Monday, January 27, 2014

A Prepared Place


[Photo of a rural mailbox]

 “From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and
the exact places where they should live.
 —Acts 17:26

“Number 10 B Dutch Way”—my Mom’s last address before she left us for Heaven. She only lived four other places during her entire eighty-nine years. This last address identified her room and bed number in a nursing home.

A year before, we would never have considered choosing that kind of “home” for her last days. When we saw that particular room, though—the one bed available in the facility, right by the window—we knew it was a perfect room for her.

My Mom loved birds and trees and nature in general, having always lived on a farm. Even here she could look out over the lawn, and after my brother-in-law brought her bird feeder and placed it just outside her window, she could enjoy a few last days in a very comfortable place—a prepared place just right for her.

I have always been fascinated by Acts 17:26. This verse gave me assurance at a time, early in our marriage, when we had to make a very sudden move from a nice apartment. The owner had decided to transform our apartment into a condominium. We could not afford to buy this place we had lived in four years. We had just a few days to find a new place to live.

We looked high and low for a place to accommodate the two of us. We finally found a rental condominium through some miraculous answers to prayer. Little did we know that within a few months, my husband’s father would die and his mother would need to come to live with us.

Suddenly, we needed all of the additional space this new living place provided. We could never have anticipated this need. But, not only did God prepare it for the two of us, He prepared it for my husband’s mom, as well.

The Apostle John talks about the way that God is preparing a place for us, His children, in Heaven. The Apostle writes in John 14:2:

“In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you.”

When we read that God prepares a place for us after this life, I think it is also safe to assume that He pledges to take care of every place we need to live until then. Like a loving Father, He watches over us and reassures us that He will make sure we will always have a place prepared for us!

Though we may not have to think about finding a new place to live very often in our lives, it can become a most stressful time when it happens. If you need a new home, or a loved one does, trust God to take care of this need.

Surely, our God who said He would take care of our need for food and for clothing in Matthew 6:25-34, will also take care of providing us a place that He has prepared just for us.



Monday, January 20, 2014

Simple Gifts


[Photo of a boy letting snow fall onto his tongue]

 “How many are your works, O Lord!
In wisdom you made them all…When you open
your hand, they are satisfied with good things.”
 —Psalm 104:24, 28

Out they came, mouths open, tongues out, excitement showing on every face. I stood by the front door of the school doing my daily end-of-the-day bus duty. As though playing from some script, over and over again, the children ran out of school into the new snow with the same reaction. Cries of delight, eyes skyward, they couldn’t have been happier.

The adults reacted with far less joy. We complained and worried about the drive home, finding nothing so gleeful in it. I wonder which group pleased the Lord more. He must have watched with pleasure as the children enjoyed this gift He’d brought to an otherwise ho-hum school day.

As I watched the children’s reaction and delight, God reminded me not only of His wonderful creation, but His kind and gentle way with children. He gives us their happy spirits to remind us of simple pleasures and of beauty He constantly provides around us.

Thank you, Lord, for revealing the beauty that I wouldn’t have seen except for these open-mouthed, gleeful children.

As you live through gray, lifeless days, look for the beauty and wonder that children see. You may find that you, too, can find enjoyment in God’s simple gifts.



Monday, January 13, 2014

Bluster or Blessing


[Photo of Phineas T. Bluster]

Those of us from the early Boomers remember the “Howdy Doody Show” on black-and-white TV. My sister and I loved to watch Buffalo Bob Smith and his puppet friends: Howdy, Flub-a-Dub, Dilly Dally—and the live characters: Chief Thunderthud, Princess Princess Summerfallwinterspring, and of course, Clarabell the Clown.

I was always intrigued by the name of the mayor of Doodyville, Mr. Phineas T. Bluster. He had eyebrows that shot straight up when he was surprised and his grumpy nature never changed.

Imagine my surprise when I read about another Phinehas in Scripture (spelled differently). His story can be found in Numbers 25. His anger over the practices of the Israelites, called by God’s name, caused him to act against their sin. We read in Numbers 25:10:

“The Lord said to Moses, ‘Phinehas son of Aaron, the priest, has turned my anger away from the Israelites; for he was zealous as I am for my honor among them, so that in my zeal I did not put an end to them. Therefore, tell him I am making my covenant of peace with him. He and his descendants will have a covenant of a lasting priesthood, because he was zealous for the honor of his God and made atonement for the Israelites.’”

“Zeal,” a word Scripture extols, is a word that we don’t use very often. It means “passion” and Paul told us in Romans 12:11 to:

“…never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.”

When Jesus got angry over the money changers in the temple, his disciples referred back to Psalm 69:9 and said:

“Zeal for your house consumes me.”

Now before we go wrecking furniture or polishing our spears, we do read this warning in Proverbs 19:2:

“It is not good to have zeal without knowledge, nor to be hasty and miss the mark.”

We see a live example of zeal without knowledge in the life of Peter. He made a bizarre suggestion to build shelters on the Mount of Transfiguration for Jesus, Moses and Elijah as recorded in Luke 9:33. I have to think, though, that Jesus especially loved Peter for this characteristic of zeal in his Christian life.

Paul showed zealous action too, without knowledge, and arrested Christians before he himself met Jesus on the way to Damascus as described in Acts 9:1-31. Yet his zeal as a Christian helped establish the church and gave him the perseverance necessary for the task.

These negative examples should not frighten us from our own zeal, as we go about passionately doing God’s work. God loves those who guard the honor of His name and courageously fight to hold His banner high. And that’s no bluster!



Monday, January 6, 2014

The Help


[Photo of Peter nearly drowning]

 “Our help is in the name of the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.”
 —Psalm 124:8

Perhaps Americans have been reminded more recently about people who function as servants. As in the movie, The Help, servants usually work for individuals or families who are well-off enough to afford butlers and maids. In that movie as in the popular television series, Downton Abbey, we see the wealthy family benefitting from the care given by these servants of various kinds.

Truth be told, if we knew the lives of servants in real life, we would probably find a group of hard-working, yet plain people who, in many ways, need help themselves.

We all need help! We reveal our pride when we refuse to acknowledge our need for the assistance of others. As we get older, it becomes more apparent that we can’t do many tasks without aid.

What a Helper we have in God! The very Maker of heaven and earth wants to be our resource. In fact, He desires that we see our own weakness and come to Him. Consider this from Hebrews 4:16:

“Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

I like the “timeliness” of His help. “In our time of need.” We also read in Psalm 46:1:

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.”

Not only is He our Help, He is our “ever-present Help.” In our too-busy lives, we forget that He stays with us, prays for us, and waits to hear our cries for His assistance.

Make note of the many times in a day that you call upon God’s help. Isaiah 59:1 confirms that we don’t serve a God who can’t reach us, or whose arm is too short to save us. He has all of heaven full of angels to help His people. He has servants in every place on the map and an ear to hear us call.

Praise Him today, and call upon Him. Watch how He comes with His Help. He is always nearby!