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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

CROSSROADS - Pride ~ Humility

I met the sin of pride early in my life, even before I went to school, Mom made me a beautiful dress.  I don’t remember the details, just the feeling while wearing that dress.  The day was Sunday and I proudly wore my new dress to church.  A little boy watched me walk by, and commented on how beautiful the dress was.  I remember lifting my head, and without a comment, walked by him with disdain.  Later I replayed that scene in my mind.  A five year old’s arrogance is not a beautiful thing. 

When I was 10 years old, the sin of pride pounced upon my heart once more.  It was Easter Sunday night, and Mother and I played a piano duet for the Prelude before church began.  We had worked very hard on the song.  I wore my new Easter shoes that night.  I didn’t make one mistake and felt so very proud.  As I left the stage, the slick soles of the shoes met the three carpeted-steps.  I slipped and fell with a loud splat on the bare floor.  I don’t know where or how the verse came.  I have never been so humiliated as I was that night as I humbly crept to the front row to sit for the rest of the service, muttering all the time, “Pride goeth before a fall.”  (Proverbs 16:18)

After the celebration of my retirement of teaching school for 31 years, someone asked me what I planned to do.  Forever I can hear my voice speaking the words that still haunt me….I will do what I want, when I want, how I want.  In that moment, I knew that I sinned with that declaration. I saw weeks, months and years of freedom to read what I wanted, learn about writing and follow all the dreams I had.  It has been seventeen years, and I am no closer to finding closure in all I wanted to do. Now I wonder, as the end of my life nears, will I finish all the things I wanted to do after retirement before God calls me home? 

Where does this feeling of pride come from that we are compelled to follow?  Pride goes before destruction, and haughtiness before a fall.  Proverbs 16:18   God means what He says – literally.  I learned the blessing of the 3 letter word,Yes, a humble and willing Yes.  I learned that a humble Yes coupled with awareness of needs of others and a willing servant heart in the name of Jesus is a pathway that overflows with Joy.

Pride leads to disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.  Proverbs 11:2. 
Pride is complicated – and when we choose the fork in the path that reads Pride, we can be assured of additional fellow travellers such as judgement of others, independence, arrogance, covering up of faults and controlling others.  Pride is a pathway of shadows and darkness.  Pride causes us to put others down – even God.

The path to Humility has difference set of travellers as these two verses from Colossians sets out clearly.  Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.”  Colossians 3:12-13

Humility is giving love and grace when undeserved.  Humility is about others and pride is all about self.  After my Mother died in 1998, I felt rudderless – with no direction.  I will forever be grateful to our Minister, Jack, for asking me to give a ride to a young couple to church.  It was a lesson I will never forget.  When I forget self, I remember others.

How can we avoid pride?  We can consider the following questions and find the answers.
  1. How can I avoid the temptation of prideful living?
    1. Look for needs of others and fill those needs, forgetting self.
  2. Where can I begin?
    1. Treat those who serve you in a place of business with grace.
  3. What does the Bible teach about the way of treating others?
    1. “Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing?  When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’  “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’  Matthew 37-40
Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you.  For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever. I John 2:15-17

See others as Jesus sees them.  Love others as Jesus loves them.  Follow Jesus who left the splendor of Heaven to be humiliated, spit upon, whipped and crucified.  Who was this man?  He is the Son of God, the only Son of God.  It is only through Him and the shedding of His blood can we be saved.  There are those who, through their pride and wish to control what is, are unable to understand the verse, “In the beginning was God…”  He was, He is and He will ever be.
If the only Bible I ever read was Psalm 19, I would believe.  It is all I need to know: God will ever be.  The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship.  Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make him known. They speak without a sound or word; their voice is never heard. Yet their message has gone throughout the earth, and their words to all the world.”  His majesty and wondrous might is in His Creation of our World.

The 19th Psalm ends with these words… May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

Forever my choice is made – The Pathway of Humility and Grace and Dignity and Love.


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Compassionate Heart

January 21, 2014
Compassionate Heart

“Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked. You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate.  Luke.6.35.nlt

What does the last sentence mean?  It is a command and raises the proverbial bar for me.  From the time I was a little child, I knew the verse, God is Love.  I memorized it.  But as the years go by, I am beginning to know it with my heart even thought it is a difficult concept to learn. 

The anti-compassionate heart rears its ugly tentacles of competition, anger, greed, arrogance, power-hunger, jealousy, revenge, all seeking to possess our hearts.  There is a word hiding in the word, compassionate, that motivates compassion.  The word is Passion.  Our passion is revealed by our actions and our words.  Do we have a passion for gaining possessions?  Do we fuel dissatisfaction by our actions or words?  Is our passion to exhibit the latest fads of the world in speech or owning the latest tech gadget for the sake of gaining status?

Unless we have a boundary of faith, truth and compassion, we will know no peace.  And this boundary is of the heart… Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.  Psalm 139:4-6
 Many times I watched Mom’s nimble fingers carefully roll a hem and stitch it tightly.  It becomes a boundary that cannot unravel.  This is what God does when we accept Jesus Christ, His Only Begotten Son.  He stitches us into the safety of His hem,  His boundary of safety.  And with prayers of repentance and confession to God our Father, we are snatched from evil, and returned to the safety of his hem-boundary.

If we knew how much God loved us and was for us, we’d talk to Him all day long, is the quote I read from Donald Miller.  When I read this quote – I think about how God commanded his chosen people, So commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these words of mine. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Deuteronomy 11:18.   This becomes a boundary for our actions and our mind…God wants his words to be our words and placed in our hearts.

Our passion is that which is closest to our hearts and treasured.  Every nuance of His Word is to be heeded – from our spirit-out. I often wonder at the heart-passion my ancestors that compelled them to search the world over for a place to freely worship
God.  Boundaries of Space and Governments had no hold over them. Their passion was being free to worship The Lord God and Him Only.. 

From the Introduction of Norma Jost Voth’s book, Mennonite Foods & Folkways from South Russia, comes this timeline of their migration.
  1786 – Empress Catherine II of Russia invited Dutch Mennonites living in West Prussia (Poland) to settle in Ukraine, Russia.
  March 22, 1788 - 400 families left Danzig by wagon train, 736 miles, to form a settlement (Chortitza Colony) on a tributary of the Dnieper River.
  1803-1806 – 356 families left West Prussian Elbihg-Marienburg districts and settled along the Molotchna River.
  1835 some 1200 families made their home in made their home in the Molotschna Colony.
  1870, there were 45,000 Mennonites in Russia, most of them from Dutch extraction, in Ukraine by the way of West Prussia.
  The first weary arrivals endured enormous hardship and grinding poverty.  By 1855, seven a half million fruit and shade trees were growing in their villages.  Now there were pastures with grazing herds of cattle, sheep and horses.  When the freedom to worship and freedom from military service was withdrawn by the Russian government, they again searched to find freedom.  They found this freedom and began to emigrate to North America across the Atlantic Ocean from 1874 to 1884, when 18,000 people made their new home in North America. 

Their passion and boundary against the evil in the world, was and continues to be, the worship of the Lord Jesus Christ – and Him only.  These Mennonites, a peaceful people, followed the Word of God. They endured much and gained much.  They were farmers.  Their faith continues to endure through the generations. They expressed their faith in music – always in harmony --

What fuels the compassionate heart?  And we are back to the beginning. Love. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.  I John 4:8

How can we measure a compassionate heart? A compassionate heart is happily serving in Jesus’ name and has no time to measure.  The compassionate heart sees needs to care for and is in turn, blessed.  The compassionate heart is a happy heart, for that heart is others-minded.

Every day, as the day begins, I ask, What is my passion? What or Who do I worship?
   It’s not what goes into your mouth that defiles you; you are defiled by 
    the words that come out of your mouth.”  Matthew 15:11
   But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made 
     us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is 
     by grace you have been saved. Ephesians 6:4
  Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and      
    desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there.        
    Galatians 5:24
   But whoever loves God is known by God. I Corinthians 8:3
   Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as 
     the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be 
     afraid.  John 14:27


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Illusion of Control

As a young girl I chaffed with impatience, wanting to be free of rules that hindered me.  I remember sighing and looking forward to being in college away from home.  Then I realized that going to college meant following the rules of college.  Shortly after college, I married and realized that the wedding vows meant obedience.  What?  Would I ever be free?  Living in the boundaries of God’s love is another loss of freedom, or so it seemed then.   There would never be freedom and choices of doing what I wanted.

