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Tuesday, December 31, 2019

WHAT I LEARNED THIS CHRISTMAS


Christmas is over--or is it?  What can we take away from the celebration of Christmas?  After decades of Christmases is there anything new to be learned--anything different under the sun?

Why, yes, Virginia, there is!

This Christmas during the Candlelight Service celebrating the lighting of the Christ candle and the arrival of the long anticipated King, I did learn something.  Perhaps I knew it all along, but a timely reminder never hurts and even helps some of us.


A timely reminder of who Christ chose to reveal Himself to in the very beginning was shared during the candlelight service.  Recently, I heard a message of the lowly status of the shepherd in society during the years surrounding Christ's time here on this earth.  The low man on the totem pole would be a good description.  If you have ever watched the television series "Dirty Jobs", this would definitely make the broadcast.  Sheep are not smart animals, and often have a strong smell associated with the lanolin they produce.  This job involves lots of sitting, and waiting for the sheep to get into trouble so you can rescue them. They are herd animals and respond to herd activity.  If one runs off the cliff, the others will follow.  The shepherd has the job of keeping the dumb sheep alive and well.  When the shepherd goes to town, he is not greeted with excitement and respect.  No, it's more like--OH, they let you come in off the pasture?  The shepherd knew his place in the social pecking order---he was pretty near the bottom.  Yet, Jesus chose to reveal Himself to the shepherds and invite them to a "sip and see" of sorts.  The humble were the invited guests at that first showing off of the baby.


The Word then tells us of The Kings from afar who traveled long miles to see the New Baby King.  Learned Men, they had studied The Word of old and new of the circumstances of the birth of The King of the Jews.  Following The Star they marked the way to the place of His Birth, the Kings came with gifts to worship the New Born King.  These "Seekers" were the second group that Jesus revealed Himself to.  They were willing to study to know Him and then to travel to see Him.  The Seekers were blessed to see the New Born Baby King.

As we begin a New Year, may we all be humble seekers.  Seeking to know Him and knowing He can be found by the meek.  I pray we all are constantly aware of His presence in the year to come.

HAPPY & BLESSED
NEW YEAR,
FRIENDS!

9 He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way.
Psalm 25:9















Saturday, December 21, 2019

Friday, December 20, 2019

GUEST OF HONOR

This week is my birthday week.  I have spent the week celebrating!  It has occurred to me there is always the possibility I will not celebrate another birthday--SO CELEBRATE BIG!


What if the ghost of birthday future visited me tonight and woke me from a deep sleep.  He appeared wanting to show me what my future might hold.  It was, of course, once again my birthday (by then I must have been officially older than dirt).  It was a celebration to equal none of the others in the past~EVERYONE was involved!


Weeks of preparation had gone into the decorations. EVERY square inch of my home seemed to be covered with glitz and glamour.  Why there were even lights outside!  Lights so bright you might think the stars had fallen out of the sky to celebrate the day!


AND THEN, there were the presents.  Well thought out, and beautifully decorated presents.  HEAPS OF PRESENTS!


NOTHING, THOUGH, could compare to the birthday food.  A feast fit for a king or in this case queen!  Tables filled to the brim with every delicacy and favorite birthday food imaginable.  And the crowning glory, was that birthday cake.  Layer after layer of every flavor imaginable--beautifully decorated---waiting to be cut.


The guests were crammed into the room--so thick they could scarcely move.  Everyone seemed to be there.


The ghost from birthday future asked me did I notice anything missing from the party.  I looked very closely, but it seemed every detail was taken care of.  Surely this was the best--most perfect birthday party EVER!  And then the guests began to sing "Happy Birthday!"  As everyone scanned the room looking for the honoree, it soon became apparent I was not there.  As the hosts began questioning where I could be, they soon discovered they had failed to send me an invitation.  I was not invited to my own birthday party where everyone was celebrating me.  The guest of honor was MIA--an oversight in the busyness of all the preparations.  On the very day I was honored, I had not been included in the party.


Don't forget to invite Jesus this year when you celebrate His birth.  After all--


“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
 and they shall call his name Immanuel”
Matthew 1:23


Thursday, December 19, 2019

WISHING YOU A IMPERFECT CHRISTMAS!

