Monthly Archives: April 2018

When Blessings End

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“No eye has seen, nor ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him …” 1 Corinthians 2:9

I just received word from my friend and prayer sister, Karen, that her church will be leaving the AFLC for a different Lutheran denomination.  This means that after October, she will not be managing the prayer partner program I have been part of for a number of years.  Karen and some of the other ladies I have met through the program have been an inspiration and a blessing in my life.  I feel sad that it is ending.  I know we will stay in touch, but things won’t be exactly the same.

This has caused me to reflect on other times in my life when something that has really blessed me has come to an end.  My husband and I joined a church when we were a young married couple and stayed there for over twenty years.  It is the place where I felt I truly grew up and matured as a Christian.  I made wonderful friends and learned so much about how to lead a Christian life.  When Terry became a Pastor, we had to leave that safe and nurturing home.  I was sad then, also.

At one point in my life, I joined a neighborhood Bible Study.  I met women we lived nearby but belonged to different denominations.  The woman who led it was a more mature Christian than I was then.  At the time I had young children, a job and found myself like Martha, “distracted and worried about many things.”  A wonderful sense of peace would descend on me when I walked in her door each week.  I so needed that.  Of course, in time, people moved, schedules changed, and the study could not continue.

This reverie is leading me around to the realization that yes, blessings end;  but God still has good things in store.  He knows what we need as individuals and churches, and in His perfect timing, we will receive them. Each time I have “lost” a blessing, God has replaced it with something else new and challenging. So while we can be sad when things change, we need to look forward to the next blessing God has prepared for us.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;[
    his mercies never come to an end;
 they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness” Lamentations 3:22-23

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Bonhoeffer on Peacemaking

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Bonhoeffer on Peacemaking

This is one of the beatitudes we can easily understand. Peace is a blessing and something that we all long for. However, peacemaking is not easy, as we have to renounce our own will and replace it with the will of God.  We all want peace, but do we want to make peace?

finally human

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” Jesus’ followers are called to peace. when Jesus called them, they found their peace. Jesus is their peace. Now they are not only to have peace, but they are to make peace. To do this they must renounce violence and strife. Those things never help the cause of Christ. Christ’s kingdom is a realm of peace, and those in Christ’s community greet each other with a greeting of peace. Jesus’ disciples maintain peace by choosing to suffer instead of causing others to suffer. They preserve community when others destroy it. They renounce self-assertion and are silent in the face of hatred and injustice. That is how they overcome evil with good. That is how they are makers of peace in a world of hatred and war. But their peace will never be greater than when they encounter evil people…

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Be the Hands and Feet

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Before we leave the topic of Blessings, I want to tell you about two specific times that others have blessed me without even thinking about it.

A long time ago (or it seems that way to me!!) when my children were small, my husband and I lived in this old hotel on the third floor. Joe had just gotten out of the Army (volunteer, no conflicts at the time), and we were just re-establishing ourselves back in our home state. Joe had some trouble finding a job, but was working enough to support us. I was home with our two boys; our youngest not even age one yet. This place that we lived was terrible, it was mice and roach infested, very old and drafty and it wasn’t the best decision that we’d ever made to move into this place. But it was cheap, and we didn’t have much money. Food stamps and WIC helped to feed us. Our parents would help when they could. We lived there for nine months and it was nine months too long. Anyway, there was a little Lutheran Church down the road and every once in a while, Joe and I would get everybody ready and we’d go to church there. It was very “hit and miss”; we were not regular church goers at this time.

The holidays were coming up and I think I remember that our families were all going to Thanksgiving somewhere else. We weren’t invited to these dinners and I know that it was hurtful for both Joe and I that we got left out of everyone’s plans. We didn’t have money to have a big dinner on our own and the thought of going out to eat just didn’t cross my mind. I was resigned to just having a regular dinner; probably hamburgers or hot dogs with mac and cheese.

Just before Thanksgiving there was a knock at our door. I was floored when the pastor of the Lutheran church was there along with some people, all holding boxes and bags. They had brought Thanksgiving dinner to us. There was a turkey and all the fixings, not just instant potatoes, but a five pound bag! Not just a can of green beans, but five or six cans of a variety of vegetables. They gave us a dinner, plus food. I was so blessed by this act that even today, 35 years later, tears come to my eyes just writing this.

Fast forward about 20 years. Joe was scheduled to have a very serious operation at Johns Hopkins University Hospital in Baltimore. The surgery was so detailed that we were told it would take about 7 to 10 hours to complete. Both Joe and I were terrified and Joe was convinced he would die during the operation.

Joe and I were a part of the Via de Cristo community by this time and we had everyone praying about this operation. One acquaintance came up to me and told me that he worked at Johns Hopkins and that he would meet me at a food court at lunchtime and let me know how Joe was doing. He knew that the nurses really don’t tell you anything while you’re waiting for someone in an operation. The day came, and it was nerve racking to sit all morning, waiting for a word of how it’s going. The people in the waiting room would come over and tell me that they just heard that everything is going OK. That really doesn’t tell you much. At lunch I went down to meet our acquaintance and he came up and told me he just came from the operating room after checking on Joe, that his vitals are good and the surgeon says that everything was going as planned.

After I picked my mouth up off the floor I was able to talk!! You were in the operating room? Yes, he does that all the time as part of his job. You actually talked to the surgeon?!? Yes, it wasn’t a big deal. Joe looks good, his vitals are strong. God is good. Then he left. I sat there in the food court and cried with relief. God had sent him to me to let me know that everything was well. It was one of the many times that God let me know that HE was in control.

My point through this long blog is this: You don’t know when you are going to be a blessing. The members of that church barely knew us and wouldn’t remember us today, but they made a huge impression on me. Through them the Lord took care of us. Our acquaintance didn’t think it was a big deal to swing by an operating room to see how someone was doing, but it was a huge thing for me. In both of these instances God used ordinary people in ordinary settings to send a huge blessing to me.

So as you go about your ordinary life, doing your ordinary things, remember this: you may never know if God will use you to be a huge blessing in someone’s life today. So as you walk out your door, be prepared to be the hands and feet of Jesus.

You Can’t Be Too Nice

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Okay, I don’t usually do this, but I feel a rant coming on.  This just came up on my LinkedIn feed:

The dangers of being nice at work

Having a supportive and overly cordial work culture can undermine new and innovative ideas, argues Jonah Sachs in an article for Quartz. Office environments that stress positivity and downplay conflict can suppress the tension needed to surface ideas and avoid bad decisions. According to Sachs, “Good as it feels, this emphasis on niceness leads to poor decision-making and low levels of creativity by limiting the number of inputs a group will consider and diverting focus away from risk-taking and results.”
Really? Has the person writing this article ever worked with others?  If so, they would know, as I do, that teamwork, cooperation and caring result in greater productivity than tension and conflict.  A kind and supportive workplace is more likely to lead to creative thinking, as workers will be willing to share their ideas and opinions, both good and bad. I suppose “nice” can be  bad if it is a false “niceness” where nothing negative is expressed due to fear and distrust.  However, the group that is truly nice will foster risk taking and innovation as all are comfortable knowing their coworkers honestly want them to succeed.  It is possible to “speak the truth in love,” with “gentleness and respect,”  knowing that a good decision is the best outcome for everyone. We don’t need “tension” to do this.
This is just common sense and people have known it since Bible times, as Psalm 127 so aptly states:
How good and pleasant it is
when brothers live together in unity!
It is like precious oil poured on the head,
running down on Aaron’s beard,
down the collar of his robes.
It is as if the dew of Hermon
were falling on Mount Zion.
For there the Lord bestows his blessing,
even life forevermore.
Don’t listen to bad advice. A kind and caring workplace can be a blessing.  You can’t be too nice!

God’s Book of Proverbs – Book Review

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I just received our latest book in the mail and am already excited about reading it.  Lifeway Publishing has taken the books and verses in Proverbs and arranged them by topic.  What a great idea.  It makes it easy ti find a particular reference when you need it.  All of the many categories are arranged alphabetically and are easy to locate in either the index or by thumbing through the pages.

The quotes are from the CSB version of the Bible and there is an introduction by Trevin Wax, a biblical and reference publisher.  It also has a page that you can use if you wish to give this book as a gift.

I give this book 5 stars, that is right, this is a necessity for all Christian libraries.

 

You can purchased the book at:

https://www.lifeway.com/en/product/god-s-book-of-proverbs-P005799586

Fanning the Flame #6–Seeking God’s Will

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“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  Then you will call upon me, and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.'”  Jeremiah 29:11-13

Beth Ann finished the vision narrative, in which she compiled all the thoughts and ideas that came to individuals on the team as we prayed and meditated on our future, shaping them into what our church might look like and be doing ten years from now.  All I can say is, every time I read through it, tears come to my eyes.  This is the church I want us to be!  This is the church that we can be with God’s help.

The word picture Beth Ann has painted depicts a praying church;  a church where virtually everyone is involved in the ministry of prayer.  Members are growing spiritually, through small groups and individual mentoring, gospel preaching, and Bible Study.  This church is active in many aspects of the community–welcoming in our neighborhood and assisting other community groups and churches in their ministries. They also encourage and sponsor foreign missions and missionaries..  Everyone is encouraged to serve as the hands and feet of Christ to others.  It is a light in the dark world.

Yes, some of our dreams are “big” ones, ones that will really stretch us.  Yes, some of these plans may change as we grow and develop according to God’s timing and will;  but many are baby steps, things we can start doing and changing now.  I’m humbled by the thought of what He might accomplish through one little congregation.

Great things happen when God mixes with us!

P.S. Beth Ann, I’m waiting for your post on what this process was like for you.

Go Out and Be a Blessing

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Be A BlessingA long time ago I started to go to counseling, to help me cope with my life. At that time I was completely overwhelmed, my husband’s diagnosis, two teenage boys and a full time job. I used to walk around with my eyes focused on the sidewalk in front of me, as if I was afraid to look up. What was really going on was that my brain was constantly going over all that was happening and imagining all that could happen in the future. I was really good at “projecting”; thinking about this scenario or that, what I might do in either case, worrying about all the things that might happen.

As I continued to go to counseling I was brought back to the “now”, and I started to walk along with my head up, looking around me. It seemed as if I was looking at things for the first time. People on the sidewalk smiled at me! Wow! Then I started to smile back. Pretty soon I was saying good morning to complete strangers and what a feeling that was. I was so surprised when they said good morning back to me! There were other people out in the world who were kind and nice and why hadn’t I noticed this before?

I was so wrapped up in my own problems, my own misery, that I didn’t see others around me. When trouble strikes us, one coping mechanism is to pull in, not unlike a turtle. We block out the world because it hurt us and we can’t deal with it. The problem with doing this is that you miss the good things: the beautiful sunset, the flower in the yard, the smell of a rose, a baby’s smile. We get tired and grumpy and don’t take time to look at the good things.

So, if you are being a turtle today, I would encourage you to peek outside your shell and take a good look around you. Just experiment and smile at someone today. You may be surprised when they smile back. And the rest of us, look around for the “turtles” that come your way and be a blessing. Just a kind word and a smile can go a long way.

The 4 Wills of God — Book Review

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Most of us at some time or another ask the question, “What is God’s will for my life?”  According to author Emerson Eggerichs, the correct question, the one we should be asking, is simply, “What is God’s will?”  He asserts that there are four statements in the Bible which specifically identify a behavior as God’s will:

  1. John 6:40 — Believe in Christ
  2. 1 Thessalonians 4:3 — Abstain from sexual sin
  3. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 — Give thanks in everything
  4. 1 Peter 2:13-15 — Submit in doing right

Dr. Eggerichs asserts that as long as we are keeping these four “foundational” commands we can be assured that we are acting within God’s will and are free to make other decisions based on our best judgement.  He also believes that:

“As the apostle John told us in 1 John 3:21-22, when we keep His commandments and do what is pleasing in His sight, then whatever we ask–as individuals in specific circumstances– we receive from Him.”

I have several issues with this book.  First, I’m not convinced that Bible verses which include the phrase, “this is the will of God” should be singled out as the only, or even most important instructions concerning God’s will.  Paul, in his letters to the churches, lists many examples of appropriate and inappropriate behavior for Christians.  Aren’t these God’s will for us as well?

The 4 Wills of God: The Way He Directs Our Steps and Frees Us to Direct Our Own by [Eggerichs, Emerson]

Second, original sin renders us unable to perfectly or completely follow God’s will, no matter how good our intentions.  If we could do that, we wouldn’t need a Savior.  Our decisions will always be tainted.  Doing our best, or trying, won’t cut it, and doesn’t insure that our motives for decision-making will be pure.

