Thursday, February 18, 2021

Forming Connections

    Do you have a sense of community? 

    Do you feel a connection to your town, neighborhood, or church? 

    I think community is one of the most important aspects of our life. Who do we serve? Who do we rely on? Who shovels our snow, brings us cookies or prays for our needs in difficult times?

    Maybe you don't have a real connection with a specific place or group. Maybe you are new to your neighborhood or hesitant to reach out. I agree that it is not always easy. We recently moved this past fall, and we only know two other couples in this area. It is a new neighborhood, so everyone is sort of in the same boat. We took over Christmas cookies to the family next door, and the other night she came over with a plate of chocolate chip cookies. She said she had really wanted to come over sooner, but had been busy unboxing things. We had a great visit with her, and look forward to working on some yard work together this spring.

    Connection. Community. This is all part of hospitality - True hospitality. The kind that reaches out and shares life with others.  

 Christine D. Pohl, in her book, Making Room, Recovering Hospitality as a Christian Tradition, says:

        "Our hospitality both reflects and participates in God's hospitality. It depends on a disposition of love because, fundamentally, hospitality is simply love in action. It has much more to do with the resources of a generous heart than with sufficiency of food or space..." 

    I am so thankful for all the many people in my life who have "loved on" me and my family. It is a humbling thing sometimes, because for many it is easier to give than receive. There have been so many times people did the unexpected and blessed us by caring for us. It is not about a fancy house or being the best cook, it's about being willing. It's about opening your heart to others. 

        Here are a few ways you can reach out:

        - Take a meal to someone: To an older couple, to a young family who feels overwhelmed, to someone just back from the hospital.

        - Invite someone over for coffee and a treat. Nothing fancy. Just simple. 

        - Ask someone if you could watch their child for a couple hours while they go to the grocery store. 

        - Shovel snow from someone's driveway or walkway. 

        - Send (yes, snail mail) someone a card or note. 

        - Host a BBQ in your backyard. Make it easy. I guarantee people will ask what they can bring. LET THEM. That might be hard if you have specific ways you want to do things, but let them contribute. 

    These are just a few simple ideas. There are hundreds more. By making others feel welcome,  you are forming a connection with them. Some people may never return a gesture but that's okay. God wants us to give without expecting anything. 

        Mother Teresa said, "Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier. "

    I am praying for you, dear reader, that you will make a plan to do something for someone this very day. 



  "Be hospitable to one another without complaint, as each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God." 1 Peter 4:9-10


        

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Are You Running?

       

         I keep thinking of the sermon I heard on Sunday about Jonah.   

        Jonah fled God's instruction and ending up inside a large fish. He repents, and follows God's instructions to go to Nineveh. He warns the people there that God will overthrow them because of their wickedness. Then Jonah gets upset with God. God shows compassion on Nineveh when they repent. This angers Jonah because he feels it is unfair, and they should be punished. Jonah declares that he would rather die than see the people of Nineveh granted mercy. God shows His patience with Jonah. Jonah goes outside the city and sits in the desert sun. God causes a plant to grow and shade Jonah which makes Jonah happy. Then when it dies, he once again is angry and tells God for yet another time he wants to die.

         Verses 9-11 tells us, "Then God says to Jonah, 'Do you have good reason to be angry, even to death?' And he said, 'I have good reason to be angry, even to death.' Then the Lord said, You had compassion on the plant for which you did not work, and which you did not cause to grow, which came up overnight and perished overnight. And should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right hand and their left hand, as well as many animals?"

        We may be delusional in thinking we do not try God's patience, but doesn't He remind us over and over, with every single mistake, that He wants to cause us to grow? The book of Jonah is only four short chapters yet is one of the most remembered stories from the Old Testament. Every kid that grows up in the Church knows this story, yet Jonah is not in a good place in his heart in any part of the book. 

        Why do you believe the book of Jonah is included in our Bible? Jonah is not mentioned a lot in the Bible and the book ends with God's rebuke to Jonah.  God showed His great mercy and compassion to a large city who was known to have done terrible atrocities and was pure evil. 

I believe that this story shows us some very important things:

        1- EVERYONE can truly repent, and God will show His mercy and love, and we can be blameless before Him.  He created us and He loves us so. 

        2- We should ALL show compassion to others no matter who they are or where they come from.

        3- We should all obey God because, How can we RUN away from the mighty GOD?

    This book is a great lesson for us all. We have all sinned and need God to use our past mess-ups to teach us, and to help us be compassionate to others.  To teach us to be accepting of others, and to be a person who listens to God and follows what He commands. God loved Jonah and continued to stick by him while he was taught great lessons. Do you think Jonah learned those lessons? How about you?

