Monthly Archives: November 2014

Hope: The Story of “I heard the bells on Christmas Day”

Today is the first Sunday of the Advent season. Earlier this season I shared a little about what Advent is and how you might want to prepare for Christmas by lighting Advent candles. You’ll find that information in the blog “An Advent wreath this year?”  (https://wegathertogether14.com/2014/11/24/an-advent-wreath-this-year/)

On this Sunday, our focus is “hope.”

We use this word so easily. “I hope that I lose weight.” “I hope that my team wins.” “I hope that the sale item is still in the store when I get there.” Our casual use of the word hope cheapens it and changes its meaning.

Hope is powerful. The hope of the Advent Season is the promise of the Messiah, the promise of a Savior, the promise of the second coming of Christ. And, at that second coming, we will see God as He is and He will welcome His children to His eternal home.

Is that hope of the second coming a little distant for you today? Do you need hope for the pressures of this world, of your current situation? Let me share the story of the great American author, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. You will remember him from that American history class you took years ago. He wrote “Paul Revere’s Ride” and “The Song of Hiawatha.”

Longfellow was a poet; he stood against slavery; and, he had a hard life. His first wife died in childbirth and in the years following her death he struggled to find purpose. He was surprised to fall in love a second time. He and his second wife, Francis, had six children and were incredibly happy. Then, the impossible happened. While curling her daughter’s hair, a spark landed on Francis’ dress and started a terrible fire. Henry tried to put out flames with a carpet but was successful only after too much damage had been done. The day after the fire, Francis died.  And, Longfellow was so badly burned that he was unable to attend her funeral; he wore a beard the rest of his life, hiding his horrific physical scars.

A short time after the death of Francis their oldest son, Charles, announced that he wanted to join the Union army to advance the war against slavery. Longfellow said no; it was too soon after the death of Francis. But Charles went anyway. Within a year he was injured in battle and later died from infection of the wound.

It was on December 25, 1864, not long after the deaths of Francis and Charles, that Longfellow wrote the poem “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” Think about his situation for a minute. In spite of his sorrow, his pain, and the sadness of the Civil War, the Christmas bells on churches in his community of Cambridge, Massachusetts rang out.

Although our stories are different, we understand his frustration. For, when we are struggling, the world goes on, seeming to mock us. We hear the Christmas carols and secular Christmas songs and we wish that the sound would stop – we begin to hate the very sounds that are intended to bring us joy.  We shy away from those who want to “cheer us up.”  But, if we listen carefully we will hear the hope of the Lord.  God, Himself, reaches out to our spirits and whispers, “Child, I am here.  Hope in me and not in the things of this world.”

Longfellow’s poem ends with the most beautiful words – words of hope. God knows all about our pain, our struggles. In spite of where we are, God knows where we can be. He gives hope in the midst of darkness. Today, on this first Sunday of Advent, join Longfellow in seeing the hope that is ours if we only accept it.

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

I heard the bells on Christmas Day their old familiar carols play, and wild and sweet the words repeat of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come, the belfries of all Christendom, had rolled along the unbroken song of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till, ringing, singing on its way, the world revolved from night to day, a voice, a chime, a chant sublime of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black accursed mouth the cannon thundered in the South, and with the sound the carols drowned of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent the hearth-stones of a continent, and made forlorn the households born of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head; “There is no peace on earth,” I said; “For hate is strong, and mocks the song of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: “God is not dead; nor doth he sleep! The Wrong shall fail, the Right prevail, with peace on earth, good-will to men!”

“But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me.”  (Micah 7:7)

College football fans

Yesterday, John and I went to the Navy vs. University of South Alabama (USA) football game. It was exciting – Navy ensured the win in the last 40 seconds of the game. From my perspective, the USA fans and game officials could not have been nicer to us. And, the Navy fans could not have been more cordial throughout the game.