Third, I feel that Dr. Eggerichs comes close to saying we can manipulate God.  If we follow these rules, we’re pleasing to God, and He will give us the things we want, often in surprisingly miraculous and unexpected ways.  Although he is careful to point out:

“Our omniscient God knows what is wisest and may countermand our conclusions”

and

“(we don’t) receive miraculous interventions like this every time (we) pray…”

he gives example after example of God supplying the right amount of money or intervening miraculously to fulfil the need of someone who has prayed and who is “within God’s will.”

The bottom line is, this book may actually damage the faith of some who are disappointed by decisions that don’t work out as they hoped or prayers that seem to be unanswered.  It also promotes a legalistic view that assumes our failures stem from insufficient faith and obedience.

If you would like to learn more about this book and author, follow the link below:

http://www.bhpublishinggroup.com/products/the-4-wills-of-god

P.S.  In case our readers are wondering why I would post a review of a book I do not recommend, the Lutheran Ladies became reviewers for B&H Publishing some time ago.  We receive free books to review in return for posting the reviews on our blog and on other venues.  This is my first negative review.

 

 

 

Blogging is a Blessing

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“I long to see you, that I might impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you–that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith,  both yours and mine.”  Romans 1:11-12

As I thought about this month’s theme, it occurred to me that the Lutheran Ladies blog has been quite a blessing in my life.  Each of us has God-given talents and spiritual gifts, and when we use them in a way that pleases Him, we feel His pleasure.  I never sit down to write a post with the feeling that it is a chore, or a burden.  I’m so thankful that God has given me an occupation in retirement that I enjoy, and that feels useful.

Writing for the blog has made me think deeply about each monthly theme, reading, studying and praying about it.  Often it helps me examine my own conscience and discover areas of my life that need improvement or attention.  It’s also interesting to hear how others think about these things, both authors and readers.  Certainly the blog has deepened my faith and understanding of God and His will for me.

Through our blogging together, I’ve developed closer relationships with the other Lutheran Ladies.  Although I knew them all before, and go to church with some of them( and went to church with others), in blogging we have shared both dreams and failures.  We’ve worked together to produce something none of us could have accomplished alone.  It has been my joy and my privilege to see each of them grow in their faith journey.

I hope and believe that this blog has been an encouragement to others, as this was our original vision.   The books we read, the quotes we love, the movies that inspire us, the songs that uplift us, the thoughts God places in our minds, and the emotions of our hearts, are all offered up to strengthen others.  As we open our lives to our readers, we are in turn blessed by the comments and kind words we receive back.  As Paul says in the quote above from Romans, we have been “mutually encouraged”.

So to all our authors and readers, today I am saying “Thank You!”  You have blessed my life in an amazing way.

The True Blessing

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“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  Matthew 6:19-21

Most of us in the United States grow up looking forward to achieving “the American Dream.”  That means all manner of material blessings:  a nice car, a beautiful home, a stylish wardrobe, exciting vacations and more.  All those things are blessings, although we would do well to remember that they come from God, not as a result of our own merit.  The big problem is, they don’t last.  I love to go to thrift stores and it’s amazing to see all the things, some very nice things that end up there.  I imagine many of them are collections and treasured belongings that were once important, but are no longer;  the person who owned them has died, moved on to another interest or hobby, or possibly had to “downsize” and couldn’t afford to keep them.  So the question is, why invest our time in acquiring all these “things” in the first place?  Why not spend our time and money on treasure that is real and permanent?

I’m no different.  I spent a lot of my life acquiring things that I’ve now lost, things that wore out, became outdated, or that I had to sell or replace.  In retirement I look back and see that many of them weren’t as important as I imagined.  So what is?  Relationships, for one– our relationships with our parents, children, friends, and most of all God.  The Bible teaches:

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your mind and with all your soul and with all your mind, and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  Luke 10:27

and

“Love never ends.  1 Corinthians 13:8

In the Parable of the Good Samaritan, the rich young ruler is told that loving God and his fellow man is the way to eternal life with God.  That’s the true blessing and the only treasure that lasts.