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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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Stay thirsty, my friends!

Last spring I became more intentional about my drinking. We’ve all heard that we should drink lots of water each day, but what if we’re not thirsty? I finally took to heart the good reasons to hydrate, thirteen of which are listed in this article. Here’s how I did it. Each morning, I filled a pitcher with cold water, added some fruit and a sprig of parsley or a basil leaf, and set the pitcher on my kitchen counter for the day. No matter what else I drank during the day, my goal was to empty the pitcher.

 

During the summer, the infused water was welcome refreshment and my pitcher emptied easily. Now, with colder temperatures and less outdoor activity, I’ve continued with my good health habit (I really do feel better), but find the water a bit less appealing. I might prefer a hot chocolate, tea, or coffee in the afternoon, but choose the better option.

In last week’s post, I shared two things that I’ve chosen to prioritize during the December days leading up to  Christmas. One was to seek and to serve Jesus Christ who for me is the reason for the season. I’m seeking Him by continuing my daily morning habit of reading from the Bible and also reading a free downloadable Advent devotional from John Piper. Throughout the days, I’m trying to be intentional about noticing God’s answers to my prayers and ways in which I can serve Him by blessings others. These practices refresh my soul.

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At times, I get distracted by the “shiny things” of the season. When that happens, I end up feeling thirsty. My thirst might manifest itself in the form of impatience, grumpiness, or discontent. I could say with the ancient writer of Psalm 42, “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.”

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Jesus spoke of living water, saying to the people of his day, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” The account in the gospel of John goes on to explain what “living water” Jesus spoke of.  He meant the Holy Spirit that came to believers after Jesus returned to the Father in heaven (John 7:37-39). Jesus knew what it felt like to be physically thirsty. After walking through the dry land of Samaria one day, he stopped at a well and asked a woman there for a drink. John’s account of the story doesn’t say that she drew the water for him, but I envision him with a cup in his hand when he says to her, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:13,14)

Yes, our bodies need lots of water to function well. But, our souls also need life-giving water. If this season of celebration finds you with plenty of food, drink, and shiny things, and yet you still feel unsatisfied, maybe you’re thirsty for the the gift of God (John 4:10). Will you seek Jesus Christ with me? You might begin by reading the story of his life from the gospel of Luke, which includes the familiar telling of Jesus’s birth – the Christmas story.

My title “Stay thirsty, my friends!” may remind you of an advertising campaign featuring the most interesting man in the world. Who could be more interesting than the Son of God, sent from Heaven to Earth as a baby boy to seek and to save what was lost? His mission seemed to have failed as he suffered a criminal’s death on a Roman cross. Interestingly, that is exactly how it was accomplished! And the One who was resurrected after three days in the grave is the One who offers water that wells up to eternal life.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” Matthew 5:6 (words of Jesus)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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2017 Holiday Season in Full Swing

Perhaps it was the new Pumpkin Praline Pie that I took along with the pumpkin and mincemeat pies, or maybe it was because I gave too much information in my post about Mincemeat. There was a lot of Mincemeat Pie left over after our Thanksgiving meal. I chose to see the pie pan half full and enjoyed large slices for breakfast on Friday and Saturday.

Yes, beef is listed as an ingredient.

This one is a keeper!

My two sisters handled hosting the most anticipated dinner of the year with style and impressive calmness. When I checked on them three hours before fourteen guests were to arrive, they were playing cards. The family gathering was full of joyful (noisy) conversation, delicious food, and expressed gratefulness.

On Friday morning, my sisters were ready for our annual Black Friday outing. The three of us have made it a priority to drive to a nearby city for shopping and lunch each year. We head out later than most folks and make it home  by dinner time. It’s our day to catch up and enjoy being sisters. More gratefulness.

My husband’s large family gathered at a nephew’s home on Saturday for a celebration of football, food, and family. It was wonderful to see our two sons and our daughter-in-law at both family parties. The three days of Thanksgiving ended, and Dave and I journeyed home to be in church on Sunday morning. Ah, Sunday.

Designated days resumed on Monday, now known as Cyber Monday, a day to make on-line purchases. I took advantage of a 40% off deal on some Love and Respect books and also ordered some items my husband needs. The Tuesday after Thanksgiving became Giving Tuesday in 2012. The worldwide movement encourages support of non-profit organizations with some donations being matched by corporations. On November 28, on-line contributions to good causes totaled at least $177 million. Our donation went to the LIFE TODAY Mission Feeding Program.

Today is Wednesday – just Wednesday as far as I know, except that we are now “officially” in the Christmas season. I’ve been asked if I’ve put up my Christmas tree yet. No, however, I have put away fall decorations and set up our lighted village buildings*.

