Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Remember to Look UP

I *used to* love to joke to people that I never get sick; I just get cancer.  Up until last week, that was true.  I have been as healthy as a horse my entire adult life, except for an annual winter cold....and the cancer that surfaced in the summer of 2007.  I had not had the flu since I was a child.  Last week that is just what I had.  It forced me to hibernate in my bed for two days, sleeping it off from Nyquil Cold and Flu.  At first I thought it was a stomach virus until I became feverish and every.part.of.my.body ached as never before. I   rebounded after the second day and four doses of the over-the-counter medication.

When I awoke yesterday morning to return to work, I had broken out in hives from my feet to my neck.  Luckily, they were not too itchy, and I was able to make it through work.  On the way home, however, they spread to my jaw line.  I have not had the hives in about seven years.  The only other time I had them was when my bff and I had them together at work.  As astute as she is, when I called her late yesterday, she was adamant they were caused by stress, as the earlier outbreak had been.

I didn't *feel* stressed, and that is when she reminded me that our bodies have their own way of dealing with stress that we can not control.  As what she said sunk into my mind, I realized she was right.  This last year I have been dealing with more stress than *normal,* whatever that means.  I have dealt with things with my son as most parents do; my father was hospitalized for over a week in September;  a beloved pet has been sick;  finances have been strapped for a variety of reasons, one of which included a deer last month; and I have had to contend with a lying, irreputable repairman; and, and, and....................

Being a single parent is HARD, and I am one of the lucky ones in that I have an advanced degree in an area that offers job security.  Even so, everything else that a single parent goes through, I have had to go through alone.....and that has resulted in living a stressful life.  When everything appears to be falling down around me, I have to remember to look up....up to the One who knows me as no one else does.  When everything narrows down around my head, He is the One who sends me a safety net.  It has often  been by unlikely means, but it comes.....by way of Facebook and the words from a student from a quarter century ago.....by way of this blog read by another favorite, long-remembered student from the same era who acted when God prompted him.....by way of part-time jobs (one of which was a total  unexpected miracle)....by way of earned bonuses at work......by way of answered prayers......by..................   This will be added to as He works in my life.

So.......when life bears down upon your head and you feel at your last rope, look UP to the God who made you and knows your needs more than anyone.  He will sustain you. 

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Why I left the "church"

I stopped going to "church" over two years ago-----and I make NO apologies for that.  I was reared in a Methodist church and have attended non-denominational churches in my adulthood.  As I grow older, I realize they are not for me---at least not in the traditional form.  I am done with repeated liturgies...DONE....I am done with the bands and the flashing lights....DONE....I am done with the "entrapments".  Why do churches think they need all that "stuff"?  I surmise it is to draw members;  numbers seem to be what drives them these days.  For over two years I cooked for a homeless ministry on Sundays; now I carry on with one of those shut-ins in a poor area of town.

Think back to the church that Jesus founded.  How did He "do church"?  From what I recall, His church met in small groups in homes.  People communed together and did not exclude.  From my experience in too many churches, there are established cliques, and they exclude people; my personal experience as a divorced woman was that I was virtually always excluded.  The focus was always on "in-tact, traditional families".  Others were not valued.  Another example of an exclusionary process was the way bible school was done in the summer.  Kids could sign up to be in groups with their friends.  Whoa!  Where did that leave visitors and those without close ties in the church?  Left out, that's where.  The whole thing has left a bitter taste in my mouth for "church" as we know it.  I don't know that I will ever heal from the damage that was done. 

The way I spend my Sundays for Priscilla is far more important to God than sipping coffee or listening to the band warm up.  I would not go back to the old, "new" way of church. 

Go here to read why people are leaving church in the droves.  The writer is spot-on!  http://johnpavlovitz.com/2014/08/15/church-heres-why-people-are-leaving-you-part-1/

Sunday, August 10, 2014

God is on Facebook!

I don't know about you, but sometimes I feel God is not listening, not watching.  At times He is soooo quiet.  I think it is in those times that He is actually working overtime, but He just chooses not to reveal that until "His" timing.  Back on July 20 when I wrote http://onedayatatime-ginger.blogspot.com/2014/07/following-jesus.html, I had no idea He was working.  While I don't feel it is appropriate that I reveal what He did here at this time, let's just say I (and my dear Priscilla) have been blessed beyond my wildest dreams....blessed via a "blast from my past".    With that blessing comes an unbelievable trust....a trust He has bestowed upon me.  Why me?  He uses the least of us to accomplish His goals.  Never, ever feel that if you are doing kingdom work, He does not see; He sees IT ALL and will honor you for your faithfulness.

P.S.  And HE used Facebook to do it!  Yes, God is on Facebook!

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Engagement with the Creator

Because of http://denyingme.blogspot.com/2014/07/engagement.html, I have been pondering more what "engagement, " or a true relationship with God/Jesus means.  I have believed for some time that it is the "give and take" that my friend basically writes of above.  (You should truly read that post.)  What does that look like on a daily basis of walking with God?  Let me illustrate with a little vignette that just occurred to me.

For a few months now I have been working on a special online project that requires very specific computer capabilities.  While I can maneuver a computer for my job like a boss, the technical aspects of it are above my head---way above.  My personal laptop is 7 years old and very sluggish; its speed capabilities are limited, and it was showing with my online project.  I knew I needed to replace it.  I chose this weekend since it is tax-free in SC for back-to-school shopping.  Armed with the technical requirements I thought were comprehensive, I bought a new laptop at Staples.  I bought a year's worth of tech support and left it for a few hours for the technician to set it up.  When I got it home a few hours later, within 5 minutes I was up and running.  I was stoked!

Last night as I worked on my project, I realized my lovely, speedy new laptop did not have Microsoft Word, the one thing I forgot to write on my "technical essentials" list.  A year ago I would have panicked.  Instead, I said, "Lord, You have to make this right.  Help me."  He led me to a 30 day trial download of Word.  "This is great," I thought.  I have a month before I have to pay for it.  Later, it occurred to me that my real name was showing up in the comments I make on Word documents; for what I do online, that is a NO-NO!  Because this Word that is compatible with Windows 8 is slightly different from the one I am accustomed to, I couldn't figure out how to change my identity to "anonymous".  Instead of losing my mind, I simply went to bed at 1:30am and told God, "You can show me tomorrow."  This morning, on the way home from the grocery store at 7:30 am, I reminded Him, "Ok, God. I have a lot going on this morning.  Bring help to me in some form later."  That is what He did.  When I pulled out my new Toshiba, He guided me to what I had to do.  Now I am set for a month, until I have to buy Word.

So what can one glean from my little vignette?  Rely on God.  Engage with Him in your daily walk of life.  It is amazing what He will do when we walk with Him.  There are other times when I have looked for something I really needed but could not find for days-----and He came through and "showed" me where the item was.

Engagement does not just mean betrothel in the marriage sense; it is a sharing, a give-and-take relationship with the Creator.  Try it.  You will not be sorry.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Following Jesus?

What does it mean to follow Jesus?  To me, it means listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit, doing what He guides/tells/instructs me to do.....even when it may hurt or seem impossible.  If He wants me to do something, He will provide a way. 

Sometimes it is easy; other times it is hard---a leap of faith.  For over two years I have been cooking for a shut-in in the poorer section of my city.  At first, there were two of us combining our resources to accomplish this, even ordering her a Dwyane Wade birthday cake two years running.  Then, one of us moved across country, and I found myself alone with this task.  It was financially difficult at times, but God always provided......sometimes by a paying cake order from school; sometimes from added tutoring; sometimes from another night of petsitting.  That is where the faith comes in.  There were weeks when I told Him, "You know I can not afford this, so You have to make it happen."-----and He always did.   Along the way, I added a homemade dessert to the menu---and He provided.  Recently, she accepted my offer for me to make her birthday cake this year.  Her son told me today that once they tasted mine, no one wanted the store-bought they had.  Then he requested that cake.  I am the one who offered it the first Sunday of each month.  I am taking a faith walk that God will provide the resources.  I know He will because He always does.

I have recently come to realize (I am a slow learner about some things.) that this baking-mania He has put on my heart is a ministry.  I bake from scratch for my school kids and sometimes for the staff.  I no longer question that voice when I "hear it".  I just obey.

That, folks, is what it means to follow Jesus. 

Sunday, April 20, 2014

The Messy Messiah

This Easter article about Pope Francis has me thinking.  This man has the whole Jesus discipleship down pat.  He understands that "the Jesus way" (as I call it) is sacrificial.  In this article, he breaks away from the old tradition of washing the priests' feet.  Why was that done, anyway?  Is it because Jesus did it of the twelve?  To me, today, that seems elitest.  Francis has shown himself to be a "People's Pope," taking selfies with young tourists, washing the feet of prisoners, mingling with average people and outcasts. Anti-catholics will assail him because of theology, but this man knows what it means to follow Christ's example.  
To truly follow Jesus' example is messy and uncomfortable for many (most) Christians. Let's see why.

Jesus did not exalt himself above others; though He was the King of Kings, he arrived lowly in a stable and His first bed was a trough for feeding animals.  Once He began His ministry, He had no home.  When He entered Jerusalem on what we call Palm Sunday, He was on a lowly donkey.  He lived a life of simplicity, never connecting with the rich and powerful; in fact, those were the people He assailed against----their theology and arrogance.  He was a "people's" savior, always seeking out the underdogs.  There was Zacheus, the hated tax collector; the Samaritan  woman at the well whom most spurned;   the prostitute who was on the precipice of being stoned; and the unnamed woman of ill-repute, who washed his feet with her tears and anointed his feet with the expensive perfume that had presumably been used to attract her clientele. Then there were all the people He healed, including the leper and the bleeding woman.   He was a "messy" savior because in His day, who wanted to be associated with those social outcasts?  He was judged harshly for those associations.

What about us today?  How many of us truly take to heart these words from Matthew 20:27-28:  "and whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life--a ransom for many."  or this, which I think encapsulates everything He meant about service:  Matthew 25:36-43:
                             For I was hungry
                              and you gave Me something to eat;
                              I was thirsty
                             and you gave Me something to drink;
                             I was a stranger and you took Me in;
                            I was naked and you clothed Me;
                            I was sick and you took care of Me;
                            I was in prison and you visited Me. (verse 36)

Then the righteous will answer Him, Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You something to drink?  When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or without clothes and clothe You?  When did we see You sick, or in prison, and visit You? (verses 37-39)

And the King will answer them, I assure you:  Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.(verse 40)

Then He will say to those on the left, 'Depart from Me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels!

                            For I was hungry
                              and you gave Me nothing to eat;
                             I was thirsty
                              and you gave Me nothing to drink;
                            I was a stranger
                              and you didn't take Me in;
                           I was naked
                              and you didn't clothe Me,
                             sick and in prison
                             and you didn't take care of Me. (verses 41-43)

Living out these words in the name of Jesus is messy, missionary work.  When people think of missionaries, they think of going overseas to some third-world country; on the contrary, missionary work is done any place God plants you, especially in serving any of the above-mentioned people:  incarcerated, homeless, the marginal of society.

For a year-and-a-half I had the pleasure of working alongside people in a local park ministry (until they left to minister to a homeless population in California).  Without going into a lot of detail, it was the most rewarding thing I have been associated with.  I had long-ago become disenchanted with the mega-church trend.  Not only is it isolating, but it is so unlike Jesus' way, and self-serving to those in charge; just look at those tv preachers (but I digress).  I do not ever envision myself going back to a large, mainstream church.  It holds nothing for me.  I have not been led by the Spirit to seek out another church at the moment; I will know when I am.  For now, I serve my lovely shut-in on Sundays.  That is my calling for now.

What is your calling?  On this Easter, Resurrection Sunday, how can you be more like Christ?  It is messy, and it is uncomfortable, but it is so rewarding.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Cultivating an Attitude of Thankfulness, Part 2

I began writing on cultivating an attitude of thankfulness here.  I am not a prolific writer; I blog when I feel moved to do so.  Thankfulness has been on my mind a lot lately.  I believe God is using that word to teach my dissatisfied, ungrateful self a lesson.  I once wrote that for much of my life I have been dissatisfied with that life.  While I won't go into detail here, my closest friends know why.  It has been an extraordinarily hard life in the sense it has been fraught with abandonment issues and constant attacks from the devil from every angle.  

While I did not know it in much of the chaos, God was there.  He never left me.  I saw a saying years ago that went something like this:  If you don't feel God, guess who moved?  As I look back on the last twenty-five years or so, I have much to be thankful for:  my parents are now octogenarians and in reasonably good health and mind, I am a cancer survivor of nearly 7 years, and God has always provided for my son and me.  While I don't count many people in the "friend" column, because to me a friend stands the test of time and circumstances, I do have a limited number I know I can count on if the need arises. 

Therefore, in this "me-generation-the-devil-with-anyone-else," I am reminded I am wealthier than the vast majority of the people on this earth who live in abject poverty....materially and spiritually.  That is why, in my miniscule corner of the world, I have to find a way to be representative of Jesus to those around me.  It may take the form of something small or insignificant in most people's eyes:  homemade cupcakes for kids who may never get that for their birthday or "just because"; made-from scratch cake for downtrodden co-workers on Mondays; or a Sunday meal for a stroke survivor shut-in.  That is how I choose to show my thankfulness to the God who has carried me when I could not carry myself...even when I didn't recognize He was doing so.

