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Reflecting His Son

27 May

   Be Holy for I am Holy.
 I Peter 1:16

The following is the devotional that I shared two weeks ago at a friend’s church in Lawrenceburg, IN.

You know what it’s like when you first move … you must find new doctors, dentists, hair stylists, and the list goes on and on.  For those of us who move to a different state, some of those chores are even more dreadful.  Last fall, right before our auto insurance was about to expire, we took care of getting our drivers license, insurance, and then plates.  I had been out job hunting that day, so dressed in my nice professional attire, I made my way to the MVD.  I waited in line to take the short test, waited in another line to have my picture taken, and waited again to pick up my license.  As I finally walked out to my car with my new photo ID, I chuckled to myself as I looked at the picture.  The silly computer operator messed my picture up!!  You know when you are working with photos and you don’t grab the corners of the picture just right? You end up squishing the picture or, as in my case, you chub it out!   There was my face with chubby cheeks!  Hehe!!  Oh well!  Next, I needed to run my new license over to an insurance agency where we were getting a quote ~ they were waiting to add my license number to their form.  I walked in with my card in hand and quickly explained how goofy the photo looked … all because the employee at the MVD wasn’t too computer savvy.  The woman on the other side of the counter looked down at the photo … looked back up me … and back at the photo and said  ~ I think it’s a good picture!   Seriously?   I shrugged her comment off, figuring that she had left her reading glasses back at her desk.  It certainly was NOT a good picture!   Ok … now jump ahead through the calendar a few months to February.   I was hired for a temporary position in theYork County Administrative Center, requiring that I wear a photo ID badge.  I marched up to the second floor where the HR department was and once again stood before a camera and smiled.  The nice woman on the other side of this counter handed me my new card … and oh my goodness!  There were those same chubby cheeks again!!  Could both of these people be that irresponsible with their technique of transferring pictures onto cards?  Honestly!  As I walked down the steps and back out to my car, a light bulb clicked on.  Maybe it wasn’t the workers after all.  Is it possible that I could really look like that?  I mean, I look into a mirror a gazillion times a day!  We all do!  I haven’t really noticed that my cheeks are that chubby.  Sigh!!  But I suppose it’s possible that now at the age of 50 and the metabolism not being what it used to be, this could be a true reflection of how I really look!  Wow!   Thinking back about as I stood there in front of the camera, my image was reflected on the lens of that camera and was captured on the computer, that then printed out my picture on those ID cards.  The lens was able to reflect  my dark hair, my pretty outfit, and my chubby face, but it was unable to reflect who I really am.  Who I really am on the inside.  Just to make this clear … we ALL reflect what’s on the inside of our hearts to the world around us.  WHAT we reflect is our choice. 

When we stand in front of the mirror every day, we check that reflection to see how we look … really messed up, cute, blah, just ok, or even attractive  … or NOT attractive.  And if we find that we are not, then we do what we can to fix that, don’t we?  We would never think of leaving the house first thing in the morning without looking in the mirror to make sure everything is in its rightful place.  Now I did say attractive.  I don’t necessarily mean that we are hung up on making sure we are drop-dead gorgeous, because at this age, I guarantee that is not even a possibility.  But I do try to look pleasant and nice-looking  ~  which when turned around says looking nice.  Even the word appealing is appropriate here.  If I were to walk out of the house and enter the front of door of my work place in my grungy but comfy sweats, a big t-shirt, and my hair caught up in a hand band  …  oh and in my monkey house slippers, I would not be considered attractive, nice-looking or appealing … meaning that those I work with would not necessarily want to be around me.  We all can agree that we want to look nice, right?  And pleasant?  And appealing.  All are synonyms for ‘Attractive’. 

 Let’s take the word attractive to a deeper level.  The inside level.  At any given moment, whether you have taken the time to look in the spiritual mirror or not, you are reflecting the inner you.  Who you really are.  Scripture says in Matthew that the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man `unclean.’  For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.  These are what make a man `unclean’.

Notice that scripture doesn’t specify that evil is just the things we do or the words we speak … what makes a man unclean comes from his heart.  It’s a heart issue.  What does your heart reflection look like?  Is it attractive?  Is it appealing?  Does it make other people want to be like you … or to have what you have inside?  As hard as we might try to reflect holiness, if the foundation of a holy heart is not reality, then reality will eventually always be reflected.

The first chapter of 1 Peter, verses 15 and 16 are stated very plainly when scripture simply says Be Holy for I am Holy.  God’s design is that we reflect His Son.  It is His design that we choose to confess our sins and repent of them, which means to turn away from them, and then to allow God’s Holy Spirit to dwell within us.

