Where Do We Belong?

There was a song on Sesame Street for children to learn about different things that fit together to teach them about animals etc. A line in the song was, “One of these things just doesn’t belong here, one of these things just doesn’t fit in.”

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Many times it feels like that song humorously describes me. The Life Groups in my church are geared around matching people for groups that fit together such as young singles, newly married no kids, young married with small kids, adults with teen kids etc. There is a singles group, which I don’t join in on even though I am single. There are groups for older people etc etc.

Sunday I visited a Life Group at church. They were all kind and devoted in their faith. I enjoyed the discussion, but I noticed something. I was the only one using an iPad and biblegateway app to read bible passages. I didn’t see a smart phone or tablet in the group. I think they were all in their late sixties or seventies. I will probably go again, but I realize my life is vastly different than theirs. I didn’t want to ask if anyone has Facebook to do a friend request. I certainly didn’t mention they can follow me on Instagram.

My body is approaching senior citizen age, but my mind and heart are not. Because I spend so much time with refugees and immigrants, many of them in their twenties and thirties, I try to stay current on forms of communication.

My life is all about spending time with people from many different cultures. The only time I usually have conversations longer than five minutes with other Americans is on Sundays. I love the life the Lord has led me to. I love my refugee and immigrant friends. They make my life so interesting and fun.

When I have down time and want to just relax at home, I often binge watch shows on Netflix and Hulu on my laptop or iPad, I rarely turn on my TV anymore. I enjoy youtube videos too.

As a young friend of mine joked with me, “You are a millennial.”

Even though there is no real fit for me within groups, there is a fit for me with Jesus. I will continue to spend time with diverse people when it comes to culture, age, etc. I belong to Jesus and he has placed me among many cultures and experiences.

For me the key is to relate with people where they are at and not expect them to relate with me seeking to understand without expecting them to understand me because Jesus understands me.

Anyone who chooses to follow Jesus is choosing a life that does not fit completely with life in this world. Our focus is to be n the eternal not this life. After all, all followers of Jesus are just foreigners traveling through this life as Hebrews 11 says:

“All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.”

A closing thought. In my post Liebster Award I shared that I can greet people in thirty languages. It is my hobby to learn new words. I made a video several years ago. I have learned more greetings since I made this video, but thought I would share it. Thank you for reading. God Bless.

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Reflections on Martin Luther King Day

Tomorrow will be Martin Luther King Jr. Day in America. I still remember when I was a child growing up seeing him on TV. As a child it always seemed so wrong to me that people were discriminated against because of the skin color. In my city at that time, the overwhelming majority of people were Caucasian, so my first interaction with someone different was in 7th grade with my best friend at school Lorenzo,

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My first time to be aware of racism was sadly one day when I was in 7th grade riding with my grandfather in his car. We were riding around doing errands and he started pointing out people of other races to me. When we drove by an African American, he would us the N word. I told him, “Grandpa my best friend at school is ….” He got mad at me and he never gave me a birthday present again.

He was always hailed as a family hero because when he would visit, he would spend a lot of money on groceries to help the family and give my mother a check to help out. But I lost any respect for him that day in the car and each birthday that he ignored me I just thought, “who needs him.”

As a boy, I learned how ugly racism is and how divisive it is. I knew it was something I wanted no part of.

When I was an adult and became a Christian, I appreciated what the bible teaches about diverse people. There was something very revolutionary written by the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Galatians. At that time the dividing line for some Jews was between Jew and Greek, non Jew, so it was monumental that Paul wrote in Galatians 3:

“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free,nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”

Paul taught that in the church we are all equal in Christ. Our only identity is children of God.

Martin Luther King is someone I have always admired for what he stood for, his leadership and work for equal rights. My appreciation for him has grown over the years. When I show his I Have A Dream speech to my students, it is a poignant moment for us since my students come from different countries.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

 

 

God Remembers for Us

It happened again yesterday as I was in my classroom. Each Thursday we have speakers come to share information helpful for families and have translators. A group came yesterday to share with us. One of the women seemed familiar to me. I looked at her but she looked away. I sat down at my desk trying to place her.

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No this isn’t one of those romantic stories. It is a story those who have been through a health ordeal might relate to. It has been 25 years, but some of my experience still lingers. I was sick and part of that was partial amnesia. I could remember family and family history. I could remember high school and such. But for the years immediately before I got sick my memory has holes in it especially involving the church I went to and the people I knew there.

