Posts Tagged ‘God’

Mistaken Identity

Apparently, there are several other people in the world who look like me.  At least, that’s what I’ve been told a lot through the years.  I think maybe God just kept trying to get it right, so He made several versions.  Whatever the reason, I often hear, “Oh, you look just like my sister-in-law”, or, “I was sure I saw you downtown the other day .”  It makes me feel extremely sorry for these poor individuals.

A few years ago, one of these look-alikes moved into my same circle of acquaintances.  Sharon and her husband came to serve on the same district where my husband served as a pastor.  I recognized the resemblance the first time I saw her, and several others mentioned it as well.  By the next district meeting, she was approached by individuals who thought she was me.  She looked at them blankly and said, “I think you have the wrong person.”  When I talked to her about it, she began to understand the reason for the confusion.

By the time we got to district ‘family camp’ that summer, things really got interesting.  Several people mistook Sharon for me, including my best friend.  My own son ran across the campground and gave her a hug, then looked up and said, “Oops!! You’re not my Mom!”  She thanked him for the hug and directed him to my location.

Sharon and I got a lot of laughs out of it, and being new, it really helped her get known quickly in her new surroundings. We actually thought about getting t-shirts that said, “I’m the Other One” or “Are You Sure It’s Me?”  It was a fun experience, one which we both enjoyed for as long as it lasted.

So here’s a question:  what if we looked and acted so much like Jesus that people mistook us for Him?  What if they looked at us and said, “Oops!! I thought you were Jesus!” What if, as we embraced and encouraged them, they felt as if it was God Himself who was touching them? I believe if we completely surrender ourselves to God and the leading of His Spirit, it can truly happen.

Paul explains it to the Ephesians this way: “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds, and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:22-24) Later on he says, “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children, and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us, and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (Ephesians 5:1-2 NIV – emphasis mine).

Will you meet someone today who will be totally convinced that it’s not you they’re looking at, but Jesus?

Copyright 2010 Mary E. Egidio — Permission is granted to share this work, but with attribution, and not for commercial purposes (yes, you can share it, but please tell who wrote it, where you got it, and don’t sell it!)

Finding Your Name

A couple of years ago, we planned a trip to our home state to visit family.  My adult children, with extra time off work, decided to drive it together, while my husband and I flew in later.  They took a side trip to the town where they grew up, where their dad had been the pastor of his  first church.  Since they hadn’t been back in many years, they experienced that shock of everything seeming different and smaller than they’d remembered.

Visiting our former church, they crawled under the front row pew, much to the astonishment of the current pastor’s children, I’m sure.  But that’s where they spent many a warm Sunday evening, filling their coloring books or pretending to be the Apollo 13 astronauts on their backs in the command module.  (Hey, they were quiet, okay?  Besides, I’m sure they were listening.)  And as these twenty-somethings lay there on their backs, they saw it.  There, underneath the wooden pew, spelled out in silver crayon, was ELIZABETH.  My daughter’s name.

Next door was the old parsonage (emphasis on old) which had since been converted to a fellowship hall.  What they had remembered as a huge front porch, towering over the lawn, had shrunk to just a small stoop.  After all, Bubba was seven years old when we left there.  On this visit, he was over six feet tall.

Inside, the rooms still echoed with memories of childhood days.  And in the attic playroom, still attached to the wall, they found a painting, a simple watercolor, the work of a young student.  Across the bottom, spelled out in blue paint, was BENJAMIN.  My son’s name.

Finding their names still intact, in this place of their childhood, was like a historic archeological discovery.  It somehow validated the fact that those children really did exist back there in that place and time.  They’ve since traded their names for Lizz and Ben, and traveled hundreds of miles away and lived thousands of hours.  But on that day, the clock turned back, and they were home again.  They were still remembered.  Their names were written there.

The Bible refers to names being written… the book of  Daniel talks about a time of distress, from which ‘everyone whose name is found written in the book will be delivered.’ (Daniel 12:1b)  In Luke 10:20, Jesus told his disciples to ‘rejoice that your names are written in heaven.’   Paul refers to fellow workers in Philippians 4:3, ‘whose names are written in the book of life.’   The writer of Hebrews talks about a great assembly in the new Jerusalem, including ‘those whose names are written in heaven.’  (Hebrews 12:23)  Revelation describes the New Jerusalem, where ‘nothing impure will ever enter it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.’ (Rev. 21:27)

I’m not sure I can ever understand what it all means.  How I can ever be worthy to have my name written in heaven?  That discussion is for theologians.  I just know it will be an amazing discovery to find my name there, along with the names of those I love.  I hope you find yours, too.   Then we’ll know we’re finally home.

