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On Being Transparent

All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.     Isaiah 64:6a

I don’t do windows.

Well, every few years I try. There will be that bright sunny morning when the light was streaming in, and the need for cleaning was so obvious, I grab the window cleaner, spray bottle, rags, paper towels, and squeegee and get to work. Two or three hours later I throw in the towel (and everything on it) and once more promise myself, never again!

Every summer we go to the house in Michigan that my grandparents built it in the 1940s. It was elegant then and it is still elegant now. Forty-six years ago my husband Marty and I got married there, and two years ago our youngest daughter married the love of her life there. The house has French provincial architecture, fireplaces, a bay window, and French doors that open onto a patio overlooking the lake.

It also has windows that have had a curse put on them. Or maybe it’s just the paint on the frames that dissolves every time any liquid touches it… Each magical little pane is specially made to get dirtier the more it’s wiped. After several attempts at cleaning, the glass will go from mildly dirty to ridiculously streaked on the outside – when you’re looking out. Of course, when you’re outside looking in, all you see are the streaks that are inside. I have on occasion treated the job like an Olympic event, “the Window Sprint” – Can I run outside and get that streak off before I forget where it is? Pretty soon I’m streaked too, with sweat and dirt, and breathless with exasperation. No gold medal here.

(Now please don’t write and tell me how you clean your windows. Believe me, I’ve heard the advice, all about vinegar and newspapers and yada-yadda-yadda… I’ve tried it all.)

A few years ago we put our house in Port Huron up for sale, and one of the many jobs that needed to be done was … clean the windows. [Insert scary horror movie music here.] When a perfectly gorgeous day came up and I had absolutely nothing on my schedule, there was no excuse to put off the job, however desperately I wished for one.

I was delightfully surprised to find the job was not only effective but surprisingly fun when it actually worked! I found myself singing as I got into the rhythm -squirt-squeegee-wipe, squirt-squeegee-wipe – and pretty soon I was looking around for more windows to clean. At the end of the day I was standing in the living room, gazing out at the Lake Huron, relishing the fact that the windows were virtually invisible and I may as well have been standing outside. >Eureka!<

For some reason I took this to mean I now knew how to clean windows, so when we later went to Portage Lake, one bright, sunny day I confidently grabbed my trusty squeegee and began to make the dining room gorgeous, one little pane at a time, forgetting that these windows were cursed… Two hours, one roll of paper towels, one bottle of Windex, and one tantrum later, there was not one pane that was totally clean. I threw up my hands and yelled “I GIVE UP!” followed by a few other things that were probably inappropriate for a Christian to be saying.

Have you been there? I don’t mean just with windows, but anything that you’ve tried to “fix,” that only gets worse the more you try? As I stood there that day, hot and exhausted, scowling at the streaks blocking the view of the beautiful lake, I figured the only way to get a clear view would be just to break the windows. That’s it! Just take out the pains – er, panes – completely, and the view would be great. Of course, that would have made the house a bit drafty and buggy, so Marty didn’t go for that idea.

It occurred to me that I was looking at a picture of sin. The Bible tells us that ever since Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden, all of Mankind has been under the curse of sin. For many people, their lives may seem “good enough.” But then the light of God’s truth shines through, and it becomes painfully obvious that we “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” (Romans 6:23) The more we look at our sin, the more it bothers us.

So, what do some of us do? We try to clean up our act. Somehow we think we can make it right on our own, although it should soon be apparent that if we were so capable of doing good, our lives wouldn’t be such a mess in the first place. After trying to make things right, we see that we have failed, and more often than not, our feeble attempts have made the situation worse than ever. At this point we should see that we can’t do this ourselves. But some of us refuse to believe we’re that helpless. So we try harder, thinking if we could just try hard enough, we’ll finally clean up our lives.

The bottom line is, we can’t fix the mess ourselves. We have only two choices. We can avoid the Light and hope nobody notices the dirt, or we can go to God and ask Him to help us. Fortunately, He can. In fact, He sent His Son, Jesus, to take all our dirt onto Himself. When He died for us, He was taking our sin and nailing it to the Cross, and we never have to be enslaved by it again. He can make our lives clean, and He can shine His light through us. Isn’t it a relief to know we don’t have to try to clean ourselves up?

