Tears of Joy

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This summer two of our daughters join the ranks of many who will spend their summer working at camp.  They were home from college for a month, but will be gone for the remainder of the summer with enough time to come home, go on a family vacation, and get packed back up to head back to Cedarville University.

Our oldest daughter is spending the summer working at Lake Ann as a counselor-where Dave went went to camp when he was growing up, and our middle daughter is working at Scioto Hills-the same camp I went to and worked at when I was growing up, and where my parents are currently volunteering.  What treasured memories I have from camp.  God works in great ways at camp all while making wonderful memories and making great friends.

As excited for them as I am that they are so willingly serving the Lord this way, I still hate to say good-bye.  I know they will be back and I know I will see them both during the time they are gone, but I still hate to say good-bye.

I tell them and remind myself at the same time, “They are growing up and becoming the young ladies I raised them to be.”  Growth brings change and tears.  Growth and maturity also come with a price tag.

I am reminded of a tearful good-bye in Acts 20:36, 37 “And when he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all.  And there was much weeping on the part of all; they embraced Paul and kissed him.”  The Apostle Paul was moved with emotion to the point of tears when he said good-bye to those he ministered to in Ephesus.  Paul spent hours pouring his life into many people during his life after his conversion.  After that much time investing and loving, there is a sense of loss during the good-bye.  This feeling of loss over the separation of distance shows that a true heart connection is made.  A valuable relationship is formed.  A treasured bond that is inseparable despite the miles was established.  Despite the heartache and the sadness with the good-bye, the beauty of the relationship is seen with those tears.

As I miss my girls this summer and cry over our separation of distance, I also have a sense of pride over what they are doing with their lives.  I see them carrying on the things that are important in life: loving Jesus and loving people. No matter the sacrifice, no matter the loneliness, no matter the challenges in the end this is what matters.

Right before Paul said his tearful good-by to the people of Ephesus in Acts 20, he reminded the people, “…It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35).  Paul willingly gave all that He had to serve our Lord: to love Jesus and love people.  He lived out this verse.

As I miss my girls this summer, I know that they are right where God wants them, doing the work of the ministry.  There is much joy in my sadness and to be honest the sadness shows the beauty of the relationship.  So as we shed tears on behalf of those we miss, don’t be embarrassed by the tears, rather relish them and treasure them for they show how valuable that relationship really is.

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Contradictions

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Contradiction…we all know and understand the meaning behind this word.  Two things that oppose each other.  In English class we call them antonyms.  The two words that mean the opposite of each other.  The usual purpose behind a debate is caused by two or more people that have different usually opposing ideas that they not only feel very strongly about but also think is the only correct way to think.  We see this in our government on a pretty consistent basis these days.  Contradictions are not usually our favorite thing to discuss at a party, and yet the Bible has some contradictions that when looked at on the surface make no sense but when put into practice make perfect sense.

 

Here are a few:

  1. Matthew 10:39 “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

How can we find our life if we lose it?  Usually when I lose something, like a sock in the wash, it is lost.  We do not try to lose things on purpose so that we can then find them.  What was Jesus’ original intent when He spoke these words?  If we deny Christ in hopes of saving our lives, we lose the hope of eternal life.  When we surrender our lives to Christ, we gain the hope of eternal life.  Living a life surrendered to the will of God the Father will find the true purpose and the true meaning of life.  True purpose in life is not found in doing my will, but rather surrendering my will to the Father and doing His will.  Yes, a contradiction.

  1. Proverbs 11:24 “One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give and only suffers want.”

This one is certainly an enigma.  When we give we grow richer and when we withhold we are in want.  So many in our culture strive to have the best house, the best car, the best clothes…Three generations from now or even at our funerals will our house and our car be the things that are remembered?  Rather, when we attend funerals no one usually talks about another’s possessions but their character.  When we are generous with our love, compassion, gentleness, kindness, encouragement, friendship, hospitality, joy, peace…we grow richer.  When we are stingy with our kindness being so focused on meeting our own needs, we suffer.  It seems when I notice the needs of another and freely give of my time and talents, my heart grows richer.  When I fail to notice the needs of others and am so focused on my own needs, I feel even needier.  Loving those that do not deserve it or encouraging those that may not reciprocate fills my heart with more joy than keeping that love for myself.  Notice the pain in someone’s eyes and love them.  Notice the loneliness in someone’s life and be their friend.  We should be giving so freely that when it seems the cup is empty, God has refilled it with more than we had to start with.

  1. Proverbs 11:25 “Whoever brings blessing will be enriched and one who waters will himself be watered.”
  2. Acts 20:35 “…It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

What is the conclusion of the whole matter?  Live a life of contradiction.  Give when it seems there is nothing left to give, and God will reward you.  “Moreover, it is required of stewards that a man be found faithful.” (I Corinthians 4:2).  Will we be found as a faithful giver or a faithful withholder?  God has so richly given to us, should we not follow His example and be faithful givers.  Generosity (giving freely) is not always money.  We all have an endless supply of love, compassion, gentleness, kindness, encouragement, friendship, hospitality, joy, peace…why not give it all away.  Live a life of contradiction.  Jesus did!

What are you on a quest for?

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Have you ever been on a quest?  I love a good adventure.  I love to read about an adventure in a good book, watch a good adventure on TV, and hear about another’s true life adventure.  Life in its greatest sense is an adventure.

Life with God is an even greater adventure.

We never know when we trust Him where it will take us, who we will meet, or the challenges we will have to overcome.  Yet, so many refuse to trust Him because they are afraid of the risk.

Afraid of the unknown.  Afraid of the adventure that will lie before them.

Afraid of the cost.

We get into our comfort zones and refuse to leave them.  Not willing to “move from the boat to the water.”

We keep an unseen ledger sheet in our heads and our hearts and every cost is weighed out by what is to be gained.  Too many times our fear of the cost outweighs the risk of our faith.

What would it cost vs. what we would gain revolves in a never ending battle in our hearts and our heads.

So what if:

  1. We confessed our sins and our faults to others. What would it cost us?  What would we gain?

“Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” (James 5:16).

When we have secret sins that would mortify anyone if they knew about them, do we confess them?  What would it cost us if we openly and honestly confessed our sins?  (It’s not like God is asking us to publish our sins on every form of media possible.  Rather, He is asking us to be open with a few people that will hold us accountable.  Plus, those we have hurt or offended must be included in this process so forgiveness can be granted).  We may lose our dignity.  We may lose our reputations.  We may lose favor.  When we keep on sinning or cover up the sin, it becomes a cancer that eats away at our very souls.  We never have the chance to be healed from the sin “that so easily entangles us” (Hebrews 12:1).  Confession brings about healing.

  1. We loved as Christ loved us. What would it cost us?  What would we gain?

“Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.” (I Peter 4:8).

The cost of love is sometimes the highest cost of all.  “But God demonstrated His own love for us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8).  The love of God cost Him His Son’s life.  Why?  “To cover a multitude of sins.”  (I Peter 4:8).  Jesus’ righteousness became our righteousness.  What if we loved someone else so much, our love covered their sins and changed them from an ugly cancer to a new creation in Christ?  We do not have the ability to save them, but our love may be what causes them to seek Christ.  Remember Jesus’ love for the woman at the well.  What about the woman caught in the act of adultery?  What about His faithful love for us?  What if our love covered a multitude of sin in someone’s life and they were radically changed?

  1. We had the faith of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. What would it cost us?  What would we gain?

“If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O King.  But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” (Daniel 3:17, 18).

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had so much faith in who God was that they were willing to tell the King, “Whether we live or die, we believe that God is God.”  That is the faith of a mustard seed.  That is the faith that moves mountains.  Faith, that whether our prayer is answered how we pray it or not “Whether we live or die,” still believes that God is who He says He is.  Then thanking Him for the work that He is doing in our lives through every situation, we resolve to walk through faith “making known His deeds among the people.” (Psalm 105:1).  Sometimes deliverance does not come the way we pray, because God is doing a different work in us than answering our prayers the way we pray them would allow.  Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were delivered from the fiery furnace.  It was many years, before Joseph saw the hand of God in the situation he had been placed. Yet, he never changed who he stood with…the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  Through all the trials that Joseph endured, God changed him.  The boy who boastfully proclaimed his dream of ruling over his brothers and strutting around like a proud peacock in his coat of many colors was transformed through his years in Egypt into a humble man who was able to confidently say, “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.” (Genesis 50:20).  The cost of faith is great.  We may never know like Joseph the good that God can bring from an evil situation, but we must always be confident that if we are walking by faith and able to pass the tests of morality and humility as Joseph did, God will mean it for good.  We must have faith!

