Posted in Christmas, Life Inspiration

What WV and Heaven have in Common

Grist Mill in the Winter, Babcock State Park, West Virginia

Photography credit: http://www.forestwander.com

I have for as long as I can remember, been proud to be a West Virginian. There are as many redneck and hillbilly jokes as ‘Carter’s got liver pills’; some I’ve laughed at, some made me nauseous, but very few have ever upset me. Most are told in good country fun and those that are not, are told in ignorance of the goodness of God that dwells in this place. I don’t think for a second that we are “Almost Heaven” because 1 Corinthians 2:9 says “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” Heaven’s way better than anything here on earth!  But West Virginia does have one thing in common with Heaven… commonality.

Drive down practically any country road in West Virginia and ask for directions and you’ll likely get more information than you wanted! Not only will you get directions, but quite possibly a little family history, political insight or advice on the best place in town to eat. It’s our way. There are the occasional grumpy guss, elitist, or recluse but I can almost guarantee they’re a transplant from another State. It’s just not the nature of the people in rural (Country) West Virginia not to want to help. Yes there is the exception to the rule, for them, I apologize.

The story of Christmas is filled with country. Mary, a virgin girl from the city of Nazareth, who called herself a “handmaid,” meaning servant or voluntary slave (Luke 1:38) is visited by the angel Gabriel with the news that she is to carry in her womb, God. And following her most likely initial shock it says in verses 39-40, And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Juda; And entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elisabeth.  There it is. Just good country people, Mary, Elisabeth and the country Preacher, Zacharias, willing to be used by God. He could have chosen anyone and most would have expected that the Messiah would surely come from a royal estate. But it’s apparent that God’s idea of royalty is unlike ours. He likes country!

And what about Joseph who would be the earthly father of the Christ child? A common carpenter, blue collar worker, although he was of the lineage of David. A man we know very little about, except his trade, and willingness to marry the mother of God, love the Son of God and deal with the stigma that was to come.

And then there were the shepherds, farm boys, who were the lowest of the low in the eyes of society in that day and God sends a host of angels to bring witness of the news of His Son’s birth to these unlikely men. A common thread woven into the Christmas story is common people just like you and I. God didn’t exclude royalty, the wise men received the same news and although it was much later they too were a part of the story of Christmas. No one is excluded from Christ’s story. And although it was a cast of common characters it was far from a common occurrence, it was a once in a lifetime, exclusive event that changed the world.

Jesus’ birth story brings home the message the God uses common, ordinary people to do extraordinary things then and now. God created each of us as a character in His story that continues to be the greatest ever told and each time a “new birth” occurs, at the time of someone’s salvation, the excitement level of that day in Bethlehem is still there and the desire to go and tell somebody! The song go tell it on the mountain scrolls across my mind and cheers my heart with the Christmas Spirit this morning.

I like country. I like common. I love Christ. Go tell somebody!

Posted in Life Inspiration, Uncategorized

Dumb For a Season

File:Alexandr Ivanov 010.jpg

As often is the case, my warped sense of humor took over this morning as I began to read the Christmas story. I hadn’t even made it to the Jesus part of the story, nor John the Baptist before I was seeing it in a somewhat non-traditional form. I’ll blame my two year old Granddaughter, Paityn.  We were on our way to Thanksgiving Dinner and she had said something silly to which I ask “Who taught you that Paityn?” and to which she replied “Duh, my mom.” I know… totally disrespectful right? No it was hysterical. She was mimicking someone older but she had the context correct, as if to say “where do I learn anything worth knowing?” We may have our hands full with this one.

Back to the story…

I said that to say this, Gabriel had his own “Duh” conversation with Zacharias in Luke 1:18-20 ~ And Zacharias said unto the angel, Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years. And the angel answering said unto him, I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and to shew thee these glad tidings. And, behold, thou shalt be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed, because thou believest not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season.

Zacharias had just ask an angel of God “How would he know what the angel had said was true; that as an old man he was going to father a son.” To which Gabriel replied. “Duh, I’m an angel.”

No he didn’t, but can you not hear it in his voice? “Come on! I’m Gabriel…an Angel of God for cryin’ out loud, His own messenger Standing before you in an array of light, pronouncing this great thing, and you ask ‘how can it happen?’ How often do you see angels?” So Zacharias was dumb for a season because of a lack of faith, meaning he could not speak until the season of child birth was completed.

