Monday, June 28, 2010

"Left, Right, Right, Left Out of My Heart" by Carolyn

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to spend an evening with friends. I looked forward to it with eager anticipation. The evening came and before long I was completely immersed in friendly delights; laughs, stories, memories, conversations about serious things, frivolity and friendship. It was a wonderful night! When the evening ended, suddenly, I was caught up short. Convicted. Ashamed. Where was Jesus? I left Him out. Completely. Relegated Him to my "other" life apparently. He had been out of my heart, mind, actions, and conversations. Why?

Shocked, disappointed, sad, and sorry, I had sidelined Christ. Sat Him on the bench. How can I forget who I am? Whose I am? 2Corinthians 5:17 says, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! ...We are therefore Christ's ambassadors as though God were making His appeal through us." Where was the new? What kind of an ambassador leaves his new clothes hanging in the closet and forgets his purpose?

The following day was Sunday. The pastor preached on Mark 9:14-29, the healing of a boy with an evil spirit. A man had brought his son to Jesus to be healed of seizures that threw his son to the ground, made him foam at the mouth, gnash his teeth and become rigid. The disciples tried to heal the boy but could not, and the father was desperate. While there are an abundance of lessons here, the lesson for me that day was when the disciples asked Jesus why they couldn't drive the demon out Jesus responded, "This kind can come out only by prayer."

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about conversations with God. I failed to practice what I preached. I had not prayed. I left the Lord entirely out of the evening long before the evening began. "This kind can come out only by prayer" "...only by prayer." By grace, faith and prayer we are healed. By prayer we can help others. By prayer we are reminded who we are, whose we are. By prayer we remain close to God. By prayer we are forgiven, encouraged, lifted, inspired, corrected, comforted and loved. By prayer we comfort and love as we are comforted and loved.

It is a lesson I learned once long ago. It is a lesson I need learn again. And again.

"Jesus, kneel beside me
In the dawn of day;
Thine is prayer eternal
Teach me how to pray!"

Master, work beside me
In the shining sun;
Gently guide Thy servant
Till the work be done.

Saviour, watch beside me
In the closing light;
Lo, the evening cometh
Watch with me this night!


Saturday, June 19, 2010

I've been working on the railroad (by Judy)

When I was a little girl, I loved to tell jokes and ask people to solve riddles. I thought it was the height of wit to say something like, “Railroad crossing – look out for the cars. Can you spell that without any Rs?” Of course my compliant audience would ponder, hem, haw, and say that my question was impossible, because obviously there were lots of Rs in my sentence. At which point I would point out with great gusto that the answer to my question was “T-H-A-T!”

The truth was that most of the time, I actually really pulled one over on the grown ups – they were thinking quickly, thinking of many things, not listening carefully, and offered the quick and incorrect response. I discovered this week that the adult behavior of long ago is me today!

For the last week I spent just about every waking hour with a 5 year old and a 2 year old - grandchildren Max and Matilda. Every moment was filled with revelation, contemplation, and exuberance. Max paid rapt attention to the daily newspaper, a decomposing snapping turtle, train whistles, fleur de sel cupcakes, attaching a lid to a wooden box using hinges, whispered adult conversation and my bees. Matilda never missed an ant walking across the sidewalk or our kitchen floor, yellow flowers, anything pink, wearing her sunglasses, lounging in her Adirondack chair, putting on her own shoes and all creatures great and small.

When did I exchange the holy now for the hurried next? How have I so often lost the sense of wonder? Why have I condemned myself to missing quiet time with God, dwelling in His Word, and delighting in His people as I exchange such precious selfless moments for hurrying, scurrying, and my self focused agenda?

One of my favorite verses comes from Psalm 46. The first two words are, “Be still…” That is enough to get my attention every time I read it, but it is the next six words that really send me to my knees – “…and know that I am God.” They go together. I can’t be still until I remember who I am and who my Lord is. Then I can relax, shrug off worry, set aside personal agendas, appreciate all He has created, and glorify Him. He is in control. I can relax and enjoy the ants!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Conversations with God (by Carolyn)

How do we talk to God? I opened the secular dictionary to find out the definitions of prayer. Here are the first three.
1) a reverent petition made to a deity or other object of worship.
2) The act of making such a petition
3) any act of communion with God, such as a confession, praise or thanksgiving.

Then I went to my Bible Dictionary published by Zondervan. "In the Bible prayer is the spiritual response (spoken and unspoken) to God, who is known not merely to exist but to have revealed Himself and to have invited His creatures into communion with Himself. Thus prayer covers a wide spectrum of addressing and hearing God, interceding with and waiting for the Lord, and contemplating and petitioning our Father in heaven. What prayer is may best be seen in the examples and teachings of Jesus. This information can then be supplemented by the apostolic practice of, and teaching on prayer as well as examples of prayer from the OT."

I will leave you to do your own research into Jesus and the apostles both praying and teaching about prayer. The Bible is replete with rich and wonderful Scripture on prayer!

Prayer is a mystery to me. How does it work? Why and when does it work? It's not hard to do. It's simple really and Paul says we are to pray about everything knowing God will hear us, cares about us, and is able to act on our behalf.

I volunteer at a nursing home and one of the ladies always looks a little sheepish whenever I mention prayer. She says, "I don't pray. I talk to God." I tell her, "That's praying!" She doesn't believe me. She thinks it must be much more formal to be a prayer. To me, to pray is to share intimately with Jesus knowing that He is my Lord, my Savior and my Friend. He already knows what is in my heart. I cannot hide anything from Him. But He wants me to come to Him in prayer.

Praying can be extremely humbling. My Lord, Savior and Friend is also Almighty God, Creator of heaven and earth, who could conceivably cast me away from His presence forever. But He doesn't precisely because He is who He says He is in my life. We come to the Father through Jesus the Son by the guidance of the Spirit. Wow.

Prayer is conversation with God. Paul says in Ephesians 6:18-20, "And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert, and always keep on praying for all the saints. Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should."

James 4:2 says, "You want something but don't get it....You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives..."

1John 5:14-15 says, "This is the confidence that we have in approaching God, that if we ask anything according to His will, He will hear us, and if we know He hears us, whatever we ask we already have what we asked Him for!"

Pray on dear Christians, pray on!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Real Relay for Life (by Judy)

Very early yesterday morning, I participated on a Relay for Life team. This is an organization that raises money for cancer research by encouraging people to put together teams who obtain pledges, and then walk, think, pray and laugh together over a 24 hour period. As I fitfully slept the night before, waiting for the alarm to go off, listening to the thunder and rain, selfishly being grateful that I was under dry covers while my darkest-of-night teammates were walking (doubly selfishly justifying my thought by saying they are half my age), I had no idea what a moving experience awaited me.

When I arrived, the skies were just opening up to the rose and lavender of a beautiful sunrise. Coffee was waiting, and as I started my loops around the track, some of the faithful were holding a sunrise service. A lone woman sang Morning Has Broken. As her voice rose above the walkers, the words grabbed me and wouldn’t let go. Cat Stevens couldn’t have done any better.

Sweet the rain's new fall, sunlit from heaven, Like the first dewfall, on the first grass; Praise for the sweetness of the wet garden; Sprung in completeness where his feet pass.

Mine is the sunlight, mine is the morning; Born of the one light, Eden saw play; Praise with elation, praise every morning; God's recreation of the new day.

I passed hundreds of luminaries with names on them, some those who have passed, and some who are survivors. Every name spoke of heart-wrenching challenge, but also of love. There were walkers and their supporters all around me, some looking bleary-eyed, some goofy in attire guaranteed to promote laughter, some chatting, some solitary – but all united in brave purpose.

It made me weep with sorrow and joy. I was so proud to be a small part of this collective good – but I also thought about the other great needs in our world. Secular ones, like the tragedy along the Gulf Coast; political, like the anger that spews from the airwaves and from regular conversation; and above all spiritual, like the deep loneliness experienced by those not anchored in faith. Two verses kept running through my mind from Hebrews, verses which are part of every Christian’s Relay for Life - “Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” and “let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus.”

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Paul's Passion (by Carolyn)

Judy told me to read a novel by Walter Wangerin Jr. entitled simply Paul. Last week I had the opportunity. I was stunned to the extent that I am compelled to write about it so you might read it too. It hammers home the immense struggles of the founders of the early church as they hammer out church doctrine and tell the world about Jesus Christ and His saving grace. Paul, Timothy, Titus, Priscilla, Barnabus, Luke, James, Lydia, and many others leap off its pages. Though a novel, if you keep your Bible close at hand you will see the author rarely strays from its pages.

The back cover says, "Sweeping you back through the centuries, Wangerin sets you amid bustling market-places filled with the smell of animals and the cry of merchants...faces, cultures, and traditions as diverse as the varied landscape..." but that isn't the half of it. This is a book that puts you squarely in the middle of the searing emotional battles inside and among the believers of the early church.

Paul is unwavering as he faces down his own Jewish brothers, some of whom want to maintain certain requirements of the law for themselves and new believers. This meant circumsion in order to be in compliance. Paul argues passionately it is unnecessary. Jesus Christ fulfilled the law perfectly for all and conquered death so that all may have life. But tradition, power and the human need be in control of our own destiny and the destiny of others make this hard to accept. Pride and power get in the way.

Then the pendulum swings back the other way from adhering strictly to the law, to flaunting it knowing we are forgiven. Paul writes in Christ's love to the Corinthians who are reveling in what they assume is their new freedom from the law. They engage in all kinds of immoral behavior. An example from his letter, "We are ambassadors for Christ. God is making His appeal through us. We beg you, on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. Please! Corinthians, please: do not accept the grace of God in vain!"

Paul is only human. On his website, Wangerin says, "Paul is our size." He paints that picture so well. Paul overcomes great odds by the Spirit that is in him, and by that same Spirit he is on his knees, tearfully begging Barnabus to forgive him for their quarrel in an unforgettable scene of humility, humanity, divinity, and reconcilliation.

If you want an historically accurate, yet beautifully dramatized scoop into the personal, strenuous, enormous struggle these men and women undertook, you will find it in the pages of this book. Thank you, Judy!