My sun porch

My sun porch

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Final words that gathered people together....

"For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” -- Matthew 18:20

“Gather to me my faithful ones, who made a covenant with me by sacrifice!” -- Psalm 50:5

Our church is studying a book by Adam Hamilton, Final Words, this Lenten season. Today, because I had a vacation day, I took extra time to read, study, contemplate and let it all seep into my heart. 

This books teaches us and encourages us to look at the final few statements that Jesus said at the end of his life on the cross. As our pastor discussed this last Sunday, when hanging on the cross, speaking would have been very difficult for Jesus. So, why did He do this? Why did he voluntarily endure even more pain? I believe He did it to gather us together.

This thought brought back my own painful memory. My dad was dying. All the family were called home that weekend. We knew it was a matter of only hours, so we were all with him in that living room in his last hours. We were all trying to sleep, on couches, in chairs, on the floor, all the while enduring our own little worlds of despair. At a little before 3:00 am, my dad called out that he had to pee. Since he was so weak, it took several of us to help him with this simple bodily function. My brother and my uncle held him up, my mom helped him and I also gathered there in support. At the stroke of three, his hand dropped and he was gone. As I think back on this memory that ALWAYS brings me to tears, I think about my dad's final words. They weren't words of comfort. They weren't saying goodbye. They weren't elegant words we could treasure always. However, I believe he said those specific words to gather us all together. He knew that it took several people to help him with this simple task, so gathering us all together to help him allowed us all to be around him when he slipped away from this world. He was surrounded by the people who loved him most and whom he loved most. As we all realized he was gone, we clung onto one another. We were surrounded by the people we loved the most. We all supported each other in that moment and in all the difficult moments to come.

This memory is as fresh in my mind and heart as if it happened yesterday instead of 23 years ago. Even though it is a painful moment in my life, I will treasure it always. I believe that was my dad's final gift to the people he loved.

I believe Jesus endured the pain of speaking while hanging that cross as HIS final gift to us. He gathered the people who loved him the most and they listened to his words. The writers of the Gospels interviewed those around the cross and recorded those last few precious statements from Jesus so we could treasure them generations later.

In the coming weeks of Lent, as I study those gifted statements from my Savior, I will look at them in a different way. I will think of the gift my earthly father gave me and be honored by the gift my Heavenly father gave me on the cross. 

Dear Gracious Father, 
Thank you so much for the gift you gave the world through Jesus. In this world of division and frustration, gather people together and let us all feel your love through the gifts you have given us. Let us lean on the people around us. Help us to come together and work on bringing peace to a hurting world. In the precious name of Jesus, Amen.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

God will take care of me...

"Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you." -- 1 Peter 5:7

God is good! I know that is a saying we say, and perhaps it has become trite for some. However, for me, I have found it to be true. Yesterday was an emotional roller coaster ride! It began with a devotional moment in the morning. A verse I read prompted me to hit my knees. So many people that I love and trust have been telling me that my way of thinking is wrong. I am turning into some tree-hugging liberal, apparently, and I am wrong in God's eyes. If that was true, why did I feel so strongly about this? So, right there, beside my kitchen table, I hit my knees and BEGGED God to change my heart and mind if I was wrong. Later in the day, my pastor posted a message from a leader in the Methodist church that reinforced my heart and thoughts. You may not believe it, but in my heart, that was the answer from God I needed! I shared that post and started a heated debate among my friends and family. It breaks my heart that I seem to be so far away from where they are. But...I refuse to be hurtful or hateful...I COULDN'T be because I LOVE these people. I even love the person who was pretty hateful back to me.

I was feeling both strengthened and disheartened yesterday after work, and emotionally drained. I didn't feel like sitting home by myself, as I figured I would spend my evening obsessed with what people were saying on Facebook (I WISH I could just give it up!!!) so I went to a movie. I had been wanting to see Hidden Figures, about the women at NASA who helped John Glenn get to space in the Friendship 7. I am currently working on a display for my library about these women and about John Glenn, as he is out very own hometown hero! 

On the way to the movie theater, I heard a song on the radio about how I should live like I'm loved. I listened to every word and felt reassured that I was right to feel like I feel. I watched the movie, and let me tell you...during the movie there were times when my leg got to shaking so much because I felt this fire building inside me! These women, who were told they had to use separate bathrooms, and that they weren't good enough, were using the brains God gave them and kept pushing until everyone saw what God created them to do! John Glenn, bless his dear, departed soul, saw their worth, treated them like the human treasures they are and TRUSTED them to do the math that was needed to figure out how to bring him home from space. He TRUSTED these women, who most of society were throwing away, with his life!

I walked out of that theater feeling refreshed, rejuvenated and REFUELED! The radio played a song about asking God to bring these dry bones to life! I prayed on the way home that I could explain these feelings to my husband. He never understands my church and God feelings...When he got home from his day, we started talking and it all came spilling out! He listened! He may think I'm a little nuts, but he listened and encouraged me!

This morning, I woke up with the old hymn "God will take care of you" in my head!  As I walked past the coffee table, I picked up my grandmother's old Bible that usually just sits there as a decoration. I opened the Bible and look what I saw:
This is a note, written by my dad when he was a teenager, that my grandma kept in her Bible. I have seen this before, but it has been a LONG time! My dad has been on my mind SO much this month. He has been gone for 23 years this month and I LONG to speak to him again. This note allowed me to hear his "voice" and see that even as a teenager, he was searching for how to live like Jesus. I SOOOOO needed this message today!

So...God has taken care of me in the last two days! THANK YOU GOD! There is a fire in my belly! A refreshed spirit in my soul! I will not fight with those who think I am wrong, but I will speak love. I will try to live like Jesus each day. I will fall...I will sin. It's a good thing I have a Savior who will pick me up, brush me off , forgive me and breathe breath into these dry bones once again!

Thank you, thank you, Lord for taking such good care of me! Lord, I am here. I hear you calling. I will go where you lead me. I will hold your people (ALL PEOPLE) in my heart! Please open the hearts, minds and souls of others who know you and call out to them and let them hear you tell them to LOVE and not let fear hold them back. Amen

Friday, January 27, 2017

The Power of the Cross...

"The power of the Cross is the power of becoming one"
-- Chaplin Will Mullins

Romans 12:16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.

Yesterday morning I had the opportunity to sing with the Campus Choir during our weekly chapel service at Muskingum University. This was good timing for me. I needed an uplifting and reassuring reminder of God's power as I have been having problems having hope and being at peace in the middle of the political, cultural and spiritual division that is currently happening in this country and world. We are SO divided and there is SO much ugliness. 

The song we sang spoke hope to my heart. Here are some of the words:

Gracious Spirit, dwell with me, I would gracious be.
Help me now thy grace to see, I would be like thee...

Truthful Spirit, dwell with me, I would truthful be.
Help me now thy truth to see, I would be like thee.
And, with wisdom kind and clear, thy life in mine appear.

Mighty Spirit, dwell with me, I would mighty be.
Help me now thy power to see, I would be like thee.
'Gainst all weapons hell can wield, be thou my strength and shield;
Let thy word my weapon be, Lord, Thine the victory.

Singing these words made me remember that God IS in control and He IS with me every day. I strive to be like Jesus each day. I fall short, of course, but it is my goal each day to let my words and actions show those around me the love that Christ shows me. They will know I'm a Christian by my love.

When I get frustrated reading people's hateful posts to each other, I need God's power living in me. When people judge others and not know the whole situation, I need God's gentleness living in me. 
When I see our elected leaders throwing away people who need to be remembered and taken care of, I need God's patience living in me. When I am moved to take action against intolerance and hatred, I need God's strength, might, wisdom and boldness living in me.

I know that God created me to be a peacemaker. Those natural skills I have, which if not kept in check make me a people pleaser and make me weak, can also be used for good to help others. I have TOO much empathy sometimes, perhaps I have enough to spare. I just wish EVERYONE could learn to walk in someone else's shoes before they say and do hurtful and hateful things. Can I help people to learn to understand others and be more empathetic? Can live so that people can see Jesus in my heart?

During his message yesterday, our Chaplin spoke about how what Jesus did on the cross has the power to make us one. As divided as we are as a culture? Really? As divided as we are as Christians? Are you sure? YES! God IS that powerful! I think I forget that sometimes. I forget that he is the creator and ruler of the world. If we can harness God's power of what He did through Jesus on the cross, we COULD become one in body, mind and spirit. It seems impossible to me me right now. I have seen families split apart by politics. I have felt the angst of feeling like I don't fit in among my own church family. I have been part of heated political and theological arguments. It feels like there is no way we could all be one in ANY way.

Then I remember: "Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." (Matthew 19:26)

If EACH one of us who believed in the power of Jesus would try to live LIKE Jesus in all we do, we could come to more of consensus more often. Maybe if we lived more like Jesus in all we did, others, who don't believe, would want to know more about how we live. Maybe if we STOPPED hating and arguing with the other side long enough to TALK to them, we might even learn to understand them better!

STOP hating liberals. Try to understand why they think and believe the things they do. TALK with them! Treat them like you want to be treated and listen.
STOP hating Trump supporters. TALK with them and openly and respectfully discuss why they feel so strongly. Treat them like you would want to be treated and listen.
STOP hating women because they are pro-choice. STOP hating pro-lifers. TALK with them. Learn to understand why they believe that way. Work together to discover ways to reduce the number of abortions.
STOP hating Muslims and people of other or no religion. TALK to them. Listen to what they believe. REALLY listen. In my experience, we have more in common than we can even imagine. Even if you think your way is the only way to heaven, LISTEN and work together to solve problems. Are there extremists who are evil and want to part of peaceful solutions? Of course! But there are MORE people who just want to live in peace. 
STOP hating immigrants. Not all of them are evil drug pushers or terrorists. Not all of them are out to steal our jobs and ruin this country. Most of them are just trying to escape a terrible way of life by coming to this wonderful land of opportunity. Of course there are those who are coming into this country for dishonest and hurtful reasons. Is it worth THROWING AWAY the people who genuinely are searching for a better life? If that was the case with our country a hundred years or so ago, I would be an Irish citizen right now. (Hmmmm...those of you that know me know that I am thinking that sounds like a good idea!) 

Gracious Spirit, dwell in me and dwell in the believers in this country. Through the power of your cross, we can learn to be one and work together to show others the love of Christ, even if they don't believe in him at all. Lord, I am a dreamer and dream of a world where we can work together to solve the problems of our world. However, I am not naive enough to believe that this world will ever be perfect. Help me to be an instrument of your peace in the world around me. I love you Lord, and in YOU comes my hope. Amen.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Somebody's knockin'...

Somebody's knockin'...

Yesterday, I was driving to the store, listening to the end of a very interesting audiobook, when I thought I heard someone knocking on a door. I turned off the audiobook and listened again. At first I didn't hear anything, but then I heard it again, a very quick  and distinct knock, knock, knock, knock, knock. I started looking around. Was someone in the car with me? I didn't see anyone. Visions of "the little people" popped into my head. I kept listening but I never heard it again. I know it was probably just a sound my car made as it was warming up. Probably needs a tune up. But that sound has stuck with me.

After breakfast today, I was feeling a little  restless, so I went for a little walk around the house on this pretty, late December morning. I started taking pictures of little things I saw as I explored. I have this white lilac bush at my front porch that I am considering taking out because it has hardly bloomed at all in the last several years. I noticed that it looks like it's getting ready to bloom. This crazy Ohio weather is confusing! I snapped a picture of a budding branch. Later, as I looked at the pictures I took, I noticed the buds against my front door. The knocking popped into my head again,

For several years I have felt...restless...expectant...unsatisfied...waiting for SOMETHING. I don't know why I feel this way. Like the picture above, I feel like I bloom at all the wrong times. Perhaps I have been in the middle of some sort of midlife crisis. I don't really know who I want to be when I "grow up." I don't WANT to feel like this...I try to feel content with my life. I am surely blessed with family, friends. a good job, a busy life. I just can't shake this feeling that I am supposed to be doing something...

Who was knocking? Who was trying to get my attention? God and I have always had a good relationship. I listen for God's voice in my daily life and I watch for his messages, like the crosses in the sky He sends me occasionally for encouragement. Is He trying to tell me something? How do I know?

As a new year approaches, many people search for a new beginning. Perhaps that's all it is. New beginnings are a good thing. 2016 has been a strange year. Maybe 2017 is knocking, enthusiastically wanting to come in a little early. That's fine with me.

Whether it's God, opportunity, a new year, my car needing a tune up, the "little people" living in my car or something I haven't even thought of, I'm going to keep an open mind and keep listening for that knocking and be ready to open the door. I'm ready for an adventure!

Friday, July 8, 2016

Love every WHO...

"The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these." -- Mark 12:31

"But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you," -- Mark 5:4

WHO are you commenting about on Facebook-
complaining about they way they live?
WHO are you angrily yelling about,
refusing to forgive?

WHO are you developing opinions about,
from only what you see on a screen?
WHO are you learning to hate,
from only what can be seen?

WHO are you protecting yourself from
when you carry that gun in your purse?
WHO do you openly fear?
WHO do you openly curse?

Look at that those that make up your WHO,
the ones your actions show that you hate.
Look at WHO you complain about,
the WHO your comments berate.

These human beings that make up your WHO,
the ones you treat with disgust,
Are the neighbors Jesus talks about
when he says that love is a must.

Are you taking the side of the cop,
and hating the WHO he shot?
Do you know about the WHO that died
when tempers were hot?

Or, do you talk with loathing
about the WHO in dressed in blue?
 "Black lives matter," and you want revenge,
But his life matters too.

Your WHO may be a politician,
your opinions you love to share.
There is venom in your speech, 
but you don't seem to care.

You are certain your opinion is right,
everyone else is dead wrong!
If people would just agree with you,
this country would be strong!

Instead of speaking with hate
though the computer keys,
we should follow the lead of Jesus
and fall to our knees.

Stop spewing your hatred
all over Facebook and Twitter.
Stop gossiping and complaining.
Stop being so bitter.

Our great country give us freedom,
freedom to say what we want.
But that freedom of speech
doesn't mean we should hate and taunt.

Love and care for your neighbor,
as you would care for you.
Pray for your enemies,
and love EVERY WHO.

Dear Loving Father,
I thank you for this beautiful world, but I pray that you change hearts all over that world! There is so much hate, so much fear, so much needless and senseless destruction and death...It is sometimes painful to live in this beautiful world you gave us. Lord, please help people to learn to LOVE their neighbors and treat EVERYONE with care! I am sure your heart breaks at the hate you see in this world. I pray that you will break the hearts of those who carry so much hate, and open those hearts instead! I can't change the world, but I can live my life in LOVE! Please give me the wisdom, strength and HOPE I need to continuing to loving every WHO that I come in contact with! In Jesus' precious name, Amen.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Life Lessons from the Ocean - Part 3 - A lesson in humility

"For I am the Lord your God, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar - the Lord Almighty is his name." -- Isaiah 51:15

Standing in the ocean, not far from the shore at low tide, the water was only at my knees. These waves aren't so bad! I walked further out. I looked to my left at the pier and I was almost equal with the end of that pier. The water still only came up to my waist most of the time. The pull of the ocean at my feet was stronger. I could feel the tug of the current, which usually pushed me back to shore, but now seemed to be pulling me further out to sea.

