Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Treasure Chest

                                
The smell of cedar rose up from the open lid.  I drew a deep breath, inhaling the woody fragrance.  There were so many things inside!  My grandmother had taken me over to her cedar chest, to retrieve something.  She had her treasures stored in there for many years.  Things from her past, that meant something special to her heart.  The chest was a special place that she could go, to remember precious moments from days gone by. 

That memory has stayed with me for over 40 years. Although I've always wanted one, I have never purchased a cedar chest.  For some reason, the longing for one of my own has been strong for the last few months.  Steve asked me what I wanted for Christmas this year.  I told him.  He said, "Let's see what we can find."  We looked around, and God provided a beautiful secondhand one...for a VERY reasonable price.  I now have a place to store memories...and one day share them with my own granddaughters.

Now, I have to think of what to put in there!  What are my treasures?  The things that I'll put in there will not be expensive items.  There's a wooden box that holds two decks of cards.  It was my parents'.  The box reminds me of an ongoing card game that they played throughout their marriage.  The score sheet is still in the box.  They've both been gone for almost 20 years, and the box stays the same...a reminder of a strong bond that stood the test of time.  There are things that belonged to my children...a girl scout uniform, baby clothes/shoes and special school projects.

Treasures.  We all have them.  They reside in a special place in our heart.  They mean a lot to us, and we hold them close.  Jesus knew about treasures of the heart.  He thought it important enough to teach us about what's really valuable.

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:19-21

The treasures that reside in our hearts.  It can be a lot of different things.  Valuables...Money...Esteem... Sometimes we can get confused as to what is really essential in life.  What we deem as necessary can lead to 'heart' disease.  It can possibly result in a type of 'heart' failure.  If we focus too closely on what we own, we can lose sight of heavenly wealth.  Jesus knew that this was a human tendency.  He knew that we can get caught up in our 'things', that aren't going to last.  We can place them in our hearts, and they can grow, like weeds, choking the life out of them.  He encourages us to store our treasures in heaven.  How can we do that?  By setting our sights on the things that He thought were important...the poor...The lonely...The forgotten.  For when we focus on 'the least of these'  we focus on Him.  These are the things that will endure for a lifetime...and beyond.

So while it's fine to store away some memories...don't forget to give your true treasures to Jesus!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

That's What Christmas Is All About

                                                        
                                    

Like many people, one of my favorite Christmas traditions is watching "A Charlie Brown Christmas".  I've watched it practically every year since it's debut in 1965.  I think I only missed it about 3 or 4 times, since I was five years old.


Every year it's the same thing.  Charlie Brown looks into his empty mailbox, receives no respect from the actors he's trying to direct and is ridiculed for his choice in a Christmas tree.  He feels alone and depressed.  All around him is the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, and he doesn't enjoy it at all.  What's it all about, anyway? 

Then his close friend Linus tells him.

"And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
   And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
   And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
   For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
   And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
   And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
   Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men."  Luke 2: 8-14 

Christmas wasn't about decorations, presents or Christmas cards.  It wasn't about the music, the play or the Christmas Queen.  It was about the God in the manger.  The God that loved us enough to become one of us.  The God that wanted to transform our lives and one day give us the ultimate renewal.

We are like that tiny Charlie Brown Christmas tree...outwardly insignificant and worthless.  But as Linus said, "All it (we) needs is a little love."  God offers us that love.  To Him, we aren't worthless at all.  To Him, we are worth dying for.  That's why He came to us as a tiny baby, to one day die on the cross for us.  Once we accept that Love of God we are transformed, as that little tree, into something beautiful.  We don't do the changing...God does it.  He gives us an extreme makeover...from the inside out.  The beauty of the Presence of God in our heart shines forth outwardly.  We are a new creation. 2 Corinthians 5:17 

Reach out to accept the best Gift, this Christmas.  It doesn't cost a thing.  His name is Jesus.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Blessings in Disguise






The night.  It is dark.  Little noises seem to be amplified throughout the house. For those who find themselves alone, it is the worst time.  Daytime can be difficult, but there is something different about the night.  It seems to make them more aware that they are alone.  The loneliness is so real, you can almost touch it.  They cry out to God.

She sits at the kitchen table with her calculator and the stack of bills.  Her paycheck just came in, and it is already gone.  The trouble is, which bills to pay?  She has 3 final notices in front of her, and children asking her, "What's for dinner, Mama?"  She lays her pen down and puts her head in her hands.  She silently weeps a prayer to the Lord.

They sit in different rooms in their home.  Both of them forsee the same thing, but they have stopped talking to each other.  What is the point?  It's the same old arguments, over and over.  When they married 15 years ago, they believed that God had brought them together.  They must have been mistaken.  They just don't 'feel' it anymore.  They simultaneously put down their remote and their book.  They bow their heads and pray.

They all wonder, "Does God hear them? "  "Why would a God who was so loving, allow them to go through this agony?"  "Doesn't He care?"  They thought He loved them.  They wonder what they did to make Him so mad at them, that He would not be there when they needed Him the most.  Perhaps, they wonder if it is their fault.  Maybe, they just aren't good enough.

They are mistaken.  God IS there.  It's just hard to see Him through their tears.

For an example, let's peek into the life of a young girl in trouble.  In her early teen's and pregnant.  She's afraid to tell her parents.  They are very religious, and the news would break their hearts.  In fact, her whole community is very devoted...there's no one she can share her secret with.  She, herself tried to be faithful, following Yahweh's decrees as best she could.  This pregnancy was not in her plans.  Now what?  The reality had begun to set in.  What was she thinking when she agreed to the angel's declaration? She, young Mary, was to be the mother of the Son of the Most High.  It's been three months since the angel's visit...people would begin to notice soon.  She had heard nothing else from the angel.  She looked for signs of him every day.  She feared for her life when Joseph, her fiancee' found out.  He could order her to be killed, for adultery.  Late at night, Mary laid in her bed and wondered.  What was He thinking?  Where was God when she needed Him?  She felt so alone.  The tears silently fell.

Fast forward thirty four years.  Mary is now sitting in the rain with more tears flowing down her cheeks.  In her arms lay her son, Jesus.  She had watched them hang him as if he were a criminal.  They crucified Him next to two thieves.  Yet, He didn't look like the other two men.  They had beaten Him so badly, you couldn't even recognize Him.  But she knew who He was.  She would know Him anywhere.  He was part of her.  He was now laying in her lap, like he did when he was a baby...but now He was dead.  How could God let this happen?  Why?  What was He thinking?  Jesus didn't do anything at all to deserve this...He had never even sinned once in His life.  He got that from His Father.  But what good plan could Yahweh POSSIBLY have to justify THIS?  Where was God when she needed Him?  She held her dead child close and wailed.

Was God there?  Yes, He was.  Did He know what He was doing?  Yes, He did.  Did He hear Mary's cries?  Yes, He did.  God was getting ready to reveal His Plan.

Three days later, Jesus rose from the dead, opening up the doors of heaven to all who repent and accept Him.  Through Him, God's Plan was revealed.  When Mary saw Him again, she finally understood. There was an explanation for the dark and lonely nights.  There was a reason for the tears.  There was a purpose for the pain. 

Although we cannot always feel the presence of God, He is there.  He hears our cries.  He listens to our prayers.  He has a plan.  Meanwhile, while we wait for the time for Him to reveal it,  He is there.  He is waiting in the dark of the night for us to lean on Him as He dries our tears.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Beauty Is In The Eye Of The Beholder

                                 





 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8WnAq0o2Xl8&feature=related



Beautiful.  Who determines what is beautiful?  Is it society...who show us through films, advertisements, and television what is considered lovely?  Maybe it is the judges who chose the woman that's wearing the crown in a beauty pageant.  Maybe it is the proud parent who KNOWS that their child is the most gorgeous child that ever lived.  Or the newly smitten boy/girl who is sure that their new sweetheart is the most heavenly thing on the face of the earth.  People can make us feel beautiful.

There is another side to that coin.  What if you don't have anyone around to remind you how beautiful you are?  What if no one ever told you that you were pretty...or handsome?  What if no one has ever noticed what a radiant smile you had...because they had never seen you smile?  There are individuals who have only been criticised and ridiculed their entire life.  They believe they are anything but beautiul. People can also make us feel ugly.

Humans judge the beauty or worth of someone based upon their outward appearance.  But let's look at it a little deeper.  How does God see us?  What does He think when He looks at us?

The Bible says that Samuel was looking for God's anointed one that was to be king.  He was looking at all of these rugged, strong men.  Surely God's man was among them!  God told him, " "The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them.  People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7 (NLT)  God led Samuel not to the rugged warriors...but to the lowly shepherd boy, David.  He was to be the leader of God's people.  God knew David's heart.  He knew that although he didn't look strong and wise on the outside, he was a man after God's own Heart.  The Lord knew what Samuel...or even David, didn't.  He judged what man could not see. 

Don't judge a book by it's cover.  The veneer could fool you.  It could be a gorgeous leather bound edition with gold trim, and the inside of the volume could be filthy and unreadable.  Then, you could have an old, tattered cover that houses within it's binding, a valuable treasure. I don't know if I agree with the phrase, "Beauty is only skin deep."  I believe it's much deeper than that.  Beauty radiates from within.  Many people may outwardly look lovely, but have ugliness at their core. Their hateful heart makes them offensive to everyone.  Then, there are others who might not seem becoming in other's eyes, who have the most gorgeous hearts that beat within their chest. 

We are like that tattered book.  To God, we are the treasure.  He sees us as magnificent masterpieces that He created in His own Image.  He knows everything about us, and doesn't judge us as others do.  He knows every fascinating cell in our body.  He loves us as we are.  Even when we think we aren't worth anything...He proves us wrong.  When we believe what others told us, that we do not matter...He proves them wrong.  For God thought we were beautiful enough...worthy enough to send His Son to die for our sins, because He wanted us to be able to live with Him forever.  Nothing ugly could ever enter Heaven.  No matter what color my eyes are...or how my nose is shaped...He loves me and you because He sees what no one else can.  He sees the real us.  Purify your heart today.  Give your life over to the God who made you and loves you like no one else can.  He's knocking at the door of your heart.  Let Him in.



            

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Thanks For The Memories

                                                            


I have noticed that there are a lot of social web site pages that deal with memories. If You Grew Up In....., Growing Up In.....; If You Lived In.....  There are countless groups that you can join to reminisce and share similar memories and experiences.  Scrapbooks are so popular, too.  We enjoy looking back at events frozen in time.  People love to reminisce about the 'good ole' days'. 

Why is that?  Why do people enjoy thinking about the past?  There are many reasons, one being we long for the times when life seemed more simple and carefree.  Although we may like having all of the modern conveniences and technology...there is something about the simplicity of the past, that we miss. And it's not just people my age...there are older individuals that long for the time when they were a child, or in their teens and 20's...and those that are a decade younger than I am, who yearn for the same thing.

Why?  That was the time in our lives before mortages, meetings and money markets.  Before children, change and charge cards.  Our responsibilites were small...our dreams were enormous.  The good old days...

The Bible even speaks of remembering.  Ecclesiastes 12:1  "Remember your Creator when you are young, before the days of trouble come and the years catch up with you. They will make you say, 'I have found no pleasure in them.' " God's Word Translation
Why did Solomon (the proposed author of Ecclesiastes) write this?  Why would he say this to a young person?  My guess is that in his wisdom, he knew that young people didn't always think of the future.  They knew that today was fun and carefree, but tomorrow would show them different.  When they were older, they would see 'days of trouble'.  Then what?  If they had been remembering their Creator, they would have Someone to lean on.  They would remember how He was wth them and also their ancestors when bad situations came up.  They would know that they were not alone.
While it is fun looking back...a person could get lost looking only in the rear view mirror.  We have to keep our eyes looking forward.  It is beneficial to look back from time to time, and see where we have been.  We can use our past experiences and decisions as stepping stones to our future decisions.  But we look ahead and press onward as we wait for the day when He not only is with us...but we will see Him face to face.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Avocado Tree

                                                   


You never know what kind of a crop you will have.
Our avocado tree was so full of produce this year, it broke two huge branches long before the fruit could ripen.  We lost over 200 of them.  It wasn't the tree's fault...it simply did what it was made to do...it just made avocados!!  Although the fruit was beautiful to look at...it didn't last, because some of the branches were too weak to sustain it.

I'm sure Jesus was aware of weak branches.  In the Gospel of John, He told the disciples that He was the vine, and we are the branches.  He said that if we remained in Him, we would bear much fruit...for without Him we can do nothing. He said that our fruit will not only be good...but that it will abide...it will last.  The fruit will not be gone tomorrow.  It will leave a lasting legacy.  That is IF we are rooted in Him.

 If we are not, if we are superficial and self indulgent, our results will show this.   It will be like the weak branch that held the avocados...it couldn't hold up under the weight of the fruit. How often do we begin to bear fruit and then buckle under the pressure of the committment? Does our fruit look good on the outside, but is unable to be used because we weren't grounded enough to give it sustenance?

