Posts Tagged ‘Christianity’

A Second Look

Okay, I have to admit it.  I cheated on my driver’s license test last month.  There.  Now I feel much better.  Except I hope my friend the police officer isn’t reading this.

Actually, I cheated on the eye exam.  You see, when I put my eyes up to the machine, I was instructed to read the letters on the third line.  I saw three rectangles in a row, but  the first rectangle was empty!  I could see letters only in rectangles two and three.  Never fear, I knew exactly what to do (this is where the cheating comes in).  I closed my right eye, and letters magically appeared in rectangle number one.  After I read those letters aloud, I simply opened my right eye and closed my left, and read the rest of the letters.  In the busy DMV office, no one even noticed.

Fact is, I’m able to see pretty well out of both eyes, just not at the same time!  (see Body Parts) Friends who know this about me get a little nervous when I’m driving, since depth perception isn’t my strong suit, but hey, I’ve got a great driving record.  If you don’t count that red light in April … but I digress.

A man in the Bible was having some trouble with his vision, too.  He was a servant of the prophet Elisha.  One morning this guy woke up to discover the hills were alive – but not with the sound of music!  Instead, an army with horses and chariots, sent to eliminate his boss, surrounded the city.  He ran off to deliver the bad news, but soon learned he needed to take a second look:

“Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” (Our friend had to be thinking –‘So, exactly how many imaginary friends do you have?’)

And Elisha prayed, “O Lord, open his eyes so he may see.”  Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.”  2 Kings 6:16-17 (NIV)

When he took a second look, with a different pair of eyes, he discovered the true picture.  Phfew!  What a relief.  God was in control.  Nothing to worry about here.

Like my eye test, and Elisha’s servant, sometimes I miss it on the first glance.  It’s too easy to focus on the circumstances and the problems, and forget to take a second look with God’s eternal view in mind.  When it seems like the odds are overwhelming, I have to remember the God who created the stars is on my side.  It’s a huge relief when I finally see the real picture and realize God is in control.

You may not see Him yet.  But, trust me, He’s there.  Look again.

Copyright 2011 — Mary E. Egidio  Permission is granted to share this work, but with attribution, and not for commercial purposes.

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Dressed to Be Blessed

I have a ‘vacation shirt’.  It’s a black sleeveless polo that is as thin and soft as a well-worn hanky.  Most of the year, it lives quietly tucked away in my dresser drawer.  But my family knows I’m officially on vacation when they see Mom in that shirt.  It’s comfortable for hanging around the house or walking along the beach.

We all have certain clothes for various occasions.  They’re our church clothes, wedding attire, gardening grubbies, our favorite torn T-shirt for washing the car or the sports team sweats for watching the game.  We have that special outfit that we wear when we want to feel confident, professional, even powerful.  Don’t believe me?  Next time the President of the United States gives his State of the Union address, just count how many women in the audience are wearing a red suit!  Even the president’s tie choice is scrutinized that night.  Leaders understand the importance of dressing for success.

The prophet Isaiah had something to say about clothing, but he wasn’t talking about power suits:  “I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God.  For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness…” Isaiah 61:10 a (NIV- emphasis mine)

Righteousness is a word that appears in almost every book in the Bible.  It describes both the nature of God and His desire for His children.  The Lord is described as a righteous judge.  Jesus encourages us to “seek first God’s kingdom and His righteousness, and everything else will fall into place.”  Matthew 6:33 (paraphrase  mine)

The thought of trying to achieve that righteousness in our own power is overwhelming.  But Jeremiah, when prophesying about the coming of the Messiah, proclaims, “This is the name by which he will be called: The Lord Our Righteousness”  Jeremiah 23:6 b (NIV)

Not only is God the Righteous, Almighty, Eternal — but because of His love for us, He sent Jesus to become Our Righteousness.  He gives us — yes, clothes us, in that same righteousness.  It’s something we can’t earn or strive for or manipulate.  Whether in my sinfulness, or when I’m struggling to achieve religious perfection, He reaches out His hand, gently wraps me in His love, and whispers, “Here, I’ve got this.”  At that point, I have only to let go and surrender to Him, and  find myself arrayed in a “robe of righteousness.”    It is both freeing and humbling to realize it is nothing I have done, but only God’s love and mercy.

That’s some wardrobe!  It’s what the “well-blessed” folk are wearing these days.  How about you?

Copyright 2011 Mary Egidio — Permission is granted to share this work, but with attribution, and not for commercial purposes.

Generations

My mother died before my daughter was ever born, but this weekend Mom was able to share some parenting advice with her granddaughter.  No, I haven’t taken a vacation from reality or been consulting a medium.  In addition to being a nurse, Mom did some writing, and had a couple articles published in baby magazines back in the mid-50’s.  I realized that Lizz might enjoy hearing what her grandmother had to say about raising a baby, so I pulled them out of the box in the garage.

Of course, we also had fun reading the other articles and advertisements for baby products.  One ad announced a major milestone in baby food:  twist-off lids!  Lizz was surprised to read a list of recommended baby supplies that included four dozen diapers.  “I know I went through a lot more than that in the first several days!”  uh — sweetie — that would be cloth diapers…  you know, the kind you wash?

The biggest laugh came from the article where a woman described her childbirth experience.  “What’s all the fuss about?”  she asked.  Her attending nurse told her to just lie completely still and not move a muscle during labor, and she did just fine.   Yeah, right!

Mom’s articles,  titled “Tiptoe Tyrant”  or “Pity Poor Papa,”  for example, reflected the parenting advice of the day. Being able to add R.N. behind her name gave her writing some authority.   I’m sure when she wrote them it never occurred to her that her own granddaughter would be reading her words a half century later.  It was fun  to share together.

My Mom wasn’t around when I was raising my children to give me advice and instructions.  Of course, I still hear her voice in my brain from time to time.  She loved God, her family, and helping out in her community.  She set a loving example.  It

My Mom with her first child, my sister.

would have been incredible if she could have really spent the afternoon with us, enjoying her granddaughter and great-grandson, but since that’s not possible, it’s a treasure to have her words preserved to read and share with future generations.

Our Heavenly Father left guidance behind for his children to read and follow.  I don’t need to guess His intentions or instructions, and they’re never outdated.  His words are meant to be used and studied daily, not just kept in a box in the garage to be pulled out on occasion.

The Bible tells us, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.”  Psalm 119:105 (NIV)  Our world can be a dark place at times.  It’s nice to know I have an unchanging source of light and wisdom for the journey.

Thank you, Father.

Thank you, Mom.  I love you.

Copyright 2011 – Mary E. Egidio    Permission is granted to reproduce this work, but with attribution, and not for commercial purposes.

Hiding Behind the Bed

Our Chihuahua, Miss Cocoa, prefers to hide behind our bed (see Finding Refuge) during our many Florida thunderstorms.  We don’t mind it, since it gives her a sense of security and keeps her from panting desperately in our faces.  Lately, however, she’s developed a new habit.  If we’re not careful to block the entrance, she’ll sneak away to this favored hiding place in the morning, even in calm weather.  Since we’ve entered the summer thunderstorm season (we live in the nation’s thunderstorm capital), she tries to hide before we leave the house.  I think her rationale may be two-fold:  partly in anticipation of a possible storm, and partly because she doesn’t want to be confined to her kennel. Her actions, if I read my dog’s mind correctly(a scary thought) are based on fear  and just plain stubbornness.

Maybe I know what she’s thinking because I can relate.  One morning as I watched her heading for the bedroom, her tail tucked between her legs, I sighed to myself, “Some days we all wish we could hide behind the bed.”

Just like Miss Cocoa, sometimes it’s fear that makes me want to go hide for the day,  usually fear of something that may or may not actually happen.  With help from the enemy, my mind has anticipated a problem or conflict and grown it out of proportion.  Rather than face it head-on, I’d prefer to join the dog behind the bed for the day.  Thankfully, I’ve learned that most of what I fear and worry about is not nearly so terrible as I’d imagined.

