Thursday, November 19, 2009

A Broken Mailbox

Yep!  A broken mailbox is what we had when we got home from vacation.   Just a few days before heading back home, I received a phone call from my friend Sherel who was staying at our home while we were gone....I couldn't leave my cats alone for 11 days so she and her husband offered to stay at our place with their cat, Ms. Kitty.  My cats sure did appreciate the company.  I think my big boy, Jag, has a crush on Ms. Kitty.  Another tail...oops I mean another tale for another time.

Sherel informed me that my neighbor across the street was backing out of her driveway that morning (while it was still dark out) and had somehow hit our mailbox and flipped her car.  Her car was totaled and our mailbox was broken, foundation and all.  Broken bricks were all over the place.  But God spared her life that day...there are many more scenarios that could have being she could have hit the lamp post which would not have moved and broken which would have caused her serious injury.  She was a bit sore afterwards but nothing serious.  Her being okay was my first concern..  Broken mailboxes can be fixed but sometimes bodies cannot.  Most of the bricks from the mailbox were thrown and all over the place...afterwards (later that day) they were put into a neat pile.  Because they were broken into so many pieces some of the bricks may not be able to be reused.  Those in the pile are really useless just laying there on top of one another with nothing to hold them in place. 

As I write this my spirit is filled with sadness.  Sadness over what God showed me as the meaning behind my broken mailbox.  It reminds me of the church.  Please let me say right here and right now when I refer to the church I am not referring to any particular church but the church itself which consists of the body of believers everywhere. 

Our churches, like my mailbox are broken.  We are broken for  many reasons.  We are broken due to hurts caused to us by others within the church....we are broken because of an unwilling spirit to make changes that God so desires us to make...we are broken because of betrayals that have taken place within our relationships...we are broken because of people's own agenda instead of our agenda being in line with God's will for our churches...we are broken because of comments people have said to us or about us behind our backs....the list goes on but I think you get the picture. 

Yesterday the repair man started rebuilding the mailbox by putting the bricks on top of the foundation.  He laid the new foundation a few days ago.  Once the foundation was laid and dried he was ready to start laying and cementing the bricks in place one by one.  It is only then when the foundation is laid and dried that it's ready for the bricks to be put in just the perfect spot.  We all know that without a strong foundation things will come crashing down.  It's a strong foundation that holds things together.  As he was doing his work my neighbor stopped in and she said to me "Gee I thought your mailbox would have been finished by now."  I answered, "I guess it takes time since it has to be done brick my brick."  She agreed.

It was that conversation that brought this article to life.  We in the church are like those bricks that have been hit and hit hard.  Some have been shattered, others are chipped in a few places and yet others are so broken they can't get up.  I thought about how we need to be rebuilt just like my mailbox.  Before the repair man can place the brick in place he has to make sure that the mortar (something that cements two things together) is is after all what holds the brick in place and close to the others.  I watched him today from my window and saw how he spread the mortar and then very gently and carefully placed the brick on top it.  He moved it just a bit to make sure that it was in the right place and then gave it a little pat to make sure it would grab hold of the mortar.  As some of the mortar must have slipped out I saw him wipe it away.  It's like that too with each of us.   In order for God to fix us when we are broken, just like the repair man did, He has to wipe away all the stuff that oozes out from our broken spirits during the rebuilding process.  And like the repair man he wipes it away and then the brick (us) is in place exactly where God wants it.  God gives us a little pat and it's like He says to us (me)....there Janice grab hold of the mortar (Jesus) and allow Him to rebuild you ....I have you right where I want you.   It may take some time but the outcome will be something beautiful.

But before we can be rebuilt we must realize that "yes we are broken" and "yes I want to be rebuilt."  We have all heard the saying that "no church is perfect" and that is the truth isn't it?  Perfect we are not but broken we are.

We've all had a role in one way or another of allowing the church to break.  So right here and right now with a heart that is truly grieving over the brokenness of God's church, I want to say to each one of you reading this please forgive me as I have had a role in causing God's church to be broken.  I may have hurt you somewhere along the way in life and not made things right with you.  Forgive me.  My heart is never to hurt anyone but yet sometimes my flesh decides to do its own thing.  Anyone else know what I'm talking about?   I may have had a spirit that wasn't willing to change or a spirit that is critical of the way things are done.  Forgive me.  If I have hurt you or wronged you somehow I want you to know that I am truly sorry and want to make things right with you.  It's the only way we can fix what is broken.  Many times people will say, "it's okay don't worry about it."  But it's not okay.  If I broke it I need to take the responsibility to help put it back together again.  Please feel free to let me know if there is something that is broken between us that needs to fixed and cemented back together again.  Let the rebuilding begin.