It's time to cultivate your faith.  Prune it from self.  Weed it of the thorns of laziness and apathy. Feed it with the Word of God and water it with prayer.  Then watch the fruit blossom and give nourishment to others and yourself...for now and for years to come.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

More Precious Than Silver

                                                                
Love seems the swiftest, but it is the slowest of all growths.
No man or woman really knows what perfect love is until they have been married a quarter of a century.
                                       Mark Twain


October 4, 1986...the day my life and name changed forever.  The day I went from Peggy Just to Peggy Pyles...the day I became Steve's wife.

Twenty five years, a quarter of a century...today is our silver wedding anniversary.    Did you ever wonder why they call it a 'silver' anniversary?  I'm not sure where it came from, but I have a few ideas!

Silver is an ancient metal.  Pure silver is mixed with other metals like copper and gold, and then processed. It has to be heated and smelted to remove it's impurities.  After a time, the result is beautiful and precious.

In Chemistry, the periodic table symbol for silver is Ag.  Here are a few 'Ag' words that may describe the events in a 25 year old marriage.

Agreement.  When two people decide to marry, they 'agree' to live their lives together forever.  They don't know what is in store for them, in the future.  They set out together, looking ahead. Their love is as fresh as pure silver.

Agitating.  The little things that get to them.  He won't pick up his dirty socks.  She wants him to go to the mall right before the big game.  Little things...that could become big things, if they aren't careful.  It is combining of two different metals...mixing and molding them into one.

Aggressive.  The arguements that are bound to come.  They each wonder if they have made the right decision.  What were they thinking?  They didn't bargin for this...this wasn't part of the marital vows, was it?  Are you supposed to put up with someone who is so bullheaded?  Their marriage is in the fire. 

Agonize.  It's 2 a m and the baby has a high fever.  They wish they could trade places.  They pray. The silver is being extracted.

Many people have wondered over the years how Steve and I could possibly get along...we are complete opposites. I'll answer that question.  From the time I met Steve, I saw someone who was kind, loving and true.  We have very different personalites and interests.  Yet, when it came to difficult times, I always saw the real Steve. I knew he loved me from the bottom of his heart.  I believe that God gave me the ability to see him as He sees him.

Real, endearing love doesn't happen when a ring goes on a finger.  It develops over time, through blending, fire and extraction.  It is cultivated with the tools of respect, thoughtfulness and compromise.  Marriage is hard work.  You never get a day off.  But the benefits are wonderful.

For those of my friends who have lost as spouse through separation or divorce, my heart truly aches for you.  For reasons that may not have been under your control, your world was crushed. Know that God sees your pain, and loves you with an Everlasting Love.  For those of you who have lost a dear spouse through death..you know what I am talking about.  No words can truly comfort you.  You long for the day when you will be reunited with your sweetheart.  God sees your broken heart and waits for you to lean on Him.

Oh...I have one last Ag word:  Ageless  The result of the refining process, repeated countless times over the years.  That result is an everlasting love that stands the test of time.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Date

                                                   calendar July 26 
                        

Yesterday was a special day for me.  I always had a special place in my heart for July 26th.  On that day in 1899, my grandfather, Edmund Just was born.  And on the day of his 21st birthday, he married his sweetheart, my grandmother Florence.  They wee married for almost 60 years.  Theirs was a true love story.  They raised 8 wonderful children, and had 38 grandchildren...and I have no idea how many great grandchildren.  A special day.

I'm afraid not everyone will consider July 26th a happy memory.  Yesterday, we received word of a tragedy.  One that every parent prays never comes.  A sweet young toddler was the victim of a horrible drowning accident.  Her family used to live in this area, but moved away to minister to others in another state. 
July 26th will mean a totally different thing to this precious family.  A day that changed their lives forever. What can you say in a circumstance like that?

Some people try to console the grief stricken family with words that are intended to comfort. 
"She is with the LORD."
"She is in a better place."
"The angels came and took her away."
"God wanted her to come and live with Him."
"I know how you feel."
"You have another child"....or the heartwrenching  "You can always have another child."

That family does NOT want their child or loved one to be anywhere but with them.  They don't want to hear about God wanting her more than they did...and they don't think anyone can know how they feel.
The best thing to do is just be there...and if you cannot...pray for the family.  For the most part, there is nothing you could say.  No words suffice.

Why do tragic things like this happen?  There is no answer.  No one knows why.  We won't know until we reach heaven.  Until then, we lean on each other.  Sometimes we are the ones who are doing the holding...other times we are the ones that are doing the leaning.  God gave us the people in our lives to support us and for us to support.  No (wo)man is an island.  We are not meant to live in a cocoon.  Hold the ones we love close...for we never know how long we have with them. 

Friday, July 22, 2011

You Can't Outgive the Giver

               


Check out this story of a young boy who was trying to catch a fly ball at an Arizona Diamondback's baseball game.  He apparently had it, but dropped it.  It was inadvertedly given to another boy.  This boy, Ian was so excited to have the ball.  That is...until he was told that it had originally been caught by the younger little boy named Nicholas..  Without missing a beat, the older boy went down the stairs, and handed the beloved ball to the crestfallen fan.  He didn't bat an eye (no pun intended ) and gave the ball to the one it belonged to.
Now it's an amazing story on it's own...but there is a twist.  All of this was done, under the eye of a TV camera, who happened to be filming at the time.  He had no idea that the camera was on him; that commentators were talking about his actions and giving a blow by blow description of his kindness to a stranger on live TV.  The announcers were so amazed that they sent for the boy to go to their booth.  There awaiting him was a 'contract' which consisted of 4 baseball tickets and a signed baseball bat from his favorite player, Justin Upton.  The boy was clearly shocked that people were making a big deal of his honesty and integrity.  He did the right thing.
Ian did not go to the game that day expecting to be rewarded for his deeds.  He was excited to get the ball, but when he saw the heartbroken Nicholas, he gave the ball to him out of the goodness of his heart.  He could have been selfish, and kept the ball.  After all...he didn't know Nicholas personally.  Who would care?  The kid would get over it.  Life isn't fair, sometimes.  And unbeknownst to him...the cameras would be rolling. 
Instead, he gave...and he was given MORE than the just a baseball.  He was given much more than he could have dreamed of.  And the cameras were rolling.
What would the cameras see if they were filming YOUR life?  What does God see when He sees YOUR life?  Are you selfish and self centered...always looking out for the bottom line..what is good for you?  Or do you look around and see how you can bless others?  Do you see how you can give to others without expecting praise or something in return?  You will find that God will bless you more than you can imagine, when you do.  You cannot outgive God.  He will reward your good deeds with unexpected blessings.  As a good Father who wants to give good things to His children, He will in turn bless you.  Will your life be a bed of roses?  No.  But He sees you, and will be pleased.  And really, that's all that matters.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Hem

                                          

Steve surprised me a couple of days ago and got me four allamanda bushes.  I have wanted some, because I can remember vividly the beautiful allamanda bushes in my grandmother's front yard.  The faint smell of the delicate yellow leaves unneduately transport me back in time to 1968...

