Jan 23, 2010

CORE: God with skin on...

Do you ever feel like God is relentless in His pursuit of you, opening your eyes day by day to something new, and making you realize how much more growing there is to be done in your life?

That's how I'm feeling lately. And it's a good thing.

This morning my hubby and I, and other members of our small group from church, participated in a local community outreach program called CORE - Community Outreach Resource Exchange. It is a furniture bank where folks come to get items they desperately need. CORE calls these people "neighbors".

The neighbors make an appointment and come with a voucher listing furniture items they need. These have been pre-determined through a home visit by another social agency. Everything is 100% free to these neighbors, and all items have been freely donated.

Our small group (there are 12 of us) has committed to volunteering at CORE on the 4th Saturday of each month. One of the couples in our group is extremely involved in the leadership at CORE and so that is how we became aware of it.

Basically it is a warehouse with several loading docks. Inside is a waiting room with chairs for the neighbors to sit until their names are called. Then volunteers escort the neighbors through the warehouse, looking for the things on their lists. Mattresses, bed frames, and dressers are the most desperately needed items. Some neighbors are even in danger of losing their children to foster care if they don't have these basic pieces of furniture. So what looks like a warehouse full of old and used furniture to volunteer workers like me can be a building full of hope to a neighbor in need.

My job today was really simple. I got up this morning and made several pots of coffee and put them into carafes. On our way to the warehouse, we stopped at two different donut places so I could use two coupons and purchased a couple dozen donuts. We brought styrofoam cups and napkins, cream and sugar. Another lady in our group made muffins and coffee. Together we simply greeted the neighbors as they arrived and offered them our refreshments while they were waiting. This was something new and it seemed to be a big hit. When it seemed appropriate, we made small talk with them in the waiting room to help put them more at ease.

My hubby was one of the escorts and also did his share of helping to carry furniture items out to the dock. There was a huge effort to make this all as high touch as possible, and trying to make the neighbors feel loved. In fact, before any neighbors arrived, all the volunteers held hands in a circle as a seasoned worker said one of the most heart-felt prayers I've ever heard. Then we were reminded that it might look like we are in the furniture business, but we are really in the God business.

For each of the neighbors there were two escorts. The last thing the escorts do, and the most important we were told, is pray with the neighbors before they leave with their furniture. They pray for the neighbors' continued provision, for wisdom and direction for them as they are rebuilding their lives for whatever reason.

When my older son was little one time he wanted to get in bed with us. We didn't want to start a habit of this, so we gently explained that he didn't need to be afraid in his own room, and that God was always right there with him. We've never forgotten his reply: "Yeah but I want someone with skin on!"

And that is what CORE is all about. All the volunteers being God with skin on. Not just the ones the neighbors saw today, but all those that went ahead of us...the donors of the furniture, the drivers who picked the items up, those who carried the stuff in and out of the warehouse, those who do all the paperwork.

I'm sure there is so much more that God wants to open my eyes and my heart to. I'm excited.

"...love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself." Luke 10:27


Jan 21, 2010

Amazing Grace

This afternoon my (just turned) four year old granddaughter said to me, "Grandma, I'll play this horn while you sing "Amazing Grace". So she did. And I did. Priceless.

But God's amazing grace is exactly what has been on my mind for about the past 24 hours. In the midst of my own self-pity as I have been working through the family issue that has pained me so much, He has taken pity on me and picked me up and dusted me off, and set my feet back on the Solid Rock!

It never ceases to amaze me that when God takes over, things can happen really fast! In just a few short days I have gone from a lot of anger and a whole lot of other volatile emotions and sleepless nights, to a real sense of peace and trust in the One who knows me inside out.

When I started blogging about 11 months ago, I made a decision that I wanted to be "real" in what I wrote. There is a lot of power in the pen, so to speak, and I determined that I wanted the blog to be an accurate account of my "life between the buns". That doesn't mean that I feel the need to say things that would be unnecessarily hurtful to others. Sure there have probably been a few things I've said that would have been better left unsaid. But for the most part, I have tried not to just portray the mountaintop times of my life, but also record things that, if I had a choice, would not be part of my "history".

Still, the temptation is always present to put the best foot forward at all times and not to air the dirty laundry. I'm human just like everyone else, and I want people to think good things about me. I don't want them to see my struggles or my doubts.

I took a big risk when I posted about my inner turmoil over the upcoming "wedding" of my niece and her girlfriend. All kinds of questions went through my mind: How will my blogger friends react? What will they think of me now? What will my family and friends say when they read it? And perhaps the most pressing -- Why do I have to be so intense all the time???

I'm not digging for comments on this post or looking for a pat on the back. I just want a chance to say to each one of you who have commented and/or prayed for me that I felt it. I have felt it big time. And I want you to know that God has used YOU to transform me and help me regain some clear thinking. I mean it when I say I am now at peace over this whole thing. No, I still cannot support the decision of the people involved. But I am no longer thinking about me, and how this has affected me.

There is something so much bigger going on. For the first time in my life, I think I have a handle on what I've always thought to be a very difficult teaching of Jesus. It is found in Matthew 10:37-38. "Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me."

Conflict is an inevitable result of following Jesus Christ. The battle is between light and darkness, between eternal things and things that are temporal. The Gospel continues, "Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." (verse 39) Jesus is simply stating that if we think that the life we live in the here and now is all there is, and we love it's (sinful) pleasures more than we love Him, all those things will eventually be lost. But if we let go of that kind of thinking and living for the sake of allegiance and obedience to Him, His perfect will, and His perfect law, we actually will discover what REAL life and living is.

In a few short days I have literally gone from praying, "Lord make this all go away--don't let it happen" to praying "Lord, change me! Work in me! Make me respond in a way that best represents YOU".

No, it's not about me at all. It's all about HIM and His amazing grace. All I have to remember is how I too once was lost, but now I'm found. I was blind, but now I see. Remembering helps me to pray for those who are still confused, hurting, lost, blind. Those who, because of continued rebellion, are still living outside of the amazing grace that is offered so freely. The grace that helps me be more concerned about their souls than about my righteous indignation.

I'm certain there will still be days ahead where the circumstances will be distressing. But I think I have more perspective now. My blogger friend, Shirley said this to me and I appreciated it so much:

"...we have to remember that all sin, including our own, is equal in the eyes of God--it is all about disobedience to Him and what He declares to be best for us. That puts all of us on a pretty level playing field..."


Jan 19, 2010

It wasn't me!!

sorry folks. The generous person at Wal*Mart in my previous post was definitely not ME! I thought I made that clear, but I know we all have so many posts we like to read that perhaps some read it fast and got the wrong impression.

"You've Been Gifted" follow up...

On December 4, '09, I wrote about the initiative our church did during the month of December called "You've Been Gifted". (story here) There were so many stories that came in of random acts of kindness, and were posted on our church's website, though now they are gone. I wanted to share one story with you that was sent to our pastor. It is particularly touching.

"I was in the Super Walmart in Streetsboro this weekend and asked the Lord before entering the store to lead me to someone who needs a blessing. I really felt the presence of God while choosing a check out aisle. I ended up behind a woman in one of those wheelchair type carts the store offers and she was with her adult daughter. They were having trouble paying for their purchases and were trying to use different credit cards. It was obvious that this was the person God has chosen for me to "gift".

I stepped next to the lady and said " Merry Christmas why don't you let me pay for you today." The cashier overheard me and said " you can't do that" and I asked "Why not?" and she turned the cash register's monitor toward me that showed her total bill was $192. I said "that's OK our church asked us to look for opportunities to bless others this Christmas season" I then handed her the "You've Been Gifted" card.

The lady in the wheelchair began crying really hard and her eyes were red; she grabbed my face in her hands and said, "thank you very much-- I didn't think kindness like this still existed." She then said "the reason I am shopping today is to buy clothes for my husband's funeral this weekend!"

The cashier heard this and raised her hands in the air (and held them there) and said "praise God!" she then asked where our church was and said she would like to go to a church where people are as nice as me.

At this point I was feeling awkward about all the attention and started to babble phrases like "its not a big deal" and " I have a lot of money" --how embarrassing is that!

However, after all was said and done it really felt great to "team up " with God and be a part of blessing some else."

My random act of kindness didn't cost nearly as much in terms of money, and I don't know what the outcome was because I was able to do it anonymously, but I know I was just as blessed. I also did the Christmas Jar that I wrote about here. In fact, we had friends over on Christmas Eve (before all the excitement started with my mother-in-law and the ER) and our friends had also done one, so we got to excitedly share our stories with each other. I don't want to go into any more detail in fear of being "found out"!! But it sure was a lot of fun, and who wouldn't like to be blessed with an unexpected jar full of money on Christmas Eve from a secret friend or even from a stranger? I'll be starting to fill a new jar this week for next Christmas. I wouldn't miss out on this for anything!

I stumbled into a blog that a young gal, Katrina, is writing and she has determined to do a random act of kindness every day. You might like to check it out here. I have found it to be quite inspiring! But the best news is that when I went to read her post today, I found out that she committed her life to the Lord yesterday! If you feel so led, go over and give Katrina some encouragement. The angels are rejoicing and so am I!

God bless us, everyone!

Jan 18, 2010

where the rubber meets the road...

This is a saying well known in the Akron, Ohio area, the former rubber capitol of the world, and one that is still used in everyday conversation. It came from an old TV commercial first used back in the 1960's by The Firestone Tire and Rubber Company. It was a jingle that went like this:

"Where ever wheels are rolling,
no matter what the load,
the name that's known is Firestone,
where the rubber meets the road."

In everyday usage, the phrase "where the rubber meets the road" has come to describe the gravity of a situation or the fact that there is no getting around a circumstance. In other words, something like "this is reality".

That is how I'm feeling today about the extended family situation that has pained me. There is no getting around what is happening. I can't pretend this is all going to go away anytime soon.

I'm taking a leap of faith here that I will not be judged too harshly by my friends in the blogosphere because of my beliefs. I know many of you are like-minded sisters in Christ and will stand by me. But I'm opening up because I really do need your prayers.

The facts are these: I have a 29 year old niece who has been living a lesbian lifestyle. Both she and her girlfriend are really very nice people, and fun to be around. I don't dislike them at all. I just dislike what they are doing. It would pain me enough if they just kept their lifestyle to themselves, but they are intent on being very in-your-face about it all. They have taken it to levels that is, for me, quite beyond belief.

So, this Saturday they are planning to go to Mexico where they can "legally" be "married". They've been publishing this on Facebook for quite some time now, yet no one bothered to sit down with my almost 81 year old mother to talk to her personally about this. Instead she, like the rest of the family, has received a printed invitation to a reception to celebrate their "union". May I say this really appalls me?

There has been a "bridal" shower given to my niece by her friends at work. I saw something about a "bachelorette" party. She's posted about her "wedding" dress.

If that weren't enough, they have already been to a lawyer to start procedures that will legally combine their surnames, which in effect corrupts my family name. It is not a given that this will actually happen, being as gay "marriage" is still illegal in Ohio.

Then there is the talk about someday having "cute lezzie kids". I have no idea if this is serious talk or not. But it wouldn't surprise me. So will there be baby showers and the like? Where does this all lead?

Now, I'm not opposed to love, happiness, and all of that. And please no speeches about this kind of thing is happening more and more and is becoming more accepted.

And all of you who have an understanding of where I'm coming from on this already know WHY I believe the way I do. I am a Bible-believing Christian who understands that marriage is a holy union that was ordained by God to be between one man and one woman, for life. Have many of us failed to achieve this standard? You bet. Are we forgiven, restored? Absolutely, many of us are, when we have turned our hearts to the cross and received wholeness in Christ. When we finally give up our self-serving attitudes and realize we do not exist to live to ourselves but for the One who died to save us from our sins.

