Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Freezer Shock!

Twice in my life I've experienced "freezer shock":
  • Once was early in our marriage when I came home from a week away (in South Carolina summer heat) to find the freezer in our shed in the backyard was unplugged. By some weird circumstance, the power for our shed was also hooked to a community center building just down the hill in the small farming community where we lived. Someone using the community center turned on the power to that building and mistakenly turned the power to our freezer off!
  • The second time was soon after we moved to Pittsburgh. I kept noticing a smell that seemed to get worse and worse and seemed most prominent in the master bathroom. Turned out the disgusting smell came from the laundry-shoot.

In both cases an entire freezer full of meet and other foods had gone to mush and rot. In the case of my Pittsburgh freezer, that included several hand-made gingerbread houses carefully frozen between Christmases. They were mush, too. My handyman husband had unplugged the freezer to use a power tool of some kind and just forgotten to plug it back in.

Both cases of "freezer shock" were disgusting and a lot of yucky work. It is pretty simple to plug an electrical cord into the outlet. In both cases, the right cord (the one connected to the freezer) was left unplugged resulting in loss of perfectly good food, frustration and a whole lot of very yucky, disgusting work!

My "freezer shock" stories illustrate a "life truth"! Being plugged into THE source of power - which is God Himself - is essential in walking with Jesus. Just like plugging into an outlet is a pretty simple exercise, "plugging" into God's power for life is also simple when we follow simple and basic steps:

  • "Plug" in intentionally (just like the electrical cord).
  • "Plug" in consistently (The plug has to connected or tragic consequences result)!

Prayer is our power cord. Our faith grows in direct proportion to our connection to God's spiritual power. When we don't stay connected, our progress toward restoration (actually the sanctification process) flickers and falters.

What I found inside my freezers on both occasions was beyond disgusting and beyond restoration. All that mush was only good for garbage! "Freezer shock" is unexpected, but it follows the natural progression - unplug the freezer and what's inside turns to rot and disgusting mush. Spiritual "freezer shock" is the same. I have to intentionally stay plugged into my only source of spiritual life and strength with consistency. I have to spend time every day seeking God's wisdom for life in reading His Word. I must spend time every day praying - confessing sin, repenting, asking for strength to be light in darkness wherever I go! When I "unplug" things go to mush quickly! Just the "tyranny of the urgent" can cause a disconnect between God and me. And the result is pretty ugly!

God's promise is sure and true: "... the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him." (2 Chronicles 16:9a)

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Value of Human Life

My heart hurt when I read in Sunday's Pittsburgh Tribune Review that a 15-year-old girl and her 14-year-old boyfriend buried the body of their stillborn baby in a bag in the ground behind an apartment house. This happened in April 2007. The remains were discovered more than a year later (June 2008). These two kids were "charged as juveniles with concealing the death of a child, abuse of a corpse and conspiracy." Not only that, the man who discovered the body and other "neighbors" found the discovery very disturbing.

What's the deal? Why did my heart hurt? Why were these two charged with breaking laws? Why are neighbors upset? Well, I don't know precise answers for the last two questins but I do know why my heart hurt. It hurts for kids who have to grow up too quickly in a world they don't understand and probably don't have God's truth to guide their lives. They were afraid. They didn't even tell their parents or a trusted teacher. In their fear they acted to hide their shame and guilt.

These young teens live thousands of years away from the Garden of Eden but not so far from the actions of Adam and Eve who also felt shame and guilt and tried to hide. God gave Adam and Eve the answer for their guilt and shame when He sacrificed a lamb and made them fur and leather coats.(Gen. 3) God promised on that terrible day in Eden that one day He would send a Savior. God made good on that promise over 2,000 years ago (the day Jesus died on a cross outside Jerusalem)! Ever since Eden when God had to banish Adam and Eve from the beautiful garden, God has been in the business of restoration - one heart at a time!

Jesus calls us to be salt in a world gone badly wrong and light to push back darkness (Matt. 5:13-16). When we faithfully do so, God does His restoration thing in one heart after another! Then God's Kingdom starts to be on earth the same as it is in heaven in one heart after another!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Cake Baking and a Smiling Heart

Just about every day I get a "You Make Me Laugh" email. Today's was just too good to ignore.

*Cake Disaster* Many years ago my just married young cousin moved into an upstairs apartment and invited some of her women friends over for the evening. She put out snacks and then came out with a cake that looked like a disaster. She apologized and said she didn't know what happened to the cake because, she explained, "I even used the high altitude directions because I live upstairs."

I could use a good laugh today so thought you could, too. Besides, Proverbs 15:13 talks about a "A merry heart makes the face cheerful ... " and Proverbs 17:22 echoes "A cheerful heart is good medicine... ."

You might laugh at "Cake Disaster" but just chalk it up to one more "dumb blonde" joke or something. Well, it could be true. My "seminary cake story" is certainly true! Believe-it-or-not!

When we were at seminary, we lived in two rooms. We cooked in the bedroom and washed dishes in the bathroom. It was challenging but fun! We had a two-eye hot plate and a small toaster oven. I could pretty much make anything with those two appliances.

One of the other seminary wives asked me if I would teach her to make a cake. She said she wanted to take a cake to her in-laws for Thanksgiving. I told her I'd be happy to help her and gave her a list of things she needed - cake mix, eggs and icing ingredients. Then I didn't hear from her again until about 8 PM on Tuesday evening before Thanksgiving. She knocked on our door. When I opened the door, she looked very sad and announced, "I couldn't find what I wanted." I asked what she meant. She replied, "I wanted to make a round cake and all I could find were square boxes."

I wasn't sure there were enough hours in that night to help her make a cake. AND just for the record, she was dead serious!

Both cake stories are funny, and it does do the heart good to laugh. Besides, it puts a smile on our faces! So even if cake isn't particularly "heart healthy" physically, it is "heart healthy" to laugh. So, have a "heart healthy" day!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Hurricane Ike and the Chatsworth Train Crash

Imagine being in the path of Hurricane Ike and almost on the Chatsworth train all at the same time.

Last night I received an email from a great friend who is a student at Biola University. She was almost on the Chatsworth train except that her mother urged her to go to Agoura Hills, CA last weekend by car rather than train. About the same time she was traveling to Agoura Hills, the eye of Hurricane Ike passed right over her home in Houston (with no damage to her home). Amazing given some of the pictures of downtown Houston and east Texas! Amazing that she wasn't on the train! Amazing the she recognizes that God's powerful hand was in all those events swirling around her life!

Another friend's husband WAS on that Metrolink commuter train traveling through Chatsworth from Los Angeles last Friday afternoon (September 12, 2008). He was critically injured. Hard as it may seem, that same God's powerful hand was also in the events swirling around the Chatsworth train wreck! I don't know WHY the freight train and the commuter train collided except for human error but I do know that it was NOT an "accident"! God was not texting or asleep at His switch, and He NEVER is! You can count on that forever!

How in the world could such a tragedy occur? Two trains colliding - one passenger commuter train filled with Friday night commuters rushing home from work for the weekend, one freight train fully loaded with all the weight of its freight. There are already more than 25 people dead, at least 135 injured - most critically.

Apparently this Metrolink commuter would normally wait on a side rail for the southbound freight train to pass. There were four RED warning lights directing the engineer to pull off. The engineer (who died) was texting a young railroad buff just seconds before the crash occurred. So for the price of a few hasty words - people are dead, families are devastated, loss is all over the place from this terrible "accident"!

The truth is that we live in a very broken world. Engineers do "sleep" at the switch while they text message. It's apparently and appalling true!

BUT the greatest truth of all is the one my young friend learned. The same Creator God who made and directed the winds and water of Ike also rules and overrules in even the mistakes of sinful men (and women). Somehow (we cannot understand this side of heaven) HE makes all things "work for the good of those who love Him"! "All things" includes hurricanes and train wrecks! It's the glimmer of hope pointing us to the future world of restoration God is preparing for those He loves who also love Him! We can count on it!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

"Whenever I Feel Afraid ... I Whistle A Happy Tune!"

