Posted by Lisa Lewis Koster - - 2 comments



Several years ago, while busying myself with other things, I listened to a sitcom that I’d never seen before (and haven't watched since). It featured the dysfunctional family typically found on television these days, with one exception: this family attended church. The mother has been a part of the church choir for seventeen years, and for seventeen years she took a back seat as "the chosen one" sang the lead at the Christmas Eve service. This year "the chosen one" was unable to perform, giving the mother a chance at the part she’s always wanted. The dilemma was she couldn’t put the extra time into choir practice when there were so many preparations to be made for Christmas.

Enter TV's typical, inept father. Not working for the holidays, he offered to take care of ALL the Christmas preparations so his wife could focus on her singing. Of course, every time he completed a task, his wife would say, “I can’t believe you did that without me! That was my favorite part!” Each of these statements was then followed by a flashback of her begrudgingly doing the task and complaining about her family’s lack of participation. 

Oh, how our minds like to improve on the past! I wonder if that’s how the mind of Lot’s wife worked. She was told to leave Sodom and begrudgingly did, but she “looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.” (Genesis 19:26) Rather than focusing on the blessings of that moment, she looked back to mourn what she had left behind. I’m sure her memories, too, were far better than the reality they represented.

How about you? Are you nurturing idealized memories that cannot possibly be lived up to?

The show concluded at the Christmas Eve service, the choir dressed in their robes, standing in the front of the church.  Breaking the serenity of the scene was the mother shooing people out of the front row seats that she was saving for her family. Meanwhile, the father had just awakened after dozing in front of the TV and was frantically trying to get the family into the car so they could get to church. They arrived just as the mother was starting her solo. She was singing the words to the Christmas hymn while simultaneously shooting daggers at her disheveled family as they attempted to sneak into the back row.

Again, the blessings of that moment they were lost because her focus was elsewhere. This mother had waited seventeen years for this solo, and yet she did not enjoy it because she was instead focused on what wasn’t going her way. How often do we do that? We physically go through the motions while our heart is elsewhere.

Do you look for the blessings in the moment, ever present even if not immediately recognizable? Or are your expectations far greater than reality could ever be? 

"And now, O Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the LORD's commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?" (Deuteronomy 10:12-13)

God doesn't want us just going through the motions, He wants us to love and serve Him with all our heart. Remember, God is far more concerned with our presence than our presents. This holiday season, may your focus be fixed firmly on His presence so you may fully enjoy the blessings He brings.

Father, during this busy Christmas season, help me to keep my focus where it should be - on You and on the precious gift of Your Son. I want to have an undivided heart so that I may love serve You fully and in a way pleasing to You. 

Lisa



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Posted by Lisa Lewis Koster - - 14 comments

In honor of what would have been her birthday here on earth, I wanted to re-share the story of one who finished strong.


Photo courtesy of  caregivingclub.com

Growing up, I can remember wanting to be an Olympian. Every 4 years when the Olympics rolled around my sisters and I would set up our own "games." (As a parent, I shudder to think of the 2x4 lying precariously between two ladders, which served as our "balance beam." It even had a door knob hole cut out of it!) At the root of it all, I think I just wanted to be really good at something, and an Olympic athlete symbolized the best of the best. 

In my previous post we learned (from a lecture given by Ray Vander Laan) that the Olympic Games accompanied the emperor Domitian's declaration that he was god; and we saw how John structured the Book of Revelation to parallel these ancient games. 


Photo courtesy of openlettersmonthly.com
It sounds to me like this Domitian, who considered himself a god, was quite a piece of work. He was an out of shape, couch potato-type guy, and not what you would consider good looking either. Yet interestingly, the older he became and the worse he looked, the younger and more virile his image was portrayed in statues and coins.  Hmmmm.

It's unlikely that Domitian ever ran a race himself, yet he would kill athletes who didn’t perform to his satisfaction.  

KILL them.

What a contrast he is to Jesus! Jesus really was God, yet He doesn't call us to run a race He hasn't already run. We deserved death, yet He died in our place to pay for our sins. 

"Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us." ~ Hebrews 12:1

If those Domitian called to run a race were Olympians, doesn't it stand to reason that those whom the One True God calls to run the race would be the true Olympians?

I AM AN OLYMPIAN!  SO ARE YOU!

Now think about how hard you would train if you were chosen to participate in the Olympic Games.  Wouldn't you give everything you had?  You certainly wouldn’t quit before you reached the finish line.  So why do we do that in the Christian faith?  We're competing for God's team! Christianity isn’t a stroll in the park or a day at the beach.  We should be flat out, all out, all the time! So why is it that we so often coast? 

God doesn’t ask that you win the race. If He called us to win, there would only be one winner and it would probably not be me. Or you, for that matter. What God asks is that you to finish the race!  He calls you to run with perseverance the race mapped out for you.  Do you want to stand in front of God one day and admit to him that you didn’t give it all?  We need to make Jesus the center of everything we do, all the time!  God wants us to run with intensity!  He doesn’t want joggers, He doesn’t want us to merely run for a while, He wants us to finish, and finish strong!

Hebrews 11 lists the great heroes of the faith, and chapter 12 begins, “since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses.”  The Greek word nephos describes clouds in the sky, but back in that day in was also used to describe the highest seats in the bleachers of a stadium because they were so far up from the ground. This gives us a picture of a stadium whose bleachers are filled to the brim with people who have run the race before us. 

“Never again will they hunger, never again will they thirst.  The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat.  For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water.  And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”  ~ Revelation 7:16-17


Last week, Bob's Aunt Sue took her place in the stadium. To me, she is the epitome of finishing strong. Though she battled Multiple Sclerosis for over thirty years and was well-acquainted with life in a wheelchair, she seemed anything but confined. She was fun-loving, spunky and had a wonderful sense of humor. Most of all, she loved Jesus and introduced Him to everyone she encountered. It may sound odd to say she went to be with her Jesus, that is unless you knew her. Then it would make perfect sense because He was such a big part of her life and she was so intimately acquainted with Him. Her sentences were punctuated with "Thank you Jesus!" and you could tell that she wasn't talking to you, she was talking to Him, praising Him for even the smallest things.

We heard last Tuesday evening that she was moving to a local hospice, so Bob stopped by Wednesday morning to see her. When he saw the empty room, he knew what that meant. Heartbroken, he asked God for something. He didn't know what, just something. As he went to leave the hospice, this is what he saw:




At the funeral today, before Bob had the opportunity to share this photo with anyone, the pastor said he could picture Sue, with her hands held up to meet her Jesus.

These words from Rick Renner could have been written about Aunt Sue. Perhaps they describe someone you know as well: "She faced the impossible, she accomplished the unthinkable, and she stands as proof that you can make it too. As a witness, she's watching and cheering you on to victory! Just listen with the ears of faith, and you’ll hear her saying, “Go for it! You can do it! Your faith will carry you through!” 

Jesus, we are so thankful that through you we have forgivess and that this life is not all there is to our existence. Thank you for the assurance that You will wipe away every tear from our eyes and restore the years the locust ate. Thank you for healing and wholeness, rest and restoration, and the picture of those we love cheering us on as we run the race marked out for us. May we all run hard and finish strong.


Lisa

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Posted by Lisa Lewis Koster - - 10 comments

This may just be my year to be on top of the yard work!  (My husband will tell you I say this every spring, but I really think this year might be the one!) As I was raking leaves and pulling weeds I couldn't help but remember my sweet companion of fifteen years, Daisy. Come with me to revisit one of my fond memories of my faithful sidekick... 

I was working behind our house the other day, while heavy equipment was doing major construction next door. At one point I thought, "Wow, it sounds like they're right in my front yard!" When I finished what I was doing, I went around to investigate the racket that continued in front of the house.

There was my "faithful sidekick," Daisy "the wonder-dog." She was doing her best to capture one of the pesky little chipmunks that burrow in our yard. Unfortunately, she was doing it in my flower bed. My plants were trampled as only an excited dog on a mission can do; they were even dug up in the spots where she'd become extra-zealous. Then the drainpipe caught my eye. . .

Evidently, the chipmunk thought this would be a good escape route and scampered up it to get to the roof. Daisy, however, was on a mission and would not be easily dissuaded. The "construction" noise was actually the sound of "destruction" as the drainpipe banged against the house. Daisy obviously put great effort into her work, because by the time I got there she was on her hind legs, reaching up as high as she could. The drainpipe was flatened, twisted, and full of holes where she'd tried to take a bite out of the little critter. I'm sure the chipmunk had a great show looking down from the safety of his rooftop vantage point.

Daisy had good intentions. She probably thought she was being helpful, attempting to relieve us of one of those pesky chipmunks. Unfortunately, the result wasn't so good: a torn up flower bed, a crumpled drain pipe and a dirty dog. This made me wonder, "How often do my efforts look like this to God?" I always serve Him with the best of intentions, but if I plow ahead with my plans rather than ask God what He would like me to do, how often do I leave a mess rather than anything of value?

Before I rush off to "do" something for God, I need to ask Him if it's something He would like me to do. Just because I know how God has gifted me doesn't mean I know how He wants me to use those gifts. How often have I expended much effort only to discover that's not what He had in mind for me at all? Think of all the work it would have saved me, if only Daisy could've asked about chasing the chipmunk...

"I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands." Psalm 119:10

Father, forgive me for the times I've rushed off to do things for you without consulting you first. Help me to always seek you before I act so that I can be productive for you.


Lisa



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Posted by Lisa Lewis Koster - - 17 comments



I saw your picture today.

It made me sad.

And you know why. 

Whether you admit it or not; 

You.

Know.

Why.


You got what you wanted,

but I have to ask, 

"Was it worth it?"

I have to ask.

Because it cost me.


You may not think it was much.

But it cost me a lot.

Maybe too much.

And that's on me.


I have to ask,

"Was it worth it?"

Because, you see, 

It.

Cost.

You. 

Too.


Maybe you already know that.

Maybe you already know. 

Maybe you've felt the consequences.


Or maybe you haven't.


But it did cost you.

How much?

More than you think.


Much, 

Much, 

More.


You didn't say anything.

You just did it.

And still didn't say anything.

And haven't.


Which says a lot.

About you.

And your integrity.


Or.

Lack.

Thereof.


But I take comfort in this:


"A good name is better than fine perfume..."

and

"Frustration is better than laughter,

Because a sad face is good for the heart.

The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning

but the heart of fools is in the house of pleasure."

Ecclesiastes 7:1, 3-4




Yes, these words give me comfort,

But they also cause me sorrow.

Great sorrow.

Because I wonder,

"How often is it me?"


How often is it my picture, 

That makes someone sad.

How often have I been the one,

to hurt another,

with my actions?

Or with my words?

And I didn't say anything.


Because I was ashamed.

Because I was afraid.

Because I was proud.

Because I just didn't know.


If that's the case.

If it was me.

I just want to say, 

I'm so sorry.


Because we don't always know.

But that doesn't make it hurt any less.

And that doesn't make it okay.


Maybe that's why God says, 


"Be completely humble and gentle;

Be patient, 

Bearing with one another in love."

Ephesians 4:2

Lisa



I have been known to link up with: Make Your Home Sing Monday, Monday's Musings Inspire Me Monday, Sharing His BeautyLiving Proverbs 31Unite, Soli Deo Gloria, Tell Me a Story,  Titus 2sdaysWorks For Me Wednesdays, #TellHisStoryA Little R and RWoman to WomanChoosing Him,  WholeHearted WednesdayWedded WednesdayCoffee and ConversationFrom House to HomeSo Much at HomeThursday Favorite ThingsThriving ThursdayFriendship FridayFaith Filled FridayBest Blog Post Ever,  Make My Saturday SweetStill SaturdayMissional WeekendSpiritual SundayThe Weekend Brew
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Posted by Lisa Lewis Koster - - 13 comments

Earlier this week I had the privelege of sharing a message about courage (featuring my scaredy cat*) with a local MOPS group. I told of my rising stress level as I went to bed that first night (and subsequent nights) with a strange (to me) cat loose in my house, not knowing what condition I would find my home in come morning.

I relayed the fact that it was day three of a scaredy cat on the loose before I came to the realization that God is in control of all things. Before you start thinking this isn't a newsflash I have to ask you a question: Do you say you believe God is in control of all things, or do you actually live as if God is in control of all things?

As with most things, it's easier said than done, isn't it? 

"As I have purposed, so it will be; as I have planned it, so it will happen." ~ Isaiah 14:24

The truth is, if I was living out my belief that God is in control I wouldn't be worrying or feeling out of control, would I? Because He is in control there can only be two sources for anything:
  • God caused it.
  • God allowed it. 

Either way, the Bible tells us that God can use everything that happens to believers for our benefit, whether it happens to appear to be beneficial or not. Whether He ever reveals to us the benefit or not.


"We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose." ~ Romans 8:28

I know this.

I believe this.

So why is it that the very day I gave this message I found myself worrying? 

I've been having some success at my attempts to catch up, necessary since in the past several years I seem to have fallen behind on pretty much everything. This included sending in my knives to be sharpened - something long overdue. Finally, two weeks ago I called a demonstrator who came over and helped me pack them up to be shipped. The following day my husband took charge of our grandsons for a few minutes so I could make it to the post office in the small window of time when they're actually open.

I did the responsible thing and paid the extra fee for insurance, feeling the satisfaction of one less thing on my to-do list. The demonstrator said it would take a couple weeks for the sharpened knives to be returned, so I didn't think much more about it - at least until after I had given my message. I realized it had been a couple weeks and I thought I should check and make sure they actually arrived at their intended destination. 

I couldn't, because I couldn't find my receipt.

I'm pretty organized, as evidenced by the fact that when it came time to pack up the knives I readily located the original cardboard sheaths they arrived in over a decade ago. Yet the receipt from just two weeks ago was not to be found - not in my purse, nor in my car, nor where I normally keep them. Nowhere.

Perhaps this was a reminder that, while I'm not where I should be when it comes to worry, neither am I where I had been. Rather than spending every waking moment consumed with locating the receipt, as I was known to do in the past, I was able to let it go after my cursory search.

I think perspective has a lot to do with it. While I would not want to have to come up with the money to replace the knives, I was able to look away from the here and now and instead focus in on the bigger picture. I realized that, while this looked like a problem in the moment, in the scheme of all eternity this wasn't even a blip on the radar. It just goes to show that a small change - in this case pulling back to look at the greater scheme of things - can make a big difference!

What are you worrying about today? Perhaps it would help you let it go if you asked yourself these questions:

     - Is there anything I can actually do about the situation?

     - How important is this in the scheme of all eternity?

"Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." ~ Matthew 6:34

Epilogue: The day after I gave up my search I received an email informing me that my sharpened knives were on their way back to me and today they arrived! I so glad I didn't waste any more time worrying than I already had!



Lisa

* I am pleased to report that while I still have a cat in my basement, I am no longer stressed out about it. For those of you keeping tabs, as of the date this post was published this cat has been holed up in my basement for 4 months, 3 weeks and 1 day. Cat whisperers are encouraged to leave suggestions in my comment section ;)

I have been known to link up with: Make Your Home Sing Monday Inspire Me Monday, Sharing His Beauty, Living Proverbs 31Unite, Soli Deo Gloria, Tell Me a Story,  Titus 2sdaysWorks For Me Wednesdays, #TellHisStoryA Little R and RWoman to WomanChoosing Him,  WholeHearted WednesdayWedded WednesdayCoffee and ConversationFrom House to HomeSo Much at HomeThursday Favorite ThingsThriving ThursdayFriendship FridayFaith Filled FridayBest Blog Post Ever,  Make My Saturday Sweet, Still Saturday, Missional WeekendSpiritual SundayThe Weekend Brew
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Posted by Lisa Lewis Koster - - 8 comments

As I mentioned in my previous post, I'm learning that having things less than perfect is not the end of the world. Still, I am a "detail person," so if something is even a little bit off, I notice; and there are circumstances where this is not a bad thing!
A few years ago, for example, I wanted to mail out a sympathy card. I was down to my last stamp, and thank goodness I looked at it before sticking in on the envelope!

Perhaps someone less observant wouldn't even notice the stamp on the envelope, but is it worth it taking a chance that someone in need of a sympathy card would first read the message, "That's all Folks!"?

I think not!

So I headed into "town" to purchase some more generic-looking stamps.

I use the term "town" loosely. I often joke I live in Mayberry, but in reality the place where I live in is much smaller. We do have a post office, which I'm very grateful for, but they don't deliver mail and it's not easy to patronize. It has only one parking spot; a handicapped accessible one which really isn't accessible to anyone. It runs parallel to the front of the building, positioned in such a way that makes it next to impossible for anyone to park there or on the little bit of driveway next to it. (Obviously they did not consult me when it came to parking!) To make the inaccessibility complete, they're only open between the hours of 10 and 2. 



This past Christmas we received our first card the day after Thanksgiving! 

Yes, evidently there are some people that on top of things. 

No, I am not one of them. (And I'm okay with that.) Remember, I'm learning to cut myself some slack! (Perhaps you didn't mail out any Christmas cards. It's okay; you should cut yourself some slack too!) 

It was the week prior to the holiday before I managed to get to the post office within the limited time frame, ready to buy Christmas stamps and mail my cards. Much to my chagrin there were no Christmas stamps to be had {sigh} either time I visited. Now, being the lover of order that I am, Batman stamps were not my first choice for Christmas card postage - I was thinking more along the lines of the nativity or even a wreath or something - but in the end Batman is what I opted for. My reasoning (99% of the time there's a reason I do what I do) was twofold; first, I knew if nothing else, my grandsons would like them, and second, Batman will help out Wycliffe Bible Translators. (Wycliffe collects used postage stamps and sells them to fund Bible translation, but there's only a market for the limited issue stamps, not flags and such.)

At one time, Batman stamps on my Christmas cards would have been totally unacceptable, but today I find it humorous. I mean, where else but "Mayberry" would the post office not have Christmas stamps at Christmas? No, I actually consider the Batman stamps a mark of victory! I mean really, what is a Batman stamp on a Christmas card in the scheme of all eternity


Not that I...have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. ~ Philippians 3:12

Hey, this girl is learning to cut herself some slack!

Lisa


If you'd like to help support Wycliffe Bible Translators, collect your cancelled commemorative stamps and mail them to:

Wycliffe Associates Stamp Ministry
P.O. Box 620143
Orlando, FL 32862
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