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Pieced Together

I have become like broken pottery. Psalm 31:12

The past fifteen months, a huge hammer has repeatedly smashed my world. I once carried my life in a beautiful bowl. A sudden job loss, poor health, and other issues have left what once felt solid in scattered, tiny shards. I didn’t know how to pick up the pieces.

Have you been there? Do I see you nodding?

Contemplating my situation, especially over the past year , I noticed a cross I have hanging next to my fireplace. I bought it years ago at a church festival…long before I turned my widowhood apartment into shades of turquoise. Most of it’s life it hung outside on a patio. But it matched my sofa now, so…

Who knew God would use it to show me He loves me?

It is a mosaic, made of three or four different china or pottery items that have been smashed into pieces. The artist gathered them together, placed them carefully in the cross mold, and then poured in the plaster of Paris to adhere them into a beautiful design.

What someone else might have swept up and dumped as useless trash, she saw as beauty. She could envision the end product. She arranged the pieces just so, and created something new, and stronger, and with new purpose.

I know I am not the first person to make this analogy. But it reminds me of what Jesus said to his disciples after everyone on the mount had been fed with the fishes and loaves.  “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted” (John 6:12).

With Christ as my mold, the pieces of my life have been transformed into something new. He knew they’d come together in a wonderful way.  But first, they had to be broken to be repurposed. His Spirit has plastered these experiences together and made me stronger than before.

Thank you, Lord that You see the potential in each experience and that You will use it to Your glory and my benefit. Nothing is wasted. As You gathered the pieces of what I once had and began to mold them into my future,  I have drawn nearer to you, wrestled with my pride, and learned to lean on the generosity of others. Most of all, I know anew that You are always with me. Amen.

Double The Gift

Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Corinthians 9:7

You have probably received tons of emails. Today is Gifting Tuesday, when many non profits get matching donations. If you give $10 they will get $20.  It seems everyone is clamoring for your wallet today.

Did you know that with God everyday is doubled giving day? Think about it. When I reach out beyond myself to give of my time, talent or treasure to another person, then it also blesses me.

  • I no longer concentrate on, and magnify, my own issues.
  • I feel a sense of purposefulness
  • I develop a servitude attitude that is closer to the way God wishes me to behave
  • I think I make Abba smile, and that makes me smile.

We all like to receive gratitude for our giving. That in itself is a gift. But therein lies the trap. Do we give to feel good about ourselves? Do we desire the admiration, the acknowledgement, the glory? (Notice each bullet point above starts with “I”.)

What happens when we don’t get the thanks we deserve for our generosity?

Jesus warned of this pitfall. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing (Matthew 6:3).

The true blessing that comes from sacrificial giving, the gift we receive in return, is a humble and contrite heart. When we realize it all comes from and belongs to God anyway, perhaps we are less likely to act like two-year-olds grasping our treasures with a pout. Mine. Or less like the three-year-old who constantly calls out, “Look at me.”

The double gift is in the giving. Not because some anonymous donor will match it, but because our Father in Heaven will double bless it– if it is given with the right attitude of expecting little or nothing in return. The return blessing may not come immediately, or in this lifetime.

But if you think about it a bit deeper, you have already been given the gift. It is salvation through grace and mercy.  What more can you expect in return? So, go. Give it away.

 


The internet is a vast mission field. At Campus Crusades of Canada’s  Power to Change, I edit and write for two websites that draw people closer to God:   Issues I Face  and The Life.   Our free articles and devotionals glean a readership of 500,000 plus a month. Some are believers, others don’t know what to believe. All are seeking. We help them know Jesus, one mouse click at a time.
But as with any missionary organization, we are funded solely through the donations of ministry partners. And at this moment, an anonymous beneficiary will match any and all donations up to one hundred thousand dollars. 
Find out more about my work as a writer and editor at  http://www.juliebcosgrove.com/missionary_support.html 

 

The day before President Kennedy was killed in Dallas, my elementary school class lined up along Broadway in San Antonio to view his motorcade. Here is my story…

It was 1963 and school buzzed with excitement. I wore my Sunday best, just as the teacher told us, with two petticoats billowing my skirt like an umbrella, and my lace-edged socks peeking up over my shiny, black patent leather Mary Jane shoes. Mommy made me wear my finest sweater with pearled buttons and roses embroidered on the front.

eureka.org.il

courtesy of eureka.org.il

The bell sounded and, just as we practiced twice, we paraded single file across the playground and through the chain-link fence to stand along Broadway. Fifth graders lined up first, then on down the line to the kindergarteners. I was ten, so my 4th grade class lined up next. Teachers handed out little American flags for us to wave. We waited. The sun bared down on us from a cloudless sky—it was November, and the seventy-three degree temperature meant an Indian summer lingered in Texas. I sweltered in my sweater. Excitement mounted when we heard the roar of motorcycles and the honking horns coming around the bend.

San Antonio, Texas was known for parades because every year there was a celebration of Texas Independence from Mexico called Fiesta Week.  Kind of a Mardi Gras, Texas style. Bands marched as twirlers tossed their batons high in the air. Each year we would line up as King Antonio rode by in his Cadillac convertible and threw Fiesta coins and candy for the school children. But today wasn’t anything like that. It was ten times more exciting. Today, the President of the United States, John F. Kennedy was coming.

“I wonder what color it will be?”  Sherry, my best, and fashion conscious, friend asked.

“What?” I had to yell over the din of the motorcade.

“Jackie’s hat. Think it will be yellow?”

I barely had time to respond when there she was, prettier in person than on television,  sporting a cream colored outfit and a black scarf-like hat, waving next to her husband—the President of the United States. And Governor Connolly, too. I sucked in my breath.

The motorcade stopped. President Kennedy got out, walked over to our class, and shook children’s hands. Jackie followed, smiling. So did men in sunglasses and dark suits. They were not smiling.

The President shook my hand. His smile dazzled me. I dropped my little flag. My teacher picked it up and whispered some stern words. I didn’t care. I still felt his strong, warm grip even though he was now headed back to his limousine convertible.

I had heard about people who meet movie stars and didn’t wash their hand for a week. I figured a president deserved at least a month, but I doubted my mother would approve. Still, she agreed to make an exception and excused me from washing my hand that evening at dinner. When I took my bath before bed, I held my hand on my head so it wouldn’t get wet. The next morning, I didn’t wash it for breakfast either.

When I went to school, I was determined to keep that hand as clean as possible. Since it was my writing hand, I knew that wouldn’t easy. In fourth grade, we were using real ink cartridge pens instead of pencils. I didn’t want to smudge my thumb. When we stood to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, I put that hand over my heart and felt extra proud.

Then, during Spelling time, the principal announced over the loud speaker for all children to report to the auditorium and all teachers to come to his office. Dutifully, we filed into the lecture hall, seated in assigned rows as we always did for assembly.

We sat in silence wondering what was going on. A few students dared to whisper. The wooden curved back of my chair no longer felt cool on my spine. The upholstered seat itched under my knees. I swung my legs back and forth to keep them from tingling. My feet were too short to touch the floor.

The doors to the auditorium opened. I turned and squinted as the light from the hall pierced the darkened room. Our teachers walked slowly down the aisles. Several were crying. My teacher blew her nose into her laced handkerchief and stood silently besides our class. The principal stepped to the stage.

“Children. May I have your attention.” His voice cracked. It didn’t sound like him. He cleared his throat. “Today in Dallas, the President was shot. He is dead.”

Sherry grabbed my left hand. I squeezed back, then looked down. I stared at my right hand and spread my fingers. I turned it over to view my palm.

I remembered the feel of his big, warm hand in mine, and I was glad I hadn’t washed it.

Mashed Potatoes?

Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Proverbs 30:8

I’ve watched way too much TV while laid up with health issues. I admit it. One thing I have noticed, though, is the trend to make foods deceptive.  Cauliflower cooked to resemble mashed potatoes or rice. Pasta from zucchini. Cream soups made healthy to fool the family into eating right because it tastes good. Even prepared diet foods that let you eat chocolate cake and still lose the pounds.

What’s wrong with that? Initially I was sucked in. I can eat the foods that were on my “no-no” list, as long as they are altered. Marie Antoinette was right after all. “Let them eat cake!”

The problem, as I see it, is that habits are not really being changed. People are not eating more healthy but stealth-y.

I see it in churches as well. Get ’em in the door anyway you can and then lay on the Gospel. But not to thick. Let them ease into it. Be tolerant. Let them wallow in sin and accept them. Don’t judge.

Like false mashed potatoes, it looks and tastes good. Agreed, people want to eat what they want to eat and believe what they want to believe.  I admit, there is truth in that evangelistic method. Jesus met people in their messes. We should as well.

But he pulled no punches when it came to doling out the truth. As a wise pastor I know one told me, “We need to love them enough as they are to help them change into who God calls them to be.”

While we have all fallen short of the glory of God and sinned (Romans 3:23) and we should examine the plank in our own eyes before we point out the speck in our neighbor’s (Matthew 7:3-5), if we wash down the message of salvation too much, we lose the reason for needing a Savior in the first place. That, my friends, to me is a DANGER:THIN ICE sign.

Perhaps it is best if we don’t try to fool them into eating mashed potatoes that is something else, and claim it is for their own good. Maybe we should be honest about “mashed potatoes’ nutritional value”  in the first place. Then offer them the Bread of Life.

How Do You Read It?

Say this sentence: What do you want to change?

How did your mind read it? It could have placed the emphasis on the word you, meaning an action on your part is needed.  It’s up to you. Your choice, your decision.

Or your brain could have latched on to the first word what. Now the emphasis shifts. It assumes change is happening, but asks about the object of that change. That means choice.

Then again, the mind could have zeroed in on the word want, perhaps distinguishing it from “need.” There is a difference, though often times we don’t get that.  It also implies a more passive approach to the question. The power to change it not in your control. It becomes a matter of asking for help.

And he [Jesus] said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:3

Why do we often assume we need to be in control? It as if the right of passage into adulthood is paved with “It’s up to me” stones. However, too many time we stub our toes on them. Still, we plod along, nursing the throb. “I can’t assume anyone else will do it, so I must.”

Jesus challenges us to revisit the emphasis of the sentence. To return to a holy dependency on our Father for instruction, guidance, comfort, and yes, for discipline.  Just as we once did as children.

We were never designed to go it alone. Humans were created to be in communion–with each other and with our Creator. Somewhere along the line, we forget that fact. Always have…from Genesis, Chapter 3 to today.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t take responsibility. Far from it. We are all inevitably responsible for our actions, thoughts, and choices. But I, myself, have been learning the humility of dependence upon others, which includes leaning more on God.

Truth is, if I am honest, my word emphasis to the question, “What do you want to change?” has changed over the past year as I struggled with health issues soon after receiving a call into missionary work (funny how those two things happened almost simultaneously). Due to both,  I am mostly dependent on the donations of others for my income.  And I am more dependent on other’s prayers.

In 2016, I would have definitely put the emphasis on me. I, the widow, must go it alone. Make it on my own. It’s up to me.

Today, my response is: “Lord, I want You to change me…daily, making me dependent upon You so I am totally aligned with Your will. I can’t do this by myself.”

More than ever, I need to grab Daddy’s hand to lead me. Does that make me a weaker person? Yes, and no. To acknowledge my weakness makes me stronger. (I Corinthians 4:10) To lean on His understanding and might, instead of my own, bolsters me to go onward in this journey.

Kind of ironic this missionary organization I have been called to be a part of is called Power to Change, right? Well, perhaps not.

How about you? Read the sentence again. What do you want to change? Then talk it over with your Lord.

