Autumn Leaves 3 Column

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Beneath the Shadow of the Cross

“But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” Luke 2: 19

For the first time in several years I’m actually putting up a Christmas tree! Now before you call me a Grinch, let me tell you that as an empty-nester, while married to a great guy, he is not a fan of decorating a tree. I honestly was just overwhelmed by the thought of doing it all myself and opted to not make myself any more frantic by not putting up a tree! But this year my son and his wife will be here for the holiday and I will have help with this great, but time-consuming, chore. I must be honest though and tell you that I really have not missed the extra work in the decorating for these last few years. For me, Christmas is truly about spending time with people I love.

For my spiritual nourishment however, I spend a lot of time pondering what life must have been like for Mary, Jesus’ mother. First, there is a visit from an angel telling her that she will have a baby…and not just any baby, But the Son of the most High God! Then she has to tell Joseph, her fiancĂ©, that she is pregnant by the Holy Spirit. In His mercy, the Lord confirms Mary’s pregnancy to Joseph and Joseph marries her as planned.

Then they are ordered to report to their town of origin to be counted for a census. Joseph and Mary must travel to the town of Bethlehem to be counted. In that late stage of pregnancy, I can’t imagine having to travel any great distance by foot or on a donkey. I mean really, have you ever ridden a donkey? It’s not the most comfortable form of transportation.

Then there is the delivery of a baby in a barn with no one but Joseph with her. Mary’s probably only around fifteen years old, so that had to be frightening. Next there is this brilliant star hanging over the barn and angels are singing and then the shepherds show up to worship this child! How overwhelming for this “child” (in my mind) who has just delivered a child herself!

Yet we are told that she is pondering all that is taking place. She’s thinking about it, meditating on all that has happened. How many times has she thought about the visit by the angel Gabriel? How about the fear she must have felt in telling Joseph that she was carrying a child by the Holy Spirit? How about the mocking of the people in her village? How did that land on her? And finally, did she have any idea of how the life of this child would be sacrificed for us? Was she aware of the shadow that would be ever present, a shadow of a cross? What follows are my thoughts about that “shadow”.


Beneath the Shadow of the Cross

By

Gayle E. Dunphy


Precious babe, of virgin born; unique child, both God and man;

Newborn crying, early morn; epic pinnacle of God’s plan;

Placed within the manger dross in the shadow of the cross.


Angels singing, star so bright; cattle lowing, donkeys bray

Shepherds awestruck at the sight; Messiah’s coming, prophets prayed

Ours the gain, His Father’s loss, from the shadow of the cross.


Freedom for the captive gained; No more death, eternal life;

Lord the victory obtained; no more sorrow, no more strife!

Our hearts redeemed for such a cost, beneath the shadow of the cross.


Friday, December 3, 2010

Words and Actions

“Now this is our boast: Our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially in our relations with you, with integrity and godly sincerity. We have done so, relying not on worldly wisdom but on God’s grace.” 2 Cor. 1:12

I have long been impacted by the word “integrity”. It is defined as: adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty. As a little child I can remember my father saying the words, “Don’t do as I do; do as I say!” And even as a child, I recognized the hypocrisy of those words and I reacted with anger and frustration. And I was sure that I would never do that to my children because those words were a beacon in my brain of how NOT to parent my children. However, parenting is a plethora of humbling experiences and I failed miserably in this particular aspect. My children were a primary motivation to conquer a terrible temper, an unruly tongue, and many other sins because I desired them to be adults of integrity. I tried to ask my children’s forgiveness for each offense and made my best attempt to live my testimony consistently. I was convicted that the greatest gift I could give them, next to sharing Christ, was to model integrity in such a way that my words and actions matched. The sobering truth is our children will model themselves after us. While we can talk about integrity until we are blue in the face, they will DO what we DO!

