Monday, November 28, 2011

Do I Love You?

Yesterday, my husband and I attended a breakfast with a group of friends. We are a very diverse group, with one thing in common; we all own and enjoy Goldwing motorcycles.
This is the one thing that keeps us united and, although our bike riding season here in Canada has come to an end for the next six months or so, we continue to get together each month.

But as it is with any group of people who unite together, there will be differences; many differences. There are differences about what the best color is for the bike, which seat is most comfortable, should highway pegs be used, and so it goes; on and on.

There are certainly differences in our beliefs and lifestyles as spiritual beings as well. Some are Christians, others are not. Some are church goers, others are not. But one thing I think is vitally important, particularly for those of us who are Christians, is that we continue to love those who practice a lifestyle not acceptable for us.
Jesus set this example for us; those outside of our knowledge and belief simply don’t know what they are doing.

Forgive them Father.

Yesterday, at the close of the breakfast, as I went around wishing those I would not see until the New Year a Merry Christmas, I came upon a fellow Christian woman friend of mine, speaking to one of the men. I broke in, saying I wouldn’t see them until the New Year and wanted to wish them each a Merry Christmas. They wished me the same; idle chatter followed and then the gentleman began to speak about his recent vacation to Las Vegas. I listened, and as he spoke, I glanced over and noticed my friend making a face; a grimace; a frown.

I was embarrassed.

This lovely woman showed her extreme displeasure to this mans choice of vacation spot. Las Vegas, to her, is gambling and only gambling. Now I don’t know if that is what he did while there, maybe so, he didn’t speak of it, but her judgment and condemnation was quite evident and I couldn’t help but wonder how it made him feel.

He seemed a bit uncomfortable, but continued to share. The next time I turned towards my Christian friend, she had slipped away, unnoticed by me.

I share this with you this morning because I don’t believe our Lord would condone our poor manners; our lack of love. We don’t judge and condemn those who are outside of the church, in the hope to bring them inside. That method has been tried and doesn’t work.
That method keeps the church doors closed tight against others; it keeps them outside.

So, please, just love others; just as you desire to be loved….and accepted.

1Corinthians 13
If I have not love, I am nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, and it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres.
Love never fails.
As a child, I reasoned like a child.
I am an adult now, so I put childish ways behind me.
Now, I see but a poor reflection, as in a mirror; then I shall see face to face.
Now I know in part: then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is LOVE.

Friday, November 25, 2011

You Gotta Be Ready

Over the past few years, I have lost loved ones; family members, friends, acquaintances and neighbors, through death. In fact, just last evening, while out for a walk, my husband remarked on how many widows now live in our immediate neighborhood. There were none when we moved here a short thirteen years ago.

My mind immediately went to our neighbor’s husband, Art. He passed away six months ago. I remembered how he had shared with us about another neighbor’s nephew who had seen him sitting in his wheel chair in his driveway. The nephew was on his way to his uncle’s house; his uncle is a pastor, just up the street. Art shared of how this young fellow had approached him and asked him if he knew the Lord. Upon Art’s affirmative response, the young man offered to pray for Art.

I remember how deeply touched Art was……days later he was able to walk again. This was nothing less than a miracle; the Lord had heard and answered prayer. Maybe Art needed to know the Lord really was with him; maybe he needed to return to a serious relationship with the Lord; I don’t know. But I do know that Art had regained the strength to walk again, until it was almost time for him to go home.

Then I recalled another neighbor. This neighbor was much younger; he lost his life in a trucking accident, almost a year ago now. I thought of how his wife must have felt when she opened the door to the police and was given the dreaded news of her husband’s death. This man knew the Lord well. He was an elder in the church; he was a kind and gentle man. He was known by others to often use this phrase: “You gotta be ready, ‘cause you just never know when the Lord will take you home. You gotta be ready.”

It is in moments such as these that I am reminded once again of how precious life is…how valuable people are…how the Lord uses others to speak to me.

It is the Lord who gives us strength; the strength to walk through this life where we experience the hills and the valleys. It is the Lord who calls us to follow Him; to walk close by His side and to always be ready for His return.

I am grateful for the Lord’s faithfulness.

I am grateful that His faithfulness calls me into question; to re-examine my faith; my own personal walk.

He uses those around me to remind me He is there; He is here; with me; right now.

So, right now, I will use this time to pray……

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

I Need Discipline!