I haven’t yet figured out how to get Jesus to do my windows for me, but two years ago before our daughter Kelly married the love of her life on the lawn at that house, we did hire a professional exorcist – er, window cleaning service. Now when I look out through the crystal clear glass and remember how it used to be, I know what a mess I would be without Jesus. I’m just grateful that I’m not without Him, and that He was willing to do what was necessary to make me clean, so He could shine His light through me.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, in ourselves we are powerless to clean up our own lives. Thank You that You have not left us on our own, but You have shed Your blood to cleanse us from all unrighteousness, that we can live the lives You want us to live – the lives we truly want. We choose to trust You to shine through us today, in Your power, in Your name. Amen

But Seriously Folks … (Sound Familiar? Part 2)

“You shall have no other gods before Me.”       – Exodus 20:3

Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.     – I John 5:21

The book of Jeremiah contains the writings of the “weeping prophet,” who was routinely ignored and persecuted as he tried time and again to warn the people of the coming judgment for their blatant unfaithfulness to their God (idolatry). The book of Lamentations follows, written during the nightmare of the siege of Jerusalem, just before the Babylonian Empire defeated Israel once and for all, carrying them away into captivity. Sadly, Jeremiah suffered along with everyone else when the starvation was so severe that people were eating their own children. I’m sure it gave him no pleasure to say “I told you so.”

How could a loving God allow such horrors? Good question.

Another good question would be, How could Israel abandon the Lord and worship idols after all He had done for them? He had freed them from slavery in Egypt, opening up the Red Sea, feeding them supernaturally in the wilderness, conquering nations far bigger than they, and giving them the “land flowing with milk and honey”? For centuries God pleaded with His people to come back to Him, sending one prophet after another to warn them of the consequences of their disobedience. But time and again God’s people turned to the idols of the nations they had conquered, preferring the false prophets who assured them that all was well, believing that God either didn’t see their sin or didn’t care. Finally, through the Babylonians, the nation was defeated and scattered, even as the Lord promised He would bring them back someday. (Notably, although Israel has sinned in various ways like any other nation, since the Babylonian siege she never again returned to idolatry.)

Sunday our pastor delivered a message on line centered around the Exodus, especially regarding the ten plagues God sent to Egypt. He pointed out that every plague was a blow to a false god. One by one, Egypt’s deities were attacked, including the gods of the Nile, frogs, the earth, the fly, the bull. The last two plagues were three days of darkness, attacking the sun god, and finally, the death of the first born, even the first born of Pharaoh, who considered himself a god.

In preparing for the last plague, the Israelites were told to stay in their homes. (Sound familiar?) To protect their own firstborn, they were to sacrifice a lamb without defect and place its blood on the sides and tops of the doorframe – a foreshadowing of Jesus, the Lamb of God, who centuries later would be slaughtered to save us from the slavery of sin. Those who believe in Him will be saved from eternal death.

That afternoon, I received a timely email with yet another perspective of the Corona virus, seemingly taken right out of the Old Testament:

“In three short months, just like He did with the plagues of Egypt, God has taken away everything we worship. God said, “you want to worship athletes, I will shut down the stadiums. You want to worship musicians, I will shut down Civic Centers. You want to worship actors, I will shut down theaters. You want to worship money, I will shut down the economy and collapse the stock market. You don’t want to go to church and worship Me, I will make it where you can’t go to church”
“If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
Maybe we don’t need a vaccine, Maybe we need to take this time of isolation from the distractions of the world and have a personal revival where we focus on the ONLY thing in the world that really matters. Jesus.”

While I am not saying that every word of this “prophecy” is true for everyone, it has been “food for thought.” America certainly has many examples of idolatry today. We have allowed the preborn to be slaughtered by the millions in the name of “freedom of choice.” While we have decried the proliferation of human trafficking, we’ve ignored its connection to the porn industry, which we have allowed into our movie theaters, and even into our homes via television. We have worshiped the rich and famous, devouring every bit of gossip about them that we can get our hands on, while ignoring the true heroes, those who minister to the poor, the sick, and the oppressed.

Do I believe everyone in America deserves what is happening to us? No, other than the fact that without Jesus we are all hopeless sinners. There are many in this country who have remained faithful to the Lord in the midst of the evil all around them. But I have no reason to believe that they won’t suffer along with the rest, as Jeremiah did.

Is the Corona virus the work of a loving God? I don’t believe so. But Scripture is clear that nothing happens without God’s knowledge and permission. So, why is He allowing it?

Is it a loving thing for a parent to yell at his child and yank him so hard that he dislocates the child’s shoulder? That depends. Was the child just being annoying, or was he ignoring the parent and running into the path of an oncoming semi?

For centuries Israel ignored the warnings of God, running headlong toward spiritual (eternal) destruction.

When times are hard Scripture shows God disciplining His children, destroying His enemies, or both. Israel was eventually gathered again, even becoming a nation. Egypt has never again been a major world power. The mighty empires of Babylon, Assyria, Persia, and Rome all have disappeared.

How we apply this to ourselves depends on where we stand with Him. The hard truth is, He will do whatever it takes to bring back His wandering children. We can make it easy on ourselves, or we can make it hard.

Right now His children should bear a striking “family resemblance.” When others are suffering, Christians should stand out as the most generous, loving people on the planet. But there also comes a time when we must have the courage to speak the truth in love. After all, what’s loving about letting a child run out into the street when a semi is barreling his way?

Prayer: Lord, as Your children, help us to reflect Your heart – a heart of both holiness and grace. Help us to speak the truth in love, even when it is hard, in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Sound Familiar?

There is a time for everything,                                                                                                              and a season for every activity under heaven:                                                                            a time to weep, and a time to laugh …                                                                                                                                                                                                                             Ecclesiastes 3:1, 4a

Yesterday fellow blogger Mitch Teemley posted these timely words:

“After performing tragedies, the ancient Greeks always staged comedies, often making fun of the tragedies they’d just presented. Why? Comedy relief. Likewise, humor flourishes during wars and epidemics. Morbidity? No, survival. When we’re under attack, we ridicule our attackers and tease ourselves. Why? Because it helps us cope, reminds us we’re in this together and, well, simply provides comedy relief. Those Greeks had it right.”

Inspired by Mitch’s words (and in honor of April Fool’s Day), I’m finally posting a piece I had hesitated to publish …

So, people are stockpiling non-perishable foods, drinking water (not sure why on that one … ) and of course, toilet paper. (What is it with the toilet paper???)

For anyone over 30, this scenario brings back memories of another world-wide emergency: “Y2K.”

For you who don’t remember this crisis, here’s a little background:

It seems that when computers were first invented they had built-in clocks keeping track of times and dates. Unfortunately, the years registered only in two digits, so 1984 was just “84,” 1999 was just “99.” Apparently it hadn’t occurred to the technology geniuses until the late 90’s that there might be a problem when the year “99” turned over and became “00.” This situation provided fuel for a major scare world-wide. By now virtually every part of our society from our car engines to our banking to our communication was computerized. Rumor had it that even the latest toys, “Furbies,” were more technologically complex than our first space shuttle – Don’t quote me on that one, please.

It just happened that I was asked to sing at a Christian Women’s Club luncheon on January 4, 2000. The format was to sing one light, secular song early on, then a “sacred” song just before the speaker. For the “secular” selection I couldn’t resist writing an original song for just such an occasion. I only performed it once, but here it is, resurrected after 20 years+.

You can sing along. The melody is the same as “Jingle Bells.” The song should start out light and fun, then gradually build in speed and intensity until it reaches a frenzied climax just before the last two lines, after which the song should end with a line of hesitation and an abrupt final line, sung with a big, relieved smile.

(Have fun, and happy April Fool’s Day.)

Y2K

Y2K! Y2K! What is Y2K?                                                                                                                         The end of all life as we know it, coming any day now!                                                                  Y2K! Y2K! Everyone beware!                                                                                                                Stock up fuel and food supplies, so you will be prepared.

All commercial planes will fall out of the sky!                                                                                   Reservoirs will drain and leave us high and dry!                                                                               Every ATM will tell you that you’re broke!                                                                                       All cars on the road will simultaneously choke – OH!

Y2K! Y2K! What are we to do?!                                                                                                              I’m prepared for Y2K. (But I won’t share with you – Ha!)                                                                  Y2K! Y2K! All computers die!                                                                                                                 We have great technology.  At midnight it will fry.

Desktops all will fail, and laptops lose their drive!                                                                            If we don’t comply, we will not survive!                                                                                                 Floppy discs will flop, and CD’s will not work,                                                                                While a million Furbie toys go totally berserk!!! – OH!

Y2K! Y2K! Panic in the street!                                                                                                                Will we freeze to death that day or have no food to eat?! – OH!                                                      Y2K-Y2K- Running-out-of-time!!!                                                                                                        … what? … It’ January 4th?

In that case …                                                                                                                                                                            never mind.

