28 September, 2010

Dusty Cross

There is a ‘cross wall’ in my house. And recently, I’ve realized that we’ve had such a space in our various homes for the last 15 years. It holds a special place in my heart as each cross represents birthday celebrations, Walk to Emmaus retreats, places we’ve lived or traveled to visit. There are hand-made crosses, crosses from abroad, crosses given by family members, by old friends and by new friends.
This wall creates a conversation starter with guests in our home. Many people ask about it and wonder about the crosses and their meaning. I’ve been asked several interesting questions: “did you make them all” or “did you buy them all” or “do they have special meaning to you”?
The answers seems obvious to me. “Heavens no, I didn’t make them”. And then a little offended, “No, I didn’t buy them” (Ok, maybe one or two!) And lastly, certainly they have special meaning…..they represent special places and people, I say proudly.
But oh, why don’t I speak of their true meaning - the true meaning of a rugged old cross. But no, I hang beautiful crosses on my wall, around my neck and in my ears and forget. It’s decoration for my world.
All the days I close my mouth and go about my daily routine the cross becomes a decoration. All the days I fail to see the wall of need in front of me the cross collects dust. All the days I forget that there are those who have never heard of the cross.
Who do I see today that needs the cross? A teenager needs a compliment and encouragement. A busy staff member needs a special thank you, a boss needs a word of appreciation, and a person from another country needs a smile and a hello from an American wearing a cross around their neck.

21 September, 2010

Cracked open

He came into the restaurant without his usual smile and the twinkle in his eye. I knew immediately that he was down. We spoke of class, of family, of mutual friends before we finally got to the burden and he opened up.

“I am nothing. I am a failure. I have disappointed many people. I am embarrassed. I do not feel good inside of myself”, he said as tears welled in his eyes. “My mom tells me every day that I am her only hope. And now, without a great score I will have to return to my country as a failure”.

These are the words from an international Scholar attending the University of Alabama; he is one who excelled and traveled to the US for higher education. There are millions of others who did not achieve enough to come to the US to study. But this one has earned a Master’s degree, with another Master’s degree to be completed in December. He is also a PhD candidate. And yet, his words of inadequacy haunt me and teach me.

This young man of twenty-five knows Jesus as His Saviour. He met Him while studying here. He is struggling to piece his life together from the world from which he came, a world of condemnation to a world filled with hope, with Jesus. His mom has no basis for hope; she has never met a Christ follower. She has never heard the story of redemption except through her only son, this student. He carries the weight of success for his family, of achievement, of returning to improve their life situation. It is indeed a heavy, heavy burden.

I, too, have said these same words. “I am nothing. I am a failure. I have disappointed many people. I am embarrassed. I do not feel good inside of myself”. Lord, how I praise you that because of Your love and sacrifice, I can now proclaim: I am nothing, yes, but I am Yours. I am a failure but You reign. I have disappointed everyone but You make all things new, You redeem my broken heart.

I pray today that this student claim his inheritance from our God, the Father. Pray with me for this special scholar that he may come to a new realization of God’s unconditional love of him – not condemnation for there is NO condemnation in Christ.

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.” Romans 8:1-2

09 September, 2010

He seeks

One Sunday, our pastor used an illustration that has stayed with me. He asked us to envision a line running across the sanctuary, a line whose beginning and ending we could not see. Then he picked up a small speck off the floor and placed it on this imaginary continuum; this is our life, he said. In the scheme of time, this is our life. We are the speck-a infinitesimal portion of the whole.

Recently, I met with a Chinese friend. We have been friends for several years and he is a follower of Jesus so our visit was sweet with the love of Christ. Our life experiences are literally worlds apart; however, we connect through Jesus. He was sharing with me about his family who live in China. His mom, sister and brother-in-law are all Christ followers. Yet, his father does not believe. My friend said, “I think he will not change his mind. In the end times, he will be lost forever. He does not listen. He does not hear.” It was a serious moment and one of pain for my friend. I reminded him of God’s unfailing love and efforts to reach each of us. We will pray for his father.

Do we really understand all God’s effort to reach us? I’m in a Bible Study and we are currently in Kings. (And yes, I used to be one of those people who would look ahead to the pastor’s scripture text and if was Old Testament, I might skip that day! He is patient with me!). But thankfully, now I’ve realized the Old Testament is actually the start of God’s love affair with us. For it contains His creation of us, His unending forgiveness for us after time and time of overt sinfulness. He calls to us. He sends another prophet, another king, another person to carry His love to us. His heart for the entire world is overwhelming. This scripture below is beautiful to me. This is King Solomon speaking to the people after he had prayed:

Not one word has failed of all the good promises he gave through his servant Moses. May the LORD our God be with us as he was with our fathers; may he never leave us nor forsake us. May he turn our hearts to him, to walk in all his ways and to keep the commands, decrees and regulations he gave our fathers. And may these words of mine, which I have prayed before the LORD, be near to the LORD our God day and night, that he may uphold the cause of his servant and the cause of his people Israel according to each day's need, so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God and that there is no other. I Kings 8:56-60

The words are beautiful because they say to me that He desires all the people of the earth to know Him. He is still seeking us out. The scripture also convicts me with the words: that He may uphold the cause of his servant, the cause of His people to each day’s need, so that all the people of the earth may know that the Lord is God.

Is my cause today, that all the people may know He is God. How am I letting Him use me in the world to tell of His love? Do the people I encounter today know He is there? Can I be His hands and feet to today? Does the Chinese father of my friend hear His voice calling? Can I pray for him to hear?

As we are the speck, how is it that this sovereign, omnipotent God keeps seeking, keeps calling? How can I not tell of this Old Testament God that seeks and seeks and seeks…

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