Growing and Giving

I try to live my life like my father lives his. He always takes care of everyone else first. He won’t even start eating until he’s sure everyone else in the family has started eating. Another thing: My dad never judges me by whether I win or lose. ~Ben Roethlisberger

If you give a mouse a cookie, you better have crayons and cleaning supplies handy, as well as a glass of milk.

It’s funny how one thing leads to another.

An old friend was bemoaning the state of her church and that “young people just don’t seem to care” about being involved in church life.

Many times what seems important to one person is brushed aside by others.

A Christmas pageant is planned and only half the children are involved. A community yard sale for charity is scheduled and not enough people participate to make it a success. An elderly couple’s home needs to be weatherized before winter and only the two oldest men in the congregation show up to help.

Our lives are so busy that it’s easy to pass by these opportunities. We have our own schedules, priorities, and problems.

What can be done?

The early church seemed to have an answer: eating and praising.

Sounds too simple, doesn’t it?

Yet, when we take time to eat with people, we also take time to talk. Talking leads to concern and compassion. That leads to reworking our schedules and serving others.

And THAT leads to encountering Christ.

So grab a plate of cookies and a glass of milk. It’s time to share Jesus with the world.


How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” Romans 10:14-15 ESV

Big and Small Parts

If you cannot do great things, do small things in a great way. ~Napoleon Hill

My sons were involved in community theater during their school years. The older one enjoyed acting as well as being behind the scenes. He built sets, painted scenery, ran lights, and was a stage manager. His roles ranged from supporting actor to lead actor.

The younger son didn’t care for acting, but he enjoyed the technical side of theater- carpentry, electrical work, lighting. He built sets, operated sound and light equipment, handed props to actors, set up and cleaned up.

Both of them were important to run the show.

The church was just getting up and running. There was concern about leading the movement now that Judas Iscariot was dead. What were they supposed to do?

They turned to prayer and scripture for their answer.

It seemed right to them to appoint another leader, one who had been with them from the beginning. They came up with two possibilities: Matthias and Justus. They chose Matthias.

There isn’t any more commentary on either of these men after that. All we know is that they were both good enough and trusted enough for the people to put them forward.

Perhaps Matthias was better suited for staying in Jerusalem because of family commitments or connections. Perhaps Justus was needed elsewhere or in another capacity. Maybe Matthias had more knowledge of money, or culture, or the scriptures. Or could it be that Justus was going to be an early example of a martyr, like Stephen?

Only God knows why Matthias was chosen over Justus.

Only God knows what you have been chosen to do and why.

Perhaps you are to be an example of faithfulness to other young marrieds while your husband serves a lengthy jail term.

Maybe you are adept at learning languages and are asked to be a missionary.

It could be that you are to be the mother or grandmother of a future world leader. Right now you are called to spend time with that child, patiently guiding and directing him or her.

You may have no idea why or what God is calling you to do.

That’s alright.

God does.

And like Matthias and Justus, you must do it. Not for the sake of glory or fame, but for the glory of God and him alone.

It’s very true . . .

There are no small parts.


 Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches. 1 Corinthians 7:17 ESV

Parking Garages

An optimist may see a light where there is none, but why must the pessimist always run to blow it out? ~Rene Descartes

I never realized how much I like the GPS until we went to the UK. “Judy” told us every twist and turn along the way. We didn’t get lost- not once. Even on the one-way bridge that I was certain was closed, Judy saw us safely to our destination.

A couple of years later when we visited French Quebec, we bought a SIM card for Canada. But most places in Canada weren’t covered by our phone. Once we made it through border patrol, we discovered Judy was mute.

Our French leaves a lot to be desired, and we hadn’t brought a map because, well, Judy.

We headed north and prayed.

Searching for the Plains of Abraham park in Quebec City wasn’t so bad. There were a few signs that sent us in the right direction, but then we had to find parking. The directions I had looked at and printed before we left home didn’t prepare us for construction or a festival.

We pulled into a parking garage, put the truck in park, and breathed a sigh of relief. We had made it.

Only we hadn’t.

We couldn’t figure out how to get out of the parking garage. I know. I know. How hard could it be?

We entered the doors for pedestrians and were suddenly trapped in a maze of corridors and French-only signs. Arrows pointed to the ‘sortie’ but that was the exit for the people who worked in the attached office building.

We followed more arrows to a door. I started to open it, but Matt noticed the ‘urgence seulement’ and stopped me. He had seen a sign with listed fines for opening the door.

