Monday, April 27, 2015

Missed Opportunity...Closed Door

Flying cross country has become more common in my life since my son and his dear family moved to the west coast.  And, of course, the more I do something and the more familiar it becomes, the less intimidating it is.  I am beginning to get very familiar with the airports in Minneapolis, Denver and Salt Lake City since my connecting flights often occur in one of those places.

Due to the limited flights coming in and going out of our local airport, making additional connections can sometimes be a bit crazy.  Many a time the weather has taken a bad turn and my flights have been delayed.  That’s when I start estimating how fast I can get from one gate to another.  Several times I have arrived at the gate just before the door closes to the jet way.  And we all know, NOTHING short of a presidential order or some sort of crisis, will open that door again.  (Something about “FAA regulations”.)  That closed door represents a missed opportunity!

When I was in college I had a huge struggle with one of my courses and went into the final exam with a failing grade.  I was facing a major decision since I needed that class to graduate:  would I chalk it up to a fail and try to take the class again? (thus throwing off my work plans for the summer or my school/class schedule in the fall) or would I throw myself into the study process and hope to pass?  I opted to buckle down and get the job done….I did not want to have a missed opportunity and a closed door.  (I did very well on the final exam but that was after hours and hours of studying!)

Several years ago I was faced with a decision regarding a leadership role in my church.  It was one that required much from me, would tap into previous life experiences but, most importantly, would mean I really needed to continue to seriously develop my prayer life and organize my time so God could use me in the way He saw fit.  If I said “no” for the wrong reasons, it would have been a missed opportunity.  (Sometimes “no” is the right answer but not in this case.)  I decided to embrace this invite to leadership and God opened many wonderful doors.

Often those windows of opportunity are opened to us for a rather limited period of time.  But there is a very important opportunity and open door that is available all through our lives.  As long as we are living, the invitation is open.  Trouble is, none of us knows exactly when the time is going to come when this life ceases to be.

Jesus talked about opportunities and closed/open doors in the book of Luke.  And He even qualified that door by describing it as narrow.  The following passage in Luke is of great importance: And someone said to Him, ”Lord, will those who are saved be few?”  And He said to them, “Strive to enter through the narrow door.  For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.” (Luke 13: 23, 24)

I believe Jesus is teaching us a VERY important Truth here that is supported by many other scriptures. In John 14:6 Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me.”  Jesus is the ONLY way, the ONLY opportunity to have a personal relationship with God, the ONLY path toward salvation and eternal life with God. (The narrow door referred to in Luke.)

We live in a day and age of political correctness; it’s all about “tolerance” (a well-meaning word but seemingly less and less aimed toward Christians).   “Your truth is as valid as my truth”. (Really?  Even if they are in total conflict?)  We live in a culture that says to have absolute moral beliefs means to be narrow minded, prejudiced or stupid.  I have had many conversations with folks who seem to embrace the concept of God, but don’t care about learning what He actually has to say in His Word.  (I’m sorry to say, that described me at one time in my life.)

But the wonderful, over-the-top good news is: every day, every moment of our lives we have the opportunity to choose Jesus.  He has opened that door wide!!  Nothing from our past will kill that opportunity….nothing.  God loves us beyond our comprehension and we get do-overs on a regular basis.  But, and this is the sad part, we can totally miss the opportunity and experience a closed door to heaven if we choose against the “narrow door” Jesus talked about in the book of Luke.

Where are you today, my friend?  Every person who ever walked, walks, or will walk the earth, must ultimately decide Who Jesus is and is the Bible the Truth?  All of eternity hinges on these decisions.   I don’t want you to reach the end of this life and have a missed opportunity and a closed door.  That door is open wide…the door of making Jesus the Lord of your life, forsaking all other “gods” and allowing His life, death and resurrection to be the covering for your sins.  I pray you will walk through that door….today.






Saturday, April 18, 2015

Strangers....or Angels?

I am preparing to teach a lesson on “hospitality” to a group of young Christian women.  I love having these opportunities and this particular topic is intriguing because God has given me the spiritual gift of hospitality.   And the icing on the cake…. He has blessed me with a husband who also loves to use our home (and his hunting camp) for God’s purposes.

Several years ago Charlie and I decided to head out on a bike ride.  It was Labor Day weekend, summer was winding down, it was a beautiful day and we knew the ideal bike “weather” was on the decline.  For “whatever” reason, instead of our usual route, we headed toward a different area of town.

We were out by the fairgrounds and a couple approached us on their bikes.  We did not know them but through a brief observation it was clear they were doing some traveling.  They had packs on their bikes and they “looked” like your average middle age couple….nothing strange about them.  (This statement will be significant as this story unfolds.)

They asked us for directions to the Ludington Hotel, which is a lovely historic hotel on the other end of town – close to our home.  Since we were heading that way, we suggested they follow us.  So, we got back on our bikes and started peddling.

