Friday, January 11, 2019

The Magic of Life!


Fantasy movies about magic wands make us want the good life where wishes come true at the snap of a finger. And, of course, we certainly don’t want a bad life. But God is not a magician. He sees beyond the fun and games, and His goal is to make us holy, not necessarily slap happy.

Yet perhaps we only need look a little deeper to find the magic in life, magic that may be hidden in circumstances God permits. Perhaps we’re just not seeing it. What does God see? What does God desire for us?

We want a perfect body; God wants a perfect soul. We want security in life; God wants us to find security in Him. We want a pain-free ride; God wants to treat our pain with His Presence. That all may sound hokey and unrealistic, but look at what others have found.

Vida Chenowith enjoyed a career as a classical marimba artist after a childhood injury to a finger limited the instruments she could play. Then she fractured her skull and suffered a thumb injury in a car accident and burned her hand in a fire. While hospitalized, she learned of Wycliffe Bible Translators and devoted her life to reaching people who had no Scripture in their own language, using music as a bridge of communication.

Millie Lace suffered physical complications and intense emotional pain after following a doctor’s advice to have an abortion. After 12 years of begging God’s forgiveness, she heard a woman testify of receiving healing after a similar experience, and Millie devoted her life to helping others find peace by founding Concepts of Truth, a pregnancy care center.

Christiana Tsai was denounced by her family for turning to Christ. Rather than lament her situation, she embraced her calling to be a witness to her family. She turned down good positions so that she might continue to live in her family’s apartment complex, challenging as it was. In time she led 55 relatives to Christ.

What have you longed for: A successful career? A prominent ministry? A model family? And what has God given you? Perhaps it lacks the stability and glamour you craved. But does your current situation offer opportunity you never dreamed of, opportunity to serve God through faithful service, loyal family support and unexpected opportunities.

Rather than view life with expectations of what will be, view life with expectancy at what might be. Rather than tell God what you want, ask Him what you need--and let Him lead in making magic happen.


“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son . . . .” (Romans 8:28-29)

Feel free to leave a comment about how God has turned misery into magic in your life.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Book Review: Walking with God through Pain and Suffering



This book details various cultural approaches to pain and suffering and offers strategies for coping with suffering from a Christian perspective. Author Timothy Keller addresses sticky questions such as the relationship between the sovereignty of God and the free will of mankind. I read it looking for ways to address suffering in my own life and for guidance in helping others deal with suffering. I found it very helpful and thought provoking on both counts.

Part One of the book focuses on the various approaches to suffering and the problem of evil as dealt with in other cultures and from a secular viewpoint in contrast to the Christian approach. Part 2 looks at suffering from God’s viewpoint and what it might accomplish in our lives. The author also considers the impact of our suffering Savior on our faith. Part 3 suggests ways to walk with God through pain and suffering.

According to Keller, there are benefits to suffering and God uses suffering to shape us as Christians. He includes scriptural examples of suffering with a focus on Job and the voice of a sufferer as found in Psalm 42.

Extensive notes give ample reference to the author’s findings. While the book is not light reading, Keller’s writing is very clear and understandable. I highly recommend this book for anyone seeking to better understand how to face life’s challenges without losing faith.

Monday, December 31, 2018

Joys, Challenges and Changes



Dear Friends,

This year I made a Funfetti Christmas Cake Roll. It had colorful sprinkles on the inside and cream cheese icing inside and out. It reminds me of life this past year. Lots of different ingredients went into it. So I’m reflecting on 2018 and looking forward to a new year (wondering what sweetness and spice it holds for us):

Joys:

Last January Friends of the Heart celebrated 20 years of meeting as a small group (12 years of ministering to women). This past year we spoke about 20 times, including several weekend retreats. A busy year, for sure, as we’ve made new friends and revisited old ones.

Bill and I celebrated our 57th wedding anniversary with two couples who married the same year. We’ve been celebrating together for more years than we can remember. We’ve all survived physical challenges this last year, so it was a special time just appreciating being together.

And then, of course, there are the ongoing joys of celebrating life with our family, which now includes grownup grandchildren—one working, two in college and two in high school. All a huge blessing to our lives!

I meet so many wonderful people as I write their stories for our local newspaper, The Upper Dauphin Sentinel.

Sorrows:

My brother Russell passed on to heaven last spring after suffering from Parkinson’s and other health issues. I miss him. He was the last of my four siblings and so good to his little sister.

Challenges:

Bill is undergoing chemotherapy for lymphoma. I have had two ER visits with atrial fibrillation. But God’s grace has seen us through, and we’re trusting Him for His best for us in 2019.

