Saturday, January 25, 2020

The Sacred Ordinary







My seat at the kitchen table affords a delightful view of the old oaks behind our house.  I watch, while sipping my morning coffee, as birds swoop in and out of branches extended like willing arms to offer a place of rest. 

A little later the does make an appearance. They’ve come for the bountiful breakfast of acorns the trees have scattered on the ground beneath their sheltering cover of leaves, still green even in this winter season.

The scene plays out nearly every morning - ordinary moments in our ordinary lives. The trees don’t receive accolades for the small part they play in the world around them. They simply do what they’ve been created to do. 

In an age where gaining fame and attention has seemingly taken on a life of its own, I’m touched by their silent testimony of a life well lived. I, too, want to be content with living out the ordinary moments of my life in a way that gives them the value the Lord places on them. Those moments that go unseen and mostly unrewarded but that somehow change the world for the better.

When a mother sits rocking a little one in the wee hours of the morning; when a dad leaves before the sun rises to go to a challenging job, when a teacher gives up a well-earned break to work with the little one who is struggling, when a young boy holds the door for the elderly couple, when a parent agonizes in prayer over the prodigal, when someone sends a card just to say “I’m thinking of you.”  In a thousand little ways the ordinary becomes sacred, and the lives those ordinary moments touch are blessed. 


Tuesday, January 21, 2020

The Truth In Love




This past Sunday was Sanctity of Life Sunday.  Pastor Doug spoke powerfully, truthfully and compassionately about abortion - the heartbreaking statistics, the pain and suffering of everyone involved and the love and forgiveness of a God who extends mercy and forgiveness to anyone who asks. 

It’s difficult to speak about abortion without sounding condemning to those who believe differently, but then again it’s difficult to talk about anything that violates God’s law without offending someone. We have to decide if we love deeply enough to tell the truth.

Several years ago I bought my first pair of prescription glasses. I disliked the idea of glasses (more than a bit of vanity perhaps), but I quickly discovered the benefits. I could actually read without squinting and holding my book at arms' length.

My glasses did wonders for my vision, but I learned something I hadn't thought about before. You need to clean them nearly every time you take them off and put them on. Often I would think I had a clear view of the world around me when I was actually looking at everything through dusty, smudged lenses. Without realizing it, I had adjusted to a distorted picture.

I find, these days, I need more than my physical glasses; I also need a good pair of spiritual "glasses" in order to see the world around me clearly. It isn't just the blatant evils I need help seeing. It's the subtle lies which, over time, take on the appearance of truth.

Words like love and tolerance, when misapplied, can slowly blind me to what is real and true. Popular culture cannot be the lens through which I see truth. I must look at everything through the lens of God's word. Even the most well-meaning, loving people can have a distorted view of truth.

Never has there been One who loves as Jesus loves. Yet He never separates that love from truth. It would have been devastating if He had. If we truly love, we want to do it the way He did. Withholding truth in the name of love is not love at all. Withholding love in the name of truth is not love at all. Both are distortions. I love you best when I tell you the truth - not my version of the truth or the current popular version of the truth - the truth found in the Word of God.

"Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church." Ephesian 4:14-15


Tuesday, January 14, 2020

More On Prayer



Of all the spiritual disciplines, prayer may be both the easiest and the hardest, the simplest and the most complicated. We read verses in scripture that tell us all we need to do is ask, and it will be given to us. 

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.” Matt. 7: 7,8

What could be simpler? Yet who among us hasn’t known the disappointment and confusion of unanswered prayer?

As any parent can attest, there will be times when the answer to a dearly loved child’s request must be no. At other times it might be wait. In either case, no child wants to be denied the very thing he wants most, and no mom or dad wants to be the one to disappoint. However, love compels them to do what we know is best. 

So it is with the Lord. He sees beyond our present circumstances and will do what is best for us. He can even take our most painful experiences and use them for our good. Even as we cry out to Him to change things, He continues to work according to His wisdom and great love. 

Many years ago a neighbor’s dog attacked my four year old son. He grabbed his head and bit the side of his face leaving frightening wounds that would require stitches. 

My terrified neighbor drove us to the Emergency Room. I carried my son in and followed a nurse to one of the cubicles. He clung to me as I laid him on one of the beds and tried to comfort him as the nurse cleaned his bloody little face. 

A kind doctor came in and confirmed that he would need stitches. Then he looked at me and told me to hold my son down while he gave him injections in the wounds to deaden the pain. I looked at him in disbelief (Couldn’t the nurse do that?)but did as he instructed. I held my poor screaming child, who looked at me as though I had deeply betrayed him, while the doctor did the necessary work. 

I don’t think, in that moment, anything would have convinced that little boy that all of this was for his good. He only wanted the pain to stop, and he wanted me to somehow stop it - to find an easier way. 

In his sermon this past Sunday Pastor Doug said, “God always wants what is best for us. We think we know what’s best, but what is good for us is not always what we’re asking for.”

Prayer is not meant as a means to get us everything our hearts desire. Prayer is meant to draw us closer to God. As our relationship to Him deepens, as we get to know Him more and more, and the desires of our hearts will begin to align with His desires for us. 

Whether His answer is yes, no or wait - we can trust Him because we know Him. He hasn’t promised to explain everything to us. His ways and thoughts are so much higher than ours. But He has promised He will never leave us and will always work things together for our good. 

Blessings,
Linda



Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Fasting



It is a scene that has become all too familiar to most of us. Seated around a table in a warm friendly restaurant a mom and dad and their two children eating their dinner. Dad scrolls through the latest sports news on twitter while mom answers the text from her friend, and the kids - the kids sit quietly eating their dinner watching a video on their iPad.    

Surely, in spite of the obvious evidence to the contrary, this couple loves their children more than anything in the world and would do anything for them - except, perhaps, the obvious. A relationship needs time and attention to grow and flourish. We send a message, whether we intend to or not, about what really matters by the things we focus on. 

Pastor Doug spoke about fasting this past Sunday in preparation for our church’s three day fast. We learned much about fasting - Why Fast; What Fasting Does; What We Should Fast About. “Scripture teaches,” he said, that fasting should be a part of our lives - for the glory of God.”

We don’t fast in order to change God’s mind about the things we desire. The true blessing that comes through fasting is the way it changes us. God never asks us to do something He hasn’t purposed for our good, and His good purpose is to make us more like Jesus.

We could probably all manage to summon up the strength to fast for a short time, but God hasn’t asked us to take part in an endurance test. He asks us to set aside the desire we have for other things and hunger after Him. Just like the distracted parents at dinner, we cannot possibly have a  relationship with the Lord that changes and fills us unless we focus on Him. 

That time in the restaurant could have been a time of sharing and drawing closer for that family. Life is busy - filled with things that demand our time and energy. We have to work to have those special moments with our loved ones if we want to truly know each others’ hearts. 

The same is true of our relationship with the Lord. In the midst of our busy, ordinary lives we need to make time to give our Heavenly Father our full attention - to sit quietly and listen to His heart, to pour out our own hearts as He bends down low to hear words that come from the deepest part of us. He has so much for us - more than we could ever ask or think. He simply wants us to come.




Monday, December 23, 2019

The Light



As a small girl, I feared the dark, dreading bedtime - the long walk down the hall to my bedroom where I would have to lay alone in my little bed far from the comforting presence of my Mom and Dad. My mother understood and provided me with a tiny night light we named "Friend."

It became, for me, a trusted friend whose soft light illuminated the  dark corners where all the frightening, imagined dangers hid - dispelling the fears and bringing with it a quiet peace.

I'm all grown up now, and no longer dread bedtime. On the contrary, there's nothing like sinking into my comfortable bed at the end of a long day. I breath a contented sigh as I pull the warm covers up to my chin and close my eyes - no longer afraid of the darkness that closes in.

However, there still exists a darkness that can overwhelm the bravest of hearts. We live in times of deep darkness. Our world is full of unrest and very real danger. We are pitted against one another in every possible way. Words have become weapons to hurt and destroy. Truth, more frightening than all the rest, has become subjective - a sort of do-it-yourself way of living. We stumble like those who are blind reaching for something to hold onto and feeling for a solid place to stand.

Light. We long for a light to show us the way - to dispel the darkness.

