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Child of God

Never throughout history has a man who lived a life of ease left a name worth remembering. ~Theodore Roosevelt

In my hometown I am often known as Chester and Evelyn’s granddaughter. My last name carries a reputation closing in on 100 years.

Chester and Evelyn were “good people.” They didn’t have much – except for children – but what they had they shared. They fed others, passed down shoes and clothes, offered a night’s shelter.

They were people of the land and neighbors of the heart.

My story is entwined forever with their own.

John tells us the reason the world doesn’t know us is that it doesn’t know our Father. If we want people to recognize God, then we have to show him to others.

How do we do that?

By doing the things that God would do.

Are you generous to everyone? Do you share your money, your time, your love? Or do you hold back from some you deem unworthy?

Do you care for orphans and widows? Or do you say you don’t know any and move on? Remember your neighbors don’t just live next door.

Do you shuffle your parents off on your brothers and sisters because you’re “just not good with that sort of thing”?

The best way to tell others about our Father is by living; remember, actions speak louder than words.

For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death. This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. 1 John 3:11, 14, 16-18 NIV

Time to Leave

“It is always sad when someone leaves home, unless they are simply going around the corner and will return in a few minutes with ice-cream sandwiches.”
― Lemony Snicket, Horseradish

Our time in North Carolina is drawing to a close. We don’t yet know when we will move, but we know it will be soon.

About two years ago my husband and I began to feel that our work here was done. We weren’t sure why, but it felt like God was calling us to move on.

Then the dreams and visions began. God was definitely calling us to take the Word to another people.

Then, last year our parents started having some fairly major health issues. Were we supposed to go home? Honoring our parents and being there to help them seemed the right thing to do.

And we waited.

The dreams continued and messages from other people confirmed our belief. The “other people” are in West Virginia.

So now we return home, but we also leave home.

This church is our family. We have watched them change from a hurting, aching, suspicious group of people to a mature, loving, forgiving family. We love them, and they love us.

Leaving is hard.

But these past many months have been spent on our knees requesting the right person(s) to follow us. Not to fill our shoes, but to walk beside these people we love.

Someday, God will call someone else to continue the work you have started. It may be a ministry or a job. Perhaps he will ask you to leave a friend in the hands of another. He will absolutely ask you to give up your children.

Are you prepared to let someone else take your place?

Are you praying for them even now?

I planted, Apollos watered, but God caused it to grow. So neither the one who plants counts for anything, nor the one who waters, but God who causes the growth. The one who plants and the one who waters work as one, but each will receive his reward according to his work. We are coworkers belonging to God. You are God’s field, God’s building. 10 According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master-builder I laid a foundation, but someone else builds on it.  1 Corinthians 3:6-10 NET

Why Would You Do That?

Just as treasures are uncovered from the earth, so virtue appears from good deeds, and wisdom appears from a pure and peaceful mind. To walk safely through the maze of human life, one needs the light of wisdom and the guidance of virtue. ~Buddha

My neighbor was in a tizzy. The subdivision going in next to us was grading the land, and he just knew it was going to flood our properties.

“We need to sue. Go to the County Commissioners. Something has to be done.” His hands flailed through the air like heat-seeking missiles. “We have to do something.”

I tried to calm him and suggested we might want to talk to the developers first.

His mouth dropped open, and with a deep sigh, he shook his head, called me a name, and left.

It wasn’t a bad name. “Mary Sunshine.”

It’s not the first time I have caused confusion.

Why do you read to old people every week? Why do you write to convicts? Why do you give away so much money? Why do you help total strangers . . .

I’ll tell you why.

Spirit.

Paul told the Corinthians that people were going to question their better judgment. People were going to call them crazy, foolish, stupid.

But, Paul assured them, their foolishness would be coming straight from the Spirit.

The Spirit says love the unlovable. Be happy in the midst of sorrow. Find peace in the storm. Wait for God. Be kind to everyone. Be good as your Father is good. Stay faithful even when it looks hopeless. Have a gentle touch and turn away wrath. Self-control is your friend.

Are you a childless woman considering volunteering at the neighborhood school?

Do you have several adult children, yet you’re thinking of filling the nest with a new flock of children?

Are you ready to retire and enjoy trips with your husband, but instead you’re contemplating devoting these years to caring for a mother with dementia?

Whatever the Spirit is asking you to do, do it with gusto.

Do it for the Lord.

14 The unbeliever does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him. And he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The one who is spiritual discerns all things, yet he himself is understood by no one. 16 For who has known the mind of the Lordso as to advise him? But we have the mind of Christ. 1 Corinthians 2:14-16 NET

Crazy

True wisdom comes to each of us when we realize how little we understand about life, ourselves, and the world around us. ~Socrates

Sometimes God answers prayers in some whack-o ways.

