When Blessings End

“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

Advertisements

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…

View original post 54 more words

Be the Hands and Feet

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

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

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

“‘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

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.