One of the covenant children in my church is a sweet little girl who has Down Syndrome. Recently, Vera burst into the fellowship hall where I was talking to her grandmother. She tugged at grandma to get her attention so that she could share what she had just learned in Sunday school.
Vera had a coloring sheet showing two groups of men in long robes. One group had sad faces and she explained that these men did not know Jesus. The other group was smiling. Vera enthusiastically announced that these men knew Jesus and she did too. She just had to share the good news she had learned from her Sunday school teacher.
A Simple, Child-Like Faith
My church is also blessed to have gifted teaching elders who lead our adult Sunday school. Each week we have well prepared, insightful, and challenging lessons. On this particular week, we were studying the Heidelberg Catechism, working through the answer to Question 60: “How are you right with God?” We spent our time learning the differences between Augustine’s and Pelagius’ views on our sinful nature vs. free will, understanding the reformer’s perspective on the Roman Catholic’s view of synergism, and wresting with how it is we can be expected to live according to the law when we don’t have the ability to do so. It was a heavy session that stretched us, maturing our thinking on the subject.
After listening to little Vera share what she had learned in Sunday school, I could not help but think how right she was with God…
There are a number of days and seasons throughout the year when I intentionally open my figurative chest of memories, select the appropriate box and carefully remove the lid so I can inspect the contents. Sometimes the momentous events that trigger my reflections were joyfully anticipated, like the births of my daughters and grandchildren. But others, like the sudden death of my husband, came without warning and brought deep sorrow and bewilderment. Irrespective of the emotions associated with the initial event, I choose to remember. Because time offers perspective. And anniversaries provide opportunities to reflect on God’s goodness.
One January morning eight years ago, I awoke to my first day of unemployment in over three decades. Although not completely unexpected, the news the day before that I was no longer needed because my job was being eliminated left me numb and disoriented. I recognized those feelings, milder versions of the shock I felt after my husband’s unexpected death.
Unlike the previous afternoon when the slate sky matched the tenor of the windowless conference room where I received my termination notice, the morning was drenched in brilliant sunlight. In spite of my surreal circumstances, I held onto hope every bit as bright as the sunshine streaming through my windows. In fact, I posted the following status on Facebook:
“30+ years of continuous employment came to a halt yesterday when my job was eliminated. God obviously has something else for me to do. I can’t wait to see what it is! J”
Even though I was uncertain how being unemployed would affect my life, I rested in the certainty that my life was exactly where it had been before I lost my job – secure in the hands of the One who declares the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:9-10), who has a plan for good and not harm (Jeremiah 29:11). The previous day’s events did not surprise Him or catch Him off-guard.
I reminded myself of another windowless room where I and my elementary-aged daughters were told the unthinkable – that our beloved husband and father had succumbed to a fatal heart attack – and I recalled God’s provision across the 13 ½-intervening years.
One of my bucket list items, for when we became empty nesters, was to learn Chinese cooking. The exotic smells and flavors have always had a special appeal, and I am easily mesmerized in a Chinese market by the assortment of spices and sauces, most with labels I cannot even read. It turned out that to enroll in a culinary school with Chinese cooking classes would require pre-requisite cooking classes. So began my journey back to college after over 40 years!
I did eventually get that Chinese cooking class and then expanded to other Asian cuisines, Mexican and finally classical and bistro French cooking. I have been taught by wonderful chefs who corrected my knife skills, taught me to taste as I go, showed me how to layer flavors to optimize dishes, and when to stop the cooking so the food will be at its peak flavors. The classes usually require a properly plated presentation to the chef, where a critique is provided to me regarding the balance of flavors. For the first two years, the most common comments from my chefs were “needs more salt.” Even when I decided I had better add extra salt during the cooking process, the same comment sometimes appeared on my evaluation.
Salt is a funny ingredient. Of course, it provides saltiness, but it is also an enhancer. It brings out the best of the other spices in the food, heightening the contribution of each without overpowering with its own saltiness. Salt is an essential ingredient regardless of the type of cuisine. It can also be added in a variety of ways -absorbed through boiling water, creating a crust on meats, drying out vegetables, or simply added to a pot of sauce.
Salt is referenced in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, when He instructs His disciples to be salt in the world. Matthew 5:13 says “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.”
The time I got hit by a car while jogging.The time I was not awarded the scholarship to college that everyone thought was a shoe-in.The time I transferred colleges and met my husband in a biology lab I should not have had to take.These are the one-line titles of just a few of my redemption stories. If you read my blog or hang out around me long enough, you might just hear the whole story. How about you? When is the last time you told a story of how God rescued and redeemed you in a particular moment or season of your life?Asaph, the author of Psalm 78, convincingly argues that God’s people must know and share their stories of redemption. In the seventy-two verses of the Psalm, he demonstrates how far astray God’s people can go when they forget his mighty miracles and wonderful deeds. Right in the middle of the Psalm, Asaph reminds us of the surest hope of a forgetful people—our God never forgets to be merciful. Let’s look at how it breaks down:Part 1. A Call to Remember and Tell (Psalm 78:1-8)Asaph implores the Israelites to remember and tell of God’s redemptive work. When they recite his “glorious deeds” and “the wonders that he has done” (Psalm 78:4b, ESV), the next generation will “set their hope in God…[and] keep his commandments” (Psalm 78:7, ESV). When the Israelites remember their stories of redemption, they won’t follow in the fleeing footsteps of their “stubborn, rebellious,” ancestors (Psalm 78:8, ESV).
Have you seen the Capital One Financial ads, asking the customer, “What’s in your wallet?” It’s meant to convince potential customers that we need to have a Capital One credit card in our personal wallet.I think a question we can ask each other is, “Who’s in your cloud of witnesses?” (Hebrews 11), or who are the faith heroes we look to as role models to follow for life and ministry?Helen Roseveare is one of my heroes. Her wisdom has soaked over my life as I’ve read her books and listened to talks she gave during her life. I’ve kept her words in the pocket of my heart, so to speak, and the dividends have enriched my relationship with Christ and ministry.Helen was a British missionary, doctor, and author. She worked in the Congo from 1953 to 1973, including part of the period of political instability in the early 1960’s. She practiced medicine and trained others in medical work. She remained single until she met her eternal Bridegroom face to face in 2016 at the age of ninety-one.Here are three (of many!) ways Helen has discipled me to follow Christ more faithfully:Humor can be a godly tool in our ministry tool belt. Helen was funny! She was able to poke fun at herself and life itself in a way that softened the hearts of her audience. I appreciate that she used humor not to shame others, self-exalt, or self-deprecate but rather to reveal her humanity in a way that lifted the gaze of her audience to Christ and the cross…