NO, my name is NOT Ebenezer Scrooge!  I love Christmas!  One of my most cherished memories from my childhood was the Christmases before we lost my daddy.  He had a boat load of Christmas spirit.  I could give you all the details, but that is not the topic of today's missive.  


Why would I wish you an Imperfect Christmas?  The world seems to tell us we need to strive for perfection.  We all laugh at the Griswolds and their over the top observance of Christmas.  Too many lights, dinner gone wrong, annoying kin, obnoxious guests, Scrooge for a boss, and on and on.  Poor old Clark was bound and determined to have the perfect Christmas, in spite of all the obstacles.  He keeps getting knocked down, but he always bounced back to try again.  You have to love his "can do" spirit!


Every ad on television, why even every post on social media seems to tell us Christmas needs to be perfect.  Could I just tell you, based upon a lifetime of experience, perfection is in the eye of the beholder!  Perfection is NOT a certain look, or the illusive goal of the appearance of having it all together.  Perfection for me would be those I love near, a warm fire, my comfy clothes, good conversation, and a nice warm drink.  It has nothing to do with perfect presentation, over the top gourmet meals, or even receiving the gift of my dreams (can't ever think what that might be).  I have been in the presence of perfection while absolutely filthy --holding my breath looking at some majestic view.  I have seen perfection over a bowl of chili at the table with all the family gathered round.  I have seen perfection at the domino table with a good group of friends, laughing till water seemed to drip down my face.  I have felt perfection in a deep one on one conversation with a life long friend.  I have felt perfection as I watched the sun come up while walking the wonder dog in this wonderful neighborhood.  I have felt perfection as I watched the sun dip below the horizon at the top of the hill taking that late afternoon walk, while the neighborhood children rushed around enjoying the last moments of a beautiful day.  I have felt perfection while reading to a sweet 5 year old child at school, as they tucked under my arm.  I have felt perfection when sitting alone and remembering a lifetime of blessings and joy.  One certain rule I have learned--perfection has nothing to do with perfectly planned holidays, events, or happenings.  Perfection --is not so elusive---it is all around us in the simplest of things.


That first Christmas, let me assure you, there was no perfection.  Having a baby in a barn filled with dirt and smells is not anyone's idea of a perfect setting.  First time parents realizing their baby is on His way and you are far from home is not anyone's idea of perfect timing.  I can only imagine how exhausted Mary was after that 90 mile trip on the back of a donkey---HUGE with child.  She finally births that baby and all she wants is to rest.  Here come a group of shepherds---the bottom of the top career choices for the time---AND they were on the midnight shift.  NO REST though, for they all want to see the baby.  WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE??  All you ladies can certainly understand--right after birthing a baby--entertaining unknown strangers is NOT on the top of your to do list.  Bright stars with blinding lights and Angels singing in the sky do not lend to a restful night.  Top that off with a baby who probably wanted to eat every two hours and you have exhausted parents.  It was NOT perfection--in the eyes of the world.

Yet, it was truly perfect, even with the look of total imperfection--it was perfect.  God sent His son, the Star shown over Him to point the way, the Angels sang His lullaby and shepherds bowed down in awe and wonder.  It could not have been any more perfect in the midst of the worldly imperfection. 

So I am wishing you all a perfectly imperfect Christmas!  May you know the presence of God and all His glory in the simple things all around you!  God Bless Your Christmas--and may we all remember the truly perfect Gift we were all given that first Christmas!

And she gave birth to her firstborn son
 and wrapped him in swaddling cloths
 and laid him in a manger,
 because there was no place for them in the inn.

Luke 2:7


Monday, December 9, 2019

ROAD TRIP

It's that wonderful time of the year again, when we have two major holidays in a very brief period of time--this year less than a month.  Having traveled to Austin for Thanksgiving, I will be hitting the road again for a whirlwind tour of Texas come Christmas  It was wonderful to have everyone together for Thanksgiving, but Christmas sees us in three different cities hundreds of mile apart.  In case you have never had the joy of riding with me, let me just say I do a lot of talking to all the other drivers on the road.  Normally I am extremely patient, but for some reason the road brings out the Haggard Hattie in me.