I have a habit that I have developed over the past years of committing myself to grocery shop each Wednesday. I don’t know how and when exactly it began, but it has become almost a ruling; I must be at the grocery store each Wednesday morning at 8 a. m. Why 8 a. m.? I have no idea. But if I find myself running late, I scurry to ready myself and get out the door. One would think I was heading off to my place of employment. I am that diligent.

I have other habits as well.
Some good.
Some bad.

I don’t often pay much attention to most of my habits. They are just there and they don’t bother me, and they certainly don’t appear to bother anyone else.

They are simply who I am.

“I am a creature of habit.” I have made that statement on many occasions to others when I find myself doing something automatically; especially when it is not necessary that I do it. Habits can be annoying; habits can be embarrassing.

I remember when I used to drive my daughter into the city one night a week to attend her group meeting. It seemed that each week she would need to remind me where to turn. I would automatically head off to the fitness club where I was a member. It was in the same general area. “I am a creature of habit” I would say. After all, I drove to that fitness centre about 3 times each week. But I would still feel embarrassed and sometimes I think my daughter was annoyed that I was, once again, preoccupied. Not thinking of what I was doing; or where I was destined to be at that time.

I find my Christian walk is like that. I find myself at times not thinking of what I am doing or where I am destined to be. I find myself embarrassed by my relaxed persona and my inattentiveness.

I am bewildered because no matter how often I read my Bible, or how often I pray, I never seem to develop a daily habit of prioritizing these areas. Oddly, my habits do not extend to my eternal existence.

I look to the Scriptures for guidance, and I read that Jesus made time with His father a daily precedence.

Jesus prayed daily; it was an absolute priority for Him to spend time with his Father. There are a variety of Scripture references in the Bible to support this.

I am often, too often, convicted of my lacking in this area. Perhaps what I need to do is to make my daily time with God a discipline, and not simply rely on the development of a habit. A habit that, obviously, is never going to come to fruition.

Monday, November 21, 2011

"Born Right the First Time?"

“Born Right the First Time.” These words had been printed on a bumper sticker.
Of course, I immediately knew the person to whom this bumper sticker belonged was not a child of God. Because of this, my initial reaction of shock and then smug anger, quickly, yet quietly, turned to sorrow.

I remember when my beautiful baby girl was born. I remember holding her and unwrapping the blanket that was wound so snugly around her tiny body. I must count the toes; for some reason unknown to me, I knew I had to count the toes. Isn’t that what we as new Mom’s do? We count the toes and we count the fingers.

All was well.

I never once had the thought enter my mind, as I lay there holding my baby girl, that she had not been born right. My beautiful child had come into the world following nine long months of anticipation. My only response was one of complete joy. She was now with me.

But as she grew, as lovely as she was, it would not be long before I would know that she was in need of a Savior. She was not innocent; nor was she sinless. She had a temper. She was devious, and one of the first words she spoke was…….you guessed it……….NO. And it was quite the emphatic “no” I might add.

My precious little girl was not born right. She was not born right the first time. No different from me; no different from you.
God’s Word commands us to be born from above; this way we have the power of God working in us. We have the Holy Spirit who comforts us; counsels us; He is our friend.

“In the Bible, Jesus says we must be “born from above.” (John 3: 3-6) In many translations, we read “born again”; this is our English vocabulary. Correctly, theologically, we are to say, “born from above” or, we are “a child of God.”
Understood thus, we have the Holy Spirit as our spiritual Father; we have been born spiritually in addition to physically, and so are truly ‘children of God.’
Jesus’ statement, then, is not a catch phrase but captures a deep theological truth. ‘Born again’ is a phrase which needs to be interpreted; ‘born from above’ is a phrase which only needs to be understood.” (Mills, M. (1999). The Life of Christ: A Study Guide to the Gospel Record. Dallas, TX: 3E Ministries)

We cannot do this life on our own power; we must be born from above. My prayer for you today is that you have taken this step and can proudly and confidently call yourself “a child of God.” Bless you.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Thankfulness Leads to Peace

I read a devotional this morning on thankfulness. The devotional immediately brought to my mind how thankless I used to be, and how, in the recent years, I had experienced change. What a transformation this has been for me. While I remain a work in progress, there has been change, welcomed change.

Then, my thoughts immediately went to the pastor of my church. A few weeks ago, during his sermon, my pastor spoke on thankfulness. Tears welled up in his eyes as he remembered the recent death of his daughter; his teenage daughter who had suffered from depression.

He shared how entirely impossible it was for him to be thankful, and how he could find no peace in her death. He spoke of how he would curl up on his bed and sob through the night; crying out to God, asking “why.” Why her, Lord? Why me, Lord? Why now, Lord?

