Friday, February 5, 2016

Purpose in the Chaos

Sometimes life seems to be a chaotic mess.

I’ve just been through a period like that. Juggling my husband’s needs against what life demanded left me swirling. It seemed the faster I went the behinder I got. Then with his passing, the needs were very different, but had a deadline…his graduation party. But life did not slow down. There were many things left undone from the previous months.

Those thoughts came to me as I began the process of redoing my front bedroom. First all the stuff had to be moved out of the way. Bedding stripped from the bed and the bed frame moved to the garage. Books from the bookshelf were piled in the living room. The picture on the wall above the bed had to be removed because the new bed’s headboard was higher.

What a mess.

Then the rebuilding began. With help from the deliverymen, a new bed began to appear. A new, matching bookcase was placed against the wall. The picture was re-hung two inches higher.

The mess was worth it.

I’m in the process of rebuilding. With the help of God and friends, I am able to see a new life coming into focus for me. It won’t be the same as before. But I believe the words in a song I hear regularly on the radio.

            Casting Crowns, “Just Be Held”.
            “Your world’s not falling apart, it’s falling into place.”

God has a place for you and me. If you feel your life is a chaotic mess, hang on. He is right by our side with a plan for our future.

It will be worth it.

“I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.” Jeremiah 29:11 (MSG)



Sunday, January 31, 2016

Being Fed


                I call my daughter-in-law the “medicine woman” and rightly so, because she is a walking encyclopedia of the medicinal qualities of various herbs and plants. I have slathered her homemade arnica on body parts battered by my clumsiness, and experienced less bruising and pain. First sneeze or cough, and hello Echinacea. With great tact and patience, she is winning me over to the benefits of healthier food choices. Perhaps it is not true that at my age, I need all the preservatives I can get, after all.      

It can be hard to stay the course, but taking the long view, I think it is better than doctors’ visits and pills to treat diseases related to poor eating habits or unhealthy dietary choices. I must admit, though, it’s easy to become addicted to those additives put into certain foods to enhance the flavor and turn us consumers into a crazed lab rats,  seeking more and more.  Did you ever eat just one potato chip?

    Every time we get into food/herb/digestive discussions, I more deeply appreciate the way God made our bodies to work like well-oiled machines, and that it is wise not to tamper with the foods he created.  I hang up the phone determined once again to stay the course, despite those unpronounceable chemicals that make fast food oh so tasty.


“So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after these things, and your heavenly Father known that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”  Matthew 6:31- 33 NKJV
 
 

                That is also why I sit in the pew on Sunday mornings.  I am desperate for God’s healing touch on my spirit, and treasure the strength and encouragement I receive from my fellow sinners as we try to stay on the course Jesus prepared for us. It is far too easy to taste the world’s goodies that are addicting but do nothing for us in the end. God’s way, like the food he created for our bodies, is the best way – it is organic, basic, and brings life. It can feel like it costs more because sometimes we must say “no” to what we most desire, and it may take a while to notice the benefits. Yet God assures us there are eternal benefits from gathering to worship, growing in the study of his Word, and sharing his truths with a world so in need of them.


 

My Heavenly Father provides everything I need for body and soul.  Just as I need to consume healthy food for my body, I need to feed on every word in the Bible.

As Jesus told Satan, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Matthew 4:4 NKJV

We worship the One who gives us life and promises the best for us — even when his best and my idea of “best” are two different things.

 

Monday, January 25, 2016

LOST AND FOUND



          I’m a softie for pets, especially fluffy dogs. Our breed of choice since 1988 has been the Shih Tzu. They don’t shed, bark only as good watch dogs should, sleep quietly in their special crate at night, and they are great snugglers.  We currently have #3 and #4 as roomies.

          I also enjoy Facebook. And combining Facebook with the sad faces of lost and/or found dogs always hits my soft spot. I’ll repost the little milk carton portraits as often as those of my grandsons when their pictures appear randomly on the same day.

          Our little dogs have escaped the front porch or the back yard on occasion, and the panic of not knowing where to begin looking for them or not having them respond to our loud calls for them to “come home” makes me even more sensitive to the heartsick pleas of owners for friends to share photos and search for their canine companions. A good day is seeing “FOUND” posted with one of the pictures.

          There are other cries for the lost. A parent praying daily for a prodigal child to return or to turn to the Lord for the first time in his or her life. A lost husband or wife who is physically present with them, but lost according to God’s definition --- because they have not yet “been found” in the Book of Life.

          Jesus tells of the ninety and nine left in the open pasture while the shepherd goes in search of the one that is lost “until he finds it.”

“When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’” (Luke 15:6,7, NASB)

          “Until he finds it” means the shepherd didn’t shrug his shoulders and accept the loss. The search would not end until his one hundredth sheep was safely home.

          Is there someone whose name is burned into your heart and mind, and the day never ends without breathing that name into the listening ear of The Great Shepherd? He’s searching and calling for our loved ones as well. We must not grow tired of reaching out in love and keeping those names in God’s Throne Room, always with hope that they will decide to join the fold. No longer “lost,” but “found.”


“I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.”  Luke 15:7, NASB 

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Hey, He Knows Your Name!

by LuAnn Kern

It was the start of Sunday school and the young leader was joking with the kids, asking for their names all at once.  The roar quieted down and the hands went up. Pick me! Pick me!

“I’m Nothing,” laughed Megan.  “Pick me!”

I was sitting nearby and my head and my heart swung towards her.  “Sweetheart,” I said, “You’re not nothing.  You’re somebody and Jesus loves you.”

But my words were inadequate and quickly lost in the din of the room as the teacher continued the lesson.  I couldn’t shake her comment.

Megan’s “joke” was no joke—it had a very serious origin.  She would not call herself “Nothing” if she hadn’t heard it from somewhere else.  From someone else.  At her tender age of 7, her sense of self-worth, or the lack of it, was already being shaped. 

She’s not alone. Advertisements, television, social media, classmates all whisper in a child’s ear that they’re not enough, that they don’t measure up.  Sometimes the message comes from closer to home, from siblings or parents. Some kids are able to ignore the whispers, for others it takes root and chokes out any sense of self-esteem.  Sadly, this belief often follows us into adulthood.

I’m not as pretty as she is.  I’ll never make as much money as he does.  Her house is nicer than mine.  She’s a better mother than I could ever be. 

And Satan stands by and smiles.

As believers, we know better.

In Luke 19, we see Jesus entering Jericho.  As he works his way through the city streets, the crowds press on all sides.  He looks up and sees a man sitting in a tree.  Above the noise from the crowd, he calls out:  “Zacchaeus!” 

Can you imagine the chatter it caused?

What’s that? Did you hear that?

 Did the Nazarene just call Zacchaeus?  Zacchaeus?

What’s he doing calling him?  How does he even know him? He’s a nobody!

You know the rest of the story, how Zacchaeus was short, despised by his fellow citizens for being just another tax collector who cheated people.  Surely he was considered a “nothing” in his community. But Jesus called him out by name. By name.  

The Scriptures record only seven instances when Jesus calls someone by name:

  • He puts Satan in his place. (Matthew 4:10)
  • He calls his dear friend Lazarus to come out from the tomb. (John 11:43)
  • He tells his hostess, Martha, to not worry and focus on the Truth.  (Luke 10:38-42)
  • He calls out his disciple, Simon Peter, at the Last Supper. (Luke 22:31-32)
  • Resurrected, he appears first to Mary Magdelene. (John 20:16)
  • He stops Saul on the road to Damascus. (Acts 9:4)
  • And over the noise of the crowd, he calls out for all to hear, “Zacchaeus, you come down!”

Jesus only visited Jericho once (Matthew 10 and Luke 19), so we must assume he had not met Zacchaeus previously. But he knew his name. Jesus knew Zacchaeus’ name. He knows Megan’s name, and he knows your name and mine.  In Jesus’ eyes, Zacchaeus wasn’t a nobody, wasn’t nothing.  In the same way, young Megan’s not nothing.  And neither are you or I.  Remember, He knows our names!


But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. - Isaiah 43:1



If you're not already familiar with this song by Francesca Battistelli, I encourage you to take a moment to listen.  I'm sure it'll end up on your playlist, too!

Peace and blessings until next time,
LuAnn Kern


Friday, January 15, 2016

Old Thoughts for a New Year


A couple of years ago I came across an old journal I wrote in when I was a young adult. I found it intriguing to see how much I had changed and how I viewed the world around me. One thought was particularly amusing. “I hate technology! It’s a necessary evil, only good for when you absolutely need it.” I chuckle now because in the space of ten minutes I taught my virtual villagers how to build a hut on my tablet, checked my email account on my pc, and checked my facebook updates on my smartphone. It’s probably safe to say that technology and I have made our peace with each other. In fact, we’re probably more like best friends…or Siamese twins. Yet the article I read today reminded me not only why I’m still so desperately in need of a savior, but why I would do well to appreciate my previous stance on all things high tech.



