Giving Is Required, Shipping Included

I started to read this post to my son and after I read the title “Giving Is Required” he interjected, “Does that include shipping?”  Can you tell he is a teenager?  I had to laugh because it was rather funny in the moment.  Yes son, shipping is included!  Now one with this post!!!!

I knew a person once that thought it ridiculous to give money or coats or food to strangers.  This person was a real bah humbug!  Like Scrooge in the Christmas classic, A Christmas Carol, this person didn’t think giving to the needy was important.  Well where do you think that Charles Dickens’ got the idea to write his Christmas tale and show a man who had a changed heart?  I think it probably was something he read in the Bible or heard in a sermon, at least I hope so!  There have always been those people who think they know how to be a Christian but don’t help their neighbors and I love this story from the Bible because it reminds us of who exactly is our neighbor.  Take a look!

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”  “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”  He answered, “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ ”  “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”  Luke 10:25-28, (New International Version or NIV).

Notice that the guy asking the questions of Jesus already was an expert in the law the Jewish people followed ritually.  He knew that the scripture Jesus quoted was from Deuteronomy 6:5 and still asked Jesus more questions.  There are many people in this world that have head knowledge of the Bible and know what they are supposed to do but they don’t have a submissive heart, they don’t give the world up entirely and therefore they are not true Christians.  I can imagine this guy as one of those who is always looking for the loopholes in the law so that he doesn’t have to do what is right to do.  Let’s look at the rest of what Jesus said to the expert in the law.

But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead.  A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side.  So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him.  He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him.  The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’  “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”  The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”  Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”  Luke 10:29-37, (NIV).

The two religious leaders of the day walked on by the poor robbed and injured man but the hated outcast of Jewish culture, a Samaritan, had great compassion on this injured man and got him all the help he needed.  Wow!  The point of this story is that we all are neighbors even those who smell a little funny or have different colored skin or hair or eyes, or eats different foods than we do.  Our neighbor is anyone we see who is in need regardless of whether we know them or not.  There will always be people in this world that have needs; it is inevitable because we live in a fallen world.  Someday it might actually be you who is in need.  That’s a scary thought but it certainly can happen.  I know because it has happened to me before.  So what are we to do?  If we are to be real in our relationship with Jesus then we will do all that we can for them and Christmas time is a wonderful time that gives many opportunities to  Go and do likewise.”  The world expects at Christmas time people to be generous and so why not let them see that their expectation from Christians is true?  I think there are so many ways to give year round but at Christmas time I love to give to people I don’t know.  Maybe it makes my heart a little less sad that so many of my children and their families can’t be with me due to job commitments and distances to overcome.  We as a family have decided not to exchange gifts with the adult members of our family.  So why not take what I would have spent on my adult children and give Christmas to a family in my own town?  Why not make my tip for the waitress or waiter just a little larger so that they have more to spend on their Christmas?  Why not give more to others and less to myself?  What a concept!  But it feels so good to give and I think that is by God’s design.

Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.  I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing.  You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions.  In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ” Acts 20:32-35, (NIV).

It is in our giving away things and money and time and talents that we receive joy and contentment and for a moment or two some real happiness.  There is nothing greater than to give from our heart to another especially if the receiver is someone who truly is in need.  So who is your neighbor?  Who is in need in your part of the world?  What can you do for them today to show them the love of Jesus?  We don’t give to make ourselves be seen by others as wonderful and great and puffed up.  But when we give we can show that it is because of our true love for Jesus that we feel love for our neighbor.  I hope that God gives you many opportunities to extend yourself to a stranger in need.  It is required for Christians to be selfless servants and what better time than when we celebrate the birth of our Messiah, Jesus Christ.  Merry Christmas everyone.

Until next time…Katherine

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Coping With The Holidays part 3

This is the final post on how to better cope with the holidays and today we will discuss another of Satan’s lies and that is distraction.  As you may recall Jesus tells us that Satan is the father of all lies and that the truth is never in him (John 8:42-47).  Our culture and society often promotes the lies of Satan rather than the truths of God and during the holidays I think there is a bunch of lies.  I spoke of some of them in the two previous posts but I have left one we all fall for until last, and that is the lies that distract us from the truth.

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him.  She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.  But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”  “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one.  Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”  Luke 10:38-42, (New International Version or NIV).

