Lacking Moisture

Feb. 28, 2013

Psalm 63:1

You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you in a dry and parched land where there is no water.

A pitfall of winter: cracked, dry and chapped hands. This is the time of year my nails, cuticles and hands are a mess. I use hand lotion all the time, like 10-15 times a day. Rick says my hands are so wimpy because I use too much lotion. Is that really possible?

Last week at church, we had this discussion about the best hand cream for cracks that develop around nails this time of year. The deep ones where the skin actually separates for no reason other than they are chapped. The ones that hurt. Even the men were comparing their cracked hands, including my husband. Wise Louise advised us what is THE BEST hand cream on the market.

I have this container of hand paraffin in my night stand. During the winter, I use it every night. It’s super thick. My wedding rings have remnants of the paraffin on them. On the bottle, it suggests wearing special gloves for 20 minutes a day or all night to heal the cracks. I have the gloves and booties for my feet. When I’m desperate, I put them on for a night.

Several weeks ago, I realized our house needed moisture in the air. I dug out the humidifiers and set them out. That’s when I remembered I had thrown away the filters last winter and had not gotten replacements. I went online, ordered them and waited. Meanwhile, the humidifier was still sitting in the living room. Rick dutifully filled it and turned it on. When the water level didn’t go down and I turned it off, I shared that it probably would work better with a filter. “Oh, is that why it wasn’t working?” he asked.

As much as my hands and skin thirst for water, does not my soul thirst for the Lord even more? Our culture is becoming an ever increasing dry and parched land with little or no watering of the Lord in our daily lives. The distractions pull us farther and farther into a parched land and too often, we are only willing participants. I’ve been contemplating how I refresh my soul this week. If I’m really honest with myself, I would say that recently, I’ve not been doing a very good job. And I wonder why I feel as if I’m in the badlands. The humidifier only works when there is a filter and water. Moisture for my spiritual soul only happens when I take time to filter out distractions and intentionally water myself with rituals that restore me.

I have been praying daily for the Lord to speak to me. “Help me hear your voice,” I’ve prayed daily before getting out of bed. Yet, God seems eerily quiet. Maybe I just haven’t been lathering my soul with the right things: time away from God. I have forgotten to filter secular culture for the water to become moisture in my life. Most importantly, maybe I’ve forgotten that a lot is going on when I don’t think anything is going on.

Whether we are going through a dry time in our lives or we remember a recent dry time, speak to us. Help us remember the ways we best suck up the moisture our spiritual soul needs. Encourage us gently to filter out those things that pull us away from you. Speak to us. And if you seem quiet, remind us that you still work in us this day. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

Beware of Demons

Feb. 26, 2013

Mark 1:32-34

That evening, at sunset, people brought to Jesus those who were sick or demon-possessed. The whole town gathered near the door. He healed many who were sick with all kinds of diseases, and he threw out many demons. But he didn’t let the demons speak, because they recognized him.

Want to scare a crowd at a church quickly? Start talking about demons. I can’t remember hearing a sermon about demons. Until last Sunday, I had never shared one. Yet, casting out demons was very much a part of Jesus’ ministry.

Demon possession at the time Jesus was alive was complicated. When an illness was outside the limits a doctor could treat, the illness was attributed to a demon. First century medical technology was significantly different from modern medicine. Doctors were not aware of infections or bacteria. The only way they knew how to get rid of them was to cast them out. When a person had an epileptic seizure, the only sensible explanation was a demon. There was no concept of psychological diseases. A person with multiple personalities, bi-polar or other mental illness was considered demonic.

Are there demons in our world today? I see them. Several years ago, Rick and I took an alcoholic into our home. This person spoke of alcohol as a demon. Other addicts also consider a bottle or an opiate a demon; one that can take over a person’s life and lead to self-destruction. For a bulimic or an anorexic, food may be their demon. Anything that can lead to self-destruction or hurt someone else can be a demon.

Watch the evening news and we quickly see examples of people who struggle with a demon. I know nothing about the young man who walked into the Sandy Creek Elementary School and began shooting. I believe some demon convinced him the way to deal with the challenges in his life was to inflict pain on someone else, with no thought to how the families devastated by the shooting would be affected.

Just as Jesus drove out the demons first century folks dealt with, Jesus can help us with our demons. When that voice in the back of your mind tries to convince you of something radical, we must invoke the Holy Spirit to release us from those thoughts. Still today, Jesus is more powerful than the demons that haunt us. It begins by asking for Jesus’ healing power in our lives.

What demon are you struggling with? What does that voice in the back of your mind try to convince you of that seem silly or far-fetched? Lay your hands in your lap and open yourself to the Holy Spirit’s healing as you pray.

Lord God, thank you for the health care professionals who provide care for me and my family. Thank you for enlightening them in ways to care of the human race. How thankful we are that many things previously attributed to demons can be treated through modern medicine. Yet, it may be very difficult for me to admit there is a demon in my life. Help me to recognize the evil that encourages me to hurt myself or others. Release this evil from my life. May I be open to your Spirit’s healing hand upon me this day. Even now, come to me this day. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

Stretcher-Barrier Friendship

Feb. 25, 2013

Mark 2:1-5

After a few days, Jesus went back to Capernaum, and people heard that he was at home. So many gathered that there was no longer space, not even near the door. Jesus was speaking the word to them. Some people arrived, and four of them were bringing to him a man who was paralyzed. They couldn’t carry him through the crowd, so they tore off part of the roof above where Jesus was. When they had made an opening, they lowered the mat on which the paralyzed man was lying. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Child, your sins are forgiven!”

A significant part of Jesus’ ministry was healing people. He healed hundreds of people, maybe thousands. In this healing story, Jesus is probably at Simon Peter’s house. The house wasn’t big. Yet it is packed with people wanting to see, be with or be healed by Jesus. A band of brothers have a friend who is paralyzed. The buddies want Jesus to heal him. They load him up on a stretcher and go to the house Jesus is. One small problem: they can’t get near the door.

These guys don’t shrug their shoulders, turn around and wait for another day. They get creative. First century Jewish homes often had flat roofs, commonly used as a patio. The guys scramble up the stairs going to the roof with their paralyzed buddy. I imagine the guys contemplating where Jesus most likely was sitting. “Here goes!” says one as he begins digging through the mud and thatch roof.

Those inside the house soon felt silt in the air, then mud clumps dropping on the floor. Peaks of light poked through the growing roof hole. I envision Peter questioning what is going on. Jesus holds him back.

When the hole is big enough, the four friends lower their ill friend into the house with ropes. Immediately, Jesus proclaims the man as healed. What a miracle!

The story’s surprise is that the ill man does not get healed because he had a deep, resounding faith in Jesus. No, Jesus was impressed with the faith of the band of brothers, his four stretcher-barriers. The ill man is healed only because four friends had faith and dug a hole in the roof.

Who are your stretcher-barriers? Who are the four people you can call at 2 AM when something in your world falls apart? Do you even have four stretcher-barriers? Unfortunately, most of us do not. We all need stretcher-barriers, friends, whose faith gets us through times when our faith is maybe not strong enough. When our faith falters, our stretcher-barrier friend’s faith will carry us through and even lower us before the Lord.

What is the best way to get stretcher-barrier friends? Be a stretcher-barrier to someone else, unrecruited, unsolicited. Think of four people you can help carry right now. What can you do this week to reach out to them and be their stretcher-barrier?

How important community was to Jesus. He never expects us to explore and live this spiritual journey alone which is exactly why he wants us to understand just how important stretcher-barriers are. May we chose to be a stretcher-barrier to someone who needs one this week. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

Walking the Wilderness

Feb. 23, 2013

Mark 1:12

At once the Spirit forced Jesus out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness for forty days, tempted by Satan. He was among the wild animals, and the angels took care of him.

In the last blog, I wrote about listening to God and not life becoming a “to-do” list. Then I skipped doing the blog for several days. Many of those days, I had good intentions. I wrote it on my to-do list. But inspiration and motivation lacked.

If completely honest, I would admit that I am in a time of wilderness. It is not that I have a bad life or am depressed. I’m just in a wilderness time. I have been reading an autobiographical book by a wonderful pastor/theologian/well-known Christian author. Thus far, he shares about how it took three years to plant a new congregation. Finally, they got a building built. Then, people lost interest. People lost passion. Committed folks who helped get the faith community planted, started and built skipped worship. At the chapter I finished this morning, he wrote about how he entered a life phase he called the “badlands.” It lasted for six years.

“Welcome to my world,” I thought.

Several years ago, Rick and I traveled to Mount Rushmore and Yellowstone National Park. On the way, we drove through the South Dakota Badlands. As we looked over the barren landscape, the Jeep thermometer registered 107 degrees. When we stepped out of the car at a look-out point, the air that hit our lungs was as dry and parching as the sand that fell over our sandals.

Before Jesus began his ministry, he was baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan River. (I should have blogged about this event first. Maybe in a day or two.) Three of the four gospels say immediately after this this pinnacle event he went into the barren, dry and oppressive dessert for 40 days and 40 nights. The Judean wilderness is anything but beautiful. When I was there in January, it was dry, brown and ugly. An hour in this area was enough for our tour group.

