4 Ways to Feed Your Faith

Carnivore. Vegetarian. Vegan. Gluten free. Dairy free. Organic. Eating for our blood type. So many “eating” options are before us, at least in the land where I live. We give great attention to our food intake, knowing it affects our physical health. 

I’ve often asked myself: What would my physical health be like if I ate physical food in same way I ate spiritual food?

Would I be healthy and energetic? Malnourished? Would I have so little nourishment that my appetite would be gone? Would I be getting by, but with needed changes? Or, would I be dead?

These are important questions to ponder—because spiritually, like physically, we are what we eat.

It’s easy to eat food on the fly, while running out the door. Or, to just grab something someone hands to us in a drive-through. However, these aren’t the meals that do us the most good, or the ones which we remember.

Do you feed your faith “on the fly,” or mostly when someone hands something to you in a “spiritual drive-through?” Do you pay careful attention to your intake, or lack thereof? It’s crucial to take time to eat at the spiritual dinner table.

How healthy is your faith? Is it well fed and growing, or is it waning? Thankfully, we can build ourselves up in faith. While we can become physically healthier through our eating habits, surely eternal life is of greater importance than physical life.

But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit.
Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.
(Jude 1:20-21)

Maybe you have been disappointed, or have been struggling to see God at work in your life—wanting to see victories that don’t seem to happen. Perhaps you feel as if life is going in the opposite direction from your desires. As a result, faith can suffer– tempting us to lose our appetite for the spiritual nourishment we need. Consequently, we are more apt to consume “junk food” that’s neither satisfying, nor good for us. It can come in the form of mind consuming social media and entertainment, or people or things that confuse our spiritual focus.

So how do we feed our faith?  Here are some simple reminders.

  1. We’ve got to eat the meat—or at least protein. There’s no substitute for opening the Bible and taking in the words of God. When we read, we can remember the power of God, his kindness, his love, and his truths…for faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ. (Romans 10:17)

And, let the word digest. Take time to really listen. Take time to see God. See him at creation. See him with Moses, David, and Mary. See him raise the dead and see Jesus raised from death. Be amazed at the magnitude and minutia of his creation. Take time to read the word. Take time to hear the word spoken. Sometimes, hearing the word of God spoken out loud speaks to me even more keenly, while at other times silent meditation moves my heart and mind.

  1. Invite others to “eat with you.” We need each other. Sometimes I need to “do my own cooking” spiritually, while at other times my faith is fed through others. When friends are hurting, or going through trials or life changes we often encourage them by sending physical meals. Often, food prepared for others is arranged through an internet tool called “the meal train.” Perhaps we could also encourage each other with “spiritual meal trains,” as together we encourage one another’s faith.  When I feel weak or hurting, nothing encourages me more than receiving a meaningful Scripture that speaks to my particular needs.

We sent Timothy, who is our brother and God’s fellow worker in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith, so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. You know quite well that we were destined for them.
In fact, when we were with you, we kept telling you that we would be persecuted. And it turned out that way, as you well know…Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith.  
(1 Thess. 3:2-4,10)

 I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong– that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.  (Romans 1:1-12)

It’s a special treat to “go out to eat.” Likewise, it’s a privilege and special time to “go out to eat spiritual food” as we meet together as a church, worship together, and  hear the word preached.  Neglecting this privilege and responsibility will weaken our faith.

  1. Sharing our personal faith feeds our faith. Yes, inviting people to church can be helpful…as friends may come and open their hearts to seeking God. But there is so much more involved in sharing our faith. Sharing our faith reminds us of what God has done in our lives. As you read the book of Acts, the disciples went everywhere sharing what God had done in their lives. It’s crucial, as the Scriptures state, to be active in sharing our faith. This feeds our faith.

  I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers,
because I hear about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints.
  I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.
(Philemon 1:4-6)

As we hear encouraging news of how God is working in others’ lives, it strengthens our faith. We can’t hear these workings of God if we aren’t actively sharing them. Sometimes, without this focus, we can forget the mighty ways God has and is continuing to work on our behalf.
 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world. (Romans 1:8)

  1. Take supplements to strengthen your faith.

Often, in addition to reading the Bible, gaining encouragement from others and being encouraged, and sharing my faith I’m strengthened by spiritual books and spiritual songs. I try to always be reading spiritual books, and I’ve gained so much from them. At times, music strengthens my faith like nothing else can do at the time. 