*(Today this song is dedicated to all the computer engineers and technicians who worked tirelessly to make “Y2K” a non-crisis, and to all the doctors, researchers, and world leaders battling the Corona virus today.)

Prayer: Dear Lord, we see everything from the worldly, temporary  perspective of this life, and quite honestly, things seem very grim today. But we know that nothing is out of Your control, and from Your throne things look very different. We know that when we get to heaven we will be able to look  back on everything You’ve brought us through – including death itself – and smile. Give us the faith and trust to smile even now, when we can’t see the outcome, but we know that You are all-powerful, all-wise, and all-loving. And Lord, for those reading this who aren’t there yet, please use this blog to draw them closer to You, their loving Father, in Jesus’ name, amen.

 

 

Was that ME?

… being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.                                                                                                                                                                          Philippians 1:6

With the increased hours at home, I had anticipated more hours writing, but I should know by now that I can anticipate all I want, but the Lord usually has other plans. Or at the very least, He tweaks mine. And I’ve earned that that’s a good thing!

With all the adjustments people have been making regarding “social distancing,” my husband Marty’s lifestyle has changed very little. My beloved architect is immersed in his latest D.Y.I. project – replacing our old eye-sore book shelves with his own handiwork, a beautiful pair of book cases, complete with sliding glass doors.

These shelves are, in fact, far too nice now to hold mere books. Most of our books aren’t all that attractive, – worn out paperbacks, beat up hardbacks, and chewed-up children’s books collected over the past three generations. Hence, the project I no longer had any excuse to put off was to haul several large boxes of books, photos, and “miscellaneous” down to the basement, sort through them, and arrange all the ones we wanted in some kind of orderly fashion on the cubicle shelves. The items we didn’t want were set aside to give to our children and grandchildren or donate to the library or Good Will.

I expected this to be a relatively quick job; I’d just have to decide which ones to keep and which ones I’d give away, and place them on shelves or in boxes accordingly.

Simple, right?

But anything involving the printed word or old photos can get me bogged down for hours, if not days.

Phase One: Curiosity

Do I want to keep this book? Hmm …  I remember buying it, but I don’t think I ever got around to reading it …  It does look good …  I’ve heard good things about this author …  Let’s check out the table of contents … That chapter looks fascinating! I wonder what he says about that … hmmm, I don’t get what he’s talking about. Must be referring to something in an earlier chapter…

[Twenty minutes later] OKAY, ANN, DECIDE! DO I WANT THIS BOOK OR NOT? 

… Naaa …

Old college term papers were even worse. I had forgotten about them, but upon finding them I remembered how hard I had worked on them, all the research I had done, and how passionate I was about some of the subjects, how persuasively I wrote, and dang it I was good writer! Thus began

Phase Two: Nostalgia.

I was knee deep in old schoolwork and pictures, everything from yearbooks to wedding photos to catalogues Marty and I modeled for when we were both worth looking at. Baby books with adorable pictures and memorabilia of the kids, Shutterfly calendars with pictures of their kids, and on and on.

When I finally got all of them on shelves categorized as “College” and “photo albums and yearbooks,” I came across another genre … my old journals.

Uh-oh …

Abandoning all illusions that this would be a quick job, I sank into one of the kids’ TV chairs on the floor and opened one. I would just read a little, then get back to work …

Wow.

I scarcely recognized the person who had written this drivel. I remembered the people mentioned, the circumstances that I had written about, but oh my – !

I was a moody woman then, to say the least. For someone with a relatively easy life, I had written with great passion about my journey into self-discovery … with the emphasis on self. What I discovered reading was that I was utterly self-centered: a self-conscious, self-loathing, self-important, self-pitying drama queen. (In my defense, I did major in drama at the university, but still … !)

I was so thoroughly disgusted with the young lady that had written this self-obsessed garbage that I didn’t see the silver lining for a while. Then it dawned on me –

I’m not that person any more!

Now my days begin with thanking God for one thing after another. Once I’ve given Him my body, mind, and heart (again) I’m seeing the bright side (“divine perspective?”) of everything. If a friend rejects my invitation to do something, I’ll call another friend. If nobody wants or is able to get together with me, instead of sinking into a pit of “what’s wrong with me?” depression, I get excited.  Jesus want me all to Himself today! And I eagerly look forward to seeing what He has in store, whom He might bring across my path, and what He’s going to teach me about the world and the people around me.

