Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Be Kind (Number 43 in a series)

“Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and railing, be put away from you, with all malice: and be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, even as God also in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:31-32 (American Standard Version)

As my mother’s dementia deepens, she is increasingly argumentative and demanding. She “sees” things and people and gets quite upset when we tell her there isn’t anything or anyone there. She has trouble completing sentences.

Verse 31 of Ephesians 4 is almost a litany of her behavior: bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, railing and malice. Not much that I do is right, according to her evaluation. Her pillows are too high, then too low. The room is too cold, then too hot. Her clothes are too big or too tight. And so the day passes.

As she goes on and on, the temptation is to respond in kind, to stand up to her and give her as good as she gives me. I am ashamed to say that there are moments when I yield to the temptation and hear myself scolding back at her, considerably louder than I ought to address her.

Then I remember the verse that was so often a memory verse: “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.” The King James Version was the one we used back when I was a Sunday School child. Ephesians 4:32 pops into my head and I remember I should be tenderhearted toward the stranger who now inhabits my mother’s body.

There are two important parts to that verse. The first is clear; we should be kind to each other. The second part is equally clear and equally important. Forgive as we have been forgiven. Oops.

There are times when I am full of those verse 31 feelings, too. I am angry that my mother is in such a condition and I am helpless against it. I clamor about the unfairness of being laid off at my age and how useless I feel to be unemployed. Yet God, through the love He bears His Son, forgives me those unkind feelings. How can I do less for my mother?

Take time to be kind to someone today, someone who doesn’t seem to deserve your kindness. I can promise you they need it. Just as you have received the kindness of God’s forgiveness because you needed it.

Father, we thank You for Your great kindness which You give to us through Christ Jesus. Help us to pass the kindness along to others, and to forgive as we have been forgiven.

© 2009 Mary Beth Magee

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Giving Thanks (Number 42 in a series)

“Give thanks unto the LORD, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the people. Sing unto him, sing psalms unto him, talk ye of all his wondrous works. Glory ye in his holy name: let the heart of them rejoice that seek the LORD. Seek the LORD and his strength, seek his face continually. Remember his marvellous works that he hath done, his wonders, and the judgments of his mouth.” 1 Chronicles 16: 8-12 (KJV)

Autumn is upon us. We’ve eaten from the bounty of our garden all summer long. Now production is slowing to a stop on the beans and tomatoes. The cucumbers have been gone for a few weeks.

The trees are beginning to show swatches of fall color and the foothills look quite festive as leaves prepare to take a dive. “Up the hill,” as the locals say, Apple Hill is gearing up for the holiday season. The orchards are heavy with apples and other fruit. The Christmas tree farms are primping for the anticipated crowds. Crafters are setting up their booths in preparation of holiday shoppers.

As we shift gears toward winter, the time is perfect for observing David’s instructions as recorded in 1 Chronicles. Although we have another month before the formal observance of Thanksgiving, it’s not too early to begin giving thanks and honoring God for all He has done.

The past year has been filled with trials and problems. Through it all, God has been faithful to keep us in His loving protection. Whatever comes, we face it through the filter of God’s love and leaning on His strength.

Enjoy the beauty of fall. Be filled with the sumptuous banquet provided to our senses. What are you most thankful for this year? What do you most appreciate of God’s creation? Remember to say “Thank You” to the Author of the story of creation.

Father, You give us so much every day. Keep us filled with gratitude for Your gracious bounty. Thank You for Your faithful care.

© 2009 Mary Beth Magee

Friday, October 23, 2009

One Door - a devotion (Number 41 in a series)

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock: if any man hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” Revelation 3:20 (American Standard Version)

Some days, Jesus taps lightly at the door of my heart, making Himself available to me but not being pushy. More a reminder of His presence than a demand for entry, His is the knock of a well-loved friend. As I rush to open the door and enter His presence, I rejoice that He would take the time to call on me, to share my day.

There are other days when I hear Jesus knocking at the door so clearly I could think it a physical barricade. Desirous of sharing my company, He is persistent in His quest. When I feel most pulled in a dozen directions by life, I could almost call out “Go away, I don’t have time to come to the door right now.” In my frustration, I consider sending Him away like an unwanted door-to-door salesperson.

Ironically, those are the days I need His fellowship most. Those terrible times when nothing is going right and I feel least lovable are the times He can show me His power most clearly, He can ease my burden most dramatically. Praise God that He doesn’t let my disarray dissuade Him from wanting me.

The odd thing is - it’s the same door. Whether I hang a beautiful wreath and put out a welcome mat, or I slide the bolt and lock it fast, the door doesn’t change. There is one door, one way into my heart and I have control over whether or not I let Him enter.

In the same way, there is one way to God and that is through His Son, Jesus Christ. God identified Jesus as His Son (Matthew 3:17 and 17:5; Mark 1:11 and 9:7; Luke 3:22 and 9:35); Jesus identified Himself as The Way (John 14:6). Just as we choose whether or not to let Him into our heart, so we also choose whether or not to accept Him as the way, the truth, the life.

Have you opened the door to Him? Are you being blessed by His presence? Or are you trying to ignore Him, hoping He’ll go away? As long as you are breathing, He’ll be knocking, offering you His salvation and His companionship. He is the way to the Father, the way to peace, the way to eternal life. Let Him in. You’ll be glad you did.

Gracious Father, we thank You for the gift of Your Son, who does not give up on us. Help us to welcome His knock as a visit from a dear loved one. Give us wisdom to open the door to Him and fall into His arms.

© 2009 Mary Beth Magee