*Full Disclosure: This is from a previous year. We don’t have the cords strung and little figures in yet.

December will arrive on Friday, and Sunday will mark the beginning of Advent for the Christian Church. It’s time for me to make some choices about more than which gift to purchase. Each day of this season, I hope to do these two things:

  1. Choose to bless, not impress. This has become one of my life goals. Keeping it simple avoids stress   and helps me to use my own gifts and time to bless people without comparing my efforts to what others do. I’ve decided to spend less time on Facebook. I don’t need any more recipes or decorating ideas. Less, I believe, will result in more. More time for my second choice…
  2. Choose to seek and to serve Jesus Christ. As a believer who is saved by grace through faith in Jesus, I worship Him, not as a baby born on Christmas, but as the Lord and Savior who will return for me. He is the Prince of Peace, and I need his peace. I was reminded at a prayer meeting tonight that we can be very busy and fail to accomplish anything worthwhile. My choice is to be still enough during this season to hear God’s voice in prayer and to seek to know Him better through reading the Bible.

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:13

 

 

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Did you see the video?

On Easter Sunday, a videotaped murder was visible on Facebook for about two hours.  My title, though, is not referencing that video, but recorded interview segments with adult children of the shooting victim.

As anyone would expect, the family is deeply grieved from learning that their 74-year-old father was murdered shortly after their Easter celebration. Interviewed prior to the killer’s suicide two days later, a son expressed that he is angry and hurt and wants the killer to be brought to justice.  A daughter who was given the chance to speak a message to the killer said, “Turn yourself in…when you break the law, there’s a penalty for breaking the law.  And this man broke the law by taking my father’s life.”

What took the news anchor and, I suspect, many people by surprise was the additional statement made by all of the children interviewed, “I forgive him.”  The son who also said, “A boy needs his father, and I’ve lost mine”, went on to say, “I forgive him because we’re all sinners and we need the shed blood of Jesus Christ to save us, and I’m so grateful for that.  Turn yourself in.” A daughter stated that if presented with the opportunity, “God would give me the grace to embrace this man…I would want him to know that even in his worst state, he’s loved, you know, by God.”

How can this be? One said, and the others agreed, that they have no animosity in their hearts, but sadness for a man who was overtaken by evil and sympathy for his family.  This attitude is a testimony to the legacy that the deceased father and grandfather left behind.  As they were growing up, the children were taught by word and example to forgive those who do you wrong.  A daughter admitted that she could not do that now if she didn’t know God as her savior.  Even in this tragedy, she believes that her dad would quote Jesus, saying, “Tonya, forgive them because they know not what they do.” The Godwin family has made the choice to not merely listen to God’s word, but to do it.  They have chosen to live as their father did and, more importantly, to model Jesus.

In a world where evil and pain are prevalent and violence can be instantly viewed by the world via social media and news agencies, one can become fearful and love can grow cold.  Last night, as my husband and I were walking to our vehicle in a parking lot, a white car slowly approached and passed us. We admitted to each other that the thought crossed our minds, “We could be shot.”

But as I watched the interviews with the Godwin children today and considered their sincere words of forgiveness even as they grieve over the sudden and violent death of their dad, I have a sense of happiness for them.  The days ahead will be hard for all of them, but their hearts will be free from hatred and a poisonous desire for revenge.  They know and believe Jesus and are, no doubt, passing along the legacy of their father to his grandchildren. Tonya told the world via CNN, “The thing I would take away the most from my father is he taught us about God…how to fear God, how to love God, and how to forgive.”

The wisest man on earth penned, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” (Proverbs 9:10) We fear God because he is holy and just, the judge who is “able to save and to destroy” (James 4:12).  We love God because he loved us first and gave his son Jesus as a ransom to set us free from sin and death.  When random crimes are committed, we are, as we should be, angered.  Many seek revenge.  However, God, through Jesus, has taught and shown that forgiveness is his way.  His grace makes it possible, and forgiveness is rewarded with a peacefulness that transcends all understanding.  I believe the Godwins are experiencing that peace as they sadly bid their father farewell.

Tragically, the killer gave way to the evil desires that reside in each human heart and came to his ruin. Regarding wisdom, the writer of Proverbs also said, “For whoever finds me finds life and receives favor from the Lord.  But whoever fails to find me harms himself; all who hate me love death.”  (Proverbs 8:35-36)

I believe that, in an instant, Mr. Godwin left this world of sin and pain and was ushered into the presence of his Lord and Savior.  What a glorious ending to his Easter celebration on earth!  My hope is that the firm faith displayed by his family will inspire many in their city and all over the world to believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.”  Psalm 116:15

You can watch and listen to the Godwins HERE and HERE.

 

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