Wednesday, July 31, 2013

No Fail Brownies Will Trick You

I woke at 3am remembering my mother's love for a No Fail Brownies Recipe and it set off a train of thoughts about what is so appealing with this recipe.  Mainly ladies are looking for something that is guaranteed to please and to work every time.  So I looked up the recipe this morning and what did I find?  The last sentence of the directions stated, "Do not over bake".  Wait a minute!  Do you mean to tell me that I can fail at making "No Fail Brownies"? All I have to do is over bake?  By how long?  Two minutes?  Five minutes?  That seems to be cutting it close between success and failure!  What if my thermostat is a little off on my oven?  I think I will avoid making them because I might fail, and then what?  Will I be the first person who has failed at No Fail Brownies?  How devastating!  No, not really.

Failure is part of being human and attempting to do things we wish to accomplish!  If I asked you to make a list of everything you can think of where we might fail, the list would be, as the child said in the AT&T commercial, "infinity times infinity plus one!"

So what do we do? Do we refuse to try?  Of course not!   If we were a magnificent sailing ship safe in harbor would we remain tied up and never leave the shore for fear of a storm or a torn sail?  Of course not!  What's the use in being a mighty ship if not to sail the seas? 
Fear of failure can be a paralyzing thought that limits us from experiencing the life we have been given and the gifts we were meant to share.

Will our friends and relationships fail us?  We know they will.  It doesn't matter how many things you find in common with each other and how much affection and admiration and love grows between you, there will be moments of failure in relationships.  Do we decide not to love, again, or to make a new friend?  Of course not!

What we fear is not failure itself, it is the disappointment and in some cases, disillusionment that follows.  Feeling disappointment and disillusionment lead to so many other feelings of self-doubt, self-pity and self-criticism.  Oh why did I do this?  I should have known better!

What we may forget  is we are all going to fail at tasks and relationships in our lives.  They are stepping stones to improving our ability for self-growth, making better choices and constantly readjusting our own thoughts about what and who we love, what is good for us and what we can do next time to do even better.

Failure is a normal part of life.  It is a form of mental and emotional and physical compass that tells us where we are in our life and how we can adjust our path.  As we grow older, our compass lets us know things are changing.  When we were kids we could, as my dad said, "Shin-y up a tree!"  It wasn't a question of whether we could do it or not, but how fast we could get to the top!   Now, as adults, the challenge of climbing a tree might set us up to fail the task.  Do we go into a state of self-contempt?  Or do we use the failure as a gift of an inner compass letting us know our limits and our abilities.  Do we stop attempting any challenge because climbing the tree is no longer doable?  If that's our mindset, we may as well be that glorious, seasoned sailing ship forever moored at the dock, never to test its seaworthiness and love of sailing, again.

Friends and those we love will fail us, disappoint us and possibly hurt us for days or weeks to the point where we have to sever our ties.  Again, it is senseless to avoid all relationships for fear of failure.  We simply must reassess our own needs from friends and loved ones and reevaluate our guidelines for what we will accept from others and what we have to give.  

We are forever changing as we traverse life's seas.  Storms may come and threaten us and cause us to fear or to feel disappointment, but an adjustment in our compass will lead us to calmer waters and we can continue on in this adventure of life.

There is no such thing as a "No Fail" Brownie or a no fail relationship.   There is no sea that can be sailed without storms and challenges and threats to our comfort zone of being safe and secure.  Once we accept that and understand that failure is nothing more than an opportunity to see how strong we are and how we can adjust to improve our lives and be wiser than we were, we will not fear failure.  Failure serves as our compass home.

Go, love life!  It is a gift to us in which we can care for and touch the lives of others.  We were never meant to be isolated.  

The only relationship that will never fail us is the one we have with Christ our Lord and Savior.  He will never fail us in whatever we experience.  If you are searching for a guaranteed, no fail relationship, He is your answer.  Will we fail Him from time to time?  It's a given.  Will we claim we do not hear His answers to our prayers?  Yes.   Will we be confused when we feel He did not help and we have no understanding of the "why" to answer our questions?  Yes.  But the wonderful news is that He will never fail us.  He is our friend, our guide, our light. 

Be brave, love life and accept the fact that we will experience failure, but we will never be alone.  Our Lord is with us through all disappointments and all storms.  What have we to fear?

Psalm 27:1

The LORD is my light and my salvation-- whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life-- of whom shall I be afraid?

2 Timothy 1:7

For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.

Deuteronomy 31:6

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you."

Dear Heavenly Father,
You have given us so many gifts and such a beautiful world.  Shore up our courage with your loving strength.  Keep us ever mindful that whatever failures, disappointments or fears we face , you will never leave us.  You will never fail us or forsake us.
In Jesus' Precious Name we pray,

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

You've Got to Begin Somewhere

You've Got to Begin Somewhere

Peggy K. Mack

July 30, 2013

This morning I was thinking about the upcoming school year and my excitement over the opportunity to help Mickey Mullins in her four year olds Pre-K class at Forrest Brook Elementary.  I thought about all the things I love to do with them from telling them a story and watching their eyes sparkle with anticipation, to assessing them on their progress in new skills they have acquired.  One of the things I love about Mickey's room is the required, but adorable self-portraits that are replaced once a month by a new, and improved self-portrait.

That's when the thought struck me.  As Christians, we all have to begin somewhere.  We cannot wait for the moment when perfection strikes and then we take our first step.  That's simply ludicrous.  The reason it makes no sense is because all adults know that to get to a place of skill and understanding now, we have to first begin with the simple, easy attempts and with time, work, focus and diligence, we show a level of progress and improvement and growth.

With each little drawing you can see progress in their understanding of how they look to themselves and others.  The first immature drawings are alien like and bear little resemblance to the precious child that created the "self-portrait".  In some cases, the child's image is nothing more than a big circle in the middle of the page with four sticks "growing" out of his head that represent arms and legs and somewhere on that circle, maybe upside down, but nevertheless there is a smile.   To the uneducated mind, a person is left to wonder what is wrong with the child.  To those of us who spent a lifetime loving children and celebrating in their growth in knowledge and confidence, we see the potential, the beginning moment when the child will start to learn.

For this skill, of drawing a self-portrait, it comes with practice, observing other children, following a step by step lesson from a classroom assistant using a mirror.  It includes songs like: "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes" to help the child acquire an awareness of where everything is on his body.  And with each passing month, a new "self-portrait" is created.  We, as educators and volunteers watch for progress and a level of new understanding as we compare their picture last month to now.   In a few rare cases, there is little progress and we call in professionals to help decide if further assessment is needed for the child.  In most cases, the child progresses through the year from his alien like appearance to a precious drawing which might include teeth, glasses or a beautiful bow that matches an outfit.  The child displays a growth in knowledge, a clearer self image and true progress.

