Got Your Raincoat?

“Two are better off than one . . . If one of them falls down, the other can help him up. But if someone is alone and falls, it’s just too bad, because there is no one to help him”

 Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 (GNT)

In a recent post, Rick Warren wrote, “Relationships are a raincoat during the storms of life.” As I thought about that raincoat, I realized I don’t have one. And even if I did, I’d probably just run out to the car trying to dodge the raindrops. I might change my mind about even going anywhere. I’m sure I’d check the weather app on my phone to see when the rain would stop. But, if I would just put on my raincoat, I could venture out without getting soaked.

How do my relationships compare to that raincoat? I know that when the storms of life pour out on my life, I need friends to cover me with their love and care. They are a protection when I don’t have the strength or energy to continue. I don’t have to step out into the storm alone.

Are you tempted to say, “No, I’ll stand in the rain, thank you very much?” Our pride gets in the way of the help we so desperately need. Maybe, we don’t want to appear weak, unprepared, or out of control. We have been trained to suck it up, be strong, do it yourself, when what we really need to do is humble ourselves and ask for a little help.

Do you struggle with feelings of being “less than” or “not enough?” You might think it’s all your fault. These are lies of the enemy to take our focus off the One who gives us strength and those around us who are not looking for perfection but for honesty.

But how do you say thank you when you are feeling so vulnerable and indebted? How do you repay a friend for such kindness? You say, “Thank you.” That friend is not keeping score but loves you and only wants to help. Your part would be to pass it on to someone else in need.

I’m reminded of 2 Corinthians 1:4, He comforts us when we are in trouble, so that we can share this same comfort with others in trouble. We have the Holy Spirit living within us to show us when and how to share His comfort with others. Maybe we don’t show our compassions perfectly, but He can make all things turn out well.

So, grab that raincoat. Brave the storm. I’ll be right beside you.

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Post-truth

He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents; or else I will come and strike the land with total destruction. Malachi 4:6 (NIV)

Our church is starting a new sermon series entitled, “ALIENS: Helping Christians Navigate Todays World.” Today’s sermon focused on what is truth. 

Some years ago our small group watched the video series, The Truth Project, where we explored many of the areas that were discussed today. But the word post-truth was new to me. Oxford Dictionaries selected “post-truth” as 2016’s international word of the year. The dictionary defines “post-truth” as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.”

It’s not surprising that 2016 was the year it was chosen since the race for President was so contentious. I am part of the baby boomer generation and truth was never subjective but always objective: one truth that’s the same for all people. I am also a conservative Christian and the basis for all truth is the Bible. But that standard seems to be changing in this day and age.

I read with interest a post on Facebook this morning, “A Letter to our Conservative Parents.” It was challenging for me to read as my children are in the age group of the author. I wouldn’t be surprised if they hold similar beliefs. We talk all around the edges of these subjects when we get together…I know better than to ask directly. It’s not that I totally disagree, but rather I wonder if the changes have been helpful or hurtful to the Gospel. Sometimes it feels like we are speaking a different language, one that I thought we all knew. But now, I don’t know.

I do know that the church needs to change to meet the needs of those coming up — from style of worship, music, dress, commitment, and sermon presentation. We can readily find surveys of church attendance and it’s dismal. But who is going to stand in the gap of leadership and forge new ways to meet the very real needs of the next generations? I feel like I come from the horse and buggy days only to find the parking lot filled with Teslas. 

So what is my role in this new generation of church? The author of the letter ends it with: Please don’t quit on us! No, you can count on it. I have too much invested to walk away. I want you to succeed. I want Jesus to be the most important person in your life. I want your children and my grandchildren to grow up to be available for “such a time as this.” 

I will be in the cheering section. I can’t do the acrobatics that my granddaughter does at her football game. I don’t even really know the rules of the current game. But I love you. God loves you. And I hope you can make it work.

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Which Map?

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the LORD. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.”
Isaiah 55:8

Sometimes it is better not to reinvent the wheel. 

It’s not always easy to trust God. When I see where God seems to be leading me, I can usually figure out a way to get there. But it’s seldom the path that God has chosen. My path is quick and easy. God’s path is full of unknowns. 

The children of Israel took the long way home. What could have taken only a couple of weeks, took forty years. Why? Because they wanted to do it their way rather than follow God’s directions.

I do the same thing. It’s difficult to “set down my map” and follow God. I like my path. Sure, there might be some struggles along the way, but it will get me from point A to point B in a short amount of time. 

Unfortunately, I won’t be happy, and I won’t have become all that God desires for me to be. I think I know the way to go, but only God really knows. I have to trust him and travel that road in faith.

Now is the time to come to Jesus and give Him your map. Let go of the need to know the way. He is the Way. Allow him to lead you, even if you can only see one step at a time. 

