Saturday, April 30, 2011

Let there be light!

Almost five years ago, when we were looking to buy our first place, we were really discouraged. It was a seller's market and everything in our price range was the size of a shoe box and/or needed TONS of cosmetic work that we didn't have time for. The first day we looked at the place we now own, I was really drawn to the character it had and the fact that there wasn't any ugly wallpaper to remove or linoleum to rip up. I remember thinking that if we were to buy it, the only things I'd need to do would be to paint and change out the lighting. So here we are 4 1/2 years later. We've built an addition, replaced the windows, put in a brick walkway, etc etc. But have I painted or changed the lighting? No! Paint and lighting had become those things on my to-do list that I just became complacent about. But this week, thanks to our handy, make-it-happen friend Brian, dreams have finally become reality!

The lighting situation in our dining room had gotten really bad. I forgot to take a "before" picture of the old fixture while it was still hanging but here it is sitting by my trash can.

Not only is it gold and gaudy (and because I tried to pretend it didn't exist, it was also covered in dust and cobwebs), it didn't even work. It worked for maybe the first year we lived here and the day it stopped I just stuck a lamp on the dining room table "until we replace it." But this is how we've lit the dining room for the last few years.

I had to browse through photo archives to find this. I tried to crop out most the random kids, but you get the gist.
It's fine for just us but when we host company its kind of embarrasing. I'd move the lamp to the corner of the table, blocking people's view of each other, or place it on a stool in the corner of the room and bring in floor lamps to light the other side of the room. Even my mom had gotten to the point where every few months she'd ask if I'd called an electrician yet. And its not even like I had to buy a new light. About 6 or 7 years ago I had picked up a brushed nickle chandelier with black shades a thrift shop for $3 because "some day I might need this." (That was back when I had a finished third floor just for storage.)

Soon after we moved to this place my intention was to replace the gaudy light in the dining room with my thrift-shop light I'd kept in storage. I gave this chandelier to an electrian friend of ours so he could test it and see if it even worked. He confirmed it did but I never bothered to get it back. A few times a year when I'd considering getting someone to hooking it up, I'd ask if he still had it and he continued to hold on to it for me.

At some point I'd sold or tossed the black shades knowing I wouldn't use them; meanwhile I picked up a couple sets of replacement shades at yard sales.  Not having the fixture with me I couldn't remember how big it was or even how many lights it had. I was very inspired by these shades that I found at a yard sale first.
I can't imagine I paid more than a few bucks. The colors are right up my alley and coordinate well with what I already have. Then last summer I came across these for $2 and picked them up in case the fixture  required something smaller or if I decided I didn't want a patterned shade.

So FINALLY, with get-it-done Brian at our house painting and asking about anything else he could check off my honey-do list, I asked my "keeper of the light" friend for my light back and was delighted to have him deliver it to my house the next day. I thought I remembered it being bigger and its not what I would pick out new now, but I still like it, it matches the room, it actually works and the price was right so I was determined to use it. While Brian worked on installing it I ran out to get new light bulbs. Half an hour later I had overhead light in my dining room!!! If only you knew how happy this makes me! I ran to the basement to get my sets of shades and quickly discovered the patterned set was far too big. Bummer. But the other ones fit and looked just fine. All for under $10 and I'm kicking myself for not doing this sooner.

That night as I was putting Katherine to bed, she grabbed her bedside Bible and asked me to find some new things we can praise God for during prayer. I randomly opened up to Psalm 33 where we read that God is true, fair and right, that he created our hearts and understands everything we do, and that he collected up the waters in a heap and made the sea. In describing this and other elements of creation, in verse 9 it says, "He spoke, and it happened. He commanded, and it appeared."  Of course I was instantly reminded of Genesis 1:3-4a: "Then God said, 'Let there be light!' And there was light. God saw that the light was good." Only He was able to create light for our world with the mere power of his words. 1 John 1:5 tell us that "God is light and in him there is no darkness at all." and  in John 8:12 Jesus said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."

It's amazing how we love and crave light. While I'm so thankful for the new light over my head, I'm most thankful for Jesus' light that dispels the darkness in my life and his word, the Bible, that is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path (Psalm 119:105).

