Sunday, April 24, 2011

When is the last time you had a good cry? Has anyone ever found you in a puccled of tears and asked, “Why are you crying?”Yesterday my son asked me to watch a few minutes of the animated movie Up. Coaxing me, he said, “Mom, it’s the best movie ever. If you watch ten minutes, you’ll be hooked.” Ten minutes later I had dissolved into tears. The opening segment shows a couple who fall in love, marry, and begin to plan their future. As time goes by, dream after dream is shattered. Their hopes for a future with a family and travel never materialize. I was hooked but sobbing. Why were their dreams shattered? They had lived with such hope! The rest of the movie is devoted to the efforts of 78-year-old Carl Fredricksen to fulfill his lifelong dream to see the wilds of South America. By tying thousands of balloons to his home, Carl’s dreams begin to look UP!

This week I’m reminded of the tears that Mary Magdalene shed at the tomb of Jesus. It was early in the morning when Mary Magdalene discovered that Jesus’ body was missing from the tomb. She stood outside crying “because they have taken away my Lord, and I don’t know where they have put him.”

When Mary glanced over her shoulder, she saw someone standing behind her. It was Jesus. “Why are you crying?” he asked her.

Jesus offered her hope as he encouraged her to spread the news of the resurrection. What a morning of emotions as her sorrow turned to joy when Jesus appeared to her and called her by name.

Jesus wants to comfort us when we feel as if all hope is lost. When we are burdened and filled with tears, Jesus is just over our shoulder too offering the same hope that he offered Mary Magdalene. Jesus has a tender voice of comfort in our sorrow. He whispers our name and calls,

“I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.” John 14:18

Let’s find peace in that promise during this Easter season. Let’s look UP for our hope!


Monday, April 18, 2011

Have you ever been the target of someone’s snide or insensitive remarks? There’s a lot of talk these days about children bullying each other, but adults are often guilty of taunting talk too. Because she was barren beloved Hannah was the recipient of cruel comments. I Samuel records the story of Elkanah and his two wives: Hannah and Peninnah. Although this was not God’ original intention for marriage, many Old Testament leaders had more than one life. Polygamy existed to produce more children to help in the family work and to assure a continuation of the lineage. The practice often caused serious family problems as we see in this story of Elkanah’s wives. The scripture tells us, “Peninnah had some children, but Hannah did not.” A childless woman in Hannah’s day was considered a failure, and barrenness was cause for humiliation and embarrassment. Year after year Peninnah taunted Hannah because of her barrenness. During time of feasting Penninnah scoffed and laughed at Hannah so much that she couldn’t eat. Penninah’s words must have pierced Hannah’s heart and eroded her self-confidence. How do you react to the criticism of others? We have a choice about how we respond to others. We can choose to be offended or not to be offended by the spiteful words of others. The words to the nursery rhyme, “Sticks and stone may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” are a lie. Words can hurt us, but we decide whether or not they will define us. We can choose to be offended by someone else’s venom or we can choose to allow God to be our defender. God, my strength, I am looking to you, because God is my defender. Psalm 59:9 In a desperate plea to God Hannah went to the Tabernacle and cried out in anguish. She poured out her soul to him in a heartfelt prayer. After giving her request to God and after receiving the blessing of the high priest, Hannah was filled with faith and returned home with joy and thanksgiving. And then she did what most of us have a hard time doing. She left her pain with God. Whatever trial we face, we can follow Hannah’s example and … 1. Pray fervently – She poured out her heart to God. Her prayer was heartfelt. Colossians 4:2a - Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart.

2. Pray persistently – She continued devotedly in prayer.

3. Pray faithfully – She believed that God would answer her prayer. 1

John 5:14-15 And we are confident that he hears us whenever we ask for anything that pleases him. And since we know he hears us when we make our requests, we also know that he will give us what we ask for. Let’s pray fervently, persistently, and faithfully and choose to let God be our defender.