I’d keep laughing at Zachariah if it didn’t hit quite so close home. How many times has God performed miracles in my life, and yet even the smallest things I have doubt that God will do, and then wonder why they don’t happen. For some reason I think God’s out of the miracle business, yet Jesus said in Matthew 21:21, Verily I say unto you, If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree, but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done.

Faith goes a long way. Far enough to move mountains. And snow storms. My recording session this weekend is in danger of cancelation because of a weather blip. If it’s hammering down snow I likely won’t be traveling 4 hours to Cleveland, Ohio, so I need to have faith. I’ve seen God move the snow before. I’ve told the story and it bears repeating about a snow storm that had hit our county on a Wednesday night not long after I had been saved. I wanted to be in church more than anything in the world, but I didn’t drive in the snow. So as I worked that day I watched the radar and prayed that God would keep the snow at bay until after church that night. As a new convert I believed God could move mountains and mountains of snow and He did just that. The radar showed every county around us being hammered with snow, but over Calhoun County where I live was a donut hole of clear sky. The snow was stayed all day, I kid you not. As I pulled out of the parking lot of the church at 8 p.m. it began to spit snow, and shortly after I arrived home it dumped a truck load. It was to be expected, God had held it back all day!

Duh, He’s God ya know.

I don’t want to be dumb for a season. I sometimes feel I’ve been stupid for a life time. Join with me in belief that God will stay the snow this weekend, I’ll let you know how it goes!

Posted in Life Inspiration, Uncategorized

About that Wall

wall

If you’re going through uncertainty, change or trials, this blog’s for you.

I’ve had a few years of changes in my life. It’s reality that life cannot stay the same, which is good else I’d grow bored. But with some of the changes have come major construction or reconstruction projects in my life. I’ve built, I’ve torn down and sometimes I’ve just hunkered down close to the wall and rode it out. So for the past few days walls have been on my mind. Believing it’s there for a reason, I’ll share with you today what I discover when I get an up close look at scriptural walls that I believe God will apply to all of our lives.

The walls of Exodus – “Exit right please”.

Exodus 14:21-22 ~ And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the Lord caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided. And the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea upon the dry ground: and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left.

When drastic changes began to occur in my life a few years ago I felt as though I was in captivity. Every day I was a little more broken at the end of the day than when I went in in the morning. I worked for the courts and all I seen was the same ol’ same ol’ every day. Broken lives with a generic salve being slapped on them and a cheap Band-aid and then sent back out into their world for a reoccurrence a little further down the road. Nobody was ever “fixed.” I knew I had the answer, Jesus Christ; but I wasn’t in a position to share that answer with them often and I knew I needed to be. Exit right please…. And so I did. Into the unknown without job security, some hard times I’d never experienced before, but I still believe it was right. There were days when the walls on both sides of me seem to be on the verge of collapsing, but I kept moving forward and eventually found my way to the other side. Side bar… I too was much like the children of Israel at that time, I didn’t always submit to the spiritual leaders in my life and it always lead to sharks in the water, a few years of back tracking and not near the progress I could have had if obedience had been in place.

The wall of Joshua – “Enter straight please…”

Joshua 6:20 ~ So the people shouted when the priests blew with the trumpets: and it came to pass, when the people heard the sound of the trumpet, and the people shouted with a great shout, that the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they took the city.

At Joshua’s command, who had received the Lord’s guidance, they just kept walking. Seven days, around and around and around. Welcome to my life in church leadership without a Pastor. I want to scream, but God says wait, I’m not ready yet. “This is crazy God, should we not be doing something?”  – – “Just walk” is all I hear. And so I walk. I want to run, I want to dance, I want to do anything other than walk at a steady pace, it’s not my nature. There are hecklers on the wall and I’m expected to keep my mouth shut… again… not my nature. There’s leadership that I don’t always get; “shut up and just keep walking.”

Yes Lord…

My day to shout will come and I’ll enter in “Upward and straight.” Just like the children of Israel, but in the meantime I’m going forward with the work of the Lord, in my place. Somebody else gets to lead, and blow the really cool horns which at this point just sound like a noise to me, not progress.

