Monday, November 29, 2010

Well, Doesn't Everyone?

I keep a ketchup bottle, full of ketchup mind you, in my china hutch. Many visitors have tried to put it away in my cupboard for me, but I don’t allow the correction. It’s there on purpose. I finally added a blown glass cross ornament to the bottle so that it doesn’t look to be a misplaced grocery item.

Here is the very abbreviated story: My family lives in the house where I grew up and that my father built with his own hands. Shortly after my Dad passed away, we moved in and began a huge renovation that required nearly all of our energy and resources to pull off. When the renovation was only about 80% complete, we moved away in order to transfer our son to a better-suited high school. Some new friends of ours rented our home while we lived in a neighboring city for about 18 months.

What we found when we moved home was a disaster. The one important detail to this story is that there was ketchup and gum everywhere. On the carpet, on the walls, in the basement, on the window blinds, on the stairwell, in the cupboards, on the outside of the refrigerator. I do mean everywhere. The entire situation made me nauseous and I’m embarrassed to say how profoundly I lost my composure. One afternoon, after several days of heavy cleaning, I pulled into my driveway and saw a gift bag just outside my front door. Inside the beautiful bag was a brand new bottle of ketchup.

I hope everyone has someone in their life like my friend Lori. She brings laughter with her biting wit and can crack me up in two words or less. Lori makes me laugh because she’s funny, and because she helps me laugh at myself. While she didn’t include a card or let me know who the gift was from, there was no doubt in my mind. The beautifully gifted bottle of ketchup was Lori’s way of saying, “That’s enough wallowing in self-pity, Cathy, and it’s time to find some humor in the situation.” But Lori said it without the use of words, without including a card, and without making me feel like a self-centered heel. I love her to pieces and the bottle of ketchup is one of my life’s most cherished gifts.

God used ketchup to help me surrender my home to Him. As I said, we poured our hearts and lives into the renovation and we were making our home something to be very proud of. But the house along with the energy, ideas and resources to renovate it, were never ours in the first place. They all belong to God and I learned a lesson of surrender through a mess of ketchup smeared all over what had become an element of pride.

Now when I feel like a “Negative Nancy” or like I can’t stand up under my circumstance, looking at a simple bottle of ketchup reminds me that God is growing me deeper with Him through every situation I face. How can that possibly be a bad thing? My faith is fueled and I use His strength to find joy in my trials.

“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.” James 1:2-3 NASB

Monday, November 22, 2010

When You Think You Are Standing Firm...

I am a recovering worry-holic. I grew up a worrier, trained by one of the world’s best mentors in that arena – my Mom – who taught me that there was always something worthy of worry. In my early driving days we had no cell phones. Mom had me so well trained that if I didn’t remember to call her when I arrived to my destination, I would be overcome with worry that she was in a fit of worry. I worried about my friends, my teachers, my siblings, and especially about my pets. Worry increased daily over college, my future husband, my finances – you name it, and I could worry enough for the both of us.

Please don’t misunderstand. I am not Mom bashing here, nor am I hinting that there is no cause for concern for the ones we love. But Jesus taught that we should not worry about our lives (Matthew 6:25). In Paul’s letter to the Philippians, he contrasts anxiety with peace. Worry is the enemy’s way of robbing us of the peace we have in Christ.

Since I was not a follower of Christ when my worrying skills were being perfected, I had no idea that there was another option. Praise the Lord that He began to teach me otherwise. Philippians 4:6-7 was one of the first passages of Scripture that I memorized: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (NASB) Little by little, with God’s help and by using this verse to push away the worry, I overcame the sin.

Well, at least I thought I did. When I thought I had “arrived” and literally told someone that I “just don’t worry anymore,” guess what hit me. Yep. Worry. I struggle with worry to this day. Not to the same extent by any means, but there are times in my prayer life when the Spirit cries to my heart, “this is called worry!” Together, my Savior and I walk the familiar path of casting my cares upon Him and I wonder if He’ll ever get tired of playing this game. It brings me to my knees when I realize that His mercies are made new every morning. This promise is as true for me today as it was for those in Bible times. He does not tire of my shortcomings and reaches to help me as often as I’ll call to Him.

I have a long list of areas where I believed my heart was fully His. Truly, I thought I’d “made it” on at least a few points, but am reminded more and more that there is still work to be done. We never “arrive,” nor reach a place where we can stop growing. Our salvation is secure, but our transformation will not be complete on this side of heaven. 1 Corinthians 10:12 teaches, “Therefore, let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall.” Ouch. That’s a tough lesson for me. But verse 13 continues, “…God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.” (NASB)

Temptation will come and we will fall. Of that we can be sure. But our God is there to walk with us and we are equipped to endure by His strength through us. Praise His Holy Name that as Believers we can consider ourselves recovering sinners!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

How to follow my blog

Hi, Friends. I've shared my blog with a few people now and have asked that you "follow" me on blogger. I have to admit; I'm new to the blogging world too and haven't been able to offer much advice on how to follow or why you should follow. I've done a bit of research and have learned a couple of things that I can now share:

At the top right of the screen, you'll see an icon to "SIGN IN." By clicking this, you can create a "blogger" account. When you are signed in, you'll be able to keep tabs on the blogs you follow on your "dashboard." (Just like your car, it's where you see the controls to your blogger account). The blogger account is free. You can use it to view blogs or even create a blog of your own.

Once you are signed in, you can click the "FOLLOW" icon on my blog (just to the right of where you are reading). It is referred to as a widget. Do you remember studying widgets in Economics class in high school? They used this term to refer to an imaginary product that could be bought or sold. Why they call the "FOLLOW" icon a widget, I have no idea, but I'm learning that I don't have to find all of the answers to my "why" questions! Especially when it comes to technology!

You'll have an option to follow publicly or privately. Public followers will have their profile photo (if you add a photo to your profile) shown on a separate widget below the "Follow" widget. Private followers will not be listed on this widget. I'd love it if you'd follow me publicly – it would be great to know who is reading!

Once you're signed into blogger, you can leave a comment on any of my posts. You'll have to choose which profile you'd like to display (most likely Google). In other words, which screen name would you like displayed with your comment? Type your comment and click "post comment." I have my blog set up so that I have to approve comments. We're a family show here and I won't allow anything inappropriate. Comments must be God-honoring.

Go ahead – give it a try! Sign in and leave a comment to this post to see how it goes!

If you subscribe to a blog as a "FEED," this means that when a new post is added, it will show up in the your "favorites" section of Internet Explorer under feeds. There would be no need to log in, but you'll get to read the blog anyway. This makes reading a blog very fast and easy!

Thank you for the comments and support that you've shared via e-mail. It's a great encouragement to me! I told you that I invited some of the sweetest people I know to be my first followers… I was right – you are the sweetest people I know!

Love and hugs,


Sunday, November 14, 2010

I am praying for you

You know her: the woman in your congregation with a downcast spirit. Maybe she is a widow, suffers from health problems, has a special needs child, or is married to an addict. Financial difficulties may be stealing her joy, or maybe she has a prodigal child. Whatever the concern, she suffers greatly and her emotional load is heavy. While you may not always know what to say to her or how to help, you feel a need to pray for her. We often say, "Prayer is the least I can do," when, in fact, intercessory prayer is one of the greatest things we can offer to those who are hurting.

It took me a while in my early Christian walk to realize this. I remember people saying to me, "I'll pray for you," and thinking, "that's it? You're not going to help me?" It is amusing to consider how much I took for granted then, and how I now cherish the prayers of the saints!

During a recent family situation we were blessed with a victory through the power of prayer. The next morning, I felt crippled with anxiety. Since we'd just won a battle, I imagined that our prayer warriors were no longer on their knees. The heaviness was immense and I cried out to my Savior to help me walk through the day. Not 10 minutes later, I received a text message from a dear sister in Christ: "How are you today? We are praying for you." I cannot express the weight that was lifted from my heart in that moment!

Praying for others is a blessing, but telling them you're praying increases that blessing a hundredfold. A quick look through his epistles shows us that Paul reminded the churches often that he and his "ministry team" prayed without ceasing. Paul didn't stop with the words, "we're praying for you," rather, he listed the specific ways that he petitioned the Lord on their behalf (see Colossians 1:9-12, for example).

When you see the woman in your congregation with a downcast spirit, pray for her, yes, and then accept the challenge to let her know. How? It's easy. Tell her with a hug on Sunday morning and a quick whisper in her ear. Send her a card and let her know specifically how you've asked God to bless her. A flower bouquet or covered dish delivered to her home with a note would be warmly received. Post a message on her Facebook wall (that will spur others to do the same), or send a simple e-mail message.

She may be as I was in my early walk, wondering, "can't you do more than that?" But soon, she'll see the value and will come to appreciate that her burden is shared with others around her. In God's time she'll understand, and her heart will be encouraged.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

God Is Good All The Time!

We've all had a mountaintop experience; the one where we want to burst with excitement that something wonderful and grand has just happened in our life. We've experienced the joy of leading someone to accept Christ as their Savior, or have somehow been used to help a hurting marriage. Perhaps the excitement stems from being hired for a new job... or being released from one where the joy was gone. Certainly we've had mountaintop experiences when we gaze at the wonder of a newborn (especially when the newborn is our own), or when our children show evidence that they understand the sacrifice that Jesus made. God gives us many reasons to celebrate!

When we sit atop the mountain and celebrate good that's happened, Praise to the Lord rolls easily off our our tongues for that all He has done. His hand becomes clearly evident and oftentimes we can think back and see, step by step, the works of the Lord that brought us to this place. It is an enjoyable, celebratory time!

It's often said from the mountaintop that God is good. Indeed, God IS good. But what about when our world has crashed and the depths of sorrow, regret, confusion, and doubt knock us off our feet? We've all had those experiences too. Do we just as easily praise the Lord during our times of trial?

Over the last 3 months, Mike and I have been hit with wave after wave of trials. We've walked in an almost constant state of confusion, struggled with periods of despair, anger, and pain. Our trials seem to have hit us from out of the blue, stemming from life situations that we imagined to be on solid ground, only to feel that ground suddenly shift and slide directly beneath our feet. These can be described as the opposite of a mountaintop experience, but we can rest assured that God is still with us. One of my favorite Psalms teaches, "If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there." (Ps 139:8) The comfort that comes in knowing God's presence is always with us helps us to stand against the trials that we face. While we walk through the ugliness of life, we keep our eyes on Him, the Author and Perfecter of our faith.

Our trials make us stronger and increase our faith. (James 1:2-3) And just as with a mountaintop experience, when we look back on our trials we can see, step by step, the works of the Lord that have revealed his mercy, protection and faithfulness. It's easy to look for God in the good times. I am so grateful for His reminder to also look for Him among the trials. The trials often drop me to my knees in praise to Him and in humility. They tend to remind me of what I truly deserve - hell - and what He provides - peace. Even amidst a storm, His ways are great and when we look for Him, we will surely see Him.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.  When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set
you ablaze. For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior  Isaiah 43:2-3