We as Christians cannot compare ourselves to others who are walking in their own journey in faith.  The truth is we have no way of knowing what their relationship is with Christ and it is not our job to focus on them and heavens forbid to judge them.  Our focus should be on our own reflection.  Wherever we are today is where we begin.  Our resources are a few tried and true volunteers to walk with us as we begin.  Along with those fellow Christians, we seek more knowledge through a few well recommended references and we keep the Bible as our main source of knowledge and light.  We enrich our understanding with listening and following and practicing.  We may not see the progress along the way, but with time, others will see it in us.  Our focus remains on God and our walk with Him.

God has seen us as we are from the beginning and He sees who can become when we follow His will and His light.  We do not see it, at first, but with spiritual maturity we begin to have a clearer image of how we can serve and our gifts in the Spirit and the mature Christian we can become.

Where we end up with our new adventure is unclear.  The important thing is that we do not let anything stop us from beginning what we feel we are called to do.  Our trust is in God who teaches, guides, corrects, assesses, reteaches and shows us His love.  Just like the classroom teacher sees the child and knows their self portraits will improve and mature with time, God sees the best in us now and knows the best we can become.

When I return to the classroom in a few weeks, I will think of taking first steps for Christ and allowing myself to improve with time.  The most important thing to do is take the first step.  You've got to begin somewhere.

Dear Heavenly Father,

Through my lifetime of teaching small children I have so often been able to see your loving guidance and feel your support.  Your children are such blessings to us all.  I pray for the children we are responsible for caring for, teaching and loving.   God bless your children here on Earth.  May we all learn from them and keep our faith as the faith of a little child.

In Jesus' Holy Name,


Matthew 11:29   New King James Version (NKJV)

29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

Luke 9:23 (English Standard Version)

23 And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.

1 Peter 4:10
10 Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Finding the Good in Grief

Finding the Good in Grief

Peggy K. Mack 

July 29, 2013

Last night I was watching television and saw the news of Rick Warren and his wife's return to serve in their church, The Saddleback Church, following the death of their son.  I remembered weeks ago hearing on the news their son had committed suicide at the age of 27.  TSeeing Pastor Warren standing in the pulpit, so broken and filled with grief I was stricken by the sheer power of grief we all must bear sometimes in our lives.   

Your level of faith does not diminish your absolute grief stricken pain.  It is the worst emotional, mental and physical pain we can know.

As Rick Warren spoke, he said, " I asked God every night for 27 years to remove this mental illness from my son."  He went on to explain that though he cannot explain why his prayer for his son's healing was never delivered,  he will not let this death separate him from God.  Then in a trembling voice he defiantly said, Satan picked the wrong family when he chose mine!"

In recent weeks Dottie let me know that she had found no way to celebrate in her sadness over losing her dog, Maddie.  Maddie was only six and her suffering and death caused by an annual shot made no sense.  There are deaths and there is suffering that cannot be made sense of in our minds and the reason in that is, it makes no sense.  Seeking to find some understanding only makes our suffering worse.  We grieve when we lose someone who is fragile and elderly and wants to die, but we find peace early in knowing they had lived good lives and truly were tired and ready to go to Heaven.  We have an understanding and acceptance.  Those two emotions help a great deal in our healing process.

The sheer agony comes when we lose someone so full of life or someone we have prayed for and know they are such good people who love God and they are taken from us. Their deaths make no sense.  We do not understand and cannot accept what has happened to our loved one and to us.

On the news today, I saw where a bus had overturned on an interstate exit.  A child, a youth pastor and his expectant wife were killed. The driver reported the brakes failed.  My first thought was for the church congregation and for their families, knowing the cry would be, "Why would God take such great people who loved and served Him with all their hearts?"

Mother and Dad died in their early 70s, both of colon cancer.  I had held them in my sad heart for decades with no understanding or acceptance.  I still had memories and questions about a young family of three from our church killed unnecessarily on the interstate outside of Atlanta on the way to a family wedding. Their deaths brought so much sadness to our church with seemingly no answers to, "Why?"   My lack of understanding lead to my turning away from my walk with God. God never abandoned me, but I chose to walk away from Him.  As I often told others, "I believe in God, I just don't want to talk to Him."  For 14 years I did not talk to Him and remember thinking how much easier life was for me.  Everything was going well for our family and life was so good.  Until it all fell apart and we never saw it crumbling. 

Dottie taught me so much about grievous suffering in one little phrase.  She told me, "I could not find anything good in Maddie's death and I know I am supposed to find joy even in suffering, but I just cannot".  I can't remember the Bible verse she mentioned to me that challenges us in the worst of times, in the most painful of losses, when we have no understanding of the "why", we are challenged to search for something good.  Is God serious?  How do you find good in the loss of innocents, in the suffering of those who mean the world to us?  The answer comes not in being joyful for their death, but in knowing, that in our suffering God will make something wonderful happen.  It may not even be related to the one we've lost, but it will be in God's direct response to our cries for understanding, acceptance and such deep sorrow.  He will come and bring us a peace which passes all understanding. It is simply our task, in our grief, to watch for the something good that will come from God.  And if we do, joy follows.  Yes, we still feel great loss and our sadness lingers for years, but we feel God's presence and we find a tiny gift that keeps us in our faith.

I realized this morning as I have said in an earlier writing, there is no good, no sense in the death itself.  The good comes from how God takes our afflictions, our grief and uses them to speak to others hearts and in doing so helps to heal our own.  For me, Dottie's comment was a huge "light bulb" moment or what we sometimes call, an "aha" moment. For me it was a "God moment".  I had this peaceful sense that God was with me.

My prayer for Rick Warren and his family as they fight through this grief is that God will begin to heal their hearts and fill their mind with peace by giving Rick powerful sermons for others to heal on how to survive the worst of times and stay close to God.  I pray that Rick and his wife and family will know of God's reminder to us in our grief to find joy in it.  I believe that it is in that joy we find the beginning of healing when understanding and acceptance are impossible to find. When the "why" never comes, in its place we find the tiny light of joy.  He is such a powerfully, uplifting pastor and my prayer is that Satan stays far away so that God can give Rick time to find something "good and positive" that comes from their painful loss of their beloved son. He's already made a commitment to fight for a better understanding in society of mental illness.  That fight may be the source of his joy and will keep him strong in his faith and service.

One of my statements that had stayed with me in conversations with others for years was, "I will never understand long suffering and death of innocents and when I get to Heaven I am going to ask God to explain it to me."  Maybe I don't have to wait.   Maybe God is showing me now, some twenty years after my dad's death.  I have never understood the "why" of his long suffering and death, but maybe finally, my eyes are being opened and I can begin to see the joy in my writing and sharing it with others.

