Thursday, July 12, 2018

The "Art" of Waiting.

For those of you who have been following my blog, I am in the process of transitioning from a counseling group practice to an independent practitioner status. I submitted all the necessary paperwork to the respective insurance companies beginning in May. As of this writing, I am still waiting for approval from some of the companies. For those insurance companies to which I have been approved there are internal glitches within the companies holding up the process. It has been a very emotionally painful and frustrating time. I admit that there have been many moments when I just wanted to quit the counseling ministry and do something else. In the agony of waiting, I have wondered where is God? God answered that prayer through some tiny messengers who have mastered the "art" of waiting. Every year we have house wrens nesting in a bird house attached to our porch. One pair has already mated, given birth, and abandoned the house after their chicks were old enough to leave the nest themselves. Shortly thereafter, a second house wren began investigating the bird box. Day after day the bird would sing it's heart out seeking to attract a mate. I began to feel sorry for the bird as it waited for what seemed like an eternity. I was reminded of the psalmist cry to the Lord, "Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord; hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy. I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in His word I put my hope. I wait for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning." (Psalm 130:1-2;5-6 NIV)

A Hymn Of Praise

 The house wren I believe was not only lifting it's voice to find a mate but crying out to the Lord as it waited. It was remarkable to me that the bird could be so faithful every morning to wait yet still keep on singing. Sometimes in my frustration I could barely pray let alone sing! However, this patient little creation of God finally received what it had been waiting for, a mate! The two, like their predecessors, are now in the process of preparing to bring forth new life.
The psalmist again declares, "I waited patiently for the Lord; He turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in Him." (Psalm 40:1-3 NIV) These words of Psalm 40 are a vivid example of what I saw play out with the house wren. The Lord rewarded its patience and now the house wren has a new song to sing, "a hymn of praise" to God! I pray that I will learn well the lessons from this little "messenger of God" and master the "art" of waiting. As I wait patiently for the Lord, may he put a song of praise in my heart and on my lips. A hymn of praise to my God!
Pastor Sheree

Thursday, June 7, 2018

"Life Vine"

My husband is an avid gardener. I truly appreciate how hard he works during the spring to prepare the soil. After planting the seeds, he needs to water the garden regularly and pull out any weeds that may stunt the growth of the crops. All of his efforts pay off in the late summer and early fall when what he has planted springs up and we have the pleasure of partaking of the harvest as well as sharing the fruits of his labors with friends and family. I was recently meditating on John 15:1-17. Jesus tells His disciples, "I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener." (John 15:1 NIV) 

The Vine Is The Life Giver

When I think about a vine, it is the life giver to the branches. It nourishes the branches so they may grow to their full potential. The property of a vine is to spread out and in some cases wrap themselves around an object. A vine can easily take over a garden. When my husband plants certain vegetables such as butternut squash, it emerges as a series of vines which flower. Those flowers in turn become the squash. He always plants the butternut squash in an area of the garden where it has plenty of room to spread out and grow. Jesus, as the "true vine" nourishes those of us who are His followers as we are connected to Him. In the Old Testament, the imagery of the vine was frequently used as a symbol of Israel (i.e. Psalm 80:8-16; Isaiah 5:1-7; Jeremiah 2:21) Many times when this imagery is used Israel is often shown as lacking in some way. However, Jesus is never lacking in any way, thus the representation of the "true vine." God the Father is represented as the gardener. Gardeners are responsible for overseeing the vine and the fruit it is producing. The gardener cares for and protects the vine from attack or damage so it will ultimately produce good fruit.