It was fun to watch the officials respond to the Navy crowd. There is a tradition that when Navy scores points, midshipmen run to the end zone and do as many push-ups as Navy has points. As this wasn’t possible, a couple of Navy alumni did push ups against the front rail of the stands. The officials didn’t notice this activity until the second half and then they watched, loved it and told others on the field what was going on. At the end of the game, when the USA school song was sung, the Navy crowd faced the USA fans and stood quietly and respectfully. As the Navy team and fans sang “Navy Blue and Gold,” the officials who had enjoyed the push-up demonstrations, looked in awe as the Navy fans remained in the stands (that were still full 10 minutes after the game was over), sang their school song, cheered the competitors and then conducted an orderly progression to the parking lot.

I am hoping for such good behavior at the game we will be watching (on television) today: the University of Florida vs Florida State University (FSU) game. (John completed his first masters’ degree at Florida and I completed my doctorate at FSU. It’s a game that we watch every year and one of us will be disappointed at the results.)

I know that I am stating the obvious, but college football fans and players do not always demonstrate good sportsmanship.

College football is big here in the South.  Like basketball in the Midwest, you can find stores empty on big game days.  There are parties and football pools and stores run sales of school-related clothing.  College football brings people together.  But, it can also divide them too.

So, as we gather together around the big screen TV this year to cheer on our favorite team, what are we teaching the next generation?  Or, in other words, does my faith shine even when I am cheering on my Noles?  Our activities as fans merit review. Do our words, our actions, our emotions reflect good sportsmanship or are we cheering for the wrong reasons?

I liked what the baseball great, Mickey Mantle, said: “After I hit a home run I had a habit of running the bases with my head down. I figured the pitcher already felt bad enough without me showing him up rounding the bases.

OK, it’s time to put the chili on and get ready for the game.

“I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”  (Philippians 4:13)

A prayer for Black Friday

It is the day after Thanksgiving and I have not started my Christmas shopping. Apparently, I am far behind many of you. Predictions were that 26.5 million Americans not only ate Thanksgiving dinner yesterday but did some holiday shopping as well. And, more will be out today, on “Black Friday,” or dong their shopping online on “Cyber Monday.”

I don’t hate shopping; I enjoy watching the professionals at work. Their skills in finding the best deals and in planning their shopping excursions astound me.

When I am shopping, I resemble one of three states:

  • Focused. In this case I am moving fast with a list held tightly in my left hand. This strategy works well early in the shopping season.
  • Lost. This is when I am really not shopping but am simply wandering around. John and I were in an Omaha shopping mall when two teenage girls quickly walked around us. One snorted to the other, “I think that we were just passed by snails.” (We still love that line and try to work it into the conversation when we are in a crowd.)
  • Clueless. You will see me acting like this late in the season if I need to buy “just one more” gift. I find myself attracted to whatever is on the end of the aisle or in the store window.

One of my favorite shopping stories featured a young girl who was in my Sunday School class. She was about 5 when she and her mom were in a clothing store. A rather large woman passed by them, carrying on a hanger a dress for a grade school girl. My sweet little friend, looked at the woman and looked at the dress and announced loudly, “That’s not going to fit you.” Luckily, the woman smiled and nodded, replying “You are probably right.” That woman had the right attitude!

So, as you think about starting (or continuing) Christmas shopping, don’t forget that it isn’t just about doing the buying. Giving of ourselves to those we love benefits us. I love the line from the prayer of Saint Francis: “For it is in giving that we receive.” Remember that in giving a gift, we can bring the peace of Christ to others.

 

The Prayer of Saint Francis:

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace;

Where there is hatred, let me sow love;

Where there is injury, pardon;

Where there is discord, harmony;

Where there is error, truth;

Where there is doubt, faith;

Where there is despair, hope;

Where there is darkness, light;

And where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, Grant that I may not so much seek

To be consoled as to console;

To be understood as to understand;

To be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;

It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;

And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

 Amen.

Those we may miss…

I had written my blog for today and then decided late yesterday that it isn’t right. Instead of a story about what my family had to eat on Thanksgiving, I am going to do what many of us will do around tables today: share some of the things for which I am thankful.

This isn’t the list of the most important things or people in my life, but of some of the acts of kindness that I might miss if I forget to look for them.