Regardless of whether we are parents or not, I believe that our Creator has commanded the same behavior from all of us. Paul is very clear in this passage that our testimony is proven in how we live out our ordinary lives. If we are calling ourselves Christians, people are watching us to see if our words and actions are matching. If the words and actions match then people will believe we are trustworthy and may give us opportunity to share Christ with them. However, when our words and actions are not matching, people will rightly proclaim us as hypocrites and our trustworthiness is questionable. I’ve heard it said that integrity is what one does when no one is watching. Personally, I believe that living daily with integrity is probably the most profound testimony of a life transformed by Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Bitter or Better

Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Eph. 4:31

God’s faithfulness has always been a source of wonder and blessing to me, especially in the face of my sinful knee-jerk reactions! A few weeks ago, my husband and I disagreed over a subject which elicited tears and hurt feelings from me and as well as frustration and hurt feelings from him. As we ended the discussion on in conflict, I found my heart becoming bitter and I could feel myself withdrawing from my relationship with him, my typical reaction to a disagreement that I don’t “win”!

Yet, I knew my all too human reaction was counter to how my precious Jesus would react in the same situation. Therefore, I needed God to change my heart. So, I prayed about my bitterness and asked my adult daughter to add her prayers that I would intentionally put my bitter feelings aside to obey my Savior and respect my husband’s wishes on the subject about which we disagreed. Later that very day, God in His faithfulness presented me with an opportunity to discuss the quality of love and compromise that sustains a marriage or any other vital relationship.

As I shared the kind of love that God had cultivated in my husband and I for the last eighteen years, I could feel my Lord’s presence and the reminder of the Holy Spirit within me of just what a blessing my husband has been to me. The fact is, he’s really an awesome guy; human, flawed like everyone else, but awesome in my estimation. He is thoughtful, far more patient than I ever am and he has a gentleness that I would do well to emulate! As I continued in the discussion with my friend, I realized just how minor my disagreement with Bob was and that it really was not worth wasting the time and energy in disagreeing. While that is not always the case, in this instance, it was the truth. My willingness to respect his opinion and restore relationship was far more important to me than holding on to my bitterness and “winning” my case.

I had a choice. I could choose to let go of the bitterness, or allow the bitterness to take hold and spoil the precious relationship we shared. God in His grace and faithfulness, reminded me of my choice when He allowed me to share just how much my relationship with Bob meant to me. He demonstrated through my own testimony why I should not choose bitterness. His grace in showing me why I should let go of the bitterness was tender and merciful in the extreme. My heart was overwhelmed and the bitterness disappeared like fog in the sunshine.

Thank you Lord for your faithfulness in showing me my bitterness and then giving me the strength to let it go. Amen.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Gathering a Harvest

To all of my blog followers:

I must extend my most humble apologies for my absence. Please forgive me as I have been working on structuring my latest venture: a ministry in partnership with my dear friend, Susan Silva. New Spirit, Healed Heart Ministries is a ministry devoted to our goal of joining God in the work that He is already doing in the lives of His people: giving God’s people a New Spirit and a Healed Heart. Targeting the population living on the South Coast of Massachusetts and greater Rhode Island, we are based out of Middleborough, Massachusetts. Those of us serving in this ministry recognize living and ministering in New England requires a thorough knowledge of the culture, people, and mind-set of this region. We have lived and worked and worshipped here for a minimum of fifteen years and love God’s people here in New England. Yes, we may be the “frozen chosen” but our fire for the Gospel of Jesus Christ has allowed us to thrive and pursue God with purpose and joy! If you would like more information, please go to www.newspirithealedheart.com and please remember we are still building the webpage, so have patience with it.

I would also like to send a “Hello” to the women of Church-in-the-Pines of West Wareham, MA. What a great group of women! I would especially like to thank Michelle Humphrey and Flo Boc for inviting me to speak at the wonderful retreat they put together last month. Our topic was “Living Life Worthy of the Lord” and I spoke on Colossians 1:10-12, “Pleasing God or Pleasing to God”. I was grateful for the opportunity to share some of the convictions and promises that the Lord had placed on my heart. To all of you who attended, I have prayed over your requests and I have confidence that the Lord is already answering some of those prayers! His faithfulness is far beyond what we can ask or imagine.

As I prepared for the conference, I was pondering; what does a life worthy of the Lord look like? As I prayed and searched the Scripture, I realized that Colossians 1: 10-12 was pretty precise. We are to be bearing fruit, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened by His might so that we can endure, and giving thanks to God for our salvation. I realized very quickly that to find my way to that goal of living such a life, I needed a map…well marked! Think about it. An unmarked map is of no help in following directions to a destination. With Jesus as my point of reference, my life map is clearly marked so that I have less of an opportunity to stray off of the path! In the final analysis, unless Jesus is where I start, live through, and finish my day, I will not be pleasing to God.