So I talked with her and asked if we had gone to the same church years ago. She told me we had, so I explained to her about my partial amnesia and asked her what her name is and if she knew me. I asked her what her maiden name was and it still didn’t register. We had a nice chat.  I had to ask her one more question- “Was I nice to you and was I helpful?” She smiled and said yes.

The memories of my time with that church are vague such as coming out of the prayer room before the worship service and praying with people. I have not worried about remembering those times because of a promise in the bible in Hebrews 6:

“God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.”

God remembers everything we do serving him. I have simply accepted that he will take care of that for me regarding those years and it has freed me up to pursue serving him on the path he has me on now.

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But every once in a while, I run into someone from those days and I want to make sure everything is okay between us. It isn’t unsettling to me anymore like it was twenty years ago. I just have a few questions to make sure we are okay.

My experience highlights a wonderful truth we can all hold on to. None of us remembers all of the things we did serving God, loving his people, and showing his love to those who don’t know him. However, God remembers all of it.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

 

Looking to an Eternal Future Gives Hope

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This was the view from outside my building yesterday. It snowed Friday evening and Saturday morning. It was a good snow for making a snowman. I did get out for a little while, but spent most of the day relaxing after a busy first week back to teaching after my winter break. During a cold snowy winter day, people often wish for spring to come and bring things back to life.

When we have something to look forward to, it can help us to not get too down about the problems of our current situation.

A post I read yesterday caused me to think of the passage in Hebrews 11:

Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.”

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If I were to only look at my present situation, it would get me down and perhaps I would stay down. But thinking about my eternal future in heaven and how I want others to join me there, gives me the motivation I need each day to get out of bed, put up with the pain and stiffness throughout my body, and not focus on other problems. There are refugees and immigrants in my city who I want to share the love of Christ with.

The post I read was by a new blogger, Grace and Pink. It was a bit of a light hearted reflection on the fact that heaven awaits those of us who have come to Christ. You can read it by clicking on- The Log.

Jesus taught that we should invest in our eternal future, not to earn it because it is the gift of God to anyone who will come to trust in Jesus, but rather to store up for our eternal future. Jesus taught about in Matthew 6:

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Everything in this life is temporary. I remember when I received my van in 2009 how excited I was to be blessed by others donating it for my ministry. Now it is 13 years old and wearing down. But I did put it to good use giving people rides to church, rides to the airport, and helping people move. I also took people to the Immigration Office for U.S. Citizenship test. So though the van is wearing down, the lives I was able to touch because of it will be remembered. Hebrews 6 says:

God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them”

So then the question is really more about what my focus is on. Is it on my current circumstances? The daily pain? The financial struggle month to month of being in ministry? The struggle with depression? Oh my, if my focus is on those things, throw in the towel.

But my focus is on the Lord. He has blessed me with a life full of meaning and purpose. He has forgiven me. He has changed my life. Best of all, I have an eternity in heaven with him and all of those who know him. That makes getting out of bed and facing the day and the problems in life worth it all.

Thank for reading. God Bless

 

 

Happy New Year- Forget Last Year? Remember? Or Forget and Remember?

I am a little cynical about New Year’s Day because nothing really changes. I will have the same problems, responsibilities, and obligations that I did yesterday. But it seems like a good artificial time to reflect.

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Speaking of reflecting on last year, the question would be do I forget it, remember it, or both forget and remember?

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The thing about memories from the past is that we can tend to beat ourselves up with them. We can dwell on mistakes and failures and let them get us down and forget the good things.

We can also dwell on successes to think about how wonderful we are, or how much we achieved to puff ourselves up forgetting our mistakes.

There is a balance in the bible when it comes to forgetting and remembering. In Isaiah 43 we read:

“This is what the Lord says— he who made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”

God starts of by reminding them what he did for them, making a way through the Red Sea for their ancestors, while in the same breath telling them to forget the former things and not dwell on the past.

In other words- Don’t let the past hold us down, focus on God and the new things he is doing for us.

Paul wrote about this issue in Philippians 3:

“But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

This is right after he listed his past accomplishments before he met Jesus and became a Christian. There is balance in the chapter. Paul lists his past as a way of sharing how much better it is to live for Jesus. That is why he says forgetting what is behind.

God doesn’t want us living in the past. He doesn’t want us to dwell on it and beat ourselves up with it. Learn from it, yes. Share how he helped us to encourage others and ourselves? Yes!!

But he wants us focused on the now with him and our future with him. He wants our focus on HIM. Why? Because it is the best thing for us.

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Dwelling on past mistakes can lead to feeling defeated, depressed, and discouraged. Focusing on Jesus can lead to hope for our lives.

There are times that we need counseling or help to recover from things in the past such as abuse. That is different than what I am talking about and if you have suffered abuse of any kind, please seek help.

Also there are times we need help with issues like clinical depression and anxiety disorders. I am not talking about those and if you need help with those, please seek it out.

I am talking about our own mistakes and failures and not dwelling on them. Focus on God, he has the answers. 🙂

Happy New Year

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

 

 

“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”

Lord of the Rings is one of my favorite books and my favorite movies. In Fellowship of the Ring, as Gandalf talked with Frodo in the mountain, he shared this advice of deciding what to do with the time that is given us with the young hobbit who was despairing the situation they were in, Even though it is from a book/movie, such advice is so valuable for us.

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I used to have all kinds of time. As I get older,  I have more yesterdays than I will have tomorrows in this world, I realize how short the time we are given actually is. With the new year approaching the time we are given is also on my mind.

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I have been given time to live in this life at this specific time in human history. I do not want to waste my time wondering why I am living now as opposed to some other time in history. My time in this life has been appointed to me now. I have been given time to live out what was written in Ephesians 2:10, “For we are His craftsmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which Go prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”

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Each day I try to remind myself not to waste a day. I have today and that is all that is certain. My desire is to make each day count. As a teacher, it means looking for opportunities to encourage my students and instill a sense of hope for the future as they try to learn English.

As a servant of Jesus, it means taking time to pray, sending that message of encouragement, sharing God’s love with others. More and more for me it means valuing the little things as well as the big things.

Opportunities are not found only on a ministry trip to another country, they are waiting for us each day as we go about our daily lives. We never know where, when, or how the small things for us can lead to something much bigger.

But even if it is only a small thing that does not seem to lead much, I try to remember what Jesus said in Matthew 25, “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat……….. I tell you whatever you did for the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did it for Me.” As I try to show His love, Jesus considers it as being done to Him. That alone should be sufficient motivation to make each day count by showing the love of God to others whether in little ways or big ways.

Christmas- 2 Miracle Births Announced/2 Different Responses

How do we respond to God guiding us in life? Do we doubt him and his ability to come through only looking at our circumstances or do we respond with faith even though we are unsure how it will happen?

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2 times the Angel Gabriel appeared to announce miracle births, one time to Zechariah to announce the John the Baptist would be born even though he and his wife were old and had never had children, and one time to Mary to announce she had been chosen to have the baby Jesus even though she was a virgin. Both Zechariah and Mary had questions. The difference was in their attitude and faith behind the questions.

Zechariah answered, “How can I be sure of this?” expressing doubt in what he was being told by a messenger obviously sent from God. Zechariah had ignored the lesson from Abraham and Sarah when they had Isaac when Abraham was over 100 and Sarah was over 90. Zechariah was a priest so more was expected from him. As a result, Zechariah could not speak until John was born for doubting God’s revelation.

When the angel Gabriel told Mary she had been chosen to have the Son of God, Jesus, she asked a question that makes a lot of sense to me considering her life situation at the time. Mary was a virgin at the time, so she asked “how will this be since I am a virgin?” She was seeking clarification and once Gabriel explained it for her, she said, “I am the Lord servant. May your word be fulfilled.”

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When I think about Mary’s question, I realize how many times I have had the same question when God shows me He wants me to do something.

When I think about Zechariah’s response, sadly I must confess at times I have also had doubts.

When God showed me that he wanted me to teach English while I was on a trip in Bucharest Romania in October 1999, I had limited experience at that point having only taught in a few English camps in Romania in 1997 and 1998. It was a complete change of direction for me in my life. I wondered how it would work out. I asked him to show me the way. I asked for clarification of the call. I took the first steps to begin teaching English in Lincoln and each step along the way He has guided me. I have been teaching English for seventeen years in my home city and since that trip to Bucharest have also taught in English camps in Romania and France and also in a university in Brazil.

We all have questions when God guides us. It is normal to have questions. The difference is in our attitude behind the questions. If we do not understand and want clarification from a humble heart like Mary, that is okay. If we doubt and question the message even when it is obvious it is from God, there can be consequences.

