In Search of the Perfect Church (Part Two)

church buildings

Spirit, Spirit, heed my call.

Where is the fairest church of all?

Where is the church who will love me the best?

Where is the church where I can get some rest;

Where the preacher will make me laugh and relax,

And one who doesn’t confuse me with the facts?

Where can I find a church like that?

What is a Christian Church anyway? And what does becoming a member of a Christian church really mean? The first Pastor, who also was the founder of the church where I became a Christian, had a very loose idea of what membership in the church (which I will refer to as CC) meant. To him, everything was “goosy” (his term for easy-going). He let everyone who wanted to join the church become a member, no matter if they professed Jesus as Savior or not. His rationale was, after the person stayed around awhile and heard his preaching, they would eventually become Christians. This is along the same idea as someone saying, “After we get married, I’m sure s/he will change.

After the first Pastor left, only one of the two Associate Pastors stayed. The one that left found out about the first Senior Pastor’s adultery and left before he did. After the Senior Pastor left, many people left because they were only coming because of this charismatic Senior Pastor, and others left because they found out about the Pastor’s sin and felt betrayed. Even amidst the mass exodus, the core group, who were committed Christians, remained at CC and formed a search committee to find a new Senior Pastor. The Associate Pastor agreed to stay until a new Senior Pastor was found. God blessed the search committee’s efforts and a new Senior Pastor was found.

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Senior Pastor #2 was a godly man who understood that CC needed healing. One of the first things he did was to have a leadership retreat, to learn about the needs of the church. This man was BIG in stature and in heart. He looked like an offensive tackle, yet he talked about how he cared for his little son when he was sick, and how much more Jesus cares for his lambs (us), especially during the times we needed Him most. This athletic-looking man would pretend to cradle a little lamb in his strong arms and appeared so kind and gentle, even though his outward appearance looked like someone who could easily mow down Vince Wilfork without a problem. Senior Pastor #2 taught all of us at CC what it meant to be committed Christians – a body of believers committed to Christ and committed to each other.

In the book, REDEEMING CHURCH CONFLICTS, by Tara Klena Barthel and David V. Edling, it talks about the church in this way: “In Acts 15 the word church refers to ekklesia: ‘the called out’ and  ‘the gathered assembly’ (see Matthew 16:18). The church is a local group of Christian believers whom God has gathered together to worship Him, because His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, has called them out of the world to be a community of faith” (p. 16).

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After the leadership retreat, Pastor #2, re-wrote CC’s By-Laws to include the offices of the Board of Elders and the Board of Deacons which would be voted in by the members of CC. The revised By-laws also had term limits for elders and deacons. Senior Pastor #2 was very aware of what happened in the past with the first Pastor picking his own “yes-men” and he willing established CC as an elder-led church, with himself being one of the elders. In an elder-led church, decisions were made by majority rule. Senior Pastor #2 verbalized his need, as a sinner saved by grace, to be accountable to others.  Pastor #2 also  made the By-Laws biblically sound in areas where they were lacking. Here are the three Articles which I find important in my “search for the perfect church:”

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ARTICLE III – Purpose

The purpose of CC is to exist for the glory of God; to encourage and motivate one another to attain the unity of the faith and knowledge of the Son of God and grow up in all aspects into Him, who is our Head, even Christ; to bear witness in our world of the abundant life that is found only in a trust relationship with God, through His Son Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:5,6,13,14; 4:13-15; John 10:10b; John 1:12; Acts 1:8).

 ARTICLE V – Statement of Faith (a partial list)

God

We believe that there is one true God eternally existing in three persons – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – who share equally all the attributes of deity and participate fully in the essence of the Divine God-Head. God has spoken to humanity, and the Bible is His Word, given to make us wise unto salvation. God is Lord and King over His world; He rules all things for His own glory, displaying His perfections in all that He does, in order that humans and angels may worship and adore Him (Deuteronomy 6:4; Matthew 28:19; John 5:17; 14:16-17; Ephesians 2:18; Hebrews 1:1,2; II Timothy 3:15; Daniel 4:34-37; Isaiah 6:1-5; Revelation 4:1-11).

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Jesus Christ

We believe that Jesus Christ is God,  who humbled Himself and assumed a human nature through the Virgin Birth. He lived a sinless life and voluntarily atoned for the sins of humanity by dying on the cross as Substitute, thus satisfying divine justice and accomplishing salvation for all who trust in Him alone. He rose from the dead, appeared to various of His followers, ascended to the right hand of the Father, where He, the only Mediator between God and humanity, continually makes intercession for His own (Isaiah 9:6; Matthew 1:18-25; John 1:14; Hebrews 2:14; Matthew 20:28: Hebrews 9:11,12; I Peter 3:18; Galatians 3:13; Hebrews 2:9; I Timothy 2:5,6).

