Monday, September 28, 2015

No Rewards in Heaven? I'm Bankrupt.

English: Old Iranian postcards and magazines.
This could've been mine!
My case is hopeless.

I have no reward awaiting me in paradise.


I've spent it all here on earth, but to be honest, I've tried to add jewels to my heavenly crown. I've worked to make my life the purest gold (or at least silver). And it's all God's fault.

I give away my life, and God gives me double what I donated. One example can give you idea on how I cannot earn a gorgeous crown (see the one to the right? Not mine).

I have a dear friend "Georgianna" who is prone to blod clots. Once again she was hospitalized. Feeling sorry for her, I decided to brighten her day. Besides, one of Neil's congregants was also in the hospital, so  I could earn lots of rewards with very little effort.

I'm a  woman with a mission, so, as usual, I rushed Neil along as we headed to the front doors of Alice Hyde Medical Center. There I nearly fell over a poor woman in a wheelchair.

"Excuse me," I said. I do have manners even if I'm spiritually bankrupt.


This woman knew me? I actually looked at her.

"Georgianna! I was heading up to visit you."

"It was a beautiful day. I made my hubby bring me outside."

Eeyore as depicted by Disney
Eeyore as depicted by Disney (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I looked around and noted the truth of her statement--blue skies, cool breezes, changing leaves of sugar maples.

"I'm sorry about your clot," I said. "You must be discouraged."

"It's not so bad. This gives me a chance to relax, to catch up on my Bible study and spend more time with Jesus."

"But what a way to achieve that." My Eeyore side always predominates.

"It's not bad. Life's good."

I quirked my brow--probably dropped my jaw, widened my eyes and exclaimed, "You've got to be kidding." We'll just go with I quirked my brow.

"God's in control. That's all I need to believe," she said.

I bent over, hugged her, and we chatted about Jesus and families and church until it was time for her to return to her room.

I left revived in my faith and the knowledge I was loved by both Georgianna and Jesus.

This happens every time I give--whether the giving is easy, as with Georgianna, or the giving is hard--my mission trip to Romania.

How about you? You mow an elderly neighbor's lawn without him knowing, and you come away feeling better than he does when he discovers your act of kindness. You invite your neighbor's kids into your swimming pool and benefit more because your kids are occupied. You dump $30 bucks into a mission plate and not only see it multiplied--but you get a tax deduction.

Have you ever out-given God?

I haven't. I've spent every dime of my heavenly reward.

Monday, September 21, 2015

The Confession Conundrum: Step 1--Quit Denying

Step 1. Realize I'm not God. I admit that I am powerless to control my tendency to do the wrong thing and that my life is unmanageable. Step 1, Celebrate Recovery.

One of the first principles in Celebrate Recovery, a Bible based version of AA, is to quit denying you have a problem. One way you deny, is to not confess your fault to another. By refusing to admit our shortcomings, we put on airs and delude ourselves to think we are more righteous than Jesus.

Of course, I'm not self-righteous. And I assume you aren't either.

I should have gotten the hint about my secret sin when I went to my first newcomers' meeting. We introduced ourselves, and I feared all the participants, including the woman who lead the group would think I was a recovering junkie. The woman leading it was prominent in the church, after all.

You'd be proud. I bit my lip. Didn't jump up and say, "I'm NOT an alcoholic. I'm just here to help you guys get straight."

No brownie points?

Anyway, the time to leave came and the two dudes I sat with needed vouchers. Their visits, unlike mine, were mandated. We each got our first token to mark the start of our path to recovery.

I put on my big girl smile, and took my coin with grace. Next week I'd go to my first real small group.

Thursday rolled around, and I followed a sweet woman who had befriended me to the group she led. Here we introduced ourselves.

My friend didn't say, "Carol is hear to learn to minister." Nope. She treated me just like everyone else. We introduced ourselves with a brief reason as to why we were there. Here I encountered the problem from the week before. I was here to help--not to be helped.God had other things in mind.

We examined  the lesson. It dealt with denial.

In the pauses I studied the people--all very much like the voucher-boys from the week before, drug-using thin, dependent on druggie boyfriend, poorly dressed, too heavy. Oy. I needed help.

Things went downhill from there. My friend said it was time for each of us to confess what we were struggling with. I wasn't an alcoholic, didn't attend because of drugs. I lived to the best of my abilities. In my brain, I couldn't come up with a reason to be there.

