What Do You See Outside YOUR Open Window Today?

What Do You See Outside YOUR Open Window Today?
Remember: "When God closes a door, He always opens a window!" You never know what might be out there waiting for you!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

"And He Healed Them"

"And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people.  Then His fame went throughout all Syria; and they brought to Him all sick people who were afflicted with various diseases and torments, and those who were demon-possessed, epileptics, and paralytics; and He healed them."  Matthew 4:23-24

Last week I had the troubling experience of meeting a woman who openly admitted to being "very mentally ill."  Quite frankly, after just a couple of minutes listening to this poor woman talk and watching her expressions, she did not need to tell me that she was "very mentally ill."  It was obvious.  As I observed her emotions go from one extreme of anger mixed with fear to effusions of joyful hilarity in just a few split seconds, I found myself extremely grateful for the half-wall and glass enclosure that separated our office from the lobby area where she carried out her lengthy and very loud monologue of the story of her life. It was painful for me to listen to her tangled and strange message, but I had to realize that my discomfort could not begin to equal the pain that she had suffered throughout her life.  As much as I hate to admit it, I was extremely relieved when she finally took a breath and allowed me the opportunity to tell her I would be praying for her and made an excuse so that I could get back to my work and she finally went out the door.

This experience left me trembling.  I am not alone in my feelings of inadequacy and concern for this poor woman. Apparently she has been to many churches in town and has met with frequent rejection.  She admitted that she has actually been banned from stepping foot on the property of one church because of her open displays of verbal hostility toward them when they did not meet all of her demands for assistance. She has been persistent in her attempts to get the attention of anyone who will take the time to listen and give her whatever she is asking so that she will go away...  People are definitely taking notice of her, and many are perplexed as to the best course of action to take.

I went home from work that day feeling very burdened, knowing that I was not able to be of much help to her.  I did pray for her, honestly I did.  As I told my husband all about her I said, "I can't help but wonder what would Jesus do for this poor woman?"  My husband did not even have to think about his response.  He said, "He would heal her." 

Wow!  Yes, I am certain he is correct.  Jesus would heal her...no questions asked...no hem-hawing around it.  He would reach out His loving and compassionate hands, touch her, and heal her.  No rejection, no fear, no anger...just pure love and compassion poured out upon her tortured, tangled mind.  That is the only real answer for this woman.  Medication and counseling may help control the outbursts, but only God can do the complete healing of her heart and mind and soul.

I was relieved to discover that the Pastors of the church where I work were already well aware of this woman and have actually been attempting to reach out to her with the love of Christ through counseling and helping her to feel welcome at our services.  Perhaps that is the first step to her complete healing.  Perhaps that IS just what Jesus would do.

Lord, I pray for _______, one of Your precious children who has somehow gotten lost along the way to a life of wholeness and peace.  Please touch her with Your healing hands, and bring The Light back into her darkness, and untangle the intricate web of confusion that envelopes her mind and spirit. In the Name of Jesus, the Great and Gracious Physician I pray, Amen.

And Lord, thank you for bringing _______ across my path and getting my attention. Perhaps there is something that needed to be healed within me as well.  Thank you for your patience with me. Amen.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

In Defense of the Land of "Make-Believe"

One of my dearest facebook friends made a statement this week that she was going to hand out candy to the neighborhood children on Halloween this year.  She said she had gone back and forth on this issue in her mind for some time and decided that she didn't want the children to grow up thinking that "Christians were a bunch of meanies." 

I understand her feelings on this completely.  Over the years I've wrestled with this issue as well, especially since I was in the position of being a pastor's wife in evangelical churches for quite a few years.  I had to learn to be careful of how I felt about Halloween and other holidays lest I would offend some of my "weaker brothers and sisters" in the faith, or possibly lead some child astray by my freedom in Christ.  And certainly there is merit to those thoughts as they are based on scriptural teachings in God's Word.  (See Romans 14, I Corinthians 9:19-27)  However, there is also much teaching in God's Word on the freedom that we enjoy as believers in Christ (Romans 8, Galatians 5 to name a couple).  But this is not intended to be a theological or doctrinal debate on the issue...just an expression of my opinion and feelings about something I believe is important enough to discuss.

Now before some of you get nervous about what I am going to say, I am not advocating lying to children about things that are make-believe, such as the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, or the Tooth Fairy. And I certainly do not promote the dark and evil side of Halloween, which can be linked to the occult and other things into which we do not want to dabble. 

