Monday, February 27, 2017

Reminder to my subscribers

Hello friends,

My new blog is live! 


I'm still trying to work out the kinks and get used to Word Press, but I'm muddling my way through.

The new url is http://SonRiseInsights.com.

While this blog will still be active, I will no longer post from here, so if you haven't yet subscribed to my new blog, why not hop on over and do so right now? 

It takes less than a minute. Click on the link (here it is again) http://SonRiseInsights.com.

Look for the subscriber box on the top right. It says, Subscribe me to SonRise Insights. Enter your first name and email, then click on the Subscribe box. That's it! 

Thanks for your support.

PS-If you've already emailed me with a message to keep me on the list, there's no need to re-subscribe. I added you.

Blessings Along the Path,
Mare

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Alongside Review AND GIVEAWAY!

“Let me know what I can do.”

We’ve all said those well-intended words, but the truth is when someone is in the midst of a life-altering situation, they often don’t know what they need. Reaching out for help is not natural or automatic.

That’s why we need to learn to reach in and come alongside.


Sarah Beckman is no stranger to trial and crisis, having been on both the giving and receiving end of help countless times. She knows what to do (and not do) and what to say (and not say)—she knows how to best put into practice the words of Jesus Christ:

Love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:39).

Alongside: A Practical Guide for Loving Your Neighbor in Their Time of Trial is the guidebook that every person should read and keep handy, regardless of their relationship with God.

The book is written from a Biblical perspective with the Christian in mind, but the person who is not a believer can greatly benefit from the practical wisdom and tips Beckman offers.

Working from the premise that “it’s not all about you,” Beckman shares real and meaningful ways to help. She covers everything from the way most of us know how to help—cooking a meal—to getting over our fear and offering prayer. She tackles tough subjects like what to do when someone is aging, has terminal cancer, or is in a messy situation. She offers time-tested tips on what not say, how to choose wise words, and when to do something without asking.


Alongside redefines intentional love.

I dog-eared and highlighted this book in a way I’ve never done before. I believe that’s because while it was inspirational and helped me gain confidence that I have been doing some things right, Alongside is more of a reference book that should not be placed back on the bookshelf when completed. In fact, I’d recommend that every person on every care team in every church use Alongside as a manual.

I know…you can’t wait to read it, right? 

Well, I have a copy to give away!

All you need to do to enter the giveaway is comment on this blog, on Facebook, or via an email response to me. I will announce the winner on my next blog post, sometime in early March. Contest is open until March 3.

You can purchase Alongside, A Practical Guide for Loving Your Neighbor in Their Time of Trial, by Sarah Beckman through amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, or wherever you prefer to purchase books.

One last thing: 

I will be phasing this blog out soon. If you'd like to continue receiving my blogs, and haven't yet notified me, please email me at SonRiseInsights@gmail.com or, if you received this post via e-mail, simply reply with a simple "Yes, please keep me on your list."

Blessings Along the Path,

Mare

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Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Launching New Blog

Hello Friends,

I am moving from the Blogger format to a WordPress website for the SonRise Insights blog.  At the moment, I cannot access my blogger email subscribers list.  If you would like to continue to receive posts via email, please respond by emailing me at sonriseinsights@gmail.com.

Blessings along the path,
Mary

Monday, February 13, 2017

Noticing Sandcastles

Last week I exchanged the cold New Jersey winter for the sunny skies and warm air of Florida. While running on the beach, I saw this:


I remembered walking past a family building a sandcastle--perhaps this one...the day before (Unfortunately, the picture doesn't do it justice--the "compound" is actually quite large). 

It looks like an ordinary sculpture...and it is. Nothing fancy. But the part that fascinated me was the amount of shells placed on and around the creation. It had to take hours to create.

What really intrigued me, though, was how it remained untouched. In New Jersey, I'm not entirely sure someone wouldn't have come along and ruined it. But here, on Sanibel Island, others respected its right to be there. 

And it occurred to me that people are not so different. 

We build our fortresses, we collect beautiful adornments and we say, "Notice me--please!"

We all yearn to be appreciated, validated, and affirmed. But too often, bullies come along and destroy the beautiful creation we've worked so hard to achieve. It can be as simple as a word. Ugly. Stupid. Idiot. 

Intentional love crushes the bullies. Intentional love says, You matter. You're important. I see what you've done. I see who you are. I think you're wonderful. 

Intentional love makes sure a person knows they matter.

It says, You have worth and value that is not attached to your merits, but stands on its own simply because you are you. And there is no other you anywhere.

Galatians 5:22 lists the fruits of the spirit, love being the first. My pastor says that love is mentioned first because it's the "standard fruit--the umbrella under which all the other fruits come." 

Without love, we are just noise (I Cor 13:1). If we try to exhibit any other fruit without love, we'll grow weary and people will see through the facade.

God noticed me. He validated and affirmed me by giving me the gift of His Son (John 3:16). Jesus became the sacrificial lamb necessary for the atonement of my sins. 

So, I must make a deliberate decision to love others. It's simple, but not always easy. And I can't do it on my own.

Sometimes I fail, but... 
Love never fails (I Cor 13:8).

Sometimes I'd rather not, but...
Love is the most excellent way (I Cor 13:1).

Sometimes I let pride, self-pity, envy, and other sins keep me from validating and affirming others, but...
Let love and faithfulness never leave you (Prov 3:3).

Sometimes I want to call someone out on their wrongdoing, but...
Love covers over all wrongs (Prov 10:12)

Sometimes I'm just too tired to do good. To show the love of Christ. Sometimes I don't feel like validating another person, because I want to be shown appreciation, but...
Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another (John 13:34-35).

Intentionally loving others is hard work! We need to notice the sandcastles among us. We need to lay down our agendas and be open to the Spirit's leading. 

Intentional love requires sacrifice. 
Intentional love is what God demonstrated to me. 
Now it's my turn.

What about you? 
Are you willing to notice someone's sandcastle today? 
Are you willing to make someone else matter more than yourself today?

Love is the most excellent way.

Blessings Along the Path,
Mare

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Monday, February 6, 2017

Intentional Love

We love him because he first loved us (1 John 4:19)

February may as well be called the Love month. Valentine’s Day demands that we declare our love to our intended. Then there’s President’s Day—which is, apparently, the best time to buy a mattress—and who doesn’t love a sale? If you live in a colder climate, the opportunity for snow days abounds. Kids love those. Moms, maybe not so much.


I love so many things. Should I celebrate them all this month? I love my husband, but I also love ice cream. I love my children, but I have a few favorite television shows that I also love. Are they two different kinds of love?

Merriam-Webster defines love as an unselfish, loyal, and benevolent concern for the good of another. I can apply this to my husband, but maybe not the ice cream. The first is a person. The other is a thing.

And then there’s that word—unselfish. 

Loyalty , benevolence, and concern are easy. Unselfishness? Not so much. My love too often comes with conditions.

Jesus said, My command is this: love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends (John 15:12-13).

Ah, now we’re getting to the meat of love. I’d lay my life down for my children, but not for a television show. That’s real love. It’s easy when the spouse, child, parent, or friend is lovable.

But what about the hard-to-love? The belligerent child? The angry spouse? The needy friend? The aging parent with dementia? The negative co-worker or demanding supervisor?

That’s when we need to love with intention. 

We need to love them like Jesus loves us. After all, He made the ultimate sacrifice. He intentionally laid his life down for you and me—and for each one of those difficult to love people—when we didn’t deserve it. 

And He commands us to do the same both for those who are easy to love, and those we feel don’t deserve our love.

We may not have to literally lay our life down, but we are often asked to sacrifice something just as important—time. And that’s where selfishness rears its ugly head.

Some folks are a challenge to love, and I’d rather not. 

Like the elderly curmudgeon who comes to my office each month to pay his bill—and complains about it every time. 


But when I took the time to listen, I discovered that when he was young, he wanted to serve his country and wasn’t accepted in the service because of a medical condition. And that his wife had recently suffered a stroke, and he didn’t feel she had gotten the care she needed because she was old.

“No one cares about old people,” he told me. “They’d just as soon let them die.”

