A Friend in Jesus

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I sat down at the piano recently.  It doesn’t happen very often nowadays, other than to give one of my girls a piano lesson.  This day was different, though.  There are a few songs that I always seem to gravitate towards when I do take the time to tickle the ivories.  Most of them are found in my favorite red hymnal.  The binding is broken, the pages are worn, and the name on the outside cover is one I haven’t used for more than nine years; but that hymnal is precious to me.

I can find certain songs very quickly.  Number 320 is “In the Garden.”  Grace and Hope joined me as soon as they heard the familiar melody.  It’s a favorite of theirs, as well.  Just a couple pages back is “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.”  Number 317.  I think it’s one of the first hymns I ever learned to play.

I wish we would pay attention to the words of these hymns.  Perhaps Christians would feel less distress and animosity in this uncertain world if they took to heart some of the wisdom found in the pages of that little red hymnal.

Politics.  Controversies.  Self-righteousness.  It can all become infuriating.  Snide remarks.  Harsh words.  We’ve complicated our world with so much garbage, it’s hard to weed through it all.  That’s why I need to step back and really internalize the Truth.

“O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear, All because we do not carry Everything to God in prayer!”

Whatever is going on around you, take a moment and stop.  Realize that if Jesus is your friend, the deafening noise of this world doesn’t have to monopolize your day.  You don’t need to feel that heart-pounding anxiety.  Those burdens that are not yours to carry can fall by the wayside.  The guilt and frustrations of the past don’t need to consume your present reality.  You don’t need to waste your time wringing your hands in despair.

John 15:15 reminds us:  “Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth:  but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.”

Peace is possible.  Not in this world.  God’s Word is clear that true peace is impossible on this sinful planet.  There will always be wars and conflicts; disputes and disagreements.  But peace is possible in your heart and in mine.  Don’t minimize that.

My suggestion for today is simple.  Get on your knees and take your burdens to the foot of the cross.  I know He can handle whatever you send His way.  He hung the stars and the planets.  He certainly can restore broken relationships and provide hope for the hurting.  It’s not a magic formula; it’s a simple relationship with a magnificent God.

I have a friend in Jesus.  You can, too.

A Simple Solution

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It was approaching 8am.  I was seated in front of my make-up mirror when my 4 year old approached to show me a black spot on her leg.  I quickly ushered her into the bathroom, turned on my iPhone’s flashlight, and inspected the area more closely.  I was shocked to find a tick had begun to burrow into her flesh, leaving a swath of redness in its wake.  It was late October and cold!  How did she get a tick inside her pajamas while she slept at night?!

Having little experience with proper tick removal, I soon had all the kids loaded in the van after making a couple of quick phone calls.  We made it to the pediatrician in time for their walk-in hours.  I didn’t know if it was ridiculous for me to bring her, but I wanted to be sure the tick’s removal was done properly.

Soon after the pediatrician entered the room, he asked to see the culprit.  He immediately grabbed the dreaded insect with his bare hands and yanked it out.  We watched its legs wiggle as the doctor then proclaimed that the tick would need to learn how to swim.  He left the room with the little bug, and soon we heard the toilet flush.

When the doctor returned, he proclaimed that it really is that easy to remove a tick.  I had no idea.  With so many scary stories floating around and many methods available from Google at the click of a mouse, it didn’t seem possible that was all there was to it.  We didn’t need any special equipment.  We didn’t need to freeze the specimen for future reference.  No, the solution was quite simple.

The next day, I was struck with how the tick incident resembles salvation.  In Acts, Paul and Silas were imprisoned.  After the doors were miraculously opened, the jailer asked the men, “‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’  They said, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved,'” (Acts 16:30b-31a).

It really is that easy, yet many have no idea.  Some people try to add to the simplicity.  It just doesn’t seem possible that is all there is to it, so they tack on a list of others things for good measure.  But, that is not what the Bible teaches.  In a world with so many options and multi-step processes, salvation seems so simplified, and not overly complicated — because that’s what it is.  I’m pretty sure my coffee order from Dunkin’ Donuts is more complicated!

I am all for taking the easy way out.  In the case of your eternal destiny, the solution is quite simple!

Give Me a Break!

