Service That Demands A Reason

It’s not long after children learn to speak that they begin asking questions. I think the favorite of all time is ‘why’. It’s natural for them to wonder why birds fly, why trees are called trees and why they can’t stand in shopping carts. They desire to understand their world; and reasons help them make sense of things. We’re the same way.

I ask myself the ‘why question’ at times when it comes to my faith and service. Much of what we are called to do by faith doesn’t make sense when we walk by sight. A re-visiting of Jesus’ story puts things back into perspective and service makes sense for me once again. I hope this re-telling of His story will do that for you as well.

A Sacrificial Death

crucified-cross-578217_960_720-pixabayThe day was long and dismal; the haters many. Evil enjoyed its finest hour as the Savior of the World hung dying on a cross. Darkness seized the day. Mockers shouted blasphemous cruelty at the One who came to seek and save that which was lost. While gamblers parted His garments, the Son-of-Man made provision for His mother and gave eternal hope to a dying thief.

The moment had come. Death took his best shot. With three short words, “It Is Finished”, Jesus commended His Spirit into the hands of His Father and Life breathed His last. The earth shook. The rocks were split. The thick veil of the temple was rent; torn from top to bottom by hands far greater than the ones that nailed His Son to the tree. His mother was grieved, his disciples fearful and confused as the Hope of Nations was laid in a borrowed tomb. Was there ever so palpable a darkness?

Hope Resurrected

empty-cave-1642215_960_720-pixabay-crerative-commonsIt was the third day. Morning came and the last vestige of night rolled away with the stone. The Son of God rose with power, conquering the very death that once slew Him. Women came to anoint His body for a proper burial but He wasn’t there. The tomb lay empty, housing nothing more than a linen napkin and the empty shell of grave cloths. Life and Light conquered death and darkness; and every hope once buried with Christ rose with Him. And so we live.

The Reason that Demands Our Service

Every bit of brutality Jesus endured on the cross was payment for a debt He didn’t owe. The debt was ours. Isaiah 53:5 But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed. This wasn’t something that just happened. It was for this very reason He came into the world. Mark 10:45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” He chose this!

We serve Him because He is worthy. We love Him because He first loved us. 1 John 4:19.  His death is our payment.His resurrection is our hope. His word is our message. His love is our proof and His promise is our future.sunrise-1460243_960_720-pixabay-creative-commons 1 Corinthians 2:9 But as it is written: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” We serve Him so that others may know; until the last battle, on the last day. And then, in peace we will serve Him still.

How About You

Still asking yourself the ‘why question’? Wondering if this Jesus is really all that He’s professed to be? You’re in good company. One of His disciples had the same question. John 1:46 And Nathanael said to him “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” And so I extend the invitation to you.

God bless you and keep you,

Roxanne

Scripture taken from the New King James Version. ® Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Pictures: Compliments of Pixabay Creative Commons CC0.

 

 

 

Comfortable Crosses

Sunshine Cross 923890_960_720PixabayMost all of us have been there before. You know, that place where your ‘should-have-been’ and your ‘wish-it-was’ doesn’t line up with your ‘how-it-is’. It’s not a fun place to be but there I was. I didn’t say anything, at least not out loud but the statement was made all the same. “Lord, I don’t know how to be anymore.” I wasn’t looking for an answer. I didn’t ask a question. Silent but sure the answer came, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32. What was I to do with that?

I had the rebuttals (both witty and whiny), the wherefores and the reasons. They were good ones too. I know. I worked hard on them, mulling them over and refining them like polished silver. ‘It’s-not fair’ and ‘I shouldn’t have to’ seemed pretty good. After all, I wasn’t at fault in the matter. The problem was my excuses didn’t line up with my calling.

Comfortable Crosses

Cross Necklace1330677_960_720PixabayI sat alone, thinking after prayer meeting one morning. My mind wandered a bit until my eye caught the cross over the baptistery. It’s a simple cross; sanded, stained and varnished to match the rest of the wood in the church. It lends a respectful nod to the cross of long ago but lacks the rugged, brutal character of the one on which our Savior died.

While I stray near the borders  of the comfort zone of my faith, I’m not so keen to sacrifice for others or to bestow upon them the grace that was so freely given to me. To be honest, I’m better acquainted with a shiny cross around my neck than a rugged one behind my back.