As we are preparing for the Thanksgiving holiday, may we all be cultivating a spirit of gratitude for the fantastic salvation which Jesus has so generously provided for all of us who call Him Lord! May that spirit of joyous gratitude be evident to all with whom we come in contact!

“…so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.” Col.1:10-12

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Sowing and Reaping

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 2 Corinthians 9:6

A couple of weeks ago I went out to Ohio to visit my Mom and celebrate a mile-stone birthday of hers with extended family and friends. I have profound admiration and respect for my mother. While she is not perfect, she has been a bastion of faith and perseverance. I have often liked her to the church of Smyrna in Revelation 2:9 in that she has known affliction and poverty, yet she is rich! She persevered through a difficult and painful first marriage of twenty-three years which ended in divorce. She recently buried an uncaring and unloving second husband to whom she was married for twenty-six years. She raised eight children to adulthood, for all practical purposes, as a single parent and she has invested more love, prayer and sacrifice into us than I can imagine. She is active in her church and has a vibrant and evolving faith as she strives to walk with her Savior daily. She has never had material wealth of any kind and has lived a life filled with trials. However, she is rich: rich in the heavenly treasure of faith. My mother, spiritually speaking, is a faith giant.

Presently at age seventy, she is finally reaping what she has sown. She has children who love her, who enjoy her company, who assist her with daily needs, and are the joy of her life. She has sixteen grandchildren ranging in ages twenty-seven to two. The older grandchildren, my two included, have incredible memories of the simple life on her farm: herds of cows to be milked, sheep to be sheared, flocks of chickens needing eggs gathered, and county fairs. The younger grandchildren have more recent memories of a Grammy who reads to them, builds puzzles, gives them cookies, and gently teases them with affection and humor. All of us, children and grandchildren are witnessing a life of faith sown in trials; a life lived in perseverance to endure through the trials.

Personally, I have praised God for providing me a tremendous model of faith in my mother. As I’ve written in the past, I have been in a lengthy season of trials. And the promise in James 1:2-4 has become my mantra as I hang on with all of my strength to the truth: I can rejoice in trials because the trials are producing perseverance. Perseverance is maturing my faith. My mother has modeled this perseverance and has taught me this mantra, and I am watching her reap what she has sown in laughter and tears, prayer, hard work, and commitment. I have faith that I will also reap what I am presently sowing: hard work, prayer, faithfulness, commitment, and trust. In my mother, I have living proof that God is a God who is faithful to His promises. One day I, also, will reap what I have sown.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Fifteen Minutes

If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. John 15:10-11

The nerves were just overwhelming. My hands were shaking, my words were stumbling. I actually started hyperventilating, unable to slow my breathing down. Quickly I grabbed the small plastic bag on top of the ice bucket and panting I opened it up and began breathing: in, out, in, out until I felt my heart slow down. I tried to sit for a moment and again began the process of rehearsing my “pitch” for the appointment I was to keep in forty-five minutes.

I couldn’t believe how quickly a year had passed. Both Kathleen and Susan reminded me that I had set this goal last year: to sit down with a publisher to present a book that I had been compelled to write. Truthfully, writing had become a matter of obedience. I kept asking the Lord, “Am I wasting my time?” “Is this really what You want me to write?” “I have no real qualifications. I’ll never get past the opening words of the presentation.” Over and over I questioned Him. But unless I had a clear answer of “no”, I knew that I had to keep writing.

So write I did. Not as studiously as I should have. Some days I wasted time with games. Other times I’d pick up the phone and call somebody just to put it off a little longer. Then there were times, precious times, when I would become so absorbed Bob would startle me just by speaking my name from my office door or I would jump if the phone rang. But the ideas, thoughts, and stories insisted they be written down; the Scriptures begged for a place to be discussed so that one person might gain understanding one day. Obedience.

