We All Need Some Quiet Time

My small group at church is reading the Gospel of Luke this month.  Taking it slow, not rushing through but looking carefully at the stories Luke tells.

One thing I noticed as I read is how often Jesus took some quiet time away from the crowd.  Three different times in the early chapters Luke tells us:

“Early the next morning Jesus went out to an isolated place.”

“Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayers.”

“Jesus went up on a mountain to pray, and He prayed to God all night.”

If the Son of God needed quiet time, how much more do I?

I find myself surrounded by noise – TV, radio, cell phones.

I need that quiet time – time spent not only talking to God but taking time to allow His peace to be mine.

Today there is a lot of interest in “meditating” where we are encouraged to empty our mind.  But the quiet time I think Jesus calls us to is not emptying our mind but rather filling our thoughts with His word, His presence.

“Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do.”   Joshua 1:8

“Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers.  But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night.”

I realize finding quiet time is easier for me at this age of life.  I’m retired, children all grown.  My days are pretty much free to do what I please, when I please.

But for a young couple with small children or families with teenagers, finding that quiet time has to be a difficult thing to do.

As I have thought about taking more quiet time myself this week, I have asked God to help me spend more time praying for those single moms, busy families that they will feel God’s presence even in their “noisy” environments and busy lives.

Do you find it difficult to have quiet time?

What do you do to make that quiet time?

Extravagant Worship

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My devotion today told the story of the woman who anointed Jesus with costly perfume as he sat at dinner with his disciples.  Her action was criticized by those who thought it was money that could have been better spent on the poor.

Jesus responded that she had done a beautiful thing and this act was in preparation for His death.  He also added that this wherever the Gospel was told this woman’s story would be included.

According to the Gospels, this was not a cheap jar of perfume purchased at the local storefront.

Matthew referred to it as “an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment.”  Mark called it “an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly.”  John says it was “an expensive ointment made from pure nard.”

Researching the fragrance “nard” it appears it would probably have been imported from India and according to the complaint of Judas, it would have cost at least a year’s wages.

Not only did this woman share this expensive perfume, which may have required all her savings to purchase, she took quite a brave step in coming in and kneeling at Jesus feet.  He was having a meal with his disciples.  Not a place for a women to enter except to serve the men.

This was extravagant worship!  She gave all she had both in her finances and in her courage to act.

Makes me wonder how much my worship is extravagant.  When in a worship service at church, do I just sing the words or do I really think about their meaning and sing to God from my heart?  Sadly I think how many times people wonder into worship minutes after it has started and greet others as they amble to their seats?  Is our worship authentic or do we just go through the motions?

Worship is more than just a service at church also.  The word is derived from the Old English weorþscipe, and simply put means to give worth to something.

I give worth to God by much more than the half hour or so of singing on Sundays.  I give (or don’t give) worth to God by the way I live, how I treat others, how I spend my time, my energy, my resources.

Thinking of this woman’s extravagant worship, I ask myself “Does my life reflect that kind of love and commitment to God?”

In line with that thought the story of David in 2 Samuel tells of worship that is extravagant.  David wanted to buy a field from Araunah the Jebusite to make an offering to God.  Araunah offered to give David the field, the wood for the fire and the animal for the sacrifice.  David insisted on paying for it all and said, “I will not make an offering to God that does not cost me something.”

Dear Lord, may all I say, all I do, all I think be an offering of extravagant worship and may I be willing to give all of me – talent, time, energy, finances – to honor you.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

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You will see lots of pink ribbons this month as October has been designated as Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

In 1979 wife of one of the prisoners held by Iran in the hostage crisis decided to use a yellow ribbon to show support for her husband.  Soon there were hundreds of yellow ribbons displayed around the country to show support for our brave men being held captive.  The history of a yellow ribbon goes back hundred of years.  It is believed that the Puritans brought the story in a song of a women who wears a yellow ribbon to remember her love who has gone away to war.

‘Round her neck she wears a yeller ribbon She wears it in the winter and the summer so they say If you ask her, “Why the decoration?” She’ll say, “It’s fur my lover who is fur, fur away”

Since then many groups have used a colored ribbon to bring awareness to their own cause.

  • Red ribbon – AIDS awareness and for heart disease
  • Orange ribbon – leukemia awareness
  • Green ribbon – mental illness awareness
  • Purple ribbon – Alzheimer’s awareness

And the list goes on and on.

Breast cancer is something all women should be aware of.  Men can also get this disease but they count for only a small percentage of all cancer cases.

As a cancer survivor I encourage all women to do all they can to prevent this disease.  Some important things to consider:

  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Stay physically active
  • Eat fruits and vegetables
  • Do not smoke
  • Limit alcohol consumption

I also strongly recommend a monthly self-exam.  John Hopkins Medical Center states:

“Forty percent of diagnosed breast cancers are detected by women who feel a lump, so establishing a regular breast self-exam is very important.”

This is how I discovered my cancer.

If you discover a lump or are told you have breast cancer, please do not panic.  If discovered in the early stages, survival rates are usually 100%.  Even in later stages, treatment keeps advancing and survival rates keep going up.

For me my diagnosis was not good.  I was told without any further treatment after surgery, I had only a 15% chance of being alive in ten years.  With a vigorous treatment of chemotherapy and radiation, my survival rate went up to 25%.  But here I am 17 years later cancer free.

As my husband said when we received the terrible diagnosis:

“It is not over until God says it is over.”

Another cancer survivor whose diagnosis was worse than mine but who survived for years told me:

Don’t worry about the statistics.  That is all they are – numbers.  Make your own statistic.

But do your self-exam monthly!!!!

 

 

Idle Words

Reading in Matthew this week with my husband for our devotions I found a statement by Jesus that made me really stop and think about what I say.

But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken….New International Version.

Other translations speak of idle words, careless words.

The Greek phrase used here means “careless or inactive or unprofitable words.”

I tried to research how many words the average person speaks per day but there are all kinds of conflicting studies on this subject.  It is clear from all of them that most of us do speak thousands of words a day.  There are studies that indicate women talk more than men (at least we are accused of that) but other studies say that is just a myth.  (For all the women who, like me, are often waiting on their husbands who keep talking and talking, we know that is a myth.)

But of those thousands of words I may speak each day, I wonder how many are really helpful to others.

Taking a closer look at my speaking, I ask myself:

  • How often do I truly listen to others speaking to me?
  • How often do I resist the temptation to jump in and offer my opinion when it is not really needed?
  • How often do I wait until the person is done speaking before I respond?
  • How often do I “think before I speak” or do I just blurt out whatever comes to mind without engaging my brain first?
  • Are my words always kind?

When I read the rest of what Jesus said that day on speaking, it makes me want to be more careful when speaking.

“For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

How about you?  Do you think before you speak?

 

How Do I Pray For My Family?

In my small group at church this week we talked a little about how we pray.  One of the members of our group mentioned reading Paul’s prayers for the church.

Knowing what to pray for my family has always been a topic of concern for me.

I confess most of my prayers are for their needs for the “here and now.”

  • Help this grandchild to find a good job
  • Provide the finances for this grandchild to pay for college
  • Heal this son/daughter
  • Take care of this difficult situation this child is experiencing right now

Looking at the ministry of Jesus on earth I do not think praying for their physical and financial needs in this life is wrong.  While on earth Jesus often spend time meeting the needs of those who followed Him.

  • He fed the hungry
  • He opened the eyes of the blind
  • He reached out and healed the leper
  • His very first miracle was actually supplying wine for a wedding party

Clearly He was and is concerned about all our needs, not just the “spiritual” ones.

Still, when I look at the prayers the early church prayed and the prayers of Peter and Paul in their writings it is clear that their main concern was not for the “here and now.” They were not so concerned for their own needs but for God’s kingdom to be advanced, for “eternal” things.

I say as a Christian I believe  there is life after this one on earth.  I say it is my desire that my children and grandchildren know and serve the Lord.  But do my prayers really reflect that?  Am I more concerned about the “here and now” than I am with the “eternal”?

One prayer the early church prayed which I think really reflects their focus on the kingdom of God rather than their own needs, is the one found in Acts 4.  Here, Peter and John had been in prison for preaching about Jesus.  Upon being released, they were warned to stop sharing the story of Jesus and threats were made if they did not refrain from doing so.

They immediately gathered with the other believers.  Now, today if this happened to our pastor, I believe our prayers would probably be for God to protect us or to change the hearts of the religious leaders.  But I love their prayer.

“And now, O Lord, hear their threats, and give us, your servants, great boldness in preaching your word.  Stretch out your hand with healing power; may miraculous signs and wonders be done through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”

To help me focus my prayers more in line with the early church, I have been praying one of Paul’s prayers for my children and grandchildren.  It is found in Colossians 1.

“We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding.  Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better.  We also pray that you will be strengthened with all his glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy, always thanking the Father. He has enabled you to share in the inheritance that belongs to his people, who live in the light.”

Truly I want all the best for my children and grandchildren.  It is my desire that they have great marriages, successful careers and good health.  But most of all, my greatest desire is that they will grow to know God better and better.

How do you pray for your family?

Thank God for Mondays!

We often complain about Mondays.  Back to work, back to school.

Since I am now retired Mondays are different I must admit.  I can sit with a second cup of coffee and just relax while many have to hurry off to a job that may be stressful, to a school they do not like.

Still, this morning when someone asked me on social media how I felt about Mondays, I could not help but reply as a cancer survivor Mondays mean that God has given me another week of life.

I pray today for those struggling with difficult job or school situations.  But I hope in the midst of those difficulties, they can see something to encourage them.

As for me, given another week of life I say:

 

I Wonder Where Rosalie Is Today?

She was such a cute little girl.  A little afraid, but very curious, of the Americans who had moved into her neighborhood.

She began by peeping around the corner of the wall of our compound, trying to sneak a look at us while remaining hidden herself.

 

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Slowly she came out of hiding and let us see her pretty face.

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For several days she played this peek-a-boo game with us until finally she came with a friend and sat down outside our gate.

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My husband, our youngest daughter and I had moved into her neighborhood where we lived as we taught in a local Bible school and also in local churches throughout Iloilo City on the island of Panay in the Philippines.

Having white Americans as neighbors was quite a novelty.  Children in the neighborhood came to the gate every day to get a look at us.  We began talking to them and before long we developed friendships with all the children on our street.

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At first when we walked down our street, the little boys would call out to my husband, “Hello GI Joe.”   After repeating each day that his name was Paul, they finally called him by his name – but it came out with two syllables – Pa -ul.

Our daughter started a Kids Klub for the neighborhood children.  Saturday mornings our living room would turn into a classroom.  Jessica taught them songs, Bible stories and always had games and snacks for them.  They called her “Tita” or aunt and followed her each time she left our home.

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Rosalie was the youngest of five siblings.  Their mother was a widow and made her living by selling food in a makeshift hut on the side of the road.

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While we fell in love with all the children, we took a special interest in this family.

When it was time for us to return home, Rosalie’s mother wanted us to take Rosalie with us.  She envisioned a much better life for her youngest if she came to the United States with us.

We struggled with what would be the right decision.  It sounded good to provide this little girl with all the luxuries she would never have in Iloilo City.  Things like clean water, plenty of food, shoes and the many things we take for granted but would not be available to her in the Philippines.

But what would it do to her emotionally to be ripped from her home, her siblings and especially her mother?

Was it arrogance on our part to think that all the material things we could give her was worth more than family?

Yet how could we say no to giving her a life that would be much easier than the life she would have here in Iloilo City?

In the end, the legal requirements and the cost of adopting her and all the red tape involved proved more than we could do.

The day we left our neighborhood was very traumatic.  The children gathered early at our home and hung on to the jeepney as we drove slowly away.  They cried out, “Don’t go, don’t go.”

As I reflect back on that time, I do believe it would have been wrong to take her from her family – but I still wonder.

Did we do the right thing?

I wonder where she is today?

With today’s technological advances of Facebook and the internet we might have been able to maintain some contact.  But that was not possible then.

Still, I think of her and wonder if she remembers us.