Anyway, he surprised me by buying them.  We had wanted to redo the front flowerbed.  It always seemed to be so messy.  Between the mulch and the scraggily firecracker plant leaves...it left the front walkway looking unkempt. 

He dug up the firecrackers, cleaned up the old mulch, and planted the allamandas.  He then placed a raised border around the walkway and remulched it. 

What a difference the border made!  It kept all of the mulch from spilling out onto the walk, and defined the flowerbed.  It's funny how one little thing like a boundry can make such a huge change.

Boundries.  We set them all of the time.  But did you know that God sets boundries for US?  David tells us in Psalm 139:

O Lord, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O Lord. You hem me in—behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.            Psalm 139:1-6

God knows us inside and out.  There is nothing that we can do or think, that He doesn't know about. He has searched us.  Kind of like an internal Google...He searches me and knows all about me.  He knows what we're thinking...uh oh.   It is almost unfathomable that He knows what we're going to say, before we do!  Kind of makes you cringe sometimes, doesn't it?

He "hems us in"  behind and before.  By placing His Hand on us, He keeps us anchored in our place.  Like those plants, without a 'hedge of protection' around us, our lives can tend to be messy....all over the place.  When we are in God's Will, we are surrounded by the boundries He has set around us...to keep us safe and free from danger.  Staying within the boundry also helps define us as Christians.

Like those plants...some of our 'growth' can get out of hand...and sneak out of the cracks in the boundries.  We have to be vigilant, in spotting the weeds before they get too big, and plugging the holes or cracks up, to keep us close to Him.  Like the boundries that we set for our children, in order to keep them safe...He sets boundries for US, for our protection.  He doesn't give us boundries to stop us from having fun...it is for our future security.

It IS too wonderful for us to understand...how the Creator of the universe cares enough about each of us, personally enough to know about every minute detail of our life...and not only knows....but cares. 

Thank you, God for caring enough about our Eternal future, by sending us your Son.  May we show You how much we care, by living our lives for You.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Don't Borrow From Tomorrow

                                         
I was talking with a neighbor the other day.  We were sharing about similar experiences in dealing with elderly parents.  He was commenting on how easy it is to worry about what is coming around the corner.
Off of the top of my head, I told him that we don't need to borrow from tomorrow. 

We can waste so much time and energy on concerning ourselves with situations that we create for ourselves in our minds.  So many times those two little words 'what if' can creep into my subconscious, and consume my thought pattern.  It can become like a worthless mantra....'what if this happens...' or 'what if that happens..'  It becomes like a spinning hamster wheel in our heads.

What do we do when the wheel is spinning out of control?  We need to do what Carrie Underwood says and declare, "Jesus, take the wheel.".  Take it from my head....stop the relentless worry and torture that we impose upon ourselves. 

It is human nature to worry.  Jesus taught about this tendency.  He thought it was important enough to speak about it in His Sermon on the Mount.  In Matthew 6:34, Jesus told the people, “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble." 

We are given 24 hours in a day.  Not 48.  We don't need to try and cram tomorrow's concerns into today's timeframe.  This doesn't mean we shouldn't wisely plan for the future...but we shouldn't fret and worry about what may or may not happen.  It shouldn't consume and eat up the 24 hours that we do have.  It isn't in our hands, anyway.  Worry only cripples us.  It strips us of the ability to move ahead...to do what is needed to be done.

So borrow many things...a friend's shirt...a cup of sugar...a DVD...but don't borrow anything you can't repay.  Once your time is spent...it's gone.  You can't get it back.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

A Senselss Murder

                         
                            
          

There is so much controversy concerning the verdict in the Casey Anthony trial.  Casey was found 'not guilty' in the murder of her 3 year old daughter, Caylee.  The jury deliberated, and decided there was not evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that she was guilty of murder. People are divided over the outcome of the verdict...to the point of violence.  Most people are upset that justice wasn't granted in the little girl's death. The blame didn't go to where we thought it should . No one was held accountable for a senseless murder.

Two thousand years ago, there was another senseless murder of an Innocent.  He did not deserve to die.  But, unlike Caylee, there wasn't very many people on His side. There were no crowds outside His 'courtroom' demanding justice.   Most people were screaming for His death.  He had done no wrong, yet He said not a word in His defense.  Who could be held accountable for His death?. The answer may surprise you.

It wasn't Pontius Pilate, the one that sentenced Him to be beaten.  It wasn't Herod, who refused to even handle the case.  It was the sins of you and I that put Christ on the cross.  It can be so easy to point fingers at those individuals that we think "get away with murder" when in actuality our sins are just as wrong.  Perhaps not as horrific as some, but wrong, nonetheless. 

Scripture says: 
Romans 3:23-24    For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
1 John 3:4-5    Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. The price for all sin is death. 
Romans 6:23a    For the wages of sin is death

We have ALL been sentenced to the death penalty.  The death penalty?  But we didn't do anything so bad as to deserve that!!  Yes we did.  We have sinned.  Notice the verse didn't specify "murder" or "stealing" or "adultry".  It didn't say only "bad" sins deserves death.  ALL sins deserves death.  And we all have sinned.  We are guilty as charged.  No appeal can be accepted.  We are on death row.

But wait.  The verse is not over.  Verse 23 goes on to say:  "but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus.".  We have been given a reprieve.  The governor called at the last second to grant us a full pardon.  Did we deserve it?  No.  But all we have to accept that gift.  It is not an automatic exoneration.  We have to show true repentance, change our ways and believe that Christ died for our sins.  We have to confess that He is our Savior and Lord.  Then the death sentence is lifted.  We are free to walk the streets of Heaven...no guilt attached to us.  Undeserved to be sure, but free nonetheless.

As for Casey Anthony....she as will we, will ultimately be judged by the Only Judge that counts. The verdict He pronounces, will not be shown on Fox News or CNN.  As with us, that is a personal decree that will be done in private.  If we have accepted Christ as our Savior we will be declared not guilty....if we ignore Him and decide that we have no need for Him in our life...the sentence will be guilty as charged. 

Romans 14: 10-12      You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat.  It is written:
   As surely as I live,’ says the Lord,
‘every knee will bow before me;
   every tongue will acknowledge God.’

  So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God.