After half an hour- no exaggeration- we made our way into the sunlight.

What does that have to do with the Bible?

Just this-

Matt and I approach problems differently. I am an optimist; he is a pessimist. I am a “push the door open and see what happens” kind of gal; he is a “keep-your-butt-out-of-prison” kind of guy. We work well together. I provide the excitement; he provides the stability.

Both are needed.

We need people in the kingdom who can take us on a wild ride of adventure, and we need people who look ahead and read the signs. We need heads that think, eyes that see, and hearts that weep and rejoice. (1 Corinthians 12) The kingdom needs optimists to say, “We can enter the land.”  (Numbers 14) And the kingdom needs pessimists who are willing to prophesy even when we know no one will listen. (Jeremiah 7:27)

Sometimes pessimists get a bad rap from us optimists. They never have fun. They don’t want to try something new. They think too much.

And sometimes pessimists don’t give optimists enough credit. That will never work. There they go again leaping before they look. Why don’t they ever think these things through?

But when we work together we can break out of the parking garage and get moving again.


One person could be overpowered.
But two people can stand up for themselves.
And a rope made out of three cords isn’t easily broken. Ecclesiastes 4:12 NIRV

I Don’t Like This Road

Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the wise. Seek what they sought. ~Matsuo Basho

My mother gets terribly carsick. She has lived all of her life in curvy, mountainous West Virginia, and the sickness has never left her.

There are roads that she refuses to use because experience has taught her that she will have lunch twice, maybe three times. It seems unfair that she should never have relief.

It also seems unfair that she should have beautiful vistas at her every turn when others don’t have such sights. Their rear view mirror reflects dumpsters and street lights. They peer through windshields to see smoggy valleys and graffiti-filled alleys.

Everyone travels their own road.

Maybe that seems harsh to you.

You cry out to God, “WHY!?”

Why do I have to be deaf? Why is my child autistic?  Why does my husband look at other women? Why can’t I have a baby? Why don’t I get a good job? Why am I short, tall, black, brown, too thin, too fat . . .

But what if it is only the road that is making you sick? If you stop the car for a minute, do you see a beautiful vista on the horizon? Is there a sunset glowing over top of the smog?

Jesus asks us to walk down the Via Dolorosa with him, a road that leads to death. Will you go?

People will throw stones. There will be sweat, spit, and blood. Angry curses will be hurled your way. The rest of your life will be affected. Your friends may even turn their backs on you.

But you get to walk beside the Savior of the World. He knows your name and his eyes look into your soul.

It’s worth it, isn’t it?

What if the road you are on now is the one Jesus has asked you to travel? Your deafness makes you notice things that hearing people don’t. Your autistic son amazes you with his insight. You counsel other women, adopt a homeless child, learn to be content, even generous. Do you still want off? Will you still beg for another route?

Or will you idle the motor a bit and see what beauty surrounds you?


Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Romans 12:12 NIV

 

Roads and Paths

Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Several years ago we took a family trip to New England. We quickly discovered that they think highly of their roads. The tolls were exorbitant.

So this year when we took another family trip through the highways and byways of New England, we checked a couple of boxes on the GPS- namely *Avoid Highways and *Avoid Toll Roads.

The scenery was beautiful, it didn’t take much longer, and our wallet stayed a little fatter.

Which road we traveled didn’t make much difference since we were going to end up at the same destination whether we went straight away or took our time and meandered a bit.

Every Christian ends up at the same destination, but every Christian has a different way to get there.

Some come to Jesus on the super highway- fast and straight away. They knew as children that Jesus was their destination and they didn’t mess around.

Others suffer from car sickness. Disease, mental illness, disorders, or physical catastrophes drive them to Jesus.

Some take a very scenic route, stopping to experience all of the road stops along the way. These travelers worry those of us who have already arrived. We tap our foot, look at our watch, and mutter about their lack of concern.

I have taken the scenic route to places before. Along the way to my destination I discover new insights into myself and those around me. I learn about what makes me tick and what’s really important.

If you have a “Sunday driver” in your life, just keep on giving them directions. Direct them to the best restaurants. Guide them to the right rest stops. Get in the passenger seat and listen to their ramblings sometimes.

Remember there are many roads and paths along the way. It doesn’t matter how we get to Jesus, just that we do.


“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Luke 11:9-10 NIV

Recognition

Christianity isn’t a religion we join- it’s a person we follow. ~Samuel Deuth

A friend was clearing out her mother’s house. In a box of memories she found her mother’s nursing school pictures from 1941. She posted them on Facebook, and they were correctly tagged through facial recognition.