Please don’t get me wrong, I don’t think for a moment that I have “arrived.” I sometimes get discouraged with my lack of visible growth and have to remind myself that God’s grace covers my faults – that Jesus died so my sins could be forgiven, and that He’s not going to give up on me now.

I still have a LOT of growing to do. But that day I found the journals the Lord showed me that while daily growth has usually been imperceptible, over time He has brought me a long way. I’m so much happier now than I was 35 years ago.

(And no doubt the people around me are, too.)

Prayer: Lord, thank You for not giving up on me. Because of Your patient working in me, I am not what I was. But I’m not yet what I will be. I gladly yield myself to You (again) and trust You to grow me in the sunshine of your grace. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

 

 

Faith, Fear, and Folly

   Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:                                                                                                                                                  ‘He will command his angels concerning you,                                                                           and they will lift you up in their hands,                                                                                       so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.'”       Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'”

                                                                                                              Matthew 4:5-7

The other night, as usual, the majority of the news concerned the Corona virus. Locally, we were informed how many new cases had cropped up in the Louisville area. Most disconcerting was the statement that one of the infected people was refusing to self isolate.

I wondered what type of individual would take such a stand. Someone with no concern for anyone but himself? A conspiracy theorist convinced that the Corona virus is a hoax? Or someone so impressed with his own importance that he thinks the world will fall apart without him?

This morning another possibility occurred to me. Oh Lord, I hope this isn’t some misguided Christian trying to make a point about faith!

Historically, Christians have been known to respond to an epidemic differently from the average person. The Antonine Plague in the Roman Empire during the second century reached a point where 2,000 people were dying every day. The sick were being abandoned by their leaders, physicians, and even their families. Meanwhile, the Christians were staying and caring for the sick, including their pagan neighbors. *

About a hundred years later (250-270 A.D.) another plague hit, believed to be measles or smallpox. This time 5,000 people per day were dying in Rome alone, and again the Christians were the ones staying to help the afflicted. Emperor Decius tired to blame these believers for the plague, but considering they were dying along with everyone else, how many truly believed it? *

Examples of Christian selflessness throughout history are as recent as Mother Teresa’s missionaries, who devote their lives to caring for dying lepers. This is Christian faith at its best.

Back to last night’s news… Deliberately exposing other people to a disease is the opposite of these! It is being willing to risk someone else’s life for the sake of one’s own convenience. The one is heroic, the other despicable. If I could speak to that person refusing to quarantine himself/herself, I would say:

“Sir (or Ma’am), if you have been tested positive for the Corona virus (or any other contagious disease), you are not engaging in an act of great faith – or bravery or greatness – by refusing to be quarantined. You are engaging in an act of total selfishness. Get over yourself. Stay home.”

Besides this act of recklessness, I’ve seen two other counterproductive ways of responding to this pandemic. One is to react in panic. We’ve seen it displayed in grocery stores by people who take every last package of toilet paper, or every last can of soup leaving none for the rest of us. I’ve even seen footage of screaming brawls. These are prime examples of how fear can turn normal people into selfish animals. I sincerely hope that no one who professes to trust Christ has engaged in that kind of behavior.

Another bad response I’ve seen that shows up on the news a lot these days is grabbing hold of the issue and exploiting it for political purposes, widening the division this country already has. Perhaps they think pointing a finger will help. But the Blame Game only stirs up more anger.

Before giving way to any more knee-jerk reactions, please note:

Fear and rage wreak havoc on the immune system.

The best way for a Christian to avoid these two health hazards is to remain calm, follow reasonable guidelines to protect yourself and others, and look to God for protection, strength, and peace. As a fellow blogger pointed out, one of three things will happen: (1) You won’t get the disease, (2) you’ll get it and recover, or (3) you’ll get it and go to be with Jesus. For the Christian it’s “win-win-win.”

If you aren’t a Christian, my advice is, become one, A.S.A.P. No, I’m not joking. See my post from last week, “We’re All Going To Die,” ** because like it or not, we are. Really. Maybe soon, maybe not, but it’s going to happen. Why not be prepared now?

If you are a health care worker and must be around the elderly, including those infected with the virus, God bless you! Our prayers are with you. If you are healthy and like the early Christians you truly believe God is leading you to put your life on the line to help sick, God bless you! Our prayers are with you. If you believe you may have Corona virus, please show your love for others by distancing yourself from them. Our prayers are with you, too.

