We’re Here To Recognize…

3 12 2010

How many times do you suppose we think about doing something only to have it disappear into the busyness of the day? For me, the answer is “too often.”   As I was reading the scripture passage from I Corinthians and I sensed the Spirit underlining a couple of verses for me I decided to not allow that prompting to become buried under a pile of tasks. I’m going to act on it now.

The verses that nudged my heart are I Cor. 16: 17-18 (HCSB) “I am delighted over the presence of Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus…for they have refreshed my spirit and yours. Therefore recognize such people.” The author of this letter is the Apostle Paul and for some reason I have always pictured him as being a fairly stern sort of guy. He seems to be pretty intense most of his writing and so I think it might have been that word “delighted” that caught my eye. It’s just such a happy, joyful word. He follows up on that by saying that these three guys have “refreshed” him.  Now, if he needed RE-freshed that would seem to indicate that that there was a period of time when  he was DE-freshed, which I can certainly relate to after this past year.  He then adds the instruction for us to give recognition to the refreshing people in our lives, and that’s where this post picks up.

I started thinking about the refreshing people in my life over the past six months. The longer I thought  the longer my list got.   It was starting looking like I would need to write a book on this topic, but that’s not something that can happen within the  “right now” requirement I gave myself, so I decided to follow Paul’s example here.  He recognized three people in the referenced writing.  That seemed like a good pattern to follow.  I’m sure there were countless more he could have recognized, but he just picked three.  I also added the criteria that they couldn’t be related to me.   These are three people who I am absolutely delighted to have in my life and who have been a consistent source of refreshment to my spirit over the past, somewhat de-freshing,  six months and  I want to recognize them.

Donna Book has been an unwavering source of practical, tangible support to me.  I said to my mom the other day that I can’t mention anything that I am wanting or needing in Donna’s earshot or she will get it and/or do it for me.     She has given a shoulder to cry on in times of hurt and frustration and has made sacrifices to enable my ministry that leave me utterly humbled by her generosity.    Her gift of giving keeps me in a position of always wanting to balance the scales in our friendship, but the truly beautiful thing is that she’s never keeping score.

Ginny Reisinger has a gift of encouragement that she has selflessly poured into my life in a way that I find continually inspiring.   As I pull out of my driveway on my way in to the office, I look across the street at our church and I know that Ginny has been there for the previous hour in prayer, and I’ve been on her prayer list.  I begin each work day with a prayer she has penned especially for that day.Her weekly affirmation that she can see God working in and through me is, in the words of the commercial, priceless.

My third individual probably has no idea that he is one of my “refreshers.”  Jim Lucas is a man of quiet fortitude and faithfulness.  Obstacles  do not defeat him.  I can’t think of a single thing I have done to make his life any better, and yet every Sunday, he stops me on my way past his seat in the back row of  Highpoint’s Worship Center to tell me he loves and appreciates me.  It’s a wonderful thing to be appreciated for who you are,  not just for what you do.  When I watch Jim, I am motivated anew to persevere.  When I talk to Jim, well, let’s just say there are far worse things that have been said to and about me than being told that I am  “cuter than a speckled pup.”

So how about you?  What if you were to follow Paul’s admonission to recogonize your refreshers?  Who are three people on your list and how can you give them recognition for the way they have nurtured your spirit?  If you’re comfortable sharing, I’d love to hear about them.

Pursuing the Promise

15 03 2010

Well, I have to start this post off with a confession. See, I don’t really enjoy the subject of geography. Some people love it, but for me – not so much. I can still get lost in Columbus and I’ve lived in the area for over 30 years.  I’m the person who has to hold the map upside down if we’re traveling south to be able to figure out whether to turn left or right, so talking about areas of the world that don’t even exist anymore is a big stretch for my brain.    All that to say that I was just kind of zipping through the past few chapters in Joshua (if you’ve gotten a little off-track we’re reading Joshua 12 – 14 today). It’s a lot of “north of …” and “southward below the slopes of…”  and in the interest of complete honesty, I was sort of hearing that noise that Charlie Brown hears whenever adults talk – you know, the “whhaa, whhaa, whhaa…”  but then the Holy Spirit reached out in chapter 14 and grabbed me.  Don’t you love having His Word written down, so you can just back up and re-read when you realize that you missed something?

In verse 6 of chapter 14 we get the detail on Caleb’s portion of the inheritance of Canaan.   Caleb comes to meet with Joshua and reminisces about the time when Moses sent them out with 10 other spies to scout out the land of Canaan and report back.  I’m sure you remember the story – the other 10 spies said that the enemy was too big and they couldn’t possibly defeat them, but Caleb and Joshua were adamant that God would give them the land if they would just go and take it.  The people’s fear won out, resulting in 40 years of wilderness wanderings.  But, Caleb has never forgotten God’s promise that because he had a “different spirit” (Num. 14:24) he would enter Canaan and it would be his inheritance.  And his attitude is what challenged me.  I love verses 10 and 11; “As you see, the Lord has kept me alive these 45 years as He promised, since the Lord spoke this word to Moses while Israel was journeying in the wilderness. Here I am today, 85 years old.  I am still as strong today as I was the day Moses sent me out.  My strength for battle and for daily tasks is now as it was then.” 45 years!  Not hours, not days, not weeks or even months – 45 years.  And is he crying the blues?  “Finally, finally, I’ve lasted long enough – I’m old and feeble now, but I’ve managed to hang on by my fingernails…”  No, he is still as eager and expectant as on the day God made him the promise.  And I love that he draws the distinction between having the strength for battle and for daily tasks.  It’s pretty easy to get excited and energized for a big battle – lots of noise and drama, but the day-in and day-out tasks of doing God’s work, the repetition of the same chores, the same conversations, the same people, the same problems, with no clear endpoint in sight, I can find myself feeling wearied and weakened by those.  But what an encouragement Caleb is – “I am still as strong today as I was 45 years ago.” No doubt, no fear, no fatigue.  Too often what we see as God’s delay in fulfilling His promises causes us to begin to doubt whether or not we will ever see it happen, we fear that perhaps we misunderstood Him, we feel that we won’t have the strength to continue running the race.

So how do we avoid discouragement, how can we, how can I, be as certain as certain 5 years, 10 years, 40 years from now of the fulfillment of God’s promises as Caleb was?  Well, we make a choice to either count up or count down.  Jylian and Jocelynn, two of my daughters have been given the opportunity to play their cello and string bass with Hayes Orchestra at Carnegie Hall at the end of this month.   It’s a rare privilege that was promised to them at the beginning of this year.  They haven’t gotten more and more discouraged at each passing day, bemoaning the fact that “it hasn’t happened yet” or worrying that maybe it won’t actually happen.  The passage of time has had quite the opposite effect on their attitude, they have gotten more excited, they are practicing with greater diligence, their planning has gotten more detailed and specific – they understand that each day brings the fulfillment of the promise closer.  The passage of time increases their excitement and gives them more energy for pursuing the promise of Carnegie.   They are counting down.  I wonder why we are so inclined to count up when it comes to pursuing God’s promises rather than count down?  Why do we so rarely think “Yay, I’m one day closer to seeing my family saved!” or, “I’m one day closer to realizing God’s healing in my body!”  0r, “We’re one day closer to seeing God’s provision for His Church!” ?

Would our attitude be more like Caleb’s if we stopped letting time control our perspective on God’s promises and let God’s promises control our perspective on time?   I’m underlining Joshua 14:11 and I’ve decided that I’m counting down.  His promises will be fulfilled and I’m closer to seeing that happen today than I was yesterday.

Relationship Rescue (Part 2)

1 02 2010

There was a “thing” going around in my area of the Facebook universe last week. You were supposed to change your profile pic to a famous person that you look like. It sounded like a perfect way to ruin a day – I mean, do I really need 50 people posting “You’ve GOT to be kidding!” on my wall after I change my picture to one of Wonder Woman?  Not really, so I didn’t bother.   But, oddly enough, I did notice that the same topic of look-a-likes was raised in the book of Genesis.

Jacob and Esau are traveling toward each other after years of separation caused by relational conflict.  Jacob sends a gift ahead of him to Esau.   He expresses his hope that Esau will receive the gift and forgive him, but he is incredibly  fearful that Esau is coming toward him to seek revenge.

Chapter 33 is the climax to the story, they see each other, Jacob is filled with trepidation and uncertainty, but Esau runs to embrace him, telling him that no gift is necessary and then we read this breathtaking verse 10.   Jacob says to Esau, “I have seen your face, and it is like seeing God’s face, since you have accepted me.”  What an amazing and beautiful thing to have said of you – that you look like God.

Paul articulates the same thought in his 2nd letter to the Corinthians, chapter 3, verse 18; “We all, with unveiled faces, are reflecting the glory of the Lord…”

We’ve all been wronged by others.  Maybe they did something that was unintentionally hurtful, or maybe what they did was so on purpose that it seemed like they were following a written plan on destroying your relationship.   Whatever the cause of the rift in the relationship, we see in Esau’s response to Jacob a pattern to follow when moving toward reconciliation.  Not a response of recrimination.  No demand for restitution.  But simple acceptance.

Would that my response toward others, those who are fearful, who are coming back toward home; those who have done wrong; even when it’s been directed at me; would be a response of such acceptance that they would say that I remind them of God.

Relationship Rescue (pt 1)

27 01 2010

I realize we are reading through Exodus now, but there are a couple passages in Genesis that have not let go of my heart and mind.   I don’t know if you’re anything like me, but if you are, you probably had something like “can we say dysfunctional?” running through your head while reading the story of Jacob and Esau.  I mean, first the favoritism of one child over the other with the parents.  Then Esau sells his birthright for a bowl of soup.  But that’s not enough for Jacob, who proceeds to trick his blind, dying father; stealing Esau’s blessing.  Esau’s not just ticked off, he wants to kill his brother so Jacob runs away to escape…fast-forward through lots more deceit and family dysfunction, a few wives, children and flocks, years of separation, and the brother’s find themselves facing a reunion.

Chapters 32 & 33 gives us two great snapshots of the reunion picture.  Jacob, obviously is fearful that Esau will still be holding animosity against him for the way  he (Jacob) stole the blessing that Isaac had intended for Esau.  I think it’s safe to assume that Jacob spent some time in the years following the rift in their relationship reasoning out why he hadn’t really done anything all that terrible.  After all, Esau had sold him his birthright; fair and square.  The only reason he had to trick dear old dad was because dad was going to ignore the transaction and bless Esau anyway.  And besides, his mom told him to do it.  Wasn’t he supposed to obey mom?

It’s human nature to try and avoid responsibility when a relationship breaks down isn’t it?  We can almost always come up with a reason why our behavior was okay “under the circumstances.”  Lookout!  Whenever we find ourselves explaining something we have or haven’t done in a relationship, and we have to use that phrase, we undoubtedy shoulder a portion of the blame for the failure of that relationship.  See, right and wrong are not contingent upon circumstances or anyone else’s behavior.    Someone else’s wrong will never excuse my wrong.

By this point in the story Jacob recognizes that fact, he accepts that he has wronged his brother and that he has a responsibility to initiate reconciliation.  And so we read this little phrase in verse 21 of chapter 32; “So the gift was sent on ahead of him…”  He took a risk.  He reached out toward reconciliation.  He extended something valuable, with no guarantee of any return.   Esau could have taken what Jacob sent and not reciprocated.  He could have completely refused the gift, the risk was Jacob’s.

Relational reconciliation always involves risk.  When we come to a place of knowing that we must seek reconciliation in a broken relationship, we make ourselves vulnerable.  There are no guarantees.  But we have to be willing to send our gift on ahead.

In the relationships that are broken in our lives, what “gift” can we send ahead?  Color me a city girl, but I’m thinking that a herd of livestock might not say the same thing today that it said in BC days.  Today, in righting a wrecked relationship, the most valuable gift I know of is the gift of “I’m sorry, I was wrong.”  And that’s a risk isn’t it?  What if they don’t acknowledge their part in the break-down of the relationship?  What if they don’t send a “me too” back?  That’s the risk isn’t it?  Kind of reminds me of a story I read of a God who was so desperate to reconcile a broken relationship with mankind, even though man was 100% at fault for the break,  that He sent ahead the gift of His only Son…you’ve probably heard the story too.  Makes my risk in reconciling broken relationships, for which I bear at least partial responsibility, look small in comparison.

So who do I need to send my gift ahead to this week?  I’m asking God to show me.

In Part 2, I’ll look at Esau and his role and response in the reconciliation.  See you then.

Not all at once…

7 01 2010

I’m a task-oriented person.  I’m pretty sure, if there were a hidden camera on me I would be caught with a little grin on my face every time I checked something off my task list.  And oh yes, I have a task list, which is synced with my web-based calendar and my laptop calendar and my Smartphone calendar.  I am definitely list-centric.   It’s not a bad character trait to have,  it allows me to keep a pretty heavy schedule operating fairly smoothly.  There is a drawback though, if I don’t get The List completed by the end of today, then tomorrow becomes just a continuation of today. I have to finish all those items that are now in red, before I can begin the new day’s tasks.  That leaves less time to complete the new day’s tasks, so there is more carryover the next day.  Before you know it, I’m never working on today’s plan.  I’m always working in the past.

I noticed something as I’ve been reading through Genesis this month.  There’s an idea that’s repeated in the Creation Story that I’m “getting” this time through. It’s a good idea to pay special attention whenever God repeats Himself in His Word, and He repeats Himself a lot in chapter one.   “Evening came, and then morning:” followed by the number of days, the first day, the second day, the third day…is repeated six times in the first chapter.  That stood out to me, and I started to wonder, “Why didn’t God create everything all at once?”  I mean, He’s God.  He could have, in a single moment, spoken everything into existence.  But He didn’t choose to do it that way.  He had a new plan for each day.

The process that He modeled for us is one of renewal.  Each day was new, with its own unique purpose.  No carry-over from yesterday.  For someone like me, who struggles to remember that The List is supposed to work for me, not the other way around, it is a liberating thought.  At the end of each day is a period, not a comma.  When I wake up in the morning, it is a brand new day; Thursday, not Wednesday Part 2.  If God, in His perfection, chooses to do things in stages – rather than all at once, why do I loose sleep over what’s not done yet?  If I walked in obedience to the opportunities that the Lord placed before me today, then I accomplished what He needed done, regardless of what my list says.

So, I’m going to start putting periods instead of commas at the end of each day and I’m going to stop subordinating today’s purpose to yesterday’s plan.

2010 Challenge

31 12 2009

I finally rented the DVD “Julie & Julia” this week, I’ve been wanting to see it since it came out.  It contrasts the lives of Julia Childs as she began her culinary career with  Julie Powell, a NYC blogger, who decides to cook her way through all 524 recipes in Julia’s cookbook.   Though I’m sure it wasn’t the producer’s intent, I discovered that the movie has a great spiritual application.

I have been an avid fan of Julia Childs, my entire adult life, and she’s not my only chef crush. Martha Stewart, Emeril, Rachel Ray, Christopher Kimball…I can watch them for hours (much to Bill’s dismay). And cooking magazines – PULEEZ – I’ve probably thrown away 50-60 of them this week alone in my annual year end purge. This might not seem that unusual to anyone except my family. You see, they would be quick to tell you that they have yet to see any application of all my years of learning in the field of culinary arts. I understand & appreciate both the science and art of cooking. I know why cookies turn out differently depending on the temperature of the butter you use, however, I haven’t baked a cookie that didn’t come out of a Nestle Tollhouse refrigerated tub in more years than I can remember. All of my knowledge stays filed away in my mind, it serves no purpose. That’s where Julie has me beat. She read Julia Childs’ cookbook and committed to actually making every single recipe. Other people could see, smell, touch, hear and taste the results of what she was reading.

You can probably see the direction I’m going.  Our church is beginning a challenge for 2010 – to read through the entire Bible this year.  I can’t wait.  I love to read and my favorite thing  in all of life is to learn something new, especially God’s eternal truth.  But it won’t be enough to to file it away in my mind.  That’s not the purpose.  The point this year, in this journey through The Bible, is to apply what we read.  For other people to see, hear, smell, taste and feel the results of our reading.

In the movie, Julie’s character didn’t begin the story as a great cook, but in doing what she was reading about she became the great cook that she wanted to be.  The same will be true for us. In doing; in living out, the truths that we are reading (hearing) in God’s Word we will be the disciples that we yearn to be.

That’s the point of this blog.  To make sure I’m staying focused on the results of the reading.  I want to be a better disciple than I am a cook.