Monday, May 25, 2015

Reflections on Psalm 23

Psalm 23, it’s a familiar Psalm. It’s probably one of the first Psalms that many of us memorized. It’s so familiar to us that we say it by wrote. I can still quote it in the King James Version of the Bible. It’s a Psalm that for many, may have lost it’s power due to over exposure. I know it had for me until I had someone walk me through it and show me different aspects of the Psalm that show just exactly how deep this simple Psalm is. I have grown to love the Holman Christian Standard version of this particular one:

A Davidic psalm.

The Lord is my shepherd;
there is nothing I lack.
He lets me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside quiet waters.
He renews my life;
He leads me along the right paths
for His name’s sake.
Even when I go through the darkest valley,
I fear no danger,
for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff—they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Only goodness and faithful love will pursue me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
as long as I live.

There’s just something about how the HCSB translation that hit me with meaning. Some if it we already know, like that the Lord is our Shepherd. Not only does this passage just tell us that He is our Shepherd, but it tells us how.
The Lord is my shepherd;
there is nothing I lack.

He provides all we need. I love the phrase in here “there is nothing I lack”. We can have total, absolute assurance that we will be provided for.
He lets me lie down in green pastures;

I know that deer love green pastures to lay down in. When we’d go to my father’s best friends place in the country, walking around in area’s that don’t have much human traffic, you see deer beds and deer paths. I imagine it’s very similar for sheep. The green pastures not only mean food, but a soft place to rest, a cool place to rest. He LETS us have this blessing.
He leads me beside quiet waters

Still waters run deep. He leads us to a place where we can get our fill of living water. When we rely on God, and trust and believe in God, we have living water given abundantly to us. Verse two, as a whole shows the caretaker side of God. Instead of leading us to sparse pastures and little streams of water, we are lead to abundance. We are provided for not just a little, but a lot.
He renews my life;

The green pastures and the still waters are refreshing-renewing to us. He is constantly leading us to be renewed, whether it’s in our spiritual life, physical life, family life, or any aspect of us. When we let God work, he will renew our lives. He’ll make them fresh again.
He leads me along the right paths
for His name’s sake.

We are not lead astray. We are not lead wrong. We are lead down the paths that He knows we need to go. As Christians, everything that we do is to be for God’s glory. When we rely on God, He will make sure that the path we are on is the exact path we need for our lives. For everything on that path will lead to God’s glory.
Even when I go through the darkest valley,
I fear no danger,
for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff—they comfort me.

This is probably one of my favorite parts of this Psalm. Tough times will come. No one is immune to them. We have all been through them, but He is our protector. The KJV says it like this “Yeah though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me.” We know that God is with us. He won’t leave us. We are only in danger in the darkest places when we stray from God. If we keep focused on Him, we have nothing to fear. No danger, no evil, nothing at all. The Rod and staff of the shepherd were not only for the protection of the sheep from predators, but tools used to keep the sheep from leaving the flock.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.

We live among enemies. We fight against enemies. They may not be a person, or people group. They could be our thoughts, our tendencies, anything that we can let come between us and God. He won’t put anything between us, but we can let the world influence what we do, how we think, how we process information. The world will give us biases that can be harmful to our relationship with God. But God has anointed us. He has marked us (for lack of a better analogy) as His. We are set apart from the world when we are His.
Only goodness and faithful love will pursue me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
as long as I live.

The Shepherd looks after the sheep. He keeps his eyes on the flock. One way that God keeps us on the right path is by pursuing us, and He is 100% good and 100% faithful love.
There is a lot of attention, love, guidance and trust that goes into the relationship of a shepherd to the sheep. This Psalm shows us that we can depend on all of those from God, even when things are the darkest, even when the enemy is trying to burst in and overtake us. If we rely on God, just as a sheep relies on the shepherd, then we can have a life full of blessing, and void of fear. I know I have a ways to go with the void of fear part. I know I don’t rely on God for everything. I tend to worry. David had it right with this Psalm. Trust God. He will provide for us, bless us, protect us, pursue us and keep us with Him always.

Friday, April 3, 2015

And Who is My Neighbor?

Over the last 5 or 6 months, there has been a lot of things happening all around me. A lot of things that I have had no control over, a lot of things that I haven't been shy about talking about. Most of it being asking for prayer, and living with a great and terrible daily concern and even fear. But even overall, wanting to know what I, as just one person, can do to help. Through everything that my (former) city has been through, one story has been paramount in my mind. One teaching of Jesus that has stuck out over all. I've always been able to explain it, but have never really put it into practice on a daily level before this last year. I always think of the parable of the Good Samaritan.

In the book of Luke, a lawyer tries to tempt Jesus by asking Him which was the great commandment. I love how Jesus replies.

25 And a lawyer stood up and put Him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 And He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How does it read to you?” 27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And He said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this and you will live.” 29 But wishing to justify himself, he said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” ”
~ Luke 10:25-29

I love that question: “who is my neighbor?” Who am I to love?

In typical Jesus teaching, we get a great story with a huge moral. To understand how powerful the story is, we do need to understand some of the relationship between the Jews and the Samaritans. There was a lot of hatred and animosity between the two people groups that bible.org states started back when the remnant of 43,000 returned to Israel after being exiled, and has festered ever since. It's an ethnic/racial divide among people who live not far from each other. Neither group wanted to have much to do with the other, and Jewish travelers would often go out of their way to go around Samaria instead of the shorter way of going through Samaria. I can think of a few places that this takes place now, and some in our own country-as devastating as that is. Jesus gives us the story of the Good Samaritan.

30 Jesus replied and said, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among robbers, and they stripped him and beat him, and went away leaving him half dead. 31 And by chance a priest was going down on that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 Likewise a Levite also, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion, 34 and came to him and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 On the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper and said, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I return I will repay you.’ 36 Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers’ hands?” 37 And he said, “The one who showed mercy toward him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do the same.”
~ Luke 10:30-37

Jesus is telling us a few things here: Don't be like the priest or the Levite, help someone in need when you have the ability to, even if it's not what you'd deem “enough” still help, help with no regard to who the person is. Love all. Period. End of discussion. Cross the boundaries that have kept us in chains with whom we help. It doesn't matter if they are Bill Gates, or the homeless man holding a sign. If we have the ability to help in their time of need, we are to help. We are to “go and do the same”. Show mercy. Be tender hearted. Be willing to love. Help rebuild a burnt down city. Help comfort a woman who's business was ruined by hatred. Let children know there is still a reason to smile. Use the talents that God has given you to pass on His love with out expectation of anything in return. We may be giving like the widow with her two mites, out of our need to honor God, but His blessings are immeasurable when we give.


When I read this story, I see all of this. I truly do. The man who was the neighbor to the man robbed was simply “the one who showed him mercy”. Have I shown mercy today? Do I show mercy often? I pray that we all learn to love like this. I know I need work with this topic myself

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Rebuilding Ferguson

I have been unusually silent for me recently. I've been taking in all of the events that have been happening in Ferguson MO. Having riots and looters in my city has put me on edge, and the last few weeks have been surreal for us here. The events that have occurred happen in other cities, or countries, and not in my own back yard. I see the national news segments from my city and sit in disbelief that this is where I live. This is my home. The Walmart that was looted, I worked there for seven years. I still have friends in that store. To me, it's personal, but I refuse to return hatred for hatred. For when we do that, we don't work out the underlying issues and the problems that need to come to light and be resolved. I chose, instead, to find ways to help rebuild. I've done searches to see what's being done to rebuild my city, and I have come up with few things that are being done. I may be missing ways to help my community, I'm still looking.

Here's what I've found so far:

First Baptist Church in Ferguson has been collecting donations for different things. The most recent, which I believe ends tomorrow, is collecting cleaning supplies to make buckets for the businesses that have been looted.

Ferguson Church of the Nazarene is collecting medium sized teddy bears to hand out for "Because we care" teddy bear and children's bibles. They are collecting from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays until September 5th and will distribute them September 6th. If you want to donate teddy bears, they can be dropped off at the church office. The church is located at 1309 North Elizabeth Avenue in Ferguson.

The St Louis food bank is also accepting donations for Feed Ferguson. There is information on the front page of the site for where to donate and what they are looking for.

I have also liked the group I Love Ferguson on facebook. This group has yard signs that I have seen all over in the city (I have one in my yard) that say I Love Ferguson, and are selling shirts that say I <3 Ferg and Ferguson Strong. the proceeds of the shirts go to the Ferguson Youth Initiative and the signs are for a donation. When I was running errands with my mother today, in about a 2 mile stretch, we saw at least 75 yard signs, and that's just in a small part of the city. They also have a web site that will give you the events they are doing.




These are just what I have seen so far. I will be keeping my eyes out for anything else that pops up where we can help with restoring and rebuilding our community. If you haven't gotten involved, please think and pray about helping out. If you should find other ways, please let me know.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

I've had a lot of practice with Phil 4:11-13 the last few weeks. I told my father that I think God is still trying to teach me that I can rely on Him, through everything, even when I don’t know what to do. My word for the year (one of them anyway) is contentment. I struggle with that. I see things that other people have that I've dreamed of having and I don’t think it’s fair that I haven’t experienced those same things yet. That’s how my mentality has been, especially when it comes to having a family of my own. I think that, then I laugh. I do have a family of my own, just not a husband and children. I have my parents, my siblings and siblings in law, plus my nieces and nephews that love me deeply and dearly. I've taken a look recently at some things that I have gone through in the past and I see how things would have been different. If I would be married with my own children, I would not have been able to do things like keep my sister’s kids when her second set of twins were born 10 weeks early and through the death of my niece-one of those twins, or being there to help take care of my father after he had his total knee replacement. Those are just two of the things that I would not have been able to do if life had turned out the way that I had planned. Then with everything with my recent car accident and car itself, God was once again hitting me in the head with a brick to get my attention. I see just how much relying on God to get me through and give me peace is so important. I have been learning the secret Paul had to his contentment. I am learning that the more I trust God and let Him work, the more peace that passes understanding I have. The more I am good with where I am in life. I know that it’s not all about me, and that’s odd to say because it’s my life. It’s about learning to grab a hold of the anchor in the storm, to be firmly planted on a stead fast rock, to not be moved. 
Natalie Grant has a song that’s been out for a while on this topic, and I've kind of adopted it as my life’s theme song. The song is “I will not be moved” and it’s me TO A T!

I have been the wayward child 
I have acted out 
I have questioned Sovereignty 
And had my share of doubt 
And though sometimes my prayers feel like 
They’re bouncing off the sky 
The hand I hold won’t let me go 
And is the reason why…
Chorus: 
I will stumble 
I will fall down 
But I will not be moved 
I will make mistakes 
I will face heartache 
But I will not be moved 
On Christ the Solid Rock I stand
All other ground is sinking sand 
I will not be moved
Bitterness has plagued my heart 
Many times before 
My life has been like broken glass 
And I have kept the score 
Of all my shattered dreams and though it seemed 
That I was far too gone 
My brokenness helped me to see 
It’s grace I’m standing on
Chorus
And the chaos in my life 
Has been a badge I’ve worn 
Though I have been torn 
I will not be moved
Chorus

Here’s the link to the lyrics and video

Friday, September 13, 2013

Three Things Single Women Should Know

After a two month hiatus I'm finally back writing. Not long after my last post my mother ended up in the hospital twice in as many weeks. One of those times was because she had another stroke. We were lucky with that...again. This stroke it almost seemed that her reset button was hit. She's not like she was before her first stroke, but she's better. After that few week period, I just didn't get back on to write, but God has laid on my heart something that I want to get out.

Recently I pre-ordered the book Women Living Well by Courtney Joseph and received 10 free ebooks (to learn more about this book and the gifts you can go here). One of the ebooks is Single Girl by Ashley Schnarr. I haven't read much of it yet, in fact I'm only in the first chapter but I have understood somethings already by just skimming through some of the book. I have come to the conclusion of three things that I believe every single woman needs to know and they all tie in together.

1: Marriage won't complete you. You can be just as lonely in a marriage as you can being single. Marriage isn't the answer to all our problems. If we want to be complete then we need to turn to God. God is the only One who can make us complete, no matter if we are single, married, have children or are childless. He's our completion whether we are 18 and full of curiosity about the world or the wizened old age of 90. That will never change.

2: People can put pressure on us to marry, even when they don't realize it. Don't listen. The only one that we need to worry about listening to and attuning ourselves to is, you guessed it, God. Being single is not wrong or sinful. Not everyone will marry. Not everyone is supposed to. I know it's hard when all you want is to have a husband to love and children to raise. I know what it's like to stare that dream in the eye and wonder if it will ever come true. God's timing, and His plan are greater than our wants. Sometimes that means giving up our deepest earthly desires. Remember though to "Delight yourself in the Lord; And He will give you the desires of your heart" Psalms 37:4. When we do, we might be surprised at what our hearts desire truly is for it may not be marriage but to know God more.

3: Be content no matter what by focusing on God. Having contentment has nothing to do with the situation we are in or what is going on around us. Contentment is found fully in focusing and relying on God. Philippians 4:11-13 gives us the secret: We can be content because Christ give us the strength for it. Proverbs 3:5, 6 also tells us how: "Trust in the Lord with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight." Contentment is really a choice, just like joy. We can chose to trust God and lean on Him to give us the means to be content, or we can rely on ourselves and end up miserable.

Truly though, all three of these can boil down to one thing: focus on God. I know I struggle with this at times. I focus on myself, my job situation, my family's health, my wants and desires. I have found when I am most miserable is when my focus shifts from God to me. I'm most at peace when I keep focused on God.

Just a few thoughts and encouragement for us women for I know I need it too.

~Jo

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Doing Something Different

I did something strange today. Well, at least strange for me. I read the sports section of the newspaper. I've never been a huge sports fan. I generally let others tell me what's happening in the world of sports with our local pro sports teams, but lately, I've been following the St Louis Cardinals very closely. I've always liked the Cardinals. I enjoy going to the games, though I rarely do. I've always rooted for them to win, but hadn't closely paid attention to them unless they were in a championship series. At that point I would become glued to the t.v. or computer to keep up with the Red Birds. This season, however, I have changed. I have become a Cardinals fanatic. I can't always watch the games, or keep tabs on them, but I never miss the highlights that mlb.com has. I've watched the emergence of Matt Carpenter and Allen Craig who are 2 of the 6 Birds in the All Star game. I have groaned with the fans when Mitchell Boggs went from great closer to being traded after not performing, and watched the rise of the Chief: Edward Mujica. I even made it a point to go to a game this year (it had been 5 years since I had been to a game mainly because I won't go alone). I got tickets for my father and I to go to Christian Day at the Ball Park on July 7th and we both had a blast. I loved watching our guys play, and win, against the Marlins. I even got to get some decent pictures of some of my favorite players. The more I watch the Red Birds, and the more I learn about the players, the more respect I have for not only the guys, but the organization in general. They are a group of men who give back to the community. They love this city and love to play for us. There is even a strong Christian presence on the team from the up and coming players such as Trevor Rosenthal to the ace pitcher Adam Wainwright to the manager himself Mike Matheny. There have been many ups and downs with this club. There has also been some speculation in the past that they wouldn't be as great of a club with loosing two key people. One thing that I have learned from them is to never count them out until the game is over. I saw that last year after Albert Pujols and Tony La Russa left the team. A lot of people thought we wouldn't get as far as we did with out them.
Yes, I am a Cardinals fan. I love my team, I respect the guys, but most of all I have learned some life lessons from them: don't be ashamed of who I am and never give up.





Sunday, June 30, 2013

I am Aunt Jojo

Taped to the top of my desk at home I have a picture my nephew drew me. My sister has 5 kids, 2 daughters and 3 sons. They are always making pictures and drawing scenes for my parents, but rarely do they do that for me. My 6 year old nephew and my 7 year old niece do though. I came home from work one day to a picture in my recliner and a strong recommendation from my mother to let my nephew know that Aunt Jojo did indeed received his picture. Apparently he was afraid that I wouldn't get it and told my mother several times to make sure she gave it to me. I taped it to my desk so that every time I look at my desk (which is a lot) I am reminded that though I am not Nana, Bupbup (my father) or my nephew's parents I am still special to this special little boy. Every time I look at it I smile and know that I am loved by a child- not just him though, all of his siblings. I just don't get the pictures that my parents do. I do, however, have 4 children run at me full speed when they see me. The youngest is not yet at the age where he can do that with all the others. I am reminded every time I look at not only this picture, but one his sister gave me, that they love having me around. This is a different type of love, a special love, between an aunt and her nieces and nephews. I have a special bond with all of them, though my 7 year old niece is attached to my hip when I'm around. I love this reminder I have from my nephew. It helps to ward off my "woe is me" moments when I want to feel sorry for myself that I am not a wife and mother. I am something different and unique. I am Aunt Jojo.

"I love you Jojo you are very special to me I love Jojo"