For those of us in isolation, some things to think about: When was the last time you were able to spend a solid hour in prayer without keeping one eye on the clock? When was the last time you were able to sit quietly listening for God’s Still, Small Voice? When was the last time you sensed His sheer delight in having you in His presence? Don’t let the coming days be wasted. Solitude can be a blessing when used well.

(Besides, a child of God is never truly alone.)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we are so accustomed to running around from one activity to another that being still seems strange to us. And yet You told Your disciples “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”[Mark 6:31] I believe You are extending that invitation to us, even today in the midst of the Corona outbreak. Help us quiet our hearts and hear Your voice, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

*https://www.christianpost.com/news/running-toward-the-plague-christians-and-ebola.html
** https://wordpress.com/post/seekingdivineperspective.com/986

 

Who Knew?

Dear readers,

This piece was so popular last year, I am repeating it for the benefit of the 100+ followers I’ve picked up since then. Enjoy (again!).                                                                                                                                                                                   Annie

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”   Matthew 28: 19

 

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!

So … How much do you really know about St. Patrick?

Try taking this four-question quiz. Whatever your score, you will probably learn something new. And there’s a prize at the end!

(Answers follow each question, so don’t scroll down until you’ve tried to answer each! Then have fun seeing if you can stump your friends.)

 

1.) What was Patrick’s nationality?

A.) Irish                                                                                                                                                   B.) American                                                                                                                                          C.) British                                                                                                                                              D) French

 

 

 

Answer: C. Patrick was born in Britain and grew up on the coast of Wales.

 

2.) How did Patrick end up in Ireland? 

A.) He ran away from home.                                                                                                          B.)He was kidnapped by pirates.                                                                                                     C.) His drunken father lost him to Irish gypsies in a card game.                                               D.) He went to the University of Dublin.

 

 

 

Answer: B At the age of sixteen Patrick was captured by Irish pirates and sold into slavery.

 

3.) After escaping, why would Patrick want to go back to where he had been a slave?

A.) He wanted to take revenge on his master and free the other slaves.                                  B.) To kill the snakes infesting Ireland.                                                                                            C.) He wanted to conquer Ireland for Wales.                                                                                   D.) He wanted to evangelize the Irish.

 

 

Answer: D. Patrick had become a committed Christian. He had had visions and dreams about sharing his faith with the Irish pagans. As a Christian, not only was he given the supernatural ability to forgive years of slavery, but he wanted the Irish to have the same blessings he had. Hence, Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland.

 

4) Why is the shamrock the symbol of St. Patrick?   

A.) It was an object lesson                                                                                                                 B) Irish children welcomed Patrick with shamrocks                                                                    C) Shamrocks in Ireland were infested with snakes.                                                                  D) According to legend, shamrocks sprang up overnight to cover Patrick’s first church in green, symbolizing life.

 

 

 

Answer: A. In explaining the Trinity, Patrick used the shamrock to illustrate one God in three Persons:

  1. God the Father, creator of all things,
  2. Jesus, His Son, who died to save Mankind from sin and death, and
  3. the Holy Spirit, sent from God to live inside believers

(P.S. Snakes are not and have never been indigenous to Ireland.)

 

If Saint Patrick were standing  here today holding a shamrock, he would tell you that

  1. God the Father loves you and wants to be your Father. You can be adopted into His family by believing in
  2. Jesus, His Son, who died on the Cross to save us all from our sin. Sin can’t just be swept under the carpet – somebody must pay the price, and Jesus paid your debt in full! Just think – He loves you so much, He was willing to go to the cross so that you wouldn’t have to spend eternity away from Him! By repenting of your sins and believing in Him, you can not only “born again” into the family of God, you escape eternal death and be can be filled with …
  3. the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Trinity. He will help you discern right and wrong and give you the strength to do the right things – even things you couldn’t do before.

    You can live the life you were created to live.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Here’s the prize:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Those who believe in Christ are promised ETERNAL LIFE. So, we don’t even need to fear death! Jesus rose from the dead, and because He did, those who believe inHim will, too.(That’s way better than green beer, which has absolutely nothing to do with Saint Patrick.)

    Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

    Happy FOREVER!

 

Prayer: Father, thank You for showing us the signs of Your hand at work throughout history, as You did a miraculous, forgiving work in St. Patrick. May the story of my life give You glory, too. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’re All Going to Die. (Boundaries, Part 3)

“When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”                                                                                                                                                Luke 18:8b.

I hope the title of this week’s post didn’t cause alarm. I’m guessing readers will have one of two reactions:

Some will roll their eyes and conclude, “She’s hysterical.”

