Friday, October 30, 2009
I keep writing and talking about the ways we fall flat in putting our faith into action. But I don't want to be just another person who runs her mouth with nothing to show. I certainly don't have it all figured out, and I continually struggle with not doing the things I know I should.
My purpose in this post is not to praise what I'm doing, but rather to show you that in some small way, I am trying to walk my talk. And I need your help.
I was driving in the rain a few weeks ago (an almost daily occurrence lately) and brainstorming ways to give more and have less. Christmas is around the corner, and I know my mom will be asking for my wish list.
The problem is I don't really have much of anything on my wish list. The last thing I want is to ask for more, because there's nothing I truly need that I don't already have. So I was trying to figure out what I could put on my Christmas list that I could use to benefit others.
My mom had just left my place that morning after spending the weekend with me. She was gracious enough to dump off an old sewing machine that someone somewhere had decided I needed to have.
(I don't know how to sew.)
It hit me then that I could ask for materials to make blankets and put the old machine to use (and/or crochet). Then I could give those blankets away. Right now my plan is to share them with local homeless people, because it sure gets cold here in the winter. That plan could change, and I could decide to donate them to any various organization out there who distributes blankets locally and around the world. But for now...that's my plan.
The problem is two-fold: 1) I am a very slow crocheter and currently this sewing machine is not working, and 2) materials are spendy.
Here is my offer to you if you've been looking for a way to extend your resources. Would you help me in this endeavor? I'm afraid I may succumb to discouragement if I have only my own meager progress to watch, and I don't want to give up. So would you pray for this project as I pursue God's plan for it? Would you be willing to donate supplies or even make a blanket of your own?
The thought of the one or two blankets I could make on my own doesn't satisfy me. I believe with the support of each other, we can do much to love many.
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
These thoughts have been bouncing around in my head for a couple of weeks now. Once in a while I try to catch them, but before I can put them into writing, they slip through my grasp and resume their race around my mind. I sit and watch them, observing, sometimes see them take shape. I learn from them.
But they sure are tricky.
So tonight I sit and try (perhaps in vain) to draw these thoughts in long enough to make sense of them, to paint a picture of the challenge they present to me.
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Each week we gather to fill the cushioned pews, brought together by a common belief, dressed in our Sunday best, all tidied up for another time of worship and fellowship. Lunch comes after the sermon, either at home with our families or out together with our fellow Church-goers. We flock together, are drawn together.
Then Sunday ends, and we move on with Monday, rarely carrying anything over with us into the new week.
We forget that on Monday, our Mission begins afresh.
I have been blessed to have been a part of a few Church bodies throughout my life who support missions wholeheartedly. These small gatherings of believers send large amounts of money to finance the work of the few missionaries who have dared to follow the voice of the Creator.
They do a wonderful work, these believers. They leave their own homes and countries for the sake of sharing the gospel to a lost and broken people.
But I can't help but notice...I think we've missed something major.
The Gospel thrives in many of these underpriviliged and persecuted countries. Underground Churches are growing exponentially as new believers sacrifice their families and comforts for the sake of knowing Christ. They love Him.
Without the comfortable seats, the beautiful songs, the educated preacher, the heated baptistry...they love Him.
All the while, we cling to our comforts and occasionally try to think of ways to fit Jesus into our lives without giving anything else up. We carry on while our country tries to extinguish God from our Pledge, schools, and holidays.
We are a wealthy people with many possessions living in a country of opportunity. We shop for new furniture, the latest gadgets, and bigger homes. We drive newer cars, eat at nice restaurants, shop at name brand stores.
We are surrounded by people in need, jobless, and living on the street. There are people in our communities who can't afford to buy groceries or clothe their kids. Teenagers wander around aimlessly, searching for a place to belong, finding identity in rebellion and crime. High school girls carry babies in their arms, forced into responsibilities beyond their years while still learning how to find their footing in a vicious and unforgiving world. Men stare at the pictures on their computer screens and deaden their pain with the bottle. Women wake up next to different partners each morning, looking for love but not realizing it runs deeper than a one-night stand. Couples divorce as though they committed to nothing, and their children grow up never learning what it is to love and cherish your partner.
This is the country we live in. These are the things we are surrounded by every day, and yet somehow completely oblivious to. Instead, we set our sights on the things we don't have. We shut out the hurting and the pain.
Jesus said, "it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. ...it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God (Matt. 19:23-24)."
Whether or not we consider ourselves wealthy, the fact is that we are rich.
Christian or not, the people of our nation make up the tiny percent of the world's population who can afford to buy food every day. And yet, our nation continually tries to snuff out the presence of the Provider of our wealth.
