ANGELS AMONGST US

For he will command his angels concerning you…  Psalm 91:11

 

 

Have you taken notice of the angels who walk and live among us?  Those wonderful beings who remind us that the Kingdom of God is here and now and all around?

My young friend Blynne met an angel just when she needed her.  Blynne is a single parent who lives with a life-threatening illness that frequently puts her in the hospital and that causes her young son great concern.

After one of these extended episodes, Blynne and her mother were walking Sonny to his classroom at the start of the school week.  When they reached the door, little Sonny started crying hysterically and fastened himself around his mother’s legs, refusing to let her leave.

Blynne and her mother had kept the school apprised of the medical updates with each event, and, apparently, the school had assigned an angel to watch over young Sonny.  His teacher walked up quietly to Sonny and gently began to peel his small fingers and arms from his mother and then bent over him as the two ladies exited.

Before he could protest, the teacher told Sonny that she needed his help.  Would Sonny be willing to work for her?  At that, his attention was diverted and he warily asked what she needed.  The teacher explained that she needed someone to welcome parents to the room as they dropped off their children and to ensure they had signed in their student.  Did Sonny think he could do that?  Well, yes…he would help.

That started Sonny’s new job and new purpose which continued throughout the school year.  Every morning when Sonny began his day, he reminded his mother that they had to hurry so that he wouldn’t be late for work.  And if the teacher were otherwise occupied when Sonny arrived, she would excuse herself to go over to greet her assistant.

We all want to do big things that make a mark in the world while we sometimes miss the small things that could significantly change someone else’s universe.   Why not be open to the little things?   Little acts that God can powerfully use if only we make ourselves available?  Opportunities for ministry abound, and there are ample openings for angels.

 

 

Father, make us faithful in the little things that we may receive great joy in serving you through serving others.  In Jesus’ name.  AMEN.

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THE SOUND OF SILENCE

Be still and know that I am God.  Psalm 46:10.

 

At the last school assembly of the year with all the visiting parents and grandparents in attendance, our headmaster loved to say, “Allow your children to be bored.  Let them go outside and lie on the grass and look up at the sky and listen to the birds and the insects.  Don’t plan every moment of their summer.”  I’ve been thinking of that recently as I’ve looked at all the ways I keep myself from being bored.

Like everyone else, I spend a lot of my time waiting.  Waiting in line; waiting in doctor’s offices; waiting to get my oil changed.  Just waiting.  It used to be that I would look around at other people and imagine their circumstances and sometimes pray for them.  There was always something interesting happening around me because I entered into the present and became engaged.

I suddenly realized over the weekend that when everything stops, I pull out my IPhone to see if I have any messages.  I check FaceBook for new entries.  Has someone posted on Instagram?  Is there an update on the News bureaus?  Does Marco Polo have something?  And if I’ve already done that, there are games I can play.  I like Spider Solitaire and plain old Solitaire.  My IPhone does not allow me to be bored.  Or to be quiet.

There are so many messages in my head in response to what’s been sent to me or news items that disturb me.  I’m frustrated that I’m having a losing streak with Spider Solitaire.  I’m reflecting on work challenges that were revealed in weekend emails.  I don’t have time to be bored.  And how can I possibly be quiet?

How can I hear what God wants to say to me when I am able—all by myself—to be stimulated or frustrated or entertained with that little electronic rectangle I keep in my pocket?  I’ve come up with a brilliant solution, and so far, it’s working:  FAST.  Yes, fasting from all electronics that are not mandatory for family relationships and work.  I’m trying it cold turkey, and it’s rather nice.

Obviously, I’m speaking in hyperbole, but I’ve been observing how electronics can bless or curse us.  I don’t want the Voice I most need to hear and observe to be obscured because I’ve forgotten how to be still.  So for now, I’ve called a fast.

 

Father, above all things we need to hear you.  Show us what to do to ensure that we never miss a word from you.  In Jesus’ name.  AMEN.

TRANSFORMATION

And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.  Romans 12:2

 

 

National Geographic (September, 2017) has an excellent article about addiction that includes many behavioral addictions which are just recently being seen as destructive, life-altering dependencies.  Research indicates the changes that occur in the brain, chemistry, and synapses that actually “remold neural circuits to assign supreme value to [the substance or behavior], at the expense of other interests such as health, work, family, or life itself.”  Eventually, the addict has no control of his/her behavior because his brain material and functions have essentially been reshaped.

This makes me think of Paul, in chapter 7 of Romans, who talks about not doing what he wants to do but behaving in a contrary fashion.  Paul isn’t talking about addiction here but rather the sin principle that’s part of each of us.  Later, in Romans 12 he zeroes in on the problem that we all struggle with—being conformed to the world (complying with the secular world’s standards).  We become so entangled with cultural mores and contemporary lifestyles that we excuse the sin that’s taken root in us.