Mark’s gospel only gives us one sentence. Luke and Matthew’s gospel give more detail. Here, Jesus was tempted by the Devil three times. Three times, he tries to lure Jesus away from being the spiritual being he was intended to be with temptations of secular culture. It is no different for us today. Maybe the enticements are different. But the baseline temptations are much the same.

I like Mark’s description because he includes these words: “And the angels took care of him.” Our society overuses angels to the point we are unsure of angel’s roles. But I do know this: God provides angels of many different kinds to walk with us in our own wildernesses. A couple showed up in my life this week. One angel astutely asked me what I need to do in the next six months to renew myself. Another angel walked into the church office, relieved to see me alive and healthy because I hadn’t blogged for a few days. These angels do not have visible wings or halos. But they want to care of me as I walk through the wilderness.

Lent is 40 days because Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness before he officially launched his ministry. Angels attend him as Satan tempted him. Thank God I do not have to walk the Badlands of my life alone. Angels attend me also.

When we hit the badland times of our lives, Lord God, bring angels to attend us. May loving people care for us in the wilderness times of our lives. As we are tempted to follow things not of your world, surround us with your love and protection. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

When is It Enough?

Feb. 16, 2013

Colossians 1:9-10a

Because of this, since the day we heard about you, we haven’t stopped praying for you and asking for you to be filled with the knowledge of God’s will, with all wisdom and spiritual understanding. We’re praying this so that you can live lives that are worthy of the Lord and pleasing to him in every way.

As much as I would like to say that I really practice what I write or speak about, reality is so much different. I’m trying to remove distractions this Lent. But the adding has been a bit more difficult. Does writing something for the blog count? Even when it is at 11 PM at night?

For me, this is one of the struggles of the Christian life. When is enough ever enough?  I have become convinced the Christian journey is not purely about a “to-do” list, which we either cross off or get discouraged because too many things didn’t get accomplished on a particular day. I don’t envision a modern-day Jesus carrying around a Franklin Planner or an I-phone with blocks of time carefully scheduled throughout the day.

Yesterday, we got the two oldest grandsons for a few days. Enroute to get them, I asked Rick what types of things he planned on doing with them. The scheduler in me was coming out. On the other hand, Rick runs more by the seat of his pants, deciding on a whim what to do. Of course, we want to engage in the things the boys were looking forward to. That’s why sledding moved to the top of the list. Yet, picking out stones for tomorrow’s worship service became a wonderful time of wondering around the farm with Grandpa sharing and explaining history, agriculture and his story that the boys would have other not discovered.

I do think at times, Jesus had specific things in mind he wanted to do, say and engage. But was every parable carefully planned out in advance? Or did sometimes they just come about because of location, folks who entered Jesus life or happenstance events? I know this gets into a theological question of how much God has planned for our lives in advance and how much impact we have in making our down decisions. In the end, I’m quite confident that Jesus walked a tightrope balance between knowing exactly what was going to happen vs. taking advantage of teachable moments as they unfolded.

I pray this Lent that we can allow ourselves to do some planning and yet allow for the Holy Spirit to drop some completely unexpected and quite marvelous situations into our laps. In my opinion, we learn best within the context of the real lives we live. Thanks be to God for allowing this.

It is just a few days into Lent and maybe we are already questioning our commitment and application. Too often, we are probably harder on ourselves than You are with us. May we use Jesus’ ministry and model as a guide for daily living with you. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

Adding Versus Subracting

Feb. 15, 2013

Colossians 3:24

Work because you know that you will finally receive as a reward what the Lord wants you to have. You are serving the Lord Christ.

Sometimes during Lent, people give up something. I wrote yesterday about this. While there can be great value in this, I think there is another way to approach Lent.

 

Add something. Take the next 40 days as an opportunity to do that something you’ve been meaning or wanting to do for a long time. Make this the time to read your bible daily. Or focus on really developing a time to pray. Or select a form of service to do for the next 40 days.

Last year, I challenged folks from the church I serve to think of something they could do for the next 40 days. Volunteer at the school one day a week, phone someone daily, babysit for an overwhelmed mom with young kids. Maybe you can’t do it every day of Lent, but designate when and how you will do this.

My neighbor, Tina, decided to write 40 cards to 40 different people last year. I received her last card, the Saturday before Easter. She wrote personal words of encouragement in my card. I’m trusting she did this for the other 39 people also. Earlier this week, Tina asked me for a few names of children to round out her list of 40. She is going to send cards to 40 Midland kids this year. What a great idea!

Yes, Lent has begun. But you can still do a 40 for 40 this Lent. Remember you have those extra Sundays which aren’t counted in the 40! What might you do as a 40 for 40 this Lent?