By tossing him aside because he was a grumpy old man, wasn’t I doing the same?

Among all the fruits of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5, love is the first (v22). Maybe it’s because it’s the most important. Perhaps it should be the easiest. Or at least, the most obvious. Or, maybe it’s because God is love (1 John 4:8).

If God is love and God is in us, then love is in us. So, we ought to love others. 

It should be easy. Natural. Intentional. 

But our selfish desires get in the way. We don’t want to invest the time. Or give up the things we love. We’d rather watch our favorite television show than meet our lonely friend for coffee. We’d rather hit that mattress sale than prepare a meal for the neighbor who just had surgery. We’d rather tell the curmudgeon to mail his payment than listen to his griping.

But we are told in the preceding verses that if we live by the Spirit we will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature (Gal 5:16), and guess what one of the fruits of the sinful nature is? Selfish ambition (v 20).

Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit (Gal 5:25).

Let us crucify that  sinful nature and love intentionally. Let us take the time to listen, to care, to love.

You’ll sleep better at night. 

Of course, it could be that new mattress.

Blessings Along the Path,
Mary

This article first appeared in Ruby for Women (February edition)

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Monday, January 30, 2017

Don't Summon the Jury

Several years ago, I served on the jury of a murder trial. It was complicated and difficult to call. From the start, we didn't agree on the conviction. But the one thing we did agree on was that no matter how long it took, we would come to a unanimous decision. Too much had been invested in this trial, including six weeks of our time, to allow for a mistrial. 

So we deliberated for three days until we agreed (we found him guilty on lesser manslaughter charges).

Today, I thought about that word--deliberate

It's a word "we jurors" throw around a lot. But what does it really mean?

In its verb form, it means to engage in long, careful consideration (Google).

That's exactly what we did as a jury. We took the time to carefully consider the evidence, testimonies, and circumstances until each of us had no reasonable doubt. 

I love this word, because it's also an adjective described (again by Google) as something done consciously and intentionally.

And when we do something intentionally, we do it on purpose or deliberately. We put long, careful consideration into it. 

There is usually a purpose or reason behind intentional action.

Because spontaneity is part of my personality, my "long and careful" might not be as "long as careful" as my husband's, who is more of a planner. But that doesn't mean my intentional actions are any less deliberate. 

If the Holy Spirit whispers, "Buy that person's coffee," to me at Dunkin Donuts, I might only have a few seconds to decide to intentionally bless that person or let it slip away. There's no time for long and careful consideration. Intentional and deliberate action has to be quick and without thought.

Because if I think too much, I'll summon the jury in my head, and they'll come and deliberate:



"What if they think I'm nuts?"
"So what? You'll never see them again."
"What if they say no?"
"Who would say no to free coffee?"
(And my favorite):
"What if it's not God telling me to do this?"
"Then you blessed someone anyway. You can't go wrong."

If I allow them to convene, the opportunity has just paid for their own coffee and walked out the door. 

Each day, we get to decide how we'll live: our own way or God's. Paul counseled the Galatians (and us) to live freely, animated and motivated by God's Spirit. Then you won't feed the compulsions of selfishness (Gal 5:16-The Message).

But what's in it for me?
(Ah, the ultimate selfish question!)

Let me rephrase that:

What's the purpose, the reason for living with intention? 

What happens when we live God's way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard--things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity (Gal 5:22, The Message). 

Paul tells us in Gal 5:17 that we constantly battle our evil nature. Our natural desire is to do the things that aren't good for us, and the good things we do when we follow the Holy Spirit go against our nature. If we follow our own inclinations, we live a life of lustful desires, hatred, idolatry, jealousy, anger, complaining, envy, self-righteousness and so on (see Gal 5:19-21).

We must make a deliberate and intentional choice each day to live God's way. To starve our selfish compulsions. To decide on purpose that we will listen to the Holy Spirit's voice and not our own. 

Each morning, when we awaken, we must carefully consider the cost of following our own selfish thoughts or the blessing of following Jesus. The blessing of an abundance of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control overflowing in our basket of life.



And that abundance of fruit will naturally overflow into the baskets of others. By focusing more on Jesus and less on ourselves, we are better equipped to intentionally and deliberately see the needs of others.

So in those early morning hours, when you first rise, don't summon the jury. They'll only deliberate and keep you from being deliberate. You don't have time for long and careful consideration. 

You need only listen to One Voice to make one choice. 

Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve...as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord (Joshua 24:15)

Blessings Along the Path,
Mary

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Monday, January 23, 2017

Undignified Worship

I will become even more undignified than this. (2 Sam 6:22)

Last Sunday, a few residents of the Matheny School visited our church. For my readers who are not local, The Matheny School is a private school for children (and adults) with a diverse range of medically complex developmental disabilities (taken from the Matheny School website). 

One young man sat in his wheelchair, smiling, clapping, and shouting praise in a language that only he and his Creator understood. But I'm sure God was pleased. 

I couldn't take my eyes off him, because he worshiped with abandon.

I was reminded of King David, when he brought the ark of the Lord from the house of Obed-Edom to the City of David (see 2 Samuel 6). 

From a window, King David's wife, Michal (daughter of Saul) watched him leap and dance with all his might before the Lord--in nothing but a linen ephod. Basically, in his underwear. 



If that were my husband, I'd certainly be embarrassed. But scripture says she despised him in her heart (v16). And when he got home that night, she lit into him for his unacceptable, vulgar, no-at-all-kingly behavior (I confess, I might have done the same).

His response?

I will celebrate before the Lord. I will become even more undignified than this (v21-22).

I watched this young man worship with that same abandon and said, Lord, I want to become undignified.

Or, as I just read in Timothy Keller's The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness, I want to get to the place where I can say, I don't care what you think. I don't even care what I think. I only care about what the Lord thinks (based on 1 Cor 4:3-4).




Then Communion time came. A time of quiet, serious reflection and prayer. Unwelcome sounds might disturb others. Certainly, it's frowned upon, right?

Maybe for some. But not for this young man, He kept clapping, moving his head back and forth, and smiling. He wasn't as vocal as he was during worship; perhaps the music fueled his passion. 

His caregiver politely attempted to silence the clapping by placing his hands in between the young man's, but that frustrated him, and he pushed his caregiver's arms away, as if to say, "Let me celebrate before the Lord!"

As we grow, we learn to suppress our emotions, thoughts, and desires so we can assimilate nicely into society.

But those we consider undignified speak what they think. Like children who haven't learned to filter their thoughts. 

The other day a little girl in front of me in a checkout line was observing another little girl, then turned to her father and said, "Daddy, that girl has a pony tail, like me."

She spoke what she thought. 

No wonder Jesus told his disciples, Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them (Matthew 19:14).

We are taught to silence ourselves. So we come to God in the same manner. Politely. Dignified. Hindered.

We learn to behave ourselves. Especially in public. Definitely in church.



But I don't want to be dignified or polite in my worship. I want to be unhindered, like a child. Like our visitor.

What will it take for me to get beyond What will people think? What will it take for me, like Paul, to say, 

I don't care what you think. I don't even care what I think. I only care what the Lord thinks.

If I listen to What Will People Think (Dennis Jernigan), it would take total surrender. 

Total surrender. To all that you are.
Total surrender. Of all I am to you.



I confess, I'm not there. Not totally. I'd like to say I'm all in. I want to be. But I'd be lying. Sadly, I still care. Because it's hard to take the risk of looking foolish among your peers. 

So I pray these words from Dennis' song:

Well, I no longer care.
Let the whole world see that I love you.
Let them see in me what love can do
Take my life and show them love worth dying for.

And I pray the Holy Spirit moves upon my heart, loosening the hinges that hold me all together. 

So I can dance like David danced. 
Think like Paul thought. 
Sing like Dennis sang.

Undigified.
Unhindered.
Unhinged.

Blessings Along the Path,
Mare

PS--Interestingly, I just came across a book by Lisa Harper called Untamed: How the wild side of Jesus frees us to live and love with abandon. Needless to say, I bought it, and am soaking up every word!. 

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