Life Lesson: learned?

 

I was standing at the kitchen sink washing dishes when my 6 year old son bolted through the door, ran past me into the bathroom and turned on the water. Intrigued I asked, “Chris, what are you doing?”

“I’m washing my hands Mom,” he replied.

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My heart rejoiced! One of the life lessons we had been trying to teach our kids had actually broke through the wall of resistance.

As I began to thank God for this wonderful accomplishment, 4 year old Billy rushed in and joined Chris in the bathroom. Water continued to flow. Once again I asked, “What are you guys doing in the bathroom?”  Seemingly annoyed they answered, “Mom, we’re washing our hands!”

I was so happy I began to sing! Both boys had learned this very important lesson of cleanliness.  Hope rose. Maybe bath time wouldn’t be such a monumental task.  As I finished washing the dishes, I began to dry my hands and I looked out the window.

Chief, our 130 lb German Wire Hair Pointer, looked strange. His black curly almost hair-like coat looked wet. His fur seemed to be stuck to his body.

Confused I asked, “Boys, why does Chief look wet?”

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After a few moments of intense silence I heard, “We painted him.”

“Painted him? What did you ‘paint’ him with?” I asked as my heart rate increased.

“The stuff Dad has in the big metal can behind the little shed,” Billy answered.

All singing ceased. I put down the towel and rushed into the bathroom. The boys’ hands looked like they were coated with something similar to bacon fat. They were desperately trying to get the substance off their hands but the cold water and bar soap wasn’t working.

I called my husband. “Rob, what is in the big metal can behind the little shed?”

“Why do you want to know?” Rob asked.

“Please just answer the question,” I replied, obviously annoyed.

“Axle grease,” Rob said.

After explaining what happened, Rob told me Dawn dish soap would be the only thing to break down the grease and clean everyone up.

Cleaning the boys hands wasn’t easy but washing grease off the 130 lb. dog? Well, that was another story!

I thought the boys had absorbed a life-lesson but instead they were being mischievous. Even though they had no desire to intentionally hurt him, they had covered our innocent dog with grease.  This act caused Chief to endure a bath he didn’t deserve or enjoy.

This is a simplistic picture of what Jesus has done for you and me.

 Romans 3: 10-11 (NIV) 10 As it is written:“There is no one righteous, not even one;11 there is no one who understands;  there is no one who seeks God. 

We sin and we have no power to redeem ourselves.

Ephesians 1:7-10  In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he[d] made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.

 

Because we cannot save ourselves, Jesus willingly takes our sins upon Himself.

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2 Corinthians 5:21 (NIV) 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin[b] for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

 

This intentional act caused Jesus to endure humiliation, arrest, conviction, torture, crucifixion, and death. Then defeating death, He paves the way for us to be with Him for eternity.

Jesus did nothing to deserve the wrath He endured on our behalf.

Don’t dumb this statement down! We deserve death. Jesus experienced death so we don’t have to.

And He did it all because He loves us.

John 17:24 NIV “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.”

Take a moment and absorb this fact.

Never forget the price paid on your behalf.

 

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2 Corinthians 5:16-21 (NIV) 16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer.17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:[a] The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin[b] for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

 

 

 

 

 

From the Seed of Trust Grows Faith

“What do you mean? Why do we all have to go to your house?”

Rahab gathered her family together and was begging them to listen to her. Her story was preposterous, but these days were tense, everyone in the town knew they were on the brink of a siege.

Her family knew full-well of her “profession” and didn’t want to be associated with it. They didn’t discuss this apple who seemed to have fallen so far away from their family tree.  Now Rahab was spinning this unbelievable story about these “special” men who had come to her house.

Normally only men “visited”  Rahab’s house and usually under the cover of night. The women who lived there did so out of necessity; having to support themselves in some way.  But these two male visitors were different, sent by Joshua, on a mission to spy out their land.

Rahab had heard how the Lord of these men had dried up the Red Sea. She heard how Sihon and Og, two Amorite kings and more this Lord had completely destroyed. Now these men of God were here, in her land; Rahab knew things were going to get ugly.

They asked only for a place to hide.  The men needed protection.  They were being hunted by the king of Jericho who wanted them dead.  Rahab hid them on the roof of her house, covered them with flax and gave them instructions not to move.

The king of Jericho sent a threatening message to Rahab, “Bring out the men who came to you and entered your house, because they have come to spy out the whole land.”

Rahab began her necessary lie, “Yes, the men came to me, but I did not know where they had come from. At dusk, when it was time to close the city gate, the men left. I don’t know which way they went. Go after them quickly. You may catch up with them.” The kings messengers left heading down the road Rahab pointed to.

Thoughts flew through her head as she prepared a place for the spies to spend the night. What was she going to do?  She needed protection for her and her family when the fighting broke out.

Rahab pleaded with the men, “I know that the Lord has given this land to you and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you. “ She continued, “Now then please swear to me by the Lord that you will show kindness to my family, because I have shown kindness to you.”

The men, grateful for the protection and the hospitality of Rahab, assured her, “Our lives for your lives!”

Could Rahab trust the promise of these strangers? Trusting men was not her forte’.  But did she have a choice?

Plans were made and the course set for the coming days. Rahab was relieved, yet still anxious because there was so much that still had to be done; the first of which was to getting her entire family to believe her and to come to her home.

After great pleading, Rahab’s family came to her house and were spared. Three days passed. The pursuers gave up and went back to the king of Jericho without their spoils.

Trust gave birth to righteousness; faith was born. Rahab was relieved yet still anxious-there was so much that had to be done.  The first of which was to get her family on-board with this plan and then to get them all to her house.

Story based on Joshua 2

Listen

Sometimes things are not as they seem.

When I was 3 years old we lived in an apartment building in Brooklyn. In the morning, after my older sister left for school, Mom and I would go to the laundry mat together.  Mom would sort the dark clothes from lights, towels from socks as I wandered around the washers and dryers singing silly little songs

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The owner of the establishment was a kind man and had been there for years. He often spoke with me and I remember feeling very comfortable around him.  One day he asked me if I wanted to see something special. I ran back to my mother and excitedly asked, “Mom, can I go and play with the man’s organ?”

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Mom froze as time seemed to stop. Mom didn’t answer right away.  She gathered her wits, calmly took my hand and gently said, “Show me what you mean. Take me to this man.”

The look on my mother’s face spoke volumes as we stood before the laundry mat owner. She asked me to repeat my request made moments before.  The man’s face immediately relaxed showing a feeling of understanding as he led both of us to the back room.

Being the manager required spending long hours in the building sometimes with nothing to do. He had a small church organ in his office. Playing music while the washers washed and the dryers dried made time fly by and gave him ample opportunity to practice.  He only wanted to show me the organ and for both of us to enjoy the music he played.

How often have I jumped to wrong conclusions? How many times have I misinterpreted statements and not allowed someone to explain themselves?  Why do I choose not to listen but instead fashion my response while someone attempts to defend their actions?

Mom did it right. She listened to me, asked me to show her what I meant, and then she listened as the laundry mat owner explained himself.

I am grateful for my mom and the many examples of goodness she showed me. I pray that I can do likewise and to teach my children to do the same.

 

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Hope in Her Name

She loved him. She believed in him. Her heart was broken because she loved him and now he was dead.  There had been such hope, such promise, as he spoke and taught them the ways of God.  He said to believe.  He said to trust.  He said everything was going to be okay.

She witnessed the beatings.  She heard his sentence. The sound of the nails pounding into his hands and feet would never leave her. Her anguish burst through her chest as she watched him struggling with that wretched wooden cross.

As she walked toward the tomb, she wrestled with the terrible memories of the last few days. Feet dragging in the sand, arms hanging limp at her sides, she felt emotionally exhausted.  Tears spilled from her eyes and hope seemed so very far away.

As she reached the tomb, her heart began to race. She saw the stone had already been moved.  “They have taken him!  They have stolen his body! ” Anguish increased as she fell to her knees in sorrow.

Through her tears she saw a man who asked, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Without thinking she replied, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him and I will get him.”

Hope was restored when he said her name. “Mary.”

