Thursday, 31 May 2012
I had one of these times in my early twenties that I've never forgotten.
The church I grew up in did "church" really well, but it wasn't a place where a personal relationship with Christ was encouraged. I found this relationship at seventeen, and it rocked my world. I wanted to share it with everyone, sometimes with more enthusiasm than wisdom.
When I heard a family singing group was coming to our church, I wanted to crawl under the pew and stay there. There were seven of them--Dad, Mom and five kids. They were sincere in their love for the Lord, but they were hokey. Embarrassingly, cringingly awful.
They not only sang, but illustrated their music with Bible vingettes, complete with "costumes", which consisted of bathrobes worn over their suits. The tie showed--who ever heard of a prophet with a tie? I sweated and grumbled and squirmed through the entire evening.
Then the incredible occured. My father, who had gone to church all his life but never made it personal, commited his heart to Jesus
Because of the influence of this ridiculous family group. Ouch.
God looked me in the eye (which was difficult, because I was hanging my head) and said, "Daughter, do you hear Me?" I heard.
Romans 14 talks about accepting believers when they (horror of horrors) aren't the same as me. God, through Paul, doesn't mince words.
"Welcome with open arms fellow believers who don't see things the way you do. And don't jump all over them every time they do or say something you don't agree with--even when it seems that they are strong on opinions but weak in the faith department. Remember, they have their own history to deal with. Treat them gently." Rom. 14:1
Paul focuses on one issue- food. What a Christian should eat was a big deal back then. It was also a source of contention in the church. Believers were snubbing other Christians because of their convictions about a correct diet.
No. Because this can be applied to any issue that separates believers. Bad habits, immaturity, cultural differences. Extreme geekiness.
"What's important in all this is that if you keep a holy day, keep it for God's sake; if you eat meat, eat it to the glory of God and thank God for prime rib; if you're a vegetarian, eat vegetables to the glory of God and thank God for broccoli. None of us are permitted to insist on our own way in these matters. It's God we are answerable to--all the way from life to death and everything in between--not each other. That's why Jesus lived and died and then lived again: so that He could be our Master across the entire range of life and death, and free us from the petty tyrannies of each other." Rom. 14:6-9 The Message
"The petty tyrannies of each other..." Pretty pointed stuff, Paul. He goes on.
"Eventually we're all going to end end up kneeling side by side in the place of judgement, facing God. Your critical and condscending ways aren't going to improve your positioon there one bit....So tend to your knitting. You've got your hands full just taking care of your own life before God." Rom. 14: 10,12 The Message
So whether it's broccoli or prime rib or bathrobes with ties, God made us all different and can use us at any stage of our walk toward Him. He calls us to celebrate our differences, not disdane them. His commision is to help each other along the road, not criticise. To love, above all.
Because tomorrow, He just may use an unlikely saint in a suit and bathrobe to touch your life.
Monday, 28 May 2012
My Grandma West had a bed covered in dolls. When I visited, I stood mesmerized, watching them. Grandma would buy cheap, plastic dolls and crotchet frilly dresses for them. She sold them and donated the money to charity. I peeked from the doorway. Dolls in ball gown, baby dolls, fashion dolls in skinny skirts, and fancy dolls in regal robes. Every possible style and shade was represented.
But I couldn't touch.
I seemed perfectly reasonable to Grandma. She was going to sell these dolls, and didn't need grubby fingers messing with them. What she didn't know, because she didn't understand me, was that dollies were my children, and I would have treated them with the greatest care. Even the tissue dolls were handled with care, and were the subjects of elaborate imaginings. As I stared in the room, I saw balls and dancing,wide-eyed babies being strolled through the park, and well-dressed business women on their way to their jobs in the city.
But not with me. I could look but not touch.
In talking about my Grandma this week, the memory came to me of standing in the doorway, staring at the dolls. The feelings followed--profound sadness, insecurity, anger. Why couldn't I touch those dolls?
Isn't it amazing that God isn't like that?
"Taste and see that the Lord is good. How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him. Ps. 34:8 Or my personal favourite from The Message, "Open your mouth and taste, open your eyes and see--how good God is. Blessed are you who run to Him."
God stands in the room and beckons to me. To you. "Come in. Play, enjoy. Read My Word. Talk to Me. I have so much for you. Come!"
What is my response? Do I fly into His arms, eager for all He has for me?
How have you tasted and seen the goodness of the Lord today?
Have you ever stubbed your toe? Had a paper cut become infected? Come down with the stomach flu?
Whatever it is, when one part of my body isn't working correctly, I become acutely aware of it. I try desperately to protect that toe or infected finger from further bumps, and I'm profoundly relieved when the bug passes. I'm thankful for maybe a day. Then life takes over.
The reality of who I am (and you, too, I suspect) is that I pretty much take for granted when my body keeps on ticking along, no matter what I do to it--until it stops. Then I howl in protest and scramble to make right choices in an effort to restore equilibrium. (It works that way with cars for me, too)
The problem is, when everything's working well, I stop caring. I make poor choices based on my priorities at the moment. ("I'm too tired to exercise. That creamy dessert is too yummy to resist. I need to rest, but I want to finish this, so I'll keep going.") I don't start caring again until my body starts to scream.
I've noticed a disturbing trend.
The older I get, the longer it takes to recover from poor lifestyle choices. Even worse, sometimes recovery isn't possible without drastic measures that I'm not willing to take or able to afford.
Wisdom comes with a high price.
On the positive side, living a healthy lifestyle on a consistent basis does produce change. I've always loved vegetables and whole grains, but my downfall has been my sweet tooth. I'm learning to cook for a diabetic, discovering fruit again and making alternatives that rival the original. Salt has almost disappeared from our table, and the dreaded exercise, when shared, is almost pleasant. Almost.
The small miracle of health. I'm not short of breath or sluggish, and my body smiles at the great fuel I'm putting into it. The challenge is to be thankful when everything's working well. Or isn't. And all points in between.
"Be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time, thank God no matter what happens. This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live." 1 Thess. 5:18
Is there an area of your health that you're thankful for today?
Sunday, 20 May 2012
I was baking cookies with residents the other day, when one of the ladies who lives in our apartments waved at me. We had become friends during the years of difficult experiences in her life--the dementia, decline and eventual death of her precious husband. It had been over a year, and she was slowly rebuilding the blocks of her days, and finding new ways to express who she was. When I saw her, she was on her way to be a volunteer reader in our care sections.
It had been several weeks since we had connected, and I was waiting for the cookies to bake, so I slipped out to the hallway to give her a hug. In our brief moments of sharing, I told her the news of my marriage. She was ecstatic. For a tiny lady, she had a hammerlock hug. We laughed and giggled like schoolgirls over my ring and the details I was able to squeeze into those few minutes. She left, and I ran to pull the cookies out of the oven.
Abruptly, I realized she was standing beside me again.She seized my arm, fixed her piercing blue eyes on my face, and said, "Live life. Life is short."
She and her husband lived life. They had amazing experiences in the time God gave them, and they cherished a love that was unusual and precious. Her only regrets are that there wasn't more time.
This weekend, I want to clean the house, wash the living room windows and garden. Maybe some laundry and groceries. These necessary items need doing, and there is a restlessness in me that won't be satisfied until they're done. My constant struggle is balance. I say, "When this or that is done, then I will live life." Problem is, there is no end to my list. I can always find another "this" or "that."
Lord, help me in all my tomorrows to live life in the midst of the mundane that needs to be done. Life is in the window washing and the laundry as much as in every other experience. Help me to release my task-focused nature and focus on You and Your gifts to me. Fill me with the joy of living life, today. Whatever today holds.
What changes do you need to make, today, to ensure you are living life?