Monday, May 22, 2017

Tracing Rainbows Through the Rain



O Joy that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to thee;
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
And feel the promise is not vain,
That morn shall tearless be. 
(George Matheson)

George Matheson suffered poor eyesight from birth, and at age 15 learned that he was going blind. After graduating from the University of Glasgow at age 19, he began theological studies, and it was while pursuing those that he became totally blind.




Besides dealing with blindness, Matheson encountered a heartbreaking experience. His fiancĂ© broke her engagement to him. She explained that she couldn't see herself going through life married to a blind man. 

Yet through it all, Matheson experienced the call of joy. Joy that broke through his pain. He was willing to trace rainbows in spite of the rain pelting his heart. 


3 Ways to Trace Rainbows

1. Become friends with joyful people

There are people who drag us down, and others who lift us up. I’ve found that when I spend time with joyful people, my own heart is lifted. The pain is still there, but the beauty of the rainbow is within my grasp.

Years ago, we traveled with a college quartet. Landing one night at the Bloom sisters’ residence, we felt our weariness eased by their attitude of joy. When they showed us to our room they pointed to a devotional book they wanted us to read. Page after page was underlined and dated. Joy leaped from the pages to our hearts. These godly ladies knew how to trace rainbows.

2. Trust Jesus 



Babbie Mason wrote these poignant words:

God is too wise to be mistaken.
God is too good to be unkind. 
So when you don't understand, 
When you don't see His plan, 
When you can't trace His hand, 
Trust His heart.

Some things will never make sense. Cancer, deaths of young people, divorce, abuse – we cannot understand the “why” of them. Trust Jesus. Believe what He said, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). Never forget our Heavenly Father loves you. His tears mingle with ours. Trust that, in the daily pain, He will help you trace rainbows. You may not ever get over the heartache, but you can get through it. We have the hope of heaven when tears will be forever washed away.

3. Be Grateful

Rainbow tracing is easier when we are counting blessings – one by one. Be intentional; each day record a blessing. I’m not talking about “My friend paid off my car” blessings. No, the little things. A beautiful sunrise, encouragement from God’s Word, a friend’s phone call, a card in the mail – those blessings we often take for granted. Henry Ward Beecher said, “The unthankful heart...discovers no mercies; but let the thankful heart sweep through the day and, as the magnet finds the iron, so it will find, in every hour, some heavenly blessings!” As we practice gratitude, the hues of the rainbow become more vivid. 



We all have pain. You have yours. I have mine. The Sunday morning after we held our sweet Sarah’s funeral, my husband sat on the organ bench, desperately trying to think of a song to play for the offertory. These words crept into his heart as tears rained down his face: O Joy, that seekest me through pain; I rest my weary soul in thee. At times it seems like joy will no longer visit your heart, yet as you seek fellowship with joyful people, when you trust Jesus, and count your blessings, your eyes will trace the rainbow arched above your heart.






Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Give Them Books

If you walk a mile in my shoes, you’ll end up at the book store.


       She was six, and already the bookstore was her favorite place to be. Friday night family time found us at Barnes and Noble for story hour. Emily ate cheese balls with Lilly of Lilly’s Plastic Purse (Kevin Henkes), twilled with Angelia Ballerina (Katharine Holabird) and had her picture taken with Sister Berenstain Bear (Stan and Jan Berenstain). I knew I had birthed a reader when Emily handed me a book and said, “Momma, doesn’t this book feel so good in your hands?” Deckle pages delighted her, word choices enchanted her, and those blue eyes twinkled when a favorite author released a new title.




       Common Sense Media’s 2014 research report found that 53% of nine-year-olds are reading daily. Every list I reviewed showed that 53% are reading fiction, indicating adventure, fantasy, some classics, fairy tales, and mysteries are the brain food of our children. I do believe fiction is an important part of a child’s reading. Nathan the Prophet told King David a story, Jotham shared a fable of trees, and Ezekiel related an allegory of a great eagle with wings. However there are so many other genres our children can enjoy. Remember, the words they read are filling their minds and forming their world view.

       Many use the excuse, “they are just kids,” but we are responsible for training our children for the Kingdom work. I purchased a book about strange animals so some fresh, informative reading would be available for the grandkids. All was well, until Ethan, then nine, brought it to me and said, “Mawmaw, this has evolution in it.” We can’t just randomly buy books and hope they are good because they were written for children. Review them first.



Here are some  alternatives to fiction for your consideration:


1. God’s Word

       Encourage devotional time early.  Before they learned to read my daughter established a time of personal devotions for her children. Listed on their picture reminders along with make your bed and fold jammies, was “read Bible and pray before leaving bedroom.” When Melanie was about twelve, I peeked into her room to see her reading her Bible. Three-year-old Emily was beside her, reading her Bible, too —upside down. There are many children’s devotional books available, but encourage your children to find the connected Scripture in their own Bible. We want them to fall in love with the Bible as a book. There will be time later for Bible apps and other electronic gadgets. 

2. Biography

       Reading biographies provides a cadre of heroes. Introduce them to entrepreneurship through Walt Disney, feed their patriotism with Nathaniel Hale or Sam Houston, and inspire them to pursue their talents with Handel and Mozart. Teach them compassion with stories of the Special Olympics and Rick Hansen. Challenge them to follow God with Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Jim Elliott and Amy Carmichael. 

3. Knowledge

       Kids just want to know – they like trivia and facts. Provide Ken Ham’s Answers Series. Give them books on sea animals, tornados, pyramids, national wonders and yes, even Zondervan’s Wacky Bible Gross Out book. Make sure they are up-to-date, colorful and fun.



       We have a responsibility to raise readers, to make sure books are available to them whether from our church library, city library or their own room’s library. When Melanie was a young teenager, she had over 500 books in her own room. Is it any wonder the main item on her Christmas list each year are non-fiction books?

       And my little Emily-reader-turned-teacher? Spring Break is coming up, and she has promised to spend a day with me, “curled up in the blue chair with a good book.”






Saturday, April 22, 2017

The Shelter of Informal Mentoring



One of the challenges I repeatedly hold out to the people of our church—especially the women—is that they make it one of their aims to age into a sage. I love the vision of older women full of seasoned spiritual fruit that comes only with long life and much affliction and deep meditation on the Word of God. So many younger women yearn for older women, who are deeply wise, to share the wisdom God has taught them over the years. John Piper




My friend, Eleanor, is a Titus 2 woman. Her mentoring ministry fulfills the command in verses two through five: Older women likewise are to exhibit behavior fitting, for those who are holy, not slandering, not slaves to excessive drinking, but teaching what is good. In this way they will train the younger women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be self-controlled, pure, fulfilling their duties at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the message of God may not be discredited.


Eleanor doesn’t have a mission statement, a ministry plan, or a weekly/monthly schedule, but she’s living out God’s plan each time she meets a young mother for breakfast, each time she listens to one of them who are hurting, and each time she shares stories about raising her children. And just as important, each time she loves on their little ones. I could name woman after woman she mentors in friendship through encouragement, listening, guidance, laughing and loving. 



What is a mentor?



She is a wise woman who is mature in faith, a lover the Word of God, and consistent in godly conduct.

She is authentic – doesn’t wear a mask.

She is willing to listen, share skills, and provide a positive perspective for life experiences.

She is willing to speak truth using love to cushion the council.

She provides wisdom and offers a spiritually sound, safe and fun friendship to a younger woman.



Three ways to steer the conversation to heart topics: 


Share a time when you were aware of God’s presence, help or timing in your life.


Ask “Can I pray with you?” when she shares one of her struggles.

Use stories of your failures and how you overcame them.

Some things to think about:


Some young families don’t have extra money for coffee store drinks or pastries. If possible, pick up the tab.

Be aware of the books available on different subjects. Pick up one or two “just in case.’

Invite them into your home to make freezer meals for a new mother. You will help them realize blessing others doesn’t have to involve big gifts.

Go beyond with a mailed note, a quick phone call or text, a       small gift such a favorite cookie, candy bar or box of tea, that   says, “I’ve been listening to you.” 