 
  When you come, be sure to bring the coat I left with Carpus at Troas. Also bring my books, and especially my papers.
(2 Timothy 4:14 NLT)


Let the Word of Christ—the Message—have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God!
(Colossians 3:16 MSG)

You may feel you have little faith, but it can grow if you feed it. Fortunately, our faith does not rest on man’s wisdom, but on God’s power. Even a little faith, with God’s huge power, can move mountains.
 I was unsure of how to go about this, and felt totally inadequate—I was scared to death, if you want the truth of it— and so nothing I said could have impressed you or anyone else. But the Message came through anyway. God’s Spirit and God’s power did it,
  which made it clear that your life of faith is a response to God’s power, not to some fancy mental or emotional footwork by me or anyone else.
(1 Corinthians 2:3-5 MSG, emphasis added)

 

 

 

Wednesday Wisdom With Wyndham – 2

Wisdom shows up in many ways. It’s easy to think of wisdom as mere “wise thoughts” coming from a guru in an ivory tower. Jesus challenges common views in Matthew 11:19 with profundity—The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, “Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.” But wisdom is proved right by her actions. (emphasis added)

Wisdom is expressed, or vindicated, through our deeds.

This week I received the description (below) of this vindication of wisdom from our former neighbors, Frank and Rhoda Astone. When we moved to the area, the Astones lived two houses down from us. We became friends, studied the Bible together, and they were both baptized. Today, Frank leads our family group. Soon after meeting them, Wyndham asked Rhoda how their daughter’s condition affected her faith and view of God. Rhoda insisted, before continuing conversations, that we watch a video of what it meant to have a child with Rett’s syndrome. This was the beginning of our deep friendship. Their daughter, Kelly, is nearly 30 years old and can do no more than a small child can do. She can’t walk, talk, use the toilet, etc. But, she can love and be loved. The Astones are inspiring examples of compassion and self-denial. We have learned much from them, and without words, from Kelly.

Each week, Frank carries Kelly from her wheelchair to a seat in the auditorium where we meet for church.

One day last year at church my friend snapped this picture. This particular day, I was recovering from a horrible 2 month long virus and could barely hold my head up. Kelly must have felt similarly. We both leaned on “wisdom.”

Here is Rhoda’s description of Wyndham’s wisdom. I find it convicting and inspiring:

 One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. (Proverbs 18:24)

When thinking of wisdom from Wyndham, I think of his gifts of empathy and love. He has been with us through some of the most painful times in our lives.  For example, at 7 years old, Kelly was rushed to the hospital while having her first ever seizure. She stopped breathing, and we were asked whether we wanted her intubated—put her on a breathing tube. The hospital called Children’s Hospital in Boston, and they decided to send a team to pick up Kelly. At this point, the door opened and there stood Wyndham, Jeanie, Carl, and Rebecca (Christensen).  Wyndham and Jeanie stayed with us until we were ready to leave the (Lahey) hospital and travel to Children’s Hospital. Before we left, an emergency room nurse came and said, “Mom and Dad, come kiss Kelly and say good bye before she goes to Children’s’ Hospital.”  She left the obvious unsaid, “in case she doesn’t make it.”

At Children’s Hospital, Wyndham stayed with us while Kelly, still unconscious, was having test after test— trying to determine what was happening. It was about 3:00 am when the doctors suggested we all go home for a while and rest, because she was stable, although still unconscious. Wyndham supported us by being with us…by sharing our pain and by loving us. His presence made the unbearable, somehow bearable. He showed us God’s love.

This same experience with Kelly happened 2 more times, maybe 3, at Mass General Hospital when she was admitted for what was supposed to be a week for surgery. Everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. At one point, Frank was with Kelly who had been rushed to ICU when she stopped breathing after another seizure which, prior to this surgery, had been controlled for years. I was praying, but I was angry, exhausted, frightened, and so anxious. I thought, ‘Lord, I can’t do this anymore. There’s too much pain.’

The door opened, Wyndham came in, and I just sobbed. Again, he got another emergency call and came immediately. I never knew who called him, but was so grateful when he came. He showed us God’s peace.

Kelly came home from Mass General three months after her surgery in a full body cast. Wyndham came by when we were trying to figure out how to wash her hair. Frank and Wyndham lifted her onto the kitchen counter and we washed her hair in the kitchen sink. It was a three-man job, or maybe a 2 man and 1 woman job. Because she had been so sick, Kelly was very weak and had no head control. We were very crowded around the kitchen sink, but were able to get the job done. Talking to her, holding up her head, and shampooing was a great team effort. Wyndham showed us God’s humility.

Frank was often invited to play basketball or football with Wyndham and the gang, and afterwards Wyndham would help Frank as he came into the house limping, sometimes joking, and sometimes not. Wyndham showed us God’s friendship and humor.

 Wyndham also has such a gift of loving and caring for people. He loves all of our kids, and they all love him. Wyndham showed us the meaning of God’s family.

Wyndham used to come to our house every morning and carry Kelly onto the van for her preschool program. That’s just who he is. Wyndham showed us God’s character.

When I see Wyndham in his wheelchair, I see courage and strength.

I don’t believe that God ‘gave’ Wyndham his illness any more than I believe that God  ‘allowed’ Kelly to have her illness. In my humble opinion, I believe with all my heart that God loves his children with a love that is immeasurable in human terms, and that He feels our pain, wants to dry our tears, and rejoice in our victories.

Wyndham is still Wyndham.  His light shines through.

Thank you dear Rhoda. Okay, I cried big ugly alligator tears reading this. I hope this description helps paint a vivid view of a vital aspect of wisdom—our deeds. May we all be wiser.

________________________________________________________________I could fill a daily blog for years with wisdom I have learned from Wyndham. However, I’ll stick with one day a week. Each Wednesday I will share wisdom gleaned, not just from me, but from our family who saw him day and night and from friends near and far whose lives he has touched.

Many of you have already told me you wish to share wisdom you learned from Wyndham. If you wish to contribute to this collection please email me at shaw.jeanie@gmail.com with the subject line—Wednesday Wisdom. If you wish to receive these blogs in your inbox, feel free to sign up to follow the blog.

I’ll look forward to meeting you here on Wednesdays. And if you would, please remember us in your prayers. It’s a privilege to have you in our lives.

 

 

Wednesday Wisdom with Wyndham

Often we meet individuals who have particular and obvious gifts from God. Such is the case with Wyndham Shaw. When people encounter, watch, and interact with him, his wisdom quickly becomes obvious. I believe God has given him a generous portion of wisdom, which has been oft and well used to help change many lives. His desire is always to please God, from the inside out.

I first met Wyndham at the University of Florida when he was a Resident Advisor on my “then-boyfriend’s” dormitory floor. Even then, as a 19 year old, I respected him as a man of wisdom and integrity. As he studied the Scriptures and learned more accurately and adequately how to follow them, he humbly responded, was baptized in 1972, and has been changing lives ever since.

The “then-boyfriend” and I felt badly for Wyndham on the weekends, as his “then girlfriend” lived out of state. So, we often invited him to join us on our Saturday night dates. The rest is history. We became best friends, fell in love, and were married in 1974. 

Forty-three ministry years, many houses, four children, eight grandchildren, countless adventures, and eight dogs later we have experienced life to the full, as promised by Jesus in John 10:10. There have been many dips and thrills on this roller coaster of life, but we are blessed and grateful. I would heartily recommend this life and marriage to anyone, and we bow in gratitude to God for making this possible. Without his love and mercy, and his living and active words…we would not have anything resembling this “life to the full.” 

For a long while I have wanted to express some of the wisdom gleaned from Wyndham’s life in writing, so that as many as possible can gain from the life I have observed, shared in, and loved for over four decades. After seeking input from several friends, I decided to gather and share pieces of Wyndham’s wisdom each Wednesday.

Wyndham’s physical voice is now soft and weak, but his life and example is loud and strong. He suffers from a rare neuro-degenerative disease called Multiple System Atrophy. To be honest, it’s a horrible disease we would wish on no one. Over the past two years, my agile, athletic, and active husband has become wheelchair bound, unable to carry out normal activities of daily life on his own. God faithfully hears our many prayers, and we are confident of several things: He loves us, he hears us, he is all powerful, and he does not make mistakes. He will give us exactly what we need, and this world is not our home.  Every day is a gift. We begin our prayer together in the mornings with Lamentations 3:21-24.
  Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:
  Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.
  They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
  I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”

Wyndham’s prayer and resolve as he lives with this disease is to be grateful, courageous, and cheerful each day—which he does amazingly well. I told you he was a wise man.

The first piece of wisdom I will share has exuded from his soul since his earliest days as a Christian. It comes from his all-time favorite Bible verse,  1 Timothy 1:5:

The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.

This is the wisdom he lives by: Living a life for God begins from the inside out. It begins and ends with integrity. Living daily with sincerity of faith, purity of heart, and a clear conscience results in a life of love. Such is the wisdom I have watched him live… day after day.

I could fill a daily blog for years with wisdom I have learned from Wyndham. However, I’ll stick with one day a week. Each Wednesday I will share wisdom gleaned, not just from me, but from our family who saw him day and night and from friends near and far whose lives he has touched.

Many of you have already told me you wish to share wisdom you learned from Wyndham. If you wish to contribute to this collection please email me at shaw.jeanie@gmail.com with the subject line—Wednesday Wisdom. If you wish to receive these blogs in your inbox, feel free to sign up to follow the blog.

I’ll look forward to meeting you here on Wednesdays. And if you would, please remember us in your prayers. It’s a privilege to have you in our lives.

What Are You Hanging On?

It seemed a good idea at the time. It began late one night as I changed the bed sheets while watching an episode of “The Dick Van Dyke Show.” It was a funny episode. Somewhere between the twisting and tugging of sheets and my laughter during the show—I pulled one of my ribs out of place. I’ve done this before so am familiar with the pain. I knew right away what had happened.

Grimacing as I made my way down the stairs to the dark basement in order to throw the sheets into the washer—I had an idea. In the door frame that leads from a room in the basement to my washing machine hangs (what I thought was) a pull-up bar. I often hang semi-dry clothes on this bar to finish drying. I conjectured, for some insane reason, that perhaps if I hung from this bar I could somehow self-adjust my painful displaced rib. Like I said, it seemed a good idea at the time.

Turns out it was not actually a pull up bar, but instead a “tension bar” that is meant to hold nothing heavier than a few shirts on hangers. So, as I jumped up to the bar in the darkness I immediately came crashing down into the laundry basket below, landing awkwardly on my left arm and spraining my left thumb. hangingThe good news was that the rib pain seemed less in comparison to the writhing pain in my now huge, darkened, and throbbing thumb.

Life can be like this. While trying to “fix” something that feels uncomfortable we make things worse if we grasp something not meant to hold us. Fear is stifling. Anxiety can be crippling. Life circumstances often weigh us down. When difficulties in life happen, what do you grasp for? What do you hang on to?

What others think of you? Your job? Your bank account? Your strength and physical appearance? Your identity as a parent? Your friends?

Will these hold you into eternity? Will they hold you up when others disappoint? When health fails? When kids grow up? When hard times come? When we breathe our last?

If we hold on to things that are not secured by God’s strong hand, we will eventually crash to the ground, sustaining casualties far superseding sprained thumbs. Casualties with eternal consequences. Nothing, no one but God is strong enough to hold us “into” eternity.

When I’m fearful, insecure, or anxious—God’s truths are able to hold me. His truths are backed up with power—from the creation of the world, to the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, to the way he fills my soul.

When I feel my hands are slipping, nothing helps me more than reading and meditating on truths from God, and truths about God.

When you feel weary…hold on to God’s word, his truths:
 Now I would remind you, brothers and sisters, of the good news that I proclaimed to you, which you in turn received, in which also you stand,
  through which also you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message that I proclaimed to you—unless you have come to believe in vain.

(1 Corinthians 15:1-2) NRSV (emphasis added)

  He called you to salvation when we told you the Good News; now you can share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
  With all these things in mind, dear brothers and sisters, stand firm and keep a strong grip on the teaching we passed on to you both in person and by letter. (2 Thessalonians 2:14-14) NLT (emphasis added)

Hold on to the hope and confidence of eternal life:

Fight the good fight for the true faith. Hold tightly to the eternal life to which God has called you, which you have confessed so well before many witnesses. (1 Timothy 6:12) NLT
 We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first. (Hebrews 3:14) NIV (emphasis added)
  Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. (Hebrews 10:23) NIV (emphasis added)

Holding to God’s truths, eternal life, confidence in God, and hope will keep us from falling.

When it gets hard to hold on, never forget that we are not grasping a metal bar—but the hand of a strong and loving God. He will help us, for he delights in us. He is plenty strong to hold us, as long as WE don’t let go.
  He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters.
  He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me.
  They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the LORD was my support.
  He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me. (Psalm 18:16-19) NIV

  For I am the LORD, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you. (Isaiah 41:13) NIV

Trusting Through the Stink

Every so often you receive an email that resonates in a particularly meaningful way. The following is from one of our friends who wages a daily battle with her oldest daughter’s health challenges. Her daughter suffers from a brain tumor that was diagnosed in her second year of life and which can’t be removed. She suffers daily and intense seizures. Now twelve years old, she has been through numerous surgeries, chemo, and myriad treatments. Daily life is a challenge.

Angela sent the following note to my husband. Her perspective is valuable, and I asked her permission to share these words of encouragement—as I believe this message needs to be shared:  

“I can’t know what life is like for you right now. I am sure it is disappointing and ever so distressing to have your life end up like this. It is not fair. It flat out stinks. So many have depended on you for so much. You are an amazing minister and elder. Our family has benefited from your kindness and spiritual gifts many times. I hope that this email will in a small way return the favor.

When Alexa first got sick I thought sooner or later our lives would go back to “normal.” I would return to being a lawyer, Alexa would return to being a healthy kid, our finances would be restored, and my marriage would no longer be stressed. It is now 10 years later—none of those things are true.

However, what I once saw as the complete ruining of my life, I now realize has led me to a true and deep relationship with God. As a result, there is a closeness in my family that can only be born from the struggles between life and death. From experiencing high hopes to spirit crushing defeats, God has held my family and our faith together. He will do the same for you.

I will not sugar coat words or say that everything will be fine if you just pray or think happy thoughts. In these type of situations there will be disappointments and heartbreaks. There are times you may feel you can’t go on, times when you think, “Where is God?” But he is there.

Proverbs 3:5-6 helped me immensely “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit your ways to him, and he will make your ways straight.”

This Scripture helped me come to the realization that I could never understand why all this disappointment and heartache was present in our lives. God’s understanding surpasses mine by miles. Once I truly surrendered to the desire to know and understand why all of this was happening I was freed. It was no longer up to me to return our lives to the way they once were.

