Monday, August 18, 2014

Power and Equality

Friends of Faith:

First I would ask your prayers for Andy who began a seven day silent retreat yesterday as part of his orientation to Mundelein seminary where he will be studying theology for the next 4 years before his priestly ordination. Please pray that the challenge of living physically and mentally without any “outside” interference (primarily his IT devices) will lead to a deep spiritual “inside” connection to God’s call in his life.

"Thus says the LORD: Observe what is right, do what is just; for my salvation is about to come, my justice, about to be revealed.
The foreigners who join themselves to the LORD, ministering to him, loving the name of the LORD, and becoming his servants—all who keep the sabbath free from profanation and hold to my covenant, them I will bring to my holy mountain and make joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be acceptable on my altar, for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.
Is 56: 1, 6-7

Insiders and outsiders, power and equality, foreigners and citizens, the chosen and the outcasts.

Our world is a dichotomy and a struggle to have both equality and power. In order to have earthly power, control, superiority, and to be “inside” then someone else must be “outside.” It is common to give power to the governmental elite who are able to make decisions which affect my lifestyle; to let the “inside”elite set societal norms; and to feel that the “chosen” are those who have money which set the standards for what I then think I deserve.

And these power struggles in turn create a social struggle directly opposite because of our innate desire to be “equal” – to have “equal” rights, “equal”opportunity, and “equal” choices.

Reality and entertainment are challenged by our competitive nature: our desire to win, to be the best, to be the leader, to be big, and to be chosen, accepted, powerful, and righteous.

And yet in “equal” there is no winner or loser, no hierarchy of power, no big or little, no leader or follower, no inside or outside, no control over another person, no principality, no more or less, there is nothing that is deserved.

“I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But the woman came and did Jesus homage, saying, “Lord, help me.” He said in reply, “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” She said,“Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.” Then Jesus said to her in reply, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And the woman’s daughter was healed from that hour. Mt 15: 21-28

While I might deem the most powerful person as the pope, president, king or queen or doctor; you might deem the most powerful as your boss, the mayor, even a sports team, coach or player. It depends on our context in asking the question, or even in the context of the time the question is asked.

So who really deems me “the winner?” Who do I think is the most powerful? Who really chooses me as an “insider?”

As a Christian whose ultimate goal is heaven, there can be only one answer: God! It is through him I am created equal, it is in Him I am given power. It is by Him I will be allowed “inside” and it is by Him I hope to be chosen.

HE must be first and I must be last. Will I choose to be the obedient child of the Father, with no false god’s before me? Will I give selfless, unconditional service to all others? Will I live and serve faithfully under His commandments? And will I respect those to whom God has given earthly authority?

Heavenly Father, You are the one and only power. We are created in Your image and likeness. I strive to live as Your chosen. Thank you for giving me all that I need each day. Help me to honor you by living in faithful acceptance and with the sincere trust it takes to set aside worldly inequality. Help me to accept the challenges of sacrifice and suffering so that I may be your willing witness to others. Amen.

God is the only power. And thankfully we are created equal in His likeness. I seek only to be accepted and chosen by Him. May you choose the same.

Blessings,
Charlotte

Monday, August 11, 2014

Always present


Women of Faith:
And we wait, and we listen, and we watch and we hope.

“Then the LORD said to him, “Go outside and stand on the mountain before the LORD; the LORD will be passing by.” A strong and heavy wind was rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the LORD— but the LORD was not in the wind.  After the wind there was an earthquake— but the LORD was not in the earthquake.  After the earthquake there was fire— but the LORD was not in the fire.  After the fire there was a tiny whispering sound.  When he heard this, Elijah hid his face in his cloak and went and stood at the entrance of the cave.” 1 Kings 19: 11-13
“During the fourth watch of the night, he came toward them walking on the sea. When the disciples saw him walking on the sea they were terrified. “It is a ghost,” they said, and they cried out in fear. At once Jesus spoke to them, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” Peter said to him in reply, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw how strong the wind was he became frightened; and, beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught Peter, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” Mt 14: 25-31

Is there anything too big for God? No… but it is not unusual to doubt, because the answer is in the silence and there is so little silence in this world we live in today.
I am constantly reminding myself, especially in these past few weeks that God is present, God is with us, and God has a purpose. Because I am human and even with this constant “self talk,” the self doubt is never far away, but with small reminders, gentle winds, I remain at peace—knowing that God is in the whispers of encouragement and support, holding me up in a stormy sea.