Then again, sometimes I’m just plain stubborn.  (I know, it’s hard to imagine, but play along with me)  God wants me to do something, or stop doing something, and I’d really prefer to have my own way.  I want to do things on my terms,  without having to obey or cooperate with what is surely a better plan.  Someone hurt my feelings and I want to lick my wounds and stop playing the game.  I want to take control.  I’ll crawl behind the bed and come out when I’m good and ready, thank you very much. In case you were wondering, this is called SIN.   Come on, admit it, you’ve been there, too.

But here’s the thing.  As much as I’d like to, I can’t stay behind the bed.  Well, I could, but it wouldn’t be much of a life.  Besides, I don’t fit!   To live a victorious life, the life God intended for me, I have to experience the joy and the pain, the fear and the peace, and even an occasional storm.  And here’s the good news:

“The LORD your God is with you, He is mighty to save.  He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.”   Zephaniah 3: 17 (NIV)

Hey!  Come out from behind the bed!  God is singing over you.  You don’t want to miss it.

Copyright 2011 by Mary Egidio.  Permission is granted to share this work, but with attribution, and not for commercial purposes.

Body Parts

I have a friend who insists that she was built on a Friday, after Quality Control had already left for the day. If that’s true, the right half of my body was built on a Thursday, but the left half on that same Friday. From head to toe, the left side of my body has, well, issues.  I like to joke that my left leg is twenty years older than my right leg.  My cardiologist recently told me the reason for a discrepancy on my EKG is that the left side of my heart is basically wired backwards. Doesn’t surprise me!

The human body was wonderfully designed by our Creator. It is so inter-connected that when my six-foot five son smashes his little finger at work, the rest of his body stays awake half the night in sympathy.

Paul reminds us that the community of believers is like a body — the body of Christ.  He explains the importance of every member doing his or her part:

“It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” Ephesians 4:12-13 (NIV – emphasis mine)

Because my left eye does not function properly in conjunction with my right eye, I lack depth perception, which makes parking cars a challenge.  And even worse, 3-D movies just look blurry to me, even with the special glasses on!   Our unity, our maturity, the depth to which we understand Jesus, depend on all the body parts functioning together to their full purpose.  When the parts aren’t working properly, even one small part, we can miss out on the “whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”

But here’s a scary thought:  I might be the reason someone else is missing out on this same level of maturity!

To perform to our full potential and to build up the rest of the body, I believe we need to understand the unique gifts, talents and abilities God has given us, then develop and use those strengths.  If we’re open, God will lead us to our perfect role.

As the commercial said, “parts is parts!”  Which part are you?

Copyright 2011 – Mary E. Egidio – Permission is granted to share this post, but with attribution, and not for commercial purposes. (yes, you can share it, but please tell where you got it, and don’t sell it, please!)

Can I Get a Witness?

On July 23, 1999, my family witnessed the take-off of the Space Shuttle Columbia from its launch pad at the Kennedy Space Center.  Up to that point I had watched shuttle launches on television, and even seen the exhaust trail through the Florida sky from over 100 miles away, but nothing could compare to witnessing it first-hand from the visitor’s area, just 6 miles away.  The rockets illuminated the midnight sky, and the sound, which took a few seconds to reach us, pounded against my chest like the grand finale of a giant firework display.  We cheered with the crowd. Some folks were friends of the pilot, others had come from around the world. It was a truly spectacular and unforgettable experience.

Court systems around the world value the testimony of a person who has been at the scene and witnessed an event in person.  The followers of Jesus understood this fact when, after the death of Judas, they decided to elect a replacement to complete the twelve disciples.  Their reasoning?  “Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of the resurrection.” Acts 1:21-22 (NIV – emphasis mine)

This last phrase has stuck with me since I read it.  Why?

