Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Transformation



I had to do something.  The smell was really getting intense.....  Those three black bananas had to go!!

I hated to throw them away...one banana, fine...but THREE?  I would feel guilty...knowing they could be put to good use.  I checked the recipe...yep had all of the other ingredients.  Banana bread for tomorrow's breakfast!!
As the shortening, eggs and sugar were mixing, I began to peel the bananas.  They were so gross to the senses..  Gooey, smelly and ugly...yuck.  I added the bland flour, soda and salt with a little bit of flavoring.
Into the hot oven it went.  After a few minutes the strong smell of the rotton bananas began to change...ummmm!  To look at it, you couldn't tell that anything good was happening, it still looked like batter.  But your nose can tell you...something's different.  By the end of the hour, you're ready to climb into the oven to eat it, it smells so good!!  Then you see the change that those three rotten bananas have gone through...into a beautiful, golden loaf of bread.

I began to think about that transformation process...and how it related to life. 

Now work with me here...don't be offended and think I'm comparing you to a decaying piece of fruit!  But...there are a few similarities. 

We may not be considered a piece of fruit...but we are rotten.  To the core.  God's Word says that "We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags. Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall, and our sins sweep us away like the wind."~Isaiah 64:6.  Inside, we are all like that black banana...full of sin and corruption.  Left on our own, we are disgusting.  To look at us...no one would want us, we would be considered an article for the garbage pail.

But then Someone picks us up.  Someone Who thinks that we are not destined for the trash heap.  As preparations are made, unbeknownst to us, He begins to take away our peeling.  It is not a pretty process.  Inside, what He finds is raw material.  Soft and moldable.  It has been neglected and left to rot, not knowing it's potential. He adds some other seemingly bland material to our lives.  Material or events that by themselves wouldn't mean a thing.  But when He mixes them together, something begins to take place.  A little flavoring of life is added to make the end result more appealing.

Then suddenly we are thrown into the fire of a hot oven.  Events take place that can't possibly be good for us.  It's so uncomfortable.  How can this be a positive thing? 

But then, a fragrance begins to slowly emerge.  The fragrance of change.  To look at us, no one could tell there has been a change, but something is definitely happening. 

We remain in the fire...and we begin to notice a difference in us.  We are growing. All of the events and circumstances that have happened to us have 'mixed together' to form us into something different.  We have a Master Chef that is keeping a watchful Eye on our oven.  He knows the exact moment that we should be removed from the heat.  Once we are, the results are amazing.  What was once a repulsive piece of produce is now a new creation.  Our Master Chef has made a new thing in us.  He has created a new heart in our innermost being. 

2 Corinthians 5:17 states, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!"  Christ does the transforming.  In the same way that the bananas can hang on their hook for a month and 'wish and wish' to be changed...it can't happen.  For two reasons...one, bananas can't wish, and two...they can't change by themselves either.  It takes the Hand of the Master Chef to mold and mix and bring His new handiwork into being.  We just have to be willing to go through the peeling process and to go into the fire that is necessary, to grow.  We have to resign our 'will' and give it to the Father.

We will have to go through this transformation a number of times.  But know that each time, God has a plan and the end result will ultimately be for our good.

Surrender your life and see what the Lord can make of you.  It will be a pleasing sacrifice that He will turn into a beautiful reward.                             


Friday, January 20, 2012

Resting in the Father's Hand



Daddy and I (age 1)
 Remember the song, 'Put Your Head On My Shoulder"?  Here's a variation:

My mother used to tell me about a rather strange little habit I had when I was a toddler.  Apparently I used to love to lay my head in people's hands!  Yes, weird I know...  People would hold out their hand, and I would lay my head in it!  The above picture is an example.  It's a picture of my dad waking up to see me wheeling over to say "Good morning".  He put out his hand over the side of the bed, and I promptly placed my little head inside.  I guess I must have felt sheltered in knowing that I was safe and secure with his large hand holding me.

As I grew up, I moved away from my penchant for palms.  I forgot about my dependence on my daddy's hand.  I loved to be cradled in his arms if I was hurt or sad...but the older I got, the less I seemed to 'need' his secure hold.

Isn't that how it is with our Heavenly Father?  When we first come to know Him, we rest in His Hands, knowing that He is our Fortress and Protector.  Then we tend to grow away from Him...little by little..  New interests take over.  We get caught up with life, work or activities.  Our lives are filled with overtime and paychecks.  We may have a stack of bills and not enough money to pay them.  We worry and fret. Before we know it, we've forgotten how it felt to be held by our Father.  We've lost consciousness of how safe and secure we felt in our salvation.  Questions may begin to invade our brain..."Am I REALLY going to heaven when I die?" "Does God REALLY love me?"  "I don't see Him working in my life.  Maybe He has left me on my own."

Did God leave?  No.  He's still in the same place.  He hasn't moved an inch.  I once heard this analogy that made so much sense to me.  They said to light a candle.  The candle represents God.  Now turn and put your back to the candle.  Can you see it?  Look over your shoulder.  Is it still there?  It didn't go anywhere.  Who turned away from the Light?  We do.  God doesn't move...we are the ones who do the moving...away from Him.  He is just waiting for us to turn around so we can see Him.  He's just waiting for us to draw near to His Warmth, and place our head...our hearts into His open Palm...to give us a place to rest. 

Jesus tried to let us know how much He cared about our burdens.  Matthew 11:28 states, "Come to me all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."  The Father speaks through 2 Corinthians 6:18 of His longing for us to turn to Him. "I will be a Father to you, and you shall be my sons and daughters."  He wants to be the Daddy that we run to, when we are sad.