The forty-five minutes passed far more quickly than I ever thought they would. Over and over, I said the words to myself: “Thank you for seeing me today. My name is Gayle Dunphy and my book is about….My credentials are….My target audience is…” As I waited outside of the door of the appointed place, God in His mercy, sent a distraction in the form of a conversation with a lovely woman who had just pitched her book. She was small and slight, the complete antithesis of myself, and I was quickly engaged in listening to her story. Then it was my turn.

I walked into the room and I could feel my heart fluttering. Years of dreaming, two years of prayer, and hours upon hours in my office rested upon the next fifteen minutes. I tried to speak slowly and steadily as I shared my passion and heart’s desire for God’s people to fall in love with Jesus and His Word. When I was able to take the actual proposal out of my bag, I no longer felt my being making the motions or carrying the conversation. It felt as though His Spirit had stepped into the moment and made it His own. As I went over the chapter overviews, I could see the publisher’s interest and was able to answer her questions with clarity and enthusiasm, surely proof again of His divine presence. Obedience for fifteen minutes.

Suddenly, she was saying, “I’d like to read your proposal.” I’m really not too sure of what was said after that. I know that I handed her one of my business cards and shook her hand before I walked out of the room. My fifteen minutes were over, but the future was laid out before me like the vision from the top of a beautiful mountain. My joy was beyond words. Fifteen minutes of obedience.

I’ve had a couple of days to process my experience. The fact that a publisher wanted to read my proposal was far more than I had ever dreamed, far more than I had “asked or imagined.” This book may not be published this time. The publisher may read it and not like it. And that’s OK. My focus is this: I have been quietly on my face before my Lord and thanked Him over and over and over; not for the appointment going well although I am thankful for that. But what I have been most thankful for is His empowering me to continue to be obedient when my fears and doubts almost paralyzed me as so often has happened in the past. He has shown me the joy of obedience in the face of my absolute surety that I would fail yet again; that I would be rejected yet again. And still He empowered me to be obedient. My joy is complete.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Weapons for the Battle

Today I’m engaged in a battle. This particular offensive has been waged before, but I find myself pinned down once again. Satan knows many of my weaknesses, but this particular weakness has been attacked regularly. You would think by now I would be highly skilled at defending this particular chink in my armor, but again I find Satan firing his grenade launcher causing me to cry out to God for the assistance of many weapons.

The first weapon is prayer! Jesus, the reigning general has provided access to the commander in chief, my Father, Creator, and Sustainer who reassures me that the war is already won. My job is to be faithful to engage the enemy of my soul, Satan, and rely on the weaponry that my God has provided. Starting with the intimacy of prayer, I have opportunity to study the battle plan and I can be prepared to know where the enemy may strike next by reviewing the layout of the battlefield. This battle requires vigilance and the Holy Spirit is on watch continually, reminding me of truth and guiding my footsteps to avoid the mines. Yes, without the preparation of prayer, I would have no chance for survival.

The second weapon is Scripture. I put on the sidearm of knowing the Lord “delights in me” as Zephaniah 3:17 assures me. My machine gun is knowing God has plans to “prosper me,…to give me a hope and a future” as revealed in Jeremiah 29:11. I’m using Ephesians 2:10 as a shield as I remember that I am His masterpiece and that He has “works for me to walk in”. Finally, I reach for the grenade of “If God is for us [me], who can be against us [me]” found in Romans 8:31. These are weapons that no enemy can withstand.

The final weapon is godly relationships. Try as I might I cannot fight this battle on my own! I must enlist the aid of people who love me and will pray for me in the battle. These are people who know me and my weaknesses, who will be faithful to pray for me, and will speak God’s truth to me. I am grateful for God’s provision in this particular weaponry. He is faithful and my Jehovah Jireh, my provider, has enlisted brothers and sisters to guard my back!

The enemy is mine! In the provision of my righteous God, the God of the angel armies, I find the weaponry to fight, to rest when needed, and to prepare daily for the war. Some battles will be fought over and over, but I am assured of victory through Jesus Christ! My joy is complete!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Joy Through a Painful Season

I am enduring a season of watching some of my most intimate friends go through some truly difficult struggles. One cherished sister is in the midst of a frightening medical crisis that could have long-term implications for her future. Another precious couple is in the midst of grave relationship issues. A third treasured sister is dealing with a wayward child who has some serious personal problems of his own. These are people in whom I have invested a great deal of time and love. And I must say recently I have felt so powerless to do anything helpful. I feel like all I can do is pray…and be there with and for them.