For his thoughts are not our thoughts and his ways aren’t our ways—they are better than we can ever imagine.

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Fall/Food/Faith

My health fails; my spirits droop, yet God remains! He is the strength of my heart; he is mine forever!

Psalm 73:26 (TLB)

The last couple of months have been a challenge for me. I fell last October when I was visiting my grandgirlies. It was so dumb! I was walking around the track to get into the bleachers, watching Tori as she was cheerleading at a football game and I missed seeing a cable stretched across the track. I went flying resulting in a scraped knee and arm. But, you know the first rule is, Do Not Fall! Two months later, pain started running down that leg joined by shoulder pain more recently. So now I’m in physical therapy. But to add insult to injury, I was diagnosed with silent acid reflux resulting in a lifestyle change about what and when I eat and drink. In a few words, none of the fun stuff.

I’ve been having my own personal pity party the last couple of days. I don’t know why I feel like I can complain when I have several friends who are suffering much more than I am. I spent a whole semester, studying the book of Job learning that God had plans for Job, who lost everything, that were for his good, not for ill. He had loss, I’ve had loss. But God revealed Himself to Job and reminded him who was in control. It wasn’t Job and it’s not me.

We are in the Lenten season and many family and friends have given up something for Lent. That practice was not part of my religious heritage but I have been forced, for the sake of my health, to give up some of my favorite foods and activities that I enjoy. My prayer is that I put my confidence and belief in the God who is in control and as part of this season to look to Him to remove the habits and attitudes that need to go. I want to grow during this time and I look forward to the good things He brings my way.

As I was walking Rusty this morning, I noticed so many plants beginning to bloom. Spring is on the way. In the same way, I know that God will bring new life to me as I inhale mercy and exhale grace.

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Love Your Neighbor

“And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength. The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.” Mark 12:30-31 NLT

When we moved into our apartment last summer, I wasn’t sure if I would like apartment living. I thought it would be fun to get to know a variety of people, young and old, single and married, working and retired. Maybe there would be some young moms that I could mentor. Hopes and dreams… 

John, is my closest neighbor. I see his door when I open mine. He is single (divorced), lived in my old neighborhood before he moved here 5 years ago. He’s eccentric and persnickety. The day I found him scrubbing stains off the concrete in front of his door indicated that this man likes things neat and tidy. Over the months, I have taken over a plate or two of home-baked goodies in an effort to be neighborly. We had a passing, friendly, relationship.

Until two days ago.

I noticed a piece of paper stuck in the ground in front of our two apartments. He had written it notifying us that he was going to report anyone who did not clean up after their dog. It’s a $100 fine. I immediately knocked on his door to tell him that Rusty, our dog, uses that area and I always pick it up. Mark can’t do it due to his falling on the gravel so I go out later and take care of it. We usually let Rusty out in the late evening before bed or very early morning. I would later pick it up and dispose of it. Other times during the day, I take Rusty for a walk. That wasn’t good enough for him. I had to pick it up immediately regardless of freezing cold or dripping rain. 

The next morning, Mark let him out early and at 7 am the door bell rang and it was John glaring at me and complaining. I couldn’t believe it as Rusty had been outside just 15 minutes before. Later, I dropped a note by his door and asked for a little grace and promised to do my part. Nope. He wrote me a scathing note back. 

Enough of this writing business. I knocked on his door in an attempt to make peace. He would have none of it. There was no grace, only the letter of the law and he had contacted management to report it all. As I look back, I would call his comments harassing and threatening and by this time he was yelling at me that he would put the poop on my door and slammed his in my face, I WAS FURIOUS!

I fumed as I sat down and wrote to the manager about the horrible situation, wondering if we were going to have to move. Would anyone come to my defense? After hitting the send button, I returned to the living room to watch TV with Mark. As I sat there, I knew that I didn’t want this kind of thing to continue and how could I show the love of Jesus to this man. 

I had taken some homemade chocolate chip bars out of the freezer earlier. I heard the still small voice of the Holy Spirit, “Take him some bars.” I got up (before I could argue with Him), and placed a couple on a plate. I couldn’t believe how calm I was feeling because I had been in internal mess a few minutes earlier. I rang his door bell and when he opened it, I just handed him the plate. At that point, he completely backed down. He was sorry, I was sorry. He agreed to compromise and drop the whole thing. I gave him a hug and started crying. We parted in peace.

Later I was scrolling through Pinterest and saw the picture posted above. The dictionary definition: Mercy – compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm. Judgment – assume the right to judge someone, especially in a critical manner.

I always struggle to remember the difference between grace and mercy. My shorthand version is that with grace, we get more than we deserve. With mercy, we don’t get what we deserve. By the grace of God, I had shown John mercy. I had listened to His leading and a potentially broken relationship was restored. At some point, he may listen to me tell him about Jesus.