Books:

I read 40-plus books this year. Some of my favorites:

The Gift of Years by Joan Chittister
Biblical Grandparenting by Josh Malvihill
Waiting on God: What To Do When God Does Nothing by Wayne Stiles
Intros Muros
Walking with God Through Pain and Suffering by Timothy Keller
A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Bachman
The Masterpiece by Francine Rivers
The Bible
Sisterhood of Faith: 365 Life-Changing Stories about Women Who Made a Difference – by me!

Now why, you may wonder, would I read a book that I myself wrote? Sisterhood was published several years ago, so it was like reading a new book. The women’s stories are so refreshing and inspirational. How God uses us in a myriad of ways just fascinates me! I am so happy Simon and Schuster still sells the book.

I also discovered Sheryl Pellatiro’s Bible studies and worked through Philippians as part of an online study group. We start Ruth on January 14. You can find her at www.solidtruthministries.com.

Each year I read through a different Bible translation. This coming year I’m going to use the Contemporary English Challenge Bible (with notes by Don Wilkerson). Can’t wait to start!

My Verse for the Upcoming Year:

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. Psalm 19:14 (NLT)

Changes:

Instead of posting this newsletter at the beginning of each month as I’ve been doing, I’m going to start posting every three weeks. The post will also be available on Facebook on our Friends of the Heart page where Kim, Janine and I take turns posting each Saturday morning. So “like” us on Facebook if you’d like to receive notifications when we post.

As the song goes, “Thank you for being my friend.” I look forward to what God has in store for us in the months ahead. Always feel free to express your feelings and reactions to my posts.

Happy New Year!

Shirley




Monday, December 17, 2018

Blessed Surrender!



Dear Friends,

Instead of saying “Merry Christmas” we should perhaps say “Blessed Surrender.” Oh I love the twinkling lights, the sparkling trees, snow swirling around street lights. But in the midst of it all, it’s easy to forget the baby in the manger. And it’s easy to forget the message of the manger: Surrender! Mary got it. Joseph got it. Do we get it?

When the angel told Mary she would conceive and give birth to a son, she said, “I am the Lord’s servant.” When the angel appeared to Joseph in a dream and told him to take his Mary, his betrothed, as his wife, he did. Both of them surrendered to God’s will—at great personal cost and embarrassment—and Jesus was born.

In a Christmas message, Dr. David Jeremiah talked about how both Mary and Joseph bowed to the will of God. He said too often we pray “my will be done” instead of “thy will be done.”

That is so true. I come to God with a grocery list of wants---wants that go beyond needs. Because after all, I have most everything I need. But I want health and healing for my loved ones. I want to live in safety and comfort. I want . . . I want . . . I want . . . .

What if my prayers focused more on God’s will rather than mine? Would that change how I pray? I’ve written “Thy will be done” at the top of my prayer list. That will remind me to pray:

1.    For God to heal spiritually as well as physically. After all, physical healing is important only in this world; spiritual healing blesses for eternity.
2.    For God to direct my paths rather than tell Him where I want to go.
3.     For God to change someone to what He wants them to be rather than into my image for them.
4.    For God to use me in any way He chooses—sick or well, successful or not, comfortable or uncomfortable—I am His.
5.    For God’s will to be done in the lives of (not just the work of) missionaries. They experience the same hassles and nitty-gritty family life we do. They face the same temptations.
6.    For God’s will to play out on the international scene, not just in my corner of the world, so that peace on earth becomes a reality.

Surrender. Just three syllables. So easy to say. So hard to do. But if we surrender, the carols hold more meaning. They put the emphasis back on the gift of Christ, rather than the gifts we give and get. They remind us that Christ overcame death so that we may live in eternal, not just earthly, comfort. They remind us that Christ gave Himself for others, and so should we.

"Prayer is surrender--surrender to the will of God and cooperation with that will. If I throw out a boathook from the boat and catch hold of the shore and pull, do I pull the shore to me, or do I pull myself to the shore? Prayer is not pulling God to do my will, but the aligning of my will to the will of God." E Stanley Jones (https://www.azquotes.com/author/7566-E_Stanley_Jones)

“But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:19).

Ponder today the words of the carols: O come all you faithful . . . (sing) joy to the world . . . (as you consider) . . . what Child this is. I love Thee, Lord Jesus. I will come and worship and not only worship—but surrender!

Blessed Surrender to you and yours!

Shirley

Thursday, December 6, 2018

This is a Test Post

Dear Friends,

I recently discovered that some subscribers were not receiving my posts. In the hope that accumulated posts on my site had caused the problem, I've deleted all posts prior to this year.

You should have received my blog at the beginning of each month with book reviews now and then. I would so much appreciate if you would you click on the link below and leave a comment to let me know that this post arrived in your Inbox safe and sound.

Shirley