Call of the Cross

Jesus addressed a group of His followers, explaining the demands of service.  Luke 9:23 Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. The call of the cross is ‘life by a thousand deaths’. It’s the daily laying aside of our rights and privileges for the sake of others. It’s getting us out of the way so they can see Him. That’s not easy.

If anyone had the right to demand His rights, it was Jesus. He could have cried unfair. He could have saved Himself. He did neither. Then Pilate said to Him, “Are You not speaking to me? Do you not know that I have power to crucify you, and power to release you?” John 19:10. Pilate couldn’t take His life and he didn’t have to. Jesus said, “No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father.” John 10:18. Our pardon was the plan of the Father. Our payment was the price of His Son. Our privilege is to take up the cross and follow.

How About You

Do you struggle with this as I do? Do you wonder how to get past the natural tendency to want to strike back? We must look beyond the pleasure of retaliation to the place of restoration. Jesus gave us the example. He made the pathway clear. We just need to walk in it; and we do that by faith. You’ll be amazed to witness this uncomfortable cross bring comfort and peace.

God bless you and keep you,

Roxanne

Scripture taken from the New King James Version. ® Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Pictures taken from Pixabay Creative Commons CCO

The Author’s Critique

Cynthia Ruchti headshot 2016My first encounter with the author was brief and interesting. I spent little more than a few minutes mingling with other conferees when Cynthia approached the group. She was warmly greeted and seemed to be known by most. I introduced myself, expecting a cursory nice-to-meet-you. Instead, she was friendly and welcoming; stating how glad she was to meet ‘me’ and how much she looked forward to our time together. It was a far cry from the pseudo-smile this newbie expected to receive.

When she left, one of the writers told me that Cynthia liked my work. I insisted that was ridiculous and that she had no way of knowing that. I was told she wouldn’t have acted that way if she didn’t like me. She would’ve shaken my hand and moved on.

Her Critique

We had 15 minutes scheduled for my critique in a room filled with tables and other critiques. She sought a quiet place where we could review my work privately while I encouraged myself to not cry or take the criticism personally. “Don’t worry about all the red marks” she said. The pages were littered with red marks. More self-talk. “Breathe just breathe.” I expected rejection. As Waters Gone By high res(1)Our 15 minute meeting turned into an hour as she instructed and encouraged me. She showed me what to remove, what corrections to make and how to paint pictures with words.  Cynthia went on to talk of beauty, possibility, potential and what she envisioned for the future. It was amazing.

I began reading her book in my doctor’s office. Though I received her instruction readily, it wasn’t until I read her work that I understood. Her words came to life in the pages of her book. I saw and felt things described but not stated. Reading the book helped me understand the author.

His Critique

Years ago, I heard about a God who loved me. While I believed that He loved everybody I didn’t understand His love to be personal. It couldn’t be. My list of offenses was lengthy and the crimes weighty. His words to me were encouraging and in a quiet place He spoke to me.  Isaiah 1:18 “Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the Lord, “Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool.” Knowing myself as I did, I expected the worst from Him…rejection. His vantage point was as far different from mine as were His thoughts. Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. I expected rejection. He offered hope and a future.

I later picked up His book. His words were life and wisdom and peace. The more I read, the more I understood myself, the world, and Him. He made sense.

How About You

Have you ever wondered if God really does love you? If He didn’t, He wouldn’t have done what He did for you. John 3:16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. Maybe you have difficulty understanding Him. May I suggest reading His book? It will help you understand The Author.

God bless you and keep you,

Roxanne

Scripture taken from the New King James Version. ® Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

A special thanks to Cynthia Ruchti for her words of help and encouragement and  the provision of these photos. You can visit her website, Cynthia Ruchti Hemmed in Hope at www.cynthiaruchti.com.

 

 

 

About Those Lemons

pink-lemonade-795029__180 Pixabay Creative Commons CC0Make lemonade. That’s the solution-part of the adage, ‘when life gives you lemons’. Those proverbial lemons refer to life’s trials; bumps that pop up on an otherwise pretty smooth road. Those trials take many forms, i.e. car problems, illness, trials of faith, etc. It could be ‘that one person’ that comes at just the right time with just ‘the wrong’ thing to say that sets your teeth on edge. In any case, the advice is the making of lemonade. In other words, make something good out of a bad situation.