Some bricks cannot be reused in rebuilding my mailbox.  I am so thankful that God can fix anything that is broken....He can do that ONLY IF we will allow Him to take our brick and  place it right back where it belongs cemented to His church.

Would you be willing to allow God to heal your brokenness, cementing you back to His church?  What must you do to make that happen?  If someone who has hurt you comes and asks your forgiveness would you forgive them?  I mean really forgive them...not just forgiveness in words...but truly forgiving them and allow the Holy Spirit to do His work of reconciliation by restoring your relationship.  What if you have offended someone or there is a strain in a relationship are you willing to take the necessary steps to fix what may be broken or shattered?  None of us want to be the one to say "forgive me I have hurt you or wronged you." but yet we must.  I beg you dear sisters...dear brothers if someone comes to you and asks you to forgive them...don't make it any harder on them...we all know how hard it is to seek forgiveness...remember how much Christ forgave you.  If we forgive then watch God rebuild His church one brick at time on a foundation that is sure to hold whatever comes its way.

In Christ's love,

Saturday, November 14, 2009

God's Ways Are Not My Ways

VACATION! VACATION! VACATION! AAAHHH! The splendor of God that was displayed throughout our stay in Ellijay, Ga. was truly breathtaking…from the leaves turning from green to their colors of glorious golds to radiant reds…to the star filled sky seen so clearly both at night and in the early morning hours…to the full moon just a couple of nights before we left. I’ve never seen the moon so “white” as I did in the mountains. A friend of ours said to us before we left, “God is in the mountains.” All I can say to that is a big “AMEN” and to thank God for giving me an opportunity to experience His beauty and majesty while in the mountains. If one ever doubts the Sovereignty of God all they have to do is “look up.” He holds each planet and star in His hands but even better than that, He knows each one by name. The awesomeness of God always leaves me breathless and in amazement that He really does love me and wants me to experience all of Him not just bits and pieces of Him.

As many of you remember, this trip was going to be trip which would have included my beloved Standard Poodle Hannah. I made the reservation thinking of her and how this would probably be her last vacation. I thought how much she loved the cooler weather and how much fun she would have. She loved going on vacation just like mommy does. But that wasn’t going to be the case since she passed away back in June. I missed her while there but also knew that God's ways are not my ways. So what does He do? He has brought Lacey into my life eight days later after Hannah’s passing and she is a 2 year Standard Poodle who accompanied us on our trip. It was such a blessing for me to have her with us. She has never been exposed to vacation or out walking in towns amongst people. Nor has she ever hiked up to waterfalls before. But she did on this trip. She had a blast and it brought me great joy and laughter as I watched her play among the leaves in the mountains.

You might remember in the one blog that I wrote about 2009 being a difficult year emotionally with so many people around me passing away including Hannah. Since that blog there have been three others close to me who have also passed away. And now, it is with great great sadness that upon returning home I found out that a dear sister in the Lord, Vickie Rankin passed away while we were gone. I didn’t know Vickie that well but was getting to know her a bit more each time I saw her. Vickie just started attending my Wednesday night class “The Purse-uit of Holiness.” She would tell me how much she was enjoying it. She started talking about joining our ladies class on Sunday mornings. I could see God working in her, growing her and filling her with a desire for more of Him. The last Sunday I was in church before vacation she stopped me afterwards. She said….I am so excited I am joining the church next week. Of course I was thrilled but disappointed because I wouldn’t be there I’d be on vacation. I said – “Oh Vickie I won’t be here….can’t you delay it?” (Selfish I know). She replied….that Traci wouldn’t be here either but all her kids would be and that was the only time she could get everyone together so Sunday it was. So needless to say I was so happy for her and told her that I’d see her when I get back.

I like to make up gift bags for each woman as she joins the church and in each bag I include some kind of bible study for them to do on their own. Vickie was the next one to receive such a bag. It was the last couple days before heading home I was thinking about getting a gift bag ready to give Vickie to welcome her to the church and The Yahweh Sisterhood “officially.”

