Saturday, October 17, 2020

Looking Back to Look Ahead


            Paging through an old journal, I came across a long-forgotten, challenging decision. I had taught part time at a Harrisburg business college. Just when I had the opportunity to become a full-time instructor, I was also invited to teach part-time Christian education at a seminary. What to do?

            The business college was half the distance as the seminary and offered much greater financial security—with benefits. But I had earned a master’s degree in Christian education, and serving God was where my heart lay. It was a tough decision. But after much thought, discussion and prayer, I went with the seminary.

            For several years I commuted an hour and a half each way a few days a week. In sun, rain and snow, I climbed over the Bethel Mountain. I remember getting off I-81 at Tower City and praying my way up that long hill on Route 209.

            The seminary had three levels with the parking lot off the basement level. No elevator, of course, so I toted bags of books and teaching supplies up two loooong flights of stairs. I sometimes came home exhausted. But happy.

            Teaching adults stretched me. Professors led chapel services, and I was horrified to learn that category included me. What in the world could I speak about to a chapel filled with full-time professors and wannabe preachers?

            That chapel was the first place I attempted to present the book of Philippians from memory. And it was well received. People told me they heard things they never realized reading the scripture.

            Teaching a class titled “Women in Ministry” gave me the germ of an idea to write my book Sisterhood of Faith. My students were women who had dedicated their lives to full-time Christian service, but they didn’t know what that meant for them. The seminary’s sponsoring denomination allowed them to take preaching courses but did not ordain women. So, they wondered, what had God called them to do?

            Preparation for that course opened my eyes to the myriad of ways God has worked through women down through the church age. Yes, there were often challenges as women in leadership faced tension and rejection, but that only made them more determined to find a different way to serve God. And they did. And so would the women in my class.

            After I gave up that position, I wrote my book, and my book and seminary experience gave me credibility, which led to speaking.

            Bill and I once walked to a waterfall in a park. The walk was longer than we anticipated, and the falls were but a trickle. But a sign there read: “A long walk to a small but beautiful falls.” After that, whenever we experienced a small pay off for a big output, we joked that we’d taken a long walk to a small but beautiful falls.

            In a way, my life has been like that. I’ve never held a job long enough to warrant a pension. And if I were not married, I could not have pursued seminary and writing and speaking.

            But as I look back at early life experiences—teaching Good News Club in my home, serving in my church—they all contributed well to making me who I am today.

            My years of teaching high school, my years of teaching at the business college and my seminary experience built upon each other to equip me for writing and speaking. My love of scripture inspired me to memorize, which became an important part of my speaking ministry.

            And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” (Romans 8:28-29 NIV)

            Life can be challenging. There’s no doubt about that. But we have a God Who is bigger than the challenges, a God Who can turn burdens into blessings and challenges into contributions. A God who works all things together for good.

            Look back and see what He has done in your life. Then look ahead and consider how He might have prepared you for a special future.


Saturday, September 26, 2020

You Are Invited . . . To Be "All In"!


If you invited me to a reunion dinner these days, I’d probably give a half-hearted response. I’ll come . . .  if I’m up to it, if the COVID thing settles down, if the weather is nice. I would want to come, but I’m not too eager to join groups right now.

Do you know Puritan churches once offered a “Half-Way Covenant”? In those days infants were baptized and became church members only after they made a confession of faith in Christ. Until then, they could not take communion or vote in church affairs. But many members failed to take that step, and then the question became, could their children be baptized?

To bolster church membership, they offered a Half-Way Covenant that allowed such children to be baptized into church membership. Problem solved.

But was it really? Is a half-hearted response to spiritual matters any response at all?

Last week, Janine challenged us to “Own It.” I’d like to challenge us to be “All In.”

Christ invites us to live the abundant, fruitful life (notice the grapes on the invitation). But what does it mean to be “all in” for Christ? I want to be “all in,” but am I?

For starters, it’s not a matter of policy but of purpose. Is Christ the Centerpiece of my life? Do I care about what honors Him and what distracts me from Him? How often do I think of Him? When I’m in a snit, does what pops out of my mouth reflect His respect for others?

Well, I’m working on this. I’m not perfect in spite of the fact that I’ve had a few years and a lot of practice. And wrong thoughts are just as bad. I wish there were a way to block thoughts the way we block telephone calls. The best we can do is hang up when the thought rings through.

Then it’s not a matter of Sunday church attendance but of everyday abiding. On good days and bad days. Even when we feel God abandoned us. Remember Jesus said, “Abide in me,” or as newer translations read “Remain in me, as I also remain in you” (John 15:4 NIV). Do we seek to know Jesus better? How might we do that?

Bible study and prayer are good places to start. Take just 15 minutes a day and you’ll read through the Bible in a year. But we can’t just read—we must do what it says. Christ’s Sermon on the Mount outlines His desire for us to lead lives of kindness and forgiveness. Do I extend that kind of grace to others? How are you doing?

There’s also the matter of serving Him instead of suiting yourself. Does God ask me to enter full-time Christian service or to serve Him in my family as a wife or mother or sibling. Christiana Tsai of China turned down good positions so she could live in her family’s apartment complex and talk to relatives about God; she led 55 relatives to Christ. Might God call you to an office? Or a classroom? Or on a stage? Have you ever considered what He might expect from you, given the way you’re wired?

I’ve served God in many ways during my 80 years on this earth. The ways have changed according to my age, but He has something for each of us at any age and any stage. We serve Him as we care for our families, training them in His ways. We serve Him in our workplaces as we show His traits to others. After all, we are made in His Image. And God works within us to help us mature in Christ:

“He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ” Philippians 1:6 (NIV).

But the first step of it all is not just being religious but of establishing a relationship, a relationship with Christ.

Not everyone will be saved and go to heaven. God is Holy, Pure, Perfect, and nothing less than perfection can come into His Presence. Ever since God established a relationship with the nation of Israel, He required sacrifices to cover the sins of people. Christ died to take the punishment I deserve. He has become the final sacrifice required to make us holy with God. Have I accepted Him as my Savior? Yes, I have. Have you?

Let’s cooperate with God. We aren’t half-hearted in caring for our families or doing our jobs. So we should not be half-hearted in our relationship with God. I’m working on being whole-hearted and all in! Are you?

Friday, September 18, 2020

Book Review: Gracelaced


Gracelaced: Discovering Timeless Truths Through Seasons of the Heart by Ruth Chou Si;mons

This is one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read. But it’s not just the art. Ruth Chou Simons offers insight into 32 spiritual concepts themed around the seasons of the year. Winter, “Resting in God’s Character,” offers topics such as “dwell,” “lean,” and “rest,” with all of the author’s thoughts supported by scripture. Spring, “Rehearsing the Truth,” addresses “new,” “beloved and “delight,” among others. Then there’s Summer and Fall.

Simon illustrates her points with beautiful paintings. Printed pages are edged with blooms; some are lined to add your thoughts (although I couldn’t bring myself to write in the book). Some pages show a plain background with a verse or quotation in calligraphy. Others show photographs taken by the artist; including some of her husband and six sons. All are equally impressive. Reading the book is a walk through an inspirational art gallery.

Published by Harvest House Publishers in 2017, the book is 7 ¾ “ x 1.25” by 9.25”. Slick pages and a textured cover add to the book’s coffee table appeal. This is a gorgeous gift book, but you’ll definitely want to keep a copy yourself.


Monday, September 14, 2020

Book Review: Countdown 1945


Countdown 1945: The Extraordinary Story of the Atomic Bomb and the 116 Days that Changed the World by Christ Wallace with Mitch Weiss

This book gives you a glimpse into the personal life of Harry S. Truman, who was probably as surprised as anyone when he became president upon the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt. But an even greater shock was to find himself facing the decision of whether or not to drop the atomic bomb. The book delves into the lives ordinary people who found themselves working on the development of the bomb without ever realizing the magnitude of their assignment.

From European conferences with heads of state to life at Los Alamos, a community of thousands worked together on a secret project, you’ll read of conversations and emotions that led to the development and detonation of the atomic bomb. And you read of the aftermath, the impact of realizing what they had created, after Hiroshima and Nagasaki were bombed in 1945, an event that ended World War 2.

I liked the way the authors organized the book around events that occurred during the 116 days leading up to dropping the atomic bomb. I also appreciated photos, such as that of Colonel Paul W. Tibbets waving good-bye from the Enola Gay before leaving for Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. Back matter includes extensive notes, bibliography and detailed index.

The extensive research required to write this book is obvious with documented conversations and behind-the- scene glimpses into duties and after-the-fact feelings about the event. An important read to remember the struggles faced by the men and women who peopled our history.





Saturday, September 5, 2020

Three Ways to Handle Life's Muddles


I had no idea which button I accidentally pressed when a snowstorm blew across my television screen. Input, perhaps? Nope. Clicking on it changed nothing. After 15 minutes of trying to restore the picture, I called technical support. A very nice man assured me he would help. He even asked how my day was going up until I found myself in this predicament. I assured him it had been going just fine. Until. Now.

The man suggested I try this/try that. Turn off/turn on. Disconnect this/reconnect that. Nothing worked. I shed the robe I wore over my pajamas. We continued to work on the problem—him, giving directions in a soothing, patient voice. Me, following his prompts, more agitated by the moment and finally calling my husband to connect/disconnect, do this/do that.

Back and forth. We chatted for 15 minutes or so. I then did something that lighted the modem box, and I knew we were onto something good. This kind gentle man finally led me through steps that restored my television picture—just in time for a movie I wanted to watch.

Isn’t that how it is with life? One split-second misstep may take ages to correct. One misspoken word may take long conversations to undo. A spouse irritates you, so you snap back. A child tries your patience, so you yell. A coworker offends you or you offend a coworker. And like my television experience, sometimes we’re not even sure what caused the storm.

Just as I need to be mindful of the buttons I press on the remote, I need to be mindful of what I say. It’s easy to spill words all over myself and others. But the cost of cleanup in time and hurt feelings can be as costly as the cleanup following Hurricane Laura. Better to proceed with caution.

“Set a guard over my mouth, Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips” (Psalm 141:3 NIV).

Here’s my advice du jour:

Approach life with prayer: Prepare yourself for the day by praying for God’s direction and His Hand on your life. If an awkward situation looms, ask for wisdom. If you expect challenges from children, spouses or coworkers, ask for a heart filled with love and discernment. Call for God’s help on the spot as needed.

Accept responsibility: Develop a mindset that refuses to allow irritation to rob you of kind responses. If you’ve already said or done the wrong thing, ‘fess up. You meant well, but it didn’t turn out that way. Apologize. Say you’re sorry. Push comes to shove when we fail to accept responsibility for our words and actions. If you meant well, let your good intentions be known and they will be appreciated.

Apply loving concern: Keep your cool. Calmly express concern. Harsh language only muddies the waters. Like the soothing, friendly technical support guy, offer assistance and suggest ways issues might be resolved. While you may not see eye to eye, the other may hear your heart and accept your basic motivation as sincere. If customer service people can be trained to respond to all voices with patience, so can we as moms and dads, sons and daughters, friends and colleagues.

Life’s muddles and puddles will do us and others good if we use them as invitations to draw closer to God and to each other.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels