Monday, September 9, 2013

Rich Man/Poor Man

Recently I was invited to a magnificent home sitting on country acreage surrounded by luscious grounds. Whimsically decorated with full size statues of various animals, I'd never seen anything quite like it. Once inside I was greeted with soaring ceilings, marble floors and a kitchen that a chef's dream scape  Using extreme restraint, I managed to keep from staring with my mouth wide open.

Who are these people, I wondered? I was about to find out. The man who built this house is considered a genius, he holds doctorates in several different fields, and is currently working on another degree. He made a fortune in the computer field, inventing a  program  sold around the world. He and his wife have raised a family and have traveled the globe.

Although the worldly success is obvious in this place of luxury, the house is eerily the man. With all his worldly successes hanging on the wall, and all the booming applause ringing throughout the rooms, this man is spiritually a pauper. I wanted to weep for the folly of it all. Instead I prayed, "Lord, have mercy. Open his eyes to the truth of who you are and who you want to be in his life."

I've often been envious of other's material things, but standing in that house made me more grateful than I've ever felt in my life. Grateful that thirty some years ago, I surrendered my heart and soul to the one Person who loves me most. Regardless of what I possess, or how much money I earn, I am loved unconditionally even when I'm unlovable and disobedient. This my friends, is a priceless gift from God.

Here's what the Bible says in Ecclesiastes: 1:2b, about what the world has to offer. "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity." After my visit to the mansion on the green, I totally understand this scripture. All we have here will someday burn, but God's love continues into eternity. I just love how rich I am!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Merry Christmas

Christmas seems to be most people's favorite holiday. I know it's mine.  But this year, after perusing our local mall, I was sorely disappointed to see not one reference to the real meaning of Christmas except at the Christian bookstore. I wasn't surprised, just sad. Then, as I started down the escalator, music began pouring out of loudspeakers everywhere: "Joy to the world, the Lord has come. Let earth receive her King. Let every heart prepare Him room. Let heaven and nature sing. Let heaven and nature sing..." The busy, uncaring, un-adoring mall, now pulsated with holy truth.

Even now, remembering those words and my feelings, brings me to tears. As people rushed around---some in despair, many in debt, and others not caring---the truth rang out. Joy is possible, even in a world of chaos. Let every heart prepare him room. Yes! Prepare, and He will come: He wants to abide with us...make His home in the place He created just for Himself. Let earth receive her King: The King of heaven came to be King of every living heart. Ah yes, let heaven and nature sing: Sing of the greatness of a God who sent the breath of heaven for our salvation.

Dear Friend, if this Christmas season finds you down, remember this: You're supernaturally loved. If heartaches threaten to consume you until your very soul feels empty, do not despair. Why? Because the Lord God of the Universe wants to give you life---abundant life. This life is an eternal gift, one He gives freely to those who ask. The celebration of Christmas is meant to remind you of that precious, irrevocable life. As you heart think over the true meaning of Christmas may you be transformed and renewed.

Sharon Bernash Smith

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

From My Heart to God's

Dear Lord,
     You know my heart. You know how hard I struggle with feelings of helplessness in the face of suffering. How can I make a difference? Even when I do raise my hand to do something, I wonder... does it really matter? Can one person make an impact in a world of hurting children?
     How faithful you are to show me just how important one person can be in the life of another.  I thank you that your hand is on the ministry of Compassion International, and that through them, one good intention builds on another. Remarkably then, not just one child is impacted, but hundreds, and eventually thousands.
     Sometimes it's hard to step out when the need is so enormous. But believing in the power of your direction, it becomes simple. Pledging to sponsor a child through Compassion International is faith in action. It's putting feet to the gospel in order to touch the "least of these."
     Thank you for the opportunity to spread your love to the little people you love so much. Thank you for blessing me so that I might be a blessing.

Your daughter, Sharon

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

School's Not for Everyone!

Today was the first day of school for thousands, including my two oldest grandchildren, going into high school and fourth grade. They were nervous and excited at the same time. School and all that goes with it is a very big deal in every child's life...or should be.

it's sobering to think that there are thousand and thousands more children around the world for whom school never happens. Never! Not only that, but there are those who spend every day hungry, foraging for food and sometimes even shelter in places we've never seen in this huge, stinking garbage dumps.

But there is hope! After reading about the ministry of Compassion International, I was inspired by the integrity surrounding their mission to help children who suffer from lack of even the barest of essentials.  They reach out to be the heart of Jesus in the most practical of ways. I want to be Him to the world. How about you?

Your involvement in Compassion International, can be so simple. First, I challenge you to view this ministry up close by looking at their  The information is eye-opening, and heart wrenching. Next, maybe you could pray over a child or two. How about praying about your own involvement. Sponsoring a child is so simple, yet so effective in changing that child's future. When you get to the website, check out Sponsor a child, page, and you'll see what I mean.

I'm so excited to be able to share the heart of Compassion International. Can't wait to bring you more information tomorrow.

Thanks, Sharon

Monday, August 20, 2012

Praises From a Small Window

I've been following the advice of Ann Voskamp after reading her book One Thousand Gifts...looking, then expecting to find moments of gratitude in my daily surroundings and circumstances. She calls them "eucharisteo" moments.

