Irish Reflections and Discipleship

I was born with Irish blood.  In typical American fashion it isn’t 100% Irish ancestry that I can claim.  There is a mixture of Russian, German, French and Polish decent in there as well, but the biggest portion of ancestries running through my veins are of  Irish and Polish origins.

Last night I made both the Irish side and the Polish side of my tummy happy with corned beef, cabbage, and potatoes in anticipation of St. Patrick’s day.  Today I must confess my Irish eyes are smiling (which is a great song!) and that I am proudly wearing my favorite green shirt:

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This is also the day that I am most likely to watch the old Disney movie Darby O’Gill and the Little People.   However, that is where my following of St. Patrick’s Day traditions ends.

And that is also where my musings begin.

Throughout the day many people will partake in another St. Patrick’s Day “tradition”.  Drinking copious amounts of green beer.  The irony here is that this “tradition” didn’t come from Ireland, but rather was started in New York City in the early 1900’s.

Perhaps the saddest piece of this whole day as it is celebrated in our culture is that in no way does any of it actually tie back to or tell the inspiring story of the man who is celebrated on this day.  Rather than celebrating the life and legacy of a true man of God, we have commercialized this day in our society and have shifted the focus to pursuits that tend to be more negative in nature instead.  Bad Irish jokes and drunkenness have become the order of the day.

St. Patrick was a real person.  In fact, most of what we know about him comes from his own works.  This was a man who embodied forgiveness, humility, obedience, and a willingness to go when God called him to go and make disciples.

If you have never heard the actual details of his life, St. Patrick was actually British!  He found himself kidnapped from his native Britain and family of some wealth, enslaved, and put to work by Irish marauders as a shepherd in Ireland at the age of 16.  For several years he faithfully went about the duties of his new-found life finding strength in his ever-deepening dependence and relationship with God.

And God was faithful to Patrick.

One night in a dream God spoke to Patrick and gave him instructions to run away from his current post, to head for the coast where he would find a boat home.  This was a very dangerous thing for a slave to do and if caught could be life ending.  However Patrick trusted in his God and went.

He did indeed find a boat home and was able to return to the home he was stolen from.  Once there he decided to dedicate his life to the God who saved him both through the grace of salvation and from his physical bonds of slavery.  Patrick became a priest and was made a bishop.  At some point during this time God again spoke to Patrick in his dreams more or less telling him that he should now return to the land of his captivity, not for revenge, but to lead the people there away from the pagan ways they were living to lives of redemption and salvation through Christ.

Again, Patrick heard the voice of his God and listened to his call.

St. Patrick went back to help save the very people who had enslaved him.  After returning to Ireland, this man went on to convert large portions of the population of Ireland to Christianity and is responsible for the building of many churches there.

So today rather than celebrating St. Patrick’s Day by drinking green beer be a radical rebel!  Share with someone the inspiring true story of this man who lived long ago.  Walk in the footsteps of St. Patrick and help introduce someone to the saving grace found in Christ alone (another great song!).  Lead lost people to the one true Shepherd.

 I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture.  The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. (John 10-9:10, NSRV)

 

 

The “Stuff” Society Revisited

Have you ever absent mindedly scrolled through your Facebook news feed only to suddenly have something reach out and grab your attention? One such post for me was a quote from noted money advice guy Dave Ramsey, and it said, “We buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like.”  Wow!  Talk about perspective!  It caught my eye as the screen was scrolling by, and I had to back up to make sure I had read it correctly.   This is worth another WOW!

I couldn’t help but reflect over my life and the impressions I have had through out my life of what I needed to buy in order to obtain my American Dream.   Then I realized that maybe deep down I had already realized this because over the last couple of years my priorities have shifted.  My ideas of what we (the husband, our son, and I) actually need, as opposed to what would be nice, have gone through a drastic change.

 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal;  but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. – Matthew 6:18-20

Magazines and blogs are full of articles on how to organize our stuff.   They are also full of articles on how to declutter our stuff.   It seems like a vicious cycle.  We buy the stuff, we store the stuff, we get overwhelmed by the stuff, we get rid of the stuff, then we replace the stuff with more stuff — what are we really looking for?

Perhaps we are looking for approval, possibly from a parent or loved one.  We are hoping beyond hope that the stuff we have acquired will make them proud of us and our successes. All of the stuff we are buying is to show how well we are doing so that they will realize we are worthy of their  affection that we believe is otherwise lacking for us.  Trying to perhaps measure up to some imaginable standard that in reality most likely does not exist.

Perhaps we are we looking for friendship, using the stuff as our “dues” to get into the group we think we most closely identify with.  Why do we think that our character, intelligence,  sense of humor, and compassionate hearts aren’t enough to get and keep friends?  Is our society really that fickle that we choose friends based on outward appearances and possessions instead of on what is on the inside?  When did the make and model of someone’s car become more important than the knowledge that said friend would come to pick us up if we ever needed to be rescued?  Let’s start a friendship revolution instead and try to top each other with acts of kindness, not the brand names of stuff we possess.

Perhaps we are looking for acceptance from our peers and co-workers or maybe our in-laws.  For some reason we are convinced we have to prove we are capable, competent and worthy of what ever position we are holding. Be it office worker or wife, why do we feel we need to prove to others we belong where we are?  Obviously SOMEONE has chosen us, hired us, married us, because they think we fit the bill exactly right.  Let’s own that!

It’s time to put away the prizes for the best stuff.  They just give us even more stuff that we don’t need.

Perhaps we need to figure out why we are filling in the holes in our lives with stuff.  Shouldn’t we instead be turning those holes that need to be filled to our God and creator?  I can’t answer that for you, but for me I think the answer was and IS a definite YES — human insecurity plagues us and we feel less than.

The cures we tend to choose in this broken world are the ones we find here on Planet Earth.  However, I am learning that with every step I take to deepen my own personal relationship with our Heavenly Father, the less incomplete and  undeserving I find myself feeling.  I am learning to rely on him.  This is something that I have to relearn every day, but it is worth it!

As I begin to look to Heaven for the hope I need to in my life I am discovering that I am doing ok.  The Lord wants me to come to him in prayer and be like a child telling him all of the trials and tribulations I am having as wells as all the triumphs and successes in my life.  He will fill me with all that I need.  His gifts to me as his child include wisdom, courage and strength.  He is proud of me and he makes me enough just as I am.

The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a warrior who gives victory;
he will rejoice over you with gladness, he will renew you in his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing – Zephaniah 3:17 (NRSV)

 

Finding Vision in the Valley

Life is filled with ups and downs.  Sometimes it seems we see more valleys than mountain peaks.  More often than not we have been taught in this day and age when trials come, and we feel ourselves descending into a valley, we need to pull ourselves back up and say, “Enough!”

I am determined enough.

I am strong enough.

I am resilient enough.

I am smart enough.

These statements are filled with a ton of “I”‘s — yet when things go wrong or aren’t going right fast enough (there’s that word again), I start to wonder where is God at?  Why is he allowing this to happen to me?  I like to think I am a good person.   A faithful person.   Why isn’t he helping me?  Yet in all of the statements above there is not a single mention of God…

Suddenly my vision is beginning to clear.  God hasn’t left me or forsaken me.  He hasn’t tossed me out into the woods where hungry wolves prowl.  He has been right beside me through thick and thin.

His lack of response is because I have shut him out with my determination to be self-sufficient.  I am the biggest cause of my own separation from the Good Shepherd!

When things in my life have become difficult, trying, or impossible, I have cried out to God but turned deaf ears to him.  Then I would become angry, or feel lost and alone, because I couldn’t feel his presence or hear his voice in my suffering.  All along he has been and is right beside me.  He was, and still is, patiently waiting for me to be still long enough to talk with him and listen to what he has to say to me.  He is waiting to guide me through every valley.

We as a society and culture have done the same exact thing.  We no longer trust in the Good Shepherd to guide us.  Instead we create manmade codes of law and justice, erect walls, and other things of our own invention to fix the bane of humanity.

Problems with addictions

Homelessness

Illnesses.

We believe in the power of therapy and counseling to help determine what we are missing so we can fix ourselves.  We trust in the ability to fix society problems through human agencies.  We look for answers in our doctors and modern medicine to fix maladies.

