Still Working on the Bucket List

In the space within my home I call the “Bedroom/Office,” are both a two-drawer and a four-drawer file cabinet. They share that space with two small desks, two small dressers, and my twin bed. There’s very little floor space left, but I make do.

Recently I began the process of eliminating one more item on my Bucket List: “Reduce my files down to one four-drawer file cabinet.”

Presently, I’m plowing through the records in my four-drawer file cabinet and all the three-ring binders looking for stuff. I’m looking for stuff I don’t need, stuff I still need, and stuff that’s “iffy.” Some of it I wonder why I thought I needed it in the first place.

The process, after I discover those things I don’t need, is to toss that stuff into the recyclable office paper box. Those things I decide I want to keep are put in a folder, taken to the library and scanned in pdf format onto a flash drive. Then they go in the recycling box with the rest.

I’m big on recycling and this project is big on my Bucket List because the less I have in my home when I kick the bucket, the easier it will be on my children to clean up what’s left.

As I do the work of de-cluttering my physical world, I always think of how the Holy Spirit is transforming me into the likeness of Christ the same way. Some things are kept. For instance, God doesn’t take away the personality he gave me; now he’s refining it. He gave me talents that I’ve had since I was a child; now he prompts me to use them for his kingdom.

Working through the process of de-cluttering also makes me think of some of the things that have cluttered up my spiritual life.They need to go. While God transforms me, he helps me get rid of

  • Specific rules of men that have no bearing on my salvation
  • Shame or unearned guilt over past sins
  • Resentment or bitterness over the hurts others did to me
  • Worry

The key is wanting to let go of them. I know that, just like with de-cluttering my bedroom/office, I’ll always need to take inventory of my spiritual life to see what needs to go. I tend to look at some of my stuff and believe “That just might come in handy sometime.” I suppose the parallel to that is recycling the constant stream of junk mail. Rarely do I need to hang onto junk mail.

Unless it’s a coupon for coffee.

Sweet Tea and a Distasteful Flavor

“There’s a Fly in my Tea! The Importance of Maintaining a Christian Testimony;                By Crystal L. Ratcliff;  CrossLink Publishing 2016

A Book Review

Crystal Ratcliff, has presented a metaphor we can probably all relate to whether we drink our tea sweet or otherwise. Flies are pesky and dirty. We don’t want them crawling on the rim of our glass. The metaphor fits perfectly for the subject of this 11-session Bible study about our witness for Jesus. The cover design adds beautifully to the “ewwww” factor.

Maintaining a sweet, pure Christian testimony, says Ratcliff, means doing many things she believes we can learn from the life of the Apostle Peter. Her first lesson, however, gets someone off on the right foot before the study begins. She challenges her readers to examine their lives in light of their personal salvation and person relationship with the Lord. Since the book is meant to be studied with others, discussing these answers honestly can only be of benefit to each member and to the group itself.

Ratcliff’s style is relaxed and her tone is friendly. She expects the audience is women and that they share their stories within a group. However, the study could be done independently, if necessary.

The fact that Crystal takes the student right into scripture helps them to see how it relates to other scriptures. The lessons include just enough related verses to help the reader understand the lesson and how the lesson should be applied. An aspect of the study I appreciated was her openness regarding her own failings. Done in a safe environment, sharing what keeps us coming back to Jesus for help aids in discussion.

Subjects covered over the eleven-session study are trusting God totally; keeping my focus on God; walking in the Spirit in relation to how we spend our time; and believing who Jesus says he is versus the world’s view of him.

Ratcliff also mentions the tendency Christians have to witness about their church rather than being a sweet and pure witness for Christ alone. In her own way she says we would do better to point people to Jesus rather than a specific church body or denomination.

No church is perfect, she says, because no people are perfect. We all need to learn to pray more faithfully, forgive more quickly, and serve in love. But “our goal in studying this,” she says, “should be to protect ourselves from being an ‘offender.’”

To some readers, “There’s a Fly in my Tea” will seem like a course in Bible 101. If that’s the case, let me suggest you become the person Jesus commanded you to be and disciple others by leading them through this short study. Those new to the Christian faith will certainly get some of their questions answered. Recruit a couple of your more mature Christian friends to join in and they will help teach the younger women, which is a biblical principle taught by Paul.

The narrative sections are refreshing to anyone who even remotely understands the importance of a relationship with Jesus. The lists of questions at the end of each chapter (never more than 6-8) are just challenging enough to keep us teachable.

