Tag Archives: Bible

You Can Turn Water Into Wine

Standard
There has been a lot of discussion about refugees in the news of late and a dialog of fear often accompanies the conversation. There are dire situations around the world that result in people being displaced from their homeland due to wars, persecution or natural disasters.  This officially makes the people involved, refugees–in pursuit of refuge.  This can happen in a land far away or in your own community. It’s not new news, but it appears to be happening with greater frequency and is a popular topic.
We often think of refugees as foreigners- perhaps from the middle east. However, I find there are also local people who have become displaced  for any number of similar reasons- the spouse that raises a hand as a solution, the family whose home was struck by a tornado,  the couple living on the financial edge at the brink of disaster, the “outsider”
who isn’t like us in one way or another and their life is made a living hell.
Refugees are near and far.  Any fear we muster pales in comparison to what someone being displaced must feel.
042012survivors.jpg
When I grew up there were two young girls who joined our school mid-year.  They were from Cambodia.  Speaking absolutely no English they were integrated into my fourth grade class.  Thankfully they were fairly well accepted and we oblivious girls tried to make them feel welcome.  We had no idea about their nightmares,  or the devastating sights they must have seen in their homeland.  We rode our bikes, played with our dolls, ran outside for freeze tag and kick ball without a second thought.  Refugees were fairly unusual in our middle class, suburban neighborhood at the time.
imgres.jpg
In a completely different situation I recall two siblings temporarily staying with my family because their father was dealing with mental illness.  I remember driving down a busy avenue looking out the back window with fear their dad might come after us.  I couldn’t have imagined what was going on inside our friends.  I selfishly harbored a high level of anxiety -probably not thinking twice about how they must have felt.
11521043484_7714483e1e_k-1.jpg
Not too long ago a woman from Iran spoke in the church about the growing population of Christians in her homeland.  We saw images of hundreds of people being Baptized and heard amazing stories of people coming to know Jesus.  Talk about fear,  this woman’s  life is in constant danger.  She and her family have been imprisoned and threatened over what they are doing.  Yet, she has the passion and calling to continue with her efforts as a Christian converting Christians in a land of few Christians. Photos cannot be shown for her protection. Worth noting is the extreme danger she is under and the strength of her convictions.
Most are familiar with stories of families in World War II who hid persecuted men, women and children from the atrocities of Hitler and the Nazi regime.  The fear of being discovered and sent to a concentration camp- how could they face each day?  Underlying thoughts of fear and trepidation must have engulfed them.
andfghne-frank-row-rex.jpg
While we, in our warm homes with stocked refrigerators, scan our tech devices for funny photos and celebrity tweets, have we considered the desperate situation that hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people are facing each day?  It’s easy to forget the tent dwellers thousands of miles away as we cozy up to our memory foam mattress.
ct-france-refugees-huppke-20151118.jpg
There’s another refugee story, from the middle east, involving a couple who needed a place to rest following a long journey.  The woman was going to have a child soon.  There wasn’t a great place for them to stay because there were already so many people in the area. I can’t say with certainty what their accommodations ended up being, but I have read that  the setting was not ideal.  After the baby was born he was placed in a feeding trough for horses and cattle.
Jesus Christ birth.jpg
The birth went well, but not too long after, the family had to uproot themselves and go from their homeland to a foreign land.   They had to hide from a horrible king whose mission was to find this particular baby and kill him.  The family became refugees. They somehow survived the journey to the far off land and maintained an existence there until they could safely return to their homeland. The baby was not harmed.
You might be familiar with this family too.  In fact, we just celebrated the occasion of their baby’s birth…Christmas.  The baby’s name was Jesus and he, along with Mary and Joseph, lived as refugees until they could be safe.
With all of these stories it becomes evident that, aside from having amazing perseverance and determination,  there were people who surrounded the victims to help them and provide as they could.  Though not every story has a happy ending, during the time of refuge these people were cared for.  I imagine the love shown through small gestures to the refugees was worth more to them than the effect that any amount of money could provide.
When I look at today’s refugee crises around the world I ask what can be done to help?  What better place to look than the Bible?  There are stories of refugees from just about the beginning of time.  We are given clear direction on how to care for them.
Feed the hungry,
Give drink to the thirsty,
Provide rooms for the homeless,
Offer clothing for warmth,
Visit the sick and imprisoned.
Beitragsbild-Refugees-Welcome-750x563.jpg
Every time you do this for one of Jesus’ children, and we are all Jesus’ children, it is like you are doing it for him.  I don’t want to carry that burden because it’s simply not the right thing to do.
Without regard to where you stand politically, we are called to take care of all people. Politics get in the way and delay taking action.  The week I heard the Iranian woman share her journey to Christianity the following was said:
People who think do not change the world.
People who act change the world.
People who think and act change the world forever.
When you do what Jesus tells you to do, water will turn to wine.
Write a check, provide food, purchase or donate clothing, make yourself available, extend a welcome, cook a meal, say hello or offer a smile.  Help turn water into wine.
There are many organizations who provide aid to refugees.  One that I put my trust in is Lutheran World Relief  –  http://lwr.org/

