He came for you

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As a girl, perhaps you experienced waiting for your dad or mom to come and pick you up at school or after an event. You anxiously watched for their car, sighing with relief when you saw them pull in the driveway. There was a comfort and security in knowing they would come for you; you could depend on your parent.

Or, perhaps you didn’t have that experience. Maybe someone forgot to come, and you became fretful and scared, wondering what you would do (especially before cell phones!). That happened to me once, and I had to walk home wondering why my mom hadn’t come. Maybe there was disappointment because there was no one to come for you. It’s frightful to be a child in that situation.

The thing that most impresses me about Christmas is not Mary and Joseph, or the angels, or the wise men, or the shepherds. Rather, it’s that God cared enough about me to come for me. When I was standing on the corner, distressed and hopeless about life, He pulled up and offered me a ride. He didn’t give me a bus ticket or said to figure it out for myself — He came, in person, to make sure I had a way home.

No more waiting — He’s here. May you have a blessed Christmas season!

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Of roses and beagles

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One of my favorite childhood books is a lesser known Dr. Seuss tale called Happy Birthday to You! In the story, a young boy is taken by the Great Birthday Bird on a fabulous, all-day celebration of his birthday. In extolling the delights of existence, the Birthday Bird says:

“If we didn’t have birthdays, you wouldn’t be you.

If you’d never been born, well then what would you do?”

He then goes on to speculate that that a worse fate would be to be a “Wasn’t,” one who was never born, but concludes with:

“But you…You ARE YOU! And, now isn’t that pleasant!”

I am still tickled to read this book these many years later! It reminds me that I am special and unique, and was meant to be me. But, maybe you don’t feel so special. Yet, the Bible tells we are extraordinary because of WHO made us.

          Psalm 139:14 – I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. 

The world is full of amazing variety in nature. If there was only roses, beauty would be diminished. If there were only beagles, well what fun would that be? Why so many kinds of bugs? Birds? Humans, even? Because that’s the unfathomable imagination of God. And the more we learn about nature, the more we understand the purpose of each creature – even bugs!

As Dr. Seuss points out, it’s grand to be you – especially because you are not like everyone else (how boring would that be?) We each have differing talents and abilities, made to fit into a larger design of life by God. So, just be you!

          God has given each of you some special abilities; be sure to use them to help each other, passing on to others God’s many kinds of blessings. 1 Peter 4:10 (TLB)

 

 

Moving overload

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“Honey, where’d we pack my ____________?”

“Uhh…I don’t know, but it has to be in one of these boxes somewhere!”

Ah, the joys of moving! I just helped some friends pack up and move 21 years of living. You can accumulate lots of possessions in that amount of time; most of us don’t realize just how much stuff we have – until we have to move it! Groaning as my friend contemplated packing yet another box of stuff, it quickly made her determine what was really worth keeping. And, it wasn’t just the hauling of her things, but whether there would be room in her new home, which was considerably smaller; she had to do some serious sorting and purging. Rather than deciding what she CAN’T live without, she realized what she CAN live without (and donate to Goodwill!).

It reminds me of the American pioneers who left piles of household goods along the trails West. They found they simple couldn’t carry everything with them, and discovered that much of what they thought was necessary really wasn’t. They had to judge what things were most important and needed to start their new life on the frontier.

In contrast to this, I have another friend who recently lost everything she owned in a house fire, including precious scrapbooks and photos. She has nothing – except her family, who all escaped safely, including a one-year-old child. Most everything else could be replaced (it was, after all, just stuff), but not her loved ones.

At these two pivotal moments, both women learned what possessions meant to them, and what is truly valuable in life. Jesus taught this in a memorable lesson when he said:

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  (Matthew 6:19-21)

It’s not wrong per se to own things (though the more you have, the more things you have to store, clean and insure!), but let us be wary that things don’t own our hearts. Better to hold the world’s things loosely, reaching instead for what is of eternal value.

 

You can’t DVR God

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Beach1I’m sure you’ve been to an event such as a children’s school performance, where the eager parents are busily snapping photos or taking videos of their kids (usually to the annoyance of the rest of the audience!). Or maybe it’s at a game or a speaker. Often, such people are so busy recording the event for posterity, that they miss really experiencing what’s happening in the moment. There is great value in just pausing and taking it all in, for truly, this time will never come again. And despite what appears to be a permanent record through photos or video, they can never truly recapture what’s being documented – you can’t live it again.

It’s interesting, too, that with all of the media technology available – film, TV, video, MP3 – that people still want to attend a “live” play or concert, when such performances are available in recorded formats. (Plus, you usually are not allowed to take photos!) Yet, we often hear the phrase, “You just had to be there,” to fully understand the experience. You cannot rush it or delay it or save it for later; you must simple sit there and enjoy it in the moment.

God also calls us to experience his presence now, in the moment. In Psalm 46:10 God says: “Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” As our example, Jesus frequently went to a quiet place by himself to pray and be in the presence of the Father. He wanted to have no distractions – he didn’t even go to the Temple!

When we are quiet and focused, like a still pond we can see the reflection of God, we can hear his voice. Can you say that you know these “moments” with God, when you stop long enough in the midst of the noise and clatter to just “be” there? No fancy smart phones or Facebook – just you and God?

If you’d like, share your thoughts in the comments about how you experience those still moments with God.

Fresh start

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CrayonsThe smell of crayons, sharpened pencils, ink, paper, glue – it’s back to school time! Though I no longer have school-aged children, I still feel that rhythm of the school year, the new beginning of September.  

Much like January 1st, September is often a time to set new goals and commitments, or to revisit and refresh old ones. So, this is an ideal time of year to reconnect with God and seek spiritual growth. And that’s why Sojourn Sisters is here. 

As the coordinator/leader of the women’s ministry at Legacy Christian Church, I want to offer a place of refreshment and renewal of faith for women though this blog. Many have been busy this summer and on vacations, but now is the season to “come home,” both literally and symbolically.  

Maybe you’re curious about Jesus, or you’ve put off learning more about the Christian faith; or perhaps you have contemplated deepening your commitment to the Lord. Sojourn Sisters is where you can share the journey of being a woman of God with others in the Legacy family.  

I will share some thoughts on faith and life, and I hope you will, too. I welcome your comments, questions – even a guest blogger! Let’s do this together.

A blooming good time!

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A couple of weeks ago, a group of Legacy women enjoyed the beauty of Terri Krause’s garden. From pretty table decorations to a scrumptious menu, it was a lovely time! Thank you Terri for your hospitality and gardening talent.

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It reminded me that mankind’s original “habitat” was a garden in Eden. Though hard to imagine, it was even more beautiful than what we enjoyed at Terri’s; in fact, it was perfect, made by God for us, providing all that we needed. (Of course, things have changed since Adam and Eve, but that’s another story!)Garden 11

However, gardens are significant throughout the Bible. In the Song of Songs, the beloved wife of the King Solomon is repeatedly referred to as a private garden in very romantic terms. Some of the most endearing references to God’s people, the Israelites, compares them to a garden:

You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. –Isaiah 58:11

They will be like a well-watered garden, and they will sorrow no more. –Jeremiah 31:12

In the New Testament, two very significant scenes take place in a garden: Jesus’ prayer of agony in the Garden of Gethsemane where he commits to his mission to do his Father’s will; and in the garden of his tomb, where Jesus makes his first appearance after his resurrection to Mary Magdalene. It would seem that such pivotal events should have taken place in the Temple or some other stately place – but they didn’t.

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Whether or not you like the hobby of gardening, we all respond to gardens:

  • On a very basic level, they can provide sustenance for our physical bodies, whether food, water, shade. In that regard, they hold the power of life itself.
  • Gardens can refresh us emotionally by providing a place of beauty, comfort, rest and rescue. There is a unique power in beauty that often defies logic – why do flowers come in so many colors and designs?
  • And of course, a garden can inspire us spiritually by reminding us of the Creator and all that he has made. A garden gives us a sense of wonder and delight in our gracious God who has made such a beautiful home for us.

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The “trust fall” of generosity

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Most of us like to be generous; it makes us feel good to help someone out. In fact, the United States is tied with Burma as the most giving country in the world, followed by Canada, Ireland and New Zealand.*

But, what is our motivation to give? Some, of course, is cultural; some just plain humanitarian. The Bible teaches to give in order to help one another in need. In 2 Corinthians 8:13-14 Paul writes: “Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need.” (NIV)

It would seem that this very practical advice says the reason to be generous is so that if you are ever in need, you will be helped in return; a sort of you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours. In that respect, it would be self serving.

But, then Paul concludes the section in verse 15 with a quote from Exodus about gathering the manna that God provided: “He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little.”

The context of this is that during the Israelites’ journey through the desert, God provided his people with a kind of bread (called manna) every morning. The people were to gather only what they needed for that day, and the manna was shared equally so everyone had enough. If someone tried to hoard the manna for another day, it spoiled overnight. The people needed to listen and obey what God told them.

But, the bigger lesson was the Israelites were to trust God, every day. There was no other source of food other than what God gave them each day. Even Jesus’ model prayer echoes this when he says “Give us today our daily bread.”

So, when Paul ties this experience to his urging of the Christians in Corinth to be generous, even to an extreme, it also teaches us that we give because we trust God to take care of our needs. We’re not afraid we’ll be lacking if we give to others because we can’t out-give God.

          Give and it will be given to you…running over, it will be poured into your lap.

             – Luke 6:38 (NIV)

*According to the World Giving Index (WGI), an annual report published by the Charities Aid Foundation.

Perfect vision

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Gorgeous_EyesBeing able to see well is truly a blessing. I ought to know – I’ve worn glasses since I was seven years old. That is, until recently. The irony is, my vision had to get worse before it got better.

About a year ago when I went in for my vision check-up, I was diagnosed with cataracts in both eyes. Cataracts are a kind of growth on the lens of the eye that causes clouded vision. Everything had a brownish cast, and I didn’t even know it because it was so gradual – I was used to seeing the world discolored.

After the lens in my first eye was replaced with a clear corrective lens earlier this month, I saw what I was missing – it was a dramatic revelation! It reminded me of the verse in 1 Corinthians 13:12; the old King James Version has it, “For now we see through a glass darkly…” while The Message puts it, “We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist.” That was my vision previously. With the surgery on both eyes not completed, I can clearly see the world around me – without glasses. It is a wondrous new reality.

My improved vision is a great illustration of the rest of the Bible passage in 1 Corinthians which teaches that we only see a poor reflection of God in this life; but, in eternity we will experience the glorious reality and truth of our faith “face to face.” Unlike the results of my cataract surgery, we won’t have perfect spiritual vision in this world (oh, that we could remove the spiritual cataracts on our hearts!). However, we can improve our vision by growing in our faith and hope, and especially in practicing the kind of extravagant love God has given us. The last verse of the chapter tells us:

            “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

Looking for Light

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I really don’t want to write this entry. But a good friend urged me to anyway. I don’t feel inspired or witty or capable; she said to write that. Nothing much seems worthwhile to say or do. I suppose I feel depressed, useless, discouraged. Maybe it’s the weather, how dreary it’s been with warmth slow to come. Or my age, feeling so out of touch with the culture around me – and I don’t really care. I am overwhelmed by the evil and trouble in a world that seems determined to self-destruct, feeling powerless to do anything about it, while bemoaning the trivialities of suburban life in the face of such horror in other places.

Yet, here I am. This is the life I’ve been given.

I know I should turn to my faith, but sometimes it feels like dragging lead feet through a swamp of mud. I go through the motions to some extent, knowing that feelings can follow action – it’s what I’m supposed to do whether I feel like it or not. I read, I pray. It helps some, like blowing on a small ember left in the ashes.

And sometimes I hear a small answer.

God says, “Let me take care of the world.”

And then I stumble upon a verse when I really wasn’t looking for anything, a few words that glow in the grayness:

“….neither death nor life, neither messenger of Heaven nor monarch of earth, neither what happens today nor what may happen tomorrow, neither a power from on high nor a power from below, nor anything else in God’s whole world has any power to separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ our Lord!” (J.B. Phillips) 

Okay, I get it. God is there, no matter what. He can handle the world. I still don’t feel radiantly joyful – but, there is a small flame of hope. And, I think sometimes life is about just showing up. So, I’m here…waiting and trusting, believing God is here, too.

That really big purse

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A common mistake of the novice hiker is to overload her backpack with things that aren’t necessary. With too heavy a pack, the hiker will find the path too difficult, her back and legs unable to bear the weight. She will thus be hindered from achieving the purpose of the hike, which is to enjoy the beauty of nature.

Similarly, we gals like to use large purses to carry all of our “needed” items: wallet, cell phone, hairbrush, tablet, make-up and such. If you are a professional woman you might have a briefcase or laptop, too. Moms carry diaper bags and totes full of assorted kids’ toys, books, and other necessities. Add in a gym bag for that evening workout and we are hauling around lots of stuff! The result is our backs and shoulders ache; carting all that with us saps our energy, makes us crabby, and frequently keeps our eyes – and our minds – fixed on the ground. It certainly makes it challenging just to go out of the house.

But, some of us are carrying around something even heavier and harder to bear: Guilt. Regret. Loss. Failure. All the things we’ve done wrong, the mistakes, poor choices. Continuing to lug these thoughts around pulls us down, makes our bodies tired, darkens our joy. The good news is that there is “good news” of our redemption – it’s what the cross of Jesus is all about.

You are forgiven. Yes, you.

The beauty and joy of love that forgives are found in Christ Jesus. For those of us who live in him, there is no need for those “big purses” of guilt – Jesus has already taken them to the grave.

            John 8:36 says: “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

So, in the words of an old hymn, lay down the burden of your heart, and walk “hands free” in life, face to the Son, enjoying the view of the journey.