I truly believe that Satan uses distractions to keep our time occupied and away from doing the good that God calls us to do.  Let me ask you, how full is your schedule?  Many of you will say that you are pretty busy with work responsibilities and family commitments and community service.  Many of you will say that you are on overload during the holiday season and many of you are tired, too tired to think much about why you do all that you are doing.  That is the plan from Satan in the form of distraction.  Do you notice how busy Martha was?  She knew the importance of having Jesus come and dine with her and she wanted everything to be perfect, her idea of perfect that is!  And what did she do but get irritated and cranky which is exactly what I do when I can’t make things perfect like I want them to be.  I can certainly identify with Martha, she and I will have a lot to talk about when we meet in heaven for sure!  She tried to get her sister Mary to help her, all she needed was a little of Mary’s time but Mary was so entranced with listening to the men talk that she just sat there ignoring her dear sister and neglecting her duties.  I can just imagine how indignant and irate Martha was getting, been there and done that in my own life a time or two (or three or four or ten or twenty).  So Martha asks Jesus to speak to Mary and get her motivated.  Oh Martha, how I am so like you.  I read self-help books to get myself motivated every holiday and I search through the cookbooks for just the right recipes and I buy magazines to copy their rooms of decorations for the holidays and I am as much of an utter failure as you Martha.  What does Jesus tell Martha?  Basically Jesus says that all the fluff Martha is worrying about, the mashed potatoes, the green bean casserole, the hot rolls, whose going to carve the turkey, who’s making the gravy, when will the late-comers get here…all that fluff will burn up in time and yet the knowledge that Mary is absorbing will live on into eternity!  Think about that and stop, let it sink in what Jesus is really saying here.

Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one.  Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”  Luke 10:41-42, (NIV).

Distractions; making everything perfect, spending a ton of time choosing the perfect gift for your loved ones, hurrying here and there and adding to your to-do list are all distractions.  To be fair, we all need to eat, but Martha was going that extra mile that many of us want to do to make our holiday meals memorable.  The truth is, at least for me, that I remember a ton of past holidays but I rarely remember how the food tasted.  I remember traveling to Grandma’s house for Thanksgiving but I don’t remember what we ate.  I remember reading the Christmas story before opening gifts but rarely remember the gifts.  I remember what my Mom smelled like during those holiday times when I hugged her but I don’t remember how her house looked or what she was wearing.  Are you like me?  Do you remember the warmth of the relationship more than anything else?  You see life is filled with many distractions and we need to add a filter to our lives to be less distracted because distractions are really just lies in disguise.

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.  For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.  What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?  For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.  Matthew 16:24-27, (NIV).

If you are truly a follower of Jesus Christ then you will understand how menacing distractions can be.  We can get caught up in the web of distraction so easily and often times the things that we are attempting to do are good and honorable and wholesome, but when they get in the way of relationships with others it is a sin.  I am learning this only now after sixty-two years of living on this earth.  Yes, I am a slow learner!  I want to have a good holiday season but I will be using a “holiday filter” to keep me on task and not become distracted.  That holiday filter can’t be bought and can’t be sold but it can be used every moment of the day by focusing on the things of God and not the things of this earth that will burn up and not go into eternity with me.  By staying grounded in God’s word I can not only survive the holidays but I can thrive in them as well and so can you.  Turn to God to help you cope this season.

Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.  “Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you suddenly like a trap.  For it will come on all those who live on the face of the whole earth.  Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.”  Luke 21:33-36, (NIV).

Put up a tree if you want, hang a wreath on the door, light a candle, hang a stocking, and wrap some gifts, celebrate the season.  But most of all deal with your grief head on rather than hiding from it.  Get it out there and see it for what it really is and then deal with it.  God will help you if you ask for His help to do whatever you need to do.  Stop the busy-ness long enough to realize that most of it all is a distraction so you don’t have to think of what really is hurting you and then deal with the pain.  Know, dear Christian, that you can because you have a Holy God living inside of you, the Holy Spirit, and what more do you really need than this!  If you are not sure that you are a Christian then go find a church and a Christian that can help you find out and then grow tall and strong in the Lord to a mature and healthy person of God!  That is the only true way to cope with the holidays.  Happy Thanksgiving, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and Gong Hay Fat Choy!

Until next time…Katherine

Coping With The Holidays part 2

Okay, so last post I talked about how I was going to cope with the holidays this year and I went and took a shower and some thoughts formulated while I was washing my hair so here is more information on my thoughts about coping.

Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me.  Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say.  You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.  Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me!  Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me?  Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.”  John 8:42-47, (New International Version or NIV).

First of all we Christians know that Satan is the father of all lies so what lies are you being told?  Lies can come from anywhere because we live in a fallen world.  Some of the lies we take in and sort of  believe are pelted at us during the holiday season by ingenious marketers who design a longing in us to have more, to be more, to do more.  Think about it, what are your favorite commercials on television during the holidays?  If you are like me they are the ones that harken us back to our own childhood and the splendid holidays we either had or wished we had.  Now I try to tune them out, except for the Hershey Kisses Christmas tree bell ringing commercial that plays the tune We Wish You A Merry Christmas and yes, I fall for it and I buy their product every time!  But the lies that we are told during this time of year is that everyone has a loving family to come home to and everyone will take the time to go home and never spend a miserable Christmas again.  That is simply not the truth and you know it if you are widowed or divorced or single and aging or your children are all grown and live too far away to come home.  Stop beating yourself up, unless you are the reason for the rift in your family, and forgive them and grieve and move on and be prepared for this to take time, not days or weeks or even months or years.  Grief takes time and sometimes you think you are over it and then boom it grabs you and makes you relive the nightmare all over again.  If, however, you are the elephant in the room and the one that walked away and broke your family apart then what are you going to do about it?  Are you going to run and hide and feel miserable all the days of your life?  Are you going to shut the door to your family and never speak of them again?  Or are you going to deal with the problems you have and then go to your estranged family and help them deal with the problems they have because of you.

The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray.  Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.  Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.  Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.  If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.  1 Peter 4:7-11, (NIV).

The end of your life is coming and you need to resolve your differences especially if you caused others their pain before you die.  You will face God one day and then it will be too late to say what you already feel in your heart.  You blew it!  They know that.  You were wrong to hurt them.  They know that too.  But the truth is that they are willing to hear your explanation and longing to hear your apology and ask for their forgiveness even if they have already forgiven you.  While you are still alive you can change the misery that you created in others and God will help you make those first few attempts at reconciliation because God wants you healed as much as you do, maybe even more.  This passage of scripture tells all you need to know to make amends.  First pray for an opportunity and then pray for the words to speak.  Secondly realize that love is what is needed, they need to see that you love them and you need to hear that they still love you because God loves all of you and will help bring reconciliation about.  Don’t let the lie of pride stand in your way from doing what you know you need to do.  The holidays are a great time to bring your love to those you hurt and say your apologies and then begin a new relationship, one that satisfies both you and them.  What if you are the one that has been hurt, how do you handle your situation?  Perhaps it is time to have that awkward confrontation that has been stewing in your heart for so long.  Perhaps it is time for you to pray for an opportunity to speak to that person who has hurt you deeply.

“If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.  But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’  If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.  Matthew 18:15-17, (NIV).

Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.  Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.  If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves.  Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, for each one should carry their own load.  Nevertheless, the one who receives instruction in the word should share all good things with their instructor.  Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.  Galatians 6:1-7, (NIV).

Take special note of anyone who does not obey our instruction in this letter. Do not associate with them, in order that they may feel ashamed.  Yet do not regard them as an enemy, but warn them as you would a fellow believer. 2 Thessalonians 3:14-15

Confrontation is never easy because the person you confront will get angry and will push buttons in you that you may not have even known existed before the confrontation.  You will probably get angry and hurt also.  But confrontation has to come at some point when you are dealing with people especially in a family where there is an estrangement of one kind or another.  God will help you to get through this if you are willing to lay down your own pride before the throne of grace.  Can you do it?  Will it be pleasant?  Not during the confronting but give them some time and give yourself some time and you will see a change in both of you and if God is in the midst you will both be blessed with a new relationship.  Next time we talk about another lie, distraction.

