Thursday, February 26, 2009

Love letters

I get lots of notes and letters. Nowadays a lot is through electronic media - e-mail, Facebook, text messages, and the like. Some is from the US Postal Service, but not as much anymore. And every now and then I'll have something handed to me in person - usually in the form of a memo at work.

For the most part these correspondences don't mean much, other than reminding me of something that's expected of me, or someone asking for money, or a blanket "have a nice day" that's sent to God knows how many people. In my lifetime, I think I've received only two letters that have really meant anything to me.

The first one was given to me at a retreat my senior year in high school. All the stude
nts at the retreat were given a letter from their parents. Mine was from my mother, about three pages, typed on a manual Olivetti typewriter (I'm old ... personal computers were not around then). The letter talked about all the times she hugged me, from the day I was born, through the happy times, and through the rough times. This letter is one of the few mementos I saved from high school. (It's tucked away in one of my high school yearbooks, which alas, is in a box somewhere behind a portable heater and other clutter in my garage.)

The second letter that has had an impact on my life is the love letter from my Father in heaven, the Bible. It tells of how much I am valued by the One who formed me in my mother's womb, knows everything about me, and yet loves me anyway. Just as there is safety in my mother's hugs, Psalm 91 reminds me that we can find safety in God's protection.

I admit, there are some parts I don't fully understand, but the more I read it, the more I want to read it. The more I learn about how much I am loved, the more I love Him.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Hand-Me-Down Blessings

There's growing up "poor," and then there's growing up "po'." My family wasn't financially wealthy, but we were not po' either. We didn't have closets full of new clothes off the rack. Mom sewed a lot for us, and I had my fair share of hand-me-down's (even though I'm the oldest daughter). I think if we were po' we would have seen third-generation hand-me-downs of clothes that were home-made to begin with that were church rummage sale rejects. Not exactly the best - or even the best of what's left. Now, THAT'S po'!

But even if we were that po' I would have still felt blessed. Sure, I'd wonder if I'd ever get to go to dance classes or play in a soccer league like the "rich kids" at school. But at the end of the day, being blessed is not about what can be seen or about what money can provide.

I can't speak for families of the kids I grew up with, but our home was full of blessings. We didn't always have steak and potatoes at every meal, but mom and dad made a point of all of us eating together at the table whenever possible. Even when their business obligations required that their time was spent away from home they'd always make time for us, doing whatever they could so that we'd feel like we have priority over their work. We could count on them to not only provide the basic needs for physical survival but to take care of the emotional needs as well. Cuts and scrapes would get more than Bactine and a band-aid. They'd get the kiss to make it better too. And when it came to boy trouble, I learned early on that ice cream has incredible therapudic value!

I can tell you that my parents know how to be wealthy because they know how to be blessings to others in their lives. I've always seen them practicing acts of kindness to others, expecting nothing in return. When you generously give to others in that way, God divinely sanctions his blessings on your life. You just have to be open to receiving His outpouring of love. The more you give, the more you receive in God's economy. That's how it works when you can't outgive the Giver.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Guess Who's Coming for Dinner

If you found out that a high-profile celebrity were to come to your home, what would you do? I think the first thing I would want to know is How much time do I have to prepare. Then I'd spread the word, hoping some of my friends would join the party.

Let's say that this mega-star is Jesus Christ himself.

"Honey, set an extra place at the table tonight. Jesus is coming."

"I hope the Son of God likes pot roast. What kind of wine should I serve?"

"I think just water will be fine."

That exchange reminds me of the story of Martha and Mary, when Jesus came to their home. Martha was preoccupied with being the first-century Martha Stewart. Mary was sitting at the feet of Jesus, taking in everything He said. Martha irritated that she was doing all the work. She was caught up in the preparation that she forgot to take time to enjoy her guest!

How do you view Jesus' return to earth?

For those that don't know Jesus' love and forgiveness, they may view the Second Coming with the fear and stress and nausea of someone facing an IRS audit, worried that you might not have sufficient explanation for how they spent their resources.

As Christians, we ought to look expectantly to Jesus' return with the excitement of a child at Christmas time, eyes alight with anticipation of the reward in store for believing.

Since nobody but God knows when that time will be, everyday should be treated as though a VIP were coming to dinner!

Saturday, February 07, 2009

End of the Rainbow

Saturday morning
Dreary gray sky, Gentle showers
Why am I out of bed,
Outside the sanctuary of my comforter?

My husband shouts --

I panic - Suddenly Alert - Adrenaline Pumping

Jammie-clad, without my Fuzzy Slippers
Standing cold feet on concrete
Under the safety of the roof of my front porch

We marvel at the wonder
Of brilliant colors
Reaching down from heaven

And the End of the Rainbow --
The Pot of Gold --
Slides smoothly into my neighbor's chimney

Friday, February 06, 2009

I thought I was wrong once, but I was mistaken.

There's a sign on the bulletin board outside the Youth Director's office at my church. It reads, "No PerfectPeople Allowed." Now there may be some who read that sign that may be mildly obsessive-compulsive that insist there is a typographical error in that sign. But they are mistaken. The "error" is intentional, in which case it is no error at all. How perfect is that?

Everyone makes mistakes. Believe it or not, I even have made them myself. One I seem to make over and over is to send an email that says "Here is the link to ..." or "Here's the picture of ..." and I'll forget to include the link or the file attachment. How embarrassing. Especially if it's an email to someone like my boss's boss. Not only do I not look good, my immediate boss looks foolish as well for hiring me in the first place.

But I take comfort in this: No one gains any level of success without making their fair share of mistakes. But it isn't simply making mistakes that makes someone successful. Here is my check-list of "How to turn a mistake into a success":

1. Find something you want to do, and do well.
2. Make all the preparations you need, enlist the help of everyone you need.
2. Go out and try your darndest to do it right the first time.
3. Make a bunch of mistakes and make a huge mess of your project.
5. Admit that you made a bunch of mistakes and made a mess of your project.
6. After you and everyone involved stop laughing (or crying, or both), figure out what went wrong and how it could be done differently to not make the same mistakes again.
7. Repeat steps 2 through 6, until you get it right.

OK, it might not be a perfect checklist. But then again, I'm not perfect either. So what did you expect?

Back to making mistakes.

Just because you succeed at something doesn't mean that the success in itself is not a mistake. Like when I had that job where I had to send emails to my boss's boss. Most people would see that job as a level of "success." More money and more responsibility, more prestige in the company. On the surface it looked good. But I was miserable. I realized that for me to be in that job was like putting a mauve dress shirt and lime green tie on a NFL linebacker. (Yeah, you should be reaching for the barf bag with that visual.) Point is, I recognized the error of my ways, learned what I did wrong, and made steps to change my ways.

I just hope my former boss hired someone who could remember to send the attachment the first time in an email.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Is it in you?

When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve. And while they were eating, he said, "I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me."

They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, "Surely not I, Lord?" --Matthew 26:20-22

Do you think you have it in you to hurt the ones you love the most? I mean hurt them deeply enough to where they may never bring themselves to forgive you?

A while back a good friend of mine found out that her husband had cheated on her after nearly 15 years of being married. As I walked with her through her tsunami of emotions she told of how she found out, how wounded she felt, how she wanted to move forward. Of course she was going to address the issue with him. (She never "confronts problems" ... she "addresses issues.") I asked her what she planned on doing, assuring her that I would always be there for her, no matter what her decision.

What she said next took me a little bit by surprise. "We're all capable of deeply hurting the people we love most. In fact, I always thought I would have been the one cheating on him."

We all have a bit of Judas in us. We're all capable of doing the unthinkable to someone we hold dear to us -- ratting out a friend, repeating something told in confidence, taking advantage of a situation that is better left alone, or things even worse.

Even the disciples at the Last Supper recognized this. At the Last Supper Jesus told the twelve that one of them in that room was going to turn him over to the authorities. Often times when we read a familiar passage we tend to gloss over it. But take a closer look. Even though only one - Judas - was being referred to here, it flabbergasts me to think that each one thinks he could be the betrayer. Think of it - the three disciples that made up Jesus' most inner circle - Peter, James and John (the one whom Jesus loved) - believed at that moment that they could rat-out the Son of God to people who wanted him dead. The difference between Judas and the remaining eleven is that Satan had entered into him.

So what are we to do? How can we guard against this horrible affliction that lies dormant within us? James tells us "
Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you" (James 4:7-8). Draw near to God through spiritual disciplines of prayer, Bible study, worship, and fellowship with other Christians.

And if we do fail, what then? By all means, don't do what Judas did! He committed suicide by hanging himself, and in doing so, missed the full glory of the risen Christ! Instead, confess your sin to the one you hurt. Ask for their forgiveness. Forgiveness does not mean that what you did was right. It opens the door to restoring your relationship and moving forward. Also, confess your sin to God. The Bible tells us that
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. His grace and mercy is infinitely more than we can ever imagine.

Prayer Request

A few weeks ago I posted about my Epiphany word for 2008 - Compassion. Since then I have noticed that word working its way into my life more so this year than last.

The ladies in my online Bible study group two Saturdays ago challenged and prayed for each other that we would step out of our comfort zone and respond to opportunities that God presents to us to show His love.

This past Saturday one of the group members mentioned that she was unaware of a need that she could have responded to, simply because the person in need did not make the need known to her. Now, I realize that God's plan could have been to fill the need in the way that it was filled, but her point was that we do not make our needs known to others who could at least be praying for us.

My pastor gave a sermon today on "Unquenchable Compassion." The words that stood out most to me in his message were "Everyone we come into contact with needs us to show compassion." (OK, maybe not his
exact words, but that's the note that I wrote down.)

I think that one of the most frustrating things for someone who is given a heart of compassion is to not know what another person's needs might be. Why do we assume that God will make us omniscient in that respect? One of the best ways to know of someone's needs is to simply ask the individual how we can be praying for him (or her). In many instances, there is nothing more compassionate or powerful that we can do for a fellow human being.

Which brings me to this:

How can I be specifically pray for you this day?