Friday, January 28, 2011

Dusty Bibles - Dirty Lives

  I recently read the book 'More Than A Carpenter' by Josh McDowell and, though the whole book was amazing, the introduction written by Jim Hermanson was what impacted me the most.
  Hermanson tells a short story of his daughter and son-in-law, who were killed in a tragic runaway-truck accident in 1995.  The young couple, Steve and Anne Duke, left behind a legacy that was worthy enough to belong in the first few pages of this best-selling book.  However, if you try to Google search their names, or Jim Hermanson, you won't find them.  Why?  Because they were just ordinary people like you and me.
  Hermanson writes of the day when he and his wife had to dismantle their deceased daughter's home.  He tells of how simply and clean they lived and that their home and belongings reflected their lives.  They found Bible verses taped on the bathroom mirror, various journals and bible studies that were underlined, written in and well worn, and even found 7 copies of Josh McDowell's book.  Everything in this young couple's lives pointed to a complete dedication to serving their Lord.
  A highway-patrolman who had been at the scene of the accident that killed Steve and Anne duke commented that, though the whole car had been burned, Anne's journal and Steve's Bible were tossed to the side of the road and found intact.  The patrolman flipped through the journal and was touched by short passages of a happy life, of love for family and friends, and of treasured and memorized scriptures.

  Reading this story and pondering on it for a few days got me thinking:  'What if my husband and I were to die today and our families had to come into our home and dismantle it?  What would they find?  How would they be affected by things they might find or read?  What if friends or even total strangers came in contact with my belongings?'
  I have to admit, I was embarrassed just imagining it.  We found that, though we have dedicated ourselves to serving Christ, we haven't given Him reign in all areas.  We had secret hiding places and dusty corners, both physical and non, where things were kept that we never thought would be seen.  But Jesus already knew they were there...and if something tragic happened that someone else would dig into our lives, it would be found out.  We had some cleaning to do.  
  Now, if we died today and someone came to clean tomorrow, they might find scraps of quilting fabric, cat toys and an occasional dust bunny in the corners and under the bed (maybe a spider or two...).  I can only hope that, even in death, my life would impact and touch someone in a positive manner that might lead them to better themselves or seek Christ for a new life.

  What if you died today and I came over to your house tomorrow to help clean it out?  What if I read your journal or notes written on your kitchen tablet?  What kind of books and movies might I find in your library? Would I be surprised if I dug through your drawers and papers? Would your home and belongings reflect a life of squander and selfishness?  Would it reveal how poor and simple you lived so as to save your money and serve others?  What might I say at your memorial service?    Will I have anything good to say about you? 
  So many things to think about.  Whether you like it or not, people will judge you by how you lived, and they are far more severe after you are gone.  People will also be affected by how you live (whether they want to or not), in the present and after your death.  Take just a few moments today to think about these ideas I've handed to you.  Maybe you even want to take a look around your house with this in mind.  You might be a little surprised to find a few dusty bibles laying around.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

You are precious in HIS sight… even if you aren’t in mine…

  I 'happened-across' an article this morning that pierced my heart and my thoughts with an accuracy beyond coincidence.
I escaped a crazy dream at 3am by waking to the sound of the wind howling around my small house. I tried desperately to go back to sleep, but my mind was slightly disturbed and the wind was just so loud. (God speaks in mysterious ways doesn't He?) So I lay there thinking of my next blog article and decided I would vent about 'All the stupid things that people do and why it bugs me...'. Seriously. That was my plan. I had an extensive list formed in my head before I even turned the coffee pot on.

So I sit to do my morning devotions with the Lord and almost can't wait to turn my computer on and write in my blog. Isn't that horrible that I just couldn't contain my excitement over the lashing that I was going to deal to humankind? But, God, being as wise and all-knowing (and oh-so-sneaky) as He is, made sure I re-read some literature that was handed out in my church bulletin last week. I had no reason to do it, other than I thought I would see if there might be some interesting articles in the hand-out before I tossed it.