Treasure Pouch

Monday, April 11, 2011

My granddaughter Stella was born prematurely and stayed in the NICU for a few days. The wonderful nurses there taught my son and daughter-in-law the importance of swaddling. Little ones are wrapped and tucked tightly in lightweight cotton baby blankets to keep their bodies warm. Bundling keeps babies protected and helps them to sleep well. Josh and Meredith liken the process to making a burrito where the flour tortilla is wrapped around the good stuff. The wrapping on the outside protects the inside! Our little bundle of blessing looks snug and secure warmly nestled in her swaddling blankets.

We all have a need to be bound securely. When we face the trials of daily living, it’s good to know that God wants to wrap us securely in his arms. In I Samuel 25 we see that David is reminded his life was safely bound in God’s hands. When David and Abigail encounter one another, David is on the run from King Saul who believes the young man is a threat to his throne. David becomes an outlaw, camping out with his men in the wilderness. David requests food from Abigail’s wealthy but foolish husband Nabal. When the selfish Nabal rejects the request, David quickly orders his men to “gird on their swords.” Abigail is forced into action. She gathers supplies and sends them to David and his men and then sets out to talk with David. With diplomacy and grace, Abigail assures David that he has God’s favor and is “bound securely in the bundle of the living by the Lord your God.” The New Living Translation says that David’s life was secure in God’s “treasure pouch.” Abigail’s message was a reminder that God will protect us when we have trouble protecting ourselves. Her calm approach helped David realize that vengeance is God’s and the Lord would deal with his enemies.

When we deal with slings and arrows of unkind people ... When we face uncertainty in our relationships ... When we’re tempted to lash out with anger ... When we struggle with temptation ... When we go through economic hardships ... When we suffer with health issues ... ...it’s important to remember that we too are “bound securely in the bundle of living.” We lie in the center of God’s “treasure pouch.” No force on earth can break through the protection of the arms of God. Nothing can separate us from the love of God. Just as Stella is securely bundled in her swaddling blanket, we too are securely bundled in God’s love.

Treasure your “treasure pouch!”

29 “Even when you are chased by those who seek to kill you, your life is safe in the care of the LORD your God, secure in his treasure pouch! But the lives of your enemies will disappear like stones shot from a sling! I Samuel 25:29

What's Your Name?

Monday, April 4, 2011

Our Sunday School lesson and sermon today were titled ’What’s Your Name?” The question was taken from the account in Genesis when God asked this question to Jacob. By replying that his name was “Jacob,” which means “deceiver,” the patriarch acknowledged to God that he had lived a deceitful life. He had cheated his brother and tricked his father. This moment of self-honesty was a turning point for Jacob and God renamed him “Israel,” one who lives according to God’s purposes. After the re-birth he experienced when he turned to God, Israel lived with a new humility and courage.

This topic of naming and re-birth are so relevant to me this week. As many of you know, my son and daughter-in-law were expecting a baby girl May 15. Well, our little bundle of bliss arrived six weeks early. Stella Grace made her appearance Friday, April Fool’s Day (she already has a sense of humor!) at 10:38 p.m. Praise God, she’s healthy, weighs 5 pounds 2 ounces, and is 18 inches long. Mother and baby are doing fine, and Dad has been a rock for us all.

In the Old Testament, names were indicators of behavior. David means beloved; Isaac means he laughs; Jezebel means not exalted; Peter means rock. Imagine my delight when I learned my first grandchild would be named Stella, Latin for STAR. Hear me shout it, “STAR!” Of course, she’ll be my shining star, but will she shine where it’s important – for God? Fortunately, her middle name is Grace, meaning favor and blessing. From the day I learned that Josh and Meredith were expecting a baby, my daily prayer has been for God to grant favor and blessing to this precious child. I began this prayer long before I knew her name. Funny how God goes before us to guide our thoughts and prayers!

Favor and blessing have already been granted our little star. On Wednesday night, when Meredith went into premature labor, men and women from far and near began praying for a healthy delivery. So when the pediatrician said he was surprised that Stella was doing so well, I just grinned. He didn’t know what I knew. God had granted favor and blessing on little Stella, and the power of prayer explains the unexplainable. As for her future, I pray that God will hold Stella Grace in the palm of his hands as her devoted parents “train her in the ways that she should go so that when she is old, she will not depart from it.”

Are names a self-fulfilling prophecy today as they were of old? I pray so!

Stella Grace, a star by the Grace of God.

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