Thursday, February 27, 2014

Take Up Your Cross

"It's my cross to bear in life."
"Take up your cross and carry it."

As I've often previously disclosed, I am not a theologian; just a woman who ponders things and delves into them. So, everything you read here is as close to biblical truth as I can get, but often my opinion, and so being, may or may not be right (sounds like a disclaimer, doesn't it?)

In Matthew 16:24-25, Jesus told His disciples, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it." 

What does it mean to "take up our cross?" Does it mean we are to suffer for the sake of Christ? Does it mean we are expected to suffer? Is it okay for us to have "a cross to bear?" I'm not so sure. 

In the Roman Empire, a convicted criminal, when taken to be crucified, was forced to carry his own cross. This showed publicly that he was then under and submissive to the rule he had been opposing. Likewise Jesus' disciples must demonstrate their submission to the One against whom they had rebelled. The path Jesus and his followers would travel would be a road of sorrow and suffering. But in so losing one's life, one would truly find a better life (The Bible Commentary, Walvoord/Zuck).

So, when we take up our cross, are we doing so in order to suffer? This difficulty we will live with our whole lives---is it truly "our cross to bear?" Yes, following Jesus will often bring us suffering and heartache; sorrow and difficulty. But is that really what it means?

When I take up my cross, am I accepting difficulty, sorrow and suffering in life and "offering it up to Christ" or am I submitting to the authority of Christ, as the Roman Empire law dictated? Am I following Him to my place of crucifixion or am I following Him in obedience and submission, having once rebelled against Him? Am I accepting this situation as my lot in life, my cross to bear, following in His suffering or am I giving up my life as I know it, as I want it, and accepting the life He desires for me? 

I think it's important not to leave out two important words..."deny himself." We are instructed to deny ourselves before we take up our cross and follow Him. For if I lose my life for His sake, I will save it. Does "losing my life" mean I am to carry my cross to my place of crucifixion and die? Didn't He do that for me? Or, does it perhaps mean that I take up my cross, the manner of which I am to die to self, the manner of which I am to deny myself, and come under His authority? Before I pick up that cross, before I make the choice to follow Him, I must first deny myself. I must look upward instead of inward.

I think these are good questions that I don't have an answer for. But I also think it may be something that we often take out of context. I'd love to know what you think. 

Yes, we will suffer in this life. We will have sorrow. We will have difficulty. And when we do, He is there with us. He carries us through it. Is it really up to us to carry so much burden when we have a Savior who desires to carry it for us?

Blessings Along the Path...as you carry your cross...
Mary

Song of the Day
Carry Me (Audrey Assad)

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Challenge to Change

I've been home recuperating for almost two weeks now. I'm starting to get bored. What, exactly am I supposed to do? I can't vacuum, carry laundry or hang wallpaper. I'm not a TV person. So I read. A lot. The librarian knows me by my first name, without using my card. I feel like Norm, on Cheers. When I walk into the library everyone briefly looks up and says, "Mare!" I average a book a day, or maybe every two days, if I take my time.

I need a project. I figured that since I read so much, and enjoy reading, that perhaps I should try to read the bible all the way through. Some people read the bible through in a year, following a plan. I'm not big on following plans. I always forget or lose interest, and then when I get behind, I just quit. 



I figured that I average about 250 pages a day, with a good book. Since the bible is a little tougher to read than say, a murder mystery, I should give it, oh, maybe 200 pages a day. My bible has 1722 pages; at 200 pages a day...I should be able to get through the entire bible in...wait for it...8.1 days. 

Yeah...no, I don't think so. I highly doubt I can include the 50 pages of 1 Chronicles as part of my speed reading. I have a feeling I'll need a nap somewhere in all that begetting. Could I do it in a month? Maybe. But I think those murder mysteries might call my name in between.

My problem (well, the one I want to focus on) is that I love a challenge, but when it gets too hard, I quit. I give up. I can't seem to compromise somewhere in the middle. It's all or nothing. Then I feel guilty and worthless. Maybe, during this time of physical rest, it's time for a change. Maybe I need to challenge myself and just see how far I get. To set the goal and see what happens. Reading the bible shouldn't be a chore. It shouldn't be an all or nothing thing. It's a privilege, not a duty. 


So, let the games begin. I'm not going to set a specified amount because I don't like specific rules. I think I'll just let the Holy Spirit be my guide, and see what happens. 

Have you challenged yourself, fallen short and given up? Maybe it's time to resurrect that challenge and set a new goal. Let the Holy Spirit be your guide and just see what happens. Let's not beat ourselves up needlessly. The world does a good enough job of that without us adding to it. Run in such a way as to get the prize (1 Cor 9:24)...the crown that will last forever.

