Often life is hard, but God is always good

Posts tagged ‘Jesus’

I Belong, Don’t I?

mizzy-pacheco

Photo Credit: Mizzy Pacheco, Pacheco Photography

“And you also are among those Gentiles who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.” Romans 1:6 NIV

My childhood in the ‘70s included lots of hippie food, clothes, and activities. That set us apart from our wealthy, conservative, suburban neighbors. The grass on the lawn grew too tall. The hair and beards of the men in the family grew too long. Our cars and houses were simple, and kind of funky and neglected. Although I felt loved by my family, as an adolescent I also felt my “oddness” keenly. I felt like I didn’t belong.

Some of that  sense of “odd one out” traveled with me into adulthood. Surprisingly, I didn’t find too many other flower children out there.

However, over time, I have come to experience a deep sense of belonging. It comes from being loved by God and a part of a worldwide diverse Christian family.

Ironically, I, who am a Gentile, worship a Jewish Savior. Jesus came to his own and chose disciples from among the Jewish people. I cannot remake myself into a Jew. But, I know He wants me, too.

Recently, I found evidence for this claim as I re-read the account of Jesus Clearing the Temple in the gospel of John:

“When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple courts he found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, “Get out of here. How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!”   John 2:14-16 NIV

My NIV Study Bible note on the verses explains: …”The cattle, sheep and doves were for required for sacrifices. Jews who came great distances had to be able to buy sacrificial animals near the temple. The merchants, however, were selling them in the outer courts of the temple itself, the one place where Gentiles could come to pray.”

Jesus purposely and with intensity cleared the temple for the Gentiles to have a place to pray.

This obviously mattered to him.

So he made a place for me – how meaningful for a flower child like me.

“From my mothers womb

You have chosen me

Love has called my name

I’ve been born again, into your family

No Longer Slaves, We Will Not Be Shaken album, Bethel Music, 2015

 

 

Advertisements

God Did It!

Photo Credit:  Angus MacRae

Photo Credit:
Angus MacRae

Your ways, God, are holy.

    What god is as great as our God?

You are the God who performs miracles;

    you display your power among the peoples. 

Psalm 77:13-14 (NIV)

At our church women’s conference, I eagerly reached into the basket to choose the necklace that carried the profound word that would strengthen me in this hard year.  Each one was unique, our pastor’s wife had informed us. When I turned the ivory square over in my palm, “Servant” was spelled out in calligraphy. My heart sank. “Servant” to me meant more housework and more of the needs of others to consider above my own.

I was so disappointed.

Later that year, I accompanied the youth mission team to Mexico as a Spanish interpreter and as the “mom” for the group. As I prepared my heart for the trip, the Scriptures that kept popping up were all about Jesus the servant and humble friend.

Especially poignant was my personal devotional reading on the Sunday we were to be commissioned before leaving:

“But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place,’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all your fellow guests. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 14: 10 NIV

I decided to wear my servant necklace daily as a reminder.

After the trip was over, on the airplane ride home, I obeyed a prompting of the Holy Spirit to find a private moment speak to our flight attendant, Kaley, and give her a special Scripture God had brought to mind which I had written on an airline napkin.

We stood together in the back of the plane. I gave her the napkin and explained why I had thought of her. She began crying and poured out her story in a few precious, uninterrupted moments. Then I returned to my seat satisfied with the outcome of the encounter.

As we prepared for our touchdown in Atlanta, Kaley came down the aisle and stopped at our row. Leaning over close, she said,

“I am convinced you are an angel. I saw your necklace and knew something was different about you. When I was telling you my story, my migraine went away completely. I was planning to go to the hospital when we arrived. My headache was so bad and my meds weren’t working. But it’s completely gone!”

What I love most is that it required so little effort on my part.

I had never witnessed a physical healing, or knowingly participated in one before. I had no clue that she had a debilitating headache. I didn’t touch her or even pray for her. I simply obeyed that inner nudge from the Holy Spirit to write down a Scripture on a napkin and find a private moment in which to give it to her.

God did it. He healed Kaley.

The gift was clearly for this young woman,, but it encouraged my faith,too. She came back to tell me what had occurred when she could have just praised God that she was healed.

God is powerful, but he uses us.

It’s such simple teamwork.

I Think I’m Hearing Voices

Photo Credit: Moyan Brenn

Photo Credit: Moyan Brenn

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Philippians 4:8

I believe in a loving God, and on the flip side, I also think there is a devil who definitely does not have my best interest at heart. How Jesus talks about Satan is recorded in the eighth chapter of the gospel of John: “He (the devil) was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:45)

So, in a very creepy sort of way, Satan will lie to us. Uh oh – that means that some of my thoughts might be influenced by an evil whisper with a whiff of sulphur.

I think I experienced a Satanic lie entering my thoughts just this week: “You are too late to do the great things you were meant to do. You have wasted time and your life’s work is not worth much.”

That’s a very dark thought, right?