A synonym for reflection is image.  Genesis 1 says that God created man in His own image.  That image or reflection of God became tarnished and messed up because of the sin that took place in the Garden of Eden. 

Later in scripture, we know from the Christmas story that Jesus came as the New Image or Reflection of God  ~  in Colossians 1 it say that He is the image of the invisible God … or I like to say He is God with flesh on.  Jesus came to restore us back to our original image before sin …  by dying on the cross, by His resurrection from the grave, and by leaving us His Holy Spirit to fill us and dwell inside of our hearts.  Be Holy for I am Holy.

There’s another story in the New Testament about the religious leaders of that day who were more interested in rules and regulations than in a relationship with God   ~  They came to Jesus, trying to cause trouble by asking Him about paying taxes.  Jesus held up a coin and asked them … whose image is on this coin?  They answered “Caesar’s”.  So Jesus said … “Give to Caesar what belongs to him and give to God what is God’s”.  As beings who are fashioned in the Image of our Creator, God longs for us to give back to Him what is His, and that is ourselves.  Our image, purified by the blood of Jesus, then reflecting God’s image … Be Holy for I am Holy.

 There’s an old hymn of the church, entitled “O To Be Like Thee”  here are the words …

  1. Oh! to be like Thee, blessed Redeemer,
    This is my constant longing and prayer;
    Gladly I’ll forfeit all of earth’s treasures,
    Jesus, Thy perfect likeness to wear.(Chorus) 
    Oh! to be like Thee, oh! to be like Thee,
    Blessed Redeemer, pure as Thou art;
    Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness;
    Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.
  2. Oh! to be like Thee, full of compassion,
    Loving, forgiving, tender and kind,
    Helping the helpless, cheering the fainting,
    Seeking the wand’ring sinner to find.
  3. Oh! to be like Thee, Lord, I am coming,
    Now to receive th’ anointing divine;
    All that I am and have I am bringing,
    Lord, from this moment all shall be Thine.

I’ve talked a lot about mirrors, reflections, images, being attractive and appealing … but the most important truth that I want us to grasp a hold of is that it’s all about Jesus.  It certainly doesn’t have much to do with our outward appearance, how we fix our hair or how flat our bellies are.  Yes, these things have their rightful places in our daily routine of our social life and being healthy, but what matters most is our appearance on the inside.  Attitudes, bitterness, moods, unforgiveness, and the list goes on and on … the things that will distract, taint, and hinder the reflection of Jesus. 

When your world sees the spiritual mirror of your life, what does it see?  Is the reflection distorted, blurred, and hazy due to the source of the image being broken?  God is extending an invitation to make your spirit whole.  He wants you to bring your sin and lay it at the foot of the cross  … so what you reflect is no longer yourself and the sin that tarnishes your true image, but you reflect God’s Son … Be Holy for I am Holy.

Here’s a song by the Cathedral Quartet, sung by Roger Bennett who died 4 years ago from cancer.  “When the World Looks at Me, Do They See Jesus?”  Click here to listen  May it challenge your heart and even stir you enough to pray about your own reflection to those around you.

Until next time,
Debbie

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Every Day Matters

24 Sep

Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself
and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life
will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it
for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?
Luke 9:23-25

 

I’m down to the final days and the final room of unpacking boxes.  Yes, I know. It has taken longer than it should have to get settled.  But I have set a goal for myself that by this time next year, when our year lease on the big brown house is up, I will have substantially gotten rid of a lot of stuff.  Stuff that I have kept for the sake of keeping it.  You know, “so and so gave that to me” or better yet … “I have kept this all these years but do not remember where it came from.”   In order to weed through things like that, it takes time. 

So back to my final days and the final room.  This room was saved for last because I knew it would take me the longest.  It is officially called ‘the office’, but there is very little office work accomplished in this room.  There are two desks, filing cabinets, receipts, pens, paper and paper clips … oh!  And stamps.  But little else that could give someone reason to call it an office.  In truth, it’s more like the Taco Bell/KFC/Pizza Hut combo restaurant!  Ours is the Office/Library/Museum Room.  Along with the office, which we have already covered, is the Library.  I have a very large bookcase, which is full of all sorts of books, from Chilton mechanic manuals to Little House on the Prairie, and everything in between.  My assortment of reading material mostly consists of books regarding the Christian life, written for a variety of different readers … woman, wife, mother, Grami, friend, husband, son, the troubled, the sick, the young, the old, and much more.  The final part of our trilogy room is the Museum.  Cows, plaques, pictures, magnets, forks, mugs, special notes, candles, pillows, old computers, footballs, posters, peacock feathers, a walking cane, forks, and SO much more.  I love people, I love memories, and I love to be surrounded by it all!  This is my room of treasures.  (except the old computers … they belong to desk #2, but still qualify as part of the Museum!) 

So back to my final days and the final room.  Yesterday afternoon, I was working on a bulletin board that I have always kept at my desk.  It was full of pictures of my family, cut out and cropped to fit a gazillion photos in one area so I could be blessed every time I looked at it.  Several years has gone by since I created this collage, and life has brought a couple new faces into our family.  So, I took out a few outdated photos and added a few current ones.  I was also combining little trinkets and special treasures from another board I kept at my desk at Higher Ground.  From that board, I peeled off the words  “Every Day Matters”   and stuck it to the bigger board I was working on.  This small three-word phrase comes from J.C. Penney’s sales ads and catalogs.  I remember the first time I saw it and thinking how true it was!  Every day does matter. 

 Here are some excerpts from my favorite devotional book, My Utmost For His Highest by Oswald Chambers  ~  July 28

“We have the idea that God is leading us toward a particular end or a desired goal, but He is not. The question of whether or not we arrive at a particular goal is of little importance, and reaching it becomes merely an episode along the way. What we see as only the process of reaching a particular end, God sees as the goal itself.

What is my vision of God’s purpose for me? Whatever it may be, His purpose is for me to depend on Him and on His power now. If I can stay calm, faithful, and unconfused while in the middle of the turmoil of life, the goal of the purpose of God is being accomplished in me. God is not working toward a particular finish— His purpose is the process itself. What He desires for me is that I see “Him walking on the sea” with no shore, no success, nor goal in sight, but simply having the absolute certainty that everything is all right because I see “Him walking on the sea” (Mark 6:49). It is the process, not the outcome, that is glorifying to God.

God’s training is for now, not later. His purpose is for this very minute, not for sometime in the future. We have nothing to do with what will follow our obedience, and we are wrong to concern ourselves with it. What people call preparation, God sees as the goal itself.

God’s purpose is to enable me to see that He can walk on the storms of my life right now. If we have a further goal in mind, we are not paying enough attention to the present time. However, if we realize that moment-by-moment obedience is the goal, then each moment as it comes is precious.”

Every day matters.  Yes, ultimately Heaven is our goal, but it is the journey that really makes the difference.  We must recognize that God is walking on the seas of our lives and that we must allow Him to be the God of our winds, waves and even the calm and peaceful days.  If we don’t allow Him to be the Lord of it all, then scripture tells us that Heaven will not be our end.  Every day matters.

So back to my final days and the final room.  My goal is to have less stuff in a year, and what I do keep will be carefully gone through and well organized.  But a few weeks ago as I helped carry box after box after box into the moving truck … and then back out again two days later, my projected goal and its task seemed daunting.  A year from now will show the difference, but it will be the every day between now and then that truly matters. 

There are countless circumstances in our lives where every day does matter.  Relationships, our jobs, our health, …  you finish your own list.  Please join with me in all these areas of our lives to embrace the truth that Every Day Matters.

Until next time,
Debbie

The Fork

4 Sep
 
 

 

Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy.
He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow,
will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him.
Psalm 126:5-6

 

It’s September 4th…a special day marked on my calendar.  Today is the first Saturday in our new residence in Pennsylvania.  No alarm clock to wake up by with no real agenda … except to keep unpacking boxes and to make this house our home.  Sigh … the tearful good-byes, the long trip on Thursday, and the stresses that accompany the initial move seem a bit distant right now as I sit out on the screened-in porch, enjoying the recent welcomed change of temperature and some Constant Comment in my Schnauzer mug.

On Facebook, I named the photos taken and posted during the last couple weeks “Crazy Last Days at Higher Ground”.   That really says it all.  Packing and working, sleeping very little, and spending some last minute cherished moments with friends and family … non-stop!  This past Monday evening was a special edition of Munchy Monday when the girls threw a ‘See you Later’ party for me.  The usual spread of delicious food, warm hospitality, and fun fellowship was blended quite heavily with lots of tears, prayer time, and gift giving.  At one point in the evening, long past the time of dinner and dessert, plastic forks were passed out and each lady held hers in her hand while this story was told to us …

A Woman and a Fork  

 
There was a young woman who had been diagnosed with a terminal illness and had been given three months to live. So as she was getting her things “in order,” she contacted her Pastor and had him come to her house to discuss certain aspects of her final wishes.  

She told him which songs she wanted sung at the service, what scriptures she would like read, and what outfit she wanted to be buried in.  

Everything was in order and the Pastor was preparing to leave when the young woman suddenly remembered something very important to her.  

“There’s one more thing,” she said excitedly.  

