• Suffering

    Suffering. That's a word no one is too fond of--I mean who wakes up one morning and says,"I think I'd like to suffer today!"  But somewhere along the path of life suffering finds us. It comes packaged differently for each individual, but one day when you least expect it, that package will be delivered to your door. The tag on your package may read with a variety of greetings. It might say,"unexpected financial loss" or"the doctors report says"or"your child is going to turn away from the Lord"or whatever the Lord chooses to write there. But make no mistake, the package will be prepared just for you and it is meant as a gift.

    So how do we unwrap this gift? The apostle Paul knew about suffering. His suffering was personal. His thorn in the flesh was difficult and instead of others sympathizing with him, they made fun of him. They fell asleep while he preached. They stoned him and ran him out of town. They threw him into prison, and not just into any cell but down to the deepest, nastiest, scariest part of the prison. They mocked him, they scorned him and they almost beat him to death. Yep! I think we can all agree Paul knew about suffering.  But in Philippians, he says something very interesting. He says that his desire is to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his suffering.  Hmm--Power or suffering--which would you choose? And why put the power part before the fellowship of suffering part? I mean shouldn't it be reversed?  First suffering, then power. Apparently the Holy Spirit didn't think so. And it all fits together to make us conformable to his death. Let's really Think about this. How can we face death unless we know that there is life afterwards and how can we face suffering if we do not believe we will have victory over it? Now let's look at this again--The resurrection brings power, but the suffering brings fellowship. So before that package of suffering that we talked about earlier arrives at your door, you need to be thoroughly convinced that Jesus has given you the victory over all circumstances, even death and that nothing can separate you from God's love, provided for us by Christ Jesus. So once we are convinced that we have obtained the power of the resurrection that is the victory, now we are emotionally prepared for the suffering.

    So many questions come to mind concerning suffering. Should I desire suffering? Should I run from it or run to it? How do I respond to it in order to gain maximum benefit from the experience? Why couldn't Paul have stopped with the power of the resurrection? Why did he have to go a step farther and bring up the fellowship of his suffering ?  The whole thing sounds like a huge decision to me. Choosing the power is not a problem, but the suffering is quite another issue. When you think of resurrection power, you envision the King of Kings and Lord of lords in all of His omnipotence. Who does not want to be in on that?

    But there is another side of Jesus. His human side. The side that suffered unbearable pain and torture and humiliation and loneliness. Even our Heavenly Father turned away. Is that why now He asks for someone to come alongside of Him and share it with Him?  I heard once that fellowship can best be described as two people in the same ship. Simple, right? But very true. Once again we see a choice. Someone must choose to get into the ship and then be willing to head in the same direction with the other fellow.  Now to all of us control freaks, this sounds like a very tricky situation. The question arises,"Who is going to direct this boat?"  And I believe the answer from the Lord Jesus is,"I am, if you'll let me."  Sounds like a plan!  if I take the ships wheel, I will definitely steer towards safe, known waters. Waters that are easily charted. That may sound like a sailors dream, but what is gained from it---practically nothing! If however I let go and allow Jesus to take the wheel, He will move out into choppy waters--seas that have never been navigated before. He will move into rough waves that might cause panic! But if I trust him, just maybe I'll come out on the other side, stronger, more mature, more usable in his kingdom work. And as hard as it is for me to admit it, only the suffering will accomplish this. The power of the resurrection is mine at any given time, it is always accessible. But the suffering end of the spectrum is different--that ship sails at different times over the course of our lifetime. I think it has to be that way--if suffering continued on and on we would faint and perish!  However each time we willingly and yes, even joyfully enter into that ship of suffering, it grows us--it deepens us--it causes us to know our ship mate Jesus better and to trust Him more. The suffering brings death to our flesh and the power of the resurrection gives victory over it! So the next time that package of suffering arrives at your door, don't hide in the corner and pretend you're not home.  Receive it as the gift it is meant to be, selected just for you. And when Jesus invites you into His ship, enter happily and trust your fellow sailor the Lord Jesus to guide you safely through.

  • The Cross

    The dictionary says that the cross is an upright post used as an instrument of death in ancient times. It is the means by which atonement was made between God and humanity. But to those of us who believe, it is so much more. The way of the cross leads home--to a heavenly home--A home not made by flesh  but a home prepared by God for those who embrace the cross and what God accomplished there. The ground around the cross is level--whosoever will may come and find grace in our time of need. The message of the cross changes us forever. It ushers us into an E ternal kingdom, where we are adopted into a family where God himself is our father and the Lord Jesus Christ is our eldest brother. There we are surrounded by brothers and sisters who have also accepted the message of the cross. Our standing is secure. We can never be disowned or disinherited. And all because of the Cross.

    Many in the world view us as morbid--focusing too much on the bloody cross. But it's just the opposite, we do not focus enough on it. The cares of this world pull our eyes away from the very thing that breaths life into us.  The world cannot understand how death can bring life. How the horrible scars that Jesus bore are beautiful to all of us, not something to run away from but something to run to and something to wholeheartedly embrace. 

    It can be hard to fully comprehend the cross, but that's OK--The disciples did not understand it either. The cross for the Lord Jesus was a place connected with shame and humiliation. It was a criminals cross--A place where He was demeaned and debased.  After we meet Him there He invites us to do something very special---He invites us to take up our own cross and follow Him. But before we obey, we should be fully aware of what is involved. The cross stands as a symbol of circumstances and events in our experience which humbles us, exposes us, and offends our pride. The cross reveals our true sin nature. When Jesus asks us to take up our cross He is asking for us to do so on a daily basis. We are to keep on taking up the cross. When things come at us each day--Big and little things--Big and little hurts--don't be offended by them. Don't avoid them or get angry or get even--but rather welcome them. They will help us crucify the flesh. This is a hard thing to be sure. So hard that the apostle John tells us that many turned  back from following the Lord Jesus at that point.

    Jesus was straightforward about what discipleship was and is about. He wants us to understand that becoming his disciple and taking up our cross will shatter us, change us, and revolutionize us to our very core. But one more thing He wants us to understand is that there is a way to bear our cross--The same way he bore His. And how is that? He looked beyond His cross and saw the joy that awaited Him. Now He has the joy of victory over death and the grave. He has the joy of knowing that he was completely obedient to his Heavenly Father. He has the joy of a glorified body and reigning forever as King of Kings and Lord of lords. And He has the joy of knowing that He has made a way for all those who will believe to come to Heaven with Him. Now He has the joy, but not before the cross. The same is true for us---the joy awaits us but first....the cross!

  • Courage

    Courage. What is it about that word that sends all kinds of emotions flowing through our veins? To each individual it mean something different and often the definition can change in an instant depending on circumstances.  Webster defines courage as the ability to do something that frightens us or strength in the face of pain or grief.

    Many struggle with fear and I put my own name at the top of the fear list. However I'm beginning to see that the only time a person can show courage is when they're afraid. Fear and courage are brothers! Many think it takes courage to do some adventurous thing, like high dive into a pool or drive a racecar at a ridiculous speed,but the truth is that sometimes it takes more courage just to live life, day after endless day.  To face what life may give at the particular moment and still choose to step forward into that day. It takes courage to keep going after you're  told you have an incurable disease, or that your dearest friend is dying or all your financial security is down the toilet.  Those things, those hard can't believe this is happening things, those are the ones that take courage. 

    Everyone is looking for the magic-The adventure, including me.  I imagine myself sitting on a beach looking out into the beautiful water and yet that's not where life happens. It takes more courage to stand up and move away from the dream and go in the opposite direction. Dreams are fantasies not realities-dreams are not life. Dreams are fluffy-they always seem to have a happy ending and they tend to make us believe that we can attain heaven on earth!  Life on the other hand can at times appear stark and even brutal.

    Which do you think needs more courage to face--The fluff or the reality? True it takes courage to step in to something new, however it takes the same courage to move out into each mundane day. The world wants us to believe that courage will help you find that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. This philosophy tends to breed discontentment and causes those of us who can't even see the rainbow, let alone the end of it, to somehow feel like failures or losers who have never experienced life. 

    After 66 years of life, I find that I have had to dig deep down within myself to pull up the courage that has been needed to carry-on. Sometimes just putting one foot in front of the other has taken more guts than running a marathon. And as someone who has lived life for a while now, I have this desire to tell the younger generation the truth! The truth that life comes in all sizes and shapes--ups and downs--ins and outs. And that courage will be needed to face each turn. Sometimes you can identify the curve ahead, while other times it will be totally unexpected. One moment you will be skydiving out of an airplane and the next moment that same plane, will come crashing down at topspeed! You will need courage to face the jump and the crash.

    So what is the answer to this perplexing problem? Well, it's been my experience to take your eyes off of the road, whether adventurous or mundane and focus them instead on the cross. And believe me that in itself takes courage! Everyone wants to walk a path of fun and adventure, but as I said before most of life doesn't happen there.  When your path takes a turn into heartache, financial loss, unexpected sickness or whatever the Lord may place along the way, that's when your courage will be put to the test.

    Can you walk this path that only a moment ago seemed so bright, but now appears dim and hard to maneuver? The only way it can be done is to stop looking at the road and start looking at Him-at Him hanging on the cross and hear Him say, " will you follow me until the end?"  Will you be afraid to say yes? Of course you will, but at that moment if you say yes, you will experience genuine courage and understand what it truly means. You'll realize that courage is less about adventure and more about moving forward toward Christ day by day until the end. And when our path leads us into his presence, our trials will be ended, our fears will vanish and we will never have to have courage again!

  • Do you dread Father's Day?

    For many of us Father's Day does not fill us with sweet memories or happy thoughts. Often the mere mention of the word father can cause our hearts to ache. No matter what our age, each one of us has a strong desire for a father that holds us close in his heart and rejoices over the fact that we are his child. But unfortunately that is not the case for everyone. On Father's Day while every one was celebrating and praising their godly fathers, my eyes looked around the church auditorium and saw many who could not join in the festivities-those who have suffered greatly, physically and emotionally at the hand of the one whom they should be able to trust the most.

    There are many things beyond my understanding and the older I get the more I realize that's OK. I don't need to understand everything and truthfully I cannot.  And most importantly I can let go of my need to know! So when certain holidays begin filling my mind with "if only" thoughts, I find I am faced with two choices- either I let God be God or I can sink into the miry clay of self pity. Looking back at the past without trusting that God was there with me, sentences me to a life of regret, remorse and bitterness.

    In my Sunday School class recently we talked about Tamar, King David's daughter. She was sexually assalted by her half brother Amnon. One of her first responses was to take her colorful robe, the one reserved for the King's daughters who were virgins, and tear it in two. Through no fault of her own, she could no longer wear it. Her brother Absolom told her to remain in his house and tell no one. So there she sat in ashes and ruin, locked out of life by abuse. I am sure she wondered if anyone would ever want her or if she would ever feel whole again.

    Many of us can identify with Tamar's pain. Probably more than we can even imagine. But healing must begin somewhere and the starting point is at the foot of the cross. Because there is One who does want us, the precious Lord Jesus Christ. Think of it, He actually desires us to be His bride. With everlasting love, mercy, and acceptance, He takes the torn virgin's robe and replaces it with a white robe of righteousness. In that very moment He begins to redeem our loss, our pain, and takes the ashes of our life and gives us beauty. Who else but the Lover of our souls could take ashes and make it beautiful? 

    Not only are we a bride, but we are adopted into a Heavenly family as well. Now we have a Father who is everything and so much more than we could have ever longed for in a dad. Loving, meriful, good, kind, forgiving-the list is endless. I especially love the part that He will never leave and that none of His tenderness toward me is conditional. He truly does love me just as I am, now and forever. 

    And because of Jesus I am brought into this precious family, full of brothers and sisters. People I can make this journey to Heaven with, people I can put my arms around and say I understand and I care. For me that makes it all worth it. My Father is restoring the years that the locust have eaten.

