Scottish Granny Part II

On March 25th, 2016 the post “Scottish Granny” was published on this site. This was one of my favorite posts to author as it brought back so many fond memories and the relationship part of an epic God-authored story of friendship, love, loss, adventure and joy.

Since that post was published, the health of our dear friend Isabel Burns (Scottish Granny) had been on the decline. Unfortunately we had been unable to get any details about her condition, nor did we have any successful communication with each other. We learned that she was in a care facility, but for some reason she hadn’t been communicating with us, and we have been unable to reach her by phone.

A few months ago we decided we needed to make the trip to Edinburgh, Scotland to check in on Isabel in person. We found a time when the kids had a couple days off of school then booked flights and a hotel.

As the trip drew nearer, our longing for a reunion became stronger but we also began to worry as to whether or not we would be able to see her. Perhaps her health was in such a state that it would be “family only”. We couldn’t help but be concerned. What if she wasn’t even staying where we thought she was staying? How would we track her down?

Finally, it was time to embark on our journey. Upon arrival we dropped our luggage off at our hotel and immediately hopped on a bus to where we believed Isabel was staying. There was great anticipation, excitement and joy building up in our hearts. We would once again be reunited with this person who felt like family but yet we hadn’t heard from in over a year.

We prayed. If it is in your will God for us to see her, please clear any roadblocks, we know you can. You are in control. You are in every situation. If we cannot see her, please give us peace and understanding. This is yours Lord, please lead us.

We proceeded into the care facility and arrived at the front desk. We asked if we may see Isabel Burns and their response was positive, loving and kind. Of course we could! We were so relieved!!!

Upon arrival in Isabel’s room we had gladness to see her however it was immediately clear that that she was not well. It became clear as to why we hadn’t heard from her. While we do not know the reasons why, she wasn’t able to speak and it seemed her vision was minimal at best.

We made the most of our time (through multiple visits), telling stories of the old days, telling her we love her, and prayed for her. She seemed to indicate some responsiveness when we said things like “Amy from America”. We reminisced with a funny story about her bath towel at our house being used to clean up some paint (which wasn’t funny when it happened) and showed some emotion which made us all smile.

Amy fed Isabel her lunch as well as her afternoon tea and with each visit, as Isabel drifted off to sleep we felt it was time to leave.

In Luke 15 (today’s reading) there are three “lost and found” parables. The lost sheep, lost coin, and the prodigal son. Jesus used these parables to teach us how our Father God seeks relationship with us and longs for us to repent and turn back to him when we’ve sinned or gone astray.

26 Then God said, “Let us make man[h] in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

27 So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:26-27)

“It is the soul of man that especially bears God’s image.” (Matthew Henry’s commentary on Genesis 1:27)

Reflecting on Scottish Granny and how we longed to see her again, how we left with some joy in having visited, but with loss in knowing that even while physically close, she seemed very far away. I believe this longing is something that we are pre-programmed with as we were made in the image of God. He seeks us and we were made to seek Him, to seek relationship for the sake of eternity.

What stories in your life reflect Jesus’ call for a relationship with him and The Father, and how will you answer?

The Rich Fool

Today’s reading:  Luke 12:13-34

In 1980, Jeff Keller finished law school, passed the New York bar exam, and began his profession as a lawyer.  This was all he’d ever wanted since he was a teenager.  After 10 years of practice, however, he found himself unfulfilled and unhappy, dreading to go to work every day.  Through resources he ordered from a late night infomercial (remember this was back in the olden days…before we had the World Wide Web at our fingertips), he began to study the Bible and the writings of well-known authors and motivational speakers.  Eventually he left his law practice and embraced a career as an author/motivational speaker himself.  As the title of his book, Attitude is Everything (INTI Publishing, 1999) suggests, Keller built his second career on the following principle –

Your attitude has a substantial impact of your quality of life. 