Our Churches send missionaries to the farthest corners of the earth. And rightfully so, for Jesus is the Deliverer of all peoples and nations. But we neglect the mission field sitting right outside our doors.
Indeed, I believe it is our own nation in which it has become the hardest for people to know the true Christ.
Monday, October 26, 2009
Despite complaints of constant wet and early snows, God has painted many beautiful scenes this fall. Been taking several pictures on my phone to and from work over the past weeks. Here is a glimpse into some of the beauty I've been blessed to experience.
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The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of His hands.
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
I was working with one of my elderly patients at the clinic. She and her husband used to farm, back in the day. But now she lives alone as he has since passed on.
I was setting up a piece of equipment for her to use for an exercise, but the last user had reassembled it incorrectly. I tinkered with the thing for a while as she watched, and then finally was able to put all the pieces back into place as they belonged.
"You're quite a mechanic. I have no ability to do anything like that," she said to me.
I told her no, I'm really not that mechanically talented. As is the tendency, one subject leads to another, and she was soon telling me a story from her days on the farm. She was the wife of a farmer, but not as much an active participant in the farming. Her knowledge of machinery was pretty much nil. She couldn't tell one part from the next.
Sometimes equipment broke down. If the men couldn't figure out how to fix it, her husband would ask her to come take a look and see if she could get the job done.
"I'd tell him, 'I don't know the first thing about what you're trying to do.' He'd say, 'That's why I want you to come look at it. You don't know the right way to do it like we do. Maybe you can find a new way that we haven't thought of.' "
For whatever reason, that struck me as incredibly profound and wise.
When I can't get something done, the last thing that occurs to me is to ask someone who knows absolutely nothing about what I'm doing to help. But this husband not only had the wisdom to think beyond his own method of getting the job done, he also had the trust and confidence in his wife to do something that he couldn't.
No huge epiphony or spiritual application here. Just something for me to ponder.
Monday, October 19, 2009
Things are changing. Maybe not even changing, but different from the expected.
I expect to see red and yellow leaves falling with a bright blue sky as a backdrop on a crisp and cool day. But instead I've seen snow.
The farmers expect to spend long days in their combines, bringing in the corn and beans before winter hits. Instead, they spend their days inside as the soggy mess outside teases their futures and livelihoods.
I expect to continue on in the pattern of every day life with its usual ups and downs. Instead, everything at work is about to be turned on its head as we bid farewell to a coworker and frantically try to figure out how to bridge the gap she will leave.
There are seasons. And there are uncertainties. There is the usual, but rarely can it be trusted.
This is what we call life. The earth doesn't stop turning simply because things are out of the ordinary.
Instead, we get knocked to our knees for a time, then stand up and move forward the best we know how. Someetimes we stumble, sometimes we keep pace.
Onward we push, and forward we move.
One step at a time.
Friday, October 9, 2009
I watched these young girls, still young enough to be care-free in the way they raced each other from one basket to the next, not yet weighed down by things adults find necessary to stress over.
I observed them as they interacted: the older ones shooting quietly together while the younger ones shrieked and giggled across the gym. They can't be much older than fourth grade, but not younger than second.
I prayed for them.
One by one, as they walked through the heavy double doors, I bathed them in prayer.
I don't know that I like kids. I don't know how to interact with them. They demand a lot of energy.
But these girls, these beautiful young creatures of God...these are the ones my heart is heavy for.
I prayed for their purity.
These young hearts, so unscathed and innocent. But at that age where all of that is about to be ripped away, if it hasn't already been. I pray not, but the truth is that too many of these young ones have already been stripped of their purity. There are people in their lives who have robbed them of this precious gift at an early age.
And for that awful crime, these girls will pay the consequences for the rest of their lives.
For the others, they will soon face a decision. They will have to choose how much they are willing to give in order to have that boyfriend. Be accepted socially. Quench their burning desire to know they're lovable. Beautiful.
I prayed for these girls, innocent or not. Pure or robbed. My heart aches for them to know the Truth. To know that they are lovable and have already been bought at a price. I yearn for them to hold onto their purity so that one day they have every ounce of themselves to give to the one man they will marry.
They are so young. But already they stand on the edge.
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
My brother has a history of bringing dogs home...and then leaving them for my parents to take care of. He never usually had more than one at a time, and the only reason they stayed at home was because he couldn't take them along to college. Ultimately, what he really wanted was a quality hunting dog.
We always had dogs and cats on the farm growing up, but eventually our dog population died out. In high school, my brother adopted his coach's German shorthair. (That put an end to our cat population.) I can't remember if this was the first dog...but it was one of the many. There was also a cocker spaniel, a couple strays, and finally a Springer Spaniel.
I didn't mind Maverick like I did some of the others. He didn't bite me (like the cocker spaniel) and didn't eat cats (like the German shorthair...of course, by then there were no cats left to eat). He was gentle and friendly and had large amber eyes that would search your own.
Maverick was also a little quircky, which caused my mom to not appreciate him as much. You see, Maverick liked to run.
All day long.
He never slowed down.
He also looked severely malnourished and scrawny, despite finishing off large bags of dog food in small amounts of time. He ran off everything he ate, and then some. (Despite my best efforts, I have never been able to accomplish this.)
Maverick had a method to his running. He ran the same route around the house.
All day long.
This is why mom wasn't his number one fan. He ran paths and wore out the grass all over the yard...including the grass in the middle of the front yard right next to her garden.
Crop circles, my brother called them.
Not only did he run ceaselessly, Maverick also barked on occasion. Not at squirrels or rabbits or strange cars.
No, he barked at the sky.
As he ran pell mell around the yard, he would point his furry nose to the sky and bark at nothing at all.
Maverick has since gone on to join doggies of previous lives past (thanks to a run-in with a rabid 'coon), and the grass has grown back in our yard (much to my mom's relief). But he spent his short life doing what he was created to do.
He ran in circles. He barked at the sky. There was no purpose to this, except that he was a dog, and that's what God created him to do.
He ran and he barked for the glory of God. He did what he was created for, and he loved doing it.
All around us nature proclaims the glory of its Creator. Birds fly, cows graze, horses gallop, flowers bloom, clouds rain.
I, too, was created for the glory of God. But unlike the things of nature, I often forget my purpose.
I forget that I was made for Someone greater.
Monday, October 5, 2009
You know what strikes me as interesting about this verse? Instead of going on to prove his statement, James instead gives examples of faith in action.
Want me to prove it doesn't work? Then let me show you what does.
I wondered why he wouldn't give examples of people whose deedless faith fell flat. After all, that's the offer he put on the table.
But instead, he tells of Abraham's faith and actions working together when he laid Isaac on the alter. Then he mentions Rahab's faith and action of helping the spies before Israel marched around Jericho.
Want me to prove that your faith without deeds is wrong? Here are people whose faith was right.
Maybe he did it that way because truth stands on its own.
Do you need proof that what you're doing is wrong? Then take a look at what's right.
Kind of like bankers handling money. In order to recognize counterfeit money, they don't spend their time studying the fake stuff. The spend hours studying the real. They look at the details and handle it over and over again until their hands know the feel of the money. Then, when the counterfeit comes along, they are able to recognize it because it doesn't match what's true.
How much more does that apply to us! We should study the Word, strive to put action to our faith, and pray like crazy. We should be so immersed in the Truth that when anything else comes along, we know it right away.
How should we know when something is wrong? Because we know what's right.
Friday, October 2, 2009
"I think as long as you're trying to be a good person, that's good enough."
"Do whatever works for you."
"It doesn't matter what religion you are, as long as you believe in something."
People really truly believe these things. I think one of a few things has happened to convince them they're right (including, but not limited to): 1) They simply have not been taught according to the Bible, 2) they would rather believe something that feels good over what's true, or 3) Christians who make these statements have become lazy.
You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that - and shudder. -James 2:19
James is in the middle of explaining to his audience the importance of walking the walk and not just talking the talk. Then he throws that statement in there. He's addressing Christians who say all the right things, but don't back up their faith by living it out. It's like he's saying to them, "Congratulations. You believe in God. Guess what? Satan himself believes in God, but he's not going to heaven. What seperates your belief from his?"
His statement applies across the board to people of all walks of life.
Belief by itself doesn't get you anywhere.
Believing water exists doesn't make you wet.
Believing money exists doesn't make you rich.
Believing there's food in the fridge doesn't satisfy your hunger.
Believing God exists doesn't get you to heaven.
No, for even Satan believes God exists. Who do you think he's working so hard against? What he refuses to acknowledge is that God is Creator and Ruler of all things, Jesus is His Son, and Jesus bore our sins and conquered death so that all who believe in Him might be saved from hell.
Faith requires action.
To those of us who claim Jesus as our Lord and Savior, what are we doing about it? As Dietrich Bonhoeffer stated in The Cost of Discipleship, grace might be free, but it sure wasn't cheap. We really are getting a pretty good deal. But to sit passively and only live comfortably within our faith...that insults the very thing Jesus did on the cross.