The question is do we want to follow Mary’s example of faith while asking for clarification or Zechariah’s example of doubt even in the face of something obviously from God.

Thank you for reading. God Bless

 

Our Guide on our Eternal Journey

How comforting it is to have a guide when we travel to a new place we do not know. The Lord has blessed me to be able to travel to ten different countries for ministry trips.  I always appreciate the translators I have when I travel. They help me to know where to go, to understand the culture etc.

I have been thinking about a proverb I have heard from my friends from Asia. When I say it, my Chinese friends say it is from China, my Korean friends say it is from Korea, my Japnaese friends say it is from Japan. The proverb or saying goes like this:

 “A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”

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Sometimes we lose our way in life because we are broken imperfect people. We might lose our way because of addiction, eating disorders, depression, anxiety, or family issues, but Jesus is always there to guide us back onto the path of our journey.

Life with God is an eternal journey because it is a relationship with God who is eternal. We can spend all eternity in relationship with God and still not know Him completely. We can know what He shows us, but we who are finite cannot fully understand God who is eternal. That is why God in His love has given us a guide for the journey that will stay with us forever. Jesus is the guide. If we will receive Him, He will guide us and stay with us forever. He said that himself when He said, “I am with you always even to the end of the age.”

Jesus promised another helper when he spoke to his followers about his impending death and resurrection. He promised the Holy Spirit would come in John 14:

“But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”

Jesus wants to be our guide in our eternal journey with God. He will help us to know the way. The question is will we let Him guide us?

When God Nudges Through a Facebook Comment

My home church has been studying through the book of James and on Sunday morning the pastor that was teaching asked us what word comes to mind when we think what God would say about us. I have to admit my mood has been down a little lately as I deal with asthma, bronchitis etc. I tend to be my own worst critic because I know my failures past and present. So when the pastor asked us to think of a word, what came to my mind was- disappointment, as in a disappointment to God.

Believe me, I could build a case for such a thought, but is that really how God sees any of his children?

We need to remember that when God looks at us, he sees Jesus because Jesus died for us. Jesus is also advocating for us with God the Father. When God looks at us, he sees his children. But reading it and having a concrete tangible reminder are different blessings.

So when I received a comment on my facebook post of my blog post yesterday, it subtly worked its way into my spirit. The comment came from a friend of mine who was my assistant in my morning class a few years ago. Her comment was, “by the way every time I listen to the song below, I think about you talking about Jesus.” What song is it? I Can Only Imagine.

The thought that my friend connects such a beautiful song about Jesus and heaven with me is such a nice compliment. After I read the comment, it was like a gentle nudge from Jesus to snap me out of my bronchitis induced funk.

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God knows how to get through to us. He is always speaking to us in various ways. He is always with us. We just need to listen and pay attention. When we aren’t, God knows how to get our attention. For me it was through a comment from a friend on Facebook.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

 

Blessings in the “Small Things”

“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” Mother Teresa

I love this quote from Mother Teresa. Her ministry was built on doing countless small things for those who suffer and led to her being known around the world, but being known around the world was not her motivation. Her love for Jesus and others was her motivation.

Last night before my class, one of my students, a young woman from Mexico, was talking on her phone with her grandmother in Mexico. I motioned for her to hand me her phone, she gave it to me, and I spoke with her grandmother in Spanish telling her that her granddaughter is a good student, a good woman who loves Jesus, and that she can be proud of her granddaughter. The grandmother lives in a small town in Mexico. I wanted to encourage my student and her grandmother. I also knew that a simple thing of her granddaughter’s teacher speaking with would give her something to talk with her friends about.

When I was younger and a new Christian, I dreamed of doing great things serving Jesus. I read books about people who had done wonderful things and felt inspired by them. But as I grew in my faith and in my relationship with Jesus, I realized Jesus had the heart to serve in love. Yes, he performed great miracles, but he also connected with people by interacting with them in normal every day moments.

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Doing the “small things” give me the opportunity to show the love of Jesus in normal every day life.

Doing the small things can lead to “doing bigger things”, but God does not seem to differentiate like we do. He rewards faithfulness. In Hebrews 6 we see:

 “God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.

Jesus spoke of doing small things for others being rewarded as being done to him in Matthew 25:

 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

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I am thankful God has helped me to be more aware of the “small things” in life and to look for those moments such as taking a few minutes to talk with a grandmother in Mexico.

Dear reader let’s pray for opportunities to share God’s love in doing the small things. It can lead to wonderful things.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.