Posts Tagged ‘life’

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.

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The Second Most Important Decision

It was an exciting evening.  Every seat was filled.  Shouts, cheers, and air-horns were everywhere. We saw fist-pumps and even victory dances.  No, it wasn’t a football game… it was a college graduation!  You can’t blame them, really, either the students or the parents, given the years of hard work and sacrifice, not to mention the thousands of dollars spent and/or borrowed to get to this momentous milestone.

The commencement speaker, the pastor of a large church in Hawaii, made an interesting point.  He told the graduates he was going to talk about the ‘second most important decision’ of their lives.  The first most important, of course, was the decision to accept Jesus Christ as their Savior.  So, I thought, the second most important decision would be the choice of one’s spouse, wouldn’t you?  Nope. Not according to him.

The second most important decision of a person’s life, according to him, was the attitude with which one lives out the first decision.  Wow!  Great advice!  We’ve all known folks who are wonderful Christians, but their attitude… yikes!  The he said this… “Over the years, I’ve hired lots of people because of their skills and education,  but I’ve also fired lots of people…because of their attitude.”

Paul encourages the Ephesian church in this same thought…”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)  If you continue reading, he gives some very specific examples, then sums it all up at the beginning of the next chapter, urging the early Christians to “be imitators of God.” (Ephesians 5:1)

What an impact we as Christians could have on the world if we were truly made new in the attitude of our minds, and spent our days being imitators of God!   I think we’d try to look for the good and positive in the people whose lives intersect with ours.  I think we’d look for ways to be an encouragement to those around us.  I think we’d try to focus on the positive rather than the negative.  I think we’d think a whole lot less about ourselves and a whole lot more about other people.  I think our words would be sweeter, our smile would be brighter, our touch would be gentler.

And here’s the best part… we don’t have to just try to do it on our own.  (I don’t know about you, but I run across some pretty unlovely people from time to time.)  God’s Holy Spirit, living in us, can enable us to live this life with a holy attitude.

That’s something to celebrate!   Now where did I put my air-horn?

P.S.  Congratulations, Lindsay.  We’re proud of you.

Copyright 2010 – Mary Egidio – Permission is granted to copy this post, but with attribution, and not for commercial purposes.

Love’s Pure Light

In order to save my ceramic nativity set when my daughter was small, I crafted a play nativity set out of plastic canvas and yarn.  Elizabeth would spend hours rearranging the pieces and acting out the Christmas story.  I would laugh to myself when I would inevitably hear her say, “Hey Mary, can I hold your baby?”

I just couldn’t picture the work-roughened hands of a shepherd cuddling an infant, or a royal king stooping down to embrace a poor child in a manger.  It made perfect sense to her, however, that if these people were going to make a trip to see a baby, they wouldn’t want to leave without holding it.

She wasn’t really so far off.  When you see a young baby, it’s only natural to admire them and comment about how cute he or she is.  But if you actually pick up that baby, a whole other phenomenon takes place.  Somehow, holding that child, gazing into his or her eyes, connecting with that uniquely God-given personality — that baby just gets into your heart!  Perhaps the shepherds and wise men were drawn in the same way to embrace the infant of Bethlehem and experience the miracle of His love in their hearts that first Christmas.

As we make the journey to the stable in Bethlehem again this year, let’s not just gaze on the Child in the manger and turn away unchanged.  Let’s embrace the Child of Bethlehem — the pure light of God’s love — and let Him shine into our hearts and make us new.

Don’t leave without holding the baby.

“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” Isaiah 9:2 (NIV)

Copyright 1999 – Mary E. Egidio — (Originally published in “A Christmas to Remember — Advent Devotionals“) Permission is granted to share this post, but with attribution, and not for commercial purposes.

Body Language

My dad died of lung cancer in 1974, at the age of 63.  I was 19 years old. My mom was a Registered Nurse, so we kept him at home as much as possible, until the last hours of his life.  In his healthy days, he was six foot four, a robust 250 pounds or so – nicknamed ‘The Chief’.  At the end, he was down to 180 or less, looking more like a refugee. 

