He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Psalm 40:3a

Monday, September 29, 2014

Missing The View

“I love to hike” shared the Pastor, “I enjoy the beauty, the quiet, the time alone with God and more. But there was on one occasion, a hike to Rainbow Falls, which really made an impression.   

"Alone, I made my way on the trail past several smaller falls when I happened on a larger one which was quite impressive, but not quite the way the information leaflet depicted.  A family with children were there and quite taken with the view; and asked me to take pictures of them in front of it.  I obliged and we chatted a while until finally the family returned the way they came.  I, however, continued further since the trail didn’t end.  To my surprise only several hundred feet further was this incredible, breathtaking view.  I had found Rainbow Falls!"

The family had made this incredible journey, yet stopped short of the goal and missed the key event.  They gave up thinking they’d reached their destination.  I wonder if we don’t do that sometimes in different areas of our lives.  We focus so much on what we are doing or where we are going we completely miss the most exciting occurrence God puts in front of us. Because we are not tuning in on Him, we miss an incredible blessing.

Very often, life crowds out the beauty and plan God has for us because we are focused on paying the bills, taking care of loved ones, getting that degree, climbing the success ladder or any number of daily issues that overwhelm our day.  We get so caught up in the “stuff” of life we don’t even take the time to commune with the God of the Universe.  We neglect the most important and valuable resource available; God’s Almighty power.  

When we take a moment to be quiet with Him, much like the hiker who gets lost in the quiet of the world around him on the trail, God can speak to us.  Elijah was certain God would talk to him  in the wind, fire or earthquake.   But He didn’t.  God spoke to him when things got quiet.  (1 Kings 19)   It’s when we are in these quiet times God can talk the clearest, because we aren’t overwhelmed with all the noises of the world.

It's hard sometimes to find quiet time with all the busy-ness of our days.   If you are like me, when I cross one thing off my to do list I end up adding at least two more.  I never get totally caught up!  Some days I don't feel like I really have the time to just stop and be still with God.  That is wrong however, and it takes great effort to discipline myself to just stop.  When I do finally stop, the rewards are amazing.  I leave our time together feeling like I've been wrapped in the arms of my Father.  I am rejuvenated and feel whole, ready to face whatever crisis awaits me and welcome the blessings of the day.  This makes taking the time worthwhile.  It's when we are quiet we have the best view of God and can hear God the clearest.  Isn't that what we really desire?

I challenge you this week to ….stop….  Stop for a while and just “visit” with our Creator.  There is none who deserves our time more than He.

(Note: this picture is NOT Rainbow Falls!)

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Lite Church

         Looking at his watch, fidgeting and unable to contain himself any longer, the young boy in front of me said, “It’s almost twelve, Mom.”
“Shh,” she responded, trying to concentrate on the preacher’s sermon.  Yet, she too, begins to fidget.  I notice my own train of thought strays to dinner, afternoon activities, or other trivial matters before forcing myself back, but not before I notice others, also fidgeting.
Then someone’s watch chimes, informing everyone it’s noon.  At that point, it seems, the preacher is all but forgotten.  Even small children know the signal.  Church is over.  It’s time to go.
With all the hype about going “lite” today: lite yogurt; pancakes, milk, etc.  I considered a “lite church.”  Would we be happier with a 40 minute service, 7 ½ commandments (you choose which ones you’d delete), 3 ¾ Beatitudes, one minute hymn, 60 books of the Bible, a five minute sermon, 30 second prayer, ½ offering and no choir music.  What affect would this have on our spiritual life?
Church service length preferences vary in opinion.  Some parishioners say they don’t mind when the service runs over if the Holy Spirit is moving, whether it be through the message or other parts of the service.  Others feel, however, if a sermon is longer than 15 to 20 minutes, it’s too long.
Time certainly affects children.  If the church has a “Jr. Church” or “Children’s Church”  children can be excused during part of the service. It gives them craft and song time, and lessons geared to their age.  This works especially well where church services are two hours long. But there is a fine line here.  What message are we sending to the children when we say it’s okay to miss church?  Is it not important?  Does this attitude carry over to teen or even adult years?
Summer worship services offer unique circumstances relating to the “lite church.”  Some churches have an early morning worship service beginning at 8:00 A.M. from mid-June through early September, while not eliminating regular worship service at 11:00, for traditionalists.  This provides for “long” Sundays to do other activities and to escape heat in an un-air-conditioned sanctuary.  This might be defined as a “lite church.”  It’s very informal, lasting an hour and song time is shortened.  But perhaps the most “ideal lite church” would be the one where you pull up to an intercom, like the ones we used to see at movie theaters, and have church right in your car!  I have never attended one of these, but suspect those who participate this way are very much in a hurry to have it done.  Other ideas include watching television or an "attending" an internet service.
The “lite church” idea even carries over into Sunday School during the summer. Some churches completely eliminate it.  Opinion is with travel and being busy on weekends it isn’t worth having teachers prepared for a class with only a few children or adults in attendance.  This, too, sends a message.  Do we only have to learn about God sometimes?  Do we only have to go to church when we’re not busy and have the time? Do we attend only out of habit?
These factors directly affect what you get out of the service each Sunday. When people attend church for something other than Spiritual need, they miss the feeding they could get from God via the message, whether it’s fifteen minutes or an hour long; the music, which can be uplifting and be a message in itself; the prayer, direct communion with God; the offering, personal sacrifice; the Bible reading, God’s written instruction; or fellowship, the uplifting and encouragement we receive by being with other Christians.

We could have a “lite Church.” But how cheated we would feel.  Our spirits feed on all that make up a service.  Even children can learn and be fed from the service.  We need, no matter what  our age level, open ears, minds, hearts and souls, ready to be fed from the entire menu.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Blessings From God

        It’s fascinating to watch on Facebook those things for which people are thankful.  There has been a challenge of sorts which asks participants for a given number of days to list three things which exhibits this.  It’s a wonderful thing when we stop and reflect on our gifts.  But I can’t help wonder if most of the time we take our “gifts” for granted.

I believe our relationships are a very important gift, and this includes sibling to sibling; parent to child, friend to friend and even more than these; our relationship with our Savior.   The Pastor commented recently that our relationship with God should begin with adoration in prayer before we bring Him our long list of “supplication.”   It is much like the child who has left home, living on his/her own, and only contacts his parents, when he wants something, particularly money!  When a relationship is based on needs or wants only, the relationship suffers.

It also makes me wonder about our motives when we ask for “good things" and then, what exactly constitutes “good things?”Are we focused on material things which will one day  have no value or do we, with a true heart, ask for gifts of guidance, faith, friendship and kindness?  

Solomon was a wise man and asked for wisdom to rule the people.  Yet he wasn’t always wise and made mistakes.  But because he didn’t ask for material things, he was blessed beyond measure by a God who loved him.  

To look at our blessings, is to look at our life.  Those who bless others are often blessed in return.  It doesn’t have to be anything grand, but a deliberate, honest and sincere act which demonstrates the blessings we have received from God.  It is God’s desire to bless us as he did Solomon with great things and those things which is good in His knowledge and His love for us.

That said, like my Facebook friends, I too, have much to be thankful for:  good health, a wonderful husband, great kids, a nation where we have freedom of speech, religion, press, an amazing landscape to view and more.  The Lord has blessed me as a person and He has blessed our nation, but our nation is changing, as is our world.

How can God bless that which is not good?  How can we even expect him to bless the propagating of witchcraft and sorcery, which he explicitly forbids?  How can he bless pornography and its industry when he proclaims it immoral and wrong?  How can he bless those lifestyles that go directly against the man woman relationship he created? 

We ask as a country, “God bless America."  God loves this country and has blessed it greatly.  Can we expect continued blessings when our citizens choose to go the direction opposite of God?  It is up to us as Christian believers, to spread God’s word and His truths throughout the world, our nation, our cities and our communities.  When we are doing this, it's a lot harder to take our "gifts" for granted.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Everyday Challenges

I heard a cute story from a friend recently about how her grandfather taught the children to be willing to try something even if it turns out it isn’t for them.  She had the occasion to have a silverware drawer break and considering both her grandfathers were skilled carpenters, opted to tackle the job herself.  With Dremel in hand she followed the directions as she twisted her body into the cabinet, drilling, screwing and working on the desired repairs.  Project complete, she realized her original measurements were inaccurate leaving a small gap because the assembly was mounted a bit below where it belonged.

Personally, I laud her efforts for even tackling the problem since I would be loathe to even push the power button on the Dremel.  Trying new things is certainly commendable, but I am a coward to nearly anything mechanical!  My mind doesn’t process the necessary components to make things work in a logical order.

I’m grateful however, lacking as I am in such matters, that God enabled others to take care of such issues!  Yet, I can’t help but regret, a little, the courage to try something out of my comfort zone.  I deplore the idea of botching something, especially when it really needs to be handled properly.

God has a purpose for each of us and mine seems to be putting words on paper.  But does this mean I shouldn’t try something that frightens me?  Should I rely on others when I am intimidated by what is before me?  I have one daughter who thinks nothing about sticking her head under the hood of a car and making a reasonably accurate diagnosis about an engine problem.  All I can do there is notice something is amiss.  Another of my daughters is skilled in the medical field and another in business.  I have a son who is skilled in computers and a remarkable artist and yet another who is skilled in water management!  In each of the areas where my children excel, I lack horribly! 

Sometimes it takes a while to discover what it is we do best.  I was in my thirties before I discovered I could write productively!  Until then, it hadn’t occurred to me to even try writing for anyone besides myself!  Yet, God knew when He would use all the “practice” I had, to make it a worthwhile endeavor for others to read.  He also knew “life experiences” would enable me to write better from the heart.

God knows each of us individually and wants us to use the gifts and abilities He’s given us to the best of our ability.  To some He has given many gifts; to others not so many.  But I believe when we do our best with what He’s given us we honor Him, and isn’t that what we are supposed to do?

Conversely, when we refuse to use the gifts we’ve been given, we have dishonored Him.  We’ve decided we know better than God, kind of like Jonah when he tried running from God.  He discovered, as we do, that unless we follow God’s directives, we aren’t going to be happy.  This is also true when we use our gifts for something other than God’s plan; when we abuse our abilities for our personal gain.  Again, God knows all, even our motives.  Only when we are in His will, following His plan, can we be truly happy. 

Monday, September 1, 2014

Money In My Pocket

My friend shared the story of a time she was going through both her clothes and her husband's, in an effort to thin and make room for new purchases.  She came across a pair of pants which she knew her husband didn't wear because he didn't like them, but had never gotten rid of since they were a gift.  On a whim, she decided to spare her husband the agony of disposal and did it for him, tossing them in the box for the church rummage sale.

 Some weeks later her husband noticed the pants were missing from his dresser drawer and asked his wife about it.  "I finally just got rid of them," she explained.  You weren't gonna do it." 

"You're kidding!   Did it occur to you to check the pockets?"

"No, of course not.  You've never even worn them,"

"Well someone now has another $300 to spend," he said matter-of-factly.

"Are you serious?" She asked.  "I guess someone must have needed that money," she added, laughing lightly so she wouldn’t cry.  "I had no way of knowing you put money in those pants!"

God has a way of using our mistakes for someone else's good.  While my friend suggested someone must really have needed the money, their own family could have used it, as well.  Getting angry at that point would have done little good.  The money was long gone and there was no way to even begin trying to track it. 

What is your reaction when you realize you’ve made a mistake with huge consequences?  Or perhaps you are in a situation, like another friend, where you haven’t made a mistake but you believe the person in control of a situation you are involved with has, and all you can do is wait.  While you wait, albeit impatiently, you discover changes in plans have been made by circumstances over which they had no control.   These changes delay an important transaction or meeting.  What do you do?

Do you look at the situation as “God is in control” or “people are just stupid?”   I watched the movie recently “God Is Dead,” and found it humorous when the Pastor who wanted nothing more than to go on vacation found his vehicle wouldn’t start, not only once but three times!  God clearly didn’t want him to leave.

My friend, in the situation where she was not in control, although not pleased by what was at first described as incompetence, can clearly in hindsight, see the hand of God.  The Lord had reasons for the transaction to be delayed.  As humans, however, it can be very difficult to acknowledge the circumstance for something other than what our anger calls for.  We want to be in control and when things look askew, the immediate reaction isn’t God at all; it is incompetence or stupidity.

God knows the beginning from the end.  He already knows what is going to happen, how we will handle it.  He makes decisions based on His knowledge far more accurately than any human.

As you deal with situations this week, consider each person involved.  What might be happening in their life which you know nothing about?  Could God be working in a situation which includes you, which will demonstrate His mercy, grace or power?  Would asking yourself these questions alter your perspective and therefore your response?