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Busy.  Crazy.  No time to breathe.  There is an apparent badge of honor we give ourselves for maintaining such an existence.  We smile and pat ourselves on the back for having such a full schedule, yet we inwardly cringe at how we truly feel.

Productivity.  Accomplishments.  Tasks checked off.  Our culture is obsessed with getting things done.  We feel less than and grossly inferior if we haven’t achieved as much as . . . whoever.  How dare we take a break!  How could we think of feeling like we could sit back and relax for an . . . hour?  Won’t that be considered lazy?

It’s easy to fall into the trap.  It’s easy to think we are the sum total of our accomplishments or lack thereof.  It’s a lie that Satan himself enjoys spreading around.  The devil wants us running around in circles and so worn out that we have no time to rest in our Savior.  And if we do have the time?  Satan pours on the guilt that we should be doing something else and going, going, going, until we really are just gone.

That is no way to live!  God doesn’t want His children living miserable lives.  I know that I enjoy seeing my kids happy.  I relish the giggles and joyous moments.  While there are certainly times for school and work around the house, it’s nice to just see their childlike frivolity and watch them play.  Our Father, likewise, lavishes us with so many good things to enjoy.  If we’re so busy being busy, we don’t allow ourselves the joy of receiving His many blessings.

It’s okay to put aside all cares for the evening and cuddle up on the couch with your spouse for a movie.  You’re not being lazy if you curl up with a blanket, a cup of coffee, and a good book.  You don’t have to commit to every opportunity that comes your way.  You’re not a failure if you say no.  It’s okay to stay home and give yourself a little breathing room.

In Matthew 11:28, Jesus said, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.”  How can we refuse such an offer?

I’ve tried the other way — the crazy way.  It’s easy to overcommit and overextend.  Now, I’m working on a better way — and it’s much more peaceful and pleasant.  Less stress.  Less chaos.  More happiness.  Is there really a choice?

 

Lessons from a Water Tower

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Bangor has a standpipe (really a water tower) that is open to the public four times a year.  I finally decided after living in the area for more than three years, that it was time to visit the landmark and check out the views.  So, on a recent Wednesday evening, we loaded up the van and drove into town.  After making the trek up the many stairs, we finally reached the top of the standpipe to behold the views below.  Jeff pointed out various landmarks as we looked in each direction.  There’s the mall, there’s Mount Katahdin, there somewhere to the north in that vast expanse of trees is where we live.  After enjoying the view for a few moments, we descended the stairs.  At the bottom, my attention was drawn to a slight disturbance.  Two men were insisting that the woman they were accompanying needed to carry her water bottle with her, due to the fact that she had asthma.  I couldn’t help but smile.  As a nurse and as a mother of children with asthma, I knew that water would probably feel refreshing but it certainly wouldn’t help her aeration.  Instead, she should carry an inhaler with her or not even attempt the climb.  The scene caused me to ponder the excuses I might make.  To the untrained ear, it might sound reasonable to allow the woman an exception to the rule.  But who are we really trying to fool?

I can’t possibly wake up early to read my Bible today.  I was awake half the night between one child wetting the bed, someone else throwing up, and the littlest one crawling into my bed and jamming his elbow into my ribs.

I really don’t understand her.  She is always sharing those controversial posts on facebook.  Maybe I’ll write a convicting Bible verse.  I hope she reads it and gets the hint.

I can’t take the time to play a game with the kids.  After all, I have meals to prepare, lessons to plan, and don’t forget that online course I signed up for about simplifying my life.  Once I get things organized, I’ll have some free time.

Do any of these excuses sound as painfully true to you as they do to me?

We get so caught up in the things that don’t really matter, and then we find ways to rationalize our answers.  In truth, I’m guessing our pathetic explanations sound just as ridiculous as the woman with the water bottle.  We somehow think our reasons are valid, but we forget to go back to the basics.  Jesus said it best in Matthew 22: 37-39 when He instructed the Pharisees on what was really important.  Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”  

The night that we visited the standpipe, I was really annoyed.  No, I’m not perfect and most of what I write is spoken loud and clear to myself.  While the views were pleasant, the experience wasn’t outstanding.  To be honest, I could take it or leave it.  But my perspective changed that evening when I put my son to bed.  He pointed at his carefully folded standpipe brochure and in his toddler talk said, “Mommy, me want you to pray about this.”

“You want me to pray about the water tower?”  I asked incredulously.  After he readily smiled and nodded, I began.  “Lord, thank-you for providing water in the water tower.  And thank-you for the people who work there.”  I continued to expound until I figured I had covered every possible aspect.  Satisfied, I ended with “amen” and was anxious to finish the bedtime routine.

“No, no, no,”  Micah interrupted.  “Thank-you that we WALKED up the water tower and SAW the water.”

That precious little boy could care less that the house was a mess because we took the time to visit the standpipe.  It didn’t matter that the grocery list wasn’t made.  He was thrilled to experience something new and exciting with the people he loves.  He THANKED GOD for that!

Why do we complicate life?  Why do we make excuses for how we behave?  Why don’t we always treat others with the love of Jesus?  The solution is simple:  love God and love others.  Remember that, and I have a feeling our priorities will change.  Forget it, and you can continue to live your life in chaos and unrest.  I choose peace.  No more excuses.  There’s no fooling God.  He knows my heart, just like He knows yours.  Choose Him and don’t worry about the rest.  Your life will never be the same.

What Are We Waiting For?

IMG_0622It’s been a while since I’ve blogged.  In fact, we’ve both been quite sporadic lately.  It’s not that it hasn’t been on my mind.  In fact, quite the opposite is true.  I keep thinking that I really should just write a blog.  I’ve even written the task in my planner with a little box next to it ready to check when completed.  However, that tiny square remains empty time and time again.  Another week would pass without my fingers flying across the keyboard as words and sentences form on the screen.

I enjoy writing, and I am grateful for the opportunity to serve God and encourage others, so it doesn’t seem like it should be too difficult to find a few moments to do something that I enjoy doing; yet, it kept getting put off.  I’ve known plenty of procrastinators, but did not consider myself one of them.  In fact, our mother taught us the importance of getting things done early and not waiting until the last minute.  I can’t remember ever being late for anything when we were younger but always being one of the first to arrive, allowing extra time for unexpected delays.

Usually, people procrastinate unpleasant tasks.  Rather than get them done and out of the way, they wait to accomplish them, thereby delaying the inevitable.  Meanwhile, that unwelcome duty always seems to lurk in the back of the mind, nagging and haunting until it is completed.  For example, I delayed doing our taxes a bit longer this year, knowing it takes some time and is just kind of a nuisance to do.  It felt really good to get it done, though!  I could have enjoyed the satisfaction of a job done much sooner if I had simply sat down and accomplished it, rather than delay the inevitable.

Where, exactly, am I going with all this?  What really matters when we do what we need to do?  Actually, quite a bit.  When I receive bills in the mail, I must be rather prompt in paying them or risk services being disconnected and my vehicle hauled away.  Many things have a time limit.

And for all of us, time is running out.

Each day brings us closer to our final day on earth and our first day in eternity.  Maybe that is not something you often think about or even want to think about, but it is something we all really need to think about.  The destination of our soul depends on it.

In our fast-paced culture, we often don’t even allow ourselves to relax for fear of appearing lazy.  We, in essence, procrastinate rest.  In these cases, we delay something that is good and necessary for our health and well-being.

If you delay accepting Jesus into your heart, you are delaying the best, most exciting thing to ever happen to you.  If you procrastinate following His will for your life as a Christian, you are selling yourself short.

“Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2b).

It is time for all of us to stop putting things off.  There is no time like the present to fall on your knees and commit or recommit your life to the Savior and wholeheartedly seek His best for each moment of your days.

What are we waiting for?  There’s no time like the present!

 

 

 

 

Open Your Hands!

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On the first day of December, around five o’clock in the evening, in the midst of dinner preparations and the chaos which inevitably entails, my three-year-old reached out toward a hot stove burner.  As soon as I saw his little hand move in the direction of danger, I screamed and reached out to him.  But I was a second too late.  He had already touched the scalding surface.  I immediately rushed into Nurse Mommy mode.  This certainly wasn’t my first go-around with a burn.

After weeks of bandaging in order to protect against infection and promote good wound healing, it was time to remove the thick wraps and replace them with band-aids.  Almost immediately, I realized that something wasn’t quite right.  My active little boy kept his left hand balled up as a protection mechanism.  The fingers looked wonderful, but he didn’t want to endure any more pain on those sensitive fingertips.  Instead of enjoying full function of that hand, he chose to adapt and close himself off from further injury.

Let me rephrase that in a way that applies to me, and perhaps to you, as well.  Instead of enjoying full function in my life, I often chose to adapt and close myself off from further injury.  This world can be cruel, making it easy to rationalize a hermit mentality.  Maybe you’re sick of your own words being used against you.  Perhaps you are tired of being disappointed again and again by others — especially other Christians.  Maybe you’re fed up with society as a whole.  Isn’t it easier to just close yourself off?  Isn’t that safest?

God doesn’t call us to that kind of life.

As I was pondering this, I kept telling myself that I don’t want to open my hands up to others.  I’m too much of an introvert, and I’m too tired of the hurt that inevitably ensues.  However, a still small voice whispered to me that I don’t have to open myself up to others — I just have to open myself up to Him, and He will take care of the rest.  While other errant human beings like myself are bound to cause disappointments, my Heavenly Father is guaranteed NEVER to disappoint.  He always has my best interests in mind.  He will never ask me to endure a pain that He cannot heal.  He will never leave me standing next to a hot stove without His Hand there guiding me.  I just need to open myself to HIM and HIS leading.  I need to trust him.

My son needed to trust me when I kept reminding him to open his hands, because I really did know what was best.  He was afraid of getting hurt again.  But my nursing background told me a different story.  I saw his hands contracting and I knew that a far worse damage would inevitably occur if he continued to ball up his fingers.  It had already started.  Blisters were forming and his skin was painfully raw on the outside of his hands.  His efforts to protect himself were actually causing more harm.

You can trust your Father.  He sees the hurt that you are causing when you don’t open yourself up to His Will.  Trust Him today to guide you in the relationships He chooses.  Yes, you may feel hurt from others.  But you will never feel hurt from Him.

“Look to the rock from which you were hewn and to the quarry from which you were dug.”  Isaiah 51:1

Looking Beyond

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“Aren’t these sheets beautiful?” my daughter asked wistfully as I helped change her bed.

“I think they’re ugly,” I snapped back.  It had been a long day, a hard week, a difficult season.

Despite my uncalled-for and rude reply, Hope persisted.  “But the roses are so pretty.”

With that, my tears began to fall.  The hardening on my heart started to crack as I realized what had happened.  For years, I saw these sheets as ugly, and I never understood why my children wanted them on their beds.  I couldn’t get past the putrid greenish-brown background, but they saw the roses.  I saw the ordinary.  They saw the extraordinary.  In that moment, I saw those sheets in a completely new light.  My prayer this week is that you can see Christmas in a new light.

You see, most of us are very familiar with the story of Christ’s birth.  For many of us, it is more than just a story.  It’s not just another feel-good legend.  It’s truth.  It’s what gives us hope.  But why?

I was searching for the right words to explain this when I overheard Grace talking to her little brother.  He’s become obsessed with Baby Jesus this year, and he was searching for the child in the manger.  Then I heard my 7 year old sweetly say, “Baby Jesus isn’t here.  He’s gone to heaven to prepare a home for you.”  My own tears are coming as I write this.  You see, I’m not often the sweet, insightful, spirit-filled person you see on these pages.  I’m selfish, and hateful, and short-tempered.  I speak harshly and lose my patience.  But, my Jesus is preparing a home for me — all because I have made room in my heart for Him — my Sacrificial Lamb.

These aren’t just words.  This is my life.  This is the reason I can go on when I fail every day.  This is the reason the disappointments and struggles don’t really matter — because the Baby in the manger didn’t stay in that manger.

My children love to memorize Bible verses.  These verses sustain me every day, and my prayer is that they will also sustain them as they memorize and internalize them.  The other day, they learned Isaiah 9:6.  I love hearing these words over and over because they paint the picture of an amazing King — my amazing King.  My words to describe my Savior would pale in comparison to the prophet Isaiah’s.  “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given:  and the government shall be upon his shoulder:  and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”

Look beyond the ordinary today to see the extraordinary.  And if you haven’t made it real in your life — if you can’t yet call Him your King — there’s no better time than the season of His birth.