As I have sat with these individuals, I have shared the burden of feelings; feelings of pain, fear, hurt, abandonment and loss. My heart aches as I have wept with and for each of them. The earnest prayers in the dead of night on their behalf has comforted and strengthened me, and I pray, them. Yet, as frightening, sad, and painful as these circumstances are to observe in the different lives affected, I wouldn’t be anywhere else! These people are my family. And one day, I will be the one in the midst of the pain, loss, and confusion and they will be there comforting, praying, and present with me!

This kind of love is God’s design, and I am astounded at how profound the care and the love is that He gives us for each other….if we are willing to risk; to risk loving our neighbor, to risk being used by and submitting to our God. Please understand me; I know that none of this is from my strength for I am a weak vessel! But I am experiencing the truths of the Scriptures so powerfully! For instance, 2 Corinthians 12:9 is deeply poignant to me through the heavy days because I am experiencing the truth of it: "’My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.” This verse is more alive to me today than it has ever been before.

As difficult as these last several months have been, I have truly sensed God’s grace and strength filling me when I have thought I have nothing left to give. My dependence on Him has grown profoundly. In my neediness, I am acutely aware of the sufficiency of God’s grace…and I am marveling at the beauty of His design for His Church! This is the love that we are commanded to demonstrate to each other. This is love that has eternal value as I invest in the lives of these people and they invest in me! These are the moments when treasures are being stored up in heaven. It is through this kind of love that God’s faithfulness is confirmed as He is creating His testimonies in our lives. My joy is overflowing as I discover yet again how faithful my God truly is. Ultimately, I pray that through these circumstances God is receiving the glory He so richly deserves.

Monday, April 5, 2010

A Different Easter Celebration

For the first time in more years than I can remember, I was not in church on Easter Sunday. My husband and I had gone camping with our daughter and son-in-law for some much needed respite after a season of extreme stress and sadness. But early on Monday morning I was feeling so guilty! How could I have missed the one service in the year where the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ is celebrated? I tried to comfort myself by the fact that all day long yesterday I hummed, “Jesus Christ is Risen Today” but somehow, it didn’t seem like enough. How could I have missed declaring, “He is risen!” followed by, “He is risen indeed!” almost as though the phrase was a secret password for an exclusive club?

Even last night, I was awake fretting over the fact that I missed church yesterday. What would people think? Would they think I didn’t love Jesus? Would my status as a “good” Christian be called into question? Does my not attending a church service on Easter make me a backslidden Christian? Do I need to repent and confess that my heart and soul has been in a period of mourning and I just couldn’t bring myself to put on my Christian “suit” and behave like all born-again Christians are supposed to behave on Easter Sunday? Does Jesus think that I don’t love Him enough to attend church?

Finally this morning, after some quiet time with Jesus in the Word, then praying and listening, I turned to a loving, precious sister in Christ, and shared some of my fears and heart-aches. As I poured out my heart, the tears were flowing down my face as I wept over the grief and loss I have experienced over the last year. And after the phone call ended, I continued to weep with my Lord, sensing His comforting presence as though He had gathered me into His arms, as a mother would her injured child. I was comforted and soon my soul was feeling refreshed. The ringing of my phone gently interrupted my comfortable silence. The voice on the other end was a different beloved sister who was experiencing her own grief and was seeking counsel. As we spoke, God provided a unique opportunity to share the reality of my Easter morning with her. The following is how I spent my Easter morning.

I had the privilege of observing two sets of new-born twin lambs, barely an hour old. New life! They were still struggling to get to their feet, breathing air for the first time, and softly bleating as they explored their small stall. As I described the scene to my friend, my heart turned to Jesus, our Lamb, the paschal Lamb! Isaiah 53:7 tells us, “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.” As I described watching those new-born lambs, I was reminded of the unfathomable gift, a gift that I did not and do not deserve, but was given in spite of my sinful self: Jesus Christ and the indwelling Holy Spirit. Watching them yesterday, in that moment, I was once again overwhelmed with the grace of God the Father who was willing to allow His only-begotten Son to die on a cross, to show us His power and love by raising Jesus from the dead to new life to provide a means of communing with our holy Creator. And to think that we have been invited to receive this gift of new life through Jesus Christ! That is Easter – the celebration of the resurrection!