Joshua 6:9-20 says ~  And the armed men went before the priests that blew with the trumpets, and the rereward came after the ark, the priests going on, and blowing with the trumpets.  And Joshua had commanded the people, saying, Ye shall not shout, nor make any noise with your voice, neither shall any word proceed out of your mouth, until the day I bid you shout; then shall ye shout.

Walk and wait… the wall will come down. And it will come straight down without loss of life. Whew!

The wall of Nehemiah – Dealing with what’s left.

Nehemiah 2:20 ~ Then answered I them, and said unto them, The God of heaven, he will prosper us; therefore we his servants will arise and build: but ye have no portion, nor right, nor memorial, in Jerusalem.

After 17 years of service to the Lord, I’ve discovered breaches in my walls. I’ve let little cracks turn into gaping holes. I’ve allowed the gates that once guarded my faith to fall off their hinges. Sounds pretty spiritual, huh? Let me tell you like it is. I just lived in the city (came to church, did what I was supposed to do, and went home) I didn’t notice that there were things that needed my attention. I wasn’t polishing the vessels of God and making them shine.

Proverbs 27:17 says Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.

One sure way to fall apart is to stop working together. I was working solo because in my fleshly frustrations I’d grown weary and stopped working with others. But we’re in a new era, we’ve been shook up a little, we’ve seen the breaches and the brokenness and as a body of believers we’re working to build it back up. We’ve been reminded of the only wall that matters.

Ephesians 2:13-14 ~ But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;

I remember the separation, that’s one wall that Hallelujah! can’t be built back. When Christ tore it down. It was final and my relationship with Him was forever. I hope you know Him today. If my words have stirred you, I’d love it if you shared how.

Posted in Life Inspiration

Hunting for Happiness

This weekend is almost sacred in West Virginia, some treat it as such, I won’t give that thought much comment other than to say it’s serious business. Millions of dollars of merchandise is sold to make the catch easier and greater and overall make the hunt more enjoyable. And such is the quest for most lives. We want the best, we want it easy and we want it now. We want happy, happy, happy!

As I read the story of the one of the greatest hunters in the Bible this morning, my “Mothering emotions” were at both ends of the spectrum. Yes I was frustrated that he treated his birthright with such disregard as to trade it for a bowl of soup, and Jacob… what a little enterpriser to take advantage of his brother’s weary state to obtain his inheritance. And then the blessing of their father Isaac, what a debacle that was with their own mother conniving Jacob’s way into fooling her husband into thinking Jacob was Esau, thus getting the rest of Esau’s inheritance. My heart broke when I read Esau’s reaction that …he cried with a great and exceeding bitter cry, and said unto his father, Bless me, even me also, O my father.  Only to hear his father say “Thy brother came with subtilty, and hath taken away thy blessing.

Good grief is this not dysfunction at its finest from the grandsons of the great Abraham. Why would God allow the prosperity of Jacob at the expense of Esau? I think it goes to the heart of the matter. When we look at Esau’s life, he not only knowingly gave away his birthright, but he also caused his parents great grief by marrying into a Canaanite family (who were strangers to the blessings of Abraham) not once but twice. Esau’s behaviors proved that he not only did not respect the blessings of God, but did not fear the curse of disobedience.

So God allows Jacob, who He knows to be a deceiver, to receive the greatest blessings, although his life was not without heartache as well. Both brothers wanted happiness, but he who received the greater was the brother with a heart for God. The more I read and the more I understood Esau’s disrespect of God and family the less I wondered why the birthright ended up in Jacob’s hand.

I’m always hunting for happiness too. I want that ease of life that comes from the blessings of God. But as sure as my name’s Shari, I’ve likely missed out on a lot of it because I’ve haphazardly handled the things I’ve been given. I guess I have a little of both Esau and Jacob characteristics. In the hunt for happiness it comes down to one thing. Outside of God and His plan we may have “stuff” but we’ll also have strife. It’s only in the confines of God’s will and grace that we’ll have happiness and contentment. None of which have anything to do with “stuff.”

In the conclusion of this story we find peace between the homes of Jacob and Esau.

Genesis 33:9 ~ And Esau said, I have enough, my brother; keep that thou hast unto thyself.

It’s my prayer that I’ll learn “I have enough.”

Happy, happy, happy!