One thing is for sure, road trips can be trying.  OH MY, but you have to love those Texas toll roads!  For the very cheap price of a few dollars, you can ride 80 MPH to your hearts content.  Unfortunately, many of the toll roads have very few pit stops along the way.  Always having a large glass of unsweetened tea by my side, this can lead to a serious need for a pit stop.  Thankfully, I have the horse to the barn mentality when it comes to stopping and can wait a long time before things begin to become critical.




Image if you will, everyone---in your family, and I mean down to the cousins so far removed you have lost count, are all headed to the same location for a huge family reunion and head count.  Top that off with the town to host you all is nothing more than Podunkville-hardly worthy of a dot on the map.  It is a race worthy of Daytona 500 headlines.  EVERYONE knows there are only so many motel rooms available and it's first come - first serve.



Unfortunately your transportation is a VW Beetle--KNOWN for its sewing machine horsepower and bumpy ride.   You don't stand a chance!  AND, GUESS WHAT, your wife is pregnant--AND I MEAN GREAT with child!  We ALL know no pregnant woman can pass up a rest stop!  Between the pressure of a baby pushing on her bladder and the Beetle hitting every bump in the road, things can be downright comical at times.


OF COURSE, you land in Podunkville dead last!  There is NOT one motel room to be found anywhere.  SO, the local owner of Joe's Bar & Grill, who has a side gig of a Petting Farm, takes pity on you and allows you to stay in the barn.  OH MY, the smells, the dirt, and animal poop would gag the strongest stomach.  What choice do you have!  You make the best of it, by placing your bedrolls on the little clean hay you can find and try to settle down for a good night's rest after your long journey.




WHY what else could you expect, but for the little wife to announce she is going to birth that baby --TODAY!  Things pick up steam and before you know it--that baby make his arrival in the midst of the muck and mire.  The baby---who is said to be special---is born in the midst of all the dirt and grime the world can throw your way.  Not only does his birth seem to be far from special, but almost a recipe for disaster.  And somehow-someway mother and baby survive and thrive.  Wonder of wonders--and exactly as some wise man wrote in his book-hundreds of years before.  Perfectly amazing---or ordained before the formation of the earth?  Ring the bells and shout for joy--a new baby has come into this broken world.  Could he possibly be the special one told of long ago


So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea,
 to Bethlehem the town of David,
 because he belonged to the house and line of David
Luke 2:4

Sunday, December 8, 2019

WHAT FAITH CAN DO

'I've seen dreams that move the mountains
Hope that doesn't ever end
Even when the sky is falling
I've seen miracles just happen
Silent prayers get answered
Broken hearts become brand new
That's what faith can do'



BLESSED SABBATH,
DEAR FRIENDS

Friday, December 6, 2019

I SAW CHRISTMAS IN ACTION

I was blessed to witness the true meaning of Christmas this week.  Done without a thought and in a spirit of selfless love, it made me want to dig deeper and try harder to live the life Christ modeled for us.




I have not written about the new ministry I am privileged to share in this year.  Brand new-off the ground and running, for some strange reason the millenniums, who came up with this idea, have given me the opportunity to breath in their energy and  share in their vision in a meaningful way.  This  week I witnessed the fruit of their efforts.



The Well was originally created with a vision of assisting children and their families in need--physically and emotionally. They serve along side Life Choices, DART, Foster families, Adopted families, single moms, and all those who feel invisible in today's world or are struggling to keep the ball rolling and other local groups who seek to work with our community.  Their mission statement includes this-  The Well seeks to offer restored life to people in our community through offering the Hope of the Gospel, a community of friends, and access to resources.  



This past week, I attended a game day for some of the older ladies in our community.  Bingo is the game--and the winner garners points or small prizes.  These ladies are serious about their Bingo.  They are all rooting for each other and proud when someone wins.  They almost always take the points as their prize.  The Well has a pantry, laundry services, and this weekend the Community Christmas Shop.  All year long classes can be taken, pot lucks can be attended, and in fact attendance at any Well community activity can garner you points.  You earn these points which then translate into using the laundry services, filling in pantry needs, or a Christmas shopping spree for your loved ones.  This encourages participation in community and activities which are meant to help in your daily life and build community.


