Friday, November 15, 2019

A Role Model

I grumbled at my husband for what I perceived to be a lack of communication. The previous day I had read a Facebook post in which a husband chronicled the glorious attributes of his wife. It was oh so sweet. And it made me want to hear such praise myself. I can't remember what Bill said (or didn't say), but I grumbled. And later apologized.

Why do critical words pop out of my mouth? Why do I speak before I think? Why do I want Bill to be what only God can be to me? I regularly disappoint myself by not living a perfect life. Can you relate?

Well, the apostle Paul did not live a perfect life either. This is what he wrote: Forgetting what lies behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:13-14).

Paul had persecuted Christians before he came to know Christ. And even after he knew Christ and longed to live a righteous life, he lamented that he had not yet attained all this. So we are in good company.

A blot on Paul’s conscience did not keep him from moving forward and neither should it stifle us. Jesus blood covers the ink blots of sin in our lives. Leave them in the past. Instead, focus on pressing on toward the goal.

That, of course, is easier said than done. Childhood hurts cut deep. Current offenses derail our emotions. It’s hard to keep a positive focus in a negative situation. But it’s not impossible. Here’s what I’ve learned from Paul:

Leave the past behind.

We cannot change our past experiences, but we can learn from them. We can seek truth. Were we abused? While we may never forget, we can forgive. We can listen to the testimonies of others who suffered abuse and lived to conquer its negative effects. Have we abused someone in the past? How have other Christians handled such failures? We have an awesome God who forgives, who does not leave us without access to His wisdom and resources.

Learn all you can.

I am amazed when I sit down each day to study the Bible how my eyes are opened to something pertinent. I’ve read through the whole Bible over and over and over again. But God can use little noticed verses to speak fresh truth to my heart. We are never too old to learn. That is a fact!

And we have so many resources available. Books, television broadcasts, online Bible studies. The list goes on. What topic would you like to learn more about? Search Amazon for books on the subject. What Bible book confuses you? Find an online commentary and read about it.

Live for the future.

Paul never knew what the future held. He just kept walking on. One missionary journey after another. The man surely tired. He surely wanted to sleep in his own bed. The older I get, the more I feel that way. What are your personal goals, career goals, service goals? How might you take a step to reach them? What do you want to do for God? How has He equipped you to build His kingdom?

If you need a mentor, there’s Paul. A man who put himself out for the kingdom. A man who admitted his faults and worked hard to overcome them. A man who wasn’t perfect, but he loved God and served others. What an inspiration to us all.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

From a Mother's Heart . . .

This month Sen. Doug Mastriano and Rep. Stephanie Boro wicz of Pennsylvania unveiled a “Heartbeat Bill,” which would prohibit abortion if a fetus’ heartbeat is detected. In light of that, I’m sharing an opinion piece I wrote that was published in Harrisburg’s Patriot News and online PennLive on Valentine’s Day, 2019. Two people told me I had one word wrong in the article. See if you can find that word. I’ll share it at the end of the piece.
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I’ve cuddled many newborn babies—my own and others—so I can’t help but feel outrage at the recent passage of a New York state law that allows abortion up to the time of birth. Other states are considering following suit.
The Declaration of Independence states that all people are “created equal” and born with God-given rights including “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” But now fully formed babies—tiny, helpless people—are denied those rights.
            Charles Dickens wrote “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times . . . .” In many ways we live in the best of times. Medical technology produces miracles. Forty-four years ago, my only daughter died at birth. Although she weighed five pounds, her lungs were not fully developed. Had Christy Marie been born today, she would probably have survived and thrived.
            But it is also the worst of times because we allow babies with fully developed lungs to be killed for the sake of convenience. People appear to be more concerned about animals. I watched James Lankford (R – Oklahoma) address this issue in a video. He spoke of protestors at a facility that used animals for research chanting “Animals’ lives are their right, we have just begun to fight.”
            A Facebook “cartoon” shows a dog looking down at a baby asking, “Aren’t there any laws to protect you?” Evidently not. Lawmakers today seem more concerned about animals than children.
            Some justify abortion because a baby’s organs can be used for research. But at what cost? The life of a child. Something is wrong with a society that allows the slaughter of innocents. Each person is uniquely created by God, but we have lost respect for life. Long and hard fights have gained respect for people of different colors, for people with disabilities, for people of different faiths. Now Christians are put down for fighting for the lives of babies.
            The Bible is considered irrelevant in a society that makes its own rules. We have lost our sense of right and wrong. There is no authority; people want tolerance. But when you tear down fences meant to protect society, that becomes intolerable. Chaos reigns. Each man or woman does what is right in his or her own eyes. A whole biblical book was written about a time like that. It’s called Judges. And judgment might fall on America for this crass disregard for human life.
            We have lost our sense of wonder. The miracle of the seasons. The miracle of plant growth. The miracle of birth. When you contemplate such miracles, you stand in awe. We feed, clothe and care for cute little babies. We applaud their first words and record their first steps. It’s all so wondrous. But now millions of babies never experience such milestones.
            I am not wise enough nor credentialed enough to know how these recent laws might be reversed. I am simply a woman, mother of two married sons, grandmother of five with a daughter waiting in heaven. But I do know right from wrong. And I pray those in authority will recognize the tragic consequences of enacting such laws.
            A pastor I once worked with liked to say, “Good people, given enough time, will do the right thing.” He is now a resident of New York. May his maxim prove true.
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The word people noticed was “might” in the sentence “And judgment might fall on America for this crass disregard of human life. Those who contacted me said the word should be “will.”

