Monday, January 31, 2011

"Be" a Humble "Attitude"

Women of Faith:

I have always “cheered” the underdog. Their patience, their never give up attitudes, their faith and trust in a higher power, their hope. They remind me to “be” a humble “attitude.” Yesterday’s readings, especially that of the beatitudes, are favorites of mine because they remind me that when I am most humbled is when Christ is most visibly present in my life.

“Seek the LORD, all you humble of the earth, who have observed his law; seek justice, seek humility; perhaps you may be sheltered on the day of the LORD’s anger.” Zep 2:3; 3:12-13

“… God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong, and God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something …” 1 Cor 1:26-31

“…‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land. Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.’” Mt 5:1-12a

I am humbled when I give up control and turn my trust to God. I am humbled when I am persecuted because of my choices to go against the norms of society, choosing the path against “it must be right if everyone else is doing it.” I am humbled when I receive a thank you for a few “right words.” I am humbled when I am the underdog. I am humbled when I remember that I can’t do it all and I have to turn to others for help.

THAT is when the humility of my heart seeks and finds God the closest. That is when my prayers ask for the truly important blessings—that of health, not wealth; that of spiritual comfort, not physical; that of peace, comfort and righteousness, not happiness.

When my “be” “attitude” is humbleness, then all of my fears and sorrows are turned to hope because my trust has turned to seek God’s reward not mans.

I read something yesterday about how we are always looking up, striving for “more,” reaching for new success, and while that is a good goal for the world, it isn’t God’s goal for us. God is closer to me when I am the humble underdog—if I am truly humble and remember to ask Him to be with me.

God blesses those who are on their knees in prayer. He blesses those who are suffering from the pains of loss and illness. He blesses those who serve the poor and lowly. He blesses them because it is in those situations that we are reminded that our rewards are not here on earth, but with Him in heaven.

Do we think we can do no wrong and that our sins will automatically be forgiven just because we believe in God? Is my attitude telling those around me that I am better than they are because my faith is stronger? Am I arrogant and careless in my faith or am I humble and respectful for the “gift” of faith I have received? Do I share that gift in a compassionate way with others or do I “beat” them over the head with it? Or do I hide my gift “under a bushel basket” unwilling to share it because I feel the pressure of the secular culture to keep God private? Are my choices telling God that I am in control, or am I allowing myself to be “weak” so that God can take control?

Heavenly Father, make my “be-attitude” humble. Thank you for being there for my friends and family who suffer illness and sorrow. Thank you for answering my prayers to help the underdogs win. Help them to seek and find comfort and hope by trusting in you. Help me to silently accept my sufferings and graciously give my gifts, not so that I may have earthly rewards, but so that my service will be given humbly and be seen as righteous in heaven. Amen.

Cheer the underdog! Be humble and know that God is near.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Hooked on God First

Women of Faith:
It’s taken me a long time to fully grasp the idea of “putting God first.”

Maybe my confusion came from the church worker who used to guilt me into working church functions by saying I needed to “put God first.” At the time, I just kept thinking, no I need to spend more time with my family; I don’t have any more time to spend “at church.”

Unfortunately though, she was communicating the wrong idea of “putting God first.” While God calls us to “serve,” volunteering or working at church doesn’t necessarily mean we have a relationship with God, or that we are putting God first in our lives.

The concept of putting God first clicked again last night when the comment was made at our couples of faith date night—“you can’t pull someone UP, unless you are firmly anchored yourself.” God First!!!

In yesterday’s gospel we heard the story about how the apostles put God first by leaving their profession as fishermen and immediately following Christ. “He said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” At once they left their nets and followed him. Mt 4:12-23

They realized Jesus was the true prophet and by following Him first, they were making the choice to be “with Him first.”

I have asked God for many things this week: For healing for friends and family who are taking cancer treatments; for peace and comfort of the family who just found out their mother has terminal cancer and less than 6 months to live; for healing and comfort for young friends who have recently lost loved ones who were also young; for a friend who’s father was in a serious car accident and for the couples who we coach that their marriages would be strengthened by allowing God to be at the center of their marriages.

My first response is no longer “what can I do,” it is “what can God do.” I know that while it is helpful to be a caring friend, it is more important to offer prayers and then trust that God will heal them in His own way.

Each of these requests asks for healing and strength for those involved. But more importantly my prayers are that those involved would be able to see God first, in their sufferings, as their hope and as the strength and comfort that will allow them to move forward. I am asking that God would be first in their lives.

Just as we talked last night at date night, God is the “ultimate hook” that holds us up. What are we “hooked” to? What are the things we’re hooked to that are pulling us up or pulling us down? What pulls us “closer to our or further from our goal?” What pulls us closer to Christ or further from Christ? These are the questions we must ask ourselves when we make decisions, when we try to take control of our lives.

