Thursday, December 7, 2017

Go Out and Do Nice Things for Others

"How could I ever thank you enough for all that you do for me?" I asked Mamamarge one day. Her response was loving and charitable, "Go out and do nice things for others."
I am so excited, I am about to explode.  I wish I could tell Mamamarge my fantastic news:  I'm headed to Africa!
Jim, Ben and I are flying to Uganda to work alongside the South Sudanese refugees who are displaced because of the civil war raging between tribal factions. Jim will continue to work with indigenous pastors to teach about soil conservation agriculture, and I will have the opportunity to work with some of the women.

For the past couple of years, I've been working with groups of ladies in South Carolina to create washable, reusable sanitary pads for women in foreign communities where there is no running water, electricity, or trash disposal. We make kits with 6 pads included and have been shipping hundreds of the feminine hygiene kits at every opportunity.

Dec. 27 - Jan., 5 I'll get the opportunity to set up mini sewing centers in these remote areas so the women can make their own supplies and make other items they can use and sell to purchase food and medicines. We are planning to purchase some foot-pedal operated sewing machines and train the women how to use them. I'll be taking lots of supplies for them to create the pads themselves.

Jim has developed friendships with several pastors who leading hundreds of refugees. The tribal fighting in South Sudan pauses as they are forced live side-by-side in the camps. The gospel is being preached.  Needs are being met.

After Ben and I return home, Jim will stay for a couple more weeks and travel to Kenya and Tanzania to work with more orphanages and schools in getting their gardens and farming going.

Mamamarge would be ecstatic!

Friday, May 5, 2017

Bottle of Oil Never Ran Out

Sometimes I wonder if it is wrong to try to apply every single scripture I read to my own life instead of just reading it for what it is in a historical context and applying it generally to the world. I mean, I feel like I SHOULD be trying to apply spiritual truths learned in scripture to my own life, but what I feel like I'm trying to say is that I am so self-centered, I think everything is about ME.  And I don't think that is the best viewpoint in life.  It would serve me better to be a listener than to switch everything I hear and read and want to tell my own story about the same topic or idea.  I need to listen with the intent to UNDERSTAND instead of the intent to REPLY.

Nevertheless, my post today is about a prophet in the old testament. And I'm gonna do it again--try to apply a miracle of long-ago to my present situation.
In 1 Kings 17, the story of Elijah and a destitute widowed woman gathering firewood. Elijah goes to this woman and asks her to give him water and a little something to eat.
12 She said, “I swear, as surely as your God lives, I don’t have so much as a biscuit. I have a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a bottle; you found me scratching together just enough firewood to make a last meal for my son and me. After we eat it, we’ll die.”13-14 Elijah said to her, “Don’t worry about a thing. Go ahead and do what you’ve said. But first make a small biscuit for me and bring it back here. Then go ahead and make a meal from what’s left for you and your son. This is the word of the God of Israel: ‘The jar of flour will not run out and the bottle of oil will not become empty before God sends rain on the land and ends this drought.’”15-16 And she went right off and did it, did just as Elijah asked. And it turned out as he said—daily food for her and her family. The jar of meal didn’t run out and the bottle of oil didn’t become empty: God’s promise fulfilled to the letter, exactly as Elijah had delivered it! (MSG)
The widow doesn't even have a name. How sad is that? She had lost her husband, had the responsibility of providing for herself and her son, but she had no food, income, or hope of a future while the whole country is in a drought. She is ready for death.
And then a prophet comes along and tells her, "Don't worry about a thing." Just make me a biscuit and God will provide. Right.
She obeyed.
God fulfilled his promise to her just as Elijah said He would.

Sometimes at work I feel like I'm gonna die, that I've reached the end of my rope.  I feel like I come in with my very best, but that my best isn't good enough. I feel like I give and give and yet in return I get punished. I feel that I don't have enough power to manage those I've been given responsibility to educate, and more and more frequently I want to walk out the door and never return.

And then I read a passage in my quiet time like the one above.  The widow was working til she fixed the very last thing she had left to give when God made a way for her. She had to make one last biscuit and give it away before preparing for herself and her son, and then God took care of her needs for ever after, Amen.
Ok, I know I am not a widow. I'm not starving and jobless.  There isn't a drought.  But I can't help but want to see myself as a struggling woman in need of rescue.  And perhaps I am being told to work one more year (make one more biscuit for someone else), and then God will provide me with what I need.
Like I said, I know it is out of context.  God didn't promise it to me.   But I feel like He is big enough that if I ask Him for the help, He is able to provide it. He did it for her, he can do it for me.