Dear Heavenly Father,
We know that part of living here on earth is learning to deal with the death of those we love.  In those times when we are grieving, surround us with those who would lift up our hearts and carry us on until we can find our own way, once again.  For those of us who have returned to a place of peace, please call us to minister to those who are grieving.  It is in losing that we gain peace, comfort and a deeper sense of love from our fellow man and from you.  Walk with us Lord when our hearts are broken and keep our faith strong in you,
In Jesus' Name,

Irish Blessing
Author Unknown

 May you see God’s light on the path ahead
When the road you walk is dark.
May you always hear,
Even in your hour of sorrow,
The gentle singing of the lark.
When times are hard may hardness
Never turn your heart to stone,
May you always remember
when the shadows fall—
You do not walk alone. 

John 16: 20 (Now Jesus said.......) "Most assuredly, I say to you that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; and you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy."  

John 16:22 (Now Jesus said......) Therefore you now have sorrow; but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

God's Will for Us

God's Will for Us

Peggy K.  Mack

January 28, 2013

In recent weeks, my joy in returning to my daily walk with Christ has taken a new turn filled with more desire for learning and knowing Christ.  I never know from day to day where I will find my inspiration.  But I can tell you I am truly filled with anticipation, joy and a new curiosity for more knowledge.  With this thirst for knowledge, I am beginning to find messages I promise I never realized before and yet, I understand with each time we study God's word we begin a new level of understanding and spiritual maturity.  My most recent discovery is in the connection between our first step of claiming God as our Creator and our continued walk in faith and discovery.   For those of you who are reading my posts, please pray for my clear awareness of God's will for me. 

God is all around us. Scientists agree the universe and all life within it had a point of origin. That point of origin is the creation of this amazing world we call home.  This creation had by definition a creator leading us to a clear understanding and belief that God is our creator and that is the beginning of faith.

Within the human mind is not only the need for knowing more about our world but also the need to fill a longing corner of our heart which begs to know the creator as our personal Savior.   If we believe in creation and its creator, we believe in God.  He asks us then to seek Him. While He knows us and watches over us and cares about us, He leaves it to us to seek Him and his will.

God is all around us in our world.  He speaks to our hearts through the sound of the morning birds.  He whispers in the soft wind blowing gently through the weeping willow tree.  He calms our hearts and soothes our minds at the seashore.  He opens our hearts and minds through healing measures of music.  He touches our hearts and brings us smiles through the antics of a small impish child.  He leaves us in awe at a sunset rich in colors of magenta and lavender and indigo.  Often, we do not connect the wonders we enjoy with our Creator, but the truth remains, God is all around us.

Once we accept God as our creator of this amazing Universe and we actively seek Him in our life, we begin to feel His presence and to understand that we are far stronger with Him as our guide through life. We begin to actively seek to learn more about Him.  In opening our hearts to our God, we find comfort in knowing that He will never lie to us. We can trust him. And as in every plan He has in creation, He has a plan for our lives also.  

It is our responsibility to seek Him, to trust Him and to understand that if we follow God's will for us, He will grant every request we ask.  Can you imagine that?  Every request we ask will be granted to us if it is in line with the plan He has for us to lead a godly life.
We must learn to come to Him with gratitude and with hearts wanting His forgiveness while being totally honest with Him about our lives. 

If we chose to continue to ask for those things we desire and focus on our wishes without asking Him to show us and guide us and bring us closer to His will for us, God will protect us from our own self-destructive behaviors but we will not receive our own desires from God.

Matthew 7:7  Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be open to you.

1 John 5:14-15
New International Version (NIV)
14 This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.

James 1:5
New International Version (NIV)
If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.
The Lord's Prayer

Matthew 6:10
10.) Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. 

Dear Heavenly Father,
You have taught us through your own words and the lessons and letters of your disciples.  We are to seek thy will for our lives, and in doing so, we can come to you in prayer believing You will hear our prayers and answer us.  We ask your blessings on our lives and guidance as we follow you.
In the Holy Name of Your Son, Jesus Christ,

My Forgiveness Box

My Forgiveness Box

Peggy K. Mack

July 28, 2013

 Today our Pastor's sermon was about life and failure.  I listened as he explained that the Bible is filled with individuals who failed.  Simon Peter swore to Jesus he would never deny him and he did that three times in one day!  There are no individuals living who have never failed, so though we do not like to accept it or admit it or even think about it, we all fail.

The question then is; What do we do with our failure?  For many of us we may pray about it and then continue on as if there are no next steps, but there are!  The most important one is to admit our failure to God and to ask Him to not only forgive us but to protect us from doing the same thing, again.  We have to return to a close relationship with God.   We have to apologize with true contrite hearts for the damage we have caused due to our failure or our sense of failure.  In some cases, when you go back to truly apologize, they have already forgiven you or may even tell you that there was no need to forgive because they feel nothing wrong was done to them.  We have to re-establish a close, personal relationship with Christ to see our failures and to become better Christians.

I taught my Kindergartners when they said "I'm sorry", that they also had to say  and "I will not do it, again."  To be truly sorry we must realize that our actions cause pain or sorrow and if we are sorry, how could we want to hurt someone, again?  

Failure is the best teacher in life.  We learn more from failing at something than we ever do with success.  It is the open door to new thought, new life styles, new relationships, it is, in fact, an open door to a new opportunity.

One year in my summer preparation for  my class of five year olds, I discovered these wonderful, little packages of erasers in different styles of all kinds at the Dollar Store.  They were colorful, small and easy to handle and store.  I used them to teach forming patterns and basic addition or subtraction.  The children loved working with them.  When we didn't use them, I stored them on a shelf in the kitchen area with other math game materials.

One day when the children were all gathering on the group rug, I noticed a child had one of the football erasers.  A few moments later, I spied a soccer ball eraser in another child's hand.  I paused for a moment and thought.  Hmmm...I wonder what is going on here!  I called one of the children up and asked for the football.  I inquired where he'd gotten it and he would not answer.  I got the same result with the other child.

Then I took a marker from my dry erase board and drew a big empty box on my board.  Suspecting there was a tiny conspiracy going on, I quickly figured out a way to get to the bottom of the "straying eraser mystery". 

I began telling the children that the large drawn box was a very special box.  I said, "I have a feeling several of you have something that belongs to me and you feel badly about taking something that isn't yours.  I am sad because if I don't get my missing erasers, none of us will be able to have fun math time on Friday.  If you raise your hand and show me the eraser, I will be happy to put the eraser back in the box, and put your name up here in this very, special box.  When we finish, something amazing is going to happen!"  The children in the past, on occasion had seen one or two names on the board of children who needed to "think and have a second chance."  But the big empty box connected to a surprise was new!

  Two or three readily hopped up and delivered the eraser they were holding in their tiny fists. "Oh! Thank you", I would tell them."I am so proud of you!"  Their names went in the box and I said, "You are going to love this surprise!"  Soon seven more children followed hoping for a great surprise.  Then I asked, is there anyone else?  There was silence for a moment and then a little girl said, "Christina did this.  She got the erasers out.  She's the one who gave them to us."

  I looked at Christina and in her defiance she crossed her arms and scowled at the group as if they had betrayed her.  Her lips were tightly pinched together and I could tell she was going to be a tough one.   So I said, "Christina, I promise this forgiveness box is amazing."  She did not budge.  So with that I said, "Would all of you who were honest about your mistake and have your name in the box, please stand up?"  The nine little children who returned their erasers stood in anticipation.  I began with," when I was little my mom taught me about forgiveness.  It means you did something you shouldn't and  you are sorry.  But the best surprise is this!  if you are really sorry, you are forgiven and this is what it feels like!"   I took the eraser and slowly wiped their names off the board.  Then I said, "I thank you for doing a very good thing by returning my erasers and .....I forgive you!  You are not in trouble with me and I won't need to send a note home.  You are forgiven! Then I hugged each child and smiled at them.  They were so happy!

Then I said to Christina, I want you to think about how good this feels.  I will draw a box just for you if you want me to after lunch.  She did not budge after lunch and I gave up on that approach for her.  I visited her mom after school, shared the story and asked her if she could talk to her.  Christina was defiant.  She was not interested in forgiveness.  Her plan to give away the erasers by sharing some and taking the rest was a failure.  I could not force her to accept her mistake or to ask my forgiveness.  She had to be willing to be forgiven.  I thought for certain that she'd never budge.  But on Friday, she drew her own box and handed it to me.   "I'm sorry", she said, "and I won't do it, again"

  I hugged Christina and smiled at her and told her she was an amazing little girl. You are forgiven and I am not mad!  You did a very good thing in saying, "I'm sorry" and I know you won't do it, again.  When she returned the erasers we were able to have our fun math Friday.   The class learned a whole lot more from those erasers than just our math patterns and so did I.  

When I went to the teacher's work room that day with my classroom assistant she told everyone there of the "Forgiveness Box". I knew it was truly a gift from God.  I was in a pinch with 22 of his precious, impressionable little five year olds and the problem was in my hands.  I knew God was with me that day and so did Mrs. Limberg.

Whatever you have that is gnawing at you, causing you to have feelings of regret and you cannot let go of it or cannot forgive yourself for doing it, accept that we all fail.  It serves a purpose.  If you begin by acknowledging that we all are human and fail, then you can decide what you want to do with the failure.  Renew your relationship with God and promise never to commit that sin or failure, again.  It will feel wonderful and it frees you to love and serve God with all your heart.

Matthew 6: 9-13
“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10 your kingdom come,
your will be done,
    on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from the evil one.
For thine is the kingdom and the glory.

 “For nothing will be impossible with God”
-Luke 1:37

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” -Philippians 4:13

“Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.” -Proverbs 16:3

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Joy in Faith

 Joy in Faith

by Peggy K. Mack

January 27, 2013

The word joy is often found throughout the Bible in direct contrast to fear, worry and long suffering.  While it is true that our journey in faith requires dedication to a scheduled time of silent meditation and prayer and a calling to worship and service, we must not lose focus on the sheer joy and excitement that comes in our walk with Christ.

I spoke with my friend and inspiration who shared with me her joy in waking each morning and looking forward to her time in prayer and meditation.  Through her commitment to the importance of finding time daily to speak with God and to study His word, she has found joy in looking forward to the sense of peace you receive when you feel God's love and His listening to your prayers.   There is an amazing feeling of anticipation in the next opportunity to tune out the world and tune our thoughts and hearts into God and His word.

In my decision to walk away from worship, twenty years ago, I gave little thought to the fact that other than not wanting to worship with others, I was depriving myself of the feeling that came after church of forgiveness, peace, comfort and yes, joy.  I hurt myself by letting go of my commitment to worship with others.

Now that I have returned, not only to worship, but to devotional time, I sense the anticipation of what the morning will bring and the gift of joy.   We associate joy with special occasions like weddings, new babies, graduations, birthdays, family reunions and picnics,etc. but we rarely think of the fact that attending church, singing praise to God and surrendering our sins over to Him for forgiveness each Sunday will leave us with a calm elation and a positive outlook on our world.  My dad used to refer to church as a time to go get "recharged".  I can see him so easily in my memories on Sunday mornings.  He was dressed from suit to shoes in a matching outfit and had a smile on his face a mile wide.  He got to church early to make certain the air conditioning was running well and that doors were unlocked for others to prepare the church for service, and all the while, he was beaming with joy.  He had a joke and twinkle in his eye for anyone who shook his hand. 

How could I have forgotten that joy and not wanted it for myself?  I believe it was because of his suffering and death after three years of battling cancer and the fact that the church he loved seemed so empty without him.   Everyone continued on with their praise, singing and worship. All I felt was deep loss, endless pain and lonely sorrow.  After numerous weeks of making the effort to go to church and needing to run out when I heard a verse in a song that re-opened the wound, I gave in to the sadness and let go of the search for healing and joy.  

This morning two Bible verses were there on the page of my devotional book and they struck me.  While we focus on our commitment which includes daily devotions and prayers, worship and service, we must not forget the wonderful gift of joy.

Maybe the reason sinners go to church, is not as the skeptics would say "to be hypocrites"  but instead, to worship God with fellow Christians and to gain so many blessings.  For the time we take in preparing and participating in worship, we receive fellowship with other Christians. We hear God's word and receive his message through our pastor.  We sing with all our hearts in praise.  We listen to the choir's special music and our hearts and minds are stirred with emotion.  We are forgiven of all our sins and we are blessed with God's words of hope.  Finally and best of all, we receive joy.
For the time we dedicate to worship, we in turn, receive "one blessing after another."  In your walk in faith, be certain you acknowledge all the joy.

Psalm 100:1
Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.

Psalm 95:1
Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.

From the fullness of His grace we have all received one blessing after another.

Dear Lord,
Let us remember one of the sweetest gifts in knowing, loving and serving you is deep joy. 
In Jesus' Name,

Keep Your Eyes On Jesus in a Storm

Keep Your Eyes on Jesus in a Storm

by Peggy K. Mack 

July 27, 2013

In recent weeks, I have developed an ever growing prayer list for individuals with serious concerns in their lives.  Many are carrying great emotional, mental or physical burdens. Most are hundreds of miles away from me.  At first, my question was "What can I do for them that would make a difference?"  

The answer comes in our walk in faith.  We have our gift of thought, words and deeds.  We have our gift of prayer on their behalf. But most important of all, we have our time to go to God in silence and meditation with heartfelt pleas.  We have our faith, as weak as it might be, to believe not in ourselves or in the act of praying, but in God's willingness to listen and to do that which we wholeheartedly petition Him to do.  As I have mentioned before, it is through our asking that God recognizes our prayers and He takes on the task of repairing lives and bodies and minds and hearts.  

Often times when we see someone we care about going through a difficult time, it is our nature to say the first thing that comes to our mind.  We ask questions, we offer solutions and we often times get frustrated and even give up when we see no changes or progress, or worse yet, we see things getting worse.

I thought back to a time when I was in the center of a storm in my life.  It was during that time that I received much advise from friends, family, counselors, Christian counselors, our pastor and members of our church.  Anyone who would listen to me was willing to give advice.

And although, I valued their time and their advice I had this need to keep my eye on God.  I felt compelled to test my own faith with being patient even though the pain I was experiencing in life was causing me to be sleepless, to feel ill, to lose weight without dieting and to finally lose fistfuls of hair from my head.  I could not even brush my head gently without thousands of strands literally leaving my head.  It seemed the more I struggled, the more challenges piled up on me.  I was feeling overwhelmed and had the intense feeling of drowning. 

 It was during that time I recalled the Bible story of Jesus walking on the water.  I researched the story and found it in Matthew, Chapter 14, verses 22-33.   My mind was filled with this vivid image of Peter finding the courage to step out of the boat, and even then, his courage and faith were strong, he lost sight of Jesus and focused on the storm itself and began to sink. Jesus was with the disciples in the storm and once he saved Peter, he calmed the waters and the disciples knew He was the true Son of God.  He showed them that in the worst of storms, no matter how strong we believe our faith is in Him, ultimately, we will fail unless we keep our eye on Him in the storm.

I endured twenty -two months filled with uncontrollable sadness and tears, a sense of loss and betrayal, an overwhelming fear of being in my own home and the need to run.  And yet, my eye remained on Christ.  My true belief was that I was going to have to ask for patience and faith.  I was going to truly take a walk in faith that required me to ignore my fears and focus on Christ.  I had to dig down with His help and rely on faith to keep me safe and patient until I knew without any doubt that the time was right to be free. I literally had no idea how I was going to do all that was required of me and had to believe that doors would open, opportunities would come and I would find a peace that passes all understanding and I did.

I look back now and understand that when we have a loved one who cares, listens and prays for us, we are surrounded with their love and it lifts us up and holds us strong.  But ultimately, the answer comes in keeping our eyes on Christ.  If we rely on the advice of our friends, we are risking sinking into the stormy sea.  Only Christ can carry us to calmer waters.

It hurts us when we see loved friends and family going through a storm.  We know what they are feeling and we feel powerless in carrying them.  But God never asked the disciples to carry each other in the storm.  He asked them to stand strong in the storm, to ignore the lashing waves, the torrential rain and the sinking boat and to focus on Him.  

Our best defense that we can offer those we love is to send them words of encouragement, to pray for them with all our hearts and to answer questions they have with the best wisdom we can ask God to give us.  And finally, our best advice is to tell them to "keep your eyes on Jesus in the storm."

 Matthew 14:22-33

verse 30:
 But when he (Peter) saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried out, saying, Lord save me.  And immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and saved him.

Dear Heavenly Father,
Hear our hearts and minds as we pray for those in their storms of life.  Bless our prayers that we ask in the true belief that You can do anything for those who come in humility, with contrite hearts and who pray believing.  Be their strength in the storm and speak to them with words of calming hope. Let them never be filled with fear and lose sight of you, for you are with them. 
 Fill us with acts and words of kindness and encouragement.  Carry those we love to safety.  Calm the waters and free their hearts and minds to praise Your good works in their lives.

In Jesus' name we pray, 

Friday, July 26, 2013

The Perfect Table

 The Perfect Table

by Peggy K. Mack

July 26, 2013

Have you ever been asked to help someone with a challenge she has in their life?  You are concerned about her and love her; as a person, a friend, a family member and a child of God.  You pray about her situation.  You think about what might help her find a resolution and you spend time with her in conversation.  You offer your thoughts, support and prayers.

Days, weeks, and maybe even months go by and you see no changes in her approach to the situation. It appears she has not taken any of your suggestions.  You feel as if your friend is not listening to you.  You may begin to feel invisible, exhausted and "all talked out".  Your thoughts lead you to a "what's the use" attitude.  Where do you go with this?  What can you do?

In a conversation I had with a friend this morning, I remembered a time many years ago.  My mother had purchased a "perfect" kitchen dinette set and was so pleased that the top of the table was a laminated bright yellow pattern to accent her kitchen wall paper.  She was so pleased with her purchase.   Over the next few years, she would have run-ins, literally, with one of the table legs as she brought our meal to the table.  The first time she broke her little toe, half of her left foot turned dark blue and the doctor told her the only thing she could do was tape her toe to the other toes for support and wear a bedroom slipper.  Dad suggested that the table leg was poorly designed and she might want to consider getting rid of the table.   She would not hear of giving up her "perfect" table. 

 A year later, she got up to get second servings for Dad and broke her little toe, again.  She didn't have to call the doctor.  She elevated her foot and iced it.  Then Mom taped it to her other toes and went to work for several weeks with a bedroom slipper.  The healing process was slow and walking was painful.  Dad begged her to let him replace the table with one that had a pedestal under it instead of the four metal legs.  She did not want to discuss giving up her "perfect" table.   The final straw came while I was away at college.   She broke her little toe the third time and she said little.  She iced it, taped it and got her slipper ready for work in the morning.  But this time, she looked at Dad and said, ''I'll decide in the morning if I want a new table or I will wear shoes in the kitchen."   Finally she found a way to say, ''Maybe, just maybe, the table was not so perfect after all''.  Maybe she would let Daddy locate a pedestal style table, and if not, she would wear shoes in the kitchen.

The purpose of telling you this story is to show that maybe it is not your fault that your special person is not changing her life, in spite of the fact she claims to be miserable and insists on asking for your assistance.  The problem lies in the fact, that in even though your friend is feeling pain, she may not be willing to let go of what is causing her pain.   Unless and until, she makes the commitment to change, she will continue to experience the pain.  What do you in a situation like this?  You offer to help her make a plan for what she believes will help her.  And then, you say, "I will talk to you about anything in the world, but let's leave this alone until you feel you are ready to take those first steps toward that change you want to make."

 My dad was wise enough to offer a solution to mom and when she refused, he let it go.  He supported her in every other way.  But the table was not up for discussion.  Did it hurt him to see her break her toe?  You bet it did.   But he knew her so well.  He knew she was strong willed and determined and until she decided her toe was more important than her table, she would not change.

Be patient with your friend.  But be firm and clear about how you feel and confirm with them your belief that you know they can do it.  Then let go.  God break down the wall that has her paralyzed.  Accept the fact that you may not be the one to help her and she may never make the changes that would help her life.  Ask God to show her what you cannot.  God can break down the wall that has her paralyzed.  Ask God to show her what you cannot.  It is our job as a Christian to pray for those we love.   We must ask God to take over when we see with our own eyes that everything we have done is making no difference.  We give and we do as much as we can and we give it to God to complete what we cannot.

When did we decide that if we do not get through to them, nothing will change?  How foolish of us to forget that God is with us and in us and working through us.  And God is guiding her now.  When she reaches the point of being tired of feeling the hurt and feeling the fear or whatever else she is feeling, your friend will walk away from the pain.  Not all do, but that is where faith and hope and patience are an important part.

Dear Lord,

It hurts us when someone we love is hurting and wanting help and searching for a way out.  Help us to find the right words to aid them.  Let us see when all we are doing is not making a difference. Remind us that you are always with us and we have done all we can, you will lead them to healing.  We will love them, pray for them and keep their company, but we cannot do it all.


The Serenity Prayer
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.

        --Reinhold Niebuhr

 Trust in the LORD with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will direct your paths.

Proverbs 3: 5-6

Friday, July 19, 2013

God Knows Better

God Knows Better

Peggy K. Mack

July 19, 2013

I remember the Sunday morning when I walked to the front of the church at Forest Park Methodist and waited to speak and pray with Dr. Friedman.  It was one of those Sunday mornings where the soft Fall sunlight was shining gently through the massive stained glass window which I loved to sit near each Sunday.  The window was two stories tall and the width of a church wall and there in all his gentle love was Christ reaching down with opened arms.  I felt so safe and so loved beneath that beautiful window.  It became my place of solace each Sunday as God lead me where he wanted me to go in my life. 

My home had become a place of fear for me, of deep sorrow and dark days which seemed to have no purpose.  After 30 years of marriage all we had was now gone and I felt like an unwelcomed stranger in my own home.

Through my love for songwriting,  I met a young minister of music who invited me to come "check out" his church.  That invitation followed an encouragement from another songwriter who loved his church home in Texas and told me the way to find a church home is to visit several and decide which one feels right.  So I followed their advice and found my way, not understanding my full reason for being there, but still, I felt compelled to attend. It had been 10 years since my parents' death and my heart had slowly reopened itself to my love for God.  First came prayers of hope, then a heartfelt connection with God and finally my quest to return to church.

I loved everything about Forest Park Methodist, and overtime, I had visited Dr. Friedman several times in his office to ask for guidance about my failing marriage and to seek information about the gifts of the spirit.  In turn, he had lead me to a Christian counselor whose intention was to help save our marriage.  Over the next six months I worked in Bible school and attended an adult Sunday School class.  All of those steps in my journey back to faith had lead me to this moment when I was standing in the front of the congregation. 

As Dr. Friedman asked me my name and introduced me, I was welcomed by him and I responded, "I am here because I want to serve."  My heart, in that moment, was so filled with joy and I truly wanted to be a part of this wonderful church family and to serve in anyway I could.  But as the months passed and I attended every Sunday, my heart continued to break more and more at home.  I found myself sitting in church with silent tears and not being able to hold them back.  I was hurting so deeply and among God's family all I could do was plead inside for healing and strength to do God's will.

Looking back now, five years later, although I truly believed I was called back into the joy of church to serve and rededicate my life to God, His purpose in leading me to church was far different.   God knew me and my needs far better than I knew my own.  God, I see now, had lead me to a church filled with loving, kind hearted people who reached out to me with concern and prayers on my behalf to protect and strengthen my heart, mind and soul.  I was going into a marital storm that had life long consequences for myself and my family.  As the walls of my marriage crumbled, the walls within the church sustained me and strengthened me to make the decisions I needed to make to save my own life.  I see that clearly now.

My reasons for going to church were not God's reasons for calling me.  He had lead me to shelter and safety and wisdom through Dr. Friedman and Dr. Stephens, my Christian counselor.  During those 10 months, I was lead to understand what I was facing and the choices I had before me.  During those ten months, I found the strength to decide what I would take with me in leaving the home and  the patience to wait on the Lord to guide me to the safest time for me to leave.  I was invited into the home of an old friend, a safe harbor until I could find my own way to do all the things necessary to stand on my own two feet after 30 years of not having to make those decisions.

God had me in the palm of His hand.  I felt it and I knew it without a doubt.  I could not see my way on many days and sometimes in my lack of patience, I complained that I could not hear God.  I worse than complained.  When no one was at home I would cry out in frustration and tell my friends, "I can't hear God!  How am I supposed to know what to do!!!?"

Nevertheless, I have now learned, that it is only when we look back after the storm that we see clearly how God was leading us, opening doors, protecting us, providing for us, healing us and strengthening us the entire time.  All I felt at the time was wounded, lost, frightened and alone.  I literally lived the often used term, "a faith walk."  I had no idea what I was doing and no idea where I was going and no idea where I'd end up.  But with each tiny step in faith, God provided and life moved one step closer to bringing me to a place of joy and light.  He touched my life on so many occassions with the support and kindness of friends who rallied around me and gave me their strength.

Here I am now, five years later, in a new life with a new husband in a new home in another state five hundred miles away from all the sadness, heartache and pain.  I have no doubt that God has lead me here and I am at peace and filled with gratitude and a renewed faith in a personal walk with Christ.  I can see clearly, that on that Fall morning at Forest Park Methodist Church when I happily announced I was there to work, God knew better.  He knew I was there to be loved, guided, protected and strengthened in the storm I was about to face.

Dear Lord,
I know so little about you and so little about your will for me.  In my increasing search to know and love you, remind me that although I may be certain of why I believe I am called to do something, it is You who truly knows the whys and hows and whens and the wheres....and it is our job to simply answer the call and let you lead. 

Job 28:12  But where can wisdom be found? And where is the place of understanding?

Job 28: 22-24 Destruction and death say, We have heard about it with our ears. God understands its way and He knows its place. For He looks to the ends of the earth, and sees under the whole heavens.

Job 28:28 And to man He said: Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom.  And to depart from evil is understanding.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Follow Me

 Follow Me
Peggy K. Mack

July 18, 2013

Four years ago, my husband, Bill, encouraged me to begin researching my family ancestry.  He had been involved in a thorough search of his family records for a decade and felt certain that once I began my search, I would enjoy it and even love it.  So, while he went to work each day, I spent my newly independent days of retirement researching and took to it like a goldfish in a goldfish pond filled with fresh water and delicious food.

 I spent hours each day in searching through files, running up family trees, only to realize, on some days,  I was literally barking up the wrong tree.  Never undaunted, I would simply backtrack where I lost my way and begin searching anew.  So many wonderful pieces of information were literally at my fingertips and I slowly began to realize, not only who my family members were but,  who I was in following in their footsteps.

One amazing day, I had focused on trying to learn more about my dad's grandfather, Oliver Asberry Kelley.  An old letter that Aunt Ina sent Dad in the 1960s told the story of OA being born to a father from Ireland and being raised by his mother and father in Savannah, Georgia.  Census records confirmed that his father was from Ireland and his mother was from Virginia. That is all the information we have on them.  Aunt Ina told Dad that when OA was only 4 both his parents died of an awful breakout of yellow fever, malaria or something that took many of the residents of Savannah and left OA Kelley an orphan at 4.

 From there, OA's story goes silent until he met a family, traveled with them to Arkansas and later married their daughter.  By 1923, OA was dead and buried.  His life was over and it seemed so short and so silent to me. I began cross-researching with where many silent volunteers work tirelessly throughout our country taking photos of every single grave and documenting them in their respective cemeteries for those who want to find their loved ones.

On that day, I came across the information page and photographof my great-grandfather, Oliver Asberry Kelley's headstone.  The man whom I never met and had only one old letter to tell me anything about him.  I knew. from family stories that he was a poor, humble farmer who loved his wife and ten children and worked hard until he died. But I did not really know much else about him, that is, until the moment I looked on that website and read his headstone. For one frozen moment in time, I sat and stared.  I did not know what my feelings were at first.  How could I be saddened to see a headstone of someone I never knew?  And yet, I was certain that is what my heart felt.  And then I enlarged the photo to read the tiny engraving at the bottom.   It said in fading curved letters:  He died as he lived, a Christian.

Tears streamed down my cheek as I accepted that Oliver Asberry Kelley had been in Heaven for 90 years and I now have no doubt of who he was even though I never met him.  I know because he lived his entire life as a Christian man.  And I thought on that day, as I think now, I would only hope that I live the same kind of life he led, day by day, in whatever way I can, to be known as a Christian until the day I die.  For in truth, nothing else matters, nothing.  For to be a Christian means you live as though Christ shines His light through you.  And for others who know little else about you, they will know one thing for certain, you live your life as a Christian.  What a gift my great grandfather gave me all these years later.  A silent message saying, this is all that matters...this is what is truly important. Follow my footsteps and die as you live, a Christian.

Since that moment, I have reclaimed the faith which has held a silent light in my heart and I have chosen to use it to bless others in any small way that I can.  It's the least I can do. Follow me, Christ told his disciples and from a silent headstone in a forgotten cemetery the message lives on. Follow me and die as you live, a Christian.

In my mind's memory comes the words to a little song I learned in church as a child:
This little light of mine,
I'm gonna let it shine.
This little light of mine,
I'm gonna let it shine.
This little light of mine,
I'm gonna let it shine.
Let it shine, all the time, let it shine.

Hide it under a mulberry bush?
No, I'm gonna let it shine.
Hide it under a mulberry bush?
No, I'm gonna let it shine.
Hide it under a mulberry bush?
No, I'm gonna let it shine.
Let it shine, all the time, let it shine.

Corinthians( I ) Chapter 13 verse 11:

When I was a child, I spake as a child.  But when I became a man, I put away childish things.

Philippians 3:13-14
13  Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14  I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Dear Lord,
Today I thank you for rekindling the fire of faith inside my heart.  I find you in so many little things that occur in each day and when I go back and look at times in my past I can see you were calling me then.  What good is the light we have shining in our hearts if we are not willing to open our hearts to others so they can witness your light through our lives and find the joys and peace and comfort we know?   Why would we not understand what children so readily see.  We have the light of Christ in our hearts and we should never hide it.  For there is no greater life we can live than to be said of us: She died as she lived, A Christian.  


The Gift of Maddie

The Gift of Maddie

by Peggy K. Mack

July 18, 2013                                

Today I  began a journey in faith that started calling me several weeks ago when a seed was first planted.

I call it "The Gift of Maddie".  Maddie was a six year old, black and tan dauchshund who succumbed far too early in her young life following a violent reaction to an annual vaccination.  She belonged to Tim and Dottie Dawson Short.  I saw through her posts on Facebook the grief that had surrounded their hearts and felt compelled to respond with kindness.  I had seen a memory cup on a website. I copied a photo of Maddie that Dottie had posted, sent it off to the company and within days it arrived prettier than I even imagined.  I added a card with my thoughts and mailed it to Tim and Dottie.

Their gratitude was overwhelming, for it had touched their grieving hearts, and I knew in that moment it was a God given moment.

At the same time, a friend of mine through songwriting, Tim Wheeler, had left a message on one of my posted thoughts and said, " You really should write your thoughts on a blog.  They are good."  He sent me a link to an easy, free site and I began feeling great about adding several posts within a few weeks time and receiving warm encouragement from friends.  I realized that my ten year plus love for songwriting seemed to have come to an end and I was at peace with it.

Several weeks went by and a tiny thought entered my mind no bigger than a mustard seed,  but once planted had surely taken root and would not leave me.

The seed was curiosity.  It was planted when in Dottie's words to me in a thank you note, she mentioned that Maddie's Cup, I had sent, matched her Bible cover and greeted her and Tim while they shared morning devotions in their sunroom.  What a lovely, peaceful feeling came over me! My subconscious began asking the question, "Why aren't I doing that? Why aren't I having devotions?  I'm retired and have time. Hmmmm!"
Several more days passed until one day I had this need to inquire of Dottie in a message, "How do I get started?"

I received an amazing reply that was perfect for me with step by step instructions of how to set up my own morning devotions.  My new thought was, "I can do that!"

With her help I began today. I seem to be living proof that I am a work in progress.  I guess you can teach "an old dog new tricks."  I have my tools. They include: two books of devotion that I never finished reading, God Is In the Small Stuff and Prayer:Dare to Ask, one dusty Bible purchased when my friend Nathan helped me to listen for God's call for me as my own Savior and, finally,  a journal sitting on my shelf that I started when my life began with Bill.  I chose a repurposed, computer bag to store all the books and keep it next to my recliner.

My first devotion was in God is in the Small Stuff and it reminded me of the first suggested step.  Accept God as my creator of the universe and all its miracles and majesty and beauty and wonder.  Secondly, acknowledge I truly and completely believe that each person is a gift from God that has the potential to do wondrous things. God loves each one of us for who we are and sees who we could be. 

Then the author suggested I should also accept:

God is in my heart and mind.

He values me for who I am.

And FAITH involves doing ALL I can and He will take care of the rest.

Isaiah 40:28-29

New International Version (NIV)

28 Do you not know?
    Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
    and his understanding no one can fathom.
29 He gives strength to the weary
    and increases the power of the weak.

Dear Lord,
I truly thank you for the gift of little Maddie.  Even in her early passing she brought me a gift through those who loved her most, Dottie and Tim Short.  I give thanks for them and  all those who inspire me to be the person God sees in me.  Thank you for making this journey in study and devotions begin in my heart and mind and spirit.  I am amazed at how what seemed to be a task for so many years, now, seems to make good sense.   I look forward to waking early each morning to begin my day with reading and prayer and writing. 
What a change I see in my life in such a short amount of time!  And it all began with a little dog named Maddie. 
I am, once again, filled with gratitude.
In Jesus' Name,


Commentary from Dottie Dawson Short:

Peggy, I would like to add to this most special story written by a very special woman (YOU!): Maddie died in April of this year & although I know that I am supposed to, as a Christian who believes in 'walking the talk', 'rejoice in all trials & tribulations' I could not for the life of me do that...I could not make sense of what happened to her AT ALL. There was no rejoicing on my part...UNTIL....I realized what it had done for Peg & the direction she feels led to go in now...THAT, I was joyful for & so with that 1st joyful moment, came more moments to be thankful for. Thank you again, Peggy for such a beautiful tribute to my sweet Maddie.

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Silent Sin

The Silent Sin:  Dismissal

by Peggy K Mack

July 15, 2013

This morning while playing a game of Solitaire on my laptop, I was silently making an excuse to continue wasting time instead of getting the day started with making my bed, a shower, etc.  I was dismissing in my mind the importance of getting busy by telling myself I was retired, had plenty of time, etc, knowing that my delays would cause frustration with my husband when he saw me sitting and not moving along with the day so we could do the things we have planned together.

Dismissal, a silent sin, allows us to give ourselves room to mess up.  The husband who says to himself, "I only had drinks with some friends from the office and don't understand why she's upset", knows the entire time that he's needed at home because both husband and wife work and the evening hours are when the children are fed, bathed and read to before going to bed.  Those family hours are crucial in keeping the family unit strong, but dismissal, allowing himself to believe his choice was nothing sets the stage for eroding the family unit.   Sadly, somewhere in his mind, he knows it.

Dismissal, the silent sin, is what the housewife uses to run up credit cards on clothing or items she does not have a true need for at the time.  She often uses the shopping as a pacifier to soothe the true problem that is bothering her.  Rather than face the problem and make healthy choices for herself and her family, she is pacifying her needs while running the family into debt, knowing somewhere in her mind, that she is using dismissal to excuse her choice.  It is not a problem or sin of ignorance or denial.  This is knowing the behavior is not good for the family and choosing to continue.  The act of dismissal is the same as making excuses to yourself or others. 

Some of our greatest sins seem to be "nothing" but can be the stumbling block to keeping a marriage strong.  Dismissal, the silent sin, opens the door to actions that damage the family.  It is hurtful when the spouse in a marriage responds to his partners concerns with indignant replies, "Oh! Get over it.  You are making a BIG deal out of it."  For the partner, it is a big deal.  Maybe they see the situation more clearly but the silent sin of dismissal is at work in the house.

In this moment, I am typing my thoughts about dismissal when my day should have started twenty minutes ago.  For a change, I am acknowledging my behavior and not telling myself that it is fine. With that I end these thoughts.

The Parable of the Great Banquet

15 When one of those at the table with him heard this, he said to Jesus, “Blessed is the one who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.”

16 Jesus replied: “A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. 17 At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’

18 “But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’

19 “Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’

20 “Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’

21 “The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’

22 “‘Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’

23 “Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full. 24 I tell you, not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.’”

Dear God,

 Give us strength in our relationships to avoid the silent sins that seem so negligible at the time but can do us great harm in the long run. When we are expected to be a part of a plan, help us to not make excuses or to dismiss the importance of our part.  When we begin to dismiss our behavior send your Holy Spirit to speak to us and guide us to do what we know is right.

In Jesus' Name,

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Gratitude in Adversity

Gratitude in Adversity

Peggy K. Mack

July 13, 2013

My thoughts about gratitude in adversity follow my recent horrible fall caused by a flip flop, a corner of a dining room carpet, arms filled with a watermelon, a collision with a fruit wood buffet and my own stupidity.   In the days that followed, I often stared at my damage in the mirror; a large goose egg above my eyebrows, a swollen nose and eye lids and two black eyes which continued to get blacker day by day.   Yesterday, the fourth day following my fall, I woke with a sense of deep gratitude that I had not needed stitches.  I had not broken my nose nor knocked my front teeth out.  I was dealing with some painful bruises on my arm and hip and face, but other than looking rather ghoulish, I was fine.  It could have been so much worse.  And in my adversity of knowing I'd be freakish looking in public for the next two weeks, I was fine.

I remembered an old saying from my days when I looked for ways to inspire my challenged high school students.  I discovered a saying that said something to the effect of, " you must value moments of adversity or loss because it is in those moments there is an opportunity to learn, to improve, to grow as a person."   Winning teaches us little and serves to fill us with joy and pride and encouragement to keep going.  But losing or adversity teaches us how strong we are in times of trouble, it teaches us to evaluate what has happened and how we can avoid it in the future.  It teaches us to laugh in the toughest of times for there is joy to be found and laughter is a healer of the heart and spirit. 

There is a purpose in loss or adversity.  It is something we all face from small day to day experiences to once in a lifetime tragedies. We all face adversity in our lives.

I realized this morning that facing adversity is also a walk in faith in our personal experience with Christ.  When we first feel that moment when Christ opens the door and we hear Him calling our name, we are loving children of God but our faith is immature. 

 In our subsequent walks with Him, we face life's challenges. Ah! but now, we face them with faith and in faith.  Our reactions are different and our chances to grow in the faith as maturing Christians call us to see our daily lives through his eyes as a believer.  We will surely be challenged.  We will fall and struggle to get up.  We will lose and win.  We will feel our hearts break and we will feel traumas and tragedies.  Those adversities are part of living here on Earth.  Now, we live in faith.

One of the maturing steps, I believe, is finding a way to be grateful in the midst of adversity.  You have seen interviews with people who have experienced a tornado having winds of 300mph. Their house now lies on the ground, no more than match sticks and trash.  The words they utter tell so much about who the person is and not what they have been through in the storm.  Often you hear them say, I can rebuild.  My family is safe and that is all that matters.  In the adversity, you hear gratitude.  They may not even know it but they are witnesses to God's ability to lift us up so we can rebuild our lives. 

 My dear lifelong friend is in a battle with breast cancer.  Her daughter has stage 4 cancer and the reaction to the chemo has taken her daughter's energy and her hopes for recovery.  Her other amazing daughters have stepped up to do whatever is needed as part of the fortress of support.  In the midst of their concerns, they are filled with gratitude for medical staff, prayers and support from family and friends and are filled with positive hope and concern.  What an inspiration...what a family!  They have lived an active life of faith.  They are as worried and concerned as anyone would be facing cancer and the side effects of chemotherapy, but they face it in faith and there lies the huge difference.  They believe God will sustain them.  He will lift them up and He will do all he can to heal her of this life threatening illness.

I am so humble this morning in being able to see that I have reached the level of maturity in my walk with Christ that gives me the vision to experience gratitude in adversity. I have been blessed so many times with experiencing for myself the walk with Christ which leads me out of life's storms, away from fear and sorrow and back into a place of comfort, peace and joy.  

 Philippians 4:11-13

New International Version (NIV)

11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

Dear Heavenly Father,

Use me to reach out to those who are, today, facing a painful heartache or trauma or adversity.  Use me as I go about my day to find the kind words or actions needed to bring a blessing when there are those who are so in need of hope and love.  You surrounded me in my time of need with endless friends and their acts of kindness. Now, as the popular saying is reflected in my prayer,  "Help me, now, to 'Pay it forward."

In Jesus' Holy Name,