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Come as You Are

When I looked in the mirror this morning, the thought crossed my mind that I might not go to church today. The last thing I wanted was to have people notice the big, ugly cold sore on my face. The tingling pain began on Wednesday, and this morning I faced the impossibility of hiding the raw sore. Still, I wanted to be in church and knew that I would regret missing the worship service.

I remembered a woman cancelling  a meeting with me because her face was swollen from a bee sting and she was embarrassed about being seen. I started thinking of reasons why someone might not come to church because of embarrassment. Perhaps they fear stares because of their clothes, or tattoos, or weight, or blood shot eyes. Maybe their name was in the newspaper or their mugshot on the TV screen. Or it could be that their child has gotten into trouble or their spouse has left them. Maybe they can’t read, or don’t drive a nice car. Perhaps they’re heartbroken and don’t want people to see them cry. The list goes on and on. And it makes me sad.

Here I am with unstyled hair, no makeup, and the cold sore.

I can’t deny that at times it does take courage to go to church. Some have experienced painful encounters in church. Others have the idea that the people there will judge them. I wish I could say that is never the case. Sadly, though, it is possible that an unloving word may be said or that no word will be said. I would be dishonest if I pretended that I’ve never witnessed conflict or unfairness within the church. Please consider, though, that it is very easy for us insecure human beings to assume that others are looking down on us or that we don’t fit in, when that is not the case.

Here’s an encouraging word! Christmas is the celebration of God’s love being demonstrated with the gift of his Son, Jesus, to the undeserving world. When I read the gospel books of the Bible (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), I see that Jesus noticed the outcasts in society. He made a point to speak to and even eat with the ones who were looked down upon, including Zacchaeus.  When Jesus went to the temple, his compassionate attention fell on a poor widow (Luke 22:1-4), a man with a shriveled hand (Luke 6:6-11), and even the demon possessed (Luke 4:31-37). Think of the blessing each one would have missed if they had stayed away, fearing the opinions of the rich and powerful people there.

Today, I’m reminded of two points made in the Bible:

  1. God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Jesus made this clear in a story he told about a religious man whose way of praying revealed his pride and a humble tax collector who received mercy.  (Luke 18:9-14)
  2. Every person who has ever lived, excepting Jesus, is sinful. We each have an ugly sore spot that we cannot heal. Unlike my cold sore, sin will not go away with time. By God’s amazing grace, those who believe in Jesus can be cleansed from sin and made acceptable to God. Even Christians sometimes feel like hiding when life gets painful, but the support of a church “family” is worth the risk of being known.

I have one last thought to share today. It is not the action of going to church, whether it be once or twice a year or every single Sunday, that saves us. Yes, you can find and commune with God in other settings, and, yes, you may encounter hypocrites at church. People do tend to look at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart. For me, church is a wonderful place to belong; to be encouraged, taught, and prayed for; and to participate in serving others.

Here is what I looked like after a shower, with blow-dried hair and makeup. I’m sure that folks I talked to did notice the cold sore. Still, I’m glad that I did not allow my embarrassment or pride to keep me from being there to sing Christmas carols, see people that I care about, and hear a wonderful message about the Holy Spirit. I hope that you’ll choose to come to church as you are. There is a song from Sidewalk Prophets that may encourage you. You can listen here.

 

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Christmas Comes Early

Last week I expressed my desire to fully enjoy November before plunging into Christmas festivities, while acknowledging that many are already partaking in decorating and seasonal music. Well…things have changed a bit. The beautiful fall leaves have been falling. Santa arrived at our mall (presumably so families can have photos taken for Christmas cards). And, I have attended a Christmas production complete with a performance of The Christmas Song.

Let me explain. While I was a senior at Upper Sandusky High School, my government teacher used a few class hours to show us the 1946 movie It’s A Wonderful Life starring Jimmy Stewart as George Bailey. Mr. Baker told us that while the movie didn’t have anything to do with government, it had everything to do with life. The heartwarming story made an emotional impact on me (and explained why older students had spoken of a swimming pool under the gym floor). It’s a Wonderful Life has remained my favorite movie through the decades.

As the second weekend of November approached, I noticed a promotion in our newspaper for a college production of Merry Christmas, George Bailey. My husband read the story of how the students were to present a live radio performance of the adaptation of It’s a Wonderful Life and agreed that it would be worth our time to see it. Was it ever! The young adults did an excellent job of voice acting the various characters and creating old fashioned sound effects with such things as a box of corn starch and a carousel of playing cards. Students took turns playing the piano, adding a live soundtrack. The program was a joy to watch and did justice to the movie that I’ve loved for so long.

Franciscan University is located in Steubenville, Ohio. Tickets are $4.

I won’t assume that everyone has seen It’s a Wonderful Life, or that you know where the movie originated (I didn’t). Movie director Frank Capra based the production on Philip Van Doren Stern’s short story, The Greatest Gift. The story and movie give us glimpses into the life of a man who dreams of accomplishing large things in glamorous places, but is consigned to remain in his hometown running his father’s Savings and Loan. The villain is a rich, selfish man who seeks to run the S&L out of business and own the town. At his lowest point, George Bailey (the dreamer) believes that he is worth more dead than alive and considers suicide. I’ll save a little something for those who haven’t seen the movie and just say that an angel* jumps into George’s life and works to convince him that life is the greatest gift, and that George’s humble life has been very successful. In fact, many lives had been saved or positively affected by George’s self-sacrificing actions. Cue the happy ending – and more Christmas music.

Christmas sneaked in a little early again last evening. As Dave and I watched our local news report, a story was told of Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes being given early to 250 kids who lost their homes and school two months ago during Hurricane Irma. The joyful sounds and smiles of the kids opening the boxes were amazing. You can see pictures here. And then the story got better. The boxes were packed and provided by a church in Texas where Hurricane Harvey had destroyed the pastor’s home. Noting that Pastor Mark Brumbelow and his wife are experiencing their own difficulty, the interviewer asked him about the ambitious Shoebox project. He told her that “You feel better when you help someone else.” He has discovered that it’s a wonderful life when you give.

Perhaps you have an opportunity this week to pack an OCC Shoebox. We did. I rounded up school supplies, hygiene items and books. My husband got involved by deflating a soccer ball and fitting it and a pump into each box. If you’d like to give a box, but can’t get out to shop, you can pack and pay for a box online.

Image result for kids displaced by Irma get shoeboxes

*Clarence (Angel Second Class) is an entertaining character in It’s a Wonderful Life who wears funny clothes because he’s behind the times, having died many years earlier. He accepts his assignment from Heaven to help George in his distress and succeeds in showing George the value of his life. I, for one, am grateful to God that He does send his angels as ministering spirits to believers in Jesus. (Hebrews 1:14) I remember thinking early in life that people become angels after they die and go to Heaven. However, the Bible makes it clear that angels are separate creations than humans. Luke 20:36 says that in some ways, we will be like the angels, but elsewhere we are taught that our bodies will be raised and glorified to be like the imperishable body of Jesus. You can read more about this at https://www.gotquestions.org/become-angels.html.

I’m even more grateful to God for His Son who dived into the sinful world as a baby to show us an incomprehensible love by dying in our place and reconciling us to our Father God. That truth makes my life worth living and secures the greatest gift, eternal life with God.

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Breaking a Bad Habit

I realized quite suddenly that I have a bad habit! It is one that involves my tongue and affects my mind and my mood. It also has the potential to negatively affect other people. Those are good reasons to break it.

My Revelation

I have a habit of including unnecessary negative details when giving a report about an event.  I can make a positive change to my life and others’ lives by breaking that habit.

How It Happened

  1. I was at a training meeting where important information was being presented. I needed to hear and remember what was being said.
  2. A distraction occurred that made it very difficult to do so.
  3. I decided to move away from the distraction and closer to the speaker.
  4. Someone else addressed the people involved and the room became quiet.
  5. I learned what I needed to know.
  6. Toward the end of the meeting, this surprising thought entered my mind, “You don’t need to tell your husband about the bad behavior of others when you get home.” I knew instantly that the words came from the one who knows what I am going to say even before I say it. (Psalm 139:4) When the Lord speaks, I listen! As I agreed with Him, I felt a strange sense of excitement and peace.
  7. When I got home and Dave asked how the meeting went, I said “fine” and told him a few things I had learned.

I confess that my usual response to, “How did it go?” would have been different. I might have said,”Fine.” and then added, “But, you won’t believe what happened…”  Then I would have given negative details that, in the end, did not even affect the outcome. He would, no doubt, have agreed with me that others had been rude, and his opinion of someone else would have been tainted by my report. In this case, it was over and I needed to let it go without repeating it.

A Positive Change

I’m still excited about the difference that will occur in my life as I make an intentional effort to not repeat negative details that are in the past. They cannot be changed and they don’t need to live on. Unless there is an ongoing problem that needs to be addressed, which was not the case this time, I can avoid telling the juicy details that, truthfully, reveal an attitude of superiority in my heart. I can love the other by covering over their offense and not come away feeling offended. By eliminating negative reports, I will feel more positive, more joyful, more peaceful.

What’s the Big Deal?

By deciding not to include unnecessary negative details, I will

  1. Feel better about myself.
  2. Spare other people some negativity.
  3. Be obedient to Jesus.

As I conclude this post, this thought comes. Assuming that I have sometimes done or said something that irritated someone else,  how do I feel about the possibility that they later gave a negative report to someone about my behavior? If I am to treat others as I want to be treated, then I must give up grumbling, gossiping, and tale telling. It may sound like I’m being hard on myself. Not so! I am grateful for the revelation and excited about taking tighter control of my tongue.

Set a guard over my mouth, LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips. Psalm 141:3

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7 Hour Traffic Jam – Patience part 3

Today began as an ordinary Tuesday. For me that includes a seven minute drive to morning Bible study and then back home for lunch. This was one of those mornings, though, when I felt like staying home. I had company in the back yard and was enjoying watching them snack and rest.

I do appreciate our teacher’s lessons and the time with other women, so I took a picture and headed for the church. I had some trouble turning on to the state route that runs through our little town. Thankfully, I was going west. The eastbound lane was full of diverted interstate traffic.

People were talking about an accident involving semi trucks when I entered the church. Our teacher and most of the class arrived, and we opened to 1 Peter for study, hoping traffic would be normal when we finished. Instead, it was bumper to bumper and stopped.

I remembered hoping to write about PATIENCE this afternoon and, not having any other commitments, could appreciate the presentation of a situation that would require PATIENCE. My experiences of watching the sun rise and of planting garlic had led up to this less rewarding situation. This would require PATIENCE for patience’s sake.

As other women were working out alternate routes home, I considered sitting in my car in the parking lot to write while the traffic cleared. It had been three hours since the accident. How much longer could it be? We had heard there might be injuries and prayed for all involved, including delayed travelers. I took my time getting out of the building and chatted with a few ladies until another hour had passed..

With home only a couple of miles away and lunch time approaching, I decided to set out. A considerate truck driver left space for me to get onto the road to join the stopped vehicles.  Ongoing construction on the two-lane, along with today’s utility work, made matters even more trying for all involved.

They needed to move their truck up the road, but were blocked by a car.

She was working – and stuck. I was only trying to get home.

I was still feeling patient and enjoying some praise songs on the radio as I used my phone to take pictures. When it took ten minutes to creep up to the next driveway of the church, I decided I’d rather sit in my car and write than sit still on the road. I put my windows down and filled a couple of pages with notes about this experience. It was now 2:00 p.m. – five hours since the traffic jam began. I decided to leave the parking lot again with plenty of PATIENCE left to get home in, say, thirty minutes.

After more than an hour, I was feeling hungry and tired. It was now 3:15 – eight hours since breakfast. Within my reach was a bag of donated items for our Bible study group’s ministry project. I found a snack to make the wait more tolerable.

 

Thankful for plenty of gas and some Buddy Bars.

After school travel was going to be a challenge for so many!

At last I crossed the closed interstate  and crept into town. The traffic was still stop and go when I reached the turn into my neighborhood. My seven minute straight shot home had taken 105 minutes. Not confident on the back roads, I had chosen the straight and narrow path home and did not turn off to the right or to the left (Proverbs 4:27).  Patient endurance was required.

A Few Takeaways:

  1. I know that many other people experienced worse discomfort and frustration.
  2. Patience has a time limit. I didn’t quite reach mine thanks to the Buddy Bars.
  3. Having a cell phone with me was comforting.
  4. Finding reasons to be thankful helps.
  5. I should take my neighbor’s advice and learn the back roads.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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