Handwritten Letters

Handwritten Letters

Sadly I believe the art of writing a good letter is almost lost. I used to send handwritten letters to many people and even had a pen pal for many years. But now it seems a Hallmark card is good enough and a printed letter only goes to close friends and family at Christmas time. Facebook and other media gives a way to send a quick thought but there is no substance. My husband and I have been going through many boxes of memorabilia containing letters from our college years. Not only did they express our feelings for each other but information about classes, dorm mates and happenings on campus and back home. I found some letters my parents sent each other while he was in the Air Force and a letter my Grandma sent me before she died the summer I was a camp counselor. These letters hold a snapshot of life in the past but also reinforce the foundation my life was built on.

The second part of the Christian Bible, called the New Testament, consists of the Gospels, Acts, Epistles, and Book of Revelation, which together describe the life and teachings of Jesus, the efforts on the part of Jesus’s followers to establish the Christian Church, and a prophetic vision of the Second Coming. These epistles were handwritten letters to various young Churches scattered around the then known world and have been meticulously preserved for us.

 Luke, the beloved doctor, sends his greetings, and so does Demas.15 Please give my greetings to our brothers and sisters at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church that meets in her house.16 After you have read this letter, pass it on to the church at Laodicea so they can read it, too. And you should read the letter I wrote to them.17 And say to Archippus, “Be sure to carry out the ministry the Lord gave you.”18 Here is my greeting in my own handwriting—Paul. Remember my chains. May God’s grace be with you. Col 4:14-18

These letters contain names and places of real people that were being taught how to live as Christians in a pagan world. The letters teach deep theology and practical solutions to problems we still face today. Within the pages are words of admonishment similar to, “please get along and take care of each other” as well as words of encouragement for these early saints, “Stand firm in His word.”

In our fast paced instant messenger world we can just read a quick verse on our phone or listen to a podcast at the click of a button. I don’t think we appreciate the time It would have taken quite for these letters to reach their intended readers. That is what we would call real snail mail. I do know that we take for granted our free access to these letters and the rest of scripture. I am old school and personally prefer a printed paper copy to read and re-read the words on a page and let it speak to me like a personal letter.

Did you know we are to live out our personal lives so others can “read” about Jesus even if the don’t own a bible?

Your lives are a letter written in our hearts; everyone can read it and recognize our good work among you.3 Clearly, you are a letter from Christ showing the result of our ministry among you. This “letter” is written not with pen and ink, but with the Spirit of the living God. It is carved not on tablets of stone, but on human hearts. 2 Cor 3:2-3 (NLT)

I have a challenge for you dear readers and it is three fold.

  1. Send a handwritten letter of appreciation to someone in your life. It will mean far more than you could imagine.
  2. Pick up a paper copy of God’s word, sit and read a whole passage or chapter. Let His word sink into your heart. Think about the people in that passage, the person who wrote it, does their situation apply to your life?
  3. Ask yourself if anyone can read about Jesus by watching how you daily live.

Unmasked

Unmasked

Finally we are breathing a sigh of relief and taking off our masks. A year and a half of living in cautious isolation, distance and covering up to provide a measure of protection for ourselves and loved ones has been very difficult. Humans were created to be interactive using all of our senses. It really is nice to see my friends’ faces in person and not on a screen or half hidden.

A mask is simply a covering for all or part of the face and they have been used for tens of thousands of years for many different purposes. There are many types : Camouflage (to conceal) – Ceremonial (funeral, worship, war) – Cosmetic -Disguise (pretend, theatre)-Natural animal color patterns and Protective (from dust, pollutants and infection). This list represents masks that are changeable, tangible and visible.

But don’t we all wear masks on our hearts from time to time? We try to hide our fears, feelings, faults and failures. But we really need friends and places where we can be ourselves, free to share and feel safe. Unfortunately The Church has not always been that safe place for wounded people to come as they are. The world sees a bunch of hypocrites. False expectations of performance or presentation get in the way of true transformation and growth. We need to remember that The Church is not about a building but it is a bunch of broken and imperfect people who are gathered to worship a big and perfect God. When Adam and Eve sinned they covered themselves, ran and hid. God went looking for them calling, “Where are you?’

The group Casting Crowns wrote a song called “Stained Glass Masquerade” that spells out the feelings of not belonging while everyone else pretends they have it all together.

Are we happy plastic people
Under shiny plastic steeples
With walls around our weakness
And smiles that hide our pain
But the invitations open
To every heart that’s been broken
Maybe then we close the curtain
On our stained glass masquerade

God knows we wear masks of pride, offense, perfection and strength to hide our fear of exposure, inadequacy and failures. These masks prevent us from finding grace and healing. They hide the real us but also keep other people from seeing Jesus. Masks obscure our vision from seeing the needs of people near us and the purpose He has for our lives.

O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me.2 You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I’m far away.3 You see me when I travel and when I rest at home. You know everything I do. Psalms 139:1-3 (NLT)

The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Sam 16:7 (NLT)

23 Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes.24 Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.25 So stop telling lies. Let us tell our neighbors the truth, for we are all parts of the same body Eph 4:23-25 (NLT)

Jesus is our living example. He never wore any kind of mask. He had no use for pretenders and called them out. He was exposed, vulnerable and judged. It might be scary to take off a mask you have been wearing for awhile. Find a friend to pray with you for courage and the strength to be real. Encourage one another to let the light of Jesus shine through your imperfection ……. and live mask free.

Free to Be Me by Franseca Battistelli

‘Cause I got a couple dents in my fender
Got a couple rips in my jeans
Try to fit the pieces together
But perfection is my enemy
On my own I’m so clumsy
But on your shoulders I can see
I’m free to be me
And you’re free to be you

Are You A Percolator Christian?

Are You A Percolator Christian?

I love a good cup of coffee and we are Dunkin’ fans in my house. Did you know that after the Boston Tea Party in 1773, drinking tea became an unpatriotic act and sealed coffee’s fate in America?

It only takes a few minutes on Google to learn there are at least five official ways to brew coffee and thousands of opinions as to what is the best brand and method. The coffee culture has seen a lot of evolution and advancement in how we make our coffee and the devices available. The making of coffee is a serious business to connoisseurs and baristas alike.

In the movie The Bucket List, billionaire Edward Cole was handed an article about his beloved Kopi Luwak coffee which is widely considered the most expensive in the world.  In the Sumatran village, where the beans are grown, the wild Palm Civet eats and digests the fruit then defecates the beans. The villagers then collect and process the stools. It is the combination of the beans and the gastric juices of the tree cat that give Kopi Luwac its unique flavor and aroma.  (This is all true, but I won’t be buying it at over $100-600 a pound.) 

A coffee percolator is a type of pot used for the brewing of coffee by continually cycling the boiling or nearly boiling brew through the grounds using gravity until the required strength is reached. They can be manual – used on the stove top – or electric. I often use a large electric percolator when we are entertaining. Coffee percolators once enjoyed great popularity but were supplanted in the early 1970’s by automatic drip coffee makers. (We love our programmable one.)

I can honestly say my love for God’s Word is far greater than my love of coffee but I know I should spend more time “cycling through” or meditating on the context rather than reading on autopilot.  Reading through a passage several times gives a much deeper insight into how I should apply it to my current situation.

  but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. Psalms 1:2 (ESV)

 The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple.  Psalms 119:130

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.    2 Tim 3:16-17

Invented in 1929, the French Press method is widely considered as the best and easiest method for brewing superior and consistent coffee. In a press pot, ground coffee is soaked, steeped and strained in hot water; therefore the flavorful essential oils, caffeine and antioxidants are better diffused and preserved.

Due to the Covid 19 shutdown I missed several opportunities for being soaked in God’s word and spending time with other believers. A Christian family camp and a writer’s retreat are two places where I feel God’s word being poured over me in very different ways. When I spend more quiet time away from the daily grind to steep in His Word I feel refreshed and renewed. Time away can help “the essentials diffuse and be better preserved” in my heart and mind.

Do you automatically make time for reading the Bible as a daily habit just like drinking your coffee (or tea)?  They say that coffee is a healthy antioxidant for the body but God’s Word can lift your spirits and strengthen your inner heart. I challenge you to make some time and space to let the words percolate in your mind and pour over your soul this week. 

 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer.       Psalms 19:14 (ESV)

When Godly Leaders Fall

When Godly Leaders Fall

Christians around the world have been grieving the news of sexual misconduct by yet another highly respected Christian speaker and writer. Although he has now passed away some may feel he escaped punishment for his double -life. I am sure he fell on his knees in shame when he met our Savior face to face. My goal in my writing is not to dissect individual lives of fallen leaders but to examine how sin has repercussions that are far reaching. Pastors and church leaders are human too but we tend to put them on a holy pedestal and expect them to have somehow obtained a kind of spiritually impenetrable shield around them. In reality, they need our prayers more than anyone because when they fall from grace many are affected. Shock, a sense of betrayal, anger and a loss of trust in them or the institution they lead are some responses.

King David was a simple shepherd boy turned great warrior because God blessed, protected and made King. In his personal life David was a failure as a husband and father. By the time he was 30 he had seven wives and later added more wives and concubines (at least ten) to his harem. He turned a blind eye when his daughter was raped by a half brother, Amnon. Her brother Absalom took justice into his own hands, killed him and fled. Later Absalom rebelled against David’s authority as king and defiled his fathers concubines. David did nothing to make restitution or reconciliation with his children which almost split the Kingdom. His family was a mess.

Many of us are familiar with the story of Bathsheba. David was home when he should have been fighting with his men. Viewing his kingdom from a rooftop he spied a beautiful woman bathing. Instead of averting his eyes he sent for her and slept with her. Finding out she was pregnant he tried to get her faithful husband to sleep with her as a cover up. When that didn’t work he put Uriah in the midst of battle to die. The prophet Nathan confronted David with his great sin but despite his repentance the baby died. There are consequences to sin.

How many people were affected by this great sin? His trusted guards knew what he did, he was not with his men fighting, he betrayed his wives, had an innocent man killed – Uriah’s family suffered loss – the new baby died and his children had more division. The whole kingdom suffered. Wow – not such a great guy after all.

Why is he called “a man after God’s own heart”? Because David never forgot where he came from and had a deep desire to obey God. He loved God’s Law and had absolute faith in God’s power and protection. No matter what the circumstance were he was always grateful even when on the run from Saul. David pours out his heart in the book of Psalms for us and we can identify with his raw emotion. He truly repented of his sin and accepted the consequences. He was called a man after God’s own heart , not because he was perfect, but because he knew where to turn when he messed up.

That is why we love David. We love his stories of great bravery in fighting the giant Goliath. Do we have “Goliath’s” in our lives and need to depend on God’s deliverance? We admire his ability to soothe Saul with his harp and his great friendship with Jonathon. Are we looking towards God for peace of mind? We learn a great lesson from his sin with Bathsheba….God sees everything and there is no hiding from Him. We live in a broken world with the same flaws, fears and failures as then and there are many life lessons in his story. We love the Psalms that were recorded for us: songs of gratefulness, wonder and praise; prayer for help and courage; psalms of brokenness and repentance. David’s great sin did not diminish God’s love for him or keep God from fulfilling His promises. David’s sin did not take away all the great things he had accomplished either.

So when we hear of a godly man’s (woman’s) fall we should pray for all those affected especially the people working for their ministry. Their sin damages their personal character but not necessarily their message. We need to realize that we all fall short of God’s glory and need to be surrounded by godly people to lift us up. Will your daily prayer be to live a life for God’s glory and be called a man/woman after God’s own heart?

Where is the Love?

Where is the Love?

Music in its many forms is an international language of its own accord that can span many years but “Pop” music reflects the current issues of today. That might be why we get nostalgic when we hear a popular song from our teen or young adult years. Most of our “love songs” are happy or funny – except maybe Country music because it often portrays the lonely broken heart. And everyday most of our news is full of anger, conflict and fear I began thinking, where is the love?

In a song by the Black-Eyed Peas , “Where is the Love?” speaks loudly to our current world situation of anger, self-centeredness, prejudice and racism. Printed here is only a small part, read the whole thing when you get a chance.

What’s wrong with the world, mama
People livin’ like they ain’t got no mamas
I think the whole world’s addicted to the drama
Only attracted to things that’ll bring you trauma……

People killin’, people dyin’
Children hurt and you hear them cryin’
Can you practice what you preach?
Or would you turn the other cheek?

Father, Father, Father help us
Send some guidance from above
‘Cause people got me, got me questionin’
Where is the love (Love)

There is such depth to these lyrics in stating the brokenness of the family, lack of boundaries, hatred and loss of control. Sin can twist and break every good thing and it’s not supposed to be this way. When God finished creating the world He said, “It is good”. But doubt in God’s goodness, mistrusting His word and disobedience began the downward spiral.

Facts about God’s love: God IS love. Perfect love casts out fear. God forgives and removes our sin as far as the east is to the west. He loves us with a never ending love. He gave His only Son to lay down his life for us so we can have eternal life with him. God promises to never leave us and offers us hope and a future. We can love because He first loved us— Whoever loves God must also love his brother. (I John 4)

Our whole world would be a better place if we followed some guidelines from the Apostle Paul about practicing true love.

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The Bible is a very practical book and tells us how we can make this work in real life. We don’t need to be so puffed up with pride or self- centeredness that our noses get bent out of shape at the slightest inconvenience or difficulty. Ask your self ; what’s my attitude when waiting in line or driving in traffic? If someone else is rude or hurtful we don’t have to retaliate or get the last word. Jesus said , “Turn the other cheek”. How we respond is a choice. Protect each others feelings because words can hurt! Try to hope for the best and give people a second chance – God has forgiven us over and over! We can be an agent of change and model God’s love starting in our homes.

Think of your fellow man
Lend him a helping hand
Put a little love in your heart

You see it’s getting late
Oh, please don’t hesitate
Put a little love in your heart

And the world will be a better place

Image result for christian happy valentine's day images

Four Verses for Difficult Times

Four Verses for Difficult Times

I always bristle when I hear Scripture taken out of context, twisted around and made to fit the speakers’ agenda.  Recently one of our top politicians did just that to maybe make her words sound righteous: “Let us think on these things”. If we actually look at the whole passage we will find deep truth for everyday living.

No one would deny that we are living in very difficult times and that is exactly why the Bible is vital today. When the Apostle Paul was writing his letters, Caesar Augustus was conquering the world. Caesar and his armies took what they wanted, persecuted Christians and advanced his Empire all the way to Spain with much collateral damage left behind. Paul was no stranger to political upheaval, mob mentality, religious persecution, fear, poverty or health issues. In his letter to a beloved church, St. Paul gives us a key to living for Christ in a difficult world in Philippians chapter 4: 6-9.

Remember, the Lord is coming soon.6 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7 Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

The opposite of worry is trust. Trusting our heavenly Father for every need means that when we pray we expect Him to answer. He is the Prince of Peace and promised to never leave us comfortless. Therefore we can rest our hearts and minds in His everlasting arms knowing He loves us and is in control of the situation.

8 And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.9 Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.

How we think determines how we will act and what we believe determines our values. Truth does not depend on experience or comprehension. Truth is an absolute and doesn’t change with our opinion or feelings. God’s Word is truth. However, we are still challenged to seek the whole truth and not settle for subtle lies and misinformation. We also need to do a self check on what we are fixing our thoughts on.

It is easy to pick out someone else’s faults but Jesus told us to take the “log” out of our own eyes first. We can change the atmosphere around us by looking for the good, the beautiful, the honorable.  Paul was so confident in his walk with the Lord he told us to follow his example. We can do that by reading God’s word, praying, trusting and practicing thankfulness.

Christians should be the calmest people on earth because we know the Lord is in control and He holds the future in His hands.