Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Best Investments

This morning I read in my Bible about the master who went on a far journey and left 10 of his servants with a pound a piece, then later returned to see how they made use of them.

I'm sure you're familiar with the parable.  For those of you who aren't, "pounds" were a currency back then, and Jesus was telling the story to His disciples to make a point. This "master," who gave out the pounds and then came back had basically told his servants to invest the money on his behalf, and to keep at it until he returned to collect.

Simple tale.

The first servant gained 10 pounds from his initial one pound. Pretty good investing, if you ask me! He was rewarded by being put in charge of ten cities; faithful in little, faithful in much. The second servant had gained 5 pounds. Still not bad.

The last servant had not only NOT invested the money given to him, but he had a few choice words to say to his master. In an excuse, to explain why he'd simply hidden the money in a napkin and done nothing else, the servant said; "I feared thee, because thou art an austere man: thou takest up that thou layedest not down, and reapest that thou didst not sow."

He seemed to think that explained everything. The master was angry with him, and told him he should have at least lent it to the bank and gotten interest. Then the master took away the one pound, and gave it to the wiser servant. So the last servant was left with nothing; not even the pound he so carefully preserved in a napkin.

I've heard this story many, many times. Most of the time, it is used to illustrate the matter of "talents." When God makes a person, and saves them, He gives them abilities. Some of them are natural, that the person is born with, and some of them are spiritual gifts, that are dropped in when the person is born again. A natural gift would be something like the ability to play an instrument or understand computers really well. A spiritual gift would be something like having a special capacity for mercy, or being able to preach.

God gives us these abilities and tells us to invest them; we are to use them and develop them, and serve Him with them. If we don't do this, we are like the last servant, who kept his money hidden away. The master was not pleased with him.

I think many of us have heard that many times. But the last few times I have read this story, a new thought has entered my mind.

You see, I never could figure out what that last servant meant by what he said to his master. I thought it was an odd excuse to make. I used to shrug it off; what difference did it make what the servant said? The point was that he hadn't used his talents for their intended purpose. I did think it was a little odd that, since the master is supposed to represent God, the servant called him austere - selfish and cruel, basically. And the master agreed with him! But I just supposed that part just didn't apply to God.

Lately I've begun to understand. Let me rewrite the scene in my own words.

Master: "Well, Servant, how have you used what I gave you? Did you invest it like I expected you to? Have you caused my assets to grow?"
Servant: (clutching the money, still wrapped up, to his chest) "No. See - here; I kept it safe, right here. I wasn't about to do the work of investing it; checking the stocks, taking inventory, doing paperwork. I knew you would come back to claim it all. I knew you'd take it all away from me. You're a cruel, selfish man! Why should I do all that work, just so you can come and snatch it away from me?!"
Master: "But it is mine. That money is mine. The growth of it would have been mine as well. It is your duty to return it to me. Why didn't you at least put it in the bank and let it gain interest?"
Servant: (Grasping the napkin even tighter) "MINE!"

I seem to see a bit of myself in this servant. Often I want to hold on to my talents, and use them only when I profit from it. It's all well and good to say I'm serving God, but do I really hold my fist loosely closed? Am I willing to let Him have all the interest; and the principle, too? Do I hang back from serving, because I know that He is going to claim the profit? Any time I do, I am JUST LIKE this foolish servant.

That's something to think about.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Because all of the sudden I feel like blogging

I know better than to turn down that urge to blog - I get it so seldom these days. My mind is filled with other things and, though I feel sorry for my forsaken readers, I enjoy the freedom of not being required to blog.

I started blogging because I wanted to be one of those big money-making bloggers.


And "HA!" again. :) That's never happening. And I'm perfectly fine with that. This way, I don't have to worry about blogging at least three times a week and having a fantastic camera. I can blog whenever I want to, and I know all (most of?) my readers by name. (Hello, lurkers - want to join that group?Hint hint.)

So, anyway....I felt like blogging tonight.

I wanted to make a random list of "things you may not know about me." At the onset, that seems a selfish type of blog post, but we all know, deep inside, that we like knowing personal things about other people. We all have a bit of a snoop in us. :)


Random Things You May Not Know About Me

(Warning; if you read this, you must agree to share at least ONE unusual fact about yourself with me!)

- I love to read lying flat on my back on my bed, backwards, with my feet propped on the headboard.
- I don't like caramel very much.
- I LOVE to paint. (Um...yes, I guess I like painting rooms too. But I meant canvases.)
- I've never broken a bone.
- I've lived in the same house all my life.
- I love chocolate!  I forgot. This is a list of UNKNOWN things, right?
- I eat my pizza backwards. (I start at the crust and go to the tip.)
- I've never been in water deeper than I am tall.
-  I am scared of heights, but I LOVE speed. This creates a dilemma when flying or going on roller coasters. (Just for the record, I've only done those one time each.)
- I am semi-fluent in ASL (American Sign Language)
- My spine is crooked. I have to wear a lift in one shoe.
- I love hugs.
- I usually prefer TV shows (old ones, please!) to movies.
- I have a phobia of sitting with my back to a door.
- I am not afraid of public speaking.
- I am afraid of the dentist. Seriously afraid. Ridiculously afraid.
- My favorite music is full orchestra.
- I despise Veggie Tales.
- I can make homemade bread, noodles, donuts, fig nutons (GREAT. It's 10:48 pm, and I cannot think of how to spell that word, to save my life), toothpaste, laundry soap, face wash, and candles. I cannot make hair gel. Tried that. Twice. Ick.
- I love to write historical fiction.
- Spelling and Grammar were my worst subjects in school. ....Sorta. Math and Science weren't so good, either. But I loved school. Just went along my merry way, knowing I wasn't so good, but having fun anyway!
- I drive with my thumbs and pinkies on the steering wheel.
- I love to grill.
- I do NOT like soda.
- As of this past fall, I have my own sewing business (More about that coming up soon, I hope!)

