Faith: You have 2 Minutes

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ImageOnce a year, I usually give my 6th-8th grade creative writing students a prompt that goes something like this:

If you had two minutes and the whole world’s attention, what would you say and how?

Here was the response I wrote last time I re-visited this idea:

I would count it a privilege to have the entire world’s attention for 2 minutes. It’s humbling to think everyone and everything would come to a point of complete silence to listen – to me.

Would I tell jokes?

Probably not. I can be funny but I don’t think I’d use the time for that even though we can all use a little levity in life.

Would I rant and rave about life’s unfairness and how heartache is so deeply woven into it?

Probably not. I can list my woes as quickly as anyone else so I’m not sure others would want to hear that. We all have tender times where life beats us back and forth.

I think what I WOULD do with those 2 minutes is this:

I would want every person to hear, to know and to understand in their own languages how precious they are. I would want them to know they are worthwhile BEYOND human comprehension, unique and deeply loved by God.

It’s fine if they have different belief systems.

They may not believe in Him but I can guarantee you HE believes in THEM!

 I’d want people to know they’re never alone and that He’s made the difference in my life.

Venue? Logistics? No real preferences here. I’d even be fine if they only heard me – they don’t have to see me. I would like the setting to enhance and not distract from the message.

I’d probably speak for one minute and give them the other minute to think about it.

Time’s up.

What would YOU do with 2 minutes and the world’s attention? I’d love to know. Please leave a comment.

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Guest Post FAITH: The Greatest Artist

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David and his lovely wife.

David and his lovely wife.

The following post is by my dear friend David Cox. Enjoy! – Cheryl

 “LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!  You have set your glory in the heavens.

 When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?”—Psalm 8:1, 3-4

Being an outdoorsy kind of guy, I’ve long appreciated the beauty of this earth—sunrises over the ocean, dappled light through the trees, the hush of a gentle winter snowfall, the amazing reds & browns of the U.S. Southwest. Having taken up stargazing several  years ago, I’ve also come to admire God’s handiwork there—the splash of stars in the Pleiades, the mystery of the Orion Nebula, the overwhelming magnitude of our own Milky Way galaxy on a clear summer’s night. I’m sure it’s occurred to you also—our Lord is the most amazing artist imaginable! His palette runs the gamut from the simple elements of the earth to the far-flung galaxies of the heavens. And yet there are no two snowflakes that are the same, no two sunsets exactly alike, no stellar constellation a carbon copy of another.

As amazingly impressive as all of that is, our Lord yet makes time for an active interest in the lives of the people He has created. Has it ever occurred to you that every circumstance in your life, every person who crosses your path, every situation you encounter—are all engineered and tailor-made for you? Sometimes for your benefit—“He leads me in the paths of righteousness…” (Psalm 23:3)—and sometimes for the blessings of another. Either way, the ultimate goal is the same: the active hand of the Master artfully arranges our circumstances “for His name’s sake.” 

It’s like when you hear from a friend about the sermon you both heard last Sunday, and she tells you that “I think God has been reading my correspondence, because that sermon seemed to be just for me!”  And you’re thinking, “No, that’s not possible, it was MY email He was reading, because I heard from God just the word I needed that day.” That’s not humanly possible, but with God, of course, all things are possible!  Only the Almighty Lord of all could weave all those circumstances together and bring out of it just the blessing that both of you needed. And He does it again and again, in your life, in mine, and in the lives of all the saints who have been here, are here now, and will be here in the future. And, as we are matured in our faith and gratefully serve in His name, we get to share in the joy of His creation.  All this and heaven too…now THAT’S what I call artistic!

David Cox successfully survived the turbulent ’60s, and then the searching (if somewhat self-centered) ’70s. Having been shipwrecked in Northeast Florida, he made a habitation out of the wreckage and is now happy to take each decade, and each day, as  it comes. He is a happily married family man, a recovering loner who has learned to enjoy the company of others. He helps people toward wellness, both physically as an RN and spiritually as an elder and mentor. He enjoys the outdoors, especially activities involving balance and movement. In his spare time he occasionally writes devotional essays.

 

 

FAITH: A way with words

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Recently, the creative writing department at the middle school where I teach held internal auditions for students interested in adding other arts area classes to their schedule. I read this poem in one of the portfolios presented to me. With the author’s kind consent, I am including it for you to read. 

 

I may not be the prettiest.
I may have done things I regret.
I may not be the smartest.
I may not have the best life.
But I have a good heart.
I try my best.
I stand up for what I believe in.
I have true friends.
I have a great relationship with Jesus.
I may not be what everyone thinks is perfect, but I know that Jesus
made me perfect in his eyes.
And that’s all that matters to me!
— Naomi R.
 