 I’m not sure what came over me (must have been one of those thoughts God plants in the brain; the unexplainable, where-did-that-come-from kind of thought!) but I turned to my husband and said, “How about we invite them to stay with us?”  WOW!  Did I just say that?  But just as amazing was Charlie’s reply... "sure"! 

So we stopped our bikes, turned around and Charlie said something like, “If I could be so bold, would you like to come and stay with us?” They looked at each other and said…. “sure”!  Just like that!  It was at this point that we made our first introductions.  They were Kathy and Dan from the Chicago area and were doing a bike trip around Lake Michigan.  They were hoping to stay at the Ludington Hotel for the night but had not been able to reach them by phone.

Charlie and I still laugh over that time and we have wonderful memories of Kathy and Dan.  They came to our home, took a shower and insisted on taking us out for dinner.  We loved that idea too!  Where we live, we can walk to all sorts of places so we headed to a restaurant; afterward we walked the park, beach, yacht harbor loop.  We ran into people we knew (classic small town stuff) and each time, we introduced K and D as our brand new, just-met-a-few-hours-ago friends!  (… and they were staying with us overnight!)   

We learned that Kathy taught in a nursing program at a local nursing school and Dan was a child psychologist.  She had part ownership in a sailboat and he in an airplane.  We walked and talked and shared.  That night we put them up in our guest bedroom and after all lights were out, I realized I had never put sheets on the trundle bed that slips underneath the other bed!  I knocked on the guest room door and apologized for the bare bed; they were giggling and said they were stretching the sheets that were there.  Yikes!  I handed them more sheets and we all had a good laugh.

The next morning Charlie fixed a big breakfast and they were off on their bikes once again, this time heading to Menominee.  Later Kathy emailed and thanked us; she said they had some harrowing experiences with trucks on the highway but just knew I was praying for them!

The Bible tells us we are to entertain strangers….and that we may be entertaining angels, unawares.  (Hebrews 13: 1, 2)  Hmmm.  That’s an interesting thought.  Whatever the reason for our “divine appointment” with this delightful couple, we are thankful God opened our hearts, our minds and subsequently, our home.  God, in His sovereignty, has great plans and wonderful adventures in mind for us.  I want to be ready for those unexpected opportunities!

The Bible also tells us that when we love and serve one another, it’s as though we are loving and serving Jesus.  Even though Jesus, in the flesh, is not likely to knock on my front door, I love the idea of showing Him hospitality through loving and serving those “angels” He places in my life.  When Charlie and I were married almost 11 years ago, we agreed we wanted to offer our home to God, for His use.  Although we could do so much more, we love how God has offered us many opportunities to use our home (and Charlie’s deer camp) to love and serve others in His name.

Let’s open our doors and welcome both brothers and sisters in the faith, as well as “sojourners” and strangers.  Do it wisely and with discernment, of course, but I challenge you to be ready to entertain Him….by being hospitable to those He sends your way.





Sunday, April 12, 2015

We have a lovely new rug in our home that traveled (in our car) all the way from Arizona to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and, thankfully, it works in the spot I had in mind in our home.  It was selected from a rug/carpet store near Tucson…but I felt a little like I was stealing it since I left no payment behind as I walked out of the store.  Yes, there is a story attached (!), one that my husband keeps suggesting I tell to other people.  So here goes….

While on vacation a few weeks ago, I was shopping in a lovely little village that had a variety of wonderful shops.  I was doing what I call “recreational shopping”…you know, the kind where you don’t need anything but you want lots of things!

I spotted a store that had a wonderful selection of rugs of all sizes and I was specifically looking for that southwest look.  As I perused the options (just wanted something small for a specific place in our home), I also checked out the price tags and decided I probably should just walk away.

Well, along comes the salesman-of-the-century and after a few moments with me I’m pretty sure he knew he had a sale in the making.  There is something about “recreational (vacation) shopping” that tends to overrule the usual budget constraints.  This salesman-of-the-century (SOTC, for short) was very personable and asked all the right questions.  (Because of my past sales experience I can quickly spot a good approach!)  Before I knew it, I had selected the perfect rug telling myself “if Charlie were here he would tell me to buy it!”  (I have a very generous husband.)

As I was approaching the payment process, the “SOTC” informed me that I could take it home, try it out, and return it, if it didn’t work.  I reminded him that I lived in Michigan.  No problem.  But here is where it gets really interesting: no payment due until I decided whether I would keep it or not!  I then said, “you need a copy of my credit card, right?”  No… WHAT?!!!  All he wanted was my contact info and it occurred to me that I could have written anything down. (Just for the record, I provided correct information.)  “SOTC” said, “this really makes the city people crazy!”

Coming from a small, upper mid-west town and often doing business this way, I wasn’t totally shocked; but this store has many people coming through from many far-away places!   How do they know who to trust?  This is an ongoing practice at this business and obviously it is working for them.   (By the way, I kept the rug and called in my CC # a few days after we got home.)

Trust.  That word brings up all sorts of thoughts and feelings for me.  I know I want to trust the people who are close to me.  I want to trust the leadership in my church.  And I really want to trust my husband on every level.  I even want to trust myself…to make good decisions, to think clearly, to love God and to show His love to others.  I think most of us want to trust someone and that’s where life can get messy.

