Tag Archive | Christ

Focus 2014

I first started this blog article with the intent to write about resolutions. But, after a couple hundred words, I changed my mind. I hear that’s a woman’s prerogative.

Then I thought I would write on my most memorable New Year’s Eve celebration. That lasted all of about a minute. It didn’t take long to realize I didn’t have one — unless you count the ones when my mom or dad or other family member ended up going to the emergency room for sudden health problems. Why that always seemed to happen on New Year’s Eve is beyond me. Other than those events, I really don’t have a memorable New Year to tell you about because I’m not usually awake to welcome the New Year in — not even the year 2000! Given the opportunity to “party hearty” or sleep, I’ll choose sleep every time. I jokingly tell people that I’m not responsible for anything I say or do after 9:00 p.m. It seems that’s the magic hour that my brain begins to shut down. Usually I will intentionally fall asleep, asking someone to wake me up a couple of minutes before midnight. I’ll say “Happy New Year” and give a quick, although unenthusiastic, “Whoo-hoo!” then promptly fall back to sleep.

Next I thought I would tell you about our Christmas Day we just experienced. But, I figure your chaos and mine would probably be too similar to hold your interest very long. I mean, who of you didn’t also endure a very noisy remote control monster truck running you over, a 3-year-old banging on drums, and a 6-year singing to her heart’s content in the microphone that came with a new keyboard she doesn’t yet know how to play?

So, I had a talk with myself, “Cheryl, what do you REALLY want to write about? Forget what people expect to hear. Forget about the requests some have made. In the quiet of this hour, what is it that’s weighing heaviest on your heart?”

And you know what? I don’t know! I think my five senses are still on overload from the past month of flurried activity.

But, as I think on it, I realize that in the midst of all the activity of the past month, I also purposely began thinking on the Year 2014 and began jotting down notes of changes I wanted to make in my life. Taking time for reflection is a good thing. It’s good for us to pause and take a long, hard look at our lives. To stop and ponder the things in our life that make us comfortable as well as the things that make us squirm just a bit. Areas in our life we want to improve or do better. Perhaps things we want to accomplish before we die.

So, here I am back where I began — resolutions. Our New Year resolutions tell a lot about us. I’m not usually one prone to make resolutions — especially verbal or written ones. I think I have an adverse reaction to the word itself. Almost as if it were poisonous or maybe a synonym for failure. To be resolute in something is to be so determined that nothing will keep you from accomplishing whatever it is you’ve resolved to do. To be resolute in something is to be committed to it.

In thinking all this through, I realized that, for a long, long time, I have been too afraid of failure to formally declare a New Year “resolution.” Instead, I have been calling them “goals.” But in reality, they’re a whole lot like resolutions. It’s just a gentler word for basically the same thing. But why be so afraid of failure? Why not be like the inventor who never gave up? He never looked at all his failures as “failures.” He looked at them as multiple ways of how NOT to do something. Each failure brought about a lesson learned. And you know me — I’m all about lessons learned.

So, this year, although I have multiple goals I’ve shared with an accountability partner, I am making a written resolution. An over-all resolution for the year 2014. A single word to summarize all my goals — FOCUS. As in “Focus on Christ, not my circumstances.”

My personal prayer this year is the hymn, “Open My Eyes That I May See,” by Clara H. Scott (alternate, updated words by Jeff Redd).

Open my eyes, that I may see
Glimpses of truth You have for me;
Place in my hands the wonderful key
That shall unlock and set me free.
Silently now I wait for You,
Ready, my God, Your will to do;
Open my eyes, illumine me, Spirit divine!

Open my ears, that I may hear
Voices of truth so sharp and clear;
And while the message sounds in my ear,
Everything else will disappear.
Silently now I wait for You,
Ready, my God, Your will to do;
Open my ears, illumine me, Spirit divine!

Open my mouth, let me declare
Words of assurance everywhere;
Open my heart, and let me prepare
Your loving kindnesses to share.
Silently now I wait for You,
Ready, my God, Your will to do;
Open my heart, illumine me, Spirit divine!

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Tell Me a Story, Grandma

If I’ve heard that request once, I’ve heard it hundreds of times — literally! My granddaughter, Haley, has always loved hearing stories. We began our story-telling ritual several years ago, usually while in the car. By the time she was 3, she was requesting specific stories, even though she already knew them by heart. So I tried expanding to other stories — stories about her mom as a little girl. Or stories about things I did when I was little. At 3, those stories fell flat. It was then that I quickly learned the “rules” of story-telling from a grandma to her 3-year-old granddaughter.

Rule number 1 — the story always had to begin with “once upon a time.”

Rule number 2 — the story always had to end with “and they lived happily ever after.”

Rule number 3 — the story always had to be about her.

Haley never tired of hearing stories about herself. And, as I thought on that, I realized that’s true for most, if not all, of us. Is there any one of us who doesn’t also like to hear stories about us when we were little? Stories about some of the cute antics we did. Stories about the funny things we said. Stories about the day we were born. Stories that make us feel special. Loved.

And you know what? I think that’s probably true with Christ as well. I imagine Him stopping and listening intently every time someone repeats the circumstances of His birth. The stable. Mary. Joseph. The angel. The shepherds. The wise men. I imagine Him visualizing it with us. Perhaps wincing at portions of it, wishing circumstances could have been different. But mostly I suspect He smiles from ear to ear every time He hears the story repeated over and over and over again. And I suspect He never tires of hearing it told and hearing it being shared with others.

“Tell me a story, Grandma,” asks the now 6-year-old Haley.

“Well, Haley, let tell you a story about the greatest person who ever lived. Let me tell you about the day Jesus was born.”

“Once upon a time Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register.

“So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of The Lord appeared to them, and the glory of The Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ The Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’

“Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.’

“When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened which The Lord has told us about.’

“So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen Him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.” (Luke 2:1-20)

“That was a good story, Grandma.”

“Yes, honey, it is. It’s part of the greatest story ever told.”

A Little Child Shall Lead Them

The thing with life lessons is that they often come when you’re not looking and when you least expect them. And, much of the time, you don’t even realize a lesson was taught until you have had time to sit back and reflect on things later.

One of the first lessons I remember my granddaughter, Haley, teaching me happened on the evening of May 27th, 2008. Haley was all of 15 months old at the time and our family was standing on a hill in a cemetery.

The days leading up to this had been filled with tears, decisions, and shock. My husband, Gary, had passed away unexpectedly on the 16th from a massive heart attack. We had no warning. From all appearances he seemed to be in perfect health. Only those who have experienced first-hand such a loss can fully understand. No one got to say a final goodbye. No one got to say a last “I love you.”

This particular day was the first of our year-long list of family celebrations and holidays that we would have to experience for the first time without our husband, father, grandfather, and son. And it was hard. Impossibly hard. It was Stasie’s birthday. Although we had the usual cake and ice cream and a gift or two, very little celebrating took place. Before she left the house that evening, Stasie asked if I would go with her to the cemetery. We invited others and, knowing a typical spring storm was approaching, 7 of us quickly loaded up in 2 cars and drove the couple of miles to the cemetery.

As we stood on that hill reminiscing, a gust of wind took us by surprise. Fifteen-month-old Haley immediately raised her arms in the air and began laughing and twirling around. The 6 adults just stood there, frozen in place, looking at each other — all fighting the urge to react the same way, but keeping our feelings in check. Was this appropriate? Should someone try to stop her? Almost as if on cue, we all turned our attention from little Haley to Gary’s then 93-year-old mother. What was she thinking?

To our relief, we saw her smile turn to laughter as the wind continued to blow. Soon others joined, not only in the laughter, but in the joy of the wind as well — complete with raised arms and twirling around. To us it was like an infusion of God’s Spirit, reminding us that death is not the end but, rather, the beginning of a wonderful, glorious, carefree life.

As the sky grew darker and sprinkles of rain began to come, we left the hillside. Less than an hour later, after the storm had passed, we were blessed with a glorious rainbow — yet another reminder of a God who loves us and who cares enough to make his presence known, especially in our darkest hours.

So, thank you, Haley, for taking the lead and reminding us grown-ups how to live. Death’s sting has been swallowed up in Christ’s victory. Hallelujah!

Aim for the Dessert

“Jesus said to them, ‘I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.’ ‘Sir,’ they said, ‘from now on give us this bread.’ Then Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.’” John 6:32-35 (NIV)

My 3-year-old grandson, Nate, has been the cause of some major hair-pulling moments lately. Last night was another one.

As has become almost the norm, he and his mom have had the battle of the wills when it comes to eating his supper. He wants to play, not sit. He wants to take a bite, run off and come back when he’s ready for another. And he wants to eat only what he wants to eat. He doesn’t see the need to eat all that his mom gives him and he certainly doesn’t see the need to eat something he’s not sure he likes. Guess what usually gets left behind? His vegetables!

Guess what his grandma has the biggest problem eating as well?

Like Nate, I am not – nor will I ever be – a vegetable person. There are very few I can honestly say I like. Give me fruit instead! I resist eating my vegetables much like I resist doing some of the things on God’s agenda that he has placed on my “plate.”

I don’t want to go to work today. Lord, would you change that broccoli to peaches? Instead of work, could I please lie on my hammock and rest?

I don’t want to pay those bills today. Lord, would you please turn those peas into applesauce? Instead of paying bills, could I please receive bills of another kind? Say maybe 5’s, 10’s or 20’s?

I don’t want to do the laundry or wash those dishes — again! Lord would you please, pretty please, turn those carrots into grapes?

You get the point. A healthy life isn’t just a matter of eating the right balance of vitamins and nutrients. It’s also a matter of doing the right balance of activities as well. If all I want to eat and do is fruit – to feast on and enjoy the fun things, the relaxing things, the palatable things – my growth is going to be stunted in some way. I am going to become an extremely unbalanced, self-centered and unhealthy person. I sometimes have to do the responsible thing over the fun thing. I sometimes have to set aside my sweet-tasting agenda to do what I may not want to do, but what God is asking me to do.

A balanced life is balanced living. Each day we must:

Eat our bread – it represents Christ’s sacrifice for us, strengthening us spiritually.

Eat our meat – it represents God’s Word, strengthening us mentally.

Eat our fruit – it strengthens us emotionally. It’s important to incorporate a bit of laughter, fun and relaxation into each day.

And eat our vegetables without complaining. They strengthen us physically. Do what you know you need to do. Each day, do what God asks you to do even though it may not be particularly pleasant at the moment.

What about that all important dessert, you ask? Well, dessert is that wonderful feeling you get at the end of the day when you can reflect back and know without a doubt that you have spent your time wisely. You have eaten healthy, exercised appropriately and lived obediently. Aim for the dessert!

Walk on the Water

Ok . . . here’s the thing: For weeks now, there have been two messages that God keeps bringing to my attention over and over and over again. My problem: I haven’t been too keen on either one! The first one because it scares me to death. The second one because I just plain don’t feel like it and, what’s worse, I don’t want to feel like it. I know that’s bad, but I am trying!

“What are those messages?” I hear you asking.

Well, let me share the first one. In the interest of keeping this blog from being unbearably long, you’ll just have to wait until next Monday to read about the second.

The first time I felt the weight of message #1 was during a worship service on Sunday morning, July 21st. A young lady with an amazing voice sang the song by Britt Nicole entitled, “Walk on the Water.” In case you’re not familiar with the song, here are the lyrics:

You look around and staring back at you,
Another wave of doubt.
Will it pull you under?
You wonder:
What if I’m overtaken?
What if never make it?
What if no one’s there?
Will you hear my prayer?
When you take that first step into the unknown,
You know that He won’t let you go.

Chorus:
So what are you waiting for?
What do you have to lose?
Your insecurities try to hold to you.
But you know you’re made for more,
So don’t be afraid to move.
Your faith is all it takes and you can
walk on the water, too.

So get out and let your fear fall to the ground.
No time to waste, don’t wait.
And don’t you turn around,
And miss out on everything you were made for.
Gotta be, I know you’re not sure . . . more.
So you play it safe, you try to run away.
If you take that first step into the unknown,
He won’t let you go. (chorus)

Step out, even when it’s storming.
Step out, even when you’re broken.
Step out, even when your heart is telling you,
Telling you to give up.
Step out, when your hope is stolen.
Step out, you can’t see where you’re going.
You don’t have to be afraid.
So what are you waiting, what are you waiting for? (chorus)

I know I was meant to hear that song that morning. However, God wasn’t done. As if that single, bold face exclamation point weren’t enough, God also underlined message #1 through the sermon, complete with visual aids, that proved just as powerful as the song itself. By the end of the service, I knew God was asking me to step out of my comfort zone and do something beyond me. Something I would never, ever consider doing on my own. Something that, logically speaking, makes no sense.

I was so moved by the message that I went back to the identical evening service to soak in more. Imagine my surprise when, the very next Saturday evening, that same message was repeated again — this time through a video shown at an event I was attending over 100 miles away.

So, you see now why I have no doubt God is expecting me to do something I never thought possible. He is expecting me to step out in faith. Believe me, I’ve been praying and searching a lot about what this particular step of faith looks like. After months of crying, agonizing and praying over a situation, this message has encouraged me to go ahead and “step out into the unknown.” For so long I’ve had one foot dangling over the dark, rough waters while I have sat precariously on the edge of the rocky boat, being tossed around and hanging on for dear life. Terrified.

Rumor has it, I have to completely let go of the boat, freeing my hands entirely before God can put something else in its place. So, I’m no longer gripping the boat with all my strength. Instead, I’m standing in the rough waters, ready to let go and take that first step. So, with eyes focused on Jesus, this is the week . . . one, two, three, here I go!