Sunday, August 16, 2015

Time Stamp Reminders

I have a dear friend, who I have never met. I have not met them in person, face to face, but I have known them through social media for quite a while. She is a survivor, she is a fighter, she is wise, witty and wonderful. Through her friendship I have learned much and adapted something that she does to suit me.
Many times she would post a photo of the time where it was something like 1:11 or 2:22. These photos would have the tag line, "make a wish". That is the part I changed. I went from 'make a wish' to offer a prayer. If at any point in the day, no matter where I may be or what I may be doing, if I happen to look at my watch and see the time is such as the aforementioned, I whisper a quick prayer. Over half of the time,  it is for the safety of my husband or son, but often it is one of thanks.
Thanks for the blessings, thanks for the mercy, grace, love, salvation. Thanks for the gifts, the hope, the peace. Thanks for understanding of things going on around us, and compassion enough to care and the desire to do something about it.
 My thoughts, (and questions) are this, for those who believe, how often do you pray? How close is your relationship that you spend time in prayer? How often do you converse with the Lord? Do you pray only at certain times of day? Do you have an ongoing conversation thought out the day? Are there any certain triggers that cause you to pause in what you are doing and offer a quick prayer? Do you believe that you should close your eyes every time you pray? Or does that matter in the day to day activities? Do you receive feelings of peace from those prayers?
 For me, there is always something special and calming knowing that I can pray at any time. Knowing that I am being heard, knowing that I am not alone even during the worst of my storms brings peace.  For me, often prayer is a conversation, I can go to my Lord with my worries, fears, concerns and problems. I can give the storms to Him and allow Him to be my shelter.
All reminders thanks to a friend and time stamps.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Second Growth

Here in this part of North Carolina it has been a hot and dry summer. My garden, as I'm sure the gardens of others were as well, was suffering because of it. I had gone down to check on it only to see a lot of yellowing, wilted plants that I worried were not going to last much longer. I had tried to keep it watered but with the garden being on my parent's property and having to use their well, I had to be careful. My aging dad was worried about his well going dry, so it was just the barest of watering. I tried giving it extra fertilizer but without water, it was not much, if any, help. I had planted green beans that never came up, and okra that only grew half a foot tall and stopped. All for the lack of what they needed.
 Then we received the answer to a prayer, it rained. The first day was a real gulley washer of a downpour. My front yard that slopes downhill looked like a lake because it was raining so hard the water couldn't run off fast enough. After the downpour ended we got some residual rain that helped. The next day we got a couple of really good showers, heavy, but not so heavy that top soil moved. I drove home during one, smiling the entire way. Getting caught in construction traffic didn't even bother me like it otherwise would have. It was raining.
 Once the rain ended I picked up my bucket and knife and walked down to check the garden. In just a short two days my garden had returned to life. What had been yellow and wilted was not standing tall and returning to green. Plants were covered in blossoms and the beginnings of more produce. My tomatoes were perkier and heavy with those beloved summer fruits..
As I began to see what was available for harvest my mother walked down to see for herself. Her first words were "second growth, its taken its second growth." I couldn't help but agree and I couldn't have been any happier. While I would have loved for the other things to have grown, what I was getting was the best ever and I was thankful.
 As my mother left to go back inside I considered her "second growth" comment. There was another way to see the results of second growth.
 Every one of us are born into a sinful nature and are sinners. No matter how good we try to be, we still sin. There are no minor sins or worse than that sins, sin is sin and its all bad.
 As sinners, we are like that garden without rain. We are planted (born) and we begin to grow. Life is a our garden, and it is up to us as to whether we will produce. When we hear the whispers of the Holy Spirit and give our life to Jesus, we begin a saved life. When this first happens we act in our joy, sharing, working, worshiping without hesitation. 
But if we neglect our calling, even though we never lose it, we suffer. We grow weak, weary and wilted. We produce very little in the way of glorifying God. Without the feeding of our faith through fellowship with other believers we grow weak. Without feeding our knowledge by reading the Word, we wilt. Without spending time in communion with God, we grow weary and are more susceptible to the ills of the world. 
We are tempted and lead away into the world, not hearing the voice of God speaking to us, His Spirit calling to us. The insects of sin bite at our produce, bruising and causing rot. The heat of sin bearing down on us, weakens us leaving us more available to worldly ways. While Christ our Savior never leaves us, while God never abandons us, because of the gift of free will, we are allowed to wander. We are allowed to make our own choices. We become a mere shell of what we were or what we could be..

