Monday, August 15, 2016

Is This Seat Taken?


One of my favorite cookbooks is compiled by teachers from across the United States. Prior to each recipe is a short biography and a quote from the contributor. I get an interesting glimpse into the lives of our educators. Some talk about the recipe they submitted, some talk about their students, and others talk about deeper matters such as their philosophy on life. One quote in particular gets my blood boiling every time I see it. I’ll paraphrase what this educator instills in her kindergartners…

“We need not be concerned about our development because each stage is already complete. We are not on a journey because always, we have arrived.”

It is extremely dangerous to think we have it all together all the time.
We were not put here simply for the sake of being here.
God created us for a purpose.

“Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus laid hold of me.” Philippians 3:12


The day we decide we have arrived is the day we need to be on our guard because we are about to have our legs kicked out from under us. Like it or not, we are all on a journey heading toward a real place. Where we end up is our choice but the fact remains. If we aren’t moving forward we are stagnant and stagnant stinks.

“Therefore, humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God that He may exalt you in due time…be sober, be vigilant, because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.”
1 Peter 5:6,8

True believers will always discover another area in life that God wants to perfect. We were meant to be clay-pliable, moldable, and bendable. This ultimately enhances our journey as we move ever onward toward Heaven.

Enjoying the ride,
Sherry

Friday, August 5, 2016

Living Water

When you visit a glacier in Canada, you are told to bring along an empty bottled water bottle. Once you are on the ice, you can walk (very carefully) to the running water that is flowing from the glacier and fill your plastic bottle. You now have water made from glacial ice that has been frozen and isolated for thousands of years, a good source of uncontaminated natural water.

After our recent trip to one such glacier, my daughters, son-in-law and I performed a little test. We sipped water from two bottles. One contained the glacial water and one had been purchased at the store.

Could I tell a difference? No.

But I have been thinking about that little experiment. As a Christ-follower, I desire to attend a church that dispenses living water from the word of God. Yet it is so difficult to find one that has not been contaminated by the world, life, oppression or legalism.

I truly do not like church shopping.

Just as there are many different kinds of bottled water, there are many different kinds of churches. But just as the shelves at the grocery store are filled with countless assorted brands of bottled water, they all look very similar.

How do you know which church is the uncontaminated one?

When my husband and I moved to Kennewick, the church shopping began. We visited one in our neighborhood thinking it would be cool if we could just walk to church. No one smiled.

Nope, not that one.

After four or five other church visits, I just wanted to be through. Then I visited a concert at a church. The whole atmosphere was different. Everyone was smiling (well almost everyone). I felt welcomed. That’s how I found the church I now attend, 18 years later.

Do you just attend church on Sunday to mark it off your to-do list? Or is it like family, and you enjoy going there? Are you given bottled sermons? Or is living water dispersed each Sunday?

Maybe you need to do a little testing of your own.


“Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” John 4:10 (NIV)


Sunday, July 31, 2016

Buying a Ticket



 

            I was at an event with clergy members in attendance, and the master of ceremonies told one of those, what I call, “holy jokes.” You know, it’s those jokes that usually start with “there was a priest, a minister, and a rabbi...”

            So he told about the guy who asked God to make him a lottery winner.

            “You said, ‘If you ask anything in my name, it will be granted to you.’ I’ve been praying and praying to win the lottery and so far nothing. Where’s my money?” the man asked God.

            In the best Old Testament style, there appeared a pillar of fire and a voice said, “Meet me half way, Charlie, and buy a ticket.”


 

            Sometimes I think I’m like old Charlie. I ask God to change me “from the inside,” but conveniently forget there’s an “outside” to this deal too.

If I ask for patience in certain situations, I need to stop reacting in the same negative way every time someone pushes my emotional buttons. Instead, I should practice taking a deep mental (if not physical breath) and reach out to my Savior.

I could stand to loose a few pounds so I feel better. If I feel better, I can be more productive in my world and God’s kingdom. But that requires a little bit of old fashioned willpower. I have to say no to that chocolate torte or pile of nachos.

           

“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was.” (James 1:22-24 NKJV)

 


            In other words, I have to meet God half way if I want to become the person he created me to be. I need to be a “doer,” and at the same time, avoid the “self-help” trap that will eventually demolish my best efforts.

First, I need God’s grace even to want to become better. Next, there’s a choice to be made, and it’s totally mine. Do I choose to do what I know I should? The Bible calls a choice like that “obedience,” but that obedience will last only so long unless God gives me more grace to persevere.

