Practicing for Heaven

I was thinking about heaven a few days ago as I was driving home from an outing.  Hubby was at home, and I was driving along with my thoughts to keep me company.  Suddenly out of the blue heaven popped into my mind.

Thinking about some of the comments and conversations I heard in the past, it seemed as if God put a whole zip file in my mental computer in an instant, and I started un-zipping and unpacking the file in my mind.  I’ve heard comments like, “I believe everyone will go to heaven because God is a God of love.  (Sure He is, but He is so much more than that, and I’m not betting my eternal future on that statement alone!)  “I can’t wait to see the mansion that has been prepared for me.” (I am positive our mansion will be great, but should that really be our main focus?)  And then there is this one. “What are we going to DO all day.  I mean, you can only sing praises for so long before you get tired and want something else to do.”  (REALLY?  Words escape me.  Perhaps some picture heaven as being a place they can do what they want all day as long as they have choir practice first.”  I don’t begin to have all the answers, but my view of heaven is a little different.  God loves us, yes.  And He prepared a way for us to get to heaven, but we need not think you can get there any old way.  There is only one way. Jesus.    Mansion? Great. Streets of gold and gates of pearl? Amazing.  Seeing Jesus and praising God?  Well HALLELUJAH!  Now that’s what I’m talking about.  As for needing something else to do other than praise Him,  God has a plan.  But I really can’t see that plan including us gossiping over the fence with our neighbors or sitting discontentedly in a heavenly corner saying we are bored.

All that was in the first folder in my mental zip file.  Then came this thought.  Practice.  Yes, practice.  Think about it for a moment.  A fine musician spends hours practicing. There are drills and runs to keep fingers nimble and flexible.  There is new music to learn to improve technique.  There are practice sessions to learn and absorb the music until it becomes a natural part of us.  And what about an athlete?  From pro baseball (or football, or soccer or whatever) to T-ball, if we want to get better from week to week we must practice.  The more we practice, the better we become.  Years ago (too many to mention) I worked at a Tastee Freeze  For those of you who don’t recognize the name, it was an ice cream and sandwich fast food dream.  Anyway, one of my jobs was to make an ice cream cone using the soft serve ice cream machine.    The cone had to swirl around and end with a curl on the top.  And it had to weigh an exact amount.  I became pretty good at that, but my first attempts were laughable.  So what did I do?  Practice.  It occurs to me that even though I don’t know exactly all of God’s plan for heaven, I can be practicing now.  I can practice being kind to others.  I can practice being an encourager.  I can practice singing praises.  I can practice worship.  And the more I do these things, the more natural and meaningful they will become.

There was a lot more in the thoughts God gave me that day…far to much to write about in one sitting.  But I have to stop for now.  I need to go out and catch up on a little practice.

Advertisements

Anticipation

Today is such an exciting day!  Hubby and I are having a new refrigerator delivered.  If I could dance on my tiptoes I certainly would.  Now that is a mental picture right there!

Let me back up a minute and explain our joy a bit. I know I get a bit wordy, but you will get to my point if you keep reading.  A year or so ago, our refrigerator, I am sad to say, died.  And it died at a most inconvenient time.  Now I know what you are thinking.  Anytime is a most inconvenient time for a refrigerator to quit.  And you are right, but this came at a time that money was t.i.g.h.t. and then some.  Oh dear, I know what you are thinking again.  “Do you mean to say you waited 2 years to replace your fridge?  You must have gone through a lot of ice for the cooler.”  It wasn’t that bad, truly.

Instead I read and reread the bank statements.  I checked our piggy bank.  I even looked in my secret fabric discretionary fund.  Yes, I have one and that is all you need to know.  Finally I decided we didn’t need a nice big refrigerator with a good amount of space.  After all, there are only two of us at home now.  A smaller fridge should be fine, and it is hundreds of dollars cheaper.  If we tightened our belts, we could afford a refrigerator.  So off to the store hubby went, and before many hours had passed (I don’t call him minute man for nuthin’) I got a call at work to discuss the refrigerator he had picked out. It fit the criteria, which means it could keep things cold and we could pay the price.  The refrigerator was delivered and the old one hauled away.  And that is the beginning of the story.

It didn’t take many weeks for me to realize that the extra cubic feet in the old refrigerator were very important.  On day 2, I banged my head hard as I reached in the refrigerator and forgot to make adjustments for the difference in size.  Then things started falling out.  I would reach for the bowl of leftover spaghetti, and with it would come the container of margarine.  I would push something in on one side of the rack, and something would fall out as things shifted on the other side of the rack.  You get the picture.  If you don’t, it is probably because you have a nice big refrigerator.

This went on for some time.  I didn’t give hubby my opinion of the refrigerator.  After all, it wasn’t his fault.  We are committed to not spending more than we have, and he did the best job with what we had.  But recently I heard a crash and a yelp when a jar or something fell out of the refrigerator right on my husband’s foot.  And contents went everywhere.  That was enough for me.  I apologized for insisting we get a smaller fridge.  We would have been better off to use a cooler for a few weeks.  Turns out we had the same opinions but hadn’t voiced them.  However, this not being a post about communication, I won’t go into that now.

About this time, we heard of someone needing a smaller refrigerator.  A dorm size refrigerator would be much too small, but a large fridge would be unnecessary and take up too much space.  The light went on and bells rang.  At least I think they were bells.  My ears ring all the time so it might have been that instead.  Suffice it to say that we would give them our fridge that seemed the right size for them, and we could get a bigger fridge without feeling so guilty.  Checking all our funds again, we came up with an amount we could afford.  We did our research and rehashed what we didn’t like about this fridge that we wanted different with the new one.  Hubby went back to the store, picked out a fridge, and came out to the car to tell me all about it, since I had stayed in the car with our dog.  Back in he went…hubby, not the dog, and paid for the fridge and arranged for delivery.  We made our preparations and cleaned the space for the new refrigerator, preparing for the moment it would arrive.  We were ready!

All that brings you up to today, when I am excitedly wishing I could dance on my toes.  We were given a window of time for our refrigerator to be delivered.  So here I am, sitting in my chair.  I hear a noise and run to the door. Not the truck.  I hear a noise and look out the window. Sigh.  Sitting back in my chair, I turn at every sound.  The neighbor decides to cut their grass.  Really?  Now?  At least 20 vehicles go past our house on what is normally a relatively quiet road at this time of day.  And don’t forget the airplanes.  They could have picked a better time. Peering out the window, peering out the door…honestly I think that last noise was the whisper of butterfly wings but it sure sounds like a delivery truck to me!  I watch.  I wait.  Every fiber of my being is attuned to being ready when that truck turns in the driveway.  Finally my watching and waiting is rewarded and the truck arrives!  This time I think I really do dance on my toes just a bit.

Then in a quiet moment I hear the whisper of butterfly wings again, but my heart knows it is God talking.  In the flash of a heartbeat, I hear Him whisper, “Are you looking for the coming of my Son with the same intensity you have been waiting for this refrigerator, this gift I have given you?  Are you excited?  Do you watch at the window of your heart for Him to appear? Have you made your preparations? Are you ready?”

Do I get so caught up in life that I get more excited over a “thing” than I do the coming of my Lord?  Whew.  Something to think about.

 

I am getting the message!

One morning I was listening to a sermon. The first scripture read was Matthew 27:22. Jesus had been brought to Pilate and the scriptures record that Pilate said, “what shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ?” BAM!!! I had been sitting comfortably listening to the preacher and the scripture hit me. HIT me. Hit ME!

Now I want a preacher to deliver God’s Word and deliver it how God wants him to deliver it. That means there should be times my toes are stepped on. I like happy sermons.  We need them. But if every sermon was a feel good happy sermon I might love coming to church every Sunday, but I wouldn’t be growing very much. And I want to grow.  Second Peter chapter 3 verse 18 says, “But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. To Him be glory both now and forever. Amen.”

Anyway, back to the sermon.  I’ve heard this scripture before.  Lots of times. You can count on it being read every year at least once if not many times during the Sunday’s leading up to Easter.  And we will all shake our heads and say something like, “That Pilate. He knows what he should do, but when the rubber hits the road, he is passing the buck to someone else.”  And then we go on to the next part of the sermon and forget all about Pilate’s words.  This morning however, the words repeated over and over in my head.  We know that scripture…the sacred writings of God’s Word, are profitable for our teaching and training to equip us for God’s work. (2Timothy 3:16-17)  And the Word said to me when I read them over, “What shall I, (me personally!) do then with Jesus which is called Christ?”

God has given us a wonderful gift!  Salvation from our sins, hope for eternal life.  Wow!  Now what am I going to do with that?  I can sit and think about Jesus all day.  The joy, the peace, the love, the hope.  I mean, think about the time Jesus said to let the children come to Him.  Ahhh, sweet.

“What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ?”  Oh. Yeah.  The scripture.  Well, I do try to make sure others know I believe in God you know.  And I’m willing to help out in different activities.  It is so much fun to participate.  I love helping, especially when I can…..wait!  What am I hearing?

WHAT SHALL I DO THEN WITH JESUS WHICH IS CALLED CHRIST?!!!!   Ok, I’m getting it. God has given me a wonderful gift.  You can’ take it away from me, because God gave it.  I didn’t have to earn it. But God wants me to grow.  Sometimes that means I can enjoy the happy blessings of this world.  God wants us to be happy and enjoy His blessings.  Sometimes that means I should do something I may not enjoy as much.  Not because God tells me I HAVE to do, but because I WANT to, because I love God so much, and I want to grow.  Sometimes I have to step outside of my comfort zone, but God will help me. His Word tells me so. (Philippians 4:13) When I read God’s Word, I need to realize the Word is speaking to me.  The Word is not telling me what someone else needs to do, but is talking to me.  ME! How cool is that!  So God is asking me what I am going to do with Jesus, which is called Christ. What am I going to do with this wonderful gift God has given me?  It might not always be easy, but God will help me, and it will be spiritually rewarding.  God, what will You have me do with Jesus, which is called Christ? I want to grow!

Maybe you want to read that scripture for yourself and see what God is saying to you?  Think about it, in a quiet moment.

A Day in the Life of…

Did you ever have a day that was just hilarious?  I mean a day when the “Can you believe this?” and the “I can’t believe that?” and the “Well I never!” just seem to collide?  That was today.  It wasn’t bad. Actually it was good…just strange.  And sometimes when life gets a bit strange you just have to chuckle.

Today was a little like that.  That can be a good thing.  Sometimes I take me too seriously and I need to  acknowledge the humor in life around me.

It all started when the alarm went off.  I. Did. Not. Want. To. Get. Up.  (I always wanted to write a sentence like that and now I have.  It appears at least once in every book I read.  And it appears in many blogs I read.  I feel better now.) Anyway, back to the phone alarm.  It wouldn’t stop.  I tapped it.  I slid the icon. I shook the phone. Finally the thing got tired and stopped playing annoying notes in my ear. My glasses that I ALWAYS hang on a certain peg were not there.  I guess now I have to say always except for this once.

After breakfast I worked on a quilt for a while.  It was a riveting experience. Or should I say a rippiting experience as I ripped out a few lines of quilting that were not acceptable.  Could I find my super special purple seam ripper? No.  I had to use my old one and it got the job done…but it wasn’t purple.  I was able to fix my mistake on the quilt for one of my daughter-in-laws, but more about that another time.  Can’t reveal the quilts until Christmas.

Then hub and I decided to have a competition with a computer game.  It was on my device but not his, so I tried to download it.  It was free…thats good, right?  Couldn’t remember my Google password.  Couldn’t remember my internet password.  Couldn’t remember my username.  Really Nana?  Enough already. Time to put this away before frustration sets in.

I decided a nap was in order since obviously something, probably tiredness, was affecting my memory. About the time I crawled into my nice comfy bed a rain shower created the perfect ambiance for napping. Sigh.  Happy sigh.  Ahhhhhhh. Then the phone went off with a chirp I wasn’t used to hearing.  I had forgotten to turn down my phone.  And just like that the nice, calming lullaby of rain was over. Bummer.  I can’t believe that.

After finally getting a short nap, a little conversation time with hub was in order. And the phone rang.  It was my doctor so I figured I had better answer.  After a short conversation, I decided to go online and check things out.  Right.  I couldn’t remember my user name.  I couldn’t remember my password.  Sound familiar?  My last try I got the username and a security question came up…about my dog.  Wait!  I don’t have a dog!!! Worried that I might have stumbled on the initial part of someone else account and not wanting them to find they were locked out of their account I gave up.  I’ll get that straight another day. Can you believe this?

After all this, I decided I might as well go to my afternoon work a bit early and pick up my new pills on the way.  No one would know I was there early so I could probably get a few things done that I’ve been needing to get caught up on.  The over the counter pills were on sale!  Now that is great- I like it when things are on sale.  My day was looking up.

A quick trip to WaWa brightened my day even further. National Coffee Day and I didn’t even know!  I could have dressed up or something to celebrate.  With my free coffee in hand, I headed to the car and continued on to work.

Settling comfortably at my desk, I decided to look at my new pills. Might I just interject here that settling comfortably is a master effort?  I have one of those desk chairs on wheels that threatens to dump you in the floor. At some point I rearranged the room so I have a cabinet within a reasonable distance of my desk so my chair can only roll so far.  Visitors to my room love watching me try to sit down.  Oh dear, I went down another rabbit trail, where was I?  Oh yes, the pills.  Now these pills aren’t anything earth shattering, just a supplement that I evidently need.  Opening the bottle, I had to chuckle.  The pills filled exactly one-third of the bottle.  Yes, the correct number of pills were there, but they were MUCH smaller than I anticipated given the size of the bottle.  I guess its like a bag of chips that has a big bag for a smaller amount of chips.  Maybe the pills need space to keep them from…something.  Like a good consumer, I read the label before I took a pill.  Most of my pills say drink a whole glass of water or don’t eat or drink for 30 minutes.  Not these pills.  The directions say, “Take with choice of any meal.”  Wow, I’ve never had pills with directions like that before!  The possibilities are endless.   How about with steak and potatoes?  I know, I know…how about stuffed french toast with blueberries or maybe shrimp scampi?  This can be good.  Wait.  Any meal? Do you suppose they mean with breakfast, lunch or dinner and not menu choice? Well I never!  Don’t even tell me.  I don’t want you to burst my bubble.

Growing in the Garden

During periods of rain, we have an opportunity to grow.

While looking over some of my earlier writings, I came across this-“Looking out my window, I see a grey sky filled with clouds. Intermittent rain showers beat against the doors and windows.  Now, such a view could cause someone to think it is a dreary day.  In fact, the view is far from dreary if you put it in proper perspective.  Weeks of intensely hot temperatures with little or no rain have caused plants and spirits to wilt.  My husband, who dearly loves to garden, stopped what he was doing to point out to me that a good rain for the garden happens when the clouds hide the bright sunlight.  He says when we water the plants in bright sun light, it is not as effective and can, in fact, cause damage to the plant.”

This causes me to think about our spiritual lives.  We love those times when the sun is shining brightly in our life.  We enjoy basking in the blessings of God our Father.  Yet during the rainy periods is often when we grow the most.  I don’t mean we enjoy the hard times.  We aren’t necessarily glad that we go through trials and struggles.  But we can thank God that during the hard times, He is with us, and makes us grow stronger.  During the times when God is allowing us to be “watered” in His garden, we know that we can grow in His Word; we can grow in grace, and we can grow in that deep inner joy that sustains us no matter what we are going through.  And behind those clouds, the Son light is still shining bright.

Think about it, in a quiet moment as you grow peace by piece.

ALONE

I’ve been alone before.  I’ve been in a crowd and felt alone. But something happened today that made me think a bit deeper about being alone.

If you have read any of my posts you know I love gardening.  This  morning I headed out to plant a few beans and to check on yesterdays plantings.  I noticed something was sitting on the hummingbird feeder and I figured a bumblebee was helping himself.  After I planted my beans I walked back into the house to get my camera.  Passing within 6 feet of the feeder I couldn’t tell quite what was there but I was going to get a picture.

Now my eyes aren’t the best, but standing within 10 feet of the feeder looking through the viewfinder of my camera, something didn’t look quite right. Carefully walking closer so I wouldn’t startle the creature I was stunned to find my hummingbird dead, sitting on the feeder.  Although I can’t wrap my brain around it, it appeared a few feathers were trapped between those plastic petals on the feeder. The hummingbird had died alone. Saddened I made my way into the house as God sent a series of thoughts running through my head.

Much as I love hummingbirds, I realize they are not as important as people.  Passing within 6 feet of the feeder, I didn’t recognized the bird for what it was…alone and dead.  How many people do I pass by within mere feet without recognizing they are alone?  What about my coworkers? My neighbors? My fellow church members?  Have I asked someone how they are doing and only listened to their words which might be saying they are ok while their heart is screaming, “I’m alone.  I’m lonely. Please talk to me, spend time with me, direct me to people who might share my interests!”

Generally when I  come in from my garden I feel a sense of satisfaction. Today God has given me something to ponder.

Ripples

RipplesWhen my children were little, they loved little cars. They took pretty good care of these cars, so they built up quite a collection. Some were name brand models like Hot Wheels or Matchbox. Others were the 6 in a package for a dollar kind. They had all colors and models. Somewhere along the line, they cooked up quite a scheme. Calling their unsuspecting mother into the room, they had several cars lined up. It was my job, they said, to choose the one I liked best. Just a word to all mothers…children usually have a reason for what they ask. Their reasons rarely match ours, but they are reasons just the same. Beware! Anyway, I picked out the make and model I thought the most appealing at the time. “That’s HIS car. That means you love HIM best!” they cried. Oh man! I tried to never fall for that again. However, although their questions or comments became more thought provoking, they never yet have quit asking…and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Recently my youngest son sent me a text message. “Where do the ripples in the pond go?” At first, I sent a cute text back…the ripples travel to the shore and wait in peace until they are needed again. Then I thought, wait a minute, there is something really deep here. I promised I would send a more mature response later via email. It took me a while to send it because each day I seemed to gain some new depth from the question and answer. In order to truly understand “The Sisters by Choice” I think I first need to tell you my answer to that question.
The ripples on the pond begin with an interruption of the calm pond surface. It may have been a stone that plops into the water as a grandfather attempts to teach his grandchild how to skip stones across the pond. It may have been a huge drop of rain heralding the arrival of many similar drops. Perhaps a fish broke the surface out of curiosity of the great world beyond their watery domain. Regardless of the reason, the surface tension has been disturbed, and the resulting ripples travel in ever widening circles away from the initial point of contact. Eventually the ripple meets the shore, causing a few grains of soil to be displaced. I could easily visualize the tiny water droplets then slowly leaving the shore and moving ever so slowly back to their place in the pond each time another ripple reached the shore.
Then I thought about what ripples I might send…what effect I might have when I ripple the surface of life. First I thought about my impact as a Christian. Many times God disturbs the surface of our calm, comfortable Christian walk. The ripples we send out are up to us. We can refuse to react, and the ripple is barely noticeable. Or, we can draw on God’s strength and make a difference. Each time I am obedient, and move in the way God commands, there is an impact on the effects of sin in this world. The wall that satan (I refuse to capitalize this) has built to confuse and confound the world is large. But if I am obedient, slowly but surely that wall is impacted, grain by grain, until, along with the ripple of others, the wall will come down. If even one person comes to meet Christ as their personal savior, the ripples with be worth the effort.
Likewise, through obedience to God, I can make ripples in other areas. Think about world hunger. Many of us remember being told to clean our plates and to think of the starving children in whatever country was the popular example at the time. Now, cleaning or not cleaning my plate truly didn’t change the shoreline of world hunger. However, if every time I went to the grocery store and bought groceries I bought even 1 can to share, that added to the efforts of the ripples of others will make a difference to at least some local children.

Now that leads me to ponder my day. What ripples will I cause today? Will they be good ripples or harmful ripples? Will my ripples make a difference? Even a smile can have a ripple effect. Think about it in a quiet moment and see how you can start a ripple and make a difference.