Come for all things are ready

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I was waiting for the call, the invite, the day, the time and place.

A group of old friends, some of us knowing each other from kindergarten through high school, reconnected and a dinner date was in the works.

The woman organizing the evening promised to call me as soon as all the arrangements were in place.

A few weeks went by and one day while scrolling down my facebook news feed I saw them — all of them sitting around a table, having dinner together.

Oh the curse of facebook.  We see things that, once upon time, came to our attention through the grapevine.

It’s the good, the bad and the ugly of the social media craze.

Did I miss a text, an email, a phone call?  I checked.  Nope.

I was forgotten.  Skipped over.

You know those feelings of rejection you got in junior high when your friends went to a party without you and afterwards you found out about it?  Well, those long, long ago feelings paid me a visit and I felt like a foolish junior higher with left-out and rejected emotions coursing through me.

They had dinner together and I wasn’t invited? 

It bothered me for a while and then my friend’s text came — “Mea Culpa” — I googled those words, there was more communication between us and forgiveness extended.

There have been more serious rejections and painful situations in my life than the story that I just shared.  I think it’s safe to say that you’ve experienced them too.

We’ve all been there, feeling rejected, excluded, forgotten, ignored at one time or another.

But there’s one table – a banquet table – where there aren’t any exclusions. It’s an open invitation and we’re all invited.

Jesus set the table and it’s a table where we can bring all our baggage, rejections, hurt, pain, frustration and lay out our sin.  It’s not for the perfect or for those dressed a certain way, those of the right ethnic background, social status, the VIP, or the prestigious.   No, it’s all-inclusive.

He welcomes all with open arms to his banquet table.  It’s a place to feast on his goodness and receive his gifts.  The gifts of grace, mercy, forgiveness and love.

He sends out the invitation: “Come, for everything is now ready.”  (Luke 14: 17)  But not everyone accepts the invitation.

Sometimes the excuses we make to decline his invitation seem sensible.  We ignore the invitation because we’re busy with life–family, jobs, financial obligations, to do lists, bucket lists or whatever else consumes our time.

At his table there’s great love, we learn and grow in our relationship with him –it’s the discipleship process–we grasp the depth of his love that came through a horrific sacrifice–and through it came grace.  It was all about grace.

His grace is lavish.  It’s an astonishing grace but it’s not cheap grace.  It was never cheap.  There was a cost and that brings us to another table.

On that night so long ago, the night before his death, he broke the bread and lifted the cup — a symbol of his broken body and spilled out blood.

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It should have been me, it should have been you but he took the pain and suffered the cross so we wouldn’t have to.  It cost him his life.

Thankfully it didn’t end there, because 3 days after Jesus’ death he rose and is alive and he’s waiting at the BIG BANQUET TABLE that he’s preparing for those who will meet him face to face.  It’s another table, for another time and will be the biggest most beautiful celebration of all.

But until that day his table (on this side of heaven) is set, the invitations are out, you’re invited, I’m invited.

And he says, Come for all things are ready…


Read about the feast and banquet table here:  Luke 14: 15-24

The last supper:  Matthew 26: 17-30 / Luke 22: 14-24

Happy Easter!

Nancy Janiga

The church isn’t a building it’s a way of life

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But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind. Luke 14:13

It’s common to see a parade of wheelchairs being pushed the few blocks to the church from the nursing home and rehabilitation center down the street.

Once the parade strolls and rolls into the building, the wheelchair bound get seats front and center.

With arms raised they worship.  Boy do they worship.

I can learn a few things from their abandoned style.  Wholly free, carefree, free indeed.

Bound by their chairs physically but free in the Spirit.

I have observed this group and worshiped along side of them for several weeks now.

Then there’s the homeless people, from the inner city, whom can catch a ride on the church bus that travels through the city offering rides.

I’ve been in awe watching them worship too, some with arms raised, some with tears streaming down their faces, some with expressions of joy, some with shouts of joy and others more contemplative.

I listened to conversations with them afterwards.  They expressed gratefulness for being accepted and included many with tears.

Then their stories.  Why, how, when.  Some talked about church growing up and how worship was for them back in those days.

Yes, some grew up going church and then…

I listen.  I see.   I’m touched and I learn.

Many in the church know the names of the homeless and extend friendship.  When the pastor announced  that one of the men passed away on the streets one week I could hear the care, the grief and the loss in his words.

On Super Bowl Sunday the church gathered together for a Party.  That’s common.  Many churches gather their flock together all over the U.S. on that day to watch the game, eat snacks and cheer for their teams.   They party together.

This one was different.  The parishioners received an invitation to serve.  That’s right.  They were throwing a party and the guests of honor were the homeless.  A T.V., the game, a meal and a blessing–were all part of the evening.

I listen.  I see.  I’m touched and I learn.

These people, my extended Spiritual family welcomed Bob and me in when we wandered through their doors looking for a place to worship one Sunday and we stayed for almost 3 months.

Our last Sunday with them will be on Palm Sunday and then we will head back to our home church.

Last week two wheelchair bound worshipers were on stage with the praise team helping to lead worship.

Monthly the worship team from church heads down the street to the nursing home and rehabilitation center to enjoy a worship service together.  The gifts and talents exploded from the residence as some came out of the shadows to sing.

Now occasionally they will help lead worship at church.  They will become part of the team.

I listen.  I see.  I’m touched and I learn.

In the wake of the recent news reports when all seems so overwhelming and almost hopeless, I’m brought back to truth, just the simple truth that there’s still hope, love and a way to live differently to impact others one soul at a time.

As I approach Easter, it’s that message that I want to carry long after I have to say goodbye to this band of Jesus followers–the Easter people–the people of this church that Bob and I have grown to love and admire.

They don’t just go to church they are the church and they declare that statement weekly at the end of each service.  Their words resonate with me…”We don’t just go to church we are the church!”  And they don’t just say it, they live it.

Blessings!

Nancy ❤

Hydrate!

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I never thought I’d be that woman.  The one dehydrated and hooked to an IV, EKG, blood pressure machine, and God only knows what else all those wires were.

My family would be the first to tell you that I’m a health nut when it comes to the foods I eat but they could also tell you that they have spoken these three words to me often, “Drink more water!”

It was just a few days of being active in the sun to deplete me.

My husband and I took a break from our snow-covered state and entered a warmer climate and I was ecstatic about shedding the parka’s and boots for tennis shoes and shorts.

Coffee in the morning, a sip of water (here and there), coffee in the afternoon, a sip of water (here and there) and wine with dinner didn’t add up to enough liquid to sustain me through the hikes and all of our outdoor activities in a warmer climate.

By the way, the nurse informed me that neither coffee nor wine counts!  They are diuretics.

So there I sat for half a day in the emergency room while the doctor on staff ordered tests to determine why I collapsed that morning.

Long story short, they hooked up a bag of fluids and pumped it through me.

I was back…ready to put my hiking shoes on and go…

I’ve gulped down water like crazy everyday since and I’m feeling great.  Infusing the water with citrus helps too.

I was a woman in need of water.  I was thirsty and didn’t even know it.

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She was trying to fill the empty places in her life with temporary solutions but the solutions weren’t quenching her deepest soul-thirst.

When the women in town went to collect water from the well in the morning, she stayed back.  Maybe they didn’t want to associate with her and she knew it.

Most likely an outcast and shunned by the people in her town, she waited until noon (the hottest part of the day) knowing others wouldn’t be around to fill their jars in the heat.  That way she could avoid their glaring stares.

She was, most likely, ashamed but didn’t know how to solve her problem.

But Jesus knew and He cared.  So one day at noon He met her at the well.

Jewish people would steer clear of Samaria and take the long way around to get to their destinations.  The Samaritans were not full-blooded Jewish.  They were a mixed race and considered unclean by the Jews but Jesus thought differently.

On His way to Galilee, Jesus went through Samaria and stopped at the well to rest.

He waited for the Samaritan woman and asked her for a drink.  What a surprise that was.  First of all she was a woman.  Men didn’t talk to women in public.  Secondly she was a Samaritan (considered a half-breed and despised by the Jews) and Jesus was asking her for a drink of water?  That was unheard of!

But Jesus always surprised people and went to places others refused to go and spoke to people whom others wouldn’t think of talking to.

Jesus reached out to her and ultimately offered her a drink from His Spiritual well–the well that never runs dry and even bubbles up to eternal life.

Jesus set up that divine appointment.  He knew she was coming and made sure He was there right on time.  Jesus never misses an appointment.

He confronted the woman with her lifestyle by simply saying, “Go, call your husband and come back.”  “I don’t have a husband,” she replied.

Jesus tells her that she is right and goes on to reveal the truth about her life.

She was a woman who had 5 husbands and the man she was living with then wasn’t her husband and Jesus offered her the solution to escape her circumstances.  The solution was Him.  He offered her His Living Water so she would never be Spiritually thirsty again.