You have an incredible spirit Wyndham—one that has helped so many through so much. Your spirit will help you through this. It is so easy to think down about yourself during these times. Once I was no longer able to practice law due to our daughter’s needs, I felt useless for years.  I thought there was no way for me to help the Kingdom and that my God given talents would be wasted. I was so wrong. When you are dealing with a chronic and debilitating illness you have the opportunity to truly show the depth of Christ’s love for us. Psalm 34:18 was my mantra for ages. “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

I have felt closer to God in the past few years, honestly more so then when I first became a disciple—because I am brokenhearted. You may be too. There will be so many opportunities for you to show doctors and other patients the completely healing love of Christ through your faith and belief.”

Thank you for sharing your heart, Angela. I believe it will minister not just to us, but to many others.  I close with an excerpt from a song by Lauren Daigle entitled, “Trust in You.”

“…Mighty warrior, king of the fight
No matter what I face you’re by my side

When you don’t move the mountains
I’m needing you to move
When you don’t part the waters
I wish I could walk through
When you don’t give the answers
As I cry out to you
I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in you

Truth is you know what tomorrow brings
There’s not a day ahead you have not seen
So let all things be my life and breath
I want what you want Lord and nothing less

You are my strength and comfort
You are my steady hand
You are my firm foundation
The rock on which I stand
Your ways are always higher
You plans are always good
There’s not a place where I’ll go
You’ve not already stood

When you don’t move the mountains
I’m needing you to move
When you don’t part the waters
I wish I could walk through
When you don’t give the answers
As I cry out to you
I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in you.”

On Being a Woman

The youngest of four girls. Two daughters. Six granddaughters. There’s a lot of estrogen in my family (at least for the younger ones).  On this International Women’s Day, and every day, I am grateful to be a woman, created by God with value and purpose.  I long for every woman to know the life giving freedom and soul fulfilling love that God designed for his daughters. As sisters around the globe have shared in a day of prayer and fasting, and today are living boldly, I am more encouraged than ever. More filled with hope. With passion. With determination to change this world for the good. Thank you for your faith. Your comments have spurred me on.I am grateful for the women who have gone before me, overcoming “impossible” obstacles for my benefit.

I posted this blog, “Jesus, the Value Giver,” on another site earlier this week, but it seems particularly fitting as today the world celebrates women.

Certainly, no one was more of an advocate for a woman’s value than Jesus Christ. He was radical in the careful, purposeful, and counter-cultural, priceless worth he gave to women—shocking the social norms of his day. He was attentive to their deepest needs, and strategic in who saw these interactions. He gave women true value and purpose—spiritual bread for their hungering souls and unending, life-giving water that quenched their thirst. And his offer has not run out or expired. His desire for a life giving relationship with us is meant not just to quiet and save our souls…but is the solution for every longing soul.

With the ever-present and deep-rooted need for purpose and value—will we, as Christian women who are truly liberated in our souls, be silent to the outcry?

Jesus was not.

No matter the social freedoms offered or missing—never forget—we are all enslaved without Jesus.

Enslaved to all kinds of guilt and shame; enslaved to hurtful and harmful habits; to insecurity and to bitterness; to money; to men; to success; to gossip; to alcohol; to what others think; and to all kinds of sins and worldly thinking.

Listen carefully, truly see, initiate, and share scriptures that have changed you. Share your life. Open your mouth. Pray.  Everyone you encounter has a story. Many are suffering quietly. Others are unaware of their needs. Either way, Jesus is the only happy ending.

We have many examples of women who prayed, were purposeful, and bold. We are not alone.

When Esther understood the plight of her nation, Mordecai’s words resonated and called her to action.

“For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance from the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this? Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai:
  “Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my maids will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.”
 (Esther 4:14-16)

When the Israelites were saved from the vast army of Egyptians, crossing the Red Sea on dry land Miriam picked up a tambourine and led the women in song, “Sing to the Lord for he is highly exalted. The horse and its rider he has hurled into the sea.” (Exodus 15:21)

The time is now. We have a song to sing, a sea to cross, and the greatest message ever to share. Together. As one.

We could go on…with Rahab, a courageous prostitute who God used to save many as she trusted his plan and his desire to use her—a once-broken woman.  And the woman from Samaria (from the wrong side of the tracks in everyone’s eyes—except the eyes of Jesus) who told her entire town about the man Jesus who liberated her. Jesus gave her his ear and his heart. He gave her value, forgiveness, and showed her respect. He gave her a purpose.

The woman caught in adultery—Jesus showed compassion and grace. He shut down the evil and judgmental thoughts (and rocks) aimed her way. He said “go and sin no more” and convicted the hypocritical, demeaning and smug attitudes that had flowed from the once assembled crowd.

God has done great things in our lives, most importantly, saving us.

It’s time to act. Together. Purposefully. Boldly. Let us speak as one, loud chorus that offers hope to women around the world. Teens are needed, grandmothers are needed….as is everyone in between. You can make a difference in this troubled world—in someone’s eternity.

Words can be many. We can post, we can carry signs, and we can tweet. But the question remains, what will we do?  As the Scriptures state, Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue, but with actions and in truth. (1 John 3:18)

Who will step out on faith and boldly share Jesus’ life giving words?