After nearly a year, it's become a habit, this waking to expectation. Scripture says "all my expectations are on Him." So I search and wait...  Now, the window in my bathroom has become my daily starting point. First, I crack it...let  the happenings of my backyard float inside...sounds of jays, finch and sparrows at the feeders with scrambling squirrels on high wires. Best of all is to hear, laughing children from behind the fence.. Ah, the awakening!

I open the window a little wider and hang my head out to spy tiny orange tomatoes becoming sweet promises for later in the week. From here I can just see ripening grapes behind huge green leaves and curly tendrils.  And oh wow, catch a glimpse of an leaf turning fallish on the maple tree.  Next I check on our first ever apple crop. "Crop" loosely defined as a dozen apples. Time is ticking...I can hear that from this place of gratitude as well.

Lord, how I praise you for the opportunity to see with my heart the things from your bountiful, grace filled moments. Thank you for the gifts that You've created for those who look....even from one small window.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Freedom at Coffee Creek

Coffee Creek! Sort of brings to mind a lazy flowing stream, doesn't it? Actually, Coffee Creek is a women's prison in Wilsonville, OR., and all female offenders in the state are housed within its walls. A few years ago, I was asked to go there with some Christian women who desired to start a post-abortion ministry for the prisoners who were interested.

Except for the signs posted around, from the parking lot, there is little evidence that the facility is a prison. However, once inside the doors there is no doubt you've entered a different world. From body scanners to armed personnel, the evidence of incarceration is immediate.

After hearing a heavy door close behind me, all my senses were brought to a hyper level of awareness. The sights, sounds and smells invaded my consciousness and I felt a spiritual heaviness all around me. I began to pray.

After several long hallways and more heavy doors, we entered the chapel. It was filled with about two dozen women of various ages and ethnic backgrounds, each dressed in identical uniforms. All the women were part of an on-going Christian fellowship and Bible study group.

As we began to worship, the heaviness I'd felt upon entering lifted and the sweetness of God's presence filled every inch of space. While sitting in the back, I began looking around at the inmates and the "others" like me. I sat up a little straighter as I became aware of a profound truth... except for our clothing, the women on the "inside" were exactly the same as those from the "outside."

Whatever circumstances had brought these women here, they no longer mattered in the reality of God's grace. It was the same for me! Once I entered into a personal relationship with the Lord God of the Universe, I was free from my past.  Now, in this church, we could all come together in that freedom and celebrate the reality of God's mercy. "If any man be in Christ,  he has become  a new creation, old things have passed away, behold everything has become new in HIM." Never had that truth been more evident to me than in that moment. Surrounded by steel bars, locked doors and armed security every single person in that place was FREE.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Joy to the world?

When we look around, it would appear that "joy" has skipped a lot of hurting people around the world. There have been earthquakes, tsunamis, recent flooding and on-going famines. Our economy has plunged many into desperate times because employment opportunities and the stock market continue to remain bleak and unstable.

Closer to home, I've watched two families say good-bye to loved ones who have died from terrible cancers, and just last week a couple in my church lost their tiny baby girl at eighteen weeks gestation. Locally, a large homeless population, including entire families, goes unaided despite several shelters and charities like the Salvation Army. Today, I'm praying for a vibrant pastor friend who suffered a heart attack.

Obviously, people are suffering, and as Christmas approaches, their plight is brought forward to linger in our consciousness. As Christians, how do we minister to those whose happiness seems just out of reach, or buried beneath circumstances beyond human control? How do we ourselves keep a focus on joy when everything around us seems to be falling apart?

Jesus said: "I have come that you might have life and have it more abundantly." How is that even possible given the above mentioned situations? If God says that abundant life (joy) is possible in the impossible chaos of civilization, then we must surely realize that joy is not the same as happiness.

This is what Oswald Chambers said about joy. "Joy should not be confused with happiness. Jesus prayed that our joy might continue fulfilling itself until it becomes the same as His. Have I allowed Jesus Christ to introduce His joy to me?" "These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full." (John 15:11)"

He whispers, or shouts, calling us by name..."come receive from Me the abundant life." What amazing, miraculous transitions are birthed when despite what goes on around us, near or far, we accept the intimacy of His invitation and remain focused on Him.

God brings life out of dark places from habit. New life comes from the darkness of the womb, and from the vast void of nothingness came His creation. (Genesis 1) He desires to bring hope to those who suffer through the dark night of the soul for He is HOPE. Joy comes from fixing our eyes on Him because He is JOY, and therefore, we can lay all expectations and suffering at His feet. However, it's been my experience this does not come without repetitious, faith filled, effort.

Christmas is the perfect reminder that God is on the side of mankind despite the fact He does not spare extreme hardship or even agonies of the flesh. We can still hail "joy to the world," because JOY came to the world for our soul's redemption in the form of the Infant King Jesus...our Emmanuel...our God with us.

Despite young death, old suffering, or the onslaughts of nature, we may partake in the riches of God's joyful glory ...and not just at Christmas.

Merry Christmas and JOY to your world!