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Posts Tagged ‘Christianity’

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The arid prairie stretches to the horizon–it’s tanned face lined and creased–pulling away from itself because of the summer heat. And I’m reminded of my grandfather’s face. A farmer accustomed to toiling in the heat of the day, he was a man who enjoyed the feel of the earth sifting through his fingers.

And those grooves in  Grandpa’s face? They were the tell-tale signs of someone immersed in the day-to-day trials, frustrations, and pleasures of watching something nearly invisible grow into a gold-stemmed  life-giver.

I wonder…What sort of story does my face tell? Do the creases around my eyes convey joy? Are the lines around my mouth visible reminders of a mother impatiently pursing her lips or a woman smiling at the sight of her tousled children?

Even more–do I bear the likeness of Christ? If you were to talk with me or meet me for coffee, would you see that Christ has poured himself into my heart?  Is His love and compassion etched deeply enough in my life that you might notice Him?

 If only the day-to-day trials, frustrations, and pleasures of marriage and motherhood will leave spirit-impressions!  One day, maybe you’ll notice those  as much I noticed the creases in Grandpa’s face.

Scripture for Reflection

In the Messiah, in Christ, God leads us from place to place in one perpetual victory parade. Through us, he brings knowledge of Christ. Everywhere we go, people breathe in the exquisite fragrance. Because of Christ, we give off a sweet scent rising to God, which is recognized by those on the way of salvation—an aroma redolent with life. (2 Corinthians 2:14-16)

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Strains of praise music filled the sanctuary while God’s people raised their voices in adulation and reverence.  Yet I stood–motionless, unmoved, and angry.  Lord, help my unbelief.  I can’t see your plan in his pain…his struggle…his loneliness.  Why him?  Why my son?

This child-man bore the brunt of another’s sin.  It lay heavy and unshakable on his soul like the weight of a yoke forced upon the shoulders of a helpless slave.  Pressing and unrelenting– its sharp splinters were a constant reminder of the burden he carried.

This morning–surrounded by smiling faces offering praises to the One who gave me the joy of mothering this blue-eyed son–my heart rebelled.  And I ached to have an answer…a reason…some reassurance.

When the pastor shared his illustration it was as if Christ was speaking to me alone–simple words penetrating a mother’s hardened, grieving heart.  What did he say?

Caught in a fire, a young boy peered from his second story bedroom window hoping to escape the flames threatening to 

consume him.  Smoke filled the darkness, but through the roar of the fire the child heard his father calling from below.  “Jump      

          down, son.  I’ll catch you!”  

          The  boy cried, “Daddy, I can’t see you.”  

But I can see you–trust me.  Jump.”

 

You probably understand.  Maybe you’re in the same place today–wondering, unsure, and asking for faith.   Trust Him, dear friend.  He sees you–and yours.

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We encounter them everyday–people who need.  

“How are you?” we ask breezily–moving on without waiting for the answer hidden behind the flippant response, “Okay.  I’m fine.”  But, the young mother who just walked through the door?  Did we notice the determined set of her face or the wetness glistening on the dark rim of her sunglasses?

She needs someone to be her cheerleader–just for one moment.  Someone who’ll remind of simple truths–God loves you…I care…you aren’t alone.

“It’s nice to meet you,”  we say with a bright smile.  And, in a rush to finish the day’s to-do list we hurry away thinking about today’s meeting…what we’ll make for dinner…whether or not we remembered to pay this month’s utility bill.  We brushed off the glimmer of response in her eyes–the invitation to friendship.

 

She needs someone be a companion.  A trustworthy traveler who’ll walk alongside without judging the depth of the valleys or height of the mountains.  Someone who’ll remind of simple truths–a friend loves at all times…He will never leave you…find joy in the small things.

People who need–words of hope, a tender touch, time from another.  People who need–the heart of Jesus expressed through those who love Him.

 

Scripture for Reflection

In light of all this, here’s what I want you to do. While I’m locked up here, a prisoner for the Master, I want you to get out there and walk—better yet, run!—on the road God called you to travel. I don’t want any of you sitting around on your hands. I don’t want anyone strolling off, down some path that goes nowhere. And mark that you do this with humility and discipline—not in fits and starts, but steadily, pouring yourselves out for each other in acts of love, alert at noticing differences and quick at mending fences.

(Ephesians 4:1-3 MSG)

 

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Strife seems to build like a summer rainstorm in the Rockies-slowly, visibly.  Once in a while the clouds drift by merely casting threatening shadows, but other times it seems as if there is nowhere to hide.  Even the house shakes beneath the rumbles of poorly managed conflict…hurtful words…stinging accusations. In a perfect family–the family none of us has–there would be less finger-pointing and more folding of hands in humble prayer.  In a perfect family every response to perceived infractions would pass through God’s filter of loving kindness, sifted by his gentle hands.

My family isn’t perfect.

How, then, does God expect me to respond to the blustery winds of anger and discontent?  How can I encourage the healing of a damaged relationship or wounded hearts?  By responding in love–sometimes the greatest test of commitment to a personal faith in Christ and the most difficult action to take in the aftermath of dissension.

Recommended Reading

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Scripture for Reflection

So…no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.

Love never gives up.

Love cares more for others than for self.

Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.

Love doesn’t strut,

Doesn’t have a swelled head,

Doesn’t force itself on others,

Isn’t always “me first,”

Doesn’t fly off the handle,

Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,

Doesn’t revel when others grovel,

Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,

Puts up with anything,

Trusts God always,

Always looks for the best,

Never looks back,

But keeps going to the end.

1 Corinthians 13:3-7 (MSG)

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Live with the end in mind.  As I mull over the meaning of the phrase and how it might impact my life, several questions demand consideration.

The first–Why live with the end in mind?  There is enough motherhood mayhem and workplace drama to consume just one day of living.  How can I cast my vision beyond a teenage son’s struggle with depression or the uncertainty of managing a better-than-fiction public relations issue?  One word of scripture presses through these everyday, human concerns.  Faith. 

In the midst of my average-woman-regular-living, I can place my hand just above my eyes–diminishing some of today’s distractions.  And, if I look closely enough, I can see it dimly…far off in the distance.  The promises of tomorrow exchanged for all of my todays.

Why live with the end in mind?  Because the beauty of each day is only a foretaste of something better.  Because the struggles of being human will one day be discounted as nothing more than momentary.  Because the way I live now points toward the One in whom I trust.

 

Verses for Reflection

The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see. The act of faith is what distinguished our ancestors, set them above the crowd.            (Heb. 11:1-2 MSG)

Each one of these people of faith died not yet having in hand what was promised, but still believing. How did they do it? They saw it way off in the distance, waved their greeting, and accepted the fact that they were transients in this world. People who live this way make it plain that they are looking for their true home. If they were homesick for the old country, they could have gone back any time they wanted. But they were after a far better country than that—heaven country. You can see why God is so proud of them, and has a City waiting for them.  (Heb. 11:13-16 MSG)

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When I was a young woman–still in highschool–a beloved lady in my life accused, “You’re getting to be a fanatic.”

I hadn’t joined a group of extremists.  I didn’t  lock myself to a chainlink fence and protest nuclear weapons.  I didn’t even promote a political community.  What had I done?  I chose Jesus.  Really?  No–He chose me.  Even me.

Jesus didn’t mind my messy life.  Like a tender father bending down to dust off his daughter’s knees when she’d fallen from her bike, Jesus picked me up.  I love you.  And I fell in love with Him, too.

At the time, my feelings were pricked.  Fanatic.

Now?  At least this dear woman saw something different in me.  Could it be  Christ had begun his transformation in my life?  Did I talk about my First Love too often?  I’m not certain.

I haven’t been called a fanatic for years, but I might not mind.  These days people call it radical Christianity.

So…how do I live radically for Jesus?   Do I sell all of my posessions to feed the poor?  Do I beat my chest at the sin hiddend behind the walls of the “dance club” or sign a petition to protect an innocent life?  Maybe.  Those could be good things…important things.

But, maybe living radically where I am means serving my family with a servant’s heart.  Maybe living radically where I am means loving that critical person I had trusted before.  Maybe living radically where I am means trusting God with my children.  Maybe living radically where I am means still loving Jesus.

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Its about Time Series III’ve never been one to make New Year’s resolutions.  I guess I’ve always thought of it as something that seems mildly unimportant and easily dismissed–especially when a flourless chocolate torte in a pool of raspberry sauce looks tantalizingly delicious and I’m wearing a pair of forgiving, elastic-waisted slacks.

But this year, I’ve felt challenged to focus on a resolution, word, or phrase to represent an intended direction for 2013.  It’s a word I dread to put out there for everyone to read.  Why?  Because if I type the characters for you to read then I’ll be accountable for living my life accordingly.  And honestly, today I don’t want to claim this word as my own.  In fact, I would prefer Christ didn’t expect it of me.  Why?  Because I am hanging on to resentment…anger….and even a sense of self-righteousness regarding someone who hurt me long ago.  This is when living like Christ takes me to the core of who I am. I can see beneath the thin veneer of Christian-ese and I don’t like what I see.

But the word keeps pulsing in my head…forgive…forgive…forgive.  There it is–the word that continues to thrust itself to the edge of my conscience.  Maybe God has continued to place a thought, word, or verse of scripture on your heart this week or even throughout the day.  Is He calling you to lay your burden at his feet?  Is there something you clutch tightly to your chest because you’re afraid of what might happen if you give it to Him?  Perhaps He is whispering to you just as He did to me, “Put your resentment down, Child.  It’s an anchor holding you back from experiencing what I have planned for you.”  Or, perhaps there is another area He wants to claim for 2013.

Friend, let’s invite Him to do a work in us this year.  Will you join me?  Why not start today?

 

Verse for Reflection

2 Corinthians 5:16-18

16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:[a] The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.

Invitation

Is there a defined area you believe God wants you to focus on this year?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A child reacts to police and fireman staged nearby Sandy Hook Elementary School where a gunman opened fire on school children and staff in Newtown, Connecticut on December 14, 2012. REUTERS-Adrees Latif

A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice…Isaiah 42:3

Like the rest of you, I’m in mourning today for the horrific and senseless loss of life in Connecticut. I sit helplessly in front of my computer screen–watching in stunned silence–wanting to do something, to help someone, to erase those fatal moments from history.

I cry and wonder aloud, How could something like this happen to innocent children? What if these were my little ones? Why would God allow such evil?

I don’t have the answers to the hard questions. I wish I did–or that someone did.
All we can do now is to bend our knees in prayer for those families who have been robbed of the gift of their precious children.

One day there will be justice for this unjust loss of life–for the children.

Lord,
We can’t begin to describe the sadness, anger, and bewilderment we are feeling. We can’t begin to understand how such an evil act can occur within the walls of a school building where crayons and books are the norm. But you, Father God, are the Comforter and Healer. You are the Rock and Sustainer. You bring about justice and offer us life everlasting in Jesus Christ.

We ask you to surround those families who have suffered and lost all hope today. Act mightily in their lives and turn our nation toward you because we are desperate for our Savior and in need of his redemption.

Amen

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I burst into laughter when I saw this note online.  I knew it was one my own children might have written. 

Lie #1–“Who put this hole in the wall?”  Not me.  “Right…” 

Lie #2–“Why did you miss 7th period?”  I ate something bad for lunch and fell asleep at my friend’s house.  “Mmm-hmmm.”

Lie #3–“You didn’t call when you were late because…?”  My phone died and ——-‘s parent’s don’t have one at their house.  “But their number is in my addrsess book.”

As children we all lied–especially to avoid punishment or facing the ridicule of others.  But are adults prone to lying?  According to one  statistic, adults lie in 1 of 4 conversations that last longer than 10 minutes.  (The Truth About Liars) 

Unbelievable?  Not really.  After all, Adam and Eve lied to God.  It’s been part of the human condition ever since.  Here’s the great news, friends.  God covered Adam and Eve’s sin with clothing, but our sin was buried with Christ and we received a pure and lasting identity when He was resurrected.  Whatever our struggles may be–anger, lying, jealousy–nothing can stand in the way of Christ’s forgiveness.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation…”  2 Corinthians 5:16-18

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Before becoming a mother I had a hundred theories on
how to bring up children. Now I have seven children and one theory: Love them,
especially when they least deserve to be loved.
-Kate Samperi

 

 “I hate you and can’t wait to move out!  You’re horrible parents.”

The palpable ache in my chest grew more pronounced as each word penetrated the most vulnerable places within.  How could my son –now nearly grown–regard us with such disdain and lack of respect?  Hadn’t we loved him?  Cared for him?  Prayed over him?

While teenage angst and resentment play a role in my son’s attitude, there is something much more significant at the core of his hostility.  What? Simply a heart of rebellion.  A heart that prefers to go its own way–regardless of consequences.

And how I want to rescue my boy!  My arms are held out awaiting his embrace, but instead I receive the lash of hurtful insults.  Rather than allowing me to sooth the hurts masked by “grown-up” bravado, my son turns the other direction…away from his family, away from his values, and away from the God he knew as a child.

Oh, what a painful place to be as a parent!  Yet, I know the Lord understands.  Again and again God’s chosen people deserted the faithful One to chase after gods made of stone or to indulge the limited pleasures of sin.  They left their Father.  And the lesson of love in all of this?  Despite the frustration and emotional turmoil, I must be faithful to my son–in my prayers, my actions, and expectations.

God does no less for me.

Scripture for Reflection

3 Then Jesus told them this parable: 4 “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6 and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ 7 I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.  (Luke 15:3-7)

Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands.
Deuteronomy 7:8-10

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Prayers for Prodigals by James Banks

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