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Potential

April 26, 2016

This was written by another but I wanted to share it!

“Ponder the potential of an egg. Ideally, under the proper circumstances of fertilization, the egg could become a baby chick. But just as most eggs do not become chicks – their highest fulfillment – so we, a humans, do not usually attain our highest dreams and ideals. Yet, all is not lost, for an egg that does not become a chick is still very useful!

Before this egg is useful, however, it must first go through various treatments. Initially, and egg just be candled and graded. In the candling process, a tube light shines through it to detect imperfections or cracks. It must have a healthy life cell. Just so, the searching light of the Holy Spirit must penetrate our inner life cell to be sure there is a new life cell in Christ and then to expose our imperfections.

Then this egg must be graded for size; some are small, others- medium, large and even jumbo. These are actually equally valuable in that there are occasions when a small egg is more desirable than a larger one and vice versa. Just so, each of us has varying capacities and gifts, but we are equally important and needful in the plans of God.

After the candling and grading process, the egg is boxed and then distributed warehouses and stores. The eggs have no say-so, but must go where they are sent. We, too, have assignments in life. Perhaps at times we feel all “boxed in”because of our circumstance in life. We may even be tempted to break out of the box – that confinement – but f we are to be useful, we must be patient and trusting.

After all this preliminary treatment, finally the egg is recognized for its importance; it is now taken off the shelf and purchased by a shopper. If only the egg new what lies ahead, it would undoubtably prefer staying right there on the shelf in the grocer’s cooler. Without any warning the egg is mercilessly plunged into a pan of cold water. And if that is not ruthless enough, it soon feels the flame beneath the pan. Gradually the water becomes hotter and hotter until it reaches the boiling point. The egg must wonder how it can possibly endure any more treatment – the fact is, some cannot…they crack in the intense heat!

By now, the egg must be asking apprehensively, “What next?” Suddenly it becomes aware of a cracking of its shell. And not only breaking, but then follows peeling – how humiliating! But that is the part of the process for our becoming useful – our outer shell must be broken. The self-protective facade must be cared so that the Christ life can be released from within.

The peeling is more distasteful than the breaking because of the humiliating exposure of our naked selves. How we resent others gazing upon our losses and failures.

“Surely, matters can’t get much worse for me than this!” the egg must be thinking hopefully. But it suddenly feels the sharp cuttings of a knife across its already peeled body. “Perhaps the chef is cutting me into attractive wedges so I might be used to garnish a salad…ah!…useful at last. But no…they are chopping me into small pieces.” the egg moans. And the eggs is mashed into nothingness.

Until we are aware of our nothingness – without God – we are not useful to God. So He supervises our candling, grading, distribution and then allows the fiery trials, the braking, peeling, cutting and mashing that we might become useful.

Now that the egg has been mashed into nothingness, the chef mixes mayonnaise, pickle, mustard, a little salt and pepper with it, and it becomes a delicious egg salad with which they prepare egg salad sandwiches to feed others! So as the processed oil of joy of the Holy Spirit blends our mashed nothingness with the life of Christ within, we become food and nourishment for hungry souls.”

 

By Ruth Shank Shira in her book, God Recycles Broken Dreams, 2013 ANM Publishers,Charlottesville, VA.22905

Scriptural references: Psalm 139:23-24; Romans 12:4-5; Micah 2:5; Psalm 37:23; Psalm 37:34; Isaiah 43:1-3; Psalm 34:18; I Peter 2:24;  John 3:30; Isaiah 61:1-3.

 

 

Celebrity

April 21, 2016

In my country we tend to think “big” is better…bigger is best, biggest is even better yet! The larger the crowd, the more important you think you are. We focus on the size of houses, cars, bank accounts… We tend to be attracted to the flashy, to hype. The better the PR, the better we think it is. If  a person gets lots of press coverage we think they are important and what they have to say is relevant. Mr. Trump is a master at that!

I thought it was very telling when the Pope came to the US last year and he was driven – not in the regular big, black limo but in a small Fiat! It was fun to listen to the news commentators as they talked bout it. It was such an unusual sight to see a man the world reveres and whose fame is larger than most anyone’s, humbly riding in a small automobile! He was perfectly happy and content. I do have a feeling if he had had his way he would prefer to get out and walk among the people – the ordinary everyday people. He didn’t seem too impressed with the trappings of his status or the “important” people who flocked to shake his hand. I love that he visited prisoners and the handicapped. He was genuinely touched by the simple people.

I confess that I can be “impressed”. I do a double-take when a long black limo drives by…or I see someone step out of their private jet (I admit I do envy a private jet!)…but that’s not in my future anytime soon! We are infected with celebrity – even in churches. Often a church is known not by its denominational affiliation or missions giving or doctrinal position but by the pastor’s name and his status. We tend to mention how many books the pastor has published, how many members on the roles, how many Sunday services they have, the size of the ministerial staff…

I don’t have anything against success – far from it. I think it is great but it is not the way God counts success in His kingdom. If we read the scripture it doesn’t take long to realize God does things hind-part before! Backwards. Upside down. To live you must die. To gain you have to loose. You have to turn the other cheek, go the extra mile, give your coat and your shirt. Not what a PR firm would recommend for a successful business model!

Let me be the first to say, I think it is terrific when God grows a ministry, a business, a bank account by numbers. But it is not the only measure.

We like to think success is related to size – it isn’t. Success is related to faithfulness and humility and obedience. Ouch! People often tell me how God is going to honor my Father for the many who came to Christ through his preaching. And I am sure God will on some level. But I always mention God won’t honor the numbers but rather, the faithfulness and obedience of my Father. Just like He will honor the faithful school teacher, the faithful cab driver, dishwasher, small church pastor, Sunday school teacher. Those who serve His faithfully and obediently in obscurity.

Are you feeling obscure, unimportant? God sees your labor on His behalf. God is pointing you out to a great crowd of witnesses  saying, “Look at that one. They are serving me faithfully. That’s one of my trophies!”

I’d rather have that. As the dear soloist, George Beverly Shea, sang so sweetly, “I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold; I’d rather be His than have riches untold; I’d rather have Jesus than houses or lands. I’d rather be led by His nail-pierced hand.  I’d rather have Jesus than men’s applause; I’d rather be faithful to His dear cause; I’d rather have Jesus than world-wide fame. I’d rather be rue to His holy name. Then to be the king of a vast domain or be held in sin’s dread sway. I’d rather have Jesus than anything this world affords today.”

I’m vintage but, I’m back!

April 6, 2016

I was unaware that I was “vintage”…on the verge, yes. But already there? Good grief!

On a recent afternoon I was editing an article I wrote when my computer shut down. I booted it up again. It shut down. I booted it up and, again, it shut down. It quit. As in “done”. Nada. Nothing. Gone. Over.

So frustrating. I called Apple. They were very patient as we tried a multitude of fixes. Nothing.

The tech asked me when I bought the computer. I told him I thought about 2007. He then surprised me by saying Apple considers such an old computer as “vintage” – then went on to say they no longer make parts or service such “vintage” machines!!

My only recourse was to buy a new computer…talk about “planned obsolescence”! Unfortunately I have been an Apple user since the early 1990s. I did my college work on the early Mac – the all in one unit. (It took me a long time to finish my BA degree! But that’s a story for another day!) My oldest daughter took it to college and finished her college work on it! Now, that’s vintage!

I even remember the first PC that used the DOS system! That wasn’t so long ago – I didn’t think. But I guess that makes me more than vintage!!

So to the Apple store I went. And after much discussion and going from store to store, I had to buy a new computer. All the while my work was piling up and I was getting frantic. Finally, I found a local place that sold and serviced Apple computers. I,  sadly, could no longer afford to replace the one I had. I called my sister, Anne, who uses Apple products, and asked which one she liked and why.

I settled on a laptop but now have to get a larger monitor so that I am not hunched over… I already have the wireless keyboard and mouse. (They’ll be vintage soon.)

I am not a fan of technology…I use it because I have to. Nothing replaces hand-written notes or phone calls or face-to-face interaction.

Anyway, I am back on-line!

I am so glad God does not determine we are “too old”, vintage”, to rehabilitate, redeem and use for His glory! As a matter of fact, He seems to like “vintage” – think of Abraham, Moses, Elisabeth & Zachariah… Age means nothing to God. He looks for willing and obedient hearts.

Now, when I look at that standard I know I lack but I am a “pilgrim in process” – not yet finished. God isn’t finished with me. He won’t be until He calls me Home! That’s hope!

