is what Jesus would do.
He would help us up, kiss our hands, wipe away our tears, hold us close. He would minister to any cuts we might have received when we fell, call us "Beloved". He would then take us to the nicest restaurant in town, dine us in the candle light and look lovingly into our eyes. He would pull us close and slow dance with a love song that He Himself wrote. He would tell us how beautiful we are, and would look at us with total joy of just being able to hold us. All this with the muck and stink of the sewer on us.
Don't believe me? He does it every day. As soon as we accept how much He loves us and let Him know by turning to Him and saying "Yes", He cleans us and throws away the old clothes we are wearing and gives us His robe of His righteousness. Most of us stop at "taking His hand" and don't let Him woo us the way He wants to. He wants to be a part of every moment, joy or heart ache. He wants to hold us when we are alone, calm us when we are afraid, and clean us back up when we fall. How amazing is that!
The world we live in is the sewer. Our sins are the stink. Jesus is our only hope to be healed and whole and clean. We can not wash enough, pray enough, confess enough on our own. We can do all kinds of good things, go to the right places and say the right things. Without Jesus, we still stink, the rot is us decaying each day. The eventuality is death.
So how do I know this? Here are some Words He has written to us in His love letter to mankind:
Jeremiah 31:3 The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: "I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness. (the whole chapter, if you can. it truly is words of redeeming love and future hope.)
John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
1 John 4:10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
The Bible as a whole is God's reminder to each of us of His pursuit. Never doubt He loves us. Now go tell someone so that the great pursuit can continue.
Father, I pray that each of us would truly understand the vastness of Your love for each one of us. Help me to learn how to pursuit You with a passion to know You more. I love you. Amen