Story based on John 20:1-18

 

Desperate to Touch the Master

She bled for seven years. Seven long years. None of the doctors could heal her. There was no treatment, no answer, no way to make things better.  The very same liquid, when poured on the altar in the Holy Place was considered a worthy sacrifice; but when it poured from her body it classified her as unworthy, unclean, untouchable creating a wall of isolation around her.

She heard the news. She listened to the stories. She hoped they were true.  All she had to do was to make her way through the crowd and get near him.  People gazed at her as she wondering why she was in public in her condition.  She pretended not to hear the mumbling pulsing in her ears. She pushed her way through the throng; she kept focused on the goal, focused on the master. Nothing would get in her way now.

Hope flowed through her as her fingertips touched the hem of his garment.

Luke 8  47 Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed.48 Then he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.”

Blessed Women of Faith

The house was quiet. Ever since her husband lost his ability to speak, Elizabeth’s voice was the only one heard.  Zechariah had gone into the Holy Place alone and came out a mute; something Elizabeth had yet to understand.  If they had children, Zechariah’s silence might have been missed; being childless, one person’s silence could fill a room.

Zechariah tried to explain what happened behind the sacred curtain, but Elizabeth couldn’t grasp what he was trying to say.  He wanted to assure her everything was going to be fine, but Elizabeth couldn’t stop wondering.

As her mind tumbled like a marble in a box, she felt it. She stopped and put her hand to her stomach. It was like the flutter of a butterfly’s wing in her belly. What had she eaten? Was she becoming ill? The feeling passed as she began to tackle the household chores.

Weeks passed and then the feeling came again.  It was stronger now and lasted longer.  Her mind began to race and then it struck her, could she be pregnant?

Elizabeth’s hope began to grow. She fell to her knees in prayer, asking for this to be so. After so many years of barrenness , after so many years of pitying looks from her family and friends, could this be true? Could there be a child in her womb?

She ran to find Zechariah, to tell him her news.  When she came to him she could find no words to speak, she just took his hand and placed it on her stomach.  The baby moved. They stared at each other in hope and yet disbelief as joy filled their hearts!

Elizabeth and Zechariah held this news close, not wanting to share this precious gift with others.

At about the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, their niece, Mary came to visit.  When Mary entered their home and said, “Hello,” the baby in Elizabeth’s womb leaped.  Elizabeth said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!” Luke 1:42-45

Both women embraced each other relishing the gifts of life placed in their wombs.

The Proclaimer, John the Baptist, born to be great and to call all to repentance.

The Son of God, Jesus, not yet born and yet always was, is and is to come, to be born of a virgin, to be the sinless sacrifice for all who believe.

Story based on Luke 1

 

A Sign

Luke 2:11-12 (NIV) 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

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I sat at the foot of my mother’s recliner watching her die.

If my mother’s body had been a car she would have been able to trade it in for a new one.  From emergency caesarian births, hernias, knee replacements, cysts, and the like my mother always seemed to have the need to be under a doctor’s care.  This time was different. Mom had cancer.

The diagnose came in October.  Four short months  and more than 25 radiation treatments later her body was finally giving up its fight.

I sat at her feet clutching my bible so tightly to my chest my hands cramped. This may sound strange, but I wanted to eat it; to chew the pages of words I had been raised believing and make them a part of me.

Relax, I didn’t do it.

Questions rattled in my head. Were God’s promises true? Was heaven real? Would I truly be with my mom again? Was this the end of her life or the beginning of her new one?

My mom and dad had grown up in church and both loved to sing. They met in choir, renamed the Passion Pit, with altos marrying the basses, sopranos marrying the tenors. Church was important, a big part of our lives and this was passed on to me.

I grew up attending Sunday School, involved in junior and senior choir, attended youth group; all practices resulting in my continued church in my adult life. I read the Word, studied it, proclaimed it to be true.  I spoke at women’s events, wrote retreats and led bible breakfasts encouraging others to believe in Jesus.

Here I sat with the rubber meeting the road, watching my mother die.

What if everything about Jesus wasn’t true?

That’s when I asked for a sign.

I’m not proud that I asked for proof, but I did. Fervently I prayed for a sign-anything that would prove my mom was passing onto eternal life and not disappearing forever.  I wanted anything- a light, sound, an audible word from God to dispel my doubts and solidify my faith. Tears streaming down my face still clinging to the Word, I prayed for a sign.

None came.

Mom died along with a part of me.

Life felt weird, like I was wearing an itchy sweater. My questions remained unanswered and my heart felt empty.

I made a concerted effort to read and absorb the words in the Bible, nothing seemed to break through. Mechanically I chose to believe in Jesus and continued to live in the Word.

Honestly I still wanted a sign.

A few weeks after my mom’s funeral I had a dream.

I dreamed I was sitting at a table in a country kitchen with many family members sharing a meal.  The door opened and my mother came in. Stunned I murmured, “Mom!” and began to rise up from the table.  Mom headed straight for me. By the time she reached me I was crying with joy as we embraced.

The strange thing about this dream?

I FELT HER ARMS AROUND ME IN REAL LIFE!

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You can chose to say that I made this whole thing up, but it was true.  Almost ten years later I can still feel her arms around my shoulders comforting me in my grief.  Our meeting was real and I know I will be reunited with her in heaven.

I still miss my mother-some days more than others. I am comforted with the firm knowledge that she is safe in the arms of Jesus. At the end of my life, I WILL be with her and we will be able to hug for eternity. My comfort comes in knowing, without a doubt, that I wasn’t just taught faith, it was given to me as a gift and His truth lives in my heart.

May you be blessed with the knowledge that you are deeply loved by our great God!

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Hope in a Jar

She was desperate and broken.

She dreams about a new way to live.  She needed healing. She needed forgiveness.

She needed hope.

She heard stories about the man who healed the sick, gave sight to the blind, and made the lame walk.  He could heal her.  He could restore her. But how could she get near him?

Those disciples who traveled with him-they wouldn’t let her, a sinful woman, enter their holy circle.  He was so special, so unique, so very perfect and so clean. She was none of those things.

Tears ran down her cheeks as she rocked back and forth, holding herself and longing for hope.  She felt only despair.  She had nothing to give, no way to get his attention, no money to bargain with.

Through eyes blurred with tears she saw the jar across the room. The jar filled with pure nard so fragrant the scent filled the room. The scent filled her soul as an idea sprang within her heart.

Maybe she could use the perfume to gain entrance to Jesus.  She heard the whispers near the well just that afternoon, He was planning to eat with Lazarus and his friends at Bethany.

With nothing to lose, she picked up the jar and headed for the only one who could turn her life around.

She walked towards hope.

Story based on Matthew 26:6-13

Come

 

Mist settled on the water as gentle waves lapped along the side of the boat. Events of the day kept rattling in Peter’s head. News of John’s beheading was too much to bear. Then feeding more than 5,000 people with 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish and having 12 baskets of food left over; how could this be?

Was this Jesus, this man who ate, drank, walked, spoke with us; could he truly be the Son of God?

They saw people healed. They saw dead people brought back to life. They drank the water that was turned into wine, and yet they questioned.

Peter picked up the oars and began to gently row towards shore.  As he lifted his head, he saw something in the mist, a figure walking on the water.

Blinking his eyes, Peter looked more intently as the form of a man began to materialize.  His heart raced and he got the attention of the others in the boat.  “Wake up!  Look over there! There’s someone coming toward us!”

The boat began to rock as everyone rolled over one another to get a better view of the apparition in the mist.  Voices grew as did the tension. Someone yelled, “It’s a ghost!”

Jesus immediately said to them, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

This is impossible! How could a man walk on water? Why wasn’t he sinking?

Peter couldn’t help himself as he blurted out, “Lord, if it’s You tell me to come to You on the water.”

Jesus’ reply was simple. He said, “Come.”

Peter’s heart continued to race. He carefully stood in the boat. Prepared to go swimming Peter moved toward the stern, lifted the hem of his garment and put his right leg over the side.

Timidly Peter put his foot onto the water.  The coolness felt good on the bottom of Peter’s foot.  His ankle remained dry.  Peter put more of his body weight onto his right leg, brought his left leg over the side and then stood.

Peter didn’t sink. Peter was standing on the lake.

Boldly Peter began to walk towards Jesus.  He was amazed that he wasn’t sinking.  Peter couldn’t fathom this miracle even though it was happening to him!

