Posts Tagged With: family

Pew… that stinks!

All parents would like their adult children to come to church. If the adult children decide to join the parents in their home church, it’s even better.

One warm spring day my adult son and his family phoned to say they would be meeting us at church for the early service. My adult daughter and her family were also committed to sit with us. “Mom, could you save us seats?” came the request through the phone line. “The baby needs to nurse, and we aren’t quite dressed but we will be there soon!”

“Of course, we will save you some seats!” Okay, maybe a lot of seats since this meant 10 people counting the babies would sit together. When we got to the service our usual pew was waiting for us, so we threw down some sweaters, Bibles and programs to save space for our family to worship together. All this seemed good until the minutes began to tick away with no sign of kids.

Skunk Goes to Church – Sits in Own Pew by Gary Peterson

An older lady who used a walker came in the sanctuary with her faithful daughter guiding her down the aisle. She tried to take a seat at the end of the pew we had saved. Her daughter noticed we had littered the pew with materials, gave me a scolding look and moved up one pew. I knew it was her usual seat but my family was coming. It was difficult to concentrate on the service when the realization that my children weren’t going to show up began to sink in. We had scrambled to get the seats reserved, and another member had been booted from her usual place for nothing! I felt horrible for her and asked God to grant her peace. I thought, “She is quite old and obviously is in love with the Lord. My son and his wife do not yet know the Lord. The seats were being saved for the unsaved. Surely she would understand?”

I just happened to know the woman and knew she had failing health. Her daughter was visibly disgusted with us, especially when the seats were never occupied. It was an unfortunate situation, not easily corrected. We certainly felt unfriended that day, but I did not hold the animosity shown to our family against the feeble woman. I didn’t try to make her understand, I just prayed for her.

God took the woman home within a few weeks of that event. When I heard of her passing, I immediately thought, “Wow, God has just given her a front row seat!” I thanked the Lord for her life and her service to Him. I was not harboring anything against her or her daughter but wondered if they had held us hostage for interfering with their seating assignments. I know this seems like such a small thing, but people really get offended easily when things don’t go their way or they don’t get what they believe they deserve. It’s a great picture of what we do as a church family without meaning to.

I cannot go to the dead woman to ask her forgiveness, but I can release her and her daughter from any wrongdoing. It was my decision whether or not I was going to hang on to that offense or not. I decided to let it go. I decided to forgive and forget – forever.

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Dark Days

We had no reason to expect the same scenario with this new baby. It came completely unexpected. The news that our newest granddaughter was gravely ill, just like her brother had been when he was born, caught me unaware and feeling like an unsuspecting wave was sweeping me out to sea. I was overcome with grief for this family, for their aching hearts and for mine.

I began to question God. Why had He allowed this to happen again?  We prayed on our knees that this baby would be born without incident and we would welcome her into the world with the usual hoopla that most babies are delivered with.  We would all hold, snuggle, and grin stupidly at her as we passed her from one to another wondering who she looked like.

As those hopes and dreams began to evaporate into thin air on that unusually brisk day in the early fall the harsh reality began to sink in. Again! We are going to do this all again!  Really, God?!?!

The suffering was so great, the grief so intense, as we watched this beautiful girl restrained with padding across her chest, headphones to keep out the noise, no touching, stroking or holding. The incubator was completely enclosed with a quilt over the top to add even more darkness.  All the lights were off with a big SHHHHH! Sign on the door. Her mother sat quietly by her side day after day while the ventilator/oscillator filled those tiny lungs with air.  More medicines than I can even recount pumped into her pic line, which had to be surgically inserted.  She was also sporting a thick elastic shoulder brace to protect a broken clavicle and a feeding tube in her belly button. Tubes and tape prevented us from seeing her face for more than 10 days!

Those days were dark days for her and for us.  We watched in disbelief as this little flower from God was kept alive with machines, equipment and medicines.  All of a sudden God didn’t feel so good.  He didn’t feel so loving and kind. All of the sudden I felt abandoned, lonely and disappointed. His Word no longer comforted me.  Let the suffering begin!

When God begins to squeeze us with circumstances in our lives, He is proving us, testing us, to see if we will trust Him in the dark valleys of life.  At those times we begin to see ourselves more clearly.  Our faith is on the front burner now. It is here where we begin to see the pressure of our current situation expose our weakness. Dark days indeed, for more than one reason!

As God burned off the unbelief, weak faith and skeptic that had taken up residence in me, He revealed my heart to me.  Suffering like My Jesus had suffered would be the only way to strengthen my relationship with Him.  I would need to partake in some of what He had experienced for me.

Thank you, Lord, for dying for me.

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Sufferin’ Succotash

 

My 2 ½ year old grandson came to stay with us when his newborn sister was whisked away to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) one hour and forty five minutes away from home.  His mom would stay by her newborn’s bedside for the next 21 days while his daddy went to work and school in between his trips back and forth to the hospital.  It was a trying time for all of us.

This was not the first time we had been to this NICU and as unfortunate as it was we already knew all the staff in this specialized care facility for newborns.  You see, the little guy that was smiling up at me every day asking for “a bite of” was in this same facility during his first month of life as well.

Even though our time together was unexpected we made the best of it, and like any good “Meme” we got caught up on our Looney Toons episodes!  One day, as I watched these old familiar cartoons, Sylvester the cat said “sufferin’ succotash.”  I thought, “That’s it!  This suffering is for a reason, it is meant to help me understand how much Jesus suffered for me.”  In this light bulb moment I realized I had wanted my salvation and all the goodness that comes with that, but I wasn’t willing to suffer like my Savior had.  I wanted my cake and to eat it too!

Reality set in and I began to question my faith, my belief in God, and I think even lost my hope for a time.  God began to show me some things I didn’t really want to read or hear about.  We must be willing to suffer like His Son did.  Jesus was lonely, hungry and tired. He had no home or income.  Once it was discovered he could heal people Jesus was hounded and called upon until it made it very difficult for him to spend time alone with his Father.  He was persecuted, ridiculed and laughed at before he ever got to the cross.

I began to ask myself: could I trust God even when I couldn’t see?  Did I really believe He was the God of all comfort?  Was my faith strong or weak?  I honestly was not very proud of some of my answers.

1 Peter 4: 12-13 – Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation.

“The Good News” comes with a price.  Jesus suffered and died for our sins so we could have access to the Throne Room.  We must be willing to partake in the sufferings of Christ to really know and experience the glory of God.  Let me ask you today – are you willing to share in the sufferings of Christ? Can you trust when you cannot see?  Will you hold onto your hope in Christ when things look bleak?

One interesting side note:  When I googled suffering succotash I found the following information on the term:

In the mid-1800s, during the Victorian era, there was a rejection of all profanity and so the common people developed a wide variety of malapropisms to avoid swearing on Holy names. Soon, one could hear “cripes” and “crikey” replace “Christ” and “dangnabit” replace “G*d damn it”; and “cheese ‘n’ rice” replace “Jesus Christ.” The phrase “suffering succotash” replaced “suffering Savior.”

 

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Cleanup Project

We have a trash transfer station or dump in our city where items that no longer have a use are disposed of. It is smelly, loud and filthy. The refuse is dumped and a steel plate immediately comes down and begins to compress the garbage, smashing it again and again to be certain it is compacted with as little air space left as possible. More and more unwanted items are spilled and crushed until it is no longer possible to identify anything in this disgusting mess.

This is the vision I get when I think about our human nature and how we handle our own personal battles with our flesh. Our hurt can be so intense and gut wrenching that we find it difficult to cope. We try our best to hide, crush or beat down the memory until it disappears. Much like that trash compactor we push the garbage down trying without success to press it into submission leaving it to rot.

This interesting scenario is really masquerading as unforgiveness. Some of you are probably sitting there saying “I don’t have a problem with forgiveness! I have been wronged and my feelings are hurt. I have a right to feel like this.” While it is true that you may have convinced yourself of the right to feel this way it doesn’t line up with God’s sovereign order of things.

Unforgiveness can be a lifelong spiritual illness that seems to have no remedy. Families tend to teach each other how to do it with perfection. It will take faith and complete trust in your Savior to break free of this vicious way of life. It can become our mission work if we are not careful.

Let’s get this cleanup project started, spring is on the way and God is waiting!

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Need Peace?

I am powerless at my home when it comes to the television. I never have the remote in my hand and as a result I can barely operate the talking beast that lives in one corner of my living room. Growing up in a home with 3 older brothers where the three channels we enjoyed were 3, 6 & 12 meant I was the remote and never chose any program I might have enjoyed. It didn’t take me long to discover books! Reading allowed me to control the volume, tone and content of the programming filtering through my mind. No big brothers to invade my space with their sports programs and game shows they never seemed to tire of.

Our world today is louder than ever with thousands of electronic options (channels) as it clamors for our attention waiting to assault our minds with its logic hoping to gain our loyalty. Television, internet, theatre and radio are just a few sources we are constantly tempted by. God gave us our mind to think on things above. Romans 8:6 says “For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace.”

As an adult, I still love books; I love to read anything that I can learn from especially the WORD. It has brought this once powerless little girl into a woman who depends on it for her every need. The things of this world can be harsh and harmful to our minds leaving imprints than can be hard to erase. We should take great care as to what and where we choose to allow our minds to go. Sin always starts in the mind and once it does it usually tries to escape!

Need some peace? Open up the WORD and enjoy some much needed rest from the world today.

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Love letters

My administrative assistant has a daughter preparing for college. This young lady has made it her business to see how many scholarship offers she can get. She has recently been waiting for a letter from a certain university to arrive by the old fashioned snail mail. This university doesn’t know it but they are in the running for the number one spot. She is excited and so are her parents for obvious reasons. The family made a pact that she would not open this precious piece of mail until they could all be together. The university has added some hype by sending their target an electronic temptation. They let her know the letter was on the way.

Now I know letters by the US postal service aren’t the norm anymore. We enjoy quick communication and have come to expect it, even demand it. But… consider the anticipation of this young woman as she stares at her envelope wondering what is inside. She is about to find out what God has in store for her future. She is anxious and fearful all at the same time. The best part about the letter will be that she can keep it forever. No accidental delete button to destroy this message.

For twelve years, I have been receiving different types of encouragements from the female inmates I minister to. These letters have been collected and stored neatly in a file for years and years. Each time I receive one of these prayers, drawings or poems I read it and carefully then placed it among the others. Over time I have grown so accustomed to this practice that I admit I haven’t enjoyed them as I should have.

Not long ago a voice on the answering machine at the ministry office was asking for a poem they had written for me over a year ago. The paper copy had been given to me and the owner had lost her original copy. She was asking if we could locate the copy she had given me and return it to her. The staff looked at me bewildered.

I smiled knowing exactly where that precious piece of paper was. The file was removed from its comfortable perch on the rails of the file drawer. I was amazed at how thick it had become. So bulky it needed two hands to protect the contents from scattering. Some were long and descriptive. Most filled with scripture. God was speaking to me through those forgotten notes. HE was reminding me of the mission He has called me to. The women professed their love to God and to me. I found the missing poem in a matter of minutes but I took my time browsing through the rest of the folder savoring the musty smell of the prison paper knowing how much God loves those women.

How incredibly loving of Our God to send not one but hundreds of love letters to a tired missionary. These letters were very near me every day but I was so busy with day to day tasks I didn’t bother to look at them. I am not ready to return the folder to its home just yet. I plan to post some of the notes or phrases in the next few weeks. I pray you will receive a blessing from them.

A copy of the young woman’s paper was returned by the US postal service for her to keep forever.

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Don’t lose your focus

My daughter loves to shop.  The shinier and glitzier the item the bubblier she becomes.  She can be on an errand to get a necessary household item and be whisked away by the brightly colored tops swinging to and fro on the mannequins.  It is amazing to me how she can be so easily distracted by these garments that literally seem to be calling to her as she walks by.

Eve was much the same way when she was in the garden on that fateful day when sin entered our world.  She was so taken by the lovely fruit that we can only assume was bright and shiny that all her mind could do was focus on the fruit.  It was beautiful and she wanted it.  Once attracted, she began to rationalize why she should have it.  She began to listen to the serpent tell her what she deserved and her pride got the best of her. She took the fruit, ate it and gave it to her husband.

We are all like Eve.  Sin tempts us with its beauty.  It is often so enticing we are not able to see anything else. Satan is a master craftsman and uses our senses to lure us into things that appear fun and harmless.  Our pride and selfishness is usually the driving force behind our desires. Once we are snared he can, over time, devour us much like an animal caught in a trap.

Next time you are lured, pulled or distracted by something in the world try to ask yourself if this is what God wants for you.  Question your motives and search your heart for a pride problem.   His Word says He will provide a way out of temptation.  (1 Corinthians 10:13)   Next time, just ask Him for help.

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