How to be Served

“Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with beholding-his-splendor-111076-mGod something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.” Phil 2:6-7

Most of the time, when challenged to think about biblical servanthood, my mind charges into a list of opportunities: what can I do? Who has God called me to serve? What are my gifts and who is most at need of comfort, encouragement, prayer—anything?

Of course, I can list a myriad of ways that I fall short—things I’m not doing. And, I’m grateful the Lord allows me to serve others in many ways. But, as I mulled over being a SERVANT sister, the Holy Spirit trickled thoughts into my mind, like tiny cleansing rain drops, offering me a fresh perspective on servanthood. I distinctly heard Him say, Who is serving you? Whose kindness and generosity are you benefiting from?

He led me to a verse that I’ve skimmed over many times, “The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me: to the one who orders his way rightly, I will show the salvation of God.” Psalm 50:23

Maybe there’s more to “ordering my way rightly” than simply doing as much as I can for other people—more to service than serving.

This last week, I went through my normal routine: cooking and cleaning in my home, volunteer work at the hospital, laundry, helping at church, praying for others. Occasionally, these things inspire me to pat myself on the back. Sometimes they even leave a little chip on my shoulder when I think I’m doing more than my share of serving.

But, what if biblical servanthood is equally expressed through a humility cultivated by knowing how well I am served? What if it includes gracefully acknowledging and receiving service?

I thought about who serves me:

My husband who works everyday to provide for our family

The kind lady on the phone who helped me work out a banking issue

The friend who texted back immediately when I cried of being lonely

The Starbucks guy who gave me my coffee for free after I waited in line

The man who came to fix my washing machine

The humorous cashier at the grocery store whose smile brightened my day

More than any of those and certainly more significant than any act of service I have ever performed, is the example Christ set in His service of me. Often, I forget to look at His sacrifice in that context. I fail to be grateful that He still serves me by continually cleansing me from my sin and always interceding for me before the Father.

Father, make me a servant like Jesus. Open my eyes to see and receive the goodness of others with gratitude and humility. And above all, thank you for Jesus’ willingness to be a servant and to save me. 

 This was first published on the delightful website http://www.servantsisters.org

Book Review, Shades of Mercy

By the way, Guys! As you read this review, keep in mind who you know that might like a copy of this book. I have four copies to give away. The first four people to message me, or comment here requesting a book, will get a copy. Merry Christmas!

A story about racial tensions tosses most of us back more than, “Four score and seven years ago,” to a time when, “Our forefathers brought forth upon this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”

But that’s too far.

A handful of us, some Okies like myself, remember the stories in our state history books about the land runs and the Trail of Tears.

But that’s still too far.

Not many of us think about racial tension and inequality in generations so recent we can still touch the lines upon their faces; some of them haven’t even grayed. Shades of Mercy, by Anita Lustrea and Caryn Rivadeneira, sheds light upon those obscured years.

Set in the 1950s, Shades of Mercy, is a refreshingly sweet romance, grounded in the gritty truth of harsh farm life in rural Maine. Fifteen-year-old, Mercy, is of well respected stock, working diligently as the “son her father never had”, on their successful farm in Watsonville, Maine. Her family loves her and her parents are devout Christians raising their daughter to have strong biblical morals, and especially to have a respect for all human life, no matter what their race. So it’s only a minor problem that she’s fallen in love with Mick, a young Maliseet Indian.

At least, it’s only a minor problem in Mercy’s imagination.

The Maliseet are marginalized in Watsonville. On the land of their own fore fathers, they now live on Hungry Hill, or an area more appropriately identified as the city dump. In tattered shelters, shacks really, whole families live hand to mouth and many of the men have dissolved into drunken depression. Among these is Mick’s family.

Mercy’s father, Mr. Pop, is the lone, white farmer who generously offers work to the Maliseet men and pays them fair wages. Often Mercy is allowed to drive the pickup to Hungry Hill to pick up Mick and his relatives and bring them to Mr. Pop’s farm to work. On those special days, she and Mick quietly nurture their relationship, hiding it as best they can, knowing that the entire town will frown upon their love.