Until next time…Katherine

Coping With The Holidays part 1

It’s that time of year again and the holidays are just around the corner.  Soon Thanksgiving will be here and then Christmas followed by New Years and then Chinese New Year and families all across the world will gather to celebrate.  I want to cry, I want to go to bed, pull the covers over my head and not come out until Ground Hog’s Day!  While you and your family gather around the table and give thanks for all that God has blessed you with this year I will be thinking of the times when I had a home to go to and had a family that loved me and was so glad to see me.  While you decorate for Christmas and prepare for your family to come home I will be decorating for Christmas preparing to send packages to faraway places where my adult children live and hoping that the ones who live near me will have time in their schedule to spend at least a few hours of holiday time with me.  While you make plans to toast the New Year in with your family my son and I will make plans to stay up until midnight just to say that we did!  Now don’t get the wrong impression here, this is not a feel-sorry-for-me post, on the contrary I don’t wish for anyone’s pity, I am just stating the facts.

I grew up in a loving family and was surrounded by a loving extended family that made the holidays such fun!  I don’t know how my great-grandmother and great-aunt who lived with her and helped her in her elder years did it but every Christmas there was a small gift for every member of our entire family and there were more than a hundred of us.  I remember going to my great-grandmothers and seeing the tree, a real pine tree, all lite up and decorated with ice-cycles and colorful balls and lights and that huge pile of Christmas gifts waiting to be opened and cherished.  One year I was given a compact with a mirror in it and a place to keep a packet of Kleenex tissues.  Another year I was given slippers to keep my feet warm.  And I think my favorite gift of all was when all the great-grandkids were given a book, I got Little Women and my brother got White Fang and the next year I got Heidi and my brother got Tom Sawyer.  We both spent those Christmas vacations glued to the pages reading the books our great-grandmother had given to us.  My childhood Christmas times are special memories of homemade fudge and popcorn balls and hot chocolate and candy canes and nuts and peanut brittle and family and church and fun.  As I grew up and married I always knew that I had a loving home to go to for the holidays and when we were stationed in the military in places too far to go home I tried my best to recreate such loving and fun times for my own growing family.  We had some wonderful memories made as my children were growing up.  But now, today, all I have is memories.

My family is all gone and what few remain are living so far away that they can’t come to Nebraska in the middle of winter.  For one thing the weather is so unpredictable that you can’t plan a holiday together and my adult children and their families are all busy in lives that they have created of their own.  I grieve because I no longer have a home where people love me to go home to.  I grieve because my adult children can’t or don’t come home for the holidays.  I grieve because there is an entire nation of us who have no loving home to go home to for the holidays.  In my case (and probably yours too) there are two explanations, one is that my biological family is all deceased and while I still have relatives, it just isn’t the same as going home because home no longer exists.  That is the first reason and the second is divorce has broken up my loving home and nothing feels the same for any of us anymore.  Hard as I try to make my home a loving one for my children to come home to there is always the elephant in the room that reminds us of one empty chair where a dad used to sit and while we all do our best to make happy memories the truth is we can’t!  We can be polite and we can sing Christmas songs and we can exchange gifts and read the Christmas Story from the Bible and we can eat turkey and ham and pecan pie but dad isn’t there.  Some of my children go and spend a day with their dad during the holidays as well and my guess is that it doesn’t feel like home at his house either.  The truth is that we live in a fallen world and as I age I long for my home, my true home which is heaven and there is no other time of the year that makes me homesick like holiday time does.  The sad thing is that I am not alone in my grief because there are millions of you who face the same thing every holiday.  So how do we cope with it all, how do we make it through graciously?  Here is how I am coping this year.

First of all I lower my expectation of what I desire for the holidays.  I can’t expect my children to come home every year for every holiday because they have jobs and in-law families to consider and some of them have to also consider their dad in their plans for the holidays.  On the other hand I am tired of only getting the day after Thanksgiving or Christmas Eve or two days after the New Year.  So I have decided for my son who is still at home to make the holidays with lower expectations.  We will have our holiday meal on the holiday and if family can come we will love celebrating with them but if they can’t come we won’t worry about it but we will have fun.  I am planning to have us put a puzzle together and play Chess and Chinese Checkers and Monopoly and maybe go to a movie but we, whoever is here, will have a fun holiday.  No pressure to my adult children to come and no pressure for me if they don’t but my son and I will have a good time making memories that we can look back on and enjoy.  If I am happy then he will be happy and if or when others from our family are able to come they will be happy too because I am happy.  It all begins with my attitude and this year I am making an attitude adjustment in lowering my expectations for the holidays.