There’s no space that His love can’t reach, There’s no place where we can’t find peace, There’s no end to amazing grace. “Take me in with Your arms spread wide, Take me in like an orphan child, Never let go, Never leave my side. “I am, Holding on to You, I am, Holding on to You. In the middle of the storm, I am holding on, I am. “Love like this, Oh my God to find. I am overwhelmed, With a joy divine. Love like this sets our hearts on fire.” “This is my resurrection song, This is my halleluiah come, This is why it’s to You I run.” I Am by David Crowder www.life1019.com/#songs/i-am-2/
So am I like Peter asking to walk on water, being given what I ask for, and then quickly forgetting or doubting that Christ is with me—always present? Is my doubt shown in my failure to say “thank you,” or by a greed that asks for more, not satisfied and content with what I already have?

Do I remember that Christ is always with me, wanting me to make my decisions by constantly seeking to choose the path directly beside him? Or do I try to make my own way thinking that all I need to do is be near the boat, choosing to get in only when it is at my convenience?
Heavenly Father Your presence is my stronghold, without you I am nothing. Help me to take the time to be silent so that I can feel your presence in the whisper of the gentle breeze. Keep me in your boat, rowing beside you, trusting your direction, staying afloat. Thank you for giving me the faith to know you are always present. Amen.

Without God, there is doubt and the sea is stormy and unmanageable. With God there is a constant gentle breeze, peaceful and calming. Don’t wait until you are sinking to choose Him.
Today may we seek Him, choose Him and allow Him to help us walk on water,
Blessings,

Charlotte

Monday, August 4, 2014

Tomorrow Never Comes

Friends of Faith:
Don’t put off until tomorrow, what you can do today. Now is the time.

“Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.” Mother Teresa
Yesterday’s readings were all about God providing… for today’s needs. But in my human nature, I am always searching for tomorrow’s desires instead of thanking God for the blessings he is providing me today. AND instead of using those blessings for God’s call, I often find myself responding that I will make time “tomorrow.” 

“Today somebody is suffering, today somebody is in the street, today somebody is hungry. ... We have only today to make Jesus known, loved, served, fed, clothed, sheltered. Do not wait for tomorrow. Tomorrow we will not have them if we do not feed them today.”  Mother Teresa, The Joy in Loving: A Guide to Daily Living

“But now, listen to what I am about to state in your hearing and the hearing of all the people. From of old, the prophets who were before you and me prophesied war, woe, and pestilence against many lands and mighty kingdoms. But the prophet who prophesies peace is recognized as truly sent by the LORD only when his prophetic prediction is fulfilled.” Jer 28: 7-9 (emphasis added)

So, am I so busy planning for a tomorrow that will never come that I am missing the peace and the joys of today? And, am I so busy helping myself that I am failing to help others who are searching for and waiting to be fed – with my smile, with a kind word, with the fulfillment of a need which opens their eyes or ears and speaks to them of Jesus’ presence?

Right now I am praying for patience until our building is released so that we can go in and recover, then demolish, and then rebuild. But I realize as I pray for patience I often find myself more focused on asking for what I can’t have, then for speaking about all that I do have – offices and space to operate out of, family and neighbors sent to help out – blessings of gifts and provisions too countless to even fully acknowledge, blessings of peace I won’t fully recognize until the predictions of a new building are fulfilled.

So while it is often tempting to focus on and ask for tomorrow’s gifts, it is today that I am needed, today that needs me, today that I can make a difference and it is for today that God provides.

“What will separate us from the love of Christ? Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword?  No, in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly through him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Rm 8: 35-39

And what separates me from answering God today? It is only me and my desire to make my own answers for tomorrow– sin caused by greed, fear, and a lack of trust because I am trying to have control, provide and protect myself instead of giving God an opportunity to rule over death, life, powers, principalities and time.

“Thus says the LORD: All you who are thirsty, come to the water! You who have no money, come, receive grain and eat; Come, without paying and without cost, drink wine and milk! Why spend your money for what is not bread; your wages for what fails to satisfy? Heed me, and you shall eat well, you shall delight in rich fare. Come to me heedfully ,listen, that you may have life.” Is 55: 1-3

Heavenly Father, Your love is the answer. Help me to rely on You—to be in Your presence and Your peace by saying yes when you ask me to spread that peace and love to others. Help me to filter out the noise of tomorrow, and instead find the patience to enjoy what you provide me today. Make ME an instrument of Your peace. Thank you for the gift of today. Amen.