As I ended the conmversation with my friend, it became obvious to me that my heart needed to be reminded that Easter is not about attending a church service, or the sin of worrying about what people may be thinking about me. Easter is about truly worshipping Jesus Christ! As I told my friend, perhaps that was a far more authentic celebration of Easter: to be in a barn watching those little lambs so fresh and new to the world. May I be able to recognize that every day can be a celebration of His death and resurrection and the new life that I have because of that precious Lamb of God!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

In My Heart of Hearts

Last year while attending our women’s retreat, I was privileged to become acquainted with our tremendous speaker, Wendi Pope of Proverbs 31 Ministries. As she delivered her message, I was gleaning deep spiritual truths and God convicted my heart about a sin of disobedience. I had long felt God was calling me to pursue a ministry of speaking and writing, but I was convinced that I had neither the ability nor the credentials to do it. In His grace, one of the truths that Wendi revealed is that God “will qualify the called, not necessarily call the qualified.” As I allowed that truth to permeate my being, God provided the means to take a leap of faith in radical obedience! Through Wendi, I learned about an amazing conference, fittingly called, ‘She Speaks!’ ‘She Speaks!’ is hosted by Proverbs 31 Ministries and is a remarkable opportunity for women who believe God may be calling them into ministry for Christian writing and/or speaking. For the first time, acknowledging a longing in my heart of hearts, I took the risk of believing that God was calling me in a new direction for ministry. So feeling akin to Moses and his feelings of inadequacy, with great trepidation and astonishment at my own chutzpah I registered and started to gather the funds needed to attend.

And as always, when we are obedient, the Lord blesses! I have never been so energized, educated, and encouraged by a conference! ‘She Speaks!’ provides practical and thorough training as a speaker and/or a writer, while networking with like-minded women who are also pursuing their passion for Jesus Christ. The break-out sessions far exceeded my expectations, providing current information and resources while consistently focusing our hearts on serving Jesus Christ and our community. Furthermore, those who presented were knowledgeable and concise in what is required to succeed in a highly competitive marketplace. Is God possibly calling you to this ministry? Prayerfully consider going to Proverbs 31 Ministries to discover more details about attending this conference.

Upon returning home, I found myself taking steps to finally pursue the dream of a new ministry. Because of the encouragement of last year’s conference, I am involved in a local Christian writer’s group and working slowly but steadily on a book which I plan on presenting to a publisher at this year’s conference. Currently, I am registered and planning to attend ‘She Speaks!’ again this year. Proverbs 31 Ministries has provided even more incentive to attend this year’s conference by offering a scholarship for women who are bloggers. I started blogging and have been blessed by sharing what God is teaching me in my life. If you are a blogger and you would like more information, go to Lisa TerKeurst's blog . I cannot wait to reconnect with those I met last year, and I’m looking forward to making new relationships this year. My testimony is that while I may be living proof that God uses the “foolish things of the world to shame the wise”, I cannot adequately express God’s faithfulness in providing the venue of ‘She Speaks!’ Only our loving God could provide a woman like me such an opportunity to pursue a dream He planted deep in my heart of hearts.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Order of Things

As many of my beloved readers may be aware, I am a routine individual (refer to the previous blog, “Bovine Creatures”). Last week was proof yet again of how discombobulated I become when my routine is interrupted! In my normal week I have daily devotions every morning and I also work-out three times a week. Mondays are usually my day to do a regular housecleaning: laundry, scrub floors, vacuum, clean bathrooms, pick-up, and generally set my agenda for the week. I see clients on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday and between clients I write, do personal bills and our business invoicing and bookkeeping, along with ministry research. Fridays I leave open for a variety of things: writing, gardening, or perhaps major household projects. Basically, every day has its routine.

Last week however the routine was interrupted. I had a funereal to attend on Monday which encompassed most of the day. Therefore, Monday’s work got pushed to Tuesday leaving Wednesday and Thursday to become overwhelmingly busy so that I would be free to assist my husband on Friday with his business. Needless to say, all week long, I had to consult a calendar to remember what day of the week it was and avoid missing client appointments. I like my routine, the order of events; order allows me to accomplish my work and maintain sanity and the comfort of our household. I become confused, tired and grumpy when my routine is altered.

Oddly enough, during my devotion reading last week, I realized that Jesus had a routine, an order, to His life. As I was reading John 13:1-5, I was immediately arrested by the order of events as He prepared to wash the feet of His disciples. The passage reads like this:

It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love.
2The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus. 3Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples' feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. John 13:1-5


Beginning in verse 1, John shares with us that Jesus knew that His time to leave the world and return to the Father from whom He had come was rapidly approaching. Jesus is longing to show His disciples the full extent of His love. Then, in verse 3, we read that Jesus knew that all power was His, that He had authority over everything, and that He had come from the Father and was returning to the Father. Did you catch it? That was the order: knowing how deeply beloved Jesus is by His Father and His authority was from God. Then Jesus would display His unfathomable love for His disciples. The only begotten Son of God, the Prince of Peace would don a simple towel, and take on the role of a servant to wash the filthy feet of His disciples.

I’m not saying that Jesus could not have become a servant to His disciples without first recognizing God’s love for Him. He’s perfect; of course He knew God’s love for Him! My point is that under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, John spells out an order of events for broken, weak, and faulty people: us. If we truly want to become the loving servant demonstrated by Jesus, we have to first stop and acknowledge to the depths of our soul how deeply loved we are by our Father; that we belong to Him as His children and He to us as our loving Father. God and God alone is the source of our power – power to love our neighbor and become their servant. Only as we acknowledge His love and care for us can we then, by the power of the Holy Spirit, become the loving servants God created us to be, in that order! Otherwise, we will become confused, grumpy, and exhausted!

If confused, grumpy, or exhausted is your state of mind, take a look inward. Are you focused on God’s love for you, even reveling in it? Or are you focusing on crossing your duties off of a never-ending list of chores, feeling resentful? Find the correct routine! Get things in order! I can’t speak for you, but I know that I have much to do to further His kingdom today and I do a better job when I do things in the correct order!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Bovine Creatures

“Grab her!” my mother yelled as I rounded the corner of the barn. Lucille, one of my mother’s Jersey cows was tossing her head and trying to push past three other cows to be the first to get into the barn. Mom leaped aside avoiding the stomping hooves and holding onto Pet’s halter for all she was worth. I jumped to grab Lucille’s halter and pulled with all my might to turn her away from the barn door. She needed to be the last cow in the barn so that she could give her new calf a drink. But Lucille was used to going into the barn first for the grain “treat” that would be awaiting her and was exhibiting her displeasure by trying to push Pet aside which was sending the rest of Mom’s small herd of seven cows into a mini stampede!

I learned a lot about cows growing up. Cows, as it turns out, are interesting creatures. While very curious and somewhat cantankerous, they are very routine animals. All of the cows know the routine; everybody has a stall to go into, in a very particular order, and if the routine is altered in any way, chaos will rule the day until the new routine has been established. Change does not come easily for cows.

Recently I have recognized that same bovine tendency in myself. Change does not come easily to me and I have been experiencing a season of changes; changes in relationships, changes within my church family, and even within my immediate family there have been some major changes. Some changes have been painful, others positive, and still others just dreadfully sad. I have felt my emotions fluctuating wildly depending on the events of any given day. Just as a herd of cows reacts to changes in their routines when they enter the barn, I am similarly affected when the routine relationships of my life are changed.

I think that is why knowing the truth of Hebrews 13:8, that “… Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever” has always been so precious to me. While changes are inevitable and seasons of change can be disconcerting, knowing that Jesus is constant, immutable, and unruffled by change is reassuring. My Savior knows the beginning from the end of everything that I am experiencing and none of it is unknown to Him. That fact gives me peace in spite of changing circumstances and relationships. How I praise God for His sovereignty through this changing season that feels chaotic to me! Now if I would just stop trying to push my way into the barn!!