Paul’s remedy sounds just like the treatments that are being offered to addicts in new medical trials.  Researchers are talking about and experimenting with “repairing the brain’s wiring”—what Paul states as “transformation of the mind.”  In both instances, there must be voluntary participation.  With the medical trials, the patient must want a change.  God’s remedy infers that each of us must cooperate with the work of the Holy Spirit by “renewing” our minds, exchanging those deadly, sinful thoughts and behaviors for godly, wholesome patterns.  This sounds to me like the “rewiring” with which today’s medical community is experimenting.

Science knows that continued behaviors set the synapses in pathways that are difficult to disrupt, but the Creator who initially put our bodies in motion also provided healing for us to be transformed.  In fact, he’s given us everything we need for life and godliness (II Peter 1:3)—the provision is already there.  He’s given us the Holy Spirit, his Word, the community of believers that we call the Church, and he’s given us science and the medical profession.

We have to make the choice for transformation, and it’s one that should be made every single day so that we’re free from any bondage that diminishes us as Children of God.  Whether the addiction is something frowned on by society or is seemingly as innocent as negativity or disruptive thought patterns, if it controls us, we need to be set free.  God has the answer; we can be changed.

 

Father, it’s easy for us to see the sins in the lives of others without seeing the things that trip us up in our own lives and relationships.  Give us the courage to identify anything in ourselves that entangles us and keeps us from freedom in you.  In Jesus’ name.  AMEN.

I DID IT

Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge.  Psalms 51:4

 

It was a visit I did not relish.  I’d discovered that one of my colleagues had been “unmasked,” and it was necessary to learn the truth.  In my work, calling and integrity are characteristics critical to effective ministry, and the integrity of my friend was being called into question.

There were numbers of troubling factors to consider.  The events had occurred several years ago, but they were just coming to light.  My charismatic friend readily charmed everyone she met.  There seemed no reason to doubt her veracity and professions of repentance.

Here were some things we had to process:  my friend’s confession occurred after the egregious wrong was discovered.  As we talked, I was told that the problems were being exacerbated because “someone was out to get her.”  And then there was the finger-pointing and self-pity.

It was easy enough to find a case with some relevance.  King David lustfully took what wasn’t his when he saw beautiful Bathsheba bathing on the roof of her house.  David was told that she was married but violated her and then sent her home.  When she notified David that she was pregnant, he sent for her husband, one of his outstanding warriors. Faithful Uriah refused to go home to his wife while the armies of Israel were still out in the field.  Finally, David plotted to have Uriah killed and gave Uriah the message that would lead to his own death.

God was angry with David reminding him of all he’d done in and for him.  As the prophet Nathan spoke to him, David was crushed and confessed, “I have sinned against the Lord” (II Samuel 12:13).  David went on to compose the 51st Psalm in which he writes, “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge…  Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow…  Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.  Do not cast me away from your presence and do not take your Holy Spirit from me.”

David didn’t blame anyone for his sin; he didn’t make excuses; he didn’t point fingers; and he didn’t try to justify himself.  He accepted responsibility for his behavior and understood the grief his sin had caused God who loved him most.  David repented.  Perhaps he had felt remorse before God’s Spirit confronted him through the prophet, but when faced with truth, David knew he was guilty.

My friend hasn’t yet learned the difference between remorse and repentance.  She is sorry she was caught, but she hasn’t recognized the pride that blocks true confession—“I have sinned against the Lord.”  She doesn’t yet weep over her sin. She weeps over the cost of her “unmasking.”  Until she is able to grieve for her sin, she can’t move forward into truth and freedom.  And there will be no deep healing.

There will continue to be anger at those who exposed her rather than the joy of receiving God’s forgiveness, mercy, and grace.  But God who is willing to forgive will wait and will possibly send friends like me to love and walk with her until she is ready to take responsibility for her sin.  God is good; he can make a way; and he is remarkable in his ability to restore.

 

Father, how much we all need your Spirit to guide us and to convict us when we sin.  Thank you that you are able to keep us from falling.  Help us to live and move and have our being in you so that we walk consistently in your righteousness and bring you glory.  And help my friend; give her understanding and a willing heart.  In Jesus’ name.  AMEN.

PROMISES, PROMISES

Not one word has failed of all the good promises he gave through his servant Moses.  I Kings 8:56

 

It’s happened again.  The chapel sermon provoked my thinking about where I’m going in this Christian journey.  Our bishop shared a book she’s reading about a professor who told his students at opening session that every one of them would get an “A” in the course.  This was a grand experiment, but through the weeks, the professor reminded everyone what “A” students did:  They came to class; they participated; they worked hard.  Each week was a reminder, and the experiment worked.  As the students lived into the promise, they and their academic achievements flourished.

By now, you can see where I’m going… We live with access to a rich, inviolable document, the Bible that is full of astonishing promises given by a Person of impeccable integrity and unfailing resources.  There are so many promises—some sources count 3573 while others suggest 5467—that every human condition is covered.  The word promise is written 221 times.  If one single promise changed the lives and performance of a classroom of university students, just imagine how only a handful of promises could change our lives as we live into them.

