Just Call Me Sarai

I am a bit surprised that over the years my close friends and family have not nicknamed me Sarai. I don’t know how many times over the years I have read or heard the story of Abram and Sarai, but reading it this morning I was struck by how Sarai-like I am.

breast-feeding-1831510_1280Sarai believed God when He made the promise of a son to her and Abram. I believe God too when I hear His words to me.

Sarai waited for God to fulfill that promise. I have been known to wait for God to fulfill something He told me. Not always a patient waiter, but I can wait (though there was that period of time in my life when I could not sing the song “In His Time”).

Sarai decided God must be waiting for her to act, so she did. She gave her servant Hagar to Abram to bear their son (which was culturally appropriate at the time). I too can gethourglass-2910951_1920 tired of waiting and take things into my own hands because I “know” it’s God’s plan (at least the promise was His plan – my execution of it, not so much!)

Sarai had her name changed by God from Sarai to Sarah. With the name change came a promise of blessing, pregnancy, and descendants beyond measure, some even Royalty. When I call myself a failure, a screw-up, a hopeless case God reminds me He calls me beloved, His daughter, a child of the King.

Sarah, despite taking a wrong turn and suffering some difficult situations during the waiting, saw God’s promise fulfilled when at the age of 90 she did bear a son, Isaac, to her hundred year old husband Abraham. I have seen some of God’s promises to me fulfilled in amazingly unexpected ways and unconventional ways. Some I am still waiting to see.

So for today, I renew my commitment to live like a princess, who knows her Dad is King and God. What He promises He will deliver, in His time and in His way.

 

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My Christmas Celebration

Emmanuel. God with us. That is usually the name of God I ponder most over the Christmas season. But this morning I woke with another one of my Savior’s name on my heart. Jehovah – Rapha, the God who heals.

I woke up feeling a little sorry for myself, that I have missed church for three of the last four weeks due to this lingering bronchitis and sinusitis.  And now for Christmas Eve, candle-2874571_1920when we usually attend one service at our church and one with my sister and her family at their church, I am not going to any. And to top it all off, this may be the last Christmas we celebrate in the north.

Then the truth hit me. Emmanuel is still here with me, even as I cough, sneeze and sniffle.  And this God with me is also the One who is healing my body, and truly providing the breath in my lungs when they are hard to come by. I can worship and celebrate Him in my home, yet still join in the chorus of those around the world celebrating Jesus’ birth.

heart-2338154_1920Even better than that great truth is that Emmanuel is not only healing my body, but more importantly He has healed my soul and heart.  In fact, that’s the whole reason He came as a baby – so He could model how to live in communion with our Father, and show us what obedience means – giving up His very own sinless life on a cross to pay the penalty my sin deserved.  And He did that for you too!

Does it sound like I am crazy to say my God is with me and heals me even though He died?  Not at all, because death did not have victory over Jesus.  Instead, He rose from the dead and now His Spirit is alive and at work.

So here I sit with my hot tea, tissue box, blanket and Christmas music directing my heart and thanks Heavenward. How about you? What name of God are you pondering? If you want to know more about this inner healing Jehovah Rapha brings, or the companionship of Emmanuel just ask, I’d love to tell you more.

Happy Birthday Jesus and Merry Christmas dear readers.

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Silly GPS

“Why on earth is this silly GPS telling me to get off at every exit and take a different route?”

That was my question while driving on I-95 last weekend after leaving a hotel in Virginia for our final leg home to Pennsylvania.  After about 5 miles of ignoring the GPS and repeating my question, I had a thought.

Sure enough – I was heading south on I-95 instead of north.  gps

Heeding the advice of my GPS I got off the highway on Chicken Foot Road (truly – I am not making that up!), crossed the highway overpass and joined the party that is known as I-95 north.  As soon as I did that, the GPS was happy and told me to stay on that road now for a couple hundred miles.

Jerry and I both wondered how that happened.  The location of our hotel  had a lot of construction, causing both of us to pay extra attention to the signs for I-95 north.  Even as I turned onto the ramp it felt wrong to me.  I questioned myself if I was headed north or south, but thought, “I followed the signs.”

What a great picture of life at times.  I think I read the signs correctly, and I follow where I believe they are leading.  But it’s not always the right path.  Signs may be a good indicator, but can be changed.

My GPS was the ultimate authority that day, pinpointing where I was, what was ahead and what was behind.  This inanimate object had more wisdom about my movements than I had.

How much more does the living, breathing Word of God need to be my ultimate authority?   I need to subject the signs I read on my journey to the truth in the Bible.  If they align with the Bible I am moving in the right direction.  If they don’t it is time to stop, listen, and read more to avoid backtracking.

 

A Practical Theology of Celebration

Some time ago I was part of a group discussion on feasting, fasting and faith based on Isaiah 58.  One of the statements made was that “we” (Christians associated with one particular faith tradition) really need a theology of celebration.  I have pondered that turn of phrase for some time.  The more I think about it, the more I think of one February day . . .

I spent the morning celebrating the life of Sammie, a young woman we met when she was just an adolescent and attended Family Retreat with her family.  She was full of energy, and had a zest for life that could not be defeated by her cerebral palsy.  Her enthusiasm (mixed with her moms advocacy) led her to become a cheerleader.  Sammie and Jerry enjoyed racing their wheelchairs with one another and anyone else brave enough to take them on!   I recall one night at the campfire.  Sammie knew that s’mores were always a part of the campfire and she grew tired of waiting for them.  She asked me when we were going to start roasting marshmallows.  I wished I knew the answer and encouraged her to ask the campfire emcee . Once he acknowledged her she became too shy to ask her question, so I spoke for her.  From that night on she earned the nickname of “Marshmallow Girl” with us and Jerry was always “Marshmallow Man” to her.  We didn’t see one another often after that year, but kept in touch by Facebook, always using the Marshmallow monikers.

rose-1273740_1280All too soon (from our perspective) God called Sammie home to Him.  Celebrating her life with her family and friends was a sweet time of sharing stories and comfort, ultimately remembering that Jesus is the giver of life; both here on this earth and eternally!

That same evening  happened to be Tim Tebow’s Night to Shine prom for adults with disabilities.  Talk about a celebration . . .  Jerry and I were part of 105 volunteers serving 87 guests along with many parents and caregivers.  Our role was to greet people.  We saw heels, tuxes, sparkling dresses, beautiful hair up do’s and everything else that goes into a prom.  Better than the styles though were the smiles that spread widely across each person’s face.  Riding in a limo, walking a red carpet, having “paparazzi” snapping photos, being served a meal, dancing like there was no tomorrow.  True joy and dancing-156041_1280happiness overflowing.

That day, my friends, is a practical theology of celebration that reflects the systematic theology of celebration:

Live life with the Joy of the Lord as our strength (Nehemiah 8:10)

Mourn with those who mourn (Romans 12:15 NIV)

Rejoice with those who rejoice (Romans 12:15 NIV)

All in one day,  Because God is good.

Building Community in an Age of Privacy

I’ve been thinking about this for awhile now.  Building community seems like a buzz phrase these days.  Every church, business, borough, or city talk about building authentic community, a safe community or a supportive community.  It is almost like “insert your favorite adjective here” community.

Generally the word community implies that we have something in common, be it family colorful groupgeographical bounds, ideologies, interests, passions or goals.  The Latin root, according to Wikipedia, implies public spirit or shared in common.

I juxtapose that thought with the idea of privacy that is also a phrase we are confronted with regularly.  Nearly every business we encounter shares their privacy statements.  We get them from our medical offices, our credit card companies and banks, schools and more.

On the personal level we see postings about privacy on social media (a community) all the time.  I am sure you’ve seen them. Someone posts that as of this date they are stating that all they post on a social media platform is their own private property and they give no right to anyone else to use those thoughts or images, or anything about them.  Those are not the exact words but a paraphrase; please do not copy and post that to your site!

I find those postings comical, even if it were to be valid who is going to scroll through kazilions of posts each day that come across a newsfeed to find that one disclaimer?

More to the point though, I wonder why those people are on social media.  I am not extolling the values or faults of a platform.  I simply wonder why one joins a network that is intended to be a social community if privacy is their intent.

Those warning posts give me even more pause when it is posted by a Christian, someone who has surrendered their life to live for Jesus.  How did Jesus address the idea of community?

There are scores of “one another” commands in the Bible: love one another (John 13:34-35), be kind to one another (Eph 4:32), pray for one another (James 5:16), encourage one another (I Thes 4:18) , accept one another (Romans 15:7),  forgive one another (Ephesians 4:13) and many more.  (If you want to see more google “One another commands in the Bible.”)  What if we used social media platforms as a way to “one another” each other?

What if we took seriously God’s words to us in Matthew 5:13-16 (NKJV)?

 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty salt-19016_1920again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.”

light “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

We are called to make a difference – to put our lives out there for others to see, to influence those around us to see Jesus and glorify God.  This doesn’t mean every post should be a Scripture verse. For me it means I need to be real on my social media platforms, admit I struggle but not lay out my dirty laundry.   Through those posts I want to season and light the way for others. It also means I don’t post things that will reflect poorly on others.

I think this is what makes an authentic, honest, supportive and healthy community of which  I want to be a part.  As a follower of Jesus my privacy matters far less than representing my Lord the best I can so others want to join our eternal community.

Enhanced Benefit?

In my part time work in a financial planer’s office I sometimes hear phone conversations between  one of our customer service reps and fund companies.  One of the questions that still catches my attention is when our rep asks the vendor if the particular product they are discussing has “an enhanced death benefit?”

I  shake my head and smile.  I don’t know how the vendor replies, but my answer every time wihtout fail is YES!  I have an enhanced death benefit – and it is called Heaven with Jesus!

Occasionally when someone has asked how I was doing I would reply something to the effect of, “It’s been a hard day, but it beats the alternative.”  One day it struck me how absolutely untrue that statement is for those who know Jesus Christ, so I no longer answer that way.   The absolute best day of my life on this earth cannot begin to compare what I will experience upon entering the pearly gates and meeting my Savior and Lord face to face (or more likely face to feet as I fall on my face before Him!)

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The reason I love and follow Jesus though, is not just because I have “an enhanced death benefit.”  I also have an enhanced life benefit.  Yes,  Jesus took my sin (and yours) upon Him when He died, so I was no responsible to pay that penalty.  By rising from the dead, and giving me His Holy Spirit as a seal on my heart and life, He made His life and power available to me each and every moment.

While the question my co worker asks a vendor strikes me funny, it is totally appropriate in the context of the office.  What is really the silly sad reality is how often I, who know better, do not fully embrace the enhanced life benefits at my disposal.

. . . I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.  John 10:10b NASB

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If this post sounds like crazy talk to you, or has left you confused, please leave a comment.  I’d like to interact with you about this!

On a Cough and a Prayer

It’s been a rough winter in our household; but hard times keep me on the look out for God at work.

This week Jerry and I have been battling some infections.  The worst time is at night when a relentless hacking cough causes every muscle in my upper coughbody to join in a chorus of rebellious spasms. After enduring hours of the battle between sleep, muscles and coughing  I turned to Jerry and said through tears, ‘If only this cough was not so ineffectual, I could cope.”

I rolled over and thought “ineffectual? Where did that come from?” According to Jerry the only sensible words I have said at night are ‘I refuse to have a parrot as my only pet’; but that’s another story. . .

Then God brought James 5:16 (KJV) to mind.  “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. (Italics and underline added).

Still hoping for sleep I pondered . . . .

My ineffectual cough lacked sufficient air to boost the cough action.  While it is no fun in my body, I want even less for my prayers to be ineffectual.

Following that thought, effectual prayer needs the air, the dove-308571_1280force, the wind of the Spirit (who Scripture also tells us makes intercession to the Father for us) as the power behind the words.

Thank you God for this late night object lesson, and for all those verses I memorized in King James as a kid!

feedback.jpgYour turn now – what is an object lesson God has given to you recently?  Or what verse has impacted you in a new way this week?  I can’t wait to learn from you!