Well, I found out the night I got home about her passing. She had a stroke on the way to church and passed away Monday in the hospital. I couldn’t believe it... I thought not another one Lord. I thought maybe my friend got the name wrong. Then I found out that she bought a brand new dress for that particular Sunday that she would join the church. And the Lord brought to my mind the part in the book of Esther where Esther was now ready to meet the king. She had gone through 12 months of beauty preparations. And I imagine how beautifully dressed Esther must have been as well. The Scriptures tell us that the king loved Esther more than any of the others, she obtained grace and favor in his sight more so than all the virgins so he set his royal crown upon her head and made her queen.

I thought about Vickie and how she was so excited about growing in the things of the Lord. I thought about her new dress as she was ready to stand before God and the congregation to become a part of FCCC. I don’t know the why’s of God taking her, but I thought how beautiful she must have looked to her King and her Groom, as she arrived at their wedding feast to His open and loving arms. I thought about the dress she picked out just for this occasion. I thought about how she probably had no idea the dress she was going to wear for her celebration of joining our church family, would actually be the perfect wedding dress as she would meet her King and her Groom, who would crown her with her crown of glory and escort her hand in hand to their wedding feast where the celebration will last long into eternity as He leads her out to a dance floor that is made of gold. There won’t be tears at this celebration just Vickie rejoicing in her Redeemer and in whose presence she’ll forever be.

God’s ways are not our ways! But I thank God here and now for the opportunity of knowing Vickie for such a short time….it saddens me as I prepare for class tonight knowing that she won’t be in her regular seat or at her regular table….it saddens me to think I won’t get to know her more here on earth but I know one day we’ll each see her again as we too partake in the wedding feast celebration that will last well into eternity.

I don’t know if God will do it but I pray that He will let her know how much we’ll miss her and how much she was loved by those who may not have known her well but loved her anyway.

I love you all and pray that you will truly love and appreciate those around you. Remember, God’s ways are not our ways and you may not always have the opportunity to say to them “I LOVE YOU!

In Christ’s love,

Orignally written and posted 11/4//09.  Re-posted due to a problem with an edit.

A Heart of Gratitude

HAPPY THANKSGIVING! I love Thanksgiving. I love cooking Thanksgiving dinner. I love the Pumpkin Pies. I love it all…from the cooling temperatures to the changing of the leaves, to the hustle and bustle of getting everything ready for that perfect dinner and yes…even the football games.

This year instead of thinking about all of those things I was thinking about each one of you. I’m sure many of you have read the illustration of The Tapestry. A tapestry is so beautiful and full of color on one side but if you turn it over the threads are a mess...they are interwoven with one another, over and under one another...just a real mess. Well, as I was thinking about you I realized that each one of you is one of those threads in my life. At some point in time God has woven you into my life, into my tapestry to make me what He wants me to be. Some of you have been in my life for only a short time perhaps way too short. Some have left this world but not before adding their touch to my tapestry.  God has used you and them by weaving you into just the right spot of my tapestry bringing a beauty to it that never would have been had it not been for you. Others have been in my life for a very long time and God is still using you to add more color and beauty to my tapestry. As I look at and reflect on the weaving and coloring of God's handiwork, I see that my tapestry is full of colorful threads bright and beautiful, soft and subtle, criss crossing each other, threads going in all different directions.  At times this tapestry looks like a mess and I think "Oh Lord, my life is just like this mess of threads... A REAL MESS!!! Will I ever be what you truly want me to be?"  Then God nudges me to look at the other side and when I do I see the beauty of it and how all things really do work together for good.  And I think,"God you truly are the Master Tapestry Maker."

I love the Ephesians 2:10. It says – “For we are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works.” Did you see that word “workmanship?” We are His workmanship. We are God’s Masterpiece. How can I call us a Masterpiece? Because God only makes the best…and He always makes something beautiful. Don’t you agree?

I want to take this time to tell you how much I appreciate you my own personal thread and for the work God has done through you to make me something beautiful.  It is a  beauty that only comes by His working and weaving in my life. It's not a work that is done quickly but a work that is done slowly and deliberately over time.   It's not a beauty that is a physical beauty but a beauty that goes deep into my being and one that is being transformed daily to the image of Christ.  A beauty that will shine His light in a dark world.  A beauty that has been given for the dirt and ashes of my past.  His work isn’t finished in me yet but someday I will be a completed tapestry that will display the glorious colors of all my personal threads – YOU! THANK YOU for allowing God to weave you into my life and taking a part in His handiwork. I would not be who I am today if it weren’t for you, my own personal thread.

It is with "A Heart of Gratitude" that I thank  God for each you a thread of my tapestry.  Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Abundant blessings,