“Lord, I want more kids.”

Ok, there are five in your backyard who need an extra mama. Oh, here are three more who need some guidance. Here’s another. Oh wait, try this one on too.

Or

“Lord, I want to be a missionary.”

Alright, get ready for this. Walk upstairs and turn on your computer. 573 students later you’ll still be taking Jesus to mainland China and other places around the world.

Or

“Lord, I want to honor my parents as they age and need help. Can we go home?”

Sure, but step it up a notch. Honor ME and them. Open a tea and coffee shop. Tell people that I still love them. Be me to others. Walk with them. Answer questions. Love and talk and hug and cry, and give them a cinnamon roll.

Paul prepared the Corinthians for similar conversations. He told them wisdom doesn’t look like wisdom to the world. What makes sense is actually sort of senseless. And when you think you’ve got your act together, think again. Intermission is over, and the clowns are on the way.

So what prayer is God answering for you?

Does a job change mean less money but more opportunity to serve?

Does a plea for supportive friends look like a neighbor who mows the grass in her bra and rain boots?

Does the request for more Bible knowledge begin with you teaching a community Bible study?

Whatever you’re asking God, you can bet the crazy answer will be just what you didn’t know you were looking for.

26 Think about the circumstances of your call, brothers and sisters. Not many were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were born to a privileged position. 27 But God chose what the world thinks foolish to shame the wise, and God chose what the world thinks weak to shame the strong. 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, what is regarded as nothing, to set aside what is regarded as something, 29 so that no one can boast in his presence. 30 He is the reason you have a relationship with Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 1:26-31 NET

Parting Words

An elephant funeral makes me weep every time, and so does an ad with a kid leaving home for college. ~Andrew Sean Greer

I have sent my children out into the world. Like Mama Pig, I believe it is time for them to seek their fortunes.

I hope they are prepared. I’ve done my best.

They will make mistakes – they have a proven track record in mistakes. But I will always be here to guide them back to the little brick house that offers safety and assurance.

John did the same.

The letter of 1 John is full of light and love language.

God is light. In him there is no darkness. We, on the other hand, have screwed up and are dimly glowing. (chapter 1)

Since you’re going to screw up, admit it when your wrong and ask for forgiveness. Love your brothers and sisters. Hate no one. Remember that Jesus is one of your brothers. (chapter 2)

God is the ultimate example of this love. Because even though he knows we’re a bunch of screw-ups, he still gave us a pretty great gift: membership in his family. (chapter 3)

And if that wasn’t enough, he gave us his Spirit. So when you screw up, there’s forgiveness AND help. When you can’t seem to find it in your heart to love someone, he’ll help you with that too. He’s really rooting for you! (chapter 4)

The final chapter ends with one line . . . Keep yourselves from idols. (chapter 5)

Sometimes the biggest words are the smallest. The hardest things are the simplest. The post powerful drift past us like leaves on a breeze.

When it is all said and done, John gathers his children into the safety of the brick house of God and God alone.

Love each other and remember who you are.

Child of God.

11 And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. 1 John 5:11-12 NIV

Is It Day Yet?

Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ, and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in. ~C.S. Lewis

A Russian rabbi asked his students how they could tell that night had turned to day.

“Is it when the light has come enough to tell a tree from a man?”

No.

“Is it when you can distinguish a dog from a wolf?”

No.

The questions continued until the students gave up.

“It is when you can see Christ in your brother’s face,” the rabbi answered. “Then day has dawned.”

If I look at the homeless mother as a drain on my wallet, I live in darkness.

If I see the growing elderly population as another problem of society, the night clouds my vision.

If an aura of hatred encircles my view of politicians, there is no light and I walk as a blind man.

Can you see Christ in all of God’s children?

11 Dear friends, if God so loved us, then we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God resides in us, and his love is perfected in us. 13 By this we know that we reside in God and he in us: in that he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world. 1 John 4:11-14 NET

People I Can’t Stand

Be able to cite three good qualities of every relative or acquaintance that you dislike. ~Marilyn vos Savant

I’m about to make several people nervous.

I spend time with people I don’t like. I also spend time with people I do like, so now you’ll (hopefully) never know which you are.

Why would I spend time with people who annoy me, are rude and ugly, or cling to me like static electricity? Because I can always find something to like about others if I spend time with them.

When I was little I was told, “You don’t have to like everyone, but you do have to love them.”

The only thing is, I can’t seem to separate the two.

No matter how much I love you, if I don’t like you, I won’t care that your spouse is deployed and you need a sitter.

If I don’t like you, I won’t offer you a ride to the store even while professing to love you.

If I “love” you, but I don’t like you, I will take too much joy in your current predicament.

John tells us that we can’t even see this sort of hatred. We’ll fall in a hole and never find our way out.

Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness. 10 Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble. 11 But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them. 1 John 2:9-11 NIV

So spend some time with people you don’t like. God loves them and you will, too.

The Light of Darkness

We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light. ~Plato

There is a common misconception that the Bible is about good people, and its purpose is to make us better than we already are. But most of us feel pretty good about where we’re at. In other words, the Bible was written for the rest of the world.

I remember the first time I felt I was the outsider for whom the Bible was written.

I was 18 and attended a Bible study with similarly-aged Christians. We read a passage about people loving the darkness, and the teacher asked why that might be.

The room was silent, so I spoke up.

“I like darkness because I can hide in it. I can do all of the things that I want to do and no one sees. Darkness is safe.”

Thirty pairs of eyes stared. Every possible sin was written across my shirt as their minds raced. The teacher blinked, bit his lip, and then tried to steer the conversation back to what he had hoped to hear.

John tells us that we can’t walk in darkness and be part of God’s world. He is light and light will always overcome darkness. We are supposed to put away the deeds of darkness and go toward the light.

Do you avoid the town prostitute but hide in your closet indulging in Halloween candy? We can “pray” to many gods in a closet.

Maybe you know whose daughter had an abortion and think it serves her right when later she and her husband are infertile. Your lack of compassion is hatred.

Are you impatient with others who waste their money but your expenses go unchecked and justified in your own eyes?

John knew that we would want to place ourselves on pedestals, so he added a reminder:

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us. 1 John 1:8-10 NIV

The Bible is filled with stories of people who screwed up – murderers, rebels, swindlers, bigots – and people who weren’t so bad in their own eyes.

Which of the two groups were unable to see when the Light shone on them?

Come into the Light.

Who’s In Charge?

Roll on, deep and dark blue ocean, roll. Ten thousand fleets sweep over thee in vain. Man marks the earth with ruin, but his control stops with the shore.
~ Lord Byron

Confession: I am a control addict.

In high school I took control of the one thing no one else could- what I ate.

I drank apple juice for breakfast, skipped lunch or sometimes had a small salad, apple juice for a snack after school, and then a pick-it-apart dinner at home. I didn’t consciously say to myself that this was the way I was practicing being in control. That was something I wouldn’t figure out for many years.

I had a goal: weigh 100 pounds at graduation. I’m 5’6” tall.

I still remember the disappointment graduation day when I weighed myself: 103 pounds. Obviously I had no self-control, I thought.

I continued the search for control over my own life.

Having trouble securing a job after college, I worked two jobs. After getting a full-time teaching job, I continued the second job because I didn’t want to be jobless ever again.

I tried to have control over my body, my money, my future.

Many years have passed since high school and college. Now I’m waiting on a house to sell, a new business to take off, and a new home to settle. I still want control, but I’m a little more generous with it.

God assures me that he knows how it will all work out. He can see the obstacles, the road construction, the other drivers, and He is still in control. And the final destination is within reach as long as I let Him drive.

“Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory.” Psalm 73:23-24

Hope and Peace

Hope is patience with the lamp lit. Tertullian

When my boys were younger one of them wanted to know what the saying, “Just enough hope to hang yourself” meant.

After laughing and correcting the idiom, I realized he might be on to something.

I’ve heard many college-aged adults talk about how much money they’re going to make when they get out. Hope hangs slack around their necks waiting to tighten after graduation.

I know women who stare down the calendar, turning each childless month into an obsessive hopeful regimen that ruins a marriage.

Children hope for pets, teens hope for cars, and adults hope for fulfillment. And disappointment swings in the wind.

I live in God’s presence. Creator of the universe. Father of all mankind.

I don’t live in the hope of his presence. I am surrounded by his presence.

I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; John 14:16 NIV

A battle rages for the souls of people I love and people I have never heard of. A war is being fought for the hearts and minds of my children and my students. There is a struggle to gain power over politicians, church leaders, and little old ladies.

I participate in that battle, helping turn the tide in favor of righteousness, holiness, and goodness.

But hope says the battles are already won – even while I fight.

I have just enough hope to hang myself . . .

next to the one who hung for me and offered peace.


Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of God’s glory. Not only this, but we also rejoice in sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance, character, and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. Romans 5:1-5 NET