If YOU liked this inspiring piece, please let others know and send the link to this blog. Thank you. 

FAITH: Symbiosis

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Realizing new horizons in life takes more than thinking or hoping they will happen.

That tiny yearning deep inside

is a dream that needs watering – even if by tears

fertilizing by the hope in possibility

and time though the amount of it may make you anxious.

As it awakens and stretches

it finds your loving care

has provided a welcoming place to grow

Timid at first, it may slowly reach for watering or fertilizing

as you hope and pray that one day

you’ll meet it.

As you wait, you care for it

because you believe

in strength through growth

As you wait, you imagine

because you know that the future, possibility and opportunity

will be the byproducts of its blooms.

Then one day as you continue

living your everyday life

You are captured by its arrival!

You now realize

that the tiny yearning deep inside

needed YOU – as much as you needed IT.

– Cheryl B Lemine

Images from :<p><a href=”http://www.freedigitalphotos.net”>Image(s): FreeDigitalPhotos.net</a></p>

Faith: The First Day of My Spiritual Spring

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Photo credit: Salvatore Vuono/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I’m 28 today.

I know it’s confusing since I made such a big deal about turning Hawaii 5-0 in January. I’m not crazy. Let me explain.

I was “all good” with the first day of Spring, 1984 making its annual rounds but I have to admit that it was also a day that startled me by surprise.

I had just returned from a college retreat sponsored by the church I attended.  I was a retreat professional – if there is such a thing. Retreats weren’t new to me; what was new was how God used my arrogance to reveal that I was nothing but externally religious.

The retreat’s theme – they all have them – was “Knowing God”. Sheesh, I thought, don’t really think there’s anything new in that territory for me but what the heck. The retreat even came at a time when I was involved in a structured program designed to teach me how to share my faith.

But something odd began to happen. As I dutifully “wrote my testimony” for an assignment in the program, I became increasingly frustrated. C’mon, I scolded myself. You’re a journalism major. You can write ANYTHING!

Imagine my surprise to learn I had no real faith to share – only the faith I had in myself.

So the weekend – the Knowing God retreat – came and went. I returned on Saturday and house sat for the rest of the weekend for a dear family I knew. They really KNEW God and lived out their faith void of spiritual checklists to measure their holiness.

I placed my Bible on their couch and walked past it continually – unable to bring myself to even pick it up. Suddenly, the Bible and anything I knew about it seemed foreign to me. It was a scary disconnect for all spiritual things familiar in my life.

It frustrated me each time I tried having a conversation with God; I seemed to have justifications for every aspect of my life. Surely I’d say something that would convince HIM to accept ME!

  • I had grown up in a home where God was loved, spoken of and taught;
  • I knew the order of the books in the Bible;
  • I even arose at 4:30 a.m. many mornings during my senior year in college to “get my Bible reading in” before going to class;
  • And probably most “importantly,” (think humor, here)  I didn’t “smoke or chew or go with guys who do.”

I was in an exhausting place. Then came church on Sunday, a regular staple in my spiritual schedule. But this was no usual worship service. It kept going until mid-afternoon as person after person explained the retreat’s impact on them. And then, the minister to college aged kids wept as he told his story – one of realizing that he, too, had the exterior veneer that said, “Of course, I’m a Christian.” He talked about realizing that he had known ABOUT God, but not actually known Him.

Bingo! Something inside me agreed without hesitation. I could relate because that’s what I had experienced as well. I soon found myself praying and asking God to forgive me for thinking I had sufficiently known Him.

I left the service around 2 p.m. feeling free of the strangling spiritual entanglements I had hidden in my whole life. No longer was I coasting on the faith of my parents or the morality code I lived to uphold. Jesus had made it clear to me that all the “doing” was very, very far from the unfailing love and forgiveness He provides.

My story – my testimony, if you will – was now genuine. It was not created with examples of my efforts, the judgment I had lavishly lathered onto others who didn’t “act like Christians.”

But on the first day of Spring 28 years ago, Jesus freed me from a a superficial spirituality and He became my freedom provider. Spirituality had strangled me but Jesus rescued me so I could really live – now and forever.

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” – From The Bible, Book of  Second Corinthians, Chapter 3, verse 17

A site I love: utmost.org

(Photo link: http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=659)

FAITH: Life and Lessons

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Life can throw tough punches, but it doesn't mean we're down for the count.

Life’s been throwing lots of one-two punches lately.

Just the time I miss a hit another heads my way.

Here’s what I’m doing about it. Maybe it will help you. I hope so!