 

The reviewer received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through the BookCrash.com book review program. The opinions expressed are those of the reviewer.

 

You Walk With Jesus

Once upon a time, there was a pastor who influenced me in ways I don’t think he was aware of. I considered him a model of one who walked with God as Enoch did. Naturally, this fellow was humble as well, and if he knew I was saying that about him, he’d sternly correct me.

Nevertheless, I saw him as an unofficial mentor.

Is there someone in your life who models a walk with Jesus? If so, what does that look like? Poetry isn’t my strong suit. Nevertheless, this is a small tribute to my friend and pastor.

You Walk With Jesus

I have watched you
walk with the winsomeness
possessed in you that
unknowingly also owns power.

There’s a place deep inside
where you don’t look–
having no need to–
that teaches your body
to follow the Spirit.

God’s Spirit guides your spirit
with a quiet, cherished purpose.
It seems that in each stride
you claim a mile.

 

copyright 2017 Paula Geister

Simeon and the Savior

This post is re-blogged from last December for this Advent season following my pastor’s sermon about Simeon last Sunday. While he taught on another aspect of the story, I find it interesting––and gratifying––that he and I are so often on the same wavelength.-Paula

“When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”), and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons” (Luke 2:22-24)

Word made flesh visualAt first glance, this short passage of scripture might seem like a simple recording of an event in Joseph’s, Mary’s and Jesus’ lives. But watch what happens when an old man enters the scene.

“Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God” (Luke 2:25-28).

When I read this, I want to be like Simeon. Certainly, being righteous and devout sounds good, but also to speak to God with the confidence Simeon had. He praised God regarding the baby Jesus. He said,

“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation” (Luke 2:29,30).

That baby was exactly what the old gentleman had been waiting for.

When it’s time for me to pass from this earth, I hope similar words occupy my mind and heart, because I have also been blessed to see God’s salvation. That fact gives me peace.

During this advent season, the coming of Christ reminds me there’s a wonderful hope for us. We have the promise of God’s glory when we know Jesus personally and trust Him as our Lord and savior. Like Simeon, we yearn to see Christ. We look forward to His return.

One secret to Simeon’s story is this: he listened to the voice of the Holy Spirit and went to the temple when prompted. He knew from prior experience that the Spirit would speak. He anticipated the promise which was in line with his going. He trusted that he wouldn’t die before laying eyes on the Messiah.

As I said, I’m blessed to know Jesus and His salvation.

And like Simeon, I look forward to laying eyes on Him.

 

Who’s Hungry?

“I have not departed from the commands of his lips; I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my daily bread.” Job 23:12

“He humbled you, causing you to hunger…to teach you that man does not live by bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” Deuteronomy 8:3

“Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst.” John 4:13,14

“I have not departed from your laws, for you yourself have taught me. How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” Psalm 119:103

“When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, O Lord God Almighty.” Jeremiah 15:16man-reading-bible

“For they drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ.” 1 Corinthians 10:4

“The ordinances of the Lord are sure and altogether righteous. They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb.” Psalm 19:9,10

“I am the bread of life.” John 6:48

“The words of God which you receive by your ear, hold fast in you heart; for the Word of God is the food of the soul.” ~ Pope Gregory I

Now, are you hungry yet?

Can’t Turn Back

Years ago in my small group, I was reminded of the scene where Jesus is once again being questioned by his own people–Jews–about who he is and why he does what he does. The scene takes place in John chapter 6. Jesus is explaining in terms that they obviously don’t understand.

He calls himself the “bread of life.” He also says if anyone drinks from him they’ll never be thirsty. After telling them that to eat his flesh and drink his blood means they’ll have a life in him, they’re totally confused.

“When many of the disciples heard it, they said, ‘This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” (6:60) After this, John records, “many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.” (6:66)

At first glance, I think if I were standing there with questions and Jesus said I had to eat him and drink his blood, I might consider making an exit as well.

Recently, I watched the movie “A League of Their Own” again. The film is about a women’s baseball league formed during WWII, but it’s about so much more. Toward the end of the movie, Dottie, who is by everyone’s estimation the best player in the league, decides she’s going home because her husband has returned from the war.

The bus is about to leave for the final series and her team is playing in it. Coach Dugan talks to her about her decision and makes the point that “baseball is inside” her.