God will provide – he will give us peace, if we recognize Him, by thanking him for the peace we have today instead of trying to look far into the future. And when we get to the future we will look back and say, yes God has provided the answers, he offered us peace – if only we had taken it, been content and waited not for tomorrow, but had enjoyed all we were given today.

So what good for God have you been putting off until tomorrow? When you stop to think that tomorrow may never come, what is it that you wish you would have done today?
Plan today to give God glory by what you do TODAY,
Blessings,
Charlotte

Monday, July 28, 2014

Overcomer


Friends of Faith:
I spent some time traveling and listening to Christian music yesterday – music that gained new meaning for Stan when he shared it with the high school youth who experienced an overturned raft in a class four whitewater rapids during their service trip last week.

“You're an overcomer. Stay in the fight ‘til the final round. You're not going under. ‘Cause God is holding you right now. You might be down for a moment. Feeling like it's hopeless. That's when He reminds You. That you're an overcomer. You're an overcomer. Everybody's been down. Hit the bottom, hit the ground. Oh, you're not alone. Just take a breath, don't forget. Hang on to His promises. He wants You to know.” Lyrics by Mandisa
It made me think about the hope given to us by Christ Jesus through His death and His resurrection. About the hope he gives to us, both in times of crisis and joy. We cannot be held down if we allow God to pull us up. We are not alone when we hang on to His promise and when we take every breath with the thankfulness that it is through Him that we live and breathe.

Jesus said to his disciples: “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls. When he finds a pearl of great price, he goes and sells all that he has and buys it.” Mt 13:44-46
And the lyrics take on additional meaning when they are blended with Sunday’s reading…. When I am asked to give up everything to overcome, to find the treasure of heaven….. That God’s promise may be buried deep inside, even in emptiness. But when I seek to unearth His goodness and give Him all of my treasures, all of my dreams and hopes, then I can and will overcome.

Heavenly Father: Your love is perfect. I am asked to unearth my treasure, to give you everything earthly and to hang on to the pearls of your promises. You are my hope, my encouragement and my leader, holding me up so that I may overcome. Help me to believe and trust in your presence in every part of my life. Amen.

May we see that the real treasure of life, the treasure that will help us overcome, is the presence of Christ in our every trial, action and adventure.
May you always overcome through the intercession and grace of God’s perfection,
Blessings,
Charlotte

Monday, July 21, 2014

A Smile

Friends of Faith:
Smiling is a universal language. “Smile and the world smiles with you.” “A smile is the shortest distance between two people.” “Smiles multiply.” “You are someone’s reason to smile.” “A smile through tears is the most beautiful smile.” “A smile makes the world go round.” (I think this one should be, “a smile goes around the world.”) “Use your smile to change the world today but don’t let the world change your smile.” And, “Peace begins with a smile”—Mother Teresa.

 
As I was relating “fire stories” to one friend, she commented, “sounds like God has given you a few small miracles.” And I commented back—“yes, God has given us many BIG miracles.” Miracle after miracle, smile after smile—I wonder what God is thinking—not just about my own reactions, but about the reactions to the reactions of my actions, about how his miracles, his blessings are being carried forward. I hope each of my smiles is being carried on, multiplying as it travels, becoming love, peace and joy for someone who needs it more than this someone who is already so blessed.

 
"Jesus proposed a parable to the crowds, saying: “The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a man who sowed good seed in his field. While everyone was asleep his enemy came and sowed weeds all through the wheat, and then went off. When the crop grew and bore fruit, the weeds appeared as well. The slaves of the householder came to him and said, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where have the weeds come from?’ He answered,‘An enemy has done this.’ His slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’ He replied, ‘No, if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them. Let them grow together until harvest; then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters, “First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning; but gather the wheat into my barn.”’”

“He proposed another parable to them. “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that a person took and sowed in a field. It is the smallest of all the seeds, yet when full-grown it is the largest of plants. It becomes a large bush, and the ‘birds of the sky come and dwell in its branches.’” He spoke to them another parable. “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed with three measures of wheat flour until the whole batch was leavened.” ….His disciples approached him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.” He said in reply, “He who sows good seed is the Son of Man, the field is the world, the good seed the children of the kingdom. The weeds are the children of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels….”” Mt 13:24-43

 
This weekend’s reading of the parable of sowing weeds amongst the good seed, and of the parable of the mustard seed, made me draw parallels between the sowing, growing, greatness and strength of the Christian community to the likeness of the spreading of a smile, just as God spreads the seed, and of the smallness of the mustard seed, to the seeming smallness of a smile which grows great and strong.