Who will find ways to serve the needy?

Who will live as examples of righteousness?

We will.

 

A Powerful Lesson from the Walmart Clerk

A few months ago I spoke on a panel for caregivers in downtown Boston. Invited by a wonderful woman who is involved in community affairs, I had no idea what to expect. Frankly, I didn’t quite know how I got the invitation. I don’t think I had grasped that I had become, in fact, a caregiver. The sponsoring group was looking for “clergy” for the panel, and I was asked to speak on the role of faith in the life of a caregiver. I was thrilled for the opportunity to share with this audience the importance of my faith.

I did not know the keynote speaker, however she contacted me a few days before the event in order to go through the details of the morning program. As we tried to find a time to talk that would work for both of us, she mentioned that she could not talk at a particular time because that was during her shift at Walmart. I was confused. She would be speaking to many influential men and women—so I must confess that her occupation surprised me. I felt a bit guilty for that thought, as I know a job does not define a person’s contribution to society—or to other’s lives. She offered no explanation, but sought to find a mutually agreeable time to talk.

This woman’s message at the event was quite impressive. Her speech was informative and inspiring. It was evident that the challenges facing caregivers were on her heart as she sought ways to encourage them, advocate for them, and educate them on available services. Her passion was contagious.

In a follow up conversation I asked her more about her job, as I was quite curious. I learned that she is an astute businesswoman who owns her own company. However, as a spokesperson for the care-giving community, she felt she was not fully in touch with their needs–though she powerfully spoke about them. Thus, she decided to take a shift at Walmart in order to have conversations with caregivers who come through her checkout line. She can spot them by their purchases—unique to caregivers. Her goal is to chat with them, learn from them, and to offer words of gratitude and encouragement. Wow. I left the conversation challenged and inspired. 20170121_135916

Years ago I watched a movie I will never forget entitled “The Doctor.” In this movie a seemingly “entitled” doctor becomes the patient—and his life’s perspective is forever changed. Likewise, a book, “Nickle and Dimed,” by Barbara Ehrenreich moved my heart in similar ways. In this book, the author becomes an undercover journalist who chronicles her attempts to support her family on a waitress’ salary in order better understand and communicate the plight of many women. Though I have often tried to listen to and understand people’s life circumstances and difficulties different from my own… I am free to go back to live in my own skin and surroundings. This recent conversation with the Walmart clerk caused me to rethink needed ways to take my empathy and understanding deeper.

It’s hard, actually impossible, to comprehend the love that caused Jesus to willingly leave heaven for earth to be the human—to feel what we feel, to be tempted the ways we are tempted, to cry the same tears we cry, to feel pain and sorrow, to feel human love and friendship, and to experience death. Yet it’s real. He did it and left us an example.
  Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.
  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet was without sin.
  Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
(Hebrews 4:14-16)
  Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.
  Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.
  Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
  Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
  but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.
  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death– even death on a cross!
  Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name,
  that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
  and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
(Philippians 2:3-11)

While the Walmart clerk, the movie, and the book inspire me to be more aware and considerate, only Jesus can truly change and empower me to live a life of “love with skin on it” that begins inside the attitudes of my heart. I am dependent on his grace and mercy, and long to to learn more keenly to reflect his grace and mercy each day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks for the Underwear…I Think

Expectations were high as the family of four gathered for Micah’s seventh birthday dinner. (Birthday celebrations bring wide-eyed excitement for most seven-year-olds, and my grandson is no exception.) The festive table had been set, the cake had been made, and the gifts had been placed beside the table. After extinguishing the flames (as much as seven candles produce) with a burst of wish-laden breath, Micah was presented with his gifts. Gracie was thrilled to present him with Pokémon supplies.

Next, mom and dad handed him his eagerly anticipated gift. He quickly unwrapped the paper to expose the exciting gift of— underwear. img_0797He was gracious and thankful to his parents—but they could tell that underneath the grateful response stood unexpressed disappointment. They shared their love for Micah, and the evening continued, with happy kids.

Earlier in the week Micah’s room had been declared “off limits” for the week. He thought the reason was that something toxic was being removed from his room—something which he needed avoid. He took the warning seriously, and never even thought about opening the door before he was given the “okay.”  The day before his room went “off limits,” mom had gathered his needed belongings for the next few days. Micah temporarily moved into his sister’s room—an arrangement they both thoroughly enjoyed.

About ten minutes after opening his gifts Micah heard his mom’s voice calling for him. He inquired as to her whereabouts—to which she responded, “Just follow my voice.” The other three family members followed his lead as he followed her voice which led to his room.

He stood outside the door as his mom assured him he could now enter. As he walked through the door he looked around in disbelief.  He had no words to express his pleasure. micah-birthday-1

Actually, I’m not sure who was more excited. Micah or his parents!

