Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Small Things

Small things appeal to something in the heart - their very smallness drawing us in. Newborn babies, tiny puppies, sweet little kittens, all touch that tender spot. However, when it comes to living life we tend to gravitate to the big things. In an age where anyone can produce their own"Fifteen Minutes of Fame," we all seem to be longing for attention and approval, and what better way to garner it than with something big.

Over two thousand years ago, Jesus stood in the Temple with His disciples watching as the people came to drop their gifts into the collection box. One by one the rich folks came by and put in their gifts, but it was one small, insignificant widow who caught His eye. Without fanfare she dropped two small coins into the box - such a small offering compared to the others. Yet Jesus turned to His disciples and said, "...this poor woman has given more than all the rest of them, for they have given a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she has." Luke 2:3,4

We can easily feel insignifcant when we compare ourselves to the people around us who are doing grand and glorious things for the Lord. We want desperately to do something "big" for Him. But while some are called to do "big things," most of us are called to live quiet, ordinary lives. We may feel we aren't worthy or as though we have somehow failed because we haven't done anything noteworthy in the eyes of the world and, more importantly, the eyes of God. We watch as they receive the attention and approval we long for and vow to try harder - to somehow find that thing that will matter...

I'm over at Laced With Grace today with the rest of the story. Just click on the link!

Blessings,
Linda

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Taken For Granted


Last Thursday at 11:45 I walked to the kitchen sink and confidently turned on the cold water. I can only imagine the look of surprise, and horror on my face, as a rapidly diminishing stream of water trickled out of the faucet. We immediately sent out a call for help and waited.

You don't often stop to think of all the things you do that require water, but you become keenly aware of them when you don't have it. No washing of any kind, no cooking, no cleaning and under no circumstances should you drink anything at all. I nearly ran out and hugged the well repairman when he arrived.

Within two hours he restored the water supply to our home. It seems fire ants had gotten into the works and gummed them all up. Something so small making such a big mess.

During the hours of waiting for help to arrive I thought about how easily I take things for granted - important things. I thought about faith and prayer and God's presence in my life, and how I am prone to take these precious, life-giving things for granted.

My life would be devoid of hope, peace, joy and purpose without faith. Mercy and grace would be empty words. Unconditional love from the One who holds all things in His hands would be an unopened gift. Do I treasure them as I ought to? How often do I remember to say thank you?

How would it be to find myself disconnected from the One who knows me better than I know myself? To whom would I turn if I didn't know the One who is wiser and more powerful than I can put into words, bends down low and listens to the deepest cries of my heart? And yet, how often do I neglect prayer - too busy or distracted or filled with doubt?

Doing without water for several hours was a little reminder to treasure the precious gifts I've been given and, far too often, hold too lightly.

"Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change." James 1:17

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

But God



We dragged ourselves into our local barbecue place after a long, tiring day - too weary to even think about going home and preparing a meal. We shuffled through the line, picked up our trays and reached for the forks and knives. "Sorry. We're out of forks," said the sullen looking server. Too tired to walk out, get in the car and drive to another restaurant, we grabbed knives and soup spoons and did our best to eat beef with a spoon.

My husband thought it might be a good idea if someone ran to the grocery store to pick up a few plastic forks, but there wasn't a manager in sight. It was obviously not a well run restaurant.

Over the next few days we visited my Mom, who is recovering from a stroke, in the Rehab Hospital. A banner over the door proudly announced their high ranking in national polls, and as we became familiar with the facility and the staff it became apparent why they had scored so well. The cleanliness and efficiency were impressive. Everyone from the housekeepers to the nurses did their jobs with excellence. It couldn't have happened without a very capable leader making sure every area of the hospital ran smoothly.

We live in a world where it seems as though everything has fallen apart. We look in vain for peace and unity. We are inundated with loud voices bringing news of disaster and division. We look for someone to step in and make things right - someone to bring peace where there is war and love instead of hate - but there is no-one. Leaders fail to keep their promises and truth has become some vague, subjective idea.

But God... Above and below and around all the apparent chaos is One who holds it all together. He is the One who set time in motion with a plan for every moment of every day. Before the story began, the perfect Author knew how it would all end. Before you drew your first breath, He knew your life story. In the midst of uncertain circumstances, we can stand on the solid ground of His unchanging character and absolute truth.

We are promised peace in the midst of the storm, unconditional love, mercy and grace, and a unity that can be found only in Him.

"Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful." John 14:27

"The sum of Your word is truth, And every one of Your righteous ordinances is everlasting."
Psalm 119:160

"I in them and You in Me - so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent Me and have loved them even as You have loved Me." John 17:23

Blessings,
Linda


Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Losing Control



One of the television programs we enjoy watching concerns a wealthy businessman who saves failing businesses. He meets with the owners of companies on the brink of bankruptcy and offers his help. First he gets to know all the people involved. Then he studies the day to day operations. Lastly he goes over all the financial records. Once he has become thoroughly familiar with both the business and the people involved, he presents the owners with a plan to save them from ruin. 

