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Make Me an Instrument of Your Peace

instrument of peace 2

Words are timeless. The Scriptures are the purest example of this, but sometimes even mere mortals manage to write down a few thoughts that last centuries. The poem below was written about 800 years ago. You’ve probably heard it before, but it’s a good reminder of what we should strive for as Christians.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon:
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope
where there is darkness, light
where there is sadness, joy.

O divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

~A Prayer of St Francis of Assisi

Jesus, I am so much more inwardly focused than I should be. Lord, “grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood, as to understand, to be loved as to love.”

In His Love,

Rebekah L.

Simple Gifts

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The other day I was at the department store when I saw a fan on sale. I contemplated purchasing it for myself since the warmer weather will be coming soon, but then I suddenly had the thought that I should purchase it for my brother-in-law instead. My brother-in-law hates to be hot. I knew he would use it and this one was really nice. It has multiple settings, six speeds, the ability to set it to automatically turn on and off at pre-determined intervals and a remote control. It’s just a fan, but as fans go, it’s a pretty cool one.

I was nervous about giving it to him because we have a very strained relationship and we never exchange gifts. He is an atheist and limits the exposure his children have to me because he doesn’t want me influencing them. He assumes all Christians are unintelligent and hypocritical. More than that, he holds a lot of bitterness and anger towards Christians. I can understand his feelings because he was hurt very badly as a child when his father became a “Christian” and walked out on the family, never to support him again. The only contact he had with his father after that was the occasional phone call where his father would tell him repeatedly that he is going to hell. When this is your experience of Christianity, it is natural to distrust Christians.

I took a chance and gave him the fan. I felt that it was God who gave me the idea in the store, so despite my nervousness, I went through with it. And you know what? He sent me a text message the next day that said, “I just wanted to say thank you for my new fan. It is perfect for me and you can rest assured that it will get used every day. Thanks again. I love you.”

This simple text i1101414_my_phones incredibly touching to me and it is a gift for which I am very grateful. My brother-in-law went out of his way to thank me and show appreciation. He even expressed brotherly love. I stand amazed at the goodness of God! I see the door opening a little. I hope to be able to show him that not all Christians are like his father. Although we make mistakes, most of us are genuinely trying to live for Christ and to show His love. It is my prayer that one day he will be converted and model Christ in a way that his father never did.

Rebekah L.

Bridging the Gap

I was recently forwarded the video below. It’s probably close to twenty years old, but it’s remarkable how a mere 41 seconds can be so touching. Perhaps you’ve seen it already, but if you haven’t go ahead and click play; I’ll wait. Actually, even if you have seen it, go ahead and click play anyway because it’s 41 seconds of love and humanity that we could all stand to be reminded of.

This adorable pair of siblings perfectly illustrate the way we are supposed to help one another, love one another, and work together. It is also a picture of how Christ bridged the gap for us so that we could cross the gulf of sin to the presence of God.

“For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5).

When the little boy realized that his younger sister could not cross the gap on her own, he literally bridged the gap for her. He lay down and allowed her to cross over despite the fact that she wasn’t the most graceful at the task. He doesn’t move until she is completely on the other side, even when she steps on his hand. Ouch! But one of the things I love about this clip is how as soon as the brother puts his leg across the gap for his sister, she immediately begins to cross! She was too afraid to attempt the feat by herself, but she trusts her brother so completely that she doesn’t even hesitate once he offers help.

Do we trust God like that? He is the solution to all of our struggles. When He offers us help, we should be like the little sister and not hesitate to accept it! Are we so focused on the gaps in our lives, that we fail to trust the bridges God has provided? When I was lost in sin, Jesus offered Himself as a sacrifice for me and laid down His life so that I could have a way to the Father.

“Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6).

He bridged the gap for us.

Thank You, Jesus for being the One we can trust in the face of fear and obstacles. Help us to trust You completely and to not hesitate to accept the provisions You have provided for us. Help us to see You in every act of kindness and be inspired to provide a helping hand and show Your love to those around us.

In His Love,

Rebekah L

Ambassadors for Christ

ambassadors

This week has been a tough week for the United States. Between the bombing in Boston and the explosion in Texas, many people in this country are grieving and recovering from tragedy. For those of us in New England, the tragedy is still unfolding.

