Make It the Best of Times

Difficult times can bring out the worst or the best in people. We’ve seen both during the past few weeks. Neighbors are helping each other; businesses are changing gears to make needed medical items and people are pulling together in ways we haven’t seen much except in the aftermath of natural disasters.

One thing that is desperately needed is blood donations. Before the COVID-19 crisis, blood supplies were dangerously low and now they are even lower. At the time this post is published, I will be at a donor center, preparing to donate.

8 Gallons 8-19

In August, I gave my 64th donation, which is eight gallons. I can, so I do. If you can, I urge you to do. All mobile drives have been canceled for now, but the donor centers are open and safe. If you’re healthy and meet the other requirements, make an appointment today and do some good for your community.

With His Assistance?

I’ve been reading a (pretty good) devotional about learning to get away from loving the law and moving toward loving God. But as usual with most devotionals, the author really blew it in the prayer at the end of one reading when he said he knew he could count on God to assist him in the above-mentioned transformation. Everything I know and have learned leads me to believe the transformation of my heart and soul is not something I can do, even with divine “assistance.”

Assistance? God is not a cosmic vending machine, a butler or valet, a lady’s maid or a personal assistant. Becoming a Christian, living like one and becoming like Christ – none of these are things we initiate or accomplish. Jesus does it all, from start to finish. He includes us in his life and gives us the opportunity to participate in everything he is and does.

Notice I didn’t say we can’t accomplish this on our own. That’s because there is no “on our own” when it comes to being a Christian. Everything we do is in Christ; everything we do is because of him, by him, in him, for him. He wills it, starts it, he works it out and finishes it. “For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him” (Philippians 2:13, NLT).

I can assist him in my transformation by surrendering my will and desires to him, practicing his presence and the spiritual disciplines and keeping my eyes focused on him – all as he enables me, in his strength.

What Can Get to Me?

This is sure a difficult time to stay unfazed and judging by the lack of toilet paper in the stores, many people are quite fazed. I am holding on to my word and staying calm.

The author of Hebrews had some good advice about tough times: “Don’t be obsessed with getting more material things. Be relaxed with what you have. Since God assured us, ‘I’ll never let you down, never walk off and leave you,’ we can boldly quote, God is there, ready to help; I’m fearless no matter what. Who or what can get to me?” (Hebrews 13:5-6, MSG).

We can remain unfazed because of the way Jesus our Savior has embraced us with his love. We can be fearless. We can be calm and hold on to Jesus, letting his faith, peace and joy carry us through, no matter what happens.

To paraphrase Romans 8:38-39, For I am convinced that neither falling stock markets nor novel viruses, neither lack of toilet paper on the shelves nor canceled church services, neither social distancing nor canceled events, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Under His Wings

Resolutions made on New Year’s Eve or Day usually last for a few days to a few weeks, but when you have one word, it’s a year-long commitment. I have a notebook dedicated to my words. I add notes throughout the year, Bible verses that support it and prayers to help me keep on track. I stamp the words on the front in different colors with the year noted below.

I shared a couple of thoughts with you earlier this year about my word unfazed. The first was where I found it, in Romans 8. The second was a phrase from a Calvin sermon I use to remind me to shake off difficult circumstances: what of it? Jesus loves me. I discovered another verse to help me keep from being fazed: Psalm 91:4 in the NIV: “He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.”

Sometimes hiding under his wings and keeping warm under cover of his feathers is the only way to deal with painful things in life. Some might think that’s escapism, and maybe it is, but escaping to the loving arms of my Father is the only kind of escape that leads to life. It’s a path I intend to take often, until the ruts are a mile deep.

A Planned Act of Thanks

While making a transaction with a teller at a bank, I noticed the woman next to me dropped her cane. She didn’t seem to notice, so I picked it up and mentioned that it had fallen to the floor. She thanked me and we both continued with our business. As she turned to leave, she handed me a little note and thanked me again.

As I drove away, I thought about how she had prepared to show her appreciation to people who helped her. She took it a step further than anyone I’ve come across. I always say the words when someone helps me or does anything worthy of thanks, but I’ve never thought about having notes ready.

We all know gratitude is important – being thankful can benefit us in many ways and is also part of a healthy spiritual life. But showing gratitude to others, as this woman did, can brighten not only the receiver’s day, but ours as well. It’s a way of paying gratitude forward, especially if we include a blessing. I haven’t started carrying notes, but I plan to keep them handy and turn saying thank you into a little more than words.

Seeing Jesus in Each Other

When I arrived at college, I became aware of a concept called yellow pencils, meaning we were expected to conform to certain standards, even to look, act and talk alike. But one of the interesting things about humanity is each of us is different. That’s saying a lot as there are almost eight billion of us on this planet. Our fingerprints, voices, DNA – every one of us is unique. We students obviously weren’t the same and some even seemed to take delight in their non-conformity. God must appreciate our individuality as he designed us that way. His expectation has never been for us to be yellow pencils.

It stands to reason then, that he wouldn’t expect all Christians to be the same either. Perhaps, as a friend once said, Jesus shows a different aspect of himself in each of us. He is so complex and multi-faceted, he could let each of us reflect a unique part of him so when we are together and unified as a body, we collectively reflect Jesus.

We talk about celebrating our differences but sometimes we still hang onto the yellow pencil effect, I guess because it can feel safer. But we really do need to appreciate not just our uniqueness, but the unique reflections of Jesus in each other.

Our Inhabited Garden

“The world is so empty if one thinks only of mountains, rivers and cities; but to know someone who thinks and feels with us, and who, though distant, is close to us in spirit, this makes the earth for us an inhabited garden” (Johann Wolfgang von Geothe).

This has always been one of my favorite quotations. I found it when I was a teenager and had romantic notions about what it meant. I still like it but now I see it from a different perspective. Jesus is the only one who truly thinks and feels with us and because of his Spirit, the inhabited garden of earth is full of brothers and sisters in Christ and angel helpers.