I became emboldened and faced the waves. Here at the "breakers" where larger waves would boil and roll up in front of me,  it was like seeing the birth of a wave. My writer's mind thought of my ocean/life analogy and I decided to pretend I was fighting with the ocean. It was throwing bad stuff my way. I jumped over waves, dived underneath, let them crash into me...never had I felt so powerful! No wave was going to take me down! I walked on a little farther, not listening to my husband calling for me not to go too far. I yelled at the waves, "Come on! Is that all you've got?!" I laughed at the next wave that slapped against me and knocked me back a few steps. I wiped the salty water from my eyes and enjoyed the powerful feeling! What fun! How exciting to feel like you can take on the world! I let a few more bigger waves hit me! I pretended to be Muhammad Ali, dancing around the waves. "Come on waves! I float like a butterfly, sting like a bee!" I laughed at myself, dancing in the waves...and then it happened.

I had gotten too cocky. I took my eyes off the oncoming waves in my little dance of power and a huge wave hit me from the side, knocking me off balance. I fell backward, just as another large wave rolled on top of me. I went under. I could feel the sting of salt water in my nose and throat. I felt myself flailing around, trying to get up. I thought I was drowning! It caught me so off guard that I couldn't think straight. Then I remembered it wasn't that deep and I stood up. I coughed and sputtered and got my feet planted firmly in the sand. As I got my bearings back, the waves kept coming and I knew I had the get back to shore. I turned my back to the waves and walked as quickly as I could toward to the warm sand. My husband just thought I was taking a break, waved and kept swimming. He had no idea I had just cheated death.

Well...cheated death might be a bit dramatic. But at that moment, lungs full of salt water, eyes and nose stinging, and legs like jelly, I felt near death. Each step felt like a mile and my chair on the beach looked so small. I HAD to reach it! I kept trudging along, the current pulling me, taunting me, making fun of my weakness.

When I did make it back to my chair and my towel, I plopped down, blew my nose and laid there for several minutes, thanking God for saving my life. My cockiness and greed for power took me under. It's addictive, that power. Once I conquered one big wave, I wanted more. I fought the waves instead of respecting them. I taunted them. I do not want to be that drunk with power again, even if it is a make believe battle with the sea.

Dear powerful Father,
Thank you for this lesson in humility. I am but a speck to your power. When I learn to respect that power and rely on it, instead of letting a little power make me cocky and stupid, you will use that power to protect me and support me. That is a good lesson for anyone on this earth. Thank you for your amazing and wonderous creation. Amen.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Life Lessons from the Ocean - Part 2

"Deep calls to deep at the sound of Your waterfalls; All Your breakers and Your waves have rolled over me." -- Psalm 42:7

When you are standing in the ocean, enjoying the coolness of the water and and the warmth of the sun upon your skin, there are times you feel strong enough to face the on-coming waves head on. You walk toward them and feel like you and take on the tallest wave. You see the waves coming...the small ones that break past you and the big ones that try to take you under.  You think, "I've got this!" It's a powerful feeling to be that strong and prepared!

Sometimes the really big waves come together. A strong one almost knocks you down, but you stay strong. But before you've had a chance to wipe the salt from your eyes another wave is right on top of you. This one might take you down, but your reaction time is pretty quick and you pull yourself right back up. And then yet another wave is right behind it, ready to devour your weakened spirit. The undertow is too much for you at that moment and you go under. Salt goes up your nose and burns your eyes and throat. You feel like you can't fight anymore and you want to give up. But you grasp onto whatever fighting spirit you have left and you stand up.

In these times, you are too weak and recovering to feel strong enough to face the waves. You turn your back to them and deal with them as they come. The small ones might break around you with little trouble, but the big ones still come and beat you up when you don't see them coming. You aren't prepared and just to weary to care.

Sometimes the ocean gives you moments of rest in between the waves. Those moments are peaceful and you can catch your breath and just float along. You watch the waves crash around you, maybe taking others under, but your area is calm and peaceful. This peace doesn't last long, but it gives you rest so you can prepare for the next round.

It is important to remember to never go swimming in the ocean alone. When multiple waves have weakened you, a friend will lend a hand and help you walk to the safety of the shore. That friend will help you walk across the painfully sharp rocks and shells that come right before the soft sand and will get you a comfortable chair on the beach so you can rest up for your next swim.