I'm not writing here to expound on all the reasons why I believe gay "marriage" is wrong. I believe it is self-evident. But I am writing because I need to be honest with myself about what is happening in my family.

My son, who is a pastor, has told me not to take a victim's attitude. In other words, I do not need to hang my head in shame over what someone close to me has chosen to do. The only attitude that is appropriate for me to have is one of a broken spirit, remembering my own sins, and trying to show Christ's love in my dealings with them.

These two young women are not open to hearing about how what they are doing is dangerously against God's law. I would be wasting my breath and creating further distance in our relationships to try to talk to them about that.

Some of my family members are already making preparations to attend the reception. My conscience will not allow me to attend. I cannot celebrate something that I totally do not believe in. I'm feeling somewhat like I'm standing alone on an issue that should be such a no-brainer to my family. This has me a little confused, and dismayed.

I pray that I will not compromise on my beliefs, yet I also pray that I will not compromise on what is required of me in spite of my obvious dismay over the situation. I am commanded to love. Please pray for me, that I can show love. That's really where the rubber meets the road.

"Be holy, because I am holy." I Peter 1:16

"...as I have loved you, you must love one another..." John 13:34

blog award

I want to thank Jackie over at fresh oil today for the blog award she gave me last week. Thank you for blessing me like that! I never had an award given to me before, so I had never given it any thought as to whether or not I would participate in blog awards. I've thought about it over the weekend, and while I am flattered and humbled that I was included, I have decided that I would post this beautiful graphic from my friend Penni and make my blogs award-free.

There is no reason other than I simply don't have the time. If I were less computer-challenged like so many of my bloggy friends, it wouldn't be an issue, but I need to be realistic about how much time I can spend on the internet.

Thank you dear friends for understanding; it goes against everything in me to have to decline a gift. I am so behind right now in the blog reading I want to do and to any of my bloggy friends that I haven't caught up with yet, I'm working on it!

Thank you again, Jackie. I love your heart!

Jan 15, 2010

church signs

One of my pet peeves has always been reading dumb things on church signs around town. I don't know why it gets under my skin so much. It's like someone is trying to say something profound in a cutesy way and in a few words.

My poor hubby knows how much it annoys me...he has to put up with my ranting when we're out driving and I spot one. What REALLY annoys me is when some slogan is posted that doesn't even speak the truth.

Here are a few you may have seen yourself:

"Adam blamed Eve, Eve blamed the snake, and the snake didn't have a leg to stand on"

"Down in the mouth? Come in for a faith lift"

"Speak well of your enemies, afterall, you made them"

"God is a know-it-all"

"Global warming is coming"

"Get ready for take-off"

You get the picture. Why do churches think these flippant sayings are a welcoming message to someone looking for a church to visit? And I found out that churches actually subscribe to services (yes, they pay money) to receive these sayings to post on their signs. A little web surfing also shows that there are tons of sites out there that exist for the purpose of ridiculing these signs.

OK, now I've gotten THAT off my chest!

I have to admit that for the first time in my life, yesterday I actually saw a church sign message that spoke to me personally. I was out running an errand at the end of a very busy day. I was feeling a bit down on myself for having had a cranky attitude the day before in front of some loved ones. As I drove around a bend in the road in the near-darkness, I spotted a church sign that read "TGIF" and under that it said, "Thank God I'm Forgiven".

Me? Touched by a church sign message? It had to be a God thing because this has never happened before. But it really did jolt me out of my self-loathing to remember that ALL my sins, past, present, and even future, have been forgiven. They were nailed to a cross long ago. Every day I can walk in newness of faith with full assurance that I am a beloved daughter of the King, and He takes delight in me.

I love these words to the hymn, It Is Well With My Soul. They speak such truth and assurance to my heart. To read the history of this hymn and hear the melody, go here.

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!

My sin, not in part but the whole,

Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,

Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

I'll probably still be annoyed when I see dumb church sign messages. But I won't forget TGIF anytime soon. Have a wonderful, forgiven Friday!

Jan 14, 2010

Strength from the Word of God...

"My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to your word.
Keep me from deceitful ways; be gracious to me through your law.
I have chosen the way of truth; I have set my heart on your laws.
I hold fast to your statutes, O Lord; do not let me be put to shame.
I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free.

Teach me, O Lord, to follow your decrees; then I will keep them to the end.
Give me understanding, and I will keep your law and obey it with all my heart.
Direct me in the path of your commands, for there I find delight.
Turn my heart toward your statutes and not toward selfish gain.
Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your word.

Fulfill your promise to your servant, so that you may be feared.
Take away the disgrace I dread, for your laws are good.
How I long for your precepts! Preserve my life in your righteousness."

Psalm 119:28-40

Angels in the ER...

My son brought this book for me to read while we were having our belated Christmas celebrations this year. It was written by one of the elders at his church and thousands of copies have been sold. Having just gone through the recent Emergency Room experience on Christmas Eve with my mother-in-law, I found the book to be very interesting. It gives a lot of behind-the-scenes information.

It was not lost on me that night that even though we had our own Christmas interrupted, we sat there watching many health care people as well as security guards, cleaning people, and others who were working while their children and spouses were at home. Every chance I got, I said, "thank you for working tonight".

This book is mostly not about the supernatural and the miraculous as the title might imply to some. It is about ordinary people who live and work in an extraordinary way to serve others. Some of the stories are heart-wrenching and there are no easy answers. It is written by a Christian from a Christian perspective, and he shares how he sees the hand on God in many amazing situations. I don't think I'll ever be quite the same now that I have read this book. I highly recommend it. You can get it at any major book store or on line by clicking here: Amazon

How do you like my new ornament?

I got this new Christmas tree ornament this year in honor of my life-between-the-buns.

Over at my other blog, I have posted some pictures and some recipes to keep you smiling through the bleak mid-winter. www.mistressofmydomain.blogspot.com

Jan 11, 2010

An unwelcome visitor...

Two days after Christmas, my husband and I were finally sleeping soundly in our upstairs bedroom after the big push to get things done and then the medical crisis with his mom on Christmas Eve. It felt so good to finally be getting a good night's sleep. But it didn't last. At about four o'clock in the morning, he suddenly jumped out of bed, waking me up. I asked him what he was doing, as I watched him pull on his jeans. He said, "someone is knocking at the door".

Then I heard it too. First a soft knocking, then more persistent. Finally, the door bell began ringing...not just one or two times, but on and on, and loudly. Someone was definitely wanting to wake us up!

I think I was quite a bit more intuitive than my husband at that moment. I begged him not to answer the door. I knew at once it was someone trying to see if anyone was home...I tried to tell him this is the way a burglar would do it...knock softly at first to see if a dog would bark, then knock very loudly to make sure if anyone was at home, they would wake up and answer the door. If not, they would proceed to try to break in.

But it was too late. In his half-asleep state, he went down the stairs and peeked through the sheer curtain on the sidelight window. The man on the stoop had his back to the door, and looking out into the winter darkness, my husband honestly thought the persistent person was a relative we knew was coming into town for our extended family Christmas party later that day. (I knew they had already arrived in town the day before, but he didn't!) As I stood frozen in our bedroom, with the phone in my hand, my husband disarmed our alarm system and swung open our front door.

The man had his story well rehearsed. He said he was looking for a teenage girl, giving a name. He pointed to an SUV that was parked in front of our house, saying it belonged to the girl's father. My husband finally became awake enough to realize the hoax that he had just fallen prey to, and shut the door and locked it with the deadbolt. I was vacillating between paralyzing
fear and downright anger at him for not listening to me and putting us in danger!

I went to a window and watched as the man, who had actually parked his car in our driveway, backed out and headed around our cul-de-sac, with his headlights turned off. As he came back towards our house, I saw him flash his lights and then the parked SUV started up and followed him out of the neighborhood. At that point I knew for sure my intuition was correct, and I insisted we call the police.

I shudder to think of all the "what ifs". This is the third time in our 33 years of marriage that we have been physically protected (that we know of) from an intruder. Our first two houses were both broken into, but we were not at home at the time, thankfully. The first time it happened, we were just newlyweds and didn't have much of anything. I had come home from work to find our door open in the middle of a very cold winter, and I naively walked right in, only to find our little house in much disarray. I actually ended up going to court as a witness in that case, as two men working together had broken into about 200 homes in our area and had been caught. When we lived in our second house, a neighbor boy broke in one day when he had too much time on his hands, being suspended from school. Our damaged things were later found in a field behind our house. But that didn't ease the awful sense of personal violation we felt, knowing a stranger had been rummaging through our upstairs bedroom closets.

So 14 years ago when we built the home we are living in now, we had an alarm system installed and we do use it faithfully. We actually got a free installation, and we pay less than $20 a month for the service. It really gives me a lot of peace of mind. I highly recommend getting a simple system.

Because we do use the system all the time, we've had a lot of laughs over the years over our false alarms, but those are stories for another time. Our local police department arrives quickly if the alarm goes off, and, God bless them, they have not been deterred by our occasional false alarms.

I wish my husband would have been more alert to the potential danger he put himself and me in that early morning by opening the door to a stranger at a very odd hour. But I do understand how he was caught off guard because he was half asleep.

This whole episode reminds me of a spiritual application. We are told in Scripture to always be on the alert, because we have an enemy who prowls around, seeking to devour us! We live in dangerous times, spiritually speaking. We must not let ourselves be lulled into a kind of spiritual slumber, but we must be wise and guard our hearts.

There is a situation in our extended family that has me emotionally reeling right now. I can't even go into it at this time. But it concerns a family member who is getting involved in something that is not only illegal in most states, but totally out of bounds from a Christian perspective. I have had to draw a line in the sand as to where I stand concerning this. I would appreciate your prayers in the coming days for my own spiritual protection and for my ability to be Christ-like in all I say and do, and most of all for wisdom and discernment. I want to be Christ's light in a dark world, but I cannot afford to compromise everything I have staked my life on and be lulled into responding in a way that would make it appear that I can condone this situation. My spiritual alarm system has gone off, and I must be wise. My family has never been up against anything quite like this before. I'm praying constantly for the people involved. This is by far a more unwelcomed intrusion in our family than the man at our door.

"Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour." I Peter 5:8

Jan 7, 2010

please bear with me!

My out of state family is still here. Life is wild but wonderful...4 kids age 4 and under here most days...and all the adults. I have so much I want to share...I hope you will still be interested...I'll be back next week...and can't wait to catch up with all of you too!

Wishing you all peace, love, joy, & prosperity in this new year!

Jan 1, 2010

I'm a bit confused!

While we are all busy saying "Happy New Year!" to one another, it seems strange that I'm actually looking forward to Christmas! We are just a bit abnormal around here this year. Between mom Stager having her medical emergency on Christmas Eve, and our SC branch of the family driving up to Ohio TODAY, things just got a bit out of order!

So we are planning to celebrate Christmas again this Sunday when all of us can be together. Our plan is to attend church together where our older son, Andy, will be preaching, and then come back to our house for a turkey dinner and gift opening.

My mother-in-law is back home to her condo now. Thank you all for your thoughts and prayers. I think my life-between-the-buns is taking on yet another twist...My comfort is in taking one day at a time, just like Jesus said we should do. (Matthew 6:34: "...do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Today has enough trouble of its own.")

I've been thinking of all my blogging friends and hate being so out of touch, but I'll make up for it as soon as things settle down around here. I'm very much looking forward to the New Year and fully living in each and every moment. God bless you all...may He prosper you and defend you as you lean on Him to guide you into another year!

*beautiful graphic compliments of my friend at Penniwig's