 
There is also the parallel of the devil that sows and promotes weeds to the everyday spreading of rumors and untruths, wherever possible, into every event of our lives, with the hope to cause us as Christians to believe the weeds are real, and to fail or make us forget to look around for real beauty, true blessings, growing around us.

And how God’s hand, his seed, is always the greater, better part of every circumstance: how his seed, like the mustard seed, like a glimmer of a smile, always grows stronger, taking over the entire field if we nurture and spread it—leaving the weeds behind, to be gathered at the end and burned, while the beauty of the flowers of the field are gathered by angels.
But what if what God plants, we as Christians sit back and ignore, become complacent and accepting of the weeds, allowing rumors and untruths to grow? Won’t this then mean the devil is being allowed a ground to play on, and the beauty of the flowers growing in the field could be overshadowed?

 
Heavenly Father, Your seed is strong, Your smile is powerful. I know I am as small as a mustard seed. Help me to become strong in faith so that my seeds, my smiles, will grow and spread. Thank you for your continued blessings of the smiles you send to give me peace and encourage me, the seeds of Christian friends, who support me when I am weak. Help us together to uphold the beauty of Your field, the Church, a community of love. Amen.

 
So as to kill some of those weeds, the rumors: we are doing fine; the shop, both sales and service, are up and running thanks to wonderful neighbors and friends; our insurance company is treating us well; I am thankful for my new offices downtown and enjoying having neighbors to smile at. And Stan’s phones are working J.

 
Please continue to pray for a resolution by the Fire Marshall as to the cause of the fire so we can begin demolition and rebuilding. As they are doing their job, God is developing our patience.

Although His miracles, like our smiles, might be small at first – His miracles, just like our smiles, are always big as they grow and spread into others’ worlds. When we are weak, he is strong.
 
If you are struggling to smile because you have no one physically smiling at you just try Googling: “smiles!!!” (And see the poem below)




The smile on my face doesn’t mean life is perfect; it means I appreciate what I have and what God has blessed me with.
Keep smiling, God loves you. Do me (or someone) a favor and smile, for you are someone else’s reason to smile,
Blessings,
Charlotte


PS: I couldn’t resist posting this poem – insert a smile at every dare…..
Dare to Be
When a new day begins, dare to smile gratefully.
When there is darkness, dare to be the first to shine a light.

When there is injustice, dare to be the first to condemn it.
When something seems difficult, dare to do it anyway.
When life seems to beat you down, dare to fight back.
When there seems to be no hope, dare to find some.
When you’re feeling tired, dare to keep going.
When times are tough, dare to be tougher.
When love hurts you, dare to love again.
When someone is hurting, dare to help them heal.
When another is lost, dare to help them find the way.
When a friend falls, dare to be the first to extend a hand.
When you cross paths with another, dare to make them smile.
When you feel great, dare to help someone else feel great too.
When the day has ended, dare to feel as you’ve done your best.
Dare to be the best you can –
At all times, Dare to be!”
Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free

Monday, July 14, 2014

Growing Our Identity


Friends of Faith:
Who am I?

When Moses asked this question of God, he answered, “I am, who I am.” Ex 3:14
God’s identity is supreme, it is stripped of anything or anyone else—it is supremely one, He is supremely his own. And God’s desire for us is that we become like him, holy and without blemish, because he formed us in his image and likeness (Gn 1: 26)

Our identity, then, should not be defined by how we see ourselves or how someone else sees us, by what we own or don’t own, or by whom we know or don’t know, but rather only by how God sees us.
Yet in our human nature, all of us try to identify ourselves either by what we do, by what we have or by whom we know or are associated with (I am an accountant, he is the Chicago Cubs pitcher, they are the ones with the child who …., she’s the one that wears the fancy hat or drives the red sports car, they’re the ones with the mansion of a house or a great “man cave,” or they’re the ones who we always see with … at the football game).

