Wednesday, October 23, 2013
My favorite stories have my hands in them:
At the end of our very first date, my now-husband asked if we could pray before we parted. I said, "Sure" and reached out to grab his hand. That's just what we do in my family; when we pray, we hold hands. When Brad tells this story, he says his heart melted right then and there.
At our church here on the Jicarilla Apache Nation, people come forward for healing prayer every Sunday. After their anointing, my husband the preacher asks for anyone to come forward and lay hands on those being prayed over. I love the idea of the Holy Spirit working through my hands to touch somone.
Not too long ago, a woman from our congregation came to visit. She, like many here, has much grief in her life. In the past, I might've given her a quick hug as she left, but I was moved by the Holy Spirit to ask her if I could pray with her. She got teary-eyed and grabbed my hand. I put my arms around her and prayed for God to comfort her.
And today, while outside washing The Pastormobile and our personal car, two young women came through the yard. We greeted them, and I watched as they continued walking. Soon, one of the women looked up and saw me. I said something inane, like "beautiful day" and expected them to walk on. Instead, the woman said, "Will you pray with us? My friend was badly hurt in an accident and this is her first time out of the house in months." We gathered, my husband the pastor, our almost-7-year-old, the injured woman, her friend, and me. I reached out to take the hand of the injured woman... and in a short time, there were hands linked all around our little circle. We prayed together for God's healing hand, physically, emotionally, spiritually.
And I looked down at the brown American Indian hand in my left and my husband's pale Anglo hand in my right, and the power of God connecting us all. What grace! What a gift to us.
The hand of God is here in this place, using our hands and our hearts to do His work.
Friday, October 18, 2013
But in the past couple of weeks, The Pastormobile has provided a unique way for my husband to minister to the community beyond our church congregation. It might not make sense in some settings, but in this place, graciously giving someone a ride home or to a distant location (the town, though small, is very spread out) is ministering. And since my husband has done this a couple of times, he has been asked a few more times.
When a stranger comes to our door in the evening, like this evening, through the grace of God I am able to give them a friendly greeting, not feeling like they are intruding at all. Truly. It's an amazing gift from God, because I wouldn't have felt this way in many situations in the past. Tonight, the woman started to explain that she was trying to bring home her friend from the bar because she'd had too much to drink, but her friend wasn't able to walk home. She asked, "Could the father give us a ride to her house?"
I asked her in, but she stayed outside to care for her friend. Our almost-7-year-old and her overnight guest were quite curious, peeking out the window. My husband fired up The Pastormobile, loaded up the friends and their big dog, and took them home. As they drove off, my daughter's friend asked, "What was wrong with that lady?"
Taking a deep breath, I said, "She drank too much alcohol."
"Oh," came the answer. "When I grow up, I'm not going to drink alcohol." Sigh of relief from me. And our daughter chimed in, "Me, neither."
And so we minister here in Dulce, New Mexico. We give rides home. We refuse to give rides to the bar. And we risk honesty with young children.
And we are so very deeply blessed to be here. We thank God for the opportunity to serve in this way.
Monday, October 14, 2013
At least not by me.
And if my efforts to fix it are foiled, I get angry. Oh, it feels righteous enough; after all, I'm trying to do something sooooo right. And my anger flares in irritability, in frustration, in hot snappiness at my loved ones.
What does the Bible say about my anger? Really, I'd rather avoid this. After all, I never hit anyone in my anger... or break anything...
But James 1:20 says "the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God." I need to face this.
The Bible is clear about one thing: my anger is sin. In Matthew 5:21-22a, Jesus says, "You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.' But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment." And in Galatians 5, "fits of anger" are listed as works of the flesh, and in Galatians 5:24 it says, "And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires." (emphasis mine)
It's easier to think of works of the flesh as adultery, murder... you know, things I would never do. I'd rather not look at my anger.
But again the Bible speaks clearly: Colossians 3:1-2, 7-8 tells us, "If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.... In these you too once walked when you were living with them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth."
And in Ephesians 4:31-32, we are told "Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you."
My anger is sin. Plain and simple. Sin.
So how do I get rid of something so entrenched in my personality? Notice that Ephesians didn't stop at telling me to get rid of my anger (and wrath and bitterness...). It informed me what should replace my anger. I need to be kind, tenderhearted, and forgiving. And in Galatians 5, it goes on to say, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control..."
So, my charge is to rid myself of anger...to replace it with kindness, forgiveness, tenderheartedness, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. And I don't have to do this by myself. The Spirit, God's Holy Spirit, is with me always. By seeking God, I have received many of the gifts of the Spirit, and I trust that God isn't done with me yet. "He who began a good work in you (me) will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ." (Philippians 1:6)
I'm glad I'm not on my own in this one. I think it's going to take a while...
Tuesday, October 8, 2013
I'm thinking of this today because today has been... well, messy. Not that we've spilled a bunch of stuff, but...
A couple of days ago, a woman (not from the congregation) stopped by and asked if the church was available for a funeral on Wednesday or Thursday. Brad said yes, the church was available, and requested that they let us know which day it would be. This has happened before; some churches here in town just aren't big enough for a funeral.
We were still wondering which day it would be this afternoon (Tuesday), so Brad called a few of our church members, asking if they knew the family of someone who died recently. Finally, someone must have gotten hold of the family because a family member called my husband.
In that phone call, early this evening, it became clear that not only was the funeral tomorrow morning (Wednesday) at 9 AM, but that my husband was supposed to be conducting the service! Remember, Brad has only been a pastor for 6 weeks...This will be his first funeral; and he has all of 14 hours to prepare!
It would've been easy to say "No way!" to this funeral. It would've been easy to shut the door on these people and maintain our family time this evening. It would've been much easier to avoid the whole situation and have Daddy read with our daughter after supper like normal. I certainly would've preferred not to put together an order of service tonight instead of working on my new website for A Glimpse of Grace.
God called us to this task. To this service. Here. With these people. Messy as it is. Mistakes and miscommunications and all...messy.
And Good. Because God is here in this. In all of this. And I pray that He will comfort the family and friends of the deceased... and that He will work powerfully through my husband, providing His peace along the way.
Friday, October 4, 2013
But Jesus didn't tell us to love only those who are easy to love. He said to us: "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." (Matthew 5:44) We're not being persecuted by anyone, but I wouldn't hesitate to pray for anyone.
Enemies? I can't think of any, really. Even those people in my past who have betrayed and wronged me, I don't consider enemies. I certainly haven't found any here.
What about Matthew 5:39-42? Jesus says to turn the other cheek, to give more than is asked for, to voluntarily go beyond what is being asked, to give to those who beg, and not to refuse one who would borrow from you. And in verses 46-47, Jesus asks, "For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?"
We've had a few opportunities to extend our love to those who aren't easy: The wandering young man who is often intoxicated, but still wants to talk to "the father" regularly. The young girl at skating who asks for money so she can get snacks. The neighbor who tries to keep his dog from chasing after us when we bicycle by. The grieving who have lost too many young relatives to drug and alcohol abuse.
And tonight, a youngster who said, "I wish my dad wasn't dead." I replied, "So do I!" Then the child said, "I don't miss my mom, though. She went to jail because she killed my dad." As I am rubbing this young child's back, I'm thinking, "How do I extend love to this child, God? What can I do in this situation?" This child is obviously being cared for by family members; there is an adult present. But the deep need that drove this youngster to reveal these thoughts to an acquaintance... that's beyond me.
Yep. These needs are beyond me. They are beyond us. Only God is strong enough to meet the needs of our broken lives. Even those of us without acute dysfunction have deep needs that are only met by God Almighty, Emmanuel, Jesus Messiah...
My job in this is to allow God to work through me. To do what little I can: rub a back, listen, buy a snack, hear the pain. I am privileged to do this small work.
Wednesday, October 2, 2013
I'm totally unfamiliar with the birds in our new home. (And the plants. And the trees. And the animals.) But I have repeatedly seen a beautiful grey-blue bird, a little bigger than the eastern bluebird. The other day, I finally asked what kind of bird it was. I'm pretty sure the guy I asked knew his plants, birds, etc.
He said it was a bluebird. I figured he meant a western bluebird, so I looked it up. Nope. Then I discovered that there was a mountain bluebird... HAS to be, I thought! No way. I cannot find an identified picture of the bird I'm seeing. One of its characteristics is that when it flies, its tail feathers flash a more pronounced blue. I love seeing those flashes of blue! (I'll let you know when I figure out what kind of bird it is.)
I was watching a couple of these birds this morning on my walk. Their flashes of blue reminded me of several comments made on a couple of photos I posted on Facebook this week. The first is a photo of a stained glass cross, done in blues. The second is the same design, but done in purple tones. Here are the two photos:
|I am making these crosses in many colors!|
|$40.00, plus tax and shipping|
The thing is, I've had lots of comments about how beautiful the purple one is, but not so many about the blue. I realized pretty quickly that this discrepancy has to do with the quality of the light coming through the cross, not the actual beauty of the two pieces.
So I took another photo of the blue piece:
|If you're interested in a cross, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org|
Much better. Now the blue flashes are coming through! The colors are not perfectly true to life, but neither are the purples.
|The cross measures approximately 11x9 inches.|
I think that the beauty of stained glass comes through based on the quality of the light behind it. Just like people: The true beauty of the people around you is based on the quality of the light behind them. If a person is full of God's glory and grace, how could s/he not shine?
I pray that I allow God's light to shine through me, in my words, in my actions, and in my art. I want to flash brilliant colors to bring glory to God!