The Hand Print of God

It was a dubious, thankless job. But I was willing to do whatever was asked of me to help out. My job? To clean the interior of aircraft with a bucket of water and and magic eraser. This plane was a vintage 1940’s but had been repurposed to haul goods, people and mail to the poorest parts of the Caribbean, specifically the country of Haiti. In recent months Haiti has seen its share of disasters including a large earthquake. The plane I was set out to clean that day was awaiting a replacement engine, so it had been grounded for awhile. As I entered the darkened cabin, I surveyed the interior and began to sum up the task of cleaning the side walls, panels and ceiling. And then I noticed it… the small, child- sized hand print on one of the windows. It was silhouetted against the backdrop of the hangar. It sparked my interest as I contemplated how it got there and whose it might be. It was obvious that it had been a hand reaching out from the seat just below the window, pressing against it. Was it from a missionary family’s child? Was it from a Haitian child being airlifted to a hospital due to the earthquake?

I’ll probably never know the identity, but it spoke to me that day, and provide the incentive I needed for the humbling task ahead of me. It put a real dimension to the work I was helping with. The real human equation that connected me to others who had sat in those seats and with those who would be sitting on that plane when it took off again. Providing help and aid to those who need it in the places not so far from my own country. Close, but yet a definite world away. I thought of my own children sitting in those seats and how many finger prints and hand smudges I had cleaned on the windows of our minivan.

It also reminded me of how often we fail to see God at work. We see all the bad in the world and think, there is so much! What can I even begin to do to change this world? But every little bit we do helps and we must also remember that we do not do it alone. God empowers us through the Holy Spirit, encourages us in His word, and leads us through His wisdom to show up at the places where we are needed, even if that is to clean a plane on my day off. God is working. He has been working as we know; He sent Jesus. This world is still not ready for His return and in the mean time, there is so much we can do, but we need to realize that God is at work. Just like that hand print that gave proof, if you will, of the work the mission flights were doing, stop and look around you and look for God’s hand print in this world, in your own world, it’s there.

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. (Philippians 1:6 New Living Translation)

God Bless- Nancy

Pressing Forward

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. – The Apostle Paul in his letter to the Philippians. 3:12

My husband built a very sturdy desk for me, which is my writing desk. The desk is in front of a window which gives me the perfect view outside to the street. We live on a corner, so actually my view is not one, but two streets. It gives me the vantage point of observing the life around me as I write. Often, it becomes the inspiration for my writing and podcasting. So, this morning, like many others I was inspired by the runners outside. Every morning and afternoon I watch as several neighbors get their daily exercise in by running the streets near my home. I admire them. They are dedicated. I am not. I’m not much of a runner anymore and I was never a long distance runner, but more of the fifty- yard dasher in my high school days. I was all about the speed and not about the marathon.

The apostle Paul spends a great deal of time talking about life as a race, like a marathon. So, even though I don’t claim to be a marathoner, it is what I am doing in this life. Life isn’t a dash, but a long distance run. My neighbors who run would understand the analogy that Paul writes about I’m sure.

What struck me this morning was that these runners, whether they realized it or not, could stop at any moment and yet they would still be moving forward. This whole planet is constantly revolving, moving, spinning, so are we. But also life is constantly moving forward. We have no control over this forward movement. I heard someone recently comment that we cannot control our circumstances and what happens but we can control our perspective. So true. There are some things we can control, of course, but we cannot stop life from moving forward. We cannot stop time.

As I also heard a comment recently about the decision to move forward. But given that we are all already moving forward in life, this too seems to be not completely accurate. It might appear at times that we are stopped, stuck, in a long queue line, or in a rut. I’ve often felt like that and I’m sure you have too. Life just isn’t changing fast enough. Our circumstances seem stuck, not getting any better, maybe even getting worse. But, truthfully, life has not stopped. So the decision to move forward isn’t actually a reality, but rather deciding how we will keep moving forward despite the circumstances we are in. Sometimes we do need to make changes and change our perspective or our attitudes, but we do not control life or time. We must choose how we can be moving forward. I like Paul’s view of pressing on. It is this constant choice to keep pressing on, to keep moving forward.

One of the runners I have been watching from my window has given me a great deal of encouragement for pressing on and moving forward. I have watched as they first started their daily routine. At first they would walk by my house; not fast, but slow and steady. Next, I notice they added more movement in their arms and hand weights. Then a few weeks later, I watched as they began to jog at a slow pace. This morning as they went past, they had a definite runner’s gate and were using their arms to move along as well. They had been finding their stride to move forward. And as I have been watching and observing them, I am encouraged that I too can begin to join in moving forward, past this moment of feeling stuck in a rut, even if it is a slow pace at first; walking before running. But pressing on, making good decisions, working on my attitudes and perspectives to try to see God’s perspective. Life is moving forward, I do not choose to move forward as though I can control it, but I can choose how I will be moving forward and pressing forward to align more with what God has designed. This is what a faith walk looks like, not a dash, but a marathon, God Bless- Nancy

Bloom

Bloom where you’re planted. Have you ever heard someone say that? What did you think when you heard it? Did you agree? Or did you feel a little bit anxious?  I would probably be in the latter group. Don’t get me wrong, there are times when we just need to stay put and learn to adapt and grow where ever we find ourselves. We need to persevere throughout the difficult places and circumstances we find ourselves in. But, then there are other times when we need to move on. Sometimes change can be good for us, but it is the fear of the unknown that keeps us stuck where we are.

The known is comfortable and safe. We might not like our circumstances, but we are afraid to step out and try something new and different. For some of us we are afraid of getting hurt again. For others we are afraid of failure. Or we are afraid of rejection. So, we stay in our circumstances and become fruitless, rather than fruitful.

When my husband was in the military, we moved to new stations about every three to five years. Every move was a chance to start over, learning a new area, its culture, its best food places and stores, and changing churches. Some people might not understand this nomadic lifestyle, but I actually enjoyed it very much. I really like to travel and I like to discover new places. I actually get bored if I am in a place too long without finding something new to discover.

Over the years I have learned that to be fruitful I need others who will inspire me. When we moved to a new area, my husband and I would always begin with a search for a new church home. We would choose carefully, looking at doctrine and fellowship. There were times when churches shifted their focus and doctrines and we needed to find another church.

Now that we are retired, we don’t move as often and there have been times when we have grown complacent with church. It’s too easy to stay than to try somewhere new. We put up with doctrine and people who did little to encourage and spur us on to be fruitful. We needed to be challenged to move on and find others who spur us on to bloom.

Sometimes it is true that we do need to bloom where we find ourselves, but if we aren’t blooming then maybe we need to ask if God is telling us to step out of our comfortable complacency. Maybe we need a new church or new friends.

This morning I was reading Paul’s letter to the Philippians and found myself reminded how much Paul encourages this church. He was an encourager, who prayed for them and wrote encouraging letters to them. He sent others to encourage them and promised to visit them. We all need Paul’s in our life and we need to be Paul’s in other’s lives. we need good friends who will build us up not drain us. We are called to be fruitful, not fruitless and we need others to bloom who encourage us to bloom. The point is to bloom. Blooms produce fruit. Are you blooming?  -God Bless Nancy

Can We Talk…..

Lately I’ve been thinking about social media and how its shaped our lives. Wait… don’t scroll by and assume I’m bashing technology and media. I’m not. But, I’m really wondering if we can still talk. I mean, has the art of conversation disappeared? And I’m not talking about sitting around and just talking, but being social, you know, the social of social media.  The sharing of our lives with others. The pictures, the updates, the good stuff. And might I add the “real” of our lives, not the perfectly staged pictures of our lives. And I’m not talking about younger generations here, but people closer to my own. It seems to me they can be the worst offenders. Social media can be a great way to keep up with others and share your life with them. We do not all live in the same town or same state or same country anymore, so keeping in touch through media is a great way to stay connected.

But, I’ve been noticing over the last few years how awful some social media sites have gotten. We have reduced it all to political ads and one liners. We’ve all shared those cute cat or dog videos, or nice encouraging phrases or Bible verses, but really it seems its gotten to a whole new level recently. It seems like we all try to find that perfectly succinct phrase that is like a check-mate. It’s not encouraging; its just like boom! That’s it! The answer to it all, the drop the mic,  the “I’ve topped you all in my comments here!” And I’ll be honest, when I read those, I think, “Wow, are they mad at me? or wow that sounds like they are talking about me.”  Some suggest if you read posts like that and feel guilty, maybe you’re harboring unforgivness or something. But really, can we as imperfect people really have the perfect anecdote to life? Why are we trying to outdo each other all the time? Do we really think we are better than others?

As a Christian, being accused of thinking I’m better than others comes with the territory. That is, a whole lot of people think that’s how we (Christians) think of ourselves. But… the reality is that’s not not what the Bible teaches. Philippians is a great book of the Bible to read if you want to understand how we should think of ourselves. Here’s just a part:

“If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also the interests of others” (Philippians 2:1-4, New International Version).

So, there you have the real answer, from the Apostle Paul… be humble, think of others better than yourselves, don’t be vain, conceited or selfish. But, wait a minute, why WAS Paul writing this to a bunch of people in Philippi? I mean there wasn’t social media back then? Well, as advanced as we become, the problem of human nature is still the same, whether its the first century or the 21st.

So my challenge in this new year is to not drop out of social media, but make it better, by sharing life with each other, not to impress others, but to share what God is doing in our lives, to reach out when we need encouragement or prayer, to ask for help, and to offer real hope, the real anecdote, found in Christ, not one liners or cute memes. Let’s not ghost each other or even leave social media. Let’s keep those connections to each other, and let’s talk. -God Bless- Nancy

Handling The Press

What do you think of when you hear the word press? Probing news reporters asking pointed questions trying to trip up or incriminate a politician? Or maybe you picture the paparazzi trying to catch a scandalous photo of the Hollywood celeb. We’ve all seen the tabloid pictures staring at us at the grocery store check out lines. There is always a picture of a celebrity donning a hat and sunglasses out an about in public without hair and makeup done to perfection. They are usually trying to avoid having their photo taken.

But, the press I want to discuss today is the press necessary to keep moving forward. Not long ago I heard a message on the subject of Paul’s pressing on as found in the Book of Philippians. When Paul wrote this letter to the church he had established there ten years prior, he himself was in prison in Rome. He had gotten word that the church he had planted there was still meeting and growing. They had, however been facing opposition, but not from where you would have thought-the secular world. Instead it was from fellow believers who were attempting to make the new believers follow the customs of the Jewish synagogue. Paul’s letter to the church was to encourage them and use his own life as an example for them. Paul wrote “I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me” (Philippians 3:12b, NIV). He had explained his standing as a firm Jewish leader prior to his conversion and how now he considered it rubbish. He left that all behind and much like a runner in a race he was pushing himself toward the finish line.

Without an object to press against there would be no effort, no pressure required. For Christians today as in Paul’s day, there will always be a pressing on needed. We will all experience opposition in our faith walk. And unfortunately, that will sometimes come from others in the church. What kept Paul looking forward? Many scholars believe he had experienced a near-death or death experience in which he saw Heaven. We know form the Book of Acts, that the resurrected Jesus appeared to him. He had seen the future and was certain of it, so the momentary discomforts and sufferings were not as difficult. They still required pressing against, but he kept his focus on the goal, on the finish line.

We likewise can keep our eyes on the goal and keep pressing forward whenever we face pressure. There will always be naysayers, trying to discourage us or trying to get us to change our goals to become more like their’s, but we can handle the press, when we keep our focus on Jesus and what he has called us to do. But, just like diamonds that only form when lumps of carbon are put under pressure, we too can become diamonds for God as we press on.-God Bless-Nancy