Secondly I will mail gifts early rather than waiting to see if they are coming.  I know almost every year that at least one or two will try to come home sometime during the holiday breaks but they are last-minute planners and I understand that.  You see when three are teachers and one is too far away to drive and hates to fly and one is still at home I can pretty much guess who won’t be coming and so I will simply plan to mail all my packages to everyone unless they tell me they will be coming.  It makes my life more stress-free to get it done rather than waiting until the last-minute.  I want to give gifts that they will enjoy just as the books I received from my great-grandmother.  I want my children to know that they were thought about and loved even if they weren’t able to be home.   Now I need to be planning those gifts soon, don’t you think?

Third, I will plan to go to the Christmas Eve service at church and my son will go with me and I will not forget what the season is really all about.  My family may not exist in the form it once was but they need to be reminded that God loves them still and so do I.  After all there would be no Christmas had Jesus Christ not come to save us, to give us the free gift of salvation and that is where my attitude will be.  I will not be watching all the Hallmark movies on television this year.  They always make me feel unworthy because I am not beautiful enough to attract the eye of a new guy who wants nothing more than to sweep me off my feet and take me as his wife.  I will not watch them because I can’t possibly create the type of home décor that the professional designers on those shows do.  I will not watch them because there is no special magic in the air looking for the lonely single mother who wants nothing more than her old life back where family and friends are always around making her loved and feeling warm and fuzzy inside.  No!  These movies are not good for me and I won’t watch them!  I will watch all the Old Scrooge movies I can find; I love a good story about a changed heart.  I will watch movies about the birth of Jesus and realize that He came for me and for you and that gives me hope.  I will watch crime solving programs like Homicide Hunter and Homicide because they will remind me of the real reality of this broken world we live in and keep me praying for others who are going through tough times without the love of Christ.

Most of all I will survive and I will turn down every invitation that people give me to come be a part of their family for the holidays.  Why?  Because it is their holiday time with their family and I don’t belong there.  Someday I will look back on this life on earth and I will think how foolish I was to spend so much time grieving for a relationship that is no more and for a family that can never be again.  He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”  Revelation 21:4, (New International Version).

Until next time…Katherine

Stop Obsessing About The Future

I believe that I have figured out why we get old, so that we learn to depend upon God for our every need and stop obsessing about the future.  Think about it!  When we are young we can’t wait until we get older and when we are older we wish we were younger.  Why?  I don’t know about you but when I was a youth in my prime I thought that being older would make me richer and then I could do whatever I wanted to do.  What a fallacy!  Now that I am older my joints hurt and my knees buckle if I stand too long!  My waistband has extended to the point of being uncomfortable and I am constantly looking for my reading glasses to be able to see almost anything in print!  And before you criticize me for being overweight let me remind you that my peers who exercised to keep their youthful vigor have all had joint replacement surgery of one kind or another!  Today the idea that I can do anything I want is no longer true.  And the idea of having a great future is no longer possible because in a few years I will be more than just a senior citizen, I will be old even in my own mind and probably using a walker or a wheel chair to get around!  Ugh!  I think that God designed us humans to live through the cycles of life for a reason.  You remember the cycle of life: birth, child, youth, young person, middle age, older middle age, even older middle age (I have extended my opinion as to when middle age begins several times since I was a child) and then on to senior citizen and even older senior citizen and then death.  I think God made us this way so that we learn to stop obsessing about the future and learn to lean upon Him!

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.  “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?  “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.  Matthew 6:24-34, (New International Version or NIV).