Blessings Along the Path,
Mary


Tuesday, February 25, 2014

It's Not Necessarily Better to Give

It is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35).

These words were quoted by Luke, who claims that our Lord, Jesus Christ said them. Sounds like something Jesus would say. I don't know...I've been receiving an awful lot lately and I've been pretty blessed. I'm not sure I want to give it up.

I haven't had to cook a meal in almost two weeks. Just when we start running out of food, someone brings a meal. Cards have been pouring in, well wishes, friends e-mailing and messaging me on Facebook. People have brought me places I've needed to go, and my husband, Brian has done everything from clean the toilets (which I know he detests) to heating up the meals and cleaning up the kitchen. I've had so many people ask me what they can do that I've run out of ideas. I have been blessed beyond belief!

Notice that the verse doesn't say it's better to give than to receive (which is how we often misquote this scripture)---it's more blessed to give than to receive. According to the Strong's Exhaustive Concordance, which I'm sure must weigh more than the limited 8 pounds I'm allowed to lift (I see why it's called an exhaustive concordance...I was exhausted after pulling it off the bookshelf...you have to be quite strong to lift it), the word blessed means fortunate, well-off, happy. 

It is not necessarily better to give. Sometimes it's better to receive. But it's always important to remember that when we're on the receiving end, the one who is most blessed is the giver. As one who is currently in a position of receiving, it's better for me to be receiving than giving; I'm not in a position to give much right now. As much as I feel blessed having all of these people do for and give to me, I tend to think that the person giving feels so much more blessed than I. Think about the times that you gave. It felt really good, didn't it? Knowing that you helped a person in need takes you out of yourself, if only for a short time. 

One thing that I've learned from being on the receiving end is that it's important to graciously accept the gift, whatever it may be. Don't make a big deal about it. The giver desires to give. The receiver needs to receive. It's simple, but we complicate it by thinking we don't deserve it, or that we should be capable of doing something ourselves. That shouldn't factor in. It's irrelevant. Give. Receive. Accept. Thank. Do the same. In the secular world, it's called "passing it on." 

If you're in a position to give, give freely, unhindered, without expectations. If you find yourself in a position of receiving, accept the gift and thank the giver. Then, when you're able, go and do the same. The world will be a "better" place, if not a more "blessed" place.

Blessings Along the Path,
Mary 

Song of the Day---This song has no relevance to today's topic, but I felt so strongly that someone needs to hear it today. For whomever it is, fear not. He will not let you go. And there WILL be an end to your trouble. Hold on to Him and praise Him.
You Never Let Go (Matt Redman)

Monday, February 24, 2014

Jesus Never Ran

"I've never known Jesus to run. He always walked and took His time."  This said by my 82 year old mother,. We were discussing how the world is in such a hurry, and how people get annoyed when they are stopped by a slow person. 

I have been that slow person lately. I made a trip to the supermarket a few days after my surgery (with my husband). I felt like Tim Conway, when he plays the world's oldest man, shuffling along and speaking so slowly that his words almost don't come out. 

The people were going so fast, and the shopping carts seemed to be flying around corners. It seemed like they were all going to run me over. It was all very overwhelming. I wanted to put my hand up to stop them, in a "World's Oldest Man" fashion and say, "a...whooooooaaaaa!"

Having no choice but to move slowly has given me a compassion that I don't know that I had before. I think that when I'm able to move quickly again, I will be more considerate of those who can't. There is a reason people move slow, and it's not to simply annoy those behind them who are in a hurry. We might do well to learn from them.

I thought about what my mother had said. It's true. Nowhere in the bible do we ever read about Jesus running; perhaps as a child we picture him running and playing. But as a man, we only read about Him walking. Never being in a hurry. Admonishing those who are in a hurry, like Martha. 

I believe that Jesus had the mindset of, "I will get there when I get there, and it will be the appointed time." Even when Martha (there she is again) begged Jesus to hurry to her brother Lazarus, he stopped to heal a woman. Even though we think it's too late, our brother has died, and has been dead for several days, when Jesus arrives on the scene, He brings life, regardless of the time element. 
Jesus was fully man, but also fully God. God does not have time. Time was made by man for man. There are no clocks in heaven. Those were made for us, so that we could better micro-schedule our day, and become agitated when we are late.

Jesus is never late. He is always "on time." He never hurries. He never runs. We might do well to learn from his example.

