I Forgot!

remember I forgot k-images via unsplash

I had a tough day. Not tough by global standards, mind you. I still had clean water and plenty to eat. Not even tough by normal standards. I wasn’t sick. My husband still loved me. My kids were doing well…But it was one of those days when the world overwhelmed me. A busy week had worn me out. I had a few hard issues to face, and business conflicts, and, by golly, my printer wouldn’t even work! By mid-afternoon, I was in bed weeping, then slept for a good long while. I had forgotten—

  • That, while it really is okay to cry, and to be sad on occasion, there’s an infinite Source of joy and support standing right beside me, available if I’ll just stop to notice.
  • That our troubles really belong to Him, and he’s able to handle them all the time.
  • That prayer truly does change things, within and without.
  • That sometimes all we need is rest, and quiet, and a moment to remember…

They say, whoever “they” are, that the best way to learn something is to teach it. In a way, I teach when I write. I have learned these lessons before, but on that difficult day, for a few painful hours, I forgot them. Perhaps you forget them now and then as well. So, here are a few reminders, for both of us, blogs I wrote long ago based on the words of writers I respect:

‘Hope you’ll take these reminders to heart, both today and on the next day that life threatens to overwhelm you. We serve a mighty God, and he can handle whatever comes our way. We may have pain or hardship or even just plain old irritation, but even then we can take a breath and let our spirits rest in him.

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The Best Things in Life…

plane chuttersnap @ chuttersnap unsplash

The best things in life are almost never the ones we plan. Maybe that’s because then we can’t even be tempted to take the credit. I’ve been looking through an old journal lately. It’s filled with descriptions of the bumps and surprises of life. If I look closely between the lines, I can see God’s hand in both the ups and the downs.

•           August, 2015: Steve and I headed to Colorado for a mountain retreat. (And to attend the Palisade Peach Festival!) Somehow, Steve’s backpack was left behind on the kitchen floor, its absence discovered far too late for us to go back and retrieve it before our flight. But our discussions were better, our rest deeper, because the stack of papers and the work they represented were replaced by an open ended freedom made possible only by our having forgotten that bag. 

•           During that same trip, I discovered that Elizabeth was sick and at home alone. My mother’s heart yearned to go and care for her. My loving husband made it happen. She recovered quickly. Steve experienced an unexpected but much needed silent retreat and spent hours praying and meditating on God’s plans for our family for the following several years.

•           As we travel, we often wind up at an odd but charming little hotel or “hole-in-the-wall” restaurant because of an inner leading to stop. How we delight in those surprises!

I seem so much better at letting go of my control habit when we are on the road. Perhaps that’s because, away from home, I finally come to terms with how little is within my influence anyway. And when I relinquish control, I become much more consistent in my prayer for God to guide me, a prayer I believe he delights to answer.

Where are you on the control continuum? We can’t be on vacation all the time, but we can travel with a great degree of abandonment on this road of life. Do I mean that all preparation and organization should be thrown to the wind? Heavens, no! But there is a place in my heart where I need to be reminded every day that my loving Lord has things well in hand. My greatest responsibility and desire is to seek his plan each day and to turn my worry into trust and all my anxious moments into times of praise.

Join me! Hand over the reins. I think you will find that adventure awaits.

Click here to comment and to join in the conversation!

Photo by chuttersnap @ chuttersnap via Unsplash.com

Love in Many Forms

love unsplas renee fisher @reneefisherandco

 Love comes in many forms, and one year long ago it came as an abundance of gifts from a classroom of eager fourth graders. It was my third year as a teacher, and those gifts confirmed that I’d finally struck the right balance between disciplinarian and devoted mentor. After spreading my bounty out across our antique dining room table, I left with my husband for the warmth of Florida’s Gold Coast. We were new to the slightly chilly Houston weather and, not knowing any better, left our heater off. (Mistake!)

A week later, love came in another form, as a dear friend and relative cleaned up what was left of our dining room ceiling, which had collapsed onto that antique table. He then proceeded to mop up the water that had flooded our little house as frozen pipes burst. (Goodbye smashed and soaking teacher gifts!) We faced multiple hours of repair work, but it was all made so much easier because someone else had started the process before we even returned home.

Less than a year later, love came in the form of our first child. We moved to another city before she could crawl. Budgets and schedules had to change. Sleep had to take a back seat. I learned just how much I could give in the name of love. I also learned that God’s loving gifts don’t always look like blessings at first. Sometimes they look like chaos or hard work or a big mess.

Case in point: our first home was a small, dated 3/2 until the broken pipes brought down the ceiling and ruined the carpet and walls. Insurance money—and elbow grease—turned that same house into a newly renovated showcase that sold quickly, even in the middle of a housing crisis. The same friends that helped with the clean-up helped with the packing. The students’ gifts, even after they were ruined, helped give me the confidence I needed to teach my own children later on.

Yep, love comes in many forms, some a little hard to recognize at first. But look closely. You’ll find it. And dig deeply, because somebody needs you to share God’s love with them today!

 

Photo by Renee Fisher @ reneefisherandco vi Unsplash.com

 

From on High

high church-3024768_1280 pixabay

Name a Christian denomination, and chances are I’ve attended services there. Most of my years, though, have been spent in ever more casual worship services. Simple buildings. Small worship bands. Blue jeans acceptable for pastor and congregant alike. I began to wonder, in my never-ending struggle with unfounded judgement, why people bother with the expenses associated with what I refer to as “high church.”

Let me stop here and define my terms. Wikipedia describes high church’s hallmarks as “elaborate music, altarpieces, clergy vestments and an emphasis on sacraments.” I’m not referring to theology and doctrine here. I’m writing, in essence, about the outside appearances only.  