“It just got too hard,” Dottie says.

“It’s supposed to be hard,” Coach Jimmy replies. “If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The ‘hard’ is what makes it great.” With that, he turns and walks back to the bus and his team.

Sitting in my small group back then, I remember thinking of what Jesus said to his twelve apostles when that confused and probably disgusted group turned and walked away.

“You do not want to leave too, do you?”

Peter, as usual, believes he speaks for them all when he says, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”

Coach Dugan quote

During that meeting it occurred to me that, even if I hadn’t actually put words to it, I knew I’d never want to leave Jesus and go back to what I’d been doing before. I thought about that lifestyle and it sickened me. How could I turn back and not follow? I thought. Jesus had gotten inside me.

But following can be hard. In fact,

“Jesus promised his disciples three things–that they would be completely fearless, absurdly happy, and in constant trouble.” F.R. Maltby

Do you find that following Jesus is difficult sometimes? If Jesus says we believers are the light of the world, doesn’t that mean shining brightly in a dark world is part of the package? If we’re the salt of the earth, wouldn’t that mean being a savory addition to the lives we touch?

Some days I’m a measly 40-watt bulb with a heavy layer of dust covering me. Ask me to be salty and I might make some comment about preventing hypertension.

It can be hard.

Fortunately, and by the grace of God, we aren’t expected to be salt and light in our own power. Just like Dottie had a coach, we have the Holy Spirit to direct us and help us when things get hard. She had team mates and we have the members of Christ’s Church to encourage and support us.arrow with leader on top

Coach Jimmy Dugan’s words are true for many things. It’s hard to raise children. Working on our relationships to keep them afloat is hard. We aren’t going to just breeze through college or through a military career. Right now you might be involved in a project that’s overwhelming you.

But if it wasn’t hard, just like being a follower of Jesus can be, everyone would do it. It helps to remember what’s on the other side of this life.

“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (2 Corinthians 4:17).

Father in heaven, I thank you today that I have a choice to follow and that you rescued me from the lifestyle I seemed trapped in. When you give me a task to do that I balk at because it’s hard, remind me that you’re always in control. Thank you for making me salt and light to the world. Remind me that when I see your work in the world that the “hard” is what’s making this life as a follower “great.”

 

Goin’ Fishing

“Everybody has to believe in something. I believe I’ll go fishing.”

Last week “Whatever” spoke to the importance of sharing with others our story of coming to faith in Jesus Christ. This week, I’m offering a book review dealing with the same subject: evangelism.

Purple Fish
By Mark O. Wilson

The topic is evangelism. Or is it fishing? In Mark O. Wilson’s book, Purple Fish, both activities become his topic. The book is peppered with stories of Jesus–and everyday people–“fishing for men.” You’ll also find stories about fishing for…well…fish.

The title comes from a Greek word, kalchaino, meaning “to search for the purple fish.” The purple fish referred to is highly treasured because of the deep purple dye found in this particular shellfish. Therefore, the treasured purple fish became the metaphor for Mark’s book.

fish-cover-2The purple fish secret, according to Wilson, is “more about attitude and perspective than technique.” And that’s why he doesn’t use “techniques.” Naturally, Wilson has advice for going forward with evangelism efforts. At the top of the list is prayer. If he has any kind of technique, it comes from his acrostic for finding connecting points with people.

Discussing Family, Interests, Situations, and Hurts with people, he says, helps us to find our common humanity and opens the door to telling the Good News of Christ. Wilson contends, like many, that evangelism is a process. He also spends time encouraging those with ichthyophobia (fears associated with sharing the gospel.)

Purple Fish is a book with simple ideas for evangelism, patterned after Christ’s model of meeting people where they are and approaching in love. Jesus didn’t follow the same method with each encounter and Wilson says this is the key to being the “second witness” in witnessing. The first witness of course, he says, is the Holy Spirit.

With thirty-three chapters, the book might seem daunting, but each is a quick read with no chapter longer than seven pages. If you’re the type that gets caught up in a book and says, “I just have to get through this next chapter,” this book is a cinch for you.

Because the book is written so simply and can be downright entertaining at times, Purple Fish will work well with small groups as well as an adjunct to a sermon series. Rather than being a text book-style reading on how to win people to Jesus, the book seriously and cheerfully mixes stories of fishing for fish and fishing for…well…people.

