Changed

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.

This was the prayer that changed Lisa’s life.

Before she prayed it one night in her room,

she was a selfish person.  She went about

her busy life, not having time for anyone.

She went to church, yes, but she never

expressed any interest in being involved

in any of the ministries.  She didn’t attend

the afternoon programs or prayer meetings.

She never joined the youth group who

visited the senior homes.  She left church

soon after the service ended.

 

She didn’t visit her family often and

when she did, she found them all very tiresome.

She preferred to be on her own.  She spent

most of her time reading a book, watching TV

or browsing shops in the mall.  Her relationships

didn’t last.  All of her exes got tired of giving and

not getting much back.

 

She managed to convince herself that she was

satisfied with how her life was.  No obligations, no

commitments and no constraints.  She was free to

come and go as she pleased.  In her estimation, she

was doing just fine.

 

But God had other plans for her.  One evening she

watched a story of an older woman named Edith

who was always kind to everyone.  She had to go to

hospital for tests.  It turned out that she was terminally

ill.  Instead of sinking into depression and being angry

at God, she accepted her fate.  She spent the time she

had in the hospital telling everyone who would listen

about Jesus.  She helped a young girl who was pregnant

and unwed.  She didn’t judge her but spoke kindly to her.

She gave her the name and address of a women’s shelter

where she could go and stay until she was able to find a job

and raise her baby.  Edith didn’t think about herself.  She

was always reaching out to those around her, talking to

them, encouraging them and sharing her faith with them.

 

By the time Edith died, many of the people whose lives

she touched accepted Jesus.  Before the movie ended,

Lisa was sobbing uncontrollably.  This woman’s unselfish

character and love for others made her feel ashamed.  She

knew that if she had been in Edith’s shoes, she would have

been lashing out and asking God why.  Not once did this

gentle woman do that.  She was always saying, “That she

was looking forward to going to sleep and then waking up

when the trumpet sounded and her Jesus came to take her

home.

 

Lisa got down on her knees and poured her heart out to

God, begging Him to forgive her and the words of the

Psalm came to her.  God answered her prayer.   Now,

she was a driver for a senior centre.   She took clients for

their appointments, treatment programs, shopping, banking

and other daily chores.  The hours were flexible.  She

loved what she was doing.

 

Like Edith, she shared her faith every opportunity she had.

She attended prayer meetings and participated in church

programs and events.  Her time was better spent now and she

felt a joy and peace she had never experienced before.  Her family

noticed the changes in her and were impressed.

 

And on a more personal note, she was in a new relationship.

He was a volunteer at the senior centre.  So far, so good.  Only

time would tell.  For now, she was happy serving the Lord who

had opened her eyes to her true spiritual condition and had

brought her to the place He had prepared for her.   He had given

her a completely different outlook and a new purpose for her life.

 

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven – Matthew 5:16

 

assisted-living-care3-720

 

Sources:  Bible Gateway;  Lumacare

 

Anchored

She stood on the pier watching the boats come and go.   She was once like an unmoored boat, drifting out into the currents of life because she had no anchor to hold her like the boats fastened to the dock.  It began when her parents were killed in a car accident and she had to live with her aunt and uncle.

Life with her aunt was terrible.  Her uncle was nice–he treated her with kindness but her aunt was a miserable woman.  She kept saying to her, “You are your father’s daughter.  You are just like him.  No good.  He was a good for nothing lout, a drunk and a cheat.  I don’t know why my sister ever married him.”

Day in a day out she said bad things about her Dad and her.  It got to the point where she stayed out late just to avoid going back to that house.  Her aunt thought that she was out drinking and partying with her friends and threatened to kick her out.  “I will not have that sort of behavior in my house,” she fumed.  It was no point telling her aunt that she hadn’t been doing any of those things.  The truth she had spent hours in the library until it closed and then she had gone to the pier to look at the boats and the flickering lights.  It was her favorite place.  She and her Dad used to go there.

She didn’t say anything in her defense but went on the laptop in the study and started searching for an apartment to rent.  Her uncle helped her to find a place and she gladly moved out.  She was relieved to be away from her aunt who was a Christian.  Her uncle wasn’t one.  If Christians were any thing like her aunt, she wanted nothing to do with them.

Of course things didn’t get any better after she moved out.  She struggled to get by.  She had to do a lot of things for herself–such as cooking, cleaning, laundry, paying bills, etc. Working part-time while studying was a great challenge.  Going out with friends during the week was out of the question now.  She went out with them on Saturday nights but she got tired of going to nightclubs and bars and meeting guys who had only one thing on their minds.

After she graduated, she got a job at a publishing company and life was improving.  She was no longer struggling.  She made new friends.  It was at a barbecue at one of these friends’ home where she met Jim.  Jim was a funny, handsome and easy-going guy.  They hit it off right away.  They spent most of the afternoon and evening together.  He drove her home and they arranged to go out for a bit to eat the following evening.  They started to see each other on a regular basis.