Recognizing it as a thought to reject is the first step; as Jesus tells us, we must not listen to the “stranger’s voice”: “When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.  But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” (John 10: 4, 5)

However, the most crucial step is to replace the lying voice with the truth – In my case, I chose to listen to this: “I have made sacrifices in my fifty years to stay at home with my kids and then to educate those same children at home and that means my “professional” credentials are not very robust. But it was all worth it – I have been following the very specific call of God on my very individual life and the rewards will look different than others’ who have followed their life callings.”

Since I am a counselor’s wife, I would like to present the psychological spin on this subject: Cognitive theory claims that ANTs: (Automatic negative thoughts) or what we think about things are important in determining how we feel. The Happiness Institute has a good handout about common ANTs; the one that fits my story best is “emotional reasoning: mistaking feelings for facts. Negative things you feel about yourself are held to be true because they feel true.”www.thehappinessinstitute.com

Paul’s command in Philippians chapter 4 is not just a list of what to think about, it is also a direct order to think – don’t be a victim who helplessly allows all thoughts to enter indiscriminately and swish around for any length of time and then allow them to have the power to influence our lives.

We must THINK on the truths and reject the lies – hear the good Shepherd’s loving voice, not the stranger’s lies.

What are the voices in your head saying today?

All Experience Required

Photo Credit: Kelvin Trautman

Photo Credit: Kelvin Trautman

“In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1: 4-6 (NIV)

I find myself looking back in my life a lot more since hitting fifty. I am over that hill they talk about and the view from the other side ain’t so bad. An urgency to get things done, to pursue dreams, and to not waste time has set in and I am more brave than ever.

But the experiences of my life (and yours) are profoundly important, not because I succeeded in every endeavor or test, but more because God uses them to mold me and help others.

My adventure this summer (besides welcoming my first grandchild) was to accompany the youth group to Mexico as an adult helper – an interpreter and “mom” figure. The youth pastor told us all that we were to say “yes” to whatever ministry work we were asked to do, and so, when I was approached to preach a thirty-minute sermon in Spanish the next day (no preparation time allotted), I answered, “Sure!”

I rode back to the hotel in the van full of chatting and laughing students, scared silent and staring out of the window with a mind full of “Oh Lord, Help!” thoughts. We were driving through narrow streets with brightly painted adobe walls on either side that were used as the Mexican version of billboards. One advertisement I passed said (translated from Spanish) “More than 35 years of experience!”

My conversion to Christianity, accepting Jesus as Lord in my heart and life, happened 35 and a half years ago! Needless to say, I was greatly encouraged to hear from the Lord that my experience of knowing Him was the requirement, not experience in preaching. I rocked that sermon, by the way!

Some of my past I would like to excise from my history, but long ago the Lord reminded me that He could (and would) transform each part and work it into the whole of my life experience. Healing from wounds has come in the form of time, counseling, encounters with the Holy Spirit, and the love of friends. I didn’t transform all my life events into something good by my own efforts, though I was a willing partner in the process.

All of our experience is required, not just for our personal growth into God’s design for our life, but for the sake of others. Amazingly, as a middle-aged (or “over the hill”) youth helper in Mexico, I was very relatable. One girl said, “It’s like you’re a teenager!” and I replied, “My 18-year-old is still inside me!”

So is the stuttering elementary school girl, the nervous college freshmen, the new bride, and the first time mom. All the pain, the failure, the victory, and the surrender to God mix together into a life that God uses. When we are in the midst of the pain of a life experience let’s hold onto this hope.

 

Do I Pass the Generosity Test?

Image by © Ariel Skelley/Blend Images/Corbis

Image by © Ariel Skelley/Blend Images/Corbis

“But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Matthew 6:4 (NIV)

“Pleased to meet you”, I said as I shook Miriam’s hand. She was introduced to me as the math curriculum supervisor at the homeschool company I was touring. My personal connection to the owner brought me to the business and now I was seeing who worked there in addition to how it was all run.

Suddenly, Miriam’s eyes shone with tears: “You are Laure Liversidge, right?”

“Why yes, that’s my maiden name.”

“Your grandmother changed my life,” Miriam asserted with a watery smile. “I used to clean for her. When I confided to her that I wanted to become a teacher, she gave me the funds to go to school.”

I was flabbergasted. The grandmother she was speaking of was the socialite, the wealthy Philadelphian who wore her mink coat to cocktail parties and fed lobster salad to her friends at her spacious summer home in Maine.

My childhood memories of this grandmother included the vision of a lit cigarette dangling from the fingertips of her right hand while the perfectly polished fingernails of her left hand gracefully held a sweating tumbler of expensive scotch on the rocks.

I loved and admired her, but I realize I didn’t fully know her because she gave in secret and no one found out what she did because she didn’t announce it to the world.

What is the test of true generosity? I don’t think it is the amount of the giving; it is the heart of the matter. Not only did my grandmother not announce her giving with trumpets like the hypocrites of Jesus’ day, but I don’t believe she made too much of it to herself .

Matthew Henry commented on the part of Jesus’ teaching about how the”left hand should not know what the right hand is doing:

“That we must not observe it too much ourselves: the left hand is a part of ourselves; we must not within ourselves take notice too much of the good we do, must not applaud and admire ourselves. Self-conceit and self-complacency, and an adoring of our own shadow, are branches of pride, as dangerous as vain-glory and ostentation before men.”

I recently heard another touching story about my grandmother. Years ago, when our childhood nanny asked to have her wedding rehearsal dinner at my grandma’s home, she answered “yes”, and then donned an apron and served the guests herself, including the bride-to-be’s mother who had been her cook for many years.

The state of our heart is what is important. God looks at it and promises to renew it when we ask.

“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Psalm 51: 10 (NIV)

 

Have I Had Enough to Drink?

Photo Credit: Toni Frissell

Photo Credit: Toni Frissell

“The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the Lord,
 they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming, ‘The Lord is upright; he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him.’” Psalm 92:13-15 (NIV)

Salt water is fun to swim in. I love oceans and grew up visiting my father’s family who lived by the Atlantic Ocean in Maine. Every summer, we dove under frigid waves and fought the entangling seaweed as we waded back out to the rocky beach.

But this salt-saturated ocean is not the living water that we need so desperately to maintain life.

Day after day, day after day,

We stuck, nor breath nor motion;

As idle as a painted ship

Upon a painted ocean.

Water, water, every where,

And all the boards did shrink;

Water, water, every where,

Nor any drop to drink.

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

We need fresh drinking water.   In contrast to my ocean visits, my mother brought me every summer to a spring-fed lake in the wilds of Pennsylvania where her mother had a cottage. This body of water was more like living water, fresh, cold, pure, and such a joy to swim in. I was streamlined and fast, with no resistance.

Our Christian living is designed to be like swimming in water, and filled with refreshing water that is fresh, drinkable – coursing down our throats, brightening our eyes and tingling down our limbs.

The voice that invites us to drink of His love and presence is not one of tyrannical authority. Jesus speaks because he cares for us and knows we are made of water and need it to fulfill our life purpose. The plan is always live near the source of Life, continually drinking, and then becoming life to others.

Jesus said: “Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” John 7:38 (NIV)

We are also compared in Scripture to trees and plants whose leaves open and glow and whose flowers open, the buds bursting forth. Our stems stand upright, not bowed down as if with a weight. Jesus repudiated the Pharisees of his day, telling them they were laying heavy burdens on their followers, causing them to walk with difficulty or to give up, saying “this is too hard for me.”

Christian life is not rule following; it is not trying endlessly to be good, and then hiding from others because it is impossible to do.

When I feel thirsty or over-burdened, I know where to go. Jesus is the well that has tapped into purified ground water that is good for washing our minds, cleansing our sins, and strengthening us for service that is the opposite of heavy and full of self effort.

“For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” Revelation7: 17 (NIV)

Give me lots to drink!

Are You My Mother?

Are You My Mother by P.D. Eastman

Are You My Mother by P.D. Eastman

“He shielded and cared for him; he guarded him as the apple of his eye, like an eagle that stirs up its nest and hovers over its young, that spreads its wings to catch them and carries them on its pinions.  The Lord alone led him;” Deuteronomy 32:10-11 NIV

Are you familiar with P.D. Eastman’s classic children’s book, “Are You My Mother?”:  The newly hatched bird emerges to an empty nest and begins a prolonged search for his mother, asking extremely unlikely candidates, “Are you my mother?”, until his own mom returns to his nest with a worm and his heart is filled with a rush of recognition and affection.

I want to point out the parallel between mother love and God’s heart for us.  He is like a mother in his protective, compassionate, and intense emotionally-connected nature. When his protective nature is described using the analogy of a mother eagle who “stirs up its nest” and pushes the fledglings out to fly, we are not shown a God who leaves and flies away as the babies tumble earthward. Instead, in this Scripture, the mother eagle spreads her wings and carries the young eagles on them.  Our motherly instinct is to allow our kids to grow and be stretched, but we do not leave them.  Our hearts, our prayers, and our help remain entirely present for them.

When my son married, my mom’s heart expanded to include his new wife and stretched, with acute pain, to accept his independence, yet at the same time, I am intensely connected to his well-being, and that of his new family.

In addition, we, as moms, feel for our kids when they have physical or emotional pain: injuries, sickness, heartbreaks, or disappointments, God feels for us as well. “Jesus wept” (John 11:23), often used as an example of the shortest verse in the Bible, represents the loving sympathy of God for those two sisters who lost their beloved brother Lazarus.

Our Heavenly Father is depicted as a mother who wants to gather us up under his wings like a mother hen (Matthew 23:37).  The Lord is “compassionate, and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.” (Psalm 103:8 NIV)  This truth is echoed in Psalm 145, and 86. We can trust this warm, protective love of God and “like a weaned child” can rest upon his breast in trust and contentment. (Psalm 131:2 NIV)  Let’s open our hearts to be mothered by God.

Tag Cloud

%d bloggers like this: