Monday, January 23, 2012

Finishing Well (by Judy)

Today I met with the head of the school where I have worked for 31 years, and we agreed that he would announce my retirement at a meeting in a few days. Gulp! This moment which I have anticipated for years is almost here. The fact that the announcement is entirely at my initiative does nothing to take away the wobblies – nor does the statement from almost everyone I know that I will love retirement and never look back. Though he did hold out the possibility of my working on the farm during the growing season, the fact is, my life is going to dramatically change – and I want to consider the implications in Christian terms.

The Bible is filled with people who went through transitions, often having to do with growing older and failing to end well. Many of them had years of faithful service, but as they grew older they gradually derailed spiritually, or had one major breakdown which destroyed all their years of effort. We see the same pattern today – politicians, movie stars, sports heroes like Joe Paterno who died yesterday. Decades of accolades washed away in the final moments of life. Shakespeare got it right - "The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones.” And he even titled a play, “All’s Well that Ends Well.”

Last summer I visited my daughter in New York City, and as we wandered the Greenwich Village streets, we came upon a small store selling one unique product – salt. Their shelves were filled with salts of all colors, and flavors, mined or filtered from mountains and oceans around the world. But they had one unifying quality – they were “finishing salts” – not something to be added, blended and diluted during the cooking process, but a wonderful seasoning to be added at the end – bringing out the best in the dish being prepared, and adding a unique richness. The dish would be diminished without the finishing salt’s transformative presence.

That’s what I want to be – a finishing salt! I know that to accomplish such a final purpose, I must start and end with God. I know that His strength is made perfect in my weakness, and I am promised that I can do all things in Him who strengthens me. What an encouragement to the faithful as we grow older. I was talking about this with my Bible study leader last week, and she said it is important in retirement to “be” – to allow oneself time to meditate, to dwell in the holy place – and not to feel a compulsion to remain busy and constantly outwardly fruitful. Wise words. I am sure I will hear many more. As always, the Bible says it best: "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.”

Friday, January 6, 2012

God's Work in Progess by Carolyn

Shocking! I am humbled by the power of God to make old things new; to refresh and renew what was stale and old and ready for the trash. Today is a day for praise and thanksgiving and I am so motivated to share my joy. And yet, I wait in awesome wonder anticpating what God will do.

I have a sister-in-law who had given up. She didn't care whether she lived or died. She was bitter, hurt, despondent and unable to function. Her dear, precious, son due to circumstances beyond his control, drank himself to death at age 34. One night, after months of drinking herself into sleepy numbness, she awakened and could not move her legs. My brother called the ambulance and they admitted her to the psychiatric unit at the local hospital where she stayed for 10 days.

God's angels in the form of a husband who loved her, counselors, AA, social workers, nurses, doctors and a team of people, family and friends who cared for her, brought her back from the abyss. All those angels and God Himself turned her around and pointed her in the RIGHT direction. She now has a will to live that is nothing short of miraculous.

My daughter-in-law had a lost childhood. It couldn't be found. For years she knew something was missing, but she didn't know what. She had been robbed of her sense of worth and well being. But nothing is impossible with God. Though she doesn't know it was God Himself who found the pieces for her and gave them to her, she will one day. I have no doubt.

Two women who have been transformed by the power of God. Two women who once were lost but by God's grace are being found! One day they will know and acknowledge their Savior. One day not only will their eyes be opened to their new lives, but to the One and ONLY God who can renew life and bring people back from the dead. They will discover they have been born again. I know it. One day, they will know it too. In the meantime, how I praise my Lord and Savior for His love and compassion on my family!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Where Do We Go From Here?

January 1, 2012.

"Ring the bell
It's a glorious sound
People gather round
And start to cheer
And the cheer starts to swell.
If you like taking a bow,
Then you've got to know how
To ring the bell."

Written by Jimmy Van Huesan and Johnny Burke

At my age, I wasn't awake to ring-a-ding-ding at midnight last night. I was awake at 5 a.m. this morning to see a news report of millions of people in Times Square ringing bells, hootin' and hollerin', cheering, waving, kissing and watching the ball drop. 'What a party!' I thought. Wow.

From the air, high above Times Square, they looked like one giant person moving in unison, like the waves you see at football games. They were definitely one in spirit. Would you like to be in Times Square at midnight on New Year's Eve like so many people do? How did you celebrate New Year's Eve 2012?

We were very blessed to be with my coffeepotgospel, bosom buddy, Judy and her husband. They have had a New Year's Eve party every year since 1973 only missing twice. For the last two years, at popular request, they've held their party from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. so we could all go home and sleep! There were old friends gathered there, new friends, neighbors, acquaintances, and folks I had never met. Throughout the evening there must have been about 50 people coming and going. We gathered around the buffet table filling our plates with the bounty provided. We massed in the kitchen all talking at once. Some chose to sit in the living room talking quietly with one another. I thought to myself, 'What a party!' Wow.

From the ground, in Judy's living room, family room and kitchen, faces shimmered with light; faces of love and good will, some faces now lined with the wisdom, individuals whose lives might vary enormously from my own, but people reaching out, reminiscing, laughing, and occasionally, thoughtfully wondering what 2012 will bring.

Sharply at 9, a dear friend began clanging on a glass, calling everyone to attention to announce there would be an "after party" party in the garage! Jack and Judy were stunned! Some of us were stunned too. How would we stay awake? We were told there would be plenty of pebbles to throw at Judy and Jack's bedroom windows to keep them up. But who would throw them if we were all asleep on the garage floor snuggled under our tablecoth blankies? There was a collective sigh of relief as we figured out this was good humored teasing that we aren't getting any younger! We were all one in spirit as we thanked our hosts for another happy, successful New Year's Eve, for their kindness, generosity and love.

Where do we go from here? Some went to their own after parties. Some went to bed. What about 2012? I don't know about everyone else, but I will find my way in faith in God. I know that He has plans for me, plans to prosper me and not to harm me, plans to give me hope and a future. And you know what? He has the very same plans for YOU! Happy New Year Everyone! May 2012 be filled with every good thing!