  1. We had the meekness/humility of Moses. What would it cost us?  What would we gain?

“Now the man Moses was very meek (humble), more than all people who were on the face of the earth.” (Numbers 12:3)

Humility often costs us our pride.  We may have to confess our sins.  We may have to admit someone else is right.  We may have to swallow our pride and say that both opinions are right, but I choose to let your opinion or your way stand.  Humility is costly, but pride is costlier.  Humility may cause momentary pain, but pride usually costs us relationships.  Look at the cost of Satan’s pride.  Look at the cost of Nebuchadnezzar’s pride.  Look at the cost of Peter’s pride. (Before the cock crows three times, you will deny Me.)  Humility causes momentary pain with long term benefits.  Pride causes momentary satisfaction with long term pain…not just for us but for those we lord our pride over.  Will humility be your banner or will pride be your grave marker?

  1. We had the courage of Peter. What would it cost us?  What would we gain?

“And Peter answered him, ‘Lord if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.’” (Matthew 14:28).

For each of these things – confession of sin, self-sacrificing love, faith, and meekness – courage must be used to execute them.  The boat seemed safe.  Ask the other disciples if they felt safe in the boat?  Ask Peter if his risk of fear vs. courage was worth the sensation of looking at Jesus while walking on the water?

We are all on a journey, a quest.  We all must answer the questions: What is the cost?  What is the gain?  The journey with Him is the choice we must all make.  What are the things we must pack as we go on this quest of following God?  Will you take with you confession of sin (vulnerability and authenticity), self-sacrificing love, faith, humility, and courage? Or will you take secrecy of hidden sin that eats away like a cancer, selfishness, doubt, pride, and fear?  Will you reach for momentary pain and long term benefits or momentary satisfaction and long term pain?  Only you can make the choice.

LEAD

 

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LEAD-a word that can be a noun or a verb.  As a verb lead means to go with one by holding them by the hand, a halter, or a rope while moving forward.  As a noun it is the initiative of an action as an example for others to follow.

 

Our first Leader Dog for the Blind, Ashley, has about two more weeks of training with her forever blind person and she will be off to do what God created her to be and do.  I have been amazed and humbled by this process and brought to tears, both of joy and frustration, as I have watched Ashley and now our current Leader Dog in training, Lilly, grow, mature, develop, and take on this amazing role.  What amazes me is what is required and what disqualifies a dog for service.

 

One story is of a dog who got her third ear infection the day before she was to go home with her forever blind person and she was disqualified (career changed) from service.  These dogs are x-rayed and if their hips are bad, they are career changed.  If they are afraid of anything, they are career changed.  Another dog was doing well in training but could not get over his fear of the floor cleaner at the grocery store.  He was career changed.  Ashley’s brother, Duke, was career changed because he became hesitant.  Ashley could still be career changed, but it is exciting to know she is this close.

 

The positive stories of these Leader Dogs are many.  One woman shared how everyone that knew her noticed how much her freedom increased.  People said she looked like she was “flying.”  Others report an increase in confidence and a feeling of increased safety.  These Leader Dogs have to ignore balls bouncing, fresh popcorn on the floor, people petting them, and the multitude of noises that could frighten them.  They have to know when to cross the street and when to willfully disobey knowing that danger is near if they obey.  They must know when to avoid a low lying branch or a tripping hazard across their path.  All of these things are expected from a 12-16 month old puppy.

 

There are many things we can learn from these Leader Dogs.  The same things that cause a Leader Dog to be career changed can also cause us to be “career changed” from being quality leaders. Fear, hesitation, distraction, lack of focus, inability to know when to “obey” and when to take a stand for a better alternative are all things that cause a Leader Dog to be career changed will also make a poor and ineffective leader.

 

As my daughters have grown up, I have prayed often various Scriptures for their future husbands. A new one I have added recently is I Peter 3:7 “Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.”  I have this verse written at the top of a page in my prayer journal and beneath it I have several qualities of a good leader that I pray will be in my future sons-in-law:

 

*inspires others to follow

*brings out the best in a person

*recognizes individual’s potential skill and helps them to use these skills

*builds others up

*inspires and motivates people to want to do their best

*connects people

*builds trust

*an example of honesty and integrity

*LEADER is not a title

*innate ability to inspire and motivate others to accomplish and achieve more than they             thought possible

*protect and provide for needs

 

Additional qualities seen in Jesus as a leader:

*basic motivation was love

*used His power to serve

*served others before Himself

 

We all are leaders.  No matter our station in life, we are leaders whether we realize it or not.  No matter the path of our lives, someone is following us either positively or negatively.  If we do not take this role seriously and desire to inspire and motivate others to accomplish all they can be and seek to serve others from the love God has given to us, where will the next generation be?  A gifted leader does not push someone into achieving something rather he inspires them to accomplish something greater than themselves.  This gifted leader comes along side and works with an individual inspiring them along the way.  This leader asks nothing of anyone that he/she is not willing to do himself/herself.

 

If Ashley can lead a blind person, then what are we afraid of?  If a dog who was not made in the image of God can lead a person to safety, can you not inspire others to excel to greater heights?  Don’t be hesitant, fearful, or distracted rather inspire the best from people and see that skill or quality in someone take root and cause them to “fly.”

Love

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I remember a conversation I had while in college.  (Those were the years we had to define everything, quantify everything, and solve everything.)  The discussion on the table was, “What is love?”  My reply was quite simple, “Love is a feeling and a commitment.”  Someone said, “No, it is just a feeling.”  My reply to them was, “No, because there will be days when there are no feelings, and on those days the commitment is what holds the relationship together.”

 

Our feelings are so fickle.  May be your feelings are not fickle, but mine are.  I can be laughing one minute and crying the next.  This week-end I was actually doing both at the same time, and I was not crying because I was laughing so hard.

 

I am teaching the 3rd -6th grade young ladies at church from Ephesians 2:8-10.  The purpose of these lessons has been to teach them what our purpose in life is.  According to Ephesians 2:10 “We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”  Our purpose in life is to perform the good works that we were created for.  Before we can even perform these good works, though, we must be a child of God.  We learn about that from Ephesians 2:8, 9.

 

So what then is our purpose?  What are the “good works” that we are to perform?  We must love!  If we look at Philippians 2, we see that we are to have “the same mind, and the same love” as Jesus.  What kind of love did He have?  Sacrificial love.  Was His love based on how He felt or the commitment He had to His Father and to us believers?  His love was based on a commitment.  Jesus being fully human and fully God at the same time was able to understand our frailties.  Is there a time while Jesus was on the earth that He did not sacrifice?  Was there a time that He was not faithful to the commitment He had made to His Father and to us?  No.  He healed thousands, He fed thousands, He counseled thousands, and He taught thousands.  If we are to have the same love and the same mind that Jesus had than what does that mean for us?  We must sacrifice.  We must love not based on how we feel, what we will receive in return, or if it is easy.  We must love as Christ did.

 

We see as Christ agonized in the Garden over what was to come, that if He was not completely committed to the will of His Father, He would have not followed through…but we know that He did.  This shows us even with Christ that His level of commitment was higher than His emotions.

 

So how do we love?  Christ is not calling us to die on a cross.  He is not asking us to feed thousands with a few small fish and loaves.  He is not asking us to teach thousands.  What if our commitment to love sacrificially changed the course of one person’s life?  Would it be worth the sacrifice?  Rather than theorize about it like we did in college, do something about it.  Sacrifice in your love.  Stay committed.  Don’t let the tide of your emotions change the way you treat another.  LOVE!