There are many mentoring programs, but sometimes informal mentoring can reach those who wouldn’t sign up for a program. We can answer the call to “Feed my sheep” (John 21:17). Prepare them to mentor the next generation for the furtherance of God’s kingdom, and for the glory of God.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Standing for Truth




During Queen Mary’s reign in the 1500s, nearly 300 people were burned at the stake for their worship of God. No wonder she was called “Bloody Mary.” One man Mary hated was John Rogers, a Bible translator, and Protestant preacher. As the sheriff led him to the stake, they asked if he would recant his protestant beliefs.

He didn’t miss a step, but replied, “I’ll seal what I preached with my own blood.” The Sheriff called John a heretic, yet he promised to pray for him. Singing, he passed his wife and eleven children, yet even for them, he would not recant.

Today, in the United States, we wouldn’t be burned at the stake for our religious beliefs, but Open Door: Serving Persecuted Christians Worldwide reports that, around the world,  each month 322 Christians are killed for their faith, 211 churches and Christian properties are destroyed, and 772 forms of violence are committed against Christians. If you follow the news, you will see, even in the United States, the subtle persecutions of those who believe in the precepts of God’s Word. How do we respond to the persecution and, more importantly, how do we teach our children to respond? 




I believe our children should have a love for and foundation of God’s Word if we want them to look in the fac
e of those who despise our God and stand for truth. 

Teach Them Truth is Absolute

To speak of truth as "absolute" is to say that something is true absolutely -- true unconditionally, "no matter what." Our goal in teaching our children truth is not merely for rote repeating. Our teaching should be saturated with prayer. We must pray that our children’s head knowledge will morph into a desire to invite Jesus to be Lord of their life.



When we teach our children the commandment, “Thou shalt not kill,” that is an absolute truth. We don’t dilute it by condoning abortion or euthanasia. When we teach our children, “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” we don’t embrace it to encompass more than one man and one woman. When we say God’s Word is true, we don’t suggest Jonah’s big fish is a metaphor and didn’t actually happen. Steve Hann said, “God’s claim of absolute truth is so essential that man’s ideas should never intrude upon it.”

It’s easy in our desire to stand for truth to respond self-righteously – a prideful “better-than-you.” Paul called self-righteousness filthy rags. We must teach our children to stand for truth with humility and kindness. 




Along with teaching absolute truths, should be the demonstration of joy in living those truths. Obedience to God and His Word is not a drudgery to be endured, but a privilege to be lived. Thomas Watson said, "The apostles went away rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for the name of Christ, that they were graced so far as to be disgraced for the name of Christ!" Read your children stories of the persecuted church. As a family, give up soda for a month or a planned trip and donate the money to Voice of the Martyrs or another ministry that serves Christians being persecuted for their faith. Teach them Hebrews 13:3: Remember those in prison, as if you were there yourself. Remember also those being mistreated, as if you felt their pain in your own bodies.

Our children may not face John Rogers’ fate in 2017, but they need to be prepared with a knowledge of absolutes, and a heart so in love with God that they will stand for Truth without fear of consequences. 







Saturday, April 8, 2017

In the Service of the King







His name was Nehemiah, and he was King Artaxerxes’ cupbearer, daily checking the king’s wine for poison.   Nehemiah is lauded as the hero for organizing and overseeing the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem.  But I would like to suggest that there is another hero in this story -- King Artaxerxes.  If you were the king, do you think you would notice the man who brought your wine to you each day? 

On the day of one of King Artaxerxes’ renowned parties, Nehemiah heard the sad news.  It was delivered by his brother, Hanani, who had come to visit.  “What’s happening in Jerusalem?” Nehemiah asked.

“It’s appalling,” admitted Nanani.  “The walls are rubble, the gates cinder, and our people --they are disgraced, and the armies around Jerusalem plundered and destroyed the crops.”  The news hit Nehemiah hard.

 In spite of his grieving heart, he performed his duty.  Nehemiah tasted the wine, brought it to the king, then picked up the golden goblet, filled it with the rich wine and, with a deep bow, offered it to the king.  King Artaxerxes immediately noticed Nehemiah's sad face. 

“Nehemiah, what’s bothering you?” the King asked.  “What is making you sad?”

 Nehemiah’s words tumbled out, exposing the anguish in his heart.  “How could I not be sad when the city where my father and mother are buried lies in ruins and the gates to the city have been burned?”

 King Artaxerxes not only listened to Nehemiah’s outburst, he acted on his sympathy -- even to the point of inconveniencing himself.  He offered Nehemiah a leave of absence.  “What else do you need?”

 “I need a passport so I can travel to Jerusalem.”

 Done.  

 “I need your forest keeper to provide Aspen wood for rebuilding the temple.”

 Done.

 And then the king went beyond what was asked or expected.  “The road you travel is long and perilous.   I will send some army officers and give you a cavalry escort to keep you safe.”

And this promise was done.



            I, too, am a servant of the King. Every day I write for Him. Every day I offer up my words for His approval, each one crafted to please my King.

            There are days the King notices my sad expression and asks, “What is making you sad?”

            My words tumble out, exposing the anguish in my heart. “How could I not be sad?” I say. “Those close to me have been plundered and destroyed by the enemy.”

            With gentle words and caring eyes, my King asks, “What can I do to help?”

            “I need your blessing upon my ministry.”

            Done.

            “I need your love to rebuild the broken gates of their hearts.

            Done.

    And then the King – my King of Kings -- goes beyond my requests. “The road to rebuilding lives is long and discouraging,” He says. “The path you walk will be narrow and difficult. I will send the Holy Spirit with you to keep you safe from the enemies of despair. I will pour grace, joy, and truth into you as needed.

   But the King isn't done yet. Every day He's walking with me, pouring new mercies into my life. As I give, He gives. 

   And I’m not done yet because people still need the Lord. They need someone to acknowledge their private pain. They still need the offer of grace -- grace from the King and grace from us.They need unconditional acceptance and authentic love. 



    I won’t be done until I hear the “Well done thou good and faithful servant.” Until then, I’m traveling this road, scattered with needy people, my arms wide open and my heart filled with the guidance and presence of the Holy Spirit. 

    I’m just not done. 










Sunday, March 5, 2017

Attention to Detail



I've watched her often, adding that last small touch to what she's doing. The ribbon around a bouquet of flowers from her garden, the fresh pansy on a piece of cheesecake, fresh chocolate chip muffins added to the church welcome bag. The table is set with care, but at the last minute, a tiny sprig of flowers is tucked in the napkin ring. Mother Teresa called it doing "small things with great love." I call it "my sister's attention to detail."



Our Heavenly Father is the greatest example of attention to detail. At the same time listening to prayers of Christians in China, the United States and Africa, He's orchestrating answers to prayers of hundreds of others. He keeps track of the number of hairs on our head and dispatches the guardian angel squad. Yet what else does He do? He sees the tiny sparrow that falls to the ground.


While Melodie is lighting tea lights in china cups and tucking a nest into another, God is bringing "just the right verse" to mind for my present need. When Melodie is tucking a new pair of socks and a matching candy bar into a basket for an overnight guest, God is sending a grandson to make me laugh. When Melodie is folding her toilet tissue into a V, God is prompting someone to send me an encouraging card

Attention to detail -- that small loving touch. Melodie has the gift of attention. So often God uses her for the small touches because she does them with great love -- just like her (and my) Heavenly Father.







Saturday, February 25, 2017

Come, Sit With Me


He's six.
Blue eyes.
Gapped-toothed king of cuddles.
Phone-playing Batman kid.
"Come," he calls. "Come sit with me."
And grandma does.

I'm older than six.
Brown eyes.
Lover of sweet boy cuddles.
And the One who gave him life.
"Come," I call, "Come sit with me."
And God does.

Pamela J. Kuhn Christian encouragement. Praise the high tower, rock of my salvation and lover of my soul.

God always comes. This One who created the rivers and sun and elephants and bugs. He's the great "I Am." He's the lover of my soul. He's my rock. He's my Shepherd. He listens, guides and feeds my soul. With gentleness, He disciplines.  With tenderness, He calms. With kindness, He leads to rest. And when I praise, God sits, and His presence is all I need.






 
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