“What’s that?” came the Pastor’s reply.  

“This is very important,” the young woman continued. “I want to be buried with a fork in my right hand.”  

The Pastor stood looking at the young woman, not knowing quite what to say.  

That surprises you, doesn’t it?” the young woman asked.  

“Well, to be honest, I’m puzzled by the request,” said the Pastor.  

The young woman explained. “My grandmother once told me this story, and from that time on I have always tried to pass along its message to those I love and those who are in need of encouragement. In all my years of attending socials and dinners, I always remember that when the dishes of the main course were being cleared, someone would inevitably lean over and say, ‘Keep your fork.’ It was my favorite part because I knew that something better was coming…..like velvety chocolate cake or deep-dish apple pie. Something wonderful, and with substance!’  

So, I just want people to see me there in that casket with a fork in my hand and I want them to wonder “What’s with the fork?” Then I want you to tell them: “Keep your fork, the best is yet to come.”  

The Pastor’s eyes welled up with tears of joy as he hugged the young woman good-bye. He knew this would be one of the last times he would see her before her death. But he also knew that the young woman had a better grasp of heaven than he did. She had a better grasp of what heaven would be like than many people twice her age, with twice as much experience and knowledge. She KNEW that something better was coming.  

At the funeral people were walking by the young woman’s casket and they saw the cloak she was wearing and the fork placed in her right hand. Over and over, the Pastor heard the question, “What’s with the fork?” And over and over he smiled.   During his message, the Pastor told the people of the conversation he had with the young woman shortly before she died. He also told them about the fork and about what it symbolized to her. He told the people how he could not stop thinking about the fork and told them that they probably would not be able to stop thinking about it either.   He was right.

The best is yet to come!  How I appreciated that simple act of encouragment  as I sat there surrounded by my precious friends and co-workers.  I’ve experienced moving far away a few times already, and it is very difficult on my heart to leave friends and family behind.  But it is receiving text messages like this one that helps cushion the ache …

“Four years ago you came to Higher Ground. 
Three years ago my life took some pretty crazy turns. 
It took me awhile but I ended up just where I needed to be. 
God is at work again, as you leave us to touch the lives of others.”

I’m grateful for the blessed opportunity to serve and to love while at Higher Ground … and I look forward to the same privilege, honor, and responsibility throughout the rest of my days.  Won’t you join me in picking up the fork and saying “the best is yet to come!”

Until next time,
Debbie

I lift up my eyes to the hills–where does my help come from?
My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip–he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
The LORD watches over you–the LORD is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.
The LORD will keep you from all harm–he will watch over your life;
the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.
Psalm 121

 

 

 

Church in My Pocket

26 Apr

“Amen!
Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor
and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever.
Amen!”
Revelation 7:12

There is a remodeling project taking place at work.  The old dining hall is being transformed into a new dorm, requiring many hours of labor by many people.  Back in January, during the beginning stages of this process, our good friend and electrician, Jon, stopped by to spend some time with Tim looking over the building and the proposed plans.  Moments before he and his wife Lori were heading home, they tracked me down to say hello.  As we were standing there, out of nowhere (well, not exactly … ) we heard this music.  It was the very majestic and final stanza from an old hymn of the church …

“Glo – ry and ho – nor, praise, ad – o – ra – tion, now and for – e – ver – more be Thine!”

My cell phone was ringing in my pocket.

 With a surprised look on his face, Jon quickly blurted out, “Wow!  Debbie’s having church in her pocket!” 

 His comment brought a smile to my face and a warmth to my heart … but then it made me stop and think more about this.  Am I really having church in my pocket?  Does my world really know that I love Jesus?  It’s so much more than a clip from the song “Fairest Lord Jesus” by Selah, signifying a specific person by a special ringtone.   What really counts is if I have Jesus in my heart.  Does the Light of the world glow bright from my eyes?  Do I portray the silent confidence and peace that only Jesus can give even when my day is full of drudgery and sometimes  disappointment?   Is my heart full of gratitude and praise, defeating Satan by having my focus on Christ?   When the world looks at me, do they see Jesus?   When they hear me talk, do they hear the heart of God?

 If you want to join me in having church in my pocket, MYXER.COM is a fun website that allows you to download clips from your favorite CDs and then sends them to your cell phone as a ringtone … for FREE.  Better yet, having Jesus in our hearts will give us lots of ways to have church in our pockets!

He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear
and put their trust in the LORD.
Psalm 40:3

Why are you downcast, O my soul?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God.
Psalm 43:5

May those who fear you rejoice when they see me,
for I have put my hope in your word.
Psalm 119:74

 

Till next time,
Debbie