  • I am thankful for Faith. She worked at our local Tom Thumb before getting a new job this year. She thanked me when I told her that I was praying for her during her high risk pregnancy. She was so dear about the Bible story book and baby blanket we gave to her. Most importantly, she never criticized my over indulgence in diet Coke. I still remember her in my prayers.
  • I appreciate Ruth at the storage unit place. I called her many times to report that the elevator was out-of-order and she smiled every time she left her office to come over and reset it for me.
  • I could not have gotten through this year without Patrick, the man who manages the place where we park our 5th wheel. He lost his wife this year and, in spite of that, is always helpful and hopeful.
  • Where would I be without the Tuesday night and Wednesday morning PCN Bible studies? Ladies, you rock! The same is true for the members of The 6 7 8 Project. I have learned so much from those middle-schoolers.
  • I am thankful for all of those who helped us on our trip to Peru. Sherri was so sweet, learning a new job while working on our travel itinerary that was more complicated than that of anyone else in our group.
  • All of the people we met this year helping our after the spring floods were wonderful to us, responding with great patience as I would ask the same question over and over again. (Although I still don’t understand why we needed three sets of government inspectors to say, “Yep, it’s wet.”)
  • I appreciate all who read my blogs. You take time to not only read my words but to understand what I mean to say, ignoring my errors.
  • Everyone at the new doctors’ offices we visited were wonderful. Each had a sense of humor – a trait so welcome during stressful times.
  • The people at Van’s Nails are all dear friends even though I understand little of what they say. They work so hard at speaking English and in doing their jobs. I am always impressed.
  • I appreciate the clerk at the library who carefully counts the CDs in the audio books I check out. She has learning challenges and is so attentive to her work.
  • Angi is so wonderful.  Even though we see each other face-to-face only every five of six weeks, so always remembers my stories of the past.  And, she doesn’t seem to mind that I never seem to have my hair look as wonderfully as it does when I say goodbye to her.
  • The gentleman who always smiles while we are singing songs of praise at church makes my week brighter. And, the couple who sit up front, their eyes tearing up at the words of worship make me think more carefully about what those words mean.
  • There is a dear lady at the locally owned pharmacy we use. She is precious and always has the right thing to say. She knows my name and I do not know hers.

I thank God for the love of family and friends. But, I also thank Him for the love and patience and grace shared with me by so many others. Look around you. There are saints serving in every area of our lives.

Sometimes I feel a little like the man on the road who was benefited by the “Good Samaritan.” I deserve not the assistance of strangers, but I am so thankful for their help.

Read the story of the Good Samaritan at: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke+10%3A26-37&version=NIV

Thanksgiving Eve 2014

Tomorrow, American’s will celebrate a holiday that is uniquely American, well, almost uniquely American.

Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving, although their holiday is earlier in the year than ours. They celebrate the harvest (which takes place before most American crops) and the Canadian Thanksgiving is not a national holiday.

The country of Liberia celebrates Thanksgiving. This country has many traditions carried home by those freed from slavery in America and returned to the African continent. Instead of a roasted turkey, their meal features a roasted chicken; many go to church, thanking God for His blessings.

And, Norfolk Island (famous for its inhabitants from the H.M.S. Bounty) celebrates a Thanksgiving much like ours. Their tradition, however, started as a way to help American sailors feel at home while visiting the port so far away from North America. Their featured protein is pork – always a great choice.

But, I didn’t harvest crops this year. I am not a freed slave so thankful to be home. And, I am not in a faraway place looking for something to remind me of home.

I am like most Americans with resources greater than most other citizens of the world know. I sleep in a bed with the room warm or cool, depending on my choice. I will eat a hearty meal tomorrow, provided by the generosity of good friends. My health is good. I have work to do, keeping my heart and my mind active and involved. I do not think about most of these things very often. I take so much for granted.

But, on this single day in the year, my nation has set aside time for us to be grateful.

On this Thanksgiving, I will spend time in prayer. I will thank God for what He has done for me. I will praise His name. I will seek His guidance. I will dedicate this holiday season to learning more about what His love means, what His will is. I will say thank you.