Tears dripped down my face as I related it all to Mark. I was so happy that this conflict had been resolved. I could go to bed praising God for His love and guidance.

Yes, mercy triumphed over judgment. 

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A Glimpse

This I declare about the Lord: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him.

Psalm 91:2 (NLT)

A friend plopped down beside me at choir rehearsal and asked, “What do you do when you don’t know what to do?” Then she stopped talking and just looked at me. I wasn’t completely in the dark about what is going on her life so I responded to her that we trust God and take it one step at a time.

“But what do you do when it is hard and others are involved?”

Memories flooded my mind as I thought back to the last year. There were times when I cried out, asking God, “Why?” And the words of Job echoed, “I know that you can do anything, and no one can stop you.” We don’t know why the trials hit but we do know the source of our strength. God is sovereign and that is enough for me.

As we talked, I reminded her that the only person we can control is ourselves. It doesn’t do any good to try and manipulate the situation, whine or complain, or even stamp our feet. God is in control and we’re never alone in the whirlwind. He promises new mercies every morning, a relief to both of us since we sure can use them up fast.

As the rehearsal progressed, we practiced Bow the Knee. While singing the beautiful melody and lyrics, I noticed that the message of the song captured the heart of our earlier conversation:

There are moments on our journey following the Lord

Where God illumines ev’ry step we take.

There are times when circumstances make perfect sense to us,

As we try to understand each move He makes.

When the path grows dim and our questions have no answers, turn to Him.

Bow the knee;

Trust the heart of your Father when the answer goes beyond what you can see.

Bow the knee;

Lift your eyes toward heaven and believe the One who holds eternity.

And when you don’t understand the purpose of His plan,

In the presence of the King, bow the knee.

There are days when clouds surround us, and the rain begins to fall,

The cold and lonely winds won’t cease to blow.

And there seems to be no reason for the suffering we feel;

We are tempted to believe God does not know.

When the storms arise, don’t forget we live by faith and not by sight.

After rehearsal, I hurried over to my friend and asked her if she, too, had noticed the message of the song.

“Yes, and I didn’t want to catch your eye or I knew I would lose it.” We gave each other a knowing look as we headed out to the parking lot.

I love it when I get a glimpse of the puzzle that God is putting togethe. It is going to be a glorious picture.

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Not My Fault

So Joseph sent his brothers off, and as they left, he called after them, “Don’t quarrel about all this along the way!” Genesis 45: 24 (NLT)

Remember the kid with the coat of many colors? His name was Joseph and he was the eleventh son, out of twelve, born in his family. When a parent plays favorites with his children, the results are often disastrous. And Joseph was the favored son. The jealousy this created with his older brothers resulted in consequences that broke many hearts; they sold him to a caravan headed to Egypt to get rid of him and then lied to their father that he had been killed.

Joseph had every reason to be frustrated, even vengeful to his brothers. Joseph, the dreamer, badgered his older brothers as they were all growing up and they grew resentful of his ambitious dreams of lording it over them. They certainly couldn’t imagine ever bowing down to him–but they did. A severe famine settled on the land of Israel and the only option was to go to Egypt and buy food for their families. Little did they know that the man in charge was their very own brother, Joseph. But he knew who they were.

Through a variety of strategies, Joseph eventually managed to get his youngest brother to Egypt and at the sight of him, he had to leave the room and weep. I can only imagine that Joseph may have thought he would never again see his youngest brother or family. His brothers had done a terrible thing to him. But what they meant for harm, God meant for good. As a result, the brothers went back to get the rest of the family and bring them to Goshen to endure the rest of the years of famine.

But Joseph’s instruction as they left was intriguing to me. “Don’t quarrel about all this along the way.” He knew his brothers. They were going to have some big questions to answer from their father when they got home. Who was going to shoulder the blame? The finger pointing could have ruined the journey and taken away the joy of seeing their brother again. Joseph had forgiven them. They had to forgive themselves.

We don’t always have to be right. Excuses and blame are so natural — the old sin nature we inherited from Adam and Eve rearing it’s ugly head. Letting go of our sin after receiving forgiveness is the only way to peace and our new life in Christ. God had a much bigger purpose for Joseph and His means may not have been what we would choose. But God’s way is best. The family was reunited and those seventy members of Jacob’s family were protected to fulfill the promise and covenant to Abraham:

I will certainly bless you. I will multiply your descendants beyond number, like the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore. Genesis 22:17 NLT

During those moments when we feel like we have to defend ourselves and have the last word, let it go. God knows our heart. He will even the score in the end. Our purpose is to love.

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March for Life

My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.


Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.
Psalm 139:15-16 (NIV)

The 46th March for Life was this weekend. I watched a time-lapse video of this year’s march in Washington DC and was amazed at the number of people involved, even in the cold.

