Monday, November 25, 2013

For Dad

Just days after surrendering to the Lord and professing His faith in Christ, my dad passed away on June 20, 2001.  It just happened to be the very day that Mike and I observed our 14th wedding anniversary. 

Our house flooded on my dad’s birthday this year (2013) during the torrential rains we experienced in Colorado.  We lost a lot of “stuff” kept in storage areas and as I sorted through box after soggy box, I was surprised to find an old day planner that was somehow perfectly dry.  Inside, I came across this poem of praise that I’d written just a few weeks after dad passed.  It was a beautiful, nearly forgotten, memorial stone.  

My heart remains full of gratitude. Dad’s conversion to Christ was nothing short of a miracle.  To God be the glory.

You Saved Him

You’ve shown me your glory, Oh, Lord.
I never dreamed it would turn out this way.
You called me to prayer,
And asked for my praise.
“Do this,” You said, “and you’ll see.”

You touched him, You loved him;
You opened his eyes and You saved him.

My words alone were never enough.
He wouldn’t listen and couldn’t see the truth.
My burden was great, but You carried it for me.
You knew Your perfect will would be done.
You knew the instant he’d receive Your love.

You touched him, You loved him;
You opened his heart and You saved him.

You showed him Your majesty
And with his lips he confessed to me.

You are mighty, Oh Lord, Faithful and true.
I give You all the glory
For Your works are marvelous
And worthy of praise.

I thank You, Father, for You are sovereign
And have control of all things.
I thank You for loving me
And showing Your enduring love.

You touched him, You loved him;
You opened his eyes and You saved him.

My Savior, You have shown Yourself
Once more to me.
I never doubted that you could
But often wondered if you would.
You whispered the truth to his heart and
He received new life in You.
You gave me peace
In knowing he loves you too.

I have him no more and I miss him greatly
But your love is sufficient
And always sustains me.
My heavenly Father, You’ll forever be.
My earthly father was taken from me,

But You touched him, You loved him;
You opened his eyes and You saved him.

You touched him, You loved him;
You opened his heart and You saved him.

He resides with You in heaven.
I promised to dance with him
when we meet again in Your eternal glory.

Written August 17, 2001 in memory of Calvin W. Caywood

© Cathy McIntosh 2013

Monday, November 18, 2013

More Than a Pile of Rocks

What do you do with the memories of how God proved Himself faithful in your life? When God does something that you know could only have been the work of His hand, do you commemorate it somehow? We must not waste His victories. I believe that when the Lord does something significant in our lives, He whispers to our spirits, “Now don’t you forget that!”

In Old Testament times, God commanded His children to pile up stacks of stones as reminders of victories. Those memorial stones – or stones of remembrance – were to remain for all to see and remember. 

After crossing the Jordan, the Lord commanded Joshua to establish a memorial stone and, speaking to His servant in Joshua 4:6-7 the Lord said, “Let this be a sign among you so that when your children ask later, saying, ‘What do these stones mean to you?’ then you shall say to them, ‘Because the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD; when it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off.' So these stones shall become a memorial to the sons of Israel forever.” (NASB)

King David had his memorial stones too. When facing the giant form Gath named Goliath, David kept memories of overcoming a lion and a bear close to his heart. When the Lord led him in to the difficult battle, He remembered God’s great faithfulness and provision in earlier trials, and that strengthened him for what he was about to face. After defeating Goliath, God’s word tells us that David took the giant’s weapons into his tent. Perhaps this, too, was a reminder of what God had done. Perhaps David kept the weapons alongside the lion’s skull and the bear’s paw.

There are many ways to establish memorial stones today. Perhaps you like to journal, or keep a scrapbook. Maybe you write a blog or document short stories and testimonies in your Bible. The style of memorial stone really isn’t important, what matters is that you establish memorial stones in your life so that when your children (either physical or spiritual) ask later, you’ll be able to recount the stories of all that God has done in your life. 

We encourage one another through our stories. We spur on the faith of others by allowing them to hear the events that take place and giving the glory to God!  

Your Turn…

I’ve encouraged groups at many women’s gatherings to establish memorial stones and remember the way that the Lord’s hand has moved. What creative ways do you establish memorial stones? 

One way to begin is to make a list in headline style (without detailed narrative) times in your life when God’s hand was visible. Next, list a way that you can establish a memorial stone for each instance. Some have shared that they hang photos, quotes, or Scripture verses as reminders of the Lord’s activity in their life. Others literally pile stones of remembrance in a prominent location. Some keep a small stone in their pocket or purse, with a single word or a Scripture reference written on it. What will you do? 

Next week, I’ll share a memorial stone of my own. 

Be strengthened today, by His Word,

Psalm 119:28

Monday, November 11, 2013

4 Simple Ways to Connect at Church

Not so long ago, I considered myself nearly anti-social. Fellowship and connection at church were at the bottom of the list of things I wanted to do in a week. On a scale of one to ten, fellowship may have been a one, but only because zero wasn’t on the scale. 

Our congregation meets for Sunday school and shares about twenty minutes of fellowship before beginning our worship service. It is embarrassing to admit that even as much as I love studying the Word of God, I skipped Sunday school for a long time to avoid the twenty minutes of fellowship between the class discussions and worship. 

I have no tolerance for idle chitchat, and that often gets in the way of meaningful fellowship. After all, most friendships begin with casual, safe conversations that grow in depth over time. Since  I have difficulty connecting with some I’ve known for the majority of my life because discussions still don’t get past superficial topics, it was hard for me to keep working to build friendships with people I’ve just met.

But more than that, at the root of all of those feelings was the true problem of why I had trouble connecting:  My own independence. I wanted to buzz into church, get my fill of spirituality for the week and buzz out before I had to talk to anyone. My attitude was that I didn’t need church people, and they certainly didn’t need me. The quicker I could escape the passing chitchat, the better. I was independent and didn’t want anyone thinking I needed friendship. I had friends already.

Now, I said that independence was my problem, but isn’t independence a good thing? Don’t we teach our children to feed themselves and care for themselves, and become increasingly independent? When we’re seeking a job, aren’t the terms, “independent thinker,” “self-motivated,” and “self-sufficient” positive phrases to include on a resume? 

Let’s think through this. The world values independence. But as we learn more about God and following Christ, what is it that He values? The place to discover Him, of course, is Scripture, so let’s learn together. 

In 2 Corinthians 12, Paul is speaking about the thorn in his side and says in verses 8 – 10:  “Concerning this, I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”This passage clearly speaks of Paul’s dependence on God. 

Although Paul desired to be self-sufficient, He walked in humility knowing that His dependence on God made him stronger than He could ever be in his own flesh. The Lord stated, “My grace is sufficient…” and He desires our dependence on Him.

1 Corinthians 12:12-25 emphasizes God’s design for the people within the body of Christ to be interdependent on one another. Just like the parts of a physical, human body, the parts of the body of Christ need each other to accomplish the whole of what God has purposed for us. He united us into the body of Christ and has a plan in place for us. As we surrender to His will and work toward His Kingdom effort, as we are interdependent on one another, we will accomplish all He planned for us.

The world values independence but God values dependence on Him and interdependence within the body of Christ.

How can we become more interdependent on the body of Christ? I offer what I see as the top four ways to see immediate connection within the body of Christ:

1)     Build relationships. 

This is difficult for me, but God has shown me that I need to allow people into my real life… let them see the real me, not just the prettied up version. When I begin to share my real struggles, my honest insecurities, my genuine burdens, two things happen. Those with whom I share often say, “You too? I thought I was the only one,” and it brings a deeper sense of connection.  Secondly, I become more and more comfortable living in my own skin and walking with confidence as the person the Lord uniquely created me to be. When I’m the real me, people around me sense that and they start showing the “real them” too. 

2)    Show up.  

Learn together, worship together, serve together, and pray together. Any opportunity you have to gather with the body of Christ, do it! You’ll soon find yourself knit together in love with others who love the Lord. It’s a beautiful and fulfilling sense of community. It’s difficult to connect with those we rarely see, so if you desire connection, make an intentional effort to show up. 

3)    Reach out to others who may not feel connected. 

One practical way is to save conversations with established friends for days other than Sunday. I’ll connect with my girlfriends during the week, but on Sundays when our congregation gathers for corporate worship, I try to connect with someone I’ve never met, someone who might need an encouraging word, or those who seem to stay on the “outskirts” of our church body. I try to draw them in and help them know they’re welcome. 

4)    Serve together. 

There is nothing like rolling up our sleeves and working for God’s glory! When we serve side-by-side with other believers, our own unique gifts start to shine and we realize how we all need each other to complete the work of the Lord! My gifts and talents are different from yours and when we work together, we can certainly accomplish more for the glory of God! As a byproduct of our efforts, relationships will form and we’ll transition from acquaintances to friends, and Lord willing, to family!

I've come a long way in embracing fellowship and working to connect.  I'm realizing my dependence on God and interdependence on the body of Christ, but I still have a lot of learning to do.  I need these reminders along the way.  God honors every effort and rewards those who earnestly seek to honor Him.   

May you find blessing and encouragement as you connect within your church body in new and deeper ways!  

Your turn:

In what ways do you intentionally cultivate interdependence within the body of Christ?

How has the Lord shown you His desire for dependence on Him?

I’d love to hear your stories and comments!

Be strengthened today, by His word,

Psalm 119:28

Monday, November 4, 2013

Wisdom through Fear?

Fear is a real, personal struggle for me.  Not the jump-out-at-me-and-make-me-scream type of fear, but the daily fight with anxiety that multiplies within me until it becomes full blown fear. Because of my ongoing struggle, it was difficult to wrap my mind around the distinction between my unhealthy fears and the healthy fear that we are instructed to have toward the Lord.  I’ve wrestled a lot with this notion.  Maybe you have too. 

What, exactly, does it mean to fear the Lord?  Bible scholars teach that it means holding Him in a position of reverence.  That’s a solid start to be sure, but I believe fearing the Lord involves more than revering Him.  

Recently, I completed a word study on the word “fear” as used in the Psalms and Proverbs where it states that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.  While “reverence” is, indeed, a part of its definition, the term also carries the meaning that we’d expect as we use it in other contexts, such as, “I fear the worst will happen.” Or “What I fear most is _____.” 

According to the NAS Old Testament Hebrew Lexicon, the term fear as used in Psalm 111:10 means:  
fear, terror, fearing, awesome or terrifying thing (object causing fear), fear (of God), respect, reverence, piety, revered.

Keeping that definition in mind, if we fear the Lord are we to be frightened of Him?  Or are we to revere Him?  The answer to both questions is yes!  

The Lord provided a comforting revelation and helped me reconcile the two thoughts that seem to oppose each other.  I considered how I “feared” my earthly father while he was alive, and it brought a blurry concept into focus.

I was a daddy’s girl until the day the Lord took him to heaven. My dad taught me a lot about life, and he expected me to obey him – always and immediately.  When he told me to do something, he expected that I’d move to action before he took his next breath.  I’m certain that his dad expected the same from him.

I loved to spend time with my dad and would rather build a shed with him than play with friends or toys.   He taught me how to ride a horse, how to train a dog, which type of screwdriver to choose, how to use it, and where it belonged when I was finished.  He taught me to finish what I started, and to think before speaking. He taught me that God works everything together for good.  Dad helped me know that he was my biggest fan.  He was for me.  Always.  And he wanted the best for me.  I had great respect for my dad and I still do. He was one of the greatest men I ever had the honor of meeting.

However, my dad had a quick temper. When he was angry, he’d explode like a stick of dynamite with a short fuse.  As mad as I’d make him sometimes I never feared for my physical safety, but I was frightened of his terrifying anger.  I feared the loud volume that filled the air like an explosion. I feared the consequences of my mistake. I knew he could make my life miserable by adding chores or taking away privileges. I was afraid of being out of his good graces, even for a moment, and I dreaded disappointing him. It broke my heart when I knew he was upset with me because I had a strong desire to please him.  It made me happy to bring a smile to his face. 

In some measure, I feared my dad in the way that God’s Word commands us to fear the Lord.  While I did not worship my dad, I do worship the Lord, and I offer Him my reverence.  I have a great fear of disappointing the Lord and know that He will allow consequence in my life any time I am out of step with His Spirit.   He will allow my life to be miserable if I am hardheaded enough to require it (and I am sometimes), but He will work all things together for my good because He loves me (even more than dear old dad), and has called me according to His purpose.  He is for me.  Always.  He will not repay evil for good, and I can trust that He will supply all of my needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus. 

To fear the Lord means to love, revere and obey Him.  To fear Him involves a reluctance to disappoint Him and a strong desire to please Him.  When we fear the Lord, we are frightened of the wrath suffered by those who reject Him, and the consequences of those who disobey.  Fearing Him causes us to strive to do what is right in His eyes.

May our fear of God our Father bring the beginning of wisdom and the promises of Scripture.

The fear of the LORD is
the beginning of wisdom;
all who follow His instructions
have good insight.
His praise endures forever.
Psalm 111:10 (HCSB)

Your Turn:

Have you struggled with the thought of fearing the Lord?  

How is the Lord moving you toward greater reverence toward Him and a desire to please Him?

Thanks for sharing your stories!

Be strengthened today, by His Word,
Psalm 119:28