When Life Doesn’t Seem Fair

When Life Doesn’t Seem Fair

Often when I hear news of someone’s else’s misfortune or I am going through a difficult time myself I think, ” life just isn’t fair”. When my kids were growing up sometimes they thought we parents weren’t being fair. But God never promised life would be. Does that surprise you? Jesus told His disciples that there would be trouble in the world. Reading the scriptures gives us a different perspective. I am using a different version of the bible in my blog today because we can discover deeper meaning by using different translations.

Psalm 37: 1–9 (Christian Standard Bible) A Psalm Of David.

1Do not be agitated by evildoers; do not envy those who do wrong. – The ESV version uses the word fret. The verb fret means to be constantly or visibly worried or anxious. Why should we not fret? 2For they wither quickly like grass and wilt like tender green plants. – it’s only temporary. Some of the synonyms for fret are agonize, mope, make a fuss, grumble and eat your heart out. It sounds like fretting would make us miserable and those around us also.

3Trust in the Lord and do what is good – we have a choice to do what is good and not grumble or try to get even. ;dwell in the land and live securely. – The ESV tells us to befriend faithfulness but my NIV uses the phrase “cultivate faithfulness” in place of live securely. Did you ever think about cultivating faithfulness? The word cultivate is a gardening term but also means to acquire or develop a quality, sentiment, or skill.

4Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires. – This verse does not contain a promise to give us everything we want because you are such a good Christian. Psalm 119 exhorts us to delight in God’s word and Jesus told us to pray according to the Father’s will. When our desires are aligned with his He does bless abundantly.

5Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act, To commit to something or someone is to pledge or bind – devote, apply or dedicate. When we do this, we let God be God and trust Him take care of the problem. That trust will take a weight off of our mind by replacing it with peace.

6making your righteousness shine like the dawn, your justice like the noonday. Do you remember the old song “This Little Light of Mine”? The light of Jesus in our lives is hidden when we are agitated and worried.

7Be silent before the Lord and wait expectantly for him; I have a hard time being silent and still. To be honest, sometimes I like to explain to God how He should fix problems. do not be agitated by one who prospers in his way, by the person who carries out evil plans. I remember my mother saying, “you are only responsible for your own actions. God will take care of the rest.” I should be silent more often.

8Refrain from anger and give up your rage; do not be agitated—it can only bring harm. How did anger end up here when we are talking about worry? Often in the medical arena an agitated person (for whatever reason) necessitates de-escalation techniques before violence occurs. When we allow worry to control us we can end up in the trap of entitlement and feeling like a victim. Our negative feelings and thoughts can get out of hand if we do not give them over to God.

9For evildoers will be destroyed, but those who put their hope in the Lord will inherit the land. Our hope is not here on this planet. Our hope is in Jesus Christ and an eternity with Him.

Please read the rest of this Psalm on your own remembering that …v.24 The Lord is the One who holds your hand and choose wisdom over worry.

Is There Anything That Doesn’t Run Out?

Is There Anything That Doesn’t Run Out?

We have been blessed – spoiled! I never experienced empty shelves in the grocery store in my whole life until recently. America, the land of plenty, is feeling the crunch as much as the rest of the world. First we had the hoarding due to the unknown repercussions of the Coronavirus. Next came the shutdowns, backlog of ordered products and supply chain breakdown. I am flabbergasted as I stare at the empty rows . We have lived in a dispensable society and when something ran out we just went to buy more without a thought.

With Valentine’s Day around the corner everyone runs out to buy cards, candy and flowers. There are Hallmark movies galore and mushy sentiment oozes out for a few days. At least people will try to be kind. But human love is a fragile and fickle thing. True love isn’t based on emotions and material goods or well being. In the Bible we read story after story of Gods mercy, which is compassion in action and grace, all the blessings we receive and are undeserved.

The person who refuses to love doesn’t know the first thing about God, because God is love—so you can’t know him if you don’t love. 9 This is how God showed his love for us: God sent his only Son into the world so we might live through him. 10 This is the kind of love we are talking about—not that we once upon a time loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to clear away our sins and the damage they’ve done to our relationship with God. 1 John 4:8-10 (MSG)

We can understand the love of a mother for her newborn or the starry eyed love of a bride and groom. But our love isn’t perfect because we can become impatient, short tempered and selfish. Everything we know on earth will eventually get used up, run out or die. So it can be difficult to understand God’s sacrificial love that is offered freely, eternally and unconditionally. His love never fails, never gives up and never runs out on us.

 Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death?37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:35,37-39 (NLT)

The old hymn The Love of God was written by F.M. Lehman in 1917 when he was working in a citrus packing plant. But the third verse actually came from from the pen of and eleventh century Jewish poet in Germany named Meir Ben Isaac Nehorai. The words beautifully describe the immeasurable love of God.

Could we with ink the ocean fill and were the skies of parchment made,

Were every stalk on earth a quill, and every man a scribe by trade,

To write the love of God above would drain the ocean dry,

Nor could the scroll contain the whole though stretched from sky to sky.

Many people do not feel loved or worthy of love but the fact is that God does love you no matter where you live, where you have gone or what you have done. He wants a relationship with each and everyone of us and He is patiently waiting for us to run into His arms. Accept the free gift of salvation through Jesus and celebrate real love this Valentine’s day.

Seeds of Potential

Seeds of Potential

There is a bumper crop of apples in New England this year.  The too hot and too wet weather for people was great for the fruit trees.  Each seed has potential for life and growth and an abundant harvest. Each apple has the potential to be used in a lot of ways….eating, baking pies, muffins, pastries, making cider, applesauce, decorating and the list goes on.  An apple tree takes eight years of growing before it will bear any fruit and then varying amounts each year. How many apples will there be in its lifetime?

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Did you know that apples are not native to the US? They were introduced to North America in the 17th century by European colonists and their descendants.   Most stories about the American folk hero John Chapman, aka Johnny Appleseed, are more fiction than fact.  Born in  Massachusetts, he planted apple orchards as far as the Midwest. He  never married, lived a very simple life and shared the message of God’s love to everyone including native Indian tribes.

The word potential means, “ having latent qualities or abilities that may be developed and lead to future success or usefulness”.   Synonyms for potential are possibilities, prospects, promise, capability and capacity.

The Bible tells us that most of the twelve disciples were hard working but uneducated men.  They were trying hard to understand and follow Jesus’ teaching but questioned how they could possibly do what He asked.   5  The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” 6 And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.         Luke 17:5-6 (ESV)

We serve a God with Whom nothing is impossible.   When the Hebrews were taken out of Egypt – God parted the Red Sea.  When David faced off against the giant Goliath – God took him down with a stone and a slingshot.  When Daniels friends refused to bow to the kings statue  – God rescued them from the fiery furnace.   Jesus fed 5000 people with only a little boys lunch.  

 For nothing is impossible with God. Luke 1:37 (NLT)

Since we don’t have any mustard trees in New England, can I use the term “apple seeds of faith”?  Is your faith as small as an apple seed?  Every person has potential and so does each day. We need to find our gifts and abilities to develop and use them by reading the Bible – God’s manual and by talking to the Master Gardener.   Every day we are given new opportunities and choices to share our faith with a lost and hurting world.   Just think of all the possibilities!           

Whatever circumstance you may face today ask God to show you the potential within and take a small step forward even with “faith like an apple seed”.

 
 

Seasons of Refreshing

Seasons of Refreshing

The ladies at my church recently held a day retreat to come together and share some hard things as well as how God has worked throughout the past year and a half. Now that restrictions have been lifted here in Massachusetts it felt so good to be with sisters face to face. I am an extrovert and love to chat with people and I didn’t realize how much the “Covid rules” affected me until after our retreat. My soul needed this time of spiritual refreshment; the fun, food, laughter, prayer, singing and reconnecting with friends.

In 1 Kings chapter 18 and 19 we read about the prophet Elijah having showdown between God and the prophets of Baal. In a nutshell, God won and the false prophets were all killed. Now the wicked King Ahab and his evil wife Jezebel were furious. Elijah is burnt out and very afraid so he runs to the wilderness where God provides a nap and some food. Refreshment. God had another assignment for him but first he needed some physical and spiritual fortification.

The word refresh means “to give new strength or energy to; reinvigorate”. With technology we refresh our devices – we restore their settings and clean out clutter so they function better. We need to refresh and restore our souls so we function better. Everyone around me is looking forward to having vacation or family reunions but now that we are free to enjoy life “as we think it should be” how will you refresh your soul? We dare not jump back on the hamster wheel of life.

Here are ten of my favorite suggestions to refresh your soul I gathered from the internet.

  1. Get outside and enjoy some vitamin C – God’s feel good medicine.

2. Now that we can (with consideration of others feelings) give your family and best buddies a huge hug.

3. Cut out the background noise and the distractions including the phone.

4. Put some uplifting music on.

5. Take a walk and stretch your body.

6. Read a good book and get lost in the words.

7. Take time for your hobby or try something new. Being creative feels good.

8. Pamper yourself.

9. Check Your Attitude! Have you allowed negative or false thoughts to invade your soul? Ask God to forgive and cleanse your heart and mind.

10. Make a list of things you are grateful for.

For a season of spiritual refreshing get your soul into a place where you can receive God’s peace and renewal. Spend time reading scripture, calm your spirit and pray.

Be still, and know that I am God. Psalms 46:10 (ESV)

Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, 20 that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, Acts 3:19-20

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. 12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. Psalms 51:10,12 (ESV)

…they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:31 (ESV)

God’s promise to us,

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