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Do You Have Any Idea How Lucky You Are?

windows-photo-gallery-wallpaper.jpgYou have been chosen.

By the God of the universe…He chose you before the foundation of the world.  And not just “you”, the “struggling, trying hard, want to do good you.”  Or the “oops, I stumbled again” you.  This also includes the “boy have I really blown it, no one is as bad as me” you.  THAT you.  I’m trying to tell you about the HOLY AND BLAMELESS you.  THAT is who He selected, HE CHOSE YOU before the world was ever formed.

Maybe that’s old news.  Maybe it doesn’t knock your socks off.  But it does me.

Every so often I just get hit with that realization anew. And it’s mind-boggling. What PEACE that brings…why is there any stress in this life when we are assured of our place in eternity?

If you aren’t aware, it’s all in His plan.  But oh wait, that’s right. He only accepts perfection. Blameless people.  That lets you out?  Not really.

He cannot abide sin.  Not even a little white lie.  (Most of mine are actually ugly, crunchy black things).  So He devised the plan to send His own Son to pay the penalty—which is death—for my sins and yours.  The plan goes like this:  Jesus, God’s son, came in a miraculous way, lived a perfect, sinless life.  Then He was put to death in a tortuous way. And in His death He assumed all of your sins.  All of my sins.  All the sins of the world’s people.

He carried those sins to the grave; conquered death and left them there.  Then he got up; he came back from the dead and went back to heaven, get this: to prepare a place for you.  And when you accept this, when you truly believe this and accept Him as the One who has saved you, you join the ranks of the holy and blameless. Isn’t that amazing?

If you’d like to know more, please leave me a comment.  But it’s all in the Bible.  Start with John 3:16 if you like, and go on from there.  In fact, he comprised the whole thing into that one verse: “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believes on Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.”  See, I had to use 7 paragraphs, he used one sentence.

And if you don’t have a Bible but you’re using the Internet, there’s www.biblehub.com or  www.biblegateway.com.  You can find it all there.

So.  Now.  Put your socks back on.  And have a blessed day.

Mama’s Reinforcer

My 3 brothers and I were rambunctious, curious, headstrong kids who were constantly experimenting, trying out new things, building contraptions, getting into scrapes.  Especially when we concocted pretend battles that earned us scrapes and more than one hilarious–if unexpected–outcome. (Tale for another time)

Yet when Mama said jump, we did.  Didn’t ask why.  Or argue.   We just understood that she was Mama, she was in charge, she knew best, and she had a little maple switch to back up her words if we disagreed.

She didn’t use it much.  She didn’t have to.  She knew that our history with her and our aversion to pain had taught us to trust her at her word.  The few times our egos got in the way and that little guy with the horns on my left shoulder prompted me to flip that big toe over the line a bit too far…I had the Truth of what I already knew reinforced.

Don’t get me wrong, I would never dare to complain about this.  It wasn’t excessive; it wasn’t cruel or meant to harm.  It was love in action; love showing us that we had firm boundaries in place for our safety and protection.  We knew that from her perspective, in her many years of wisdom earned the hard way, that she absolutely knew what was the right thing for us to do.  Our doubts were set to rest with a bit of stinging on the legs, a few tender tears, and a much chastened ego.

When I read again John 2: 4 today, (about the wedding in Cana) I had to think about mothers and their children.  As a mother of grown sons today, When I see a need to be filled, I quietly direct my sons in the same way that Mary did.  “Jack, we need more tea,” or “Seth, that box is too heavy for her.”  I know without hesitation that they will acquiesce, and help in whatever way my statement implied.  I know that’s taking huge license with the Saviour and His relationship to his mother, but that’s my personal frame of reference here.

Yet Jesus’ statement in verse 4 was, (as stated in the Hebrew Names Version),

4 Yeshua said to her, “Woman, what does that have to do with you and me? My hour has not yet come.”

Jesus wasn’t being disrespectful or refusing to obey; He was simply asking her to consider His own perspective of His mission of salvation versus her more immediate temporal concern.

That is a huge lesson for me right now.  Recovering from an unexpected divorce, I have my own laundry list of immediate wants and needs that I’ve taken to Him, confident that He cares.  But He’s reminding me that His perspective is different from mine.  His purposes in the trials I face today are eternal, not temporal.

That’s quite a lesson for me.  I wanted to pass it along, for what it’s worth.  And to share with you one more bit of serendipity…the verse to encourage me that came to mind from this study was from I Peter 5:7

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. (NIV).

