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Braking Points

Exploring the Adventure of Aging

Month

November 2013

The Power of a Grateful Heart–The Perseverance Factor

imageWe are surrounded by a great cloud of people whose lives tell us what faith means. So let us run the race that is before us and never give up. We should remove from our lives anything that would get in the way and the sin that so easily holds us back. Let us look only to Jesus, the One who began our faith and who makes it perfect. He suffered death on the cross. But he accepted the shame as if it were nothing because of the joy that God put before him. And now he is sitting at the right side of God’s throne. Think about Jesus’ example. He held on while wicked people were doing evil things to him. So do not get tired and stop trying. (Hebrews 12:1-3 NCV)

imageI completed reading John Grisham’s latest book SYCAMORE ROW yesterday afternoon. In case you do not know, it is a sequel to his very first book, A TIME TO KILL, which until this summer I had not read. I can recommend both, although be prepared the beginning of his first book, if you have not read it, is so graphic it left me in tears and chills. I do not intend to review the books here so read them if you would like.

As I began to think about being thankful for the growth of perseverance in my life, I could not help but include a scene from SYCAMORE ROW. In the episode, Harry Rex, lawyer and friend of Jake Brigance senses that Jake is about to give it up. The odds of a win being astronomically low, he reminds Jake who he is.

From Sycamore Row by John Grisham:

“No, I remember when you were quarterback for scrawny little Karraway, never had a winning season, as I recall. What was the worst a..-whipping you ever took on the field?”
“Ripley beat us fifty to nothing my junior year.”
“How bad was it at halftime?”
“Thirty-six to nothing.”
“And did you quit?”
“No, I was the quarterback.”
“Okay, you knew you were not going to win at halftime, but you led the team back onto the field for the second half, and you kept playing. You didn’t quit them and you can’t quit now. A win looks pretty doubtful at this time, but you gotta drag your a.. back onto the field. Right now you look thoroughly defeated and the jury is watching every move you make. Eat your vegetables like a good boy and let’s go.”

The gift of perseverance does not ever guarantee that the outcome even when you are RIGHT will be victory. However, I understand now more than I ever did before that quitting in the face of defeat guarantees a loss. And, not just a loss in that moment but a setback that makes the courage to persevere in the next arena of life even harder. As Vince Lombardi once said:

“Once you learn to quit, it becomes a habit.”

So I thank God for the opportunities he has given me to muddle, push, force, or drag through. No one, at least no one in their right mind, gets down on their knees and prays , “Oh, Lord, I don’t have enough trouble, trials, or hardships. Send me more.” What I pray is, “Lord, I cannot do this by myself. Stay with me, help me and if possible take these trials away from me.” My example in this is Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane when he prayed, “If possible, take this cup from me.” Then he rose met his accusers and went to the Cross. Each day as a Christian, we are called to take up our cross and follow him.

Jesus faced not only the excruciating physical abuse of the cross, he faced and persevered through the spiritual anguish of being separated from the Father. Because of His perseverance on the Cross, you and I have the promise that He “will never leave” us or “forsake” us. In the valleys, the mountaintops, and the plateaus of our lives he is present. He has taken up residence in our very beings and will not abandon us no matter what…even if I quit, he won’t quit.

So I thank God for His perseverance in my life and for teaching me daily how much he loves me and wants me to continue to serve Him until He takes me home.So in the words of Harry Rex, that great theologian (NOT): “Eat your vegetables like a good boy and let’s go.” Thank you John Grisham for another wonderful book.

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The Power of a Grateful Heart–For those who have worn or wear the uniform of the United States of America

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Compared to European history we are rowdy teenagers but compared to Middle Eastern history, the United States of America is a babe in arms. And yet by God’s own hand and human desire for freedom and justice, we are a free people under a system of laws designed to protect and defend human rights. We are not perfect and we are not always Godly, but God has not left us yet. More a stew than a melting pot, we are representative of all other nations in the world, all those with lengthier histories. From all people groups we have been united under God and the flag of the USA.

Today I am thankful to the men and women who have taken the oath, worn the uniform, and protected our country, our freedom against enemies both foreign and domestic, against great odds. Some have returned haunted by the battlefield, some physically wounded, and some in boxes covered in flags. Some have returned educated and trained to serve as civilians even leaders of the world. To these men and women I say: “Thank you for your service.”

Today I am thankful to be an American, recognizing that there divisions and wounds, troubles and sorrows, idolatry and rebellion in homes across the country, in the halls of government and even in my own heart. And so in thankfulness for this great country, the grandest on earth, I submit these wise words from scripture for all to consider:

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14 NIV)

The Power of a Grateful Heart–The Forgiveness Factor

imageFor much of my life I have found forgiveness difficult. Oh, not forgiving the silly little stuff, but if I felt I had been wronged or even if I felt someone I love had been wronged, it took me a while. In fact, sometimes a vivid recording of a past hurt plays in the theater of my mind, catching me off guard, hurling me into a pit of vengeful slime. These events catch me off guard and can turn even the best of days sour. I hate the realization that the very image of another’s face can raise such vile thoughts in me, a child of God, forgiven, redeemed, loved.

I hate admitting that I still harbor “ill will” toward anyone.

How could I??

God has forgiven me SO much.

Unforgiveness is incompatible with the character of God.

Unforgiveness is a Sin…against God, against those from whom I withhold forgiveness, and against myself.

My mind becomes a battleground as I struggle to throw off the devil’s blanket of unforgiveness so I can crawl into the light of God’s grace. There exposed to his light I can face the fact that in spite of my best efforts to open myself to God’s examination some issues remain in a dark little closet of my mind. Oh, I don’t fool myself believing I have hidden sins from the Holy Spirit, but sometimes I do manage to bury them so that I don’t have to face my own lack of forgiveness. Unfortunately, nothing that detrimental can remain buried.

I have a choice, continue to withhold forgiveness or forgive. Easier said than done.

And so,

Forgiveness for me requires many conversations with myself and even more with God. I know that forgiveness is not an option for Christians. I know that it liberates the one who forgives more than the one forgiven. I know it all in my head, but there are times my heart, with all the shattered pieces cannot quite see it.

I have learned by the grace and forgiveness of God to bring it all to him. All the broken pieces, the hurts, intended or not, the people who cause me to stiffen my back, all my ugly thoughts….I have learned to bring them to him. He forgives me and I beg him to work though me to forgive the wrongs and to bless others.

He has shown me how to pray for the ones I cannot yet forgive and each day I find myself growing more and more concerned for their well being. He has shown me that my letting go, my forgiveness cannot be withheld just because another does not say, “I am Sorry.” He has shown me that nursing a hurt only makes it fester. He has shown me those to whom I need to say, “I am Sorry.”

Open honest conversation with God and open confession changes my attitude toward those I feel have hurt me or those I love. For one thing I see them whether Christian or not as those for whom Christ died and those who God loves. I continue to struggle with some older hurts, still haven’t quite forgotten the biting words or actions, but God continues to work with me in this very Christian business of FORGIVENESS.

And so today, I thank God for His Forgiveness. I thank him for creating in me a desire to forgive and not retaliate or seek revenge. I am grateful for the forgiveness of others for wrongs I have done. I am thankful for His Gift of Forgiveness that brings reconciliation of relationships and pray that whoever reads this today takes inventory and begins intentionally to converse with God and to forgive others.

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. (Colossians 3:12-14 NIV)

The Power of a Grateful Heart–To all the Congregations We’ve Ever Loved

First Christian Church, Greenville, KY
First Christian Church, Greenville, KY
At the time of Terry’s ordination May 19, 1991 at our home church, Yale Avenue Christian Church, Tulsa, OK, we had been serving Fellowship Christian Church, Broken Arrow, OK for almost 2 years as he finished Seminary. You probably notice that I use the first person plural to describe pastoral service and that is purposeful not because I have formal cleric training, but because from the first time we hosted a small group Bible Study in our home prior to Terry entering seminary to now, he and I have been partners in ministry.

Sinking Fork Christian Church, Cerulean, KY
Sinking Fork Christian Church, Cerulean, KY
Since Fellowship, we have served First Christian Church, Providence, KY, Pembroke Christian Church, Sinking Fork Christian Church as interim pastor, and First Christian Church, Greenville, KY. I thank God for each of these congregations. Sinking Fork was our shortest stay and Pembroke our longest, but at every temporary church home along the way, we have been blessed to work and play along side fine Christian people.

I learned that the pastor and his family are the only members of the congregation who cannot put down roots and that has helped me understand what God intended me to understand that all things on this earth are temporary. BUT being a part of these people, their joys, their sorrows, their lives blessed Terry and me in ways that cannot be committed to paper.

Pembroke Christian Church, Pembroke, KY
Pembroke Christian Church, Pembroke, KY

After we left Providence, as we were going to Pembroke, an older minister gave us this advice and it has stood through it all allowing us to minister, serve and then leave when it was time to go. He said, “Just go and love the people.” So we did and that blessed us and continues to bless us. Hopefully along the way we blessed others as well.

To all the congregations we’ve ever loved “Thank You”

To the God who called us to pastoral ministry, “What WERE YOU THINKING? No, I mean THANK YOU…it has been the grandest adventure of our lives.

To all called to pastoral ministry I leave these words which have guided Terry and I over the years:

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:9-21 NIV)

The Power of a Grateful Heart–Friendship Factor

imageMost of my life I have experienced difficulty making friends. As a child I set up barriers quickly in an effort to avoid being hurt. It didn’t take me long to realize that my family did not fit like other families did. We were poor and unlike some folks I knew we were poor. Somehow not dressing like the other kids or being able to do the things they could do left me feeling inadequate and so I walled myself in. The only area where I experienced some success and developed some confidence was in the classroom. I did make good grades. That plus being a Candy Striper at the hospital and an active member of my church kept me on the fringe of respectability, but just barely.

Why spend a whole paragraph lamenting my failure in social development through high school? Possibly because I just missed my 50th high school class reunion and looking at the faces in the picture of the attendees as well as connecting with some of the people I went to school with on Facebook reminds me of the friends I could have had, if I could have gotten over myself. You see I realize now that I missed out because I looked down on my family and myself. I coveted what others had and judged myself by those standards. My sin robbed me of friendships I might have formed if I could have climbed out of my pit of self pity. Friendship requires courage and sacrifice, but it is worth it.

Today, I still have some really good friends, but I have known and loved so many people in the last thirty years since I truly committed my life to Christ. Friendship is an invaluable blessing and the first friend on my list is Jesus…you see, it is Jesus who befriended me and showed me how to be a friend. My second and best human friend is my husband Terry, because he would literally do anything for me. He, like Jesus, cheers me on and cheers me up. He has been with me at my best and my worst. He doesn’t hesitate to push me just a little so I don’t backdown from social situations. He blesses me everyday and I hope I do the same for him.

But, know what…

I have people I know I can call even if I haven’t talked to them in years and they will be glad to talk to me. I have friends who have ministered to us through Terry’s cancer in a hundred different ways including driving to Nashville to take him for treatment so I could go to work in Louisville, KY. Friends who helped complete our garage when Terry got sick and could not do the work. Friends who filled in the pulpit at Greenville First Christian Church. I only hope I live long enough to minister to others the way we have been ministered to.

I believe that being a friend is as much if not more of a blessing than having friends. Friendship is a circle that widens and includes.

A man who has friends must himself be friendly,
But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. Proverbs 18:24

Jesus is the perfect friend, the only friend who will never let me or you down. And, yet we all need and God’s desires for us to have those pesky human friends. Will friends sometimes disappoint, desert, dis you, even betray you? Yes, that is why we must be discerning. And, Yet, that is also why there is “forgiveness”. Because as a human friend I know I am going to fail at times and boy! do I need forgiveness so I need to be ready to offer it as well.

Thank you Lord, for your friendship that demonstrates what true friendship should be like. Thank you for my friends. Thank you for allowing me to be a friend to others. There is power in Friendship and I am grateful.

In a world full of noise, the way you get people to care about you is to care about them first. ~Jeff Goins, Writer

Friends stay, when others go
Friends pray, when others sleep
Friends pay, when your funds are low
Friends say, “I’ve been in that deep.” NCK, 11/7/2013

The Power of a Grateful Heart–Thank You for Family Stories

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In late 1880, Benjamin Franklin Vick raided the home of Louisa Carroll Vick in Pickens, Alabama. His brother and a few cousins accompanied him having ridden with him from Texas. Louisa was his wife, though on a census earlier in that year, she had listed herself as his widow. Whether Louisa lied or actually thought Benjamin was dead or whether the couple had ever divorced or ever did has not been determined, though there are possibly documents that show that. Louisa lived within shouting distance of her parents home in a rundown shack with her two daughters, Ella, 5 years and Nancy Jane, 3 years.

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Benjamin entered his wife’s home uninvited for one purpose. He intended to take his daughters back to Texas with him where he had settled near Indian Territory. I cannot image the terror his raid sparked in Louisa or in his daughters either, but at the end of that night, he had accomplished his purpose, leaving Louisa childless and his daughters motherless. Benjamin didn’t marry again and died in 1901 at the age of 46. The records located lose Louisa after the 1890 census when she was living in the home of her parents in Pickens, Alabama.

imageElla and Nancy Jane married and moved to Indian Territory in an area that would become Marshall County, Oklahoma during the 1890’s where both gave birth, raised, and buried children. Nancy Jane lost her first son when she administered an incorrect dosage of medication following faulty instructions given to her by the Apothecary. She lost two infant daughters to diphtheria. In all she birthed seven children, four who lived to be adults. My Dad who was born in 1910 was her youngest child.

Over the years following their abduction, Ella shared what little she could remember about their mother and grandparents and the girls gleaned from snatches of Vick family talk a bit more information. There is no indication that Benjamin Vick abused his daughters, but he also refused to share with them any information about their mother.

Years passed. In 1930 with the nation teetering on the brink of financial disaster, Nancy Jane Vick Ivy received a letter from her mother Louisa, who had moved to Tennessee. Ella had passed away without ever getting such a letter. My grandmother was 53 years old when she boarded a train, holding a ticket paid for by funds her husband and her sons managed to scrape together and traveled to Tennessee to see her mother for the first time in fifty years.

I never learned through my Dad’s stories and perhaps he never knew himself how Louisa found Nancy Jane, and though I am curious I don’t think that really matters. What matters is that this FAMILY STORY sparks hope that reunions, reconciliations, and redemption are possible. Family stories intensify our feelings of belonging not just to this patch of time in which we live, but to our ancestors and to future generations as we pass along the stories.

So today I give thanks to God for the stories that have survived time in my family and in my husband’s family and thanks that I have the opportunity to share them, along with a few of my own, with my children and grandchildren.

God leads us in this story telling by His own example, in His own Book, from Genesis to Revelation. He doesn’t spare us the gory details nor the boring details either. There are the Beatitudes–beautiful and memorizable and then there are the Begat’s–skippable and mind numbing. At least that is how I used to think of them, until I heard a preacher, imagine that I was listening, tell me that the Begat’s contained important Family Stories. Tucked into Jesus’ family tree on a few of the branches God put information intended to reveal His heart.

This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham: Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar, Perez the father of Hezron, Hezron the father of Ram, Ram the father of Amminadab, Amminadab the father of Nahshon, Nahshon the father of Salmon, Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David. David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife, Solomon the father of Rehoboam, Rehoboam the father of Abijah, Abijah the father of Asa, Asa the father of Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat the father of Jehoram, Jehoram the father of Uzziah, Uzziah the father of Jotham, Jotham the father of Ahaz, Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, Manasseh the father of Amon, Amon the father of Josiah, and Josiah the father of Jeconiah and his brothers at the time of the exile to Babylon. After the exile to Babylon: Jeconiah was the father of Shealtiel, Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, Zerubbabel the father of Abihud, Abihud the father of Eliakim, Eliakim the father of Azor, Azor the father of Zadok, Zadok the father of Akim, Akim the father of Elihud, Elihud the father of Eleazar, Eleazar the father of Matthan, Matthan the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, and Mary was the mother of Jesus who is called the Messiah. Thus there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Messiah. (Matthew 1:1-17 NIV)

For we find that it was not the first son of Israel, Reuben or the favorite son, Joseph, but Israel and Leah’s fourth son, Judah, who is in the lineage of Jesus.
Must have been because Judah was such an upstanding righteous man that God chose him….NO! Judah helped sell his brother into slavery. And as an old man, it was
Judah, who was deceived by his childless widowed daughter-in-law Tamar, who pretended to be a prostitute so that her father-in-law would get her pregnant. From that less than holy union came twins. One of whom, Perez is in Christ’s lineage…talk about twisted family stories that make soap operas and reality TV look tame.

And, although Tamar’s name appears as the first women mentioned in this family tree, there are three others, all foreigners, Rahab, the prostitute in Jericho, Ruth, the Moabitess, and Uriah’s wife (Bathsheba). The family tree of Jesus has more than its fair share of “bad apples” that God chose as ancestors for his son. Throughout God’s written story he shows us our sin in the stories of others, but more importantly He declares his intentions toward all humanity. He desires that we immerse ourselves in His word so that we can be encouraged by the stories there, so that we can know reunion, reconciliation and redemption. So we can share that hope with others while we wait.

My grandmother waited 50 years before she saw her mother again, but she didn’t pine away, she got on with her life. So let’s get on with living our lives, sharing God’s stories and our own with others as we wait for the culmination of God’s Story that he has written us into.

Thank you Lord for Writing my Name in Your Book…I love being a mere notation in your book of life, because that is the Story that really matters!

The Power of a Grateful Heart–The Ultimate Help Button Thankfulness

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Recently after being retired for over a year I agreed to work a couple of days a week to help out during my friend Cathrine’s maternity leave. Having worked for the Commonwealth of Kentucky for the last 11 years of my career, having traveled extensively throughout the state on the job in a state owned vehicle, and having to be able to get “on-line” in numerous offices, I had all the “Help” numbers at my fingertips and some committed to memory. So it really did not come as a surprise that my temporary fill in position would come with its own set of user names, passwords, special codes for the badge entries. Not only that but once you get a password automatically programmed into your fingers, they require you to change it. Fortunately, they, too, have several “Help” numbers for the various ports of entry required to check schedules, do dictation, review and electronically sign dictation, etc., etc., etc.

In my personal and family life I have a number of help resources as well and I file them under “favorites” on my phone. Nothing makes me sadder than realizing there are folks who have no “help” buttons they can push easily or some who have none at all. I get a sick feeling in my stomach, when I hear stories of folks found dead in their homes because of the odor not because someone cared and came to check on them.

About 4 years before my mother died, while my brother who lived with her was at work, my Mom got stuck, rather unceremoniously on the toilet. The lifted seat that helped her rise had been removed for some reason and so when she sat down, she stayed down. Her wireless phone was out of reach. Several people, including me, tried to reach her that afternoon and after I could not after 3 tries, I called my son in Tulsa to go check on his grandmother. Before he got there, my sister-in-law who also had tried to reach her got there and helped her up. Still, she had sat there for over 2 hours. After that, we got her a Lifeline button, which she did use more than once. She was a bit miffed at me, though I was two states away and did not know her schedule completely, that I had not realized after the first phone call that she needed help. Daughters should be privy to their mother’s prayers to God, just because that’s the way it should be.

I am thankful that my Mom knew how to call on the Ultimate Helper throughout her life from the time she was a little girl. One of the greatest gifts she gave me was a childhood where attending church was expected, so that I could have a base of faith on which to grow. It took me a long time. I was an adult before I came to even understand that The Lord God of the Universe loved me and wanted to guard me, protect me, and save my soul. It took me even longer to understand that there will still be stumbling, falling, and crawling, but He’s got me and there is nothing in this world or the next that can defeat him or cause him to lose his grip.

So today I am grateful that I know how to reach the Ultimate Help Desk with the piddling little issues and with the gigantic overwhelming issues. He promises he will keep me:

I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; From where shall my help come? My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to slip; He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, He who keeps Israel Will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is your keeper; The Lord is your shade on your right hand. The sun will not smite you by day, Nor the moon by night. The Lord will protect you from all evil; He will keep your soul. The Lord will guard your going out and your coming in From this time forth and forever. (Psalms 121:1-8 NASB)

My user name is Redeemed
My password is Jesus

Thanks be to God for being the helper who never leaves even if all others should run away. He will carry me across when the time comes in his arms and all my need for HELP will disappear in that passing.

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The Power of a Grateful Heart–The Wonder Factor

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“Why did you stop at a green light?” “Why didn’t you close the personnel door to the garage completely?” “Did you intend to hit that chuck hole straight on?” “You know feeding that dog keeps him hanging around, don’t you?” These are questions from my husband recently to which I have answered, ” To increase your sense of wonder.” as in, “I wonder why she does or doesn’t do things that are completely obvious to me.” Don’t get the wrong idea here. His questions really are questions of wonder or at least puzzlement, not criticism. It works both ways, I wonder why on earth he chooses to put his dirty clothes On the hamper rather than in it? Or, Why do you cover every flat surface with stuff?

After 49 years of marriage we still realize how different we are and yet we both delight in those differences…not that we always have. Exasperating at times, but still the stuff of life that keeps relationships stable, but not dull….as long as you don’t allow yourselves to see those quirks or lapses or plain stupidity (his or mine) to drive a wedge instead of instilling a sense of WONDER! Because sometimes I have discovered that without him forcing me to meet new people or get out of the car and really look at the view, there are a lot of WONDER-Filled things I would have missed.

Wonder in a relationship isn’t always about the quirks that raise your eyebrow or bring on deep sighs and eye rolling…wonder in a relationship is about watching and listening to him as he preaches and knowing God called him to speak his word and a sense of pride that he answered that call even though it has at times brought both of us great pain. Wonder is more than simply amazement, it transcends the human ability to reason. Wonder is about when he wraps his arms around me and says, “I cannot begin to tell you how much I appreciate you.” and the awe that fills me that God would bless me, little me, with this man. Wonder is realizing he is watching me from across a room, with an expression filled with joy and ok, my feminist readers, don’t take this wrong, but with a look that says, “she is mine! and I am glad she is.” After all these years, he hasn’t figured me out but keeps trying. Wonder is meeting his eyes and sharing a laugh about something no one else in the world would even get.

Wonder is a gift of God and like so many gifts of God, appreciated most before the world does a number on us, before the losses hit home, before bills pile up, and before cynicism rises in us dulling our wonder vision. That is why it is so important to seek wonder even vicariously like on a walk with a small child, who thinks dandelions are beautiful flowers rather that weeds.

Chassity and Owen, Wonderment
Chassity and Owen, Wonderment

All of us have memories of moments of wonder, the birth of my first child, a ground covered with white on Christmas Day, the Grand Canyon, ….Wonder that arouses in even the most calloused among us to the fact that there is something bigger than we are. Wonder is a gift from God that exists as a need within us so that we can worship.

The Grand Canyon
The Grand Canyon

For as important as wonder is to human relationships, it is exponentially more important to our relationship with God. Without wonder we simply go through the motions of worship, the word fails to move us, witnessing is merely rote recitation of the Roman road or the handiest trac, and the work of God is performed without joy. That is why God gifts us with wonder. That is why we need to unwrap that gift on a daily basis.

Without it our Christian life, our life with Christ can become an exasperating spiral downward filled with duty and drudgery. Without wonder, the sunset becomes simply an indicator that the earth is rotating, the rainbow simply a refraction of light, life loses all color morphing into shades of gray. Worship becomes merely the songs and prayer before the preacher starts preaching and Holy Communion merely wafer and wine or grape juice. Without Wonder there is no power in Worship.

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So I am grateful for Wonder and pray that everyday I can open my Bible, open my heart, open my eyes, my ears, my mouth and be filled with AWE! Make me like a child when I walk my walk each day, so even the weeds look beautiful…at least until I find a way to kill them. Just kidding, NOT. But really wouldn’t it be marvelous to wake up for just one day without cynicism, without dread, without a critical thought…really wake up THANKFUL and Wonder filled. I am working on it and know there is Power in a Grateful Heart and that a part of that is being grateful for Wonder and seeking it.

I heard an exercise on a program, Turning Point by Dr. David Jeremiah that Terry had me listen to this morning and I will share it with you, Read out loud and listen to your voice as you read the following two passages from Scripture:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light day, and the darkness He called night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day. Then God said, “Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” God made the expanse, and separated the waters which were below the expanse from the waters which were above the expanse; and it was so. God called the expanse heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, a second day. Then God said, “Let the waters below the heavens be gathered into one place, and let the dry land appear”; and it was so. God called the dry land earth, and the gathering of the waters He called seas; and God saw that it was good. Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Genesis 1:1-10, 26-28 NASB)

And then Read:

Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory in the heavens. Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger. When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor. You made them rulers over the works of your hands; you put everything under their feet: all flocks and herds, and the animals of the wild, the birds in the sky, and the fish in the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas. Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! (Psalm 8:1-9 NIV)

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The Power of a Grateful Heart–Called Different Gratitude

Gina Hurry Art
Gina Hurry Art

“Set yourselves apart for a holy life. Live a holy life, because I am God, your God. Do what I tell you; live the way I tell you. I am the God who makes you holy. (Leviticus 20:7, 8 MSG)

Everyone loves word studies, right?? Okay, not everyone, but sometimes they really help understand words like “Holy” the root of which in the Greek is hágios and in Hebrew is kadash. The fundamental meaning of the Hebrew word is “set apart, distinguished, belonging to the sacred and not the profane” and the fundamental core of the Greek root is “different”.

Everyone loves being “different”, right?? Okay, not everyone, not many, and not any of us all the time. Think of it in phrases like, “she is a little different.” , “those people are different than we are”, “He is cut from a different mold.” Any of that sound positive to you? On the surface, no, not a one of them strikes me as something I want to strive for and yet, inside each of us, Christian or Not there is a spark that desires to be original, that’s right, “different”. Know where that spark comes from, it comes from the creator, who made each of us a little different. His design, the same one that makes every snowflake different, doesn’t use a cookie cutter to create. You are an original and so am I.

But in God’s plan, He didn’t make each person unique just to distinguish one from another or just to let us live autonomously. He didn’t give us free will so we could all go off in different directions on whatever path we choose. He created each of us different because to him each of us is special, each of us has a purpose, each of us has a place in his plan that cannot be filled by another. He made me different from you, not lesser or better, just different. He gives each of us the power to choose to live into the holiness of Christ, to be different to the fullest extent or to run with the teeming masses of humanity who are like sheep without a shepherd.

We are each different, but some choose to be like their culture, their friends, their bosses, the media persona…some choose to run with the shepherdless flock, even if the flock careens over a cliff. It is not easy to live the “Different” life path, the Holy, Kadash, Hágios path, but I have discovered it to be the only life choice that really makes a difference.

We are called as were the Hebrew people and the New Testament church to be HOLY, different, sacred vessels so that the secular world actually sees GOD.

But you are the ones chosen by God, chosen for the high calling of priestly work, chosen to be a holy people, God’s instruments to do his work and speak out for him, to tell others of the night-and-day difference he made for you—from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted. (1 Peter 2:9, 10 MSG)

So with all the negative connotations taken into account, I am thankful to be different, to have made the choice for Christ, even when those outside criticize or ridicule or simply cross to the other side of the street. I am thankful for what little difference (that is really up to God) my life may make in building the Kingdom of God.

I am His! I am Different! I want to make a Difference in this world.

Thank you, Jesus for setting me over here with the rest of the DIFFERENT people!

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