Europe and the Syrian Refugee & Migrant Crisis

Wellwishers offer warm clothing to Syrians after they arrived on a train from Budapest's Keleti station at the railway station of the airport in Frankfurt, Germany, early morning September 6, 2015.
Photo: REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach, courtesy of Trust.org

 

AS THE CIVIL WAR IN SYRIA CONTINUES, the number of civilian casualties, internally displaced people and refugees continues to grow. According to UNHCR, 11.6 million people are in need of assistance, 7.6 million people are displaced within Syria and over 3.9 million have taken refuge in neighboring countries such as Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Turkey and countries in North Africa.

LWR’s Response

  • Supporting ACT Alliance members in providing humanitarian support. ACT members are providing hygiene items, winter coats and blankets, emergency shelter and psychosocial support in Hungary, Serbia and Greece.
  • We are in contact with the ACT Alliance to determine additional needs on the ground. We will continue to channel our support to the refugee crisis through the ACT Alliance to ensure a well-coordinated response.
  • Lutheran World Relief is shipping Mission Quilts, Baby Care Kits and Personal Care Kits to Serbia to distribute to refugees and migrants. Since October 2012, LWR has provided $7.05 MILLION in assistance to Syrian refugees, reaching more than 235,912 BENEFICIARIES.

YOU CAN HELP

  • Give to the Crisis in Syria fund. Your cash donations will support the response of our partners in the ACT Alliance.
  • Make Quilts and Kits. Donating Quilts and Kits helps ensure we have an adequate supply to send around the world to partners who request them, as well as in response to emergencies.
  • Pray for the people affected by this crisis and the humanitarian aid staff working to reach them.
Advertisements

Endurance Training

Standard
Endurance Training

From the book of James:

 

Consider yourselves fortunate when all kinds of trials come your way, for you know when your faith succeeds in facing such trials, the result is the ability to endure. 

 

But be sure your endurance carries you all the way, without failing, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. 

 

But if any of you lacks wisdom, he should pray to God, who will give it to him; for God gives generously and graciously to all. 

 

But you must believe when you pray, and not doubt at all. 

 

For whoever doubts is like a wave in the sea that is driven and blown about by the wind. Any such person must not think that he will receive anything from the Lord, for he is unsure and undecided in every step he takes.

 

Wow.  I am completely struck by these powerful words.

As I rewrote this passage I broke it apart to help reflect on each segment with emphasis.  I’ve re-read it more than a dozen times now.  The impact of understanding these words is possibly beyond my comprehension.  There is a lot going on in this message.

 

James is not the only reference in the Bible that talks about the benefit of trials and the resulting endurance that is advantageous.  The idea of going through trials and having to endure sounds a bit negative.  How can tough times be good for me?

 

As scary as it may sound, the way the verse is written implies to me trials will come from any number of directions…and we are fortunate to have that. Not sure I’m buying it yet.   However the statement isn’t complete at being fortunate when trials come your way.  It flows into the idea of having to have faith and it is with that faith that you can face your trials resulting in greater endurance.

 

Why do we need that greater endurance?  Perhaps God is being compassionate because He knows that trials are inevitable in our sinful world.  He is providing us the directions for dealing with them.  As more trials come along and we trust in the Lord, the more it takes to get us agitated about them.

 

When I was in college we had to take a swimming test or class to graduate.  I know it sounds bizarre, but it was true.  Most people took the test.  I decided to take the class.  I wasn’t a great swimmer and I wanted the exercise so it was a great way to improve and try to keep in shape.  From the beginning we had to do laps.  I won’t even tell you how few laps I was actually able to accomplish at the start.  Let’s just say I was in the bottom of the pack.  However, the more I did it, the greater my endurance became and the more laps I was able to swim. I kept improving and quickly.  With that, I totally get the idea of endurance and to be good at it you have to practice over and over and over again.

 

So now I’m getting that I must have trials to enact my faith to build my endurance to have greater faith so I can get through more trials.  I’d really prefer the no trials route, but our imperfect world will not allow for that.

 

Trials are going to happen.  Endurance will be built and in doing so you will be perfect, complete and lacking nothing.  God will give you what you need.  He is generous.  The important thing is to believe with all your heart that God will provide for you.  You mustn’t have a doubt about that.   Without faith in His ability things will be rocky.  If endurance is hard He says pray to me.  I will give you the wisdom you need.  However, you MUST believe I can do it.

 

I look back at key times in my life where I faced enormous trials, but I didn’t believe.  I didn’t face the challenge head on.  The result was that I didn’t feel I could endure. I stumbled and faltered.  I went through tremendous pain…until I finally gave in and said to God- you win.  It’s in your hands.    When I got that far…surprise…the waves were calmed.  God makes sure I have at least everything I need.  It may not be everything I want….thank you for that, God.

 

It is at these times that I find a peace that passes all human understanding.  I free]myself from the chains of doubt.  I can make sound decisions and logical choices.  I use the skills that God created in me to move closer to His purposes.

 

Don’t be surprised by your trials .  But you are not alone by any means.  A power much greater than anyone or anything around you is in force.  Follow Him.  Pray.  Push through and endure all the way to the end.  Do not doubt in Him. In this way you will  be perfect and complete- lacking nothing.  Bring it on!

 

 

When God Says No or Not Now

Standard

Most likely you are familiar with the idea that when you pray God gives you one of three answers:  Yes, Not Now or No.  We love the yes answer and that’s when we are 100% certain that there is a God, that He is watching over us and that He has our best interest at heart.  Of course He does.  He agrees with us!

Then there is No and Not Now.  Those are the answers that prove God obviously does not know what He is doing up there, doesn’t care about us, doesn’t understand the severity of our situation, isn’t listening to us or doesn’t exist.  Yeah, right.  

Let’s cut to the chase on this one- God is listening, He knows what’s going on, He cares.  There is way too much evidence to suggest differently and the Bible speaks repeatedly of His unfailing love.

We can’t begin to understand why God says no or not now to curing an illness, allows people we love to die when they do, makes us move away when we are happy just where we are, does or doesn’t redirect our career path, keeps someone’s heart hard in unhappy relationships etc.  I certainly don’t have the answer here.  What I do have is a relationship with the Lord that helps me to accept I will and do have challenges and encourages me to draw closer to Him to deal with them.  In fact, in my daily prayers I typically will ask that the Lord would draw me closer.  That’s a prayer He seems to always say Yes to.  Strengthen my faith.  He says Yes.  Help me trust You more.  He says Yes.  Lead me to your will for me.  That’s a Yes.

It dawns on me that the key in our prayers is the relationship with the Lord…no matter what the circumstance.  He tells us to put no other gods before Him.  Maybe the gods in our life are not only material things like money and property.  Maybe they are the relationships we have or our work.  Maybe its our job loss or our illness.  It’s tough to admit when you are embarking on something that seems awful, but  Is it possibly a god in our life?  Are we not relying on our relationship with Him?  Are we allowing our shortcoming and misfortune to come before our love for the Lord?  Before our desire to know Him better? Are we suggesting we know better than He?  Maybe He isn’t kidding about putting Himself first.  I appreciate this takes a deep relationship with the Lord to make sense.  I know I need to delve into this further to really see if it makes any sense in my life.