When Jim first told her that he was a Christian, she couldn’t believe it because he was the complete opposite of her aunt.  One evening he invited her to go to church with him on Saturday.  At first she was hesitant but then he persuaded her and she went.  The moment she set foot in the church, she was amazed at how warm and friendly the people were.  Jim’s parents were there too and he introduced her to them.  They invited both of them to have lunch with them after church.  She spent a very pleasant afternoon with the family.  Like her, Jim was an only child.   He and his parents were very close.  As he drove her home, he told her that they liked her very much.

Jim studied the Bible with her and she went to church with him very week.  Then one Saturday morning, she got baptized.  Her uncle went but her aunt didn’t.  When she heard that it was a Seventh-day Adventist church, she refused to go saying, “Adventists aren’t real Christians.  They are a cult.”

She smiled now as walked along the pier.  It was here where Jim proposed to her.  It was a beautiful, sunny afternoon.  They had just had dinner and had come here afterwards. As they walked slowly along the pier, he suddenly went in front of her and got down on one knee and popped the question. With a happy laugh and tears in her eyes she said, “Yes!”  He sprang to his feet and hugged her.  For the rest of the night she was walking on cloud nine.

She called her uncle and asked him to give her away.  As they drove to the church, he looked at her and said, “I wish your parents were here to see what a beautiful young woman you have become, especially your Dad.  He was a good man, Amanda.  He adored you.  And he was good to your mother.  It’s just that things got rough for him and he coped with it the only way he felt he could.  You are your father’s daughter and don’t let anyone make you ashamed of that.”

She smiled at him through the tears and squeezed his hand.  “Thanks, Uncle Bob.”  Yes, she wished her Dad were there that day to walk her down the aisle.

Now she stood there on the pier, anchored in her faith and in her marriage.  Yes, she was like one of the boats fastened securely to the dock.

woman on pier with sunglasses

Going Back

She stood across the road

Making sure no one saw

Her.  They didn’t seem

To notice her.  They were

Greeting one another as

They climbed the stairs

And went through the

Open doors.

 

It was a beautiful day

Sunny and comfortable

She was wearing a new

outfit.  The one she bought

A week ago.  She got her hair

Done yesterday.

 

It had been

Five years since she set foot

Into the church she had been

A member of from childhood.

 

Her heart was pounding heavily

And her stomach was in knots.

To say that she was in a state

Of qualm was a gross understate-

Ment.  What on earth was she

Doing here?  She should turn around

And get away from there as fast as

She could.

 

What kind of reception

Would she get?  She had been a

Member with good standing until

She got pregnant…She had to give up

Her involvement in the ministries she

Was in charge of and rather than be

The topic of discussion at the business

Meeting so she chose to give up her

Membership.  She left the church and

Had her son.  Her heart melted as she

Thought of the little boy who had

Brought so much joy into her life.

 

She never planned to have a child

Before marriage but it just happened.

And unfortunately, things didn’t work

Out for Ryan’s Dad and her.  They split

Up a year after Ryan was born.

Now she was a single mother raising a

Rambunctious 4 year old and loving

Every moment of it.  He was with her

Mother who had encouraged her

To go church today.  “You walk in there

and remember that you are not alone.”

 

As she stood there now, debating whether

Or not to cross the road and step into

The sanctuary, these words came

To her mind, “But thou, O Lord, art a shield

For me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine

Head.”

 

She felt the uneasiness

Subside and God’s peace come over her.

She quickly ran her hands over her hair,

Smoothed her coat and crossed the road.

She hesitated for a brief moment at the

Doorway and then walked in.

 

Nervously, she approached the two greeters.

When they saw her, they looked

Surprised and delighted…

 

“Jennifer, it’s really good to see you.”

They both hugged her and as one

Of them handed her a bulletin, she

Said, “we are having a special lunch

For visitors today so you’re more than

Welcome to stay.”

 

She smiled.  “Thanks.”  She wasn’t ready

to socialize with them just yet.  She was

going to take this one step at a time.

 

young woman in coat

Source:  Psalm 3:3

Tired

“Do two walk together, unless they have agreed to meet? – Amos 3:3

“Wendy, you can’t leave now!” Sarah cried. They were standing outside in the church’s parking lot.  The service had just ended and Wendy was heading home.  She was tired and just wanted to be by herself.

“I am leaving,” she said firmly.

Sarah looked confounded.  “But what about the potluck?  Everyone is heading downstairs to the room we set up.”

That’s when Wendy almost lost it.  “We?” she snapped.  “We didn’t set the room up. I set the room up with some help from the deacons.  You were no where around.  I don’t know where you were.  And when you finally showed up, the tables were already set up and the food put out and ready for serving.”