I was in college, living at home, studying at a ‘branch’ campus of a school I hadn’t planned on attending until the cancer changed my plans. I wasn’t too happy about the arrangement at first, but my mom needed the help, and I was the only one of my two siblings available. So I was elected.

Our lives got into a routine in those days.  I took care of the cleaning, while she took care of his personal needs, for the most part.  Eventually, the Cancer Society arranged for a part-time LPN to come in a few mornings a week to give some relief.  The nurse was at least ten years older than my dad, but was a hearty Scandinavian who had already spent hours putting up quarts of home-grown peaches or baking pies, and would leave our house to work the evening shift at the nursing home.

He taught me to cut his hair, while he coached, and eventually trusted me to shave him with a razor.  “So Frank, how did you go deaf?” he’d tease, as I’d hesitantly trim the hair that grew from his ears.

In my free time, Dad and I would play cribbage — of course, he taught me.  My last birthday gift to him was a new cribbage board, on which I’ve since taught my own children.  Or we would watch baseball together.  One of my last memories with him was watching the 74 World Series — the Oakland A’s with their handlebar mustaches and retro uniforms.

Toward the end, when he was mostly confined to his bed, I would help him walk down the hall, or eventually, stand up beside the bed on a walker and walk in place to prevent pneumonia.   While up, he’d peek out of his bedroom window and make some comment about the weather or the neighbor’s car.   We would massage his legs and push against his feet, to keep him from developing ‘drop foot.’  This man who had been a career army officer, and had marched his share of miles, was now unable to walk on his own.

I have to tell you that in his healthier days, my dad had problems with alcohol.  He spent most of his free time at the American Legion, and I can remember my mom making me call there and beg him to come home.  As I got older, I began to realize that every family didn’t have the fights and the yelling.  I learned to be ashamed, and I hated him for it.  In fact, I can remember wishing he would wrap his car around a tree.  Somehow, in the last months of the cancer, that all changed.   We talked, and laughed, and had fun together like normal people. And while the cancer was slowly eating away at his body, God was using it to heal my heart from the anger and hurt.

Ironically, one picture that is indelibly etched in my mind is my dad, every Christmas Eve, sitting in ‘his’ chair in the living room, opening the family Bible and reading the Christmas story in the Gospel of Luke before we went to bed.  We were devout Catholics, and this was the only time of year I can remember the Bible ever being opened in our home, other than to enter a death or birth in the ‘family record’ pages.  Despite the annual Christmas ‘fight’ (anyone from an alcoholic family knows what I’m talking about), Christmas Eve was kept sacred.  “In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world was to be taxed…”  A tear still comes to my eye when I hear those words each Christmas.

I can only remember one of his drinking buddies ever coming to see him.  Of course, he was shocked at Dad’s appearance and didn’t come back. We learned that cancer was a pretty lonely experience, at least in those days.

At some point, we called my brother in California and suggested he might want to come home.  The two of them spent hours talking, my brother sprawled out on my parents’ bed beside Dad.  Dave took a job as an aide at the local hospital and planned to stay around for a while.

Then one Friday, totally unannounced, an old family friend appeared at our door.  He was a Catholic priest who grew up with my mother.  My grandmother and his mother were the best of friends.  He lived miles away, in New York state, but here he was at our front door.  He came in, visited with my dad, heard his ‘confession’ and performed a home mass.  He didn’t just bring communion, he said mass.  After he left, my father wrote a letter to my sister, who lived a couple hours away in Buffalo.  He told her there were angels in his bedroom.

The following Monday evening, Dad took his last breath. Seeing him in the hospital bed, so still, we realized how frail he had become.

My dad taught me how to make a pie and fry a chicken, how to sew, and how to understand football. He instilled in me a love of good music, from ’50 Timeless Classics’ to the Mills Brothers to barbershop.  He gave me an understanding of human nature.  I carry with me his sense of humor, and the appreciation for a story well told. I’ve tried to pass these things, although not always successfully, to his grandchildren, whom he never knew.

Thanks, Dad. If it hadn’t been for your life, and your death, I wouldn’t be the person I am today.