The financial world seems to be shaking. It's about someone named Fannie and her boyfriend Freddie or something. Obviously I never heard of Fannie and Freddie until a week or so ago. Then there's AIG and Lehman, mega-insurance and global banking firms. I hear and read things about bailouts and so many dollars the words are meaningless.

The political world seems to be shaking - rumors and lies fly around, speeches and ads stream incessantly from the TV, national legislators are passing token bills that seem to address problems but are actually meaningless. Newscasters are falling all over themselves to interview candidates and the mud is flying.

The world in general is shaking - with hurricanes and terrorists and evil of every sort! Hurricane Ike even shook my own backyard this past weekend!

A couple months ago I was actually in a chapel when the world literally started shaking. It was July 29, 2008 in Augoura Hills, CA. I was at Joni and Friends International Headquarters. My husband and I were sitting in the very lovely ("free-standing" as in hanging or appearing to hang) chapel when the world seemed to shift. It wasn't any huge deal, but it was a little reminder that there is a God in heaven Who made it all, Who controls it all, Who knows it all - from the beginning of time to the end! He is the same yesterday, today and forever! Pretty awesome! To top it all off, He is the One Who also loves enough to send His one and only Son to die on a Roman cross and rise from the dead to validate His power over sin and death. Now that's a truth to hang onto when the world is shaking!

It is a song from the "The King and I": "Whenever I Feel Afraid" talks about "I hold my head erect and whistle a happy tune so no one will suspect I'm afraid." It goes on "You may be as brave as you make-believe you are." That "pose" might fool some people and even come "to fool myself as well" but it's not much in the dark hours of the night. The only thing that works in those dark hours is knowing the One Who loves me (Jesus Christ) and died to bring true restoration to my heart so I don't have to be afraid when my world is shaking!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Hurricanes, Babies and Sarah Palin

Hurricane Ike is on a collision path with the Gulf coast set to make landfall somewhere around Texas late tonight or early tomorrow. Well ahead of Ike's arrival, the Texas coast is hurrying to make preparations. The most vulnerable hospital patients in Houston have been evacuated inland.

We learned from the wrath of Katrina that being prepared is far better than being caught. One Katrina survivor is a little boy named Noah Markham. Noah was trapped in a flooded New Orleans hospital. He was so tiny but it took almost a dozen police officers in boats to get him to safety.

It's a pretty exciting story ... and the most amazing part is that Noah was not even born on the day he was rescued! Noah was living in a canister filled with liquid nitrogen. Noah was a frozen embryo/baby.

Sixteen months later little Noah was born into the Markham family after he was implanted into his mother's body.

Noah is living testimony to "right to life." Embryologists tell us that embryos are not part of the organism like the heart or kidney. Embryos are the organism - a living human being in an early stage of development. Without his dramatic rescue by water Noah would not be nor would any other of the rescued "babies" in their embryonic stage of life that these same policemen rescued that day in New Orleans.

Just this week the South Carolina Democratic Party chairwoman Carol Fowler said Sarah Palin's "primary qualification [as John McCain's VP pick] seems to be that she hasn't had an abortion."
Under duress Ms. Fowler stepped back from her ridiculous words, but it all fits together in a world where life isn't valued from its beginning. Many people in our world just don't have a clue what to do with people whose beliefs impact their entire world-and-life view. Sarah Palin's views on life are more than just philosophical. She lives them as her recent family history validates.

Hurricane Ike (and Katrina) both provide opportunities to save living human beings - some yet to be born. Taking a stand for life in all its stages is where Sarah Palin chooses to stand. Why is that? It's because her faith impacts her life! It's because she doesn't just think about faith she lives it.

At A Restoration Church we applaud protecting life at every stage! We stand up for that because we know that valuing life at every stage is a rock solid core value!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The End of the World? September 11, 2001 !!!

There are MILESTONES along life's way: birthdays, life-changing accidents, children born, grandchildren born, jobs won and lost and on and on! September 11, 2001 is a milestone moment for every American living today and into the future. Life as we knew it changed forever on that day!

I grew up hearing radio recordings of President Franklin Roosevelt proclaiming "December 7th, 1941—a date which will live in infamy"! These words were in Roosevelt's speech to the joint houses of our Congress asking for them to declare war against the perpetrator of that day: the Empire of Japan.

My father was a first year midshipman attending chapel at the United States Naval Academy that "infamous" Sunday morning. The preacher that day was Peter Marshall, then chaplain of the Senate. My dad still remembers the sermon text and Peter Marshall's comments on the text, "Why, you do not ever know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes." (James 4:14, NIV) My dad also remembers that Peter Marshall made a motion with his hand to emphasize the vanishing nature of the mist.

[In the book Peter Marshall, Catherine Marshall (his wife) records that Dr. Marshall actually changed his sermon from his planned text to the one he used as he was driven from Washington to Annapolis, MD. Obviously that was a God thing! Only God knew what was coming that day and in days to come!]

It was later that cold December day that the news broke of the attack on Pearl Harbor and the decimation of our ships and naval forces.

We all learned the truth of James 4:14 seven years ago today when we watched transfixed on the images on our TV screens. How many times could two towers fall and how many times could those same people flee in terror from the coming apocalypse in the streets in New York?

Life as we had known it came to a screeching halt in many ways. If you don't think so, take a flight. Flying will never be the same again, and that's a necessary thing!

We should be on our knees today praying for God's mercy on our nation. We are blessed that there have been no other atrocious attacks on our own soil in these seven years. That is not due to lack of diligence on the part of the terrorists to try. It is a tribute to our wise and brave leaders who have worked tirelessly to protect us. Many, many plots have been foiled in those seven years. We now live in a wiser, more alert but very dangerous world.

God's promise is "If My people ... will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their evil ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land." (2 Chronicles 7:14) God will keep His promise only if we ask Him to truly restore our hearts! We cannot accomplish that with wishing or social programs or trying harder. Repentance is the only path to restoration. Repentance is our only hope as a nation and as individual people!

September 11th is a day of remembrance. For all God's people, it should also be a call to prayer and repentance. September 11th is our opportunity to pray and assess and find (with God's help!) the path to a restored heart!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Quasimodo, Pro-Life and Disabilities

Remember Quasimodo? He's only a character in a book named for him (Hunchback of Notre Dame). We can learn from the fictional Quasimodo. Quasimodo, the hunchback of Notre Dame, was born with severe disabilities including a wart that covered one eye and a severely hunched back (sort of like a hunched over camel). Victor Hugo describes him as "giant who had been broken in pieces and ill soddered together."

Whoever Quasimodo's fictional mother was, she left him at Notre Dame Cathedral where he was found on "Quasimodo Sunday" - thus his name. He lives his life wandering around mostly in the darkness, hiding in the shadows of the great cathedral. His job is to ring the cathedral bells. Even his job damages him causing him to be profoundly deaf. Quasimodo thought himself disgusting and so did people who saw him thus he hid in the shadows.

Because of Sarah Palin's son Trig, people affected by disability are front and center in the news. The church of Jesus Christ as a whole and A Restoration Church in particular need to seize this moment. Never before on such a national and even world-wide stage has the subject of disability been so visible. This is an opportunity to speak truth into darkness about the value of life - every life, even a life like Quasimodo. Life is not valuable because of outward physical beauty. Life is not valuable even because of inner character and strength.

The truth is that we are all broken and marred by sin! In God's eyes (except for the prism of Jesus) we are uglier than Quasimodo. It is only because Jesus makes the terrible trade of His righteous life for all our ugly sin that we have hope of restoration!

Jesus came - literally "putting on our skin" (John 1:14). The ancient prophet Isaiah describes Jesus in graphically uncomplementary terms: "There was nothing attractive about him, nothing to cause us to take a second look. He was looked down on and passed over, a man who suffered, who knew pain firsthand. One look at him and people turned away ... " (Isaiah 53:2-3, The Message)
[Note: Isaiah may have been speaking of Jesus on the cross. He could also mean that Jesus was just not a handsome dude - that he was just like us!]