I read another perspective on prayer that also made me think hard.  The writer mentioned people always ask him why God doesn’t answer their prayers.  He gave several responses.  One had to do with timing.  The writer made mention of the fact that people may not be praying at the right time or in the right place.  At first I thought, what?  Then I read over his explanation and I kind of got it.

In The Lord’s prayer, Jesus’ way of how to pray, we say: “Give us this day our daily bread”.  Jesus focused on THIS day.  Not tomorrow and not yesterday.  Prayer is a day by day thing. We don’t pray today to cover us for the rest of the week, or at least that wasn’t the divine plan. 

Jesus says in, Matthew 6:34 NIV, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”  We need to pray each and every day for each and every day. As you read this today can you said God answered your today prayers?  Did you pray for your daily bread today or did you pray about tomorrow and beyond.

I kind of like this concept.  We’ve all heard the saying, I’m taking it day by day.  I think there’s more to that than I’ve given credit.  What are my prayers today?  Were today’s prayers answered?  Did God take care of me?  Did I get my daily bread? God may have said No or Not Now… today.  Will He say the same thing tomorrow?  I guess the point is I’ll have to focus on that when tomorrow gets here.  As for me, today, I got my daily bread- even among the other Yeses, Nos and Not Yets. 

 

 

Accidental Breakthrough

Standard

When I wake in the morning I often lay still for a while and just think.  I try very hard to acknowledge all that I’m grateful for and to get my “head straight” for the day’s agenda.  I’m slow to get up and I  work diligently to be a happy, oh let’s say instead, nice, person in the morning.  

As I lay there this morning I was processing a very important meeting I had yesterday.  I’m in the process of interviewing for a new job and had to go through a rather extensive session with a Psychodiagnostician.   Frankly, if I’m going to see a “nostician” of any sort I would have preferred it related to a facial, hair-coloring, or back massage.  But, it didn’t.  It related to my brain and my thoughts and feelings.  That is never fun.  Well, maybe sometimes.

Though tiring, you go through a lot of simple but supposedly revealing tests of your psyche, it wasn’t a horrible experience.  It made me think.  In fact, hours later I was still thinking about it and even as I woke this morning.  I was going through this experience for one purpose but it related indirectly to a different situation in my life from years ago.  A situation I thought I had managed, cleaned up and neatly tucked away in a space not to be seen or heard from again.

Wrong.  There it was sitting on the top of my mind as I woke this morning.  It doesn’t matter what the experience was and it wasn’t anything horrifically traumatic that you might read about in a newspaper.  It was my own personal trauma that affected me greatly.  It changed every aspect of my life.  It was painful  and gut-wrenching. My ego had been bruised and beaten and finally went down for the count.  

But, in time, I got up again and I was somehow better for it.  During that period of my life I had to deeply analyze who I was and what I was here for, why God made me, what my worth was,  and every other deep question you battle through when you hurt.  I made a decision to go a direction in my life that I thought was strong and courageous requiring bravery and perseverance.  I was able to adjust  to have more of the important things in life like time with my child and freedom to define myself. I created something from nothing and my family had a new life experience.  We had to make many painful adjustments along the way, but we did it and we were making it.

Six years go by.  I’m starting to walk down the same path I walked before filled with self-doubt and ego crushing pressures.  I can’t figure it out.  Bad times come again.  New challenges that I don’t feel strong enough to brave.  I get through it and I make some tough decisions about my life…again.  As such, I’m in the office of a psychodiagnostician running through a battery of tests to help my potential employer get a better view of my fit in their organization.  

Back to the beginning of my post…I awake and as I’m processing everything from the past 24 hours it occurs to me that how I spent the last six years of my life, though filled with amazement and goodness and pride, was possibly a  path to escape my ultimate fear of facing the big dragon again- the one I succumbed to in the past.  