Personally, I know several people who were running in the marathon this past Monday, several more who were near the finish line cheering on the racers, plus I have friends and a couple of relatives that live within blocks of where the bombings occurred. Today, most of Boston and many of the surrounding communities were in lock-down. Although my place of work was open, many of the businesses around us were not. Several of our employees could not come in to work because they live in the lock down zone and were ordered to stay in their homes. Others could not come in because the entire MBTA (our public transportation system) was shut down. Even the taxi services weren’t running for a large part of the day. Although I live a bit outside of the area that is on lock down, I must have seen close to thirty police cars on my way to work. A co-worker sent me a picture of a soldier patrolling the street right outside her window. It is the type of thing that one might expect to see in a war zone, but not in our own backyards.

Yet in all of this, heroism and selflessness abound. It is important to remember that the love of God continues to flow in calamity. He continues to reach out through the hands and feet of countless ordinary citizens; volunteers, donators, EMTs, first responders, nurses, physicians, surgeons, and law enforcement. For every psychopath or terrorist, there are hundreds of compassionate hearts that are moved to action. We have all read the stories of every day citizens who came together to offer food, blankets or a hug to someone lost in their grief. We’ve seen the pictures of untrained hands pinching off the femoral artery to keep a victim from bleeding out. Perhaps we saw the list online of the thousands of people who offered their homes and a hot meal to those displaced in the tragedy. And let us not forget the police officers who ran towards the location of the blast (not knowing if there were more bombs that would go off), while everyone around them ran away. Or what about the doctor who was exhausted from having run and finished the 26.2 mile race? After the bombs went off he immediately ran to Mass General Hospital and within 90 seconds of arriving was scrubbed in to surgery. 48 hours later, that surgeon was still performing surgeries for the victims of the marathon. He was in surgery almost non-stop for over 48 hours after he had just run a marathon! There are heroes among us. Real people, living real lives. Tired, hurting, fallible people, who go beyond their normal physical and emotional limitations to reach out to those around them.

Those acts of heroism do not negate the grief or right the wrong, but they are reminders of love and humanity. Reminders we desperately need at times like this. When we grieve, God grieves with us. I believe He feels the pain that we feel. When we are hurting, He hurts with us. When Jesus walked the earth, He was filled with compassion and time and time again, He reached out to touch the sick and hurting. He brought restoration to people.

As believers, it is our job to represent Jesus on this earth. The enemy wants us to be immobilized by fear, but God wants us to be mobilized to serve!

People can serve without knowing Christ, but can we truly know Christ without serving? If we claim to know Him, we should be on the front lines of service. When horror strikes close to home, it is then that our friends and neighbors need us the most. I want to encourage all of us to serve one another in humility and love. Reach out to the hurting, donate to the destitute, offer a couch to the displaced, pray for the grieving. Be His hands and His feet and His mouth and His listening ear.

Be an ambassador for Christ.

In His Love,

Rebekah L

Spreading Love

Darkness

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” – Romans 12:21

In the aftermath of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School there are more questions than answers. There is anger and bitterness. There are political debates. There are little hands to hold and fears to be faced. There are funerals to attend.

Many of us have desired to help the hurting and found ourselves at a loss as to how to go about it. People all over this country have grieved for those they have never met. How do you help someone you don’t even know? When you can’t help those directly affected you feel powerless. But the Bible reminds us not to be overcome by evil, but instead, let us overcome evil with good. Let us honor the memory of those precious children and heroic teachers by consciously adding good to the world.

A woman in a parking lot in Altoona, Pennsylvania received an anonymous Christmas card on Saturday that said, “How do you fight evil in this world. You fight it with good. This act of kindness is in memory of a child who lost his/her life yesterday. Make the world a better place. Do good and Merry Christmas.” The anonymous person left a $10 bill in the card. The woman said that it was the best Christmas gift she had ever received and she vowed to pay it forward. You can watch the original news story here.

I want to encourage people to make a mindful contribution to this world and to people in particular. It doesn’t have to be big and elaborate; it can be as simple as leaving $10 and a few kind words for a stranger. It’s not about a material gift; it’s about affecting the spiritual realm by combating evil with good. Don’t be afraid to extend kindness to a stranger. Don’t be embarrassed to tell someone you care about how much you love them. Remember to hug people and tell them they are valued. Small things can really brighten someone’s day.