I remember as a child going to the home of Katie and Bill Black, an elderly couple that were friends of my parents.  Bill was in a state of anxiety like I had never witnessed before.  When he was a young man and had learned to drive back in the 1900’s he got a driver’s license that stated on the front of it that it was to be his for life.  The state government sometime in the late 60’s had passed a law to make lifetime driver’s  licenses no longer valid and Bill had been sent a letter stating that he had to take a written exam and possibly be asked to drive within six months or else lose his privilege to drive his car.  He was livid!  How dare the Nebraska government tell him what to do!!!  He was not going to take the test and he was going to insist that his lifetime driver’s license be honored.  My parents were trying to reason with him because Katie had asked them to come and calm him down but he was not a reasonable man.  When we left he was probably angrier than when we had arrived.  Time passed and soon it was nearing the end of the grace period for Bill to go and take the test yet the man stubbornly refused to do so.  For months Bill had stewed and fretted and worried about his future and a week before the end of the grace period Bill died.  He never had to take the test.  I overheard my parents talking about how Bill had worked himself into a heart attack that killed him and how sad that was for his wife Katie.  She had to listen to his anger and fear and worry and anxiety for six months and it was not pleasant for her or anyone else who visited him during that time.  Bill’s funeral was the first one I had been allowed to attend and as we looked into the casket at his body I told my Mom, “At least Bill doesn’t have to take the driving test!”  She smiled and told me to tell Katie that when we saw her after the funeral because it would be a comfort to her and I did, and Katie giggled then said, “Yes, God took care of that situation and I think he is driving in heaven today!”

Jesus teaches us not to be anxious about the future because we can’t add or subtract even one minute from it.  Psalm 139 tells us that God has numbered our days on earth before we even came from our mother’ womb.  We can have better quality of life in the future by the things that we do now but we can’t add more time to be spent on earth.  Bill had poor quality of life his last six months on earth and he made life miserable for everyone around him.  How sad.  Had Bill listened to the teachings of Jesus in the passage we just read he would have realized that God would be in control of everything and all would be well.  We need to remember this also.  When we are worried because our future looks bleak or our assumptions for the future look bleak that we are not in control of everything, not if we are Christians.  When we seek the kingdom first then we give up the right to worry about what will or won’t happen in the future.  Right now you may be facing financial difficulties or health issues that prevent you from doing your work.  Give up the worry and let God be in control as we are to do because the truth is none of us know what the future will bring; only God knows.  We can be sure that God will do what is best for us.  Here are some scriptures to think about on the subject of worry.

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:4-7, (NIV).

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:6-7, (NIV).

Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”  He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”  He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life.  Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children. But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”  Revelation 21:1-8, (NIV).

Do you see dear Christian that God has all bases covered and we don’t have to worry about the future because our place on earth is but a short span of time in comparison to our time in eternity in the new city!  God is with us and two things stand out to me in the passage from Revelation.  First of all God is the Alpha (beginning) and the Omega (end) so He knows all that will happen in between your beginning and your end as well as the beginning and end of the earth.  He knows what countries will rise and what ones will fall.  He is in control of everything!  And secondly we need to stay thirsty for the things of God, for the water of life He promises to give us!  How do we stay thirsty?  We give up our cares and our worries to God because we know He is capable of taking good care of us and we continue to seek the kingdom first above all else because the kingdom we are seeking is where Jesus and God resides!  I needed to be reminded of this today, thank you God for reminding us all that You have everything under control!

Until next time…Katherine

Can Christians Hate?

I have heard nearly all my life that Christians are to love one another and to be generous in our love for all people everywhere.  While growing up I heard often, “Don’t hate your brother!”  I did hate my brother at times because he was always picking on me and I hated being on the receiving end.  For instance he would call me names and pull my hair and run faster than I could and it seemed to me that everyone loved him because he was always making people laugh!  I would hear, “Don’t say the word hate because it is horrible to be a hater!”  Another thing I heard often was “Stop fighting and stop hating each other and try to get along with each other better!”  Yes, my brother and I fought a lot when we were children but we also loved each other and would hate anyone who tried to do harm to one of us!  Also I heard in church the message that Christians should not hate others.  When I think of the era I was growing up in no wonder the pastors were all preaching against the message of hate as our country was going through the Civil Rights movement and at war in Vietnam.  Our President had been assassinated and so of course the country was in need of much healing and a strong message of love was preached.  Then in my teen years it was the Flower Power movement which was all about loving one another and life was to be one big love fest!  Of course I didn’t join this movement as a hippie but the message was practically everywhere that we needed to stop the hate!  Perhaps my upbringing is why this passage from Romans stands out to me today.

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.  Romans 12:9, (New International Version or NIV).

I can certainly understand that we are to show love to others and to be very sincere in our love.  The world’s idea of love is based on what you need and where you can get it regardless of how others feel.  Jesus teaches that love is a new commandment and that we are to always show love to others especially those in the church (John 13:34).  But the next sentence in this passage in Romans says to Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.  How can we hate the evil you did to me but not hate you?  Think of the worst thing that has ever happened to you or to someone you know.  Be honest and ask yourself if you hate that person for what they have done.  Hate is a natural response to evil deeds and we are repulsed by even the idea of someone who is so evil that they harm others without remorse.  Now think of the first martyr Stephen and his response when he was being stoned to death.

While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.  Acts 7:59-60, (NIV).     

Stephen did not hate those who were hurling stones at him in an effort to kill him.  In fact Stephen asked that God would not hold their sins against them.  Wow!  I would certainly say that Stephen was a super-saint and so he was.  But dear Christian, you are also a super-saint.  I believe that the human heart that does not have Jesus, does not have the Holy Spirit, is not obeying God simply isn’t capable of such love.  Stephen shows great love for those who were murdering him and it is obvious that he has forgiven them.  How is it that Stephen could do this?  Because he hated evil but clung to what is good!  God is good.  Jesus is good.  The Holy Spirit is good.  Heaven is good.  Eternity with God is good.  Stephen could separate the evil from the people because he was grounded in the scriptures and understood that evil is stirring the people to hate him and he will not hate them just because they hate him, rather he answers the hate in them with the love of Jesus that is within him.  Now let’s go back and finish reading the passage in Romans to find out more about this love we are to have for others.

Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.  Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.  In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.  Romans 12: 8-21, (NIV).

Okay, I can agree with the love part of this passage and in fact I think that I do show love to everyone I meet in pretty much the same way as described.  But there are always one or two people who I do not like very much and boy would I like to get even with them for the harm they have caused to me and my family.  And yet this passage says not to repay their evil deeds with evil deeds of my own.  Oh come on!!!!! Not even just a little bit of revenge?  You see the world thinking would say that you have every right to pay back evil for evil but Jesus teaches that it is God’s job to seek revenge.  Why?  Well I believe it is because the evil done to me was really just Satan trying to harm one of God’s children, me, and if give back evil for the evil done to me then I am acting like Satan and not like God.  It confuses people who have harmed you when you continue to show love to them, when you continue to be respectful and pleasant when around them, when you leave them alone and forget about them.  Love is always good because God is the giver of love.  So can we hate evil?  Yes, Christians can and should hate evil but we need to understand what evil is.  Evil is at war with God and we are soldiers in the battle between evil (Satan) and God and sometimes we get hurt in the process of the fighting.   Remember this passage?

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.  Ephesians 6:10-17, (NIV).

Stephen understood he was a soldier in the battle between evil and God and he knew that while his life would be taken it was not a bad thing to go and be with God for an eternity, on the contrary, the bad thing was those who were so blinded by ignorance that they didn’t understand the battle.  Those ignorant people stoning him were not seeing the whole picture as Stephen did; they were the real losers in the war and didn’t know it yet.  They will cry many tears throughout eternity for their short-sightedness I think.  We must cling to what is good and let God handle the rest of it all.  In showing sincere love to those who hate us we are showing them just how wrong their thinking is and who knows, maybe some of those burning coals will sink in one day and they will repent and defect from Satan’s evil side of the battle to God’s side!  Now that would be great to see, wouldn’t it?

Until next time…Katherine

The Valley Of The Shadow

It was dark, so dark that she could not see beyond this moment in her life.  Would she live to see tomorrow?  It was frightening but she clung to something that was unseen by the human eye.  The fear that she felt was so strong that she thought he could smell it and yet she dared not show that she was afraid.  Her life felt like she was walking through a movie and that there were demons on all sides of her, to the right she felt the invisible dragon’s fiery breath and on the left she felt the coldness of the tongue of a hissing snake.  Oh God!  Where are you?  I need you to get me out of this mess.

This is not the opening paragraph of a novel, no; it is the truth of reality for my life at a time I cannot even begin to share with you all.  Perhaps you have also been through a deep and dark time in your own life where you were so afraid that you wondered if you would live to see another day.  Having been a Christian all my life did not stop the evil that was being done to me.  In fact sometimes I have wondered if the evil was there because I am a Christian.  But being a Christian helped me to stay calm, to not freak out, to keep my intelligence intact and to survive.  How, you may wonder, does one go on after going through a traumatic experience?  I have found my strength in the Lord.

A Psalm of David.  The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.  He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters.  He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.  Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me.  Thou dost prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; Thou hast anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows.  Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.  Psalm 23:1-6, (New American Standard Bible 1977 or NASB77).

I memorized this Psalm when I was a child and I have never forgotten it.  It has been such an important scripture for me in surviving some things that have happened to me that were not pleasant nor desired.  You might think that this passage is rather an odd one to recall during times of stress and survival, but actually it is one of the best in my opinion.  Let me share with you why I gain much from this passage even during harsh and dark times.

First of all I know that I am not alone even though what I am going through makes me feel isolated and alone.  I am a part of a flock, the church, and Jesus is my caretaker, my Shepherd.  It is the shepherd’s responsibility to care for the sheep and to protect them from the wolves.  It is the shepherd’s responsibility to guide the sheep to where they need to go.  It is the shepherd that makes certain every sheep is safe and secure.  I am not alone, and neither are you because we belong to the flock of Jesus!  We can trust that Jesus will take care of us even through the dark times that will most certainly come to us all.

Secondly, Jesus leads me to a point of peace or otherwise I would still be drowning in my trauma.  Peace does come and peace will stay as long as I listen to my Shepherd!  Peace is a way of life and not just something we ask for when facing struggles and heartache and trauma.  Peace is granted to me every time I ask for it from God and peace will help you to survive when under attack because you will stay calm, and keep your mental state solid.  Peace is something the world longs for but has no real way of achieving but that is not true for you dear Christian, you have peace available to you every hour of every day of the week and every week of the year.  Ask for peace and God will give it abundantly.

The most important verse for me is the next one, the one I have repeated over and over in my darkest times and it helped me to survive.  Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me.  No doubt about it I was walking through the valley and my life was in peril and I didn’t know if I would live or die.  That is what the valley of the shadow of death is, a time when you know that you may die at any given moment and there is no way out of that valley on your own.  You can’t see a future but you can review your past and it is not an easy time for you and it is in that moment when you begin to feel what the human eye can’t see, the gentle prodding of the Shepherd’s staff, that walking stick that is always in His hands.  Suddenly you remember that you are not alone in this dark valley, you are not all by yourself because you feel the tugging and the guiding of your Lord.  It is in that moment that you know if you live all will be well and if you die, all will be well because you are with Jesus either way!  What a moment of clarity, what a moment of truth you face.  The evil has not won your soul because your soul belongs to Jesus and you are a child of God!  This is true comfort, this is true consolation, this is true joy and love and peace and every good thing granted to us in our lives here on earth.  Evil has not won and all fear of evil is gone in that moment, in that darkened valley of the shadow.  It is now that you know that good always overcomes evil for Christians.  That doesn’t mean that you won’t have some scars from the battle, it doesn’t mean that you won’t have nightmares, it doesn’t mean that you won’t face some harsh realities, but you have the God of the Universe on your side of the battle and that gives you the strength to go forward the next step and the next and the next.  Baby steps at first no doubt, but evil has not and will not win!  Evil walks away and you know that you will live to see another sunrise because evil was defeated in the battle.  You can forgive the person because you know that the evil inside them is what controls them.  It will take time but forgiveness will come eventually because Jesus is your Shepherd, your Lord and is guiding you through forgiveness just as He did through the valley of the shadow.

When the valley ends there is a banquet in which you are the honored guest and your enemies will see that you not only survived but that you are also favored by your Lord.  Jesus lets your enemy know that you belong to Him, and that they can no longer harm you because He is in control of everything in your life!  Evil walks away and slinks back into the darkness and away from the light of your life.  What joy and relief and true happiness you experience and the promise is what comes next.  Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever What a huge sigh of relief to know that evil can’t win because you belong to God through Jesus Christ!  Praise God forever and ever!!!!  Life goes on and you are among the living!  Praise God!  You survived and not only survived but you thrived!!!!  Praise God!  You have learned once again that evil can’t touch your soul.  Don’t continue to walk in fear, don’t let evil keep you hostage.  Recognize that God has your soul and nothing can take it away from Him!  Nothing!  I am alive, I survived, and now I want you to thrive as well!  I no longer am in the dark valley of the shadow!  Praise God!

Until next time…Katherine