Copyright 2010 Mary E. Egidio — permission is granted to copy this post, but with attribution, and not for commercial purposes.  (you can share it, but please tell who wrote it and where you found it, and don’t sell it!)

One Thing Leads to Another…

The lightning flash preceded the crash by less than a second.  The crash sounded like cannon fire. The next morning we discovered the result… a fried phone system.

You know it’s going to be an interesting day when the phone system guy says to his partner, “Hey, come here and take a look at this!  Did you bring your camera?”

We got the phone system replaced, only to discover the main line could make calls, but not receive them (not necessarily a bad thing…).  The phone company guy came to repair the main line, but he did something that messed up the DSL line (definitely NOT a good thing).  And now the security system isn’t working quite right, either.  One thing leads to another.  Actions have consequences.

The apostle Paul, in his letter to the Romans, understood this principle.  He explained it to them this way:  “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and [that leads to] eternal life.” (Romans 6:22 – amplification mine)

Once a month, I provide technical support for a ministry at our church called “Celebrate Recovery”.  It’s a twelve-step program for people with ‘hurts, habits, and hang-ups’.  I hear the stories of people, young and old, rich and poor, just like me, who, for a variety of reasons, started making choices that led them down the wrong path.  These choices eventually ruined their lives, destroyed their homes and bankrupted their character.  They didn’t intend to start out that way, but one thing led to another.  Their actions had consequences.

But then they talk about the day, as Paul describes, that they were ‘set free from sin and became slaves to God.’  It was a day of total surrender, of complete abandonment, wrought by their utter desperation to escape from the living hell their actions had created.  Something, anything, had to be better than this mess they’d made.  They take their hands off and say, ‘Here God… here I am.  I give up.  I can’t do it anymore.’

And that day, that choice, that desperate plea, leads to a response from God.  It opens the flood of His love and His power into a life.  They testify to a sense of peace, a sense of cleansing,… ‘like a weight was lifted off my shoulders.’   The sin which once separated them from God is forgiven.  New choices are made, based on the leadership of the Holy Spirit, the counsel of the Word, and the support of fellow-slaves.

Soon, those who are truly sincere and committed to the path of surrender find the benefit Paul describes… holiness– a life of consecration to God’s will, a spirit set free from the bondage of sin, an intention of life-long obedience to the Master’s voice.

I’ve seen it happen.  I’ve witnessed the change.  I’ve experienced it myself.

One thing leads to another…

Copyright 2010 Mary E. Egidio — permission is granted to share this with attribution, but not for commercial purposes (you can share it, but please tell who wrote it and where you found it, but don’t sell it!)

Unanswered

When I was a little girl, I wanted a pony.  I know, who didn’t, right?  But, I really, really wanted one.  I faithfully asked Santa Claus, God, and Dad for a pony every Christmas for at least five years.  Roy Rogers and Dale Evans were my heroes in those days.  I tried to convince my Dad that the pony could live in the garage and eat the grass in the yard.  I imagined the money we could raise at our backyard ‘Penny Carnivals’ giving pony rides to the kids.   And normally, being the baby of the family, I could often get my own way on these things.  But not on the pony.  It didn’t happen.  Dad would not budge.  You probably didn’t get one either, did you?

Looking back, I realize there were some good reasons my dad didn’t give in on the pony issue.  I’m sure it had to do with our living arrangements at the time.  Our middle-class, small-town neighborhood would not be very receptive to a pony, after all.  The ‘by-products’, shall we say, of  such a large animal would not have been a pleasant experience for our nearest neighbors.  They barely tolerated the fact that we had a dog — especially when he ate their tulips right before Easter.  And no doubt, there were zoning laws about having farm animals in a residential area (or would be, as soon as our neighbors caught wind of it — pun intended).  After all, no one else on Pioneer Street had anything closely resembling a pony, unless you counted the large Boxer across the street.

Perhaps more importantly, however, my dad understood the bigger issue.  Having been raised in the Midwest, he knew a thing or two about horses and farm animals.  (You don’t want to hear his thoughts about chickens!)  He understood that living in the garage and eating grass would not have met the physical requirements of a pony.  Despite my persistent requests, he understood the deeper needs.  The cramped confines of a tiny backyard lot would have represented cruel treatment for an animal that longed for acres of wide-open space and green pastures.  Our concrete sidewalks and asphalt streets were not designed for the hooves of a pony, no matter how romantic I thought the ‘clip-clop’ would sound.  He could see a much bigger picture than my young mind wanted to comprehend.  That perception wisely overrode his desire to grant my childhood wishes.