Blessings Along the Path,

Mary

Song/Video of the Day
Run to God (Charizma)

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

I Am NOT Superwoman

Hello friends! Contrary to what you may believe, I am not Superwoman. I did not write the last five blogs having just gone through major surgery. On the contrary, I wrote them ahead of time, just like I pre-cooked meals to have for a week after surgery. I plan well when I want to.

However, I'm still feeling pretty tired, and not quite up to snuff. I'm not spending time with God like I want. My prayers are more of a "Help me God...I need to sleep!" than, "What lesson can I learn from this?" I'm just trying to make it through the day (and night). My concentration is not what it should be yet. I just need to take some time to take care of myself for awhile.

On that note, I've decided to take a blogging break. We all need to admit when we need to take a break, and I need one now. I'm too old and too tired to pretend I'm Superwoman, especially when anyone who really knows me knows that I'm far from it. Being on "the other side of 50," you no longer feel you have to prove anything to anyone. It's very freeing. You should try it. 

I'll be back, but I don't know when. Maybe in a week. Maybe I'll be inspired sooner. I'm going to let God decide. When He shows me a lesson, I'll share it with you. In the meantime,

Blessings Along the Path
Mary

Monday, February 17, 2014

When You Fast...

Last week I had surgery. I wasn't allowed to eat anything solid after lunch the day before. I was, however, allowed liquids, and even ice cream! (I totally took advantage of that one!). I was concerned that I would be hungry. My goodness, how would I go without a meal?

The funny thing is, I wasn't really hungry. I filled up at lunch; most of the night I didn't really feel hungry. Of course, I had ice cream to fill me up.

It made me think...I really have no idea what it's like to be "hungry." We toss that word around flippantly...I'm so hungry!...I'm starving!...I haven't eaten all day!

No, I really don't know what it's like to starve. Or even to be hungry. To have no choice but to go without food...for more than one meal...or more than one day. To be to the point of having no energy, wondering if I will even survive another day because I'm so hungry.

We typically don't think about it because for us, food is readily available. We always have a choice.

That's why fasting is a good idea. I used to fast. I stopped because...I don't know why. Because I decided I didn't want to be inconvenienced with being hungry I guess. But that's exactly why we fast. 

When I did fast, I learned that whenever I felt hunger was the time to look to God for my strength, to pray about whatever it is I was fasting about, if there was a specific reason. When we fast, we depend on and rely on God for our sustenance. It is an amazing way to become closer to the Lord. When we must rely on Him, we draw closer. He satisfies our hunger.

We are told to fast. When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others, but by your Father, who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you (Matt 6:16-18, ESV). It doesn't say "If you fast," it says, "When you fast."


 I urge you to consider fasting if you have never done so. There is no special formula. Give up what's really important to you. It may be a meal, it may be television. It may be a liquid fast for the day. Ask God to show you what you depend on for your sustenance, and then ask Him for the strength to give that up for a time.  If you already fast, I commend you.  I think you'll agree with me that wonderful things happen when you fast. 

I think it's time I to get back to fasting...I haven't realized what I've missed!

Blessings Along the Path,
Mary

Song of the Day
Hungry (Kathryn Scott)



Friday, February 14, 2014

Happy Valentine's Day!

Happy Valentine's Day!

Personally, I never liked Valentine's Day. People who don't have a "significant other" often feel lonely and left out. People who do have significant others often feel cheated out of something that they think should bring them joy, but doesn't. Sometimes our expectations exceed the reality. For a lot of people, Valentine's Day spells disappointment. That's why I never liked it. 

Also, I don't believe that one should wait for one special day out of the year to show our love to those close to us. We should do that daily!  


There is One who never disappoints, who loves us unconditionally, who never lets us down. He may not bring us flowers and candy, but He promises never to leave us or forsake us. His love never ends, and it doesn't depend on our performance. Jesus wants to love on you today. If you're disappointed with unmet expectations from your loved one, or if you're lonely, wishing you had that special someone, take heart (oh, excuse the pun). Jesus loves you. It sounds trite, because we've heard it so many times, but it's true! And there is no greater love. 

My beloved is mine and I am his 
(Song of Solomon 2:16)

Happy Valentine's Day                                                                
Mary
Song of the Day:
Color My World (Chicago)

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Living Without Our Bully

Because I'm having surgery this week, and will need as little stress as possible to recover, Foxy (aka Psycho Dog) has been temporarily relocated for a week. 

I thought that without Foxy around, Lucy would be more relaxed and happier. I know I would be if I were the "other dog" who always got bullied. Oddly, however, Lucy seemed a bit out of sorts at first, as if she just didn't know what to do with herself. I gave her the coveted bone they usually fight over, which always ends up on top of my dresser to avoid a dogfight, and she just let it drop. She almost seems...sad. In a strange way, I think she misses Foxy. She's not sure how to act or what her place is without the chaos.

Huh?  

We are not that much different. Sometimes I think we thrive on stress, chaos and the need to solve some sort of dilemma. Or maybe we identify with pain or ill health, and when that pain is removed, or our health improves, we don't know who we are anymore. Maybe it goes deeper-an issue that we've struggled with our whole lives, and suddenly we are delivered and free from it.

When we find ourselves suddenly stress-free, we can also find ourselves walking around a little like Lucy. We're used to getting beaten up by life, or by the lies of satan, or simply by the situation that caused the stress. When those things are removed, we're not sure what to do. We're not quite sure how to be happy, how to relax. We don't know how to do life without our "thing." We're oddly out of sorts. We have to make a conscious effort to change our way of living to a more relaxed and happier state. It's work! It's an adjustment. We have adjust our thinking so that our state of being will follow.


Whenever we feel out of sorts like this, it's best to just bring it before the Lord.  Ask Him to take the anxiety of the stress that we no longer need to feel from you. And guess what? He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing...the sorrows...I will remove from you; they are a burden and a reproach to you...at that time, I will gather you...I will bring you home. I will give you honor and praise...when I restore your fortunes before your very eyes, says the Lord (Zeph 3:17-20)

We need to attempt to quiet ourselves before the Lord as He quiets us with His love, and He will restore what was lost, what we cannot seem to find...the peace that has long been missing from our daily living.


I'm sure that after a few days, Lucy will adjust, as will I. I won't be waiting for Foxy to attack Lucy every time someone gets up. And won't that be nice and relaxing for all of us. Yes, it will most likely be just in time for the stress to return...one week from now. For now, I'm enjoying the quiet.

Blessings Along the Path,
Mary


Song of the Day
Sing Over Me (Bethany Dillon/Nichole Nordeman)






Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Little Things

The other day, Lucy (aka Normal Dog) put her paw on my arm to be petted. As she did, I noticed a strange pink lump. I brought her to the vet and was informed that it was a growth, and could be cancerous...and if so, could be fast moving...OR...it could be nothing but a growth. 

The vet took her "in the back" where they would take a sample and put it on a slide to get a preliminary look, then send it out to the lab. 

While I was waiting, I decided to pray. I'm having major surgery this week and right now would really not be a good time financially for my dog to have to undergo surgery as well, not to mention recovery for both of us. I just couldn't deal with the lampshade thing while I'm trying to recover. It would be inconvenient for her to have a lampshade as well. On top of everything, I haven't been working much, and when I don't work, I don't get paid. I started to tell God this, and realized that, duh, He already knows. So I skipped that part and went straight to the plea. "God, please let this be nothing. You know the situation. You know I just can't do this right now. Please, let this just be a growth, which can either be easily removed or left alone. Thank you."

I didn't go on and on, flailing about on the floor (I didn't know when the vet might come back, after all). I just said what I had to say and left it at that, confident that God heard my prayer.

The preliminary results showed nothing bad, but the lab will further determine what, if anything it is and from there, I suppose, we will determine treatment, if any.

I silently thanked God. 

Now, you can say that God heard my prayer. Indeed. I had good results. But what if the results
had come back as cancer? Would I say that God didn't hear my prayer, or didn't answer my prayer? No. I know God heard my prayer. He always hears the prayers of His children. He may not always answer our prayers the way we want, but He always answers them. There is no such thing as unanswered prayer. What kind of God would ignore His children in their time of need? Would you do that as a parent to your own child? How much more does our Father love us?

If the results had come back negatively...or I should say, positive... (and they still might), then I'd just have to shift my prayers (I suppose I'd ask for a financial miracle). Regardless of the outcome, I always know that God hears my prayers, because I know how much He loves me. He cares deeply about every petition I put before Him; even a growth on my dog's toe!

You may be facing something much larger than a growth on your dog's toe. Your situation may seem insurmountable, or it may appear that there is no solution. You may feel like you're up against a wall, with no way out. BUT GOD...

Bring your petitions before God, then trust Him with the results. Have faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, "Move from here to there" and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you (Matthew 17:20)

If He doesn't move it or remove it, He'll be with you as you go through it. When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you (Isaiah 43:2-NLT).

Have faith. He cares for you and wants the best for you.

Blessings Along the Path,
Mary

Song of the Day


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Make the Choice to Rejoice!

