Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Displaced

In my Father’s house there are many rooms; if it were not so, I would not have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. John 14:2

What do you think of when you hear the word homeless? Do you picture a person with his/her life strapped to their back? Are you sympathetic? Or are you of the camp that says they put themselves there, so what? What about a group of people who have a place to lay their head every single night of the year? People who have plenty of food, clothing, and amenities, and in some cases far too many accoutrements. Can those people be homeless? The obvious answer seems to be no, doesn’t it? Wrong.

A few years ago I noticed that one of our students never talked about home. She lived with her father, “my dad’s house” and visited her mother, “my mom’s house.” She was a rather needy child and it bothered me, no it broke my heart that she didn’t seem to have a home. At least she wasn’t sure enough to call either place home.

In the last few years I’ve heard more and more children speak of mom’s and dad’s houses but not so much home. Unfortunately three of those children are my own grandchildren, two different sets of parents, two very different circumstances. Three out of four of the parents involved in creating my grandchildren’s lives fall into the doing the best they can in a difficult situation variety and one does nothing at all.

I just wonder about the children who live here but visit there. At worst there are the parents who argue over everything down to the child’s belongings. They talk about mom and dad’s clothes, toys, shoes, etc. What belongs to which parent? Hello! Shouldn’t it all belong to the child? I hear parents talk about dad’s time and mom’s time. What about the child’s time? When does the child get to choose? Even in the best situations, even with parents who hate the situation and do whatever they can to make it work, it is easy to see how the children can begin to feel like they have dual citizenship in two very disparate countries. Where do they really belong?

All of us need a sense of home. We want to know that there is a place we can go that is sure and stable, that our stuff is there and that we are always welcome. For various reasons my three angels who have split home situations have all spent quite a bit of time in our home. One of them asked us once to promise not to “change houses.” I guess it seemed to him that everyone else was always moving and he wanted to know that we would always be there, at “home.”

My heart breaks for all those children but I wonder will it be easier for them to turn to God? Thinking about this I thought of how great God is to us. He not only provides a home for us here, he has planned our eternal home. Once we know him, truly know him we can rest assured that we always have a home. We know that our Father loves us and is not going to leave or forsake us. There is nothing transitory about our relationship with him. Mom’s night, dad’s weekend, it doesn’t matter. Our place in his heart is secure and because of that we have someplace to call our home.

It is too early to see how this back and forth will impact these children’s lives. It may make them stronger. I don’t know. I do know that it breaks my heart to hear any child saying “mom’s” or “dad’s” house and not home. It may be simple semantics but I’ve already seen some fallout. My hope for all of them is that they come to know a love that never fails and a home that is always their own.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Comfort

The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.
The sorrows for the appointed feasts I will remove from you; they are a burden and a reproach to you. Zephaniah 3:17-18


I find myself in a time of questioning. There is a lot in my life at the moment that I do not understand. There are Scriptures that I love, that I know to be absolute truth, that seem to not actually be meant for me. While I wouldn’t say that I’m having a crisis of faith I would say that I’m feeling a little shaky.
These verses from Zephaniah are not verses with which I was terribly familiar until I came upon them one day while just thumbing through the Bible. I’d finished my daily readings and was just sort of looking around when these popped out. They seemed important and I noted them for future reference. You never know when you’re going to need a little encouragement, right? I did not find them very applicable to anything that was going on at that time.

My granddaughter Faith, has amazing faith for a child her age, she’s six and doesn’t attend church very often. Somewhere along the way, however, she’s picked up a deep and abiding love for and trust of God. One evening she was telling me a story about God and referred to him as the “One who always watches over us.” When I asked why she called him that she said it was her favorite of all of his names. After recovering from the shock that she knew—how I don’t know—that God has many names I asked her why that was her favorite. She told me it was because whenever you need him, there he is, watching over you.

Today looking at this verse from Zephaniah, a verse I found at random, several weeks ago, I thought of Faith’s words. God is always watching over us. He is always our safety net. The first time I read these words I loved them but I didn’t need them. Today I need them. I need to know that God is with me, that he is might to save and that he loves me enough to save me because saving is exactly what I need.

Sometimes when we read the Bible we wonder why we’re led to certain passages. They don’t seem to make sense or pertain to us. Later those words come back to strengthen or comfort us. God wastes nothing. If he puts a word in front of us, it’s for a good reason. If we go through a trial, it’s for a good reason. If we suffer or fail, feel at ease or have triumphs there is a purpose. In our worst moments we cannot understand and we may cry out asking why. I don’t usually get answers to those cries but I know he’s listening. I’m on a need to know basis and most of the time, I guess, I don’t need to know. All God wants me to do is trust him. His will is perfect and best and after all, he’s always watching over me.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Blind Guides

He replied, “Whatever he is sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know, I was blind but now I see!” John 9:25

A friend of mine shared some distressing news with me the other day. He and I listen to a lot of the same music, mostly what is called “Christian” music. He tends to know a lot more about the personalities involved than I do. The other day while he was visiting I had music playing. When he noticed that I had a couple of songs from the same group he asked me how I felt about the fact that “Christian” radio stations had pulled the group’s music.

I didn’t know that they had. He then explained to me that the leader of the group had confessed to living in sin, big, ugly, blatant sin, for quite awhile. Having grown tired of the sinful lifestyle, wanting help I suppose, to get out of the hole he’d dug for himself he came clean with his brothers and sisters in Christ. He has stepped down from his band for the time being. To that I say, good for him! He could have continued as he was and not confessed to anyone but those closely related to the events. He chose to be honest, to commit to change in a big way and for that some of his brothers and sisters in Christ have abandoned him.

Here is my question, is his message less sound? The songs my friend noticed the other day are based on Scripture, the light of the world, give glory to God, etc. Some would say “oh sure he knew the words but not the meaning.” They could be right. Others might say, “He was living it to the best of his ability. We all sin.” I say, the only thing we know for sure, is that he has recognized the extent of his sin, confessed and is apparently taking steps to repent.

The question remains, does the delivery change the message? My own pastor has confessed to a very similar sin. He has repented and is the first person to tell you that no one is perfect, God loves us anyway and that once we are truly aware of how far we’ve strayed we better get our little behinds back in line. He is an excellent preacher and teacher. He always has been, even during the time of his greatest sin. Does the heart of the person delivering the message change that message?

I think the answer is no. No one can add to or take away from God’s Word. To quote a cliché
I hate but one that does actually apply here, it [the Word of God] is what it is. In fact, knowing what that young man is going through and how he’s dealing with it, says to me that he knows the only person any of us can trust, including ourselves, is God. It says, believe what I’m singing to you because look at me, I’m counting on it.

To my way of thinking, that young man brings great glory to God by confessing, repenting and moving on. We all sin. Those people who think they are making some statement by refusing to play songs that uplift and encourage, songs that point us in the direction of the true Light are right, they are making a statement. Unfortunately that statement says, “God may forgive you but His people won’t.” The saddest part to me is how true that is. I can’t say it enough, We. All. Sin. And we all hope for forgiveness, from God, certainly and thankfully that is always available. We hope for forgiveness from our brothers and sisters in Christ and that doesn’t always come.

To stand in a limelight is to invite scrutiny. When we know we have a big problem we need to step back, repent and then begin again. I fear that our Christian community will not accept that young man back if he chooses to resume his career in music. That would be a huge sin. We all need to remember we are asked to forgive in the same way in which we are forgiven.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

God’s Love

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. Psalm 107:1

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble of hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? Romans 8:35


The love of God is a tricky thing. It shouldn’t be. It is the only thing that is pure and endless. Perhaps I misspoke. It isn’t the love of God that is tricky. It is our understanding of the love of God. God never changes. Therefore if I know and believe that He loves me on Tuesday, I should know and believe it on Saturday as well. No, God’s love is not fickle or tricky but we are. I believe that most of us suffer from the misconception that we will always feel God’s love in the exact same way, every hour, every day. That makes an odd sense given the fact that God never changes but we do change. Our lives changes, our circumstances change and then our perception of God’s love and the way we feel it, changes too.

The other day my husband and I watched a movie about people meeting a man who was supposed to be an incarnation of Jesus. A quick aside, if movie makers want to portray Jesus I wish they would remember that along with being loving, merciful and kind he was also strong, determined and powerful. Anyway, each of them came to believe that he was Jesus based on the things he knew about them and the fact that he loved them anyway.

Most of them questioned him though, about his whereabouts at the worst points of their lives. In each case he showed them exactly where he was. He showed them why in some cases, they’d made a right choice without even realizing it. He showed them how his presence saw them through. He reminded them of his provision for them even when they had no interest in him. Through it all God’s love for His people had not changed but one by one each person told how rejected and betrayed they felt. Most of us can relate to that.

We cry out, pray, beg God and it seems as if He has turned a deaf ear. Most of us do not have an encounter with a flesh and blood Jesus who tells us why things happened the way they happened. What we do have is the Word. We have the actions and behaviors of Jesus. We have the promises of God.

