Monthly Archives: July 2017
Keeping Place by Jen Pollock Michel
The subtitle to the book is “reflections on the meaning of home”. Having moved often the author reflects on home. What is it? How is it expressed by God? What is the “work” of home? How does it express holiness?
Since retiring I have been “down sizing”–that means sorting, giving, trashing. And all of that means making decisions about home. I recently visited a long time friend and mentor who is now 90 years old. She had just moved from a four bedroom house to a one bedroom apartment at a seniors housing. I walked in and there it was; with well chosen simplicity, her home. It looked like her. The essence of her expressed in this tiny space. Her former home was now extended to those who chose a piece or two. I now have the wicker chair where she taught me to pray. It is part of my house–my spiritual home.
What is home? Read “Keeping Place” to discover for yourself. Jen will take you from our first home in the Garden to the home called Tabernacle and on to the home called church with a table called communion. Then finally to a new heaven and earth. I guarantee you will enjoy the journey. May your home (not house) express the essence of Christ.
A little extra: If you want to explore your heart as Christ’s home, then get the little booklet: My Heart Christ’s Home by Bob Munger. It was written in the ’50’s by a pastor. You can get it from Christian Book Distributers or down load it from the internet.
Improving with Age by Stuart & Jill Briscoe
Written by two leaders in the church who are in their 80’s, it is full of wisdom and humor. It is a great read for those about to retire or who are retired or who have retired persons in their circle.
Stuart and Jill share the joys and struggles of learning to age with grace and continue to be used by God in God’s work in our world. They also share the modern malady of seniors feeling marginalized by the church and what to do about that.
While there is no retirement for a follower of Jesus, there are ever changing ways in our call to be his hands and feet in the world. Each chapter is followed with questions and reflections. It can easily be used in a small group or Sunday School class.
One of my favorite chuckles: An old lady was pulled over by a policeman who asked her, “Do you know how fast you were traveling?” “Oh no,” she replied, but it was very fast. You need to understand, young man, that we older people have to drive very fast before we forget where we are going.” p.190
The Patmos Deception by Davis Bunn
A great beach read from a Christian mystery writer…
If you want to learn about Greece and antiquities while living an adventure through Nick and Carey, then this is the book for you. You will learn about the Isle of Patmos, where John the Apostle wrote the Revelation, while experiencing the closeness of families in Greece. You will see how Greece has changed with history and live through the struggles of a charter boat business. While all this is going on, there is intrigue and mystery. Have fun!
The Book of Hours by Davis Bunn
This book is full if mystery, hidden clues, dealing with grief, and coming to faith. Seven churches and their bells cause the reader to wonder if we still need the ancient tradition of bells to call us to hourly prayer. Clues lead a grieving widower on a journey of healing. It is all there for you to savor!
Davis Bunn (1952) is an American author and grew up in North Carolina. He became an international financial expert and worked in Europe, Africa and the Middle East. Bunn and his wife live in Oxford now. He is a novelist in residence at Regent’s Park College, Oxford University. Bunn is writer of historical fiction and legal thrillers, in which Christian faith plays a big part. (from Wikipedia)
The Nightingale by Kristen Hannah
This would make a long summer read of excellence. By excellence, I mean well written, well researched, and keeps you reading. Now I must confess that I did not read it. I listened to it on CD’s while I drove on long and short trips.
This is a story of two sisters, Vianne and Isabelle, during World War II in France. The journey you take is one of family, choices, the dark side of humanity, courage, and persistence. If you read the Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom (her family’s resolve to hide Jews) , then you will want also to read this. It will cause you to think, to laugh, to cry, to rejoice, to lament. Again if you read the Hiding Place this will give you an in depth picture of the hard choices that were made. Unlike Corrie’s book, this is not gospel oriented but it is a picture of how I believe God used people to work to save in the midst of war.
God still works that way today. Where people are in dire straights in the world, pray for God to work through his church and through those in the world who will make courageous choices. God is always at work even though we cannot see it!
Of course, if you haven’t read The Hiding Place, then please read it as well!
Remember . . . we are God’s beloved.
Remember . . . we are forgiven.
Remember . . . God’s Grace is sufficient.
Remember . . . our purpose in life is to bring God Glory!
Jesus Walks on the Water
Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.
Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.
But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”
“Come,” he said.
Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”
Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”
And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” Matthew 14:22-33
Remember we are a work in progress. If you are reading this, then God is not finished with you yet! As long as we are living, God is working in us and through us to bring Glory to His Name. How? – by being obedient and keeping our eyes on him. That is our purpose in life. The purpose is the same for each of us, but how God works in us and through us is unique to each and every person.
If we can but truly grasp this purpose in our life, then we can better understand and celebrate the challenges we face. If our purpose is to bring Him Glory then in each and every challenge, His Glory can shine through us.
If you are in a season of routine, where everything seems to be “ok”, remember there are those in a difficult season who God may be calling you to assist – Remember your purpose and bring Glory to His Name.
If you are in a season of challenge – a major illness, a death, a move, a change of employment, a divorce, a marriage, a birth – Remember your purpose and bring Glory to His Name.
If you are in the final season, remember His timing is perfect and even in dying we are His . . . Remember your purpose and bring Glory to His Name.
God has placed us in this moment for a purpose. Remember, that eternity meets us in this moment . . . and our purpose is to bring God glory.
The Parable of the Lost Son
Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.
“Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.
“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ So he got up and went to his father.
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
“But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.
“Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’
“The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’
“ ‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ ” Luke 11:11-32
Grace means unmerited favor. God’s Grace means that God forgives us even though we don’t deserve it. This is true for every single one of us. As in the story of the prodigal son, God allows us to choose to turn our backs on Him but He is always ready to joyously receive us back when we turn and ask for forgiveness. God beautifully intertwines His Love and His Forgiveness and gives us His Grace.
So Remember whatever we have done, God’s Grace is sufficient to cover it all. Go forth this week knowing you are forgiven. And if you already know you are forgiven, Remember to shower Grace on those around you . . . Remember we are not in competition with other Believers . . . Be joyful when a child who was lost, returns, and is Blessed by God.
There was a man named Nicodemus, a Jewish religious leader who was a Pharisee. After dark one evening, he came to speak with Jesus. “Rabbi,” he said, “we all know that God has sent you to teach us. Your miraculous signs are evidence that God is with you.”
Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.”
“What do you mean?” exclaimed Nicodemus. “How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?”
Jesus replied, “I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life. So don’t be surprised when I say, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it wants. Just as you can hear the wind but can’t tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can’t explain how people are born of the Spirit.”
“How are these things possible?” Nicodemus asked.
Jesus replied, “You are a respected Jewish teacher, and yet you don’t understand these things? I assure you, we tell you what we know and have seen, and yet you won’t believe our testimony. But if you don’t believe me when I tell you about earthly things, how can you possibly believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has ever gone to heaven and returned. But the Son of Man has come down from heaven. And as Moses lifted up the bronze snake on a pole in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life.
“For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.
“There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son. And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil. All who do evil hate the light and refuse to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed. But those who do what is right come to the light so others can see that they are doing what God wants.”
John 3:1-21 New Living Translation
Remember the best way to remind ourselves that God loves us is to read His words to us. God sent Jesus to show us how much He loves us. It was the ultimate act of love . . . to send His only son to suffer and die in order to make a pathway for us from this life to eternal life. “No one comes to the Father except through me”. If we believe in Jesus; we will be born from above with His Spirit in us; and when we die here on earth, we will join Jesus in Heaven for eternity.
Remember God loves us. Remember. Remember. Remember. Why?
So we can keep our hearts, minds and souls focused on God and rise above our circumstances to put God first, learning to imitate Him so that others will know of His love and turn and believe.
My prayer for us this week is that we will remember God’s love for us and turn and share that love with the people placed in our path.
“Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance of what we cannot see.” Hebrews 11:1
Each and every circumstance in our lives can impact our perspective on life and how we react to a situation. If we are not grounded in our faith, it can feel like we are being tossed about by the wind, never being able to feel like we are on solid ground – never quite feeling at peace. (See Ephesians 4:14)
Sometimes circumstances are within our control because we each have choices to make everyday that affect our circumstances. If we choose risky behavior then we should expect consequences that bring about difficult circumstances. If we choose to walk a path that avoids risky behavior, we are more apt to avoid difficult circumstances.
But what about the times that circumstances are beyond our control or influence. What do we do when circumstances involve death, destruction or despair – the death of a loved one, the loss of our home, the loss of a job or a severe medical diagnosis? We did not expect it. We don’t understand it. We wish it were not so. What do we do then?
We may angrily or tearfully ask God, “What ARE you doing? We may ask Him to take it away or change the circumstance. Or, we may not ask anything because we don’t even think about God. We are so engrossed in our own sorrow or anger that we can’t even think. We may turn to behavior that blocks our despair – alcohol, drugs or behavior that numbs the mind and helps us escape into nothingness.
So what are the alternatives to all of the above responses? What is helpful in these types of circumstances?
It is helpful to turn to God, first – To seek God in prayer – To trust in His power – To be prepared for a miracle of His making, not our own. So practically speaking this means that we need to take time to be in prayer, meditation and contemplation. Do not rush a response – “wait upon the Lord”. If our “gut” is saying something, we need to take time to make sure that our response is prompted by the Holy Spirit. If we have developed a “habit” of taking time with God, we are move likely to walk with Him through the circumstance instead of being tossed about in the circumstance.
It is helpful to be grounded in our faith – to have weathered other storms that have made us stronger, less wind tossed, more able to have faith that God is in control and we are not. More faith that the plan we had may not be the best plan and He always has a plan that is good for us. Faith that allows us to trust that God’s glory will be revealed in His way and in His time – not ours. So practically speaking this means that we need to prepare for the next life challenging circumstance by deepening our faith NOW. We can deepen our faith in God and our relationships with others by taking time to get in the habit of reading scripture, praying, immersing ourselves in a bible study, or attending church services.
It is helpful to have people in our lives who know Jesus – who are calm and reassuring, who walk the journey with us and provide support. This is when an extended church family “circles the wagons” providing practical assistance, prayer support, and most of all – love. When we don’t seem to have faith, it helps to be around people who do – people who shoulder our burden. So practically speaking it helps to have a church family NOW. If you don’t have one, ask someone you know and trust where they go to church. Tag along with them or check out the church closest to your home.
It is helpful to guard ourselves against godless chatter with others and extended questioning of why the circumstance occurred. So practically speaking, we can prolong a crisis by dwelling in the crisis instead of moving through it by seeking God. This does not mean we can’t confide in a close friend who is faith-filled. However, allowing ourselves to continually complain, analyze, criticize, and gossip does not help in any crisis. If we are the ones providing comfort to someone in crisis, remember not to prolong their crisis by jumping into the “pit” with them – but instead listen, listen, listen and encourage them to climb out of the “pit”.
It is helpful to not “check out” of the situation. Choosing “numbing” behavior will cloud our minds, block our relationships with others and most of all prevent us from hearing God. So practically speaking, it is good to control that behavior now, before a crisis hits so that such behavior is easier to avoid.
It is helpful to recognize God’s response to our cries for help. In times of crisis, when we have asked for God’s help, we need to learn to receive it. Many of us are great at helping others, but not so good at receiving help. So practically speaking, this means we need to prayerfully consider other people’s offers of help. A refusal to receive God’s Blessing is an affront against God and will prolong the process of recovery. Such a refusal of God’s Blessings is a roadblock to deepening our Faith. It prevents us from becoming the humble soul God wants in His Kingdom.
It is helpful to remember that God is God and we are not. Sometimes we do not understand and may never understand in this lifetime why God allowed something to happen. Not all things that happen are “caused” by God but God allows all things to happen. Could He have stopped something from happening – Yes. God could have stopped Christ from going to the Cross, but He didn’t because God knew it was the way to our salvation. So practically speaking, when we do not understand the “why” of a circumstance, “put a pin in it” and add it to your list of things you are going to ask when you get to heaven.
My prayer for us this week, is that we choose to approach our circumstances in a new way that deepens our faith and brings Glory to God. AMEN.
“So from now on we regard no one from a “worldly” point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation . . . “ 2 Corinthians 5:16-18
Perspective on life’s circumstances is critical. Where does our perspective come from? Is it from God or in need of discarding and rebuilding? Perspective is the state of your ideas as you interrelate with others – the basis upon which you view life. Are you viewing life through God’s lens – the lens of reconciliation – the lens of grace?
We all have different perspectives on life situations because we all have different life journeys. Our perspective is impacted by the experiences we have – good or bad. If we have lost a parent at a young age, our perspective on relationships in all likelihood is different from another person who did not experience such a tragic loss. If we have been abused as a child, our perspective is viewed through this deep hurt. If we have children, our perspective on many life situations suddenly changes when they are born and we may have a totally new respect for our own parents.
Each and every circumstance in our lives can impact our perspective on life and how we react to a situation. Take some time today and this week to think about your perspective. Is it skewed in certain circumstances? Is it self-centered? Compare it to God’s – His perspective is one of reconciliation of us to Him through Christ. His perspective is filled with grace. – the gift of unconditional love. Remember this as you approach the every day situations in your life. Rebuild by looking at a situation through God’s lens – Remember, the Holy Spirit is with you and will guide you – seek Him.
Remember – You are a new creation in Christ. So . . .
In an interaction with a difficult person, try praying for the person instead of dismissing their words before they are out of their mouth. Remember your perspective is different from theirs. You may not know what they have endured, what they are enduring, how their perspective has been shaped and molded by their life experiences. Instead of a harsh response, try a kind word or no words at all.
If you are working at a job you despise, start thanking God for the opportunity to serve Him through the job. Turn your mind to the Blessings that He is providing to you and others through your work. In other words, change your perspective if that perspective is making you a grumpy, short tempered, mean, conniving, loud-mouthed or not fun to be around person.
If you are alone and feel unworthy, turn your attention to others and take time to write a note or say a kind word. Set your circumstances aside in your mind and focus your attention on helping someone else through prayer and a positive perspective.
If you are having a number 10 reaction to a number 2 problem, evaluate why you are over reacting. Give the overreaction to God and ask for His perspective – a new understanding of your overreaction. With your new perspective, practice a new response.
If you are overworked and stressed, evaluate why. Ask God to give you a new perspective on your situation. Are you unable to say “no” to requests of others? Remember to seek God’s guidance when saying “yes”. If it is not a job or task intended for you and you take it, you may be preventing another person from being able to do what God intended for them. Remember what Jesus said, “For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:30.
When you change your worldly perspective to God’s perspective, your eyes will see the new creation He has made in you and what a ripple effect that can have in other’s lives.
My prayer for us this week is that our eyes are opened to see our situation through God’s perspective giving us a new perspective that brings Glory to His Name. AMEN.