Is it possible to experience joy without gratitude? 

I am reading a book by Richard Paul Evans, called Miles to Go. It's part 2 of a 4-part series called "The Walk." The protagonist makes that statement in his journal. You see, his wife died, and his business partner stole all his clients while his wife was in the hospital, so he not only lost his wife, but his home, his business and his best friend (who was his business partner). He decides to walk from Seattle, WA to Key West, FL. The books are about his experiences and the people he meets (and helps) along the way. Evans states that he "writes with the hope of improving the world."  His books are very thought-provoking and enjoyable. He does not write from a biblical view, however...which is why I question that statement...

It is possible to experience joy without gratitude.

When I looked up the word, "joy" in the Hebrew and Greek, the word that kept coming up was cheerful. The Web definition is "a feeling of great pleasure and happiness." 

If I stop here, I could easily agree that we can experience joy without gratitude. It's simply a feeling that we choose and that makes us cheerful or happy.

But I'm not content to stop there, because my gut tells me that gratitude plays a big part in being joyful. Even Merriam Webster agrees by further defining joy as..." a source or cause of great happiness...something or someone that gives joy to someone...success in doing, finding or getting something."

Joy is a feeling, but it seems that it must have a source. So if we have a source of joy, wouldn't it make sense that we would also be grateful to that source? Otherwise, it's not pure joy. Maybe it's not a conscious choice, but it's still gratitude.

I will turn their mourning into gladness (joy); I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow...declares the Lord (Jer 31:13).

Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength (Neh 8:10)

Weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing (joy) comes in the morning (Ps 30:5)

And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit (Acts 13:52)

Romans 5:1-11 has so much to say about joy that it's too much to put in this blog. Read it yourself. But it ends with this: We also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation (Rom 5:11).


Well...if that's not enough to convince you that joy comes from gratitude, I don't know what is. We rejoice because we have been reconciled to God through Jesus Christ. I don't know about you, but I sure am grateful for that!

Is it possible to have joy without gratitude? Probably. But I question the extent of the joy in that case. To know true joy, I believe one must have gratitude. To experience exquisite joy, one must have Jesus! Choose Jesus and choose joy!

Blessings Along the Path,
Mary

Song/Video of the Day
Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring (Celtic Woman) (I have no idea when these women take a breath!)








Monday, February 10, 2014

How Will You Be Remembered?

Facebook has a new feature---it puts together a movie of your (Facebook) life. It's pretty cool, actually. I don't know how it does it, but I got choked up when I watched mine. Everyone on Facebook has one. You click on a link and you watch this little slideshow. 

Someone recently posed the question: "If a movie of your life was made, what would it be called and who would play you?" I thought that was a very thought-provoking question. Of course, in keeping with my self-deprecating nature, I decided it would be called something like, "Following Mary," and would take you through the many jobs I've had. And I would want Lucille Ball to play me, but she's no longer alive, so I'd have to go with Sandra Bullock; I love her natural humor. Plus, she's really good looking.

What could you say about your life? What would your movie be called? Who would play you? What would your Facebook movie say about you? When you're gone, how will people remember you? Do you think they'll remember you as you desire to be remembered? 

I think people will remember my humor. I would like people to remember that I was an encourager and always positive (I'll need to work on that last one...hopefully, I have a long time to work on it!).

In his letter to the Philippians, Paul says, "I thank God every time I remember you." (Phil 1:3). More than anything else, I want people to thank God when they remember me. If people don't equate me with God, then I've failed. It's more important that I be remembered as a follower of Christ than a funny person who encouraged others. Anyone can do that. But more than anything, I want to be remembered as a woman who loved God...loves God...present tense. Right after they meet me. Long after they meet me. I want to convey Christ everywhere I go.

How will you be remembered...today, tomorrow and later, when you're gone? Will you be known as one who loves God?


Oh, and George Clooney could feel free to play my leading man...just saying...

Blessings Along the Way
Mary

Song of the Day
I Love You, Lord (Maranatha Singers)




Friday, February 7, 2014

Word Catchers

I've been told that I say things that everyone else only thinks. It's meant to be a compliment (I think); I see myself as transparent, willing to say those things for everyone else's benefit. An example of this is the things I write on this blog. You read it and think, "Huh, I do that too, but I'd never admit it. Thanks, Mare for letting me I'm not alone."

The problem is that I also say things that I am thinking that don't need to be said; things that need to stay in my head. I like to say that I'm an external processor--I think out loud. Before I know it, I've said what I was thinking. Not always a good thing. I tend to babble. Blahblahblahblahblah...I embarrass my children and they tend not to take me seriously unless I'm succinct. When people start to look at me like a dog looks when he doesn't understand, or their eyes glass over, I know I've talked too long. Sometimes I can't even stand it and I wish I could just stop in the middle. If I did, probably no one would even notice. They would only notice quiet.

Unfortunately, I can't seem to stop. I've tried. But I keep forgetting and words just spew out of my mouth much in the same way the dog's dinner finds its way onto the bedroom carpet in the middle of the night (never the floor; always the carpet). I used to get in trouble at jobs because I talked too much and my co-workers couldn't concentrate, or a boss couldn't take my constant chatter to no one but myself.


I wish there was a word catcher, like a spaghetti strainer. Or a net. I could just collect all those stray words that are laying all over the floor or on peoples' heads, and shove them back in my mouth. Oh, that's called eating your words. Hmmm...

Sorry, I'm babbling. See what I mean? 

If you're a regular reader, you know I often write about thinking before we speak. I should practice what I preach, huh? 

Now that I'm on the "other side of 50", I've decided that there are some things that you just can't change. Like how we process our thoughts. Some people are thinkers; others are spewers. Sometimes, it's just part of our personality. I think that part of me can change, with a little forethought, but part of me is just wired to spew. I just need to be aware, and maybe I can stop saying whatever comes into my head to the guy filling up my gas tank who doesn't even speak English.

Boy, I hope when I stand before God, I can get a grip on this thing. Hopefully, I'll be so in awe, I will be speechless. That will definitely be miraculous!

What is it that you struggle with? My pastor told us one Sunday that he didn't struggle with a certain issue---he was really good at it! Is it an ongoing thing that you wish you could change? Ask God to show you if it's something you truly can change, or if it's part of how you're hardwired. Maybe you're being too hard on yourself. Or maybe there's somewhere in between. 

And if you see me running around with a net someday, please don't think I've lost my mind...it's just my words.

Blessings Along the Path,
Mary

Song/Video of the Day
Let My Words Be Few (Matt Redman)


Thursday, February 6, 2014

On Being a Hermit

With all this snow we've been having, I've had to spend a lot of time cooped up in my home, as have many of you. What I discovered during this time of solitude is that I wouldn't do well as a recluse or a hermit. I need to be around people, even if it's just to go to Dunkin Donuts to get coffee--to give them my order and say thank you. As much as I love to read, it gets boring after awhile. I need people.

In one of his recent sermons, my pastor made an interesting point. He was describing how people say that they're working on themselves, getting more spiritual, getting more grounded in their faith, getting closer to the Lord, working on getting more compassionate,etc.  His question was, "For what? For who? For yourself? Or for your neighbor?"

What good is all that compassion, all that work becoming like Christ if you live in seclusion? Jesus was not about naval-gazing. If we want to be Christ-like, we need to follow His example. We need to go out into the world and interact with the unlovely and unlovable, the ungodly and the undesirable. We need to take all that compassion that we've learned about in our time of seclusion and put it into practice. Sit with sinners. Eat with tax collectors (aka people we don't like or who are not like us). Smile and say thank you when you're served mushroom soup and you hate mushrooms. (Sorry, I hate mushrooms, so I felt the need to include that, for my own benefit). 

The entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: "Love your neighbor as yourself." (Gal 5:14).

Building ourselves up is good. Spending time alone with the Lord is good. Delving into and studying the word is good. But, like Pastor James said, "For who?" If we are doing all this to edify and encourage ourselves, we need to get out more. Yes, it's important to do all those things, especially if we have issues we need to overcome; sometimes the Lord sets us apart for a time to work on and heal us, bringing us through a recovery process. But when that time is up, it's important to go to our neighbor and share what the Lord has done for us! 

We don't have to evangelize the town. Trust me, I'm not an evangelist. I'm an encourager though. And when you're an encourager with a mouth that doesn't know when to close, who needs to be around people...well, I just need a little refining and I'm good to go. It's not rocket science. An encouraging word to the person who makes your coffee every day might go a long way. Looking someone in the eye after you ask, "How are you?" and waiting for their response. An affirming, appreciative word to your co-worker or employee. A thank you to your boss. An extra hug to a family member. Slowing down to that senior citizen's pace in front of you and realizing that they can't move any faster., and someday you will be just like him or her.  And a moment to linger at the mailbox when you're talking to your neighbor. You might not really care, but take a moment to act like you do, and you just might find yourself caring! Slow down your life and look around.

Don't be a hermit. Don't naval-gaze. Let's get out of ourselves and notice all of those hurting people around us who need an encouraging word or simply a smile today. Put what you've learned into practice. Don't keep it all to yourself! Spread Jesus today!

Blessing Along the Path,
Mary

Song/Video of the Day--as you know, monks chant; hermits don't speak...I'd never make it...gotta see this adorable and humorous video--it's just a fun thing for today!
Monks Chanting the Hallelujah Chorus



Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Just the Way You Are

Have you ever wished you could see yourself as everyone else does? Well, I got a glimpse the other day, and it was quite humorous. Be careful what you wish for.


It started in the Dollar Store, when I was looking for something and another shopper started talking to herself out loud. I do that because I think that everyone cares about what it is I can't seem to find. No one cares. She told me that she was looking for something for her daughter. Well, I don't know you, nor can I envision your daughter, so it means nothing. Funny, I always thought people cared about my dilemma. They don't.

Then I went to the supermarket, where I encountered a woman who was struggling with a shopping cart with one of those funky wheels--the ones where you have to practically pick the darn thing up to turn a corner. She was making all these faces and grunting and fuming so that everyone would feel sorry for her. Huh...I do that, and thought that everyone cared. No one cared. She only succeeded in making herself look ridiculous. Huh...who knew?

The day of looking at myself through others concluded with my husband Brian giving me a glimpse of what I look like at home. Brian is normally a very even-tempered guy; I never see him become impatient, especially with his beloved laptop. But the network he was working on (from his job) was running super slow, and what should have taken a short time to accomplish was going to take him several hours. It caused even him to lose his patience. He started banging his computer, grunting, fuming and saying, "Come on!" to his computer. I thought, "Huh, is that what I look like?"

No...I look much, much worse. Being a dramatic person by nature, my antics are 100 times magnified. Humorous? Yes. Humiliating? Yes. Did it change the way I act? ...eh...maybe a little.

Aren't you glad God doesn't see you like everyone else sees you? Or worse, as you see yourself? We have a distorted view of ourselves because we live with us. Sometimes our view is more puffed up than it should be (Don't think of yourselves more highly than you should-Rom 12:3) and other times, we see ourselves much lower than we should, because of lies we've been told and believe, or simply from comparing ourselves too much with over-photo-shopped supermodels. We need a healthy balance.

Psalm 139 is a beautiful description of how God sees us. You have searched me, Lord, and you know me (v1). You are familiar with all my ways (v3). Before a word is on my tongue, you, Lord, know it completely (v4). You created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb (v13).I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful. I know that full well (v14).


God knew what He was doing when He made you and me. We are no surprise to Him. He knew that I'd have a big mouth, a rapier wit, and chutzpah. He probably laughed while he was pouring that into me. Who knows, maybe He gets a kick out of watching me get myself out of situations that my big mouth has gotten me into. But there are other times when those things come in handy, like breaking the ice in a tense situation. Or being willing to be a guinea pig and make a fool out of myself in order for everyone else to get the picture. God knew what He was doing when He made us, and He adores us just the way we are!

The last two verses of Psalm 139 are the best. While we have been made uniquely us, and there are certain aspects of our personalities that we cannot change, we should always desire to refine those rough places. May this be the prayer of our hearts today.

Search me, God, and know my heart;  test me and know my anxious thoughts.  See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting (v23-24).

Blessings Along the Path,
Mary

Song/Video of the Day (try to imagine God singing this to you)
I Love You Just the Way You Are (Billy Joel)



Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Avoiding the Crazies

Yesterday, we were hit with another snowstorm. I don't know why it snows every time I have some sort of medical thing that I can't cancel, but there I was again, driving in a snowstorm. This time, I made sure to pray first and ask God to send His angels to protect my car. And He did. Thank you, God.

What I don't understand is why people in New Jersey are still in a hurry, even in a snowstorm. I call them crazies. Now, I'm not one of those elderly women who brakes every two minutes and drives 10mph; I know how to drive in the snow. However, the older I get, the more cautious I've gotten. Yet, I kept getting these crazies coming up behind me; apparently, I wasn't going fast enough. I just pulled over and let them pass. If you want to risk your life and drive like a maniac, go right ahead. But don't expect me to speed up and put my own life in danger simply because you don't want to be inconvenienced by my cautious (slow) driving. That would be crazy.

Do you ever find yourself doing that? Speeding up in order to satisfy the crazies? We're so worried about what people think of us, that many times we find ourselves doing something we're not comfortable doing, simply to satisfy someone else who may be inconvenienced by our lack of cooperation. It's called compromise. We all do it to some degree. Or at least if we don't do it now, we have all done it before. 