Sarah gaze faltered as Wendy glared at her.  “Well, I was making sure that the singles we invited to our special program today were going to stay for the potluck.”

Wendy shook her head.  “The invitation is there in the bulletin and I reminded them again during Sabbath school.  You should have been downstairs helping me, Sarah.  Not because I am the leader, it means that I am supposed to do everything.  There should be collaboration between you and me.  I’m tired of doing all of the planning, the preparations and the arrangements.  When I signed up to be Singles’ Ministry leader, I was really excited.  I asked you to be my assistant because you shared the same vision I had for reaching the single adults in our church.  I don’t know what has changed but I’m left doing most of the work and I am tired.  I’m going home.  You take care of the visitors and the potluck.  Now you will see how it feels to be left holding the bag.”

She started to walk away and Sarah frantically grabbed her arm.  “Wendy, I’m sorry,” she said.  “You’re right, I haven’t been pulling my weight lately.  It’s just that I have been so busy.  Mom was sick and I’ve had problems at the office.” Wendy stopped, the anger fading away.  “I’m sorry to hear that, Sarah,” she Said.  “How is your Mom?”

“She is better, thanks to God and the prayers of family and friends.”

“I’m happy to hear that.  What about your problems at work?”

“If you give me a lift home after the potluck, I can talk to you about my problems.”

Wendy smiled.  “All right,” she said.  “Let’s go and join the others.”  She reached out and gently squeezed Sarah’s hand as they walked back inside the church.

 

1

Moving Out

She stood there, suitcases packed in the small flat she had called home for eight years. Memories flooded her mind as she stepped to the window and gazed across at the park.   They had been so happy when they moved in.  After dating each other for two years, they decided that they would take big step of moving in together.   Of course, her parents hadn’t been thrilled.  They were Christians and didn’t believe in unmarried people living together.   At the time she wasn’t into church that much and felt that if two people loved each other, there wasn’t anything wrong with them living together.  This flat was Mike’s and hers.  Besides, they had talked about the possibility of getting married one day.

She smiled as she remembered how they had to order take out because she had burnt the roast because she had forgotten to set the timer.  It was the smoke coming out of the oven that alerted her and she managed to turn off the oven and open the windows before the smoke alarm went off.  Mike had been a good sport about it.  Since then, she had improved greatly in the kitchen.

The smile faded and tears sprang to her eyes.  She was leaving Mike.  After ten years together, she was ending their relationship.  It was hard.  She had invested so much in this relationship but she couldn’t continue like this.  Whenever she brought up the subject of them getting married, he seemed reluctant to talk about it or hedged around it until she dropped it.   Then, one evening she asked him point blank as they were having dinner if he wanted to get married.  He told her that he wasn’t ready.  He said that he liked things the way they were at the moment.  Marriage was a big step and he just wasn’t ready to take it right now.  Besides, they hadn’t really seriously talked about it, right?  It was something that was possible one of these days, just not now.  They were still young and had plenty of time to think about tying the knot.

She didn’t mention marriage again after that but it weighed on her mind.  Living together was troubling her now and it became a conviction when she started going to church with her friend.  The first time she went was when Mike was away on business. Carla invited her one Saturday morning and she absolutely loved it.  The people were so warm and friendly and she felt at home.  She went to church every Saturday after that and one day, she could have sworn that the pastor was speaking directly to her.  That day she was convinced that it was wrong for her to be living with a man she wasn’t married to.  When Mike got back from his trip she shared her feelings with him and he got angry.

“I will not be forced into getting married just because you suddenly have an attack of conscience,” he declared before he stormed out of the apartment.  After that their relationship was strained.  Whenever he wanted to make love, she said she had a headache until he finally stopped trying.  They hardly spoke.  Most of the time she ate alone.  He was gone when she got up in the mornings and was in bed when he got in. The business trips became more frequent.   She was miserable.  She spoke to Carla about it and her friend encouraged her to pray about the situation.  She did and she was convinced that God wanted her to move out.  And here she was.  Suitcases packed and ready to say goodbye to the man she had loved for ten years.  Marriage was out of the question as far as he was concerned and she couldn’t settle for less.  So, this was it.  She had to leave.  She was taking only her clothes and trinkets and books.  Everything else she was going to leave.  Carla offered her the guest room until she found a place.

She turned away from the window and walked over to the mantelpiece where several photos of Mike and her stood.  She reached for the one of them standing in front of the Eiffel Tower.  They had spent two weeks in Paris.  She had believed that they would return there one day–perhaps for their honeymoon.   She was tempted to take the photo but shook her head and turned away.  She didn’t want any reminders of what they once had.  The memories would always be there.  She didn’t need any physical reminders or mementos.  She glanced at the letter she had propped up beside the photo.  She had written it last night.  In it she explained why she had to leave and that she loved him. She will always love him.  She also mentioned that she would leave her key in the rental office.

She walked over to where her suitcases were and she pulled them behind her.  She opened the door and put them outside in the passageway and then turned and locked the door.   As she went slowly down the hallway, she felt as if her heart would break.   She left the key at the rental office, not seeing the curious look the woman gave her as she walked away.

Before she climbed into the taxi, she turned and looked up at the window of the flat which overlooked the park one final time.

looking to the sky

Forgive

Does a spring yield at the same opening sweet and bitter water? – James 3:11

The words poured forth like the waters of the dam, gushing out without restraint.  They had been bottled up all morning, threatening to break loose but somehow she had managed to keep them in check.  On the ride home on the bus, she clamped her lips together tightly as the thoughts swirled in her mind.

How could he bring another woman to church and sit in the same pew she and he used to sit in?  She hadn’t seen him since their break-up five years ago.  Why was he here today?  And why couldn’t he have come alone or with a friend?  Why did he have to bring his new girl-friend and sit there, holding hands for everyone to see?

Anger, bitterness well up in her and the worship service was forgotten—the words of the sermon faded into the background.  All she could hear were her thoughts.  All she could see were her ex and the new woman in his life.

How dare he show up at church like that?  She was over him but that didn’t mean that she wanted to see him again so soon and definitely, not with someone else.  She looked at her.  Young, beautiful and…white.

He was with a white woman of all things…A new wave of anger came over her.  How could he?  Was he done with black women?  Had things been so bad between them, that he had to date someone outside of his race?

The service was torture for her and as soon as it was over, she was out of there, rushing past the ushers and the pastor who gazed after her in surprise, his hand outstretched. She sprinted to the bus stop and waited for what seemed like eternity.

As soon as she got home, she let it all out.  She went into the bathroom, locked the door and the words spewed out this went on for a while.  Then when she was spent, a small, still voice said, “You blessed me with your mouth this morning and now you are using it to curse Daryl.  This ought not to be.”

Shame filled her and she sank down on the bath rug.    She had praised God that morning for being faithful and good to her during the praise time and then at the time when she should have listened to His Word, she had thought evil thoughts toward her ex and cussed him in her heart and mind.  Tears poured down her cheeks.  “Forgive me, Lord”, she cried.

“I already have,” He said.  “But you need to forgive Daryl.  You need to let go of the bitterness and anger that you have in your heart.   Only then can you begin to heal.  Do not fear, for I am with you;   do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will help you, yes, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”

His Words filled her heart with peace.  The toxic emotions which had overtaken her were dissipating.   The hurt and anger were still there and would take a while to go away but at least she had God to help her to reach the place where she could find it in her heart to forgive Daryl for breaking up with her and move on with her life.

MarriagePic

Sources:  James 3:11; Isaiah 41:10

Compassion

Shortly after Jesus told the Pharisees that God desired mercy not sacrifice, He went into the synagogue.  There was a man with a withered hand.  Instead of being stirred with pity for him, the religious leaders asked Jesus, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” so that they could accuse Him.  Whenever they engaged in dialogue with Him, it was never to learn from His teachings.  It was always to challenge Him and find reasons to accuse Him of being a Sinner.

It must have grieved Jesus to see the lack of compassion among men who considered themselves to be holy and righteous and children of God.  When He looked at them, He saw hypocrites.  And He addressed it.  “What man is there among you who has one sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not lay hold of it and lift it out? Then how much better is a man than a sheep? Therefore, it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”

He told the man to stretch out his hand and He restored it whole like the other.   The Pharisees were angry and they left, plotting how they would kill Him.  They failed to see that the Sabbath was not just a day of rest but it was an opportunity for helping people.  They had turned God’s holy day into a day of dos and don’ts.  Jesus showed them that there was a different type of work to be done on the Sabbath.  It was community work–reaching out to the needy and the sick.  He showed them that if it was lawful for one of them to pull a sheep out of a pit on the Sabbath, then it should be lawful for a man to be healed.  A human was of greater value in the eyes of God than an animal.

This man was in the synagogue and he had a need.  Jesus saw it and addressed it.  Are there people in our church like this man who has an obvious need but like the Pharisees we see it but will do nothing about it?  Do we resent those who reach out in love and compassion to this person in need?  Do we grumble and complain?  Would God be happy to accept our worship or our offerings when we are not generous toward that person in our midst?  Jesus brought joy to the man.  He brought healing and wholeness and showed him that the God he worshipped cared about him.

Just as Jesus valued this man, we should value those around us.  Sabbath-keeping does not mean that we should ignore the needs of those around us.  The Sabbath is for doing what is good and showing the love of God for His creation.  When we do what is lawful on the Sabbath, we are honoring God.