The blanket of secrecy is yanked out from under them when Marjorie Carmichael, the older sister of Mercy’s best friend, runs away with her Maliseet boyfriend, Glenn. Mr. Carmichael is livid and blames the entire Maliseet tribe for the disappearance of his daughter. Tempers simmer, those who had inklings of Mercy and Mick’s romance begin to mention it publicly, drawing them into the conflict. Then, Mr. Carmichael accuses Mick of a horrible crime.

The only ones willing to defend Mick are Mercy’s family. Fortunately, her father’s brother, Roger, is a capable lawyer, deeply involved in promoting equal rights for the Maliseet. While Mick waits in jail, Mercy’s family works desperately to vindicate him. Mercy herself struggles to cling to Mick’s promises of “someday” when they will be able to be together publicly, without shame.

Shades of Mercy is a touching story, though personally, I feel it lacks the depth to fully engage an adult audience. Mick and Mercy’s romance is portrayed very well for what it is – a teenage romance. The dialogue is a stilted and awkward between them sometimes, just like two high schoolers would be today. At one point, they communicate by passing notes between them, but instead of writing to each other, they draw pictures of woodchucks burrowing underground. Accurate for a youthful crush; perhaps not so entertaining for an adult reader.

Lustrea is a native of Maine and does a superb job of orally painting the countryside. Her vivid descriptions left me actually feeling the chill of Maine’s winter months. Occasionally, these descriptive scenes, like the family’s attendance of the annual festival and fair, seem a little irrelevant to the story, but they are enjoyable nonetheless.

The resolution of the central conflict, Mick’s imprisonment and the secrecy of his and Mercy’s romance, seems unmemorable. The man Mick is accused of putting into a coma, perhaps on his death bed, wakes up with full consciousness of the incident and vindicates Mick. Shortly after, the young Maliseet is released, he and Mercy are restored. Since the whole town has come to know their feelings, and Mercy’s father has always vouched for the Maliseet’s equality, they kiss publicly.

The Indian Rights Council plays a background role in the story. Throughout the book, Mr. Pop and his brother attend Council meetings and push for the Maliseet’s rights. However, when the story concludes, the reader is left with only hope for a righteous outcome.

Shades of Mercy, kept me entertained, though by the final chapter I was ready for the happy ending and a more complicated story. I think the book will be most enjoyable for a young, teenage audience.

I’m Finally Thin – But…by Rachel Zimmerman

“’You’re never trapped. You have the keys to the prison! But sometimes having a choice is scarier than not having a choice. Sometimes the food prison is cozier than the big, wide world where I could bulge or break out or wrinkle at any moment. The question…is this: what is it worth, to you, letting yourself out of the prison? What matters more than that high? What matters more than thin? What do you want people to remember about the life you lived?

Will you gain weight or lose weight? Yes. Will I gain weight or lose weight? Yup. Will we hate our bodies or love them? Sure. I just hope, for both of us, that we are doing things that matter while we’re looking however we look and feeling however we feel.’

And then she tells me a story…”

You can’t miss this. It sums up the agony and, in fact, the reality of “The Thin Cage”.

Furry Evangelism, and a New Resource

Romans 10:17 says, “For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?”

Believers must be courageous to tell everyone about our savior Jesus Christ. However, for most Christians, evangelism is arguably the most intimidating aspect of our faith.

Where to begin? How not to offend? 

What if they reject me?

How do I explain the Gospel concisely and accurately?

What if they ask a question I cannot answer?

I know all of these fears often invade my mind and literally paralyze my tongue when the opportunity to share the love of Jesus is presented. A few of these opportunities have arisen when I take my therapy dog to visit the sick and elderly in hospitals and nursing homes.

Then, I read this story, “We provide these gospels of John to patients we visit as part of the Canines for Christ therapy dog ministry.”

I immediately sat down and ordered copies of Forever Faithful, through the Pocket Testament League.

My dog is a comforter to numerous hurting people. I hadn’t considered that he can act as a comforter and help to calm my own nerves as I share the Gospel.

Then I read this story, “I plan on reaching out to the people and children this Christmas season. There are children in my area that come to see my puppy Nemo. This dog alone is a key to ministering to the children in my area. Looking forward to doing this for my Lord.”

The story brought to mind my former neighbor’s young children who often came over to “borrow” my dog. He ran up and down the yard beside them as they played hide-n-seek, tag football or red rover. The next summer, the relationship that began withheir interest in my cute, little dog deepened and their parents allowed me to take them to vacation Bible school at my church. I had no idea that my dog was such a wonderful evangelism tool!