Our scripture for today in Luke 12 is the story of the Rich Fool.  Jesus tells the story of a man who, after yielding a successful harvest, found he had no place to store his crops.  He set out to build bigger barns.  His goal was to store up enough that he could take it easy – eat, drink and be merry without a worry in the world.  This man’s attitude about wealth accumulation was completely focused on storing up treasures for himself.

Does this goal sound familiar?  To me it sounds like every wealth management/retirement planning commercial running these days (Close your eyes, do the orange Voya origami animals come into view?).  In 21st century America, we are inundated with the belief that putting enough money away to retire, to eat, drink and be merry without a worry in the world, is the way to happiness.

Honestly, this picture is VERY alluring.  At least until you get to see God’s response in verses 20 and 21 of today’s text –

“But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’

“This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God” (Luke 12:21-21).

So let’s go back to our attitude.  Wealth accumulation in and of itself is not wrong.  Our attitude towards it the determining factor.  Just like the Rich Fool in this story who died before he could begin to use what he had stored up for himself, if we are focused on accumulating wealth only to enrich ourselves, we will enter eternity empty handed.  Our goal should be to see how we can use our money for God’s purposes.

Are you putting money away for retirement?  Do your financial goals include giving generously to others?  What about using your money to serve God and further his kingdom?  If your goals do not include furthering God’s kingdom and helping those in need, you better stop and check your attitude.

Mary and Martha

Today’s reading is Luke 10:38-42

Company is coming!! There is so much to do to make it look like we are clean and organized and perfect and make it all look effortless. In a pinch we do the “stash and dash” and hope no one opens a closet or looks in the basement to see all the things we let collect when no one else is here. I tend to be an anxious host. Especially when I have a lot of time to prepare. The longer I have to dwell on the event the more overwhelming it becomes in my head. I find that I enjoy it more when it is spontaneous. I already know its not perfect and there is nothing I can do about it but to enjoy the people around me. It’s a mind set really. What is most important? All the things and the preparation or the people? Today’s reading is about Mary and Martha. I see a little bit of myself in both of them. They were sisters but couldn’t be more different. Martha had welcomed Jesus into their home and she immediately got busy serving Him with things – food, drink, a comfortable place to sit. While Mary did not busy herself with all the things around them and instead sat next to Jesus and enjoyed his company. There was nothing wrong with Martha preparing for Jesus and making things comfortable and serving him in that capacity. That was probably the way she showed love to people she cared about. It did become a problem when she became bitter and annoyed that Mary was not helping in the way she thought she should. She hadn’t considered that Mary had chosen the better thing until Jesus told her so.  Jesus knew His time with them was so short and there were no details more important than being with Him.

Luke 10:41 “My dear Martha, you are so upset over all these details! There is really only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it and I won’t take it from her.”

As the holidays approach and there is much planning to do I will keep this verse close to my heart. When I am anxious over all the details I know I can sit with Jesus to be refreshed and reminded of what is important. I am thankful for this reminder today. May we plan like Martha but know when to sit and rest with Jesus like Mary.

Shelly

Are you neighborly?

The parable of the Good Samaritan found in today’s reading of Luke 10:25-37 is one of my favorites.  This story is so rich and has many parts you can reflect on. It begins with, an expert in the law testing Jesus, who, as always, turns the questioning trap, into a convicting crossroad for us.

“What must I do to inherit eternal life?”

  • Love the Lord with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind.
  • Love your neighbor as yourself.

Here is where I turned to a few different resources to get some additional light on this story I’ve read through many times.  Today, the term Good Samaritan is used in many settings.  But as I listened to John MacArthur discuss this scripture in Grace To You,  I was left convicted and grateful for this timely reminder of how I can love limitlessly more towards others than just myself.

The first response from Jesus deals with our relationship with God, the second answer relates to our relationships with others.   This love we show to God and to others should be constantly and consistently.  This would be similar to how we love our neighbor.

