Thursday, September 29, 2011

Worthy of My Lampstand

If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to put you under a bucket,
do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that you are set on a hilltop,
on a lamp stand - shine!   Keep open house; be generous with your lives.
By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God.
Matthew 5:15 (The Message)  

The lamp stand waits quietly in the darkness, surrounded by those who yearn for the light. The door squeaks open and a lamp enters, proudly believing he was chosen to shine. He knew his lamp was the latest in pottery -- shaped then glazed with an iridescent glow. But every time he tried to climb onto the stand, his shiny coat slid off. It wasn’t that this lamp was eager to shine God’s light; he merely wanted others to see how he shined. Pride has a slippery exterior, and many people believe they are exempt from service to others. They want others to see them, but have no love of Christ that draws the seeking to the Savior.

The door cracks open again while those surrounding the lamp stand become discouraged. “No one cares,” is whispered as a few sneak out the door. They seek a vice to drown their disappointment -- alcohol, drugs and eating disorders…

Back at the lamp stand the second lamp touches the shoulder of one nearby waiting. “Did you hear? Mr. Jones stole money from the church treasury.” Into the next ear he whispered, “Sally Sue is pregnant and not a husband in sight.” From ear to ear, the lamp whispers gossip that will wound and break hearts. Some true, some not, but each one unnecessary. The lamp decorated with happy hearts and smiling faces isn’t welcomed by the lamp stand.

 There’s still no light and the darkness thickens as the lamp slinks away to gather more juicy news. His lip curls in a sneer as he sees another lamp striding purposefully through the door. This lamp has scratches from those who rejected his light, mars from those who used his light to profit themselves, and cracks from others who told untrue stories about the purpose for which he shone his light.

As soon as this battle scarred lamp entered a room, a glow began weaving its way toward the lamp stand. “How will the lamp hold its oil?” the people asked each other. “The cracks will let the oil leak, and the light will go out.”

But no, he didn’t need oil in his lamp. He had within himself the one thing he needed to shine -- he had the love of Jesus. On the way to the lamp stand, the light spoke encouraging words to the tired, discouraged mother, patted a small, crying boy on the head, and made a rebellious teen laugh. These people lived in his community. Each one was important to the lamp. He climbed onto the lamp stand and began to glow. He had found his place--right where he was needed the most. 

Caffeine Jolt of Sheltering Light

When my husband was principal of a private school, early every morning he made routine rounds to the classrooms, praying for each student and teacher before the first bell sounded.. Awesome principal, right? Dedicated and sincere. But RB also carried the title of "Christian," and along with principal duties came the duty to let his light shine. And shine it did.

Each Friday morning, long before the students began to arrive, the city sanitation employees stopped by to empty the overflowing barrels of pencil stubs, scrap paper and lunch remnants. As the truck rattled onto the school parking lot, RB walked toward the truck with three coffee cups in one hand and a coffee pot in the other. On cool mornings the warm coffee was greeted with joy. On warm mornings the shot of caffeine was eagerly awaited. On frigid mornings, RB often invited the men into the school to warm up, and sometimes even shared a donut to accompany their coffee. Week after week, year after year, he served these men.

I would like to suggest that this act of service was as important to God as RB’s daily prayers for his teachers and students. The offer of coffee was a sacred light, a light worthy of a lamp stand.

Sheltering Light from a Riding Horse

My mother drove the several hundred miles from Pennsylvania to visit with me a few days. Like most mother and daughters, we love to shop together. On one of our treasured ventures, I dropped Mother off at the store’s door to save her a few steps. After parking, I entered the store in time to see my mother put a quarter in the slot of a horse a couple little boys had been trying to giddy up. As the horse began to gallop on its stand, child-like joy shone in the riders’ eyes -- a reflection, I would like to think, from a light worthy of a lamp stand.

Sheltering Light in the Hole of a Doughnut

He was “Grandpa” to many of us. Grandpa Arnold, though not a blood relative, loved people. Chocolate chip/pecan cookies were his specialty. His mantra was, “if one cup of chips or pecans makes them good, then two will make them better.” If he knew someone was going on a trip, he showed up at their door with a box of cookies just before departure time. A youth group meeting? Grandpa’s cookies were there. Many times when the automatic drawer of the bank drive-through extended toward the open car window, it returned with not only Grandpa’s monetary deposits, but also with a bag of yummy Magic Morning doughnuts. Is it any wonder these cashiers shared their prayer requests with him? They saw his light shining through the doughnut holes.

Invisible Lamps with God’s Light

It’s not the big, showy acts of love which have the brightest light. It’s the little everyday actions, performed unselfishly by invisible lamps and given without the need of acknowledgement, that radiate the greatest distance. It’s the illuminated, pure gifts given from a generous heart of gratitude and joy for the Savior who died for us. These sacred gifts can make you worthy of your lamp stand -- opening others to the Savior’s gift of salvation. That's the light that shelters!
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Monday, September 26, 2011

Storm Praises

                                        When you cannot rejoice in feelings, 
            circumstances or condition, rejoice in the Lord.  
~A. B. Simpson

A white flash from the sky, a deafening clap then a roll of thunder.  Storms.  When I'm safe on the inside with a good book in my hand and a tall glass of iced tea beside me, I love them.  But what happens when the storms come to one’s heart?  The white flash of physical pain, the loud clap of a failed marriage or the rumbling roll of financial problems.  How do we face these storms?

Prepare:  Storms come to us all -- someone we love dies, physical suffering weakens us, jobs are lost, close friends betray us, investments fail.  We can prepare for such formidable storms by memorizing the promises of God.

I will never fail you, I will never abandon you.  Hebrews 13:5

So after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation. 1 Peter 5:10

The righteous person faces many troubles, but the Lord comes to the rescue each time. Psalms 34:19

Pray:  When the storm clouds gather, we need to enter the Throne Room of our Heavenly Father through Jesus.  We come to God because 1) He's promised to be with us. and 2) By coming to Him we demonstrate faith in His promise.  Our faith pleases God.

Praise:  Even in the storm we can praise.  Praise isn't limited to being on top of the world.  When we praise, we concentrate on God, and our heart reflects the power of His love.  Reflect on God's character, and begin to praise Him for His attributes.  "I praise you for your omnipotence; I praise you for your faithfulness and for your justice..."  It’s futile to praise Him for his attributes and blame Him for our storms at the same time. 

Pay it forward:  God comforts us and wants us to use our experience to comfort and shelter others.  

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

For the last several days a friend and colleague of RB’s has been going through a storm. His son, a brittle diabetic (since age 5) and a freshman in college, is in the hospital with a liver three times what it should be and also an enlarged bladder. Quinton needs prayer and I'm asking for those who read this -- those who have been comforted by God, our Father -- to pray the doctor will find the cause quickly.

Whether we are in the storm or the storm is advancing on our friends, we can praise. These words below were written by Mark Hall of Casting Crowns.  In the storms of my life and through the ones in my friends, I will praise Him in the storm.
was sure by now
That You would have reached down
And wiped our tears away, stepped in and saved the day;
But once again, I say, Amen -- and it's still raining…
As the thunder rolls,
I barely hear Your whisper through the rain, "I'm with you."
And as Your mercy falls I raise my hands
And praise the God who gives and takes away.
          And I'll praise You in this storm, and I will lift my hands;
          For You are who You are, no matter where I am.
         And every tear I've cried You hold in Your hand.
         You never left my side, and though my heart is torn,
          I will praise You in this storm.

                                                        ~Mark Hall

Update:  Good news!  Quinton is on rebound and is expected to do progressively better as he adjusts to several new meds.

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