    Now as I look around the room, I thank the Lord for the rare opportunity to identify with such precious brothers and sisters, who like me have had painful pasts. They inspire me-they refuse to let anything hold them back from moving forward toward the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Accepting without answers is a special way of loving our Heavenly Father that not everyone has been given except those who have known this pain. 

    So on this Father's Day, I rejoice that I can look upward and bless His name, my eternal Heavenly father.

    just me,

    Jeanne

    Phil 3:13-14
    ...forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, 
     I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

  • What does the phrase "the end" mean to you?

    "The end"-these are the words we have become accustomed to seeing on the last page of a book or the last scene of a movie. Everything it seems has an end, a song, a basketball game, a church service, a life. What does the phrase "the end" mean to you? And doesn't everything that has an end also have a beginning? Somewhere there is a starting point that finds it's way to the finish line. There are times we can not wait for the end-if the preacher is going too long, if the movie is scary, if the class is boring. Other times though we don't want something to end, like a good book, a happy day, or the life of a loved one. So when it comes to "the end", we can't seem to make up our minds. 

    The Lord Jesus Christ had no beginning and He has no end and yet when He willingly came to earth He experienced both on our behalf. Human life for our Savior began in a stable and ended on a cross. There where many times throughout His earthly life when others attempted to hasten His end, but were not successful. Although we are not told perhaps our Lord was ready for it all to end and yet He knew His time had not come. Instead of longing for the end, He waited obediently for His Heavenly Father to direct His steps. 

    Let's be honest, I'm quite sure that many of us have longed for the end. When we are sick or weary or afraid, the end can appear to be the best solution. Trying to manufacture the end is never the answer. Didn't David once say,"Oh that I had the wings like a dove! For then would I fly away and be at rest." He was looking for the end. A few verses down he admits that if he could, he would hasten or hurry his escape from the windy storm and tempest. 

    I do not believe it is abnormal, wrong or unspiritual to long for the end. We Christians know where the end is leading. Paul says it best, "To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord."

    But while we are still here on planet Earth, we cannot dictate the end. Christ is our example and all the saints who have gone before us. Whatever the circumstance they found themselves in they trusted their Heavenly Father to light their path and they learned to leave the end up to Him. That way they could move through each day accepting His grace moment by moment. It kept their focus where all our focus needs to be, and that is on Him and off of searching for the end.

    When the Lord Jesus went to the cross, He suffered unthinkable, unimaginable agony and yet the end came. He cried, It is finished" and then He willingly died. The pain and torture ended and what remained was our redemption. He was obedient unto death and Hebrews tells us that He endured the cross by looking not at the end but rather at the joy that would come from it all.

    You and i can walk through each trial with hope and victory as our eyes are fixed on Him and not our desire for the end. Our peace amid the storms of life only comes when we stop resisting and fighting, searching for the end and release it into His able hands. 

    Just like Satan wanted everyone to think, that the cross was the end of Jesus, he wants us to believe that what we are being called upon to carry will be our end as well. But the truth is that the cross was not the end, it was the beginning. The end we search for is the end of the trial, the end of the hurt, the end of the heartache but Jesus is saying, if you are looking for an end, let it be an end to self. And when you and I come to the end of ourselves, that is our beginning as well.

    When I find myself looking for the end I find comfort in these words, "Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world," and also, "I am the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end."

    So whatever we may be facing, let us hide ourselves in Him-He is our end.

    just me,

    Jeanne

  • Who's afraid of the big bad wolf

    Remember the three little pigs singing so merrily, "Who's afraid of the big bad wolf?" Well if I were answering that question I would have to say-me, that's who. Fear can wear many faces, but truthfully it's the most formidable giant I do battle with. When David went out to fight Goliath he was prepared to take on the giant's siblings as well. Well when fear comes to my door he brings along two of his brothers, worry and control, to help him divide and conquer. Although it is true that most of my fears tend to be unwarrented, at the time they certainly seem real. Now I'm just like the rest of you, I love to announce to all that I have come a long way in this area, but the distance between where I am and where I should be is what I believe they call a blind spot. I am blind to it, however others are not. This results in them not being overly impressed with my progress mostly because they know that God has so much more for me. 