First he writes them a check large enough to make the necessary changes and to pay off their debt. With the stroke of a pen all their problems are solved. However, the offer also requires the owners to give up a large percentage of their business and to agree to let the businessman make all the decisions about the running of the company. When the owners accept the check, they also accept the conditions. 

They nearly always accept the check while nodding their agreement to the conditions. All goes well as they begin to work together to  make the recommended improvements; that is until the benefactor makes demands that don't sit well with the owners. They argue and walk out of meetings, and in one instance, the owner walked away from the deal because he simply couldn't relinquish control. The outcome is predictable. On the other hand, those who manage to submit to his authority and honor their agreement have a very different outcome - a growing, profitable business. 

I think it may be a fairly good metaphor for our relationship to God...

Please click on over to Laced With Grace, and we can talk about the metaphor. I'd love to hear what you think.

Blessings,
Linda

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Grace


Grace - "dispostion to or an act or instance of kindness, courtesy, or clemency" (Merriam-Webster dictionary)

Grace is a gift of infinite worth - given away with no ulterior motives or expectations. Simply given - unearned and often undeserved. Having heard much about grace in recent months, I decided to go in search of it. Not in scripture or sermons - but in the world around me. I'm well aware of the magnificent, overwhelming grace God extends to us. His unmerited favor. I wanted to see if I could find the grace He calls us to give to one another - grace that sometimes goes against the grain of our human nature. We have a tendency, I think, to want the grace we give to be a bit more "merited."

My husband and I walk in our local mall when the temperatures begin to climb over the ninety degree mark. We aren't the only ones, and some of the other walkers have become familiar to us. I often noticed one particular lady. About my own age, she walked with purpose and set a fast pace. We began to wave across the mall and cheer one another on with an encouraging smile as we made our rounds.

I didn't see her for quite a while, but I chalked it up to our erratic schedule. Then one day I spotted her walking with slow, halting steps beside an elderly man....

Let's take a look at grace. I'm at Laced With Grace today. Please join me.

Blessings,
Linda



Thursday, April 20, 2017

The Perfectionist


"You're such a perfectionist!" 

She didn't say it in a mean way, but it took me by surprise. Me? A perfectionist? Surely not. I am far from perfect, and I certainly don't do everything perfectly. I think I mess up far more often than I get it right.

Yet when I took the time to think it through, I saw the truth in her words. She didn't mean I was perfect. She meant, I think, that I'm overly concerned with what others think. I thought back to the times I've ripped out whole pieces of knitting because I noticed a tiny mistake I'd made at the beginning. I also had a tendency to give up if things didn't go the way I expected them to. I'd rather not do it at all, I thought, if I can't do it well. 

I wasn't just critical of my performance. My behavior came in for a fair amount of criticism too. I could lose a night's sleep agonizing over something I said - or something I had failed to do. My need for approval, I realized, formed an integral part of my perfectionism. 

Several years ago we bought five acres of land on which to build our new home. It had great potential but cedar trees covered nearly every square foot - crowding out the beautiful oaks. So we hired someone to cut down the cedar. We tried to save as many oaks as we could, but a couple fell within footprint of the house. We had to cut them down. However, all the rest remained. Some looked to be over one hundred years old - majestic oaks that has seen things we could only imagine.

One small oak, in its struggle to reach the sunlight had grown crooked. Compared to the others it didn't look like much, but I longed to keep it. Something about it spoke to my heart. We gave it sunlight and space to grow. Over the years it has grown taller and fuller, but it has never grown straight. 

Please join me at Laced With Grace. I'll finish telling you the story of our crooked little tree.

Blessings,
Linda

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Catching Up


I have sadly neglected my small corner of the internet in recent months. To the few who continue to visit, I apologize and thank you for your kindness.

I seem to be in a season where the writing is stopped up somewhere around my heart. A season where life often weighs a bit heavy. It's been a busy time as well, but I have come to the conclusion that there is no season of life where that isn't the case. The "busyness" comes in different forms - but come it does. If I'm to write, I can't use that as an excuse. The truth is, even when I've had a day with a bit of space in which to write, I fritter it away doing other things.

Some have said perhaps this is just a season where I need to take a rest from writing. That sounds like  wise counsel to me, but something inside pushes against it. The thought of not writing doesn't sit well. I think I have another story to tell.

I hadn't intended to say all of this. I just wanted to let you know I'm still here. I've been posting pictures and writing small devotionals on Instagram and also linking them to FB. If you'd like to follow me there, my user name is simply @lindachontos (Instagram) and Linda Chontos on FB.

I'm going to try to begin writing here again once a week. I'm also going to try to get started on a story. If I'm completely honest, there's a little fear involved. I'm not sure I have another book in me. My book was met with such kindness, and I'm afraid I won't be able to pull it off again. There - I've said it!

Now I'm going to do what I did when I wrote "Sleeping Dogs." I'm going to ask the Lord to partner with me - a bit like Father Tim who was always so grateful when the Lord was "in it" with him. I'm going to give Him my fears, receive His peace - and give it a go.

Thanks for "listening," dear friends,
Linda