Wouldn’t we all love to look the same seventy or eighty years later?

Sometimes I look in the mirror and wonder who that is looking back at me. On the inside, I’m in my early twenties, full of life and hope, excited for the future.

On the outside I’m graying, less toned, and more wrinkled. But I’m also not twenty.

Jesus had been gone for three days, and no one recognized him.

Granted he’d been whipped, beaten, and crucified. He wasn’t looking his best.

But, really? No one recognized him?

Mary Magdalene didn’t know Jesus until he called her by name.

The disciples in Emmaus only recognized him after he broke bread and gave thanks.

The apostles identified him when he came through a locked door.

These were people who spent most of their time with Jesus. They traveled with him, ate with him, prayed, sang, and baptized with him. They acted like him, healing and raising people from the dead. They were known as his followers.

But there came a time when they turned- out of fear, disillusionment, frustration. It doesn’t matter why they turned away, but that they turned back.

They took a second look. They believed the unbelievable. They recognized Jesus.

Are you in a dark place? Does Jesus seem like a farce? Has your faith waned and wandered away?

Don’t give up.

Listen for your name. Let him break the bread. Expect a miracle.


They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread. Luke 24:33-35 NIV

Doing the Hard Thing

Sometimes it is better to lose and do the right thing than to win and do the wrong thing. ~Tony Blair

When my older son was about twelve years old, he took a stand.

While visiting his grandparents one summer, he attended Bible class at their church. The Sunday school teacher was going to show a clip from The Matrix. I know the woman and I feel confident that she had a good lesson and reason to show it. But . . . we had a rule in our house that our children couldn’t watch rated PG-13 movies until they were 15. And The Matrix is rated R.

“I have to leave.” Jonathan stood to go.

“Why? What’s wrong?” The teacher was confused.

The conversation that followed was my son explaining the rule and that he had to obey it. The teacher said she was sure it would be fine for this little clip, but he didn’t give in.

He left the class.

Joseph was wealthy. A new up-and-coming politician in the inner circle. He had real estate, a position, and clout.

And an unpopular opinion.

He believed in doing what was right, even when no one else did.

50 Now there was a man named Joseph, a member of the Council, a good and upright man, 51 who had not consented to their decision and action. He came from the Judean town of Arimathea, and he himself was waiting for the kingdom of God. Luke 23:50-51 NIV

It’s hard to take a stand for what’s right when others around you are doing whatever they want.

But it’s even harder to stand up when those who are supposed to stand with you, don’t.

An accountant who won’t agree to fudge a little with the rest of the office might find herself out of work.

A postal worker who won’t put letters aside so everyone can go home on time, could bear the brunt of some bullying.

A teacher who refuses to talk about students might be eating alone the rest of the year.

But doing what is right is always the right thing to do.


God “will repay each person according to what they have done.” To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. Romans 2:6-8 NIV

After Dark

The depth of darkness to which you can descend and still live is an exact measure of the height to which you can aspire to reach. ~Pliny the Elder

I have an older brother who basically ruined my teen years. He was a little on the wild side, so his shenanigans put a kibosh on my fun. I asked to have my curfew extended, but my dad said -you guessed it-

“Nothing good ever happens after dark.”

Truer words were never spoken on that fateful night in Jerusalem outside the Mount of Olives.

It was evening. Dinner was over. Jesus and his friends went to the garden to sing and pray.

Instead of a mountaintop worship experience, Jesus was met by a band of protesters, haters, and killers. His quiet night of fellowship with friends became loud with accusations and demands. Betrayed by one of his own inner-circle, Judas’s kiss sealed Jesus’s fate with an inky darkness.

But the tragic night became pitch-black for Peter.

He had started by wielding a sword in defense of his friend and ended in complete denial of his Lord and Savior.

Twilight to nightfall to darkness and gloom.

Have you been there?

You’re all about Jesus and his mercy, then you enter the doctor’s office and come out a total wreck.

Or you’re singing his praises while washing the dishes. Then you get the call that your teen was at a party with drugs and everyone is downtown.

You’re serving at the homeless shelter when your neighbor calls. Your spouse had a massive heart attack and was found dead in the driveway.

You were ready to brandish your sword, but now you just might fall on it.

This is not the time for decision-making.

This is the time to wait.

Judas made a fateful, final decision and lost the opportunity to see the brilliance of Resurrection Morning. Peter cried his heart out and beat himself up.

But he didn’t make a decision. He waited.

And he was there when Jesus assured him three times that he loved Peter no matter how dark the night.


In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you. But the hand of him who is going to betray me is with mine on the table. The Son of Man will go as it has been decreed. But woe to that man who betrays him!” They began to question among themselves which of them it might be who would do this. Luke 22:20-23 NIV

Commitment

The difference between involvement and commitment is like ham and eggs. The chicken is involved; the pig is committed. ~Martina Navratilova

I teach English to Chinese students online. That means I have to work on their time. Beijing Time is 12 hours ahead of Eastern Time, and when the time changes in a few months, it will be 13 hours different. I rise very early in the morning in order to teach my favorite students about my favorite thing: words.

One of my students is moving to western Canada. He will be 3 hours behind me. That poor boy is going to have class at 5:00 in the MORNING once the time changes! He is committed to learning the language and speaking it well.

Some people are committed to healthy living. They rise early to run or go to the gym. They eat low-carb, even on Thanksgiving, and they never drink soda.

Others are committed to their work. They email from their phone on vacation, stay late at the office, and make notes about a meeting when they wake in the middle of the night.

Some people are committed to family. They attend children’s concerts and competitions, have a family dinner once a week, and spend vacations together.

What makes you draw your every breath?

Each day Jesus was teaching at the temple, and each evening he went out to spend the night on the hill called the Mount of Olives, and all the people came early in the morning to hear him at the temple. Luke 21:37-38 NIV

When you’re committed to something, you do what it takes to be there. Jesus was teaching in the temple, but people had to be at work. They had houses and children to care for. They had gardens to tend and animals to feed. But they knew they were hearing a good thing, and they wanted more of it. So Jesus met them early in the morning before all of that began.

It’s no different now. I have work. I have a house and kids. I have responsibilities that require my time and attention.

But I also know when I am hearing a good thing, when I need to hear a good thing.

And I make a commitment to be there.

My commitment isn’t early in the morning. Jesus and I meet at lunchtime, after my early morning work is completed and I can sit with him and have a pleasant conversation.

Everyone’s schedule is different. Early morning may be the best for you. Perhaps you need to meet Jesus at twilight after the children are snuggled in their beds.

It isn’t the timing that is important.

It’s the time.


Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me. Revelation 3:20 NIV

Famous or Infamous

Hold yourself responsible for a higher standard than anybody expects of you. Never excuse yourself. ~Henry Ward Beecher

 

I was dropping off my first child at college. He was going to a place he had never been before, hadn’t even visited. I, however, knew the place and many of the people.

Students and parents stood outside in the blazing sun waiting to pay bills, get assignments, make final decisions. Faculty, staff, and upperclassmen helped direct foot traffic and lend a hand where needed.

An older gentleman approached.

“Welcome.” He smiled and shook my boy’s hand.

“Thanks.” The apprehensive man-child continued reading instructions.

“This is the school president.” I introduced the man to my son.

“Oh, sorry.” He shook the now-important-person’s hand.

There are people in life you don’t expect to meet. A university president moving boxes and greeting students is one of them.

A former United States President building houses for the poor with his own hands. A real Princess who touches lepers and AIDS victims.

Presidents and Princesses are out of most people’s circles. But maybe you know a mayor who packs sandbags to stop a flood. A wealthy podiatrist who gives his time to veterans with foot problems. A lawyer who moves to a poor neighborhood and mentors fatherless boys.

When people discover that I’m a preacher’s wife, it often changes their expectations of me. I get called “Mother” a lot. When people need answers, they come to me.

There is the possibility of forgetting my true place, my true calling.

“Beware of the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. These men will be punished most severely.” Luke 20:46-47 NIV

The leaders of Jesus’s time were more concerned with how they looked than with the looks they gave.

They didn’t look twice at the broken, oppressed, lonely, or sick. They didn’t feed the hungry, visit the widow, or sit with the hurting.

They were too important, too above all that. Jesus said their honor would be punishment, their importance would be forgotten.

Maybe you aren’t President, Princess, Mayor, or even Preacher’s Wife. Perhaps the most recognition you get is an apple at the Teacher Appreciation Banquet.

But no matter what your status, you can learn from Jesus’s own  display of leadership.

Serve quietly. Speak kindly. Touch gently. Love completely.

Are you leading from the front of the crowd or guiding from the middle?


Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:25-28 NIV

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