As the game wound down last week, one of the sweet ladies announced she was giving her sister and her friend enough points from her account for them to have a shopping spree at Community Christmas.  She then looked around the table and asked about the others.  One lady was there for the first time and had not won a game that day.  She had only the points for attending today's game.  Without batting an eye, the Christmas Elf gave her enough points from her account to have a shopping spree as well.  There was not a dry eye in the room.  She did not know her, there was nothing to be gained by sharing her points, but she wanted everyone to have a Merry Christmas.  A perfect stranger~yet you don't horde your points but instead share with a giving spirit.  She used every point she had that day making certain others would have an opportunity to shop for their loved ones too.  THAT IS THE CHRISTMAS MESSAGE!  Giving hope to a desperate world.  Reminded me of this parable Jesus taught~


21 And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury, and He saw also a certain poor widow putting in two mites.[a] So He said, “Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all; for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings [b]for God, but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had.”
Luke 21:1-4

A MERRY CHRISTMAS INDEED!

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

TEAM PLAYER

I have a young friend who has recently finished this year's cross country season.  I have great admiration for him, not for his first place ranking, not for his record breaking season, not for being number one on his team, but for the fact that he is a team player.  He gives it his all, not thinking about personal glory, but instead he runs for the sake of the team.  Fighting against the odds, for you see he does not have the size of the great cross country runners, he is built more like a high jumper or hurdler, he leaves his best on the course each time he runs.  Top that off with running the state championship course with an injury and you have a real team player.  He gives his best for the benefit of the team.  He consistently runs 2-4 at the meets, but knowing the top five scores count toward the winning team, he runs for the sake of the team winning.


Many sports are like this.  Not everyone is a pitcher, a quarterback, or competing in individual events.  Most are playing on a team and it takes the entire team to come up with a win.  The tackler, the outfielder, and the soccer defensive player are all necessary for the team to be successful.  Most of the team does not garner individual glory, but are all vital in the outcome of the game. 


This morning I was discussing a friend's son who is competing in the collegiate level sport of triathlon.  As we talked over his team rank and what the future held for him, it dawned on me this is a great analogy of our walk as Believers.  We are team players, for the most part.  Certainly we are not all Mother Theresa's, nor Billy Graham's.  What we are though is a part of the great team here on the terrestrial ball for the sake of Christ.  We have been given our last minute instructions and sent out on the playing field--charged with winning souls.  We all know--we will win, but who stands to celebrate with us is the question.  Though, I certainly believe the Holy Spirit has an irresistible pull, Jesus made it plain we should go forth and do our part for the team.  Are you a team player?  Are you willing to play for the glory of the team, or are you even in the game?  Praying we all are doing our best for the glory of the team and keep our eyes on the goal---proclaiming redemption through Christ.

And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation
Mark 16:15

Monday, December 2, 2019

HEART WORK

NO, I am not speaking of your physical heart.  I could give you a few suggestions how to work on that also, but my experience has been if you are not already working on it, you probably do not want to hear what I might suggest.


Lately, I have done a great deal of soul searching about the condition of my heart--spiritual heart.  It has dawned upon me---the only thing I truly have control over is my own heart.  This has created a higher sense of keeping my eyes off my neighbor and instead looking within.  The issue is not what my neighbor may be doing, but instead how I am reacting to my neighbor.  You do realize, I am speaking figuratively when I speak of neighbor as anyone other than myself?  Human nature seems to be looking for someone beyond ourselves to blame, criticize, or judge when we have no control of the actions of others.  So my pat answer when someone brings up the short comings or faults of others, let's work on our own hearts.

Short-concise-to the point.

2 Test me, LORD, and try me, examine my heart and my mind;
Psalm 26:2

POST SCRIPT--I read of a 24 day challenge on-line which I have begun and encourage you to do also.  Every day during December (you are only one day behind) you read a chapter in Luke.  The last reading will be Christmas Eve.  A wonderful reminder of why we celebrate this blessed season!  I hope you will try it.



Tuesday, November 26, 2019

EXCLUDED FROM THE INCLUSION

Inclusion is a BUZZ word in education these days.  There are plenty of opinions ~ pro and con out there.  While thinking about it, you must admit it certainly looks more like the real world when classrooms have a wide variety of students with varying abilities.  Based upon my experience in the "real work world", I worked with wonderful people with a wide variety of abilities and talents.  The challenge is to learn to work together as a team recognizing the need to operate as a cohesive unit.

NOT what this is about!

We all want to be included and go to great lengths to become accepted.  I am reading a great book, When Helping Hurts, which addresses how we might best help the poor.  When you question the poor concerning, "What is poverty?", their answers include "shame, inferiority, powerlessness, humiliation, fear, hopelessness, depression, social isolation, and voicelessness."  NOT what we would have thought.  One of these, "social isolation", is an indication that all of  our efforts at inclusion are not working.  We all tend to stick to those who look like us, talk like us, think like us, and live like us.  We stay in our little bubbles created primarily by economic circumstances.  


We are working at including those who are different in our world in many places, but in most cases not in our social circles.  One of the worst things in the world is to walk into a room and feel excluded from the group.  We all desire to be "a part".  The question becomes how do we step out of our circle?  How do we expand our white bread world?  How are we going to stop excluding socially those we are working so diligently to include in all other areas of life?



It is going to take me stepping out of my comfort zone and taking the initial step.  Starting a conversation, asking questions, and seeking to know my fellow man has to begin with me.  There are opportunities, there are ways to broaden our friend base, and we are the one who has to take the first step.  When you read the feelings of those who are living in poverty, it is obvious how difficult it would be for them to take this first step.  It is up to us to throw the ball onto the court and get the game going.


When you read of the life of Jesus, He certainly did not hang with only one socio~ economic group.  We are called to model our lives after Him.  That might mean inviting the fishermen to take a walk, the unclean woman to have lunch, or the tax collector to have coffee.  We may need to stretch our worlds and seek out those who feel socially isolated and listen to their story--their voice.

I've not been blogging lately--oh but have I been thinking!

But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind,
Luke 14:13

Monday, November 25, 2019

HOLIDAY SURVIVAL 101





The annual holiday period has once again rolled around-it seems to take a shorter period of time each year.  This week we will all go into high gear for the next four weeks.  Thanksgiving begins a whirlwind of decorating, shopping, family visits, parties, and seemingly endless round of things to do.  To complicate this, many are facing the long to do list alone.  For many the holidays are a time to just keep your head down and survive.  How in the world can we reclaim the joy this time of the year should hold?



1.  LOWER YOUR EXPECTATIONS-  It does not all have to be perfect.  Perfection is an elusive shifting target and often dependent upon how the world tells us the holidays should appear.  The table does not have to be a feast fit for royalty; the decorations do not have to come from the latest edition of "House Beautiful"; your outfit does not have to be couture; and the children --well they are children.  Perfect gifts are a moving target; funds are limited; and no one can do it all.  Remind yourself what you can get done is plenty; we all have cooking mishaps; there are only 24 hours in a day; and life will go on tomorrow with no one but you agonizing over what went wrong yesterday.  



2.  BE FLEXIBLE-  Traditions are wonderful, but be willing to bend and change your traditions if necessary.  With grandchildren, the traditional way I celebrated holidays completely changed.  It was necessary to come up with a new plan with the parents of young children in mind.  Your willingness to bend to accommodate the busy lives of young parents is a precious gift of flexibility.  It is important to celebrate, but when and how you celebrate can be altered.  Holidays once again changed after the end of my marriage.  Sharing time with no concrete expectations from your children and grands is a great gift to them.  The holidays are a season, not a day---plan accordingly.  It is not as important to celebrate on a particular day as it is to be together at some point during the season.  



3.  ROLL WITH IT-  One Thanksgiving one of the grands was up in the middle of the night, Thanksgiving Eve,  with the stomach bug.  How can I delicately tell you about the clean up that followed?  Bless Him---it was everywhere.  After we finally got back to bed we slept in to almost 6:00 AM.  I am sleep walking through the morning and worrying about how in the world in my tight quarters we are going to keep the other three healthy.  We are all sleep deprived and cranky.  Somehow I still get the dinner on the table (poor little fellow has crackers and sprite) and make the annual round of the table stating what we are thankful for.  At the moment, I was exasperated and exhausted, but it is a memory we laugh over every year.  The cake falls, you forget to put the rolls on the table, company drops in unexpectedly, you over did the jalapenos in the casserole, you forgot some of the gifts hidden in the closet, the cat climbed the Christmas tree in the middle of the night and knocked it over---(all actual events from my life)--it is not the end of the world~Roll With It.  As you can tell, this is what memories are made from and I still laugh about them.




4.  REMEMBER WHAT MATTERS-  Being together and spending time playing, visiting, and enjoying each other is what is most important.  If you give me the choice of having a simple dinner while enjoying your good company and in attending a lavish Christmas gala, the one on one time with you wins every time. Being with the children, family members, and friends and enjoying quality time in any activity are our keeper memories.  After all these years, the holidays that stand out the most are those spent in the company of those I love in close communion.  God desires us to be in relationships, but those relationships need to be nurtured.  Slow down and spend time together, with no expectations in the good company of those you love.

No where in The Word do we find a list for how we should be celebrating.  These are all man made expectations that have grown over the years to the point of being exhaustive.  Betty Crocker had big time cooking fails before getting that book published, Emily Post occasionally had a bad day and forgot her manners, Lisa Hilderbrand does not have time to decorate her own home for keeping the paying customers happy, and Coco Chanel was guilty of wearing a hideous outfit for Christmas Dinner at time or two.  We are ALL human and none of us are perfect--so DO NOT expect life to be perfect.  



3 You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.
Isaiah 26:3


Tuesday, November 5, 2019

THINGS DON'T MATTER--PEOPLE DO

When you ask me the question, "What brand is that?" or "Who is the manufacturer?" or "Where did you purchase that?".  Most of the time, I do not have a clue.  I rarely have a swoosh, a horse, a name, or an emblem on me.  I am not a shopper, do not keep up with trends, and my fashion sense is stuck in the comfort mode.  Quite frankly, I personally do not think it matters a bit.  


What I am curious about is how these trends of what is cool begin.  Who decides we all must wear North Face, even if we never step a foot on a trail, camp in the wild, or for that matter even watch a documentary on the great outdoors?  And then there are the athletic brands, most of us only dream of being true athletes (some I know have a great disdain for anything involving sweat), BUT have a closet full of swooshes, cats, and all the other emblems seen above.  Could I tell you I have worn the same brand of shoes for almost 30 years.  Who cares what the latest hot brand is if these shoes work, I am not changing.  I have a friend who told me she no longer wears her tried and true brand because she didn't like the colors they now come in.  They could be butt ugly puce, I do not care as long as they treat my feet kindly.


Our society seems to put a huge value on brands, names, and emblems.  We are quick to point out our watch is a Rolex, our car is a BMW, and out clothing all created by some fashion guru who will smirk at this season's designs next season.  We are deeply entrenched in a consumer driven, status seeking, quest to be among those in the know and on the go.  The local thrift store is filled with yesterday's best which flew out the door when tomorrow's newest status symbol hit the shelves of the stores.  


Contrast that to my closet and drawers which have the tried and true clothing, I love to wear.  I LOVE my flannel shirts, worn softened jeans, exercise clothing I have worn for more than 20 years (it's just getting broken in), and that one good black dress which has now been a part of my wardrobe for more than 10 years.  The occasional new number invariably gets pushed to the back and the old favorites are worn over and over.  What I have on is just not that important to me as long as I am decent and above all comfortable.


NOW, if you ask me important questions such as such as what am I reading, great theological mysteries, is the climate changing, what do you think about the state of our country, or anything that is deeper than the latest fashion trend, I am all in for a good conversation.  Frankly I am more interested in what you think than what you have on, drive, or where you live.  People are more important, relationships need to be deepened, and I had rather sit and listen to your story any day of the week.  I do not notice what you have on, but I do notice your expressions and will know what you told me.  I am interested in all of you and would like nothing better than having a deep conversation.  Things don't matter--people do.  

SO--the next time you see me, call me, text me, or email me, heaven only knows what I will have on, BUT want to talk---I'M YOUR GIRL!!  Can't ever get enough!

Everything that belongs to the world~what the sinful self desires,
what people see and want,
and everything in this world that people are so proud of~
none of this comes from the Father,
it all comes from the world.
The world and everything in it that people desire is passing away,
but those who do the will of God live for ever.
I John 2:16-17


Monday, November 4, 2019

TWO SHORT QUESTIONS

I re-watched an old favorite movie recently. In case you have forgotten, let me once again remind you there are God lessons all around us---even in a secular movie.


NO--I am not going to delve into the subject of "Bucket Lists".  I will save that for another day.  The great thing about re-watching or re-reading is that the second time through, I many times find something profound that I missed the first time.  Once again this proved to be the case.

In one of the scenes Freeman says “You know, the ancient Egyptians had a beautiful belief about death. When their souls got to the entrance to heaven, the guards asked two questions.  Their answers determined whether they were able to enter or not.  ‘Have you found joy in your life?’  ‘Has your life brought joy to others?’”   WHAM, it got me right between the eyes!


Most of us have experienced joy in our lives.  While life is not endlessly joyful, there are certainly wonderful moments of joy along the path.  The birth of a child or grandchild come to mind immediately when considering my moments of joy.  The glimpse of breath-taking and soul filling sights has filled me to the brim with joy.  Deep conversation and the company of good friends create a joyful heart in me.  The first glimpse of spring blooms, the change of colors in the fall leaves, and the shear beauty of a carpet of snow have all filled me with joy.  Those special moments of worship when the presence of God was palatable that have left me so joyful I was moved to tears.  Suffice it to say, my life has been filled with joy.

The deep and thought provoking question is "Has your life brought joy to others?"  Joy is defined as a feeling of great happiness and pleasure in the secular world.  The question therefore becomes have you brought pleasure and happiness to others?  Some of us have certainly brought happiness and pleasure to our children and grandchildren.   Unfortunately, the happiness and pleasure can often be short lived.  The question then becomes, "What have you done for me today?"  Doesn't the simple act of loving another bring happiness and pleasure?   We all want to be loved and for others to treat us with love brings us joy.  BUT--this is all fleeting, temporary because it is of this world.

It would seem the answer to both of these questions might be summarized by the temporary state of joy found in most earthly pleasures.  Here today, but gone tomorrow, we are then on a quest to find the next glimpse of joy.  Is there any eternal infinite joy?

Yes, joy is eternal and infinite to the Believer.  Joy is an essential part of the Believer's life.  We are told Believers are "commanded to rejoice and characterized by rejoicing." (Desiring God)  When we experience suffering and loss, our deep reservoir of joy is often that which sustains us.  Though we sometimes feel desolate and drained, completely devoid of joy, we can rest assured that God is committed to our joy in Him.  We will have moments of joy on this terrestrial ball, but our complete and eternal joy is only found in Jesus.  
"It is good news that joy is not optional in the Christian life, because the final weight falls not on our weak backs, but on the almighty shoulders of God himself."  Yes--we know joy--and because of this joy---we share the reason for our joy with others.  We have known joy and we have shared this joy with others, because it is too good to not share with those whom we love.

These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you,
 and that your joy may be full.
John 15:11

Sunday, October 27, 2019

THERE WAS JESUS


IN THE WAITING, IN THE SEARCHING

EVERY MINUTE, EVERY MOMENT,

EVEN WHEN I COULDN'T SEE IT





BLESSED SABBATH,

DEAR FRIENDS

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

ALL ALONE

A short story some will identify with.  Be aware of the stranger in your midst~

I didn't really want to go, but I knew I should.  Even knowing I should make the effort, I immediately began to make excuses.  I did not have the right thing to wear--my closet-though stuffed-was filled with all the wrong things.  Of course, it would also require effort on getting ready to make an appearance.  I could not go without adequate preparation.  A little make up and some effort to make my hair half way decent were a must.  I kept thinking, this is so much trouble--it would be easier to stay at home--all alone.