You see—the “work” that had been done that week was a complete remodeling of his room. This was his birthday surprise. His broken flimsy bed had been replaced with a full sized bed dressed in vibrant New England Patriot coverings. An old desk from his parent’s room had been painted and refreshed just for him. Pictures of his favorite sports heroes donned the walls along with meaningful pictures of family. The room was filled with all that was special to him.

He had graciously accepted the underwear as his gift, never imagining the elaborate and painstakingly planned room awaiting his arrival.

How often in life we feel we are given underwear when we were hoping for something different. Our needs are met, but often not exactly in the ways we may have hoped or dreamed. Disappointments, loss, health challenges, financial troubles, and relationship difficulties in our lives can feel sort of like receiving underwear for a gift.

God never has it in his mind to hurt us. It’s just that in this temporary world can not yet experience life without the effects of the prince of evil…and this world is in a fallen state. Even so, no matter what we face, God lavishes his love on us. The internal blessings of the comfort of his love (Php. 2:1), hope that does not disappoint,  joy that he pours into our hearts (Romans 5:5), and peace that passes human understanding (Php 4:7) can’t be replaced by any objects, circumstances, or things.  God is preparing us for the day when no “toxicity” can reach us and is refining our character so we can follow his voice.  He knows this life is short, and is eager and excited to call to us to find him—and to enjoy the amazing eternity with him. Prepared just for us.

 
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.
In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there  to prepare a place for you.
And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.
You know the way to the place where I am going.”
(John 14:1-4)
I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.
The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed.
For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope
that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.
(Romans 8:18-21)

No, we speak of God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began.
None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
However, as it is written: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him”–
but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.
(1 Corinthians 2:7-10)

 

You may feel like you have opened underwear, but life is way bigger than underwear. Listen for God’s voice as you learn from him through his word. Let it lead you to a new perspective, a heavenly perspective that will last forever. An eternity with him that nothing can take from you. It’s going to be inexpressibly perfect. No words are sufficient to describe what he has lovingly prepared for us.

 

 

 

 

I Know Exactly Who I Am!

Recent conversation between my daughter and granddaughter:

Gracie:  Mommy, can you take my trash? (Gracie holds out a chewed on apple core.)

Mommy:  Gracie, I’m driving. You can just put it in the paper bag you are holding.

Gracie: I need you to take it.

Mommy: No Gracie. You can put it in your bag.

(Gracie continues to argue her point. As mommy reaches back for a “friendly knee squeeze” Gracie quickly thrusts her apple core into Mommy’s hand.)

Mommy: (In a stern voice, maybe some steam coming from ears) Gracie, just who do you think you are?

Gracie: I KNOW EXACTLY WHO I AM . img_0740

And there you have it. An interaction between a mom and a perfectly precious yet sometimes precocious 5-year-old. Yes, she was disciplined and was penitent. She tests her borders for sure, but truly is a sweetheart…who knows exactly who she is…Just sometimes has to add a dose of humility.

I love this confident quality which exudes from Gracie. She is secure in her own skin and is not afraid to step out with surety. My mother-in-law had a description for this quality in children that surely fits her—“a real ringed-tailed-peeler.”  I have no idea what that is, but it sounds about right.

Or, as Shakespeare penned, “Though she be but little, she is fierce.”

The truth is, when we know who we are (as Christians) our confidence can be rock solid. We can know exactly who we are. Perhaps we shouldn’t shove our trash in people’s fists…but we can be secure and confident from deep inside our souls.

When we aren’t exactly sure who we are, insecurity reigns. This insecurity can present itself in myriad ways, most which are not helpful in building loving relationships. We might withdraw, or attempt to “prove ourselves,” or perhaps look for confidence in a drink. When insecure, we may be easily angered when someone points out a weakness, thinking our “felt worthlessness” is accentuated. Often, insecurity breeds people-pleasing.

Certainly the ways we were raised and treated contribute to our confidence, or lack thereof. Our background, ethnicity, education, appearance, and finances can add to or subtract from the value we place on ourselves.

I have been struck by the millions of women around the world who marched this past weekend. As a woman, I am deeply inspired and humbled by the many heroic women who have gone before me, and even sacrificed their lives so that I can work, vote, have a voice, and much more. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. But there is more.These, alone, are not enough to give me the identity which brings confidence and inner peace.

One thing is abundantly clear.  We all long to feel valued, considered, and respected. We want to matter.

I firmly believe no one lifted the society imposed barriers like the radical man, Jesus. No one serves as a better example or inspires me more to learn “exactly who I am.”

Jesus knew who he came from and where he was going (John 8:14). Because of his sure identity and confidence he:

Was not a people pleaser (Mark 12:13-14).

Had inner certitude, which made him impervious to criticism.

Did not feel servile even when serving others. He simply focused on serving God.
  Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God;
  so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist.
  After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.
(John 13:3-5)

Did not retaliate, but entrusted himself to God who judges justly (1 Peter 2:23).

The truth is, only through holding to the convictions that I was created by God, belong to him, and am living for something greater than and beyond this world can I begin to live like this…with this same kind of assurance and confidence.

