Monday, December 21, 2009

FINDING JESUS


I’ve been re-reading Steven James’ book, Sailing Between the Stars. It's a great book! I especially appreciate his unique way of reading between the lines and making observations that eludes most people. 


This morning I read chapter seven, Fleshing Out Jesus.  Here is a classic example of his insight. Steven writes about the account when Mary and Joseph accidently left the boy, Jesus, in Jerusalem after celebrating the Passover festival. On their way back to Nazareth in the caravan, each thought he was with the other. When they couldn’t find him among family and friends in the caravan, a frantic search ensued. 


They returned to Jerusalem and after searching three days, finally found him in the temple listening to the teachers and asking questions. 


Naturally, Mary reacted just like any parent would, and I paraphrase: “Son! Why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking everywhere for you.” 


Twelve-year-old Jesus answered, “Why were you searching for me? Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”


Steven points out the use of father and Father. Mary was talking about Joseph, Jesus was talking about God. Although Mary didn’t understand what he was talking about at the time, she kept it in mind. 


Then Steven makes the astute point that Jesus wasn’t lost, Mary was. She’d forgotten who Jesus really was and why he really came. After twelve years, he seemed like any other young boy. She’d nursed him, changed his diapers, taught him to walk and talk, played with him, rocked him to sleep at night. Joseph protected him, taught him a trade, he did all the things an earthly father is supposed to do. This incident reminded her that he was the son of God. 


I realized that in this modern day, we have also forgot who Jesus really is. We let religious art, ivy-college intellectuals, Hollywood, and our own self-directed religion interpret him to our benefit. 


I like Stephen's description of Jesus based on what we have learned about him in scripture. He reminds us that demons and hurricanes stepped aside to let Jesus Christ pass. Jesus has all the passion of God—the passion of God’s love and the passion of God’s justice—and all of that passion is contained in a humble soul. 


After reading this, I wondered, have I forgotten Jesus? Do I acknowledge him from across the way or do I join in his passion? Do I fight for things on earth that will pass away, or do I offer a cup of cold water in his name to the thirsty? 


I have been reminded to be involved in the things that matter, to be involved in the passion of Jesus Christ.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

A CHRISTMAS THAT JESUS WOULD CELEBRATE

In my 54 Christmases I’ve seen society change from a hardworking mentality to a me first mentality, to entitlement, to greed, to not accepting personal responsibility, and now we face a bankrupt nation. 

But all is not lost. As we watch our dollar grow more worthless each passing day, we are finding ourselves again. Instead of getting lost in the orgy of spending for the perfect Santa Claus morning, we are spending time with those we love. Instead of debt bending our backs with worry, we stand straight and look to the future debt free. And since our gaze has gone from our navel (me, me, me) to the horizon we see others and recognize their need. 

Am I describing you? Have you undergone this change of mind? If not, I encourage everyone to use this holiday season as a springboard into the future. Change your mindset. Don’t regret the past, think forward and ask yourself, “How can I make someone’s life better?” Helping others doesn’t always require money. Time invested in their lives is just as needed. 

Lift up your eyes and be sensitive to those around you. Don’t grumble about the rich or the poor. Do something. Don’t feel that anyone owes you anything. Do something. Make the same choice as our forefathers. Have the attitude and the willingness to do what it takes. 

If you have two cents to your name, give one to someone else. If your house is only 300 square feet, invite someone over for coffee and encourage them. Start giving to the poor and continue giving throughout the year. Help those who have dedicated their lives to the poor. Teach your children to give. Make that the most exciting part of Christmas for them. 

For me, Christmas isn’t a time to celebrate the birth of Christ since he wasn’t born in December anyway. Christmas is the anniversary to renew my resolve to celebrate Christ’s command in Matthew 22:36-40 “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Sunday, October 11, 2009

WHEN LIFE GIVES YOU A SHORT BLANKET

Life is like a blanket too short. You pull it up and your toes rebel, you yank it down and shivers meander about your shoulder; but cheerful folks manage to draw their knees up and pass a very comfortable night. ~Marion Howard



I came across this quote the other day and thought, isn’t this just like life? It often seems that we get the short blanket more often than the long one, doesn’t it?


However, this is not necessarily a bad thing. Why? Because we learn more from short blankets. Discomfort gets our attention.

If you are anything like me, you will first try to remedy the short blanket situation right away in your own strength and fail. After failure a little self-pity often follows. Then, finally, we turn to God for His perspective and help.

Sometimes He provides a longer blanket. However, many times He doesn’t. What then? Well, we have some decisions to make that will affect our outlook on life.

Let’s look at a few of our choices:

  • Gratitude or ingratitude? The wise choice is to be grateful. As the quote above indicates, gratitude for any blanket at all would have me draw up my knees and be comfortable.
  • Trusting the truth or the circumstances? It's hard to ignore a raging storm, especially when it is raging in our souls. The cry of our heart is thin in the tempestuous gales of worry. But it comes down to this – I either believe God or I don’t. Philippines 4:8 says, “And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” I have to strip away all of the what if’s and if only’s from my thoughts and dwell on what I know to be true. When I do that I am able to hear God.
  • Hanging around waiting for things to change or using what is in my hand? I’d like to add to the quote above, “Cheerful folks manage to share their short blanket. What ever you have, share it. I have a friend who expressed a desire to practice hospitality, but said she couldn’t because her house was too small. I asked if she had two chairs and a table. She nodded. “Then your house isn’t too small,” I replied. Many lives are comforted over coffee in a small house. I experienced the rejection of divorce in my first marriage. Today, I help others who are walking that lonely, painful path. If I’d chosen to become bitter and broody, what happened years ago would continue to hurt me today. Sharing with others and helping them healed me.

Remember, small blankets make down-filled comforters all the more enjoyable when they finally come. So let’s “draw up our knees” and remain cheerful!






--

Sunday, January 25, 2009

WE MAY FAIL, BUT LOVE NEVER FAILS

This is an interesting tree in Liss, England. It is hollow in the middle. Like the one the Keebler Elves live in! You can actually go inside it, look up and see the sky. It is empty, but life thrives.

I think of that tree when I feel I've failed. That same kind of emptiness possesses my soul.

Josh Foliart pointed out that when Jesus changed Simon's name to Peter, meaning rock, he was actually prophesying Peter's destiny.

Think about that. Jesus knew Peter would fail him. Deny him. And yet, that would not change Peter's destiny.

When we fail, we feel hollow, but feeling has nothing to do with destiny. Nothing changes. The only thing that makes failure good is how we use it.

Instead of turning inward pitying and loathing ourselves, we must pick ourselves up and learn from it. Then use that experience to connect and help others.

Just like this tree, we have should have nothing to hide. We should welcome others to walk inside us and see that it is possible to thrive no matter what happens because our life source is Jesus.

We may fail, but love never fails. Our destiny, our purpose, remains intact and strong.


Thursday, January 01, 2009

ANOTHER CHANCE TO GET IT RIGHT

Oprah Winfrey said a new year is another chance to get it right.

I prefer to think that each new day is another chance to get it right. Whatever "it" is for you, there is new hope for each new day.

On my writing blog, Daydreaming On Paper, I encourage my readers to make goals instead of resolutions, because if we fail in keeping a resolution there is an element of defeat and/or shame. To fall short of a goal just means we have to keep trying. Hope is still within reach.

Think about 2009:

1. What do you want it to look like as far as you are concerned?

2. What would you like to accomplish?

3. What needs to happen in order to accomplish this?

If you want to enhance your life, help others. This is a worthy goal to focus on. Ask yourself:

1. What do I care about--really care about--what makes me "pound the table?"

2. Is there a person or cause that I could help?

3. What can I do to make a positive impact?

I believe if we concentrate on the last three questions our personal quality of life will be beyond good. When I speak at retreats I have an exercise that illustrates this point:

I ask for three volunteers. Two stay up front with me and one goes to the back. I have one woman look at her belly button, the other looks straight ahead, and the lady in back moves somewhere in the audience and stays there.

Then I instruct the woman looking at her belly button to go and find the lady in the audience, but she cannot take her eyes off her belly button.

She tries but only succeeds to run into a lot of tables.

Then I ask the lady looking straight ahead to find her. Of course she walks right to her.

My point is that as long as we keep looking up and helping others we will find our way easier than if our focus is primarily on ourselves.

If our goals include helping others, we will reach them, and much more.