Monday, July 2, 2012

A Wonderful Surprise

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

Well done good and faithful servant. You have been faithful with a few things; 
I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share in your master's happiness.
Matthew 25:21

During the announcements in our service today, I was asked to come down from my perch high aloft in the sound booth. I was recognized for my service on the church board for the last three years. I served one year as a board member and I and four others were replacing a board that had been asked to step down. The congregation felt it was time for new leadership and five of us were chosen. The second year I was the chairman, and the third the vice chairman. It has certainly been one heck of a wild ride from a church we thought we might be able to save, to a church we almost had to close to one that has been given a new lease on life.

So the current chairman presented me with this beautiful journal engraved with the words of Matthew 25:21.  Those are the words I want to hear from Jesus when I stand before the Lord some day. How special to have them engraved on this journal. There are also some wonderful notes written in the first few pages from my pastor and the other board members.

Some times God gives us things to do that are difficult, and inconvenient and it does not seem like we are making any progress. Then suddenly things shift and change. We have passed through the dark night of the storm and find our selves on the other side of a great struggle.

There were times when I wanted to give up - but I knew that if I gave up others would too. Help me hold on Lord. Lord I know you are able but what is your will in this situation and in this place? Help me understand what you are doing? Jesus would speak to me stay the course to stand until the end. I did not know if that was until the doors of the church were closed and we turned over the key to the denomination or if it meant stand to the end of my board term. He would tell me when things looked most hopeless and we were with in a few months of having to close the door, he would say prepare your fields." I think He looks at our hearts, much like he looked at Abraham. Will we follow through or will we give up. There were so many times that the cry of my heart before Him was Lord, don't let your light go out here, there are people who need you. We tried to do what needed to be done, and the things we could do but mostly I just held on because I had not reached the end.

I saw this quote on Penterest recently and I saved it to embed in a post.


Source: facebook.com via Margot on Pinterest


I don't know how exactly I got through these three years. I stayed close to the Lord, I prayed, I griped and moaned at some points. I was tired and burned out at some points and I had to step back from a lot of extra activities for a time.  I can say that the experience has profoundly changed me. I have served on other board but it was in churches that were healthy. Never have I been so tired and tested and pushed to places beyond where I thought my limits lay. I suppose it is like the difference between serving in the military during a time of peace or in a time of war or national crisis. He will not give you more than you can bear, but you can probably bear a whole lot more than you think you can.
Will you take that next step of faith or will you give up because things are hard.

Great stories are written about people who don't give up in the face of seemingly impossible circumstances. I think of the young girl who saw a series of vision and in one was told to drink and wash in the water of Lourdes. The account in Widkapeda say "The next day she went further, and during her trance, chewed and ate grass she plucked from the ground. She then rubbed mud over her face and swallowed some mud, to the disgust of the many onlookers and the embarrassment of those who believed in her visions. She explained that the vision had told her "to drink of the water of the spring, to wash in it and to eat the herb that grew there, as an act of penance. To everyone's surprise, the next day the grotto was no longer muddy but clear water flowed" For 150 some years people have been going to that place and report having been healed by those waters. Bernadeta Sobirós continued on even though many thought she was crazy.

Florence Nightingale is another example. In 1820 she is born to a well off family in Florence Italy. At age 16 she believed God told her that he had a task for her to do. She resisted her families pressure to marry and found ways to work to care for poor and needy people. At one point she wanted to go and work in the local hospital. In those days nurses were not thought of as much more than maids. She persisted and went on to work in the army hospitals. She eventually started her own school of nursing. She served and advised others in nursing procedures in several wars including our civil war. She became known as the lady with the lamp. Because she was checking on her patients day and night. She did not give up but pressed on to take new ground again and again. Just because women had never done such things was not reason enough for her to go home and crochet doilies. God had given her a task and she held to that belief to the end of her life at age 90 and remarkably changed our world for the better.

Sometimes the things God' calls us to do seem impossible and crazy. We want to talk our selves out of it all. What will people think, we wonder? This Bernadette was a simple girl, her father was a miller in the town. Florence was from a well off family. Your station in life has little to do with responding with faith to do the next step and the next of God's calling on your life.

I have to say my faith has stretched and grown over the past three years. I am glad that there are new board members who God has assembled for the next leg of the journey. I am glad to have been able to serve God in this capacity during this critical point in this churches history. I'm glad the I made it to this finish line. I don't know what God has next, if the past is any indication it is about cutting a path for others to follow through some uncharted territory. I think of the Steven Curtis Chapman song The Great Adventure that says... "Saddle up your horses we've got a trail to blaze. Through the wild blue yonder of God's amazing grace. Let's follow our leader into the glorious unknown. This is a life like no other - this is The Great Adventure:"

What about you? What has God spoken to your heart to do? Some of you know and some of you don't have a clue. Some of you are at the beginning of a great adventure, and some are nearing a finish line. Don't give up, keep taking one step and then another - you will get to the end if you don't give up and quit.

I love the last page of the Last Battle by C.S Lewis. "And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover an the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story, which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before"

So this is much like coming to the end of one of my big art projects. I can look way back to the starting point of this journey when I wondered how will I ever get from here to there. It looked impossible but with God all things are possible.

Thank you to my wonderful church family for such a profoundly meaningful gift. I am truly blessed to have had the opportunity to serve. I am changed for the better. 


Prayer:
Dear Lord you have things for each of us to accomplish with the life you have given us. Help us to take that next step of faith to follow you into the wild blue yonder of your amazing grace. Take us Lord into your Great Adventure, where the impossible becomes possible as we take one step of faith and then another walking with you today and tomorrow and the days after that.




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