As the years went by, I learned that often I relied on Mom and Dad’s early teaching to guide me.  I absorbed the information in college and realized rules could be endured.  But the greatest realization was that because I love my husband and my children, that I wanted what was best for them.  After several years, as I studied Bible truths, I understood how much God loves me to the cross and back.  His Word is filled with the wisdom for a happy, fruitful free life.

As I look around me after 8 decades, I pray for understanding God and continue to learn that I treasure a life style that includes safety nets built into God’s enduring and faithful love.  Safety nets that include trust, faith and dependence on God.  Why?  Through that trust and faith in God I see islands of hope, humility and true freedom.  Joy is in every bend of the road of life when I hold on to God’s hand.

I am not on this journey alone, no, I have brothers and sisters the world over who extend prayers, share their journey, encourage me and remind me constantly of God’s gift of Spiritual Fellowship-Community. 

How do I find this road of boundaries of love, what do I need for the journey? I need the two-edged sword of the Word of God, with unswerving faith and prayer.  The Word of God is for learning obedience and choosing His road. It is to know God my Father, for as I put myself in His Hands – He calls me friend. I want to understand and know His One and Only Son, Jesus.  I need to make the choice  to set my life in his hands.  This searching for the Way, the Truth and the Life never ends.  It is a binding contract, signed and sealed on the cross in His blood with Love.

The refilling refreshment of his love in my heart, comes through prayer and study of His Word – The Bible. In this world of constant distraction and noise, the verse seems impossible to accomplish - Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” Psalm 64:10.  Yet I know that only through listening to my Lord…can I begin to understand the One who created me with such care (Psalm 139).  He is the One I turn to when I cannot endure the hurt, strife, anger and hate that dwells in this world.

It is then that my heart says Amen to the Psalmist David’s writing - Sing unto God, ye kingdoms of the earth; O sing praises unto the Lord; Selah: To him that rideth upon the heavens of heavens, which were of old; lo, he doth send out his voice, and that a mighty voice. Ascribe ye strength unto God: his excellency is over Israel, and his strength is in the clouds. O God, thou art terrible out of thy holy places: the God of Israel is he that giveth strength and power unto his people. Blessed be God.  Psalm 68:32-35

What have I learned?  I have learned a measure of patience and endurance.  Impatience with what is – seems to obliterate faith and trust.  I often ponder the immense storehouse of God’s patience as He sees people on earth try to futilely take the control and power from God.  It is when we lose patience and forget to ask God what His plan is, that we lose our connection with God.  When we wait on the Lord, we begin to learn what God is teaching us.  The often heard phrase, “Don’t just stand there, do something!” brings disaster in our lives and the lives of others.  Waiting on God brings peace. “Keep yourselves in the love of Godwaiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.” Jude 1:21

I have learned that the illusion of my control is false.  That God is in control over powers and principalities and he has plans for me.  He who created us created our universe and set the stars in place.
“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements—surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?  Job 38:4-7
For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.  2 Peter 1:5-7

He has shown his people the power of his works, in giving them the inheritance of the nations. The works of his hands are faithful and just; all his precepts are trustworthy;
they are established forever and ever, to be performed with faithfulness and uprightness. Psalm 111:6-8

Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? Romans 6:16

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Philippians 2:1-3

And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.  2 John 1:6

A hymn from long ago….
God will take care of you, Through every day, o’er all the way;
He will take care of you, God will take care of you.


Tuesday, January 07, 2014

At the Table

 The phrases, ‘around the table’, ‘come to the table’ and ‘at the table’ have been used many times.  It signifies the meaning of unity, those who come together for a single purpose.

