These Hands

These Hands —

These hands belong to an 82 year old woman. Upon looking at the picture she exclaimed, “Oh, my hands are old.”

I want to tell you about these hands though. These hands raised 4 children. They changed many, many diapers. They have prepared countless meals for her husband and children. They have faithfully cleaned, dusted, vacuumed, washed dishes, did laundry, planted flower and vegetable gardens, and weeded those same gardens for her family. They have brushed back the hair on a fevered brow. They have wiped away many tears, both her own and those she cares for. They have cared for her sick children. They have applauded as her children played in concerts. (Takes a lot of love to go to every band concert as children are first learning.) They have held the hands of her children and grandchildren to cross the streets.

These hands have cared for her parents when they could no longer care for themselves. They held her mother’s hand as she prepared to meet the Lord.

These hands cared for her husband as he struggled with Parkinson’s and heart disease. They held her husband’s hand in love even though they had been married 50 years.

These hands have faithfully served the Lord in so many ways, from ministering to children to helping cut, sew, and make things for missionaries. They have held a well-used Bible to study as well as to share God’s word with others in devotionals and lessons. They have housed many missionaries and served them in her home.

There is much more that can be said about these hands but one thing is for certain: when these hands are folded in death and the person who they belong to has gone home to meet the Lord, we will know that these hands spoke love.

How about my hands and yours? What will be said? Are our hands acting in love?

 

Have a blessed Mother’s Day  to all whether you are a mom, a soon-to-be mom, a new mom, or a lady who doesn’t have her own children but has helped raise so many.

Foolish or Faithful

This year Ash Wednesday fell on Valentine’s Day, and now Easter will fall on April Fool’s Day. Two Christian holidays overlapping two non-religious holidays. This year I can’t avoid talking about the irony of Easter being on what the world celebrates as a day for acting like a fool.

Easter is the day we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, the source of our faith. It is a day of faith and love. At almost the opposite end of the spectrum, April Fool’s Day is a holiday giving opportunity to play pranks and jokes on people, a day of fools and folly.

Christians celebrate Easter on the Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox. This is why it changes each year. We don’t have an exact date when Jesus died on the cross, but we do know that his death was on a Friday around Passover which makes three days later the Sunday after the vernal equinox full moon.

The origin of April Fool’s Day is debated. Some people believe that it dates back to 1582 when France switched to the Gregorian calendar from the Julian calendar. On the Julian calendar, New Year’s day was celebrated around April 1 and with the Gregorian it was changed to the current date of January 1. When people celebrated the beginning of a new year on April 1 that year, they were called fools. And you could say the rest is history.

So now that I have the when explained, I want to talk a bit about what Easter is and why it is marginalized and commercialized by so many. I believe 1 Corinthians 2:14 explains it perfectly. It states “The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.”

In contrast to “the person without the Spirit”, a person with the Spirit is a born-again Christian. Someone who has been sealed by the Holy Spirit because they have accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior. God has the Holy Spirit speak to us to give us his wisdom and guidance as told in John 16:13-14 (Jesus speaking), “But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you.”

Why do some “not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God”? In my experience the things of God have been the exact opposite of my selfish desires so I considered them utter foolishness. I thought why would I want to do something that would get me nowhere, give me no credit, and give me nothing tangible? I was fooled by the commercialized fun of April Fool’s Day and the sweet treasures of the Easter bunny. The bigger the trick the better the fun. And I didn’t know anyone who didn’t love to be the “winner” by finding the most eggs and getting the biggest basket with the best gifts.

Then somewhere in my 20s I started wanting something more. I started questioning if there was more to this man they call God. Being raised by parents who only followed a worldly religion of celebrating commercial holidays, I was only exposed to the storybook fantasy of a god who swoops in and saves the day. I soon found myself disappointed and lost when my sinful actions took over my life. I questioned the purpose of life. I began to regret the wasted time I spent living for myself.

I became a Christian in my 30th year of life. That’s a LOT of years following only my selfish desires and having little regard to how I achieved them. I started accepting the truths of God because I was able to discern them from lies but only after I accepted that life on earth was hopeless without the guidance and wisdom from my Creator. I began to realize that I was trapped by thinking I was a pretty good person and didn’t need anyone telling me any different. This selfishness was holding me back from healing from past hurts, overcoming strongholds, and most of all, it was keeping me stuck in sin. But as Jesus said, the Holy Spirit guided me through the muck and showed me that life is beautiful when you give it to God.

I am beyond thankful that God captured my heart. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not perfect by any means. I still do foolish things but I have hope because Christ died on the cross, and God raised him three days later to then ascend to sit at His right hand. Why does that give me hope? Well frankly because I lived a full life without God as my savior and through his grace I survived. It is only because of God’s grace that I am alive and able to share my life with others. God is my father, Jesus is my savior and the Holy Spirit is my guide.

This Easter I’m guessing there will be parents pranking their children with tricks in their baskets. I pray that there are even more parents that glorify the name of God by sharing the true reason we celebrate Easter and how we can honor him for his sacrifices.

So how about you? Will you be foolish or faithful? I leave you with the encouraging words from 1 Peter 4:1-2, “Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who suffers in the body is done with sin. As a result, they do not live the rest of his earthly lives for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God.”

 

http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/april-fools-tradition-popularized

Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New International version®. Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™

20 Minutes Till Clean (When the Wheels Come Off), Part 3

If you’re following along, I’m in the middle of a self-imposed challenge to keep 2 rooms in my house clean enough that with 5-minutes’ notice I would willingly invite guests into my space.

This experiment started with a thought I had one day that the discipline I demonstrate in the way I keep my house is a reflection of my spiritual discipline. So I wanted to learn what God might say to my heart, as I stretch myself to do something different, and actually clean my house regularly.

I’m about half way though my 66 days and last week, the wheels came off!

Life was clicking along great. My husband was helping, I was experiencing satisfaction in the work of my hands, and peace in my soul.  God was speaking truths to my heart.  It was AMAZING!

Then I got sick.

We came back from the Believe Middle School conference, where we spent the weekend with the BEST MIDDLE SCHOOL KIDS IN THE WORLD along with around 8,000 of their friends from across the country. My souvenirs were a headache (I love you guys, but you’re music is loud) – and a cold.

If you’ve never heard of CIY’s Believe Conference, check it out HERE!

My cold was nothing special, a small fever for a day, laryngitis, coughing. All the usual symptoms of the spring-time plague.  But with it came the kind of self-pity that lets you justify laying around on the couch while the rest of your life falls apart.  And it did fall apart.  Not a dish was washed for a week.  Floors went un-swept – and I didn’t lift a finger, except to whine and point to my tissues as my husband walked by.

Of course I shared with Gene, and then there were two of us sniffling and dragging around the house. Once the cold ran it’s course, I realized I had once more let things get out of control, and there was quite a bit of effort needed to bring the house back into order.  I was quite disappointed that I hadn’t been able to fulfill my commitment.

I sat down the next day with my journal in hand and asked, “OK, what can God teach me from this?”

One of the things I love about God is that He is so quiet, strong and steady. He just waited for me to finish beating myself up over my failure.  He waited for me to finish mourning that I had been unsuccessful and waited for me to run out of words.  When I finally finished writing and put down my pen, my heart heard him add His two cents:

Speaking English puts us at a disadvantage sometimes. In English we typically define “perfect” as without blemish.  But the idea of perfect in scripture is less about being without blemish and more about being complete.  Having everything you need.  So a puzzle is perfect when all the pieces are in place.  A Birthday Cake is perfect, when all the candles are lit and it is ready to function in its role.  And my house is perfect when I have my priorities in place, not when it’s spotless.

In 2 Corinthians 12:9, the Apostle Paul asked God to take away something Paul viewed as a “thorn”, but God declined, telling Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

So, when I am at my weakest, God has put all the pieces of the puzzle into place so His power can do its thing.

You see, my 66-day journey is not about having a spotless place to live, its about taking one step closer to the One who’s power is perfect when I’m not.

 

20 Minutes Till Clean, Part 1

20 Minutes Till Clean, Part 2

 

Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New International version®. Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™

Finding Conviction, Comfort, and Clarity in Discouragement

Do you ever find yourself discouraged and at a loss for what to do next? I found myself there a few weeks ago. The stress built up on all sides of me; work, family, marriage, and my health. As I tried to find answers to problems, solutions to puzzles, and the way out of troubles, I only came up with dead ends and more frustration. I was discouraged. I was losing hope and the courage to stand on my convictions. I was on the edge of giving into defeat.

I shared my feelings with a dear friend of mine. She brought a great perspective to my situation. She challenged me to ponder the thought that I was discouraged because I had the wrong focus. Was I looking through the wrong lens? As we discussed my hardships, dead ends, and frustrations, it became quite evident that I was out of focus! I was completely caught up in what I wanted, what I needed, and what I thought I didn’t have. What was the common thread there? It was I.

My friend encouraged me to focus on God our Father instead. I was brought to Psalm 73:21-28 (ESV), 2 Corinthians 1:3-7, Colossians 3:1-17 and Hebrews 12:1-3. I meditated on these for days; Praying, Reading, Listening. I became refreshed, renewed, and reassured that I just needed to switch my view from internal to eternal. Psalm 73 mentions the eternity that gave me the conviction to stand strong on the promise of God’s faithfulness. I found comfort in knowing He is my refuge. And I found clarity in what I first thought was unanswered problems. The struggles dissipated as I loosened the grip on my impatient and foolish desire to be in control. God knows what we need before we even think a thought. Why should we not trust his lead? He created the world, He created us with his own hands and breath, and He wants to bring us joy through his glory. Our hearts can keep the faith that all will be for the best when God is in control.

In the verses from 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.”, God calls us to share such experiences. I encourage you to read the rest of the passages in 2 Corinthians to learn more of God’s comfort and how when we share our comforts we are strengthened to continue through the trials. I hope you find encouragement though my journey. May God bless your path as you follow his lead.

 

Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New International version®. Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™