Slowly I began to half way get it together, all the time knowing I would not look right, would stick out like a sore thumb, and others would stare.  It is always mortifying to walk into a strange place where you know no one and have the entire room turn and look.  Surely they all know I don't belong there, I am a stranger in their midst.  Surely they know my past, and my present--all disqualifies me from entering the room.  This is so hard---why am I doing this?  It would be easier to be all alone.

I finally manage to get myself in my car for the short trip.  The next obstacle will be parking and getting in the door.  Where is the right place to park, will I be the only person walking in alone?  Finally I make the trip, park the car (hopefully not in some one's permanent parking place,) and slowly walk toward the door.  There are people holding the door open and they greet me as I enter in the midst of a crowd.  Now to figure out which way to go.  Following the crowd usually works well, but what if the crowd is going to a different event?  What if I get lost?   It really is easier to be all alone.

Finally I enter the room where I am supposed to be.  It has dim lights and people scattered throughout the room.  What if I sit in the wrong spot?  What if I get some one's seat?  What was I thinking coming here?  I take a chance and plop down in a seat toward the back of the room.  Hoping to be inconspicuous, but longing for a kind word.  I sit on a row of seats, with only a few joining me.  Slowly the room fills, and the chatter starts.  The row I have chosen slowly fills and groups of friends and families are chattering away among themselves.  I sit and observe feeling absolutely all alone.

The lights dim and the music starts, perhaps when we are now focused toward the front, I will not feel so out of place.  Surely if all eyes are forward I am not sticking out all alone in my spot.  The introductions are brief and then we are told to greet one another.  BUT I KNOW NO ONE!  There is the polite "Good Morning" from those right by my side, but they quickly turn to those they are familiar with, so now everyone realizes I am all alone.

Finally we get back to the point of the meeting, and everyone is gazing toward the front.  This is the most comfortable I have been since I walked through the door.  Finally it is over, and I follow the crowds as they head for the exit.  Plans are being made all around for being together, as I try my best to just get out the door.  Bolting for my car, I slowly edge my way out of the parking lot and back to my home and the comfort within those walls.  I did the right thing, I went to be with those who are like me, but do not see me.  Often I suspect this is the loneliest time of the week for many--being surrounded by the good people with a common cause.  A sad reminder of being alone while in a crowd was all around as I headed for home.  Why make the effort, why try, when it really is easier and less painful to just be all alone.


16 Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted.
Psalms 25:16

Monday, October 21, 2019

IT'S EPIDEMIC

This past week I had lunch with an old friend I had not seen for some time.  I came away reminded of a wide spread epidemic in today's world~Loneliness.  We have evolved into a technologically driven world with every modern convenience at our fingertips~and perhaps we are more alone than ever. 


Loneliness has no boundaries--it afflicts both sexes, all economic classes, all ages,  all education levels, every nationality~in fact every social group you can come up with.  We have slowly evolved into an isolated society with phones in our hands, eyes cast down, continually scanning our screens for what we might need to know while the world moves around us.  We seem to have lost the ability to interact face to face except in brief forced spurts where we grasp for something to talk about.  Often we end up talking about what we have seen on social media in those desperate grasps for conversation.   A deep fog of isolation and the quiet stillness of separation fill our days and nights.


My friend spoke of the good advice to keep busy from well meaning friends.  Unfortunately busyness can be achieved in the midst of being alone.  There is only one cure for loneliness and it always involves others.  Somehow-someway we have to break through our shells, step away from our media devices, and seek the companionship of our fellow man.  



The blame certainly does not fall completely on those who are lonely.  Loneliness drives us to seek companionship and when all else fails we take any measures necessary to end our isolation-even staring at our devices.  The road which leads to companionship is a two way street.  We must seek others and be open to the approach of those who seek us out.

Well, My Friends, it is one thing to write about this and another to step up to the plate and do something about the lonely ones placed in our paths.  What do I intend to do?  What do you intend to do?  It's time to work to end this epidemic and live as God created us--in communion with one another.