    There are so many layers to fear. It begins with a thought. For me it is usually a "what if" worry thought. You know-what if something happens to my loved ones-what if my health gets worse-what if there is trouble in the church. The list is endless, you fill in the blank. If I do not take the "what if" thought captive, then big brother fear comes in to help worry out. This is when I lose my focus for today, fearing about what might happen tomorrow. And it's not just my focus that is gone, but my joy is lost as well. It's as if a huge vacuum cleaner comes in and just sucks the life right out of the here and now. 

    Worry is something going on in my mind, but fear makes me want to step up and do something. From my vantage point this is never a good idea! Now big brother control comes calling. If I do not turn my fear over to Jesus, I begin to try and manage it-it and everyone else around me. Now for those of us who struggle in this fear area, it may seem easy to hide the control from our friends and family, but we know and it is not a pleasant "knowing." 

    Looking at worry's progression, we all understand that the end result can move us into a dangerous place. So how are we to defeat such a huge giant? Well certainly not in the energy of the flesh. There is no human strength powerful enough to fight such a foe, but we have Jesus Christ in us, the hope of glory and there is no one who can stand against Him.

    We gain the needed strength to face the fear giant through the truth of God's Word, our sword. The particular formula is found in Paul's writtings on our thoughts in Philippians 4:8. In one short paragraph we are given an exact list of things we should be thinking about and at the top of that list is truth. Paul is telling us to make sure our thoughts belong to the nature of reality. God wants me to function according to the truth, not my feelings or fantasies. When I do not stop the "what if" worry thought, I give that one tiny thought permission to grow into all kinds of fear-generating questions about the future. And I don't know about you, but for me that process moves at lightening speed.

    Here is the heart of the matter. Paul said to think about things that are true-right? Therefore I must acknowledge that all these so-called future events that my "what if" fears can produce are not real, only guesses at best. No wonder Jesus said in Matthew 6:34 not to think about tomorrow, in fact He said NO, not even one thought should be given to tomorrow. How kind He is to put a time limit on what I can handle in a day-24 hours. We have today-that is true-that is real.

    We do not reach back, we do not reach forward, but rather we deal with what has been given today. That is real, that is true, and that is where our thoughts should camp.

    So when the "what if" worry thoughts come again, and they will, I have two choices. Behind door #1 is worry and his brothers fear and control and behind door #2 is Jesus with truth and peace. As my husband would say, "that's a no-brainer."

    just me,

    Jeanne

  • be still...

    Have you ever had anyone look at you and say, “be still!”  It's more than just “be quiet” and more than just “please keep your mouth shut.”  It’s like someone is saying, stop fidgeting, stop worrying, stop wringing your hands, just stop. I suppose a person much younger than myself might say, chill out! Needless to say not everyone is in the “chill out” category of temperaments. Some of us are high strung and bringing it down a notch or two can prove to be an extremely difficult task. That may be the case in this world, but we are not of this world and learning the process of being still is much easier then we all might think.

     Let's look together at Psalm 46:10; “be still and know that I am God.” And David says that after telling us in the beginning verses of Psalms 46 that even if the earth is removed, the mountains melt into the deepest sea, and a flood arises with all its destruction, his choice is to be still. How is that even remotely possible? With that list of devastation, my problems pale in comparison. Truthfully though, there have been times when I have felt as if the very earth beneath my feet was being removed.  What to do? What to do? The answer is found in Psalms 46:10, not just for David, but for all of us. Amidst all the circumstances we find we are facing, a still, small voice says,” be still.” This gentle command means so much more then be quiet and don't speak. It means to cease striving, stop fighting, and let go.  How does that work?

     Say perhaps we are called upon to face a situation we never expected- a health issue, a financial problem, a relationship that begins falling apart. These things can cause us to feel as though flood like waves are overtaking us and throwing us off balance. Our natural instinct is to fight for control, to steady the boat. We might give all the outward appearances that we are peacefully trusting the Lord and yet our spirit is striving with God and is anything but peaceful.

    We can perhaps fool those around us, but our Heavenly Father- not so much. He loves us so greatly that he wants us to experience genuine peace, not the kind that we all too often manufacture. That is why He challenges us to “be still.” David understood this command so much better than us. He knew that the phrase “be still” meant literally to relax his grip and let go. He also knew that if he failed to obey he would begin trying to do damage control and manipulate the circumstances. In so doing, he would miss the most important part of the situation and that is- deepening his relationship with his Heavenly Father and growing his faith.

     The Lord is not taken by surprise by melting mountains, rising flood waters and shifting sands. In fact, He whispers in our hearts that we are exactly where He wants us to be. The outward problems are no problem to Him. What can prove to be the problem though is if we, out of fear, begin to hang on in every possible way trying to make things better-better that is in our way of thinking. The Holy Spirit tells us to loosen our grip and sometimes it's as if He is gently prying our fingers lose one at a time.  And although this may hurt, the Lord knows it is the only path to real peace and freedom. All of us must come to that point when we realize that none of our own efforts can bring security or advancement. When our world is seemingly crumbling around us, the call from Scripture is-DO NOT FLINCH IN FAITH IN GOD. 

     We do not relax our tight grip because of self- made confidence nor because we consider ourselves to be one of the most composed people in the face of disaster. But rather we obey the command to “be still” because of what we know about God. But can’t we all agree that we don’t just want to know about God,  we want to know Him. That is exactly what happens, when we relax our grip and let go.

    Some might say that our faith is like a leap in the dark and perhaps it may seem that way. But as we let go and leap we KNOW that God, our Heavenly Father, holds us up and holds us close in His everlasting arms of love. So let’s “be still,” and when we do we will know Him in ways we have always longed to and yet never thought possible.

    Just me,

    Jeanne 

  • cause me to hear

     

    There have been many times throughout my Christian life, when I have clung to one particular verse of Scripture. I am right in the middle of one of those times. Wait a minute, did I just say middle? I like to think that I am at the ¾ of the way mark, but I know that is completely in my Heavenly Father’s hands. I find that no matter how many vitamins I take, no matter how much health food I might eat, no matter how many positive thought I might think, no matter how many prayers I might pray, it is, was, and always will be in the Lord’s hands. I am not saying that we shouldn’t pray, take care of ourselves and think about the thoughts Paul told us to in Philippians 4:8. However for me there comes a point in each one of my trials that I know I must stop trying and start trusting. I would like to say that I have grown enough spiritually that this point comes at the very beginning but I am not going to lie, not to myself or to you or most importantly to God.

    I believe that it is part of our human nature to fight for our health and for our life. But I also know that because of Jesus I have been given a new nature-one with spiritual eyes and spiritual ears. These certainly come in handy when attempting to walk through various trials. Do I always make use of these valuable assets? Once again I will tell you the truth-no. Why you might ask? For me there are many reasons, but the main one is that it takes effort on my part and I can tend to be lazy.

    Now I come to the verse that God gave me during this time. It is Psalm 143:8, especially the first part, “Cause me to hear your loving-kindness in the morning.” These words jumped off the page and began to take root in my heart. So much so that I wrote them on the big black board that hangs on the wall of my kitchen. I have repeated and meditated on this over and over again “cause me to hear.” Why not “cause me to see?” It seems to me that seeing would be easier that hearing. Perhaps that comes from a person who loves to talk and has to work at being quiet. But instead the Holy Spirit said “cause me to hear.” One paragraph back I admitted my laziness. Let me explain, I can hear, but all too often I am listening with my human ears. I want to listen for my phone to ring signifying a call from a friend, I want to hear the sound of my children’s voices and the sweet hello from my husband-these comfort me. They are easy for me to hear. But I realize in this very fragile life that these voices can be silenced. And yet there is one voice that keeps calling to me. I truly want to hear that voice above all others, but it requires fine tuning my spiritual ears and that means discipline.

    On my own I am not apt to do that and so my Heavenly Father gives me “cause.” You know most other translations say “let me hear”, but for me personally, I prefer “cause me to hear.” Something comes along totally unexpected to me and yet in His perfect will and causes me to desire His voice above everything and everyone. How greatly He loves me to send these special times to stir that cause up in me again.

