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.

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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.