To Be Like Mary

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I have been thinking a lot about Mary and her decision to accept God’s invitation to become the mother of The Messiah. She didn’t make that kind of choice in a moment, it had to be as the result of preparation throughout her short life.

What an awesome choice with consequences she could never have imagined at that moment. She not only accepted the invitation, she lived out the joy and the grief that followed. How did Mary get there?

When I read Julie Breuninger’s post on Velvet Ashes, it resonated for me. She does a wonderful job of giving expression to how ‘dwelling’ in the Word happens.

You may read Julie’s entire post on Velvet Ashes. Here are excerpts.

“As I have been thinking about Mary this Christmas, my question has been, how on earth was she able to respond as she did?

“I would like to propose that Mary’s response to the angel came from a heart which had treasured God and pondered his ways as a regular practice in her life.

“Scripture reminds us that our hearts and our responses reflect the things we treasure most (Matthew 6:21; 12:34).

“I wonder about my responses? Would I respond with “Lord, I am your servant, you may do with me as you wish?” I want to be like that.

“But quite honestly, that is usually not my first response. My responses are more often consumed with my understanding of the situation, my comfort and my security; all of which are loud proclamations of what I treasure.

“How does one cultivate a heart attitude like Mary? Mary’s heart attitude required an intentional desire to know and follow God. She could look back at how God was faithful to her people and looked ahead, believing the promise of the coming Messiah.

Treasuring and Pondering the Word

“We are blessed today to have the living, active, complete Word of God through which we can know God, his ways, and how to live in this world as we wait for his promised return.

“Nancy Leigh DeMoss describes how we are to read and ponder God’s Word in her book, A Place of Quiet Rest

As you read, pause frequently to meditate on the meaning of what you are reading. Absorb the Word into your system by dwelling on it, pondering it, going over it again and again in your mind, considering it from many different angles, until it becomes part of you.

“I want to be intentional in pondering God. To pause frequently, to absorb and understand the Word. To dwell on it. To consider it from many different angles. To have it become a part of me. To have my eyes opened to see how God is at work in me and in the lives of those around me.

Great are the works of the Lord; they are pondered by all who delight in them,” (Psalm 111:2).

Let the one who is wise heed these things and ponder the loving deeds of the Lord,” (Psalm 107:43).

“I want to have a heart that treasures and ponders God, His Word, and His deeds. I want my response to events in my life, to be more like Mary’s, reflecting a heart that truly treasures God and gives Him glory.” – Julie Breuninger

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I would like to make two more suggestions about how to ponder and dwell in the Word.

  • Try reading the passage in different translations. Sometimes the shades of meaning become clear as we read different words for the same passage.
  • Also, listen to the passage being read. If you don’t have a favorite audio Bible, try listening to the NIVUK version. You may listen for free using the YouBible app on your phone or tablet.

Let’s take up Julie’s challenge to “dwell” in the Bible this year. Let’s ponder and treasure God’s Word – Diane Constantine

Art in My Family

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My dad was a commercial artist. For 50 years he supported our family by retouching photos with airbrush, for advertisements. He worked for agencies and he free lanced. He worked in Pennsylvania all my growing up years, and later in Tulsa and Oklahoma City.

While Dad was overseas in WWII, he added cartoons to the letters he wrote home. A friend saved those cartoons and suggested he might want to pursue art as a career. Those cartoons helped him get a place in The Art Institute of Pittsburgh. Because he was offered a good position in an advertising studio before he finished his course, he didn’t graduate. But that didn’t stop his learning and growing his talent.

When Dad’s contemporaries faced a new innovation in photography and printing, they could not make the necessary changes and learn the new skills. I remember Dad taking a correspondence course when I was really young. He spent weeks practicing drawing straight lines, perfect circles, parallel lines, etc. Then when color photography was cutting edge, he had to learn to mix colors and apply layer at a time to get the right finish. He was sought after for his work, even when computerized retouching began. But eventually, the cost of computerized retouching was too much cheaper than what Dad had to charge for his hand-done work. Dad couldn’t make the leap to art on a computer. But by then he was 70+ years old.

I watched my Dad work. He usually did any over-time work in a little studio he had made in their bedroom. He was so quiet, methodical, concentrated. All Dad’s children learned that Dad would listen attentively to us while he worked. After a pause, in a few words he would summarize what we had been talking about. He gave us a word of wisdom, a different way of looking at the situation, or commiserate with us over some childhood woe. He was wise, unassuming, and loved us all so deeply. We learned the importance of keeping our promises from Dad and that anything worth doing takes time and effort to do right.

Dad also did a few pieces of creative art that are still in the family. He painted pictures on the wall above the cabinets in the kitchen of the house I grew up in. He was also a carpenter. He made a spoon rack for my spoon collection and a coat rack with a Bassett hound picture for our sons. All of his children have something from Dad’s art.

One of my sisters was very good at art in high school. She made a trip with other students to visit the great art museums of Europe one summer. She did design work for a while before her children were born. Then she was always doing crafts and making beautiful things for her home and for gifts. In the last few years, she has been practicing sketching and painting. Some of her best work is beautiful portraits in graphite from photos. You can see some of her work at: Dawn Giddings

My youngest brother is a genius with perspective. He sketched from the time he could hold a pencil. Although he has never earned his living from art, he does commissioned pieces every year. He is quite creative with architectural drawing and has done some large works with many of the most famous buildings around the world. You can see some of his work at: Stephen Prophater

At least three of Dad’s grandsons enjoy carpentry. One has made a career of his wood work.

Creativity through art and woodworking were just part of Dad’s legacy. (More about his legacy in another post.)

Take a moment to consider:

Is there a talent or skill that many of your family members share? How do you see that talent? Does it encourage you to develop your talents or are you afraid you can’t do as well as them and so you don’t try?

I’ll share more of what art means to me in another post soon.

Building Boys to be Men

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A nine year old boy and his six year old brother made 34 chocolate cream pies in the last month. They wanted to give money for their church’s special fall project. Their total profit was $415. They tithed on that amount and gave $306 to the special project. Above and beyond that they gave their $70 in tips to support a friend and missionary from their church.

How does a mom with these two young boys, a baby, and three foster teenagers do it?

The boys WANTED a way to earn money for the church project. Mom came up with the idea and prayed that God would make their efforts successful. The boys did all the work. They made the grocery list, ordered online, made the pies, and delivered them!

A few nights it was getting quite late and they still had a few pies that needed to be finished for the next day’s delivery. Mom offered to finish for them. They said they wanted to do it all, even though it meant getting to bed late.

I asked their mom why she was willing to do this. (Anyone who has ever seen two active boys in the kitchen knows it is easier to do it yourself.) She said she had just finished a study called Building Boys. The study provides answers to a world that tells boys they can be girls if they want to be. Parents and teachers need to focus on what it means to be a boy and that God created them specifically as boys that will become men. This project helped to drive those concepts home. They got a taste of the value of hard work, selflessness, sacrifice and radical generosity.

I just had a crow a bit about my sister and my nephews. What a wonderful, positive experience this was for them. They will never forget the lessons they learned last month. And it provides a strong stepping stone to more experiences to develop true manhood in those two little boys.

My sister based this experience on the series, “Building Boys” by Audrey Broggi (2018) for SearchTheScriptures.org. You may play the four audio or video sessions and download the outlines and study guides at: Building Boys

You might like to follow her on Facebook at: Mothering from the Heart


These are some other good resources on this topic.

 

My Drawers

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Most of my life I have been able to compartmentalize my life. I think it is a natural bent that helps me concentrate well on whatever is at hand.

When I was practicing nursing, I called it “going clinical.” It helped me not to be overcome with the pain and grief and anxiety of my patients and their family. It worked well for that.

In our early years of marriage and ministry, we had to say, “Goodbye,” fairly often. By putting the people who were far away in a ‘drawer,’ I was not bothered too deeply or too often with homesickness. From time to time, I would open the ‘drawer’ and think about them, write to them, and pray for them. Most of the time, however, they were not on my mind very much.

As you can see, this was an advantage for these times and situations in my life. What you can’t see, unless you function like me, is that there are down sides to this.

I have always kept a prayer list, sometimes written down, and sometimes memorized. But if someone or a situation did not make it to my prayer list, I may not consciously think about them for a long time. This is not good for family or good friendships. I’ve worked hard in recent years to not be so black and white, in or out of my ‘drawer.’