Others will respond, “Duh.”

If I maybe Captain Obvious for a moment:

Life is finite.

While some people are panicking over toilet paper, hand sanitizers, and food supplies, the debate rages over whether the Corona virus is a major threat or political hype.

People like my husband Marty, a research engineer, are using reason and math, comparing statistics from past epidemics and graphs of countries where the virus has hit its peak and is starting to decline. For the record, he isn’t panicking. We are keeping our hands clean as much as possible. But then, we always have.

People like me are looking at the cancellations and making plans to spend more time at home, catching up on reading, writing, and relaxing with Marty and Netflix. Sunday morning church will be live streamed, and my friends and I will keep in touch via technology. So far I have no complaints.

The other day someone was saying, “One good outcome of this Corona virus is that people are becoming more aware …”

In the split second before he finished the sentence these thoughts went careening through my mind at the speed of light:

… becoming more aware of their mortality. Like it or not, each of us is going to die. As much as we avoid thinking about it, life will end for every one of us. Then what? We do so much planning for this split-second life on earth, we need to plan for eternity.

This is what I was hoping he was going to say. But to my disappointment, the rest of the sentence was “… aware of hand washing and other ways of preventing the spread of disease.”

Well, that, too, I thought with a sigh.

But let’s get back to my point. Please.

When I was teaching a Sunday school class based on my book, BARRIERS (So, if prayers are so powerful, how come mine don’t get answered?), I was teaching on priorities – the fact that we often pray for things that are relatively unimportant while neglecting the things that are crucial from an eternal perspective.

I set a jar of sand on the podium. Taking one grain on the tip of my finger, I pointed out that it was pretty small compared with the whole jar of sand, very small compared to the beach where I had scooped it up that morning. Then I asked the class to consider how small it was compared with all the sand that exists on this planet – beaches, sand dunes, Sahara Desert, bottom of the ocean … ! The thought was mind-boggling.

“But,” I continued, “that grain of sand compared with all the sand in the world is still bigger than this life compared with eternity.”

I paused to let that fact sink in.

“So … where are we focusing most of our attention?”

I’m not suggesting we be “so heavenly minded we’re no earthly good.” Looking forward to getting this life over with and getting our rewards is the wrong way to think about eternity. So is the selfish hoarding of resources so we can survive longer than everybody else. It’s not setting dates, shutting down life, and waiting on some mountain for the Lord’s return.

Jesus made it very clear, when He returns He wants to find faith in us, exhibited in our diligently serving Him.  We serve Him by being like Him, by letting His spirit work through us by loving others. This is not neglecting the present life, but living it to the full.

Meanwhile, people are scared, especially people who until now have given eternity little or no thought. Coming face-to-face with our own mortality isn’t fun, but it’s necessary. The Corona virus can serve as a wake-up call to get us to realize our time here is limited! We don’t do ourselves any favors by ignoring that inconvenient fact. The worst thing that can happen to us isn’t dying of the Corona virus, it’s dying without being prepared.

So, how do we prepare for the eventual, inevitable encounter with eternity?

The first thing to do is acknowledge that God is God and we aren’t. Our sin has separated us from Him, keeping us from heaven. (Imperfect people would corrupt a perfect heaven.) The solution to our sins isn’t doing enough good works to make up for them – that’s impossible. We need to be forgiven and cleansed. Jesus Christ, God’s Son, paid the price for our forgiveness by dying on the cross.

Stop trying to hide from Him. Come to Him, admitting that you are a sinner and can’t make it on your own.

Acknowledge Jesus as your Savior. Ask Him to come into your life, changing you and conforming you to His image.

Then believe it, thank Him for saving you, and ask His Spirit to fill you and guide you in living the Christian life.

You are going to die. I am going to die. I can’t tell you whether it will be two weeks from now from the Corona virus, twenty years from now of cancer, or this afternoon in a car crash. I can tell you there’s nothing to be gained from avoiding the issue, distracting yourself by making survival preparations, or hunkering down in your home. You can’t hide from God.

The good news is, you don’t need to! He loves you enough to die for you. He is risen and is waiting to give you new life. Come to Him today.

Prayer: Dear Lord, thank You for your incredible love. You didn’t shrink from death but gave Yourself up for our salvation. Whatever happens, we look to You to save us. We are Yours, and we are in good hands. In Jesus’ name, amen.