Adults can succumb to peer pressure too, you know. And as Christians, trying to live in a secular world, we often compromise our values without realizing it until it's too late. Or, sometimes we know exactly what we're doing. We just want to fit in. We don't want to start a debate. We can't deal with explaining. It's just this one time. We want them to like us. We find reasons to excuse our behavior. Then, if you're like me, you beat yourself up afterwards. Why did I give in to that?

When the crazies come up behind us, trying to intimidate us, we simply need to pull over. Pull out the Word of God---maybe not literally. But if we know the Word, if we have hidden it in our heart, we will call to mind a verse that will help us out of a sticky situation. Be careful that you don't make an agreement with the people in the land where you are going,because it will bring you trouble (be a snare/trap)...Ex 34:12. We can personalize this by saying, "I am very, very careful never to compromise with the people around me and I do not follow their evil ways." (From Joyce Meyer's, The Secret Power of Speaking God's Word). The blessing will follow. Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked, or stand in the way that sinners take, or sit in the company of mockers (Ps 1:1).


It is difficult, even as adults, not to give in to peer pressure. It's hard to be the odd man (or woman) out. But I know from experience, from the times I have not given in, stood my ground, and got strange looks and stranger remarks, the reward was far greater than the pressure. I felt my spirit lift; that God was pleased with me. And pleasing God is much more important than pleasing people.

Blessings Along the Path,
Mary

Song/Video of the Day
Psalm 1 (Sons of Korah) --words on screen are in foreign language (sorry), but the song is sung in English!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Guilty!?

Amanda Knox (and her boyfriend) were recently found guilty of murdering her roommate in 2007. She had been handed a guilty verdict before, but it was overturned in an appeal. But the Italian government decided that they wanted to try her again. This time, she wasn't even there.

"I am frightened and saddened by this unjust verdict," she said in written remarks. "Having been found innocent before, I expected better from the Italian justice system. The evidence and accusatory theory do not justify a verdict of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. ...There has always been a marked lack of evidence."

Did she do it? There are only three people who know for sure, and one of them is dead. But this isn't the first time the Italian government found someone guilty with "a marked lack of evidence."

Jesus was found guilty of the crime of blasphemy, by saying He was the Son of God, thus undermining the authority of the Jewish leaders. And treason against the Roman government and Caeser's authority. The crime was punishable by death. Wow, can you imagine if blasphemy was punishable by death today? There wouldn't be too many of us left in this sad state of a world.

Jesus was actually not found guilty of any crime under Roman law, because Pilate "washed his hands" of the situation, and said, "I find no fault with this man."(Luke 23:4). Nevertheless, Jesus was sentenced to death, because Pilate gave in to the pressure of the Jews who demanded his crucifixion. 

A guilty charge--a death sentence--and really no evidence. 

I am not saying Amanda Knox is innocent. I am in no position to determine her innocence or guilt. But it makes me think, as I often do...what must it be like to be sentenced to prison, or worse, to death, for a crime you did not commit? What goes on in the head of an innocent person who has to spend years, if not a lifetime, in prison? 

I would be angry, confused and scared. Very scared. And I'd probably cry---a lot! But then, I'd have no choice but to "buck up" and get tough in order to survive.

Jesus did none of that. He was fulfilling a prophecy, and He knew that this was all part of the Divine Plan. The chief priests accused him of many things. So again Pilate asked him, "Aren't you going to answer? See how many things they are accusing you of." But Jesus made no reply, and Pilate was amazed (Mark 15:3-5. emphasis mine) 

He made no reply. He was at peace. Only the Son of God could do that! He never defended himself; he made no appeal. He accepted His fate and went, willingly to His death, a death He knew was to come...had to come. Even Pilate (who knew Jesus was an innocent man) was amazed. How could someone who was staring death in the face be so calm?

Amanda Knox will serve 28-1/2 years in an Italian prison...unless she becomes a fugitive first, which she has stated that she would do if convicted. 


When it is our time to stare death in the face, will we run, like Amanda Knox, or will we call on Jesus, who walked that path before and who is the author of peace? It's inevitable, death. So, for me, I choose life---strange as it may sound---life into death? Yes, life with my Savior, Jesus. Life now and life everlasting. Because of His sacrifice, He...the innocent one, died for me...the guilty one, and I get to go free...that is amazing love. Yes, I'll gladly walk with Him now and always.

Blessings Along the Path,
Mary 
Song of the Day
Amazing Love (Graham Kendrick)