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Tag Archives: James 1:17

A Necklace and the Intimacy of God

A Necklace and the Intimacy of GodIt was December when I received this text: “Hey, Bonnie: Did you happen to get any mail from me this week?”

Oh, wow, mail. I hadn’t gone to my mailbox in days. I usually love Christmas cards, but I had just lost my father, and I knew the mailbox was either filled with Christmas cheer or sympathy cards. I treasured both, but some days I simply couldn’t read any.

I sent my daughter to the mailbox, and she brought back a few advertisements, some bills, five cards, and a small package.

Great. Mission accomplished. I tossed everything else in a pile on the floor and eagerly opened the package.

Oh my goodness!

Inside was a necklace with four charms: The Lord’s Prayer, a heart, a cross, and an angel.

The note read something along the lines of: “I thought you could wear it to remember your Dad.”

My heart caught in my throat. I had not told my sweet cousin about my wish, my regret. I had not shared with her that just that week I had told my husband to get our daughter some jewelry because I wished my father had bought me just one piece that I could wear to remember him by. It just wasn’t Dad’s thing. And yet, my heart ached to Read the rest of this entry »

 

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When Thankful Changes the Atmosphere

When Thankful Changes the AtmosphereShe had just put a huge meal on for tourists and was about to reload the table for her family of 9. It was almost 8 PM, and they were coming in from the harvest. The corn had to be collected before the rains came. Her youngest child, a boy of 7, had helped late into the evening the night before, but they still had some work to do. She had a twinkle in her eye, but there was a shot of weary and concern as well as she turned her bonneted head toward me and chirped happily in her heavy accent:

“I have so much to be thankful for. God has given me many blessings.”

Her words grew feet and scurried right into the center of my heart.

It was the Amish way, and yet, as tired mothers: one the “worldly English” and one with the “plain life,” the only thing separating us in our common mama sighs was our lifestyles. Otherwise, the weightiness of our hearts beat to the same sound. We shared the same God. We each wanted to express love into the other’s world, if only for a few hours, without making her world become fully ours.

And yet those penetrating words. Despite the fact setting the table for her six-course meal was on its second round, she was grateful.

Counting blessings—

—with another sinkload of dishes in the almost-dark.

I grew up not far from this community. We regularly came “up the country” to Lancaster County from Chester County, Pennsylvania. Horses and buggies were part of my childhood tapestry. But now, with my parents living amidst the Amish community in surrounding farms, I have come to pay greater attention to my Christian brothers and sisters in solid, dark colors.

And as I left her house that day, this 39 year old mother of 7, with worn hands from many years of caring for her family, gave me a gift I can never exercise enough. Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Dancing With Leprechauns and a Father Who Loves to Bestow Good Gifts

The other day I was in a local grocery store with my daughter. It was a few days before Saint Patrick’s Day, and the entire store was decked out in clovers and green décor. You could pick up clover cookies or a sparkly green cake from the bakery. Personally, I was hoping there was a pot of gold to be found. (After the energy bill this winter, I may as well throw my entire wallet to National Grid and be done with it!)

leprechaun-22We Bostonians are admittedly a bit obsessed with this holiday. I had a hard time talking with my son’s elementary school teacher the other day because she had this cute headband-Irish-hat-thingy on her head, and it bounced while she nodded. I could not thereafter form one coherent thought while looking at her. Not one. But we Irish (and partly Irish) peeps have to represent, after all!

As we turned the corner of the second-to-last aisle of the store, there he was. He was on the shorter side, sporting a red wig, leprechaun hat, green suit, belt, and shoes.

And I had to talk to him. Really, when you find a leprechaun roughly 2 feet away from you, how can you not greet him? (My tween offspring may beg to differ.)

But I didn’t just chat. Nope. Didn’t stop there.

Read the rest of this entry »

 

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“Good Thing” Hoarders and Longing for the Orange Pig: Thoughts About Exclusion and Inclusion

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This title is obnoxiously long. I realize that. It’s really wordy, unclear, and very jumbled. I thought about defining it in fewer words and decided to leave it. It says exactly what I want to say. Here’s why…

My dogs are obsessed with rubber squeak toys. I could put five different ones on the ground, but they go after the same one: the orange pig. And it never fails that my petite Shih Tzu Delilah claims it first and fiercely guards it, snapping at Samson if he comes anywhere near. He is 1 1/2 times her size, also a Shih Tzu (from the same litter…can you say co-dependent?), hefty and solid, but he is more passive and happy-go-lucky. She burns her calories being high-strung while he patiently waits until he has the good fortune of her taking a paw off the toy. She will go so far as to hide it in our shoes. She doesn’t always have to have it. But she definitely doesn’t want him to.

Hmmmm.

Often I see her lying there, paws guarded on top of the toy, while Samson lays in front of her, patiently waiting. He has longing in his eyes, and perhaps a bit of calculation. But he measures his moments. He is content to hang there a while until she lets down her guard or gets her possessive behavior better under control.

I love Samson for this—not so much the coveting, but the patience. He is a gentle dog, willing to take second to her more demanding nature. And while sometimes we find ourselves cheering him on to be more assertive, his quiet spirit draws me in.

So I ask myself, as I watch them, how many of us are Delilah? We hoard something we want to keep to ourselves, and we don’t want to share. I see this a lot in various contexts. Not in my particular church fellowship, but just in general, I see people not want to share the fellowship or youth group they are going to so they can keep that to themselves. Or, they want to keep their ministry small and exclusive so that they can stay intimate. I get this on some level, and in a support group or even private prayer setting, that is very healthy and appropriate, but in most other settings, my feeling is: Hope, love, grace, and peace are to be shared. Jesus is to be shared.

Or, taking it out of the church sector for a minute, they want to invite this friend to join the soccer team but not let this other one know about it. I’m not talking about keeping a birthday party limited to 10 close friends. We do have some limits we have to set. We also can’t include everyone in everything. It’s more about hoarding what is good and not wanting to share. It’s more about being inclusive in our lives, rather than exclusive.

There are other people out there, like Samson, longing for the orange pig. They are looking at us, patiently, knowing we have something good, and they want to know about it. If we have peace, why shouldn’t we share it? Or a good event/activity to go to? Why rule someone out just because we want to keep it to ourselves?

Perhaps the Good Thing Hoarders (we all do this from time to time) are afraid if we share it, there are fewer pieces of the pie for us. Maybe we think the people we bring along will look for all of their answers and peace in us. At the root of it, that seems a bit arrogant to me when we do that. It’s assuming we are always fully responsible for or the answer to someone else seeking something. Maybe they want to come along and connect with others beside ourselves. But why should we ever keep them from something good? Why do we think we get to decide who should be invited? These are questions I ask myself every time I personally hesitate to include someone in something and also during the times when I feel excluded.

One of my biggest pet peeves is when people are in a larger group setting and make indirect, private jokes or references to a different group they are a part of—but others in the room are not invited. Referencing shared moments publicly about that awesome moms’ group we are a part of may not be appropriate if we aren’t open to others joining us. Or, even better, let’s reference it and then invite!

If we have the orange pig (my silly example), and we have a chance to take a paw off it and invite someone to enjoy it also, why do we hold on so tightly, like my puppy Delilah? There are so many Samsons out there looking at us and wanting some access to the peace that we have, or the happy event that we’re going to. I believe we are so wrong when we rule out inviting them or do not open ourselves up to letting them join.

For those of us who trust in Christ, the orange pig analogy in this case is the truth and peace of Christ. I think sometimes we love it so much we don’t want to share it because we want it all to ourselves. But God is enough for the whole world. We need to take a paw off (not both) so people can see what’s under it: the amazing Good News that we have in our lives. If we shut people out of our ministry, small group, event, youth group, you name it, we are selfish Delilah holding on to what isn’t really meant to be just ours.

I encourage people both in their everyday lives of activities (non-faith-based), and for those who love Christ, in their faith-based activities, to open it up. Take a paw off. Love bigger. Open the doors wider. Hearts hurt around us all of the time wanting to be included, accepted, loved, trusted. Not everyone will jump in with the same level of commitment, but it’s not up to us to decide that.

Let’s not hoard the good things in our lives. There are some unhealthy people to keep boundaries with, yes, but excluding folks just because we want both paws on is a grievous error. We only have these good things because the Father gave them to us. I don’t care if it’s a soccer team or a Girl Scout club or a ministry. People hurt when we keep both paws on.

Where can we invite, welcome, incude, or accept a “Samson” who wants access to the good things we ourselves enjoy but isn’t going to force his/her way in?