 But let the rain of reasoning, the showers of His blessings fall upon us and we too have that 'second growth'. When we take those quiet moments to listen for His voice, we strengthen. When we join with others, when we sing songs of worship and praise, our lives change for the better. We stand strong in our faith, we share, we produce good things for the Kingdom of God. When we feed our soul with His Word, we learn, we grow, we better understand, and we celebrate. Our joy returns. 

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Variations of Giving

There are many ways of giving. There are the usual, such as birthdays, weddings, graduation, Christmas to name a few. Those ordinarily  are physical, material gifts. Not that there is anything wrong with that. But lets set that aside for the moment and talk about another form of giving. Lets discuss giving in a way that doesn't expect anything in return.

 There is an individual whose home is in need of repairs. Due to circumstances beyond their control they are unable to afford those repairs. Someone steps in and corrects everything that is in need of being repaired.

 There is a family who has fallen on hard times. They have children who will be starting school and are in need of supplies and clothing. Someone steps in and provides for this need. They also throw in a few groceries while they're at it.

 A shelter for battered women needs a helping hand. Donations need to be sorted and stored. Carpentry work is needed to optimize the space. Someone steps in and a need is met.

Residents of a homeless shelter are in need. Someone steps in. Food is provided, articles for hygiene are provided as well as some clothing.

Students are going to school hungry, with holes in their shoes, without a jacket. Students are homeless but still trying. Someone steps in and needs are met.

All of the above are examples of needs that can be met with physical actions of material things. There are other types..

A person is lonely and simply needs the company of a friend.
A person is asking for others to pray for them.
Someone is in danger and needs protection.
Someone is trapped and needs rescue.
A child is having trouble getting to sleep and would like to be read a story.
A country needs protecting or defending.

And then, there is the ultimate gift
  Someone knew, that only one thing could save humanity. One who loved and loves beyond all things. Who willingly died for all. Who forgives and forgets. Who accepts all who come to Him.

Gifts come in many forms. The most precious gifts, are the ones given in and with love.


Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Its what you put in that counts

At the time of this writing, 7:51 pm. it is still 93 degrees outside. In the kitchen, simmering on the stove is a huge pot of chili. This has always been my -when I don't feel like going to a lot of trouble or even really cooking- meal. Tonight though, even though I was tired when I began, I got into it. I think just about everything I had in the kitchen went into that pot of chili. After browning the ninety percent lean hamburger meat I began adding ingredients. I added chipotle seasoning, chopped onion, a can of seasoned beans, a huge bowl of white beans that my mother had prepared today ( from dried beans, not from a can), a can of black beans, drained, a can of fire roasted salsa style  tomatoes, canned mushrooms (because I had forgotten I had fresh in the fridge), various bell peppers from the garden, two small hot peppers from the garden cut up very small, and several  tomatoes from the garden, cut into chunks. Waiting off to the side is most of a cake of cornbread made by mom.
 When I'm into making chili.... I'm into making chili, usually when I go all out like this, the chili is especially good.
But when you think about it, isn't that the way it is, or at least should be, with everything we do? Is it not true, that we get out of something, what we put into it?
    Friendships..if we remember our friends, letting them know, even when there isn't a special reason that we're around and thinking of them, won't they appreciate that more? If we are there to lend a helping hand when needed or word of encouragement, a shoulder to cry on if needed, bring a special desert by for no reason other than to say, hello friend. There may even be a time when all you need do is sit there on the porch and watch the cars go by. Time and ingredients put in, that make a friendship stronger and better.           
      Work...When one shows up on time, every day and puts in their best effort, making as sure as possible that they have done their job correctly, creating the best quality possible, it creates the greater possibility that work will not only last but increase. When one does their best to get along with their coworkers and management, working as teams and not adversaries, the work day goes better, even when outside forces work against that happening.
         School.... for those who are in school, (no matter what level) when you put forth your best effort, listening to the instructor, taking notes and actually studying, your resulting grades reflect that. When you accept each other as is and don't waste time creating needless drama, more is accomplished and everyone is able to grown and learn without difficulties. one knows you better than family. But even with family one has to make sure that they stay involved in the lives of loved ones. Whether they are across the street, across town or across country. Call them, wander over and pay a visit, spend time, even if its only a few moments here and there..just make sure they know you appreciate and love them. Older relatives or those with health issues may need assistance doing things, do them with gladness that you still have them in your life to assist. Talk to them, listen to their responses. It will make a big difference.

        Fellowship............Many have said that they do not need to attend a church service to believe or worship. One of the purposes of church services is so that like minded people with the same purpose of heart can gather and spend time with one another, strengthening and building up, encouraging each other as they face the day to day.  If one is a member of a church but never attends, all they have is their name on a roll book somewhere. There is more to fellowship than sitting in a pew listening to a sermon and singing a few songs. There's more to it than tossing a few dollars into a collection plate, even though that is a part, it isn't the main part.
       Fellowship  with like minded people, helps one grow stronger in their walk, because they know they are not alone. It helps them to learn as each shares their thoughts. It helps when you know that others  are thinking of and praying for you in times of stress or distress. They know when another is in need and go out of their way to fill that need. Yes, songs are sung, but while one voice sounds sweet,  a room full of voices joined together sounds so much sweeter.
      Mission Field...that wide open place where so many don't know or don't understand your beliefs and usually if they have any ideas, get it wrong. It is saying, I believe in the Virgin birth, I believe in His ministry, I believe He died for me, but rose again, is alive and is coming back one day. it is where one or a group goes out and helps to build a handicap ramp, repair a roof, rake a yard, feed the hungry or offer to pray for another. It is saying, this is what I believe, I believe in love. I believe in compassion. I believe in a certain way to act, but I won't judge you if you chose to believe otherwise, I will love you anyway. It is saying, I believe in the power of faith, in the healing properties of trust, faith and hope, I believe in taking care of others.
  If you put in love, compassion, honesty, encouragement, a ready helping hand, kindness, if you put in the good ingredients, the results will be so much better. No matter what it is you are doing.
 And by the way..... the chili is delicious.    

Monday, August 3, 2015

Just a Building

Alexis Baptist
Its a beautiful building, sitting there sheltered and shaded among the big Oaks. They frame the entrance way, a down home welcome. Still, it is only a building they guard.
It is only a building, made of brick and mortar. Built just a ways off the main route between Stanley and Lincolnton North Carolina. There are two ways in to the parking area. One off the main road and one that was once a dirt road now paved that connects the parking area to yet another roadway.
It is a building, well maintained and cared for. Everything has a place, and there are places for everything. The staff takes their responsibilities seriously. It is requested that there be no food or drinks in the sanctuary, and anyone in the classrooms to make sure they clean up behind themselves should they have food in the room.
The pews are comfortable, and the carpeting a soothing shade. The stained glass windows creating the perfect moments of reverence and color.
It is still, just a building.
There are classrooms for every age. The ages and their needs are taken into consideration as to where their classrooms are. Some of the members have problems with stairs, others need windows, most just need somewhere to sit and a good teacher to lead them.
The grounds are well kept, no fallen limbs or other debris litter the area. Hand rails are everywhere that they may be needed to prevent falls. Still, it is only a building.
Even as this building has special extra buildings around it. The hut directly behind it, another space for classes or small events. The family life center up on the hill where the youth meet as well as special events are held.
Still...... this is not the church.
The church, is the members, the people, young, not quite as young and no longer young who gather there.
The church, are those who open their heart to those in need. Who give what they can or seek out what is needed if they don't have it. They take care of others, they build or clean, clothe, or feed those in need. Who go out on missions across town, across the state, across the country or across the world.  They build homes, clean yards or dig potatoes.
The church, are those who follow their faith, follow the teaching, follow their heart to do what faith instructs. To live in the right manner, to speak, to listen, to love as Jesus instructed. As Jesus did.
 The church are those who love, but do not judge. Knowing that loving the sinner  is not accepting the sin. Knowing, that others will not listen to one who is too busy casting judgement and hate, instead of acting in compassion and love.
 The church, are those who live, act, speak in faith every day. Who are not afraid to speak of their belief, without arrogance but in humility. They know where they were, they know how far they have come, they know Whose grace it is that has saved and forgiven them. They know, that they still struggle and stumble, and yet they know they are forgiven, when they ask and turn away from the sins they have committed.
The church, is not a building. A building, no matter how nice and well maintained, cannot bring one to salvation and a relationship with the Lord. A building is just that, a building. It is the people, the heart, the hope, the faith and the love they share. Those are the church.
Those are the church, that I have found, within the walls of a building. Those are the church who have accepted me, befriended me, taken care of me and my family and who have loved me, for who I am.