Saturday, December 25, 2010

Moving Mountains by Carolyn

"I don't feel good. " My husband spoke those infamous words the Thursday before Thanksgiving. "What do you mean?" I asked. "I don't know. I just don't feel good." That narrows it right down! That began a series of skirmishes that lasted a month. The good news is the Lord still moved the mountains!

Pneumonia clobbered him the next day. Out of the blue he fell ill and stayed that way until the Tuesday AFTER Thanksgiving when our children from San Francisco arrived to celebrate a delayed Thanksgiving and an early Christmas. The Saturday AFTER they left we both woke up with laryngitis. That cleared up almost a week later, the day we flew to Oregon for our grandson's first birthday. The day AFTER we arrived home we woke up with sore throats. It is Christmas Day now and there is a sweet repose in this house. Silence! No one is coughing!

And we spent the most incredible Christmas Eve, first at church, then as guests of my sweet sister in Christ, Judy and her family.

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him." He could have chosen not to send those viruses packing. He could have chosen something far more serious than viruses to challenge us. But I choose to thank Him for providing ways for us to be together at this holiday time as a family. The Lord moves mountains for families all the time.

As I reflect on the little family that found its way through the dark of night to that manger in Bethlehem I see how much the Lord values families. He was with them throughout their travels and travails and He was with us through ours. He moves mountains. Mountains and battles belong to the Lord. All we have to do is trust Him, obey Him and get out of His way!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Joy to the World (by Judy)

Last weekend our church held its annual Christmas Concert. It is a huge effort, with choir rehearsals starting in September, and the audio and visual team working long hours in the days before the first presentation. Of course many churches have similar presentations with every bit as much work preceding the actual event.

In our case, the music was ethereal, combining a large chorus with beautiful orchestration and even a gospel group to ramp up the worship and the swaying of bodies and arms. They filled us all with special joy for they were from an area college, and though sounding like they represented the First Baptist Church of Jackson, Mississippi, they actually were a blend of fair Caucasian faces and their lovely darker counterparts.

Enhancing the worshipful music was the team of media workers, my dear friends, for we labor side by side every Sunday. They had slides that arched across the ceiling of the church and down the sides, spots of various colors, video, unobtrusive smoke-generating machines, and at one point silhouettes playing jazz instruments in rhythm with the musical score. It was most impressive!

When I returned to school Monday, filled with happiness that everything went so well, that there were no major disasters, that it was over, and in hopes that through it all, the Lord was glorified and the pastor’s message heard, within five minutes of my arrival a fellow worker came to my door – someone who had never been to my church, and only attended the concert at the invitation of a church member. She spent the first moments reviewing everything I wrote about above – and then she spent the rest of our considerable time together telling me how amazed her family was by the PEOPLE. The man next to them, an elder, who welcomed them, embraced them and entertained them. The row of respectful teenagers behind them, choosing to spend their Saturday night at church rather than partying. Those around them who greeted them, chatted with them, swayed with them, and invited them to return.

That is what they took away from our concert – welcoming, loving, joyful people. The body of Christ. The music and special effects came and went. The precious aroma of God’s people lingered. The first way to understand the incredible grace, mercy and love of Jesus, is to see it reflected in those who follow Him!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Refrigerator Gospel

Sometimes in our church bulletin there are quotes that inspire me, or challenge me, provoke me or convict me. Sometimes they make me laugh, especially when they are written by children, or church secretaries who may have misplaced modifiers or typing errors. Or, I might find a thought that so intrigues me I want to remember it, so I post it on my refrigerator since I spend a lot of time there. I didn't stop to think they might be great fodder for discussion!

Twice in the recent past, guests read my refrigerator and called me to account. As I type this I am reminded of Paul's words, "Preach the Word. Be prepared in season and out..." 2Timothy 4:2. "Be prepared, that's the Boy Scout marching song." Note to self, "Be prepared. Remember that."

Both quotes are short. My brother, who is not yet a Christian, read this one and took immediate offense. "Until men know themselves better, they will care very little to know Christ at all." John Owen 1616-1683 "How come this says until "MEN" know themselves better. Why single out men for this accusation? What's the big idea?" I felt the hair go up on the back of my neck, and quickly I sent up an arrow prayer.

My brother is no slouch. He has his Ph.D and was the chancellor of a fine mid-western college for years. "You are right," I said. "Absolutely, right. It should say, 'Until huMANity knows itself better, it will care very little to know Christ at all.' Point taken." And Whoosh...the wind went right out of his sails! Gender studies must have been a big part of his college curricula.

Later, my son and his wife, who are also not yet Christians came to visit from California. This is the quote that had them laughing hysterically. "A woman's heart should be so hidden in Christ that a man should have to seek Him to find her." No author given. I love that! Maybe it helps to be a Christian to take a crack at understanding it. I'm not sure I understand it, but I sure like it! "If that were true," my son said, "it would have taken me another 6 weeks to find my wife." Laughter. "If that were true," my daughter-in-law said, "He never would have found me!" More laughter.

(Insert another arrow prayer here) "Make fun if you like," I said, "but don't forget when trials come to me, as they surely will, Christ will carry me through, so I don't have to bug the two of you!" Ooooh...that seemed to sober them up pretty fast and the conversation suddenly became a tad accusatory. "Why do you Christians refuse to hang around sinners?" my daughter-in-law asked. "What? I AM a sinner and I have to hang around with me! Christianity says we are all sinners. The Gospel says, "In Jesus, God forgives us." Sometimes with synical not yet believers you have to be quick and right to the point!

"You can't shake her." my son said. "You might as well quit trying." "Hallelujah!" I thought. "Thank you Jesus, for keeping me!"

Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Great Wall (by Judy)

I just returned from China, where I spent the last two weeks visiting my son and his family. While there, we traveled to Beijing and spent Thanksgiving in a small village in the shadow of the Great Wall. What an amazing construction that Wall is. All the superlatives are true!

It is over 10,000 miles long, and marches along the ridges of the huge mountain range that separates China from Mongolia – uphill and downhill, never ending, disappearing finally into the mists of the horizon – with ancillary walls that break away. Periodically along the way, watch towers interrupt the road along the top of the wall, a road wide enough for several horses to pass together. All this manmade effort was to hold back the Mongolian hordes from invading the emperor’s capital.

Interestingly, because of the dramatic twists and turns in the convoluted world of mountain ranges, it is very hard to tell which side of the wall is China and which is Mongolia. There is one clue - water drainage pipes. They always descend into China, where the water was used for irrigation – and never into Mongolia, where the pipes would have provided traction for an ascent by the enemy.

All that effort – and the strategy did not work! Why – because the guards could be bribed. The wall was often breached – not because of faulty construction, but because, as Pogo said so long ago, “We have met the enemy, and he is us!” As I walked the Wall last week, shivering in the cold of the Gobi desert, I couldn’t help but consider the parallels today. We build protective walls all the time – around ourselves, and to hold back those who think differently. Our walls are national, political, social, emotional and religious. They march up and down and all around and are ultimately futile, because the problem lies within.

The 12th chapter of Corinthians reminds us that as Christians who accept the Bible as holy Scripture, there is one body, the Church, with one Head, Jesus. Though we have different gifts divinely given by God, we are baptized with one Spirit, for one purpose, common good. “And the walls came tumbling down!!”