Friday, November 20, 2020

A Thought on Tithing

(picture from dictionary.com)

Peter and Coleen had been happily married for little more than a year when they announced that they were going to be parents. Everyone was overjoyed and looked forward to the blessed event. When the special day came and Pamela was born, Peter and Coleen were among the happiest parents in the world. But, Papa was enveloped with a special kind of love and pride that only a grandpa could enjoy and he showed it in every precious way he could. Pamela was his first grandchild. He opened an account at the bank for her; in her name, with her mother’s name as a co-account holder. This was an account for her to use to go to college and obviously, he expected her to go to the best college money could afford! It was quite a substantial amount of money.

(picture from qz.com)

Pamela grew graciously and beautifully. She was surrounded by love and developed a warm and caring personality. She was kind and giving, as well as she was an excellent student when she reached her school years. Although it was hard for her mother and father to send her off to school, she soon showed them that their fears were unnecessary. She adapted and thrived in her new social environment.

While Pamela was still quite young, Peter ran into a run of hard luck at work. His job was threatened and he was eventually laid off. His job had been a good one, though. His dear wife, being the astute handler of the finances that she was, had managed to set aside plenty of money they could fall back on until he found work.

This time of unemployment lasted longer than either one of them had anticipated it could. Coleen knew how thin the money was being spread and could also see how anxious Peter had become. So instead of worrying him further, she borrowed from Pamela’s account, reasoning that they needed it to get by. More anxiety might just make it even harder for Peter to find another job.

Eventually, he landed a great job, better than his previous position. After receiving several paychecks, they could relax somewhat and were comforted knowing that they had indeed, ‘made it through the hard times’.

(picture from moneyunder30.com)

But, Coleen had begun to see how easy it was to borrow from Pamela’s account, reasoning that they’d be able to replace it when the time came, perhaps little by little, if necessary. After a while, she had to tell herself, “So, okay – Pamela will have to do with a little less than Papa had intended. She’ll still have plenty. Maybe she’ll choose to go to a less expensive college on her own…”

Pamela grew up to become an energetic and fun, yet refined young woman. The three of them were a close-knit family. But, in the middle of her senior year of high school, Peter and Coleen learned that they were to have another child, after all those years. Coleen’s doctor had concerns with this pregnancy, though. Coleen was older, yes, but she had also developed a few medical conditions which could be harmful to her unborn child. Throughout the pregnancy and even through the delivery, the medical bills that accumulated became enormous. Their medical coverage only covered so much of it and the rest would fall to them to pay. They had always maintained a nice standard of living, but the medical bills began to take their toll on their finances. Pamela’s new little sister, Christine, would require special medical attention, but she would be okay. Again, what looked like an unmerciful crisis had Coleen dipping into Pamela’s account.

We’ve all heard the cliché, ‘when it rains, it pours’ and crisis begets crisis. Very soon after Christine was born, Papa fell sick. Collen’s mother feared that this Christmas might be Papa’s last and decided that they should all celebrate Christmas together and make it a very festive party. She asked all of her children to contribute to the feast. One thing she counted on from Coleen was her special cookies. No one else could make them just right. Papa loved them. Almost three weeks before Christmas, she set aside several days for holiday baking and made the biggest batch of cookies she’d ever made. Everyone would be looking forward to them, so she wanted to have more than enough. She boxed them up and set them aside. But, because of the emotional turmoil she was feeling, she began to sneak a cookie from the box now and then.

The day before Christmas, Coleen got the box of cookies down from the cupboard to take to Mama’s house and discovered that she had eaten most of them. She was shocked and pushed aside everything else she had to do to make time to bake some more. She panicked as she discovered that she didn’t have the ingredients she needed. Peter was out with his car, and Pamela had taken hers. She couldn’t get to the store, so she sat down and cried.

(picture from dallasfoodnerd.com)

On Christmas Day, she took a small plateful of cookies to the party. Everyone was a little disappointed. They’d expected her to bring a lot of them. Papa smiled at her and patted her on the shoulder.

Later that afternoon, Papa made a little speech, an appeal to his children to get right anything in their lives that was wrong, as well as an expression of the joy they’d brought him. He also told them of the happiness he felt at being able to provide so well for his family over the years. He called Pamela to his side; his pride and joy, his firstborn grandchild. He proudly proclaimed that he'd given each of his grandchildren funds with which to attend the college of their choice, beginning with her. He went on to tearfully say that he intended to hang on long enough to see her use it.

(photo from ChurchofJesusChrist.org)
Coleen began to tremble inside. She held her newborn close, knowing that the money wasn’t there. Just as with the cookies, there might only be a plateful left. Papa smiled and said that yes, an account would be opened for Christine, too, as soon as he was able. Coleen’s mind began to compute. Perhaps, I can use money from that account to replace Pamela’s and no one would ever know. Or, at least Papa would never find out.

But, Papa never woke up the next morning. Coleen was crushed.

The afternoon of the funeral, Pamela addressed the family and reassured them that at college, she’d make Papa proud. Coleen cried all the harder. How could she tell Pamela? The whole family would know about her failures. Oh, what a disappointment this would have been to Papa. And he hadn’t yet opened an account for Christine for Coleen to borrow from to hide what she’d done. To think, the last time she saw her dad, he smiled proudly at her. He had always thought the best of her.

That night, Coleen cried a confession to Peter. When he asked her how much was left, she collapsed on his chest and told him she didn’t know. She begged, “How can I face my family?” He held her and just let her cry until she fell asleep. The next day, they went to the bank together to check it out.

Maybe some people tithe this way. For some of us, it’s a long time from payday until Sunday morning when the offering plate is passed around. With well intentions, we set aside from the money God our Father has provided for us, the portion He requires back. But, sometimes, by Sunday only a small part of it is left. We might feel embarrassed about it. Some might even feel shame to give only a remnant of what is rightfully God’s. Some of us might decide that it’s no use; we just can’t do it right – so why do it at all? We settle for giving a small offering in each week. Some of us live in fear that God will punish us for taking what is His – as if all of it isn’t His to begin with? What will God say to us when we see Him face to face? Maybe some of us don’t know the forgiveness and the trust of our Father. Today might just be the day to begin to tithe again.

Coleen and Peter went into the bank together and nervously approached the teller to inquire about the account balance. Greatly surprised, they discovered that no money was missing at all! There was just as much in the account as there was the day Papa opened it eighteen years ago. Not many days before Papa’s death, he had restored it.

And the last time he looked at her face, he smiled at her!

(picture from pinterest.com)


(- Helen Williams! 4/2/1995)

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Using Our Talent - Not What You Might Think

(picture from thecrackeddoor.com)

Sometimes you get a nugget of revelation dropped into your soul. Your spirit already knows the truth of the matter, but you may need to ponder it for a while, to accept it and apply it to your life. Here’s a tasty morsel to chew on.

In the Bible we can read the parable of the talents. Here are the scriptures if you’d like to read it (Matthew 25:14-30); I’ll quickly summarize for those who haven’t.

A rich man gives of his fortune to his servants before he leaves for a journey. In the time the master is away, one servant greatly multiplies what he’s given, another doubles it, and one simply buries it, expecting to return it to his master, for whom he has no respect, later. Those who compounded the talent of money, are rewarded. The one who did nothing but bury his talent is cursed and has his share taken from him.

The parable has much to teach us, but let’s focus on the talent; the measure of money (called a mina in Luke’s account of the parable, found in Luke 19:11-27). It was given to each servant according to their ability. Since Jesus used parables to explain kingdom principles, what could that talent represent?

Since God has given us all varying gifts, we might conclude that these talents of money are actually God-given gifts of talent. Our western brains take things as we read them, so it would be easy to make this assumption. Perhaps you can sing, or you have a knack for teaching. Maybe you’re graced with the gift of hospitality, blessed with a talent for entertaining and meeting the needs of others.

But, what if the talent isn’t merely a talent? It’s a gift from our Master, whatever it is.

(picture from mobavatar.com)

My nugget says that the talent is actually authority. In our case, Kingdom authority. Some of us use our God-given authority like we believe it’s ours to exercise. Some of us use it only when we are desperate and feel forced into using it. Some of us bury our authority, because we don’t believe it’s ours at all, because we’re not believing and trusting our Master.

Since the talents were given according to the servant’s abilities, they shouldn’t have been overwhelmed; nor should we.

How different would our lives look if we consistently used our God-given authority? Would we rise above sickness, which is a curse from the enemy? Would we not be struggling in our finances? Would we more boldly share the gospel message?

Ponder, if you will, what you do with your God-given authority. What does our authority look like? How can we put it into action?

Are you walking in fear? In lack? In sickness?

Jesus Himself, said, “And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” - Matthew 16:19 (NKJV)

 

(picture from clip-library.com)

“Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead and the ruler over the kings of the earth. To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” – Revelation 1:5-6 (NKJV)

 

(picture from pinterest.com)

Song - I've Got A Key to the Kingdom

 

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Look - See the Hunger

 

(picture from unu.ecu)

I saw a billboard that displayed a beautiful woman and read, Hunger Can Be Hard to Detect. An ad campaign for Feeding American; promoting food banks.

The spiritual parallel struck me before anything else.

The person standing on the corner with a sign begging for cash because they’re hungry; the children who’s only meal for the day is one they get at school; the folks in tattered clothes entering a shelter, those waiting for their food stamps to come in…need help.

We are surrounded by those who consume delectable foods beyond the feeling of content. We’re also surrounded by those who will go to bed hungry tonight, again.

We know about the disadvantaged around us, and covid is making life harder. Do we realize the scope of it? For the statistics or ways you can help, click on your browser and do a local search. Your help is greatly needed. Government shouldn’t mandate how we help; we should be helping out of the kindness in our own hearts.

(picture from deseret.com)

But, as we look around and recognize how enormous this problem is, look a little further – and see just how many of your friends and neighbors, the strangers in the store with you, the moms and dads picking up their children after school with you – and yes, even those who sit next to you in church – are spiritual skeletons.

Some problems are evident; the mom without a coat you see walking over a mile in the cold every day to pick up her children, who wear thin, old jackets with no hats, gloves or scarves. Maybe you want to offer them a ride, but – will it become a daily commitment you’re not up for? If you get to know them, will you feel obligated to help out in other ways?

Some problems are not as evident with appearance; the mom wearing a brand-new pair of designer shoes every day could be contemplating suicide, the old man driving the Cadillac could be in debt up to his ears with no idea where to turn, the college kid that whips out daddy’s credit card at every whim might be addicted to porn, drugs or alcohol. Yes, they have needs, too.

With all of the tangible needs so visibly in our face every day, it’s easy to overlook the emptiness of spiritual starvation.

(picture from lovethispic.com)

Hunger Can Be Hard to Detect.

Sometimes, God places the answers to our prayers within other people. Sneaky, sneaky, sneaky. What a way to ensure we hang out with each other. Our pastor reminds us regularly that God is all about relationships.

In 2020, we’ve been deprived of spending time with others, sometimes, even those we love most- which brings sadness, depression and anxiety. But, it’s also breeding sentiments that boast that we can do everything ourselves; that we don’t need others. If we’re thinking that – we’re so wrong.

And with so much division in our culture, admit it, sometimes, we’d rather be by ourselves, than mingle with someone who might be judging us.

God is calling us to come together, to give of what we’ve received and to receive from others. We can’t let the eternal give and take of humanity be stolen from us. We need each other so much that Jesus has instructed us to love each other, not just as we love ourselves, but AS HE LOVES US!

 

“This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” – John 15:12 (NKJV)

(picture from pinterest.com)


Friday, October 23, 2020

Loss and Letting Go

 

Nothing teaches you to let go like losing something that’s important to you; losing a loved one or breaking something of value.

We’ve all lost loved ones, it’s the biggest loss we’ll experience. Everyone grieves differently. We all go through stages of loss in our own way, at our own pace. Letting go seldom follows a prescribed plan.

Scaling things waaaaay back:  we all lose petty things, too. These kinds of things have no value to anyone but us. Although, much easier to let go of, these things can still cause angst and frustrations. Taking a deep breath and shaking it off can turn into taking two, three or four deep breaths and shaking our fists because we don’t want to let to, but we have to.

I recently broke my phone and had to replace it. It’s sad, really, how attached we can get to our phones. I suppose it’s easier to replace one if you’re part of the savvy crowd that backs things up to a cloud.

Sure, I can transfer my contacts and some of my text and old voice messages, my pictures – at least most of them….

But, scores for games I’ve been playing for years? Gone. Predictive texts? Gone. Little things I looked forward to, or grew too dependent upon, I now have no choice but to start over and build up scores and vocabularies again.

I resent it, because it feels like a waste of time; I’ve already done it before. Feels like I’m back to square one. I guess it reminds me that I’m always starting something over.

But, doesn’t life happen in cycles? Having the opportunity to start over again should be a good thing.

Blew my diet yesterday? I was given today to try again to get it right. Fail a quiz at school? Now you know you have to study before the big test that really counts. Forgot to save that essay you were writing? You can do better when you write it again.

Sometimes we get it right when we do things again, or when we do them repeatedly. Take rejoicing – the more we rejoice, the more joy we experience, and as we know, “the joy of the Lord is our strength…” (Nehemiah 8:10)

Take those deep breaths, shake your head or your fists and let it break loose….. Let it go. Honestly, your other choices aren’t productive. Perhaps that’s why this was penned so long ago.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”

-       Reinhold Niebuhr

Maybe we need to anticipate more from what’s to come, to let go of what we had.



Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Half-full? Half-empty?

 

(picture from esmemes.com)

Half-full? Half-empty? Refill, please?

“If I meet your needs, you look to me; if I point you to Jesus, you look to Him to meet your needs.”

I can be a very giving person. If there’s any such thing as being too giving, I think I may fall into that trap sometimes. When I muster up the courage to tell someone “no” in response to a request for help or for a chunk of my time, I feel selfish.

I’ve shared memes on social media about self-care, and I’ve actually had friends respond in a way that judged me for not always putting other people first. But, at some point, if you’re not refilling your own “joy tank” or “happy tank” – where your energy is stored up, it runs dry.

If I’m pouring a drink from a pitcher into the glasses of the many people around me, eventually, I’ll need to go back for more. The pitcher isn’t bottomless, and neither are we.

(picture from thespruceeats.com)

I rejoice in my husband, who regularly sees when I’m feeling dry and knows how to help me refill. Sometimes, it’s as simple as a drive in the mountains. Other times, it takes a little more. He’s there for me.

It would be, not only wrong, but sinful for me to expect him to be the source of my refilling, though.

God uses Dave in my life for sooooo many things, one of them is to prompt me to slow down, or to rest, to refill my empty tank.

Sadly, sometimes, he comes last or feels the brunt of my frustrations when I’m feeling stretched – because I know he’ll always love me, unconditionally. 

Dave exemplifies the scripture: “Husbands, love your wives even as Christ also loves His church…” – Ephesians 5:25 (KJV)

Is he perfect? No. Is he perfect for me? YES! There’s not a doubt in my mind that God created us for each other, brought us together and has kept us together through the decades.

But, God has taught me along the way, that Dave is not the One Who gets to sit on the throne of my heart. That’s reserved for my Creator – the Lover of my soul.

Dave helps me refill my sanity reservoirs best when he’s pointing me back to Jesus. Sometimes that’s by taking me out into nature. Sometimes, it’s when he prays with and for me. Always, it’s as he loves me.

 So, know that it’s out of love when I say this: “If I meet your needs, you look to me; if I point you to Jesus, you look to Him to meet your needs.”

It’s out of love when you say it, too. Learn it. Believe it. Say it. Now, we get to work out what this looks like in our lives.

God’s reserves never run dry. We can always draw from Him. When we love each other and serve each other in our own strength, we set ourselves up to fall. When we love with God’s love and direct people to our Source, life gets a whole lot easier and less frustrating. We can actually be happy people!

(picture from braintap.com)


Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Bug on a Trail

 

I'm always looking for spiritual parallels, because sometimes if you're not paying attention, they're lost on you. 

 

Since my husband retired, we've been going hiking in the mornings. We're walking, but I call it hiking because we're on trails out and about in the open spaces of the Colorado Springs area. Some trails are rocky, some sandy, some paved. 

 

Shout out to my friend Kelly for the new, pink trekking poles! I love them! Thank you, Kelly. 

 

While huffing and puffing uphill, my walking stick/trekking pole came down right next to a giant beetle. 

 

Whew! That was close. Almost crushed him.

 

I wondered; did he even see my pole? Did he know how close he just came to painful death? Did his heart race at the narrow escape?

Do bugs praise God?

 

(from boingboing.net)

Or perhaps he never saw it coming; never even noticed my pole less than an inch from his black, shiny body. 

 

How often do we miss God's protection?

 

We'll never know how many times divine intervention saved us from disaster, or even death. 

 

God's not finished with us yet!

 

As the decades flitter by and time piles up behind us, most of us can recall hard times. But we're here today. 

 

So many of us have survived some tough stuff. After a battle in India, Winston Churchill said, "I've been preserved for higher things." 

 

Why am I here?

 

I ask myself that question plenty. 

I need to be asking God and watching for His answers.

 

Why are YOU here?

 

Jeremiah 29:11 (NLT)

"For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope."

 


Thursday, September 17, 2020

Sunflowers


Sunflowers.

Always with their face toward the sun.

As my husband and I walk a hiking trail each morning, we see hundreds of sunflowers, among the many other colorful flowers along the way. I can’t help notice that the sunflowers always have their face toward the sun. That’s where they derive their strength!


In the garden of life, we’re like sunflowers.

We are the “Son-flowers” – that bloom where we’re planted; bringing great delight to our Father.

Son-flowers.

Always with our face toward the Son.

As Satan roams this realm, let him observe the Son-flowers and notice that our face is always toward the Son of God, where we derive our strength.

Jesus is our righteousness. He’s our redemption, our salvation, 
our right-now healing, He’s our joy, He’s our peace.

Why would we ever turn our face from His?

We pout. We have pity-parties. We get angry at God when we blame Him for things we don’t understand and the things that don’t go according to our plans, especially if we thought our plans were His plans.

But, in the midst of our pouting and rebelling, no one notices our beauty; no one can see it. Our beauty comes from always looking to Jesus, in good times and when we’re frustrated or sad or angry or scared.

Son-flowers – recognize your Source, and don’t turn away; especially now.