When we love like this, Jesus quotes Leviticus 18:5 saying,  if we do this we will have eternal life.  Eternal life with Jesus sounds amazing, as we pray for this day. Only by His grace and our willingness to submit our broken lives to Him will we be there.  So where do I start today? The story of the Good Samaritan goes deeper than kindness to others.  It’s not about who your neighbor is, it is about who I am and how can I draw closer to God that will determine my love for others.  I’m convicted because I’m not even close to the compassion this story shares about the Samaritan.  No number of trips, monies donated, or kind gestures compare to the love this Samaritan shows as Jesus desires from us.  Two men who we would have thought would have stopped to help this man passed by, the other man who was already putting himself into a dangerous situation did stop to show love for him.

Read the duration of Luke 10:33-35.  Do you see how he took care of this man walking from Jerusalem to Jericho? That is love.  Truly, and sadly the only person I take care of that way is myself. (convicted)  To some extent, we also do this for our families or close friends. Love without limits for others.  Not just my spouse, kids, physical neighbors or friends.  Love limitless everyone from the store clerk to the relative you said you would never talk to again, to a stranger on the streets?

Jesus asked the man, Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers? And he said, “The one who had shown mercy for him., And Jesus said to him and to us, ” Go and do likewise!”

1 John 3:11 For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love on another.

Lord, I  ask for the strength and compassion to love others this way. Help me to put my selfish desires to the side and focus on others.  Help me to increase love others in my brokenness and in my circumstances no matter what is theirs.   A perfect love that we know we will all have once we are in heaven.  Help me to not set limits on the love I share with others here on Earth. Knowing there is a Kingdom waiting for us all that will have no limits of a love we will share with each other.  In your name, we pray, Amen.

 

MacArthur, John. (2003) The Good Samaritan

Mary Magdalene

Today’s Reading Luke 7:36-8:3

Who can say what has happened to another person?  Who has been in the shoes of the other person? How well do you know the person that you are the most intimate with? Do you know their inner most dreams, fears, and aspirations?  Do you know what makes them truly happy or creates the most intense hurt?  How can you comfort the ones you love the most? These are some of the questions that are the most difficult to answer.  Once a wise man told me that even after 50 and more years of marriage you are always learning something new about your partner, and that is the treasure of the commitment.

In the account of Luke, the apostle describes a scene that would have been typical for Jesus.  He has been invited to dine at someone’s house and take part in dialogue and discussions.  In this particular instance, there is a woman that comes in anoints Jesus feet with ointment and tears. The house is the house of an official of the synagogue: a Pharisee.  The woman uses an alabaster bottle, which is a specific type of material and high expensive. The woman uses her hair to wipe the tears and ointment from his feet. Jesus knows the woman’s past and all that that she has done.  By her act of faith, she is renewed and made whole again.

Earlier in the chapter Luke explains about the centurion, who request that Jesus speaks health and healing over his servant that is far away. Jesus then responds to the solider and beings the journey to his house some distance away.  Before Christ can get to the house of the centurion, Jesus is stopped by several friends of the soldier and Jesus is informed that the faith of the Centurion is so strong that he believes that Christ has the authority to speak the words and the servant will be made whole.  Jesus speaks and the servant is healed that moment.

With Mary Magdalene, Christ uses this opportunity to exhibit his authority over sin in the presence of others who believe that have the knowledge of all situations.  This was a town that Jesus was not familiar with from the perspective of the Pharisee.  The Pharisee believed that he had the authority and control over the situation.  He was allowing Jesus to be made a patsy for his enjoyment. But Christ was able to show his authority in a gentle yet effective manner.  He knew the woman’s past.  He knew the thoughts of his host.  He know how to ask the questions to bring the judgment.  He knew that he had the authority and power to rebuke the sins of the woman and create a new person in her.  He knew the inner most thoughts of the woman.  He knew everything about her and had compassion on her and allowed her to worship and give faithfully to his goodness and mercy.

