Philippians 4:6-7

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petitions, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippiams 4:6-7

Whatever comes my way this year, Heavenly Father, help me to meet it in accordance to your will. Help me, in every endeavor, to personify the heart and hands of Jesus. Amen.

Go, Tell It on the Mountain

When Christ was on the cross,
You were on his mind.

In church on Wednesday, Pasor explained that the Hebrew word malak translates to angel, which translates to messenger. Then she challenged us to be angels — messengers of The Good News.

Sow Scripture, Not Doctrine

We had a guest pastor today. Her name is Candace and she is an awesome speaker. Her sermon today was on the parable of the seeds, and when I first looked at the bulletin I thought, “Oh, man, how many times have I heard this?” But it wasn’t the same old, same old. In fact, I was moved to grab my notebook and take notes. That hasn’t happened in awhile.

Candace talked about planting apple seeds and expecting to harvest strawberries. She also played a clip from, The Two Towers, prefacing it with: when faced with the news that the enemy was coming, Aragorn wanted to risk everything and ride out to meet the horde. King Theoden, choose instead to protect his people, and determined they would make their stand behind the walls of Helm’s Deep where they had successfully waited out previous sieges. However the siege did not go as expected, and when they had been pushed to their last defense and all seems lost, Theoden again asked Aragorn for council — and Aragorn urged him to ride into danger rather than away from it. Theoden complied and the tide of battle turned.

Candace then showed the clip of Frodo and Sam, when Frodo was ready to give up, and we listened to Sam’s entire pep-talk, ending on the “as long as there is still good in the world it’s worth fighting for” line.

Candace said that too many churches are hiding within the walls of their fortresses, and too few of them are going out to meet the enemy. She said we need to stop promoting church doctrine, and instead read, live and share God’s word. Her words, “No matter what you believe about how the Bible came to be (and contrary to popular belief, it did not fall, leather bound, from Heaven) the fact remains that it is a powerful tool for transforming lives.”

She said we need to sow the seed of God’s word wherever we are, and we need to sow it without actions more than our words. “You can’t just talk about planting and harvesting. Sowing is an action. You actually have to physically do it.”

If you want strawberries, you’d better plant strawberry seeds. If you want Christians, plant the word of God. She said that is the only way we will ever reach the people in the world who are spiritually hungry, but institutionally alienated.

There was nothing in Candace’s sermon I didn’t know. There was nothing in the sermon I don’t try to live. What blew me away was to hear a denominational pastor admit that the doctrine is getting in the way of the message. I have had so many arguments with church folk who place doctrine before all other considerations. Jesus’ command was to love God and our neighbor — he didn’t say a dang thing about denominational constitutions.

Here is my simple life philosophy — I learned it in Sunday School kindergarten and it’s served me just fine all these years. I try very hard not to treat anybody in a way I wouldn’t accept being treated — once upon a time known as, The Golden Rule, and these days pretty much relagated to the realm of fairy tales.

Another Cinderella Story

Cinderella stories didn’t mean the same thing to me that they did to other little girls. My mother died when I was three. My father remarried almost immediately thereafter. It was not a happy union, so this is not a happy story. If you are in the mood for handsome princes, glass slippers and fairy godmothers, don’t continue.

My stepmother did not want a little girl. She wanted a doll. She would dress me in the most gorgeous dresses, curl my hair, decorate it with ribbons and set me on the couch. That is where she expected me to stay all day. Sometimes when she wasn’t looking I would hop down to play. The play would then consume me and I would forget to listen for her.

Soon I would be caught. She would jerk my fancy dress off me, yank the ribbons from my hair, and plunge me into her version of the dungeon – my bedroom closet. Wearing only my slip, I would sit on a pile of shoes in the bottom of the closet. It was pitch dark and clothes hung in my face. Once I opened the closet door to let in light and fresh air and security. After that, she taped my hands behind my back.

Another time I heard my grandfather’s voice and I called out to him. Actually, he was the father of my stepmother, but he was a nice man who truly cared for me and often defended me against my stepmother’s rages, which always made things worse for me after he left. My stepmother came and got me, put my dress back on me and took my stepbrother and I into the living room to visit. After that day, whenever she threw me in the closet she taped my mouth shut.

My stepmother had a loud, joyful sister who had five wonderful kids. I loved it when they came to the house because on those days I was allowed to be a child. I got to run and play and dance and sing. I was also given dessert.

In my stepmother’s home dessert was usually something I watched everyone else eat, not something I was allowed to have. I never had a piece of my fifth birthday cake. Only good little girls deserved food.

In case you are wondering where my father was through all of this — out of town. He worked in a silver mine over 100 miles away. He came home every Friday evening and left every Sunday after dinner. Whenever he was home, I was treated like a beloved and pampered princess. As soon as he left the nightmare returned.

On Sunday evening when dad came to the dinner table his suitcase full of clean clothes would be at the front door, waiting. After the meal was over he would go around the table, kiss and hug each of us, and then leave. I would listen as his pickup backed down the driveway; headlights would sweep the wall and the sound of the engine would fade in the distance.

My stepmother would reach across the table, snatch my plate from in front of me, grab me from my chair by one pigtail and drag me into the kitchen, where I was expected to wash, dry and put away the dishes. I was five. I drug around a big heavy chair to climb  so I could reach the sink and cupboards.

Are you wondering why I didn’t tell my father? That was the cruelest thing of all. When my mother died I was living in a big loving house full of siblings – my mother’s children. My maternal grandparents lived there as well. In that house, I was precious and perfect and loved beyond reason. My stepmother used that love against me.

I didn’t really understand death. What I did understand is that I was taken from my family to live with a cold, hateful witch. My brothers and sisters were not allowed to see me. My grandmother was suffered rarely. And my stepmother told me all this happened because I was bad. She said that it made my dad very sad, and that’s why he wouldn’t stay home. She said if I would behave better, he would come home and live with us and love us again. She also said, that if he knew how much I really misbehaved he wouldn’t come home at all, and that guaranteed my silence.

The nicest lady lived next door. She always talked to me on the rare occasions I was allowed outside. Sometimes she gave me candy. I learned to eat it quick and not tell my stepmother. The lady used to always check my arms and legs. Now, looking back, I realize she was looking for marks or bruises.  I didn’t have any. And the few spankings my stepmother gave me I can say I truly earned.  Her abuse wasn’t physical.

It was the nice lady next door who finally saved me. By then I was six years old. That Sunday evening my dad left as usual. My stepmother snatched me from the chair and drug me into the kitchen as usual. I was doing the dishes as usual. Then something very unusual happened — the back door opened and my father came in. He lifted me from the chair and carried me into the living room where my stepmother and brothers were watching TV.

It seems he had not driven away in his truck. The neighbor man had. Dad watched everything through the dining room windows. He told my stepmother to pack my things. That night I went to live with my maternal grandmother, where I was once again a beloved and precious child.

A few years ago when my father died I called my stepmother. I didn’t have my little brother’s phone number and I wanted to tell him dad was gone. I talked to the woman for quite awhile on the phone. My sister, Caryl, wanted to know how I could be so pleasant to such a hateful person, especially when she had been so cruel to me.

See, this is the thing about evil stepmothers: they either kill you, or they make you very, very strong. Though I still fear going hungry, and am afraid of cramped, dark places, I know I never sat in that closet alone. Jesus was with me. My stepmother’s cruelty kept me still and quiet. I learned about God from God, long before I learned to read his Word. He is my rock and my fortress. In him I have strength and peace that no one can destroy. I was not rescued by a handsome prince on a white charger, I was rescued by the Prince of Peace, and I will one day live happily ever after.

I spoke in church today. Our pastor is doing a series on prayers (last week), presence (today) and tithe (next Sunday). I was asked to preface the “presence” sermon with a testamony about the giving of my time.

I have run a children’s ministry for the last 5 years (we have just started season 6). Not counting prep-time, this ministry takes 2.5 hours out of every Saturday.

I talked this morning about our twice yearly struggle to change the clocks — and the fact that it takes me several days to get all of mine changed. Then I talked about God’s time — and how much more time we have in every day when we live in accordance with his will. Giving 2.5 hours of every weekend to be Christ’s hands has actually expanded my weekend and I am able to get more done, not less.

God always returns with blessing and interest whatever we give in his name — even our time.

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The Old Rugged Cross

We Are The Body