Thursday, March 6, 2014

The Less-Than-One-Percenters

The Less-Than-One-Percenters –

That's what the military sometimes calls itself. It's hard to believe that our U.S. Military is composed of less than 1% of the population, but it's true. A few are doing so much to keep the rest of us safe.

My son (a Chaplain's Assistant in the Army) recently informed me that he and his Chaplain were setting up what they called Operation Free X for soldiers stopping off at the rather "austere" air base in Romania. He asked for athletic sox, candy, toilet articles, etc. Yes, there is a P X, but they also saw the need of a Free X.

Well, people have given so generously and my son called to tell me what a blessing it has been to the soldiers.

It's pretty plain – the chapel is a large, barely-heated metal building and when soldiers come in they see a long table spread with clean, dry, new sox, t-shirts and boxers, toilet articles, a few books, and lots of candy. Oh, yes, they do like the candy!

My son said, "picture a soldier coming in wearing desert fatigues, usually carrying an M4 carbine with a grenade launcher strapped to it. That's heavy, bulky, expensive equipment and the soldier is responsible for it. He or she never lays it down. It goes everywhere the soldier goes.

Now let's eaves-drop on a few of them.

"Free candy? – Thanks, man"

"I'm on my way home from my fifth deployment. We're fogged in here for three more days and all I've got with me is an overnight bag. This stuff is a big help."

"Do you have any books? There's not much to do around here. Thanks."

"Dry sox? Oh, wow! I can sure use some of those."

"I'm on my way to Afghanistan. I've been in three countries in the last three days and my debit card won't work any more. They don't think I am who I say I am. This stuff is really free? Wow – Thank you, thank you."

Monday, January 27, 2014

Bloom Where You're Planted

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- When I became a Christian about 25,700 days back (yes, a long, long time ago)it was like I had stepped out of darkness and into sunshine. I wanted everyone to experience what I had experienced. I wanted everyone to have the new joy that was springing up in my heart. I considered myself to be something of an evangelist, telling my story to anyone who would listen. Although I still love to "tell the old, old story of Jesus and His love," as the years have gone by, I have not found many people who have no connection to God. Instead I meet many, many whose relationship with Him is pushed into the corner, sort of buried under hurts, frustrations, disappointments, anger, indifference. When I ask, "what about God in your life?" I often hear a wistfulness and a long-hidden story of disillusionment. It seems that most people in "Christian" America," (at least the ones I come across) have at one time or another responded to the Gospel message, and perhaps "made a decision," but like abandoned orphans, they have not grown and flourished. They need help, nourishment (the Bread of life, the milk of the Word). They need encouragement. They need to be coaxed back to the communal warmth and light of Christian fellowship. Because of this, I have come to see my job as something of a spiritual foster parent, reaching out to those who have somehow strayed away from the path and need some encouragement and lovingkindness. It seems that almost every day God brings someone across my way who needs some positive words, maybe a challenge and a hug. Since even a little old lady can be a mentor, a mom, a helper, a friend, I find that this is just the right ministry for me! Praise God - I can just bloom where I'm planted.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014


"Life is best lived backwards," said Soren Kierkegaard, "but unfortunately we have to live it forward."

No wonder we sometimes feel confused. Here we are at the intersection of "I Dunno Street" and "What If? Boulevard." Which road should I take? Which way would be best?

The fact is that indecision puts us on hold and being on hold is stressful. The good news is that since indecision is something I do to myself (after all, it's "my" decision), I am the one who can do something about it. I can decide which path to choose.

Here are some common sense questions I can ask myself.

Step 1 What is the best that can happen?
Step 2 What is the worst that can happen?
Step 3 Is Step 1 worth risking Step 2?
Step 4 Can I live with Step 2 if it occurs?

Since wise decision making is closely linked to success and healthy emotional well-being, let's make 2014 a year of good decision making. Perhaps the best decision we can make is to become more decisive.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Time Marches On

2014 is here. I notice that as my years advance, some changes take place. My body doesn't work like it used to. I am slower, less sure-footed. (I'm well into my 80's now.)

I have been blessed with a very good memory over the years, and I do a lot of memorizing - Scripture, poetry, quotations, etc. I am finding though, that retrieval time is getting longer. Bible verses that I could rattle off easily now have gaps. A word or a phrase is missing. Do I look it up? No! My mind teases and teases and finally the elusive word or phrase pops into its proper place like an errant child who shows up late for class.

Is this humbling? You betcha it is. But it's funny about the humility thing. It makes me more sensitive, and I hope more loving and understanding to others who might be struggling with their own challenges.