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Worth it but not worthy

I love how sobering Easter it makes me think a lot about BIG things like my sin and God's love. I usually review the story of Jesus' death and resurrection by reading and/or getting preached to about the accounts of what happened in one of the gospels in the New Testament. You know, the actual history told by people who knew Jesus and were there when it all took place. This year, my heart was prepared to think about Easter a few weeks early as I read and studied Isaiah's prophesy of what would happen to Jesus about 700 years prior. It blows my mind to compare Isaiah 52:13 through chapter 53 to the New Testament accounts of what Jesus experienced. Not only is it dead-on accurate, down to the nitty gritty details, but it makes it so personal.

Disclaimer: I am not going to include all of the verses in Isaiah's prophesy but you can read it (and I encourage you to) starting in verse 13 here. And if you'd like to see the proof by matching up each of the specific prophesies in Isaiah 53 with the account of their New Testament fulfillment, there's a chart for easy reference here.

I just wanted to share some of the verses (I skipped some throughout) describing Jesus as the suffering servant that I found expecially relevant to me this year. I hope you will find them meaningful too.

Isaiah 52
14 Just as there were many who were appalled at him— his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any human being and his form marred beyond human likeness—
Isaiah 53
2 He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. 3 He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
4 Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. 6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. 7 He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. 10 Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life an offering for sin,he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand. 11 After he has suffered, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
As much as I can't stand Mel Gibson, if you haven't seen The Passion of the Christ, you need to.
Jesus suffered in so many ways, although his physical suffering is most obvious to most. In years past I've studied all the particulars of exactly how he was tortured and how someone who is crucified actually dies. You have a greater appreciation for what he did when you fully understand exactly what his body experienced. I strongly encourage you to read a medical doctor's account of the physical torture that Jesus experienced here.

For me this year, I was struck more by the ways Jesus suffered mentally and emotionally. Most people can't identify with severe physical torture but we've all suffered emotional hurt and pain on one level or another. The verses above remind me that Jesus was despised and rejected, held in low esteem, people hid their faces from him, there was nothing beautiful about him physically, he was oppressed and afflicted, and familiar with suffering and pain. Ever feel like you can identify?

Hebrews 2:16-18 explains why God came down to our level, to become a man, and take on the mental and emotional suffering we all experience too. "For surely it is not the angels that he helps, but Abraham's descendants [people]. For that reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in orer that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, that he might make atonement for [reconcile or repare] the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted."

I find it very comforting to know that God the Son humbled himself and became the person Jesus in part so that he is able to empathize with me when I feel alone, rejected, or less than beautiful. It's an expression of his love to me. I can never say Jesus has no idea what I'm going through or feeling.

I benefit from his suffering in many ways:
          Jesus' Suffering     Our Benefit
53:4   He took                 Our infirmities (sickness, weakness)
          He carried             Our sorrows
53:5   He was pierced     For our transgressions (sins)
          He was crushed     For our iniquities (sins)
          His punishment      Brought us peace
          His wounds           We are healed
53:6   Laid on him           The iniquity (sin) of us all

So as if Jesus wasn't mentally and emotionally tortured enough by his "friends", his family, his people, the Jewish religious leaders and the Roman rulers and soldiors, just before he died he suffered the worst of it all. Though completely innocent and having never sinned himself, he took on both the guilt and punishment for all of our sins. And because God is holy and cannot be with or even look at sin, God the Father turned his face from Jesus. Verse 4 says he was "punished by God, stricken by him." That was the ultimate rejection. And I'm also to blame.

The worst mental/emotional torture I can imagine for myself is suffering injustice. Getting blamed and punished for something I did not do. But would I do this for someone else on purpose to spare them what they deserved? Verse 12 says that Jesus poured out his own life unto death. Jesus knew what he was heading in to (which is a whole other level of mental suffering). Yet he chose to go through with it. He could have answered his accusers in such a way that would have resulted in him being let free. He could have healed his own wounds or miraculously disappeared from the cross before he died. But he purposefully and willingly took on the guilt and punishment for my sins and suffered the wrath of God the Father in my place.

I'm the sinner but he showed me mercy. There are no good works I can do to earn God's favor, nothing I can say or do to make Jesus love me. Only by his love and grace does he offer the guilt-free, punishment-free forgiveness of sins to anyone who believes. I do believe and so I do have this treasure. Though I continue to sin, I am guilt-free. Though my sins deserve the punishment of eternal separation from the holy God, I look forward to spending eternity with him in heaven because Jesus already paid for my sins. By his grace he offers me this wonderful gift and by my faith I accept it.  It is SO humbling. I so don't deserve a treasure as great as this. Apparently I'm his treasure or else why would he do this for me?

I am not worthy, but he thought I was worth it. Guess what? You're not worthy either. But He thinks you're worth it too.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Out with the old, in with the older (and new)

I've joked with people a few times recently that women should have a gift shower every 10 years. Don't you think? It's been about 11 years since I created my wedding registry. Not only have styles changed but my taste sure as changed. I've updated some things throughout the years but my bathroom decor was something that hadn't changed much at all. Same colors, same linens, same pictures on the wall. Recently I started thinking that I would just keep my eye out for a new shower curtain. I didn't want to spend a lot of money or make drastic changes but I really wanted something fresh.

A few weeks ago my mom and I headed to the mall with the goal of me spending the $120 worth of Anthropologie gift cards that were burning a hole in my wallet. (Thanks to my awesome friends and family that spoil me.) I'm like a kid in a candy store in that place, I just love love love it all. So funky, so fun. I had no idea what I was looking for but was confident I could find $120 worth of stuff I liked. We spent hours in the store and I had a handful of items set aside, deciding how to best spend my gift card balance and wincing at the price of every item:

Flower Burst Headband $28 looked so cute on me. Still want this.
Radiant Necklace $48 Could I make this for less?
Sunflower Stalk Jewelry Stand $72 My jewelry box is overflowing so I do "need" something like this. :)
Then I got to the back of the store and opened up a lonely mystery shower curtain bag to see what was inside. I was immediately inspired.

There was a slight case of sticker shock when I noticed it cost $118 but I was fully prepared to put all my other goodies back so I could go home with this lovely new shower curtain. Upon a closer inspection I noticed it was dirty so I asked if they had more, but that was the only one in the store. Deflated. Then they checked their distribution center and the computers said there were two more left. As long as their inventory was correct and I ordered it immediately I could have a clean one shipped to my house. And so I did.

Just the update I was looking for.

Each of these fabric appliques are bordered by embroidery with matching metalic thread (which you can't see well with my camera/lighting combo). I like the contrast of the casual cotton with the sparkley thread. And I love the colors. A seafoam green, gray, and golden yellow.

Because I can't leave Anthropologie without new hardware (my favorite department) and because I wanted something fun to match my new shower curtain, I paid out of pocket for these new knobs for the cabinet doors:

 2 Urchin Test Knobs in sea foam $8 each 
Since putting up the new shower curtain, I had to at least change out the current bathmat that completely clashed but I was determined not to spend a lot of money on all new towels. Ocean State Job Lot to the rescue:

This $5 cream colored mat replaced my old one that I kept in front of the sink. The $2 sea foam one happens to match the shower curtain perfectly but we only throw that down for after baths and showers. The plush mat is so lush - my kids love to snuggle on it.

I already had a few cream and yellow hand towels so I've only been using those. All of our bath towels hang behind the door so I really don't care if they don't match.

I moved that shelf to above the toilet from a different wall. I've had the bottles (that now perfectly match the color on the shower curtain) for a while - all from yardsales or found on the ground. I recently added two pieces of driftwood I found on a walk along the beach at Rocky Neck State Park in CT last month. Inside the frame with the large matte is a small print of a watercolor by Eileen Smith that I bought at The Handcraft House Gallery on the Cape years ago. This used to be on top of the shelf with the bottles, but to make room for the driftwood, I moved the frame below. The starfish was one of a few purchased for cheap at Remember When Antiques last fall. The owner picked them up on a South Carolina beach and bleached them.

I moved these frames from above the toilet to the opposite wall and replaced the old prints (to be seen below) with personal photos from our vacation this year.

The top picture is the California coastline along Route 1 somewhere between San Louis Obisbo and San Fransisco. The bottom is the view from our room on the beach at The Sanctuary Beach Resort in Marina, CA, which I highly recommend.

For anyone that had kept tabs on my old Facebook album of yard sale finds, the following treasure may look familiar. My friend Hannah and I had a fairly successful Saturday morning last April at a town-wide yard sale just north of Worceser. I remember her favorite score was an awesome wicker settee she was going to repaint (and I have yet to see finished) and my favorite score was this set of old windows for $5.

This wall is where the white shelf with the bottles was before I moved it in order to put the window here. Although I love how the two windows look "side by each" (that's the French last name talking), my house is too small for that so I just chose to hang one here for now.

I chose the one with the latch so I could hang a towel there if I want.
I love how worn and rustic it is and I haven't seen glass like that before.

I have a soft spot for old built-ins and love this as an alternative to a modern-day linen closet. The rest of the starfish that I bought at Remember When lean against the wall atop the molding and my new Anthro knobs are on.

Now, don't mind if I go on a slight tangeant...

Do you ever open the linen closet or medicine cabinet at other people's bathrooms out of curiosity? Come on, don't you at least wonder what's behind those doors? Okay, me first, I'll admit I've snooped a couple of times, and that makes me wonder if sometimes other people snoop on me too. This Southwest "Want to get away?" commercial has always cracked me up and captures the risk you take.

I like to keep my linen closet and medicine cabinet fairly clean, organized and pretty - mostly because I can be a little OCD like that but also, what if people snoop? So I will open my doors for you here - in another post for another day - because I know you're curious.

So where was I? Ah yes, one last treasure that I brought into the bathroom recently is something I've had for many years. It hit me that the color was just right for the bathroom now and had to be moved there.

This amazingly awesome stool came from one of my most fun and successful treasure hunts ever. In 2003ish I visited my bestie in Columbus, OH and we trekked all over the western suburbs on Saturday morning.  I think I paid between $2 and $5. Good thing we drove out there instead of flying so I could easily haul my trunk full of goodies back home. This colorful chippy old stool has been wandering around my house ever since.

The stool and our laundry basket help to block the 2nd door in our bathroom that leads to my daughter's bedroom so it stays closed. I'm sure guests just love using our bathroom - two doors and neither one locks!

Now I can't end an "Out with the old..." post before showing you the old stuff that's been taken out. But since I didn't take any "Before" pictures, I've collected together my old stuff to show you what I've been living with for the past 10 years.

11 years ago this is what I picked out for linens:

11 years ago this is what I picked out for wall art (among other things that I no longer have because they have not stood the test of time):

I still think those prints are cute and funny, but a little too childish. Heck, I was practically a kid still when I got married. These came in the frames I've kept in the bathroom and just 1/4 inch of the blue border showed as a matte when framed. I bought them through LTD Commodities catalog back in the day. 

These are the only other decor/art that I've kept in my bathroom all these years, but they just had to come out now.

These are probably originally from the 60s or 70s and I've had trouble parting with them ever since I picked them up for 10 cents each at a yard sale. They're fairly small (4x6 altogether?) and the pictures inside are actually 3-D. Hard to explain. I don't know why I just can't let them go and still find them so adorable. I didn't actually get rid of them. They don't really go with anything in my house but I'm considering hanging them in our small "hall" right outside the bathroom door where they can only be seen when you are on your way into the bathroom. They are fugly, I know, but I just can't part with them. I think I'm kind of sentimental over them or something weird like that.

So there's my bathroom facelift. Now I'm off to think and write about the most important treasure of all.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Why my mom can't quit her job

You know there is such a thing as a treasure hunting gene, right? I inherited it from my mom. She and my aunt inherited it from my Nana. I have fond memories of us all going on yard sale treks together growing up. And my favorite Sunday afternoon tradition was going to the Douglas Flea Market with mom, visiting with Nana at her booth, and oogling over rows and rows of interesting old things.

Thanks to my mom, I often don't need to hunt for my treasure. It's a big perk to the whole family that she works at the local Salvation Army Thrift Store and I'll be so sad when she ever leaves to pursue her new career in medical coding (go mom, starting a career in her late 50s). She always finds the best stuff. The best is the way she completely fills our Christmas stockings with Sally's finds. Her stockings are always packed with awesome and unexpected things. I bet the total contents of my stocking are usually valued at hundreds of dollars, but she pays like $0.50 an item.

Anything I'm on the hunt for - I make sure I tell my mom and she just waits for someone to drop it off at Sally's. Then she snags it for me before it makes it out onto the sales floor. More often than not, good things come to those that wait - with her 1/2 off employee discount included. She's even got her peeps there on the lookout for my wish list. I love getting the call from mom at work, "Betty just found a _____ for you, are you still interested?" Um, YES!

I think it was at one of our family's weekly January or February birthday celebrations this year when we were all at my parents house. My mom put out cheese and crackers displayed in this super cool container. I told her how much I loved it and guessed where she got it. (My mom has almost an entire closet full of the most beautiful and interesting trays, platters, bowls, vases, baskets, etc to set up amazing food displays and centerpieces - all from Sally's of course.) So she confirmed she paid a couple bucks. "I see these come through every now and then. Want me to get one for you if I see one?" Um...YES!

So today I get that unexpected phone call from mom at work. As soon as she says, "I'm at work and I have something here that I thought you might like," I get all excited. What could it be? "Remember that cheese and cracker dish you said you liked at my house? Well one came it today. Want me to get it for you?  I could bring it by after work today." Um...YES!

May I once again make excuses for my lame camera's lack of flash control combined with my kitchen's flourescent lighting...
Gotta love the $2.99 price tag, which means my mom paid $1.49 and of course she wouldn't take a penny from me.
So it's a glass gallon jug with a cheese block in the middle.
If you bring your cheese and crackers to someone else's house, you transport them like this.
Then you take the cheese block off to access the crackers, and the dome comes off to access the cheese.   My favorite cheese, above, is Havarti with Dill. My favorite crackers, above, are Triscuits.
Is it just me or is that just fun and lovely? This almost makes up for the most awesome cheese block I used to have and since regret getting rid of during one of my cleanouts. It was shaped like a mini butcher's block - a cutting board block on four legs - and the cheese knife was a mini butcher's knife. Of course it came from a yard sale (still remember what house) and I probably sold it at one of mine. Why did I get rid of it? So I need an excuse to serve up cheese and crackers real soon. Gotta put this thing to use!

Monday, April 11, 2011

True Fellowship

I've learned its a very rare treasure. What is it? How do you get it? How do you know if you have it?

My study of joy in the book of Philippians has begun to shed light on true fellowship and validates some of my experiences. (Bare with me while I sprinkle lots of quotes from Warren Wiersbe's book Be Joyful throughout my thoughts.) To provide a brief background, the apostle Paul is writing to the Christians in Philippi while he is chained in jail, awaiting his (and Christianity's) trial in Rome. But he writes this letter to share the secret to the joy that he has. Say what? Joy while in shackles for his faith? With a good possibility that the death penalty awaits him?

Wiersbe writes: "The secret of his joy is the single mind; he lives for Christ and the Gospel....It is the attitude that says, 'It makes no difference what happens to me, just as long as Christ is glorified and the Gospel is shared with others.' Paul rejoiced in spite of his circumstances, because his circumstances strengthened the fellowship of the Gospel..."

So he had a single-minded goal and motivation that included this thing called fellowship. Whatever fellowship was, it was so important and worthwhile to Paul that he was willing to withstand such hardship to strengthen it. In Christian/churchy circles today the word fellowship often conjures up images of light socializing with other Christians (over food of course!). I'm sorry but strengthening my chit-chats-over-brownies-after-church would not motivate me to suffer through life's tough circumstances. There is more to true fellowship than that.

Back to Wiersbe: "You cannot have fellowship with someone unless you have something in common...It is possible to be close to people physically but miles away from them spiritually...Paul was in Rome, his friends were miles away in Philippi, but their spiritual fellowship was real and satisfying." So Paul wasn't even physically with these friends, never mind able to eat with them, but they shared a strong spiritual bond and single-minded mission based on Christ.

I've spent a lot of time with Christians without having deep or honest conversations about what we have in common or what we can do about it. I've wasted plenty of time hanging out with people and never getting past small talk, or my life or theirs. It is meaningless. It doesn't glorify Christ. It doesn't share the Gospel. It doesn't result in joy. This is not the true fellowship Paul describes in his letter to the Philippians.

I really like how Wiersbe breaks down the definition of true fellowship by summarizing the three sections in Philippians 1:1-11. When you have true fellowship with another Christian, you have them in your mind (vv 3-6), you have them in your heart (vv 7-8), and you have them in your prayers (vv 9-11).

Philippians 1:1 "I thank my God every time I remember you."
When I have you in my mind, I'm thinking of you, not myself. I'm thinking of your circumstances, not mine. Paul goes on to tell the Philippians in v.6, "being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." When I am focused on encouraging you in your spiritual growth and filling you with confidence that God will finish the amazing work he's started in your life, that gives me joy and leaves no room in my mind for dwelling on my own worries.

Philippians 1:7 "It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart;"
Wiersbe joked that people can be in our minds but not in our hearts. We can remember people by thinking about how much they irritate us, or how bitter they make us, or how they need to change. But...
When I have you in my heart, I have a sincere love for you that cannot be disguised or hidden. This takes it to a deeper level. True fellowship is not just in thought but in action. This takes up my time. This involves me getting to know you and your needs. This involves me looking past your failures. Christ's Spirit in me empowers me to show you love and this results in joy for both of us.

Wiersbe notes the evidence of Paul's love for the Christians in Philippi: "For one thing, he was suffering on their behalf. His bonds were proof of his love...Because of Paul's trial, Christianity was going to get a fair hearing before the officials of Rome. Since Philippi was a Roman colony, the decision would affect the believers there...He considered his difficult circumstances an opportunity for defending and confirming the Gospel..."  He did this for the sake of the other believers as an act of love, proof they were in his heart.

Philippians 1:9 "And this is my prayer; that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight..."
When I have you in my prayers, I present you before God's throne of grace. The more I ask of God for you, the less I ask for me. As Paul shares how he prays for them, a much deeper level of fellowship is present. His prayers for them have nothing to do with their circumstances but instead have to do with the single-minded mission that they have in common. He doesn't share with them how he's asked God to help them out financially or to heal their illnesses or to get them out of a sticky situation (though I assume he prayed those prayers too). He tells them how he's prayed that they will grow in the knowledge and understanding of God. Why? So that they can better love others, discern what is right and live lives that are pure and fruitful to glorify God. Wowzers. My first reaction was, well, he's in jail, he's got nothing better to do than pray like that. But the reality is that most of us, if in Paul's situation, would spend all our time in fear and worry. Communication with others would be spent complaining about the awful details of our circumstances and begging for help and sympathy. We all choose how we spend our time, no matter what situation we are in.

In summary by Wiersbe: "This, then, is true Christian fellowship - a having-in-common that is much deeper than friendship. I have you in my mind . . . I have you in my heart . . . I have you in my prayers.  This is the kind of fellowship that produces joy, and it is the single mind the produces this kind of fellowship!"

Before I studied Philippians 1:1-11, if someone had asked me if I'm experiencing true Christian fellowship I would have said YES! I am so blessed to have that goes-deeper than-friendship-common-spiritual-bond with more than a handful of Christians. But apparently I've barely scratched the surface when it comes to experiencing true fellowship. Lately I've had others "in my mind" a lot. I've been very purposeful to listen to others, to be perceptive of their needs and to let them know they are on my mind by encouraging them with scripture. (Because "sending thoughts your way" doesn't actually do anything.) I've also been spending more of my time keeping others "in my heart." I have been looking for and acting on opportunities to show love to others by doing practical things for them in a way that glorifies God and shares the Gospel.  Every day God provides these opportunities and every act of love results in immediate increased joy for me. That's not my motivation but it is a consequence, and one that is promised at that. My mind is not on my own worries and circumstances when I focus on others and on God.

So it's fairly easy to have others on my mind and a little hard to live a life evidenced by my loving actions toward others, but pray for others to have mature Christian love and character? Not that I'm scoring an "A" in either Mind or Heart but I'm certainly scoring a big old "F" in that Prayer category of true fellowship. Wouldn't I love others to be praying that way for me? Please do! And I will try, with God's help, to do the same. Who dares to experience true Christian fellowship (and the joy that follows) with me?
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