Saturday, June 25, 2016


I think we’ve all had the feeling at some point that our life is out of control; that too many things are pushing us in too many different directions. It’s easy for someone else to advise a deep breath, scale back, and choose your battles. Not so easy to do it yourself.
Actually, that’s why it not so easy—we want to do it ourselves. And there are times that the problem isn’t really with the issues in our life, but in our attitude about them.
What is the most important thing in your life?
The other day a friend was listening to an online financial advisor, who said that in order to build wealth, every choice you make should take you closer to this goal.  Often it’s not the immediate financial advantage; every time you can, do a favor or pick up a check in order to build a relationship that will build your wealth in the future. (The friend and I looked at each other in horror, and began thinking of other reasons for our choices.) Also, an account acquaintance got on me for taking time for small sales and/or complex questions. She went on to say, “I know you like helping people; I have people ask me all the time to do things for them, but if I’m not going to make money out of it, I don’t do it.”  Is money the most important thing?
Recently I happened recently to hear a pop song from a few years back that expressed an overwhelming love for a significant other. First thought: how sweet! Second thought: that’s expecting way too much of another human being. Yes, it is good to love. What can happen, though, is expecting a person to fulfill all of your dreams and needs, and making you the most important thing in life, a weight none of us are up to. Is a human relationship the most important thing?
There are many other things that fill up our lives; but being obsessed with wealth or a lover, work, or anything else that doesn’t leave any space for God is not going to work. What usually happens is that the object of the obsession never fills your needs; you keep looking for more and more in the same place that is already not enough. What is the most important thing?
“Burnout” is often the result not of doing too many things, but of putting too much weight on the wrong things. A psalmist said it well: Everything's falling apart on me, God; put me together again with Your Word. (Psalm 119:107 The Message)

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Being a Friend--by Linden Malki

Even the Lone Ranger had a sidekick, a friend who backed him up in dangerous territory. Whether we realize it or not, this world is dangerous territory--and always has been. Adam started out with a Garden full of friendly animals, but God knew that it was not good for him to be alone--without a human partner.  We are created to be complements--to be distinct individuals, with different personalities and abilities and needs.  It's easy to get into the the habit of thinking that we know another person "like a book."  Not really. I recall one time seeing my husband John, about 30 years into a good marriage,  walking up the side aisle of the store, and I found myself  thinking, "This is a different person, with a different brain, and I shouldn't expect him to think like me."  There are people who think like me in some ways, but nobody thinks exactly like anybody else.  God loves variety--we are created to be individuals, but to relate to other individuals, and with Him, in ways that will make us more than we could be otherwise.

It is good to have friends, some of which might even be related, but there is something needed  besides wanting someone to be your friend.  What do we need to be, ourselves, to be the kind of friend that someone else wants and needs?  Left to ourselves, we put our own wants and needs and ideas first.  So what's wrong with this?

God made us, first and foremost, to be His friends.  He doesn't force Himself upon us, but He does recognise when we truly want to do the right thing,  and offers us the opportunity to be His friend and follower.  This also includes the opportunity to be in healthy relationships to others of His creation. 
The Apostle Paul, writing to the Philippians,  truly wanted this.  The Message puts it like this:

  If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.  (Philippians 2:1-4) 

I think the key here is v3: "Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don't be obsessed with getting your own advantage."   The important thing to remember is that in the short run, it may look counterproductive to back off and respect others' ideas and wishes, but in the long run there are a couple of things to remember:  We don't know everything about everything; there just might be some things we can learn from each other,  and even when we're right, being gentle about it works better in the long run, and things may work out to our best even when we don't expect it.  And the most important thing is that we are NOT smarter than God!  And He said that "He who wants first place, he must be last, and the servant of all." (Mark 9:33-37)

It is a blessing to have family and others who are good friends, but  the most important thing is to be a true  friend.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Created to Use His Gifts! --by Linden Malki

I am always amazed at the potential talents that we have as creations of God. We all have different combinations of abilities and talents, and we can learn so many things that are beyond our native environment.  The programming is there, even when there has been no "evolutionary" reason for it. For example, my husband was born with a talent for mechanical things even though his family is from an technological undeveloped area. In fact, the many of the potentials that we are created with have no logical explanation.

 We are born with talents that are given to us for our benefit and for us to serve each other; but they are usually part of our own self-centered lives.  It's all about what we need, what we want, what will get attention and praise for us. Even when we do use them to benefit others, there is usually an element of self-esteem and expectations of some sort of return.  That's life on the human level. But even at this level, we are called to make good and responsible use of the strengths of our initial programming.

Bring God into the picture--where He belongs! And things should change. But even still, it's hard to get out of the habit of putting ourselves first.  A friend was telling me the other day that I need to pray for what I want with the sense that the Universe will be influenced by my efforts. There have been times that I've wanted something that I had a pretty good suspicion that it wouldn't be good for me in the long run.
When things don't go our way, we should remember " Since Jesus went through everything you’re going through and more, learn to think like him. Think of your sufferings as a weaning from that old sinful habit of always expecting to get your own way. Then you’ll be able to live out your days free to pursue what God wants instead of being tyrannized by what you want ".(I Peter 4:1-2)

And our "wants" can become our master! Recognizing and surrendering is not something that comes easy to us. I been reminded (sometimes the learning the hard way) that God is smarter than I am, and knows what is best for me, and He needs me to give Him some room to work.  And as committed followers of Jesus, we are given gifts of abilities and callings over and above with what we have on the human level.  Ideally, we can make the best of both: use our inborn talents working with our God-given spiritual gifts--these things that are given for us to use to serve God, and use in His name.

 And as we grow in relationship with Him, everything should grow in the opportunities and places God puts us.  We are created to do more than we can do on the human level (this can be twisted into greater evil than we can control, as well): "Be generous with the different things God gave you, passing them around so all get in on it: if words, let it be God’s words; if help, let it be God’s hearty help. That way, God’s bright presence will be evident in everything through Jesus, and he’ll get all the credit as the One mighty in everything—encores to the end of time. Oh, yes!"  (I Peter 4:10-11, The Message)

Saturday, June 4, 2016

He Holds the Future! --by Linden Malki

"Every experience God gives us, every person He puts into our lives, is the perfect preparation for a future only He can see. " This was written by a remarkable lady, Corrie ten Boom, who grew up in Holland before World War II. Her family were watchmakers, and she had every reason to think that she would spend her life repairing clocks and watches in their small shop
. However, when the Nazis invaded The Netherlands in 1940 and began arresting and deporting Jews, the ten Boom family found themselves taking in, hiding, and finding sanctuary for Jewish neighbors and others in need. They were betrayed to the Nazi occupation in 1944. The family was arrested; her father died in captivity, and Corrie and her sister Betsy were moved through three of the most cruel prison camps in Germany.

Their dormitory in the last one, Ravensbruck, was so crowded and vermin-ridden that the guards wouldn't go into the barracks, which gave Corrie and Betsie the freedom to read and share their smuggled Bible with the other women. Their lifelong Christian faith and their ability to see God at work even in these circumstances gave them hope. Betsie died there, and Corrie was released soon after. After the war, she became involved in rehabilitation for other former prisoners of the Nazi camps, and former Nazis as well. This grew into a worldwide mission of restoration, forgiveness and faith. Starting with an estimated 800 Jews who were saved by the efforts of this family and an underground network during the war, the future held opportunities to speak to people in at least 60 countries, and a best-selling book on her life and faith, The Hiding Place. Survivng the worst that people can do to each other led to a led to a future that blessed many thousands of people.

One of the differences between our understanding of God's creation, and most pagan traditions is the concept of history as having a past, present and future. We learn from the past, and look forward with hope in this world, and the promise of being with God in the eternal future. This idea is so powerful that it has also influenced several offshoots of the Judeo-Christian tradition--Islam and Communism also have a vision of a future paradise.

Bill Gaither has given us a great statement of God's gift of life, faith and hope: "Because He lives, we can face tomorrow. Because He lives, all fear is gone. For I know Who holds the future: Life is worth the living just because He Lives!"