But 46 years ago, I had a two week old baby girl who was taking up all of my time. The word abortion never crossed my mind and whoever heard of Roe v. Wade? March? I could barely keep up with the day ahead of me. I thought things would never get back to normal. It was not that I didn’t believe in the importance of life, I just never bothered to follow the news about this court case that changed our nation’s direction and mindset on the life of the unborn. I can only think of one friend who ever talked to me about this topic and I didn’t pay much attention to what she said.

However, as the years passed, I realized that I had been neglecting standing up for something that God was sorely displeased over. A Google search indicates that 45.7 million legal induced abortions were reported from 1970 to 2015. How could I turn a blind eye to such a horror? As the great parliamentarian Edmund Burke said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men (and women) to do nothing.”

And that was the beginning of my involvement in the pro-life movement. I worked as a counselor at a Crisis Pregnancy Center for a couple of years and then went on to work actively in the political arena for 25 years endeavoring to make changes for good and the protection of the unborn. Looking over the 46 years, there have been some wins but we still have a way to go.

Warren Cole Smith is the Vice-President of Mission Advancement for the Colson Center for Christian Worldview writes: So it is fair to ask: Is the pro-life movement doing the right things? We excel at rallies and fundraising. We have come a long way in caring for women and children in crisis situations. The pregnancy care centers of this country are an army of compassion who in the aggregate care for millions of women and children each year.

However, if we want to make abortion not merely illegal, but unthinkable, we must get better at helping people think and behave in biblical Christian ways, not just in crisis moments, but at all times and in all places. We must do better at storing the linkage between marriage, sex, and child-rearing – which means talking about these issues more directly and more biblically in our pulpits and in our seminaries. These are core Gospel issues, not merely moral or ethical or political issues.

As believers in Jesus, we need to continue to stand for life. It may look different in method but not in theology. It should include all Christians, not just activists. And it must include all areas of life if we are to have any hope of reversing the abortion holocaust.

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Pray for Me?

You can pray for anything, and if you have faith, you will receive it.
Matthew 21:22 (NLT)

What do you say when someone asks you to pray for them? I was challenged that if I say I will pray, then I better do it. It’s easy to say you will, walk away, and forget it. I now stop and pray right that moment to make sure I keep my word and then as the Spirit brings it to mind, to pray again.

I had a special request this fall to pray daily for my son-in-law after he was let go from his job. He asked me to pray in the afternoon because that was the lowest part of the day for him. So I set an alarm on my phone for 3:00 PM, knowing that being consistent was the hardest part of keeping this promise. So no matter where I was, that alarm would ring and I would pray.

Because I had no specifics on a daily basis, I learned to listen for God’s leading and have faith about what to pray for. One day, I felt led to pray for strength and courage, later finding out how needed that was. As the weeks passed, I was reminded how Daniel prayed and waited. It was as if no one heard his request. However, the angel showed up three weeks later and told Daniel he had heard him but was busy in the unseen world. God’s timing is not always ours, but He always does what is best for us.

I’m happy to report that he got a call with a job offer two weeks ago and will start the first of January. And would you believe? He received the call at 3:00 PM. When he told me, the tears popped into my eyes. God had blessed him with a new job but He had also blessed me for being a tiny part of it.

Let’s start 2019 by being a praying people. There is so much pain, anguish, heartache, anger, bitterness, and division in our world. Let’s see if we can make a difference by being faithful to pray — for family, friends, church and our nation.

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Word for the Year

“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid. John 14:27 (NLT)

*My granddaughter, Kate, always asks me what my word is and then creates something for Christmas. This is her latest.

My word for the year 2018 has been faith. Little did I know, as the year began, how important faith would be for the journey ahead. We have endured and encountered a few challenges along the way: Mark’s myriad of health issues, the sale of our house after a year’s wait, packing, selling, and storing our household goods, moving twice and finally settling into an apartment. My son-in-law was without a job for four months. Close friends have suffered from severe health issues. And I have assumed the role of caregiver. Without my faith in God, it would have been impossible to get up every day.

One of the ways that I have received strength and courage has been that early morning discipline of rising early, reading the Bible and praying. Our church offered the challenge to read through the Bible this year with the YouVersion app and I joined in. I journal as both a way to pray and get my thoughts on paper so that I don’t worry over them. A devotional may be added to the mix for variety and encouragement. 

As I have thought and prayed about what my word would be this year, I took the quiz posted by DaySpring resulting in the word peace. Perfect! After a year of upheaval, peace would be welcome. I’m hopeful that our new setting and lifestyle will give me time to encourage others in meaningful ways, even as I care for Mark. This is not what I thought my life would be, but it is the life God has given me to walk…one step at a time…with the peace that only He can give.


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