I spent my youth and young adult life in Church.When I raised my children, I thought it was enough to keep them in Church and pray for the things that I needed.I am just now learning that WHAT you pray for is important. In the past, I prayed for comfort.Only now in my ancient years have I learned to pray for how I can please God.
These last couple of months I have struggled with my purpose.I have a boring life with a job that has been on a fast track of changing into one that I do not like in the last year.I am teaching less and less, and I see more and more racism in the workplace.Perhaps it is only fair that white folks are now the victim of racism, but that doesn’t make me feel better about my job.I am not happy at work, and I carry that with me too much.That has influenced how I feel that I could not possibly be fulfilling a purpose in this job, yet I did not know what else to do.It seems silly to leave a job that I am quickly growing to hate without a new direction.Without direction, I still have no purpose.
It is not like I never do anything “good.”I worked hard last month to raise donations to a food drive, and I made it fun for everyone involved.I make people laugh when they feel sadness.I help lost students find their way.Those are things that I do because it makes ME feel good.God’s purpose for me cannot possibly be something that involves that type of selfish gratification.
Today I found purpose.I am not searching for jewels to add to my worldly crown, so I will not detail this experience.It does not matter WHAT I did.It matters that I felt compelled to reach out to someone who just wandered into my office-- my life.I probably did not change this person’s life, but I made today better.That much I know.I feel good about that, too.I don’t feel good that I did this great thing to help another person.I feel good because I know that God walked this young lady into my life, and I helped her because He led me to do so.Now I know my purpose.At least I know my purpose for today.I am sure He will continue to show me purpose in the days to come.
Thank you, Dear Father, for opening my eyes and showing me how I can help Your children.
If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you. ~~James 1:5 (NRSV)
Tomorrow I quit smoking . . . AGAIN.This is the 8th time I will quit smoking.The last time I was successful for 5 years and 23 days.I am not really well prepared.Last time I went through a program.I bought things to help me with the crave.I journaled.I was prepared.This time I have not done any of those things.I have not really thought it through very well.
I don’t have carrots.I don’t have grapes.I haven’t counted my puffs or examined my relationship with nicotine.I do have God, though.I do have this blog.I will ask God daily to make me strong, and I will blog when I need the spiritual strength to stand strong.I want to do this.I need to do this.
Lord, please give me the wisdom and strength to help me slay the Nicodemon.
Whitney Houston is THE news item of the day.Her face is there when I turn on the television. Her music is climbing the download charts. People are sharing her videos via social media and email.Every news page on the Internet includes a Whitney story.Her funeral was streamed live on Internet and television, and it was called a celebration of life.It is easy to find something online that celebrates Whitney’s life.
Unfortunately, it is also easy to find criticism and condemnation for this extremely talented artist.In the hours that followed Houston’s death, we heard outrageous speculations that were sometimes passed off as truth.She was high.She was drunk.Who left her alone?Who was with her?Who pushed her?Thus far, I have not heard an autopsy report.My mother was the picture of health when she had a sudden seizure that killed her.For all we know, Houston may have died the same way.Perhaps she had an aneurysm.Any number of things besides substance abuse could have caused this tragic loss.Indeed, I have no reason to believe that Houston was anything but clean.
This morning I read a condemnation of New Jersey lowering the flag to half-staff for a “drug addict.”Curiosity prompted me to search for a news article with details.I got a whole host of hits, but I only read this one:http://www.chron.com/news/article/NJ-gov-strongly-defends-lowering-flags-for-Houston-3333666.php .I was a little surprised that the flag was lowered for Houston because I thought this honor was reserved for people who give their lives to service of the state or nation.Honestly, though, I don’t know the accepted protocol.We may have lowered flags for Princess Diana for all I know.This was really the only thing that surprised me about Houston being honored by lowering the flag.
Other people object because Houston fell victim to substance abuse.The article quotes one blog that contends lowering the flag for Houston suggests it is okay to abuse drugs as long as they have a special talent or are a pop idol.Of course, we do not want to glorify drug abuse. However, we should well remember WHO gives a person celebrity status.That would be US.The people who support her financially by purchasing her art are responsible.The people who share her videos are responsible.The media that glorifies her are responsible.The media that condemns her are responsible.WE made her a celebrity, so it is hardly fair that we criticize her status now.
One of the scriptures from todays devotion in The Upper Room addresses our nature to criticize and condemn others.
It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles.
— Matthew 15:11 (NRSV)
All of us struggle with something.I am overweight.I struggle with a nicotine addiction that refused to let go, even after I had quit for 5 years.I drink.I take a prescription drug to control my emotions.These things are easy to ask forgiveness for.I know I am a weak sinner. I am also opinionated and quick to judge or condemn others, even though I realize that this is a sin – and that is a one of the BIG SINS!Or is it that all sins are created equal?Perhaps this is one that it is more difficult for me to ask of God forgiveness.
Of course, we may object to the deed.Many people will look at me and judge the types of food I eat.I know the SPAM, brats, kraut, and other fried and sodium drenched foods are not good for me.Add to that a fair amount of beer, and you have one fat lady.I hope my friends, who mostly have healthy diets, don’t condemn me because they disapprove of my actions.When I defend Whitney Houston, I do not condone substance abuse.To the contrary, I am sad for her that she fell VICTIM to such an ominous evil.
I put a lot of things in my mouth that defile the way I look, feel, and am perceived.It is that judgment that is formed in words that come out of my mouth that are truly defiling.I am guilty of judging people based on their actions, and I must learn to embrace those people and glorify the goodness that lives in them, for God does not create anything that is void of beauty.
I pray my Lord Jesus forgives me for this sin and helps me control my tongue.
When my children were very young, they used to tell their little friends, “I’m not your friend anymore” over the silliest things.Perhaps one would not share a toy, and the other one declared, “I’m not your friend anymore.”I thought it was cute.My friends and I even joked around and said it to each other because we thought it was funny.
Today’s message in The Upper Room talks about people unfriending each other on Facebook and other social media sites.I have noticed this trend in the young adults at school.I even have a friend who unfriends members of her Facebook community and tells me about it her declarations of unfriendedness.She doesn’t stop talking to these people, but she smirks at the fact that she has unfriended them.There is even a National Unfriend Day.It is not amusing when adults mimic the behavior of 4 and 5 year old children.
Unfortunately, I have to admit that I unfriended God for a while.I did not stop talking to him.I still said my prayers, but I did not have a relationship with him.I did not have conversations with God.I thanked him for the day in the morning, and I bid him goodnight and begged blessings in the evenings.I am trying to build a relationship with God now.I want Him in my life all day long EVERY day!I am grateful that He never unfriended me.I have many sins in my past and fear I have many more in my future.I might hurt God, but He never unfriends me.
The scripture from today’s devotion in The Upper Room:
2 Corinthians 9:6-15
9:6 The point is this: the one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.
9:7 Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
9:8 And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work.
9:9 As it is written,"He scatters abroad, he gives to the poor; his righteousness endures forever."
9:10 He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness.
9:11 You will be enriched in every way for your great generosity, which will produce thanksgiving to God through us;
9:12 for the rendering of this ministry not only supplies the needs of the saints but also overflows with many thanksgivings to God.
9:13 Through the testing of this ministry you glorify God by your obedience to the confession of the gospel of Christ and by the generosity of your sharing with them and with all others,
9:14 while they long for you and pray for you because of the surpassing grace of God that he has given you.
9:15 Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!
My life has been one of poor farming.I have not sown a generous crop.All of the seeds that I sowed were tainted with selfishness, and I failed to apply fertilizer.
My parents and grandparents wanted so much more for me than I gave them.They wanted me to go to college.They wanted me to be happily married.They wanted me to be successful.They wanted my time, but I was selfish with my time and only shared a little of it.I wonder if I brought any happiness into their lives at all.I imagine they suffered much heartache in the disappointments that I brought into their lives.
My children.I am so sad for them that they had me for a mother.I think I was a pretty good mother until I lost Mama and Nanny.I felt like all of the goodness that ever lived in my died with these two women. I know that is just an excuse.I could have fought that depression, and I could have looked to other women to mentor me as a mother.I chose not to because I was selfish and wanted to wallow in my sorrow.
How many friends have been hurt by my selfishness?Few people are fortunate enough to have friends who love them the way mine love me.Somehow I never learned to foster those relationships.It isn’t really that I like my privacy so much as I like solitude.Poor farmers like me do not deserve friends because we are too selfish with our time.
The good Christian farmer reaps happiness when they sow a generous crop – happiness in the hearts of God, children, parents, grandparents, friends, and family.The seeds I sowed so sparingly were tainted by selfishness.
I told myself that raising my family in the Church was the premium fertilizer for my farm.It would have been, too, if only I had given myself up entirely to God, instead of only making sure we were all in Church on Sunday.I was selfish with my time the rest of the week.Even if I had been generous with healthy seeds, I failed to apply the fertilizer.
I know that I still have time to sow one last crop, but I don’t have as much acreage now.I lost a plot every time I hurt God, Amanda, Michelle, Roger, Mama, Daddy, Nanny, Grandaddy, Cathey and numerous other family and friends.Weeds gobbled up a large piece of my acreage every time my selfishness caused pain in a loved one’s heart.Now I just have a little piece of land left, and I wonder what I can reap from it.
It will take forgiveness from God and my loved ones to fertilize this small piece of land, and I am not sure they are willing to fertilize for someone who has such a selfish heart.
I wasted a lot of good seeds in the last 52 years.
20:24 But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.
20:25 So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord." But he said to them, "Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe."
20:26 A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you."
20:27 Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe."
20:28 Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!"
20:29 Jesus said to him, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe."
Faith IS believing when there is no tangible proof.Sometimes faith is not believing what you can see – refusing that tangible proof.Satan will manipulate God’s words in an effort to thwart Christians, so it is important to make certain that we keep faith with God and listen to His message.
This passage reminds me of several pieces of literature, but the one that immediately comes to mind is Hawthorne’s, “Young Goodman Brown.”Young Goodman Brown leaves his Faith at home and ventures into the dark woods.In the tangible sense, Faith is his wife, but she symbolizes his faith in God.When Brown walks away from Faith, ever so briefly, his Faith is corrupted by evil.It is unclear whether or not Faith is truly corrupted or if Brown experiences a hallucination that is the work of Satan.It matters not whether or not the corruption of Faith is an illusion because Brown believes it and turns his back on Faith.The rest of his life is a bitter and miserable existence.
I think many of us falter in our faith every once in a while.That doesn’t mean that we don’t believe in God.The real danger is turning our backs on faith because of an experience that causes us to falter or question God.Faith IS believing when there is no tangible proof.Jesus does not condemn Thomas because his faith is weak.He uses the moment to strengthen Thomas’ faith.God forgives those who falter, but there is no hope for those who turn their backs on Faith.