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Luke 17:12-19

As Jesus was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”

When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed.

One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him —and he was a Samaritan.

Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”

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Thank you, Lord, for cleansing, for saving, for loving this woman who was once an outcast, carrying sin and burdens that she had put upon herself.

Thank you, Family and Friends, for loving me when I am not very lovable, for listening when my words don’t make any sense, and for being there when I act like I don’t need you.

For all of this, I am eternally thankful.

Jill (Just one of God’s kids)

Where’s the beef?

Forty-five years ago, Wendy’s Hamburgers opened in Columbus, Ohio. When you think of Wendy’s what do you remember: the signature frosty, their claims of “never frozen” and “hot and juicy”, or their amazing French fries? How about the slogan used from 1984 to 1986: “Where’s the beef?”

The phrase became popular when Wendy’s aired commercials that had Clara Peller, an actress in her mid-80’s, shout the catch phrase, “Where’s the beef?” after looking into the sandwich of a Wendy’s competitor. The phrase reminded American’s that Wendy’s offered a 100% beef product and that other hamburgers may not be so pure.

I like my food to be what I think it is; I want food purity. For instance, I want my scallops to be actual scallops, not other types of sea food that is cut into the shape of a scallop.

Purity.

The Puritans (including the Pilgrims) desired to “purify” the Church of England of what they believed was corrupt human doctrine and practices. These people sought out a new place to practice what they believed was right. Now, I know that we could argue that the Puritans were not perfect people. Neither are we.

Here’s my question for today: have I allowed things or ideas or beliefs into places that should be pure? Maybe I need to “clean up my act” in some areas. Perhaps it is time to give up that habit, eliminate that word from my vocabulary, restore discipline in my spending, refuse to participate in those discussions, remove that reading material from my home or my computer…well, you fill in the blank.

I love Psalm 51. Read it with me as we pray for purity in our lives. (This is from the Contemporary English Version.)

“You are kind, God! Please have pity on me. You are always merciful! Please wipe away my sins. Wash me clean from all of my sin and guilt. I know about my sins, and I cannot forget my terrible guilt. You are really the one I have sinned against; I have disobeyed you and have done wrong. So it is right and fair for you to correct and punish me.

“I have sinned and done wrong since the day I was born. But you want complete honesty, so teach me true wisdom. Wash me with hyssop until I am clean and whiter than snow. Let me be happy and joyful! … Turn your eyes from my sin and cover my guilt. Create pure thoughts in me and make me faithful again. Don’t chase me away from you or take your Holy Spirit away from me.

“Make me as happy as you did when you saved me; make me want to obey! I will teach sinners your Law, and they will return to you. Keep me from any deadly sin. Only you can save me!

“Then I will shout and sing about your power to save. Help me to speak, and I will praise you, Lord. Offerings and sacrifices are not what you want. The way to please you is to feel sorrow deep in our hearts. This is the kind of sacrifice you won’t refuse.”

As we prepare to gather together, let us start with clean and pure hearts and lives.

We can trust the Lord to answer our prayer. He forgives. He restores. He renews. He purifies.

An Advent wreath this year?

It might be a good idea to take a short break from thinking about Thanksgiving.  You see, next Sunday is the first Sunday of the Advent Season. So, if you are planning to do an Advent Wreath this year, now would be a good time to build a shopping list. Here are the basics:

  • An advent wreath or something to hold five candles
  • Three purple candles
  • One pink candle
  • One white candle

Good luck with finding those specific colors. One Christmas we had three green candles, one red candle and one white candle. And, in my picture below, we had four white candles and one red candle. It all works!! Our “wreath” is not a wreath at all, but an old candle display that came down from John’s grandmother.advent wreath

So, what is the Advent Season? First, the “advent season” isn’t in the Bible; Jesus didn’t direct it during His sermon on the mount. The word “advent” means “coming” or “appearing.” The season was created as a way for Christians to intentionally prepare for Christmas and to begin preparing for the second coming of Jesus. As we go through the four Sundays this year, I’ll spend some time talking about the meaning of each one.

But, today, let’s think about anticipation.

Humans enjoy anticipating happy things. We enjoy looking forward to events and people that are pleasant. If we are tired or unhappy, our ability to anticipate is decreased. So, if you are having a bad time at work, understand that your favorite pumpkin pie might taste a little “off” this year in spite of the baker’s skills. And, what we have experienced in the past will be a filter through which we anticipate a particular event. Have a lousy sushi experience? Your next decision to order sushi or not will be impacted by that first experience.

Sales people know all about the psychology of anticipation and they use that information to influence our buying. They put pictures of happy people on their brochures and ask us to recall only the most pleasant events in our past. No doubt about it, a smiling kid with a friendly dog eating French fries will get us into McDonald’s faster than will a chart listing calorie counts and fat content.

So, how can we anticipate this Christmas when we have had a variety of past holiday experiences, good and bad, and our work or home situation isn’t perfect?

  • First, share advent. Bring joy (not stress) to others.
  • Maybe you can laugh about “major fail” of last year. Or, maybe the family isn’t quite ready for that conversation yet.
  • Forget about the bad Christmases past.
  • Put the Christmas of today into perspective. Lessen the pressure on others.
  • And, most importantly, look forward to the Great Advent of the future. As you gaze into the advent candles’ flames, think about a future when the world will be put back into balance, when peace shall reign, when Christ will return. Anticipate a place where all that exists is love.

During this Advent Season, let us anticipate the future as we share love today.

“At that time, people will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And He will send His angels and gather His elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens.” (Mark 13:26-27)

Happy Anniversary, Sweetie!

Today is our 24th wedding anniversary. Yay!!   What an interesting time that was so long ago. (I have added three silly bonus stories at the end of today’s article. They make the posting really long, so read them or not – your choice.)

In October of 2012, John and I had gone to his class reunion at the Naval Academy when we found ourselves wandering through shops in Annapolis, Maryland. At some point, he asked me what I would like for an engagement ring. It was clear to us that we were going to get married, but he had not officially “asked” me. Our plan was to get married right after I graduated from Florida State University with my doctorate and just before he started a long Navy deployment that would include stops in places we wanted to visit as a married couple. At the end of our weekend in Annapolis, he returned to San Diego where he was stationed and I returned to Pensacola, Florida where I lived.

During a phone call the next week, I began to share a little more about what kind of an engagement ring I would like when John said calmly, “You input is no longer required.” I was a little shocked and very embarrassed. My inside voice was shouting, “HE BOUGHT ME A RING!! WE ARE GETTING MARRIED!!” My outside voice said something like, “Oh, OK.”

We made our plans quietly. I found flights to bring our parents to Pensacola, made arrangements with a chaplain friend, and booked the chapel. We planned to have a private ceremony in time for John to leave on his long deployment; we would do something more official and public later. My Mom sent her wedding gown to me (I had always wanted to wear it) and in a single afternoon I bought a veil and my bride’s bouquet (silks) and drafted a wedding announcement.

And, then John called me with bad news. He didn’t provide lots of details – I was used to that – John is a submariner, they don’t give lots of details. Bottom line, we could not get married in the place or on the day that we planned. He said that we needed to get married in San Diego and he gave a range of dates. My planning started over.

Soon it was THE WEEK.

I arrived in San Diego on Tuesday before Thanksgiving. John proposed to me and put a beautiful engagement ring on my left hand. (WE WERE ENGAGED!!) We immediately headed to get our blood tests done and our wedding license purchased. The next day we talked with the chaplain who was subbing for the chaplain whom we had scheduled. Then it was Thanksgiving Day and the day before our wedding. We had five family members who flew in that day so Thanksgiving dinner was a salad at the San Diego airport. And, our supper that evening was chicken on the grill.

Our wedding day (the Friday after Thanksgiving) was amazing. It was perfect and over so very, very quickly. We had a beautiful ceremony in the NAS North Island chapel; there were eleven people at the ceremony; and, I wore my Mom’s wedding gown as I promised to love John forever and ever. After a sweet evening meal with the small group of family with us, we set our alarm clock. My sister and folks had an early flight the next morning and we wanted to drive them to the airport to see them off. John’s folks stayed several more days and then they were gone.