            If I choose not to obey, that’s not on God. That’s on me, and I would be wasting his grace. It seems grace and obedience go together. As the song says, “you can’t have one without the other.” It seems so obvious, so simple. How could I have missed it all these years?

            I guess that’s called being human.

”Therefore my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for HIS good pleasure.” (Philippians 2: 12-13 NKJV)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monday, July 25, 2016

Nailing It Down

   
      My husband was born into the roofing profession. He has spent the better part of his life repairing and/or replacing roofs. The shingles would be positioned in short stacks over the surface of the roof, then nailed into place. One shingle at a time. One nail at a time. Deliberate strokes from hammer to nail until the roof was secured into place. One misplaced nail, regardless of his good intentions, would have meant failure for the purpose of that roof and more so for the residence or business depending on protection from the elements.

          Weddings or celebrations that become mile markers in our lives require selecting and “nailing down” a date before proceeding with invitations, accommodations, food and festivities. Once that date has been reserved on the calendar and arrangements have begun, that day and time becomes very significant for those directly involved. And it will be remembered for generations to come by those whose lives are changed or enhanced by special memories.

          A scientist who has labored through equations and endless formulas and who finally makes a major discovery that could potentially save lives may exclaim “Nailed it!” when he is rewarded with success. That time and place will become a part of his identity and forever etched into his mind. But good intentions with inconclusive results would be devastating to those depending on his claims.

          Our physical birth date is another permanent marker that will never fade. And once our earthly journey has begun, our “spiritual birthday” is the most important event in our lives that absolutely requires that we “nail it down.” The date, time and place where we meet Jesus. That special calling of the Holy Spirit for us to receive the Son of God through repentance, faith and belief that acknowledges and surrenders our sinful selves to His forgiveness and grace.

          A small booklet “Do You Know?” published by Evangelism Explosion (www.evangelismexplosion.org) guides us through two questions: 1) If you were to die today, do you know for certain that you would go to Heaven and 2) If God were to ask you, “Why should I let you into My Heaven?” what would you say?

          These are not trick questions. The answers are found in scripture:

“These things I have written to you who
believe in the name of the Son of God,
so that you may know that you have eternal life.”
(1 John 5:13,NASB )

          Have you “nailed it down?” Can you go back to that moment in time when you deliberately made the decision to acknowledge that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who came to earth in human form… one hundred percent God and one hundred percent man…to save a fallen world? A time when you acknowledged your need for his saving grace, repented of your sin, and asked Jesus into your heart? Like the examples shared above, good intentions and trying to be good enough without following God’s redemptive plan will have disastrous results – and for eternity.


          God loves you and gave His only son Jesus as sacrifice for all sin, no matter how small or how great. Eternal life is His free gift to all of us. And, like any other gift, we can only possess it if we are willing to accept it.

          The nail is more than a symbol. It was used as a tool of redemption in Jesus’ death on the cross. Jesus loves you, and He will meet you wherever you are. He will forgive all of your sin, cleanse you and heal you. It is trusting in Jesus alone for your salvation, not good intentions or best efforts, to achieve His standard of perfection.

 
“For God so loved the world that He
gave His only begotten Son, that
whoever believes in Him shall
not perish, but have eternal life.”
(John 3:16,NASB)





Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Lessons from My Neighbor

My 84 year-old neighbor lives alone. Drives herself wherever she wants to go. Mows her own lawn. Shovels her own sidewalk. Rakes her own leaves.

All incredibly inspiring. But that’s not what impresses me the most about her.

It’s her vegetable garden.

You see, our neighborhood is thick with trees. I’m talking 50-60 foot oaks and pines. Trees that litter acorns EVERYWHERE. Trees that block out the sun.  Trees that have made all the other neighbors give up on dreams of back-yard gardens and instead trudge 2 miles down the road to the community garden to stake out plots next to the air strip.

But not Donna. She still successfully harvests tomatoes from her yard. Not many, but enough to satisfy her needs. How does she do it?

She looks for the light.

Her yard and garden doesn’t look like much now. But trust me, she’s strategically planted a few tomato plants here, a few there. She knows which square feet of her yard get the most sun throughout the course of the day, and she uses that to get the most out of her garden.  In a few weeks, those mangy patches of green will be exploding with bright, juicy red tomatoes. Big Boys. Betty Girls.

Yep, she seeks out the light.





Her gardening strategy exemplifies how I as a believer should live. Amidst all the kinds of darkness in this world—the hate, the bigotry, the violence, the lack of justice—I need to seek out the Light so that my life can blossom and bear fruit. I need to tend to it faithfully, every day, just like Donna waters and weeds her tomato plants. I need roots that run deep and leaves that turn upward reaching for the Light. I need to shine in the light, for my Jesus.

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light.                                                                                                                                        Ephesians 5:8

Shine with me, won't you?

LuAnn Kern

Friday, July 15, 2016

The Mighty in the Mundane


Isn’t it funny how the smallest jobs can turn into the biggest chore sometimes? Folding socks is a mindless and mundane task but it’s also one that I despise. It’s a chore that I grudgingly commit to because if I didn’t my family would have drawers full of mismatched socks. My neat, orderly world would cease to exist and then I’d have a meltdown. My meltdown would create chaos in the lives of those around me, causing ripples of turmoil that could go on for miles. So you see I’m actually doing you a favor by keeping all the socks folded. You’re welcome.

Aside from sock folding there are other projects that might seem trivial but have far greater impact than we can imagine. How many times have we said, “It’s just a blog post. It’s not like I’m out there fighting crime or saving lives.” Or “It’s just a casserole. Next week that family will return my empty dish and won’t even remember I made it.” Or “I only scrubbed the bathroom. I’m allergic to teaching children and I can’t sing so I clean but who cares? Nobody notices anyway.”

Oh but they do. Everyone notices and here’s the thing about those small, seemingly insignificant tasks. They might seem miniscule to us but to God they’re downright fantastical. 

For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him…2 Chronicles 16:9a

The fact is that God’s ways are not our ways. We can’t begin to guess how our minor and mundane tasks are shaping the world around us. There’s a much larger picture that we simply cannot see. All we know is that we are driven to act by the power alive inside of us propelling us forward. We’ll never know how far reaching that ripple spreads. This above all else should compel us to maintain speed and keep the socks folded.


Knee-deep in the dark load,
Sherry


Sunday, July 10, 2016

Dogs on an Elevator


My dogs didn't want to go home any more than I did. They wanted to go back to the beach. And no, I'm not supposing what I think they might have been thinking. They made it pretty clear.

To borrow a phrase from Monk, here's what happened:

The last day of vacation is always hard for all of us. I had to keep reminding myself of that as I came this close biting back a snarky comment, again. But the pups, Ralph and Lucy, appeared to hiding their displeasure well. The dogs chilled out on the deck or on the couch in the den as our friends packed up and loaded out and we began carting off small loads to our own car.

I should have known better. I should have known they were surveying the goings on, taking stock of the activity, watching with wary, puppy-dog eyes.

We took one last photo together, hugged our goodbyes, and our friends boarded the elevator for their last trip down. Brad accompanied them to take a few more things to our car and see them off. He returned to the elevator and pushed the button, expecting it to be there at the bottom where he left it. After all, he had only just taken it down, and we had not encountered another person using it all week. But no, to his surprise, he had to wait for it to come down from the 4th floor.

When it landed and the doors binged open, he was even more surprised to see our two dogs get off the elevator and trot out to greet him.

Brad admits to maybe not shutting the condo door all the way. Those two beach-loving dogs spied the door ajar and made a break for it. How they called the elevator is still a mystery. I have a vision of Ralph telling Lucy, after a few failed attempts at leaping high enough to push the button, that he'll stand under the panel and she can make a running jump at the button, using him as a springboard.

It's just a theory.

At any rate, they had their harnesses on, and we were packing bags and taking stuff downstairs. For the past week, that had meant we were going to the beach. They had been left behind in the condo the day before (not knowing that mommy did it for their own good--much too sunny and hot for doggies), and they were determined not to miss another day at the beach.

Unlike me, they were just as content to hop in the car and go for a ride as they would have been going to the beach. Lucy circled, curled up in her bed, and closed her eyes, thankful for her comfy nest. Ralph wanted the window open so he could smell the ocean goodbye before stretching out beside his sister for the trip home.

I could learn a lesson from those two dogs. Am I as grateful to be here sitting in my recliner as they are to be in their usual spot--Lucy on the back of the couch and Ralph snuggled next to me in the chair? Do they pine for the surf and sand they left behind, or do they relish the blessings of hearth and home that they enjoy now?

Dear Heavenly Father Who created ocean and mountain to awe us with Your majesty, thank You for opportunity and the means to get away and take a break from work and worries. But I appreciate just as much the home You have provided for me to return to. May I never take it for granted, longing for what I don't have. Your lovingkindness,Your grace, is enough.

Even so....

I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings. Selah
Psalm 61:4



In Jesus Name
Amen.

The fruit of righteousness will be peace;
the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever.
My people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes,
in undisturbed places of rest.
~Isaiah 32:17-18



Originally posted on Jewels of Encouragement on 10/4/12

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