Here are few ideas to get you started:

  • Offer to pray for someone.
  • Present a smile to a stranger, even if they scowl at you.
  • At the toll booth, pay the toll for the car behind you.
  • Leave change at a vending machine for the next person to find.
  • Hold the door open for people.
  • Donate used books/furniture/clothing to someone in need.
  • Visit a nursing home.
  • Rake/shovel/mow your neighbor’s yard before they come home from work.
  • Leave a dollar where a child will find it.
  • Bring treats to work for co-workers.
  • Go on Amazon.com and buy a random person something off their wish list.
  • Call someone you haven’t talked to in awhile.
  • Make a conscious effort to not complain about anything for an entire day.
  • Buy the meal/coffee for the person behind you in the drive-through.
  • Send a thank you card to someone who has been a positive influence in your life.
  • Let the person behind you in line at the grocery store go ahead of you.
  • Volunteer at a soup kitchen or donate canned goods and other staples to people in need.
  • Slip a $25 gas card in someone’s bag or on their windshield.
  • Buy a few extra umbrellas and on a rainy day go out and distribute them to people who are walking without one.
  • Send a letter to a store complimenting one of the employees. Letters of complaint are the norm; positive letters are rare and can really make a big difference in someone’s job.

I could list many more ideas, but you get the picture. One caution, it is easier to remember to do these sorts of things around Christmastime or around tragedies. I want to encourage people (myself included) to make this a regular habit, not something that is only done once a year. I’d even go so far as to suggest you schedule it into your life. Yeah, I know that scheduling it makes it sound sterile and like I’m taking all of the spontaneity out of it, but if you set up an alert on your outlook calendar, email, or cell phone that periodically reminds you to do this sort of thing, you can be sure that it will go beyond the Christmas season. If this sort of thing is new to you, then maybe you only set up your alert for every six months or so. If you’re feeling more venturous, set up an alert to remind you to do an act of kindness once a month, or once a week! Before long, you’ll notice opportunities even when you haven’t had an alert and it will become more organic over time. Ask God to open doors for you and to show you where you can be of assistance to someone or ask God to send you opportunities just to make someone’s day. You can be sure He will!

The Bible tells us that God is love (1 John 4:8)The best way to show people God is not by using well-crafted words, it’s by showing His love working through us. Spread love.

In His Love,

Rebekah L.

When Sadness Creeps In

“Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.” -1 Peter 5:7

Often times as Christians we feel pressured to always exhibit a happy demeanor. A sad Christian is a failing Christian. Or so we’re led to believe. As Christians we celebrate verses of Scripture that tell us to rejoice in Him. We know that “godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6).  We know that the “joy of the Lord” is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10) and that a “merry heart doeth good like a medicine” (Proverbs 17:22). But what happens when that merry heart is not so easy to find? What do we do as Christians when sadness creeps in?

Before I became a Christian I struggled with depression. There were periods in my life where I found it challenging to get out of bed in the morning or to make it through a daily routine. I was put on and taken off of several different anti-depressants over the years. I was plagued by suicidal thoughts. I self-injured on a number of occasions. I tried to self-medicate with substances. Meeting Christ changed all of that for me. When I met Him, I learned what it was to have joy unspeakable!  I was set free from debilitating depression, drug and alcohol abuse, and consuming thoughts of suicide. Praise the Lord!!

But sometimes, I still fall into sadness. It’s nothing like the debilitating depression I had before knowing Him, but I have a tendency not to share this with people because I feel guilty about it. I feel since the Lord has freed me from so much I don’t have a right to feel sad. Ever. I feel selfish when feelings of sadness come on.  Sometimes I let the enemy condemn me for the feelings I have. Or I beat myself up using Scriptures that admonish me to be content with what I have or by reminding myself of people who have many more trials than I do. The trouble is that because I have such negative feelings about sadness, I have a tendency to not deal with them. I try to sweep them under the rug and forget about them.  The problem is that in not dealing with these feelings they actually gain greater control. The best way to move beyond sadness is to acknowledge it and then give it to God.

I’ve come to realize that sadness is a part of life. It’s natural to feel sad when we lose a loved one, go through a break-up, see someone hurting, or watch a dear friend move away. The Lord Himself knew what it was like to experience sadness. He wept in front of Lazarus’ tomb.  In the book of Isaiah, the Bible describes the coming Lord as “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3). The Lord knows what it is to be sad.

David knew what it was to be sad too. He said, “Be merciful to me, O Lord, for I am in distress. My eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and my body with grief” (Psalm 31:9-10). In another place in the Bible, David is recorded as saying, “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? (Psalm 42:5). There are many recorded examples of sadness in the Bible. Jeremiah was referred to as the “weeping profit”. Nehemiah was so sad that the king himself asked him what was wrong. Job knew grief, as did Solomon. Isaiah was so depressed he prayed to die!

If you are reading this and your countenance is down, know that you are not alone! You are in good company. You don’t have to pretend to be happy if you aren’t. It doesn’t make you less of a Christian, it simply makes you human. I have found that although I still fall into sadness at times that it doesn’t have to last long if I am consistent about handing it over to God.

You don’t have to feel anxious or ashamed of your emotions, but you do need to deal with them.  If sadness has crept in on you the first thing you need to do is to acknowledge it. Then you need to search your heart to see if there is any chance the sadness is connected to sin present in your life. If it is, repent and ask God to help keep you from falling into that sin in the future. Once we take care of sin, there are a couple of very helpful things we can do to move beyond sadness.  Below are a few of the things I have found helpful in my own walk with God.

In the natural:

  • Exercise – I have found nothing better than exercise for chasing away the blues.
  • Healthy Eating – Eating clean, healthy food the way God intended it.
  • Sleep – Adequate sleep is invaluable to our emotional well-being.

In the spiritual:

  • Thanksgiving – Having a heart of gratitude will do wonders for moving beyond sadness. When we focus on all the things we have to be thankful for, we don’t have time to focus on the things that bring us down!
  • Giving – Giving of our time and resources to those less fortunate than ourselves takes the focus off of our circumstances and on to others.
  • Worship – Again, this gets the focus off of us, and on to Him! He is our everything. He deserves our worship in the good times and in the sad times. The more we worship Him, the more He envelops us in His presence. It’s really hard to stay sad when you are in the presence of Almighty God!

If you’ve tried all that and it seems that none of it is working, don’t despair.  Keep giving it to God (1 Peter 5:7) and keep worshiping Him. Allow Him to work in you and through you. Remind yourself that even the mighty men of God in the Bible experienced sadness, loneliness, and depression. Never give up on God; He will never give up on you. 

In His Love,

-Rebekah L.

Getting Closer to Him

As Christians we must learn to walk in spirit and truth. A Christian cannot stand in one place; we are either moving closer to Him or further from Him. Therefore, it is vital that we never stop growing in God. In my own life, these last few weeks have been a wonderful time of restoration and growth in Him. There is nothing like kneeling down in prayer and not just hoping or wishing or thinking or feeling, but truly knowing you are connecting with your Creator.

God desires a closer relationship with each one of us.  It is essential to remember that God supplies the spiritual fire, but we must tend to the flames. A campfire needs kindling to be started, and logs to burn. If we do not keep watch and add wood as the fire burns, it will go out. It is like that in the spirit. It’s not enough to have a one time spiritual experience with God and expect the flames to continue to burn indefinitely without any input from us. A relationship is a two way street; even with God. We give what we can, and God supplies the rest. Do not be mistaken, God provides far more than we ever could and more than we deserve. Salvation is a free gift and there isn’t anything in this world we could do to deserve it. But a relationship takes two individuals being committed to do what is necessary to maintain it. If we do not do the things we know to do to keep the spiritual fire burning, it will perish. In my personal walk, I have been leaning on the things I know to do to grow in my relationship with Him. These are simple things that we all know to do, but we can get lax in them at times. If we put these seven suggestions into practice, God will reward us by giving us deeper insight into who He is, and greater understanding of His unending love.

Seven Steps to a Closer Relationship with God:

  1. Continue regular fellowship with other believers and attendance of church and church related activities. The bible is clear that we should not forsake the assembling of ourselves together and He has set leadership over us for a reason. It is very difficult to navigate this journey alone. God designed us to be part of the Body of Christ.
  2. Make reading, studying and memorizing Scripture a priority in your life. This is an area where a lot of us could use improvement. I know personally, I am not disciplined enough with my bible reading. The written Word is the known will of God! If you are wondering what God’s will is in your life, reading His Word is the perfect place to start.
  3. Commit to deeper prayer. To know God, you must be in communication with Him. In my own life there is not a day that goes by where I don’t pray. Yet, If I am honest I have to admit that there are many days where my prayer is very “surface”.  As Christians we need breakthrough prayer to be the rule and not the exception.
  4. It is time to start fasting regularly. If you want to be open to God’s leading and open to Christian growth, you will need to weaken the flesh and strengthen the spirit. Fasting seems to be one of the best ways to do that. My ability to focus on Him improves dramatically during times of fasting.
  5. Minimize ungodly influences from the outside world. By this I mean consuming less television, secular music, movies, video games, facebook etc… The bible says we are in the world, not of the world.
  6. Live more Christlike. One sure way to get to know Him better is to model yourself after Him more. We need to give like He gives and love like He loves.
  7. Never never forget what He has done for you. Always come to Him with praise and thanksgiving in your heart and above all else seek Him first!

Jesus is our everything! Keep this fire burning… dare not let it go out!

~Rebekah L.