Now, I have a children’s memory verse pad—it’s a post-it note pad with a different verse printed on every page in large print—I guess it’s used in VBS or children’s classes.  The top one was about children obeying their parents.  I used to stick them on the mirror and around the house, as reminders.

Haven’t used it in a while.  In a pinch, I turned it over and scribbled I Peter 5:7 down on the back of the last well-worn sheet that still had a bit of sticky on it. I folded the sticky edge down and stuck it with the verse I wrote showing on my bookshelf beside my desk.  It was a few moments later when I stood up to leave the desk, that I glanced at the notepad to see what the new memory verse would be.  Here it is: “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”

 

Memory verse pad

My Mama Sang

Mama was so funny.  She told jokes really well. Unless she forgot them.  Or got the facts mixed up.  But regardless, she was funny.

Her heart was the biggest I have ever known.  When she led my Brownie troop back in 1960, she taught us how to make favors for the meal trays at Cardinal Hill Children’s Hospital.  We cut out the silhouette of a cardinal from red construction paper, put a horizontal slit in the side, then cut a rectangle of paper and folded it accordian style; and inserted it through the slit, so that the bird had 3-D wings.  It was really a cute little gesture, and brightened the lunch trays of severdal hundred crippled children that day.

We donned our Brownie uniforms and carpooled to the imposing old brick building, perching high on a hill off of Versailles Road and Mason Headley Road where it gazed down over what later became Cardinal Valley Subdivision.  It was freezing cold as we piled out of station wagons and cars with several other mothers in attendance.  We were well rehearsed in how to stay in 2 lines and behave as we visited the hospital to sing Christmas carols and brighten the faces of the children who were receiving treatment there.  As Mom led us from room to room, her animated face, exaggerated movements and that wagging index finger marking time to the acappella music brought bright smiles to more than a few.

The way she could widen and roll her eyes brought laughter to the lips–and joy to the soul. All 4 ft 11 1/2 inches of her were proud to reach out to each little heart, speaking with her smiles and comedic gestures to love each one in turn.

Not such a big deal, you say?  You weren’t there.  It’s as if someone turned on the lights in room after room as she strolled through, bringing the love of Jesus to child after child.  It impressed me then, a little girl of 7.  And the memory of it still impresses me today, at 63.

Someday, when I meet you in heaven, I’ll introduce you to Mama, and if you’re really lucky, I get her to sing for you “This Little Light of Mine.”

That’s my Mama.

 

 

 

 

Food for Thought

In difficult times, our faith can stand upon the security of what God has purposed, lean upon the surety of what God has promised, and count upon the certianty of what God will provide.                                                                                                                                 –Roy Lessin

Enough said.

New Chapter Coming Up

[Written over a year ago when I switched jobs.  Not sure why I neglected to publish…but I still appreciate RCB bank, even though I’m over 500 miles away now…it’s STILL “my bank!”]

I’ve had a wonderful time working for the local bank the past few years.  Along with other activities I’ve spent my days staring at checks written by customers, squinting at the handwriting of Mr. Jones and Miss Smith, trying to interpret what dollar and how many cents they mean.

You’ll never believe how many people put about 4 zeroes BEFORE the dollar amount on their deposit slip…and a dash, or slash, or dots, or smiley face after the written dollar amount–leaving me to guess what they actually intend in regard to their accounts.  My coworkers grew weary of hearing me say, “I wanna teach a class in how to write checks or people can’t have accounts!”

I can now stop feeding that wicked machine that photographs (but for me it eats) paper checks and distorts them until I cringe at the outcome.  They’re letting me out of validating new information, they now understand that they cannot train this old traditionalist to read the “new math” kind of numbers that some customers are writing for us.

And now I’ve turned  another page in my personal history and moved on to more familiar ground.  I left the hallowed tan cubicles, ornate paneled elevators, with scenes of quiet floral vases and opulent wallpaper for a more common habitat. I learned a great deal from each of those I met  at the bank.  I learned not go to the banking floor to cash a cheque unless it’s between 2 and 3 pm.  And which teller to approach–one always busy, one chatting you up so that you never go away feeling less than a new member of the family.

I learned that it is NOT necessarily worth it to wear jeans on Friday. That the bank has the very best leftovers in town (their catered events are fantastic). I learned that behind this genteel aura of respect, impersonal formality and “properness” is a group of observant, thoughtful and caring people, a team who shows regard for your personal safety and security, trying to help you succeed (sometimes in spite of your own best intentions).