My husband is in the military and we move frequently. At our next duty station, I met my neighbor, Sally, when our dogs became buddies at the dog park. We sat on benches and talked while the dogs played.

Sally was an atheist. However, the simplicity of our canines’ friendship, seemed to give us enough common ground to continue the friendship. Slowly, we began to spend more and more time together and to share more intimate thoughts. By the time we moved, Sally had not accepted Jesus as her savior, but I know that the seeds were planted and that her heart was yearning for the deep relationship and security that only comes from knowing Him.

The Bible testifies that creation speaks the glory of God. “How clearly the sky reveals God’s glory! How plainly it shows what he has done! Each day announces it to the following day; each night repeats it to the next. No speech or words are used, no sound is heard; let their message goes out to all the world and is heard to the ends of the earth.” Psalm 19:1-4

Even my dog is an instrument to share the truth of God’s word.

The prospect of sharing my faith still scares me. I still fumble for words at just the right time and wonder later if I said the right thing. But giving someone a gospel from the Pocket Testament League reminds me that God’s word will never return void. The reader will hear from the very lips of Jesus just how much He loves them and that He has offered them salvation through His death and resurrection.

I highly recommend checking out Pocket Testament League as a tool for sharing your faith.

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Missing Peace, Chapter 14: Home Coming

I failed to gain the prescribed weight. The penalty: Extension.

“Abby, it’s for your own good,” Keri had tried to console me when we hung up with my parents. “And it’s only thirty days. You’ve already been here twice that long. It will go quickly.”

“You’ve said that a million times about a million things,” I stormed at her. “And it’s always when you are telling me something I don’t want to hear. My parents don’t want me to come home and you know it.”

“That’s not true. In fact, it’s expensive for you to continue to stay at Remuda. They’re doing this because they love you.

“The chances of you relapsing, of never achieving a healthy weight are extremely high if you leave now. It would be twice as hard to eat 3500 calories a day at home in your normal environment. By waiting a little longer and sending you home at a maintenance weight, I can be more sure that you will work your aftercare program. By the way, let’s talk about that.”

Keri and I mapped out a thorough aftercare program. I interviewed half a dozen therapists over the phone. Finally, I settled on Hoyt Morris, an eating disorder specialist in Edmond, Oklahoma. He also led a support group and worked with a reputable dietician.

I tied up a lot of loose ends in those extra 30 days. On May 7th, I boarded a plane bound for Oklahoma, still one pound shy of my goal.

“I can do it, I promise!” I had begged and bargained.

Against his better judgment, willingly ignoring all my past failed promises, Dad agreed that I should come home. The whole family welomed me at the airport.

“Welcome home, Abby!” Rachelle shouted waving a sign decorated in pink and green crayon.

I spotted Jennifer first as I came down the ramp. Even though summer had yet to char the earth with Oklahoma’s annual drought, her skin was already deeply bronzed from hours of outdoor play. Dad was next to her, hard to miss at his height and wearing a black and orange Ditch Witch ball cap.

The generous, happy reception drew the attention of everyone near our gate. Anorexic thoughts flickered in the back of my mind.

Are they doing this all for show? Do I look bloated? I wonder what Mom’s planning for dinner, will it fit my exchanges?

I banished the intrusive thoughts. Canned, one-liners of truth, my new tools of recovery, were all I had to fight back.

I am loved by God and my family. 

I’m beautiful just the way I am. 

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

The last one I had known forever. It was only truth I actually believed. The road ahead was long, my ambition to stay well, still shaky.

But I knew that Christ was in me. I knew that He was going to have to do this because I still wasn’t sure I wanted to.

 

 

Love Isn’t What You Thought it Was

Love is NOT an action. Love is NOT a verb.

Maybe I’m taking it too far. After all, it is the well-meaning marriage counselor staring across her office at the young couple engaged in an only slightly contained version of offensive PDA, who says it. She wants to warn them that the honeymoon phase won’t last forever.

Or, it’s the aged and experienced pastor, reminding his flock that love endures all things, it doesn’t give up as soon as the circumstances no longer feel good.

That’s what we mean, right? We’re trying to say that love doesn’t always evoke warm fuzzies. It isn’t always carrying a long-stemmed rose. Love doesn’t necessarily pal around with happiness. Love has guts. Love digs in, hangs on, fights through and comes out on the other side. 

So I agree, love is not a feeling. But I stand by the truth that love is not an action either.

First Corinthians 13 is the “Love Chapter”, known by Christians and unbelievers alike as the quintessential description of the highest, most unattainable, unhuman-like love. It’s what we strive for and then console ourselves when we fail saying, “we’re only human”.

When I read that long definition of LOVE, I’m am struck more by what Love is not and what it does not do than what it is or does.

“…love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful, it does not rejoice at wrongdoing…Love never ends.”

To me, this says that for those of us who are learning Love from the Savior who IS Love,  we will need to exercise more restraint from what comes naturally, than effort to perform a list of lovely actions.

The Bible doesn’t say Love is an activist. It doesn’t say Love sets out to change the world. In fact, some things in this list suggest that such actions are often attempted without love. Frequently, our intent to change the world looks like we’re fighting for our own way, behaving rudely or being resentful.

Love doesn’t constantly offer advice. (This includes counseling, nagging and reprimanding our husbands, kids or friends.)

People with Down Syndrome are known for their ability to love far beyond what we deem normal, even without the full capacity to do many things. We admire the limitless love of our pets, referring to their unconditional love, even as they cannot verbalize their emotions.

How well do we feel loved by a bed-ridden grandma who really can’t do anything for us anymore? Or do we experience love through the prayers of a church body we’ve never seen? Or do we admire the love and joy emanating from an impoverished African child, who has little ability to do much for anyone?

Love isn’t an action.
Love isn’t a feeling.
Love is a person, and those who know Him best ought to be those who radiate it most brightly. Just as those standing closest to a candle will be most illuminated. Love is a Being, not a doing. A Being who always IS with us and doesn’t run from our unloveliness.

How to Have the Perfect Body

“Your belief determines your action and your action determines your results, but first you have to believe.” Mark Victor Hansen

If I’m really honest, for much of my life, my actions have indicated a belief system that I’m loathe to admit. During the years I battled anorexia, my behavior proved that I believed if I were thin, if I were the most athletic, if I had most willpower to resist food, if I had the perfect body, then I would be happy. On the other side of those painful years, I can confess to you – I had it all wrong.

I just returned from a two week visit with my family. The first seven days were spent with my in-laws. Mike and Julie are vivacious people, ravenous for the joys of life and abundantly generous with all their blessings.

Within hours of our arrival, they were taking us out to lunch. For the duration of the week, we feasted on gourmet coffee, ice cream, homemade dinners and market fresh veggies. We dined on the patio, in the living room, in front of the television and at favorite restaurants.

My in-laws bear the brand of the truly happy. Their faces are ruddy and sun-kissed. Their arms are well employed. Both Mike and Julie are genuinely healthy, brimming with life.

I had it all wrong. Having the perfect body doesn’t make one happy. Finding joy in Christ, in relationships, seeking and exploiting the pleasures of life, leads to a healthy, happy body.

For the second half of our trip, my husband and I visited my sisters, their husbands and my one-year-old niece in Texas. Toting Kylie around, waking her in the morning, cuddling with her on the floor and chasing her around the living room obstacles brought me unsurpassed joy. But what fascinated me the most was her insatiable interest in everything I ate.

“Bite, bite!” She pleaded. No matter what was in my hand or where I was eating, she found me and asked, “Try, try?”

In the course of my visit, Kylie and I shared protein shakes, hotdogs, frozen yogurt, iced tea, juice, chocolate bars, jicama, pretzels, cheese, apples and oatmeal. Never once did  she pause before devouring a treat and wonder, “How will this affect my body? Will it make me fat? Did I exercise enough today?”

I was also mesmerized by Kylie’s pleasure with her own body. She was pleased that her fingers can grasp my hand, thrilled that her arms can fully encircle my neck. Kylie was so happy that she is finally long enough to reach the doorknobs and all of the cans in her mother’s pantry.

I had it all wrong. A perfect body will never bring me lasting happiness. But happiness, contentment with the good gift of life that God has given me, that will ultimately result in the body that God perfectly, uniquely created for me.

“Your belief determines your action and your action determines your results, but first you have to believe.” Proverbs 17:22

You can read this and other posts of mine at www.havenjournal.com