Friday, 27 May 2011
A Great Pity Party
Life is full of ups and downs. Highs and lows. Mountaintops and valleys. It can often feel like you are on a roller coaster that never goes back to the gate. Just when you think the ride is over, it takes off again. We try to maintain our composure through these changes, presenting a strong front for others. A polite “how are you?” is often met with an equally polite “fine, thank you”. Sometimes it’s the truth – we are fine. But sometimes we aren’t.
This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.
Often we push through the pain and heartache of the day. We appreciate the blessings that each day brings and so we put our best foot forward and smile, even though we may be hurting inside. If we are lucky, we have a good friend or family member whom we can confide in and who can give us some comfort and encouragement. Even better, we have a God who knows our situation and knows our heart. He is our comforter and our shelter.
Some days, though, you feel very isolated and alone. You feel like just giving up and walking away from everything. This year has been an especially tough one for me on nearly every front, from personal to professional to spiritual. I have had to struggle with difficult situations and decisions. I have had to have difficult conversations with people that I knew could have painful outcomes. I have been hurt and betrayed by people I never thought would do so. I have felt overwhelmed, unwanted, undermined and underappreciated.
So, not long ago I had myself a little pity party, and it was GREAT! You may think that sounds awful, but I am glad I did it. Here’s how to throw yourself a great pity party. First, you have to be alone. Wait until everyone leaves the house or find an excuse to get rid of them. Put on something comfy and if you are a woman, remove all make up. (This is a practical tip, since crying will only mess it up anyway.) Then start thinking about how hard everything has been and about all the awful things that people have done to you. Complain about how unfair life has been. Oh, and eat some chocolate or another favorite food. Eat as much as you want – do not count calories at a time like this. Scream, cry and beat a few pillows if you feel like it. (I am more of a crier.) Contemplate why you were ever born if you were going to have to endure this kind of pain and hardship. Think about what it would be like to run away from home. That would show them! Then cry some more . . . let it all out.
A constructive pity party has to have a proper ending. (Otherwise, you may have to seek professional help.) When my little pity party was ending, I started to think what life would be like if I weren’t in it. While there were people I had difficulties with, they were a small minority compared to how many people there are in my life that I love and that I know love me. I realized that my blessings outweighed my challenges tremendously. When I started getting away from focusing on myself, I began to talk to God. I poured out my heart to Him, asking for His strength, comfort and wisdom. Those situations and relationships that were plaguing me needed to be put in His hands. I needed to forgive and move forward. I needed to look at my own actions and take responsibility for them.
As parents, we see our children throw temper tantrums when they don’t get what they want. They scream and stomp and throw themselves down on the ground. The proper way to handle a tantrum is to walk away and not give the child an audience. I use to tell my daughter she could cry and throw a fit all she wanted, as long as she did it in her room. Once they get it all out and realize that no one is watching, they come to themselves. Before you know it, your child is crawling up in your lap with tears in her eyes, saying she is sorry. That’s when you can tend to her real needs and give her the comfort and guidance she needs to move on. Looking back, I see how silly my pity party seemed. But God let me have my little pity party, and when I was done, I was able to come to Him and say I was sorry. I was able to turn to Him for comfort. If I had done that in the first place instead of letting everything build up, I wouldn’t have needed the pity party.
When I was mulling over this idea as a topic for this article, the Lord showed me someone in the Bible who had himself a pity party. When we think about the prophet Elijah, we think about his great miracles, like holding back the rain or raising a boy from the dead. In I Kings 18, we read the story about how he confronted the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. He showed the people of Israel and the followers of Baal that the Lord is the only true God when the fire fell and consumed the altar and sacrifice. After this happened, all the prophets of Baal were seized and killed. It was a great and victorious day for Elijah, who was so faithfully serving God and revealing the sin and idolatry of King Ahab and his wife, Jezebel.
As soon as Jezebel heard what had happened to her Baal prophets, she was furious. Maybe Elijah had hoped that this awesome display of God’s power would turn Ahab and Jezebel around. But we learn by reading 1 Kings 19 that it only infuriated her more toward Elijah, whom she already hated. She sent a messenger to tell Elijah that she was going to kill him like he had killed her prophets of Baal. You would think that Elijah, who had just seen God’s power in a dramatic and miraculous fashion, would have laughed at her threat. Instead, he turned tail and ran away, afraid for his life. How quickly he lost his victory!
I Kings 19:4
But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he prayed that he might die, and said, “It is enough! Now, LORD, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers!”
Elijah had had enough. He wanted to just give up and die. Jezebel was bad news. She was a mean, wicked, evil person. As long as she wanted him dead, he would never be safe. He would always have to be looking over his shoulder. He would have to live alone in the wilderness. He thought, what is the point of going on? He wanted the Lord to just take him and put him out of his misery.
1 Kings 19:5-7
Then as he lay and slept under a broom tree, suddenly an angel touched him, and said to him, “Arise and eat.” Then he looked, and there by his head was a cake baked on coals, and a jar of water. So he ate and drank, and lay down again. And the angel of the LORD came back the second time, and touched him, and said, “Arise and eat, because the journey is too great for you.”
After Elijah had his pity party, he was able to sleep and to eat. He wanted to die and give up, but what he really needed was to rest. The Lord allowed him to sleep and provided him with food. Like Elijah, we often let ourselves get run down and wrung out. We push ourselves trying to live up to man’s expectations. We don’t allow ourselves time to hurt and mourn and deal with our emotions. We push the feelings down and we push our bodies onward, trying to be all things to everyone and always saying we are just fine, thank you.
I Kings 19:15-16
Then the LORD said to him: “Go, return on your way to the Wilderness of Damascus; and when you arrive, anoint Hazael as king over Syria. Also you shall anoint Jehu the son of Nimshi as king over Israel. And Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel Meholah you shall anoint as prophet in your place.
After Elijah has his food and rest, he travels to Mt. Horeb and seeks refuge in a cave. God speaks to him in a still small voice and asks him what he is doing. It says that Elijah pulls his mantle over his face as he explains to God how everyone except him has turned away from the Lord and that everyone wants to kill him. In my mind, I picture that as a childlike gesture – as if Elijah knew he had been shamelessly pouting. Then God gives him instructions on what he is to do. He is, after all, God’s prophet. He still has a work to do. And in verse 18, God assures Elijah that there are still those who are true to the Lord and that he is not alone.
Some days we do feel like Elijah. We feel beat up and deserted. In those dark moments, we need to listen for the still small voice. God is there for us, to bring us peace and comfort and to remind us that we are not alone. But He isn’t just going to just baby us and say, “There, there, it will be okay.” He is also going to remind us that we still have a work to do for Him. We may feel like we want to crawl in a cave and die, but we have to go and return to the life He has given us. We have to put our trust in the Lord each and every day. We’ll still have those good days and bad days. But if we remember that God will never leave nor forsake us, we can get through anything.
I don’t know what I would do without Him in my life – a constant companion, comforter, confidant and conqueror. How can I wallow in self pity knowing that I belong to the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords? Now that’s something to celebrate!
Posted on 05/27/2011 6:25 AM by Susan Nelson
Friday, 20 May 2011
Children of God
Jerry Lewis announced this week that, after 45 years, he is retiring as the host of the MDA Labor Day Telethon. Lewis has devoted his life to helping children who suffer from muscular dystrophy and has been the driving force behind the successful annual fundraiser. In an interview, Lewis said, “I’ll continue to serve MDA as its National Chairman – as I’ve done since the early 1950′s. I’ll never desert MDA and my kids.” His love for these kids and for this cause is evident when you watch him in action during the telethons. While age and health now limit his ability to participate actively in the event, nothing can stop the love and commitment he has for “Jerry’s Kids.”
I know how he feels. My friends often hear me talk about “my kids”. I frequently use them as an example in my Sunday school lessons, so it was only a matter of time before they would be used in an article. Now, I am the mother of one lovely, smart, kind and wonderful daughter. I thank God for her every day. She is my joy. But God has also blessed me with the opportunity to work with many children. Each weekday, my staff and I care for around 60 kids who are in kindergarten through fifth grade in an afterschool program called Third Base. It can be challenging and a little crazy sometimes, but I love it and I love them – all of them. Even the ones who act out and misbehave on a regular basis? Especially those . . . they usually need it the most.
Recently my daughter attended her middle school formal and I was there taking pictures of her and her friends. I saw several students who had been through our program when they were in grade school. I felt a sense of motherly pride seeing them all grown up and dressed up and I took pictures of them as well. I asked one of them to stop and let me take a picture of her, because she was one of my kids, too. She laughed and said she was too old for Third Base. I told her that it didn’t matter, because no matter how old she got, she would always be one of my kids. That’s how I feel about these children. I will always care about them, pray for them and cheer for them.
For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
As much as Jerry Lewis loves his kids and as much as I love mine, it pales in comparison to the love that God has for his children. 1 John 3:1 says, “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!” Once we belong to Him, we are His forever. The only way we can lose that relationship with Him is if we freely give it up. Even then, He doesn’t stop loving us. We can reject Him, though He will never reject us.
All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day.
God never stops loving us. Psalm 136 tells us that His love endures forever. However, that enduring love doesn’t give us a license to do as we please. As the director of our afterschool program, there have been times when I have had to suspend students and even expel some from the program. I am sure there are some who don’t have any love for me, regardless of how I feel about them. (I still love them.) However, their behavior made it impossible for them to remain in the program with the other students. It’s the same with God. He will always love every person, but He can’t allow sin to enter into heaven. He is a Holy God and only those who are holy can enter in. That means we better have our sins washed in the blood of Jesus Christ and be walking daily with Him.
My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.
It is comforting to know that I am secure in the love of Christ. No matter what the world or the Enemy tries to throw at me, I am safe as long as I remain in Him. In Matthew 10:28, Jesus cautions us, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” God’s love is always there for the taking. We are the ones who can be fickle. God wants us to love Him with all our heart, soul, strength and mind. It sounds cliché, but “love will keep us together.”
At this year’s MDA Telethon, Jerry Lewis will make a guest appearance to sing the song he sings every year – “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” When we have Christ in our lives, we will never walk alone. We will always have someone who loves us unconditionally. We’ll have someone who always wants the best for us and will always encourage us. He is our loving Father and our forever friend. I am glad to be one of “God’s Kids.”
Posted on 05/20/2011 9:01 AM by Susan Nelson
Friday, 13 May 2011
Sheep Say What?
Anyone coming into our revival services last week might have thought we had gone a little crazy. Most people in traditional churches think that we Pentecostals are a little out there anyway. We raise our hands and may shout out a word of praise as the pastor is teaching and preaching. But instead of hearing an “amen” or a “hallelujah” last week, they heard everyone say, “Baa, Baa.”
And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.
It all started when our guest preacher, Brother James Humphrey, opened revival services with a lesson on the revelation of Psalm 23. The first thing he said about it was that it was not a funeral message. I was very excited when I heard this. Just a few months back in the March 18th blog when I was writing about my grandmother’s funeral, I had made a similar statement. I wrote, “He started out reading from her obituary and then gave some of the expected scriptures, like the 23rd Psalm. (I still don’t understand the use of it at funerals, but maybe I’ll get into that in another article!)” I remember studying this psalm in Sunday school a few years back, and our teacher also believed it wasn’t a funeral message. Instead, it is a picture of the true man of God. When the Lord is our shepherd, we don’t want for everything. He saves us, tends to our needs, guides us and protects us. It speaks life, not death.
My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.
If Jesus is our shepherd, then that makes us His sheep. And sheep say what? Baa! Baa! The sheep listen for the voice of their shepherd and follow his commands. The sheep know that when danger comes, be it a thief or a wolf, the shepherd will protect them. The sheep know that if for some reason one of them gets separated and lost, the shepherd will leave the flock and come look for him. The sheep know that if they follow their shepherd’s voice, he will not lead them astray. The sheep know they shall never want for anything as long as they follow the shepherd. The sheep put all their trust in their shepherd, knowing that he would give his life for them.
I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.
Are you one of his sheep? You say you know Him, but does He know you? Before He can be your shepherd, He has to be your Lord. The definition of a lord is: one who has authority, control, or power over others; a master, chief, or ruler. So is He really Lord over your life? In Luke 6:46, Jesus says, “But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?” A lot of people go around saying that they are Christians and that they believe in Jesus, but their life and their actions do not reflect it. If He really is the Lord of your life, then you will live according to His Word. But most people want to have their cake and eat it, too. They think they can do whatever they want and go to church on Sunday and everything will be fine. But it doesn’t work that way.
Other people may say they don’t want to blend in the crowd and be just another sheep. They see conformity to Christian life as a barrier to showing their individuality, but they’ve got it wrong. We have great freedom in Christ. God gave each of us multiple gifts and calling. He made each of us special and unique. We are fearfully and wonderfully made, a marvelous work (Psalm 139). He wants our light to shine for others. But we can’t shine when we are burdened down with sin, and guilt and shame. It was for freedom that Christ set us free (Galatians 5:1). He wants you to be free to use your gifts and talents . . . but for His glory, not your own.
