Monday, May 28, 2012

One more time around the mountain...

      This week has been one of those that I thought I would want to wipe off the calendar. A wonderfully, uplifting Sunday turned into a nightmare as unsubstantiated rumors went flying through the church. It was like the old song says, "It only takes a spark to get a fire going!" And what a fire it was! I was shocked at how easily people turned from supporters to name-callers, from "We are with you" to  we're outta here!
      In the midst of the hurt feelings and tears, God showed up with His comfort, peace, and understanding. He gently reminded me that Christ's disciples were loving on Him in the upper room and running full speed away from Him just a few hours later, and He was Totally innocent, where I'm sure Dan and I are not! Then He led me to a powerful book which I had received some 15 years ago by an amazing woman named Fuschia Pickett. (yep, that's her real name!) I remember her as the speaker at a Women of Excellence retreat. She was tiny, and so frail she had to be helped up to the podium. But once she got there - BAM...she was so anointed and powerful. Her big voice boomed out of that little body with clarity and strength that was both shocking and incredible. No one moved or stirred the entire hour she spoke. So I grabbed her book and started reading.
      One of the first things that struck me was her statement that before God works His power in a church, He shakes it fiercely.  I'm not belittling those who may have left, because their reason for leaving our church may just be that they were in the wrong place. She also  said not to be surprised that churches would shrink before the final revival. God is getting His army ready and those with divided or shaky loyalties have to go. And it's my job to put aside all offense, walk in total forgiveness, and let them go.
      The second thing that just jumped off the page was the explanation she gave of revival and harvest. Most Christians link the two but they are different. The church has to experience revival, reawakening of the Spirit and Life of God in its midst, before it is ready to deal with the harvest which God intends to bring in. Whoa! You see, so much of the church believes that we're just here hanging on until that day when Christ will rush in to save us from annihilation by whisking us out "like a thief in the night". The church is standing sleepily on a hilltop in a wedding gown, getting weaker and weaker as the enemy's onslaught gets stronger. The longer Christ is retained in heaven, the more Christians will fall until a tiny remnant will be left for Him to rapture. Judgment will come and the enemy will be banished, but that's later on after they've enjoyed the victory of having stolen God's creation from Him - if only for a season.
     All the while, God wants us to dig in, put on our fatigues, and sharpen our Swords. He sees the battle, and our victory, and wants us to rise up in defiance against the enemy - not cower in fear. So this is our preparation time, our cave experience, that cements our loyalty, sharpens our defenses, and turns us from a quivering collection of recruits to a mighty fighting force that the world and the enemy will take note of. He's coming back for a spotless bride, not a church on life support!
    What about our trials and battles? Just like His revelations to the nation of Israel, Every trial is purposed by God to show us a new facet or dimension of His character, a new lesson we need to learn. Nothing is an accident or a mistake. Romans 8:28 says ALL, not some.  We have to trust Him, take a step back, & ask God to reveal what He's trying to teach us so that we don't have to keep going around the same mountain again & again!
    All the while we have to be sharpening our skill at using the weapons He has given us. Prayer is preeminent, knowledge of God's Word is essential, praise and worship are our focus, and total submission is the goal. Priorities have to change, allegiances have to be unshakable, emotions have to be put aside, and perspectives have to be adjusted. It takes discipline, courage, & endurance!
      So, we are all at a crossroads and it's our choice as to whether we're going to put on God's armor or go back to sleep...I know what my decision is! Do you?

Monday, May 21, 2012

"The Benefits outweigh the hassles!"

     The month of May contains lots of birthdays in our family, one being my own. A friend and I were talking about the whole aging thing and the problems associated with it - one specifically being the ever-increasing pace at which those stubborn gray hairs need covering up.  At times, I think about just letting it all go and becoming the gray haired Grammy that I am inside...and if my hair would turn out to be beautiful silver like Mom's was instead of "gun-barrel blah" I might consider it seriously but the look of the roots isn't promising!
     So wouldn't you know that my Bible devotional reading today was called "Gray Hair". (Who says God doesn't have a sense of humor?) The verses are Psalm 71:18-19  "Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, my God, till I declare Your power to the next generation, Your mighty acts to all who are to come. For Your righteousness, God, reaches to the skies, & You have done great things. Who is like you, God? " The writer is facing the fact that if God allows us to live an abundance of years, gray happens. In our culture that strives to look young and pacifies us with "60 is the new 40", we've lost the blessing to be found in aging but its there!
     In Bible times, gray hair was a badge of honor. It denoted a reason to show respect and a person to whom you could go to find wisdom. As God honors our lives with years, He also adds the power of perspective and the ability to look back at His faithfulness through it all. We can recall God's goodness and see more of His purposes as they have unfolded. 
     Does perfection come with gray hair? I wish... but unfortunately no. Sin still plagues us and tries to get us to fall into its trap. Doubts and worries creep in to steal our peace. Loneliness can push us into isolation or offense. The evidence of this is found in the many "cantankerous" old folks living in bitterness and regret. No, mounting years by themselves don't guarantee freedom from these things, but as Christians we can escape the bitterness of heart that so often occurs. We know that God is always our answer. We have experienced the various storms of life and come through them successfully. The waves that used to threaten to sink us, that seemed so insurmountable, are not so scary now and often become ripples that we gently float over. 
     So God allows us to live year after year not only for our benefit but for others. The second half of today's verses are a plea that God would allow us to use our lives as witnesses to pass on what we have learned. We become His "Exhibit A" as our lives show His steadfast love and amazing mercy. We can share the wonder of His salvation, first with our families and then with the others He brings to us. We can tell others about His marvelous works, His miracles, & our blessings. We can pass on the lessons we've learned as we wrestled with Him in prayer or sought His sweet forgiveness after our failures. We can say "Been there, done that...and God helped me make it through it all!" 2 Cor. 1:3-4
     So while I'm not quite ready to abandon the color aisle, I hope that I am always a testimony of God's faithfulness, declaring to the next generations all that God has done in and for me, and that I can be an encourager, a mentor, to those coming along behind me! That will be a blessing that even the hassles of "the new 40" can't diminish!