One night, as he continued to struggle with his daughter’s death, the Lord spoke to him. The Lord showed him that his daughter no longer suffered. His daughter was with Him in glory.

In glory?!?

In glory!!

This was the turning point of this pastor’s misery. To know that his daughter was with the Lord; to know she was in glory…with Him.

Now, he knew all along that his daughter loved the Lord, and would be with Him. But, in his grief, he had not allowed himself to reflect on that aspect of her death.

His little girl was gone; she was gone from his life on this earth forever. He missed her; he loved her. He agonized over his feelings of helplessness; guilt. If I had done this, or if I had done that, maybe she would still be here with me.

While he remembers his daughter with love; while he continues to weep at having lost her; he has a strange sense of peace now. He has a thankfulness that, without the Lord, he could never possess.

His daughter is in glory. She is in His presence. Someday, they will be reunited.
Praise the Lord!

Philippians 4:4-9:

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let our gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. Amen!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Sometimes, people need to know someone believes in them before they can believe in themselves…..

I had an extensive history of others doubting me.
This didn’t begin from anything of my own doing, I was a mere child. It all started from the hurtful words of an angry and jealous brother. Although the younger sister, I was a much better student than my brother who was three years my senior. My brother was frequently in trouble with my dad for not applying himself in school; he would be physically punished. Because my dad would compare my grades to his, I was the target for my brother to “get even.” I took a lot of verbal and physical abuse from my brother because of this; but no one seemed to notice. Then again, my dad wasn’t at home most of the time.

In later years, the cruel words escalated and came from the mouth of an angry mother. A mother who had experienced divorce from infidelity. A mother whose son had decided to stay with his father following the divorce. I suppose she had been hurt wondering why, after all the cruelty, he would prefer to stay behind with the man who had beaten him so often, rather than to move to be with her. She must have felt rejected by both of the men in her life.

Her words cut deep; I didn’t understand. I didn’t understand why she spoke to me the way she did; why she called me those names. Why she was so angry with me all the time. Things around our house never did change. But I did. Over the years, I became the person I had so repeatedly been accused of being.

Years of repetition of those angry and hurtful words had enabled me to identify myself as such. Forty plus years later, I still often identify myself through those angry words.

Since I have come to know the Lord, those words have less power over me. But the Lord also gave me someone who believes in me, so I have the hope to better believe in myself.
This is love.

John 15:12,”This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you.” (NLT)
I want to encourage you today to seek out someone who needs to be believed in. Even if that person is you, reach out and be blessed.

Philippians 2:3b-4, “Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.” (NLT)

Friday, November 11, 2011

Is It Possible?

I woke up this morning to a thin blanket of white, untouched snow. It was still dark outside, but the snow, along with the full moon, brightened the night, and seemed to light up the neighborhood. What a beautiful sight.

Later, as I sat in my family room with my cup of tea, I noticed it had begun to snow; a light gentle snowfall, with no breeze. I decided to venture out for a walk.

I rummaged around to locate all my winter duds, found my mp3 player, and out I went. I love the first snowfall of the year.

I met one other person on my walk; he was walking his little terrier, who appeared to be a little shocked about the entire situation. I don’t think he had lived to see snow yet. The flakes continued to swirl around gently; it was the perfect morning; picture perfect.

As I walked, I listened to the Hillsong singers on my player; they were singing about how all things are possible with God. I smiled. I remembered. I remembered how true that statement had been in my life. I remembered how I had at one time doubted that statement. I remembered how, at one time, I had been so utterly confused about that statement.

“ALL things.”

I had been so incapacitated through fear throughout my entire life; how could God help me with that, I had wondered. This is who I am, I thought, and nothing can change who I am.

Throughout the years, the Lord has proven to me that all things ARE possible for him. And all things are possible for me, through him…as long as I believe. As long as I believe in him, and as long as I believe in the power of choice that he has given me. I am never defeated. In my weakness, he is strong.
2 Corinthians 12:9 “Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness. So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses so that the power of Christ can work through me.”” (NLT)

I believed him. I stepped out because I finally truly believed him. That is how I found all things are possible through our God who is so great.

If you are facing anything today that has had you defeated, I want to encourage you. Step out in your faith. In the faith that believes, really believes, that all things are possible for God. And be ready for God to work a miracle in your life!
God bless you today.

Mark 9:23 “What do you mean, ‘If I can’?” Jesus asked. “Anything is possible if a person believes.” (NLT)
Mark 10:27 “Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But not with God, Everything is possible with God.””(NLT)

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Sliding Scale

“There are people out there worse off than you!”

Do these words sound familiar? Has anyone ever spoken these words to you?

I can’t recall the number of occasions I heard those words spoken harshly to me, both as a child, and as I grew into womanhood. I felt that my worries, my concerns, my letdowns, my pain…weren’t as significant as others. And it hurt.

It hurt to believe I was wrong to be so upset. It hurt to know I was not understood. It hurt to know I had no one to talk to. It hurt because I knew this was not love. So I began to shut down.

I began to live in my own world. My own small and lonely world. A place of existence where I could live out my pain and suffer in silence. It became so silent that after a number of years, I had adapted and no longer had any thoughts about my being any different from anyone else. Perhaps….I wasn’t.

Yet, I suppose now, as I look back, I can see that I was simply protecting myself. I had erected a shield around me and had determined no one would ever permeate that shield. No one would ever touch that part of me; that part that had been rejected and unloved; tossed aside without a thought, without regret. That part that still lay deep inside….and hurt like hell.

Trust is not something that comes easily to one who has been repeatedly bruised and broken. I wanted so much to trust. I wanted to share my pain; to break free from this shell I had wrapped myself in so securely. I wanted out, but now I had no idea of how to break free. I had made myself a prisoner of my own circumstances for so long, I felt trapped.

There is a little child inside of me; there is a little child inside of each of us. This child cries out for love and understanding; forgiveness and healing. This child wants someone to care; to really, honestly care.

As I look upon the imperfect picture of my own life and circumstances, I am aware that the Lord is there for me. He is loving me, comforting me, and strengthening me. The Lord has no sliding scale on my pain, just as he has no sliding scale on your pain.
If today, you are finding yourself hurting, friendless, broken, unloved; know that you are loved. You are the Lord’s beloved child.

I encourage you to ask the Lord for a trusted friend. Someone you can talk to; someone who will listen and care; really, honestly care.
As you wait, talk to Him. He is the great healer. Read his Word. His words are truth.
Listen for his response. He will speak, and his words will point you in the direction of your healing.
God bless you today!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Garbage Removal

Throughout my struggles and trials, in my effort to grow and mature in my newfound faith, I became somewhat self oriented. I went to extremes, from being staunchly religious one year, to somewhat flamboyant in my style of worship the next. I was at times influenced by my surroundings; not that I was necessarily led by each type, only that I was searching and in that search, tested out various styles and processes.

I witnessed myself as growing each year, as was my practice to do so; only I was nowhere as mature and knowledgeable as I had convinced myself. My actions would too often expose the real me underneath; the pseudo I wanted everyone else to see. My heart remained lacking; dirty and void of love. Dirty and void of love and forgiveness. I had little understanding or patience for others and as I continued to read my Bible and attend church along with occasional Bible study, I quickly learned that my hearts condition was not conducive to the heart that beats in a child of God’s. I was a hypocrite. I had too often heard that word coupled with the church when speaking to others who had relinquished either their faith or simply their church attendance. I didn’t want to be a hypocrite; I couldn’t seem to help myself.

Once again I started to despise me. Why couldn’t I do this right? Why was I not able to turn myself around and be the person I wanted so desperately to be? Why didn’t I have the strength; the perseverence? Or was I just a lost cause? Was it too late for me? Oh, my heart and my head were so far away from living in love and forgiveness. I knew only too well how hard headed and hard hearted I had become over the years. I could still look back over time and remember when things had been different. But that was so many years ago now. So many years ago. Was it true that I could TRULY change both my heart and my mind if I had complete trust in the Lord?

Over time, as the answers came to these questions, I learned to be kind to myself. I learned that I was not able to do anything on my own. Yes, I had read this in the Scriptures, but I had not known how to walk this out in my life. I knew it was the Lord working in and through me; I can do nothing without him. He is the vine and I am the branch. I could quote the Scripture verses, but I learned that I could not live what I essentially did not truly understand to put into practice in my daily life. I had to learn to let go; to put my emotions as far away from me as I could, and trust that the Lord would provide for me. He would provide the awareness; He would provide the love, the understanding, the ability to forgive.

But the hard work I must do, was to take my emotions; remove them from my heart and my mind, and allow the Lord to replace and fill that space with His love and forgiveness.