Place your heavy, tired head into the open Palm of the Father.  He will cradle you and relieve you of the weight of the world that is on your shoulders.  Rest in your Father's Hand.


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Practice

                        

prac·tice

[prak-tis]
noun
1. habitual or customary performance
2. habit; custom
3. repeated performance or systematic exercise for the purpose of acquiring skill or proficiency
You've heard it said..."Practice, practice, practice".  "Practice makes perfect".  "Practice what you preach".  "Put your faith into practice".
The term 'practice' will never be just a routine word for me anymore.  It will always remind me of someone that gave the word 'practice' a whole new meaning. 
I am a member of First Baptist Church of Palmetto, FL.  We have been blessed to have an associate pastor by the name of Joe Choate for many, many years.  He has been an inspiration to countless people. 
Joe carried our church through a very difficult period of time.  For over three years we were without a senior pastor, and Joe stepped up to fulfill the job on a "temporary" basis.  He preached almost every Sunday, and led countless services and pastoral duties...all while dealing with recurring cancer.  He knew that God had given him that job, not because it was necessarily something he wanted to do...but because he was a faithful servant that obeyed. In the same way that Joe knew he could count on God to always be by his side, God knew He could count on Joe to step up and do what was needed.  They had a relationship with each other that was fed by prayer.  Joe could always talk to his Father...and his Father could speak to him.
When Joe's cancer came back for the second time, he told the congregation that he needed us to pray for him.  He needed the prayers and we needed the practice.  This became a recurring mantra of sorts around the church.  He often teased us about it, but there was an underlying truth to the banter.  He did need the prayers...and he knew we needed to practice at the art of praying.
Practice at praying??  How odd that may sound.  But when you think of it...he had a point.  The dictionary says that practicing is a habit or systematic exercise.  We exercise our muscles to make them stronger...we exercise or 'practice' our prayer life in order to strengthen it.
They say that it takes about 21 days, or about three weeks of doing something on a daily basis to become a habit.  What is a habit?  It is an acquired behavior pattern that because of repitition, becomes almost involuntary.  Why would Joe want us to practice at praying?  Because he knew we need prayer ln our lives.  We need to work on our own relationship with God on a daily basis, until we don't even have to think about it.  That way, our prayers don't always reach God's ears when we are in trouble.  It's more of a connection...of the heart.  A connection that we foster daily.  If we are in a relationship with someone, we have to have communication.  If we don't talk to our spouse or significant other every day, that intimacy will be disturbed...or shattered.  The same thing goes with our relationship with God.  Joe knew that.  He tried to encourage us to avoid that spiritual scenario.

On Sunday January 15th, Joe met his Heavenly Father face to face.  We thank God for his life and for all that he shared with us, here on earth.  We will miss him terribly.  Our love and prayers go out for his grieving family and friends, that God will envelop them with His Peace.  We pray for them, because they need the prayer....and we need the practice.

Practice makes perfect.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

The Anniversary

                                       


Thirty three years ago today I asked a question that changed my life.

I had gone to visit my sister in South Carolina.  I was about to turn 19, and up to this moment, was a relatively happy young woman.  I was going to junior college, after having graduated from high school the summer before.  Living at home with my parents...my life seemed to be fine.

Then I went to South Carolina.  My sister and her fiancee' were getting ready to go to church, and asked me if I wanted to go along.  I liked church...hadn't gone on a regular basis for a few years, but I thought, sure, why not?

I looked up to my sister, Patti.  Still do.  She was such a happy person. Unlike myself, who was very introverted.  Painfully shy...I found it very hard to speak to people I didn't know.  We went to church, and I watched, as during the service they participated in the Lord's Supper.  I observed Patti, as she ate the bread that represented the Body of Christ.  She had a look of ultimate peace upon her face.  I quietly thought, "I want that.  I want peace.  It was if I knew there was something missing in my life.  I was happy...but I didn't have joy.  I wanted it.  So quietly, I prayed, "Can I have it?  Please God, take over my life and give me that peace."

At that moment, I knew something was different.  It was like I could not get enough of trying to know God on an intimate level.  I got my Bible out, that I had received when I was 8 years old.  I had tried to read it before, but didn't understand it.  The words made more sense now, but the translation was a bit difficult.  My grandfather gave me a Bible that was easier to understand.  I found a church in the area, and began to attend and learn.  Things started to make sense.  It seemed like the more I sought to learn about God, the more I knew Who He was. 

That was thirty three years ago.  The journey still continues.  I still have that same peace that I received that first day of January in 1979. Unbeknownst to me at the time, but it was the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in me.   It was not only the first day of a new year...it was the first day of the beginning of a new life for me...a rebirth.  That's not to say that I haven't gone through tough times.  I have gone through more than my share...but through it all, I knew that I wasn't alone.  I had Someone that held my hand through it all.  Someone who held me up when I couldn't go on under my own power.

And that shy, young girl who couldn't talk to people?  I was slowly transformed into a brave woman, who has no qualms about speaking, and at times even singing in front of a large crowd.  I couldn't do any of that changing on my own...it was a supernatural metamorphesis.  It was God.

2 Corinthians 5:17 states that if anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation.  The old has passed away and they are a new person.  It may sound like an impossible trick, but I have experienced that on a deep and personal level.  It's not a trick, it is true and very real.  And it began with a question. 
"Can I have that peace?"

The answer was a resounding, "YES!"  If you ask the same question, it is guaranteed you will get the same answer.  Luke 11:9 states "And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you."  Notice that there are no conditions.  It's not dependant upon how much money you have, or how good you are, or what religion you are affiliated with.  It says simply to ask.

Do you feel something missing in YOUR life?  The answer lies in a simple question.

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