One of the best things I do  is to remind myself who God is by looking in the Bible. God is not a good luck charm. He wants to know us personally. He doesn’t want our relationship with Him to be one of mindless rituals and momentary satisfaction. Scripture tells us He has loved us before we were born, knows the number of  hairs on our heads and cares about us so much that He was willing to die.

That’s pretty intense if you ask me. So what good does believing in a dead guy do? Nothing. But that’s where the story changes because the dead guy – Jesus – didn’t stay that way. He’s alive and that’s why the believing – what or who we believe in – matters.

Recently, I spoke with one of my mentors. A phrase he said stuck in my mind. He talked about “training ourselves” to continually give things/circumstances/life/fears to God. Since then, I literally do that each morning. After I wake  I say, “Lord, here is my day.” And then I imagine putting it in his hands. Then I say, “Lord, here is ________.” And then I imagine putting whatever fills the blank that day in his hands.

He wants us to trust Him because He is trustworthy – for this moment, for this hour.

I also have a couple different devotional books scattered throughout my home – in the bathroom, on my dresser, etc. A favorite I use continuously is Oswald Chambers’ My Utmost for His Highest. Others are quicker reads. In the driver’s side door of my car is a New Testament and a book about peace for women featuring Psalms. I picked the book up at my grocery store.

Some of the best scriptures for stressful times are in Psalms. It’s amazing when you think about how God recorded real live examples so we could see what others did when they struggled with their challenges. He let them ask where he was, if he cared about them, what should they do. And you know what? After thousands of years, we still ask those same questions and it hasn’t changed God or his nature one iota. Another truth in Scripture tells us He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.

The intersection of my decision took place during this head-on collision with life. It doesn’t matter what you call it though it comes dressed as a struggle, problem or crisis. It is during those next moments or days I understand what I can, learn what I can and prepare as best I can. And then, it’s time. I face two choices which affect my “moving forward” – the options:  faith or fear.

From experience, I know my energy, ability to reason and plan, protect and otherwise take control are limited. Why should I psychologically “strip my gears” when one of my options is REST, PEACE, and HOPE –  in God? It’s hard work to will myself to make this decision when my human nature says, “DO SOMETHING…or DO SOMETHING MORE!”

Maybe I’ve done everything I know. Maybe I haven’t done anything, but when it’s time to choose, I think about an old hymn I used to sing growing up: I Have Decided to Follow Jesus. One of its phrases repeats the title and then goes on to say, “no turning back, no turning back.”

So, I chose to believe God rather than going it alone. I can’t do it alone.  I don’t want to. Since FAITH does not make human sense I think we mentally chastise ourselves for picking it instead of fear.  Our thought processes may go something like this: “Faith relieves me of having to figure out the next step. It’s the easy way out.”

In reality, maybe that next step should be to trust God.

Just saying.

Just wondering: What do you do when life threatens to throw you to the mat?

FAITH: Love is Action

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I’ve seen a lot of videos in my day.

Family movies WITHOUT sound. On reels, using a projector and shown onto a blank wall for all to see – usually at family gatherings.  In black and white but still potent nonetheless.

Family movies WITH sound. So much motion and sound that it’s embarrassing to admit that we hardly ever watch them because it’s not so convenient. In color and valuable to the family archives.

And then technology. I try to avoid it as best I can but incorporate its use to make life easier. The two video clips you will see (youtube links) will give you a new insight and appreciation as to how spiritual encouragement and support can travel and connect the many miles between those in them and those viewing them.

Here’s what I mean:

Almost a month ago I saw two videos that caused me to cry – tears of compassion, tears of joy, tears of stress relief and tears of thankfulness. They weren’t of people playing jokes on one another, the latest Bon Qui Qui episode or of a favorite music group performance.

These are videos that demonstrate and define Christlike love in action – from a hospital parking lot and from within my sister’s hospital room in Naples, Florida.

As you watch these videos, I hope they will enable you to consider your own personal faith and if it is not built on the foundation of Jesus Christ, I hope you will consider who He is.

Beth Moore, a Bible teacher, pretty much sums it up for us in a simple pledge of faith containing five statements. It’s the jumping off point of  her study titled Believing God. It verbalizes well what my family and I hold dear – not simply due to my sister’s current health condition, but as an anchor for our souls as life happens in the smooth days and the not-so-smooth ones.

The following is what Beth calls the 5 Statement Pledge of Faith:

(1) God is who He says He is.

(2)  God can do what He says He can do.

(3)  I am who God says I am.

(4)  I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

(5)  God’s Word is alive and active in me.

Just wondering: What do you think about these videos in light of the 5 Statement Pledge of Faith?

Video 1: Outside in Hospital Parking Lot:

Video 2: Inside Karen’s Room: