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Does Your Life Produce Good Fruit?

This week I received a sad phone call.  A lady that was a family friend had passed away. As this person related the information to me, they shared with me their memories and thoughts on this lady.  They began, “She was a godly woman, kind and loving she was faithful.”

As I listened, I realized that they were describing the fruits of the Spirit. This woman had left a legacy and had lived her life, exhibiting the fruits of the Spirit.  

My caller went on to describe that this lady had not had a perfect or easy life. She had suffered loss, dealt with health issues, buried a grandchild and like the rest of us struggled.  However, she strived to stay upbeat and trusted the Lord to bring her through the trials. Her faith had seen her through some difficult periods in her life. 

When our time is done here on earth, how will we be remembered?  Will our life be recognized as one that exhibited the fruits of the Spirit? 

What legacy will you leave?

Typist for Jesus

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Trials and Tribulations are Universal

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

John 16:33

One of the most enjoyable experiences of my European adventure was the opportunity to meet regular people just like me.  On evenings when we were not too exhausted, my fellow travelers and I would venture out in the little “neighborhood.” One evening we decided to try the small Italian restaurant on the same street as our hotel.  It was a quaint little place with little bistro tables and chairs along the sidewalk. A tall man with a white apron and bow tie invited us to sit. The table was in the open window and looked out on the street. We placed our drink orders and studied the menu.  After we placed our orders, we discussed our day. As we chatted, I noticed a young man smoking a cigarette on the sidewalk. He paced up and down, glancing at us.

I admit we all became a little apprehensive.  The young man crushed the cigarette and sat down at a table outside the window.  Leaning in, he addressed us with a thick accented, “Hello.” We returned the greeting and engaged in conversation.  

He was from Brittany but had lived in Paris for many years.  He gestured down the street. “I live there.” He struggled with English, but overall we had no trouble understanding and conversing with him.  He said many times that he hoped to revisit America. He had been twice and enthusiastically told us how much he loved it. As the conversation continued, he painted a different story of Paris than I had formed.  I asked him why he would want to leave Paris? Every day he woke up in the most beautiful city in the world. He looked down at the table and ran his finger on the edge. “I wake up in Paris every day with uncertainty.  I do not have a job, and I may have to move back to my parents. I am only out tonight because my friends are treating me to dinner.”  

Our food came, and the young man excused himself.  That evening as I said my prayers, I remembered that man to God.

The next morning we rose early.  We had a full day and a long bus ride ahead of us.  It was still dark when we arrived at the tour bus agency.  It was chilly, and I hugged my sweater to my body. As we waited for the bus to arrive, I glanced down the row of businesses.  At first, I thought it was an old blanket discarded, but as I looked closer, I realized it was a person asleep in a doorway. This realization left me a bit disappointed.  I had in my mind a different Paris. A city of romance, culture, and history.  

Often we think that our difficulties and suffering are unique.  However, hardship, misery, and despair are universal. Meeting this young man reminded me that everywhere there are people just like you and me. It does not matter how many museums, cathedrals, castles, or stone buildings there are in a city; there are still people that are hurting.  

I am sorry to say that I tend to focus on my troubles, causing me to forget that others are dealing with their issues. By focusing on our problems, we look inward rather than to Jesus. We also miss the opportunity to share His love by reaching out to those in need. 

As you face tribulations and trials in your life, remember that you are not alone.  Jesus is with you, guiding you and helping you to face them. Remember also that you are not the only one that is dealing with financial, marital, employment or health issues. Never pass up an opportunity to help others in their time of need.  If you are helping others, you will not be focused on your problems which can produce anxiety and depression. Be there for others and allow them to minister to you.  

Typist for Jesus

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Oh Deer

If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations on earth. 2 All these blessings will come on you and accompany you if you obey the Lord your God Deuteronomy 28;1-2

It was sudden, the thud and a blur of brown in the headlights.  I slammed the brakes, and the car slid to a stop. The brown flash now hit the car again, and I realized that it was deer. She hit the hood and bounced, hitting the grass of the field, rolling, struggling to get her legs under her.  I got out of the car and watched the doe charge to the trees. I inspected the damage to my vehicle. It was not too bad, but my heart sunk.  

The next day as I spoke to the insurance adjuster, I retold the story.  She asked me at what speed I was going at the time of the collision.  

“Oh, that’s easy,” I replied, “I was doing just under 25.” 

“Well, you are lucky.  We get several claims, and many times the car is totaled and often the drivers injured as well.  If the deer goes through the windshield, it can be awful. I am glad you are ok.”

I was passing through a school zone at the time.  What was intriguing was that school was out, but the lights were still flashing.  It was an icy morning, and the county had delayed the start of school. As I pulled out onto the road, I knew that school was out, but because the lights were flashing, I chose to obey the rules.  I’ll be honest I thought of ignoring it as did many of the cars that passed me, but I was compelled to observe it anyway.  

After I hung up the phone, I thought about that decision and reflected on what the agent had said.  If I had chosen to ignore the law and had been driving faster, the outcome could have been very different. 

Many people chose to ignore the laws, not just traffic but God’s commandments.  Commonly, many people feel that God’s laws are restrictive. Old fashioned and do not pertain to today’s world.  I submit that God’s laws are not restrictive but instead intended for our good. Often we chose to disobey God’s requirements, and in doing so, we find ourselves suffering the consequences of our choices.  God gave us his Word so that we will know how to live our lives in obedience. Being obedient to God may seem difficult or oppressive; however, it is for you to have an abundant and peaceful life.  

Typist for Jesus

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E D I T S

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Philippians 3:12

For the past couple of weeks, I have been going over the edits for the Mustard Seeds, Modern Parables book. What I have learned is that I have no idea how to use a comma, I either have too many or not enough.  

The purpose of editing a manuscript is to make improvements. Tedious, time-consuming, and at times painful but necessary. It is my least favorite part of writing.  

The ultimate goal of the Christian is to become more like Christ, the very image of our savior. It is a life-long process and will only be complete when we stand in the presence of Christ Jesus. Throughout our lives, we undergo a similar exercise of modification. As we grow in Christ, we are continually in situations and trials; these tests are to strengthen our faith and to improve us as Christians.  

For us to become more like Christ, we must be open and willing to undergo the “edits.” 

Typist for Jesus

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We Are to Serve, Not to be Served

For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  Mark 10:45

Mont Saint Michel, Normandy France (picture by Melissa Levi)

As the bus came out of the trees, Mont Saint Michel rose up out of the salt marshes of Normandy. Its spire, like a finger, pointed heavenward. Blue skies with the occasional wisp of white seemed to stretch forever as if nothing existed beyond the abbey.  

I departed the bus and impatiently waited for the next tram. Excitement propelled me as I walked across the causeway to the benedictine abbey. The closer I came, the realization of just how big this feudal structure was became obvious. Once across the path, I entered into a medieval world. Cobbled streets and narrow passageways stretched out. Shops, restaurants, and people filled the island city. Anxious to make sure I made it to the chapel at the top of the abbey, I, along with my daughter and friend, began the arduous climb up the stone steps. 

  The steep stone stairs took us higher, and the view of Normandy was magnificent. The wind whipped and clawed at our clothes as we climbed. Finally, the staircase widened to the courtyard that surrounded the chapel. From the turrets, I stood stretching my eyes to the horizon that melted into the sea. There was peace so high above the world. I entered the chapel and found a pew. I longed for a moment of quiet reflection. 

As I sat in that pew in the stone chapel I thought about the abbey. One of the things that I found to be interesting about Mont Saint Michel is its design in the structural hierarchy of feudal society. On the top, there is God, then the abbey, monastery followed by the great halls. Then storehouses, housing, and on the bottom and outside the walls are the fisherman and farmers’ houses.  

This design places the spiritual leaders and teachers above the rest of the people in the city. There above the commoners and tradesman, the residents of the abbey segregated themselves. It immediately reminded me that Jesus does not want any of us to put ourselves above others. When Jesus came to teach, save, and heal, he did not go to the synagogues, instead, he went to the people. Jesus went to those that needed healing, forgiveness, and encouragement. We cannot influence, encourage, and help unless we are willing to go to those in need.

Getting close to God does not come from building towering chapels and monuments; it comes from focusing on people.

Typist for Jesus

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Seeking the Master

And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. Hebrews 11:6 (ESV)

Vincent Van Gogh’s “The Starry Night over the Rhone”.

On my recent trip to France, I had the pleasure of visiting several museums.  One that I enjoyed a great deal was the Musee D’Orsay. Musee D’Orsay was more contemporary than the Louvre or others.  It had a vast array of artwork from amazing sculptures, such as Rodin’s “Gates of Hell” and notable paintings such as Whistler’s “ Mother”.  Part of the museum’s exhibits was Vincent Van Gogh’s “The Starry Night over the Rhone”.  This painting is one of a series in his nocturnal paintings, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to see it.  

My daughter and I took the stairs to the top floor and using our museum map found our way to the room that housed part of Van Gogh’s collection.  It was easy to find the piece because it was surrounded by people trying to get a photo. I entered the group and as the people peeled off I made my way to the front of the line. Just as I had a clear view I snapped a couple of pictures.  Just as I did so, a man in his early 30’s walked past the group, stepped in front of me and the others that had been waiting and began to examine the painting closely. Starting in the leftmost corner, he leaned close, only inches from the oil canvas.  People began to grumble, and asked him to move, he ignored everyone. The protest became louder and people began to tap his shoulder, he continued his examination. Finally, satisfied, he strolled away and found another painting.  

Later as I sat looking out of the hotel window at the stars on the night’s canvas, I thought about that man.  I wondered if maybe his approach to the painting was really the way it should be done. Just like the other museum guest, I too was more focused on getting the right photo.  Yet, this man did not attempt to photograph any of the artwork as far as I could see, instead, he made sure he spent time with the art. This man did not want a snapshot of the artist’s handiwork, instead, he wanted to take time to seek what message and intent the artist was trying to convey.   

We should be doing the same, seeking God by taking the time to truly study His Word, seek Him through prayer and demonstrate His love to one another. Christianity is not an image to be displayed but rather a life to be lived. Do you take time to seek the Master and His message for you?

Typist for Jesus

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Chaotic Beauty

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. John 14:27 ESV

I wasn’t sure what to expect as I passed through the doorway into a darkened room.  The walls were black and blank. In the center was a cylinder, I passed through it as I explored the dimly lit warehouse space.  Large wooden spools were spaced throughout, my daughter and I found one and waited. As we waited more people began to filter through the door, some like us found seats some milled around. Time passed and the room and mezzanine filled with people.  The lights dimmed and darkness crowded around us. Silence hung motionless as we all waited. Then a blast of music gave me a jolt and brilliant light exploded on the walls. Before me, Vincent Van Gogh’s masterpieces were built and tore down to the music.  The music, like Van Gogh’s work was chaos, a collection of different genres, rock to classical meshed with images of his paintings. Oceans morphed to wheat fields and sun flowers bled into the starry night.

Van Gogh has always been my favorite artist.  He is my favorite because he takes chaos of colors and frenzied brushstrokes and creates beauty. 

Many years ago, my life was chaos, a roller coaster of emotions, disappointments and depression.  However, once I stopped fighting it and relinquished it to Jesus, the chaos that made me feel like I was orbiting earth without a tether, slowed.  Jesus reached into the chaos of my life and it made it beautiful. That is what Jesus does once you give him control, he takes the crazy, the depression, the pain, the fear, anxiety, worry, guilt and shame and he makes it beautiful. That chaos is now a tapestry of beauty.

He can make your chaos beautiful.

Typist for Jesus