Friday, November 4, 2011

how' r you

I went to see my doctor this morning. As I sat in the waiting room, I glanced around and noticed an advertisement holder with five shelves, hanging on the wall. At the very top of this case, were the words, in this script: “how’r you.”

I got up from my seat and walked over to view the contents of this case. I had a fairly good idea what I would find, and I wasn’t disappointed. There were pamphlets on diabetes, blood pressure, colonoscopies, diets, smoking cessation, and the value of eggs, to name a few.

The categories were Women’s Health, Family Health, Children’s Health, Health Issues, and a lower section held folders to place your pamphlets in.

Something came to mind as I stood there browsing the shelves of this case. Naturally, everything that was addressed on these shelves was limited to mans physical health and well being. I know I was in a doctor’s office and shouldn’t expect any different. And I didn’t.

But it did get me thinking about how much time, money, and energy are spent in the area of man’s physical health and well being. I have no argument with the seriousness of physical health. I get the importance of it.

I am always eager to see my doctor when I am feeling ill. If the doctor thinks I might need something looked into further, I am always in agreement with her to do whatever is necessary to get me back on the path of good health. I am faithful to have my tests done. I may not look forward to them; some have been inconvenient in their preparation, and difficult in their procedure.
But I have them done, nevertheless.

I do what is necessary. I follow the doctor’s orders. I know that if I don’t; there will be a penalty. My physical well being may be in jeopardy.

Yet, how do I compare the care I give my body, to the care I give my soul?

I know that I need the Lord; and I need him daily.
Yet, am I eager, each day, to spend time with him?
I know he is constantly at work in my life to better me.
But, am I always in agreement with him?
Do I demonstrate this through my attitude and my behavior?
Am I faithful to the Lord, even when it is inconvenient and difficult?

My body is for a season. My soul is for eternity. What might the penalty be if I neglect my soul?

Psalm 42:2, “My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?” (NIV)

Does my soul thirst for God?

Psalm 119:48, “I lift up my hands to your commands, which I love, and I meditate on your decrees.” (NIV)

Do I meditate on God’s decrees?

Luke 9:23, “Then he said to them all: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”” (NIV)

Do I deny myself daily? Do I pick up my cross daily? Do I follow him daily?

Ephesians 6:18, “Pray in the spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this is mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” (NIV)

Do I…?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

It's About Time

Today I realized that in less than 2 months, it will be Christmas. In two short months from today, Christmas day will have passed for another year. It seems like yesterday I just put the summer clothes away. Wait a minute…. Yes…… it was yesterday.

Time flies more quickly as the years go by. It seems there is a lot of talk about this amongst my friends and “older” family members these days. I often catch myself thinking, “I sound just like my Grandmother.”

Just as the seasons pass by each year, so it is with the seasons of our lives. When we are young, they pass by unnoticeably. I don’t recall ever giving any thought from one year to the next. The most important issue about another birthday was to ensure I had my wish list updated and made known to others. Now, each year I am very much aware of my upcoming birthday…but my first thoughts are never about my wish list; my first thought is about the age I will be turning on that day.

And the number is getting higher. I ask myself the usual question: Where has the time gone? Familiar question? It is around our house. Where has the time gone.

But, more importantly, I was pondering this morning, how has that time been spent? Has it been spent nurturing relationships? My relationships with family and friends? My relationship building with new people in my midst? How about my relationship with the Lord? How am I doing in the area of building my relationship with God?

When we read the accounts of Jesus’ life on this earth, we learn that he spent much time with his Father in prayer. Jesus spent time on his relationship with his Father. Jesus is our example; we look to him for guidance.

If Jesus, sinless and holy, felt it necessary to spend extended periods of time in prayer with his Father, how much more do we, as fallen and sinful human beings, need this time with God? How much more do I need his daily guidance and protection?

Mark 1:35, “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.”

Luke 5:16, “But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.”

Luke 6:12, “One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God.

Luke 9:28, “About eight days after Jesus said this, he took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray.”

These are merely a handful of the Scriptures that refer to Jesus’ prayer life.
His relationship with his Father was of utmost importance to him. He did nothing without his Father’s direction. He only did as God instructed him.

As I think about my own relationship with God today, I ask if you might join me in considering yours. How are you doing today in your walk with God?

Relationships; they take time. Time to build and time to keep.

Mark 14:38, “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.”

I recall the words of Jesus in John 6:38, “I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me.”
Just like Jesus, we are here to do the Father’s will. We are here to glorify God.

Jesus’ obedience would be the picture of the perfect relationship with Almighty God. The cross would be the proof.