What Does This Have To Do With That?

March 14, 2016

In the Bible, Proverbs 3:3 says, “Let not mercy and truth forsake thee; bind them about thy neck; write them upon the table of thine heart.” (KJV) I read that this morning and thought, mercy without truth is mush. Truth without mercy is harsh.

I looked up the verse in other versions. The New Living Translation says, “Never let loyalty and kindness leave you”. The New English Bible says, “Let your good faith and loyalty never fail.” I am not a linguist but I would not have connected the word “loyalty” with mercy, or “truth” with kindness. So I continued my search. The NIV says, “Let love and faithfulness never leave you.”  The Message puts it this way, “Don’t lose your grip on Love and Loyalty.”

The dictionary defines “mercy” as compassionate or kindly forbearance shown toward an offender; compassion, pity, benevolence, an act of kindness or favor… but I don’t see the tie to “loyalty”. That’s more like “faithfulness. Fidelity.

“Truth” is defined as “actual state, conformity with reality, a verified fact, actuality, honesty, integrity…

I am not sure how the translators translated it so differently – to my way of looking at it. So…how can I apply this? Well…use all the words! Never let compassion or kindness leave you as you consider the actual state of others. That may not hit it on the head but when I think of it…as I consider my fellow pilgrims along life’s way, do I judge too harshly? Do I look for flaws and jump to conclusions too quickly?

The rest of the verse in the KJV says, “bind them about thy neck; write them upon the table of thine heart.” The NIV says,  “Bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet or your heart.” The Message says, “Tie them around your neck; carve their initials on your heart.”  Okay. My neck holds my head. Does this mean that mercy, truth, kindness and loyalty should rule my thoughts about people and situation? Are these the foundation for my thinking? Are these the standards I should apply when considering others and situations? I think that applies.

But just how do I carve initials on my heart? Oh me! I know bitterness so easily carves itself into my thinking. It does so by rehearsing the wrong. Talking about the wrong to others. Looking for sympathy from those who agree with me. It doesn’t consider another point of view. In the same way we carve mercy and truth into our hearts. The Apostle Paul told us to renew our minds with God’s truth, “be renewed in the spirit of your mind”  (Ephesians 4:23), and take every though captive ” bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” (11 Corinthians 10:5). That must be the process of carving mercy and truth in to our hearts. It isn’t easy or quick.

It is much easier to take counsel of my own angry, bitter, revengeful thoughts. It is hard to break the cycle. But when I consider what I am like – I am no better than the one who hurt me. In fact, I may be a whole lot worse! I need to look at myself, repent, ask for forgiveness and renew my mind with God’s truth about others and myself. I am a sinner saved by grace BUT I am loved and cherished by the God of the Universe who is passionate about His love for me!

That works for me!

 

 

Memories

March 7, 2016

As as child I often lay in bed at night and could hear my Mother playing the piano in the living room below. She wasn’t “trained” and only played for her own pleasure. I am not sure she ever knew I was listening… but I remember my Mother’s voice as she sang this song…

“There were ninety and nine that safely lay
In the shelter of the fold;
But one was out on the hills away,
Far off from the gates of gold.

Away on the mountains wild and bare;
Away from the tender Shepherd’s care.
“Lord, Thou hast here Thy ninety and nine;
Are they not enough for Thee?”

But the Shepherd made answer: “This of Mine
Has wandered away from Me.
And although the road be rough and steep,
I go to the desert to find My sheep.”

But none of the ransomed ever knew
How deep were the waters crossed;
Nor how dark was the night the Lord passed through
Ere He found His sheep that was lost.

Out in the desert He heard its cry;
’Twas sick and helpless and ready to die.
“Lord, whence are those blood-drops all the way,
That mark out the mountain’s track?”

“They were shed for one who had gone astray
Ere the Shepherd could bring him back.”
“Lord, whence are Thy hands so rent and torn?”
“They’re pierced tonight by many a thorn.”

And all through the mountains, thunder-riv’n,
And up from the rocky steep,
There arose a glad cry to the gate of heav’n,
“Rejoice! I have found My sheep!”
And the angels echoed around the throne,
“Rejoice, for the Lord brings back His own!”

Her voice always was strong as she snag the last verse…”Rejoice! I have found My sheep!”

What a sweet memory it is!