And when I lose my ability to be an accountant, when the ball player loses his ability to throw a ball 99 miles an hour, when a child can’t or doesn’t have the desire to achieve all that we thought they should or could, when our car is wrecked or our house is blown over by a tornado, or when our friends move on – who are we then, who do we become without all this stuff, without all that we do, or without someone we thought we could depend on?
“And he spoke to them at length in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow.  And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and birds came and ate it up.  Some fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil.  It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep, and when the sun rose it was scorched, and it withered for lack of roots. Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it. But some seed fell on rich soil and produced fruit, a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.  Whoever has ears ought to hear.” Mt 13: 2-9

This parable isn’t just about what we do, but rather it is about growing our identity in and through our faith, about opening our ears and hearts to listen to God’s word (the seed) to be sure that it falls on rich ground (us.)
God’s word is like pure refreshing water. We can treasure and accept it like a cleansing rain or try to control it and make our own—eroding the soil and his truth, rejecting it as somehow polluted because we believe man’s ways are better than God’s ways.

I am asked to examine where the richness of my faith lies: in rich soil, Him, or choked out by the rocks and weeds of power or greed. I am asked to look for, recognize, and pull out the weeds and rocks in my life by examining and prioritizing Him over the materialism which overtakes the growth of the identity he desires for me.
I desire roots which are firmly planted in the truths of His church, nurtured by prayer and formation, and which will allow me to overcome the peer pressures of an immoral society.

I hope to grow my identity upwards, so that the fruit I am gifted with will become pollen for others by evangelization and the spreading of His good news.   
Heavenly Father, You are the greatest farmer, with seed so rich it fills my every need.  Refresh me with the pure, true and living water of Your Spirit. Help me to weed out the impurities of my life and strip myself of earthly riches, of the rocks and thorns which overshadow the identity you desire. May I bear fruit not of human materialism, but of a love which cares for and serves others. Help me to become more like your “I am,” created anew: holy, pure, humble and grateful to live in this, your heavenly garden. Amen.

Is my soul growing richer in God’s identity each day? Will I bear heavenly fruit?
May we reach out to each other to grow in faith together,
Blessings,
Charlotte

Monday, July 7, 2014

Meek and Humble of Heart

Friends of Faith:

“See, your king shall come to you; a just savior is he, meek, and riding on an ass, on a colt, the foal of an ass.” Zec 9:9

Christ did not come to us as a knight in shining armor riding in on a high horse, but rather he comes to us meek and humble, riding on a lowly ass.
And he did not reveal himself to the haughty and rich, the smart and the learned, but rather to the “little ones.”

“At that time Jesus exclaimed: “I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to little ones.” Mt 11: 25-26
He revealed himself to the little ones, because just as any parent is to a child, that is when we are the most trusting, when like a little child I listened, hanging on to their every word, obeying their correction and accepting their love unconditionally.

But as I grow older, I deceive myself into thinking I have become wiser, that I have learned to do everything I need to do, and that “I can do it by myself.”
I often forget that it is through God that I am able to anything, yet alone everything.

Again this is not just today’s verse, for today’s situation, it is everyone’s verse, for every situation.
“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” Mt 11: 28-30

So, when I trust in God, when I listen to him, my decisions are easy, because they are his. HE makes my burdens light, he gives me knowledge, courage, strength, understanding and most importantly HE gives me peace.
Heavenly Father, send down your Spirit to ride into my life. Help me to realize that He will not come as a knight in shining armor, but meek and humble—whispering in the night. May I meet Him not on my own high horse, feeling as if I know everything, but rather, may I come to Him as he does to me, riding meekly and mildly, with an open heart, trusting and willing to follow His every command, listening for His whispers in the night. Help me to be His faithful child today. Amen.

This is Stan’s and my prayer as we face the challenges of rebuilding and restoring this week. Piece by piece God gives us answers and what we can handle, making our burden light, giving us an inner peace. Not necessarily taking away the problem, but rather making it not mine/ours, but giving us His answers and His peace to continue forward.
As of today we are still unable to enter the building, pray for our patience and an answer in this area. Our focus this week will be to get the parts that we were able to salvage more readily accessible and to finish building temporary office for our sales and parts departments.

We ask your continued prayers for safety and good health for us and all who are working to help us. And we thank God for the freedoms our nation has bestowed on us that allow us the choices to serve others in a way that honors Him.
I pray that each of you will not deceive yourselves into thinking you can “do it yourselves,” but instead meekly and mildly accept God’s hand in your lives,
Blessings,
Charlotte