And when these things let us down we finally ask, where was God in all of this?  How could he allow this to happen?  Why does he let these things continue?  If he truly loved us he would not allow bad things to happen.

He is the last place we are looking to for guidance, care and healing when he should be the first!

How different would our world be if the politicians and people in business were Godly men and women who were actively seeking to hear and be directed by God in both their personal and professional lives?  What if they were leaning on God through the power of prayer and the leading of the Holy Spirit when making decisions that affect the masses?

It all comes back to a personal level.  It starts with me.   To be a Godly woman I need to seek God through prayer.  As often as needed to successfully navigate the road I am on.  Daily, hourly, each and every moment.

God our Father doesn’t want us to be fair weather friends.  He created us to be in community with him. God gave us the ultimate example of what fellowship and relationship should look like.  He sets the example for us with the relationship we see between the Father, His Son, and the Holy Spirit.

God didn’t choose for man to fall, but he also didn’t abandon us.  He has since the dawn of creation desired to be in relationship with all of his children.  Unfortunately  we humans seem to be just as determined to forgo that fellowship with our creator because we are convinced we can do it on our own.

Fortunately God is patient with his wayward children.

Despite our best attempts to go it alone, He still wants an intimate relationship with us so that when the storms of life come we have a secure anchor in him.  He will guide us to safe harbors.

Lean on the Good Shepherd.  He will lead us through the high peaks and through the low valleys.  He will comfort us when we fall. He will protect us always with his staff.  And he will always be there to listen to our cares and give us the best Fatherly advice ever breathed day or night.

God’s grace for us is abundant.  His goodness and mercy will never end.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long. Psalm 23:6 (NRSV)

 

Still Wondering — What Happened To Love?

Originally posted in December of 2014, I am incredibly saddened by how relevant all of these thoughts and feelings are to this upcoming season as well.  We can’t quite seem to grasp the concept that Jesus, the reason for the season, is LOVE:

Our world is hurting.  This season of hope is filled with pain, anguish and suffering for far too many.  Hurt is running rampant.  Many live in fear.  Fear of men.  Fear of their neighbors.

Christians are being exterminated in some parts of the world by extremists who are killing men, women, and children — young and old alike.  All because they cling firmly to their faith and refuse to renounce their God.

Looters are doing damage to property and stealing because they feel that justice hasn’t been served.  In response they are protesting by destroying the homes and businesses of people who had no control over the verdicts.

Mothers are crying for their babies that will never again hug them in this life.

Police officers are no longer safe in their own cars.

Our world is in utter chaos.  It isn’t just happening in some distant part of the world.  It is right here in our own streets.

How can we ever heal all of the pain?  The answer is simple.  We can’t.  All we can do is be there for the lost, the hurt, and the wounded.  Love them.  Comfort them if we can.  And pray.  Always pray.

“You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.”  But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.  For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?  Do not even the tax collectors do the same?  And if you greet only your brothers and sister, what more are you doing than others?  Do not even the Gentiles do the same?” (Matthew 5:43-47, NRSV)

But this season we are celebrating by continuing to place our faith and hope for humanity in the small hands of the baby that was born over two thousand years ago.  A baby changes everything, according to a Christmas song recorded by Faith Hill.  As a mother I can say that is definitely true.  However the baby born to Mary and Joseph changed more than just the sleeping habits of Mary and Joseph.  This baby brought love and reconciliation to a cold, dark world.

The wee babe would grow up into a man who didn’t resemble the Messiah the people were expecting.  He was, however, the Savior they needed.  The same Saviour we look to and still need today.  Jesus. A man who reached out to the poor, the marginalized, the sick, women, the outcasts, and the down trodden.  Who corrected the educated in the temple and did not seek out the company of the wealthy.

This rebel Messiah led a revolution of love.  He was the son of an unwed mother and the step son of a poor carpenter.  The most unlikely person to become a  powerful savior who would take on the Roman Empire.  Let us be the unlikely people in our time who live out that same message in a broken, hurting world.

