Saturday, December 16, 2017

Manageable Bites


 

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:34

 

The students in my classroom are labeled as “Intellectually disabled.” That is true. All of them struggle in some areas, each one has different strengths and different limits. One thing that is often common in our learning community is the tendency to eat too quickly. It is not unusual to see a child take a “bite” that is actually half a hamburger or attempt to put an entire dinner roll in his mouth at once. Shoveling all things spoonable, potatoes, mac and cheese, fruit is pretty ordinary for some of my kiddos. Thus there has to be a constant reminder, “slow down, sweetie, take manageable bites.”

          That term, manageable bites, came to me this morning during my quiet time with the Lord. I was looking around my office, overwhelmed by the chaos that is my Christmas prep. Paper, tape, bags, cards, things wrapped and yet to be wrapped are all over my space. I had to unearth my chair to even begin to spend time with God. The state of my space threatened my serenity, my ability to focus on what Abba had to say this morning. I drew in a deep breath and told myself, “manageable bites.” I was in the time I set aside to be with my Savior. Wrapping, cooking, baking and the phone calls/texts to firm up plans would have to wait.  That is when God showed me, reminded me, that I am not the only one who is being tempted to take on too much at once. “Tell them.”

          So here I am to remind you that this is the day that the Lord has made! We should rejoice and be glad in it. (Psalm 118:24) Things will get done, or they won’t but more likely, most likely, they will if we remember what is important. Mary chose what was better and it was not taken from her. She chose to sit at Jesus’ feet and listen to Him, to drink in His peace and strength.  (Luke 10:42) Mary had her priorities straight. She remained calmly at the feet of her Savior and when He was finished I’m guessing she got everything done without stress.

          Follow Mary’s example. Live in this moment without angst about the moments to come. Take manageable bites and have a joy filled day.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

More To Come


 

But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ. Philippians 3:20

All around me at this time there is so much preparation for Christmas. Jesus is having a birthday. This season reminds us that Jesus came to live and move among us, to direct our minds and hearts toward the Father and to save us from sin and death. Then He left. Thankfully, that is not the end of the story.

          The students in my classroom read from a book that has stories that continue for more than one lesson. At the end of the story it says, “the end” but on the prior lessons it says, “more to come.” These last few weeks as I’ve heard them read those words, “more to come” I have been reminded that there is indeed more to come.

          Jesus is coming back. He left us, only for a time and He did not leave us alone. He gave us His Holy Spirit to be with us as we journey toward home, toward the more to come. (John 14:15-18)

          So many of us are busy making preparation for December 25th, for company and parties. We are buying wrapping, cooking, baking and cleaning. We are singing and thinking of sweet baby Jesus but there is more to come.

          For those of us who know the Lord, who love and serve Him, we know that the best is yet to come. Are we preparing for that? What about December 26th and on into the new year, and the one after that? Will we prepare for Jesus return every day of our lives, waiting in anticipation for Him to come and take us home, deliver us? Or do we prepare simply for the secular celebration and hope that our pastors and Biblical scholars will do the preparing for the big return?

          Revelation 1:7 tells us to “Look, he’s coming with the clouds” and Revelation 1:8 says, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the one who is and who was and who is to come.” (emphasis mine)   In other words, Christmas, bells, whistles, gifts, cookies and so on may be over in a couple of weeks but there is more to come.

          Enjoy the happy chaos of Christmas, of the preparations, the celebrations, the fun and the love but never forget where all good things originate and from whom they come. (James 1:17)

          Jesus came and He promised more, so very much more to come.

         

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Humility


 



 “For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” Matthew 23:12

On humble people, Christian writer Brennan Manning says, “Following the counsel of Jesus to take the last place they are not shocked or offended when someone puts them there.”   It is important to know your worth to God but to know also that while no one is better than you, neither are you better than another.  Our Father sees us all as equal. Though it is difficult for us to understand He sees all sin in the same light as well. We often fall into the trap of the Pharisee who compared himself to the tax collector, forgetting that our Father loves each of us as if there were only one of us. Self- promotion is never effective. Only God’s promotion counts. 

The way of the world is to shine our own light. Take a look at any political campaign. Such paragon’s of virtue and people of immense strength and widespread accomplishment are running for office. It is hard to believe that such people exist. Before we get too comfortable with those beliefs someone from the opposing team is right there to tell us the real story. Political campaigns are the epitome of this verse from Matthew.

  We would all do well to remember that when we yell, “look at me, look at me” people will surely look. When they share what they see we may not be flattered. We may well as Manning suggests be shocked by the position others think suits us best. We are wise then to follow James’ advice.  “Humble yourselves then in the sight of the Lord and he will lift you up.” James 4:10

 

 


Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Firmly Planted


But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence is in him.
He will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit.
Jeremiah 17:7-8

 

How simple is the life of that tree. It is planted safely at the edge of the stream. The water is always there, in the blessed cool or the sweltering heat. The tree makes no effort to obtain the water. The tree simply stands beside the water and waits. Further, that same tree does not wring its branches each year and wonder if this will be the year that no fruit grows.

Most of us are so different from that tree.  We stand beside the Lord, a position that ensures us love, protection, freedom and still we fret and worry. How will feed our family? What if… and here you can add just about anything you want because we what if ourselves senseless. We do not trust that whatever God has planned is right and best.  When “heat” comes into our lives, in whatever form, we panic.  Our prayers to often become the “oh dear Lord, now what?” variety instead of the “this makes no sense to me but I’ll trust in your plan” prayer.

 Granted there are a few people in this world who do stand right beside the water that is God and just allow Him to bless and protect them.  I don’t know about you but I am a little envious of that tree and its human counterparts.  My life would be so much better, so uncomplicated, if I would simply stand beside my Lord and let Him truly be Lord of my life.

What if the tree decided to move over? Or what if it decided to suck up all the water around it in one day just in case there was no water the next day? Oh my gosh that is ridiculous isn’t it?  It is, but think about it. How much time do you spend wondering if what you are doing right now is what you should be doing? How many precious moments of the present are wasted worrying about what is going to maybe happen in the future?

 God is more than happy to have us stand right beside Him and allow Him to enlighten our path, provide our food, enable us to bear fruit. All we need to do is stay near to Him and know that whatever He designs for us will be for our best. Even when something is able to come against us or those we love God will take that pain, disappointment and sorrow and use it for our good.

It may sound crazy but today I am praying to be a tree, firmly planted beside the Living Water.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Soaring

But those that hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not be faint.
Isaiah 40:31

 Some days life just feels hard. The more we try the less we accomplish. Everywhere we turn we meet adversity. The pain or aggravation of that adversity can cause us to miss out on the blessings and the joy of life, leaving us empty and edgy. At those times in life when putting one foot in front of the other just seems impossible we need to remember that we can soar on eagles wings. We can fly high above our pain and problems. We can go to a place where that pain cannot reach us.

          The last few years I have had quite a mixed bag of blessings and challenges. Many of the blessings have come from releasing the challenges to God. I have been able to accomplish things I thought impossible by simply understanding that they weren’t mine to accomplish.

          Sometimes we feel as if the weight of life is simply too heavy. Just as unused muscles tremble and ache when we put them to the test, our spirits do the same when trials or challenges seem like too much to bear. It is in those times that we absolutely need to hope and trust in the Lord.  

          There are things in life about which we can do nothing. That is hard for us because we are raised to be independent and to learn to take care of ourselves. The best thing any of us can do for ourselves is to recognize that all of our strength and ability comes from God. When times are hard we need to keep ourselves in His sight. We need to run to Jesus and lay our burdens at his feet.

          When we are trusting enough, wise enough to accept God’s help, the troubles won’t necessarily disappear but they will become easier to handle. Our Father will enable us to run and not grow weary, to walk and not be faint. He will give us His strength and carry us on His wings.

 

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Shaking Grace


 

Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. 2 Peter 1:2 (emphasis mine)

Years ago my friend Matthew had a beautiful golden retriever named Kelly. Kelly was the sweetest dog in the world. Normally, she was very well behaved, walked beside us without a leash, stayed where you told her to stay and stopped barking when you asked her to stop. In one area, Kelly was a naughty girl. Kelly loved to shake water all over. Whether she was wet from the lake, from rain or from a bath, no matter how many times Matthew would say, “Kelly, no! Don’t shake!” Kelly would shake, blessing all of us with the spray from her latest adventure.

          I thought of Kelly this morning while I was talking to the Lord about grace. Too often many of us, people who claim Jesus as Lord and Savior, think that we shouldn’t ask too much of Him. How much more could we ask? He gave His life for us. That indicates that He is truly willing to give anything and everything we need and some things that we want. I say some things we want because in His wisdom, He knows that we often want things that aren’t good for us. Through the years, I’ve learned that Jesus wants us to ask for any and all things, in His name. Ask and you will receive, He said.  So as I asked for grace, lots of grace, so much grace that I would be drenched in it, I thought of Kelly.

          It was as if a movie of her beautiful golden body was playing in mind with sound and everything. I could almost hear Matthew’s horrified, “Kelly! Don’t shake!” and feel the sensation of flying water hitting my body and face. Oh Kelly! Kelly! That’s it! That is exactly the amount of grace I want, so much grace that when I move, everyone around me is covered in the grace that Abba in His loving mercy provided for me.

          If I see myself as unworthy to receive grace, then I am negating the sacrifice Jesus made for me. If I believe that my allotment of grace is fairly small and based on my behavior, well, that’s just way off the path. Our heavenly Father sent His one and only precious Son that we might have abundant life (John 10:10) and live always under His grace. There is grace available for me, for you, for anyone who would recognize and accept Jesus as Lord and be open to receiving that grace. When you receive it, shake. Shake it all over the people around you. We’re willing to spread news, germs and opinions. How much better would things be if we were all shaking and spreading grace?

 

Friday, August 25, 2017

Division


 

As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain people not to teach false doctrines any longer or to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. Such things promote controversial speculations rather than advancing God’s work- which is by faith. The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Some have departed from these and turned to meaningless talk. 1 Timothy 1:3-6

It would appear that our world is going mad. It’s not unexpected, Jesus warned us to expect things like this, family members on opposite sides (Matthew 10:34-39), people telling us what we want to hear (2 Timothy 4:3) instead of the Truth, to name a couple of examples. It should not surprise us that things will get worse before they get better. I’m not surprised but I am saddened.

          Just the other day my sweet friend Donna put a message on social media asking that people share pictures, stories and family news, things that would makes us all smile. She asked that maybe we take the focus off the evil in the world. Great advice! I loved it and applauded Donna for saying it. Some people disagreed. One of our dear friends disagreed rather forcefully. He was not mean or nasty, just impassioned. That led to other comments pro and con. See what happened? Donna tried to do a good thing and ended up with a bit of exactly what she didn’t want.

          Division. It’s one of the enemy’s favorite tools. In the exchanges there was marked disagreement. I’m happy to say that those disagreements stayed civil, for now. These people are on the same side of the big picture. They just have differing ideas about how to promote what they believe. While they stayed civil and kind that is rarely the case. I agree with Donna, there is far too much blaming and name calling going on, in the news and on social media.

          When I read the verses from 1 Timothy, they brought to mind Donna’s efforts to focus people in a more positive direction. Never did she say ignore what’s happening around us. What she said was basically, shine your light. Reading the words, “controversial speculations” and “meaningless talk” I thought, that is what Donna is combating. No good comes from finger pointing or belittling.

          When we engage in such behavior we’re focusing on the wrong part of the story. Is it awful in our world right now? Yes! Why fan those flames? Why not instead, share the triumphs, as Donna suggested. Show that God is indeed still God.  Jesus is coming back for us and while we wait it would be best to follow His command to love one another.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Unfinished


 

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. Philippians 1:6

My grandson Abram is anxiously waiting for his rocks to be finished. These are rocks that he brought back from Tennessee, his new favorite place. After panning through the dirt, Abram was so pleased to find several big rocks and even more small ones. He was not terribly pleased with the fact that they weren’t as pretty as some of his Pop Pop’s stones. Pop patiently explained to Abram that the rocks had to be tumbled and that tumbling is a pretty long process. Today we are just three days from the finished product and Abram is beside himself with excitement. He has big plans for those rocks.

          A few minutes ago I read the verse from Philippians my first thought was of a conversation that I had yesterday. In dealing with one of my more stubborn students I had to stop and take a deep breath and remind myself of his limitations, so that I would continue with gentle firmness and not just lose it. A co-worker observed me. This woman watches my every move because I’m one of those “Christians.” Read that as people she doesn’t quite get or trust. I know she judges all of my reactions and I want to shine for my Father. So I smiled at her as I leaned down to gently encourage my little buddy and I said, “God’s still working on me.”

          It’s true, much like Abram’s rocks, I’m unfinished. I’m not the shiny, sparkly, full restored product that I will be on my arrival at home. Unlike Abram’s rocks which have taken several weeks to prepare, my process will last my whole time on earth. Again, like Abram, sometimes I’m excited about the finished product and sometimes I just want it to be done. I want it now! Abram says, “But can’t I just see them?” and Pop says “not yet.” I ask why I keep making the same mistakes, repeating the same sins and Abba just smiles.
          It’s easy to tell Abram to have patience, that the result will be worth the wait but not so easy to wait myself.  The “product” I want to see right now, is me, shiny and always doing the work I was given to do, always living to my purpose. While Abram’s wait is just about over, I don’t know how long I’m going to wait to see my Savior. I do know that it will be well worth the wait. In the meantime, I’ll continue to stop, take a breath and know that God is still working on me

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Name Dropper


 

You may ask me for anything in my name and I will do it. John 14:14

The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run into it and they are safe. Proverbs 18:10

Just yesterday I heard a young woman tell a story about her father. Her father held a position of responsibility in our community and so when Whitney found herself in a little mess, she smiled her stunning smile and said basically here’s the ten reasons why what I did wasn’t all that bad and by the way, my dad is Mr. Important. Problem solved. Except it wasn’t. Her dad truly was a pillar in our community, a man of actual integrity not just approval seeking pseudo- integrity. As Whitney went on to say, facing the actual consequences of her actions would have been far easier than what she faced at home after dropping daddy’s name.

          Her father reacted as he did certainly to teach his daughter a lesson, to put a little fear into her but I think there’s more to it than that. Perhaps more than either of them saw at the time.

          Whitney used her dad’s name, a name to which he spent years attaching honesty, integrity, compassion and strength. She tossed it out there as a shield. She was right. Her dad’s name was a shield for her, not to get her out of a deserved penalty but to protect her from what was truly harmful. I’m sure there were times when being that man’s child afforded Whitney respect and consideration that she had not yet earned. Most likely there were times when Whitney’s dad told her to tell people she was his child, knowing that would open a door or two for her or keep her out of harm’s way.

          In listening to her I was reminded of how many times Jesus tells us to ask our Father for anything, using His name. Jesus is our entrée to the Father’s throne. (Hebrews 4:16)  He is our shield. We have His permission to drop His name.  We have His blessing and His promise that when we use His name, the name of Jesus, our prayers will indeed be answered.

          In our society name dropping is usually a way to bring attention to ourselves by using the accomplishments or notoriety of others. It is a practice that isn’t exactly pleasant. As is often the case with Jesus, dropping His name is good. It’s the right thing to do. Telling someone that we know some random celebrity is a bit boastful. Telling someone we know Jesus is an invitation.

          Whitney used her dad’s name with the confidence of a child who knows how well she is loved. We need to use the name of Jesus in the exact same way and in the exact same way, loving consequences will result.