Okay. Enough about me. Tell me some random things about yourself!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Life and Death

Ladies, what really matters in life?

It's 10:11pm, and I am ready for bed....sorta. My body is exhausted and ready for sleep, but my mind is rolling on and on and on. It's been a

I wasn't sure what word to put there; "hard" day? "difficult" day? "unique" day? It's not quite describable.

I know I'm not writing very well right now. Kinda aimless and vague. I'm trying to gather my thoughts.

Last night, about this time, I was sitting in this exact same spot when the phone rang. Mom answered it.

The house was already quiet. Some of the family was already asleep. Mom and I had just been laughing our heads off over a funny predicament that I had gotten myself into. We laughed so hard we cried.

Then the phone rang.

It was our pastor.

....There is a family in our church that I've kinda grown up with. Met them when I was 14. They have 7 children; close to the ages of my siblings and myself. Four girls in their twenties. Three boys in their teens.

A happy family; the kind that always has their corner of the room roaring in laughter over something every Sunday afternoon.

A dramatic family; the kind that always has something happening, whether it's a car accident, a new birth in the family, emergency tonsil operation, or somebody rolling the car over somebody else's foot.

A Christian family; the kind that has one daughter married to a preacher boy, one daughter married to a Romanian missionary, one daughter working for a ministry that reaches out to orphans, and other children who have a heart for God and long to witness for Him and serve him.

A generous family; the kind that welcomes new-comers and wants to make them feel at home.

The mother of the family is our pastor's oldest child. We have a lot of people in our church who are related to each other. ....And the rest of us feel like we're related anyway.

The father of the family is a former marine. A big man - towering over most of the other men, at several inches past 6 feet. A man with a deep voice, but a quiet one. A man who can run a backhoe and lead music for the congregation. A man who can boss his boys around like a drill Sargent and constantly tease his wife, but who does it all with a heart of love and who has a soft spot for any hurting thing.

Pastor called to say this man - his son-in-law - had died.

The rest of the evening stands out sharply in my mind. Every moment. Every word ....every silence. For, indeed, we could hardly speak to each other. We sat there, waiting for the phone to ring again, to hear someone say it was just a terrible April Fool's Day joke. We looked at the floor and asked one another how this could be happening. How could he be dead? We just saw him at church on Sunday, the day before. He had stood in front of the sanctuary as his little granddaughter - his first granddaughter - was dedicated. Dad had just shaken hands with him as they left church. He had just been saying how he is recovering from his minor heart surgery several weeks ago, and hasn't felt so healthy and full of energy in years. How could he be dead?

God knew this was coming. He prepared our whole church. The Sunday School lesson on Sunday was about trusting God when bad things are allowed to come into your life. The sermon was about how we have the hope of resurrection, because Christ rose.

But we were still in shock.

His poor wife. ....A widow, so young. And his daughters - my dear friends. Two of them are unmarried. Then will never have their daddy walk them down the aisle. Their boys....still growing up....without a dad.

Oh, my heart breaks.

I didn't process the thought that night; just held it in my mind and turned it over and over, like a morsel of food too hot to put in my mouth and chew. I envied him, in heaven at last. The reality of heaven was burned in my mind. The reality of life and death. I thought of all the things he will miss here. I thought. And thought.

But I couldn't believe.

This morning, I saw a picture on facebook of my friend - his daughter. She published the picture of her and her dad, taken a several months ago. Her smiling face, looking at the camera. He stands behind her, with both arms around her shoulders and protectively clasped in front of her, grinning at the camera too.

I felt a lump rise in my throat, and my eyes grew moist. My mouth got tight and I had to walk away.

My dad called just then. He calls every morning to say hello to us, since he leaves the house before we wake up.

I took the phone. And I said good morning. ...But I couldn't really talk. As soon as I heard his voice - my daddy, alive and well - I couldn't keep talking. All I could do was pass the phone on, grab some tissues, and run outside. I sat on the back deck and wept my heart out. Wept for my friends, and all they will miss.

I do not grieve for him. Not at all. I envy him. I long to be where he is.

I trust the Lord. He is wise beyond my understanding, and He will bring beauty from ashes.

But I grieve for my friends. My heart breaks for them. And I'm writing right now because I can't help it. I have to release my thoughts somewhere.

Death touches us all, sooner or later. Are you ready? Is death a reality to you, or do you push it to the back of your mind, refusing to touch it, afraid of the unknown? Heaven is real. Death is real. Jesus is real. 

Do you understand that? Do you really understand that you don't cease to exist when you die? Do you really believe in your deepest heart of hearts that you will die some day? Don't deny it. It will happen. Be ready for it!  Prepare for it now, while you can.

Eternity is so much longer than life here.

Do you know how to know what happens after death? Do you know that God is the sovereign Judge, and will be true and just? Do you know that every human stands condemned before Him, and is in need of help? Do you know Who wants to help you, and what He requires of you?

Think about it. Have you considered these questions?

If you know Jesus - truly know Him - have you faced the idea of death? Have you realized that life is about what happens after life? We say we believe in Heaven, but do we LIVE like we believe in Heaven? Do we beg people to consider? Do we cease to care what men think of us? Do we store up treasures where it counts?

Don't lose reality because you are chasing after the shadow.

Girls.....hug your daddy hard tonight, and thank God for every day He gives you with your loved ones.