All that being said, what I DO want to say is, "Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater" on this subject!  Teach your own children the truth about Christmas, Easter, and what they mean to us as believers in Christ Jesus. Make sure they understand the difference between good and evil and all things scary and imaginary. And then have fun with your children.  Allow them to experience happy memories and fun traditions within your family circle.
My kids way back then...

My happiest memories growing up were the family traditions we shared in our family.  On Halloween I can remember from my earliest childhood going from house to house with my parents.  My mother and father both dressed up in costumes, and we kids were costumed as well.  My mother's favorite costume was that of a country girl with apple red cheeks, blacked out front teeth and wearing a yellow checked gingham dress, and playing a rather squeeky tune on her violin.  My dad was dressed up as a farmer (which he was) or a hobo, and we carried a bag full of dried corn kernels from our farm, from which we would throw handfulls at the door, yelling "trick or treat" until the inhabitants would come to the door and act so surprised to see us. They would pretend they were scared or they would ooh and ah at our costumes, and then try to guess who we were.  We would hold up our sacks and they would cheerfully fill them with all kinds of candy (and even apples back then), and sometimes even invite us in for hot chocolate or apple cider.  Then we'd be on our way to the next house. 

I cherish those memories to this day, and I could never bring myself to turn away children from the neighborhood on Halloween because I didn't think it was a "christian" holiday.  On the contrary, it may be the ONLY opportunity I have to come into contact with those children and have a chance to be seen as a friendly person who wants to share in their joy and fun.  How can I hope to have any other chance to influence them positively if I can't even welcome them and give them a piece of candy on Halloween?  I have actually used that opportunity in times past to not only give them some candy, but also put a little Bible tract in with the goodies that perhaps they or their parents might read later...but never without the candy included. And oftentimes I was dressed up in some rather crazy costume myself to get into the spirit of things, which always added to the hilarity of the event!
One of our church sponsored "fall festivals" The Pastor's Wife on
the left, and the Pastor on the right!  Fun memories.

Me, ready for a "Hobo" Halloween Party
circa 1978
 Yes, I certainly agree that having a church sponsored "Fall Festival" may be a safer activity for all concerned, but too often that is limited to your own church family and some of their friends.  I also like what some churches do by having a "Trunk or Treat" event where they have open car-trunks full of candy lined up in their church parking lot along with other activities and treats for the night, which is again, a safe alternative for the community.  It is a creative and positive way to reach out to the neighborhood children and let them see that your church (and you) want to be friendly and not judgmental.  Due to safety issues we are seeing more and more communities doing this type of event as opposed to the door-to-door trick or treating.  Whatever your community and/or church does, it should be a fun time, and an event that promotes happy family times.

When it comes to Christmas and Easter traditions, I will discuss those at another time...but let me just say that my family went all out to celebrate both the religious holiday traditions as well as the fun side of these holidays.  We grew up knowing that Christmas was the birthday of our Savior Jesus Christ, but jolly old St. Nicholaus always made a grand entrance into our home and imaginations with lots of toys and goodies for us all.  There was never any doubt that Easter was the commemoration of the Resurrection of Jesus from His death on the cross...but we had so much fun hunting for our Easter baskets on Easter morning (that the "Easter Bunny" had so cleverly hidden in new places each year) and having numerous egg hunts all afternoon with our cousins and family.   Did I grow up distrusting my parents and being angry and confused because they "lied" to me about these make-believe characters?  Absolutely NOT!  On the contrary, I grew up loving my wonderful parents all the more because they made our home so much fun and full of happy surprises and memories. I will always treasure these family traditions, and have passed them down to my own children, with some traditions combined from my husband's family as well.

I guess the important thing here is, do what seems right to you and your family, based on your own personal beliefs and traditions.  Every family is a little different.  It isn't really the full content of your traditions that matter, it's that you did something that created joy and happiness in the lives of your children that will linger in their hearts forever.  And please, don't be a "grinch", or a "Scrooge", or a "spoil-sport" when it comes to celebrating, whether in your own home, or in the neighborhood.  Open your door and your heart, and let others come in to the Light that is shining within you!

My Girlfriends and Me on Halloween, circa 1962!

BOO!  Did I scare you?

Friday, October 21, 2011

What's On Your Mind Today?

It seems as though "Facebook" got us all talking about whatever happened to be on our minds at the moment. Sometimes it was something profound and deep, oftentimes it was rather ridiculous and silly.  Now they have just reduced it down to "Update Status"...which doesn't say a whole lot.  I ran out of cute, intelligent, profound, silly and interesting comments some time ago.  I still have a few ridiculous things to say, but I've been trying to learn to keep them to myself.

Now that we are entering back into another election year I expect we will see more and more political remarks and opinions.  I intend to try and stay out of that arena.  First of all, my comments in the last race didn't go very far.  Obviously not enough people were listening to what I had to say...or the outcome would have been very different.  I've decided to just sit back and watch the fireworks, and keep my thoughts to myself.  Those of you who know me already know pretty much where I stand on the important issues.  I haven't seen anyone yet worth getting excited about.  I started to get excited about one of the newer candidates, and then he opened his mouth and showed that he really wasn't quite ready for this fight...so I'm glad I didn't invest all my campaign dollars on his campaign!  (As if I had any to invest).  The jury is still out on that one...

No,  I'm gonna sit this one out.  At least I intend to try and keep my mouth shut.  However, that doesn't mean that I don't care what happens to our country.  It just means that I've decided to fight this battle on my knees. 

II Chronicles 7:14 says:
"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 will forgive their sin and heal their land."

So, if you think I've wimped out and refuse to stand up and fight, have no fear...I'm choosing to kneel down and fight this time around.  Maybe that will achieve the greater results.  At least I'm praying that it does. 
Won't you join me?  If we are all in agreement that we want what is best for our country, and we are trusting in God to hear us and do exactly that, how can we lose?

You think about that...and maybe I'll meet you in the "war room"....better known as the "Prayer Room". 

"Then all this assembly shall know that the LORD does not save with sword and spear; for the battle is the LORD'S, and He will give you into our hands."
I Samuel 17:47

Saturday, October 15, 2011

"Let There Be Light"

"Then God said, "Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years; and let them be for lights in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth"; and it was so."  "Then God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night.  He made the stars also...."  Genesis 1:14-16
You Tube song "Light Light Light Up the Sky"  by "The Afters"

The other morning as I drove to work I was feeling a little down...overstressed, overtired, overworked, and maybe just a teeny bit depressed.  I had previously come through a very difficult week at work, and things did not appear to be getting any easier this week.  I was truly wondering how I was even going to make it through the day, let alone another week with the current stresses piling up on me.  

As per my usual routine, I was listening to the Christian radio station, (the JoyFM) when the above song started to play, "Light Light Light Up The Sky"...and at the same time I happened to look up to my left and smiling down at me was the most brilliant full moon in broad daylight...lighting up the western morning sky, reflecting the brightness of the glorious sunshine from the eastern sky...both of God's great created lights were shining at the same time...and I started singing along with the words of the song by The Afters, "You light light light up the sky to show me You are with me!"   As I drove along that beautiful full moon stayed right there with me, shining brightly and lifting my spirits, giving me the encouragement I needed to face another day with a smile on my face and a song in my heart. 

Isn't that just like our God to go all out to show us His love when we need it most?  Yeah...He started it all "in the beginning..." (Genesis 1:1) just for us...to show us He is with us...always.
Jesus said to His disciples following His glorious resurrection from the dead, "Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Matthew 28:20

Thank you, Jesus, for lighting up my sky when I needed it most.  I know I can trust You to continue to light my path and lead me in the right direction...always.     Amen.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Whom Are YOU Trying to Please?

"For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ."  Galatians 1:10

I wonder how many of you reading this are in the position of being a supervisor?  If so, do you find it an easy position to perform?  How do you negotiate between your employees and your own supervisor, (if you have one, and most of us do).  I would really like to take a poll of persons in supervisory positions to find out if you ever have feelings of ambivalence, frustration, exasperation, or stress.  If so, is that a sign of weakness...or perhaps a clue that supervision really isn't your gift?  Or is it normal to feel torn when you have to make unpopular decisions or carry out wishes of your own superiors that may cause others to become angry, dissatisfied with their position, or worse yet, dislike you because of the stand you must take?  It's certainly not a pleasant place, but it seems to come with the territory. Being a "boss" is not a good position if you want to please others and be liked by those over whom you have been given authority. Sooner or later you will have to take a stand that will be unpopular, even if it is justified and appropriate.

I found myself saying recently that "I didn't accept this position to win a popularity contest".  I couldn't believe my own ears.  Why? Because my natural inclination is to be a friend to others, to always strive to be pleasant and considerate and kind, yes to "please men" (or women, as the case may be), and to "win friends and influence people"... (who said that? Dale Carnegie, I believe).  It is not in my nature to be the "tough guy" or the enforcer.   However, when people continually take advantage of one's good nature and transgress the "rules", thinking that no one would dare to stand up to them, it's time for action. 

Anyone in a position of authority has the responsibility to enforce whatever rules and policies are in effect for that place of employment.  And likewise, each employee is responsible to obey those policies unless they are in direct conflict with one's relationship with God. Everyone needs to reason within himself/herself that his highest priority is to please God...not man.  If we truly strive to please God in all things, whether we are an employee or an employer, our working relationships should run more smoothly.

Who is going to be in control?  from Michael Belk's Journeys with the Messiah
It still doesn't make it easier to make difficult decisions that affect another's position and livelihood, but then again, I didn't make the rules...they have been handed down by a higher authority for the good of the organization as well as its employees. We each have the choice whether or not to obey and live peaceably, or to disobey and suffer the consequences.

Yeah, I choose to please God rather than men, regardless of the personal outcome.  How about you?

For further thoughts on this subject from a little different perspective, read Romans 13:1-7.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

You Can Sense Change in the Air...

"I will sing of the mercies of the Lord forever; With my mouth will I make known Your faithfulness to all generations."  Psalm 89:1

Today was the first really refreshingingly cool day we have seen here in Florida in quite a few months! Yesterday was a foretaste of today...but this morning had me singing!  I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE cool fall mornings! My northern friends may scoff when I say that we enjoyed a crisp, chilly morning temperature of 53 degrees upon our arising from our beds to start the day!  That is almost unheard of this early in the fall in this part of Florida, so it is something to celebrate! You can sense the change in the air...a promise of good things to come...a new surge of energy and vigor that the hot, sultry days of summer had drained away. Yes, I am definitely a "fall" person...can you tell?

One of my family's favorite fall breakfasts is homemade biscuits and applesauce.  This was definitely a biscuit and applesauce morning!  There is no better smell in the morning than the sweet spicy aroma of apples cooking sprinkled with cinammon...try staying in bed when that tantalizing fragrance reaches your nostrils! It just can't be done! (Unless you're my son Scott, who could sleep through anything..., which he did...but he's the only one who really doesn't care about homemade applesauce for breakfast, poor kid)

If you have never made your own applesauce before, now is a good time to start!  I use any kind of good baking/eating apple (except for Red Delicious)...McIntosh, Winesap, Cortland, Jonathans, Empires, or Gala...will make a delicious applesauce.  I quarter, core and peel about 6-8 apples, put them in a microwaveable dish, add about 1/3 cup water, and sprinkle with cinammon.  Cover, and cook on high in the microwave for about 6 minutes, or until apples are tender.  Then mash the apples with a potato masher, and add about 1/3 to 1/2 cup sugar (or to your particular taste) depending upon how tart the apples were. 

While the apples are cooking I mix up a double batch of home-made biscuits, (please don't use canned biscuits---if you don't know how to make them from scratch, use Bisquick or Jiffy Biscuit Mix).  Serve the hot applesauce right on top of the open hot biscuits.  If you think you need something else to supplement this breakfast, by all means eat whatever you wish...but save room for seconds on the biscuits!

This was such a great way to start the day! Did I mention that I LOVE the smell of homemade applesauce cooking? Who needs artificial scented candles and air-fresheners when you can have the real thing? 

So tell me, what are some of YOUR favorite fall traditions?  I hope to share more of mine with you as the days go by and I become so inspired!!

By the way, here's a few interesting verses of scripture regarding "apples"...

"Like an apple tree among the trees of the woods, so is my beloved among the sons.  I sat down in his shade with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste.  He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love.  Sustain me with cakes of raisins, refresh me with apples, for I am lovesick." 
Song of Solomon 2:3-5

 "Keep my commands and live, and my law as the apple of your eye."  Proverbs 7:2

"A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settngs of silver."  Proverbs 25:11

"He found him in a desert land and in the wasteland, a howling wilderness; He encircled him, He instructed him, He kept him as the apple of His eye."  Deuteronomy 32:10

Can you find any others?

Have a blessed biscuits and applesauce kind of day!