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Showing Up

 80% of your job success will be showing up for work. So began a clever, possibly somewhat desperate, employment listing in a newspaper. This very day, I considered not showing up for my volunteer commitment at our elementary school.  The roads were fine. I was not sick. During the night, though, Pain had showed up, visiting me for the second night in a row, causing me to lose precious, energizing sleep. Mid morning, Temptation showed up, sympathizing with how weak I felt, suggesting that I inform the teacher of my inability to meet with her class today.

Fortunately, Faith also showed up, telling me that I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength, reminding me that when I show up, willing to bless others, I have His help. Considering that the students have shown up today, the day when Mrs. Frisch comes to their room, and that the teacher has assured me that the Winners Walk Tall program is important and effective, I made the decision to show up, puppet in hand, to urge the boys and girls to Read! Read! Read!

A second challenge showed up. While my tired mind struggled to focus, my seventy-ninth weekly blog post was begging to be written. Hoping that a salad and some tea would  bring a boost of energy for my school visit and a topic idea for my blog writing, I ate lunch while another Great Courses lecture on sentence-building played on my i-pad.

Having learned that some readers of Thoughts Collected by Lisa anticipate each week’s post, I didn’t want to procrastinate or disappoint. Experience told me that reaching the two goals of visiting the kids and completing a post today, trusting God’s strength in spite of my weakness, would result in a sense of satisfaction, a heart full of gratitude, and, hopefully, a peaceful night’s sleep.

Blessings showed up.

  • When I looked out the kitchen window this morning, there were six gray squirrels, one of them white, scurrying around our yard and enjoying sunflower seeds from our bird feeder.
  • A purple finch, enjoying a visit to our neighbor’s feeder, carried his pretty song to our roof and sang into our chimney, delighting me with a fireplace serenade.
  • The idea of writing about Showing Up came to me between lunch and my school visit. I had time to jot down my ideas so this could be prepared and posted today.
  • As I was waiting for the first graders to return from their computer class, an eleven year old girl popped into the classroom and shared her excitement about dance classes with me.
  • I made enough soup last night to have it for dinner again tonight, allowing me to finish this post as my husband was arriving home from work.
  • I remembered Pastor Wayne Ickes’s response to a question about ministry success, “Show up for work.”

 

 

 

 

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Holding On to Christmas

The twelves days of Christmas have passed, and retailers have quickly moved on to Valentine’s Day, St Patrick’s Day, and Easter (April 1). Only a tiny offering of discounted broken and picked over Christmas merchandise remains. As I was removing our lighted nativity set from the front yard yesterday, a neighbor called out, “Leave it till next year.” By the end of the day, though, our block was devoid of lawn decorations with just a few wreaths and window candles remaining. Another dead Christmas tree had been dragged to the curb. Any day now, our city’s festively illuminated downtown  will return to blocks lit by functional street lights alone.

Owners of artificial Christmas trees have been making hard decisions about when to store away their seasonal living room centerpieces. Ours was disassembled and boxed over almost two weeks ago. I’ve been gradually carrying decorations up to the guest room closet, while strategically leaving some in place: the “winter” village that we both love, the whimsical reindeer plates that look so nice with my wallpaper, and the little evergreen tree, now trimmed with Valentines.

In late November, I was reluctant to rush into the season, while in mid January, I’m happily holding on to the holidays. A friend who is still enjoying her Christmas tree was glad to find some decorations in my home today. With the exception of folks who leave trimmings up all year, most of us will soon be ready to move unencumbered toward spring.

Seasonal norms aside, we can still focus on the Christmas experience as more than decorations and delicacies. I smile as I turn on remaining lights, remembering rushing around the house to get them all plugged in before son Kyle arrived on December 21. Seeing those reindeer plates reminds me of the sweet Saturday morning before Christmas when our sons and daughter-in-law each chose a plate for our brunch of S’mores Pancakes* and bacon. And, while we’ve removed Joseph, Mary, and the Baby from our yard, a small nativity set still graces our dining room, bringing to mind the blessing of being back in my childhood church on Christmas Eve, holding my lit candle and singing Silent Night alongside all of my siblings.

December 24 was a snowy night at Emmanuel U.C.C.

The carols have ceased, gifts are being used, and homes are returning to their everyday look. Still, I wonder if the spirit of the season can remain.  I’ve noticed folks at our mall continuing to be friendlier, at least for now. Sadly, we seem to slip back into our more self-absorbed state as the new year grows older, not taking the time to visit friends or to reach out into our communities as often. January newspapers contain pleas from local help agencies that see a surge of goodwill dwindle after Christmas.

People who do believe in God’s gift of peace and goodwill through the coming of Jesus have a responsibility to show love for Him every day by loving our neighbors. I’m one of those people. I pray that even as the last candles are put away, His light will continue to shine through me throughout the year.

My brunch plate – Vixen

*To make S’mores Pancakes, after pouring your pancake batter onto the skillet or griddle, sprinkle some graham cracker crumbs over each pancake. Turn and finish cooking. Remove when cooked and spread some marshmallow cream on the graham cracker side of a pancake. Then place about 8 milk chocolate chips on top and cover with another hot pancake with graham cracker side down for melted goodness.

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Reviewing & Reviving Resolutions

“I want to look back on 2017 and see that I’m living an abundant life, using the gifts God has given me and blessing people. Not knowing exactly what that will look like, I resolve to keep my eyes and ears open to how the Lord wants me to live each day.” Those were the last words of my January 3, 2017, blog post.  January 2018 has arrived and I have dared to allow thoughts shared last year to hold me accountable. One year ago I told of five ways I had grown in 2016 and then resolved to continue in that growth.  I haven’t been consistent in all five areas. Perhaps you can relate and will decide to join me in reviewing and possibly reviving our resolutions.

Reviewed Progress:

  1.  Playing the piano: I’m not sure I improved as a pianist, but I did keep at it sporadically. During December, I played from a lesson book of Christmas carols. Then, after our little family finished our gift exchange, I sat down to play “Silent Night” for them. They seemed to appreciate it, so I continued with more carols, played quite imperfectly.  The music prevented that little let-down that comes when there are no more gifts to open.
  2. Memorizing the book of James:  I’ve reviewed James often enough to keep most of it and also put Psalm 103 to heart.
  3. Helping my future daughter-in-law choose her dress: On April 1, she wore that dress as she became Eric’s wife. We have grown closer during holiday gatherings, Easter at their home and Christmas at ours. My husband and I are blessed to be able to worship and eat with them in Columbus from time to time.
  4. Continue to blog: The first anniversary of Thoughts Collected by Lisa came in August. I signed on for one more year and kept writing, completing my 75th post on December 27. I’ve added some pages, including Fruit of the Spirit and Printables.
  5. Connect with neighbors at Christmas time: I picked a date and invited the ladies who live on each side of me and across the street to a Christmas brunch. All were available!  I’m thankful for a season when it becomes a priority to visit with friends and family.

I wouldn’t give myself an A+, but progress is progress. In looking through other posts from 2017, I noticed some additional and perhaps more meaningful ways in which I challenged myself and my readers. Putting resolutions in writing increases the likelihood of carrying them out as does sharing the goals with someone else. I’ve realized that posting the commitments on the internet adds an extra sense of responsibility to follow through.

Revived Resolutions:

This list could completely overwhelm me if I sought to complete it in my own strength. In January 2017, I shared the story of a couple who walked In Perfect Step. Seeing their synchronized movement helped me to understand the role and power of the Holy Spirit in my life. My part is to “focus on where He wants to lead, as well as when and how fast we are to move.” My resolutions can be summed up as follows: “link elbows with the Holy Spirit, walk in step with Him, and bear the fruit that is uniquely Christian.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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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