The top of the article said THE SANCTITY OF HUMAN LIFE. I thought it would be about Pro-life campaigns (which I'm ALL-FOR, by the way). After reading and pondering upon it for a short time, I tossed the paper aside and picked up another hand-out from a previous week. Just as I began to toss it aside, as it didn't appear to interest me, those words jumped out at me again. THE SANCTITY OF HUMAN LIFE. You cannot tell me that these little things in life are just pure coincidence. (Well, I suppose you can tell me, but I'll stick my fingers in my ears and sing 'Lalalalah'…)  
So this Sunday, January 23rd, will be SOHLS. 

What is National Sanctity of Human Life Sunday?
In 1983, President Reagan issued a proclamation establishing a National Sanctity of Human Life Sunday (SOHLS). Since 1983, the SOHLS proclamation has also been issued by Presidents George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush.
When is SOHLS?
The National Sanctity of Human Life Sunday is held on the Sunday in January that falls closest to the day on which the Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton decisions were handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court on January 22, 1973. 

 Take some of your busy time and see if a local church or Pregnancy Center has an event or needs help. Or just find a few minutes to get down on your knees, ask our God for a better heart towards humanity and then see what He will do.

Here is the article. Read it and see if it touches your heart and encourages you to examine your deepest feelings concerning your own kind. I know mine were not thinking along the lines of 'Sanctity'…..

"The Bible says that each of us carries the image of the Creator. We are not merely flesh and blood. Since we are image-bearers of the Living God, our lives are sacred, based on something beyond our unique characteristics and abilities. This image or likeness of God is not tangible: You can't see, touch or smell it. It's part of the mystery of life. 
Being made in the image of God provides us as humans with direction and guidance regarding how we treat one another. Men, women and children should be respected, regardless of their mental capacity, physical ability, faith (or absence of faith) or social position. These people may or may not exhibit attributes of God, but that doesn't determine their worth. Their value is established on the basis of the nature of God, who is the perfect example of dignity and holiness. 
Sadly, we often fail to comprehend the value of every human life because we cease to look at each other in awe. Our view of one another should be as breathtaking creatures,embodying a touch of the Creator himself. 
Churches must lead the way by teaching the truth about the value of life from a biblical worldview. 
You can help restore the Sanctity of Human Life ethic by incorporating it into your daily life. Routinely examine your heart for any attitude that violates the spirit of that ethic. It can take on many forms including disdain for someone we don't know based on his or her appearance, a negative comment made under our breath or impatience with a slow driver.
We need to teach the next generation a respect for all human life. Parents should teach their children through word and deed. Together we can restore the beauty and reverence our Creator intended by restoring dignity to humankind."
~Carrie Gordon Earll

Friday, January 14, 2011

"Hello! This is Jen's Blog speaking - can I help you?"

  Don't you think so?
  I was born a servant.  A people pleaser.  The two go hand-in-hand, but can be self-destructing if not kept in check.
  I want to help people and see them find joy.  Serving others in this fashion gives me joy in return.  Greater joy than many other things in this world can give.
  So -I pose my original question to you again:  "How can I help you?"
  What kind of fascinating subjects can I write to you about that will impact your life for the better and enable you to find joy in living?

  (This question is being posed to my 2 followers at the time of this writing - I hope to gain more soon. Please follow and comment on my blog.  I promise you wont be spammed and you wont be sorry.)

  "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters,"   ~Colossians 3:23 ♥

Monday, January 10, 2011

I Thank Thee For My Thorn

A Scottish Theologian from the 1800's by the name of George Matheson wrote a popular hymn called 'O Love That Will Not Let Me Go'. This hymn was written during a time in his life when intense sadness and heartbreak threatened to overwhelm him. Matheson himself wrote of the composition:

"I am quite sure that the whole work was completed in five minutes and equally sure that it never received at my hands any retouching or correction. I have no natural gift of rhythm. All the other verses I have ever written are manufactured articles; this came like a dayspring on high."

More interesting than this hymn that he wrote, which is a beautiful piece of poetry, is a prayer that he wrote in conjunction. He writes:

"My God, I have never thanked Thee for my thorn.

