The Winds of Change

This week the infamous Santa Ana winds were blowing on Wednesday.  Whenever the winds blow hard the phrase “the winds of change” comes to mind and probably even more so this week because we anticipated that there might be changes coming down the pike at work.

With the economy continuing to tank and folks losing their jobs and remaining out of work for extended periods of time…I always have in the back of my mind the possibility that a work layoff could be in my future.  Each day, it makes me so grateful to have a job…and not take it for granted.  It reminds me that every good and perfect gift, employment and the ability to perform the work, is a gift from my heavenly Father above.  I’m also mindful to be thankful for today what God has given me and try to be faithful through His power and strength. 

While we anticipated the strong possibility of changes coming at work…we didn’t know exactly when, who or how many folks might be effected.  I was praying in the weeks and days leading up to this time and I’m so grateful that God gave me such a sense of peace regarding my work situation.  I had peace with the thought that I might be let go and I gratitude if I was permitted to keep my job.

Thankfully work has been very busy, so there wasn’t any time to waste being preoccupied with thoughts of “what if”.  Instead all of us were working hard to keep up.   

When praying about work, I found that my will was fully submitted to God’s will for the situation.  This time around I wasn’t dictating to God what I thought was the best outcome.  I had been through similar circumstances four years ago and handled it much differently.  But this time…I was absolutely at peace with whatever happened.  God had indeed given me the peace that passes all understanding.  My husband Chris was praying that by God’s mercy my job might be spared so that we would continue to be able to meet our financial obligations without undue stress.  However, I continued to pray for God’s will to be done.  It almost felt like if I prayed that my job would be spared, I was in essence praying for my co-workers to lose their jobs.  So instead, I prayed for God’s will to be done. 

I praise God for the peace that He gave me…absolutely trusting in His will and plan.  I was confident that God knows my future and my friends and co-workers future…and He has a good and perfect plan for each our lives that He is working out.  I may not always understand why God permits certain circumstances…but in heaven it will all be made clear.

While I anticipated changes…I didn’t know the exact day they would hit.  Just in case I would be let go, I ordered my prescriptions while I still had a job and insurance coverage. 

This week that fateful day came…a little earlier than I expected.  It was a hard day as people whom I consider friends were laid off.  It didn’t seem to make any sense who was laid off because I knew the great work they did and the positive attitude they brought to work every day.  It was a hard and sad day. 

When the dust started to settle, I went to lunch and called Chris. I told him that it had been a very hard and ugly day, but that his prayers had been answered.  At the end of the day…I still had a job.

A number of folks talked about having “survivor’s guilt” and not understanding why good people were let go when others still had jobs.  I guess to some degree I felt that way.

I’m certain with the new responsibilities that I will have due to the recent layoffs, it will cause me to depend upon God even more.  There is no way that I could manage it on my own strength and might.

When I pray each day…there has been an ongoing list of people whom I’ve been praying for regarding their employment situation.  Now my prayer list has greatly expanded.  But I know my God is faithful.  He is merciful and pours out His loving kindness on each of us.  I pray that the God of all comfort will draw each of these people near and reveal Himself as Jehovah Jira the God who provides for all our needs.

Things won’t be the same at work and I’m already missing the people I worked with each day.  Oh Lord…cause me to depend upon You more, be filled with gratitude and faithful in prayer. 

Listening for the Lord

Do you ever experience those times…when God seems to be silent? 
That’s what I’ve been experiencing.  Recently, my husband Chris and I were on vacation and departed from our normal routines.  As much as we need vacations…there’s something that I like about ordinary life.  It’s easier for me to be disciplined in prayer and the study of God’s word when I’m at home.  I find that when I’m living out of a suitcase and traveling from place to place it’s harder for me to be focused in my prayers or to read the Bible without distraction.  So while part of me would like some more time off from work…I appreciate getting back into a disciplined schedule. 
While on vacation…I didn’t listen to my I-Pod which is chock full of sermons and Biblically based programs.  I missed it greatly.  During the long drive home…I had the time to put on my head phones and listen to God’s word again….and it felt like a welcomed friend.
Since then I’ve been working on my Bible study, reading God’s word and coming before the throne of grace in prayer.  Despite that…my spiritual tanks seem low.  I feel like God has been silent.  I’ve prayed that if there was an area of sin or something that is displeasing to the Lord, that God would help me to see it so that I can repent. 
I praise God that daily I can ask for Him to forgive my trespasses as I forgive those who trespass against me.  But I didn’t feel as though God was bringing to mind an area of disobedience that I needed to address.  Yet…the silence continue and I found myself focusing more and more on me and continuing to ask, “Lord what have I done wrong?”.

When I read my morning email devotional from Elizabeth Elliot a quote leap off the page at me, “There is another reason, I think, for the cause of the feeling (a spirit of discontent) within us.  It comes from the flesh and self-introspection.  It is good for us to look at self and know how loathsome it is, but with one look at self we must take ten looks at Christ.”

When I read that quote, I realized that in the time of silence from God, I had turned my focus inward.  In my attempt to examine myself for sin or a barrier between God and me…I had taken my eyes off the Lord. 

I need to keep my eyes on the Lord Jesus Christ, stay in the word of God and preserver in prayer.  God calls us to walk by faith, not by sight.   I must not allow myself to be drawn off course by my feelings.  When I’ve sinned, I can trust the Holy Spirit to bring it to mind so that I can confess and repent. 

No matter if it’s a fruitful and intimate time with the Lord or a time of silence…I need to keep my eyes on Jesus Christ.

Thinking Prayerfully

The other day after hearing about a prayer request, I started thinking about what a privilege it is to be able to pray for people.  To be able to bring them before the throne of grace and see God and His faithfulness do much more than we can ask or imagine.

Then I started thinking about my Dad who died 41 years ago when I was 10 years old.  Unless he accepted Christ in the hospital on his deathbed, my Dad never knew Christ and is spending eternity in hell.  We weren’t plugged into a local church and weren’t surrounded by Christian family and friends.  We weren’t believers.

Was there anybody there at the hospital that prayed for my Dad?  Was there any body that shared the truth of the Gospel message with this dying man?  Will I see him in heaven?

I consider it a privilege to be in prayer for people…family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, government officials and even fellow drivers on the road.  I don’t know who is in their life and praying for them…but where our paths intersect…may the Lord enable me to be faithful in prayer.

The Least Among You…Disappointing

Who doesn’t like a movie where good triumphs over evil?  I love a movie where the hero stands strong in his convictions despite great opposition.   That’s why I selected “The Least Among You” from Book Sneeze.  Based on the movie’s description…I thought the movie would be inspirational. 

After the movie ended my husband Chris turned to me and said, “I’m glad that I don’t have to review that movie.”  I wasn’t eager to write my review on “The Least Among You” because overall the movie was disappointing.

The movie is based on a true story of Richard Kelly (Cedric Sanders) who was arrested following the Watt’s riots in 1965.  Richard was accused of assaulting a police officer and decided to serve probation instead of fighting the charges.  His probation was to be served out at an all-white seminary near Los Angeles.  As the only black student, Richard encounters prejudice from both students and professors.  The seminary’s president Alan Beckett (William Devane) encourages Richard to break through the racial barriers until his actions threaten the schools financial backing for a media center.  Samuel Benton (Louis Gosset, Jr.), a gardener at the seminary, befriends Richard and encourages him through many trials.

Some of the performances in the movie were good, in particular Cedric Sanders and Louis Gosset.  The most interesting characters were the gardener Samuel Benton (Louis Gossett, Jr.) and his wife Bessie Benton (Starletta DuPois).   They demonstrated the most Christ-like characteristics and seemed to have a living faith that had transformed their lives. 

However, I find fault and take issue with the movie’s screenplay.  Most of the Christians in this movie were portrayed as corrupt, or bigoted, or lying thieves, or greedy and lacking in faith.  They seem like a caricatures, rather than real people. 

The seminary’s president was greedy and corrupt and many of the professors were ignorant and prejudice.  A former missionary Kate Allison (Lauren Holly) seemed like a caricature of liberated women in the 60’s and throughout the movie she was smoking and drinking.  Worse yet most of the characters at this seminary, professors and students alike, seemed to be devoid of anything resembling true faith in Jesus Christ.  Why any of them were at the seminary is a mystery. 

The movie was provided to me free through Book Sneeze as part of their selection for Christian bloggers.  After watching this movie, I’m not sure what would qualify it as a “Christian” based movie.  Not only was the movie disappointing, but it was also offensive to me as a Christian. 

In my opinion the alternate theme of the movie can best be described as the “dangers of going to a liberal theological seminary”.  In the movie, the miracles in the Bible are called into question and attributed to being nothing more than allegories, and truth is said to be relative.  Rather than sharing the Gospel message that salvation and forgiveness of sin is found in Jesus Christ, the movie’s message is centered around a social gospel which promotes change. 
The movie never fully explains what happened to the former missionary to cause her crisis of faith.  Also it left me wondering what happened to the seminary president’s wife who appeared to have suffered some type of mental breakdown.  I wanted to know what led to the president’s downfall and corruption.  Was he ever a “man of faith” or was he just running a business?

Because this movie is “based on a true story” it’s hard to know what’s true and where writer/director Mark Young took literary license.  Based on the screenplay I wanted to ask Mark Young if he personally knows any Christians? 

I would not recommend this movie.  Spend your time and money elsewhere on something that is in keeping with your Christian faith and values and gives a faithful presentation of the Gospel.