Friday, December 30, 2016

Not Possible !

                                                   crocheted insert panel on back of knitted sweater

I love the relaxing benefit of knitting or crocheting.  My mom died early December, after months of being bedridden.  The stress of caring for her was telling on my physical health and I reached for something that would help me find a quiet, healing inner space.  My knitting needles and crochet hook were what I needed.

Today, I was enjoying a cup of coffee with my husband at our kitchen table, crocheting in my hand. My husband, watching me, commented, "Isn't there a crocheting machine? I know there is a knitting machine."
I was surprised to admit I really didn't know !  A quick internet search revealed the answer.
No, there is no crocheting machine.  There is a machine with multiple needles that is able to weave threads into a pattern resembling crochet, but the authentic look  of hand crochet worked with a crochet hook, is not possible to do by machine.
If the craft fails to entice artisans, it will become a dying skill.
Hand work takes patience and practiced skill over much time. But it is worth the end result and its value increases when the investment to produce it is recognized.

Not much in our world cannot be automated, to save time, money, work.  I am more and more valuing the things that cannot be done 'by machine'.

I thought of things the scripture speaks of  that cannot be gotten quickly or easily. Things that we must 'work' by hand heart to get.  Things of great value that are also in danger of being a lost 'art' in our world today.

Patience -- We all speak admiringly of someone who has 'the patience of Job' ... but we wish there was an easy fix to possess it.  James 1:3,4 reminds us that patience comes only with 'work', and 'testing' and 'time'.  While its worth is eternal, it requires our diligence to work it into our character.

Wisdom --  Ahhh ...  if only we had the wisdom of Solomon!  An old Amish saying goes .. "Too soon old, too late smart."   How true !  If only we could live our life backwards!
 Proverbs 8:11  points out to us that 'wisdom is worth more than rubies!"  Earthly riches easily ensnare the pursuit of man, but how many make wisdom their goal?  We are not born with wisdom - knowledge and experience and time teach us wisdom if we are willing to learn. James 3:17 describes the beauty of  godly wisdom -"But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy."  

Faith/Trust -- In our cynical world, it is not easy to trust. Deception and betrayal abound. Yet, we are told in Hebrews 111:6  that without faith "it is impossible to please God".  All that we do in service for God,  all that we may give of our time, resources and money - none of it matters if we do not first have faith!  What does it mean to have faith?  It means that we so know the character of God that we trust Him --  trust His word, His promises.  We trust Him so much we willingly walk in obedience to the things He asks of us, lays out for us in His word.   Does trust come easily ?  No... it means getting close enough to someone to know them, to observe them, know how they think and act.
That takes time and commitment and perseverance.  

Relationships - God is love and He commands us to love.  It is impossible to love without having relationships.  God called us into a family of brothers and sisters and friends - a people that are to be known for their love for each other. Jesus said in John 15:12,  "This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you."   We live in a fast paced world where technology over-rides face-to-face conversation.  We are more and more isolated in a world full of people. Why? Because to build relationships means vulnerability, and self-lessness.  It takes time and caring, a forgiving attitude  and commitment.

The year 2016 has only hours left before it is slips into the 'past'  ... and a new year will begin.
Let us resolve that in the new year we will focus our diligence on the things that cannot be easily obtained but whose worth is eternal.  Let us pursue those things that are important according to how God defines worth and value.  For in these things we will find the fulfillment - the value of life -  that we all seek.

I wish all of you, my readers, a very blessed 2017 - may the Lord Himself be your 'Gift' that keeps on giving all year through.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Embrace the Pace

This summer I spend a few days in Shipshewana, Indiana, which is Amish country. The group I was with stopped for  lunch one day  in a local restaurant and we chatted with the friendly waitress.  We commented on how an unusual an experience it was for us to share the road with the Amish horse and buggies.
The waitress laughed and said... "We have a saying ...'Embrace the Pace' ".

It was a catchy phrase and echoed in my mind.  Since then it has taken on very personal meaning for me. When life takes a sudden unexpected turn,  you suddenly find your life-path blocked and you can no longer travel at your usual speed. Your focus has narrowed to the one thing that has 'slowed you down'.
Our initial reaction when we are suddenly encountered by a road block - be it on the street or in life - is to groan with impatience at the inconvenience and having to deal with the stress of  necessary adjustments in our plans. Road blocks in life come to all of us at one time or another.

I have neglected my blog because in September my mom had a serious stroke and has been in hospice.  Caring for her has demanded my daily focus and  time, putting most everything else 'on hold'.
When we were told that our mother would not recover, we willingly took on the responsibility of her care 24/7.  At first we were given the diagnosis that she did not have long to live, but the reality is that her condition plateaued and, though needing full care, is still with us after two months.  Our own lives have been indefinitely  'put on hold' to make her our first and only priority.

That was my initial perspective - my own life 'put on hold' and the question was, how long could I put it on hold before I could of necessity pick it up again?
But then, I began to feel convicted that this was not how I should be looking at the change in my life  - expecting and waiting for life to be 'normal' again so I could be in control of  my own 'pace'.

"Embrace the Pace" took on deep spiritual application. I realized that if I truly believed that God was in control of my life, this too was something He had allowed and something that I needed to accept - yes, even embrace - in the same way I would willingly accept anything else from His hand.
Just as the motorists have to accommodate and slow down for the horses and buggies who share the road, so to I had to slow down and 'embrace the pace' set before me.   The things that were important in my life were overshadowed by something more important.  For this time in my life, I am as called to serve as in any other time,that I would more gladly choose.