Phillip Yancey, in his book Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference? , talks about understanding God’s perspective when we pray.  He compares it to climbing a mountain and seeing the beginnings of a stream that makes its way down the hillside.  “Grace, like water, descends to the lowest part. Streams of mercy flow. I begin with God, who bears primary responsibility for what happens on earth and ask what part I can play in God’s work on earth…. With this new starting point for prayer, my perceptions change.’ *

My requests and prayers have hopefully outgrown the ‘pony’ stage.  Yet, at times, they may seem to be just as immature to my Heavenly Father, who sees the whole picture.  He knows the greater need, He understands the entire situation.  When I catch a glimpse of this life from His perspective, my entire focus will change, as will my prayers.  When I realize that He sees the bigger picture, I can rest in the assurance of His loving care.

Jesus told us, “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone?  Or, if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake?  If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, who much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:9-11)

Happy trails to you!

*Yancy, Philip, Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference?  (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006), Page 23.

Copyright 2010 Mary E. Egidio.  Permission is granted to share this work with attribution, but not for commercial purposes.  (You can share this, but tell folks who wrote it, where you found it, and don’t sell it)

Tulip Raiders

When I was about ten years old, my best friend and I made the most amazing discovery: the branches of a forsythia bush make wonderful swords.  When we pulled off their bright yellow spring blossoms, the thin, tapered branch became a Zorro-style rapier, complete with the zzit-zzit sound when brandished.  We soon became sword-yielding fiends, the grand protectors of Pioneer Street.

We experimented on the tall grass.  Zzit-zzit.   Dandelion blossoms surely deserved to die.  Zzit-Zzit.  Now we were on to something!  But it was too early in the spring to find enough of these troublesome weeds to satisfy us.   We combed the neighborhood in search of more villains, heading toward my best friend’s house.  That’s when we saw them!

A row of perfect tulips lined her next-door neighbor’s driveway, standing like multi-colored soldiers guarding the entry to a castle.  “Off with their heads!” was our cry.  We gleefully zzit-zzited up the driveway, beheading each brave sentry before they had a chance to fight back.  Satisfied that there were no survivors, we moved on to other prey.

I must confess that now, as an adult, every time I plant a tulip bulb, I think of that poor woman who had planted those tulips in her driveway.  I’ve since learned that while planting most annuals, say petunias or marigolds, is instant gratification, planting tulips is like making an investment.  I would wait for autumn, just after we’d put the lawn mower away for the last time and raked up most of the fallen leaves.  That’s when I would bring out the tulip bulbs that I’d bought or kept from last year’s planting.  The bulbs were buried in the cold ground — as a deposit in spring’s bank.

I can just imagine that woman, going to her kitchen window each morning in the colorless days of late winter, or checking as she walked along the driveway, for a sign that her investment would soon pay off.  Finally a green shoot appears, small at first, then piercing the air like a sword.  Each day the leaves get bigger, until finally that solitary stem appears with a single bud.  Now she checks the buds almost hourly, reveling in the new life and the promise of spring, eager to catch the first glimpse of an opened blossom.  She knows the blossoms won’t last long, and when they finally appear she wants to treasure each minute of their existence.

I don’t know if she screamed and dropped her coffee cup, or if she just sat down and cried.  Seeing her beautiful tulips, now decapitated, must have been a terrible shock.  My best friend lived to marry and have children, so if her neighbor knew she had participated in the massacre, she never sought revenge.  But somehow, my own enjoyment of my tulips today is diminished, remembering the sin of which I am so guilty.

But it also makes me ask this question:  ‘To whom else have I done this?  Have I casually lopped the heads off of someone else’s tulips?”

Oh no, not literally.  I’ve repented of my sword-brandishing days.  But what about my sisters and brothers who are struggling through a dark season of despair, who are hanging on by a thread, who are waiting for the brighter days of spring?  Do I help them invest in God’s hope – in the knowledge that He can be trusted and His answer is on the way?  Do I offer encouragement and grace?  Have I listened to their dreams and cheered them on as they pursued their God-given goals?