The thing is we don’t really know why she had five husbands or why she was living the way she was.  It could have been by choice.  Maybe there was abuse in her past and she didn’t know what a healthy relationship was.  It could have been that she was left by her first husband and then tossed from man to man.   Women were completely dependent on men to care for them, in those days, or they wouldn’t survive.  Maybe she held out hope that someday the right man would meet her deepest needs and solve her loneliness.

We don’t know the back story, but what we do know is that Jesus cared enough to go to Samaria to meet her and offer her true love and hope and the best part of the story is that she accepted it.

She not only accepted it but she left her earthly jar behind and ran into town with her Spiritual Living Water splashing joy on others and many believed because of her testimony.

It’s truly amazing and the story reveals the depth of Jesus’ love for everyone and His willingness to go out of His way to find one lost soul.

We can’t fill our lives with temporal things and think that it will satisfy our Spiritual thirst.  There’s no person, place or thing that can take the place of God.  As much as we try, our divine thirst cannot be quenched by anything but Living Water.  That Living Water is the Holy Spirit.

“If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.  Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.”  By this he meant the Spirit…   John 7: 37-39

I need water to survive physically and if I’m not hydrated my body lets me know.  Ignoring my physical thirst or thinking something else (like coffee or wine) will satisfy my thirst can result in a medical emergency.

But just as important, I need to quench my Spiritual thirst daily too.  If I don’t drink deeply from the well that never runs dry and ignore my need for the Living Water of Jesus, I will collapse Spiritually.

I’m staying hydrated physically now but my recent trip to the hospital reminds me that my Spiritual thirst is just as important and I need to have Spiritual Living Water running through me daily too.

And like the Samaritan woman I hope I will always be just as excited to lay down my earthly jars and run and tell others about the Living Water of Jesus that Spiritually hydrates me.

If you click this link:  John 4: 1-42 you can read the amazing story of the woman at the well and Jesus’ encounter with her.

Blessings!

Nancy

Safe and Secure

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He sat at the round bistro table, feet dangling from his chair.  His white socks stretched to his knees, legs swaying, eagerly waiting for a slice of pizza to satisfy his little appetite.
His tiny mouth puckered around the tip of a straw sipping orange soda while his big, round, dark eyes looked sideways toward his daddy.  He sipped then spoke, sometimes placing his little face in front of his daddy’s eyes.
Deep in conversation they were.  The little one asking questions about many topics.  He had an array of queries about history, math, sports — you name it — he was covering everything and his daddy paid close attention to every detail of every sentence.
Never once did I see a smart phone sitting on their table or in the hands of the father.  Not even to record the special moment with a snap of the camera.  His undivided attention focused on his son.  The little one with the dark spiked hair and toothless grin was of utmost importance to his daddy and the little guy was comfortable in his presence.
If he squirmed or got restless, his daddy responded with gentleness for his son to stay patient for just a little longer.
He watched his father closely and emulated him.   Where his dad placed his napkin, his fork and his drink, the boy did the same.
After sinking his teeth into his first bite of pizza the little boy’s big dark eyes grew bigger.  Glancing at daddy, he tapped his shoulder and said a simple, “Thank you.”
The daddy leaned toward his son, smiled and wiped a little sauce from the boy’s face.   The loving affection for his son was clear and the son sat securely and comfortably in that love.
Their exchange was inspiring.
Is my relationship with my Father in Heaven that comfortable?
Jesus called God the warm; intimate child-like Aramaic word,  Abba Father, a tender, endearing name (like papa or daddy would be).  It’s a perfect example of the affectionate, dependent relationship He had with His Father.
And He wants that for us too.
No lofty prayer, no special words, no cleaning up is necessary before we sit in our Father’s presence.  He’ll wipe our stains clean through Christ.
We can just be ourselves.  We can ask questions.  We can share our needs.  We can say thank you for His unconditional love and for His constant encouragement to reach higher and become better.
And even when we don’t speak, He reads our hearts and responds to our deepest needs.
The good Father challenges us to let go of indifference and to reach, stretch, share and love — like He does.
The hard places discipline us under His careful watch and lead us to say yes to His yes instead of shaking our heads in defiance.
When we say yes to His yes, I bet He smiles.
When He says no to us, I hope we understand that He has only our best interest in mind.
When we ask Him for our heart’s desires, sometimes His answers come as YES, sometimes they come as NO and sometimes they come as NOT NOW — just wait.
But it’s not about the answers.  Not really.  It’s about Him and our relationship with Him and when we realize that’s all we really need, it becomes enough.

Blessings!      Nancy © 2015