When Jesus came, He made it very plain that He didn't come for those who didn't think they needed Him - for the proud and arrogant. O, He can change proud and arrogant hearts, too - but the focus of Jesus' life was on the Quasimodos he met. That's the picture of Him we see in the Gospels. It takes a kind of "coming to the end of ourselves" to be able to accept with true gratitude God's gift of amazing grace! John Newton (who knew what being an ugly sinner is all about) wrote, "Amazing grace ... that saved a wretch like me ... " Jesus came for wretches and Quasimodos!

Now, here's the kicker: What in the world is the "church" thinking when we don't also embrace the wretches and Quasimodos who cross our path?! They are just like us - in desperate need of God's amazing grace!

What in the world is the church thinking when we don't seize this moment and celebrate God's amazing grace for ALL?! It is definitely a PRO-LIFE moment nationally and internationally!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Menu for a Picnic at A Restoration Church

The Bible has some strange but true stories. This one is about a pretty awesome picnic. It is set in a meadow – a big meadow, big enough for over 5,000 people to find a patch of grass to sit on.

· There are no Mickey D’s nearby and there’s no money even if there were.
· The available food is 5 little rolls and 2 fish in a little boy’s lunchbox.

As evening approached, the disciples came to Jesus and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.”
Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. … Bring them to Me. … “ (Matthew 14:15-18)

My mother might try to scratch around in her freezer, pantry and cabinets to find something to fix. She lives in a remote place so she’s used to finding food when a crowd shows up. I don’t know about you but I think I’d be agreeing with the 12 Main Men who came and suggested just sending all the people away before the rumbling in their rummies got too loud!

The most important words in the whole story aren’t “…five loaves of bread and two fish…”
The most important words are “Bring them to Me!”

The prelude to this picnic scene is Jesus’ attempt to get away. Matthew tells us Jesus “withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place.” (vs. 13) That’s about as “get away” as one can get!

But the crowds followed Jesus and Matthew continues, “When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, He had compassion on them and healed their sick.” (vs. 14) Can you picture it? Here are these thousands of people – some limping, some being carried, others being led – and Jesus isn’t mad because they ruined his “down time.” No, Jesus goes even a step further: He looks on them with love and takes care of their disabilities by healing them. And this healing service went on and on all day until it was almost night and people were starting to get hungry and the disciples were getting nervous.

Jesus speaks the great words, “Bring them to Me!” after He already spent all day healing the sick among them. Now He's moving from Healer to Divine Caterer. He calls for the little lunch right in front of all those people. Jesus was talking about fish and rolls. Do you guess anyone laughed? Well, not for long because He showed what He could do. He made a meal for thousands of people from two little fish and five little rolls.

What are we willing to bring to the hands of Jesus to see what He can do? “Bring them to Me!” We go to the grocery store, school, work, Simmons Farm, the auto repair shop and South HIlls Village mall. Jesus says, “Bring them to Me!”

Jesus wants us to bring more than fish and bread. He wants us to bring people to Him - our family and friends, our neighbors, and even the "the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind." (Luke 14:13)
That means intentional invitations.

Then God will show us how He will build His church! It's God's menu for a "picnic" at A Restoration Church! He can multiply even very small beginnings! In His hands small becomes abundance just like it did in that meadow long, long ago!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Pineapple-Upside-Down Cake or a Mess ?!

The other day I was saved from a mess by going back to the instructions. I almost ruined what turned out to be a pretty good pineapple-upside-down cake by trying to do it my way.

God said, “Who do you think made the human mouth? And who makes some mute, some deaf, some sighted, some blind? Isn’t it I, God?” (Exodus 4:11, The Message)

“… mute, deaf, blind … “ We call those things – disabilities. And under disability there is a LONG list! Somewhere on that long list every single living human can find items to check.

Why is there disability in our world? The quick and dirty answer is “sin.” If things weren’t broken… If the world wasn’t broken… If you and I weren’t broken … there would be no disability in our world.

But the truth is that everything is broken and flawed by sin. The truth is that ALL of us are broken and damaged by sin. Sin is ugly to the bone, that’s the truth! In the sense of being broken, we are all broken in various ways.

This isn’t a “blame game” - We are all broken so BLAME GOD! It’s rather a matter of responsibility, which God clearly takes in Exodus 4:11.

It’s also a matter of comfort: the loving, sovereign God Who could have chosen to fix everything long ago has chosen to let us be born with defects or to come to defects so that in our weakness we learn to lean on God. We learn to trust God best when we need Him! God knows that so He gives us ways and challenges that leave us few options. The best option of all is to seek His strength in our weakness no matter what our particular strain of weakness looks like!

Most of all, it’s a matter of trust! Can we trust God to be loving and good as well as powerful and wise?

Back to the pineapple-upside-down cake. I mixed the batter and prepared the melted butter in the dish. Then I almost dumped the batter in without first adding the brown sugar, pineapple and cherries. It would have been an upside down mess if I had done it my way. I was “saved” just barely by checking the recipe, and the cake turned out okay.

God wants us to follow His instructions for life. He wants us to love and trust Him. He promises to be with us. He demonstrated His love the day He sent His Son Jesus to the cross. He is the King! We can trust Him now and forever no matter what!

We can either do life our way or His! His way is always best, and my way is always a mess!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Hot Water or Sweet Tea?

One Sabbath, when Jesus went to eat in the house of a prominent Pharisee, he has being carefully watched. There in front of him was a man suffering from the dropsy.* Jesus asked the Pharisees and experts in the law, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not”? But they remained silent. So taking hold of the man, he healed him … Then he asked them, “If any one of you has a son or an ox that falls into a well on the Sabbath day, will you not immediately pull him out?” And they had nothing to say.

We are familiar with scenes of Jesus in “hot water” with the Pharisees all through the Gospels. Here, once again, Jesus is being monitored and inspected. The trap is set. He goes to dinner after church – probably fried chicken. The host and his buddies have invited a man with severe kidney disease (“dropsy”). Now this man was grotesquely swollen from the toxins in his tissues. His kidneys were no longer able to cleanse poison from his system as they should. Today this man would be on dialysis and probably on a transplant list. There was no chance Jesus would miss this man’s need. It was graphic and ugly.

Jesus knows this is a test, so He cuts to the chase, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?” And like the song says, “[They] didn’t say a mumbling word.”

Now Jesus knew the REAL problem here. He knew these Pharisees had black hearts. He knew full well he was headed for “hot water” one more time.

BUT Jesus sets the example for us! He does the right thing both for the man and for the men with the black hearts. He heals the man, and He nails the Pharisees, “If any one of you has a son or ox that falls into a well on the Sabbath day, will you not immediately pull him out?” Luke says, “And they had nothing to say.”

While these Pharisees (religious VIP's) were watching Jesus, He was looking into their hearts. He saw how hard their hearts were. The man had kidney disease. These other men had a fatal heart disease, they were swollen with pride!

There right in front of Jesus they apparently had no shame pushing and shoving to get themselves postured in the best, more important seats!

Jesus gives them the formula for “success” in God’s Kingdom:
· it’s to take the low place
· it’s to give preference to another
· it’s even to intentionally include those normally disenfranchised – “the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind

To live this way, God’s way is radical but it’s refreshing to the watching world! It’s every bit as refreshing as a glass of sweet tea on a hot summer day!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

On the World Stage - Sarah Palin and Family

To be a candidate for public office in these days and in our culture is literally to be in a war zone and deserving of combat pay, in my opinion. I have watched Geoge W. and Laura Bush over the last almost eight years keep going under incredible adversity and attack. Regardless of whether I agree with George W.'s decisions on various issues, I certainly wouldn't want to walk in their shoes. It is just not worth it - neither for the pay grade or the future legacy!

I ask myself whether we should give deference to the public servant who serves in this highest office simply because of the office even when we disagree. I conclude that we will never be able to find the brightest and best to lead us if we continue to attack them so viciously. The cost is just too high!

Now we have a candidate's daughter having her most private life exposed to public view. She is only 16 years old. She may have made "a mistake," but she and her parents are apparently "walking the walk" of what they declare to be a principle of living - right to life for the unborn. They are living out their pro-life position for all the world to see.

Trig Palin is only four months old. He has a disability - Down Syndrome. His parents both (along with his three sisters and older brother) love and treasure him apparently even more! Sarah Palin, Republican vice-presidential candidate 2008, stood before the world last Friday and declared how much she loves and values her "beautiful baby boy Trig."

Look and listen. You won't find any victim mentality in the Palin family. They feel blessed. Todd Palin, Trig's father, said after the pre-natal diagnosis of Down Syndrome, that the question to ask is not "Why us?" but rather "Why not us?"

When I first read rumors about Trig over the weekend on the web, I wondered. Now his sister's pregnancy (for all the pathos in it), proves without a doubt that Trig is his mother Sarah's child. It is impossible for Bristol to have birthed Trig four months ago and be five months pregnant now. There is irony in that which should shame even the staunchest of critics!

I woldn't want to trade places with the Palins even if they do win and spend at least the next four years in high public office and view. We treat our highest public servants (President and Vice President) so disrespectfully that I wonder why anyone is willing to pay the price. From what I see and know of the Palins, I can only be thankful that they are willing.

They are also demonstrating - for all the world to see - that their professed faith is alive and well!

What an incredible life example of living out professed belief on the world stage - painful - exposing - but also incredibly powerful! The truth of having a restored heart (made new and being made new by Jesus Christ) is most awesomely demonstrated in the difficulties of life - whether it's just an "ordinary" person or a public servant in or running for high office!

Trial for Today, Treasures for Tomorrow: Overcoming Adversities in Life

Incredible opportunities often come our way through unexpected and even painful circumstances. My opportunity to be with my parents this last week is one such. My mother has a healing broken wrist. She can do more with one hand than I can do with two, but she and my dad are allowing "us kids" to come help out. That is a wonderful gift for us! I will keep my memories of that week in my treasure box. I will bring them out to savor as time goes on!

Trial for Today, Treasures for Tomorrow: Overcoming Adversities in Life - My mother's "trial for today" is my "treasure for tomorrow." Just one more example of learning to be an overcomer in the adversities of life.

My 87-year-old parents begin each day with their Bibles searching out nuggets of truth from God's Word. What a sweet picture to treasure! What an incredible legacy to have!

Neither of my parents are focused on either "being old" (even though both have physical limitations) or on their circumstances. They both live each day in the light of God's smile! Wow! They are both overcomers in adversity. For a few days last week I got to watch that process and even participate on the sidelines.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Anything to See the VIP - Jesus or McCain!

This past Saturday afternoon John McCain, Sarah Palin and their entourage came to Washington, PA.

We went to see them. It was almost unbearably hot, but we suffered thru waiting for them. Never having seen a presidential candidate "up close" we wanted to go. It was a big deal for little ole' Washington, PA!

There was a really short guy who danced on stage with his two cane sticks while country singer John Rich sang. Lynn Swann of Steeler fame made a dashing and articulate appearace before jumping off the stage and crashing to the ground when he slipped on the plywood. He quickly recovered, broke into a run and scrambled over the wall on his way to his son's ballgame.

In thinking about that little man on the stage and our long wait to see someone important, I also reflected on what it must have been like to travel with Jesus or wait to see him pass along the road. Many, many people followed Jesus. They liked to see the things He did and hear what He had to say. Sometimes there were so many people around Jesus that short people at the back just couldn’t see.

Amos is a friend. Amos is very short because Amos’ legs are all broken and don’t work. Amos gets around most of the time on a skateboard. Sometimes he uses a wheelchair. Amos says that sometimes all he can see when people stand up is their legs or bottoms because he is so short.

Saturday afternoon after our long, hot wait the McCain "Straight Talk Express" pulled onto the field and parked right in front of the people who had been sitting for hours in the heat in the bleachers waiting. The bus just sat there after the VIP's went on stage. Soon chants of "Move that bus, Move that bus!" were reverberating across the bleachers. FINALLY the bus moved so we could see.

My experience Saturday gave me a whole new perspective on an account from the life of Jesus in Luke 19:1 - 10. The McCain Rally helped me see the story of Zacchaeus in a new light. I could get more inside the story after my day waiting in the sun for a glimpse of the important persons - McCain and Palin - who were supposed to show up. I can now understand so much better what the crowds who followed Jesus must have been thinking and feeling. I can understand why Zacchaeus climbed the tree and hid in the leaves.