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

2 Little "C" words

Clutter and compromise...two little C words that can play games with your head and cause chaos in your heart.
     The man who used to live next door was a hoarder - truly. He had so much Junk that there was no floor space where you could actually see floor. There was at least 4 feet of trash in every room, including bathrooms and kitchen. It overflowed into both front and back yard. When the city sued him to clean it up he refused, saying it was all valuable to him and therefore he didn't have to. And to tell the truth, some of it was valuable. He had beautiful antique dishes in the midst of 500 plastic salt and pepper shakers. Recordings of historical speeches within stacks of hard rock albums. A true antique dealer would have had field day!
     When his guardians finally made him move, and they needed to clean out the house, they had a $10 a box garage sale for 4 solid weeks and still took at least 10 commercial dumpster loads out of there. To find the treasures you had to watch out for rats, and even a resident raccoon. It wasn't pretty!
      So what does this have to do with Christianity? Well, in so many ways we are like my neighbor...
We go off into the world and begin to fill our lives with things - all kinds of things that are good and bad. We compromise on what to keep and what to get rid of. We gather "activities" which look good at first but are really junk.We collect habits, thinking we're in control and can get rid of them whenever we choose to, but we never do. We refuse to let go of past hurts and failures. We hold on dearly to our rights to be angry or hurt. We clutter up our schedules with things of little or no value while the priceless treasure get buried under tons of misplaced priorities.
     The insidious thing is that hoarders start so innocently. One thing here, one thing there. Broken things come in with the idea that it will be fixed later. Something else comes in because it has sentimental value but is no longer usable or needed.  Things pile up in our lives but instead of cleaning up we just move over until we're inundated with the worthless, broken and rotting "treasures" of the world. The good things of God get buried - our gifts, talents, abilities, even our ministries and time. We become slaves to the unimportant until there's no room left for Kingdom business or the treasures of heaven, both in this world and eternity!
     It's time...time to reevaluate priorities and get rid of things that clutter our days with no value or purpose. Time to look at activities and habits, keeping the good and discarding the bad. Time to sort through our lives for hurts and failures that we need to let go of, and bring in things that are lovely, pleasing, and beautiful. Time to clean up and de-clutter so that God can bless our lives with His purposes, His plans, & His promises.
     It won't happen in a day, or a week, or maybe even a year, but if we keep working at it little by little we will see change...and that will encourage us to keep at it.  Galatians 6:9

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Mommy & me...

This coming Sunday is Mother's Day. I have been thinking a lot about my mom this week. Although everyone says we looked just alike, we were different in so many ways. She was quick with a response, and I'm a "muller". She was practical and efficient. I'm ready to throw off practicality at the first twinge of emotion. Her words were right to the point, whether shaping you up, encouraging you, or giving you advice. My words are almost always tentative and soft, with my best efforts at not ruffling feathers or hurting your feelings.  She was a "head person" and I am a "heart person".

That being said, in all the really important ways I am blessed to be like her.
*She was a true partner to Dad. She didn't always agree with him (he was a heart person too) but she never criticized him in front of anyone else. She stood by his decisions and she was always supportive, even in the hard times. She truly loved him and showed it in a lifetime of shared commitment.
*She was fiercely loyal to family and friends...yes, she could chill you with a single stare but let an "outsider" come against you and she always was there to defend you. She had close friends of 60+ years and many others that she gathered along the way. She loved them fiercely, although you wouldn't catch her saying it much!! She was content to show you by her actions instead.
*She was trustworthy. If she said she would, she matter what! Whether it was inconvenient, painful, or even against her better judgement, if she committed to it she did it.
*She was generous. She supported her church, several missionaries, family and friends at times, and a few "causes" that she deemed worthy. (One of her last requests was that I make sure to let her missionaries know that she had gone on to heaven and that's why she stopped supporting them!)
*She was organized. She knew what she had, where it was, and exactly how it was to be used.
*She was thrifty. She never bought anything new to replace something she already had, even if hers was old & outdated. I once tried to throw away a 5 gallon container of syrup that had 1/4 inch left in the bottom that was crystallized and got my hand slapped! I was in my 40s at the time!

But of all the qualities that made her who she was, the one thing that I will always love most is that she loved God. Every morning she read her Bible and had her quiet time while drinking tea at the breakfast table. She served Him faithfully in choir for almost 70 years, as co-leaders of youth group when I was a kid, as Senior Center and Women's ministry help, as kitchen crew...whatever needed doing is what she did and even when she was really sick, she continued to serve until someone came along to replace her. She was a background person whose greatest embarrassments were having someone honor her. She served out of duty and out of love, and she didn't ever feel like the things she did were worthy of recognition...but they were.

I think one of the greatest accomplishments for a wife and mom are the verses in Proverbs 31 that say "Her husband praises her in the gates,... and her children rise up and bless her!"
At the end of his life, Dad still wanted her at his side, and not only her children but her many grandchildren all loved & honored her for who she was and how they loved her!
I still miss you, Mom, but if I can finish my course as well as you did I will consider myself blessed beyond measure!  Happy Mother's Day!!