Feel free to share this post. Also if you agree, contact your state senators/representatives to support the heartbeat bill. You can submit a form through The PA Family Institute:

Friday, October 4, 2019

How to Be Like Jesus

Scripture sometimes seems like double-talk. For instance, in Romans, Paul goes on and on about how he does what he doesn’t want to do and doesn’t do what he wants to do (Romans 7:15-25). What is he saying? It’s the story of life. He has regrets. He has failed to live the perfect Christian life. And so have we.

However, in the same book, Paul gives the antidote to sin: Jesus Christ. Paul writes, “In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loves us.” (Romans 8:37-39). Jesus died so that our sins are forgiven, and He gives us the Holy Spirit to stand guard over our hearts so that we do not sin.

Now before we excuse ourselves from applying this because we are good people who are doing just fine, consider God’s definition of sin: “There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.” (Proverbs 6:16-19)

·       Haughty eyes. That’s pride. Do we “pride” ourselves on having all the answers? Do we think we know more than everyone else? Do we think we have a corner on truth? Do we even hear what others are saying?

·       A lying tongue. Are we scrupulously honest on our income tax? With our spouses? With purchases? With relationships?

·       Hands that shed innocent blood. We may not “kill” literally, but how about killing someone’s reputation through gossip? Do we ever share something, even in a prayer request, that makes someone else look bad?

·       A heart that devises wicked schemes. Remember Ananias and Sapphira who said they were donating all they received from selling a piece of land, yet they held some back for themselves? The Lord took their lives. Seems like harsh consequences for a little white lie. Actions have consequences.

·       Feet that are quick to rush into evil. We certainly hope we are not guilty of this; through scripture we have a firm grasp on what evil is. But our society is fraught with concepts that call evil good. One example: Abortion for convenience.

·       A false witness. Here again, this may refer to gossip, to saying something about someone else that is not 100 per cent true.

·       A person who causes conflict in the community. Do we cause conflict in the church community? Just asking. Do we squelch honest discussion? Are we more concerned with getting “our” way of doing things than with the good of the congregation?

These are serious sins that get us into serious trouble. Yet we so easily slip up. What is the answer? Let the light of Christ shine through your life. The Holy Spirit is not shy about convicting us of our shortcomings, but He also turns away from hardened hearts. So keep short accounts with Him. Listen to His whispers.

Our biggest problem may be that we sometimes spill words all over ourselves. We prattle on about things of which we have no knowledge or have no business discussing. It’s someone else’s story to tell. Remember, like the California wildfires, the tongue can do great damage.

Invite Christ into your life, then live the way Jesus lived. He said, “The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.” (John 8:29)

Pray about everything, think before you speak and let the light of God’s Word—both the written and the Living Word--guide your behavior. Like Jesus, always do what pleases God.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Book Review: Everyday Brave

To write Everyday Brave: Living Courageously as a Woman of Faith Janet Thompson invited her Facebook audience to tell about the bravest thing they’ve ever done. She then added those stories to stories of 50 Bible women to give us a book that echoes our own stories. Who hasn’t had to wrestle up the courage to obey the Holy Spirit’s prompting, to forgive an abuser, to love unconditionally, to hike the Grand Canyon? Maybe we didn’t think of our actions as being brave, but they required courage.

Chapter titles include “Brave Waiting,” “Brave Discernment,” “Brave Trust” and “Brave in Rejection.” On these pages, you’ll meet both famous and ordinary, even unnamed, Bible women with lessons drawn from their lives. For instance, did you know scholars believe Phoebe carried Paul’s letter to Rome, the letter that included “the Roman road to salvation”? Did you ever consider what Abishag may have given up to become David’s concubine in his old age? I liked the insight the author’s study brought to the biblical stories.

And along with Bible women, you’ll meet fellow travelers on this road of life who offer hope and courage to face your own fears—Nancy, Terri, Yuri, to name just a few. Thompson’s writing is clear and challenging. In “Brave in Business” she writes “It takes great courage to do right in a world legalizing wrong, but there is no right way to do the wrong thing. You’ll never regret choosing God’s way.”

I liked the book’s short chapters ending with “Getting Your Brave On” discussion questions that can be used personally or with a group.   Each chapter opens with an appropriate quote and a scripture verse. Back matter includes a short guide for leading small groups or book clubs, a prayer and praise journal, notes and information about the author’s “About His Work” ministry.

This is a great book for personal reflection, gift giving or group study. Everyday Brave will certainly help you “get your brave on” and step out in faith to face life’s challenging situations.


Friday, September 13, 2019

Who Are You?

As I walked into a fitting room, a woman exited a booth on the left and moved to an end booth. She turned around, facing the door, and started picking through a cart of clothes. I went into the booth she exited and found four walls with two hooks. Period. No bench. No chair. Nowhere to put the clothes I would be taking off or the shirts I had draped over my arm that were not on hangers. Where would I set my purse?

I looked out and said to the woman sorting through the cart, “Is there no booth with benches?”

“Oh,” she said, “this one has a bench; I’m finished here. Use this one.”

So I did. When I came out, she was coming out of the first booth I had entered, so I asked if I could just leave my extra clothes there on a rack. She said, “Just put them on the end.” Then I asked if I could leave the folded items on her cart, assuming she was sorting clothes to return to the racks. “Oh,” she said, “I don’t work here.”

I was dumbfounded. I assumed she was an employee. I profusely apologized, of course. I said, “You gave up that booth for me. You are so nice!” “Sure,” she said, “I am nice to people who are nice to me.” She told me to just leave the folded clothes on a little bench, and after thanking her again, I went on my way.

I had mistaken her identity.

I just saw the movie “Overcomer,” and it’s all about who we are in Christ. Sometimes we don’t just mistake another’s identity, we forget our own. In the movie, Priscilla Shirer, playing the role of a high school principal, led the lead character to Christ. Then she told her to go home and read Ephesians 1 and 2 and list all the things she learns she is. It shows the teenage girl making a list.

Don’t mistake your own identity. You are:

·       Chosen by God. I was always picked last for recess teams in elementary school because I wasn’t very physically adept. That hurt. But God has chosen me to be part of His family. What a privilege! I belong. You belong. We need never again feel rejected by any person or group. “For he chose us in him . . . to be holy and blameless.” Ephesians 1:4

·       Forgiven. I have regrets. We’ve all made mistakes, done wrong things. We have offended others and possibly abused our power somewhere along the way. We’ve certainly offended God in one way or another. But with Christ’s death on the cross, we are forgiven. No sin is too ugly. No wrong is too great. God forgives us—if we ask His forgiveness through Christ. “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins.” Ephesians 1:7

·       Given grace. God offers grace through every situation of life, the good, the bad and the ugly. Look at the survivors around you. Ask them how God has been faithful in the most trying situations. “In accordance with the riches of God’s grace . . . .” Ephesians 1:7

·       Given God’s Spirit of wisdom and revelation. With the Holy Spirit in our lives, He serves as our Counselor and Friend. He comforts, guides and informs our lives. After my devotional time, I sometimes write a note to myself from God. I start “Dear Shirley,” then I write what I feel I’ve drawn from my time of Bible reading and prayer. Yes, I realize what I write may be my own earthy thoughts. But I do believe if we are serious about our relationship with God, He is serious about touching our lives, guiding us, in the here and now. Try it. “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ . . . may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.” Ephesians 1:17

·       Created to do good works. We are not just pretty faces. God has a purpose for our lives. Whether it’s to our family, friends, colleagues, acquaintances or just people we meet along life’s way, there’s a way for us to brighten their corner. Shine that light. “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 1:10

Ephesians was written at a time when commerce flourished as silversmiths sold images of the Roman goddess Diana while Christians faced harsh persecution. Paul wrote to remind the Ephesians that they may not be rich in the eyes of the world but they have spiritual riches in Christ.

I just got my Real ID. It has a gold star on the corner that allows me to enter federal buildings and go through airport security. But more important is our Real Heavenly Identity, which means God walks with us on this earth and assures us of a place in eternity.

Read Ephesians 1 and 2, and then praise God for His goodness to us!