What happens when those very same people (mentioned above) mess up?  When they disappoint us?  When they sin? When they do something that isn’t very trustworthy?  What happens when I have a sin-filled moment and become un-trustworthy?  Do we vow never to trust again?  Do we put ALL of our trust in flawed humans, thus setting ourselves up for anger and grief and fear? 

Marriage and close family relationships can be easily broken when trust is violated.  How many marriages don’t go the long haul because of un-repented sin and broken trust?  Where is God in all of this?  What does He have to say about trust?

I went to the scriptures (where God speaks to us) and an overwhelming number of the verses on trust said….to trust totally in my parent, my friend, my spouse?  NO!  Almost all of them included an instruction to trust the LORD….or to place trust in His name…or to trust His love.  To give just one example (and there are many), Psalm 20:7 says, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.”  I believe we could stretch that a bit and substitute, “some trust in friends, some trust in their riches, some trust the government, some trust family members, but, etc.”

I don’t believe God is saying we should NOT trust in any of those other things; I very much trust my husband!  What I believe God teaches us in His Word is to put our ultimate trust in HIM.  He will never disappoint us….He may not give us everything we want…but we can trust Him completely to live up to His promises.  His track record is perfect! Every prophecy spoken by His people/prophets (and there are hundreds) have been perfectly fulfilled, except the obvious end times prophecies.  So, I don’t know about you, but I choose to totally trust in the One Who saved me and will bring me through the perils of this life, into the wonderful, glorious eternal life He has promised for those who love God through His Son, Jesus.

Friday, April 3, 2015

The Most Important Journey

“On The Road Again” (imagine musical notes here)….It’s an old song that comes to mind – can’t remember the rest of the words – but the title describes my life TODAY.  We are in the Texas panhandle for the night, making our way back home to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula from the great state of Arizona.  As hard as it was to leave the sunshine, warm weather, afternoon pool time and our precious extended family, I am ready to be HOME!  Loved being with another Christian community in AZ for worship last Sunday (and at church with my children in Oregon the Sunday before), but now I am excited to celebrate Easter (to my mind, THE most significant celebration ever!) in my home church.

This is a long journey we are on: it will take us through parts of 9 states.  Today we passed by the result of a traffic (truck) accident (hope it’s the only one!), saw lots of cactus, mountains and plains and wondered at God’s amazing world as the miles flew by and the topography changed.

I can’t imagine what it must have been like when the early settlers hooked up their wagons and horses to head west into unknown territory, full of excitement and hope, open to new opportunities.  Unlike those brave souls, we have paved roads, rest stops, informational road signs, maps and our trusty GPS.  I have the companionship of my husband and at the end of this first day we are enjoying a clean, comfy bed and just returned from a wonderful restaurant meal.

 There is a more important journey, however…one I share with all those who claim to be Christ followers. This life journey, and the path we choose in THIS life, determines our eternal destination, where we spend eternity.  And how we live (is it according to the Truth found in God’s “roadmap”?) will impact the “crowns” we will one day leave at the feet of our Savior.  Yes, those who love Christ and faithfully follow in His ways will receive crowns (James 1:12, 1 Peter 5:4, 2 Timothy 4:8, Rev. 2:1).  But I suspect that when we meet face to face with our Savior, we will be so humbled and feel so undeserving that we will joyfully return the crowns to the one true King!  After all, Jesus Himself said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me.”  (John 14:6)

Let’s take a moment to look at the journey Jesus took – the one that led Him to the cross.  He had no GPS, no motel room at the end of the day, no rest stops with plumbing (if you catch my drift) and certainly no paved roads.

What did Jesus have though?  God had given Him a clear “roadmap” and companions along the way.  Jesus was never without provisions and His journey fulfilled Old Testament prophecy.  He “traveled” through very difficult “terrain” where He was tempted, hated, abandoned (even by some of His closest friends), put on trial, flogged and ultimately hung on a cross.

Jesus was buried in a tomb.  THE END….right?  :<( The disciples hid, the women wept and life went on.  WAIT….those same women were drawn back to the tomb where they came upon something shocking. The huge stone sealing the tomb had been rolled away and the tomb was EMPTY!  Do you hear the heavenly choir singing “hallelujah and amen”?!

Jesus did for us what we cannot possibly do for ourselves.  That cross stands in the gap between us and God.  Because of Jesus’ life, death and the empty tomb, when our earthly life journey is over, we will arrive safely at our eternal home.  It’s going to be much more exciting than when Charlie and I eventually pull into our driveway in Michigan, I can guarantee!

If you are reading this and have not yet asked Jesus to be your Lord and Savior, what are you waiting for? I invite you to join me on this “most important journey”.  The tomb is EMPTY! We can join the heavenly hosts this Sunday (or right now even!) in “hallelujah and amen”!  HAPPY EASTER!  CHRIST IS RISEN!