Sunday, July 24, 2011

Gravestones & Significance ~

Play the harp well, sing many a song, so that you will be remembered. Isaiah 23:16
Can you believe we're moving into the last week of July? I can't! I had a birthday on the 20th and it was a very good one. I love that my birthday comes somewhere in the middle of Le Tour de France. Another year has passed and what do I have to show for it? The most imposing part of the year is influenced by the fact that I decided to write a novel in November of 2010. And I'm still working on the details. I even added a character last week--not a main character, but a character to be woven in and brought to life. This has been my concentration when I write, so I've neglected my blogs for many months. I wish I were more prolific, but with all the other things going on in my life, I'm just not. And now that I'm more comfortable with the fact that I'm a writer, I read someone else's work and realize how I fall short of their beautifully written prose. But there is one thing for sure--my writing is my own and no one can take that away. It keeps me going on days when I lose heart about the whole project! I really do appreciate all the encouragement I get from you all.

Today I'm going to summarize the last chapter in Meeting God in Quiet Places: The Cotswold Parables by F. LaGard Smith. Like coming to the end of July,  we've come to the end of the book with Chapter 31. And this last chapter gives us something to think about in regard to our lives. The question is: What will you leave behind when you die? Have you had a significant impact on your world? Have you influenced lives? Have you changed lives? Hmmm...LaGard gives us some thoughts to contemplate today which remind us why we're here. Actually, the graveyard says it all.

The Cotswolds receive many organized groups of ramblers every year, and part of the route they take is through a graveyard filled with ancient gravestones dating back to the 1700's. Some of the gravestones  have little epitaphs which tell the story of the one buried there. Others now appear blank because the words once engraved there have been washed away by time. But the lesson for all of us is clear: whether great or small, they are all on equal footing now.

We're familiar with the urgency of the great--their insistence on having precedence because their work is important to the lives of everyone else. The rest of us must give way and be thankful that someone cares enough to do the work we cannot do. And in England, the class system has always meant that the divide between master and servant was much greater than we'll ever know. But when we look at their graves all these years later, we may ask: Did it matter that one was a master and the other a servant? All the important tasks which the master carried out are trampled under the feet of rambling visitors just as often as the chores of the servant. You'll remember that the wisest man who ever lived was Solomon, who said: "Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains forever.... There is no remembrance of men of old, and even those who are yet to come will not be remembered by those who follow."

And it was Solomon who concluded that life is meaningless! No matter how special we think we are, generations to come will not remember us. No one will care that we ever lived. As Solomon said: "For the wise man, like the fool, will not be long remembered; in days to come both will be forgotten. Like the fool, the wise man too must die!"
OUCH! I don't like to think about myself  like that. I want to be remembered. And I'm looking for some way to lengthen that memory. To accomplish that, I must leave behind something of significance...a legacy that says I helped to create a better world. I suppose I take wife, mother, and teacher for granted. But they aren't to be dismissed. "The hand that rocks the cradle..." and all that. The fact that we raise and teach our children the best we can  is of significance.
Significance is most often added to our lives in small ways. And in so many small ways, our own legacy is associated with those who went before us and gave us guidance and support. What lasts of our lives--our legacy--is the influence we have in changing the lives of others.

Think of the apostles who spent their lives preaching the gospel--the good news brought to the world by Christ. Peter was a powerful preacher, giving his life in service to the early church. But who told Peter about Christ? It was his brother Andrew. It was Andrew who made a significant difference in Peter's life and in the lives of countless thousands, including you and me!
But we can go back even further for the young evangelist Timothy, who also spread the gospel. The scripture says that his faith "first lived in his grandmother Lois and in his mother Eunice." The influence of mothers and grandmothers is so important in the lives of all of us. And not forgetting that fathers play a big part in bringing up children. There is no greater significance in this world than bringing up your children "in the training and instruction of the Lord." We are all interested in our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren having good lives, aren't we?
LaGard says: "Changed lives are our greatest legacy. Changed lives are the gifts that truly keep on giving, generation after generation. No matter how seemingly insignificant our own lives, we achieve significance through the lives that we touch for good. And never are our lives more significant than when the lives we touch are brought to know Christ. For at that point lives are not simply changed, but transformed!"
Take a few minutes to remember those in your past who made a difference by touching your life. If possible, let them know that you recognize their significance in your life and how much you appreciate it. And look around you to see if there is someone in your life right now whose life you are changing or could change. Because of you, someone could take a different path. And not just a different path, but a higher one! 

Give some thought to your legacy and have a great Sunday!


Saturday, July 9, 2011

Grasping the Nettles of Commitment ~ Part 2

Tender-handed stroke a nettle,
And it stings you for your pains;
Grasp it like a man of mettle,
And it soft as silk remains.

My new motto is "Better late than never." But I hope everyone had a happy 4th of July! I was happy because I got out of the house and visited with family. It's been a long haul with the smoke-laden skies of New Mexico, but it's better now. There is often a haze and poor air quality, but it isn't oppressive like it was at first.
This is the second half of a valuable lesson for us from Chapter 30 of Meeting God in Quiet Places: The Cotswold Parables by F. LaGard Smith. In the second part of the lesson, LaGard wants us to understand what the parable is saying about our own reluctance to surrender to God. Why are we so hesitant? Because we're afraid it's going to hurt!

LaGard says: "Most of us flounder about, wanting to be fully committed followers of Jesus--thinking about it, coming close--yet never quite getting to the point where we are willing to "grasp the nettle"--to give ourselves wholly to God. To empty ourselves totally of self-will and self-direction. To surrender completely to Christ."

We're afraid of the unknown, asking serious questions about what it would mean:
1) What would my life be like if I really gave my life over to God?
2) What would my family think of me?
3)  How would it affect my job or career?
4) What would it cost me financially?
5) With all this at risk, do I really want to "grasp the nettle" of full surrender?

Remember the story of the rich young man who asked Jesus what he needed to do to inherit eternal life? He had obeyed all the commandments, though probably without much sacrifice. But when Jesus asked him about giving up all his possessions, his heart couldn't make the complete surrender that was required. Ask yourself about your own willingness to surrender. What treasures in your life are you unwilling to give up for God? Are you holding on to something at all cost?                                        

The prophet Joel tells us that we aren't alone in deciding whether to surrender to God. He says: "Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! For the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision." And what he's really saying is that most of us go through an entire lifetime in the valley of indecision. We just can't decide whether to surrender to God--or NOT!

The prophet Elijah was on a mountaintop when he asked the people of God to choose between the one true God and Baal. The verse says: "Elijah went before the people and said, 'How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.' But the people said nothing." NOTHING! Saying nothing is saying everything. It says that we haven't given up self to trust in God's leading.

Another man who chose God was Joshua when he said: "As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord." Joshua's surrender to God was a matter of life and death. And then there was Moses, who said to the children of Israel: "This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life...." Moses was pleading with the Israelites to cling to the God of their salvation--to surrender all for Him.

But no one "grasped the nettle" like Jesus did. Jesus had no possessions to give up like the rich young man who wanted to inherit eternal life. But Jesus knew that surrender to God doesn't lead to death, it leads to life. Sweating drops of blood, His agony was apparent when He prayed, "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me." And then He said, "Yet not my will, but yours be done." Not even death was too great a sacrifice. Jesus' surrender was complete because He knew there is freedom in submission. And there is liberation in wholehearted, unwavering commitment!

Can we begin to say like Jesus, "Not my will, but yours"? Are our eyes fixed on Jesus who endured the cross for us? LaGard says: "Through his complete surrender on the cross, Jesus has already grasped the nettle for us. He has taken away the sting of death. All we need to do is to put our hand in his--to feel the softness of his love and never let go!"

It's wonderful to me that we have a choice...we can make the decision or's up to us whether we surrender to God and live our lives through the love of Christ. Stresses and strains make it hard for us to give up our stubborn control, but you can be sure that it will make life more worthwhile in every way.

I hope you have a wonderful weekend!