It is not unique to our time. Through countless ages the darkness has tried to overshadow the light. For those living in Israel over two thousand years ago it seemed like darkness would win. Heaven had been silent for 400 years - the people oppressed by Roman rule. They longed for the light of hope - for someone to deliver them and make everything right.

On a cold December night a gentle, humble Light broke through the darkness. He shone into a world filled with pain and suffering and sorrow bringing the promise of life and peace and hope. The darkness would never overcome it. It shines for us still:

"The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned." Isaiah 9:2
"Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12

Wonder of wonders that Light, like the passing of a torch, has been given to those who have received the One True Light. Called to shine into the darkness, they bring the light of life to all who will believe.

"You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven." Matt. 5: 14-16

Blessings,
Linda

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

At Just the Right Time



We have come to rely on the predictability of time. Hours become days and multiplied days swiftly turn into weeks. We count on the changing of seasons - each one flowing into another  as we tick off another year. We find a measure of comfort in knowing what comes next.

How nice it would be, we think, if we could count on the important issues of our lives resolving themselves with the same predictability. We pray to the God who has promised to hear and answer prayer - trusting Him with the deepest needs of our hearts and lives. We believe all He has said, and we want desperately for Him to come through - now. We need the answer now.

Sometimes it comes right on time - our time. More often than not - we wait. Our deadline comes and goes and still no answer. We pray all the harder and lean into faith, but the heavens are "become like brass."  (Deuteronomy 28:23)

When heaven is silent, discouragement, doubt, fear and even anger try to set up camp in our hearts. We see time slipping away. It's late - too late. It will never work out the way we planned. We wonder if the promises are true.

All the while, in the silent waiting, God moves to the rhythm of His perfect timetable. Paul tells us in Romans 5:6 "When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners." 

The Old Testament closes with a promise in the book of Malachi.  One will come to restore the hearts of mankind before “the great and terrible day of the Lord.” Surely welcome news to a backslidden nation.

Then for four hundred years, ten generations, heaven was silent. Not one word.  The people must have wondered if God had forgotten His promise.  

God was not indifferent to man’s distress. Time was ticking down to the moment set apart long before time began - to the coming of the promised One. 

On a dark, lonely night in a stable in Bethlehem, a baby’s cry pierced the silence. All of heaven rejoiced - for from that moment nothing would be the same. The promised One had come.

At just the right time.

Stories of God's perfect timing fill the pages of scripture. What looks to us like "too late," is "just the right time" to Him. If we had the ability to look into the future, we wouldn't hold God to our demanding timetable. We would see what eventually becomes evident - His ways are perfect and just. Even His timing - especially His timing.


Sunday, November 24, 2019

In Everything, Give Thanks



"Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything gives thanks for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
I Thessalonians 5:16-18

This portion of scripture, brief and to the point, is familiar to most of us. It may easily roll off the tongue, but anyone who has suffered knows the difficulty of living it out. 

Most of us will pause this week to give thanks. We will gather with family and friends on Thanksgiving day and take a few moments to count our blessings. We have so much to be thankful for. However, it’s doubtful many will mention the times of suffering and trial among their blessings.

How is it God calls us to give thanks despite our circumstances? How can we be expected to be grateful for hard times? The answer may be found in one little word - in. 

We are not told to give thanks “for” everything; we are told to give thanks “in” everything. That one word makes a big difference. We aren’t expected to be thankful FOR the bad things that happen - the deep sorrow and times of suffering. Yet it can feel nearly as impossible to be thankful IN the middle of those times. 

If we can step back for a moment and remember God’s goodness and great love for us, we will understand how it’s possible to be grateful IN everything. Whatever we are going through, we know that God has promised He will never forsake us. He will never leave us alone.  He has also promised to work things together for our good. It may not look the way we had imagined, but when we look back we will know He did indeed keep His promise. 

With a bit of perspective, we can see that the times we grew most in faith and drew closer to the Lord were during those times of trial. God delights to give us the desire of our hearts, but uppermost on His heart is making us more like Jesus. In the long run that is where we find true joy. 


We rejoice. We pray. We give thanks IN everything, and trust the One who loves us unconditionally that all will be well. 

Have a blessed Thanksgiving, dear friends.