And as for little Caylee?  A good friend of mine, Becky said yesterday, "The best thing is that little Caylee Anthony is playing at the feet of Jesus not at all concerned about today's events."  That is so true.  Her killer will be judged by the Great Judge.  We just have to keep in mind that one day, we will, too.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

When Things Aren't What They Seem To Be

                                                                


Jacob had met the girl of his dreams.  He loved Rachel so much.   She loved him back, too.  He had met her when he had began to work for her father, Laban.  He had fallen in love with that shepherd girl at first sight. Isaac had grown so fond of her whole family.  Rachel had an older sister named Leah.  Poor Leah would have a hard time ever finding a husband.  She was anything but beautiful.  She had what they called 'weak eyes'.  It must have been a birth defect...they didn't look like everyone else's eyes.  It definitely had an effect on her looks.  It made him shudder to think of it. 
But all he had to do was look at his lovely Rachel.  She took his breath away with her beauty.  He had undertook a contract with Laban.  He would work hard for him for a total of seven years.  His payment would be his beautiful Rachel for a wife.  He could hardly wait!  The wedding was finally here!!
Jacob's stomach began to jump as he saw his beloved being brought in next to him.  Her eyes were downcast and her face draped in soft silk scarves. 
The two of them listened carefully to the rabbi, as he went through the ceremony.  Jacob could hardly bring himself to look over at Rachel.  In order to steady his nerves, he concentrated on the teacher, before them.
After they were pronounced man and wife, Jacob's heart leapt for joy!  As was the custom, the father of the bride was the one to deliver the bride to her husband on the wedding night.
The next morning, to Jacob's dismay, he found that he had not married Rachel, as he had thought...it was her sister Leah!
He ran to Laban and demanded he be told why he was deceived.  Laban told Jacob that in his country, the youngest sister could not be married before the oldest.  He told Jacob to go on his honeymoon, and then when he returned, he would be given Rachel as a bride, also...but he was obligated to work for him for seven additional years.  Jacob agreed, so as to be able to marry the woman he truly loved.
(Story found in Genesis 29)

I can just imagine the horror in Jacob's heart, when he realized that it was not Rachel that he had truly married.  he had trusted Laban to be true to his word...and he was not.  Now Jacob had to pay the price for somone else's deception. Jacob was not a stranger to deceit.  With his mother's help, he had tricked his father, Isaac into giving him the family birthright...instead of his older twin, Esau.  He no doubt, remembered what it was like to be the wrongdoer...the sinner.

So what did Jacob do?  He paid the price and moved on.  He continued to do what he was asked to do.  He could have said, "Forget it!" and left town.  He could have reacted with violence.  He could have schemed retaliation against Laban.  But he didn't.  He just kept going forward and did as he was asked.  Was it fair?  No.  Did he look foolish in the eyes of others?  Perhaps.  But Jacob didn't focus on these things.  He let his driving force be love.  The love he felt for Rachel.

What do we do when we have been deceived...when someone pulls the rug out from under you, and lies to you?  There are many ways we could handle it.  We could act in retaliation.  We could plot and scheme to 'get them' for what they've done.  We could, depending on how hurtful the deception is, withdraw and not let anyone close to us again, to prevent future hurts.  Or we could respond as Jacob did...with love.
Now that's not to say Jacob acted perfectly.  He did treat Leah different from Rachel.  He showed Rachel more love and concern than he did Leah.  He may have harbored deep resentment toward her for years.  But he tried. He focused on the positive part of the situation.  He had his beloved Rachel.

As a result, God  entrusted Jacob to be the father of the twelve tribes of Israel.  That would have never happened if Jacob had wiped his hands of the whole matter and ran away. Despite his many sins and failures, God blessed him.

When you have been lied to, or deceived  take heart.  Not if...but when.  It is inevitable that it will happen at some point, if you have any connection with the human race.  Remember that you yourself are a sinner.  Forgive that person.  If you hold onto the resenment, it will only wound you further.  Does that mean that you let that person, or others walk all over you?  No.  You stand up for yourself and do what is necessary.  It may take a little bit of 'tough love'.  But try hard to let love be the motivating force behind your actions.  It won't be easy, but God calls us to do so.   If we are acting on our own, it is impossible. Yet, if it were impossible, He would not tell us to do it.  That's why we need the Spirit's help.

It may take a long time to recover from the betrayal.  Take it day by day...minute by minute if necessary.  That's ok.  Keep trying.  You will win out in the end.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Facing the Son

                                         


     Steve planted some pepper plants a few weeks ago.  They're a few inches high now, and it won't be long before they'll be ready to transplant.  I noticed that at first glance, it looks like something is wrong with them.  They almost looked crooked!
     In reality, they are not planted incorrectly...they are leaning on purpose.  They automatically lean toward the direction of the sunlight.  It's like they want to raise their faces to the sun....to soak in it's goodness and warmth.  If you turned the plant around, with it's leaves toward the shadows, you would soon find that it is leaning the other way...toward the sunlight.  It's like it has an innate knowledge of where the sun is, and it can 'see' it, and find it's way back.  If a plant is denied sunlight, it will wither and die.
     We are a lot like those plants.  After we become a Christian, we may find ourselves in the shadows.  But the difference is, that when we let the Spirit lead us, we have an instinctive desire to search for the Son. We inherently long to point our face toward the Light of the Son and let Him warm us and give us strength.  Like the plant, if we neglect our time in the Light, we will spiritually wither and die.  We can find that nourishment, by keeping daily quiet times and daily prayer...or communicaiton with God. We can keep ourselves from getting dry by soaking up the Living Water of His Word, the Bible.  All of us go through dry spells from time to time.  That is normal.  We just have to remember to keep looking towards the Son!

Friday, July 1, 2011

True Freedom

                                                     


Two Hundred Thirty five years ago, our forefathers banded together to form a new nation.  One that did not have to answer to imperial doctrine.  They declared independence from Great Britan.  That was put into written form in a document called the Declaration of Independence.  The second sentence is one of the most recognized statements in history:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
The colonies declared that they were now liberated.  Free from Brittish rule.  We are now a democracy because of their bravery, tenacity and in the words of the doctrine their "reliance on the protection of Divine Providence".

We may all possess the freedom of speech, the freedom of religion, the freedom of the press, the freedom of assembly and the freedom to petition, but are you really free?

There's more to freedom than just liberty.  We may have claimed freedom from tyranny, but we can still be under bondage from another type of enslavement...sin.   

2 Peter 2:19  states They promise freedom, but they themselves are slaves of sin and corruption. For you are a slave to whatever controls you.
Not to stand on a soapbox and point fingers...(for if I did that, I would have 3 fingers pointing back at me) but if we put anything in our life ahead of God, that is sin.  If we have something in our life that we put too high on a pedestal, it can begin to control us.  It might not be what we think.  True, it could be something serious, like drugs, alcohol or sex...but it could be something like...television.  How about video games?  Are you obsessed with your iphone...or...horrors...facebook? 

Many of these daily distractions are not in and of themselves bad...but it's what we do with them that can cause a problem.  When we begin to think of something in an obsessive way, it can control us.  It can become a god to us without us even realizing it.  It's easy to do...but can be more difficult to break away from.

Peter was warning us of the tendency that humans have to let things control us.  God wants us to let His Spirit control us.  To have Him control our thoughts and actions.  When we let the Spirit lead us, it is easy to keep in tune with what God wants us to do.

As we commemorate our nations independence this weekend, ponder on your own freedom.  If you aren't as free as you'd like to be...you know Who to ask for help.  He's waiting to help you take your shackles off.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Finding Our Destiny

                                                          

     I was talking with some friends the other day, and one of them spoke of how they were going to move out of state.  She said that she and her husband have felt for a long time that they should move there...and with doors flying open they know that Texas was part of their destiny.  They were destined to live in Texas.

     That made me think about my own life and all of the places that I have lived and the experiences that I have had.  They were all a part of my destiny.  They have made me who I am today.  God had a plan for my life, and I believe that these things were all a part of His plan for me. 

     He placed the people in my life that would help to shape and mold me.  He placed me in the places that I have been to show me bits and pieces of Himself in different areas and sections of the country...and the world.  He was with me in all of the life experiences that I have had to help me share my view of life with the people I was to meet in the future.

     At times we wonder what our destiny is.  What are we supposed to do?  Does God really have a plan for us, or does our life just randomly happen?

     Jeremiah 29:11 states:  For I know the plans I have for you, says the LORD; plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
God does have a plan for us.  We can miss it though, due to rebellion and disobedience.  We can miss out on our destiny because we are looking in the wrong direction.  Instead of looking at God and where He wants us to go, we can get distracted and veer off into rough terrain.  We can get stuck and not go forward, because we keep looking backward and get lost, living in the past. 

     God will not force us to go where He wants us to.  If He did, we would be no more than puppets on a string.  It is up to us to look to Him for direction to where He wants to place us...and not to get too comfortable when we arrive!  He may only want us there for a short time....but we will never know if we become complacent and break our communication with Him.

     Communicate with God?!  Some may think that is impossible...but it is not.  God created us to love Him....and that means He wants us to have a relationship with Him.  Again, He will not force our hand....we have to take the step to WANT to communicate with Him.  He is only waiting for us to take that step....to pray.  Praying is simply talking to Him, as you would a dear friend.  He will communicate back.  There is no doubt in that.  Keeping in communication with Him will ensure that we will have the full life that He wants us to have...and hope for tomorrow.

     What is your destiny?  Find out.  Ask your Creator, and He will show you!

Luke 11:9  So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Healing Power of Sharing


                                                     
     The sounds and lights of the ambulance and hospital were frightening. My mother and grandmother were crying. Doctors and nurses were speaking in whispers. Waves of pain began to cease as the medication began to take effect on my nine year old body.
      I had just been hit by a car. It was my own fault. My two cousins and I were returning from the store and I tried to cross the street. I didn’t look both ways beforehand, and ran out in front of a car. The poor driver had no chance to stop. My cousins had tried to grab me, but I was too quick. Now I was lying in the hospital with a broken thigh bone and minor internal injuries.
My dad was an interstate truck driver, and the family had to try and contact him. This was 1969, and there were no cell phones to make communication easier.
That afternoon I was wheeled into surgery. They reset the bone, placed two pins in my leg, and put me in traction. My leg was totally covered in a cast and bandages. I drifted in and out of consciousness.
     The next morning, I woke up and my dad was there. He told me that he brought someone who missed me and wanted to see me. Then he handed me my beloved Mrs. Beasley doll. This doll became famous around 1967 because of the hit TV show, Family Affair. Mrs. Beasley looked different, however. Although her glasses were long ago lost, she still had the same smile and blonde hair. Her blue and white polka dot clothes looked the same, but there was one difference. Her right leg was wrapped from top to bottom in white medical tape. My dad made sure she had something in common with me!
     Mrs. Beasley made that first night much better. In those days, parents were not allowed to stay overnight at the hospital. My mother was there every day, for as long as she could be. She also had to care for my younger brother. My dad was there when he was able to, due to his work schedule. My doll became good company.
     In the pediatric ward many rooms, like mine, were dormitory style. Four patients shared a room. A lot of the other children were in for tonsillectomies and appendectomies. After I had been there about a week, a little girl named Alice was moved into the bed next to mine. She was scheduled for a tonsillectomy the next morning. As night fell, her parents left and she was alone. You could tell she was scared. My parents were getting ready to leave, and my dad asked me if I thought Mrs. Beasley could sleep with Alice that night. It might make her feel better. I was a little apprehensive, as the doll was very important to me, but I offered her to Alice. The little girl nodded, with big, tear-filled eyes. She snuggled down for the night, with my dear friend in her arms and went to sleep.
     The next morning, before she was wheeled to surgery, she returned the doll, with a sleepy “Thank you”. After that, when a new child would come into our room, I always offered Mrs. Beasley for a first night sleepover friend. Her painted on smile gave many children over the course of that month, a measure of comfort and love.
     Each time I shared my stuffed friend, it helped reinforce character traits in me, of empathy and compassion. It taught me put myself in others’ shoes, to imagine how they might feel and put others‘ needs before my own. I am blessed to carry those traits in me, today. I will forever be grateful for the lessons that I learned from my dad and Mrs. Beasley.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Didn't See That Coming...

                             
                                      

      I am notorious for being a hardhead...in more ways than one!!  God knew what he was doing when He made my skull thick, because I'm forever hitting my head  on things. At times, I don't notice what's around me, and WHAM!!

     At times we get smacked by life changing circumstances that we don't expect to happen.  This past week we had two events that took us by surprise.  A death of a dear friend, and the accidental injury of another.

     What happens when these unexpected twists occur?  How do we  handle the shock and disbelief?  We try to wrap our minds about what has happened.  We automatically think about the last time we were together and things were 'normal'.  We may wonder...what is normal?  Will our lives ever be normal again?

Late one Friday evening, a handful of friends gathered together.  They were drawn together by an unexpected tragedy.  Their good friend had just been brutally killed.  Some of them had been witnesses.  They were in shock.  Just last night they had all been together and were so happy.  They had been celebrating.  And now...this.  How life can change in 24 hours.  Why?  Why him?  He didn't deserve to have that happen to him.  It wasn't fair.   
They talked quietly amongst themselves.  They took turns crying.  The friends had so many thoughts running around in their heads.  They thought of the last time they had seen him.  One of them had said some horrible things.  He didn't mean them.  He was just acting out of emotions.  It was too late to say he was sorry, now.  Another friend was deeply concerned for the man's family.  He had left an elderly mother.  He had tried to comfort her, but that was an impossible task.  How do you comfort a woman whose child had died?  So many thoughts and emotions.   And to top it all off, they were all afraid.  They were scared that the group that had killed their friend would come after them, too. The crowd was so angry and mean.
The hours slipped by.  Soon it had been 12 hours...then 24...then the next thing you know, it was early Sunday morning.  Three of their friends had gone to the grave to prepare the body.  They weren't even able to do the proper form of burial, because he had died right before the Sabbath began.  No work at all was allowed on the Sabbath...much less dealing with an unclean dead body.  The friends sat around and mourned.  It was all they could think of to do.  Their lives would never be the same.

     Those unexpected tragedies.  How do we go on?  Why do they happen?  No one knows why they occur.  It would be foolish to even try and guess.  But they do.  No one is immune from them.  It has happened since the beginning of time, and Adam and Eve ate that fruit.  That act of disobedience ushered sin in the world, and we have had to deal with death, tragedy and heartache ever since.
How depressing and sad we would be if that was the end of it.  How utterly distressed would our friends in the scenerio be if that was the end of the story....but it was not!

      We know that the three friends who went to prepare Jesus' body came back with news that would change mankind forever.  They had news that would change the outcome of countless individuals' lives for eternity.  The news that Jesus was no longer dead opened the doors of Heaven for them...and for us.

     It gave the friends something their ancestors had only dreamed of...it gave them hope.  Hope for a future and a promise.  Hope for everlasting life with Jesus in Heaven.  The same hope that we hold on to when tragedy comes knocking on our door.  It is the hope that God has a plan.  He has a purpose for us, and can use the tragedies in our lives in a positive way.  What Satan meant for evil, God can turn to goodness.  Will we always be happy when unexpected things knock us over?  Of course not, but we can know in our hearts, that God is with us through the bad times.  We can lean on Him and trust that our loved ones are in His Hands.  He never stops loving us...He always has His Arms open to hold us close.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

In My Blood

     Lately I have been reminded of how unique and gifted we all are.  This week we have had our Vacation Bible School, and I've been blessed to be on the drama/Bible Study team.  We have so many talented and gifted young people and adults in our group.  Each have their own specific talents and personalities.  Most of the youth, I taught in first grade many years ago.  Watching them grow into the special individuals that they are, reminded me of a lesson I was taught a long time ago.

       God puts in us a certain energy that seems to 'come alive' when we are doing what we are meant to do.  It is an excitement that gives us drive and purpose.  Most of the time it is connected with a talent or ability that we have.  God gives each of us these talents and desires for a reason.  It's to use them to help bring joy into our lives.

     I don't believe He just created us to live drearily day by day....  The Bible says He wants us to have an ABUNDANT life.  That includes our talents and gifts.  They're not given to us just for the fun of it....or are they?  Aren't they given to us to help bring some fun and happiness in our lives? 

     Now, there are those out there who will say, "But God didn't give me any gifts or talents."  That isn't true.  Everyone has been given something that they are good at.  It may not be in a creative or artistic sense...but perhaps it is in compassion or caring for others.  Maybe you are good at making others feel at ease, and comfortable.  Some people enjoy caring for children, and have a knack for relating with them.  There are individuals who enjoy being around the elderly.  They enjoy listening to their stories and wisdom they can share.  Still others enjoy the quietness and organization of working in an office.  Some people love being in the outdoors, working with nature, or building things.  Everyone has things they enjoy specifically.

     In Ephesians 4, Paul tells us: 
"But that doesn't mean you should all look and speak and act the same. Out of the generosity of Christ, each of us is given his own gift. The text for this is, He climbed the high mountain, He captured the enemy and seized the booty, He handed it all out in gifts to the people. Is it not true that the One who climbed up also climbed down, down to the valley of earth? And the One who climbed down is the One who climbed back up, up to highest heaven. He handed out gifts above and below, filled heaven with his gifts, filled earth with his gifts. 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. "
     God is in what gives you life.  His Will for us is included in the talents and gifts that He gives us.  I've heard people say that their occupation is "in their blood".  It is what they were meant to do.  It is part of the life blood that flows through their veins.

     Wondering what God's Will is for your life?  Take a "blood test".   See what's flowing through your veins!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Time to Bloom

                                                         
     Last week, as I took the dogs out first thing in the morning I was greeted with a surprise.  No...it wasn't anything the dogs did...it was little bouquets of flowers!  Delicate pink lilies were blooming in little patches all around the yard!  They were in the front and the back of the house!  In almost every direction I saw little, sweet patches of pink.  It literally took my breath away. 
     I discovered that they last only for a few days, and then die away.  They are only here for a short time, but what beauty they provide while they are here.
      During the last month we have been going through the end of the season of life for Steve's stepdad, Toliver.  He is now under hospice care.  We are traveling down this last road with him, remembering the good times that we have shared, and hopefully giving him some comfort along the way.
     Toliver has not been a type of person that people would automatically pick out of a crowd.. He has always lived a rather simple, conventional life.  His main focus was always his God and his family.  He never strived for anything extraordinary. What a wonderful example of how we were meant to live.  We aren't to be overconcerned about what may come around the bend; just live in the present time and do the best you can in the place that God has placed you. Like the old adage...bloom where you are planted. 
      Life is like those spots of bright flowers in my yard.  We silently grow, for the most part unnoticed.  Then when the time is right, we burst forth the unique glory that God has placed within us.  Our blossoms are not perfect, but lovely nonetheless.  God determines how long our blooms will last, so we need not fret about life.  God will take care of us.  Jesus knew how much we tend to fret and worry about our lives.
     Matthew, Chapter 6 states:
25 “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?
28 “So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; 29 and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?
31 “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.


     God knows all that we need, and how many days are assigned to us.  Let us be grateful for those days, and every moment that we are given.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Angels Along Our Path

                                                         

       God places certain people in our lives to guide us along our path.  I was blessed to be able to once again see one of these special individuals, recently.
     Sr. Nora Brick is a Franciscan nun that has been working with the migrant community for many decades.  I met her 30 years ago when she was working in Wauchula, FL.  She lived in a small "convent" (house) with two other sisters.  I was contemplating becoming a nun, and it was arranged that I would spend one weekend a month with the sisters, and do what they did.  I would eat, pray and work alongside of them and see how they lived their lives.
     She had a wonderful rapport with the people.  They knew that she loved and truly cared for them, and they loved her, too.  She is a wonderful example and role model for how to love and respect God's children.
     Sr. Nora is now in her 80's and still enthusiastic about working with the poor.  Because of health issues, she now has to retire.  My dear friend P.H. met her a few months ago, and brought me over to see her before she moves to the retirement home.
     I haven't seen Sr. Nora in almost 25 years.  Although older, she was the same sweet lady that I knew so long ago.  With a little bit of help, but she remembered me.  She held my hand as we sat and talked with two other sisters and P.H..  I was able to share with her what a blessing she had been in my life, and an influence in my walk with Christ.  What a gift it was to me, to be able to tell her that.
     The sweet nun began to tell us of how she believed that God's angels are all around.  I hadn't thought of angels in a long time.  She was right...they are.  The Bible speaks of angels among us.  Although we can't see them, they are there, protecting us and defending us against the forces of evil.  God sends us these beings of the heavenly realm to bless our lives.  To me, He also sends us other 'angels'....people with heaven in their hearts.  They are there to guide us to our Creator and help us to know Him in a more personal and intimate way.
     I had asked the sisters about a particular nun...Sr. Mairead (pronounced Mah-rayed).  She was my directress for almost 4 years.  What a special and godly woman.  She was one of the strongest influences in my adult Christian life.  She was the one that taught me about having a relationship with Christ, and how important daily quiet time and prayer were.  The sisters told me that she was now living in the retirement home, due to a diagnosis of early onset Alzheimer's Disease. I ask that you please say a prayer for this wonderful woman of God.  She was indeed an angel in my life.
     How many 'earthly angels' has God placed along your path?  Was it a parent or grandparent?  A teacher or coach?  Take time today to think of them, and say a prayer of thanks for the influence they've had in your life. 
                                           
Philippians 1:3  I thank my God upon every remembrance of you,
Hebrews 13:2  Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.
       

  

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Loving the Unlovely

                                                              

     What makes a person considered lovable?  Is it their personality?  Their attitude? Their looks?  Some people just have that aura about them, that everyone seems to connect with them.  Wherever they go, they seem to have people smile at them and nod.  Maybe it's not anything they do...it's just in how they are perceived.
     To look at their life, you may consider their life blessed.  All things seem to fall into place for them.  Everything they touch turns to gold.
     What makes a person considered un-lovable?  Is it their personality?  Their attitude?  Their looks?  Some people just have that aura about them, that everyone seems to disconnect with them.  Wherever they go, they seem to have people shy away from them and look away.  Maybe it's not anything they do...it's just in how they are perceived.
     To look at their life you might  may consider their life cursed.  Nothing seems to go right.  Whatever they touch seems to fall apart.
     In reality, everyone is a mixture of both of these people.  No one is all bad...and no one is all good.  It is up to us to determine what we see in someone else.
     It takes two to love.  The lover and the....lovee.  The recipient of that love.  The recipient doesn't have much choice in the matter...but the lover does.
     Love is a choice.  We choose each day, whether or not we want to love the people in our lives.  We choose whether or not we want to look for the good in the people we meet....or focus on the unlovely part of them.
     Therein lies a problem.  What if an 'unlovable' person we meet only comes across people who choose not to love them?  What if no one chooses to look at the good within them?  What tends to happen is that the person begins to BELIEVE that they are in fact, unlovable.  Are they?  Of course not.  But they believe it, because if you are told something often enough, you begin to regard it as truth. 
     Since they think that no one cares, they may become withdrawn and skeptical.  Others may try so hard to find someone who will like them, that they develop unusual behaviors that can cause others to think they are strange.  Still others will look for acceptance in the wrong places...and with the wrong people.
      At the core of our being, God gave us an innate sense of needing to be loved.  Loved for who we are as a person.  We are all created with the same desire for connecting with other humans.  When we choose not to love another person because of how they look or act, we are depriving them of that connection.  If we feel that we are too good to love that individual that society has chosen to label "unlovable" we are only fooling ourselves if we think we are better than them.
     God tells us to love one another.  He doesn't put conditions on it...just to love.  He doesn't say "only if they are pretty, or smart, or just like you".  He said to love...because He loved. 
     He even summed up the Commandments into two catagories:  Love God and Love others as yourself.  He said that there are no commandments greater than these.  (Mark 12:28-31)
     I think I know why God made this such a top priority.  Because if we loved others as He wants us to...there would be a lot less unlovable people in the world.  The need that He created in each of us would be filled. 
     We are His Hands to reach out to those who need love. It's our responsibility to lead them to the One that Loved them first.  The One that created them to be the unique individuals that they are.  The One that is waiting for them to turn to Him for the Love that will never end.
       It's your choice.
     http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PgGUKWiw7Wk

Monday, May 23, 2011

Lesson From A Bunch of Demons

                                              

    Yesterday we had a guest missionary at church preach a sermon on Mark 5.  It was an inspiring talk on how we all have a choice to make in life, whether or not to follow Christ.  Something else in the verses caught my attention.
    The passage was about a man that was posessed by several demons.   He lived in a graveyard, and came out to meet Jesus and the disciples as they arrived in the country of the Gerasenes.
   6Seeing Jesus from a distance, he ran up and bowed down before Him;
   7and shouting with a loud voice, he said, "(D)What business do we have with each other, Jesus, (E)Son of (F)the Most High God? I implore You by God, do not torment me!"
   8For He had been saying to him, "Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!"
   9And He was asking him, "What is your name?" And he said to Him, "My name is Legion; for we are many."
   10And he began to implore Him earnestly not to send them out of the country.
    11Now there was a large herd of swine feeding nearby on the mountain.
   12The demons implored Him, saying, "Send us into the swine so that we may enter them."
   13Jesus gave them permission. And coming out, the unclean spirits entered the swine; and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea, about two thousand of them; and they were drowned in the sea.
     I've heard this Bible story many times, but for some reason on this occasion I noticed that Jesus not only felt sorry for the man, He seemed to have felt something for the demons.  Was it sympathy?  Empathy?  Compassion?  They begged Him to basically "have mercy" on them, and not to send them out of the country.  No one can know why they asked this...but Jesus gave them permission to enter the pigs and they were drowned.  They knew that Jesus had power over them and could do as He wished.  Did they want to be put out of their misery?  Perhaps.  We do know that the demons recognized Jesus as the Son of God, and the first thing they did was defer to Him.  As they controlled the body of the Gerasene man, they bowed down before Him. 
     The demons bowed down before Jesus.  They, who were "running the show" knew that when it came to the Christ, they didn't have a chance.  They didn't even put up a fight.
     How often do I put up a fight?  How often do I want to "run the show" and control my life and what happens to me?   Do I immediately defer to God and silently let His Will be done...or do I want to stand firmly and debate Him on what is best for me?  Are a bunch of demons smarter than me?  Apparently so.  Can I learn a lesson from them?  Yes...if I allow myself to.
   Lord Jesus, thank you for Your mercy and grace.  Please remind me to bow down to You each and every day.  Help me to let You be LORD over my life.  I give it all to You.
    
 

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