I have thanked Thee a thousand times for my roses. But never once for my thorn.

Teach me the glory of my cross, Teach me the value of my thorn. Show me that I have climbed to Thee by the path of my pain.

Show me that my tears have made rainbows. Amen."

If you can't find this prayer beautiful, then maybe you have never had a 'thorn'? Curious to know where the term 'thorn' and it's usage came from? Read in the Bible 2 Corinthians 12:7-10. Paul, one of the most influential Christians in the world, writes of his own 'thorn'. He doesn't specify what it is exactly (some think it was a physical ailment or spiritual problem), but he says the same thing as George Matheson; Thanks, God.

So many events in this past week in my life have culminated and brought me to this revelation of the 'value of a thorn'.

I started with the prayer that George Matheson wrote; I found it so beautiful and touching – I prayed the same thing exactly a week ago. I used the same words as Matheson penned, however I ended it with 'Thank you for my thorn.'. Even as I spoke it, I knew in my heart I didn't mean it. But I wanted to mean it! I wanted to be truly thankful for my thorn! Somehow, there was no feeling behind it, so I retracted my statement and reiterated the 'teach me' part. I guess I don't learn that quickly.

I believe a 'thorn' can be anything really. For Paul, it was something that kept him humble and reminded him where his great strength came from. For Matheson, it was blindness and heartache that drove him into an amazingly intense and intimate relationship with his Lord. If you examine your life, past and present, you may see that you have been provided with a thorn of your own. I know I have at least one (there's probably a whole garden of thorny rosebushes in my life) and it has plagued me in every aspect of my life for as long as I can remember. As I have matured (a little) into adulthood, I see how it affects me so much more than physically. It has taken hold of my mental and spiritual being and threatens all my hopes for growing in those areas.

Also, like Paul, I have pleaded with the Lord to take it away. Some have told me it's only a matter of faith. That I suffer needlessly. That I can be healed in the spirit if I'm believe enough. I wish to quote the Bible again please: it says that 'even faith as small as a mustard seed can move a whole mountain'! If the Apostle Paul, who was worthy enough to be taken to the 'third heaven and told inexpressible things', things that he wasn't even allowed to repeat, who wrote at least 13 books in the bible, who was tortured and eventually beheaded for his faith, did not have faith at least the size of a mustard seed (which is only 2 mm by the way – I bet you don't even have a ruler with mm on it….), then I don't know who does.

So, I now pray, instead, that I can appreciate the 'glory of my cross', and know the 'value of my thorn'. There is an ultimate purpose for my suffering and it does me no good to suffer if I don't know the reason. Through the scriptures and through my personal and intimate conversations with Jesus, (yes, we talk a lot) I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that He has the power to easily lift this burden from my life, but it is not His will.

Later on in the week, I generated a disturbing attitude toward a rough and awkward situation I found myself in. I was immediately ashamed of myself but, despite my desperate prayers, could not rid my mind of these horrible thoughts and feelings that I had. I was tempted to give up and let the memory of the situation, along with all my angry feelings, fade out and try to ignore them. I knew this would ruin many weeks to come and, ultimately, would never resolve itself. It would always be a 'thing undone'. So I struggled forward, fighting the guilt and resentment that had manifested so strongly in my soul. I have made progress, but even as I write this, I feel the pangs of gloom threatening to overtake me again.

Good thoughts in… bad thoughts out! Good thoughts in… bad thoughts out!

None of this has been in vain, nor would I ask God for a 'redo'. I have been taught, the hard way (usually the only way I learn…), the value of a 'thorn'.

You cannot win a race unless you run –and run hard! You cannot overcome without a conflict to begin with. You cannot have a victory without a battle.

Let's try this again: God, I thank you for my thorn. For 'when I am weak – then I am strong. Amen.

(I encourage you to read up on George Matheson, of his story and the hymn. Wikipedia and CyberHymnal both have great articles. Paul has some great stories in the Bible of overcoming hardships and triumphing in his battles as well)