    His voice is still and gentle and full of loving kindness. It is more than kind, more than loving. It is persistent and unconditional tenderness-a love that will not let me go. There is no sarcasm or harshness in His tone. He is not angry with me because I have let the cares of this world keep me from hearing Him. He even understands my own struggle in trying to make sense of the circumstances I find myself in and does not condemn me for my lack of faith.

    Hearing His loving kindness each morning is personal and directed toward my heart alone. The same is true for each one of His children. His words are for your heart and for your spiritual ears alone. Whatever you may be facing right now, join the cause with me and hear His loving kindness each morning.

  • Better than Graeter's Double Chocolate Chip ice cream

    Just hearing the word comfort has a way of easing pain and relieving stress caused by that pain. Comfort comes in many forms. Babies love their pacifiers and fuzzy blankets, older children get attached to stuffed animals, an old pair of sweat pants and a baggy tee-shirt make some of us happy and of course there is always and forever COMFORT FOOD! What’s your favorite? Ice cream, chili cheese fries, chocolate, mashed potatoes, double stuffed Oreos- the list is endless. Anyway, you get the picture. Somehow, someway, these things manage to give us comfort. They soothe us in distress or sorrow, which is exactly what comfort is supposed to do. There is a tiny problem though-all these things mentioned above are exactly that-they are things and things cannot genuinely comfort. They may make us feel good for a while, but it is fleeting. When the sorrows are huge and the stress is mounting, there aren’t enough Hershey bars on the planet to make it better.

    As much as I love Graeter’s Double Chocolate Chip ice cream, in all honesty there is something even better. When my heart is overwhelmed to the point of breaking, nothing comforts like the touch of a loved one or a special friend. To have someone come along beside me and let me know they care and understand. They don’t need to speak a word, just their presence is enough. Part of the many components of comfort is to give hope and to make one strong. When someone reaches out to us in a spirit of caring that is exactly what happens-suddenly we feel stronger and we have hope for a better tomorrow.

    But even here there is a catch. We must never become to dependant on that human touch. As a dear friend reminded me this past week, the arm of flesh will fail us and that includes all flesh not just our own.

    The Lord Jesus knew that. Knowing each one of us so very well and loving us so very much, He solved that problem for us. With His death fast approaching and His return to Heaven imminent, He completely understood what His disciples would soon be facing-an unbearable sorrow and overwhelming heartbreak. He began preparing them for a life where they would not see Him any longer-where they would no longer walk beside Him and be able to reach out and touch Him. I love His tenderness with them, meeting their needs before they even knew what those needs were. In John 14:16-18, Jesus tells them about the Comforter who would come and live with them forever. He assures them that although it seems as if He is gone, He would not leave them as orphans but that He would come to them. Now I’m not sure that His followers understood everything He said to them that day. Isn’t that a part of what faith is? Not understanding everything and yet believing anyway. They saw Him die, they rejoiced in His Resurrection, and heard Him say as He returned to Heaven, “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the world.”

    How they must have missed Him-missed everything about Him. All of them gathered together in that upper room-each one with their own thoughts and emotions and then suddenly the room was filled with His presence. They could not see him visibly but He was there-His spirit filled them. I believe they remembered then how He had told them that the Comforter would come and that they would never be alone again.

    It is true that His Spirit dwelt inside of them, empowering them, giving them direction and guiding them. But I also know that His Spirit gave them something more. He gave them comfort-coming along beside them to make them strong-to give them hope-to speak words of love and understanding to them. And then they knew-they knew that nothing could ever separate them from Him again-NOT EVER.

    You and I as His followers have the same amazing gift and blessing; the constant abiding of His Spirit living in us forever. Just like His disciples, the Holy Spirit empowers us, gives us direction and guides us AND He gives us comfort. This is the comfort that never fails, that is constantly available and brings with it a hope that is irresistible.