It wasn't long before I knew my sin--one you guessed by paragraph #2. However, I couldn't tell the women in the group. I never can tell them. Because I know the ravages of alcoholism and have heard the stories of drug addiction, I want to help. If I confessed to them, could they ever open up to me? Would I ever become a friend and confident and see them as the beautiful creation they are?

In truth, I don't think so. Yet, step one says we're helpless to change ourselves. We're not God. The key here is to admit we are powerless.

So I'll start my repentance here.

My name is Carol and I am a Pharisee. I judge superficially, and I know I do. I cannot stop the thoughts from popping into my brain, but if I lean on RC's first principal and remember that I am not God, He will change all that.

What do you struggle with? Don't deny. Find a safe place. Confess and let God heal.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:19

Monday, September 14, 2015

How To Be Happy: Sew Simple

Foundation piecing. English paper piecing. Quilt.
Behold, what I have seen to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him, for this is his lot" (Ecc. 5:18).

I used to love to sew. That is after I pinned the pattern and before I had to rip out seams. Picking the pattern, the material and seeing the dress form under my hands delighted me.

Oh, I could also do without the finishing.

Then one day it hit me. Why did I like sewing? Half of it I despised. I made the decision--to find joy in the minutiae of it. I strove to
lay it out perfectly. I sang as I ripped stitches and strove to make my finish work as fine as the broad strokes. Thus today's Scripture.

To enjoy life, we must:
  1. Find joy in the little things. Is it too cold? Look at the glittering frost, note it's beauty.
  2. Love our job. Some of us do "traditionally" great things--teach, nurse, police, protect. Others pull a lever, drive a truck, cash out customers. What's good in our job? It pays the rent or we get to work on the road away from the idiots in the office or we can chat with a wide variety of weirdos. Each job brings us joy.
  3. Enjoy our sustenance. We have homes. Maybe not million dollar ones with hardwood floors. But they keep us warmer than the elements. We have food. Steak may be too pricey, but who doesn't love pasta?
  4. Be grateful. We live. We feel the warmth of carpet on our toes, the embrace of a child, the fellowship of believers, the taste of olives, the kiss of a spouse, the sight of a sunrise, the touch of a breeze. We have electric, heat, water from a tap, vehicles, shelter.
  5. Fellowship is our Maker. Even those of us who know Him, fear our death. But in the end, eternity will wipe away all our tears--and if we truly know God, our moments here on earth are finer.

For what are you grateful?

Monday, September 7, 2015

Being a Hummingbird: So You Think You Can Conquer Sin.

The hummingbirds buzz around our porch making it hazardous to step outside. I have to remember, they're like bats. They swoop and hover and do their thing. Rarely do they hit you.

However, they have bravado.

Our cats, Allora and Ciao, love to watch them. They sit at the open window and study the birds.

One morning, one little bird noticed Allora behind the screen. He swooped at her, flailed his wings, fanned his tail and puffed his chest. This fellow made himself as big as can be.

Nothing but a flimsy screen separated his from our cats who have proved, time and again, that screen was no match for them.

Cat stalking a prey
Cat stalking a prey (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The bird gymnastics may work on other birds, but if my cat desired, that hummingbird would have been a tasty little snack.

It reminded me of us and our flirtation with sin. Genesis 4:7b says,  "And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door, and it's desire is for you, but you must master it." (NAS)  

How often do we toy with sin? We think we've conquered it, so we tease the devil. For me--I love a juicy tidbit of gossip, which I'm sure you do, as well. My flirtation comes with celebrity headlines on the magazines at the check outs. However, if someone I'm sitting with brings of a tempting morsel, what do I do? Am I a hummingbird flaunting my wings believing I'll scare the devil? Do I not leave the situation? Do I not recognize the screen of God's grace protecting me from forces stronger than I.

It goes for any sin. Adultery. Do you flirt? Drunkenness. Do you over imbibe? Theft. Do you hold onto items you forgot to scan at the checkout by mistake? Lies. Do you embellish the truth? Self-absorption. Do you twist every conversation to your interests.

Name the sin. See how you trifle with it.

The Genesis scripture always made me think of lions in wait. Allora restrained herself this day. If we think we can conquer sin, we need to think again.