Our National Responsibility

February 29, 2016

This was written by my dear friend, James Robison of Life Outreach International. He gave me permission to use it. I often refer to James as a modern-day prophet – his analysis is right on target. Let’s all pray. Our nation is in peril.

Super Tuesday is just around the corner, and a slate of big winner-take-all states two weeks after that. The outcome of the two presidential nomination races may well have been determined by the Ides of March. But election returns are only the immediate cause of who rises and falls. Behind all the efforts of the candidates and campaigns, behind all the reporting and persuasion and attacks— some of it wise and substantive, some of it petty and misleading — stands He who “removes kings and sets up kings,” He in whose hand a leader’s “heart is a stream of water.” This is a time for God’s people to call upon the Lord in prayer and fasting.

Every ruling authority must understand that he or she rules under authority. To be President of the United States is to hold enormous power. Power can be employed in the service of what is good and right, but if power itself is made the priority it can only subvert what is good and right.

Power tends to rebel against humbling itself in this way, however. The great exceptions — and freedom’s greatest advances — have come when rulers have recognized they answer to a power greater than themselves: God who alone rules in complete goodness and truth. Therefore the office of the President is fraught with not just political but spiritual significance.

Some Christians ask, “Should we be involved in federal government?” In a republic like America the answer is yes. Each of us has been given a measure of stewardship responsibility over the government of the most powerful country in the world, and we should no more neglect that stewardship responsibility than we should neglect our other stewardship responsibilities. Once every two years at least, the people are the government. We have decisions to make.

This year they are unusually important decisions. This primary election season may be the most determinative in our generation, setting a course either toward Constitutionally restrained leadership under God, or toward increasingly unconstrained presidential power. It may well be that either candidate in the general election could take us away from ordered liberty and limited government.

Therefore we must vote wisely and pray earnestly. We must pray for our country’s collective wisdom as we decide. We must pray for our nation to follow what is right and prudent, and not merely what feels good. We must pray for our nation that it will understand power wisely and use it for good. We must pray for leaders who will treat their own power humbly under God.

This is a time to follow the example of Mordecai and the Jews in the book of Esther and unite humbly before God in fasting and prayer for the sake of our nation. We at The Stream invite you to join with us and others either today, on Super Tuesday and/or on one or more of the days leading up to the March 15 primaries. Fast. Pray. Call upon God. May his wisdom, truth, mercy and goodness rain down on us.

Soaring!

February 22, 2016

This past weekend I spoke for the ladies’ retreat of First Presbyterian Church of Norfolk. What a great group of women!

It was held in Kitty Hawk, NC with the theme of “Taking Flight”.

My room was on the 5th floor and over looked the Kitty Hawk Pier. Fabulous view. So I was right on the beach – and you all know I love the beach – but it was too cool to enjoy it much! I loved just smelling the salt air!

Yesterday, I saw the sunrise over the Atlantic, the sunset over the Blue Ridge mountains and the full moon rise over the Shenandoah Valley! Not shabby for one day. Like a special gift from God.

I carried the retreat theme through my messages: “When It’s Too Heavy for Take-Off”, “When You Are On the Wrong Flight”, “Traveling Light” and “Soaring”.

A retired Delta captain and a former flight attendant gave me some expert information for illustrative material.

The Internet provided the information about soaring. So many spiritual applications!

Soaring offers a sense of freedom. You are no longer earth-bound. You venture away from the things that ground you. You have to look for clues in the air as to current-flow: birds and clouds. You gain a respect for areas on the ground that help or hinder you as you meet the continuing challenge of staying aloft.

The intellectual challenge of soaring is that Gravity tells you, you and your machine have no business being up in the air! It is constant pull.

The sun and winds provide an invisible force frequently far stronger than the force of gravity but it is up to you to make the most of it.

It all sounds familiar to me. Let me show you why:

Christ offers us forgiveness of sin and freedom from it. We are no longer bound by sin and can live beyond its’ hold on us. We look for clues as to how to live a Christian life – find help – in the scriptures, fellowship with other believers, prayer… But our enemy is always trying to make us doubt or try to live self-sufficiently. It is a strong and constant pull against us. We learn to guard ourselves from the “sin that so easily besets us” – the temptations, the weaknesses, fears. And the Holy Spirit is the power within us to give us the victory over sin.

We can soar!

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