A gentle breeze began to blow. Waves began to form. Peter’s attention left his Savior and focused on the change in the weather. Peter began to sink. Fear ripped into Peter’s heart forcing him to shout, “Lord, save me!”

Before Jesus even said a word, He stretched out His hand and caught Peter in His arms.

As the Son of God embraced His disciple He said, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”

 

Story based on Matthew 14:22-31

 

 

Busted yet Blessed

“Hurry! We have guests!” shouted Sarah as she rushed into the tent. Sarah looked as she felt, anxious and harried as she began to fill Abraham’s request.

The three visitors seemed to have come out of thin air. The way Abraham was acting told Sarah they must be important. As Abraham began to wash their feet, Sarah began to cook.

The yeasty aroma reached her nose as Sarah’s thoughts returned to the three men. She kneaded the bread. Punch. Fold. Roll. Who were they? Where did they come from? A little more flour, punch. Fold. Roll. What did they want with us?

Abraham brought the prepared calf into the tent and took a moment to look at his wife. His thoughts rolled through the many years with this beautiful, faithful woman. How could he have been so richly blessed?

“Sarah, please let me know when this meat is ready to be served to our guests.” Sarah responded, “Of course my lord.” With a playful gleam in her eye she asked, “Will you be telling these men I’m your wife or your sister?” They both smiled remembering old times together under very different circumstances. Abraham gently touched her elbow and gave her a peck on the cheek.

As Abraham left the tent, Sarah put the bread into the oven for baking. She jerked the handle of the wooden paddle causing the bread pans to slide. At the same time she heard her name, as clear as a bell; they were talking about her.

The question was asked, “Where is your wife Sarah?”

Where did they think she was? In Timbuktu? Of course she was in the tent, who else was going to feed them?

The question acted as a rope pulling her towards the door. She wanted to hear more. Eavesdropping? No! Indignantly she thought she was just “overhearing” a conversation. Since they were discussing her, why shouldn’t she listen?

Sarah continued to move closer.

“Where is your wife, Sarah?” Well at least they knew she was Abraham’s wife and not his sister!

Abraham responded, “There, in the tent,” as he lifted his hand to show which one.

It was then Sarah heard the most hilarious statement of her life. “I will surely return to you about this time next year and Sarah your wife will have a son.”

Forgetting where she was, Sarah burst out laughing. “Are you kidding me?” she thought. “After I am worn out and my master is old, will I now have this pleasure?” Sarah continued to laugh and then began to compose herself as the conversation continued.

“Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child now that I am old?’ Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return to you at the appointed time next year and Sarah will have a son.”

Ice ran through her veins as Sarah’s cheeks began to flush. She realized these men, these very important men, caught her. They heard her laughter. She was busted.

Sarah did what most of us would do. She lied and said, “I did not laugh.”

It was then the man looked at her. The man with eyes that seemed to look into her heart. The eyes that knew her story. The eyes that knew her deep desire to have a child. Those eyes that saw into her very being replied, “Yes, you did laugh.”

Sarah had no response. He knew.

Embarrassed, Sarah returned to the tent to finish the meal. For the rest of the visit, Sarah remained quiet and away from the group of four as they conversed about heavenly things. After a time the visitors left and Abraham returned to the tent.

Knowing his wife, Abraham came to Sarah and just hugged her.

“Do you believe him?” Sarah asked.

Abraham replied, seeming confused, “Believe who about what?” It was obvious that Abraham had other things on his mind.

“Typical man! Didn’t you hear what that man said? He said we will have a son by next year. Do you believe him?” Sarah asked.

Playfully Abraham replied, “Sarah, we talked about many things today, not just that.” As Abraham began to play with a lock of Sarah’s hair, he began to stroke the shoulder of his wife of many years. Abraham simply said, “Yes, I do believe him.” He began to kiss her.

Sarah began to question, “Why do you believe him? What else did they say?”

Sarah’s mouth was covered with kisses from the man she had lived with for most of her life. No more questions were asked that night.

Her answer came about a year later when her son, Isaac was born.

“By faith, Abraham, even though he was past age-and Sarah herself was barren-was enabled to become a father because he considered him faithful who had made the promise. And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore. Hebrews 11:11-12 NIV”