Saying “Baa!” may have seemed silly to some at the time, but I think most everyone caught the real message. The old saying is that if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it is probably a duck. If we are sheep, then we should walk and talk like we are His sheep. If people do not recognize us as sheep of the Good Shepherd, then there must be something wrong with our walk and our talk. It’s time to get your “Baa!” on. When the enemy is giving you a hard time, just say “Baa!” When trouble comes your way, just say “Baa!” When God checks to see if you are listening to Him, just say, “Baa!” And don’t be sheepish about it. (Sorry, that was a BAAd pun.) I am glad to know that the Lord is my shepherd and I shall not want. BAA!
Anyone who wants to hear Brother Humphrey's teachings from revival can go to the Audio/Visual section of our web site. Some of the other topics he covered during the week were signs of the end times and the difference between praise and worship. Just a word of warning: he’s not normal. But that’s a good thing!
Posted on 05/13/2011 6:35 AM by Susan Nelson
Friday, 6 May 2011
Like a Mother
I had the most wonderful mother, and easily, I could devote a whole page telling you about her. She was loving, helpful, hard working, self-sacrificing, encouraging, and gave the best hugs. She died from colon cancer at the young age of 51, and I miss her every day. It boggles my mind that it has been almost 20 years. She never got to meet my husband, my daughter and her other grandchildren. I have longed for the times when we would sit close together and talk. I have needed and missed her advice, comfort and reassurance. Still, she is very much with me every day. There are things that I find funny or interesting that I know we would have laughed and talked about, and I think about her. I find myself getting on to my daughter about something and I hear my mother’s words coming out of my mouth. I go through situations and challenges, and I realize they are ones that she faced, too -- and I hurt for her, knowing now what I didn’t know then.
Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother, who has been a mother to me, too.
In the years since my mother has been gone, I have been blessed with women in my life who have been like a mother to me. “Like a mother” is not a designation to be taken lightly. Even the greeting card companies realize its importance, making cards under this title. While no one can ever take the place of my mother, these women have filled in the gap, sharing their love and wisdom with me. Words can’t adequately express what that has meant to me. They are my grandmothers and aunts; friends and mothers of friends; sisters and sisters-in-law.
My mother-in-law, Clare, has also been an important woman to me. The first time my husband took me to his parents’ home it was Christmas time. This was before we were married and they had only met me a few months before. On the way, I started feeling bad and by the time we got to their home in Pennsylvania I was really sick with a cold. I knew his mom was looking forward to having her kids home for Christmas, and I thought, “She’s going to be thrilled to have a sick girlfriend messing things up.” Of course, she was wonderful. She took great care of me, making sure I had medicine, soup, and a warm blanket. By Christmas day, I was feeling much better. It was also the first Christmas I had been away from my family, so I felt a little homesick, too. She made me feel special and loved.
When our daughter was born (almost 14 years ago now), Clare came and stayed with us for a week. I had a Caesarean, so I was especially appreciative for the help, because I wasn’t moving around too well those first days. I was really missing my own mother, and it helped so much that she was there. Her presence was reassuring to us as new, inexperienced parents. I enjoyed watching her bond with our baby girl – and they have been tight ever since. Many times over the years, she has listened, advised, comforted and encouraged me. She is a wonderful mother, mother-in-law and grandmother.
When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing by, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold your son!” Then He said to the disciple, “Behold your mother!” And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home.
In these verses from John 19, we see the example of “like a mother.” While Jesus was on the cross, His mother and John were standing near. Even through His own pain, He was concerned for His mother. And though Mary had other children, Jesus asked John to take care of her as if she were his own mother, and likewise, He asked Mary to be like a mother to John. Most of the women who have filled that “like a mother” role in my life have been mothers. Even though they had their own children to care for, they still had enough motherly love to share with someone who needed it. But not all were mothers. Just because you don’t have children of your own doesn’t mean you don’t have a motherly love to share with others. It’s something you either have or you don’t. After all, there are women who give birth to children, yet have no motherly instinct or love. The ability to give birth is not what makes you a real mother.
Every one of you shall revere his mother and his father, and keep My Sabbaths: I am the LORD your God.
You would think we wouldn’t have to have God or anyone tell us that we should revere and honor our parents. But let’s face it – we are imperfect humans. God even has to tell us that we have to love Him, so we must need to hear it. God knew what He was doing when He created mothers. He gave us someone whose love is the closest thing on earth to His love for us. This Sunday is Mother’s Day. Honor your mother, but also take a minute to thank the other women in your life who have been like a mother to you. If you are a mother, thank God for your children, as well as the other people God has sent your way to mother. I miss my mother and will be thinking of her, but I especially want to thank all those women who have been like a mother to me.
Posted on 05/06/2011 6:53 AM by Susan Nelson