The Summer of the Harp (Boundaries, Part 2)

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.                                                                                                                                                                            Romans 8:28

“When I was diagnosed with arthritis in my hands, I was devastated. Still in my forties, I was in no way prepared for what I considered an “old person’s disease.” I played both piano and guitar, and music was a huge part of my life. Losing the use of my fingers was unthinkable. Whatever else I was focused on, for months after that first diagnosis there was a steady undercurrent of fear, as the thought of my deteriorating hands never fully left my mind.

“Lying awake one night, I was “checking” my hands as I often did in those days – opening and closing them to see which fingers were stiff and whether I could still make a tight fist. I began to pray, reminding the Lord (as if He needed reminding!) how I needed those hands – how my music ministered to the cancer patients, nursing home residents, and children at V.B.S. I reminded Him of the occasional “special music” or offertory I would do at church and how I used songs as a springboard to tell people about Him.

Suddenly in the middle of my whiny spiritual resume, God’s sovereignty crashed my pity party, settling in my mind in the form of two statements:

1. If God wants to use my hands, He’ll keep them usable.
2. If He doesn’t want or need to use them, then IT DOESN’T MATTER.*

At those freeing word, “It doesn’t matter,” I remember feeling the stress drain away as I drifted off to sleep. For years after that I continued to play my guitar and piano, trusting that I would be able to do so for as long as God wished.

Fast forward a decade or so …

One summer my hands took a sudden turn for the worse. Knuckles were achy and swollen, and playing the guitar was just too painful to attempt. It was a glorious Michigan summer, too glorious to be inside playing the piano, especially when I could step outside my door and sit under a tree, gazing out over Lake Huron. It was my favorite place to worship God, and though I usually did that vocally with my guitar, I also spent time in prayer and reading my Bible, caressed by the warm breezes.

A few years earlier my dear husband Marty had given me a Celtic harp for our anniversary. It was an easy instrument for me to pick up, as the strings corresponded to the white keys on a piano. But since it wasn’t as versatile as a guitar, (It’s hard to rock out or sing country on a harp.) I usually ended up playing the guitar.

But this summer, unable to play my guitar, I dusted off my harp instead. It had clearly been neglected. The strings should have been replaced long ago, and some of the levers for changing keys were loose from frequent use. I bought new strings and took off the old ones. Marty helped me remove the levers, in spite of my misgivings about not being able to get them back on. We moved the loose levers to correspond with the strings I never adjusted anyway and put the tight ones where I would often use them to change keys. (If that makes no sense to non Celtic harp players, no matter. The point is, I could now tune individual strings without their going flat in the middle of a song.)

Once we put the new strings on the harp, they needed to be re-tuned for several days until they were sufficiently stretched out. After that I was able to play and sing to my heart’s content. Songs that go well with a harp, especially outside in the sunshine by a lake, are “Fairest Lord Jesus,” and “This Is My Father’s World,” as well as “The Wedding Song,” which brought back fond memories of our own lakeside wedding years ago. I taught myself some newer songs that I loved but had never tried before, along with my old “harp favorites” – “You Raise Me Up” and “Wind beneath My Wings.”

As the summer went on, my harp repertoire grew, and I scarcely missed playing the guitar. Neighbors would tell me how much they enjoyed the worship music wafting through their yards, (I didn’t know harp music carried that far!) including my Muslim next-door neighbor and her friends, as well as the Jewish family two doors down.

I was asked a couple of times to do “special music” at church, and by the end of the summer I had been asked to play and sing for a wedding. Later I was asked by a guest at that wedding to sing at HER daughter’s wedding. It seems people liked the idea of harp music at a wedding, possibly more than guitar.

I don’t remember how many “gigs” I had with my harp that summer, but it was clear to me that this was what the Lord wanted me to do for that season. Later my hands improved to where I was able to play guitar again, but I made sure I kept up my harp playing, too.

As I pointed out in my last blog, sometimes limitations can, in fact, be freeing. They can also open up new doors, or doors that we just wouldn’t see otherwise, as we’re too busy doing the things we do, “because we can.” (Or because we’re in a rut?)

Sometimes when we think God is saying “No,” He’s really saying, “Let’s do something new!”

Prayer: Lord, You know what’s best for us much better than we do! When Your guidance involves blocking the paths You don’t want us to take, help us not to react in self-pity, but rather to look for Your plan to unfold in ways we haven’t seen before. Amen.

*from an earlier piece, “Two Perspectives on Hands,” posted January 24, 2018