The slow, deliberate nature of their decision-making process allows time to examine all avenues available to their clients…resulting in a studied, wise and certain direction that will rarely offer you less than the very best outcome possible.  Quite a legacy, when you stop to think about it.

I’ve moved on to new territory…different, surely, but not necessarily  better.  Just different.  But after all’s said and done, I can still say with certainty and pride, ..”that’s STILL my bank!”

Never Know How Little You Know Until You Teach

Been teaching lately.  And while it shouldn’t, it still surprises me how much I learn just from preparing to teach.  A few pearls I’ve picked up this year:

  • You do not have the answers to everything.
  •  It’s okay not to have the answers to everything.
  • Expounding longer and in detail while it sounds a bit impressive (to the beginner’s ear) does not improve the percentage of learning that takes place.  In fact, it usually drops the numbers a bit.
  • Students learn as much when you ask them questions as when you provide answers.  Possibly more.
  • The times you’re less well-prepared tend to turn out pretty well.  In spite of you.
  • It’s very humbling to hear simple wisdom emanate from someone you had totally underestimated.  And gratifying, somehow.
  • Wisdom comes in many forms.
  • The lesson you thought you were teaching isn’t always what was learned.  And that’s okay.
  • “Pride goes before a perilous fall”…watch the teacher stumble. Pride shouldn’t enter into lesson preparation OR delivery.
  • About 12 years ago I wrote an article titled “Surprised by Christ.”  It still rings true.  No matter how well I believe I know Him, He continually amazes me.
  • A lesson not bathed in prayer isn’t worth teaching.
  • Timing is important.  I repeat.  Timing is important.
  • Teaching is addicitive.  Or more like a calling.  I’m driven to it; can’t help it.  Can’t get enough of it.

Enough said.

I Can’t Say Amen

Goodness!!  It seems now that with growing frequency, whenever I bow my head (when I’m alone) or sometimes with a close friend sharing a meal, that I bow my head to say our thanks for the food in front of us…and I just can’t do it.

I begin thanking God, remembering Who He is.  Remembering how He even managed to fashion the miracle of a human being is astounding, much less develop the capillaries and the tongue, teeth, and meat of the animal that’s been placed before me for a hearty meal.  How do I even begin to wrap my senses around how much effort, how much unfathomable intelligence thath it took, to even comprehend what it would take to create out of simple matter a living, breathing–your see?   My food’s grown cold, my friend is looking at me with a “what’s with you?” expression…  And I realize I’ve done it again.  I whisper a quiet, “forgive us our sins, Lord, we love you, in Jesus’ name” and end my prayer. But it isn’t finished.  It just isn’t.

Give Us This Day…

Remember the story of the widow with the oil and flour in I Kings 17 who was preparing to die when her food ran out, and it managed (the Lord provided) to keep lasting on and on and on?  She just baked enough for each day and the next day there was still enough to bake bread for one more day.  Trusting God.  One day at a time.

Well, it seems that way with my Bible.  I mean, to clarify, I’m not planning to starve or die right away as the widow feared; I’m just fascinated how the same container with the same contents–the Scriptures–just keeps renewing itself and  providing me with different insights on a daily basis.  What a bargain!  Buy one book and keep reading new insights for years.  He just keeps on feeding me constantly. (Could this be my “daily bread” that I pray for?)

The very same 66 books, the very same words arranged in precisely the same way they were when I was 2 or 3 and first heard the stories at my mother’s knee…or to expand on that idea, the same words for the last 2,000 years or so, never mind when I first heard them.

As to the nature  of the Word, the apostle John shares that in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was God and the Word was with God…and that tells me the Word is Jesus.  The same yesterday, today and forever.  And Hebrews 4 reminds us that “the Word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart,” so that addresses the literal power in the Scriptures.

Yet somehow I’m newly aware that these 807,361 words (in the King James version, at least, according to http://www.neverthirsty.org/pp/corner/read2/r00722.html), are the same words I’ve been reading for close to 60 years–and that their message is constantly changing and meeting my needs, whatever they are at any given moment.  Wow.  Mind boggling.

Thank you, Lord.