I’ve possibly been escaping the reality of who I am and what I’m here for this past six years doing something I thought was so completely right.  I can’t really say it was wrong.  I’ve had  a lovely detour that brought great joys.  This time was a gift from God who allowed me breathing space to sort through things in my life and try things I had always wanted to do.  It was His beautiful gift to me and I so appreciate it.

But this year I think He has been leading me (let’s be honest…forcing me)  to try something different.  To face new challenges.  To reignite the courage and bravery I lost to the dragon six years ago.  I think I have been taking an off-course journey that has been filled with wonderful things but has ultimately brought me back to a path filled with new challenges and hopefully smaller dragons where God wants me to be.

I’ve perhaps been avoiding doing some things I was meant to do, but God’s grace and mercy allowed me this time.  He is good- all the time and all the time- He is good.  The reason I was meeting with the psycho-man ( much easier to write than the official title) may not come to fruition.  The point for me is that I had this breakthrough that I’ve been running away from something that I feared and God gave me the time to do it.  I think He is now saying to me, “O.k. my lovely daughter, it’s time again, you are ready, I need you to do something different in your life, and I will be walking with you- just as I have been there always.” 

This blog entry may mean nothing to you today, but I have to say it gave me a wonderful outlet to sort through my waking thoughts.  Thank you for indulging me.  What am I going to do next?  I have no idea.  I’m waiting to see what God has in store, but most importantly, I’m not shutting down when God is gently nudging.  

Jeremiah 29:11-14

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity.

Pressure Cooked

Standard

From the book of James (The Message):

“Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.”

It’s taken me some time to accept the wisdom in the paragraph above from James  1: 2-4 in the Bible.  I suppose it comes with maturity on many fronts.  I relate it to people in their 50s and 60s who are asked if they would ever trade their current lives to go back to their teens and early twenties.  Almost without fail they respond saying they would not give up all they have learned and experienced to return to those pre-maturing years of days gone by.  As I go through the aches and pains of decades gone by I realize how those experiences have shaped me to be the person I am.  I can’t say I’ve reached “lack of deficiency”, but let’s say I’m less deficient now than I was 20 years ago.  I’m able to scoff at certain deficiencies, but still there are some that just can’t be denied…so far.

How many situations have you trudged through in your life that looked unbeatable and bleak on the side going in to it and brought great clarity, knowledge and even peace once you got through them and stood on the other side?   A wise person taught me about the history of a related text from Roman’s about suffering.  We are told to  “glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”  More pressure? Really?

In the original Greek translation of the Bible the concept of pressure related to the pressure exerted by a press in order for the “juice” to flow and ultimately produce wine or olive oil.  No pressure, no juice.  No juice, no wine or oil.  Paul, the author of Romans,  says that no matter what the “pressure” God’s people deal with produces endurance (toughness) which produces character (maturity) which produces hope (a present conviction with a future fulfillment) and he says, “…hope does not disappoint us.”

Based on my own personal experience I would think I’d be pretty tough by now according to  what I learned above.  I kind of wish I was at my toughness capacity.  That would mean that I’d be like a super-hero who, when pelted by bullets of disappointment, sadness, anxiety, depression, pain, despair, (insert your “deficiency” here), could just bounce them right off my (very fashionable of course) Teflon super-hero costume.

But, I’ve got a lot to learn still.  Unfortunately, that means there is likely more pressure to be had here.   I need to let it happen.  I need it so I can mature, be well-developed, and get on to not being deficient in any way.  The promise of that benefit is so appealing that I want to take my time going through the pressures surrounding me.  I think if I keep reminding myself of God’s unfailing love, that pressure makes me tougher, more mature and hopeful,  and that those characteristics are actually gifts, then I can be on my way to getting that super-hero costume.  The question of fitting into it is entirely different.

May God bless you today with the gift of a challenge that strengthens you and your development in the coming days so that as more challenges confront you the pressure is lessened.

 

 

Start Acting Like A Child

Standard
Start Acting Like A Child

I love the Lord because he hears and answers my prayers.  Because he bends down and listens, I will pray as long as I have breath!  Death had its hands around my throat; the terrors of the grave overtook me.  I saw only trouble and sorrow.  Then I called on the name of the Lord, “Please Lord save me!”  How kind the Lord is.  How good he is! So merciful, this God of ours!  The Lord protects those of childlke faith; I was facing death, and then he saved me.  Now I can rest again, for the Lord has been so good to me.  He has saved me from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling.  And so I walk in the Lord’s presence as I live here on earth!

Psalm 116:1-9

I woke to read this Psalm today and found the limited words screaming at me.  There’s not much to add; I don’t want to dilute the impact.   The Psalm is reaffirming.  It leaves me with questions to explore about myself.  Do I have childlike faith?  Can I play that game of trust where you close your eyes and fall back into the arms of people standing around you knowing they will catch you, only with God and my heart? Do I really know God has my back?  Do I believe with certainty that He is hearing my prayers?  Do I believe without doubt He has the ability to answer my prayers and respond beyond my wildest imaginations?  That’s childlike faith.  It’s pure. It’s real.  It’s simple.

Not everything works out the way I want.  It works out the way God wants.  We can’t begin to know His master plan.  We can only know, with the faith of a child, that whatever He does in our life, or we allow Him to do in our life, is good.  He is the one set of arms we can absolutely count on to catch us when we fall back- each and every time.  What can I do today to be more like a child?

How is your faith when life sucks?

Standard

I’m kind of stuck on Psalm 107 right now.  I think I find my life on the same track of the people being written about at the time.  Throughout the Psalm people get in trouble and call for help.  God responds each time.

I have a friend who is facing cancer for a second time, and this time it seems worse.  Her husband is out of a job and has been for a year.  Her work is contract so she doesn’t add much into the income pool.  There is no insurance.  They are dealing with an older family member who is suffering in so many ways and have had to make the difficult decision to put this person in hospice care vs. trying to sustain their life through temporary fixes.  How do you console a person in this situation?  Is it trite to say God is with you and He is watching over you as you see them lose their hair to countless treatments of chemo or have painful surgeries and procedures to remove tumors?  How do you make them feel good about the fact they are out of work with no insurance, or about having to decide to remove life support tubes that could keep someone they love alive longer- though in a vegetative state.

This part of life really sucks.  I don’t understand it and I am working to accept that I never will.  When I look at my friend’s situation I don’t want to say God is with you.  I want to say this sucks and it isn’t right or fair.  It’s horrible and painful and my heart cries for you.

Then when I come around full circle I realize really the only thing they have that is a constant is God.  It’s not trite. It’s true.  The very last verse of Psalm 107 says, those who are wise will take all this to heart; they will see in our history the faithful love of the Lord.  There is absolutely nothing in this earthly life that my friends, or I , can count on for sure.  Everything we think is so solid can change in the blink of an eye.  I know it from my own experience.  You know it from yours.  My friend has certainly learned it in her life.

In Psalm 107 the people cry out for help in different situations four times.  Each time God leads the troubled to safety.  What we have to remember is that His safety is different from what we perceive to be safety.  It definitely means change and it could mean that sometimes His safety is life in Heaven with Him.  That’s when faith has to really kick in.  Have you seen His faithfulness enough in your life to accept He has something better for you even when life sucks?  Is it there and you aren’t acknowledging it?  Do you need to do a check list of all the “coincidences” that occurred in your life that got you out of storms and brought happiness?  I do from time to time.

There is no place in the Bible that I have found that says life on this earth will be good.  There is a lot to suggest it hasn’t been and it won’t be.  Our faith is meant to be beyond this earth.  I don’t mean to say that things in this life aren’t good or can’t be filled with utter joy.  There are plenty of things that are and those are awesome moments.  I just mean that ultimately the best good we can imagine is found in Heaven- found through faith.  Psalm 107: 43- Those who are wise will take all this to heart; they will see in our history the faithful love of the Lord.

How is my faith when life sucks?  I’m working on it, but it’s leaning toward good especially when I remember to acknowledge how faithful He has been.  How about you?