As stated in Relevant Magazine, chronic information seeking is an actual problem in our society. To put it plainly, we are quite literally hooked on our devices. This scares me because I remember a time when the only real addiction I had was writing nauseating song lyrics at 3am in the morning. I was a hot mess in so many ways…but I was earnestly seeking God and crying out to Him…all the time. My life was simplified in ways it might never be again because like most of us, (gulp) I have become dependant on technology. I need to feel connected. I need to feel instantly gratified. I need to teach my villagers how to catch a fish or they’ll starve!

What I want varies greatly from what I think I need. I want to fall flat on my face in love with God again. I want to be so deeply infatuated with Him that the very idea of putting any thing above Him is repulsive to me. I want to go back to that place where technology was a necessary evil, a means to an end. Yet the pull to remain plugged in is strong. I like playing games. I like catching up with family on social media. I like feeling connected. The fact that I’m waking up to these revelations during my annual Daniel Fast is not coincidental. Honestly, I’m kind of excited about reprogramming myself. Perhaps I’m not the hot mess I was at 20 but I admire that girl just the same. She has a way of reminding me where my priorities are and where they are supposed to be.


Sunday, January 10, 2016

Just a Seed?

This past summer, the women's ministry gave me a little clay flowerpot filled with rich soil scattered with tiny seeds. An empty seed packet on a stick told me the seeds would grow into beets. I was thrilled--I love beets! I had planted my first garden that spring, and I couldn't wait to add my new present to it. I set the pot on the cabinet behind my desk and turned back to my work.

Today, many months later, on the cabinet behind my desk, I have a little clay pot filled with crumbly, arid soil, adorned with a dusty 'BEETS' sign on a leaning stick.

Here’s the thing about seeds. They contain a lot of potential. A seed can become a beautiful flower, a nourishing vegetable, or a shade-giving, fruit-bearing tree. But if you ignore it, it remains just a dry seed.


Jesus told his disciples that if they had only faith the size of a mustard seed, they could move mountains.


That mustard seed of faith... Same thing. If you want it to move mountains, you have to dig up some dirt, add the right fertilizer, and plant it. Otherwise it will remain simply a tiny seed full of potential.

But finding good soil and planting the seed isn’t enough. You’ve got to nurture it: water it, feed it, prune it--and you can’t stop. If you do, the new tree will be stunted and bear no fruit.

Fortunately, growing the seed of faith to maturity doesn’t entail the backbreaking physical labor involved in literal tree farming. The fertilizer for this soil is the Word of God, whether in oral, written, or spiritual form. The water and food for the sapling are the cup of Jesus and the Bread of Life. And the pruning of the growing tree comes from the convictions of the Holy Spirit.

Faith is a gift from God, just like those beet seeds I was given. It's not something we have to work for, but it is something we are to work with. Work on. Work out. He will never take it away, but it's up to us what we do with it.

In (growing) faith and with love,
Cat


"I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it would move. Nothing would be impossible."
Matthew 17:20 (NLT)






photo credit: Faith the Size of a Mustard Seed via photopin (license)
photo credit: Field of sunlight - Woolmer Green via photopin (license)

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Leftovers

Thanksgiving has come and gone. If your house is like mine, we always plan for leftovers; turkey sandwiches…warmed up scalloped potatoes.  Containers with lids help us keep those leftovers for several days.

When I had kids at home, the leftovers…pizza…spaghetti…would be eaten for breakfast.

But now it’s just me. If I cook (smile) I use the containers to divide out my leftovers and place them in the freezer. I mark the date so I’ll know how old they are.  When the time has passed and I think they have outlived their goodness, I throw them away.
 
I know. That’s wasting food. I’m still trying to figure out how to cook for one.

Let’s talk about a different kind of leftovers. We are just starting a new year. Are we bringing some emotional leftovers into this new year? Hard feelings? Unforgiveness? Have we just put them away out of sight…out of mind? As this new year passes, will we dig them out and decide whether to just throw that friendship/relationship away?

There is another option.

We can thaw it out. Make it palatable. Maybe enjoy it.

I’ve been dealing with some leftovers in my life. I have a problem with people I consider stupid or pious. Some of them have been in my freezer for a loooooong time. This year I plan to discover the potential for good I’ve been neglecting or ignoring.

That means working on me.

“God wants us to grow up, to know the whole truth and tell it in love—like Christ in everything.” Ephesians 4:15 (MSG)



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