God’s word tells us not to “let any unwholesome talk come out of our mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Eph; 4:29)  Just a few verses later, Paul urges us to “be kind and compassionate to one another.” It’s part of our responsibility as members of the body of Christ.  Who does God want to ‘build up’ through you today?

I can never replace those severed tulips.  I can never restore the hope I dashed as an unthinking child that day.  I can only reach out, one person at a time, and encourage those people the Lord brings across my path.

But I can ask this… to the tulip lady, if you’re reading this…can you please, please forgive me?

Copyright 2010 Mary E. Egidio  Permission is granted to share this post, with attribution, but not for commercial purposes. (Yes, you can share this with your friends, but please tell them who wrote it and where you found it, and don’t try to sell it!)

God of the Stick Horse

…as told to me by my friend, Cheryl (formerly published in Standard)

My husband hung up the phone, disappointment written on his face.

“Well, that’s it,” he said. “The buyer just backed out.”

We were at my 89-year old mother’s house, helping her sign the papers to finalize the sale of my parent’s summer house in the mountains of Georgia. I saw the same disappointment reflected in her eyes, but she simply sighed, saying nothing.

My own heart felt crushed. Since my father’s death, I had dreamed of selling the old run-down house and property and building a ‘real’ vacation home in the mountains – a place our families and friends could go to escape. My sister and I and our husbands had found property in a better location with a spectacular view, and had pooled our funds to purchase it. The sale of the old house and property would give us the money to build the new one.

Somehow I felt I owed the house to my mother, for her years of sacrifice and hard work. Despite growing up in a large, poor family in the hills of Kentucky, Mother had always been an amazing, creative woman. She quilted and sewed until arthritis stole her hands. She loved to paint flowers and birds on anything she could find. Her mind was sharp and she still had a quick wit. The last few years of my father’s life had been difficult for her, as she watched Altzheimer’s Disease gradually paralyze his mind. Since he had died her life had settled down into a comfortable routine, but I knew her health was beginning to fade, and our time to share this gift was limited. I could picture her face as she rocked on the expansive porch in the cool of a summer evening, watching her great-grandchildren chase fireflies in the yard. Now that dream seemed just as elusive.

“God,” I cried out in my bed later that evening. “Everything to this point was going so smoothly. I thought you were blessing these plans – and now the buyer backs out. What’s happening?” The questions chased around in my brain until sleep came.

I began my devotions the next morning, and the Scripture reading for the day came from Isaiah 55:8-9: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are my ways your ways, declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” The devotional reading went on to say,”God’s answer to your problems today will be creative and it will be couched in His eternal purposes.” As I closed the booklet, I spoke honestly to God. “Father, this is your word – the ‘logos’. In my head I know all of this is true. But it hasn’t reached my heart yet. Help me to understand this truth in my heart.”

A few days later mother and I were running errands and stopped in a local department store. She was content to find the groceries she needed by herself, so I had time to look around. I remembered that my grandson had recently become fond of a friend’s ‘stick horse’ toy – a broom handle with a stuffed animal head attached. Matthew would use my broom or anything else he could find to pretend to ride around the house like a cowboy. So I headed to the toy aisle to look for a stick horse.

On my way, I met up with my friends from church, Larry and Terri. When I told them what I was looking for, Terri laughed. “My mom sent a stick horse to our grandkids. When you squeeze one ear it whinnies and when you squeeze the other one it makes a ‘clip-clop’ galloping noise.” I’d never heard of such a thing –it sounded like something Matthew would love. We said goodbye and I kept shopping, but I quickly learned this store didn’t carry stick horses of any kind. Oh well, I thought, Mattie will have to wait. Soon I found my mother and took her back home.

That night my husband called the real estate agent in Georgia, hoping the buyer had reconsidered, but the deal was off. Although I was reminded of the Scripture I had read early that week, I still had no sense of peace in my heart.

A few days later, Mom and I were returning from a doctor’s appointment and stopped by a local fruit stand. Beside it, a neighbor was holding a yard sale, and Mom suggested we stop and look. As we walked up the driveway, I spotted a blanket on the ground, strewn with toys. Among them was a black stick horse. I picked it up and furtively squeezed the left ear, giggling as I heard it whinny! Sure enough, a squeeze of the right ear produced a ‘clip-clop’ sound. The black plush head looked brand new – and the horse’s gentle eyes begged to be taken home. Matthew would love it. But how much was she asking for it? I knew I only had limited cash in my purse.

I took it to the woman in charge. “How much for this stick horse?” I asked.

“Oh, just two dollars for that. My kids never played with it.”

As Mom and I walked away with our small treasures in hand, I felt God’s voice gently tug at my heart.

“Now see,” He seemed to say. “If I care enough about you to provide for a simple thing like a stick horse for a child, can you not trust me about the big things?”

I sighed, and smiled at my mother as we got into my car. What I had known up to this point only in my head had finally reached my heart. “Yes, Lord,” I replied. “I can trust you — with a mountain home, with my mom’s future, and even with a stick horse.”

Copyright 2009 Mary E. Egidio  Permission is given to distribute this post, with attribution, but not for commercial purposes.  (you can share this with your friends, but tell them who wrote it, where you found it, and don’t try to sell it!)

Just Breathe

When I was in junior high, an epidemic of whooping cough came around my school. Lest you think I’m ancient, it did make a recurrence in the early 70’s, despite vaccinations. But at the time, not many people in our small town really realized what it was. And I caught it.

Now without getting too technical, whooping cough starts off like a flu — high fever, cough, aches — and then it settles into what they call the ’90 day cough’. I could go days with no symptoms, but suddenly this uncontrollable cough would come upon me. It would begin with a tickle in my throat. Then I would cough until everything came up from my stomach, my lungs felt like they turned inside out, and a thick phlegm would settle in my throat. I would desperately and loudly gasp for breath until the phlegm subsided, hence the ‘whoop’ in whooping cough.

The problem was, my parents didn’t realize how sick I was; they were out of town due to another illness in the family. I was home with my older brother, who eventually took me to a doctor at my parents’ instruction. Of course, when the doctor asked me to cough, all I could muster was a weak ‘u-huh’, and he diagnosed it as bronchitis and sent me home with antibiotics. I had a ‘real’ attack on the way home from his office.

Finally, my parents got home and were somewhat puzzled and troubled by my coughing episodes, but not really sure what to do for me. Until one day, when my older sister was visiting. She was 13 years older, and had experienced whooping cough herself as a child. The first time I had a coughing attack while she was there, she knew just what do to.

As I stood by the trash can, having brought up the aforementioned nasties, I started to panic — gasping for breath. When my sister heard the first ‘whoop’, she came to me, wrapped her arms around me, stroked my head and started whispering in my ear. “It’s okay. You’re gonna get through it. It’s okay. Just relax. I’ve got you. Just breathe.” She held me until the phlegm cleared, my whooping stopped, and I was able to breathe normally. (I can’t tell this story to this day without tears coming to my eyes.) She knew what I was experiencing and understood the comfort I needed, because she had been there once herself.

A few years ago, we went through some difficult times with our daughter, who was then a teenager. She was making some choices and life-decisions that were the exact opposite of the values that her father and I lived by and had taught her — or at least we thought we had. Tensions came to a head when she turned 18, graduated, and decided to move out of the house, into a situation that we did not approve. The night she announced her plans, I felt as if the world was literally melting around me, almost like a psychedelic experience (not that I ever had one). I could barely breathe.

And once again, my sisters, this time from my church family, knew what I was experiencing. The grief, the shame (my husband is a minister), the guilt, the sadness, the fear — all threatened to choke the very life out of me. But my sisters came, wrapped their arms around me, shared their stories, and whispered in my ear. “It’s okay. You’re gonna make it. She’ll be okay. She’ll find her way back. I’m here. God is with you. Just breathe.”

They understood the comfort I needed, because they had been there themselves. Their encouragement and prayer support gave me the strength to show my daughter grace and love in those days of transition, but at the same time, to stand by some tough decisions and boundaries. I was able to keep the lines of communication and love open without giving support or approval to her new living arrangements.

In God’s perfect timing, the night she was moving out, my husband and I had been scheduled, weeks before, to spend the evening at the home of good friends who were also in the ministry. Our purpose was to rehearse music together, but as it happened, these dear folks had also experienced difficult days with adult children. So we left the house before our daughter finished packing up that night, with parting words of love. And instead of having to watch her drive away and go back to her empty room, we found ourselves once more in a place of comfort and understanding.

It was a place where God could wrap His arms around me once again and whisper in my ear. “It’s okay. I’m here. You’re gonna make it. She’s in My hands. I’ve got you. Just breathe.”

Copyright 2010 Mary E. Egidio  Permission is given to distribute this post, with attribution, but not for commercial purposes.  (you can share this with your friends, but tell them who wrote it, where you found it, and don’t try to sell it!)