Creeping Away

So I parked my car at the office the other morning and went inside.  My co-worker was already there, and I had brought her a birthday present.  I gave her the gift and we chatted briefly, then I remembered that I hadn’t unlocked the office door. When I grabbed my keys and headed in that direction, I was shocked to discover that my car had backed nearly all the way out of it’s parking spot!  It was creeping — so slowly I almost couldn’t detect the motion.  It’s a manual transmission, and obviously, I’d forgotten to pull the hand brake.

“And where do you think you’re going?” I asked, as I opened the door and jumped in.  (Now you KNOW it was moving slowly)  Fortunately for me, the smaller size and weight of the car and the slant of the parking lot kept it from really taking off or causing any damage to itself or anything else. (it was actually turning parallel to the building)  I know my physics-minded friends could explain that, given time and the proper circumstances, it could have developed enough momentum to make it to Orlando, but I was spared having to chase it down the interstate, thank you very much.

Sometimes my life creeps away from me like that car.  I get distracted.  I get too busy.  I over-commit myself.  I get lazy.  I procrastinate.  And slowly, without realizing it, and without meaning to, I can get off-course.  I know what is really important, what I need to be doing, but I find myself doing something else instead.

My car got the creeps that day because I was distracted from my normal routine. Okay, I confess… I was signing the birthday card to go with my friend’s present.  This was not a bad thing… it just distracted me from the better thing… setting the parking brake.

It’s no wonder that Paul, throughout his letters to the early churches, repeatedly warns the new believers to be alert, self-controlled, and strong.   He tells the Ephesians,  “Be very careful, then, how you life — not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.  Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.”  Ephesians 5:15-17 (NIV)   He warns Timothy to ‘guard what has been entrusted to your care.’  1 Timothy 6:20  (NIV)  We generally believe he was referring to spiritual battles against sin and temptation.  He could just as easily have been referring to those seemingly ‘good’ things that distract us from doing what is best.

Maybe I need to check to see if any areas of my life might be slowly creeping in the wrong direction… what about you?

Copyright 2010 – Mary E. Egidio  Permission is granted to share this work, but with attribution, and not for commercial purposes.

Marking Our Days

We recently attended the wedding of my 76 year-old neighbor and her 79 year-old groom.  During the reception, a family member rose to make a poignant speech, which I’ll never forget:

‘We’re here to celebrate a special day in our lives,” he said. “This is how we mark important times:  we gather together on a special day, we wear special clothes, we say special words, we share special foods and even music.  The family has come together.  This is what we do as humans to help us remember these important events.”   I don’t know if he was a preacher or an anthropologist, but his observations have made an impression on me.

Two weeks to the day, we attended the funeral of a dear friend, a dynamic Christian brother who suddenly left this earth at age 57.   His death was a shock to his friends and family.  As I was dressing for the funeral, the words spoken at the wedding reception came back to me.

I realized that on two different Saturdays, we rearranged the schedule for the grocery shopping and laundry and cleaning so that we could join with our brothers and sisters.  We put on special clothes, tied our ties, shined our shoes.  We gathered for different reasons, but in both instances we were celebrating life.  We thanked God for His goodness and provision.  These days will become  markers for all who participated.

Joshua instructed God’s people to collect a pile of stones as a tangible reminder to themselves and their children of God’s provision and protection.  “In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. … These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.”  Joshua 4:6-7 (NIV)

Crossing the Jordan was the beginning of a new era for the children of Israel.  It was the fulfillment of God’s promise of deliverance and His covenant of love with His people.  Such an event merited a celebration and a marker. It was a once-in-a-lifetime moment.  Like a wedding or a funeral, it was a  ‘life will be different from this point on’  moment.  These are the times when God often speaks to hearts, when people are more open to hearing His voice, when they recognize His hand at work.  As Christians, our participation in the celebration can help point others to Him. We can help to answer the question, ‘What do these stones mean?’

Whether a wedding, a funeral, a new baby, an engagement or a job promotion, it’s a chance to stop, to come together, to gather the family, (to eat!) to mark, and to point to God’s goodness and provision.  Let’s not let it pass without notice.  Let’s celebrate!

As the song says, ‘We will remember the works of Your hands, and we will stop and give You praise, for great is Thy faithfulness.’  (We Will Remember, Tommy Walker, WeMobile Music ©2005)

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 tell who wrote it, where you found it, and please don’t try to sell it)