My first memory of a table was in the ‘little house’ in Clinton, OK.  There was a bench against the table to seat my two brothers.  I am sure Mom built it. And I sat on a tall ‘flour’ barrel.  This was in the ‘30’s’ before I knew we were poor.  Every morning, as we watched Mom, like little hungry birds eyeing a worm, as she stirred Cream of Wheat and added sugar and milk and poured it into glasses.  My two brothers drank theirs quickly.  Then held out their glasses for more.  Mom threatened to push the table against their tummies, so they wouldn’t need more, saying, “Your tummies will burst with all that cream of wheat.”  Immediately I pictured our kitchen awash with Cream of Wheat and wondered how deep it would be.

As we grew, we acquired a real dining room table with chairs for entertaining.  It was also good for a game of ping pong that left scars that didn’t disappear.  Mom refinished the table later with a beautiful light finish on top, embellished with tiny flowers that she painted. 

History records all kinds and shapes of tables – square, rectangle, drop-leaf and round tables, semi circular, folding table, a high table or a low table, a trestle table a la Walton’s Mountain or a ‘just-right’ table.  The pedestal table had only one central leg.  The tables were made of wood or metal or now, plastic. The night stand table also appeared as the need arose. I remember the formica topped table that we had once.  Just right for children and spills. 

According to several things I read, we know more about tables after the 17th century.  But the shape, size, number of legs doesn’t matter, it is what happens around the table that counts.  We learned as a family the importance of ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ around the table.  We took our four pre-teen children to see their grandparents.  My Dad decided to treat them to a restaurant meal where they could order whatever they wished.  When one of our curious boys picked up the cloth napkin and asked what it was, I could see another opportunity for learning at the table.  When we returned home, we instituted a dinner with cloth napkins, formal discussions that took place while several courses were served and finished.  No scolding, no yelling, no ‘ayva beya’ (bend over commands) were tolerated and laughter was encouraged.  Afterward we went skating as a family.

Other tables I have known included Siemens and Suderman family reunions when tables were loaded with food and the conversation and laughter were abundant. No matter what the celebration was, being together became the ultimate celebration. 

Tables are for informal and formal purposes. There was the Round table at which the  Knights of King Arthur gathered.  I often wonder what the topic of conversation was at a table that had no ‘head’.  When a King invited someone to his table, it was an indication of gathering in and showing favor.

My husband’s Uncle Gallio had a love for working with wood.  He didn’t see wood as his Dad did, as ax handles, which John William Combs made at the foot of th Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina.  But Uncle Gallio saw patterns of color and textures of wood.  In 1966, when he was 91 years old, he completed the table shown here and won the Blue Ribbon for the Old Timers’ Handcraft Division in Arizona.  He used 7 species of wood from Arizona and 6 species from foreign countries and designed 1600 pieces in this work of art.  He made other items, headboards, boxes and tables using wood.  When asked if he sold these he replied, “Certainly not.  I believe the fun is NOT in working for money.  At 91, I don’t need money.”

I found ninety references in the ESV version of the Bible for table.  The first one is in Genesis 43:34 - Portions were taken to them from Joseph's table, but Benjamin's portion was five times as much as any of theirs. And they drank and were merry with him.

In the New Testament many references are made to reclining at the table.  The Last Passover Supper with Jesus’ disciples took place at a table and they reclined.
Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom.”  Matthew 26:26-29

When I see a table that holds the words, “In Remembrance of Me”, a table has a different deeper meaning for me.  I see Jesus gathering his disciples for the last Passover meal.  I see the sorrow and the impending celebration after the resurrection of Jesus.  I see the promise of gathering around the table once more with Jesus ‘in my Father’s kingdom’. A table isn’t as important as what happens around the table.  There is a Presence each time we sit at a table.  God values the love at the table for all those gathered around the table and most of all He wants a relationship with those seated.  

  Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Colossians 3:16
  Pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. I Thessalonians 5:17-18
 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. I John 4:8
 I trust in the steadfast love of God forever and ever. Psalm 52:8b
 Give thanks to the God of gods, for his steadfast love endures forever. Psalm 136:2
  May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ. II Thessalonians 3:5
• Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.  I John 4:7