Monday, December 28, 2009

An Unexpected Lesson

I’ve heard it said that ‘when the student is ready, the teacher will appear’. So in this last post for 2009 I’d like to share a few words of encouragement from some new theologians that I’ve learned from lately.

A few mornings ago, I found myself captivated by a scene from The Music Man. In the scene, Harold Hill was trying to talk Marian, the town librarian, into take a stroll with him. When she said “not tonight, maybe tomorrow,” Harold Hill replied, “You pile up enough tomorrows, and you'll find you are left with nothing but a lot of empty yesterdays. I don't know about you, but I'd like to make today worth remembering.” Hmmm, let that sink in for a few moments. I’m sure we’ve all been guilty of procrastinating…putting off until tomorrow what we could have done today. In fact, Greg and I jokingly say “Let’s plan on that” when we talk about things that we know we just can’t do right now – things like skydiving. (That one I think I might just keep putting off for another day!) But how often do we postpone the joy and blessing that we would receive or give to others by just doing the thing we’ve been putting off.

After having a few days to marinate on the Music Man’s words of wisdom, I was instructed by another unexpected teacher. While watching The Sound of Music, I heard some sage advice that the Reverend Mother told Maria. “You have to look for your life.” Wow, that nun knows her stuff! Let’s hear that again. “You have to look for your life.” Those words of wisdom both encouraged and convicted me at the same time. I thought about all of the times that I was overwhelmed or disappointed that life was not going the way I had expected and yet, I wasn’t proactively pursuing my dreams either. I’d lived so much of my life following other people’s rules or instructions until I finally realized that my hopes and my dreams really do matter! Our dreams may not all come true but they are the driving force that can make us into the people God wants us to become. What are your dreams? Are you ‘looking for your life’?

So as we bring this year to a close, I’d like to leave you with two thoughts. First, allow yourself to receive the most out of each day. That doesn’t mean fill your day with a bunch of stuff or try to cram more into what you’re already doing; it means to receive what the day has for you. Each day is a gift from God and while some days are better than others, all of them have a blessing for us if we’ll look for it. The second thought is to remain teachable. When we are open to hearing from God He’ll speak to us at unexpected times… like during a musical! God speaks to us so often and unfortunately we don’t always take the time to listen. A word from God is always a blessing, so be on the lookout for it!

Be blessed,
Jennifer

“This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24

Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas Traditions

Merry Christmas Lamplighters! Hopefully by now you have every gift bought and wrapped, tons of tasty goodies baked and are relaxing by your beautiful Christmas tree sipping your coffee and listening to Bing Crosby crooning about snow. But for the rest of us, there is still much to do and not much time to do it in!

My family just got back from a weekend in Arkansas after celebrating Christmas with my in-laws. While the gift exchange time may have been what the kids were looking forward to the most, I’m sure that it’s not what they will be most likely to remember. I would bet that they would remember how we spent our time together, not the gifts they received. It’s well known that anytime you get a group of Mersbergers together for a weekend, we’re going to play cards! This year we had two separate tables for the card game – one for the adults and another for the teenagers. I loved seeing those teens gather around to play the same game we were playing…the next generation of card players!

I remember when I was a child we always had our family celebration on Christmas Eve. Mom would make oyster stew for dinner which my grandparents loved but none of the kids liked so she decided to also serve pizza. I know it doesn’t sound like an appealing combination but we have served it almost every year since. We’ve come to expect it and now Mom has a great oyster stew recipe so it’s not just oysters floating in milk! (lol, sorry Mom) I’m not sure if my own kids will carry on the tradition to their families, but at least they will be able to share the stories!

Regardless if you choose to make something a tradition or it happens by chance, the memories that you make in the Christmas season can stay with you from year to year. Our children are far more attentive than we give them credit for and they are choosing which traditions they want to embrace and which ones they can’t wait to let go of! If getting together and decorating the tree causes tempers to flare and becomes a huge argument, the kids will probably choose to avoid that task later in life. While if you have a lot of fun baking or shopping together, they’ll look forward to continuing that tradition.

In the midst of all the memory making, don’t forget to pass on the true message of Christmas - the birth of our King who came to save the world! This shouldn’t just be an afterthought; it should be the main point! We may celebrate His birth this time of year, but we should be celebrating His death and resurrection every day…He is our greatest gift!

Be blessed and Merry Christmas,
Jennifer

“Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:11

Monday, December 14, 2009

Don't forget to knock...

My husband graduated this weekend…finally! I watched him walk across the stage, shake the president of the university’s hand and receive the degree he has been working so hard for. This moment was the culmination of years of hard work and sacrifice and I found myself not only excited about this finished chapter in our family’s life but encouraged about the start of a new one. The commencement message was given by Dallas Holm, a well known Christian artist, and I’d like to share part of his message with you today.

Dallas told the parable of the friend who comes at midnight asking for food and drink to serve to his unexpected guest. The homeowner turns his friend away stating that he and his family are already in bed for the night and he can’t help him. The man continues to knock at his friend’s door knowing that he cannot go home empty handed. In time, the homeowner opens his door and gives his friend all that he asked for and more, not just because they were friends but as a reward for his perseverance.

Dallas congratulated the graduating class for their perseverance. They had all continued knocking at the door and now the door of opportunity was finally opening to them with the hope of a great future. He encouraged them to continue to be persistent especially in prayer. Dallas described persistent prayer as a boulder that you try to break with a very small hammer. You hit it and hit it with the small hammer to no avail until one day, the boulder splits. It wasn’t the strength of that one last hit that breaks the boulder, but the combination of all of the hits. Our prayers aren’t answered because we say one eloquent ‘super prayer’ but as a result of numerous faithful prayers.

As I sat and listened, I thought about my own prayer life. There were a few unanswered prayers that came to my mind that I had grown tired of asking for. Day after day, hour after hour of praying for these things have made me tired and I’ve begun to lose faith. I was interpreting God’s silence as a ‘No’ instead of being persistent. In that very moment, I vowed to dust of those old prayers and continue giving them to God. We have to believe that not only is God able to answer prayer, but that He will!

Do you have any dusty prayers that you’ve stopped believing God for? Have you interpreted a ‘Not now’ from God as a ‘No!’? Haven’t you ever delayed giving your child what they’re asking for just to see how badly they really want it? If they ask once or twice, they may want it a little but if they ask everyday without fail you begin to see just how much it means to them! It’s in that time of waiting on God that He prepares us to receive the things we’re asking Him for. He develops our faithfulness so that we can continue to persevere in His plans for us. Faith is required to persevere, and persevering builds faith…it all works for God’s glory!

Be blessed,
Jennifer

"So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” Luke 11:9-10

Monday, December 7, 2009

The 'Me First' Mentality

I hate traffic! Whether it’s on the road in my car or in a crowded store or event, it stresses me out! I have even been known to avoid events where I know that there is no ‘crowd control’ in place because I know that I won’t enjoy what I’m there to do because of the ‘me first’ mentality of those around me. You know what I’m talking about, it’s the guy who whips in and out through traffic, riding up on people’s bumper and cutting others off just so HE can get to where he wants to go with no concern for the other people around him. Or the woman who will muscle through the crowd just to grab the last _______ regardless of how many people had been waiting their turn to get to it. I know this just sounds like a rant, but hopefully you’re feeling that same turning in your stomach as I do when I think about people who act like that.

I was having that same feeling the other day as I was trying to get home after a very long day of work and errands (in heels). The longer I had to wait to be able to pull out of the parking lot, the angrier I became…I think I could actually feel my blood boiling! I remember saying under my breath “Lord, could you please help me out here??” It was more sarcasm then an actual prayer, but I felt God speak to my heart in that moment anyway. I felt Him saying “Didn’t I tell you that you were supposed to let them be first?” Ouch! There’s nothing like the sting of conviction!

God was right; I had become so frustrated with the other people because I was acting just like the other people… I had the ‘me first’ mentality! I wasn’t angry or stressed because I was missing something important or had an emergency to tend to, I was angry because I wasn’t getting my way. I was acting just like everyone else as I judged them for it! I deserved some conviction right about then! It took only moments for me to repent from my bad attitude and put on some new found humility.

Interestingly, once I had a more humble spirit I didn’t mind the ‘me first’ mentality as much. As I allowed others to go before me, I felt more at peace. I also didn’t go without what I needed… in one store it looked like the item was sold out but after I took my time to look around I found it in an unexpected place. I felt more at peace and was blessed by allowing others to go before me.

Are you struggling with a ‘me first’ mentality? Remember that being first in the world does not make you first in the Kingdom! Ask God to renew your mind today so that you experience His peace and His blessings by putting others first and allowing God to provide for your needs…you’ll be amazed by how good you’ll feel!

Be blessed,
Jennifer

“People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God. Indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last." Luke 13:29-30