By hooking ourselves only to someone or something other than God do we pull down our spouse or someone else down because our weight and problems are much too heavy for them to bear? Do we place undue burdens and pressures on our spouse because we haven’t put God first and entrusted him with our burdens? At the top of the hook, holding us up and pulling us up is God because we have put God first in our lives.

When I realized that it wasn’t my spouse, family or friends that pulled me up; when I realized how God was always there for me; when I asked God first; then I made the change that I was no longer doing it for myself or depending on myself or others for strength; but that my service was for God, my strength was in Jesus Christ and not only was God first, but God was always and would always be with me.

Putting God first is the hook that keeps me up. And God first is what pulls me up when I feel grief, loneliness, confusion or despair. Without God first, without God at the top, I don’t have the strength to do it myself, and unless Stan and my friends are firmly anchored in God themselves neither can they have the strength to help pull me up. God must be our anchor and we must be willing to follow Him FIRST.

Come Holy Spirit fill my life with your grace. Rescue me when I am sad, lonely, hurt or depressed. Fill my life with the knowledge that God is my strength. Help me to see the hope that You offer me every minute, every hour, every day of my life. Amen.

How are you hooked up? Ask yourself if you are putting God first, immediately, like the apostles did when God called on them to follow Him. Or are you hooked on your own strength, the strength of a friend or spouse and only calling on God when nothing else is working?

Hook up to God First!


Monday, January 17, 2011

I come to do Your will: the vows

Women of Faith:

Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.(8a and 9a) Ps 40:2, 4, 7-8, 8-9, 10

In true fashion Kristy and Tyler walked down the aisle to those words. And the vows:

“I, Tyler, take you Kristy to be my lawfully wedded wife, to have and to hold from this day forward. I promise to be true to you in good times and bad, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health, to love and to cherish, from this day forward, till death do us part.”

took on more meaning than is intended on a wedding day. (For those of you who were unable to join us, Tyler had the flu on Friday, Kristy on their wedding day.) In sickness and health….

Behind the scenes we saw: Kristy and Tyler pray together in private as they began their day together. After protecting her dress from the ill affects of the flu, we saw her bridesmaids gather around her as she prayed for each of them and for the strength to get them all thru the ceremony. After the ceremony we saw Kristy tell Tyler to go with the wedding party for a celebration cruise around town and Tyler make the choice to stay with his new bride as she slept for an hour. We saw Tyler and Kristy pray the dinner prayer as one, newly joined in Christ. And we saw both of them continue to smile through the reception and dance even though the day had not been their ideal.

Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will; in sickness and in health.

As Paul affirmed the villages he preached in, they affirmed each other. And they were, and have been, affirmed by their bridal party, friends and family who have shared and given them so much.

They also have learned from the very beginning: not everything will be perfect, not every dream will come true, but that God has given them to each other, to support each other, SELFLESSLY. All they have to do is continue to ask for His support.
And He has put them in our lives to give us a shining example of “I come to do Your will.”

Tyler and Kristy Staker—We are so proud of you! Know that by your example you have shown us that God puts us here not to always have everything go our way but to do His will by serving each other, and by doing everything in prayer with God as our leader. And if we do, we will be carried through the good times and bad, in sickness and health, till death do us part.

Blessings on your marriage! And may each of us use their example of selflessness to remember our own vows and to live our own marriages and lives in prayer.

Thank you to each of you who have played a part in their lives and ours.

Charlotte & Stan

Monday, January 10, 2011

Life is One BIG Prayer!

Women of Faith:

Where is God in this moment? Is God in your relationship, no matter who or where you are?

“Where two or more are gathered in my name…. I am there.” Are we praying together (with our spouse, or our faith family) to ask God’s guidance and help to make our relationships more meaningful?

As a child—our parents meet our basic needs and they are to be the “first teachers. Is God in this relationship helping the parents to teach the child how important God should and will be as they grow?

As a young adult—we are given the freedom to explore and make choices, tough choices. God will always be our conscience to remind us of right and wrong—if we let Him.

As we begin new careers—We put ourselves in places where we can touch others with our faith and are often reminded that everything in life won’t go OUR way. But, there is a better way: God’s way. Each time we make a new relationship, we are also making new decisions (career, personal and spiritual) Do we let God guide us, both to choose our friends and make our decisions?.

Newly married—placing God firmly in the center of a new relationship from the very beginning. The “honeymoon time” serving as an example of peace and harmony and true love to always return us to the sacramental relationship, and the covenant we make as two with God.

As young parents—we become isolated in the noise, sleep deprived in our needs. Prayer is what will get us through the day, if we find time, even a second to give our burdens to God. Our young children will feel His presence if we feel His presence. But we must remember to look for it. Special dates with our spouse brings us back together as a couple so that we are always remined that He is at the center of our family. The husband and wife relationship is designed by God to be the journey to closeness with God. It is where God’s love culminates as we begin each new life.