James 1:17, James, brother of Jesus, speaking

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

 

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Photo credit: B. Brown, The Crate Escape

 

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Slice of Freedom: Eating Pizza for the First Time

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I was at a meeting at the dance studio the first time he said, “Can I have some pizza?” I had to ask him to repeat what he said because I was incredulous. He had been set free, through prayer, of his dairy (and other) allergy for a while now, but fear still sometimes prevented him from trying to take in too much. He had been medically tested to back up (for school purposes) what happened through prayer, and we took a cautious approach, introducing a small amount at a time. A tiny smear of cream cheese here, a piece of shredded cheese there. But pizza had not been of any interest to him up to this point.

Backing up…a lot of people who are bold in their faith of healing prayer encouraged us to have him chug glasses of milk. Actually, we had him rub it into his skin first, on the day of the prayer, and then let him swallow a bit of milk. At that point in time, before prayer, he would break out into hives just from his hand touching spilt milk and projectile-vomit any swallowed milk. On the day he was prayed for, he was fine on both counts, but we did not press him to take in more than he wanted to. And while other people’s faith seemed greater on our behalf, and I’m so thankful for them, we ourselves were only just starting to not clench too hard to the epi pen in moments like this one. For better or worse, we needed more faith history in this. And for a while I beat myself up for not wanting to feed him a dairy-only diet for the days following to prove something to myself and to strengthen my faith, but I didn’t need to prove anything to God. He knew my slow unclenching of the epi pen and testifying to each brave new step we took was me yielding, submitting, and learning to trust Him more. Had I rushed into it, I would have missed steps along the way where I needed to learn more about Him. Others may embrace this boldly because their lessons were already learned. For us, there was a story of trust and deep faith being written, and we were the main characters in it.

Back to where we were on the day that changed dietary history in our home with just a simple slice of pizza: We had broken from our event planning meeting (for an upcoming fundraiser) to order some pizza. And Little Man decided this was the day he’d like to try it. I have to admit, 7 months after being released of these allergies after years of them ruling our lives, my first thought was to look to see if the epi pen bag was with us. Knee-jerk reaction. If that shows a lack of faith, I guess you could consider me still a work-in-progress then. I’m just being honest. We lived in fear for years. We were still pushing fear out the door. God had taken it, but we still thought we saw the phantom of it taunting us for a long time.

So, with two of my good friends as witnesses, Little Man took a few bites of that cheesy goodness. Nothing. No belly ache, no vomiting, no hives, no difficulty breathing. I actually think we started with crust, but he convinced me to move on to the cheesy part—my reluctance and not his. This is how I knew in that moment that God was offering peace. Because my son not only expressed interest but was peaceful and eager to ingest something formally seeming like poison to his physical body.

So, I think we let him have two pieces that day. I’ve never seen a kid so happy about anything—not Christmas morning, not a vacation, not the swimming pool opening for the season. He had just discovered pizza at 7 years old for the very first time, and he was head-over-heels in love.

What followed were about 10 days of nonstop pizza eating. I admit that I indulged it. I gave it to him anytime he wanted it: at breakfast, Ellios frozen pizza, Dominos, local pizza places, etc. Every few days we tried a new topping. He was caught up in some kind of heavenly experience. He talked about it at bedtime: “Mom, what kind of pizza can I eat next? Should I try sausage or pepperoni?” It was so fun to watch.

But what also followed were 10 days of his body learning to process the pizza. Mostly our house just needed a lot of air freshener and open windows in those days. I’ll leave it up to your imagination. He wasn’t sick. I liken it to a new baby trying a new food, and for a few days, the bowel does some funky things with it. I told my kids to be patient, that this too shall pass (excuse the pun), and that this is an amazing victory in our lives.

It also meant not packing a special lunch to go to pizza birthday parties with. It opened up a whole new world.

What can be celebrated in your house today? It might not be of this magnitude every day. But any time we can do something we couldn’t do before, it’s an amazing moment for thankfulness. Running that marathon (or half-marathon). Strengthening those abs. Conquering that Rachmaninoff piece. Having something taken off an IEP. Or going off the IEP altogether. Getting through that tough year with a teacher/instructor you didn’t jive with. Training those puppies. Learning better food intake self-control. Choosing not to rage in traffic. Making that career change. Choosing not to gossip when the rest of the room is.

In our family, we thank God for these moments because we feel incapable of making such amazing changes in our own strength. We feel it all comes from Him. We are responsible for our choices, but at the end of the day, we like to look up to thank Him for guiding us.

Which victory in your life can you celebrate today?

James 1:17, James, brother of Jesus, speaking

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

Isaiah 53:5, Isaiah the Prophet speaking

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.

 

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