Purposeful Trials

I searched ‘uses for lemons’ and found everything from recipes to remedies. It’s amazing how many wonderful things can come from such bitter fruit. Trials are much the same way. As bitter and uncomfortable as they can be, trials (like lemons) do serve a purpose. In the hand of God, they are as versatile and even needful in the making of a beautiful life as lemons can be in the hands of a culinary artist.

This past year has been a bit problematic for me and walking was not the carefree activity it had always been. I was able to hide the pain for quite a while until a knee injury sealed the deal and left me with a leg brace, crutches, surgery and a rather ‘lovely’ Quasimodo-esque posture and gate. Everything about me cried, “This woman is hurting and needs help.”  Doctor’s orders rendered me unable to drive for six weeks, leaving me completely dependent on other people. That in itself is trying for a self-reliant gal like me.

Knowing that God has a purpose in this and that good will come from it helps. It also helps to know that this is not only purposeful but temporary.  2 Corinthians 4:17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.

Beauty in the PainLemon Wreath Ever Blooming Originals

I wanted so much to keep my struggles to myself. That wasn’t possible. My difficulty, in all its lemony glory, was out there for all to see. While I knew beauty would come sometime after the trial, I didn’t expect to find it in the midst. Help and gestures of kindness came from everywhere; family, friends, co-workers. Even strangers became my benefactors.

I may not know this side of heaven what God has planned for this but I know that He has something and it will beautiful.  Ecclesiastes 3:11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end.  God has not given me the ‘what’ or the ‘why’ in this but He has given me the ‘wow’. I have been surrounded by such love and beauty that, while I can’t count it all fun, I can count it all joy. I’ve also learned that it is not only important to let others see what God brings from our trials, it’s valuable to allow them see what He’s doing in them.

How About You

Are you in the midst of a tough situation? Health failing? Faith tested? Job on the line? God has not forgotten you. Please know that He’s got this, He is doing something and it will be beautiful.

God bless you and keep you,

Roxanne

Scripture taken from the New King James Version. ® Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Lemonade photo: Pixabay Creative Commons CC0

Wreath Photo used with permission: www.EverBloomingOriginals.com

Weighty Words

20160615_225338 (3)My heart is overflowing with a good theme.” So speaks the psalmist in Psalm 45:1. I was taken with this verse this morning, especially the very last line, My tongue is the pen of a ready writer.” Between those two lines the psalmist declares his recitation to be his “composition concerning the King.” I’m grateful when the Word gives me pause. Far too often I read through it without giving it due consideration. This time I felt it and was moved.

I often fail to remember that my words are writing messages on the minds and hearts of others. Those messages impact their thoughts about my faith and my God. My tongue is indeed the pen of a ready writer and my life and pen speak with visibility the voice of my heart.

Weighty Words

Words, like bricks can be used either to increase the weight of another man’s burden or help shore up the crumbling walls of his life or faith. We must therefore “Let no corrupt word proceed out of our mouths*, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.” Ephesians 4:29.

Amy Carmichael, Irish missionary to India in the 1800s said, “A cup brimful of sweetness cannot spill even one drop of bitter water, no matter how suddenly it is jarred.” It behooves me then to pour into my mind and heart only that which is good and will pour out grace and truth to the building up of another.  “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” Luke 6:45

How About You

Have you sensed a bitterness of your own soul? Do you (like me) find yourself dwelling on negative things? The incessant mud-slinging in the political arena and the dreadful reactions to national tragedies have certainly provided much fodder for negative thought and rumination. We daily live out the consequences of such negativity in our words, attitudes and behaviors. Whatever be the cause, we must choose to think higher. We must choose to think nobler. Why? “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:9. We must have the mind of Christ.

The eyes and ire of a watching world are upon us. If they are to judge the validity of our faith and the goodness of our God by what they read in our lives, we must think well, carefully weigh our words and provide them a worthwhile read.

God bless you and keep you,

Roxanne

Scripture taken from the New King James Version. ® Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

https://www.biblegateway.com/

Marigold Madness

20160422_160215 I bring good news! The marigolds are in. After a season of barren trees, flowerless planters and brown grass, I long to look out my kitchen window and see the cheery colorful blooms of marigolds.  You can imagine my opening the sale paper of our local nursery to find these little lovelies on the front page. My flower-loving heart was overjoyed! Well, it was. My husband once asked if we needed to plant so many marigolds.  In a word…yes!