In the past few weeks I became sharply aware of a situation I had shoved into a ‘drawer’ that really needed to be dealt with. Three very close friends, individually, asked me probing questions that made me ‘open this drawer.’ The first time, tears welled up in my eyes, I only said a few key words that she would understand what it was about, and quickly changed the subject. It wasn’t hard, we were interrupted and that was that.

The second friend was not satisfied with no explanation. I explained more about why this situation was so painful and voiced my frustration. I had come to realize that I did not cause this difficulty and I could not fix it for those involved. I told that to my friend and she said that would help her with a situation she is currently facing. Again, dealing with the situation was averted!

This last weekend a third friend asked probing questions about what was shoved into this ‘drawer.’ She has a very penetrating way of asking questions. She wasn’t concerned with the others involved. She was concerned for me and how I was reacting. I felt grief and hurt well up and begin to overflow. Then I felt anger. I literally ‘felt’ the anger. I realized that my voice was distorted.  She asked a point blank question about what I was going to do about it. I said that if it were up to me, I would never have any more to do with this situation. She shrugged her shoulders and we went back to my house and listened to some beautiful music my husband was enjoying.

So how’s my ‘drawer’ now?
My third friend’s shrug kept coming to mind. She knew that at that time, I couldn’t be convinced to do anything about it. God wouldn’t let me shut that ‘drawer’ again. In any unguarded moment, it flooded back with tears and light.

I don’t believe God means for me to open myself to more hurt in this case, but that doesn’t mean closing into the darkness of my ‘drawer,’ the people involved. By keeping the ‘drawer’ closed, I was not letting God’s light in. In the darkness, bad attitudes, thoughts, and poison were growing.

Is that the end of it? No! I realize that God cares about everyone involved in this case. But, as His daughter, He is very concerned about me. I have opened that ‘drawer’ to God. I am allowing Him to show me the truth about it. I’m allowing Him to show me how to forgive and how to show grace. I want my life to shine as His light in this dark situation. There will probably be more tears and prayers, but I don’t think I’ll ever have such darkness in there again.

Do you have some ‘drawers’ in your life that have not seen God’s light for a long time? Why not open it and let God begin to redeem that darkness for His purposes?

 

Thanksgiving 2018

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Here I was, not very thankful we had invited 8 other people to come for Thanksgiving dinner on the 5th day after our 25 hour plane flight from the US.

I slept well the first night and hoped that would help me have an easy case of jet lag. That was not to be the case. We went for a walk each morning to ease the stiff joints and aches and pains from traveling. We fell asleep at odd times in the next couple days after interrupted nights’ sleep. One afternoon I described my thinking as, “Slogging through thick mud. I eventually got there, but wasn’t sure it was worth the effort.” We managed to get to the store, get what we needed, cook ahead what we could, and got some help to clean the house.

So Thursday morning I woke in a grumpy mood. I was still exhausted and dreading all that needed to be done yet. I was sure I’d make a mess of things. I was convinced I didn’t have good ideas about how to seat everyone, how to ready the kitchen, etc. My poor husband bore the brunt of my insecurities.

But by mid afternoon, all was done that could be done until everyone arrived. I showered and rested.

Then our friends began to arrive. Each one with part of the meal. Each one ready to pitch in and do anything that needed done. None of my fears materialized!

Our friends decided to push the two tables together and crowd closer. Our kitchen counter was a smorgasbord of delicious treats! There were funny stories, good memories shared, and most of all, we all felt included.

After dessert, we gathered in the living room. We sang songs of thanksgiving and praise to God. Then we each took turns telling what we had to be thankful for in the past year. So many had encountered hard times, but felt God’s grace and help and comfort. New jobs had succeeded, a new church was being established, peace where fear had been before, a growing trust that God is good and will meet needs.

Being away from our family at Thanksgiving can be such a lonely and depressing time. Our family is so scattered. Even if we could be with one, we’d be very far from others. But as I looked around the room, I realized in a fresh and real way, that God has given us ‘family’ here in Malaysia. It is not the same as being with our own parents and children, brothers and sisters. But it is just as dear! I felt embraced and loved. I sensed a very real closeness that crosses barriers of race, nationality, and traditions. It is a love that doesn’t change when we have a bad day or feel cross. It is a love that helps us trust God when we fear.

Psalm 68: 5-6 was the theme of the night.

“A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families, he leads out the prisoners with singing; . . .”