It draws me closer to God - after all, "He gives grace to the humble." And it makes me more transparent. I mean, He's the One who invented this old age bit, so if the faltering steps and the recalcitrant memory are part of His plan for me and He loves me anyway, then I don't have to hide my weaknesses from anyone else. That takes me back to Romans 8:28, "We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them that are called according to His purpose." My job is to keep trusting Him and praising Him and being grateful for each new day (and each new year) that He gives me.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Silent Night, Holy Night

It was Christmas Eve, 1818, in the small Alpine village of Oberndorf. What a time for the church organ at St. Nicholas Church to refuse to work!

The Austrian priest, Joseph Mohr, had written the lyrics to a new hymn that he called, "Silent Night, Holy Night." But without the organ, how would he be able to share this with the congregation? When we have created something beautiful, we want to share it. He had a dilemma.

Joseph Mohr gave the lyrics to his new song to Franz Xavier Gruber, who set the poem to music for the guitar, finishing the score just in time for Christmas Eve.

In their yearning to fill a need in this little church, these two men tapped into their God-given creativity and made the Christmas narrative breathtakingly lovely for millions around the world. Everyone, from little children to seasoned adults, has been touched by its beauty.

The Silent Night Memorial Chapel in Oberndorf, Austria

You and I may not be able to create something as fabulous as this wonderful hymn, but we still have a longing in our hearts to touch other people's lives. I think that, especially at this time of year, we have a desire to give back, to bless others, to touch the lives of those around us.

We know this is the season for giving. We give tangible, gorgeously wrapped gifts to express how much we appreciate God's gift of His Son who was born in a stable and laid in a manger. We want to acknowledge God's great sacrificial gift to us. I think that is what our hearts yearn for when we speak of "getting into the Christmas spirit." We want to feel we are doing something meaningful, doing something that will touch other lives.

After the gifts have been opened, we feel sort of let down.

But perhaps that is the time, when the tinsel and glitz are past, to do the real giving.

We can purpose in our hearts to give the really important gifts every day of the year - a loving word to someone who is weary, an encouraging touch that says, "You are doing a good job and I appreciate you." And let us not underestimate the value of a kind message to someone who may not even know he needs it. Loving-kindness has a beauty all its own.

You and I cannot top "Silent Night," but we can strive to ease weary hearts all year long.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

A Good Question

I came across an interesting question recently that caused me to do some heart-searching.

Here it is: Do people miss me when I leave the room?

That led me to ask myself some other questions, like, what kind of people do I miss when they leave the room?
Here are some of the types of people I miss:

People who are peacemakers. These people seem to have the ability to pour oil on troubled waters. Instead of escalating conflicts, they bring harmony and calmness. Gentle people who bring sweetness to the situation.
A lovely fragrance seems to linger in the wake of these people. They encourage and affirm us and help us to aspire to be better.

People who bring leadership. I have had a boss is like that. He knew how to gives the staff direction and a sense that everything is under control. Instead of concentrating on problems, he seemed to thrive on finding creative solutions. People who bring constructive criticism and new ideas. Even though we might find these ideas uncomfortable, we know we need to hear them out. They make us think deeply.

People who are followers. Leaders are great, but we also need followers. These are the people we can count on to quietly get the job done. They do not ask to be in the limelight; they do not really ask to be noticed; they are content to serve God in the background.
It is a good idea to acknowledge these quiet workers though, and thank them for their service.

Maybe you can see yourself in these different categories.
I want to be missed when I leave the room. I hope you want that, too.

Friday, December 6, 2013

A Missionary at Last

When I became a Christian at about 12 years old, I told God I wanted to serve Him all my life. In my mind that meant being a missionary, probably in a foreign land. I made several attempts, but in spite of my best efforts, something always got in the way - health, wealth (or lack thereof), family obligations, life circumstances.

So I just tried to bloom wherever I was planted. As a matter of fact I was translated many, many times through the years.

I even whispered at one low point, "Lord, I gave you my life. Don't you want my service?"

I felt sheepish for complaining, but I wanted to do more and my sphere of influence seemed to be so small, so limited,. especially compared to others. Compared to others? Oops - now I had to confess envy and jealousy So I did the I John 1:9 thing - I acknowledged my sin and accepted God's forgiveness.

I was soon to learn one of God's paradoxes - the way up is down. In the providence of God, I spent some time in the fiery furnace, and I learned that the furnace can be a lovely, purifying experience when the Son of God is right there in the furnace with me. And even in the furnace, my heart began to overflow with joy. To my delight, ministry opportunities began to increase

About that time I came across a quote from missionary statesman Dick Hillis. "Every heart without Christ is a mission field; every heart with Christ is a missionary." Those words gave me heart's ease. I could stop striving to be a missionary and thank God that I am one.

What is my mission? To show forth the love of the Lord Jesus Christ. I am a flawed earthen vessel - with fissures and cracks and holes. All the better to let Jesus, the light of the world, shine forth. Al the better to let the perfume, the very fragrance of Jesus waft through the air. And my mission field is all around me.