Mark Wilson is a seasoned pastor when it comes to evangelism, having taught nontraditional ministerial students through the Wesleyan FLAME program. He’s developed and put into practice methods that take people into the mission field of their own cities and neighborhoods. From the examples–he calls them ‘treasure hunts’–noted in this book, if his charges aren’t convinced before they begin of God’s power to draw people to Himself, they are convinced at the end of the day.

Simeon and the Savior

Word made flesh visual

“When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”), and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.” Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God” (Luke 2:22-28).

I read this and I want to be like Simeon. Surely righteous and devout, but also to speak to God with the confidence Simeon had when he praised God regarding the baby Jesus. That baby was exactly what the old gentleman had been waiting for.

He said, “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation” (Luke 2:29,30).

When it’s time for me to pass from this earth, I hope these are the words that occupy my mind and heart. I have been blessed to see God’s salvation.

During this advent season, the coming of Christ reminds me there is a wonderful hope for us. We have the promise of God’s glory when we know Jesus personally and trust Him as our Lord and savior. Like Simeon, we yearn to see Christ. We look forward to His return.

One of the secrets to Simeon’s story is this: he listened to the prompting of the Holy Spirit and went to the temple on that particular day. He knew from prior experience that the Spirit would speak and there was a promise in line with his going. He knew he would not die before laying eyes on the Messiah.

As I said, I’m blessed to know Jesus and His salvation.

And like Simeon, I look forward to laying eyes on Him.

Mary

A small group of 12-steppers, we talked about how we would handle the holidays. We knew the late-year holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas could prove challenging.

Since some of us were alcohol, drug and food addicts, we knew that the presence of these particular ‘substances’ would be cause for us to be cautious during the next few weeks.

And it wasn’t even Halloween yet.

I shared my own feelings and concerns during the meeting, moved by the Spirit and by what I had heard around the table. As always, however, there was more in my heart and I left the meeting not having expressed it.

But I knew exactly what it was.

It was “anticipation” we were talking about. The real topic was anticipation of the holidays and how they would affect us as recovering people. I also understood that, as recovering Christians, there was more to the anticipation than we had voiced. While we had reasons to be concerned, we also had reasons to rejoice.

I thought of Mary, the mother of Jesus.

I thought of her entering the eighth month of pregnancy. She must have been feeling very much like a woman about to give birth–mentally, physically, and spiritually.

Mentally, she would have been preparing herself for what was ahead in her new role as a mother. We who’ve done that think of all sorts of wonderful possibilities. We begin to prepare. It’s called “nesting.”

Physically, she would have been getting heavier and more awkward in her gait. (Although I find it difficult to visualize her that way.) Her center of gravity would have been a little off. Perhaps she was frustrated trying to fasten her sandals. I wonder if her friends were helping her along with advice and old wives’ tales.

Oh, but spiritually. Let’s go back to the beginning.Mary and angel 2

Mary was approached by one of God’s messenger angels, Gabriel. He told her she would conceive a child by the Holy Spirit. He also told her that the child would fulfill prophecy. Gabriel called Him “the Son of the Most High.” “A savior which is Christ the Lord,” is how the angels proclaimed it to shepherds the night of the baby’s birth.

Then Gabriel said, “And you will name him Jesus.”

Can you imagine being a virgin and finding out, not only that you are going to have a child, but also that the baby will be a boy and you already know his name? Furthermore, He will be one of God’s promises? From an angel!

That gives a whole new meaning to “ultra sound.”

James Christensen - The Annunciation Print (http://www.hiddenridgegallery.com/store/james-christensen/the-annunciation.html)

Mary must have been experiencing the ultimate in anticipation around the beginning of her eighth month. She was going to be a mother. She was going to have a husband who was also faithful to God to help raise their son.

And that Son would be the promise the world was waiting for.

So I think that we Christians are a little like Mary in a way. We want that day to come so we can celebrate the wonder of Jesus’ birth; the birth of a Savior who still lives.

He still lives to fulfill another of God’s promises and we know that God is faithful. He promised His Son to Mary and to generations to come. He promised Jesus would save us from our sins. He promised His Son would return.

Those are promises that can keep us from obsessing about the holidays. They’re promises of hope.

Because of God’s plan, we have abundant life here and now. Because of Jesus’ birth, death, and resurrection, we can have life in eternity with Him. How much power can anything less than Him really have over us, if we trust in God today and let Him take care of our tomorrows?

After all, He promised He would.