 On Christmas Eve this year, the Holy Spirit took me to task. Steve and I attended a service at a nearby Lutheran Church. Lyle Lovett was going to be the soloist. I didn’t know who he was, but the name sounded familiar, and I was curious to see what it would be like to attend a service that would be, yes, high church.

 And I learned my lesson.

 Organ, orchestra and choir? My heart soared and tears fell as I worshipped with all my heart. (Ask my husband, I’m not particularly prone to emotion. This wasn’t some drummed-up-by-the-atmosphere experience. It was me being drawn to worship by the music.) Bear in mind that, if you read much of the Old Testament, you can’t get away from the fact that music, sometimes elaborate music, is a big deal in the Bible.

 A processional entrance let by a shining metal cross? What a great reminder that Christmas isn’t just about the manger birth! It’s also about death and resurrection—first that of our Lord and later our own. We didn’t take communion, but that would have fit in quite well. 

A pastor in white robes? No, that wasn’t what I was used to, but it eliminated one more distraction. Admit it, haven’t you ever found yourself thinking just a little bit about the attire of the choir? (Oh, Susie’s blouse is beautiful. Sharon’s skirt is a little short…)

The building was huge, not particularly simple, and created with acoustics in mind. (See previous comment about music in the Bible.) And it was packed. Had we arrived 2 minutes later, we would have had to stand the whole time. So, was the building too big? We were at the third of five services, and most certainly not at the most popular time slot. Maybe sometimes big is good.

So, have you, like me, found yourself drifting toward that most ungodly stance of, “I know the best way to do church” from time to time? If so, join me now in rejecting all such notions. We serve a loving God who loves our worship. That much we know for sure. And that is enough!

 

(Photo from pixabay)

Boxing Day

box and dog Erda Estremera Unsplash

December 26th is known in many parts of the world as Boxing Day. Why?

  • Because it’s the day we haul all our now-empty gift boxes away? Nope.
  • Because it’s the day we’re allowed to slug those who irk us? Absolutely not.
  • Because it’s a day to give to those less fortunate? Bingo!

Also known as St. Stephen’s Day, and tied to a rather varied list of international traditions, December 26th is supposed to be a day to bless those with less (without expecting anything in return.)

And so, it’s also a perfect day for me to give you the highlights of my pastor’s recent sermon about the Good Samaritan. (Thanks, Matt!)

• The Good Samaritan made the sacrifice of stopping. He gave up his plans.
• That same man, undervalued in the land where he was traveling, didn’t let his position influence his willingness to help.
• He basically opened his wallet, lavishly offering his possessions to whatever extent they might be needed.

Jesus asks us to love totally and completely at all times, sharing that love with all people in all situations, in the same way that we love ourselves. He is the ultimate Good Samaritan, and we are asked to follow him.

But can we do it? No, no way. Unless…unless we’ve asked him to take control of our lives. Then Christ, working in us, can provide lavish love to others—even those who hate or misuse us—regardless of the cost.

Boxing Day is here. And the New Year is coming. So it’s time. It’s time to ask the Lord to empower us with a new and mighty measure of love, generosity, compassion and understanding. May the True Good Samaritan change your life today!

Photo by Erda Estremera via Unsplash.com

Brownies and a Dime (or A Little Bit of Sin) by Beth Smith

Brownies Michelle Tsang via unsplash.comI love this story about “a little bit of sin.” Two teenagers wanted to see the latest movie, one their father was quite sure was inappropriate.

“There’s only a little bad language in it,” they pleaded. “There’s almost no violence, and, while they talk about sex, you never see any on screen.” The father was adamant. The teens were upset. Eyes were rolling. Grumbles were rumbling.

But this was a very creative dad who loved his children and wanted to make a point. He headed to the kitchen to bake a batch of brownies. The house was filled with the tantalizing aroma of the coming chocolate treat. The teens soon made their way to the kitchen, begging for brownies.

“Help yourself!” the father said, “But before you dig in, you should know that I added just a little bit of dog poop to the recipe. There’s not much. You won’t be able to see it. I’m pretty sure you won’t even taste it. It probably won’t hurt you a bit.  So go ahead. Have all you’d like.”[1]

They got the point. That’s the way sin is in our lives. It doesn’t matter how much or how little, it’s still there.

First John 1:10 says, “If we claim we have not sinned, we make him (God) out to be a liar and his word is not in us.” Fine! But how about those of us who have really messed up? Some of us have had this thought, “I’ve done so much wrong, really evil stuff. I know I’m beyond redemption, beyond forgiveness.” Not true! Those who are forgiven much love him all the more. None of us are beyond His forgiveness. We’re like the lost coin in the parable that Jesus told. Let me recount it for you.

Suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and carefully search until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15: 8-10 NIV).

The lost coin in this scripture was a silver drachma. It was probably only about the size of a dime, but it was worth about a day’s wages. It was worth the search! And we’re worth the search. If we’re feeling lost, either eternally or temporarily, we can be sure that God desires to find us and to help us find him. He searches for us and joyfully receives us.

Next time you see a dime, let it remind you to cry out, “Here am I, Lord. You’ve found me.”

 

Photo by Michelle Tsang via unsplash.com

[1] http://www.snopes.com/glurge/brownies.asp , accessed 6/2/2015 reported that, “Our earliest sighting of this item comes from a August 2001 web site posting, and it has since appeared in at least one gook. However, even in its earliest incarnation the author was not identified, which makes it difficult to determine whether the story is a true account or a work of fiction.”  This author found it uncredited on several websites.