Thursday, February 17, 2011

By Faith Not By Sight by Carolyn

Sometimes when God asks us to step out of the boat, or into a boat we hesitate to get in, we are reluctant to go. Sometimes, we have no choice for God has presented us with circumstances from which there is no escape. Has this happened to you? I remember one of the evidences of my new found faith in God was agreeing to perform Bible stories with my boon companion, Judy, before many church audiences. I had never done such a thing before and I was scared to death I would forget my lines, trip and fall, get a coughing fit, or otherwise flub the event and make a huge spectacle out of myself! Before each performance I prayed mightily in anticipation. After each performance I prayed mightily in gratitude!

There are a myriad of circumstances we all face that are hard to face. Life is like that, but they can be vehicles that drive us to our knees and bring us into the very presence of God. Because we belong to Him, and if we know His promises, we can depend on Him to be with us in the deepest, darkest pit. And sometimes when we're down there with Him, He shows us unexpected, unanticipated treasures in the darkest places. This may take time, but if we allow worry to diminish His authority then worry enslaves us and causes us to lie in a lifeless condition not reflecting God's goodness and the power of His word. Our testimony, our witness can be such a huge light for others, especially "not yet" believers who are watching us cope with trials.

Since I became a volunteer for hospice and a volunteer at a nursing home I've faced rejection. My very first patient asked me to leave her room and not come back. That was hard to take. I thought I was a failure, but God wouldn't let me use that as an excuse for not returning. Back I went. That was five years ago and the blessings I've found hidden in the hearts of so many people nearing the end of their lives have been too numerous to count.

Still, a couple of weeks ago, I was dismissed again by another patient. He is a hospice patient and I introduced myself to him. After only about five minutes, he kindly told to please go away and not darken his doorway anymore. I was sad. But at the prompting of the Spirit, a week later, I went back again. This time we discovered a treasure. We have the same Father! We are brother and sister in the faith and our joy in finding this out opened a floodgate of grace for us both! We have had very different lives; he is black and I am white and our lives' stories are vastly different, but our joy in the Lord binds us together inextricably. We are family and I look forward to many more delightful conversations with him about his life and his faith, and our Father.

These little lessons prepare us for the big ones. Funny. Sometimes Jesus commands us to get in the boat as He did with His disciples in Matthew 14:22. And sometimes He commands us to get out of the boat as He did with Peter in Matthew 14:29, but in BOTH cases, He's right there with us in the boat, or on the water!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Moody Women (by Judy)

Have you ever driven up LaSalle Avenue in Chicago? I have numerous times, because my son graduated from Northwestern University. LaSalle was the street to take from downtown. Not much of note – nothing to get my attention. That was because I simply did not know the startling fact that on that nondescript strip of urban life lies holy ground. The Moody Bible Institute.

Dwight Lyman Moody was an American evangelist of the 1800s, preaching both in rural fields and villages and the great city of Chicago. He visited Union soldiers on the battlefield during the Civil War and filled tents across Europe. My favorite quote, as you can imagine if you read my summer entry about lighthouses is, We are told to let our light shine, and if it does, we won't need to tell anybody it does. Lighthouses don't fire cannons to call attention to their shining- they just shine.

An unfortunate fact about D.L. is that he was born on February 5th. I say “unfortunate” because the institution he founded, The Moody Bible Institute, celebrates his birth each year with Founders Week. All attendees to this fabulous annual event wish his birth had been April, June, September – any time except the season when blizzards prevail in the Windy City. However, the legions of supporters are undaunted and are rewarded with inspirational teaching, sublime concerts, and union in worship that is surely a foretaste of heaven.

However, the greatest blessing, the reason for saying this institution sits on holy ground, is the students – generations of committed followers of Jesus, waves of young people, who arrive as freshmen planning on some kind of fulltime ministry after graduation. Their tuition is funded from outside, an amazing generosity from faithful supporters. There are numerous D.L. quotes to guide these students today - I know the Bible is inspired because it inspires me. Faith makes all things possible... love makes all things easy. A good example is far better than a good precept. Where one man reads the Bible, a hundred read you and me.

If you can make it even once to Founders Week, you will be mightily blessed – by the city of Chicago itself; by those sitting around you warmed by anoraks, wooly hats and scarves, and the Spirit; by the words and the Word, by soaring instrumentals and hand-clapping Fanny Crosby gospel music – and above all, by the inescapable conclusion that you are watching God at work among the next generation of His saints.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Ending Well (by Judy)

I thought I knew what to write about today. Jack and I joined Carolyn and her husband at a Sunday buffet at a restaurant on the lake, before attending the theater together. I knew that the display of food would be amazing, and it was. So much fresh seafood, egg dishes, a carvery station, salads, chafing containers, and above all, the desserts, anchored on one end by a chocolate fountain and on the other, hot bread pudding with warm rum custard. I sipped my misosa, listened to the pianist, smiled at the dear ones surrounding me, and basked in the warmth.

I got up from the table to take pictures for the blog, and was drawn to the floor-to-ceiling glass windows. Across the frozen expanse of Lake Erie was the skyline of Cleveland. Windswept streets, rust belt economy, foreclosed houses, even a basketball team hurtling toward the ignominious record of most straight losses. I know my role at the buffet table, but what is my role in the world?

I have been reveling in the delights of being a grandmother, with five beautiful grandchildren. They are funny, endearing, loving, bright and make my heart sing. Three are traveling in New Zealand for Chinese New Year. Two are eagerly anticipating a spring break trip to Morocco. I am excited for them and can’t wait to hear their reports of every adventure. Then today my daughter sent a blog about a sweet little boy battling life-threatening cancer. He is the son of her childhood friend, - a sweet little boy himself, now in a daddy’s body with an anguished spirit. I know my role as a grandmother, but what is my role when hearts are breaking?

A retired friend is wintering in Florida with her husband. She writes of blue skies, balmy weather, long bike rides along the water and cool beers on the beach. Jack and I dream of similar interludes – not in Florida, but somewhere away from forecasts of blizzards, ice storms and wind chill factors. I speak in a liberal democratic way of being willing to share with those less fortunate, of championing government safety nets, and sacrificing now for a stronger future. But today, my snowbird friend’s blog spoke of a shooting several blocks from her condo, and her reflections about what is going wrong. I know my role as a wife accompanying my hard-working husband on adventures, but what is my role the other 11 months of the year as a Christian woman who is almost retired?

Instead of a blog about a happy Sunday, I am caught up in the biggest conundrum of my life – how to end well. Paul wrote to his young protégé Timothy, saying, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” He challenged his followers to, “Run with endurance the race that God has set before you.” The Bible is filled with people of God who lived good lives, until the end, when they faltered. How I long to hear, “Well done” at the end of my race. But how do I find the patience, the endurance and the commitment? My only answer this afternoon is to remember where Paul looked, that he fixed his eyes on Jesus and lived as Jesus lived.