Thursday, October 2, 2014

Thankful Thursday: Delightful

I looked in the mirror on Monday and discovered someone's snot stuck to my forehead. I'm thankful for four delightful children who find comfort in my love for them even when the price I pay is undelightful body fluids stuck to me after I've comforted them.
I'm thankful for quick youtube distractions to cheer up crying children.
I'm thankful for fresh fruit available all year round. I'm thankful for grocery stores to buy food in especially during those years when I don't manage to preserve hardly any of the harvest.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Bible Study: Placing our futures in God's hands

Romans 15:28-29
Joshua 2:1-7
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Paul didn't plan, when he was writing his letter to the Romans, to arrive a few years later in chains. What he did plan, though, was to keep his future in God's hands and to arrive in God's timing with Christ's blessing.
My life today doesn't look much like what I had hoped it would back when I was an ignorant teenage girl. I overhear my daughters scheme about their futures and I laugh at their plans, knowing that most of them will never take place and that they will be the happier for it. Their plans include wealthy husbands, farmer husbands, world travels, wildly successful careers, business opportunities, charitable works, children of their own, and many luxuries they read about in fairy tales. They would be excellent authors for the plots they come up with to pretend they are wealthy widows or destitute widows, successful entrepreneurs, famous artists, or nuns whose holiness rivals that of Mother Teresa. They are too young to move in a definite direction and too inexperienced to realize how impractical their role-playing is. I let them dream, knowing that one or more of their dreams may actually come true, and that if they don't then the action of acting out their fairy tales may lead to another type of opportunity, be it in authoring books or in more easily accepting the failure the precedes success.
God knows that sometimes what we think we want is not what will truly bring us the most joy. Because of his years in chains, Paul has been a comfort to Christian prisoners throughout the centuries. Would he have chosen the life given to him if offered the opportunity? Perhaps he would have preferred to avoid the beatings and shipwrecks and confinement in prison. Yet perhaps he rejoiced in the suffering, agreeing with his fellow apostle (James 1:2) that it would bring him greater treasures in heaven.
I'm certain Rahab never expected to become the great-great-(...)grandmother of the Israelite Messiah. She was a prostitute among the Israelites' enemies. Yet she placed her future in God's hands and received blessings for it which extended far beyond her own lifespan.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Thankful Thursday: Abundance

I'm thankful for my husband's job. I'm thankful that he has a job and I'm thankful that his job is one that fits his personality so well.
I'm thankful for the need to purge. I'm thankful for all the people who show their love for us, especially their love for our children, by sharing with us out of their abundance. I'm thankful that the abundance shared with us extends to the point that we are able to share with others in turn, having received more than we need.
I'm thankful for indoor plumbing. I'm so glad, especially in the climate we live in where it snows half the year, to stay within the warmth and safety of my home for all our water and plumbing needs.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Bible Study: Honoring our spiritual parents

Romans 15:27
Deuteronomy 5:16
No child would survive into adulthood without parents to help out. Whether those are natural parents, foster parents, older relatives, or a sad conglomeration of reluctant caretakers, babies are not capable of obtaining their own food and clothing and other basic needs for the first several years. Having received so much, it is both natural and appropriate to give back to those who provide for us when they become needy and we are the capable ones. For us as Christians, it is also a commandment with the promise of a blessing.
We give back to our spiritual parents for the same reasons. We have been blessed so we acknowledge a certain responsibility to return the blessing. The return might look quite different, as Paul describes a material gift responding to a spiritual inheritance. The return might look more like a passing forward or a sharing in mission. Honoring our parents when we are older might include verbal respect, helping them maintain their independence, physically caring for them, financially providing for them, contributing to organizations or causes they were (/are) passionate about, encouraging their relationships with grandchildren, caring for the needs of other young children. Honoring our spiritual parents can look similar, depending on our relationship with those who have helped us become the Christians we are today. We won't generally care for the physical needs of authors whose books have transformed our worldview. But we might contribute to what they are passionate about and care for other "children" who also need that transformation. We might share that book with others, act on its call to action, or communicate its message to others we encounter. We might pray for them. We also "give back" to those who have blessed us when we "give forward" by praying and caring for people who are in the position we used to be in. If you don't know anyone...well, 1) Make a change so you are meeting people who need the prayers and spiritual or physical care you have to offer and 2) Ask other Christians around you to help connect you to people in need. I know many more people in need than I can provide for, from individuals who just need prayers to persons who need friends to reach out to them to people who could benefit from buckets of love yet will probably never be in a position to return the investment poured into their lives. We might not be able to give back to Paul directly for the spiritual blessings we receive when we read his letters to early Christians, but we honor him in a very real way when we evangelize other "gentiles" to a relationship with Christ Jesus.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Thankful Thursday: Two arms

I thank the Lord for the heritage of faith I have received.
I am thankful for the support of Christian brothers and sisters to remain strong in the faith and to grow continually stronger.
I am thankful for two arms to carry my two youngest, who cannot walk completely independently yet.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Bible Study: Support among Christians

Romans 15:26
2 Corinthians 8:10-15
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The parish we belong to has 20 Masses scheduled a week, not counting weddings, funerals, and holy days. Paul may have made every effort to preach to people who had never heard of Christ before (Rom 15:20), but someone has to stay behind to continue ministering to those converted through Paul's efforts. All those Masses aren't scheduled because the bored priests have to look busy somehow (ha!): they're scheduled because they're attended, some by a small crowd and some by a full church. As a Church we need both the missionaries and the individuals to continue at home and we need to maintain our connection between the two. We need the Pauls working where Christ is unknown and we need the local pastors strengthening the faith of those who have already responded. There will be no one to fund or fill the mission field unless the home group is healthy and vibrant, and the act of supporting missionary efforts improves the health of the home church. We both have gifts to share with one another. We are both stronger for our connection with one another.
Of course it's not just the leaders of the Church who are working for the health of the Christian community, both at home and abroad. I may be sitting in the pew rather than standing at the pulpit, but I have just as great a responsibility for strengthening the bonds between Christians. If I try to live my faith in isolation, thinking that I don't have to support others or be supported by them, my faith will suffer and the Church as a whole will be weaker. No one will be reaching out to bring new members in and no one will be ministering to those who have already joined, strengthening my faith and that of my Christian family. Whether I am figuratively living in Jerusalem, the home church who sends out the missionaries to the hinterlands, or living in the foreign mission field, financially positioned to support those whose efforts originally evangelized me, I need to recognize my connection with other Christians and actively support them.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Thankful Thursday: Changing my outlook

Several years ago a friend told me I was very negative. Realizing she was right, I began writing down everyday three new items I was thankful for. The exercise changed my outlook tremendously. Last week I decided I needed to start up the practice again. It was a day that included a text to my husband that said "I quit." so he would call me back and console me. It was a day that included my 15mo learning how to reach the top of the kitchen counter and inside the scissors drawer. It was a day that included one of our best cloth napkins receiving an instant demotion to paint rag. It was one of those days improved by tears. It was a day that clearly revealed my need to focus on the blessings so I wouldn't become overwhelmed by the challenges. So here are the first three items that come to mind today for which I thank the Lord.
My children are healthy. Thank you, Lord, that so far this is not one of the crosses I have had to carry. Please, Lord, be with those who are carrying this cross. Encourage them, sustain them, comfort them, heal them.
My husband. I am eternally grateful for being blessed with the best husband in the world. He even puts up with me.
My faith. Faith that the Lord exists, faith that He is good, faith that He is capably in charge.