As much as we value and appreciate Christ’s sacrifice, maybe giving up something is hard for us to do.  Maybe what makes more sense is adding something we can do to help others this Lent. Clearly share with me how I might complete a 40 for 40 this Lent. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

Enduring 40 Days

Feb. 14, 2013

Hebrews 10:12

Jesus our priest offered one sacrifice for sins for all time. Then he sat down at the right hand of God.

How long is 40 days? It depends. Forty days before you leave on vacation can be a long time. If your child is graduating high school and moving out, it’s not long enough.

Lent is 40 days; 40 days before we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus on Easter Sunday. It can be a long season … or it can go quickly. Why 40 days? It’s biblical. Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness fasting and praying at the beginning of his ministry. Moses spent 40 days on Mount Sinai with God.

We are told that it takes 21 days to create a new habit. It never fails that on Easter Sunday, I’m excited to eat sweets and candy once again. Whatever I denied myself during Lent, I’m thrilled to put back into my life. So much for getting past the 21 days.

For Protestants, “giving up” something during Lent is not as familiar for us as our Catholic friends. A few years ago, Rick gave up ketchup. For most people, this is not a big deal. For my bottle-a-week husband, it was huge.

A few days ago, Rick warned me. He started Lent early and gave up chewing tobacco. Four years ago, he gave up chewing tobacco at the end of the year/beginning of a new year. A few days later, I left for the Holy Lands. It was time for a little space. While I love my husband dearly, his crabbiness almost drove me to drink! This time around, he quit while at the farm so I would not witness the early crabbiness. He was quite proud of himself yesterday when he got the tractor stuck twice and still stayed off the chewing tobacco. Way to go sweetie!

Why do some people deny themselves something during Lent? The purpose isn’t to lose weight or kick a bad habit. The purpose is to experience a sacrifice as Jesus sacrificed himself for our benefit. If you have chosen to deny yourself something this Lent, when you yearn for that something, may it be a reminder of the sacrifice Jesus made for you. Ketchup seems pretty little compared to this.

Let us pray: Whether I’m fasting from a beloved food, computer games or something else, when the desire for my fast consumes me, please remind me of Jesus’ sacrifice for my benefit. May we be sobered by his great love and devotion for us this Lent. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne

 

 

Today Begins Lent

Feb. 13, 2013

Mark 1:4

John was in the wilderness calling for people to be baptized to show that they were changing their hearts and lives and wanted God to forgive their sins.

Last week, two-and-a-half-year-old Princess Ellie and her younger brother Dylan were in the car with me. We had picked up lunch at Culver’s and planned to eat with Grandpa as we made the switch in providing childcare. While driving back to their house, Ellie wanted to eat in the car. I said that we were going to eat with Grandpa. Then she said, “But my Mommy said I can eat in the car.”

We got back to their house with lunch intact where Ellie tried a new approach. She drug a stool to the cupcakes on the counter we had made. Once again she cited that her Mommy said it was OK for her to have one. Does she get credit for not giving up, despite the same result?

Today is Ash Wednesday; the beginning of the Lenten Season. Lent is a time for Christians to prayerfully and mindfully look at their lives and see where we are not doing such a good job. Where is sin oozing into our lives blindly? Where are we cutting corners spiritually?  Where are we moving away from God rather than towards God? Where do we keep doing things over and over expecting different results?

John the Baptist was Jesus’ cousin. He had the brave and dignified job of letting folks know the Messiah had arrived! He wore funny clothes – a camel’s hair tunic and leather belt. He ate only the simplest earthy food, locusts and wild honey. Rather than have you Google “locusts,” they are grasshoppers. Every person’s dream lunch?

His famous words are, “Repent for the kingdom of God is near!” Almost a crowd pleaser. What is repent? Repent is literally to think differently or change one’s mind. In the Biblical context, it means to have a change of mind that leads to a change of heart that leads to a change of values that leads to a changed life.

We sin. We stray from values we desire. We get off course and choose things of the world rather than choosing God. Lent is a time of the year to push the pause button and think about where we need to repent, where we need to change our minds which will change our hearts which will affect our values and ultimately change our lives.

We choose whether the next 40 days will be a time in which we earnestly desire change and go after it. Or we choose if business will be as usually. Who likes to put in the hard work and effort to change? Not many. Rather than trying to change a whole bunch of things and failing, what is just one thing you can repent of this Lent? Maybe it is an attitude, a trait gone bad or a habit. What is the one thing you keep doing over and over and not getting different results? Maybe this where you start this Lent.

Let us pray: Change my heart, O God. Make it ever true. Change my heart O God. May it be like You. Amen.

Blessings –

Dianne