I leave you with this verse to ponder during this Holy Week:

Colossians 3:17:  "And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him."

"Whatever you do" .....Whatever you do, no matter the people involved and how they treat you, do it in the name of Jesus, for we work for Him, not man.....and give thanks to God.

Cultivate an attitude of thankfulness~~~~

Friday, April 11, 2014

Cultivating an Attitude of Thankfulness --Part 1

It is a wonder that God has any patience with me; I am such a slow learner, and He has to constantly remind me of things I should already know.  Tonight I was reminded that we as humans (and I am speaking specifically of me) are grumblers; we are seldom happy with what we have.  Perhaps society has created this monster within us that tells us we should want this -or - that.  We are conditioned to not be happy with what we have.... or our lives. 

Psalm 107:1 tells us, "Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!"

God  does not promise us our lives will be easy or that we will have what we want.  He does tell us, however, that He will never leave us.  He loves us, and we are to "Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.  (1 Thessalonians 5:18) 

in.all.circumstances.....All circumstances means ALL.   It doesn't matter whether we are happy  with our circumstances; it is His will for us.  We may have a job we trudge to everyday; we may have difficult people we live with; we may have financial hardships.  No matter what the issue is, we are commanded to give thanks in all circumstances....for this is the will of God for us.  I don't think God dictates every situation in  our lives because we are free agents, but He can use those situations to His advantage to teach us .....if we are teachable.  Some of us are too arrogant to listen to Him. If we do listen, He can show us what He wants us to learn. Every situation can be a teachable moment if we change our perspective.... To that end,  we need to cultivate an attitude of thankfulness.  No matter what our lot in life, we are to thank God and look for something positive in it.  Every situation can be a learning experience, and we should look at them like that and thank God.   That is not to say we don't pray for a change if we feel we should; by all means, we do that.  Still, in the meantime, we are to give thanks.

Friday, March 28, 2014

The Stranglehold of Worry

Where does worry get us?  Over the years I have gotten better; in my younger days I was a devout pessimist who worried incessantly.  Whatever could go wrong, would go wrong, in my estimation. Yet, my worst-case imagined scenario never materialized.  I didn't know any better at the time, but worry is not biblical; in fact, it is the antithesis of faith.

 Matthew 6:27 admonishes us:  "Can any one of you add a moment to your lifespan by worrying?"

Isaiah 26:3 tells us:  "You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts on You."

There are numerous other verses that pertain to the detriment of worrying.  The point that Christians have to realize is that nothing that happens to us is a surprise to God.  The God of the universe is omniscient.  We all have our stumbling blocks and attacks because we live in a fallen, decrepit world.  

A high school friend Annie has been an incredible encouragement to me as she has chronicled her family's journey of faith through several unemployments.  We all have "life crud" that threatens to derail us.  It is how we choose to deal with that crud that defines us, shapes us.

My mantra is "Look up; always look up."  That is because every answer that we need is found in God.....if we seek Him and trust in Him everyday.  I find I have to rely on Him moment-by-moment many days because of the depravity around me.

To paraphrase the verse from Matthew again:  How has worrying helped you?  How has it changed your circumstance?

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Living, Breathing Faith

Last week when I posted I said that I rarely post unless I feel the urging of the Spirit.  Today is one of those days.  In the last week God has been dealing with me about something.  Ironically, it has been the verse I referenced in the last post:

            Isaiah 41:13:

               "For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and
         says to you, 'Do not fear; I will help you.'"

While I am not ready to discuss it here, the Lord has abundantly blessed me in the last few months in the area of finances.  There has been no.doubt.in.my.mind.it.came.from.Him.......none....whatsoever.  As I stated in the last post, His fingerprints are all over it.

Having said that, this is the moral He has been trying to get into my thick skull this week:  If something happens in your life that is His will, it will happen no matter what....unless you openly defy Him.  I  don't plan to do that.

While the devil has been playing with my head all week, yesterday he was particularly active; it seemed he was going to ruin this blessing God has bestowed upon me.  There seemed to be no way around it.  Then last night, a possible solution was offered.  As of this moment, it has worked; the evil one has been thwarted yet again.

I leave you with this cornerstone verse (for me) again:

          "For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you,
       'Do not fear; I will help you.'"

To have true faith, we can not walk by sight but trust Him.  Even though He is the one who gave me that verse, I didn't fully trust Him.

Perhaps I should have that verse tattooed since having it at my computer desk has not cemented into my  brain.