Please Send Stamps

A belated Christmas card arrived in the mail this week. It was from a female inmate whom I’ve been corresponding with during the past year. Her handwriting was bold and neat. She wished me well, thanked me for sending her a package of Christmas cards with postage last month, and after her signature, she added a postscript:

“Could you please send stamps?”

“Why am I not surprised?”

As a volunteer jail chaplain, I teach Bible to women inmates, and on occasion, I correspond with some of them when they go away to prison. I understand their need for positive relationships and spiritual encouragement while they’re behind bars. It’s a mutual blessing.

But this woman never ends her letters without requesting something from me.

Sometimes I feel she’s taking advantage of me. Even Jesus said, “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; therefore be shrewd as serpents, and innocent as doves.” (Matthew 10:16)

But on this particular day, her request for stamps struck a nerve.

 How often do I pray to my Heavenly Father, without adding my laundry list of needs and wants?

“I love you Lord, thank you Lord, but could you please send: a job, healing, financial aid, help, wisdom, success, new car….”

I KNOW God wants Christians to “devote ourselves to prayer” (Colossians 4:2). His Word says “pray without ceasing” for the details of our day including: our daily bread, to avoid temptation, forgiveness, when we’re suffering, for each other, for those who persecute us.

“Casting all your anxiety upon Him, because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).

However, because God cares for me, shouldn’t I also seek God for Himself alone; with no personal agenda than being in His presence?

Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him; bless His name. For the Lord is good; His loving kindness is everlasting, And His faithfulness to all generations.” (Psalm 100:4, 5)

The Christmas card is now taped over my desk as a reminder:

Spend more time praising God and less time saying,

“Please send ….”

                

Lasso the Moon

 

     My cell phone beeps. There’s a text message from my twenty-something son.

“Look at the moon.”

     I hurry outside in my slippers and stand on my front porch, mesmerized. It’s

the kind of moon one sees in children’s picture books. Any second, “the cow will

jump over the moon.”

     On this clear, winter night, the moon appears closer to the earth just as my

son’s phone text shrank the miles between us. Is my grown

daughter, living on the opposite coast, enchanted by the moon tonight?

     I once thought loving my children meant giving them the moon. 

    When they were young, the moon was within my reach. A trip to the zoo brightened a cloudy day. A Happy Meal was like winning the lottery for a five year old.

     It was easy to lasso the moon.

     Now two of my children are adults and giving them the moon is like finding the end of a rainbow. Their trips to paradise are on the horizon beckoning them like a mythological siren. Their toys might as well be the Golden Fleece.  It’s no longer within my power to make their dreams come true.

     And I wonder. Would they be happier if I had shown them how to enjoy Earth rather than shoot for the moon?

     We didn’t live beyond our means, we enjoyed simple pleasures. But did my attempt to fulfill their every heart’s desire breed expectations that give birth to disappointment?  

     In contrast, when we looked beyond our own hedges and rang the Salvation Army bell, or walked for life, we learned the reality behind “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).    

      In pursuing dreams, we must remember the moon is cold and barren.

      We dance by the light of the moon which is a reflection of the sun.  Likewise, true joy comes when Christians reflect  “the LIGHT of the world.” 

     Matthew 5:16 says, “In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”        

           

    

A Spoonful of Sugar

Do you like swallowing pills?

When my two grown kids were children, they found it difficult to swallow pills regardless of the size. We’d try dissolving the pill in a spoonful of orange juice. We’d wrap the pill in a piece of deli turkey meat to disguise the taste. But more often than not, my child would gag and spit out the pill. Or the pill’s bitter taste would eventually dissolve in their mouth, contorting their faces like some horrific gargoyle.

Some days, life feels like a bitter pill we’re forced to swallow.  Unlike medicine which is intended to heal our bodies and ease our pain, we can’t see anything good resulting from our bitter circumstances.

But is that true?

Perhaps you’ve heard that song from the movie, Mary Poppins: “A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down…in the most delightful way.”

That’s how I feel about life. With Jesus, I can handle life’s bitter pills when I choose to view life from a Biblical perspective and trust in His Word. Psalm 119:103 says, “How sweet are Thy words to my taste! Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth.” 

If we believe God’s Word, then we can swallow life’s bitter pills because “we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Roman 8:28)

And what is our purpose according to Romans 8:29?

“to become conformed to the image of His Son”

That being the case, every circumstance … even the bitter ones in life … is an opportunity to be “conformed to the image of His Son.”

And that’s a pill I gladly will swallow.

Joy in the Journey

Based on last year, I am confident there will be joy in my journey in 2012. Why? Because I’m not in the driver’s seat. God was faithful in the details of 2011, and He amazed me on more than one occasion. Why should this year be any different? I’ve learned gratitude, an eternal perspective, and being aware of God’s presence throughout my day is like a spoonful of sugar that makes the medicine go down. Life is sweeter with Jesus. Image