Holy Spirit

We believe that the Holy Spirit is God and has come into the world to reveal and glorify Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit convicts and draws sinners to Christ, imparts New Life, continually indwells them from the moment of spiritual birth, seals, sanctifies and empowers them through His spiritual gifts for life and service. His fullness, power and control are appropriated in the believer’s life by faith (John 15:26; 16:8-11; John 3:3-8; Titus 3:5; II Thessalonians 2:13; I Peter 1:1-3; Romans 8:2; Acts 1:8; Ephesians 3:16; I Corinthians 2:1-4; I Corinthians 12; I Thessalonians 1:5

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The Church

We believe that Jesus Christ is the Head of the Church and that the Church, His Body, is composed of all those living and dead, who have been joined to Him through saving faith. We also believe that the Church is manifested locally through congregations of believers in Christ who assemble together regularly for worship, fellowship, and prayer (Ephesians 1:22; Ephesians 4:15; I Corinthians 1:2; Hebrews 12:1; Hebrews 10:24,25; Acts 2:42-46).

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  ARTICLE VI – Covenant

With Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, I promise with God’s help to use my spiritual gifts to serve the Lord Jesus with all obedience and diligences: to enter into the ministry of this church; to support its constitution; to be faithful in my attendance at services for worship and in the observance of the Lord’s Supper; to nurture spiritual growth through discipleship; and to under-gird the church’s outreach through prayer, financial support and participation.

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Isn’t that interesting? After reading all the above information about what a Christian church is all about and what it means to be a member of a Christian church, it doesn’t say anything about what I wrote in my little poem, “In Search of the Perfect Church.” The statement from the book, REDEEMING CHURCH CONFLICTS and the Articles I shared from the CC By-Laws say nothing about a church that will love ME the best and where I can get rest or even a preacher that will entertain ME with his humorous monologues. What’s up with that? The answer is quite simple. To borrow a phrase, “There’s no “I” in church. Church is all about GOD and how WE can use the gifts HE has given US to glorify HIM by sharing the Gospel of Christ with our neighbors far and near and it’s about loving each other as HE has loved US.

Jesus Hug

During the time Senior Pastor #2 was our servant-leader at CC, we all grew spiritually and learned to use our spiritual gifts in the service of others. In addition to Senior Pastor #2, we also had two Associate Pastors. All three men were different in preaching style, but all three Pastors knew how to “correctly handle the Word of Truth”  (II Timothy 2:15), in such a way as to encourage us to grow in the faith. We also had an unpaid Minister of Missions come to continue the Missions Program when the Head of Missions himself and his wife were sent out to the mission field overseas. The Mission Program and the CC congregation also commissioned me as a indigenous missionary and sent me out and financially supported me to serve at a Christian residential school and summer camp for children and adults with disabilities, in New York State, for six years.

People of the world

Presently,  CC has missionaries all over the world. At home, a ministry to the homeless was started, followed by the Health Care Project for those without health insurance.  Many other ministries, too numerous to name, kept popping up because people wanted to use the spiritual gifts in ministries God placed on their hearts to do. When I came back from New York, I tried to start a ministry with people with disabilities, but it never got off the ground. The Lord had other plans for me. The CC congregation chose me to serve them as one of their deacons. After the first year, I was chosen to be the Moderator of the Deacon Board and I did what I do best – organize meetings and tell people what to do and when to do when to do them. I served as a deacon for two three-year terms. I believe it takes an exceptional church to see a person with a disability (cerebral palsy) as a sister in Christ with spiritual gifts and abilities that enable her to serve as a missionary and later a deacon. It was truly an honor to serve Christ and His body of Christ at CC in these two capacities.

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With all the ministries popping up and all of the people being sent out as missionaries, one would think CC was the perfect church and no one would want to leave, except to go on a missionary journey.  But, CC has always been a transient church because of a large number of college students attending services.  At CC, as well other churches, there are good and bad reasons why people leave. In REDEEMING CHURCH CONFLICTS, on page 169, some reasons and excuses to not worry about people leaving are given: “We lose a lot of people every year to unrepentant sin, divorce, and conflicted relationships. But  we get new people coming in so it’s really just a wash. People are going to leave no matter what.” To some extent, this is true. People will always be coming and going because we live in a transient society. People move away from the area for job reasons or they want to live closer to family. Others leave for college or just because they want a fresh new start. Some people go Home to be with the Lord. These are some of the good or inevitable reasons why members leave a church. These reasons are easier to handle and understand.

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But, there are also bad reasons for leaving a church. The worst reason for leaving a church is when the person is really leaving Christ. Jesus talks about this in “The Parable of the Sower and the Seed” (Matthew 13:1-23). People stop going to church because they stop believing in Christ or because they don’t want to be hassled by others for going to church or they think they have more important things to do, like working on Sunday to make ends meet.

My Good Side

I have known people who have stopped coming to CC because something said from the pulpit made them angry. Instead of going to talk with the Pastor, they just leave. Others have left because they think the elders gave them poor advice. Still others left because they did not want to repent of their sins and go through church discipline and get the help they needed.  A few more people left because they thought they were being snubbed by the Pastor or given bad counsel or weren’t helped enough by the church. There was also a conflict within the Music Ministry that resulted in people leaving the church. And all this took place when things were going WELL at CC. Somehow, we did get through all this because it did not happen all at once. In 2001, my sister and I began caring for my ailing parents, so I wasn’t able to attend church regularly and didn’t know very much about the comings and goings. I just knew my church family was praying for us and I was very grateful for that. Also, some of my brothers and sisters in Christ came to help us care for our parents and some provided their homes for me to get some respite because my parents were living with me. I also was very thankful for that. In my experience, CC was always there for me. CC became my family in Christ, some thirty-eight years ago, and the church building became my second home.

After about twenty-five years of servant-leadership, Pastor #2 decided it was time to move on. In those twenty-five years, he and his wife became good friends of mine. I was sad they were leaving, but, I did understand that it was time for him and his wife to move on and CC had to move on also.  CC wasn’t the building or was it the Pastor or any one person. CC was all the people who attended the church. And it did not belong to us. It belonged to God. And God had the right to do whatever He wanted with His church. Stay tuned until next time: “In Search of the Perfect Church (Part Three).”

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In Search of the Perfect Church (Part One)

church buildings

Spirit, Spirit, heed my call.

Where is the fairest church of all?

Where is the church who will love me the best?

Where is the church where I can get some rest;

Where the preacher will make me laugh and relax,

And one who doesn’t confuse me with the facts?

Where can I find a church like that?

“It will never happen in my church” or  “It will never happen again in my church.” I have said both of these statements and believed them about my church.  The first Protestant church I ever attended was a church my high school friend dragged me to. I did not want to go because my family was Catholic. The only reason I agreed to go was out of my loneliness and desperation to have something (anything) to do besides stay home.  Through the high school ministry and Sunday preaching at this church (I will refer to as CC for Christian Church), I heard the Gospel explained in such a way that it made sense to me for the first time. I heard from the teaching and preaching the Good News of Jesus dying for my sins, so that I could live life “abundantly “ (John 10:10b) as a child of the God who dearly loved me unconditionally now and forever, no matter what. The Holy Spirit opened the ears of my heart to understand God’s grace. Not only did I hear about the Gospel of grace,  I also met people living out the joy of knowing  “Jesus paid it all!” And not only did I know I was accepted and loved by God, the people of CC accepted and loved me and treated me as one of them.

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I was not used to this extraordinary kind love from people outside my immediate family because, most of the time, my experiences with people were not very positive ones. Most of the time, people would only see my disability (cerebral palsy) and did not take the time to get to know who I was on the inside – who God made me to be and the gifts He blessed me with. People did not know me as a person who has a sense of humor, that I am compassionate, nurturing and encouraging, that I give everything my all and will hardly ever give up, and that God has blessed me with lots of  “smarts” (and I also can be a bit of a “smart-aleck” at times, but in a good way), just to name a few of my God-given attributes most people not see in me.

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CC became my second home; a place where I sought refuge from the stormy struggles that come with living life with a disability. The people at CC accepted me and saw the person I really was. I did not have to prove who I was over and over again. In turn, I loved them and valued my new family in Christ. In a way, CC became my “Cheers” (TV situational comedy in the ‘80s about a bar in Boston); a place “where everybody knows your name and they’re always glad you came. You wanna be where you can see – our troubles are all the same. You want to go where everybody knows your name. You wanna go where people know people are all the same. You want to go where people know your name” (theme song written by Gary Portnoy and Judy Hart Angelo).  At CC, I wasn’t a disabled person; I was Lydia.

cheers

During the first five years of my new Christian life, I graduated from high school and started my college career, first at a community college, then at a four-year college, then at another nearby college for my Master’s Degree. The first four years, I lived at home and was able to attend CC every Sunday for Sunday School and Worship Services. I also attended Bible Studies in people’s homes and I was excited to be able to read and study the Bible on my own. I grew like a weed in my Christian walk. In my junior year of college, I lived on campus and lived away from home for the rest of my college career. During that time, I came home once or twice a month and attended CC, but I also attended other churches nearby the colleges I attended and made many Christian friends, many of whom belonged to Para-church ministries, such as Campus Crusade for Christ, Navigators and Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship. These college friends all helped nurture me in my Christian walk. In those first five years of my Christian walk, I grew to love Christ more and more, and I no longer attended Christian functions because I wanting something (anything) to break the cycle of boredom in my life. I went to church, Sunday School, Bible Studies, weekend retreats to get to know the One who loved me best – my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. My new focus on Christ, rather than having a social life, proved to be invaluable in 1979.

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During one of the weekends I came home and attended the Sunday worship  at CC,  the Senior Pastor announced that he had been given the opportunity to go to Pakistan and that he would be leaving  CC. This was a bit of a shock to everyone. I can remember seeing grown men crying because the Senior Pastor, a very charismatic and gifted speaker, was leaving. But, I thought it very strange that people felt so much emotion about his departure. We still had two Assistant Pastors that were able to carry on the ministry of CC. However, after all that hubbub took place, a short while later, the Senior Pastor announced that the Pakistan opportunity fell through and that he was staying after all. Then, a little while after that, the Senior Pastor again announced that he was leaving, but this time to a church in Florida. What in the world was going on?

Because of being away and immersed in college studies, the Lord spared me the details of my church’s first experience with church conflict. It was only a good while later, that I learned the first Senior Pastor of the church where I found Christ and Christ-like people was involve in sexual immorality, divorced his wife and married CC’s secretary, after moving to Florida. Very little was known about what was going on because the Senior Pastor picked his own “yes men” to be the elders of CC. If ever there was such a thing as a “church conflict,” this was a CHURCH CONFLICT! How would we as a church survive this? The answer is, God is faithful. The answer is, God is the God of the impossible. The answer is God.

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“Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. I say to myself, ‘The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for Him.’ The LORD is good to those whose hope is in Him, to the one who seeks Him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD” (Lamentations 3:21-26).

“Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, BUT with GOD all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).

I find it fascinating, and somewhat ironic, that this Pastor’s favorite hymn was “Great is Thy Faithfulness” and that one year he had scripture cards printed for the entire congregation with the partial verse “With God all things are possible.” I believe that, way before our first church conflict, God was preparing us for what was coming from the very beginning. And God was true to his Word and CC survived our first major church conflict and even grew stronger because of it. It is true that many people who “followed” the first CC Pastor left the church and others left because they felt betrayed by him. But many people stayed at CC and were committed to rebuilding the church and restoring its witness for Christ. God used a “Search Team” to find a godly man to be the second Senior Pastor of CC, he stayed for over twenty years and the church grew, prospered and our witness for Christ was restored under his servant-leadership. “And we all lived happily ever after.“ Right? That would only be the case if Jesus’ second coming happened. To the best of my knowledge, that hasn’t happened yet. For the rest of the story, stay tuned (wait) for my next post.

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Love Between Dad and Daughter

Holding hands

“As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him; for He knows how we are formed, He remembers we are dust. As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear Him, and his righteousness with their children’s children.”

Psalm 103:13-17

   When our mom spent Christmas (2002) in the hospital, little did we know that our dad would not be with us on Easter (2003). Thankfully, our mom returned home to us before the New Year. With my sister Jane, mom and me at his bedside, our dad went Home to be with the Lord on March 13, 2003.  During the last days of his life, my mom, sister Jane and I spent time by my dad’s bedside, ministering to his needs and keeping him company. During that time, a myriad of lifelong memories filled my mind and heart. The love between a devoted dad and his daughter is a very special one. It is an unbreakable bond that grows stronger as the years go by and lasts longer than life itself.  There is a saying, “When you have a son; you have him until he finds a wife. When you have a daughter, you have her for the rest of your life.”  A dad and a daughter will always belong to each other, whatever (or whomever) the winds of time brings along life‘s journey.

Christmas Nativity

[Dad Teaching Me the Christmas Story]

   Throughout my life, I have had many teachers in grammar school, junior and senior high schools, colleges and graduate school.  The first teacher I ever had was my dad.  He taught me how to say my prayers and to go to church.  My dad prayed with me every night and brought me to church every Sunday.  He taught me how to color and use all the colors in the crayon box. All my pictures were beautiful in his eyes, despite the staggered streaks outside the lines.  He taught me how to spell and write my full name, which was no small task with an eight-letter middle name and a twelve-letter last name. He helped me with my math and taught me how to play checkers, and was very proud of me when I became better than he was at them both.

My very first teacher, my dad, made the greatest and most lasting impact in my life, because he taught by example.  The greatest and most enduring lesson my dad taught me, which shapes the very core of my being, is that God exists and that He plays an important part in my life. My dad taught me what God was like through his own example of how he loved his children. He loved us unconditionally. No matter what we did or said or how we treated him, we knew he would never throw us out of his house or disown us.  During my teenage and young adult life my dad and I would argue about a lot of things, from sports to religion, but our arguments would always end the same way. This unique dynamic in our relationship reminded me of the Looney Tunes cartoon about a sheepdog and coyote. At the beginning of the cartoon, they would greet each other while punching in their time clocks, through the whole cartoon they would beat up on each other because the sheepdog was protecting the sheep and the coyote was trying his darnedest to have a sheep for dinner; and at the end of the cartoon, they would wish each other a good night which punching their time clocks (I hope somebody remembers this cartoon!).  In thee middle of our heated discussion (disagreement), when my dad realized the time and that he had to be somewhere else,  he would give me a hug and a kiss and say, “Good bye dear daughter. See you later.”  It happened every time, like clockwork. Another example of his unconditional love was, even though he did not like baseball or sports in general, because he believed players were overpaid and did not work as had to for his machinist pay check,  he always had time to play our version of baseball with me. At the neighborhood school ground, he would throw a softball at close range, so that I could hit it with an old wooden bat.  My dad and I had theological differences, as I got older, but we did have the same faith in the things that mattered most.  We both loved Jesus and had Him as our Lord and Savior. Everything else was small stuff.

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    Throughout my life, my dad gave me special nicknames. As a little girl, I was his “little soldier,” because I was a bit of a tomboy and liked to play army.  During high school, I was his “good student.”  During college, I was “the professor.”  When I was teaching, I was “the teacher.” When my mom and dad came to live with me, after he had a severe stroke,  I was his “kitchen chef,” because I made some of his meals, along with my sister Jane. And then there are the Polish nicknames I won’t even get into.  The nickname I loved hearing my dad call me the most was “dear daughter.”  I tried to call my parents every night, when we lived apart, and every night he would end the conversation by saying, “Good night, dear daughter.”

During my childhood, my dad took me on various errands, He took me grocery shopping, where I watched him pick out the best bargains and then explain how important it was to save money to me (and anyone else within earshot). Up and down the aisles, he would greet everyone he met and would introduce me as his oldest daughter. He took me along when he went to pay the bills, always on time. He took me on a hospital visit, when he had to have his dressings changed on his hands, after he severely burned while putting out a fire that got out of control in the upstairs heating stove.  Even then, my dad carried me in his other arms as he entered the hospital for his dressing change. It was good for me to go with him and see that his injured hands weer getting better.  He also took me along to the cemetery, to visit my grandparents’ graves. After saying a prayer, he would water the plants and remove debris from the grave sights, and then we would take a walk around the cemetery. It was nice to spend one-on-one time with my dad, but it was only when I got older that I realized how priceless those times were.  It was during those times, when I saw how much he loved his family and how he took care of us in every way he was able, that I learned what unconditional love was all about.

 High School Graduation

[Mom and Dad at My High School Graduation]

My dad was always there for me when I needed him the most.  He held me in his arms, all night long, when I had a toothache. He attended all my graduations. He drove me back to the safety of his home, after I failed miserably at my first job. And he blessed my decision to live far away from home to work at my next job, even though he did not like me living so far away from him.  I knew that whatever I needed, my dad would be there for me to provide for my needs, in the same way he provided for his whole family. During the last years of his life, it was our turn to take care of him.

These are the memories that flooded my mind and heart as we sat by our dad’s bedside.  And these are the memories I will cherish for the rest of my life. Why is it that when a loved one dies, we tend to emphasize all the good memories and forget everything else? My dad wasn’t the “Father Knows Best” TV-type dad.  Then again, I wasn’t the “Father Knows Best” TV-type daughter nicknamed “Kitten” either. I don’t know of any TV dad who has experienced the real life struggles my dad overcame, along with the God-given blessings that followed.  My dad experienced the horrors of WWII; having his treasured family farm taken away by the Russians, seeing his beloved homeland nearly destroyed, and being captured and forced into slave labor on a German farm/prison camp.  After immigrating to America, he met his wife of 49 years and started a family, only to experience the heartache of his firstborn daughter being born with cerebral palsy. Through it all, my dad never lost his faith in God. And through it all, God blessed him with a loving wife, a son and two more daughters (besides “Little Lydia”), five cherished grandsons, and the ability to save money beyond human comprehension.  My dad was not a sophisticated man, but he was an honorable man, and everything he did was for his family.

Dziadzi and Noel

   Why is it that we tend to think more of the good memories and forget everything else, especially when a loved one passes?  I believe the answer is found in Scripture. I Peter 4:8 says, “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”  That is what my dad did, he loved his family deeply; he loved us unconditionally, he provided for our needs faithfully, and he forgave us over and over again.  He was a faithful husband, a devoted father, and a doting grandpa. His children and grandchildren are still learning through his example. These are our forever memories. Everything else is small stuff.

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   Every Father’s Day I will miss my dad terribly. I will miss him asking me, during a ballgame, “Is my team winning?” (meaning the team that is apposing mine). I miss his mischievous grin and twinkle in his beautiful blue eyes when he teases.  After ten Father’s days without my dad,  there will still be tears; some will be tears of sorrow because missing him will never go away in my lifetime, but most will be tears of triumph because of the victory we who trust God all have in our Lord Jesus Christ.

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“When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that has been written will come true: ’Death has been swallowed up in victory.’

‘Where O death, is your victory?

Where O death, is your sting?’

“The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

I Corinthians 15:34-37

I will never forget the sound of my dad’s last breath. At that time, it was my turn to say, “Good bye dear Tata.  See you later” (Tata means “daddy” in Polish).

HAPPY FATHER’S DAY!

Lyd

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Next Post will be: “In Search of the Perfect Church”

church buildings

There’s the “Butt Claws” and There’s the “BUT GOD [Clause]”

butt claws

Have you ever felt like this little guy [above] when your life is not going well and you see yourself  never getting things “right” and never reaching your goals? I have felt the BIG “Butt Claws” snapping at me, especially when I am down, attacking me in my most vulnerable  spots. For example, my writing is very important to me. I view this blog as a ministry to encourage people and glorify God. This is the main reason  I really dislike making typos. In my last post, “God’s Grace and the Seven-Tool Believer,” I made a HUMUNGOUS whopper of a typo [a mistake really]. I just couldn’t believe it!. The “Seven-Tool Believer” should have been the “Nine-Tool Believer.” I was referring to the Fruit of the Spirit” and its character qualities. Last week, in the middle of the night, I awoke with the thought, “Oh no! There are NINE pieces of Fruit, not seven! ‘But the Fruit of the Spirit is [1] love, [2] joy, [3] peace, [4] patience, [5] kindness, [6] goodness, [7] faithfulness, [8] gentleness and [9] self-control‘ (Galatians 5:22-23a). What a stupid mistake! Why didn’t I catch it before I put it out there for the world to see? How are my readers going to think of me when I make these ridiculous typos?” I could just hear the snap-snap-snapping of those “Butt Claws”, trying to pinch at me where it hurts the most ( my writing) “You‘re never going to get people to follow your blog with all the typos you make. No one is going to read your stuff NOW!”

troubled waters

There are other more serious areas in which  “Butt Claws” is just waiting to pinch us where it really hurts. Many of you can relate to these next examples of the relentless snap-snap-snapping in “Butt Claws’” insidious pursuit to pinch us just where it hurts until we bleed: “You will never make it through college. Why don‘t you just give up?”  “No one wants to be your friend. Your speech is terrible. You’re just a cripple anyway!” “You’re never going to get married. Just look in the mirror! How can you be happy being single for the rest of your life?” “You’re a horrible spouse!. Why else would s/he leave you?” “You’re a terrible parent (aunt). Look at what your kids are doing!” “You‘re never going to have kids. You‘re just not cut out for it.” “What did you do wrong for this to happen?” “You will never make your parents proud. You’re just a loser!” “You‘re the only one in your [school, work, group] who hasn’t done IT. What’s wrong with you? Have some FUN. IT’S not going to hurt.” “Now that your mobility is gone and you’re in a wheelchair, how can God use you anymore?” “You already have to deal with cerebral palsy [ or whatever]. Why don‘t you just give up and stay home? Your friends won‘t want to put up with your stuff.“ “You’re never going to lose weight.” “You’re never going to kick that bad habit. Just look at all the times you tried and failed!”  “What did you do wrong to have your baby with a disability?” “Why are you being punished with a disability [miscarriage, job loss, bad marriage]?” “Don’t you have enough faith to be healed? What‘s wrong with you?” “God wants you to be rich. What are you doing wrong?”

water off

Before we get really depressed and discouraged, let me identify who “Butt Claws” really is. If you haven’t already figured it out yet, “Butt Claws” is my “pet name” for the evil one. Jesus describes the evil one as “…a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44b). Jesus knew that the evil one was a liar and the only way to handle him was to know the Truth found in God’s Word. In Luke 4, Jesus confronted each of the devil’s temptations with the Truth found in the Scriptures. Jesus knew that the devil’s lies were often, if not always, made up by distorting God’s Truth. The devil used Scripture to tempt Jesus, but even when the devil tried his “darnedest” to tempt Jesus in the desert with his distorted version of God‘s Truth, Jesus did not waver from what He knew to be His Father‘s genuine Truth. Jesus also knew that the devil was not done trying to destroy Him. Even after forty days of intensive heat, hunger, thirst and the insipid tempting in the desert that came to no avail, Jesus knew that the evil one was not done with Him and would be back. It says in Luke 4:13, “When the devil had finished all his tempting, he left Him [Jesus] until an opportune time.”

Jesus looking at earth

We have Jesus as our example as to how NOT to listen to the devil’s lies about us. All the accusations in the above paragraphs are all lies about us from the evil one. The best way to combat the devil’s lies is to know God’s Truth and to know that Jesus is much BIGGER and STRONGER than “Butt Claws.”  “Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105). When we hear words of condemnation and accusations, we can be sure that they are not from God. “Therefore, there is now no more condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). When we are down on ourselves and the weight of life‘s circumstances are too heavy to bear, Jesus loves us and wants to lift us UP. “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30) . In order to NOT listen to “Butt Claws” and all His lies, Jesus teaches us by example to guard our hearts. “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. BUT store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your HEART will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21). “BUT seek first HIS [GOD’S] kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” Matthew 6:33)

Jesus Hug.

Ephesians 6:13-16 says, “Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of [God’s] truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of [Jesus’] righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from [knowing] the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith [trust in God], with which you can extinguish all the FLAMING ARROWS [lies] of the evil one.”

I Peter 5:6-11 encourages us to, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that He may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you. Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will Himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To Him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.”

praying hands

In order to stop listening to the evil one’s lies about me, I must believe and listen to what God says about me and what He Sees in me. I need to know God’s “But Clauses.” One of my favorite one is about Joseph in the Book of Genesis. Joseph’s brothers pushed him into a pit. He was found by Egyptians and  forced to be a slave. Joseph spent time in prison and when he was finally let out, he became Pharaoh’s trusted servant and “right-hand man” and was entrusted with the important business Pharaoh’s kingdom, because of Joseph’s trustworthy character. When his brothers came to him for food, because of a famine, his brothers did not recognize him at first. But, when Joseph finally told them he was their brother, they were terrified of what he might do to them to get  revenge. “But Joseph said to them, ‘Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, BUT GOD intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Genesis 50:19-20).

Not that I am in any way comparing myself to the great patriarch Joseph, BUT GOD has been helping me through the years of living with a disability, to look at it this way: The evil one wants to use my disability  “to  harm me (and my family), BUT GOD intended it for good to accomplish what is being done.” One of the good things God is accomplishing in me is for me and others to see His strength in my weakness. As Paul writes, “Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. BUT HE (GOD) said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you. For My power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me” (II Corinthians 12:8-9).

Here is a small sample of some of  “BUT GOD [Clauses]”:

“My flesh and my heart may fail, BUT GOD is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalm 73:26).

“Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, BUT with GOD all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).

Cross

“For GOD so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish BUT have eternal life” (John 3:16).

“BUT GOD demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

“BUT because  of His great love for us, GOD, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us up with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages He might show the incomparable riches of His grace, expressed in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:4-10).

“BUT you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to GOD, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. Once you were not a people, BUT now you are the people of GOD; once you had not received mercy, BUT now you have received mercy” (I Peter 2:8-10).

dad and babyHolding hands

The above Scripture verses and others tell us the Truth of who we are in Christ: God has adopted us as His children and because of His Son dying on the cross for our sins, we are blameless, blessed, chosen, forgiven, holy, loved, redeemed by blood of Christ. God has lavishly given us His grace and wisdom and understanding in order to grasp a glimpse of  “the mystery of His will made known to us by God.” We are alive in Christ,  filled with the riches of God‘s grace, complete and ready and able  for “when the times will have reached their fulfillment” (Ephesians 1:3-10). That‘s not all, BUT Christ has also made us free:, “So, if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36).