 

Some of the hardest questions that we can ask ourselves are the questions that Christ can heal and mend. Some of the experiences and choices that we have made can allow us to receive a glimpse of the beautiful redemption that Christ has for us.  If we were perfect, Christ would not be able to use us for his glory.  Will we allow ourselves to open up to Christ and allow him to heal us through our faith in him who knows us the best?

Simeon and Anna

 

What is something that you have had to wait for in your life?  Or maybe there is something right now that you are waiting for? Is there something you are asking God to do and are waiting for Him to answer?  Are you praying for someone you know to become a Christian and waiting for it to happen?  Are you praying for God to heal someone you love and waiting for God to answer?  Waiting is not always easy or fun, but if we believe that God hears and answers our prayers, we have faith that He will answer.  Sometimes His answer is yes, no or wait.  The answer wait sometimes takes a few days, months or years, but God will always answer in His own timing.  Today we will focus on Simeon and Anna, found in Luke 2:25-38 and see how they waited on God for His promise of a Savior.

Long before Jesus came to earth as a baby, God gave Moses laws for people to obey.  One of the laws was that any family who had a firstborn son had to take that son and have him dedicated at the temple.  

In Luke 2, we see Mary and Joseph obey God’s law.  They began their travel from Bethlehem to Jerusalem so that the Son of God could be dedicated to the Lord.

Meanwhile, a Godly man named Simeon was in Jerusalem waiting on the Promised Christ.  Simeon had the gift of the Holy Spirit before Jesus died on the cross and rose again.  Earlier in his life God told Simeon that he would not die until he had seen Jesus with his own eyes.

At that time there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon.  He was righteous and devout and eagerly waiting for the Messiah to come and rescue Israel.  The Holy Spirit was upon him and had revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Messiah.

Luke 2:25&26

We have no idea how old Simeon was or how long he had to wait for the day that God would fulfill His promise.  Simeon never gave up hope that the promise of seeing the Messiah would be fulfilled.  Every day of his life as he worshiped and served God he kept his eyes open for God’s promised Savior.  He believed that God would do what He said.

One day the Holy Spirit told Simeon to go to the temple.  Simeon listened and did as he had been instructed.  When he arrived at the temple he saw a young woman holding a baby with her husband by her side.  God’s Spirit told Simeon that this baby was the Promised Savior.  Immediately, Simeon went to Mary and reached out so that he could hold the baby.  As he held him in his arms he began to praise the Lord.

“Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace, as you promised.  I have seen your salvation, which you have prepared for all people.  He is a light to reveal God to the nations, and he is the glory of your people Israel!”

Luke 2:29-32

As Simeon was praising God and blessing Mary and Joseph there was another person in the temple, her name was Anna.  Anna was a widow, her husband had died after they had been married for 7 years.  After her husband died she began serving God full-time in the temple.  She was now 84 years old and was known to all as a prophetess.  She spent her days in the temple fasting and praying.  Anna had a very close relationship with the Lord and she knew that God had promised a Savior.  As she heard Simeon’s praises she walked over to him to see what was going on.

Anna saw the Child and immediately thanked the Lord for sending the Savior who was going to take away the sins of the world.  She then spread the news of the Savior to all who were looking for Him.

Both Simeon and Anna saw and believed that Jesus was God’s promised Savior.  They chose to praise and thank God for allowing them to see His Promise come true.  The both waited for this promise, we don’t know exactly how long they waited, but it sounds like they waited many years and never gave up hope.

What promise are you waiting for?  Have you given up hope that God will answer?  Simeon and Anna are examples of two Godly saints.  They waited for what God had promised and then proclaimed Jesus as the Messiah.  

