Absent Without Leave: Body Parts and the Body of Christ

My voice went AWOL on me one spring a few years ago. Blame it on seasonal allergies (which I usually don’t have) or just a nasty spring cold, but I spent the better part of a week trying to communicate with anything from a hoarse whisper to a croaking, cough-infused version of my former speaking voice. And forget the singing voice. It stayed AWOL even longer.

What a difference one little part of our bodies can make. Having next to no voice made it difficult and at times impossible to do certain tasks and carry on with life as normal. Maybe because life is not normal when a part of our bodies is missing or not functioning the way it should, huh?

The staff at the pharmacy probably thought they were dealing with a prank caller on my first voiceless morning when I called to ask advice from the pharmacist. I pretty much gave up on phone calls after that, though I did talk to my daughter Kelli when she called one day. Poor thing had to listen to me cough and hack my way through that conversation.

When my voice started to return, I had to apologize for how it sounded every time I spoke to someone new. I also couldn’t make myself heard if I was more than a few feet away. And I’m still trying to figure out why Don thought I could answer him when he yelled at me from another room. Crazy guy.

I was living proof that our lives are definitely hampered when a part of the body goes AWOL. And you know that’s true not only for our physical bodies, but for the body of Christ—the church—as well. Scripture likens the church to a physical body, and the comparison is an apt one.

Since as believers, we are each part of the body and each have a role to fulfill or a function to perform, what do you suppose happens when one or more members of the body goes AWOL? Yes, the rest of the body finds it difficult and even impossible at times to carry on its normal tasks. They may have to give up a vital service or ministry or, at the very least, apologize for a role being inadequately or half-heartedly filled.

So let’s ask ourselves today what kind of body part we are. Let’s not be the ones to make life difficult for our fellow church members. Let’s not go AWOL on the body of Christ.

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10 NIV

*What kind of body part are you? What role or roles are you playing in the body of Christ?

*I hope this slightly revised post from April 2011 blessed you today!

*The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter, comes out in early May. One lucky subscriber will receive a $15 gift card to Barnes & Noble and a signed copy of my book to use personally, give as a gift, or donate to a library. Sign-up is free and to the right! (If you’re on a mobile device, scroll to the bottom of the screen and click View Full Site to find it.)

*For info about my book Mother of the Bride check out my Books/My Work page.

*Flickr photo by Michael CoryCreative Commons License

7 November Stress-Busters

The calendar has turned the page to another new month so that means it’s time to offer you another set of month-appropriate stress-busters. I hope you’re enjoying beginning each month with some ideas designed to help you relax and refresh in the face of stress.

Whether dealing with the normal daily stresses of life or additional major stresses, we all need ways that can help us step back for a few minutes and intentionally put that stress on a back-burner. If we do that often enough, we may find our overall feelings of stress diminishing as we learn to better cope with them day by day.

May the stress-busting strategies below come in handy in November when you find yourself in need of refreshment and relief. Be blessed, friends!

November Stress-Busters

  1. Take a few minutes to watch the leaves fall from the trees and dance their way to the ground. As you watch them float gently down, imagine your stress falling from your head, your shoulders, your arms, your hands, your legs, and your feet in the same way. Consciously relax your body.
  2. Before going to bed each night, jot down at least one thing that happened that day for which you’re thankful. Gratitude has a way of changing our perspective and lessening the worries of the day. By the end of the month, you may decide to keep a gratitude list or journal year-round.
  3. As you begin thinking ahead to Christmas, decide on at least two ways you can simplify your life or the celebration of the season in the weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. If you can go beyond making two changes, wonderful. Anything you can do to ease the increased demand of the holiday season will be well worth it.
  4. Enjoy some Thanksgiving nostalgia. Recall and share with family or friends some of your memories of childhood Thanksgivings. Welcome and listen to others’ stories as well. End by sharing your most memorable Thanksgiving whether long past or fairly recent. Let the comfort of past joys soothe your spirit today.
  5. Head outside for some impromptu physical activity. Get in a little leaf-raking therapy or go on your own little turkey trot around the neighborhood. Or you might grab some loved ones and challenge them to a quick game of basketball or touch football. Let your adrenaline pump that stress right out of your mind and body.
  6. Reach out to someone hurting or in need and in the process watch your stresses fade into the background. No question about it—you will be blessed as you bless someone else.
  7. Simplify at the end of a busy day and have breakfast for dinner. Set aside an evening of time-intensive dinner prep and cleanup and fix pancakes and bacon or scrambled eggs and sausage instead. You’ll still enjoy a hot meal with a touch of comfort to boot.

Add to these November stress-busters the ultimate stress-buster of dropping your burdens at the feet of Jesus and peace will be your portion this month rather than worry. Can’t beat a trade like that!

“‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.’” Matthew 11:28

*Share with us—tell about your most memorable Thanksgiving or mention what you’re thankful for today. We’ll all be blessed!

*The new issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter with a giveaway in every regularly scheduled issue, came out last week. It’s not too late to receive it. Sign-up is free and to the right! (If you’re on a mobile device, scroll to the bottom of the screen and click View Full Site to find it.)

*Flickr photo by Vijay Gunda, Creative Commons License

Powerful Way to Pray for Those in Ongoing Difficulty

Most of us know someone who deals daily with an ongoing serious difficulty of some sort. Maybe we know someone with a chronic illness or problem with pain or someone in a caregiving situation. We may know someone trapped in an abusive relationship or someone whose job places them in the midst of crisis situations every day.

Whatever the particulars, our friends or loved ones enduring such stress likely feel overwhelmed and beyond discouraged much of the time. If we’ve ever experienced such a season ourselves, we understand how a person can come to the end of his or her physical, mental, and/or emotional reserves and wonder how they can possibly go on.

As their friends and loved ones, we feel helpless to fix the problem, but one way we can always help is to pray. And one powerful way to pray is to pray through the Psalms for them—slowly but surely.

If you’re like me, you’ve prayed the Psalms for yourself at one time or another, but we can also perform this wonderful ministry for those who desperately need to be upheld by our prayers. And if we pray just a few verses or portion of a chapter for them each day, our prayers will be long-term, just like the trial they are enduring.

We can simply start at the beginning of Psalms and read and pray through the verses with our friends or loved ones in mind, personalizing our prayers by using their names and the specifics of whatever their ongoing difficulty. Not every psalm will be completely applicable to suffering or difficulty, but let’s pray those scriptures for them as well. After all, each scripture prayed for those who are hurting will help strengthen them in some way.

Here’s an example from Psalm 3:1-4 NIV.  I’ll list the verses first and then personalize them in prayer for a loved one (using a fictitious name.)

“Lord, how many are my foes!
How many rise up against me!
Many are saying of me,
‘God will not deliver him.’

But you, Lord, are a shield around me,
my glory, the One who lifts my head high.
I call out to the Lord,
and he answers me from his holy mountain.”

Prayer: Oh Lord, how many are Katie’s health problems. How many conditions rise up against her! These health issues seem to taunt her, saying “God will not deliver you.” But you, O Lord, be a shield about Katie, be her glory, the One who lifts up her head. Help her to call out to you and see you answer from your holy mountain.”

Let’s pray the Psalms for our hurting friends. Let’s hold them up with the powerful Word of God.

*Has God brought someone you know to mind? I have been praying the Psalms for a loved one for a few months now and will continue as God leads.

*Flickr photo by shaunanyi, Creative Commons License

A Time to Focus on Family

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“‘Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.’” Mark 5:19

Remember the biblical account of Jesus healing a man who was possessed by a legion of demons? No one had been able to subdue this man, no one had been able to help him. Until Jesus. Jesus cast the demons out and restored this desperate man to his right mind.

How grateful he must have been. In fact as Jesus was leaving, this newly healed man begged Jesus to let him go with him . The man’s reason for wanting to accompany Jesus may have been an overflow of gratitude, a desire to be part of Jesus’s powerful life-changing ministry, fear that he had nowhere to go since he had destroyed all his relationships with his family and friends, or possibly a combination of these reasons. Whatever the reason, Jesus had another plan for him.

Instead of saying yes to the man’s request to go with him, Jesus told him to go home. He wanted him to tell his family how much he had done for him. To tell them about the mercy he had shown him.

We don’t know all of Jesus’s reasons for asking the man to go home. The Lord certainly wanted the man’s family to hear this amazing testimony of Jesus’s love and power. We know Jesus wanted more people to come to know him. But maybe he also knew the man’s family ached for news of him or that the man himself needed to be reassured of their love. Maybe he knew this family’s reunion was what was most important for that group of people at that moment in time.

Whatever his reasons, Jesus wanted this man to focus on his family. And there are times I’m sure that his plan and task for us is the same. We may have a desire to go somewhere or do something big for the Lord or we might just wish we had a more exciting role in life and in God’s kingdom, but sometimes in some seasons God shows us our main ministry is at home. Our main ministry is to be focused on our family.

The Lord has called me to such seasons at times. Whether staying home to raise our girls or serving in caregiving roles for loved ones with health problems or giving my time to help with our twin grandsons this past year, I’ve seen that at times serving my family is indeed a major part of my role in life and in ministry for the Lord. That doesn’t mean I couldn’t be involved in other activities, but I did have to say no to many things in order to fulfill the ministries to family that God placed before me.

I wonder if today the Lord is leading any of us to focus on our families? Is his plan for us to “go home” for now? If it is, let’s accept it as from him and go joyfully and in peace. Let’s shine for the Lord at home.

“But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God.” 1 Timothy 5:4

*When has God called you to a season at home?

*Don’t miss out on the One-More-Chance Starbucks Giveaway. Deadline to enter is Feb. 10th!

*The new issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter, came out early last week. It’s not too late to receive it. Sign-up is free and to the right!

*Flickr photo by Ryan Smith Photography, Creative Commons License

The Mother of the Bride’s Right-Hand Woman

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Mother of the Bride, every MOB needs one—a right-hand woman. Someone you can call on at any time during your MOB journey. Someone who can offer advice as well as a listening ear. Someone who rides shotgun on your MOB shopping adventures and also helps with any task you may throw her way. Yes, MOB, you need a right-hand woman.

My right-hand woman for both of my daughters’ weddings was my dear friend Teri (pictured with me above as the reception wound down after Kelli’s wedding.) One of your BFFs, MOB, could serve as your right-hand woman, too, but many others could fill the role as well—a sister or sister-in-law, your mom or aunt, a cousin, or even one of your other daughters. As a matter of fact, my daughter Kristin ended up being another right-hand woman for me when Kelli got married.

And MOB, if you’re lucky like I was, your right-hand woman will offer all kinds of support. She’ll have skills in areas where you lack them. She’ll take joy in helping make your darling daughter’s day the best that it can be. She’ll give you honest but gentle feedback and laugh with you at just the right moments. When you’re overwhelmed, she’ll let you be a mess and love you anyway. She’ll be ever-ready to help and always keep you in her prayers. She’ll be your right-hand woman.

So MOB, look around and identify that helper of all helpers, that friend of all friends on your wedding-planning journey. Cherish her. Lean on her. And every now and then, thank her in a special way. If it involves chocolate for both of you, so much the better!

*Thanks, Teri, for being my right-hand woman when my girls got married!

*You might also like to read Make the Mother of the Groom Part of the Team and A Planning Journal for Your Mother of the Bride Notes.

*Photo by Will Flowers