We were married. It was crazy and amazing and wonderful. And, John left for what was later called “Desert Storm” less than two weeks after our wedding ceremony.

CAPT SteinAs I think about it now, I know that we did it our way. No other couple would have been married in this crazy way – only us. As you reflect on your “gatherings” of past years, rejoice in the fact that your experiences are unique. You have been blessed with memories that no other person or family has. If you can, take a minute to make a quick call to someone you love and do a “do you remember the year…?” time of rejoicing. Our memories can help us to bind family and friends together in love.

Happy anniversary, Darling!!

The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.  (Genesis 2:23-24)

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Silly Story 1: When we arrived at the government building where marriage licenses were issued, we found that the line to get a marriage license was very long; we might be waiting for an hour or more. As we stood there, we noticed that the line next to us was much shorter. In the end, we stayed in the marriage license line, but we were pretty tempted to move over to the “Register an Alias” line! (Only in California!!)

Silly Story 2: Because we had limited time, we had our blood tests completed at a lab that promised “express service” for an extra $50. It was while we were sitting in the hallway of the medical building that I realized that I needed to “fess up” to John. You see I had been diagnosed with a medical condition many years before meeting John. He knew all about my health issues but I had never told him that the literature indicated that a blood test might give a “false positive” result for syphilis. As I shared this information with him, we both got the giggles. How would the medical tech share the results with us: Would I be called into another room? Would John be called into another room? Would we still get a marriage license? In the end, it must have all been fine because they gave us the right paperwork and we got our license.

Silly Story 3: The chaplain (a Navy Captain) we had talked with about performing the ceremony called us at the last minute and told us that a family emergency had called him away; he made arrangements for another chaplain (a Navy Lieutenant) to perform the ceremony. A couple of days before the ceremony we met with the Lieutenant to work out details. As we started talking through ceremony options (e.g. taking communion or not, wording of the marriage vows, etc.), the Lieutenant would turn to John with each decision and ask something like, “Sir, Is that what you desire?” After this had happened a few times, I started laughing and accused the Chaplain of being a fraud; I was concerned that I was the victim of two sailors working out some kind of pretend marriage ceremony scam. John laughed with me but I think that the Lieutenant was either a little offended or afraid of me. Poor guy, here he was being appropriate to the rank structure and I was giving him a hard time!!

{John writing – attested: the above “silly” stories are true, to the best of our recollections; if not, they should be.} Love you too, Sweetie.

John Wesley’s 21 Questions of Accountability

Today I encourage you to do a self-assessment. Consider this posting as an opportunity to reflect. And, if you are not a person of faith, rest assured that you will benefit from the process.

I wrote an odd email on Christmas Eve of 2012. It was difficult and humbling and challenging and one of the best things that I have done. You see, for over 40 years I had had a boss. That boss both directed and evaluated my work. I was accountable to them for my time and my effort. Then it all changed when I retired from federal service. About two months later, I sent the email.

The email asked several women in my life to serve as my new “boss.” As unnatural as it sounds, I asked them to hold me accountable to what I believed I was supposed to do. Although I have never named them in public (and won’t do so now), I sing their praises often. By receiving my email reports, providing feedback when they think it is helpful, and by always lifting me up in prayer, they help me to stay faithful to my goals.

My relationship with John (my Sweetie) also has accountability aspects but in different areas and in different ways than does my relationship with these amazing women of faith.

On this November Saturday, let’s take a few moments and conduct a personal accountability check. Using John Wesley’s 21 questions, we can evaluate our own spiritual progress and our actions of this past week. Don’t be discouraged – remember in every step of our faith, there is room for improvement, for growth.