Just as Simeon and Anna were waiting for the promise of the Savior, we today are waiting for His Second Coming.  The day Jesus returns in great power and great glory.  We are waiting for this promise to come true.  How are we going to wait for this promise?  Are we living each day learning more about God by studying and reading our Bibles?  Are we praying for our friends and family that don’t believe in Jesus?  Are we living a life that is pleasing to God?  We need to wait just as Simeon and Anna did believing everyday that today might be the day we see the promise fulfilled.

 

The Shepherds

Today’s reading is on the Shepherds in Luke 2:8-20.

Happy November! With October past and the Christmas season soon kicking into full gear, what more suitable verse to go to than the true meaning of Christmas from A Charlie Brown Christmas?

I apologize for reminding you all about this, but the next few months are going to be stressful and long, full of family & travel plans, entertainment preparation, buying gifts, the work year coming to busy end, and mitigating the effects of the worsening weather. It can be a frantic period, far too easy to lose your cool and become sick of the holidays. Personally, I never enjoy the consumerism involved in Christmas season – so much of media and society around us revolves around buying and receiving stuff that it can spoil the importance of this time of year. But in this stressful season, the straightforward faith of the shepherds in this Scripture are a needed example of how simple this whole season really is. Just like in the aforementioned special, when Charlie Brown grows weary of the season, Linus reminds us all of this:

 

 

Christ is here! A savior is born! Glory to God in the highest! These shepherds hear the good news and immediately celebrate, going to Jerusalem to see the Messiah and share the good news with all we see. In an instant nothing else matters – they are called to act, then they drop everything and celebrate the Lord. Whatever headaches these next few months, remember our true missive as Christians in this season: spreading the good news that Jesus Christ is born. Yes, every frantic shopping trip, every long car ride to family, every bill and expense added to the Christmas credit card; they all are useful for important things like family and generosity. They all, however, revolve around a single truth – the living Lord who has blessed us all with these things. In all these moments lie opportunities to follow the Shepherd’s examples here: tell all we see that the Savior is here. Pray today that the Lord would remain in our hearts and thoughts in this important upcoming time of year, and enable us all to share the joy Jesus brings us this Christmas season and always evermore.

Mary

Today’s reading is Luke 1:26-56 and Luke 2:1-7 with a focus on Mary.

As I read these verses and reflected, the two words that come to mind are trust and obedience. After the angel Gabriel told her what would happen, she says in Luke 1:28, “….Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” We then see in Luke 1:46-55 she sings song of praise to the Lord. It’s one thing to say in the moment when she was in the presence of the angel Gabriel that she would be a servant of the Lord, but the fact she followed through and continued to praise Him and follow His will is amazing. She could have questioned whether she was dreaming and whether the encounter with Gabriel was truly real. It’s easy to breeze over the fact she was likely ridiculed for being pregnant before marriage, yet she didn’t say “why me” or shed the responsibility God had given her. She says in Luke 1:47 that all generations would call her “blessed.” She embraced and trusted His will for her life.

Many of us have likely walked through an open door or taken a path we thought was God’s will for our life where we told God in prayer that we were his servant, and we would trust and follow Him. Yet, when trials and tribulations come later, we may begin to question whether the path we are now on was really His will, and we may even fall into sin. Again, despite Mary likely receiving much ridicule and embarrassment, she knew the promises in His Word (Luke 1:55) and trusted Him and remained obedient to His plan. We don’t know much about Jesus’ childhood and if He performed miracles or other acts Mary observed which no one else did. But, let’s assume for a moment that Mary did not observe any miracles since the Bible does not tell us she did, Mary still trusted in who the angel Gabriel told her He was years and years later when at the wedding in Cana she spurred Him on to his first miracle we know of by saying in John 2:3, “…They have no wine.” Then, she showed further trust in who He was still when she told the wedding officials in John 2:5, “..Do whatever He tells you.”

As we finish this week, let us reflect on the trust and obedience Mary showed and pray to do the same in our life today despite what might be trying to pull us away.

Zechariah

 

Luke 1:1-25, 57-80

When you look back over your life, is there a year or an event that stands out to you as a life altering experience? How about if we narrow the search and just ask that question on a spiritual level? Can you think of a set of circumstances that define your life in a completely new way since you have lived through them? I would say that I have events that changed my life, (getting married, the births of our three kids) and one set of circumstances that altered my spiritual life dramatically. Almost 20 years ago my husband and I spent a year of our lives (with a three year old and two 18 month old kids) knowing that I had a 50/50 chance of living/dying from cancer. That diagnosis changed EVERYTHING in our lives and in our hearts. It deeply imbedded God’s truth and His promises into our souls like no other event I’ve experienced since. If we could interview Zechariah today, I’m guessing he would have a similar description of the events in his life that we get to look at together in our reading.

Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth were descendants of the priestly line of Aaron. They were righteous in God’s eyes and careful to obey God’s commands. Zechariah dedicated his life to the Lord and served as a priest in the temple for many years as he was an old man at this point in his life. On this day, Zechariah was chosen by lot to enter the sanctuary of the Temple and burn incense before the Lord. It was a huge honor for him as a priest to be chosen for this job. While in the sanctuary, and angel appeared to him. We read about angels appearing to people in the Bible often enough that I think we might be callused to the impact this actually has on a person. Can you think, for just a moment, about what it must actually be like to be in a room alone, doing your job and then be joined by a spiritual being that is not known or describable in human terms? The Bible says that Zechariah was “shaken and overwhelmed with fear”. Yes I suppose that succinctly describes how I might feel under these circumstances.

The angel’s message starts with, “Don’t be afraid”.  Hmm…that’s probably not going to alleviate much fear but what other option did the angel have? No words are going to settle a person in this circumstance. The angel continues with his message to Zechariah. “Your wife will give you a son. You are to name him John. You will have great joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. He will be great in the eyes of the Lord. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before his birth. He will turn many Israelites to the Lord their God. He will be a man with the spirit and power of Elijah. He will prepare the people for the coming of the Lord. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and he will cause those who are rebellious to accept the wisdom of the godly.” This is all so much! Obviously Zechariah is still completely overwhelmed as his response to the angel only deals with the first thing the angel told him. It’s as if he didn’t even hear the rest of the message. “How can I be sure this is going to happen? I’m an old man now and my wife is old too!”

Then the angel says,” I am Gabriel! I stand in the presence of God. It was he who sent me to bring you this good news! But now, since you didn’t believe what I said, you will be silent and unable to speak until the child is born. For my words will certainly be fulfilled at the proper time.” It is pretty safe to say that this had to have been the most life-altering day in Zechariah’s life. As we finish reading the verses for today we see that God did accomplish His plan.  John was born to Elizabeth and grew up becoming strong in spirit. Zechariah was given back his voice and his response to God’s good gifts are recorded at the very end of our reading.

“Because of God’s tender mercy, the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide us to the path of peace.” I love this message shared with us from a faithful old man, rich in wisdom and experience, and full of hope and wonder after being altered by God. We probably won’t be visited by an angel in our lifetimes, and I hope you don’t have to face cancer or some other horrible set of circumstances, but I hope we all have opportunity after opportunity to be altered by God. I hope our hearts are soft to His work, our schedules allow time to listen to His voice, and our priority in life is Him.

The Poor Widow

Mark 12:41-44

And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums.  And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny.  And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box.  For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”

A couple of months ago, my son Samuel got a $5 bill from his grandma. Actually, all of the kids received a cash gift from her that day. While they were all chatting about what they were going to buy with their money, Samuel looked at me and said, “Mom, I want to take this to church for the kids in Haiti. They don’t even have clean water to drink.”

This is the passage that I thought of when he told me that. $5 will not make a dent in repairing Haiti’s water problems. But that is not what mattered about the gift. He gave all that he had, with a happy heart.

Pray today that when faced with an opportunity to be generous, we are able to do so with joy and humility.