Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Week Thirty-Nine - When I'm 64

Yesterday was my birthday. It was spent with my precious husband and dear friends, all of us eating way too much! Greetings, cards, flowers, and gifts topped the day and a wise word from my elderly mother-in-law saying, “Enjoy the age you are.”
   Well, I will take her advice and go joyfully onward! After years serving the Lord, I can’t imagine living anywhere else or doing anything more fulfilling and exciting.  Knowing He feeds me and still needs me—gives purpose to my life and empowers me to carry on.
   But I haven’t always felt that way. I remember the hard slog of getting a work off the ground, learning a new culture and a new way to speak.  I remember the tears of culture shock and the absence of grey-headed grandparents around the Thanksgiving Day table.
   I know the pains of disappointment, the loss of loved ones, and the depths of depression, but I also know the joy of victory and the power of His resurrection as I grasped to Job’s pledge, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.”  (Job13:15)
   I’d love to be able to give you a simple solution to the question of perseverance, but I have found the Lord deals with us personally.  Oh, we may all quote similar scriptures and come to the same truths, but our stories vary.  Some endure great discouragements, others deep heartache and loss.  Still, others seem to ride the waves with apparent ease, but one thing remains true—Our Lord.
  If you pressed me with the question of perseverance, I would draw back and hesitate because I remember the times I teetered and floundered.  I’m still on the field by God’s grace and hand alone.  I have no personal merit or redeeming qualities above those who have come and gone.  There is no wisdom in comparisons.  Only the Lord, in whom are my times, directs my path and yours.  He determines how long we stay in a place and that truth gives me great peace.
   I am where God wants me to be, doing what he has asked me to do.  That is the sum of it.
   Is there a key? Well, maybe.  You can call it obedience or faithfulness or even dogged determination.  I might choose some other words.  Contentment.  Resolution. Acceptance. Resting. Confidence. Peace. Assurance.  All of those and more go into the act of persevering. Deep down, there must be an understanding of belonging to a loving Heavenly Father who knows who you are, where you are, and has purpose for every moment of your life, whether that is on the mission field or not.
   Those whose hearts are settled in these truths persevere.
   So, will He still need me, will He still feed me when I’m 64?  You bet, and as “Diogenes said when told to rest because he was growing old, ‘If I were running in the stadium, ought I to slacken my pace when approaching the goal?  Ought I not rather to put on speed?’”

Good in Everything by H.L. Gee

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Week Thirty-Eight - Palms Up

This morning, I am finishing up my blog somewhere on the east side of Cardiff in South Wales.  It is a beautiful brisk morning full of promise and a reminder that the mercies of the Lord which are renewed every morning.  My thought today is hovering around an idea I look forward to sharing with you. 
   Let’s start with a scripture and take time for a short prayer.  I Timothy 2:8  I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.” 
   Lord, let us lift up our hearts and hands to you today and lay aside any anger or confusion that so often hinders.  Let us look now at the idea of living palms up as we seek to follow the example of Christ.

Bob Goff, in his book, Love Does, which I recently read, devotes a chapter to the idea of living life with palms up.  As a lawyer, he found his clients had an easier time being calm, honest, and accurate when they rested their hands on their knees with the palms up during interrogation. 
   He says, “This is important, because it’s harder for them to get defensive.  When people get angry or defensive they tend to make mistakes.  But nobody can be defensive with their palms up. Something about the hardwiring that God gave each of us links to position of our bodies and position of our hearts.  I’m not sure why we’re wired this way, but I rarely have a client get frustrated or confused or get tempted to exaggerate or tell a lie when his palms are up.”
  The Bible, too, speaks of lifting holy hands in several situations.  First, we see Solomon praying in this manner at the temple dedication.  I Kings 8:22 says he “spread forth his hands toward heaven.”  Psalm 28:2 reads, “I lift up my hands toward thy holy oracle,” and Psalm 134:2 instructs us to “Lift up your hands in the sanctuary, and bless the Lord.  In Lamentations 3:41 Jeremiah writes, “Let us lift up our heart with our hands unto God in the heavens.”
   These are only a few instances, we could look at more, but the idea is one of opening ourselves to the Lord.
   In Love Does, Bob Goff takes the idea further than just lifting our hands during prayer.  He sees it as the way to follow the example of Christ.  Instead of walking around with fists clenched, angry and ready to fight, Jesus teaches us to walk openly, strong enough to be vulnerable, with nothing to hide, nothing to gain or lose, even when we have been tremendously wronged.  He says, “Jesus was palms up, to the end.”
  I have tried praying with my palms up on my knees.  Have you?  It makes me feel very vulnerable.  I find my hands withering in as my fingers pull back and I want to return to the old position of my face in my hands when I pray.  It makes me wonder what I have to hide.  Why do I feel exposed?  Why am I afraid to visualize the blessing of the Lord falling into my hands?  Do I live palms up?  Do I live in a way that keeps me from being frustrated and confused?  So many questions come as I ponder this thought –palms up.
   Then, I began trying to pray with my hands lifted up and my face looking into the heavens.  I could do that for a while, but again, I began to get that feeling of being too obvious, too forward, too pretentious. 
   I’m finding the practice of praying with palms up opening my heart to looking at how I close of my life in other areas.  Do I walk around with my fists clenched?  Am I short tempered?  Am I closed to others who need me? I’m a rather private person, so this is a real challenge for me.