Marigolds are a wonderful flower.  The bright orange and yellow blooms atop full, green leafy stems add a lovely burst of color to the garden and a bit of cheer to me.  They are a hardy low maintenance flower, easy to grow and can withstand the summer’s heat.  Granted, they are not the sweetest smelling flower in the garden.  Ok, they stink; but they are a beneficial flower that helps protect a variety of vegetables from hungry insects.

Taking Over

One morning while finishing the dishes, I looked out my kitchen window admiring my little garden. The marigolds planted around the cherry tomatoes were big and full and peppered with little red tomatoes just above them.  It was too inviting to just look at so I grabbed my basket and headed to the garden.

20160422_160023 (3)As much as I enjoy the flowers, I really enjoy tomatoes.  I was disappointed to find that there were not very many tomatoes though.  Just behind the flowers, I found a bunch of tiny green tomatoes shaded from the much needed sun.  I realized that something was going to be sacrificed that day and I wasn’t pleased. The solution came with the answer to one simple question, “What are you growing here?”  Since I was growing tomatoes and the marigolds became detrimental to them, the marigolds had to go.  It was that simple.

Marigold-like Madness

This same madness happens in our families, our workplaces and our ministries.  Activities, hobbies and programs once designed to enrich us gradually become so important and all-consuming that they drain the very life out of that which they were meant to enhance. In ministry, the work of man can become so important that it supersedes the will of God; making it necessary to uproot us and cast us aside as detrimental.  God forbid!

How About You

Do you find yourself struggling to keep the main thing the main thing? Have your personal goals or plans become more important than that of your company or ministry? The solution to this dilemma is to have the mind of Christ, who made himself of no reputation taking upon himself the form of a servant and to understand as John the Baptist did that ‘He (*meaning Jesus) must increase but  I must decrease’. John 3:30.  It’s that simple.

God bless you and keep you,

Roxanne

Scripture taken from the New King James Version. ® Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

*emphasis added

Here’s To A Happy Heart

Heart WreathFebruary is awash with hearts. Valentine’s Day and National Heart Health Month make it nearly impossible to avoid those little red wonders.

Having received a frightening diagnosis, and with a difficult procedure looming ahead, I was surprised that I had felt happy. Finding out a loved one has cancer is no easy pill to swallow. I marveled at those moments and wondered how they were possible in the midst of such difficult circumstances. Like bright rays shining through thick dark clouds; the happiness, like sunshine came from other places. In this case, it was places of the heart.

Just as proper diet and exercise contribute to the health of our hearts, what I fed my soul contributed to the happiness of my heart. I was alone, facing surgery, peaceful and happy.

Benefits of a Happy Heart 

The overall condition of our hearts impacts other aspects of our lives: our attitudes, our actions, our relationships and even the things we say.Berry Wreath Door

Consider the many benefits to having a happy heart. First, it helps us feel better. “A merry heart does good, like medicine, but a broken spirit dries the bones.” Proverbs 17:22. Secondly, it improves our looks. “A merry heart makes a cheerful countenance, but by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken.” Proverbs 15:13. Thirdly, it impacts our speech and behavior. “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good…for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. ” Luke 6:45.

Preparations of the Heart

While I long to be happy, peaceful and kind, I tend to base my ‘happiness’ on my ‘happenings’. Consequently my attitudes, feelings and behaviors blow with the changing winds of circumstance. The difference comes when I properly prepare my heart.

There’s an awesome heart-healthy recipe found in the book of Philippians, “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” Philippians 4:8. The peace of God is promised to accompany such meditation and I have found that to be true.

How About You

Have you found your happiness driven by your circumstances? Would you like to be characterized as someone with a happy heart? Maybe you find yourself cold at times, hard-hearted and without any good feeling at all. It could be that you need a new heart. God made a promise to His people that I have requested for myself. “Then I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within them, and take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh,” Ezekiel 11:19. It’s a good promise and a good prayer. May God grant you the happiest of hearts.

God bless you and keep you,

Roxanne 

Scripture taken from the New King James Version. ® Copyright ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Middle heart wreath compliments of: http://everbloomingoriginals.com.