Our God is good and His love does endure. We can’t see it all now. Paul says that we see things poorly now that will be clear to us later. (1Corinthians 13:12) For now we have to walk by faith and not by sight by belief and not feelings. God is for us and from Him we cannot be separated.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Lord Is My Shepherd

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil,
For you are with me, your rod and your staff, they comfort me. Psalm 23:4




Years ago someone gave me a cross with the words “the Lord is my Shepherd” printed on it. It is very small, meant to be carried in your pocket as a reminder. When I first received it I thanked the giver and promptly put the cross in a drawer, not being a big fan of the 23rd, or death Psalm as I then called it. Through a very well written and directed study I have changed my opinion of Psalm 23. Right in the middle of that study, while looking for something else, I found my cross in the drawer where I had placed it. With my newfound love of Psalm 23 I began to carry it in my pocket. All of this occurred at the same time that just about everything in my life got difficult, really difficult. That little cross became very important to me. Whenever I was faced with adversity, from whatever direction, I would touch that cross and remember that “the Lord is my Shepherd.” He does lead me, give me peace and comfort and provided for my needs. For about two years now that cross has been a part of my wardrobe every single day until I left in my pocket one night and lost it.

This is not the first time the cross has gone missing. It’s just always turned up within a day or two, in the laundry basket, in the washer or dryer, on the floor, or in the pocket of the pants or jacket I wore last. This time it’s been missing for about three weeks. All of the laundry has been done. My bedroom floor has been cleaned numerous times. This time I was fairly sure it was gone forever. Until this morning, when I needed a little encouragement and found my cross.

I had just had a rather uncomfortable revelation when I found it on the floor of the utility room, another area that has been vacuumed and swept repeatedly. My guess is that at some point it did go through the washer and dryer only to end up on the floor but how it managed to escape the cleaning tools is beyond my comprehension. What I do know is that I was once again facing a hard reality when the message was relayed to me, “the Lord is my Shepherd.”

The thing is the next words say, “I shall not want” and I do want. In fact my dreary thoughts were in the area of something I want that I have little hope of attaining. I’ve run out of options. From my point of view there isn’t much, if any, chance of success because there aren’t any opportunities. When the thoughts came into my mind I turned them over, taking them captive as instructed by Scripture. That helped but there was some lingering melancholy. But wait, “there’s my cross!” And what does it say? It says that the Lord is my Shepherd and while I may not get exactly what I want, I will get what He believes is best for me.

Life can be hard but we are never alone. We never have to find our own way. Our Shepherd leads us beside still waters. He restores us, provides for us and most of all, best of all, He loves us, each of us, as if we were His only child. I have my cross back, a physical reminder that even when my Lord seems far away He isn’t. There may be things blocking my view of Him but He’s right there with me, always, all ways.

Monday, January 2, 2012

A New Year

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.

Each day has enough worry of its own. Matthew 6:34




A new year has started and with it talks of resolutions. I don’t make New Year’s resolutions for reasons of my own. I have no problem with them and I admire people who make and keep them. Just a little while ago I read an article because I was drawn to the title. It was about faith. It turned out to be about an athlete and was a discussion, much of which I did not understand, about game strategy and backing the right guy. I did get lost in the sports terminology but the principles were sound. Believing in something and knowing it can happen because it always has, in the exact same way, requires no leap of faith. Believing when there are a whole lot of variables, that’s a different story. That article reminded me of New Year’s resolutions.

There are things like marital fidelity, fiscal responsibility, and honesty in matters large and small, which are very important and need to be decided once for all. There are other things, smaller things that can be influenced by the events of the day. Those things can actually be harder. I adore my husband. The idea of ever being unfaithful to him is beyond abhorrent. It doesn’t cross my mind. I wouldn’t compromise him in anyway. It is one of my most important and favorite privileges to honor him and take care of him. Marital fidelity sounds like a big deal but for me, that’s an easy one.

Something much harder for me is to keep my mouth shut when I see things I don’t like. That could be an injustice, which we should speak up about or it could be the outfit choice of someone walking by. It can be as huge an issue as child neglect or as small a one as someone’s eating habits. For the most part another person’s choices are not my business.

To make a resolution that says I will stay faithful and true to my husband is ridiculous. I made that choice the day he asked me to marry him. To make a resolution that says I will keep my opinions to myself. That is a horse of a different color. I want to. Actually I want to stop having opinions about everything I see. To say that I won’t form unnecessary opinions for an entire year is self-defeating. For things like that I take Jesus at his word, or Word, if you will, that each day is a separate agenda.

When I was a child I learned a prayer called “Just for Today.” It is a simple child’s prayer but I pray it all these years later. It says that we won’t pray for tomorrow but asks to be guided, guarded and kept, just for today.
Make a yearlong resolution if you’re able and God bless you. For me, I’m making mine, just for today and hoping to learn well enough that each day’s prayer can be a bit different.

Happy New Year and God Bless you.