Do I Reflect Being With Jesus?

Every Sunday I meet after church with a small group to study the Bible and right now we have started walking through the book of Acts.

One story in chapter 4 of that book really makes me stop and examine my own Christian witness.

Peter and John had been brought before the religious leaders who were disturbed at the message they were sharing with the people.  A message that Jesus had risen from the dead.  A message of hope for salvation in those who believed their report.

After careful questioning they ordered them to never speak or teach again in the name of Jesus.  They answered that “We cannot stop telling about everything we have seen and heard. “

History tells us that they did not stop but later it is reported that in Thessalonica it was said of the followers of Jesus “they have turned the world upside down.”

What caught my eye in this passage of scripture is the religious leaders description of Peter and John.  They were amazed at the boldness of these ordinary men who had no special training in theology.  They recognized these two as men who had “been with Jesus.”

How was it these ordinary fishermen became bold and successful messengers of the Good News that Jesus Christ died and rose again and that belief in Him led to salvation?

They had spent time with Jesus.

Examination of my own life makes me question.

Does my witness to the goodness of Jesus reflect that I have spent time with Him?

My language, my attitude, my compassion, my awareness of the needs of others, how I spent my time and my money – would people say of me that “she has been with Jesus”?

That is my prayer today.

Heavenly Father, help me to spend time with you – in Your Word, in Your house, with fellow believers, in quiet times of worship.  Help me turn off the television, the internet, stop fussing about having a perfect house.  Keep me from the things that would distract me from time with you.  Then, help live in practice of what I profess to believe.  Help me treat others so that they will know I have been with You.

 

 

 

 

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?

 

Good Advice from the Apostle John

In our devotion today my husband and I read the New Testament epistle 1 John.  Written by one of the disciples of Jesus the letter is, of course, giving advice about spiritual matters.

However, in light of today’s constant barrage of information from cable news, newspaper and magazines, twitter and Facebook accounts, I find his advice very timely and practical for our daily life.

His words:

My dear friends don’t believe everything you hear.  Carefully weigh and examine what people tell you.  

Oh, that we would all be careful and examine what we hear.  I see many people on Facebook sharing something they see that expresses their own view on a subject and they post it on their wall without ever checking to see who the post was from and if it is accurate.

Then, sadly, people begin repeating things they heard or saw as if it were true.

Let us follow St John’s advice and check for facts behind what we see or hear.

Something my husband says a lot applies here too:

Be careful of listening to half-truths.  You may have heard the wrong half.

 

I Cannot Live Without Books

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This sign hangs in my library/office.  And it is true.  As a young girl I discovered books and my love for them has never faded.

As a child, there was Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn.  Through Charles Dickens I met memorable characters such as David Copperfield, Pip, Oliver Twist and of course, Tiny Tim and Scrooge.

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As a teenager I loved the books by Grace Livingston Hill.  Hill’s books were romantic stories where the heroine was either a Christian or came to be a Christian in the course of the story.

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Then I found mystery books and loved Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson along with Agatha Christie’s detectives Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple.

My favorite book as a child was Hurlbut’s  Bible for Young and Old.  Here I met characters like David, Daniel, Deborah, Ruth and had my first introduction to poetry through the book of Psalms.  As you can see, this book is well worn.  Although I do not read it now it sits in a favorite spot on my bookcase.

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When I had my own children I bought them more books than toys.  Through the years my collection of books continued to grow.  Even when our budget was tight, I always found room for a book.  One friend told me if I sold my books, I could get completely out of debt.  But there was no way I could survive without my books.

Last year when we downsized from a nine-room home to a five-room condo, I knew some books would have to go.  But how to decide what to keep, what to give away.  We donated over ten boxes of books to a local Christian school.  It was painful to part with them.

Now I am down to just three bookcases.  No room for more.  Yet I find myself still buying books.  Appealing to my husband to help me stop this obsession with books, he came home from local yard sales this week with more books he found for me.

My favorite category of books is biographies of the leaders of our nation.  From our presidents George Washington to Theodore Roosevelt to George W Bush to others who  like Henry Clay, Benjamin Franklin, Sojourner Truth, Marie Curie, Jeannette Rankin and Frederick Douglas played a big role in our history.

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Of course, I always love books on Christian beliefs.

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I am always reading at least two or three books at the same time.  Many books I read more than once.

Right now my stack of books to read include:

  • Reading the Bible with Rabbi Jesus by Lois Tverberg
  • Andrew Carnegie by David Nasaw
  • America’s First Daughter by Stephanie Dray and Laaura Kamoie
  • Daughters of the Church by Ruth A Tucker and Walter Liefeld
  • President Lincoln, the Duty of a Statesman by William Lee Miller

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I need to get through them because I have two books on order from the library.  Novels about the early history of Mackinaw Island.  And one of my favorite bloggers has written a novel, The Kirkwood Scott Chronicles- Skelly’s Square.  On order from Amazon  I definitely will put that one at the top of my list of books I must read.

Books are my friends.  They take me to places I will never be able to visit in person.  They introduce me to people whom I will never meet.  They challenge me with new thoughts and ideas.

What about you?

Do you love to read?

What genre of books do you like?

What is one of your favorite books?

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Power of Words

Sticks and stones may break my bones
But words can never harm me

Growing up I heard this little rhyme many times.  It was said to encourage those who were being bullied or harassed by others.  However, this message is simply not true.

Words have such power.

Power to encourage, power to put down.  Power to make you laugh, power to make you cry.

Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit—you choose…Proverbs 18:21

Spoken words that hurt:

As a young girl I experienced the harm that words can do.  In the sixth grade my family moved in the middle of the school year.  The first day at my new school I was walking up the stairs to my room when two young boys passed me on the stair well.  Upon seeing me, one of the boys grabbed the other one and pulled him to the side of the stairs away from me.  As I passed he said, “Look at her!  She is ugly!” The other boy laughed and I quickly went on to my classroom.

When class started this young boy walked in and sat down in the row next to me.  Every time the teacher would turn her back he would point at me and softly say “ugly.”  This harassment continued on the playground.  Soon he had half of the class laughing at me.

From that day on I felt so ugly.  Only in my 40’s did I start to look at pictures of me as a young girl.  While I would never win a beauty contest, I realized I was not ugly.  But those words took me years to over come.

Unspoken words that hurt:

Then there are the words that we need to hear, but never do.

As a young girl I idolized my father.  He was my hero.  After my parents divorced I was very hurt and although I no longer looked up to him, I still loved him.  But throughout my life I never heard him say “I love you.”  In our relationship, words of praise were never on his lips.  He was quick to point out anything I did or said that did not meet his approval.  Others in the family told me he told them nice things about me, but I never heard any of them.  To this day, as an old woman, I still wish I could have heard those words of love.

Spoken words that bless:

But I am thankful for the words of affirmation I have received from so many others in my life.

My husband who says “I love you” several times throughout the day.

My grandchildren who call to share memories from their childhood.

My sister who still calls me her “baby sister.”

My church family who speak words of encouragement and love every week.

Words that are misunderstood:

Looking back over my life at the old age of 70 I think of the many times that words have been misunderstood.  Times when what I said and what they heard were different – or what they said and what I heard were different.

How sad I am for the times that misunderstanding led to broken relationships, hurt feelings, angry hearts.

How thankful I am for the ability to forgive and to ask forgiveness when those times occurred.

Now that I am writing more I worry about the words I use.  Do I express myself clearly?  Could what I say be hurtful although my intent might be to encourage?

My most recent concern was the post I made about not complaining.  While I wrote that wanting to encourage us to count our blessings and not let circumstances get us down, I fear others may have seen it as implying we should never say we are hurting or we are discouraged.

So I ask God for wisdom in my writing.  My prayer is that my words will be a blessing and that I will be more mindful of what I write and how I write.

This verse is my prayer both as I speak to others and as I write:

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, Lord, my rock and my redeemer….Psalm 19:14

 

Words Do Matter and I’m NOT Ugly!

Sticks and Stones

Edgewood, Illinois.

Just the mention of that town brings back bad memories.  About three months into my sixth grade school year, we moved from Mason to Edgewood (both small towns about 10 miles apart).  For me, they were opposite sides of the universe.  Mason Grade School was one of my happiest times in school.  I had lots of friends, was always busy playing with the group at recess.  I took my hula hoop to school each day and we would all gather in the playground after lunch to see who could keep the hoop going the longest.  It was great!

My fifth grade teacher was very impressed with me and told mother in testing they had done I tested as a genius.  She also thought I was the most polite child she had ever had in her classes.  When I began sixth grade my teacher designed extra curriculum for me and talked about advancing me to the next grade.   I was a very confident and happy girl.

Then came Edgewood

Shortly after sixth grade started my family moved to Edgewood and there I lost my confidence and happiness.

The school building at Edgewood had eight grades in four rooms.  The first four grades were on the lower floor and the last four grades were upstairs.  My first morning at Edgewood, I started climbing up the stairs to go to my new classroom.  About half way up the stairs, I met two boys coming down the stairs.  As they got about two stairs above me, one of the boys grabbed the other boy, pointed at me and in a very loud voice said, “Move over!  Don’t get near her.  That’s the ugliest girl I have ever seen.”  They both laughed and moved over as far to the other side of the staircase as they could get from me.  I hurried on up to my classroom hoping they would not be in my class.

Shortly after the teacher had showed me where I would sit and I was settled in my new desk, in walked the young boy who had just called me the ugliest girl he has ever seen.  He was sitting in the next row over from me.  Every time the teacher’s back was turned, he would look at me and make faces as if the sight of me was making him sick.  Kids around him started laughing.  Of course, when the teacher turned around and wanted to know what was funny, nobody seemed to know.

The harassment continued on the play ground.  When we played games that required us to pick participants, he would always yell out, “Don’t pick the ugly girl.”  Everyone would laugh and I would be the last one picked.  He was obviously the leader of the kids and he saw to it that no one played with me or sat with me after lunch.

Every day I cried as I walked to school.  I couldn’t wait for the dismissal bell to ring so I could get out of there.  I quit bringing my hula hoop to school because no one wanted me to play with me.  Most of the time after lunch I would sit and read my Bible.  Of course, that probably brought more ridicule for me.

Until that time I had not really given much thought about how I looked.  What little thought I had given was positive.  In second grade I had been in a style show at the high school with my oldest sister  She had made us matching dresses and we were part of a program at the high school showcasing the talents of the students.  My sister practiced with me over and over how I was to walk out on the stage, how to turn around to show off my dress and then return to the back of the stage.  I was the hit of the show.  Everyone had commented how cute I was, how beautiful my red hair was.  My sister was clearly very proud of me.

Everywhere my family went, people would comment on my beautiful red hair so I had a pretty positive image of myself.  But the experiences at Edgewood Grade School left me feeling very ugly.  All though my teenage years and even into adulthood, I felt ugly.  Although the compliments on my red hair continued, I always thought “Yeah, my hair is pretty but it doesn’t make up for the fact that my face is ugly.”

It was only years later that I came to understand perhaps why this boy made so much fun of me.  He was a poor student, barely passing.  He was also a bully and a trouble maker and spent a lot of time in the principal’s office or in detention after school.  And guess who his mother was?  My fifth grade teacher.

I, of course, do not know, but as an adult I realize it is very possible that his mother had told him about me transferring to his school and perhaps bragged on what a smart and polite student I was.  Or, maybe he was just a bully who picked on me because I was the new kid.

Looking at pictures of me as a teenager now I realize while I was no Miss America, I actually was a pretty cute kid.  How sad that it was not until I reached my 40’s that I began to gain confidence in my appearance.

Words matter!

So sad to see today how bullying on social media is causing other young girls and boys to have no confidence in who they are.  I also hate it when I hear parents in the stores yelling at their kids sometimes telling them they are stupid, dumb, mean.

Words matter!  Think before you speak.  Speak up when you see someone bullying another.