Church

We are told wherever two or more are gathered, there Jesus is in the midst of them.

I am an introvert. Saying it like that makes it sound as if I am saying I’m a leper or a hemophiliac, or afraid of heights. I am none of those but I don’t care for crowds. Define crowd? More than 3 people.

Strange, I used to be little miss party girl. I loved going en masse everywhere. Not an exhibitionist, just loved being lost in a crowd.

What happened? I became a mother. I became divorced. I found I had truly awful radar for choosing guys to date. Really horrible. So I threw myself into being a mom, into work, into deflecting ex-husband and ex-mother-in-law attacks (this took up maybe 6 years). I found my own interests, like I really enjoyed cooking, walking, reading, research, applying my abilities to the many different occupations I tried: travel agent (helping people create travel dreams), veterinary receptionist, legal assistant (this one I really did not care for), working as a temp when I needed shorter work hours to be home when my son finished school for the day. Then I became a librarian which I truly enjoyed because I found so many ways to help people connect dots in their lives, finish research, write books, find new authors to love, many things.

But I would go home at the end of my days and be so relieved to be away from everything. It truly was a sanctuary.

Ironically I attended a church of over 3000 members. This ordinarily might be daunting to one who avoided crowds, but this was an orderly crowd. Every single person was there for the same purpose. To worship, praise, sing and pray. And I could easily get lost in so many people, yet know where I was. With myself in God’s presence. There is anonymity in huge mega-churches. I was ok with that.

But a church where I am missed, a church where I have to be accountable to people who may or may not have the same relationship with my Creator, somehow this is uncomfortable for me. I need to be with God, but somehow corporately is not the same.

One of my favorite services I attended not long after I divorced. I went back to the Episcopal church I grew up in. The priest there had not been there forever, so though I had been baptized, confirmed and married in that church he knew none of that. He did not know my history. And he offered a communion service at 7 a.m., a short homily, prayer, a dismissal. There was something so significantly important about that service that I found quite meaningful. I miss that. The service was simply offered. I chose to partake. There was nothing contrived, manipulative or burdensome about it. It was freely offered, just like God presents Himself to us. We choose to join Him. Or not.

I loved that service. I loved the value of choice.

Truth in hearing

I’ve recently had a spate of challenges shall we say in my home life. Nothing life-threatening or even monumental. Just those nagging, day-to-day annoyances that show up as blips on the radar, but enough to change the course of whatever course you’re sailing.

First, the microwave went out. It ran but wouldn’t heat or cook. As popcorn is a staple of my existence this had to be remedied, so I arranged for a repairman. What did I get? A refrigerator repairman who had freshly been trained on microwaves. Ok, well go for it.

The problem was identified by process of eliminating what was not broken. So I needed a transformer and a magnetron. Ok well this was all well and good but repairman did not have the parts. Another week and a half hour later and microwave was running again.

Then the toilet started running. Called plumber, several days before they could look at it, same thing. This is the problem, now we don’t have the part. Ok, I decided to try this one myself, so for the cost of their service call and a purchased gasket kit I prayed. Asking God to guide my hands, help me do this thing right. It mercifully also came with instructions. Disassembly went smoothly. Remove old worn parts, install new ones. Reassemble. Stand there while tank fills back up. Listen for leaking, refilling. Nothing. Success! Much prayerful gratitude, not a little smugly proud of myself…

Next morning, flush. Continue on with morning things: dress, get my 2 rescue dogs ready for their walk… refilling sounds from toilet tank. Oh no! But God, You helped me! It had stopped leaking, what happened??!

When we returned from the walk I again disassembled the components, looked at the parts I’d installed, were they snugly fitted? Made sure they were, reassemble. Fill tank. Listen. No leaking sounds, no refilling. Flush. Wait and listen again. Nothing. Do this twice more. Toilet standing quietly as toilets should do.

God, we did it this time! I was too afraid I’d fail the first time, wasn’t I? I didn’t move with confidence that You were with me, did I?

Important lesson to learn here whether it’s a simple toilet repair, a public speaking engagement, a first day at work, teaching someone to ride a bicycle, teaching a Sunday school class. Always, always know God is with you. He is. He promised he would be, even to the end of the age.

Now for the tree service to remove that dead limb from my pine tree hanging over neighbor’s yard….

Matthew 28:20

Hope

… in Jesus

You know, it’s getting harder and harder to share the salvation of Jesus Christ. It isn’t necessarily how we present it, though this can be a problem, but also how what we say is received. Even if we express our understanding of Jesus’ love and mercy on the cross in the humblest, simplest way we can still come across as smug, self-righteous, condescending. Sort of as if, well I have it, I have arrived. Let me do you a kindness…

Even the most basic and pliable hearts might find this a bit repulsive.

But what about the cynic? Those who thrive on a diet of derision, scorn, sarcasm? Wow. Those screens are nearly impenetrable. Their hearts have so many concrete, barbed-wire-enforced walls it appears nothing can get through. Unless….

These hearts, so starved for the love they have walled themselves in against. That love, poured out, over and around their ice-encrusted, stoniness. Every wall has a frisson, a break. No wall is impenetrable.

Truth is whatever I or anyone else can show you or tell you about Jesus Christ, why He came, what He did, what is ours– anyone’s –once we accept Him and what He did and Who He is, is only yours when you decide it is yours. Love is meaningless until you allow yourself to open your heart to Him. Until then He is yours but not your life.

John 14:26

Power

Donald Trump. Hillary Clinton. Bernie Sanders.

These are the choices the United States of America has for presidential options??

Sadly, yes.

Has any of them ever spoken of his/her faith? Has any ever spoken of the founders who prayed to a mighty God for deliverance in a new land? Has any ever spoken of his or her humility, gratitude, hope before a loving, merciful and judging God?

Not that I’ve heard. I’ve stopped listening to their ridiculously unfounded and unsustainable statements.

“We” (that ubiquitous we– meaning of course the beleaguered American taxpayer) will give you free education, all through however much college you want. “We” will make you citizens. Doesn’t matter who you are or why you are here. You get “free” health insurance, “free” driver licenses, “free” housing, welfare, cell phones, whatever you want! Hey, America’s the land of opportunity, right? Never mind that opportunity actually means opportunity to find your own way in work, establishing your life on your own, not on someone else’s efforts and earnings.

How foolish do we look? What other country allows this? What other country allows people to illegally infiltrate their country, take whatever they want including the lives of innocent, legal residents? None that I know of.

And all this speaks to politicians who want to believe they are gods. And want everyone else to believe that all of this gratuitous plenty comes from their benevolent hand. It does not. Whatever we are, whatever we have, each and every single one of us, is from God.

Only God.

May God in His mercy, help us.

Deuteronomy 8:12-14; 11

Sacrifice

Freedom.

Faith.

Peace.

Opportunity.

Happiness.

Worship.

These things we take for granted. We have known freedom, the right to worship as we wish, opportunity to achieve our greatest dreams, the right to happiness, and finding peace. But at what cost?

Jesus died so we can receive forgiveness based on our faith in Him: His dying on the cross in our place. His love for us is so great. His knowing this was the only way our souls could be saved. We cannot achieve this any other way than to just believe in Him as our Savior. He who made such an ultimate sacrifice– suffering for our sins. Dying a death which separated Him from God His Father 3 days so we do not have to die. We immediately will pass from this mortal existence into God’s presence. But without our faith in Jesus and His sacrifice we will not stay there. Our souls, if we never turned to Jesus Christ as the only way to forgiveness, mercy and salvation will be separated from Him forever.

Memorial Day we remember what soldiers did in their love and sacrifice by fighting for freedom in America. The freedoms granted to us by God as realized by those who fought and died to establish America as the land of the free and the home of the brave.

A place where people could pursue their dreams. Where people could own a home, work hard and live a life they, with God’s help, rightfully earned.

Those freedoms, as Ronald Reagan wisely noted, are only one generation away from vanishing.

We are coming to the end of a presidential regime that has done everything within and without its power to destroy all that America was admired for… all that made America a place people from other countries wanted to come to, a Judeo-Christian nation that welcomed all peoples who legally and rightfully entered our country wanting to learn our language, abide by our laws and become a productive, honest part of America.

There is no other way to achieve being part of what America is other than faith in God, love of family and hard work. Faith, diligence, integrity, grace, love.

No other way. Take it away, change or transform it into something else makes for a distorted, disfigured, warped and unjust country.

We cannot let this happen.

Lord Jesus, hear our prayer as we humbly come to You on our knees. We ask You to come into our hearts, our minds, cleanse us of all that stands in Your way and make us Yours, in Your perfect Name we pray, amen.

Thank You.

Flaming tongues

Pentecost. The day the Lord promised He would send the Comforter. His comfort arrived in flames. Flames in their hearts, above their heads, resting in their mouths enabling each person to speak such that every single person no matter from where or what language they spoke, could understand. The Gospel power.

Today, 40 days after the Lord’s ascension. Holy Spirit came to earth. Holy Spirit transformed each and every believer into such euphoric beings that others who witnessed this concluded they were either drunk or insane.

They were. They were drunk with the power of God. They were crazy in love for Jesus Christ. There is nothing and no one who can undo what Jesus did. There is no way the power of God can be stopped or altered by any human means. No matter what people think, say or do, God’s will will be done, always.

Amen.

The Book of Acts, Chapter 2, the Holy Bible

Works

How many of us beat ourselves to a bloody pulp because we think this will make us gain what, once received, we cannot lose only to realize we have beaten ourselves to a bloody pulp for that which is freely offered?

No one wants hell. We have enough challenges as such here on this Earth. Some choose not to believe there is a hell. Conversely there would not be a heaven. There cannot only be a heaven and no hell. Where is the balance? Where is the justification for heaven?

God is the fulcrum. But we need only open our hearts, minds, eyes, and whatever else we have closed up tightly to receive His gift of Mercy and Grace. We can’t earn it. We can’t work hard enough. We can’t avoid breaking enough laws, we can’t keep commandments, rituals, or anything else that, under our own steam entitles us to heaven. It comes from and by God, not us.

Only Jesus.

And consequently when we have this faith, when we know beyond doubt our love for Jesus will not fail, we have nothing in our heart but to do all that we do as unto the Lord. We just have to.

Ephesians 2:9; James 2:17, 18

Promptings

Do you ever have these? You know, those “nagging” feelings, that sense of urgency or a strange inclination to do or say something, sometimes to total strangers?

I do.

So far they have not got me into any trouble. So maybe they are what I think they are and I am doing the right thing by following through with them. The Holy Spirit. He has us in a place or circumstance or situation. We are there likely for a singular purpose. It may even be something we think we have planned, say, the weekly grocery shopping. While there we are aware of another purpose. Maybe something as simple as a smile at someone, or a “good morning” or “hello”. A comment on the weather. We have no idea why or where the person to whom we are prompted to speak or smile might be, but we do this anyway.

It is wonderful to be of use to God, however simply or complicatedly. Yet at the time we likely have no idea that is just what is going on.

Nothing in this life, I have come to believe, is mere chance or coincidence. Everything is woven into a tapestry of God’s own making. Even the horror, evil aspects that we may not have any remote thing to do with. Animal cruelty, inhumane treatment of Christians. No, these are certainly not God’s will, but they do happen. Whatever force is working against all that is good in this world, even this has no purpose except that for which God will find a use. Or cause others, as yet oblivious to become aware. Those who may have authority to do something to stop it or change it.

Nothing happens in this life that is not permitted by God, and He finds a way to work it to the good of all.

Somehow.

Thank You God for Your perfect sovereignty.

In Jesus’ name, amen.

Pettiness and Grace

The root of this word comes from the same word that is the French for little– petit. So little in stature, unaspiring to lofty ideals or goals. Groveling amongst dirt, gravel, earthy things. Not striving for goodness but relishing that which stings or hobbles others in their efforts to achieve.

I encountered this not long ago. Someone excluded me, intentionally, then made a false and weak claim as to how it was completely in error, and not her error.

How do you handle when one does something to purposefully do harm in order to progress his or her own accomplishments or agenda?

By grace. I’ll admit, grace means not only not retaliating but being gracious– not unpleasant. Behaving as though the slight did not happen. Not that it did not bother or annoy or harm, simply that it did not exist. If it furthers the one causing harm in some way it is a false accomplishment and will not stand. Yet it does no good to call someone out on an intentional hurt, especially with the risk of their denial and then where will you be? Their word against yours, leaving it up to those uninvolved yet interested to choose whom they would prefer ‘win’ the imaginary battle.

Simply not worth it.

Jesus suffered far more in the way of torments, slings, arrows, falsehood and outright lies and accusations about Him.

Yes, He performed miracles. Does it matter that it was done on a Sabbath? Can casting out demons or healing paralysis or restoring sight or resurrecting be construed as work? No one else can do this!! Only Jesus. They are miracles, not work. They were to glorify His Father, yet false accusations were slung at Him in order to distract people from the wonder of Who He is, what He came to do for us. Each of us, all of us.

You.

Me.

Us.

Happy Easter! He is risen.

He Lives.

Indeed.

Running my race

My rescue dog Lily enjoys walking on the beach in the little beach town where we moved a year or so ago. She did not like it at all at first… the sand is not solid, the waves appeared to chase her, odd creatures with sharp-pointed appendages. It took many, many walks for her to become used to its strangeness, but she did and now loves those walks.

This morning I had forgotten that a Quintile marathon was taking place early, 6:15, so we waited a few moments while runners crossed normally busy streets on their appointed course. It made me think. We, too as Christians have an appointed course to run. A race to complete. Not against anyone, but for Someone. A race where we endure hurdles, hardships, and victories, successes. But as these runners this morning it is a course not to be deviated from, nor shortcuts or ways to cheat and finish faster, or better.

Each of us has our own course, our own life with our own special gifts, abilities, offerings we make to others in this race. We stay focused on the prize– the goal of walking with Jesus Christ. Along the way where and when we can we help someone else. Give encouragement, sustenance, hope in the Lord, but we stay the course.

Sure, there are temptations, distractions. Sometimes discernment does not come to us clearly and we may deviate onto a path that appeared for all purposes to be the right path. But God finds a way to guide us gently back to His path, using wherever we were and whomever we met to His glory.

It is a path we are all meant for. Each of us, our souls cry for God. Sometimes if we are unaware of the need for God we try to fulfill that ache with something– food, people, work, family, drugs, pets, hobbies– but at our core, the very center of who we are –God is the only true answer to fulfill our deepest need.

Hear Him. Love Him. Wait upon the Lord.

Isaiah 40:31; 1 Corinthians 9:24; Philippians 3:13-14