In James 1, the bible says that if we lack wisdom, we should ask of God, who gives to all liberally.  I don't want to work at my current job anymore. The struggle is real. I'm not handling it well. I'm bitter against my husband for not making enough that we could survive and thrive without my income. I'm taking meds, my back hurts, I'm sleeping alot and eating even more. I've gained 10 pounds in the last month alone.
God, please help me. Give me wisdom, direction, and a promise to hold on to if I have to stay in my current situation. I need help. For real. I'm hurting. I'm scared. I'm bitter.


Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Careful Living: Not as Unwise, but as Wise

King Solomon spared no expense to build a temple for God. He made sacrifices three times a year at the temple. 1 Kings describes the worship scene honoring God for weeks. 
And then King Solomon blew it.
1 Kings 11 (MSG) records:
6-8 Solomon openly defied God; he did not follow in his father David’s footsteps. He went on to build a sacred shrine to Chemosh, the horrible god of Moab, and to Molech, the horrible god of the Ammonites, on a hill just east of Jerusalem. He built similar shrines for all his foreign wives, who then polluted the countryside with the smoke and stench of their sacrifices.9-10 God was furious with Solomon for abandoning the God of Israel, the God who had twice appeared to him and had so clearly commanded him not to fool around with other gods. Solomon faithlessly disobeyed God’s orders.
How easy is it to take our eyes off of the One our heart loves! 
A warning and reminder in the New Testament is in Ephesians 5 (NIV):
15 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. 18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit,19 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

For me, I think having my quiet time reading and praying in the mornings helps me get re-centered.  It also helps to listen to praise music that "brings me before the throne room", so to speak, reminding me of the amazing personal relationship I have with the Lover of my Soul, and friends who pray, reach, and touch my life with encouraging words and service all help me to remember who I am and Whose I am. 

Lord, help me to remember your love for me in a tangible and present way.  Help me to be that Godly friend who prays for others and gives encouraging words and touches.  Help me to be the salt and light in this very dark and hopeless world that so many people flounder in. Forgive me of my sins. Cleanse my heart. Guide my path. Hug me. Hold me. Fill me. Use me.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Falsely Accused

Once upon a time, there was a righteous dude named Ahimelech. He was minding his own business, doing a fine job as a priest in a place called Nob. During this time, David had already killed Goliath, was best friends with Jonathan, the king's son, was married to the king's daughter, and was well-liked by e-v-e-r-y-o-n-e,                         except King Saul. King Saul was jealous of David. 
The story is told in 1 Samuel 22 that a gossipy scoundrel named Doeg the Edomite told King Saul that the Priest Ahimelech helped David out by giving him bread and the sword of Goliath while David was on the run.  Of course, Ahimelech, being a normal priest and being about the things of God--not gossip about the royals--had no idea that King Saul was upset with his son-in-law David.  Ahimelech prayed for David and blessed him. Instead of butting in and warning Ahimelech that David was not on good terms, Doeg went and told King Saul on him. Ahimelech told Saul he was innocent and had no idea--and was in fact fully believing he was being a blessing to the King by his actions. But no dice.  Doeg killed Ahimelech, all the priests of Nob and their wives and children and animals. Doeg wasn't just a tattle-tail, he was a murderer. Evil. 

I've never had anyone accuse me falsely to this degree.  I CANNOT possibly relate to that.  But I have repeatedly been misunderstood and falsely accused. And it stinks. It makes me so angry. My pride is injured and I cry out for justice. The Bible is full of stories of things I can sympathize with. But answers? Wow. Ahimelech never got a gold star for being sweet and helpful. Instead he got death. 
Time to count my blessings. 
Could be worse.
God, grant me the wisdom to understand your word better. Help me to see beyond the words on the page to the Holy Father, the Master Creator, the Loving Bridgroom. Help me to see from your perspective instead of filtering everything through my selfish eyes.  Help me to better sympathize with others when they are hurting from being falsely accused.

ImageAhimelech Gives David the Shewbread by Votive Interiors Commons 

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Crusty Crumbs Without Prayer

"The bread was warm from the oven when we packed it--and now it is crusty and crumbs."  So said the Gibeonites to the leaders of Israel in Joshua 8.
14 The men of Israel looked them over and accepted the evidence. But they didn’t ask God about it.
And so the decision was made and consequences followed because the Israelites looked with earthly eyes and trusted their fellow man WITHOUT ASKING GOD ABOUT IT.

"I don't want to be here.  I want to walk out the door and never come back.  I'm so tired of being treated rudely by 12-year-olds."  That was me last Friday at work. I was so frustrated.  I still am. 
But acting on that desire to walk out the door and never returning would mean a whole lot of changes that I'm not prepared to face, yet. I've heard myself saying over and over that I want to quit my job.  I can't stand the rude and disobedient children and the powers that be allow this type of behavior to continue. We teachers are stuck with our hands behind our back without power as we watch the overall discipline in our classrooms go down the toilet. The message is getting clearer day-by-day: no consequences if we misbehave.  We might as well misbehave and have fun while we are at it.

And I am stuck feeling powerless and like an old biddy telling people to walk on the right and get off the grass.  This is the first year in 28 that I haven't regularly and immediately told kids to spit out their gum. It isn't worth the battle.

But I'm really good at what I do.  I feel like I am needed by the younger teachers, by the students, and by the parents of my students. I am a rock in a mire. But I'm starting to sink, myself. I am seeking options.  Where can I go that I am wanted, appreciated, and supported? I've complained to a dozen others and asked for advice, but there is no peace.

Last Saturday I had breakfast with a friend named Jackie.  We were discussing a church in Mississippi that had gone through a split over the losing/hiring of a pastor. Jackie said one of the men she knew said he would NEVER vote in support of the recommendation of the pastoral search committee.  I quickly made the comment that I would go find another church instead of voting NO and not supporting the new pastor.  
Later Saturday night I was walking the dog when it dawned on me that I was acting like the NO-voter.  I was bucking the system and NEW status quo.  I was the old biddy with outdated expectations, while all the new administration and new teachers just let it roll and allow it.  Their standards are different.  Perhaps I need to go and find another church work environment that isn't as progressive.  I'm kicking against the goads. And I'm only hurting my own feet. I'm the one who is bothered--so why don't I get out instead of complaining about the administration.  It is the new way of things, and I am the old.  I need to shut up or ship out. My attitude should be one of support, not sabotage. Or find a different ship--one that appreciates old school values and expectations.

I just don't know what to do.

So when I read the above passage in Joshua 8 about the people making decisions and deals with others by checking out outside appearances such as crusty crumbs of bread without petitioning wisdom and direction from the King of the Universe, I had to pause.

Dear God, please help me to not make the same mistake as the Israelite leaders--to make decisions based on influence of others and distorted images.  I want to be pleasing to you, but I am hurting on the inside.  I don't want to feel used and taken advantage of and unappreciated. I don't know what to do about it.  Should I sit down and try to talk with my superiors to try to influence their support? Should I fill out a resume and practice my interviewing skills, should I grumble and gossip and complain all day every day? 

I want to go to Africa and see if my skills couldn't be helpful to those who are hurting and in need. 

God, you know how many hairs are on my head.  You know which ones are brown, blonde, and gray.  You know my heart.  You love me.  You love me so much that you sent Jesus to pay the price for my sins and give me the opportunity to live with you and for you. And now I need help.  What is best for me? Guide and direct my steps, my vision, my way. Help me to be submissive and respectful to those in authority over me and to be a good leader watching over those entrusted in my care. Forgive me for my bitterness, resentment, and gossiping. 
You say in your word, If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God who gives to all men liberally and without scolding. James 1
You say Submit yourselves to God. Resist the Devil and he will flee from you, Come near to God, and he will come near to you. James 4
"If it is the Lord's will, we will do this or that." James 4:15
Ok, Lord. Whatever you will.  I'm gonna try to follow.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

60 Days to 50


Days until I turn 50 years old.

I want to celebrate by doing something special or different every day for the 50 days leading up to my birthday.  I feel like 50 represents the start of the second half of my life--seeing as both Mamamarge and Peep both lived a century.
So, I need to MAKE A PLAN.  I've got 10 days left to create my plan and come up with a strategy.  I'm thinking of possibly WALKING somewhere different every day for 50 days, tracking on a map, and making it more special by inviting different people to join me each day.  It would celebrate friendships, taking care of my body, and experiencing new paths. Yep. That's it. I need to set up a special calendar and invite people to SIGN UP to join me on my little adventure. I also need to have some kind of fall back strategy for bad weather and sick days. I've got 10 days to get this in place.

Image By: Party

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Where is My Guest Room?

Mark 14: 13-16 (MSG)
13-15 He directed two of his disciples, “Go into the city. A man carrying a water jug will meet you. Follow him. Ask the owner of whichever house he enters, ‘The Teacher wants to know, Where is my guest room where I can eat the Passover meal with my disciples?’ He will show you a spacious second-story room, swept and ready. Prepare for us there.”
16 The disciples left, came to the city, found everything just as he had told them, and prepared the Passover meal.
In my quiet time this morning, I read about the Last Supper. Instead of focusing on the betrayal of Jesus, I found myself stuck on the scene prior to the  Passover Meal being prepared.  Jesus told two disciples to go into the city and find a man carrying a water jug. Tell the owner of the house he enters that Jesus wants to know where is the guest room for he and his disciples to eat Passover.

I imagine being that guy. Do I have my life in order to where I would be able to respond readily when a stranger asks me for a cup of water, a pair of shoes, a warm coat, a package of feminine hygiene products?

Image: Upper Room 2 Franciscan Foundation for the Holy Land