God and My Daughter Share a Talent – They Knit!

One of my favorite Psalms is 139.  Reading it today this portion stood out to me.

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One of my daughters has her own website where she sells the most beautiful hats, scarfs, sweaters that she creates.  Along with selling her products, she also makes hats for cancer survivors, wraps for new mothers or mothers who have lost children.  She is a teacher and each year makes neat hats for every one of her students.  Every item she knits is a work of love whether she is making something to give away or filling an order for something she sells.

Watching her knit I am amazed at the skill required to create these beautiful gifts.  She clearly did not get that talent from me.

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Today I thought about the time, skill and effort she puts into each creation.  I believe that is what God has done for us.  We are not just accidents that happened.  God has designed us with love and skill also.

I am a product of the greatest artist that has ever existed – Almighty God.

Over the years my daughter has made me several beautiful scarves, wraps and sweaters.  I treasure each one.  First, because I know they were made with love.  But also because they are so lovely.  I always get compliments when I wear one.  My gifts are all stored carefully on shelves in my closet.  I would never think of just throwing them on the floor or stuffing them carelessly in a drawer.

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One of my favorites sweaters she made for me

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Most of my sweaters were just gifts from her but I did make a special order for this one.  I love the bright yellow buttons that just set this sweater off!

So – I realize I need to take good care of my body.  First, because God made me with love.  But also because this body – even old and arthritic – is still a wonder.

To those who read this post, I hope you will realize what a miracle you are and how much you are loved by the great Creator.

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If you are looking for a beautiful scarf, hat, wrap or baby item, go to Facebook and check out BekaBoo Creations.  You not only will love anything she makes – but you will be helping a teacher who gives her all to her students.

 

 

 

Are We Worshipers or Art Critics?

Today we sang a song in worship and it started me thinking.

When we go to church, are we coming as worshipers or art critics?

We often hear people complain about the church.

  • It’s too formal
  • It’s too informal
  • The preaching is too long
  • The preaching is not long enough
  • They are too many hypocrites
  • It does not meet my needs
  • They only sing old hymns
  • They never sing old hymns

On and on it goes.

Now I know church is important for us as individuals.  We need a place where we can find answers to our questions, where we can feel loved and accepted, where we can be challenged and encouraged.

Church should be a place that meets our needs.

But I wonder if we have become so focused on ourselves, we forget what true worship is supposed to be about.

This song reminds me:

It’s all about you, Jesus!

I’ll bring You more than a song for a song in itself is not what You have required You search much deeper within…

 

 

 

It’s “When” Not “If”

When Jesus was on earth He seemed to assume that as His followers there were things we would naturally do.  Not to try to earn a place in heaven.  Not to rack up points on the “goodness” scale.  Not to “prove” we were His followers.

No.  Things we would do because as a committed follower of Jesus it would be as natural as breathing in and out.  We don’t stop and consciously think “I need to breath now.”  When we walk we do not think “I need to lift my right foot up, move it forward and put it down.”  These are just natural reactions to being alive.

So Jesus states that there are actions we will take – perhaps not even consciously but just as a natural response to His love and forgiveness to us.

Sadly we often seem to think the things He mentioned are suggestions, not actual outcomes of following Him.

Jesus told us:

But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,  so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.  Rejoice and be glad,because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

That last one is a bit hard, isn’t it?  But if we are to be like Jesus, we need to rejoice when we are put down for our beliefs.  Rejoice, not complain.  Not get mad.  Rejoice.

As our culture seems to be going further and further from Christian principles, we need to remember that one.

But even with society becoming more hostile to Christian standards, we in the USA know nothing about real persecution.

The following is a list taken from the 2019 World Watch List by Open Doors.  This is a mission organization that supports persecuted believers in more than 60 countries.

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North Korea  – Afghanistan –  Somalia –  Libya –  Pakistan –  Sudan – Eritrea
Yemen –  Iran –  India –  Syria –  Nigeria –  Iraq –  Maldives –  Saudi Arabia
Egypt –  Uzbekistan –  Myanmar –  Laos –  Vietnam –  Central African Republic
Algeria –  Turkmenistan –  Mali –  Mauritania –  Turkey –  China –  Ethiopia
Tajikistan –  Indonesia –  Jordan –  Nepal –  Bhutan –  Kazakhstan –  Morocco
Brunei –  Tunisia –  Qatar –  Mexico –  Kenya –  Russian Federation –  Malaysia
Kuwait –  Oman –  United Arab Emirates –  Sri Lanka –  Colombia –  Bangladesh
Palestinian Territories –  Azerbaijan

For more detailed information on these countries and suggestions on how to pray for each particular nation, check out this website.

https://www.opendoorsusa.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/WWL2019_FullBooklet.pdf

 

I’m Good Enough – I’m Not Good Enough

My husband and I are reading the book of Isaiah this month.  Chapter six is one we are very familiar with.  Anyone who grew up in church has no doubt heard the story of Isaiah’s vision of God.

It was in the year King Uzziah died that I saw the Lord. He was sitting on a lofty throne, and the train of his robe filled the Temple. Attending him were mighty seraphim, each having six wings. With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew.They were calling out to each other,

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Heaven’s Armies!
    The whole earth is filled with his glory!”

Their voices shook the Temple to its foundations, and the entire building was filled with smoke…..Isaiah 6:1-4

 

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Isaiah’s response is one I think most of us would have if we saw such a sight!

His immediate reaction was one of total sense of unworthiness.

Then I said, “It’s all over! I am doomed, for I am a sinful man. I have filthy lips, and I live among a people with filthy lips. Yet I have seen the King, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.”….Isaiah 6:5

Interesting to me that he saw his sin as being connected to his lips and the lips of the people he lived with.  Why his lips?

There are probably many different takes on that, but here it is mine.

Words matter.  With words we can hurt, damage people’s reputations, discourage others, create division and hatred.  The Bible has much to say about our tongues.

James wrote that:

the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison….James

Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless….James 1:26

Jesus told us:

It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person….Matthew 15:11

For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks….Matthew 12:34

Isaiah’s response is one we all should have when we recognize our need of forgiveness.  Sadly, many people never reach this conclusion.  They think they are “good enough.”  But if our standard for goodness is based on who God is, we cannot measure up.  Do not misunderstand me.  I am not saying that people who do not believe in God are not good.  I actually know some who are atheists that show more “goodness” than many of my fellow Christians.

But the standard is not how good we are compared to others.  It is how good we are compared to God.  Based on that gold standard, we are not good enough.

An illustration of this thought:

A group of people are going to see a movie.  The price of entrance is $5.00 When they get there, many are very short of the price having only a dollar or two, or maybe just fifty cents.  Clearly they will not get in.  Along comes someone who is sure they will get in because they have $4.99.  But the price is $5.00.  Although they are much closer to having the price of the ticket, they are still short and will not get in.

But wait!  God did not leave Isaiah bemoaning his unworthiness.

He had a solution.

Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a burning coal he had taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. He touched my lips with it and said, “See, this coal has touched your lips. Now your guilt is removed, and your sins are forgiven.”….Isaiah 6:6-7

Thank God for Jesus.  There is a solution.

So now we come to the second group of people’s response to the goodness of God.  Unlike Isaiah they never move beyond that initial sense of unworthiness.  Although many claim they know they are “not good enough” and question how God can love them, they are just like the first group – relying on their own goodness.

In this case they feel their own goodness is not enough, but they still are relying on it.  Because they continue to say they are “not good enough” they are judging themselves by their own goodness – or lack there of.

They have refused to accept the gift that God has given us though Jesus Christ.  We are not “good enough.”  That is the whole point of Christianity.  Because we are not “good enough” Jesus came and He gives us His goodness.

To continue to insist how unworthy we are, we are denying the whole message of the cross.  We are still relying on our goodness, or in this case, our lack of goodness.  We are rejecting the very Word of God that tells us through Him we are made worthy.

God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him….John 3:16,17\

To Him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His name….Acts 10:43

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness….1 John 1:9

Going back to my illustration of the movie tickets:

The group are all standing there realizing they do not have enough to get in.  Along comes someone who offers to give them what they lack.  Those with only a dollar or two will probably jump at the chance to get some help.  But the person with $4.99 may very well think if they just look though their pockets again, or search in the car they will be able to find that penny they are lacking.  Sadly, some who are lacking the full price will probably refuse the stranger’s offer of help because they do not think they should taking something for which they have given nothing.

Only when we recognize our need of a savior and also realize how much He loves us – not because we somehow deserve His love, but because He just loves us, can we have the response Isaiah had.

After his lips were cleansed, he answered the call of God.

Then I heard the Lord asking, “Whom should I send as a messenger to this people? Who will go for us?”

I said, “Here I am. Send me.”….Isaiah 6:8

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Do You See When You Look in the Mirror?

What do you see when you look in the mirror?

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Many times when I look in the mirror, I do not like what I see.  My neck is showing my age.  My nose is too big.  My pores get larger every year it seems.  My hair is very thin (so I put on a wig and then I feel better).

Female dissatisfaction with appearance – poor body-image – begins at a very early age. Human infants begin to recognize themselves in mirrors at about two years old. Female humans begin to dislike what they see only a few years later. The latest surveys show very young girls are going on diets because they think they are fat and unattractive. In one American survey, 81% of ten-year-old girls had already dieted at least once.  Often we compare ourselves to other women and feel we come up short.

Our culture – perfect figure, face, bright white teeth!  We are often felt that we should be nurturing mothers while maintaining a successful career and our homes should look like a page from Home & Gardens.

Many times we are comparing ourselves to other women and feel we come up short.

The stay-at-home mom looks at the career woman who is contributing to the family income and may have an exciting career and spends her days talking to other adults and she often thinks negatively – “I’m just a housewife, contributing nothing to society.  Life is passing me by.”

While the career woman looks at the stay-at-mom baking cookies with the kids and busy in school events and feel that she is somehow less of a mother because her kids are in day care.

There is the woman happily married who looks at the single woman and thinks how much fun she must have, free to travel, spend money on herself and wonders what if I had waited longer before getting married or having children.

And the single woman looks at the happily married woman and thinks how much fuller and happier her life must be with a husband and a family.  She wonders will I ever get married and have a family?

We are constantly looking at ourselves and feeling we have come up short.  We are not just as pretty as the woman next door, not as creative, not as smart, not as good a Christian……..

I have a dear, close friend who I love.  But sometimes when I visit her home, I feel like such a failure.  Her house is immaculate.  Windows sparkle (she cleans them every month).  There is never a spot of dust anywhere.  She changes her pictures in every room monthly to reflect the season.  Not just fall, winter, spring and summer.  No.  She has snowmen for January, valentines for February, four-leave clovers for March, and on and on each month.  When we have a meal the table is decorated as if she was giving a formal party.  Each person even has their own small salt and pepper shaker at their plate.

It has taken me awhile to see that her gift set is that of hospitality.  She makes every visit special with her specially designed table and wonderful meals.

But I have talents she does not have.  I can play a mean piano and bring some joy to residents in the nursing homes I visit.  I have had the joy of mentoring many younger women in their walk with God.

It has been a struggle but I have finally come to appreciate my friend for her gifts but also be thankful for what gifts God has given me.  Each is equally important.

In God’s eyes we are more than what we see in the mirror.  More than just a weary mother, a worn-out working woman, a divorced and single mother, a young woman searching to find what you want to be in your life, a widow struggling to make ends meet, an older woman facing the aging process which slows you down and tells your years are numbered.

For You shaped me, inside and out.  You knitted me together in my mother’s womb long before I took my first breath. I will offer You my grateful heart, for I am Your unique creation, filled with wonder and awe.  You have approached even the smallest details with excellence;  Your works are wonderful; I carry this knowledge deep within my soul.   You see all things; nothing about me was hidden from You as I took shape in secret, carefully crafted in the heart of the earth before I was born from its womb.    Psalm 139:13-15

It is God himself who has made us what we are and given us new lives from Christ Jesus; and long ages ago he planned that we should spend these lives in helping others.  We are the product of His hand.

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.    Ephesians 2:10

In the ancient world, women were considered more property than persons.  It was basically felt that women were created for man’s benefit and their job was to meet his needs.   They were purchased with a dowry, they had to have total obedience to the will of their husbands, and they could not participate in any governmental or political actions. In ancient Palestine a man could divorce a woman by giving her a hand-written note (for an offense a slight as burning the evening meal) and their testimony was not permissible in a court of law.

That is one of the beautiful things about Christianity.  Where Christianity has gone, women have slowly been given greater and greater appreciation and respect.   I must admit the emphasis is probably on slowly.  The Bible clearly gives a very high view of women.  But, unfortunately, even in Christianity I think we as women have often been seen as somehow not quite as important as men.

To see how important we women are in God’s plan, we need to go all the way back to the first book in the Bible, Genesis, the book of beginnings.

Many look at the story of the creation of mankind and feel that God created man, then kind of as a afterthought created women so man would have someone to “help” him, someone who would come along side him and help him in his work, his dreams, his plans.  It is many times stressed that God created man first, then woman so somehow man is more important, has a right to be more in charge.

Maybe a better way to think of the creation of man and woman would be this:

God made man, stepped back and looked at his creation and said, “I can do better than this” and created woman. 

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The Bible is unique in its depiction of women’s valued status as a complementary companion. No other ancient text from the Middle East offers commentary on the creation of women. It is in the Bible that we learn of the important role women have had since the beginning of human existence.

Women were NOT a second thought in God’s creation.  Were were in His plan from the very beginning.

When God spoke of creating man and woman in His image, He indicated that image was to be  reflected by the combination of male and female.

Then we come to chapter 2 which gives more detail about the creation of mankind.  Up to this point after each day of creation the bible indicates that God said, “It was good”  But when we come to the creation of Adam, God said something was not good.  It was not good for man to be alone.  He needed someone a helper suitable for him.

At this point the animals were all brought before Adam and we are told he named them.  The Bible also indicates that no helper for Adam was found among the animals so God put Adam into a deep, took a rib from his side and made woman.

Think about it for a moment.  Do you really think God expected Adam to find a helper among the animals?  Almighty God already knew there would be no companion for Adam among the animals.  He had already said His image would be reflected by a male and a female.  I think God brought the animals before Adam just to let him see that he needed someone like him to work with him in carrying out God’s command to subdue the earth.

Genesis 2:18 – “God said, “It is not good for man to be alone.  I will make him a helper comparable to Him.”

  • I will make a companion for him, a helper suited to his needs.
  • I will make a helper (one who balances him- a counterpart who is suitable and complementary to him).

In English, the word “help” has a broad range of meaning.  It can refer to a simple, modest act such as opening a door for someone you see whose arms are loaded down with shopping bags.  It can also refer to something much more vital and significant such as saving the life of someone drowning.

But what did the Hebrew word used here that is translated as “help” really mean?  That word ‘ezer” is used 21 times in the OT.  Twice it is used for the woman.  Three times it is used of people helping (or failing to help) in life-threatening situations.  Sixteen times it is used in reference to God as a helper.  Without exception, when the Bible uses the word “help” it is talking about a vital, powerful kind of help. Yet when ezer is applied to the first woman, its meaning is usually diminished to fit with traditional and cultural views of women’s roles.

The second important Hebrew word in this verse, translated “fit” is kenegdo. It literally means “according to the opposite of him.” In other words, the focus is on an appropriate match. Eve was not created above or below Adam; she was complementary.

So I want to remind you – You are NOT a second thought in God’s creation.  Know that you are a daughter of  God, designed from the very beginning to be a vital part of His reflection in this world.  Without you, His image would be incomplete.

 

 

The Streets of New York – in the 1980’s

This past week my husband spoke to the residents of the Teen Challenge Center in Saginaw, Michigan.

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This is not the first interaction we have had with this organization.

Our first experience with Teen Challenge occurred in 1985 in New York City.  Just one year after we were married we spent two weeks at the center in New York working on the streets with Christians from all over the United States.

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This center was started by Dave Wilkerson.   A pastor of a small church in Pennsylvania, in 1958, after he saw a photograph in Life Magazine of seven teenagers who were gang members and on trial, he felt led by the Holy Spirit to go to New York and share God’s love with them.  When he entered the courtroom and asked to speak to them, the judge had him removed from the courtroom.

His burden for the young people caught up in the gangs became so strong that he began a street ministry to the young in New York.  His work with the gangs was very successful and he founded Teen Challenge to continue that work.

His story was made into a movie The Cross and the Switchblade in 1970.  By today’s movie standards the movie itself would not measure up to the acting and directing skills of today.  But the message is powerful and if you have not seen it, I encourage to look it up.

We met each morning as a group sharing a simple breakfast and then a time of worship.  Afterwards we broke out into smaller groups of about twelve or fourteen.  We spent a few minutes sharing how things were going for each of us and then we hit the streets of New York.  We partnered with member of local churches as we walked the streets talking and sharing with those we met on the streets and in the subways.

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This was our team.

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This woman was in her 70’s and we were so impressed that an “old woman” like her would join us on the streets of New York.  (Now I’m 71 and my husband 79 – maybe she was not so old.)

For someone from the Mid West this was quite an experience.  This was not the New York of today – but the New York of the 1980’s.

The city was near bankruptcy.  With the introduction of crack-cocaine, there was widespread drug addiction and violence.  Our team was told when we walked down the streets in Manhattan to always have the woman walk on the outside with the man next to the building entrances.  They said women had been pulled off the street into drug dens.  Some neighborhoods we entered we told to not take pictures because we might get shot for taking a picture of a drug deal going down.

Walking in Manhattan we saw signs like this everywhere.

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Stores like this were everywhere.  Our team moved among this neighborhood inviting people to our evening services.

 

Graffiti was everywhere.

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My husband on the subway.  In the 1980s, over 250 felonies were committed every week in the system, making the New York subway the most dangerous mass transit system in the world.

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On schools

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On stores

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Even on churches

What was really sad to me was when I saw beautiful murals that the local population had painted – and they did not even respect their own community – but painted graffiti on the murals.

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There were burnt out cars sitting on the streets and we often saw people sleeping in them.

 

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Each day we walked the streets in a different community and each evening we held street services in the area where we had spent the day.

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And how did all this walking the streets, holding services, meeting the drug addicts and homeless people on the street work out?

We will never know for sure in this life.  There were many different reactions.

  • While holding a service in Washington Square, a young man came up to the area where the musicians were playing, turned his back to us and mooned us.
  • In Manhattan a young man cursed at me and told me to “mind my own business.”

But then there were:

  • Several homeless drug addicts listened to us and came back with us to the Teen Challenge Center where they stayed and committed to the 12 month program to beat the drug habit.  Again, I have no idea how many stayed with the program but I do know the Teen Challenge program in New York has had a high success rate helping people beat addiction.  It was good to see the ones who came back with us in the beginning of our two-week stay.  To watch their eyes go from a blank, glassy look to a clear, coherent look.  To see their listless walk become a brisk lively walk.  To see the dull expression on their face turn to one of hope and smiles.
  • One young man my husband talked to had never heard that Jesus loved him.  After praying with my husband, he wept with joy.  We did not leave these people after such an encounter.  The local churches we partnered with continued to mentor and help them in their attempts to turn from cocaine and to begin a new life with Jesus Christ.
  • On the subway one day we found a pimp beating up on one of his “girls.”  Scared to death, but unable to ignore this, our team of 14 stepped in between the pimp and his “girl.”  He threatened us but we did outnumber him.  He got off at the next stop and we took the young girl with us back to the shelter to help her get free from prostitution and start anew.

The years have gone by and we often wonder about some of those we talked to, shared that God loved them, that there was hope and offered help.  Where are they now?  Did they stay with the program, with the local churches?

We will never know in this life, but I think how awesome it would be to meet one of them in heaven some day and hear their story of victory over cocaine.

So thankful that New York City did finally clean up much of the city and I hear today it is a beautiful place to visit.  Doubtful that I will never get back, but thankful for the two weeks spent on the streets of New York City in the 80’s.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Depends on Where You Stand

Walking with Jesus as my friend and redeemer for many years, I found Him faithful in every circumstance.  Yet, I must confess, sometimes when things get difficult I seem to forget His faithfulness and start worrying.

Recently, thinking about this I thought my reaction really depends on where I stand in my relationship to Him.

Looking up into the sky I can see an airplane flying miles up in the sky.  The airplane looks very small.  In fact, I can hold up my hand and completely block out of my view.  If that was the only time I ever saw an airplane I would think airplanes were small like a child’s toy.

However, the first time I stepped up to board a 747 on a flight to the Philippines, I was amazed at the size of that plane.  Clearly I could never block it our of my view – even if I held up both my hands.

The size of the airplane did not change.  It was always a huge flying machine.  What changed was where I stood in relation to the airplane.

So I think my relation to Jesus Christ may often determines if I see Him as able to walk with me through my tough times and give me strength.

When my prayer life and God’s Word is neglected, He can seem smaller than my problems.  But when I stay grounded in God’s Word and keep that time with Him, I realize how big and mighty He is.

All depends on where I stand.