Is The Door Really Locked Shut?

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A friend at church was assigned a different office along with added responsibilities. I promised to stop by and check out her new location. It took me weeks to finally find her. The doors were always locked or so I thought.

My friend worked in a section of the church where I was unfamiliar with the layout. I had to ask for directions to find the general area of her office. She works part-time and I tried to visit on her off days. I learned her schedule and the best times to stop in. Even though I knew where to go and when to go, there was still one big stumbling block: the doors.

I tried to turn a door knob and met only resistance. I pushed on another door and it refused to budge. The doors were always locked. Signs during worship service reminded me that the doors remained locked. In sharing my frustration and the numerous attempts to visit, my friend reassured me that I could go through the doors to reach her.

The solution was as simple as pushing on the (literal) right door of the double doors that opened up to the hallway access. I had tried only the left door which is always locked. My mindset told me that the right door also must be locked because that had been my experience with the other doors.

My understanding and experiences confirmed my thinking that the doors were always locked. Eventually, my mindset believed that I could not get past those doors to visit my friend. How often does this happen in our spiritual walk?

We know where we want to go, but a stumbling block prevents our forward progress. We see closed doors and walk away feeling dejected. Perhaps we feel the nudges and encouragement to enter new territory, but we meet resistance along the way. Or our circumstances don’t budge and we remain stuck in our current place.

Do we seek out God’s timing? God gives us signs, but are we paying close enough attention? Do we interpret the signs with our understanding or do we examine signs through the lens of God’s word? Sometimes our mindset closes out God’s possibilities that are within our reach. Oftentimes, I need to think bigger!

We are to persevere which means to keep asking, keep pushing, and keep trying. Let’s not be deterred from God’s best. We can tend to view doors as something that keeps us out. God gives us open and closed doors to guide us. What are you waiting for? See what is on the other side of God’s door for your life!

Revelation 3:20

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.

Luke 11:9-10

“So I say to you; Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.”

 

 

A Seed Can Do What?

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One moment, I was working on my laptop. The next moment, I was cut off from e-mail, social media and the World Wide Web. My internet connection was lost. After restarting my computer, turning the modem off and on and checking my husband’s laptop, I knew the problem was mine alone.

My only option was to call for computer service. In this case, the call was made to my younger son who worked at a local computer business throughout high school. My son performed diagnostics on the computer and informed me that the problem was with the wireless card.

Since I needed a new wireless card, the old one had to come out. Something caught my son’s eye as he lifted out the card. He had found the true source of my problems. It wasn’t very big as it was the same size as a sesame seed. In fact, it was a sesame seed! That single seed had been lodged in the perfect place to disrupt the wireless card function. I had no idea that one misplaced sesame seed could wreak havoc with my computer and connection to the world.

This incident prompted me to think about the other seeds that I carry around and drop in life. What type of seeds do I plant on purpose or accidentally? Are there seeds of fear that hold me back? Are there seeds of doubt that stifle joy? Are there seeds of sin that result in chaos? Are there seeds of unforgiveness that destroy relationships? Or are there seeds that instill hope? Or seeds that promote peace everywhere I go?

We get to choose the seeds we carry around. God wants to give us seeds that bear fruit in His kingdom. Jesus shared kingdom truths in the Parable of the Mustard Seed. He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all your seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and perch in its branches” (Matthew 13:31-32). Don’t doubt the potential in a single seed!

Jesus encouraged our faith walk with these words. He replied, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea’ and it will obey you (Luke 17:6.) Don’t doubt the power of a single seed!

Let’s give God all our seeds, both the good and the bad. By placing our seeds in His hands, we will be amazed by what He can do with those seeds in our lives. In exchange, God plants seeds in us with the potential and power to grow and bear eternal fruit.

 

When The Imperfect Becomes Perfect

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After my small country church shut its doors, I tried to make church fit my expectations. I must be a slow learner because I spent two years trying to fit in where God hadn’t placed me. It didn’t work out well for me as I felt lost for a long time.

I could list the requirements for my perfect church. It started with a smaller congregation where everyone knows each other on a Sunday morning. Worship is not too loud and includes both hymns and contemporary Christian music. The sermons are relevant to imperfect real life.

I finally found the perfect church that met all my requirements. It was time to sit down with the pastor and hear his heart and vision in his own words for my perfect church. That meeting was where I discovered that the perfect church of my mind was the not the perfect church God had in mind for me.

The pastor didn’t say anything wrong. It was just the opposite as I was engaged by his straightforward and God-honoring vision for the church’s future. Rather, it was a nugget of wisdom he inserted into our conversation that changed my focus. He talked about the “community” the church was trying to reach.

Something resonated in my heart. My “community” was serving cancer survivors along with others who are passionate about “providing hope, support, service and love to those struggling with cancer by being the hands and feet of Jesus.” (The mission statement for Cancer Hope.) That moment was the turning point where I finally recognized my perfect church. Afterwards, I thanked God for imparting His truth deep inside of me. Then, I mailed an apology and explanation to the pastor for changing my mind about his church.

In reality, God had revealed the answer to my church search two years earlier. However, at that time, this particular church did not meet my requirements. It was too big and the music was too loud. I had attended one of three weekend services and did not recognize a single smile. I didn’t stay because I was intimidated by what I saw on the surface. God wanted me to dig deeper. That process took me two years to work through and finally accept.

The second time around, I returned to the church with a different attitude. In the first few weeks back, the pastor addressed those of us uncomfortable with a big church. Paraphrasing his words to the congregation, “The early church was big. Three thousand people were added in one day. In heaven, there will be lots of people worshiping together. You might want to get used to it now.” I just knew the pastor was speaking directly to me!

As for “my community,” I am now the leader of a cancer ministry that has supported over 380 survivors in 25 states since its beginning in 2011. I thank God that He made my “perfect” church “imperfect” so I could experience His perfect plans for my life. I am finally home and it is the perfect place to rest.

Proverbs 16:9

In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.

Psalm 25:4-5

Show me your ways, O LORD, teach me your paths; Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.

 

 

What Is A Christian To Do?

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Hate crimes, police shootings, terrorist attacks and injured stray cats are all recent events that have filled me with sadness. And yes, I purposely included cats in the same sentence as the lives of human beings. The reason why is because the cat incident hit the closest to my physical home.

Our backyard borders a small patch of trees and a drainage creek. We see our share of animals pass through. The stray cat was a new visitor. It looped back around to park his weary body under our front porch glider. I could see his matted fur and the swarm of flies that followed him as he oozed infection onto the concrete.

It was not a problem I expected to see in our backyard. We shooed him away, but he kept inching his way back until he found his familiar spot on the front porch again. Truth be told, I didn’t want this problem hanging around my house or present in my life.

I did the Christian thing and prayed for the cat. I prayed that the cat would simply disappear. I prayed for the cat’s suffering to end. I wrestled with Christian guilt because truth-be-told, I wished the cat hadn’t showed up here. In the end, the cat did not hear my prayers. He stayed where I could no longer ignore him.

We asked neighbors if they knew the cat’s owner. No one claimed the cat. I didn’t have to imagine their relief that this cat ended up in our yard and not in their yard. The cat was still our problem.

Eventually, we transported the cat to a local animal shelter. The employee examined the cat and used a sensor to detect a microchip. My heart lept just a little when she reported that there was a microchip. There was real hope to reunite cat and owner. Most likely, I will never know the end of this story. However, I can find some solace in the fact that we did something to potentially improve the cat’s circumstances.

Sometimes the problems in this world feel like that injured stray cat. We didn’t ask for the problem. We don’t want to deal with the problem. We don’t have the resources to fix the problem. Or worse yet, maybe we simply don’t care about the problems because it doesn’t directly affect our day-to-day lives.

The Bible has it right: Do not withhold good from those who deserve it, when it is in your power to act (Proverbs 3:27). All of us have more power than we realize. Everyone deserves our good. Jesus shows us the better way: When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd (Matthew 9:36.) May we look upon others with compassion and love rather than with intolerance and hate.

The best expression of faith that I can come up with is to show kindness in the moment. It may not change the world, but it can offer hope for that given moment. Maybe that is the best any of us can do on our own. We show kindness and hope that together with the kindness of others, God uses those moments to become a movement of love that changes the world.

The Math Doesn’t Add Up

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Math is orderly and predictable in how it describes complex circumstances. I like math! Math has always been relatively easy for me. This explains why I became an engineer, married an engineer, and have two sons who chose math-related careers (engineering and actuarial science.)

Only one math class tripped me up in college: differential equations. I still managed to pull off an “A,” but I worked harder than I ever had to in a math class. Now that I am older and long since removed from my college days, I keep coming across math that causes me to stumble. The issue is not the application of differential equations as I haven’t used it since that class! The heart of my problem is that the math doesn’t add up: plus one minus one does not equal zero. Zero implies neutrality. You are not in the black or in the red as the plusses and minuses even out.

The year that my brother-in-law died at 52 years old is the same year that the first great-grandchild was born. We still had the same number of people at family get-togethers, but everything had changed. Of course, there was the surplus of joy in having a little one around again. The many pictures of four generations together are evidence of the new life in our family.  However, there is also a void that the number zero does not encompass. It is a gap in our hearts and a missing smile in pictures of the new family memories we make.

I see the same math in the cancer ministry I lead. A survivor succumbs to cancer and I enroll another survivor just starting their cancer journey. Our numbers stay the same, but the math doesn’t do justice for the emotional fall-out. Math doesn’t capture the hurt that zero brings. We acutely feel the loss through a survivor’s death and the pain that gain brings when another person is diagnosed with cancer.

Those are the times that textbook math doesn’t add up for me. I am reminded that these moments are when my education really begins. God opens my eyes to His math based on His perfection. Zero doesn’t exist when I trust in the completeness of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. God fills voids with ever-increasing gains of the Holy Spirit inside of me. The negative is turned into a positive by God’s supernatural touch.

God’s math doesn’t have to make sense on paper for God prefers to permanently write it on our hearts. As we embrace His new math, God reveals wisdom and reassures with mercy. Finally, a math education that I can actually apply to my life!

Philippians 3:8

What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ.

Galatians 5:6

For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

 

 

 

God Moments Can Become God Stories

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I knew it was going to be a busy week. I was still learning the ropes in my new volunteer position. The ministry had finished their annual fundraiser and there was a flurry of activity to follow up on. In addition, we were headed out-of-town to visit my in-laws.

That day I was a woman on a mission with a long to-do list. If I adhered to my schedule, I would cross everything off my list and be home to make a nice dinner for my husband. I was on-time with my self-declared agenda until I dropped off information at the church’s welcome desk.

That’s when my plans abruptly changed. The person behind the desk commented, “Oh good, I was looking for those ministry forms because my friend is battling cancer.” As a cancer survivor and the administrative leader of a ministry that supports cancer survivors, I recognized the lead-in to a lengthy and emotional cancer story.

I am not proud to admit that in my mind, the flesh reaction was, “I don’t have time for this. I am on a schedule with my things to accomplish.” Immediately, I heard the Holy Spirit’s rebuttal in my soul, “This is why you are here today. Take a breath, slow down, and be present for this person.”

I recognized my God moment. The Holy Spirit only gives perfect advice. There was no doubt about what was at the top of my to-do list. I listened intently to the person’s cancer story, offered encouragement, and gave tips for enrolling her friend in the ministry.

Once I had shared the practical, I turned to the most important aspect of my God moment. I offered to pray. We prayed for her friend, for her, their friendship, and the circumstances of this particular cancer story. I walked away from that God moment encouraged by God’s blessings in my day.

God provides the opportunities to remind us that our God moments can become our God stories. In reality, it is even bigger than that in God’s kingdom. Obedience to the Holy Spirit’s nudges opens the floodgates for blessings to flow. God’s beautiful intervention insures that our God moments can become part of someone else’s God story!

Psalm 42:10

“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

Isaiah 66:14

When you see this, your heart will rejoice and you will flourish like grass; the hand of the LORD will be made known to his servants, but his fury will be shown to his foes.

 

Chance Connections

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It caught me off-guard. I was in a paper store attending a free “Make It, Take It” card-making session. One of the employees was helping the teacher at the table where I was seated. As the employee’s hands moved, her ring finger caught my attention.

I asked to see her wedding ring up-close. Sure enough, her ring brought back memories. My fiancé (now husband) included me when it was time to go jewelry-shopping. I was instantly drawn to an engagement ring with a single diamond and a matching wedding band with a chip diamond. The uniqueness of the rings’ finish hooked me. The rings have a split design with contrasting brushed and polished finishes. I had not seen another ring like it in twenty-eight years until that day at the paper store.

I just had to know more about her wedding ring story. We compared notes like giddy high school girls showing off their boyfriends’ class rings that they had received. We were married a year apart in neighboring states. She had a different style of wedding band while mine was bought as part of a set. It was a fun connection in an otherwise typical day. I walked out of the store smiling at this chance connection that God wove together.

For a moment, I thought that maybe God had given me a glimpse of heaven. We won’t meet a stranger in heaven because we will discover connections we were unaware of while in our physical bodies. We will be amazed with connections that God used to encourage, to mature, and to love on His people in preparation for heaven. We will learn how every little act of obedience and service to God resulted in a connection that will be celebrated in heaven.

On earth, our most basic connection is our shared sin against God. God’s heart is to connect us to Himself through His Son Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit uses our faith to bind us to God and Jesus. This special connection that begins on earth will take us into heaven’s glory with many more stories of God-ordained connections.

 

Revelation 7:9

After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. Thy were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.

1 Corinthians 2:9

However, it is written: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.”