Take, for example, God’s promise that he would never leave or forsake us (Deut. 31:8, Heb. 13:5, Matt. 28:20).  If we really believed that, would we ever be lonely or feel abandoned?  Would we ever sense that there was no one to help with important decisions or are we just left to our own devices?  When relationships fracture or when circumstances move us from our comfort zones, isn’t it comforting to know we’re not ever going to be alone?

Another promise that should fortify us is God’s promise in Philippians 4:19, “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”  This beautiful word has the modifier “all.”  I think “all” means “all.”  Not “some” or “sometimes.”  God will supply ________________ (fill in the blank) according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.  Have you ever asked God to meet a financial need, a family need, an emotional need, a professional need?  Did you trust and then watch to see what he would do?  And then did you stand in awe at his faithfulness?

How about this one:  “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (II Corinthians 12:9).  Grace, God’s free and unmerited favor, will sustain us when all our resources are depleted and when we are weakest.  Perhaps that’s why grace is so amazing.

One of my personal favorites is, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). Once again, I love the word “all.”  All things work together for good to them that love God…  God doesn’t say that everything looks good at first blush, but he promises that eventually all things will work together and result in good.  We just have to be patient.

I could go on and on.  There are promises about deliverance in temptation, victory over death, forgiveness of sin, eternal life, family, God’s love, and hundreds more—possibly up to 5467.  It shouldn’t be all that difficult.  We are just to believe what God says and live into the promise.  Obedience is our part; fulfillment is God’s.

Not one word has failed of all his good promises…

 

Promise-making and promise-keeping God, help us to trust you as we live into your good Word and your good promises.  May you be pleased as you see us becoming more and more like you.  In Jesus’ name.  AMEN.

KEEP WALKING…AND WAITING

But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.  Isaiah 40:31 (KJV)

 

 

 

I don’t know anyone who has flown like an eagle, but in times of euphoria, I almost think I could.  Note that this type of flight is for those who wait and depend on the Lord.  That almost sounds like an oxymoron, doesn’t it – wait in order to soar?  But God, the Creator, is the one who empowers, and he’s the one who renews for soaring, running, and walking.

I have a friend who dreamed for years and then trained for months and months to run in the Greek marathon, all 26.2 miles of it, much of it uphill. And another friend worked an incredibly long time with a trainer to run in the Boston marathon.  According to the reports of my friends, the excitement of just being part of those famous events was energizing, but the last parts of the races were absolutely grueling.  Sounds a lot like the races we are called to run.

I have observed, quite frankly, that most of our days are characterized by walking rather than flying and running.  Just putting one foot in front of the other.  Sometimes as we plod, the path becomes more restrictive and the way more treacherous while even the light seems to darken.  God brings us to those places, too, those dark nights of the soul.  He allows the plodding, but it’s only for a season, and he sustains us during those times.

That’s when waiting is essential.  Waiting for renewal.  Waiting for rest and peace.  Waiting for God to make himself known.  Waiting as he makes crooked places straight and rough places plain.  Strength comes in waiting, and when it’s time to move on, God gives the signal.  The light brightens the path, and sometimes, yes, sometimes, we even mount up with wings like eagles.

Just now, however, I’m waiting.

 

 

Father, knowing you and your Word brings rest during weary times.  You promise strength and every other thing we need on this journey.  We trust you, and we wait. Thank you.  AMEN.

IN MEMORIAM

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 8:38, 39.

 

 

Have you ever been connected to someone you’ve never met?  Or felt you knew someone you’ve never seen?  I feel that way about the Young Royals, and I was especially close to Princess Diana.  I knew about her favorite causes, her tastes in fashion, her love for her children, and lots of other trivia.  I even had a long conversation about her with one of the attendants at Windsor Palace during a visit and was confirmed in my sense of her depth of compassion.

But there’s someone else I have known and never met.  She was an amazing star in the galaxy of young equestriennes and was featured in countless newspaper articles, even in National Geographic, because of her prodigious skills as a rider.  Not only that, but I read an article that said her doting father had gifted her with a stable and eighteen or twenty show horses as an expression of his love.

When she’d tired of winning trophies for riding, she went on to excel in competitive ice skating.  And then there was swimming.  Essentially, Libby had and did it all.  Additionally, every photograph I’ve seen (and there have been many) shows her to have been a stunning beauty—classic features, golden blonde hair, beautiful figure.

There are major gaps in the story that I don’t know.  After all, she was only in my life a few years.  But not many days ago Libby left this world.  I am sad at her leaving and sad that I never got to meet her.   There are so many things I would like to have talked about with her.  I would like to know how such a young person could excel at so many things.  What was her motivation?  I want to know about her travels and adventures with her dashing husband.  And, of course, I want to know about her faith in Jesus.  Yes, I have lots of questions.

And yet, with all her larger-than-life accomplishments, to my thinking Libby’s greatest contribution was that little girl she and charming Bill brought into the world.  The one who would dazzle us with her love, compassion, outreach, boundless energy, and, yes, record achievements.  The one who would grow up to marry my son and be the mother of two of my precious grandchildren.  All that was good of Libby and her remarkable gifts will live on through them.

Libby, I really wish I’d known you, but I can’t thank you enough.  May God rest your soul.

 

AMEN.