Monday, March 28, 2011

Confession 174: Perk Ups!

It's Monday, four days from April, and there is snow on the ground.  We wore shorts last Monday, and now I'm going to be walking to school today in a winter coat, hat and mittens.  It's dark and I'm sleepy.  Coffee is just not going to get me there today.  Actually, coffee generally just makes me sleepier than when I started.  So, I'm going a different route today.  Here are a few Monday perk-ups for you right from our holy percolator!

The wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure, then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere...those who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness. James 3:17-18

In repentance and rest is your salvation;
in quiet and trust is your strength.  Isaiah30:15

I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I may not sin against you. Psalm 119: 9-11

And finally, whatever is right, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely; if anything be admirable, excellent or praiseworthy, think on these things.  Philippians 4:8

Blessings and Peace,

Monday, March 21, 2011

Confession 172: Power Washed

I'd like to introduce you today to my friend, Liz.  Liz is a retired English teacher, a gardener, a writer, an evangelist and an overall tender of souls.  Liz is someone my husband and I both agree we want to be like when we grow up!  Some people are on fire for God, but Liz just explodes!!  She is a treasured part of our community, and I wanted to share her with you all.  Liz writes a weekly column in our local newspaper and our church newsletter.  They're all gems, but this one in particular has stuck with me.  It's titled, "Power Washed". 

"Did you put on a new deck?" Ron asked when he drove p to the front of our house last Sunday.

"No, we just had it power washed," I told him.  "John did it for us."

Now I hate to admit this, but in the 15 to 20 years we've had the front and back decks on, we've never had them power washed or water proofed.  And yes they were gray with weathering and black even in some places and terribly slick when it rained with all the years' accumulation of stuff on them.  In fact, when it rained, we had to always warn people to be careful as they walked across the deck.  And why did we never have this power washing done before?  I guess I had so many plants and furniture on that I thought it would be too big a job to clear the decks.  And why did we finally take the plunge?  Well, I think God must have sent John out to us. He was doing some work for us and he just casually said, Now if you want me to clean these decks I can do it.  No problem."

I promptly said, "No, I don't think so."

Well, it turned out I had to get some of the planters and furniture off anyway for him, and so the light came on in my head finally and I thought if we're ever going to do it, now is the time with half the stuff already off.  So 65 planters off the back deck and 20 off the front deck plus tables, chairs, benches, and fire pot, the decks were ready for their new grand appearance.  And yes, it was a lot of trouble.  Some of the planters were so big I had to take the plants and dirt out before I could move them off the deck.  But it was worth it all.  And to just think this could have been done a long time ago.  Why is it easier to put up with the ugly when it could be replaced by the beautiful?

So now I ask myself why do I keep holding onto bad habits or selfish and impatient attitudes when I could just let Jesus power wash them right out of my life!  I guess partly because I would have to make up my mind to do it.  My mom used to always say, "First I've gotta convince myself."  And then, of course, I'd have to do my part before Jesus could do his part.  But what a great thing to be able to say, "Power washed by Jesus!"
If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come. 2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV

Love in Jesus,
God's "Power Washed" Servant,

Monday, March 14, 2011

Confession 171: "Adventures in Missing the Point" Pt. 1

My husband began a new message series for Lent entitled "Adventures in Missing the Point", based on the book of the same name by Tony Campolo and Brian McLaren.  The premise behind the series is that as Christians, sometimes we miss the point of Jesus' teachings.  We get caught up in all of the doctrine and legalism of church and forget the true Gospel message. Hmmmm....sound Pharisee-ish to anyone else?

One of the ways that we as Christians can easily miss the point is in regard to God's nature.  Perhaps the biggest stumbling block for Christians and non-Christians alike is our lack of ability to grasp the sense of unthinkable tragedy.  Often times, our first response is to question God (Why did this happen?) or even to lay blame (Why did YOU let this happen?)  Why would a God who professes to love allow thousands of people to be lost in a moment?  Why would a God who speaks of redemption turn his back when an innocent child is murdered?  It doesn't make sense.  Yet, as Jesus shows us in the following scriptures, these questions miss the point.

Click on the link to read the following scripture: John 9:1-12

In this passage, the church folk see a man in need and, instead of helping, ask Jesus who sinned to bring about his suffering.  Jesus' response?  No one.  This man's suffering was not a fault of his own or anyone else.  "Why" was not the point.  The point was that through this man's suffering God's glory was revealed.

Go with me to one more passage: Luke 13:1-5  Again, the message is similar.  God does not rain down suffering for sin.  Rather, he offered his own son as a sin offering for each of us.  When tragedy strikes, it is not God punishing, but rather it becomes an opportunity for us to live out our faith and to show the love of God to a world in need.

One of the things my husband has heard said often of the reconstruction following Hurricane Katrina is that Christians have re-built the Gulf Coast.  Christian groups, churches and organizations are still re-building down in the Gulf over five years after the destruction from Katrina.  In the midst of great tragedy, God's love has been shown.  And that is our call today, to show the love of God in the midst of the darkness of the world while remembering that in all things God works together with those who love him to bring about what is good. (Romans 8:28)

I know there are many faith-based relief organizations that will be working through the crisis in Japan.  One such organization is the United Methodist Committee On Relief (UMCOR).  UMCOR has the distinction of being one of the first organizations on the ground when tragedy strikes and the last organization to leave.  No money donated to UMCOR goes to overhead costs, like utilities, office space and salary.  Rather, each dollar donated to UMCOR goes directly to helping those in need.  It's one way to make a difference, but there are many others.  Our challenge and purpose, as people who have been redeemed, is to find ways to share that redemption story with others, to look for opportunities to fight the cynicism and pessimism of our society with acts of mercy and hope.  This is what Jesus was talking about when he called us to love--love God, love others.  The first flows freely into the second.  So let me ask you this--who will you love today?

Blessings and Peace,

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Confession 170: Misdirected

My husband and I were talking the other day about how much our American news culture misdirects us from the news that really matters.  A Hollywood "celebrity" with a drug habit he can't kick becomes top story while a potential civil war in the Mideast, the economy, and the protests in Wisconsin get bumped down to second-rate stories.  I've often thought that our news media would rather we be mindless and "content" than mindful and productive.

As I was considering misdirection, it became apparent to me how much Satan works to keep us misdirected in our spiritual lives.  How many times do you find your mind wandering all over the place when you pray?  How often do you feel overwhelmed when problems arise in your daily life?  How often do you sit down to study the Word only to find another more "pressing" matter to attend to at that very moment?  (Totally speaking to myself here!)  How often do you take one huge step forward in your faith walk only to find the past pulling you three steps back?

As we enter into the season of Lent, I would challenge all of us to avoid the misdirections that can veer us off course.  If you're thinking of giving something up, find something that truly pulls you away from God to let go of.  If you don't want to give something up, take something on that will bring you closer to the one who directs us in the paths of righteousness.  This year, I've been inspired by my friend Liz and Amy Sullivan.  Check out Amy's blog on Gracious Giving for some awesome ways you can take something on this Lenten season.  I'm going to take on Scripture memory and really work to follow the Deuteronomy 6:4-9 principles of keeping the Word every before me an on me.  I'm going to daily carry a Scripture with me.  Amy reminded me one of her last posts how powerful simply carrying a Scripture can be.

Paul wrote a lot about focus in the book of Philippians.  If you're feeling misdirected, consider this:

But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3: 13-14

Blessings and Peace,

Friday, March 4, 2011

Confession 169: I'm So Full!!

As a lover of food, there have been many times in my life where I have tossed a napkin down onto an empty plate, thrown my head back, caressed my stomach and exclaimed, "I am so FULL!  That was really good!!"  The problem, however, with being full is that it's really not satisfying.  When I'm full, I mean full, I feel lethargic.  My initial impulse is to go lay down and take a nap, which is really counterproductive to the concept of food energy.  Then comes the psychological game.  You know, the "I can't believe I ate all of that but it was so good but now I have to make up for it but I really want to wash it down with some ice cream" game.  Somehow, being physically full just leaves me running on empty.

Yet, there is a fullness that is fulfilling, energizing and affirming--a fullness that doesn't end in guilt and self-loathing.  I'm talking, of course, of the fullness that comes with spending quality time with God; spiritual fullness.  Have you ever gotten up from spending time with God to say, "I'm so FULL!"  In contrast to feeling tired and drained, when I'm spiritually full I find that my energy abounds.  I want to get up, get moving and embrace the day!  I also feel good about myself.  Spending time with God reminds me of who I am, whose I am, and what I am here to do.  God fills me up so that I can got out and do his work in the world.  And the best part of being spiritually full is that you can come back for more!!  You can have a full five course meal with God and not regret it later!  In fact, God wants us to keep coming back for more.  Unlike our stomachs, our spirits need to be filled with God.  Our goal as Christians should be spiritual fullness.

In Christ, you have been brought to fullness.  Colossians 2:10

Which begs the question, are you full today?

Blessings and Peace,

My Family

My Family

My Family 2

My Family 2