Nothing else can provide me this inner confidence and peace—No man, no family, no job, no political scene, no money, no circumstance.

Though I am deeply grateful for my husband and family, my job, and so many blessings…only with God can I say the words of my granddaughter, “I know exactly who I am.” Who am I?

I am planned (Psalm 139:13-14, 71:6)

I am God’s child, with his love lavished on me (1 John 4:16, 3:1)

I am his treasured possession (Jeremiah 32:40; Exodus 19:5)

I am thought about (Psalm 139:17-18)

I am a song in his heart (Zephaniah 3:17)

I am carried (Isaiah 40:11)

I am engraved on his palm (Isaiah 49:16)

I am not separated from his love (Romans 8:38-39)

When I know who I am, then, and only then, can I strive to imitate those qualities of Jesus. Only when I am sure of myself, can I be free from myself to serve, to not retaliate, and to not care what others think. I have a purpose. I can go to sleep each night with peace, awaking with hope and God’s mercies…new every morning.img_0494

Do you know exactly who you are?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You Mean You Don’t See That Mountain?

In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. day, I edited this recent post. Would love your feedback:

 

Do you see a colorful, spiraled mountain in this ocean view? 20150323_133750

I don’t either.

 

 

 

But he does.

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“Uke” (the unicorn) pastures by the ocean. Day after day he sees this multi-colored, spiraling mountain as he looks out toward the sea.

 

20170112_131546

Hmmm. I wonder why. Could it be that he can’t see past his own forehead?

Actually, he is not so unusual. I certainly have my view of the scenery around me, and I suspect that you have your view as well. I think it is fair to say that our views are often altered by our unique “unicorn horns.”

What do you see? It may or may not look the same as what I see.

Our perspective changes everything. We view life through the eyes of our beliefs and experiences (our personal unicorn horns). It’s quite hard, at times, to see another’s view, because it doesn’t match our reality. We see that colorful, spiraled mountain in the middle of the sea and wonder why others are so blind! Can’t they see it?!!

Often, even after we have become Christians, we can be tempted to view life, circumstances, and even others through our “default” perspectives—a human and worldly perspective compiled from our past experiences and viewpoints. We can miss the fact that reality might actually be somewhat different.

(You mean a unicorn horn is not really on the horizon?!!)

Perhaps you come from a background of broken trust and/or abuse that affects your sight lines. Other views might be observed through the “horns” of poor health, suffering, or financial difficulties. Certainly, our ethnic backgrounds can affect the ways we see and process the views on our horizons.

I have learned so much from my youngest son who grew up (until his teen years) in poverty and without parents. His ethnicity has exposed prejudices and profiling–the likes of which I have never had to experience. I have never been stopped by eight patrol cars with rifles raised because I fit the description of a crime someone in a town nearby had committed. (Yes, years ago he experienced a “My Cousin Vinny” situation on the way back from teen camp.) I’ve never been “watched” while shopping. He has.

While his responses to numerous situations can frustrate me and cause me to (smh…shake my head), they make sense to him. The most loving thing I can do is to try to understand him, and learn to respect him. I know I still have much to learn.

We have grown closer and closer as I have tried to understand his views. I learn so much when I ask him what he sees and understands–and when I try my best to wrap my head around his perspectives. Our pasts, training, and experiences are far apart from each other. I have needed to learn to respect him, and he has had to learn to respect me. And thanks to God, we do love and respect each other.

How do you view family members when they don’t think the same ways you think? Your extended families? Your work associates, your neighbors, friends, or even the sharers of highways you travel? What’s your perspective as you face challenges they bring to you, or as they share their own challenges? Are you annoyed and resentful when they don’t think just like you…or do you push prejudices aside and strive to love as Jesus loves. Do you pray and work to see through Jesus’ eyes? I certainly have been (and continue to be) challenged by these questions.

Try asking someone unlike you (and who you don’t really understand) to share with you about their life…and really listen. Instead of trying to point them to your way of thinking…look to Jesus and his words. He is the only one that can bring real unity through shared convictions based on his truth, forgiveness, and will-directed, sacrificial love.

I am convicted and called higher by Jesus’ example…and the Scriptures’ call:

14  For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.
15  And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.
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, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!  (2 Corinthians 5:14-17, emphasis added)

What an encouraging, challenging, and hopeful scripture! I am a new creation through Christ…with a new way of thinking.

I must also ask another question…along with the question of how I view others.

How do I view Jesus?

Really.

From the ways I have “pictured” him, or by who HE says he really is?  When our perspective of Jesus stems from what he says about himself, rather than who we think he is or should be..our life and perspective changes.

When we view life through “truth” as the Scriptures teach, rather than through our own backgrounds and thoughts, we can become more and more like Jesus. Only then can we see life, our circumstances, and others through the eyes of Jesus.

We all have our “unicorn horns,” but Jesus can show us his true and beautiful view.

The view from that vantage point is heavenly…in the truest sense.