Don’t You Want to Get Well?

April 13, 2011

One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years.  When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”   “Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”    John 5:4-7

Hey, this man had a pretty good excuse, didn’t he? That’s all it was though and hardly enough to explain 38 years of showing no initiative at all .  Really, wouldn’t you think at the very least he could somehow drag himself an inch at a time and eventually fall into the pool rather than be found lacking and then whining about it?   Ah, but don’t kid yourself – we’ve probably all “been” this man about something in our lives.  Many of us still are, if we’re honest about it.  Think about it . . . really, think.  What’s yours?  What’s keeping your laying on the deck with a pout on your face and feeling sorry for yourself because you can’t be somebody else?  Can’t do something the way someone else can?  What’s keeping you from diving into the pool? 

Jesus’ reaction sounded a bit kinder than my words, but in essence was “come on, get up.  Clean up that mess you’ve made while you’re at it.”  Yes, Lord.  I’m ready.  Anybody coming in the pool with me?




Are You Passionate About Christ?

April 12, 2011

My friend Mary and I were emailing back and forth about an upcoming picnic we’d both been invited to.  I admit I’m a bit of a wallflower and wasn’t planning to attend and did indicate this to her.  Her response was quite compelling!  In reply, I said “Wow!  I didn’t know you were in sales!” Quoting from her reply to that statement, she said “it works best when you have passion about something.” 

Passion.  We think of that as a romantic relationship, a heated moment alone with someone we love . . . we hear the story of the Passion of Christ this time of year at church – our Lord’s death on the cross to save us, but for the rest of the year, most of us really only think of passion in the other more secular and limited frame of reference.   We see movies where the main character “fakes” passion to attain a desired response.  But what does it mean to be passionate?  Can it truly be faked?  The dictionary defined it as compelled by intense emotion and strong feeling.  In my view, this cannot be faked.   My friend wasn’t really trying to twist my arm into going to a picnic.  She was expressing strong feelings about the group hosting it, and a cause she so strongly believed in.  Her reaction to my hesitation to go was impossible to ignore not because of an attempt to convince me, but because of an honest passion deep within her that was coming to the surface.

Some things have come to my mind as a result of her email.  Passion sells!  We cannot, in my view, fake it but I am certain that we can hold it back.  Are you passionate for Christ?  Do  you let your soul dance?  Do you allow His light to shine through you?  We never know who we may pass during our daily life who might see our passion for Christ and be drawn to Him by it.  One such example was a priest friend who spoke a few words about a conversion moment in his life.  Tears in his eyes, he spoke of it’s importance to him on the anniversary of this occasion in his life.  As a result of this, my own personal relationship with the Lord has grown HUGELY.  My friend wasn’t trying to change me.  He was just letting his soul dance and my heart and soul wanted to dance too!

I fell in a parking lot and was a bit cut and dazed.  A total stranger came to my rescue, cleaned my wounds and asked if she could pray for me?  She took a “risk” many of us wouldn’t have taken.  She blessed me more than she will ever know.  Her passion changed me.

I went to a retreat a while back.  I told a friend about my experience.  I don’t know what I said.  I was so excited by my weekend and the way the Lord touched me that I couldn’t talk or think of anything else in those days just after I returned.  He told me recently that he was going to attend the next retreat because of what it did for me.  I had no idea anything I said touched him.  I wasn’t trying to.   However, I didn’t hold back and did allow my passion to come through.

Like my friend Mary said, it works best when you have passion!  Do you have passion for Christ?  Please don’t hold it inside you – let it shine!

I Have to Die to Live?

April 10, 2011

What does it mean to die to self? How can that be a good thing?  I have to “die” in order to “live?”  What’s up with that?  Let’s look at it.  In Mark’s Gospel, chapter 8, verse 35 we read that “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.” Wow, on the surface, that sounds contradictory, but is it? Let’s look at it differently, then. When I was a child and wanted a treat, I’d ask my parents and sometimes the answer just seemed so wrong. It seemed as though what I wanted was either met with a “no” or a “not yet.” For example “if you clean up your room, then . . . “ Well, shoot, cleaning up my room wasn’t fun. What kind of treat is that? Will I like what I get when I clean up my room? Maybe I should forget the treat. So, my room’s messy. I can usually find everything. Yes, the treat I wanted sounded good, but, I can live without it. The example is very elementary, but perhaps we sometimes make life a lot more complex than it is? Oh, come on, don’t you? I know I do. So, how can dealing with the crud in my room relate to dying to self?

Well, our Lord wants what’s best for us. He knows what’s best for us. When I think about the times He’s said “no” or “not yet” the prize I received “at the appropriate time” was amazing. Before I could receive His blessing, I had to clean up my act some. I needed to realize that I didn’t know best and give up my own foolish willfulness and follow Him. Not unlike all those things I wanted when I was a child that I didn’t “get” until I cleaned up my room, grew up a bit more, was more prepared to handle them. Giving up our own sinful ways and following the Lord doesn’t mean life will be simple, but it sure will be better than denying Him and going it alone. The bumpy patches on the road won’t make me fall because I’m holding His hand. The “good enough” life without Him that really wasn’t all that good? It’s nothing compared to eternal life in the Kingdom of God. No, life won’t be a dream come true. It’ll be even better!

Jesus Hugs!

April 7, 2011

Love has become a word that’s used so casually these days.  Isn’t it also interesting that we are in a time where we need it so desperately and many of us, at times, realize that we so hunger for it?  I know I do.  We’ve used the word for meanings other than it’s true one so often that we do not always “feel the love” anymore.  This is sad.  I am not, however, sad as I write this.  I am full of joy.  I know Jesus loves me.  He shows this to me in lots of ways, but on Sunday He gave me a hug.  Not for the first time, either! 

As I passed through the door leaving the 9am service, a flock of kids and their parents came from the other direction for the 10:15 children’s service.  One little boy came rushing up to me and gave me a big hug.  He’s done this at least 3 weeks in a row now.  I don’t know his name.  We don’t get to chat.  He needs to get into his pew with his folks and I need to step aside as my service has ended and the next is about to begin.  I don’t think there can be any better example of the love our Lord has for us than love expressed by a child. 

We, as adults, restrain ourselves.  We often don’t want to be touched or are resistant to touch others.  We “feel funny” or wonder “what will they think.”  Our Lord, however, urged us to be like a child.  Do you remember your own childhood?  Do you remember when you eagerly rushed to show affection because the world hadn’t changed you yet?  The world hadn’t yet reconditioned you into thinking it was somehow “wrong” to express love?  Is it really that important to be “like a child?”  Well, in the NIV Bible the word “child” is used 108 times.  Clearly, yes it is that important. In Matthew 19:14 Jesus said “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”  When this little boy hugged me, I knew it was Jesus Himself hugging me through this child.  When I grow up, I want to be just like him! 

Excited AND Humble???

April 6, 2011

1 Peter 5:6
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.

I’ve often heard people speak of humbling experiences, yet with a tone of voice that betrayed a great deal of excitement.  This used to puzzle me.  I thought the two feelings were in contrast, yet when a certain friend so often shares his personal experiences with me on his walk with the Lord and showed himself to be at once both humbled and excited, I had to wonder what I was missing.   My friend is an inspiration to me both personally and spiritually and his sharing of himself with me in this way has greatly helped me to grow in my personal relationship with the Lord.  I did wonder, however, as I found myself feeling the two seemingly contrasting emotions, how this could be? 

The dictionary defines humble as modest and subservient and excited as eager and enthusiastic.  There was a time when modest and subservient would not have been something I’d strive for but as my personal relationship with the Lord has grown more and more intimate, He has revealed things to me about myself.  Since our Lord loves us so much and since it is His will to provide for us in ways so far beyond anything we can desire or pray for, why be anything but subservient to Him?  As to modesty, when I’m inviting the Lord to use me, the works He performs through me are so much more than any I could do on my own. 

It is my greatest delight and desire to draw others to Him by reflecting His light to those in darkness!  When I remain on the path for my life that our Lord has set for me, and when I release myself to Him, He carries my burdens!  Why, then, would I want to be anything else but His humble servant?  When others respond to the Lord through words and deeds I’ve done through Him who guides and strengthens me, I am so excited!  I can’t wait to share His “Good News.”  Gosh, we get excited over a new DVD, a new restaurant, or a new boyfriend and can’t wait to tell our friends . . . all these are fine things to share, but we mustn’t forget how humbling and exciting it is to share the Lover of our soul! 

James 4:6
But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”

Pull Weeds – Cultivate Joy

April 3, 2011

Psalm 30:5 tells us that “weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.”  Oh, joy!  Sure.  You know, sometimes life deals us moments of spectacular and sometimes not so much.  It seems to me that it’s easier to hold onto the “not so much” than it is to hold onto the joy.  Why is that?  It seems simple enough to understand that some of the things that make us weep, and these relate to the Psalmist’s words here, are anger, hurt, and discouragement.  We may not wish to admit to our tears, and we may try to hide them, but they do come.  These things certainly would make us “weep for a night.”  Why, then do we tend to hold onto these negative feelings and worse yet share them so eagerly?  Why, also, does joy seem to be so fleeting?  Why do we tend to jealously keep it to ourselves rather than share it? 

These questions bring us back to the initial question of why we seem to be more able to hold onto our “not so much” feelings and less able to hold onto our joy.  When we’re happy we tend to feel much more independent, don’t we?  I do.  Happiness and joy make me feel like “I’ve got it” and “it’s all under control.”  When I’m hurt, angry and discouraged, I am far more likely to share those feelings with those around me.  I guess on some level we feel as though if we share our feelings, it’ll “get better” but when it comes to the negative ones, that’s not how it works.  How often do you go about your day and encounter comments like “I hate it when . . . “ or “did you see what he just did?” or “that’s not fair!” or “I have such a headache” to name a few, but how often in your typical day do you hear “wow, I am so full of joy today!”  It sounds rather trite, but it’s true that our attitudes are contagious.  What we share with the person next to us, they pass on to another.   

Joy, on the other hand,  is fleeting and like a garden, it needs to be cultivated.  Complaining, like weeds, grows easily and quickly consumes not just our little garden patch, but soon overtakes the entire yard and then spreads to neighboring gardens as well.  Complaining is habitual.  Negativity.  We  hold onto it.  We allow it, like the untended weeds, to spread.  It’s easier that way, but is it better?  I don’t think so.  Words have power in them.  In the book of Genesis we learn this in a wonderful way.  Genesis 1:3 tells us, “and God said “let there be light,” and there was light.”  Those four simple words yielded power and a wonderful world was created yet; words can also destroy.  Proverbs 10:11 makes this clear, telling us “the mouth of the righteous man is a well of life, but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.”  God lives in us.  We reflect God outwardly to the world around us.  We want to be good disciples.  We need to pull those weeds of anger, discouragement, and hurt out of our gardens even though it’s hard work sometimes.  We need to cultivate joy.  As we are told in 1 John 4:12, “when I walk in love, God is present.”  Glory be to God!

“I Just Wanted God to Bless You!”

April 1, 2011

I took Mom out to dinner tonight.  I felt like celebrating my new job and a local Chinese place is high on her list of favorite places, so off we went.  We ate, we laughed, we enjoyed our time together, and as we finished our meal suddenly a voice said “excuse me” and I looked up to see a young man in a military uniform standing beside my table.  He was a stranger to me.  As soon as I acknowledged him he handed me a paid receipt and said “I have just paid your bill.  I just wanted God to bless you.”   Wow!  He sure succeeded in making me feel blessed!   Not only that, actually, because he also inspired me and got me thinking.  We are the light of Christ in this world, as Christians, and what better way to do this than to make a random act of kindness to a stranger as this young man did!  While we may not all be able to pick up the tab for the strangers at the next table in a restaurant, there sure are other ways.  Examples:

  • In the grocery isle, you see a young mother with a crying child and perhaps wish you didn’t need anything in that section?  Replace your frown with a kind smile to the mother.  I am sure it will bless her.
  • Get cut off by a “jerk” on the highway?  Instead of letting out a word or two that you Mom wouldn’t like, try praying for that individual’s safe arrival at his/her destination, and the safety of others on the road.  Many will be blessed.
  • See a parking meter on “violation” and the car not yet with a ticket?  Pop a quarter in!  Someone will be blessed.
  • See an impatient person rushing to the checkout?  Let them go in line ahead of you.  They’ll be blessed.
  • See someone sitting alone in church?  Ask if you may sit with them.  They’ll be blessed!
  • See a stranger at church, at a meeting, or in the employee lunchroom?  Introduce yoruself and make them feel welcome.  They’ll be blessed.

There are so many simple things we can do to share God’s blessing with others.  When  you do this, you will find that you too are blessed!  When someone does a kindness to you in this way, please remember to say thank you twice!  Once to them, and once to God who placed it in their heart!  I believe if you become aware of simple blessings like this, you will be amazed at how many  you receive in a day – and perhaps have received many other times without noticing!  God bless you all!

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