  1. Am I consciously or unconsciously creating the impression that I am better than I am? In other words, am I a hypocrite?
  2. Am I honest in all my acts and words, or do I exaggerate?
  3. Do I confidentially pass onto another what was told me in confidence?
  4. Am I a slave to dress, friends, work, or habits?
  5. Am I self-conscious, self-pitying, or self-justifying?
  6. Did the Bible live in me today?
  7. Do I give it (the Bible) time to speak to me every day?
  8. Am I enjoying prayer?
  9. When did I last speak to someone about my faith?
  10. Do I pray about the money I spend?
  11. Do I get to bed on time and get up on time?
  12. Do I disobey God in anything?
  13. Do I insist upon doing something about which my conscience is uneasy?
  14. Am I defeated in any part of my life?
  15. Am I jealous, impure, critical, irritable, touchy or distrustful?
  16. How do I spend my spare time?
  17. Am I proud?
  18. Do I thank God that I am not as other people, especially as the Pharisee who despised the publican?
  19. Is there anyone whom I fear, dislike, disown, criticize, hold resentment toward or disregard? If so, what am I going to do about it?
  20. Do I grumble and complain constantly?
  21. Is Christ real to me?

It is good for us to reflect. My own self-evaluation noted that I have lots of room for improvement. Time to get at it!!

Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. (2 Corinthians 13:5)

Is that you, God?

It happens sometime and it happened this past Wednesday morning. Some of you will understand exactly what I mean; others will have never had the experience and will wonder if it is possible. Let me assure you, God does move in mysterious ways!

In John’s closet were several pairs of coveralls. None of them was useful to us anymore and so I put them into the back of the Explorer, intending to stop by the local Goodwill store to donate them. The coveralls are in good shape and will be great for anyone who needs them and can fit into them.

But I haven’t been able to find time to stop by Goodwill. After a few days, I wondered if I wasn’t supposed to leave them there. I began to pray. It wasn’t a big deal, I didn’t worry about the coveralls, but I wanted to do what God wanted me to do. I thought that perhaps I should offer them to our church’s homeless ministry. The PCN Hands and Feet (H&F) ministry helps so many people, mainly men. I intended to contact one of the H&F team members, but I kept forgetting to write the email or text. Again, I wondered if God had a specific plan for these coveralls.

On Wednesday mornng, I stopped by the local convenience store to get a Diet Coke. As I stood in line, the man in front of me caught my attention. He was an older gentleman who worked with his hands and his back. He was wearing coveralls, but unlike the ones I had in the Explorer, his were the ones made for cold weather. He finished his purchase of bananas and snack cakes and a single cup of coffee:   I thought he might be buying snacks for several people.

As he left the store and I finished my purchase, I could not get him out of my mind. As I headed to my vehicle, I almost called out to him. But, he was walking away from me and I didn’t know what to say.

I got into the Explorer and a thought came to me, “Give him the coveralls.” What? Was that God speaking to me? I felt a little embarrassed. I had already had two opportunities to talk with the man and had said nothing. Wouldn’t it be odd for me to go to him a third time?

As I pulled out of the parking space, I could see him stash the snacks on the passenger’s side of his work truck. Behind the truck was a big trailer with pool installation/repair materials and tools. It was only 30 degrees; I could not imagine working on a pool in this weather.

And, so I did it. I pulled my vehicle up next to his and stopped. I got out and popped open the back door. He looked at me and I smiled at him and said, “I have some of my husband’s old coveralls. We don’t them and I wondered if you knew of anyone who could use them? I just need to give them away.” His face was radiant and even his voice seemed to smile as he replied, “Yes, Ma’am. Thank you so much.” I handed the clothes to him and we said our goodbyes. And, then, I added “God bless” and his smile got even bigger.

As I returned the Explorer, it felt as if the vehicle was filled with the presence of God. I broke out in praise and thanked God for letting me be part of a blessing. I have no idea if those coveralls will make a difference in anyone else’s life, but they did in mine.

When God says, “Go” – go. When God says, “Give” – give. When God says, “Trust me” – trust Him. When God says, “Fear not” – Stop fearing!!

Paul spoke for me when he wrote: “I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus!” (Philippians 1:3-6)

Don’t hesitate to do work that God sets before you!