Simply touching the Soul

“The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.” Matthew 25:40

Generally, I’m not a great shopper. I have to be “in the mood.” Especially in this season. For the better part of Saturday I was content to unwrap the decorations and place them around our home. I had Keith and Kristyn Getty singing their Christmas music at full throttle.

Finally, needing to just get out of the house, I made a short list and headed out to the store. Now, my lists are not necessarily accurate and rarely do I look at a list oncesmiling-shopper I’m in the store, because I can surely remember everything I need. Right. I got to one store and after a few minutes of looking at literally every aisle for something that was clearly not on the short list, but suddenly I was reminded that I would eventually need that item, I went about looking for it all over the store. It wasn’t long before I was overwhelmed at the materialism. Eventually, I found something (on my short list!) to go on the tree that made me smile. I did turn to the young teen beside me and wished her a Merry Christmas since she had helped me get the item off its hanger without knocking anything else to the floor!

Next stop, the Dollar Store where the cashier was actually smiling at each one who passed through her line! Suddenly someone rocked her merry boat a little and the smile slightly faded. I heard her tell someone she had only been there about a week. No wonder she could still smile! She hadn’t gotten jaded by the long hours of constant standing or the whiney customers or the endless stocking! As I took my bags I looked at her darling young face and encouraged her keep it up! You’re bringing some joy to these folks, I had said.

A smile costs nothing! It’s amazing at how the corners of the mouths of nearly every person I make eye contact with and smile at begins to turn up their mouth! And their eyes dance a little. This time of year can get even the most optimistic down! It’s hectic. It’s sometimes pointless. It’s endless. but……it’s what we Americans do this time of year.

I wonder  what  simple simple gifts that touch the soul look like:

a smile, eye contact, genuine

a song, sung outloud with abandon! Or hummed softly in the quiet

a prayer, a blessing

a touch on the hand, rubbing those gnarled hands with lotionrubbing-an-elderly-hand

an act of kindness,  a kind word in gentle tone of voice

a ride to the store, the hospital, the mall, or the doctor then…….going inside and staying with them til you take them home

a drive to see the Christmas lights!

hot chocolate and perhaps a plate of cookies?

extra tip, whether deserved or not

a phone call – my husband reached out to his 93 year old aunt just now who lives in another state. I could just see her smile on the other end of the line!

A Christmas card, personally signed with a note!

Forgiveness

Who would receive such simple gifts? Anyone. The folks in the highways and hedges; those in whom we’ve lost touch; not necessarily those regular Facebook folks. Or even those relatives who are “expecting” something under the tree. The blessings come from the unexpected. And the serendipity comes when we aren’t looking for it! Unaware.

These are simple thoughts for making our Christmas more. More than the commercialism  it seems to become whether we like it or not. More than laissez faire, but intentional in sharing the inner Jesus joy with whomever comes before us. More than staying in the safe places, but venturing out to those places where folks are struggling and joy is hard to come by. Even a smile. More. Together. You and me. sharing-christmas-with-a-homeless-man

Merry Christmas, Everyone!

 

 

Breaking Generational Strongholds

For I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments” (Deuteronomy 5:9–10, esv).hands-of-generations

One of my moms mentioned that she finally reached out to her mom living in another state. Great, I responded. She said that she sent her pictures of her children. See, she added, I had to move away from her because she was so negative. She never told me she loved me. I thought to myself, how does a mom never tell her daughter she loves her? Ever?  At this, I leaned in close to her and whispered, I imagine you don’t let a day go by that you don’t tell your children you love them. She shook her head fiercely. No, I don’t. Even when I get angry with them, I quickly pull them to me and tell them why I was upset and that I love them.

This mom is breaking the generational stronghold with proactive steps. She distanced herself from the destructive behavior and has chosen to be loving and kind toward her children.

Hezekiah, one of my favorite kings, chose to break the stronghold that was in his country that his father Ahaz had created. King Hezekiah came into position after witnessing his father King Ahaz choosing to worship the pagan god Baal. He removed all the places of Baal worship and brought back the Levitical priests that had been established by the Lord and commanded that they clean out the Temple in Jerusalem. After they had thoroughly cleaned out the temple, restoring it to its beauty, he called all the tribes of Israel to come to Jerusalem to worship.

Many people gathered in Jerusalem and celebrated for days upon days! II Chronicles 31 describes how the Lord God responded: “And every work which he (King Hezekiah) began in the service of the house of God in law and in commandment, seeking his God, he did with all his heart and prospered.” (Full story in II Chronicles 28-31:21).

King Hezekiah chose to return to the worship of the one true God of his fathers, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and King David.  He also encouraged all the people to return to Jehovah God. He broke the generational stronghold, even though not all the people chose to worship God.

This mom chose to break the generational stronghold of negativity, and the lack of communicating love. She had an encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ who told her the truth about herself. Told her she was loved. That her confessed sins were forgiven. That she could love back. She could express her love to her children and be free of the pain of not being told she was loved by her own mother. The story doesn’t end there. She has reached out to her mother in kindness and love. A hope of forgiveness is taking place. The Lord is using this daughter to bring about a change of heart to her mother so that she may know the true love of her heavenly Father and enjoy the fellowship of her daughter and her grandchildren. Halleluiah! Love how God works!grandmother-and-daughter

They see, but don’t truly “see.”

“For in Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things have been created through Him and for Him.” Colossians 1:16

You’ve seen it, too, haven’t you, that our American culture is plummeting head first into total elimination of anything and everything that speaks the name of God. Yet. God is so there. Right in their faces!

Why did I not shake this little article in the Parade Magazine entitled “Awe” ( written by Paula Spencer Scott, Sunday, October 9, 2016).  It seemed to lead the reader to believe that this so called new emotion psychologists are supposedly spending millions of dollars studying is merely the “feeling of being in the presence of something vast or beyond human scale that transcends our current understanding of things.”  (page 6). What?

“For years, only the “big six” emotions (happiness, sadness, fear, anger, disgust, surprise) got much scientific attention. “Awe was thought of as the Gucci of the emotion world – cool if you have it, but a luxury item,” says Arizona State University psychologist Michelle Shiota. “But it’s now thought to be a basic part of being human that we all need.” (page7).

druid-archThe writer names several “awe-inspiring” experiences such as the view of the sunset through the Druid Arch in the middle of the Canyonlands National Park; Niagara Falls; a newborn’s tiny finger nails. I won’t ever deny that any of these events are awe-inspiring, but  never a mention made to the possible Source of awe in the article. Thus, my concern.

The One who allows us to even experience the emotion of awe is the One in whose image we are created! “Then God said,”Let Us make man in our image, according to Our likeness.” (Genesis 1:26). We are gifted with the ability to see and experience all these amazing wonders that are clearly not necessarily man-made because God wants us to enjoy them. He wants us to see that it is He who created the Druid Arches; it is He who allowed such a massive flow of water to cascade down the cliff called the Niagara Falls! He wants us, His creatures to see Him. He is the Creator to whom we should be amazed.

Last night my cousin shared a video from “Sandbrero,” The video, called “Ocean Explorer,” as of this writing, has garnered 7.3K comments! After viewing the absolutely amazing fish and water life in the depths of the ocean, I became curious as to the comments and discovered that after one man posted the verse from Romans 1:20 he received 88 comments! I read on. Many were reactionary responses to his mentioning that God was the creator of these amazing fish. Those who were not in agreement with his view were, to say the least, most unkind. The takeaway personally, was the evidence I needed to see that yes, our culture is becoming increasingly hostile to the mention of God, especially when one gives Him credit for how the world is made. The God, Creator of the Universe, made the heavens and the seas and all that is swimming in them.  But they can’t go there. Man is in control, they contend.

We are each encountering folks in our everyday lives who don’t want to give credit where it is due; because if they did, they would have to admit that somehow that means that man is not ultimately in control of their own destiny. And that would mean that they don’t have all the true power. We examine our heart for whether we truly believe that God did indeed make all the earth and everything in it, including us; and that when we are able to have a discussion with those who are not of this persuasion, to pray. Pray for the right words. Pray for their heart. We just may be the only one who has ever led them to see who their Creator God is and how very much He loves them and sent His Son, Jesus, to die for their sins and to offer them eternal life. So let’s see with His heart the opportunities before us. I leave you with these seven ideas – from the Parade magazine with personal enhancements.

  1. Drop the devices and gaze at the clouds or the stars – and sing the Doxology. “The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.” Psalm 19:1
  2. Visit a local, state, or national park and just wander around the trails and area with an attitude of wonder. “Then God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit after their kind, with seed in them, on the earth” and it was so.” Genesis 1:11.
  3. Take an “Awe Walk” in your neighborhood and notice the nature for the first time – better with a friend so you both can be amazed at what one another sees and give Him the credit for making such a smart bird! “But now ask the beasts, and let them teach you; And the birds of the heavens, and let them tell you….That the hand of the Lord has done this, In whose hand is the life of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind?” Job 12:7-9.
  4. Describe to a friend about a time you once felt awe. Or, just go with a friend on a sunset walk and describe the beauty to one another! “Stand and consider the wonders of God. Do you know how God established them, and makes the lightning of His cloud to shine?” Job 37:14-15.
  5. Visit a museum or planetarium; but filter the evolutionary rhetoric.
  6. Get up early to watch the sunrise. So much fun with a friend! “When I consider Thy heavens, the work of Thy fingers, the moon and the starts, which Thou has ordained; What is man, that Thou dost take thought of him?” Psalm 8:3.
  7. Play amazing music – such as Beethoven’s Fifth. Or Handel’s Messiah or any of the Hymns of the ages.

759

Give freely, or…..be disappointed

What were you teaching me, Lord, when you brought me into an encounter with a woman in need?

She had hoped to be offered a ten, perhaps, if I were generous, a twenty and I would be on my way, so she could be on her way.

She wasn’t prepared to be offered to shop together! How dare I intrude upon her own personal choices with the money she would receive. The handout. The unearned gift.

But she gazed into my eyes, a brief moment of hesitancy, before she said, “Yes! Thank you.”

I didn’t think I had any expectations. I had no idea what she would choose to buy, or how much. I was totally open to whatever she put in the basket. The family sized lasagna, the day old French bread, the six pack of Root Beer, and the dozen and a half eggs.food-shopping

Willingly I paid. Returned the bags to the cart and hugged her. We each said we would pray for one another. Her pastor and she would pray for me, she said. I told her God bless you and walked away. No strings. No expectations for a return……..or was there?

Why did my stomach churn when I saw her moments later walk over to the Starbucks and order a tall cold drink? Why did I watch her from a distance as she studied the many packages of fresh coffee on the shelves? Was I stunned that she would have enough pocket change to purchase a drink normally above her means? Did I feel I had been taken advantage of? Conned? Did she really have a twenty in her purse to spend on dinner for her grandkids?

Father, I pray, examine my heart. My own motives. I guess I had some strings hanging on to my debit card. She was supposed to walk out to a bus or a beaten up old car, get in and feed her grandchildren with what I had purchased for her and be grateful!

Forgive me, Lord, for holding on to preconceived notions that the poor were penniless. That when someone asked me for a handout they were supposed to be grateful! Forgive me, Lord, for being ungrateful to you! You, who gave completely all that you had for my life whether I thanked you or not!

There were no strings on that cross! No preconceived expectations! You gave freely. Oh, Father, may I grasp what You did for me and why. You gave. Out of love. For me. You ask only that I love you and revere You as my Lord and then to love my neighbor as you love me. No strings. No expectations. No worries. Freely I give. Lesson learned. For today.  God bless Yolanda and her grandchildren.

“Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. And do not pass judgment and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you shall not be condemned; pardon, and you will be pardoned. Give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, they will pour into your lap. For whatever measure you deal out to others, it will be dealt to you in return.” Luke 6:36-38

Choosing the Best over the Good

two-women-talking

As Susan opened her door for me to come in, she sighed and said, “Aren’t we just so crazy?” She laughed and we hugged. I went in to her den and found the two white poster boards in which she had penned the words to Hebrews 11:6 so beautifully in royal blue. Large. Legible. One for each team.  The children will easily see and memorize. “Oh, Susan, this is perfect! Thank you!” I exclaimed. As I picked them up she and I began to laugh about how utterly overflowing our plates were. Wasn’t summer a time for relaxing, we both wondered.  She, being tugged to Oklahoma to be with her working husband on weekends; her many grandchildren, whom she cherishes beyond words, off and on with her nearly all summer with their activities; and now, she is taking on presenting the Gospel in Summer Good News Clubs at an apartment complex and the YMCA one hour each per week for six weeks. And don’t forget VBS. And “cousins’ camp.” And…….on and on. I looked at her as she began to apologize for not being at the first Good News Club because her husband needed her with him this week.

“Wait,” I said, looking into her lovely burdened eyes. “Your husband is far more important than this Good News Club! Our marriages are what God instituted first. The church came next. We have plenty of leaders. You go with no guilt. He wants you. Needs you. Go be with him.”  She looked at me and smiled. “You’re right, Dianne. So right. What I do for and with my husband is speaking volumes to my grand children. They are watching and if they see that busy church work is more important to me than their granddaddy, then I’ve really made marriage look less important and greatly dishonoring to God.”  We looked at one another somberly. I understood her struggle to please her husband and yet to do busy gospel work. My husband and I had just purchased a beach home, something we each couple-in-galvestondesired to do some day in the future. Now the future was present. And we were planning to spend some weekends there fixing it up as well as relaxing together. Yet, I was the one who brought Child Evangelism Fellowship to the attention of our Missions Pastor a few months ago. My fault! I was in all the way this summer. No wonder my neck was stiff and my head throbbed. But, I also knew the huge importance of my being with my husband. He is my covenant partner for life. My man. I’m his only one. There are others to fill the shoes of sharing the gospel for awhile. But to show the world that doing church work at the expense of being with my husband these few weekends in the summer is truly slamming the whole idea of what Christians preach about marriage being so paramount in God’s eyes. Well, it IS paramount. It is the picture of a relationship between a man and a woman, fully committed to one another as God is committed to His people. His people to love and obey Him.

Susan and I also knew that on the other side of the coin, our men had given each of us a lot of room to go and do all year; mentoring school age children, greeting folks on Sunday mornings, teaching Vacation Bible School, presenting the Gospel once a week in the local elementary school. We were not shunning church work totally. We were struggling to live in balance. My husband has his competitive pool league. I have my young mom’s group. We have separate interests. We also serve together when our friends or family have needs. We come together when needed. Our men need us now. So we go. No guilt. We pray for others in the church community to come along side us and fill in when needed. We come together and help one another out and to lift up those whose husbands have called us wives to be with them. It is a huge witness to the world who sees marriage as less than important in the culture, both in the evangelical community as well as the world in general. We cannot let that happen. Oh, Father, help all of us to see how much you desire us to hold tight to our covenant marriage and treat one another with Godly respect and to be that picture of His love for us. “Marriage should be honored by all.” Hebrews 13:4

Change is uncomfortable; but necessary

praying together one Our small group has been meeting together far longer than when my Beloved and I joined. They tell the story of a morning when one of the men was out walking and his neighbor's cat was out? Was lost? Something. The cat was the catalyst for the men's encounter that brought them and their families together for what turned in to seventeen years!
"You and your wife come over and have coffee next Tuesday night," the walker said to the cat owner. They met and discovered they had much in common, including their church home. Let's invite some others. They did. By the time my husband and I came to their church about 5 years ago, the group had grown profoundly into 13 couples.
Over the years, the couples had seen one another through a daughter's brain surgery; parents' illnesses and passing away; rebellious sons; job searching; retirement anxiety and questions; moving away. Through all the issues of life we came together to pray. Our hearts, so knitted together under the banner of our Lord Jesus Christ's profound love, submitted to Him each and every Tuesday evening, knowing deep deep down that He was hearing. He was seeing. He was loving. And He was moving. And oh, how beautiful to watch Him work! It was glorious! To witness the healing of her daughters brain surgery; she, who is now mother of 5! To look around the crowded room of family and life long friends and see 11 completely new friends at my father's memorial service! Friends who had never met my father! Still profoundly moved at their heart and presence! To hear that their 30+ something year old son, who struggled for years to find a job was now not only gainfully employed but praised by his boss! Only God.
Lately, though, it seems that our group has had several move on to other groups within the church. Another couple moved to another town. Logical reason for leaving our group. But several others have moved on for what? Other ministries. And few new folks have come into our group.
Funny. This new season is groaning with questions. Are we still a group? What is God doing? Are we asking God that question or are we just getting irritated that folks are leaving our group? They're all great couples. Salt of the earth. Still very involved in other areas of the Body.
Change. Uncomfortable. Inevitable. Necessary.
Like pruning. When I get the garden clippers I'm quite deadly. As I was clipping the browned rose blooms, I got a bit hasty. Yep. Clipped a bud with two new buds yet to open. Bill noticed and grimaced. Pay attention, he said with his face. Oops. I brought the bud inside and stuck it in the middle of the carnations. It opened beautifully.
change- life is beautiful
What’s next for our group? Prayer. We meet and pray and discuss the question. What does God have for our group who have met for so many years? Personally, if they asked me, since we are in the midst of those retiring years, wouldn’t it be great to see the Lord bring in some young couples to our group to pray with? To encourage. To let them know that through their life issues, our God is with them. Seeing. Hearing. Loving. And yes, moving. And watch what God does to this next generation. For yes, though change is surely uncomfortable, it is so necessary for growth. I don’t really want to “die on the vine.” I want to be nipped and moved so I can bloom somewhere else! For my Lord!
Now, go out with Joy and be led forth in His peace!
change - open arms