 


The internet is a vast mission field. At Campus Crusades of Canada’s  Power to Change, I edit and write for two websites that draw people closer to God:   Issues I Face  and The Life.   Our free articles and devotionals glean a readership of 500,000 plus a month. Some are believers, others don’t know what to believe. All are seeking. We help them know Jesus, one mouse click at a time.
But as with any missionary organization, we are funded solely through the donations of ministry partners. And at this moment, an anonymous beneficiary will match any and all donations up to one hundred thousand dollars. 
Find out more about my work as a writer and editor at  http://www.juliebcosgrove.com/missionary_support.html 

Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. Proverbs 4:26

I don’t recall why, but I when I was around four-years-old,  I decided to run away from home. Problem: I wasn’t allowed to cross the street.  So I trudged around the block with my little pink suitcase in one hand and my stuffed lion under my arm. Within twenty minutes I had circled the block and ended up back at home in tears.

What made me recall this incident I won’t  reveal how many decades later? While preparing to give a talk to some churchwomen, I found these children’s letters to God online. This one in particular spoke a deep truth.

As a small child, I had strict boundaries and knew the rules. It appears Dean does as well. As long as he looks both ways before crossing the street, nothing bad will happen to him, right?

If only life was so easy. As adults we get used to weighing the odds and making all the decisions. We set the rules. We decide our actions. We plot our course. Problem is, we can’t predict the future.

Sometimes we assume the way is clear. We quickly glance first then head out. WHAM – life hits us unexpectedly. Didn’t see that coming. Didn’t detect it, hear it, smell it, or even fathom it.  A tornado siren sounds one minute and your whole life ripped apart the next. The phone rings. A routine blood test comes back with bad news. A pink slip lands on your desk.

But after the shellshock, we may realize that someone was watching out for us. Something prepared us in ways we never knew. A hand held on and yanked us out of the way, or drew us closer.

 

A  quiet thought, steadfast rule, or profound statement imbedded in our subconscious begins to acts as a lifeline. We cling to it. Such as  Romans 8:28 or Philippians 4:6-7 or Psalm 121:3-8.

Or my mother’s admonition to never cross the street alone.

Perhaps we adults need to be more childlike and go back to the basics.  Ask permission. Seek guidance. Wouldn’t it be more wise to look again–just in case–instead of being so sure of ourselves as little Dean is? Maybe we need to grab Daddy’s hand more often, no matter how big we feel we are.

 

 

 

HAPPY REFORMATION DAY!

“On this day in 1517, the priest and scholar Martin Luther approaches the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany, and nails a piece of paper to it containing the 95 revolutionary opinions that would begin the Protestant Reformation...A number of princes and other supporters of Luther issued a protest, declaring that their allegiance to God trumped their allegiance to the emperor. They became known to their opponents as Protestants; gradually this name came to apply to all who believed the Church should be reformed, even those outside Germany. By the time Luther died, of natural causes, in 1546, his revolutionary beliefs had formed the basis for the Protestant Reformation, which would over the next three centuries revolutionize Western civilization.” * 


Out of one man’s protests five hundred years ago, many denominations, and even non-denoms, have sprung. Bibles, in the native language, have been placed in the hands of billions. Revivals have defrosted the frozen chosen.

Reformation – revival. Throughout Scripture God has used prophets, angels, His Son and His apostles, to realign His people with the Truth. We humans have a tendency to muddle it, complicate it, and even add conditions to it.

Every once in awhile the Church needs correction. Many believe it does today. Theologically, some pulpits have veered from Biblical straight and narrow path. Others have become too complacent and put the Great Commission on the back burner. Still others have divided over what hymns to sing, or what color the carpet down the center aisle should be.

Realign yourself with the Truth today. Nothing spooky about it, trust me. But it often takes gumption, and that can be a bit teeth chattering!  The outcome, however, is a treat--eternal life in the presence of the Lord as He smiles and says, “Well done good and faithful servant.” (Matthew 25:21) No tricks.

Lord, may October 31 remind us to safeguard the faith. Give us the fervor to always seek Your ways and not our own interpretations of it. Through your Son, who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Amen.

*http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/martin-luther-posts-95-theses
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