Monday, October 26, 2009

An Ending and a Beginning by Sherri Tyler

The day I lost my mother my whole world came crashing in. It had only been two weeks since I had sat in a hospital room alone with her while the doctor explained that she had cancer. I walked out into the hall and asked him to be honest with me and tell me how long she had. He replied “she may have a month or two, or it may be as short as a few weeks.” I thanked him and went back into the room to my mother. I asked her if she understood what he had just said, and she shook her head no. I told her that he said she had cancer, and that it was bad. She looked at me with a blank look. I was not sure she understood, so I explained that there was nothing they could do for her. I watched the expression on her face change as she began to understand what I was trying to tell her. Then with a peaceful expression of understanding she said simply, “Ok then and smiled.” She said she could get through this as long as I stayed with her. She made me promise not to leave her side. I told her I would be there and we would get through this together. Then I put my head in her lap and cried. For the last time, I felt my mother comfort me. That was the last time I allowed myself to cry in front of her. I spent a lot of time holding her hand so she knew I was there, but I never let her feel my pain. I wanted her to know I was going to be okay, and that she had done her job well and I would be fine. That was so far from the truth. I think she probably knew. Mothers are wise like that.

It happened so quickly. I have never felt more alone in my life then when my mother passed away. I also think I have never felt the friendship and love of God more than since her departure from this world. God is always there; watching over us as we stumble through life.

Joshua 1:5 "No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life; as I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you."

It is hard at times to notice God’s presence when the busy hustle and bustle of life gets in the way. We build our life and our support systems and forget to consider God. I think this is why quiet time with God is so important. It gives us time to listen to the voice we seldom hear when the pressures of the world are pressing in on us. When I came home after mother’s death I was alone. The silence was oppressive. I had time to think and feel and listen. God’s voice came in loud and clear.

It’s been almost two years since my mother died. There is never a day that passes when I do not think of her and miss her. The pain is just as intense. They say that time heals all wounds, but I don’t know if the pain will ever change. Only the passing of time will teach me if this is true. What I do know today, that I did not really know before, is that God is there for us. I am one of those who do not have a clear gift for discernment, but I know this; I have clearly seen God work in my life since my mother died. He has shown me that I do walk on this earth alone, but also that I am not alone. He will help us through the hard times and celebrate with us in the good.

Psalms 46: 1-3 “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear thought the earth should change, thought the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult.”

God is there for us every day and every minute of our lives; we just have to acknowledge him. We should talk to God as if he is in the room. We should make him a part of our daily lives. This is where prayer belongs, not just in the time when we get on our knees although this is important time too, but in the daily activities of life. I used to talk to my mother every day. I didn’t talk to God every day. He should have been the first person on my list of calls to make. When we look back at our lives and think of the events that have shaped us into who we are today, we can pinpoint the really important events. For me, the death of my mother is the most important event to impact my relationship with God. It has taught me that the only person who will be there for us, for all of our lives, is God. He is there from beginning to end.

Revelations 22:13 “I am the alpha and the omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”

God wants us to lean on him, ask him for advice, and share our joys, as well as our sorrows. God wants it all and deserves it all. I am glad that God is a patient God. It took many years for me to come to the understanding that he wants us to look to him first for support.

This event has also taught me that what is really important is what we do while we are here, who we care for in our lives, and what we share with others. What is also important is to share that life with God.

One of the blessings of being a Christian is the knowledge that one day we will see our loved ones again.

1 Thess 4:17 “After that, we who are alive, who are left, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so we shall always be with the Lord.”

I can honestly say that this one truth has made the days bearable.

My mother always said she didn’t have a good singing voice. One day I will stand next to my mother and the two of us will be lifting our voices in praise to him for his grace. I know the expression on her face will be that wonderful smile I remember from that day in the hospital when she looked at me with a mother’s love.

She has left a legacy……

Nichole Nordeman - Legacy

I want to leave a legacy.
How will they remember me?
Did I choose to Love?
Did I point to you enough to make a mark on things?
I want to leave an offering. A child of mercy and grace who blessed your name unapologetically, and leave that kind of legacy.
……not well traveled, not well read, not well-to-do or well bred. Just want to hear instead, “Well done good and faithful one…”

Sunday, October 18, 2009

International Plan of Salvation by Gail Purath

I was on the patio of our bed and breakfast in Dubrovnik, Croatia when I met a sweet little old lady from Vienna who spoke excellent English. When I told her I did Christian work in Budapest, she was quick to assure me that she was also a Christian. But she was just as quick to tell me that she believed that people of all religions will get into heaven as long as they are good people.

According to a recent poll, most Americans agree with her. A survey reported in Parade Magazine just this month showed that 59% of those polled believe that “all religions are valid.”* Isn’t it amazing that so many people throughout the world believe in this plan of salvation? Even in cultures where politics and religion are taboo subjects between strangers, I’ve found that people are eager to share this view. I think they genuinely assume that everyone will agree with the “logic” of their plan.

However, I’ve noticed that people who suggest this plan never explain what the specific requirements are for being “good.” Can you miss heaven for lack of one good deed? Do bad deeds cancel good deeds or good deeds cancel bad deeds? Can you do all your good deeds early in life and then take it easy? Do your motives count or only your actions?

Since this Viennese lady didn’t think God cares what or who we believe in, I should have asked her whether “good” was determined by Christian values (say the Ten Commandments) or Muslim values (say the Holy Jihad). The definitions of “good” in these two religious systems are completely opposite in some areas.

Besides being vague, this plan of salvation also seems a bit arrogant. I always get the impression that people who hold the view are pretty sure they fall into the “good” category themselves.

Had I asked the Viennese lady who decides who/what is good, it’s very likely that she’d have said that God does. Then I could have told her that He already has. He says, “There is no one righteous, not even one” (Rom. 3:10), and He emphasizes throughout Scripture that we are saved by grace, through faith and not by works (Eph. 2:8,9). He also says that no one can come to God except through faith in Jesus Christ (John 14:6).

I think the reason so many people all over the globe embrace this view of salvation is because it sounds “fair” to affirm the faith of so many different people. But what this view actually does is deny the beliefs of all religions. For example, the Bible teaches that Jesus is God while the Koran teaches that Jesus is not God. Claiming that everything is true is the same as claiming that nothing is true.

I doubt this little Viennese lady had thought through her belief system enough to realize that her view also makes Christ’s death on the cross meaningless. Why would Christ die for sinners if we can get to heaven on our goodness alone? As C.S. Lewis explained in Mere Christianity, either Christ is the Lord and Savior of mankind, or He was a lunatic and liar.

It’s tragic that so many men and women have staked their eternal futures on this theory that doesn’t really make any sense. It’s also tragic that I’ve heard this view so many times yet never prepared an intelligent, articulate response. That day in Dubrovnik, I mumbled something about knowing Christ, but I didn’t do the subject justice. I prepare myself for so many things in life—why shouldn’t I do the same for the Enemy’s attractive but deadly lies? After all, this little Viennese lady’s only hope is Christ, no matter how well she has lived her life. Next time someone shares this view, I hope to be better prepared.

* “How Spiritual Are We?” Parade Magazine, October 4, 2009, page 4.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Pantyhose and Prayer by Kim Jackson

Halfway into church from the parking lot I realized that my pantyhose were rapidly becoming kneehighs. I continued talking to my friends as if nothing was amiss, but inwardly I was praying that I would make it to the safety of a nearby restroom before the top of my pantyhose sagged below my skirt.

My prayer was answered and I was able to hike up the hose and tuck the elastic-weary waistband into other undergarments. This temporary fix allowed me to attend Sunday school, after which I returned to the restroom for further shoring up.

On my way into the sanctuary I considered that, given said dilemma, I might need to worship less enthusiastically than is my custom. That is easier said than done at our church. And even more so when the choir launches into “All Things are Possible,” followed by a roarin’ rendition of “Trading My Sorrows.”

While one cannot modestly assess pantyhose progress in public places, I felt as we neared the end of worship that I was holding up well. And I could, if necessary, wait until the sanctuary cleared to make my getaway.

What I had not anticipated was the Spirit moving on my heart during the pastor’s sermon. Much of what he said stirred my soul. When he asked for those desiring prayer
to come forward, everything within me wanted to respond.

But I was held captive in pantyhose prison.

I knew that God could meet me right where I was, but I longed to step out, go forward, and pour out the desires of my heart in prayer at the altar.

Instead, I sat down.

As the service concluded, a new friend named Clara walked back to my pew. She took one look at me and then turned to a friend and said, “Is she ok?” When Deb responded positively, Clara dismissed her answer and spoke directly to me. “Are you ok?”

“Yes, I am” I said, all the while trying to gauge the current status of the pantyhose problem. I made an executive decision that my pantyhose were up—literally—for the walk to the car, so we began to make our way through the crowd to the parking lot.

Along the way we ran into more friends, so there followed a round of greetings and hugs. As Clara and I waited for the rest of our group, she looked at me again and asked, “Are you sure you are ok? Is there anything I can pray about for you?”

I don’t know Clara well, but I do know she is a woman of prayer. So I told her what was on my heart. With not a second of hesitation, Clara commenced to very specifically exhort me in the Lord. She rattled off a succession of Scripture verses that could not have been more perfectly suited. She encouraged, she blessed, she spoke truth into my life. And she concluded with a promise to pray for me concerning the very reason I had longed to go forward.

When we dropped Clara off at her apartment, her last words to me were “Now you stay encouraged!”

Back at my house, I gratefully removed the problematic pantyhose, which obviously took little effort to bring down. As I sat on the edge of the bed, Clara’s sweet exhortations flowed through my mind. And I smiled to think how committed God was to reaching out to me when I was not “up” to reaching Him.

I will answer them before they even call to me. While they are still talking about their needs, I will go ahead and answer their prayers! (Isaiah 65:24 NLT)

Monday, October 5, 2009

Grandchildren: An Awesome Opportunity by Ann Wayne

Lots of hugs. Lots of kisses on the cheek and behind his ears. I was sitting on the front porch swing with precious little Benjamin, my new 3-month-old grandson. A first-time attempt to “coo” and smiles almost too big for his little mouth to encompass. It was during this bonding time that I was reminded of the wonderful opportunity I have as a grandmother to teach and set an example for him and his little cousin Emma Grace.

A few weekends ago, our nation celebrated “Grandparents Day.” A time to show appreciation for grandparents and let them know what they mean to us. A time to visit and spend quality time with the people who have had tremendous influence in our lives in some way or another. We may have fond memories of grandparents teaching us godly principles or we may have sad memories of grandparents who were distant or who shed ungodly influence. Whatever the case, it’s time we all realize the importance of a grandparent’s role.

In Deuteronomy, chapters 4 and 5, Moses is introducing the laws the Lord has given him to share with the Israelites. In chapter 4, verse 9, Moses says, “Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them (NIV).” Even in the Old Testament, we are given instruction about the responsibility as grandparents to help nurture and teach our grandchildren. We should have more wisdom and life experiences to share with them than their parents have acquired.

After Moses shared the Ten Commandments with the Israelites, he reminded them again in Deuteronomy 6:6-9 that “these commandments are to be upon your heart. Impress them on our children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates (NIV).”

As one who loves to decorate, I find it refreshing to place scripture stones all around the house. They are beautiful and exalt the word of God. They are also a great witnessing tool for anyone who comes to visit. As children learn to read, the stones are a great way for them to memorize scripture. It helps them recite the verse each time they walk by. This is a unique way to instill scripture in their hearts and minds for a lifetime.

Here are some other ways that I have discovered to share God’s word with my grandchildren (especially Emma who is 3 ½ years old) and other children in the family:

• DVDs with Bible stories
• CDs with Christian songs
• Stuffed animals that play Christian lullabies or hymns
• Books with Bible stories or lessons in obedience or Christian virtues
• Creation lessons about nature when taking a walk outside
• Visual aids when telling a story or singing – this helps children retain better
• Games with scriptures and symbols for Christian holidays
• Jewelry with Christian symbols

In Psalms 8:2, David, the psalmist, proclaims to the Lord, “You have taught the little children to praise you perfectly. May their example shame and silence your enemies.”

Sitting on the front porch with Benjamin that day was like a praise service for both of us. He tried to “coo” to show his love and fulfillment with his “Grammy.” I was praising God for this precious child and the bonding time. May each of you who have the privilege to become a grandparent realize the awesome opportunity that God has placed in front of you with your grandchildren.