One day Jesus met a man who was very short, too - like Mr. Two-Foot-Tall at the McCain Rally. (Luke 19:1-10) This man’s legs worked but they were just very short. His name was Zacchaeus. Even when he stood as tall as he could on his tiptoes, he still couldn’t see. Even when Zacchaeus jumped up and down, he couldn’t see over the tall people around Jesus. When Zacchaeus asked people to move over and let him get to the front so he could see, they pushed closer together and wouldn’t let him past.

Why were people so mean to Zacchaeus? There was a reason. People in Jericho – where Zacchaeus lived – didn’t like Zacchaeus because he had stolen a lot of money from all the people in Jericho. Zacchaeus worked for the Romans. He collected taxes. He added to the amount of the taxes so he could take that off the top for himself. Zacchaeus was a cheat and a thief. He took money from all the people in Jericho. He gave the Romans their part and kept the rest for himself. SO Zacchaeus was a very rich man! He was rich on other people’s money he stole and cheated from them.

When Zacchaeus heard Jesus was coming to town, he really really wanted to SEE Jesus. So, when he couldn’t stand on tiptoe high enough or jump or push to the front, he ran ahead of the crowd around Jesus. He found a tree right by the road. Quickly Zacchaeus climbed up in the tree and waited. Zacchaeus knew how much people in Jericho hated him. He hid behind the tree leaves so he could see Jesus. Zacchaeus thought no one would be able to see where he was hiding. The crowd and Jesus came closer.

Finally Zacchaeus saw Jesus! Jesus was coming straight toward Zacchaeus’ tree. Jesus stopped right in front of the tree trunk, looked up and said, “Zacchaeus, come down right now. I am coming to your house to eat today.” Zacchaeus was so surprised and excited he almost fell out of the tree as he scrambled down. He almost skipped alongside of Jesus as they made their way to Zacchaeus’ house.

Jesus was always full of surprises! Boy! The people in Jericho were really surprised that Jesus wanted to eat with Zacchaeus. The people were also mad. They didn’t like Zacchaeus. They didn’t want Jesus to be nice to Zacchaeus either. They said, “What business does Jesus have getting cozy with this crook (Zacchaeus)?”

As Jesus ate lunch with Zacchaeus, they talked. Jesus must have told Zacchaeus that He is God’s Son. Zacchaeus got even more excited when he understood Who Jesus is. Jesus said to Zacchaeus: “Today is salvation day in this home!”

Jesus loved Zacchaeus and wanted to be his Savior. Zacchaeus knew he was a bad man who had cheated a lot of people and done other bad things. Zacchaeus knew He needed Jesus! Zacchaeus gave his heart to Jesus that day and loved Jesus from that day on. Zacchaeus is a member of God’s forever family!

Zacchaeus knew something else. Zacchaeus knew that he needed to do something really radical to show the people in Jericho that Jesus had changed his heart. So Zacchaeus gave away half of all his money to people who needed help and he promised to pay back the money he had cheated people out of. Zacchaeus did even better than just a pay-back. He paid back 4 times more than he stole! WOW!

Jesus really did change Zacchaeus’ heart, didn’t He?! Zacchaeus made a choice. He gave His heart to Jesus and made Jesus the King of his life. Kings rule. That means Zacchaeus gave up his rights to do what he wanted to do – like cheating people out of their money. Zacchaeus radically changed because Jesus changed Zacchaeus’ heart.

Jesus is still in the heart-changing business! He wants us to love Him and follow Him. He wants us to obey Him. He wants us to show we love Jesus by treating other people right, too – just like Zacchaeus did!

It is easy to say, “I love Jesus.” We can SHOW how much we love Jesus by loving other people! That might look like helping friends like Amos get a better view from low down. That might mean pushing someone's wheelchair or helping someone who shakes a lot eat. "Love for Jesus" changes our hearts in radical ways just like Zacchaeus and will show in how we act as well as what we say!