The ancient people of Israel missed the lessons of love and forgiveness Jesus brought.  They were more concerned with being citizens of this world and getting the revenge they thought their enemies and persecutors deserved rather than focusing on becoming citizens of heaven and extending a hand of forgiveness.  They were more concerned with removing their oppressors.  So busy in fact that they missed the love and ever lasting joy being offered to them by the longed for Messiah.

Let us strive to remember the message and live in the way the Great Deliverer taught us.  Even as our Lord Jesus hung from the cross, in the utmost anguish, completely innocent of any crimes, he still asked his father to forgive his enemies.  Defiled, humiliated, beaten, and tortured, Jesus still begged forgiveness for the ones who knew not what they did.  He asked for nothing for himself.  He freely forgave his enemies and put their eternal welfare before his own frail human condition.

Love was the guiding principle Jesus taught.  Forgiveness his sovereign decree.  A baby changed everything.

These are the things that you shall do: Speak the truth to one another, render in your gates judgments that are true and make for peace, do not devise evil in your hearts against one another, and love no false oath; for all these are things that I hate, says the Lord. (Zechariah 8:16-17 – NRSV)

Successful Living and Legacies

Have you ever pondered on what it looks like to have a successful life?  When we are younger we probably picture it with lots of career milestones and the accumulation of lots of expensive stuff.  As we get older, some of us start to realize that what truly matters doesn’t come with a price tag.  Memories filled with family, friendship, laughter, love — these are all things that truly matter and are all part of being successful in life.

This past week I have been reminded again just how precious the memories we make become part of the legacy that successful people leave behind them when they depart this life for the next.  Today we said our final good byes to the wonderful, caring man who filled the lives of those around him with humor and love.  I was blessed to call this man Grandpa.

Facebook has been filled with awesome, beautiful memories of Grandpa shared by my many cousins, aunts and uncles, and others.  Pictures posted like wildfire and captured the life of a man whose face radiated with joy as he was surrounded by his family.  As our family came together to celebrate his life and remember him, the stories flowed like milk and honey.  He touched so many of us and helped make us into the people we are today.

We remembered all of the times that he told us to, “leave a quarter,” if we wanted to use the bathroom  (I don’t think he was serious, but if so, I guess I ran up quite the bill over the years!).  We remembered his unique sayings and commented on how we could hear him speaking those sayings in our minds.  Tales of Easter Bunny stew and Easter Bunny traps were mentioned by more than one person, and many other stories that showed his love of life and his sense of humor.

For myself, there are two quick stories that stand out in my mind when I think back over my time with Grandpa.  The first goes way back in the day, to a long time ago when I got my very first job in high school at Taco Bell.  Forever more, when ever I saw Grandpa he would always ask me, “So are you still working for that Mexican phone company?”

The second memory that vividly  comes to life in my memory left quite an impression and is the reason why to this day I have never had the desire to get a tattoo.  Grandpa had a tattoo of an anchor on his arm that he got during his time in the Navy.  There is quite a story to go with the tattoo.  The part that made such a lasting impression on me though, was his saying that he was so tired of looking at the tattoo because what seemed okay back then wasn’t anything he cared to immortalize on his arm today.  You can’t erase a tattoo.   Please don’t take this to mean I am against tattoos.  I just haven’t had the urge to get anything tattooed because I figured he was probably right.  I would hate to be stuck with something permanently that I will be tired of seeing in twenty or thirty years.

His funeral was a private affair, only his family in attendance.  His very large, very close family.  In a day and age when the traditional family is falling to the wayside, and families live more in strife than in unity, Grandpa Jerry’s family filled the entire funeral home.  The bonds of love between his children show just how close this family is.  The jokes shared among the grandchildren a testament to a close-knit family.  This is a family that lives life together, not just a couple of times a year on the holidays, but year round.

The legacy of Grandpa Jerry and Grandma Lucille (who was known as Teedy by her family and went ahead of him to Heaven) is the wonderful family they created and the example they have been to all of us.  They have shown us how to love, how to laugh, and how to treat others.

To quote my Aunt Judy, his passing has left a large void in many hearts.  We will never meet him again in this life, but look forward to seeing him and Grandma again in eternity.

Thank you Grandpa for showing us what a life well done looks like. We will miss you.  Thank you for always making me smile.

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