Come Before Winter

This morning I’m stuck at home enduring an infected tooth extraction that wants to complicate things.  Before the painkiller kicks in again, I wanted to share what I’ve read this beautiful, mild autumn morning. It seems such a paradox, such an embarrassing contrast of comfort and misery.  The silkiness of Sugar Bear’s coat, (my Chihuahua) a warm glowing honey-colored fur,  snug at my side, coat shining in the early morning sunshine.  Outside the window, the hummingbirds battle for the next sip of nectar, blossoms nearby sharing their perfume wafting on the soft breeze.

While I nestle under a crimson fleece blanket in my little corner, mug of hot tea beside my chair, I can picture the dreadful, drafty cold stone of the prisons under the streets of Rome.

Stones that never warm, never soften.  The human misery that emanates from below the streets, calls from the abyss that is all but forgotten in this teeming city.  The unbelievable stench of human waste and sweat to which the nose does not acclimate.  The guards, the dregs of the Roman forces, alleviating their boredom and disgust with their duties by pestering and humiliating the prisoners.  Runaway slaves, forced into housekeeping duties, trying to haul away the buckets that were used to relieve the prisoners following a meal of wormy gruel.  And as always, the voice of a rich baritone growing slightly feeble, singing praises to God.  The prisoners used to stop him from singing, taking turns ridiculing him, but after months and months they’ve taken pity on him and some encourage him.  A few even join in his singing, as they’ve grown used to his music, as well as his God.

His friends have stopped coming by to bring him food and bits of comfort, a fresh pair of sandals, a parchment to read, or a clean tunic with a word or two of encouragement. For the most part, the poor old guy has been left utterly alone.  His cough is getting a bit more forceful, the sound of it ominous.  Yet on he sings.  Singing and writing, that’s all he does now.  He was trying to help out the slaves, to share their burden of carrying the slop buckets, but he’s grown too weak for much of that now.  Though he still encourages the other prisoners around him, urging them to have hope and to look forward to their reward.  I guess he’s convinced all of them to believe as he does.

As the prison is below the streets of the marketplace, the sun never seems to reach all the way to the cells.  The way these walls are constructed, the winds tend to howl down through the opening in the roof, a hole hardly larger than a manhole cover that lowers by ropes whatever supplies, new prisoners, or guards enter the enclosure.  And then receiving in return dead bodies, waste, and the occasional guard relieved of duty that cannot wait to leave, drawing their woolen cloaks closer in the  growing chill of late autumn.

Paul tried to stand and stretch, his arthritic joints and bones growing stiffer with age, poor nutrition, and exposure.  He finished his latest letter to Timothy, encouraging him still, in the face of all that Paul has endured.

“For I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I’ve committed unto Him against that Day.”  He continued to stress to Timothy to keep it simple:  “I can’t impress this on you too strongly. God is looking over your shoulder.  Christ himself is the Judge, with the final say on everyone, living and dead. He is about to break into the open with his rule, so proclaim the  Message with intensity; keep on your watch. Challenge, warn, and urge your people. Don’t ever quit.  Just keep it simple.  You’re going to find that there will be times when people have no stomach for solid teaching, but will fill up on spiritual junk food–catchy opinions that tickle their fancy.  They’ll turn their backs on truth and chase mirages.  But YOU–keep your eye on what you’re doing; accept the hard times along with the good; keep the Message alive, do a thorough job as God’s servant.”

“You take over, Timothy.  I’m about to die, my life an offering on God’s altar.  This is the only race worth running.  I’ve run hard right to the finish, believed all the way.  All that’s left now is the shouting–God’s applause!”

“Get here as fast as you can.  Everyone else deserted me.  Bring Mark with you: he’ll be my right-hand man.  Bring the winter coat I left in Troas and also the books and parchment notebooks.  …Try hard to get here before winter.”…The message goes on, ever encouraging Timothy and his followers, regardless of how Paul was suffering.  And I know that he counted his imprisonment and even his death a victory for Christ; so many came to believe as a result of his testimony.

Yet this morning, cozy and growing sleepy in my little nest, my heart breaks for this man of God, enduring more than anyone should have to, all in the name of His Savior and his purpose.  “Come before winter.”  Those words say so much, don’t they?

I intend to look around.  To seek out those who serve quietly, enduring much for the cause of Christ.  I’m going to find some way to alleviate some small portion of what they endure for Him.  To do what I can to ‘bring a coat before winter.’  And more than anything, I want to follow Paul’s example:  “Read these basic essentials over and over to God’s people. Concentrate on doing your best for God, work you won’t be ashamed of laying out the truth plain and simple.”  I can do that.

(Quotations from II Timothy, [The Message])