First, the word must.  This was strong language, a command, something iron-clad, not an option.  The disciples meant business.  It had to happen.  What was so important?  This chosen individual must become a witness to the resurrection.

Notice that they weren’t looking for someone who heard Jesus teach, or who saw him feed the multitudes.  It wasn’t the healings he performed, or miracles or even his death on the cross that they needed to validate.  They were standing in witness of the resurrection.  This was an event the Roman soldiers had been paid to lie about.   Jewish religious leaders dismissed it as a rumor or exaggeration.  But the early disciples understood that without the resurrection, the other events of Jesus’ life did not hold the same meaning.

The lives of these men would be changed forever by standing in witness of the resurrection. This was not just an invitation to ‘like’ Jesus on Facebook. They remind me of the signers of the American Declaration of Independence, pledging their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred trust. Remember Saul before he became Paul?  He was basically the bounty hunter for the Jewish religious leaders who were trying to snuff out the resurrection conspiracy. These folks meant business. This new Christianity could change the world as the religious leaders knew it, and they didn’t like it a bit. And according to history, these witnesses faced torture and death for their testimony, which stood unchanged to the end.

So when I read these words I had to ask myself,  what have I witnessed that could change my world? I wonder if I would be ready to take a stand for truth, a stand that could actually endanger my life. While I did not witness the bodily resurrection of Christ, I know the change he has made it my life — about my own resurrection, if you will.  I’ve seen Him at work in the lives of those who were dead in sin and corruption and raised to life and restored by his miraculous healing power.

I can’t stand by and let the resurrection truth and the authority of God’s Word get watered down by a society that wants to choose its own truth like a Sunday buffet.  If I do, Jesus becomes just a good teacher, and is, along with all the other religions, one of the many so-called paths to God.

The disciples thought it was important enough to keep this critical truth intact.  They paid for that commitment with their lives.  How can I do anything less?

Copyright 2011 by Mary Egidio  – permission is granted to copy this work, but with attribution, and not for commercial purposes.

P.S.  Lest you think my pen, er, keyboard has been silent, please check out http://mapstories.wordpress.com to see what God has allowed me to write lately.  Each story made me step back and say, “Wow!”  I hope they do the same for you.

Taste and See

In his book, What the Dog Saw, Malcolm Gladwell tells about Howard Moskowitz, a flavor guru who helped develop such tastes as Diet Pepsi (R) and Prego (R) spaghetti sauce. Moskowitz is fond of a yiddish expression, “To a worm in horseradish, the world is horseradish” or, as he explains it, “The mind knows not what the tongue wants.”  According to him, taste-testers didn’t know they liked chunky spaghetti sauce until they sampled Prego.

I was reminded of this idea recently when I heard an evangelist make a similar comment, but he wasn’t referring to soda or spaghetti sauce. He was talking about the idea of sharing the good news of salvation with our neighbors. They know their hearts are breaking and their lives are a mess, but they don’t know what they need to cure their sin problem. They try to mask the pain, but nothing can fill the God-shaped void. To paraphrase Moskowitz, ‘The mind knows not what the soul needs.”

The evangelist and the psalmist had the solution: ‘Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him.” Psalm 34:8 (NIV)   Once they “taste” the Lord, they will realize what they’re missing.

My husband had a friend in college who lived his Christian life in such a way that others found it irresistible.   He made friends easily and attracted other students to his faith, which he lived out publicly and without reservation.  His witness touched lives across a variety of social groups.  Everyone loved Tim — and Tim used that opportunity to point everyone to the Savior.  They tasted the Lord through Tim, and wanted more.

God wants to use us to bring His “flavor” to a world that has been spoiled and rotted by sin. When others are attracted to taste Him, they will see that the Lord is good. Once that happens, I believe the Holy Spirit will start working on their hearts.

There’s plenty of Him to go around — let’s share!

(Diet Pepsi and Prego are registered trademarks)

Copyright 2011 – Mary E. Egidio – permission is granted to share this work, but with attribution, and not for commercial purposes