We Need To Remain In The Vine 

I was also struck in this passage at the number of times Jesus tells His disciples to remain in Him and His love. In the first 10 verses of John 15, the word "remain" is repeated 10 times. The Greek word for "remain" carries the idea of abiding; sojourning; staying present. Jesus is obviously trying to make a point. The point is like in a garden, we need to be attached to the life giving, life nourishing vine of Jesus in order to grow and be fruitful. The Father in Christ has "planted" an eternal seed that will never perish because God is sovereign over it. Anything else we attach ourselves to will ultimately wither and die, leaving us less fruitful than the potential we could experience in Christ. The greatest and most enduring "fruit" that we can produce through Christ is love, "As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in My love." (John 15:9 NIV) Jesus makes it possible for us to bear fruit and as a result our prayers are aimed at carrying forth the work that Jesus did, prayer that the Father will answer because the prayers are rooted in His will and in love. (John 15:16-17) How about you? To what are you attached? Does whatever we are attached to bring life? What happens after that object or person fails to hold up over time? Despite the loving care that my husband gives to the garden the reality is that the vegetables his garden produces every year do not last forever. If they are not consumed in a short amount of time they will go bad and ultimately rot. What an awesome blessing to be connected to the "Life Vine" and as a result we will be able to produce fruit that will not only be attractive but will not perish. 
All Glory To God,
Pastor Sheree

Postscript: If you would like to dig deeper into this passage, please visit my friend's website and follow the link to her Youtube videos.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Come To The Table

A friend of mine is on her way to China this summer for a second time. Lest you think she is planning to relocate, that is not the case. She will be accompanying her daughter to bring home her second grandson. Her daughter, who is a twin, is following in the footsteps of her sister who also adopted a little boy from China. Both her sister's son and this soon to be adopted boy, have some physical challenges. China's strict laws which limit parents to only giving birth to one child stacks the deck against families. In the Chinese culture, boys tend to be favored so if a family's first child is a girl, there is great disappointment. Some parents give their baby girls up to orphanages and there have been documented cases of infanticide. Children that are born with physical or mental challenges likewise have a dismal future. Only by God's grace and the love and compassion birthed in the hearts of those who see beyond a child's challenges brings hope for a better life. My friend and her daughter are on a mission of mercy in Jesus' Name. 

At The Kings's table

Biblically I am reminded of 2 Samuel 9 and the story of David and Mephibosheth. David was Israel's king and Mephibosheth was the son of David's best friend, Jonathan. Jonathan's father, Saul, became jealous of David's popularity and the fact that God had chosen David to become king. Saul's envy and disobedience to the Lord ultimately led to the wiping out of Saul's descendants. David because of his great love and friendship for Jonathan wanted to show some kindness to any remaining descendants of Saul's household. Mephibosheth was that descendant but there was a catch. The story in 2 Samuel tells us Mephibosheth was lame in both feet. His crippling condition resulted from an accidental fall at age 5 as his nurse dropped him while trying to flee in order to protect Mephibosheth from harm. (2 Samuel 4:4)  According to Jewish thought, people who were blind, lame, deaf, or suffering from any physical challenges or ailments were considered outcasts and receiving the punishment for some sin they or their parent's may have committed in the past. (John 9:1-2) I wonder how Mephibosheth felt growing up as an outcast? How did this little boy in China feel separated out from society through no fault of his own? David out of love and compassion takes Mephibosheth into his palace, orders his servants to take care of Mephibosheth's land and declares that this young outcast will no longer be a stranger but "will always eat at the king's table like one of the king's sons." (2 Samuel 10-11) The passage concludes, "And Mephibosheth lived in Jerusalem, because he always ate at the king's table; he was lame in both feet." (2 Samuel 9:13) 

No Longer An Outcast

So it is that this little Chinese boy who right now is confined to a wheelchair will no longer be an outcast but will always eat at the table of his adoptive mother despite his physical limitations. The love and compassion of my friend's daughter for this little boy is a glimpse of God's love for us. God's love towards us is so great that He not only accepts us as we are but He gave us His Son so we would always have a place at the table for eternity with Him in heaven. The invitation is free, all we need to do is accept God's gracious gift. So come to the table!
Pastor Sheree

Postscript: My friend who is going to China informed me that the country has since changed it's policy to now allow parents to have two children.