Not only that, BUT in Christ we are His  new creations: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (II Corinthians 5:17). Not only that, BUT JESUS “was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace [with God] was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed” [of our sin and shame]  (Isaiah 53:5). Not only that, BUT JESUS has changed us from victims to VICTORS over death: “When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality [when Jesus comes again and gives us our new eternal bodies] then the saying will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in VICTORY.’ ‘Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law [trying to be good on our own]. BUT THANKS BE TO GOD! He gives us the VICTORY through our Lord JESUS CHRIST” (I Corinthians 15:54-56).

tulips

Finally, when God looks at us, He does not see our sins, BUT GOD sees the righteousness of Christ: “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us…God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (II Corinthians 5:20a-21). Not only does God see Jesus when He looks at us, we are also His beloved children: “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is who we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know Him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. BUT we know that when He [Jesus] appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is” (I John 3:1-2).

Jesus and Charlie Brown

The next time life gets overwhelming and you feel like Charlie Brown who never gets to kick the football and you hear the snap-snap-snapping of “BUTT CLAWS” getting closer and closer, turn your attention to who you really are in Christ and how God sees you. Isn’t that the real Truth of who you are? I am convinced that seeing ourselves the way God sees us will help us to see other believers as God sees them, no matter how different they may be from us. Seeing people as God sees them is crucial in the healing process in broken relationships and broken churches who are in the midst of conflict (the topic of my next post).

Also, it helps me to think about the “Butt Claws” and all his “crabby” friends and their eventual demise: “But the wicked will perish: The LORD’S enemies [and ours] will be like the beauty of the fields, they will vanish – like smoke” (Psalm 37:20) and “Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: ‘Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of His Christ. For the accuser [BUTT CLAWS] of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death. Therefore, rejoice you heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He will be filled with fury, because he knows his time is short’” (Revelation 12:10-12).

By the way, I did change the title of my last post to, “God’s Grace and the Nine-Tool Believer” as well as a few more typos (SIGH!), so you‘ll see the edited version if you google it. I am still going to strive for typo-free posts, BUT GOD is helping me not to be too bent out of shape if I do make typos. As long as you guys get my drift, it’s all good!

Thank you all for “following “ lydslookonlife! WELCOME to all my new followers!

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CRAB CAKES Anyone? (Easy Crab Cake Recipe [Suggestion] from tasteofhome.com)

Ingredients

*2 CANS [6 OUNCES EACH] CRABMEAT, DRAINED, FLAKED AND CARTILAGE REMOVED

*1 CUP SEASONED BREAD CRUMBS, DIVIDED

*1 EGG, LIGHTLY BEATEN

*¼ CUP FINELY CHOPPED GREEN ONIONS

*¼ CUP FINELYCHOPPED SWEET RED ONION

*¼ CUP MAYONNAISE [REDUCED-FAT MAYO OPTIONAL]

*I TABLESPOON LEMON JUICE

½ TEASPOON GARLIC POWDER

*1/8 TEASPOON CAYENNE PEPPER

*I TABLESPOON BUTTER

Directions

*IIN A LARGE BOWL, COMBINE THE CRAB, I/3 CUP BREAD CRUMBS, EGG, ONIONS,  MAYONNAISE, LEMON JUICE, GARLIC POWDER AND CAYENNE PEPPER.

*DIVIDE MIXTURE INTO EIGHT PORTIONS; SHAPE IN 2-INCH BALLS. ROLL IN REMAINING BREAD CRUMBS. FLATTEN TO ½ -INCH THICKNESS.

*IN A LARGE NONSTICK SKILLET, COOK CRAB CAKES IN BUTTER FOR 3-4 MINUTES ON EACH SIDE OR UNTILL GOLDEN BROWN. YIELD: 4 SERVINGS.

Wine or Optional Beverages

LIGHT-BODIED WHITE WINE: [NEW ZEALAND] SAUVIGNON BLANC OR [ITALIAN] PINOT GRIGIO. OTHER OPTIONS: SWEET ICED TEA WITH LEMON WEDGE, ZESTY LEMONADE OR ICED WATER WITH LEMON WEDGE.

I have gone to Baltimore twice, to a RED SOX vs. ORIOLES game, at Camden Yards. Each time, I had to have those famous Maryland crab cakes. I think I had a glass of sauvignon blanc with them. If you don’t like sea food, maybe you can try the recipe with ground turkey or pork [maybe  without the lemon].

Blessings,

Lyd