In Shipshewana, I was privileged  to have a ride in an Amish man's horse and buggy. I so enjoyed the experience - the hypnotic clip/clop of the horse's hooves on the pavement was stress-releasing and the unhurried pace allowed me to notice things the speeding motorists missed.
So also in life - embracing the pace -  reveals and teaches us things we would otherwise  never notice in the fast paced lanes of  'normal' life.

I do not think  I am unique in struggling with impatience - and then feeling guilt for being impatient - for a difficult time to be over.  But  II Thess. 3:5 gives me the directive God leads me to --  Now may the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the patience of Christ.
First, knowing my heart is secure in the love of God and then, in that love allow the 'patience of Christ' to rule my emotions, is key to finding the peace that passes understanding. The peace that does not deny the difficult situation or circumstances or emotional pain,  but calms the heart in the midst of it.

And then I need to remind myself  that it is never in my own strength that I do the things before me ... but that the Lord's words to Paul are directed to me as well...  "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness."  II Cor. 12:9

God makes no mistakes and when I am called to Embrace the Pace , I know that God walks it with me.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Our God Cares

Flying is not on my 'Fear' list, but for many people it is. 
My friend's daughter is one of those people, and flying is a time of high stress and anxiety for her. 
She was recently booked on a flight for a vacation destination with her husband. 
My friend called me and asked me to pray for her daughter, 
In my prayer I asked that God show them in some visible way that He was in control 
and that He would melt her anxiety. 

The young couple finally boarded their plane, the wife barely holding it together. 
The plane's engines roared to life and the plane taxied down the run away, gaining speed for take off. 
When it reached the end on the runway, the plane slowed 
and the pilot's voice sounded over the intercom. 
"We will not be taking off.  Our engine just failed. We will attempt to repair the engine. 
You may remain on the plane, but it will be about a seven hour wait." 
Now completely frantic, the wife decided no way was she going to fly on this plane. 
They needed to find another flight.  
There was only one, leaving in about five hours.  
She managed to book on that flight, securing the last two seats on the plane. 
Finally, they boarded, their seats being among the least desirable, in the back of the plane. 
They safely took off and had just unbuckled their seat belts, 
when a stewardess stopped in the aisle beside them. 
Leaning toward them she asked, 
"We happen to have two vacant seats in 1st class.  Would you like to move up?" 
Not only did God stop the defective plane before it took off 
but upgraded their seats to the luxury of 1st class. 
Was God's care 'visible' ??
Yes, indeed.

"Casting all your care upon Him for He cares for you."
I Peter 5:7

Friday, August 12, 2016

Of Mice and Men and Science


Did you see this  article in the news some time ago ?

I always love when science 'catches up' with the bible. After multiples tries and many discarded, amended, adjusted attempts at understanding  the world we live in and defining how things work, science does sometimes confirm the truth.

In Gen. 9:2 God says this .. "and the fear of you and the dread of you shall be on every beast of the earth, on every bird of the air , on all that move on the earth.... "   

I used to wonder how this could be since God originally created animals to be Adam's 'friends', yet something changed when God told Noah after the flood that, from then on, animals would fear man So how is it that today animals still  fear man, unless with patient retraining they are 'tamed'?
What happened that permanently changed the animals' instinctive trust of man to an instinctive fear of man?

Seems science has found the answer.

Using foot shocks lab mice were trained to fear a fragrance resembling orange blossoms.  To the surprise of the scientists somehow there was a transfer of information regarding the 'danger' of this fragrance into the sperm of the trained mice.
This ensured that the 'fear'  response to that particular scent  was passed on to their young.   The other surprising result was that the successive generations had an even greater fear response to the 'smell' and needed a smaller amount of fragrance to trigger the response.

Interesting to note, isn't it, that  next time a wild animal flees from you in fear you can know that it is still displaying something learned by its ancestors that lived in Noah's time. It  is literally the 'smell' of man that triggers the fear of man in animals, just as the mice in the quoted experiment were trained by a 'smell'.

God's word is true, and it is always true, no matter how long it takes science to figure something out!!

I was wondering ....
God says in Duet. 5:9 that the iniquity of the fathers is passed down to the children, to the third and fourth generations.  BUT those who love God and keep His commandments experience God's mercy.
We have indication in our language usage  that people are aware of this 'passing down' - from parent to child - of characteristics , behavior patterns, addictions etc.
Familiar phrases are .. "Like father, like son..."  or "he's a chip off the old block" , or "that's a family trait".

From the initial brainstorming work of two scientists, Moshe Szyf, a moecular biologist and geneticist at McGill University in Montreal, and Michael Meaney, a McGill neurobiologist,  there spawned a whole new field, behavioral epigenetics.   This study has shown that our DNA is permanently changed by what we experience in our childhoods - negative or positive -  be it abuse or deprivation or loving affirmation.  

While God meant it for our good -- that our DNA would carry in it the pattern of the good example our parents modeled before us, so that it would be easier for us to 'do and live right' -- it also works against us if less than a good example is lived out by our childhood caregivers. Then our DNA is changed to follow a negative pattern, and we follow our parents'  tendency toward depression, or violence or anxiety. 
But isn't it reassuring, and comforting to know that all negative patterns that affected us in our growing up years  can be overturned by God's grace? 
 If we look to Him as our Savior, we are given a new start, we are a new creation, and are given a new example to follow.   Jesus  showed us the way,  He expressed God's love toward us, and when we come to Him in our brokenness,  He heals our hearts minds and spirits.
He gives us a new identity and  writes HIS DNA on our hearts.  

"I will give you a new name..."
 "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you;
 I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh."