Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Raised By Wolves

Someone recently asked me, “What were your family’s holiday traditions when you were growing up?” I had to think about that for a minute. I wondered, “Does fighting count as a tradition?”  My running joke about my upbringing is that “I was raised by wolves.” Seventies-era “latchkey kids” of divorce without a church family or close relatives, our family was not exactly a nurturing environment. With our single mother struggling to provide for us, sometimes holding down three different jobs, holidays and birthdays were difficult. She did the best she could but there were few resources to foster traditions or togetherness. We were an untraditional family at best.

Jesus Christ rewrote my history when I was 17 years old. At a church camp, I found out that God loved all people so much that He gave up His only son, Jesus Christ, to die on a cross, taking the blame for our sins so we could have new life with Him. (John 3:16) I clung to His promises and my life has never been hopeless or empty again.  He made my life “…a new creation…the old things passed away...”(2 Cor. 5:17)  Now, blessed with a family of my own, I look forward to holidays and birthdays and we enjoy making our own traditions. Not extravagant, our focus is on modeling God’s love and just having great fun together. We laugh and play and I know our kids have great memories and enjoy the togetherness of family.

Family traditions can serve as vehicles to strengthen bonds and promote healing in areas of brokenness. They help sustain unity in good times and bad. Like a thread running through generations, they can knit families together with a sense of history, place, brotherhood, and continuity. They can be a catalyst for Christian growth when centered on charity and thankfulness. For the “untraditionalist” wishing to take their family in a new direction there are books, websites, and internet blogs that can help. Type “Christian family traditions” into a search engine and get ready to discover great possibilities! 

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Screams in the Desert

     Does God hear our cries in the wilderness? My dear friend who in the past year has been laid off from her 19 year career, been diagnosed with breast cancer, had a double mastectomy and is beginning reconstructive surgery, and awaiting a hysterectomy while she jumps through insurance company hoops and red tape, began to wonder about that the other day. We both love to read Streams in the Desert, a devotional book by Mrs. L. B. Cowman, and boost eachother's faith with the gems of wisdom printed there. She commented in an email to me on a particularly frustrating day dealing with doctor's answering machines, unresponsive receptionists, and overbooked operating rooms that she felt like her life was more a reflection of Screams in the Desert instead.  The poor thing probably felt like screaming considering the maze of gobbledygook she had to deal with in the medical industry. 
     Psalm 46 encourages us when we feel lost in the turmoil of living in this world to remember that..."God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble."  It reminds us that we don't have to be bound up in anxiety..."even though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though its waters roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with its swelling."  It tells us we can absolutely be refreshed in His streams in the desert..."there is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High."  And the best part about those streams is that..."God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved; God shall help her, just at the break of dawn." When we feel like screaming at the top of our lungs there is a whisper that is louder than the terrible torrents...."Be still, and know that I am God;..." When His grace flows freely in our lives we can be assured that while we might be on a white water adventure He won't allow us to drown in the process.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Have You Made Your Reservation?

     Vacation planning time is upon us!  Whether you like the process or not, now is the time to put on your travel agent hats and get ready to hit the road. Yesterday, push came to shove and I was forced to make reservations for a trip to Pennsylvania with my husband.  The trip has been looming on the horizon since last June when my mother passed away. Being in California, my siblings and I agreed it best to have a memorial service here and then fly mom's ashes to PA later for burial in the family plot. "Later" kept getting pushed back until a more convenient time for everyone involved.  Before we knew it almost a year had passed. We finally agreed on a date so it was time to get moving with travel plans.
       Sitting down at the computer trying to navigate the myriad of travel and lodging options in cyberspace is not the way I like to spend my time. Planning on a tight budget and working with user-unfriendly websites adds to my dismay. It took several hours of research, planning schedules, calculating costs, sorting out conflicts and trying not to end up with a major headache.  I know now I could never be a real travel agent! Needless to say after all my thinking and pondering and hemming and hawing I finally ended up with an intinerary that is focused and finalized. The loose ends are tied up. The agony of deciding is over. 
     This morning when I sat down to have a cup of tea it felt so good to know that there is a charming room at a turn of the century inn with our name on it and that when we get to the airport there will be two seats especially waiting just for us on the airplane (all probability of earthly glitches considered!).  The thought of driving through the lush, green Pennsylvania Dutch countryside, reuniting with distant relatives, and honoring our mother's wishes to return to her homeland for her final resting place gave me a sense of peace and satisfaction.
     It occurred to me that the anticipation and joy I have about my pending trip are similar to the way I feel about my future in eternity.  On a day and time that God has already appointed I will depart this body and this earth and arrive at the most wonderful of all destinations, heaven.  The bible speaks of all the amazing things I will experience there; a city where everything is made of pure gold and adorned with precious gems (Revelations 21:18-21), where all things will be in a perpetual state of "newness" (Rev. 21:5), where hearts are not broken, there is no disease or injury, our bodies will nevermore get old or wear out(Rev.21:4), and where darkness is non-existent, illumination will pour forth from the glory of God's presence (Rev.21:23). You think some of the places you've stayed in have been amazing? The bible tells of custom-built mansions in heaven for each of those who believe (John 14:2). 
     Jesus Christ made a way for each and every one of us to enjoy eternity in His heavenly kingdom. Through His death and resurrection on the cross at Calvary He built an eternal bridge for us from death into life. He paved a way for us to have lives of purpose and the hope of a future in His presence.  All we need do is make a decision to cross that bridge. He entreats us to "...Come! And let him who thirsts come, whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely."(Rev.22:17).   When we open our hearts to let Jesus reveal Himself to us we open the door to a new path in life now and essentially "reserve" a place in His eternal home.  If you've been confused about the various options that different religions have promised I encourage you to open up the Holy Bible and read it and ask God to reveal truth to you.  In order to embark on a journey we have to first make a decision that we are willing to go.  A journey through this life with Jesus is incredible indeed and a future in eternity with Him will be glorious.  Are you ready to make a reservation yet?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Light in the Shadows

     What present darkness are you in? What loss or sorrow has darkened your doorstep?
     Be it unemployment, financial hardship, sickness, wayward children, or loneliness you may have begun to feel as if you are living in very dark times. But perhaps you are not really in the "dark" at all. Perhaps you are only in the "shade". Psalm 121:5 says 'The Lord is your keeper, the Lord is your shade at your right hand.'
     Because it's hard to understand or make sense of what is going on in your life in the midst of struggle it is easy to assume that God is far from you and has left you in the dark to muddle through on your own. What may not be evident is the work God is doing in your heart and life. The Psalms are overflowing with promises of God's ever present love, protection, and provision.
     Dark times may be resting places in your walk with the Lord. He may be calling you to 'rest in the shadow of His wings' (Psalm 36:7) while He realigns the broken pieces of your life. Dark places need not be frightening places. They may very well be places of rest, peace, and shelter while our Lord is working out His perfect will. He will provide all you have need of as you wait for Him. He is fully aware of your difficulties and heartache.
     'The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord shall preserve you from all evil; He shall preserve your soul. The Lord shall preserve your going out and your coming in from this time forth and even forevermore', says Psalm 121:6-8.   REST in God's shade, let His promises refresh and calm you. He will bring brighter days even in dark times.