    As we walk through this life on our way to our eternal life, we will meet with many difficulties and even heartaches. It is then that we must let the Holy Spirit do His greatest work in our wounded hearts-and that is comfort us. Listen to His words of comfort, rest in His arms of comfort and know that nothing can ever separate us from Him-NOT EVER.   

     

  • Martha, my hero

    This past week I've been thinking a great deal about Martha, the sister of Mary and Lazarus. I often find myself wanting to come to her defense. Why, you ask? Maybe it's because I think she is misjudged or possibly the reason stems from the fact that I so identify with her. She was a server on steriods for sure, but who can say, except Jesus, what exactly was in her heart?

    We find her in Luke 10:38-42 rushing about the kitchen, preparing a meal for the Lord Jesus and His disciples. She is a doer and getting the job done was her priority. Unfortunately, like many of us with the "do instinct", Martha became frustrated in her serving. I do not believe her irritation grew from the work at hand, but rather from her view into the living room. From where she was preparing the meal, she could clearly see her sister Mary, sitting quietly at the feet of Jesus. Martha was frustrated with her sister, but that did not mean she did not love her. Like all of us "Marthas" the growing irritability stemmed more from the circumstances, not necessarily from the people involved. When that happens we tend to take the frustration out on the Lord. After all can't He change any circumstance? Well it seems that is what Martha thought because she didn't go have words with Mary-instead she voiced her complaint to Jesus. And what exactly did she say? "Lord don't you care?" Now here is when everyone starts judging Martha, but why exactly do we? Think about it for a minute-all of us have found ourselves in circumstances that seem unfair and just like Martha, our hearts cry out "Lord, don't you care?"

    Jesus' answer is pointed, yet tender and it speaks to all of us. His words convict-they do not condemn. The Lord repeated her name, indicating His gentleness with her. He understood Martha, far better than any theologian or author who has tried to write about her down through the ages. Jesus knew that Martha's spiritual gift of serving was greatly needed, it just had to have balance. She, like all of us, got caught up in secondary matters while Mary had chosen the important over the urgent. Now before any of you go elevating Mary to sainthood, let's understand that Mary also had her faults. Her gifts and talents were also capable of getting out of balance and tipping the scale toward wrong priorities.

    Yes Martha had a lesson to learn-the first being that Jesus did care! He demonstrated just how much by taking his time to give her instruction coupled with understanding. Plainly speaking, I believe Martha learned her lesson.

    The next time we meet up with Martha is in John chapter 11. Lazarus is dying and both sisters agree to send for Jesus. We all know the story, by the time Jesus arrived Lazarus had died and been burried. Apparently Martha was the first one to see Jesus-and here was her choice-go tidy things up, put the soup on to simmer, or choose that good part that would not be taken away from her. She made her decision and according to John 11:20 Martha headed straight to Jesus. Once again her statement is direct, but Jesus rewards her right priorities by telling her something profound. When Martha assures the Lord that she believes that Lazarus will rise at the Resurrection, He looks directly at her and says, "I am the Resurrection and the life; he that believes in me, though he may die, yet shall he live: and whosoever lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?" Wouldn't you have loved to be standing in Martha's sandals at that very moment? To be able to look into his eyes and say, "Yes Lord I believe you are the Christ, the Son of God." Martha was the first to hear His words-words that still brings tears to a Christians eyes-words that bring hope and courage even in the face of death. How like the Lord Jesus to let Martha hear this amazing truth first.

    Yes, Martha had her struggles, but she also had a teachable spirit. Throughout the remaining years of her life, I'm sure she dealt with mixed up priorities and frustrations with her gift of serving. Perhaps there were even times when she wondered once again, "Lord don't you care?" But remember what I said in the beginning, Jesus knew what was in this womans heart. In the end her final answer would be-"Lord, I believe you are the Christ, the Son of God."

    Although I do identify with Martha in many ways, I must admit that I would like to be more like her. I realize once again why I admire her so much. It isn't her serving, but rather her transparency and honesty. She would not hide from Jesus what He already knew. Her questions were genuine and sincere and the answers she received came from her Savior who knew her and loved her and accepted her for exactly who she was.

    just me,

    Jeanne

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