Monday, May 28, 2012

The Beauty of Long-Term

I'm basking in the pleasure of face-to-face time with a long-time friend who moved to Germany and is now back home for a short visit. Our friendship spans many years filled with good memories, heartaches shared and new beginnings.  We changed baby diapers on each other's floors-our bodies never even thinking twice about kneeling down and then getting back up again with baby in tow. Our toddlers shared playpen space, gumming grahm crackers while we volleyed tennis balls on a court close by.  She and I are part of a morning breakfast club with several other friends we still relate to.  I enjoy this privilege every week; she, whenever visits to the States allows.  In fact, today we took advantage of this holiday morning to meet at McDonalds at 7:30 am, despite the ribbing of our husbands who claim holidays were made for sleeping in.  Show me anything that beats girlfriend time with women who have weathered 3 decades of me and still love me.  One made the comment this morning that she's convinced our cluster of closeness has kept her from needing a therapist. 

I remember a season when a life choice I made wasn't totally understood or accepted by these friends and I was close to walking away from the group.  How glad I am that I stayed!  In spite of disagreement, hurtful feelings and some uncomfortable moments we loved each other well and kept praying for one another.  I didn't want to lose my investment in the friendships.  As seniorhood advances there is not enough of life left to build new relationships that would ever have this length of shared history.

Our society's current disposable lifestyle has stolen more than landfill space, china plates, and photo albums.  What about church membership abandoned after a trivial offense? Or the marriage ditched because it just became too hard to be happy?  Or credit ruined from debt wracked up because the old wasn't in style anymore?  Sure people can make adjustments to new surroundings and new spouses, and sentimental saving sometimes leads to horder's hell, but what about the things that can never be regained? 

Like severed relationships that tear away security and the rhythms of forgiveness. 

Romans 5: 3-5 says, "...we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us." 

If we stay in the fray we could gain perseverance, character and hope, and avoid some disappointment.  Lifelong spouses can become seasoned lovers, comfortable with each others quirks and quibbles, able to share together adult parenthood, grandparenting and years of memories and dreams.

As advertizers promote the newest techno fads and glitzy gadgets in their loud-voice offers, let's not fall prey to believing new is always better.  I'd be the first in line for free handouts of iPads and you won't catch me ever washing with a wringer washer like my mother used, but by God's help and grace I'm not letting go of friends who have seen me at my worst and still love me or of an imperfect husband who is constant in his love and care for me.  Suffering is not to be dreaded or avoided because my God works it over into stick-to-it-ness, genuine-ness and the assurance-of-the-eternal-things-not-seen-yet.

Life may bring loss and tearing apart that we have no control over, or don't see any other way to go, and starting over can be a refreshing gift from him, but let's allow it to be his wisdom that directs us, his love that shows us how to love better, and his patience to wait for his timing. The rewards of long-term faithfulness are priceless.

Thank you, Father, for loving me long-term and for your long-term eternalness. Help me live life as you intended me to receive it.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

He is Worthy to be Praised!

Our Revelation study has come to an end.  Here are some of the things I've learned and I now possess the blessing, as Chapter 1, verse 3 promises: "Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near."

Let me share some of the happiness. ('blessed' in Strong's Concordance is defined as 'fortunate, good, happy in receiving God's favor')

Our God is Creator
   All creation longs for His newness and release from this present age.  I, too, can be expectant of
   glories to come that far exceed my imagination. What a homecoming party that will be. 

Our God is Sovereign and praise to him never ends
   The praise resonates in this book from mouths bowed down in worship, from voices flying high,
   from choirs singing, all declaring the greatness of his majesty.  I have reason anew to
   purposefully offer my praise as I take in the awesomeness that John tries to translate from vision to

Our God is pure and holy

   All is undefiled and holy in his presence.  The cry of holy, holy, holy never ceases. Nothing impure
   will ever enter the new city.  The saints dwell there, those who have been washed clean in the
   blood of the Lamb and whose names appear in the book of life.  If I believe in Jesus, he's purified me
   and I am NOW heaven worthy.  I have no reason to fear judgment, then or now.  Voices from my
   past have tried motivating us to better living by fear-based threats that we will still have to give
   account for our sins on judgment day.  This study better helped me understand the completeness of
   my salvation.
   There is NO condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, period.  Our motivation to righteous
   living is based on gratitude for sins forgiven and the incredible truth that we are chosen to do
   good works with him, that he's custom fitted for each one of us.   There won't be judgment for me;
   there will be rewards!

Our God is compassionate and passionately in love with the people he's created.
    As we studied the effects of devastation on the earth from seals, bowls, and trumpets of
    judgment,   it  was interesting to note that the Almighty didn't wipe out mankind in one swipe of
    wrath.  Fires, injury, darkness,  earthquakes come in stages and when the text says that unbelievers
   "still did not repent" I know God is allowing time, not willing that any should perish. Does my heart
    long for more to know him? I am deeply challenged.

Our God is right now preparing our new home, taking great delight in making a place for us filled with
surprises and goodness and beauty beyond our wildest dreams.
   John was spellbound by what he saw.  An angel had to remind him three times throughout the book
   to write down what he was sensing. He describes a city with no night, no crying, no pain, and the
   constant presence of Jesus.  Do I anticipate this destination of my faith?  I do more now
   than when the study began! Come soon, Lord Jesus!

Our God is just.
   The fate of the wicked has been decided.  Each one has rejected God's wooing and
   fair chances to repent.  The end will come.  Wickedness and those who have not believed in Jesus
   will suffer the judgment of hell.  The people of God will be vindicated. Martyrs of Christ and the
   persecuted will be avenged.  We, the saints, will never confront evil again. I struggle to imagine
   this state of purity and wholeness.  I am in awe.

Our God is Redeemer.

   Because of Jesus, the Lamb that was slain, there is one worthy to bring this all to culmination.  God
   made a way for us to share divine fellowship with the trinity, forever! I have believed in Jesus, and
   the good work he's begun in me he will bring to completion. My name is written in the lamb's book
   of life. I'm invited to the wedding feast of Jesus and his bride. I am the bride of Christ.

May you be encouraged through these thoughts, brought to you by the book of Revelation.