Parents caught in the middle—Too busy to slow down, with tough reminders, decisions and sufferings as we watch teenagers grow. We have to make time for each other, take time to pray, to worship and to look for God in every moment. If we are without prayer, we are without God and we will lose focus, we will lose our way. Is God with you? Are you praying enough? Are you giving Him control so that the stresses become less of a burden?

Middle age and empty nested—A time that can be just as isolated, unless God is in the middle, or at the center of our relationships. All those previous reminders to pray are building blocks, each one becoming stronger. They are reminders that we are not here for ourselves, but to serve each other as family members, especially husband and wife, but also serving our neighbors together. We will feel both sadness and joy as our children make their own choices. Are we asking God not only to be part of our lives, but to help guide those we love?

Grandparents—We get wrapped around a little person again. And yet our control has been taken away, because they live too far away, even if they are in the house next door. Love, trust, pray, and give God control. AGAIN in the center of all of our relationships!

Growing old, maybe without our best friend—Ah, sadness, but if life has become one big prayer, we will be asked by God to return to Him, through nature, and also through the natural return of service by others giving back to us. We will finally have time to truly look at His beauty in nature. This is the final surrender of our sufferings and control. Our hearts will be full if we have let God be our prayer!

Dear God, Praise be Your place in my life. Thank you that no matter where I am, You are with me. Help me to always return to you. Help me to let you control each moment of each day. In each stage of life when I feel isolation, please be with me. Help me to allow Your Word to guide me and your arms to carry me. May my heart always be open to your grace and love. Thank you for shouldering the burdens of my sufferings and my aloneness. Help me to feel your love, accept your comfort and find peace in the journey through faith, hope and love. Amen.

Where is God in your life today? Give Him control so that you will have the grace of love and peace today. Life is a Prayer.


Monday, January 3, 2011

The Kings Attitude, Look Up!

Women of Faith:
Happy New Year! This is a great time to resolve an "Attitude of the Kings.”

An attitude that looks up, not down; the attitude that we are not alone, that God is around us in the people around us.

An attitude that looks for the positives during negative times (the light in the darkness); the same wisdom that guided the Three Kings to follow the star to seek the newborn Jesus in Bethlehem.

And an attitude of thankfulness allowing us to look at our blessings, so that we can share them with others (and God, when loved ones leave us) just as the three Kings gave their gifts to Jesus; an attitude of gratitude.

The three wise men followed a star (God’s light) to find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes. They would have missed the star if they had not “looked up.” What difference would a positive attitude make in our life when things don’t go our way?

When the Kings looked up they saw a star put there to guide them on their journey. Who is being placed in our life here on earth to help guide us on our journey towards heaven? What sufferings are we being asked to bear so that our attitude towards life will change? A darkness so dark, that we will seek the brightest of lights, God’s light, instead of crying, whining or complaining?

God is the only one big enough, bright enough, comforting enough, to guide us out of the messes, struggles, or sorrows that have been placed in our life. Giving Him control and letting Him change us while we are suffering is to follow the light out of darkness.

The Kings were the leaders because they had the Wisdom to look up and seek God. Are we looking up for our wisdom? Or are we looking at what the world would say is right?

And the Kings presented gifts, given with gratitude, for they knew that they had reached their destination in Jesus. They gave back to Jesus. Do we “look out” for God’s other children? Or are we storing our blessings by using them to entertain ourselves and fulfill our own desires? Do we look up, give thanks and give back to God what He has given us; sharing our time, talent, or treasures with those who need lifted up in some way?

If we look up we will find God waiting to take control of our lives. If we look up we will see God ready to guide us on our journey. If we look up we will see that God has placed someone in our life to help make the journey easier. If we look up we will see that there is someone around us who needs our time and treasures more than we do.

Christmas is not over, Christmas has just begun.

The lights may have been taken off of our trees, but there is a much bigger light in our lives. The light of scripture is our guiding star and the light of the new born Christ and his church has been passed on to us through the generations to guide us on our life’s journey.

The gifts we received have been unwrapped and tucked away in closets. But we all have received gifts that need to continue to be given; gifts of our time and talents, gifts not material. Blessings given to us by God, are we wise enough to share them?

Dear God: Praise be the newborn son you “gifted” for me. Thank you for the Kings who you sent as a reminder that You are the One leading me on my own journey. Help me to keep a positive attitude even when things don’t seem to go my way. Keep reminding me that the only way I need to go is towards you, the worlds gifts don’t really matter. When I trip and stumble because I look down in sin or discouragement, help me to look up and accept your hand to get back up. Thank You for the blessings You have given me. Help me to have the wisdom of the Kings to give back all that I have been given in gratitude. Amen.

Look Up! And may the Christmas Spirit continue to lift you,