Friday, August 26, 2016

Twenty-nine Years of Surprises

Tomorrow, August 27, Murray and I will be married for 29 years.

When I first started writing this piece, I titled it “Two lonely people.” I wondered if one of the largest things that attracted Murray and I to each other was that—here we were, two lonely people who each found someone who liked us—and we grabbed on. Surely, there’s some truth in that, but it’s such a tiny part of the story.

We knew each other only about six months, dated for not quite two, and were engaged for less than two weeks. So my first surprise was … I was married.

That was definitely a crazy time. God worked all things out for good, though, and he still is.

Surprises. God gave us five kids. I had always dreamed of a family, but what we have is far greater than anything I could have imagined. Murray trusted me to stay home alone and care for the kids for nine years—the joy of my life.

A master’s degree? That sure isn’t something I would have attempted under just my own power. But with Murray’s encouragement and confidence in me, I succeeded.

And going back to work after my nine years at home? I praise God that Murray was there to hold me up during those years.

I’ve never been one who’s found it easy to move my feet. I’ve always been ready to settle down, plant roots, and never move again. Surprise? We’ve lived in six states, eight cities, and ten houses.

The other day, I was remembering some of the interesting people we’ve met over all those miles. Sweet; funny; eye-opening people—all different kinds of folks in different parts of the country.

What precious memories.

Through sorrows, struggles, disappointments and sickness, we’ve changed and grown closer. The laughter and fun and excitement has taught us to know each other better and like each other more.

The biggest surprise of all? After 29 years, through all my messiness, Murray still tells me almost every day,  “I am happy to have you as a wife.”

What’s next?

James 1:17: Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

Friday, August 19, 2016

The Martyred Christian

The martyred Christian by Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Joan Winmill Brown.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was executed by the Nazis on April 9, 1945 at the age of thirty-nine. He was a theologian, pastor, lecturer, writer, a member of the resistance in Germany. In April of 1943, he was arrested as part of a plot to kill Hitler. In prison, he continued to write and ministered to those around him.

Collected in this book are 160 of Bonhoeffer’s writings—many from inside prison, some from before. The articles are brief, easy to read, about many topics. This book would be enjoyed by people who love to read and study intellectual and philosophical work. I can see this fitting well in a small group book study.

Many topics important to Christians. I will mention a few.

Creation. God’s love. Jesus as God, Jesus as Lord, Jesus as Life.

A part that touched me—this author reminded me that God holds the hours of our life. He talked about the past, how we might long for it. He said that the past is still ours, still belongs to us, but it is just a small part of the hours God has for us.

Costly grace as opposed to cheap grace, for Jesus of course, but also for us.

Scriptures throughout the volume.

Instead of thinking of a Christian life, we might say that Christ is alive in us. Jesus is still alive in the world today. The church together forms his body, but also he is alive individually in each Christian. What an eye opening way to look at my life!

The church—a community; fellowship; caring for each other’s needs.

Baptism. Prayer. The work of God.

“Allow God to interrupt our lives.”

Even as Christians, committed to doing the work of God, let’s be careful to notice when God surprises into our life someone we don’t expect who needs our help. For example, the priest in Luke chapter 10, who didn’t see the half-dead victim beside the road. Was he possibly busy reading his Bible?

Marriage. The joy and security of home. Abortion. The danger of fools. Suicide.

What is the will of God?

Don’t let judgment stop love and grace.

Birthday letter to his mother. Honesty about his loneliness and confusion in prison. Anxiety, temptation, joy and sorrow, the armor of God.

From prison, he wrote that it is right for Christians to be optimistic every day we are alive.

This book is extremely challenging. But, since working through it, I want to read more of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s writing.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Gentleness Is Near

Philippians 4:5: Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.

I never read this verse before.

Well, okay, I’ve read it dozens of times. It’s sandwiched between two of my favorite verses, about rejoicing always and not being anxious about anything.

But when I noticed it recently as I was looking for the rejoice verse, it struck me like new, fresh rain.

My hard-hearted self probably looked at the verse above and thought, “Yeah, better be gentle. Jesus is near, watching you. Better be good.”

That’s not what it means. It means: “Be gentle. Jesus is near you, showering his gentleness on you, and there’s more than plenty to share.”

I crave gentleness, both to me and from me.

I enjoy reading romance, mystery, action, sure. But the things that stick to me in books, that bring me back again and again, are gentle words, touches.

A husband and wife who hold each other and together shed tears over disappointment and loss. Brothers and sisters who play together with teasing and laughter. Friends who use hands and arms and words to support, encourage, share sorrow.

I strive in my own writing to show gentleness.

Jesus was a man who spoke truth without hesitation. And he is gentle.

When the people wanted to condemn the woman in John 8 to death, Jesus offered her forgiveness and a new life.

For the man in Luke 8, who was possessed by demons, chained, and living in tombs, Jesus gave him a new set of clothes.

He made mud with his hands, then laid them on the eyes of the man in John 9.

In Matthew 8, he quickly, and willingly, touched the man with leprosy.

Mark 10:16: And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.

1 Kings 19: 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.

1 Peter 3:15: But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.

Matthew 11: 28-29: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.