   How about you?  Have you ever tried this position in prayer?  Why not try it now?  Set your hands on your knees and place your palms toward the sky as you pray. Then, go from your prayer to live your life palms up! 

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Week Thirty-Seven - Angels in the Kitchen

   Mutter, mutter, mutter!  I hear my heart grumbling as I slap toast into the toaster and wait for the kettle to boil.  Slinging silverware to the table, I watch the bacon impatiently while I wait for the family to get downstairs.  “Why do I have to wait on these people hand and foot?  Why do they wait for me to scream up the stairs before they come down?  Can’t they smell the bacon and hear the kettle?”
   Just as I get ready to take the cups to the table, the family spills down the stairs with excitement. “Why are they so happy?  Don’t they know how irritated I am being the only one down here getting things ready?”
“Good morning,” they all chime. 
  “Ump.” I groan, as I butter the last piece of toast.
   Once they are all out the door, I go to my quiet place for some solace and encouragement.  It’s been another hard morning and I am anxious to hear from the Lord.
  Hebrews 13 is my reading.  Let brotherly love continue.  Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” 
  Well,” I thought.  “I haven’t entertained strangers this morning, and I’m sure they are not angels.”
Then, I heard the Lord reminding me of 1 Peter 4:9, “Use hospitality one to another without grudging.”
   “Okay, okay!”  So, I was a bit grumpy this morning.  To be honest, I am grumpy at having to man the kitchen alone.  I don’t like cooking.  I don’t like the feeling of everyone expecting me to do it with no help.  I’m sorry, but it is probably the task I despise most about housework.
   I laid aside my Bible and picked up a little book I had been reading.  The faded green cover revealed it’s age, and the writings were short excerpts so maybe I could find some comfort there to lift my annoyance, but the Lord wasn’t going to let me off that lightly.  My eyes fell on:
            “In one of Murillo’s pictures in the Louvre he shows us the
            interior of a convent kitchen; but doing the work there are
            beautiful white-winged angels instead of mortals in old
            garments.  One shining spirit serenely puts the kettle on the
            fire, and one is lifting a pail of water with heavenly grace.
            One is reaching plates from the kitchen dresser; and there
            is also a little cherub running about and getting in the way
            while trying to help.  It all serves to remind us that heaven
            is about us in our kitchen, and that God may help us with the
            most menial and humdrum tasks.” 
            Adapted from Blessed Be Drudgery by Williams C. Grannett
Well,” I continued to mutter, “there were no angels helping me today.”   Then, my eyes caught the next short thought in the faded green book, “There can never be a really happy home if there is trouble in the kitchen.”
   I was guilty.  I knew my bad attitude could spill out to the rest of the house.  I wanted a happy home.  I felt I had a happy home, but my heart’s attitude and outward actions in the kitchen revealed something different.
   “Lord, forgive me.  Help me serve my family as unto you.  Forgive and change my heart and attitude. Let my influence be one of genuine hospitality from a heart of love and care.  Help my family to overlook and forgive my selfishness and curt impatience.  May grace and angelic presence abide in my heart, hearth, and home for your glory.”
   Nearby, staring back at me in blank resolve was a tiny, white, angel ornament recently made for me by an old friend. Was I going to allow angels into my kitchen?
   I took the tiny angel and placed her near the sink as a reminder of my Lord’s instruction.  Maybe tomorrow morning she will remind me I am not alone in my kitchen, and service to my family, done as unto the Lord, does not go unnoticed.   

Excerpt from: Good in Everything by H.L. Gee, p 56 

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Week Thirty-Six - Long Shadows

 The passing of a loved one casts me into retrospection.  I have spent time these past few weeks thinking about my childhood since the funeral of my father last month.  I remember loads of happy memories along with some very sad ones, and then, found myself left in a deep quandary over the whys and how’s of things that happened when I was a child. 
   I noticed my mind getting stuck and the old emotions beginning to rise.  “Why,” I thought, “have these things not died a death years ago?  Why do they have such a hold on how I see myself now?”
   I began to pray and plead with the Lord for answers. 
   Did He answer? 
   Yes, He did. 
   Here’s what I heard Him say.  “Gail, those things happened.  They are facts from your past that you cannot change.  But you do have the choice on how you deal with them today.  You can use them as guideposts or warning signals.  You can allow them to create fear or anger in your heart.  You can rise above them.  It is your choice. I will tell you that once you became My child, those things were covered by the blood.  Forgiven. Forgotten.  You were made a new creation. So, what choice will you make?” 
   Right there, I decided to lay them again at the foot of the cross.  I chose, again, to forgive others, even if I never hear the words “I’m sorry.”  I accepted God’s forgiveness for my failures and understood I may never know the whys and how’s, but in His sovereignty, these hurts and regrets are a vital part of God’s precious work in my life for His glory.
   At various times along my journey, He brings me to this same place, and I am always amazed at how He gives me the grace and strength to hand it all back to Him and continue moving forward. I cannot allow the memory of past mistakes or hurts to hinder me, and neither can you. Those memories may cast long shadows, but we need not fear them.
   Have you ever heard this one?  “Sorrow looks back, Worry looks around, but Faith looks forward.” This little blurb has helped me sort so many things in my life.  And another thing that helps me when long shadows fall is Psalm 23:4 “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me.” 
   Did you know you couldn’t have a shadow without the presence of light?  This little portion of scripture reminds me to turn my face to His Light when the dark shadows linger.  God is there!
   You, too, should turn and look toward the Light when long shadows fall.  With your face lit by the truth of God’s love, the past plummets behind you and loses the power to manipulate today or tomorrow.

   A few years ago, I began working on issues from my past and created a little formula that helps me gain power over these long shadows.  Allow me to briefly share my process with you. 
    First, writing each one on an individual scrap of paper, I create a list of the troublesome things and place them in a row in front of me. 
    Then, I take a look at each of them and ask, “Which of these are simply facts; things that can never be changed due to time or the restraints of nature?  These might be as crazy as the size of my nose or the shape of my eyes.  Some people stress over these things! 
   But then, there are things that happened in my childhood or things I said or did that can never be changed.  I try to look very objectively and remove the emotion from them.  If I can do that, I move those things up to the next row—the fact row where there is no emotion, just resolved acceptance.
   I find I am usually left with just a few things still going bump in the night that remain on the bottom row. 
   Now, I take another look at the fact row.  In which of these things can I find thankfulness?  Can I be thankful for my nose?  The shape of my eyes? Can I see how God has used my difficult experiences to teach me a truth I am thankful to know?  Or can I see how God used the experiences to allow me to help others?  I move as many of the fact papers to the upper thankful row as possible. 
    God tells us, “In everything give thanks.” That is my ultimate goal.  I work and pray through my fact list and my bottom row for as long as it takes to move everything to the thankful row.
   I have found this little process producing happiness and confidence in my life.  Now, only occasionally, do the long shadows of old memories cast dark shaded areas, and they are soon replaced by the sunshine of God’s word by my obedience when I take them to the cross.
I’m reminded of Christy Lane’s song, Give Them All to Jesus.

Are you tired of chasing pretty rainbows
Are you tired of spinning round and round
Wrap up all the shattered dreams of your life
And at the feet of Jesus lay them down
He never said you'd only see sunshine
He never said there'd be no rain
He only promised us a heart full of singing
About the very thing that once brought pain.
Give them all.
Give them all.
Give them all to Jesus.
Shattered dreams, wounded hearts, broken toys
Give them all.
Give them all.
Give them all to Jesus
And he will turn your sorrows into joy.
   If you are haunted by long shadows of hurt or regret, I encourage you to try my little process.  Turn your face to the Light and see if you, too, can come to resolution by finding thankfulness in everything.  Remember, some things we will never understand.  We are not intended to, but God knows exactly why every moment of our life is important.  He designs with minute detail.  That’s another thing to be thankful for!
“In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”
 1 Thessalonians 5:18