Image result for lessons learned free image


Tuesday, February 9, 2021

When Trials Come

    "The meaning of a trial is not only to test its worthiness, but to increase it; as the oak is not only tested by the storms, but toughened by them." Mrs. Charles Cowman, Streams In The Dessert

    Do you know friends and family who just get hit by one thing and then another? I do. I remember last March, after our state was shut down for Covid, and we had an earthquake the same week; People were like, "Really?" And at that time we did not know that we would encounter much more as the year passed. I am sure many of you have had the virus, maybe lost income, or perhaps lost a loved one. Maybe you are feeling overwhelmed by it all. 

    The first chapter of the book of James is known to be a chapter about the testing of your faith. I have a quote in the margin of my Bible that says, "joy of what God is doing, rich or poor, God is the great equalizer, no one is higher or lower." So very true. He rains on the just and the unjust. I was reading on Instagram yesterday someone saying that God will grant you whatever you wish. {eye-roll} Absolutely NO WHERE in scripture does it say we will have perfect lives. 

    In James 1:2-4 it says,

 "Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing...

 and verse 12, 

Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to those who love Him."

    I look out my office window this morning at the cold but sunshiny day and think it's such a lovely day, even though we may get snow this week.  I can see the sunshine or I can think about shoveling snow. It's my choice. I do not always see the cup half full, but sometimes I just have to make myself choose to. Here are some ways I try to turn my attitude around. 

        - Pray for God's help. Sometimes I do not actually want to be positive, I would rather dwell in my mood.

        - I look in my Bible at many of my underlined verses. They are my comfort, especially verses in Psalms.

        - I am an outside girl and taking a walk or just sitting on my porch can help. Something about being out in creation helps.

        - Have lunch with a trusted friend: not to complain (that doesn't help), but just to talk about other things. That can make my worries disappear. 

        - Bubble baths help too  😊

 Image result for photo of bubble bath

    When I was in college I went through some very dark days. A friend shared this passage with me from Job 23:10-12,  

"But He knows the way I take; when He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold. My foot has held fast to the path; I have kept His way and not turned aside. I have not departed from the command of His lips; I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food."  

If anyone had a tough time, it was Job. He was going to remain faithful. And God blessed him. 

    Oh dear one, hold fast. cling to what is good, He is listening to your heart prayers. 


Friday, February 5, 2021

A Sense Of Urgency

     Several things stand out to me this morning as I read in 2 Timothy. First of all, 1 Timothy was written during Paul's first imprisonment in Rome. He was on house arrest and was able to continue his ministry. But 2 Timothy was 5-6 years later and Nero was persecuting Christians. There is no evidence that Paul ever makes it out of prison but most likely suffers the martyrdom he anticipated. He forsees his death and sends for Timothy to pass on the ministry. Paul wants to encourage him because he longs for him to continue the work. 

    I love so many of these verses:

        "Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you." - 1:13-14

        "For which I suffer hardship even to imprisonment as a criminal; but the Word of God is not imprisoned. For this reason I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory." -2:9-10

        "Be diligent to present yourself approved unto God, a workman that doesn't need to be ashamed, handling accurately  the word of truth." 2:15

        "I have fought the good fight and I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing." - 4:7-8

Oh dear one. Can't you just imagine sitting with Paul? His sense of urgency is crazy amazing. I want that sense of urgency to share my faith with others and to show love and patience with them so they see Christ's love. I believe if we stay faithful in studying His Word and pray for Him to work in our lives that He will give us that deep understanding. In chapter 3 it says, "All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; That the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work."




   



        



Monday, February 1, 2021

Bring your A Game


    
    Bringing our A game as we serve God is a lofty goal but necessary.  There have been more tests for personality types and spiritual gifts the past 30 years than I want to count. On one hand they are very interesting. On the other they can be limiting. And truthfully, each time I take one it’s not much different than the last time. I try to be very honest so the results are valid. 

        I was at a church once where the pastor mentioned a need and someone said in response that they were not gifted in that area. I remember thinking - but it just needs to get done. Sometimes there are jobs that are not that much fun but still need doing. I am not saying that God does not give us all spiritual gifts and makes us all unique. He definitely does. I just think we need to be available to serve when there is a need not being met. 

        Leading others to God by our example is key. When others see our gracious love of others and willingness to serve then they want to take part. I am working on this myself. Here are some ways that have helped me. 

                - Pray for opportunities to help or serve others. God will bring things to me. 

                - Be willing to help even if it is not my favorite thing to do. 

                - Be purposeful in meeting needs someone has just shared with me so I don't forget.

                - Send notes to people letting them know I will help them that week, so they don't have to ask.

        I would love to hear some of your ways that you look for needs to meet. Showing love to others is a vital role for each of us and I know I can definitely improve. Would you share your ideas with me? 

        

        "Be hospitable to one another without complaint, as each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God." - 1 Peter 4:9-10

 

Equality in the church

      I love being able to see the "realness" of those in the Bible. I recently enjoyed learning more about Priscilla and Aquila. ...