 

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Means to an End


 

Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. Mark 10:44-45

Seeing people as a means to an end sounds just awful, doesn’t it? A few things have happened in the last few weeks that have made me wonder how many of my relationships are good and solid, containing loyalty and truth and how many are just a case of me being the means to an end for someone else.

          As usual this led me to examine my own heart. Who are the people in my life that I see as a means to an end. I was feeling okay about it; admittedly there are a couple of people who seem to serve more of a purpose than with whom I have an actual relationship. I prayed about that and asked God to help to know what I might need to do in response to that information. His response startled me.

          First I was clearly reminded of the days, thankfully many, many years ago when I saw Jesus simply as a means to an end. That led me to pray with great thanksgiving for the change in my attitude toward God. Feeling much better I decided to move on in my chat with the Lord but He had other plans.

          I was led to a few verses on service and grace and then the light dawned. Everyone, every single person in my life is a means to an end. The difference now, as opposed to my years of total self-serving, is this, now the end is to serve and the people God allows to be part of my life are all opportunities for service.

          To see someone as your entrée into a social setting or as the person who will always foot the bill, always listen to your complaints and always tell you you’re right, is wrong. It’s a heinous way to view another person. To see someone as an opportunity to serve God is a blessing.

          Just about every day I have an opportunity to do something for my husband. Often I have opportunities to bless my children, grandchildren, friends and co-workers. Occasionally I am blessed to be given the chance to serve a stranger, to perhaps entertain an angel. (Hebrews 13:2) Those are the best days.

          In all of this I tried to see where I was serving without benefit to myself. Well, bad news, that never happens. Every time I serve I bring honor to God’s name, which brings me joy. In the end I have learned, am still learning, the truth of the words, God is never outdone in generosity.

Friday, July 14, 2017

No Second Opinion


 “I do not accept praise from men, but I know you. I know that you do not have the love of God in your hearts. I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not accept me; but if someone else comes in his own name you will accept him. How can you believe if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God?” John 5:41-44

If you are a parent of a child over the age of four, then it is my guess that you’ve had this experience.  Your child tells you all about his calamity. You offer sage wisdom and sound advice. You offer it in the face of explanations and sputtering that give a pretty fair indication that no one is hearing your words except you. Now, flash forward a few days, a week or maybe a bit more, to the next phase of the conversation when your darling comes to you so excited because he now has a solution to his problem. He’s garnered said solution by listening to the learned perception of; choose one or more of these, his friends, the parent of his friend or some celebrity on the internet. AUGH! At this point you’re thinking, “Seriously? That’s exactly what I said a week ago and you acted as if I were a moron!” Wisely, you don’t say quite that but most likely some version of it comes out of your mouth.

          I’m very guilty of the passive aggressive, “Well, that sounds familiar.” It’s a not so nicely veiled version of, “that’s exactly what I said!” For my part I’ve gotten a blank stare, as in my child has no recollection of me ever saying anything remotely similar. Or I get the “yeah, but Mrs. Authority Because She Is Not You, said it in better words.” To quote that same precious brat… Whatever! I walk away wondering why I waste my time and breath.

          Read the verses from John again. This is Jesus talking, Jesus Christ, the One who died to save us, the One who told as clearly as possible that He is the Way, the Truth and the Life and that no one gets to the Father if not through Him. Here He is explaining that perhaps His words should carry a bit more weight than those of mere mortals. He is saying that heavenly wisdom far outweighs current understandings, beliefs or trends.

          How often do we respond the way Jesus’ disciples responded? How often do we respond the way the child I described responds. “Well sure God said it and it sounded okay but then I read it online and saw it on a magazine and then I believed it.” Yipes! That may sound contrived but if you’re honest with yourself, how often do you pray but then seek worldly wisdom instead of listening to God? Or worse, how often do you seek worldly wisdom and ignore God?

          Jesus said it; He is the Way and the Truth. We may need confirmation that we’re hearing Him correctly but we never need a second opinion.

 

Thursday, July 6, 2017

God's Perfect Plans



 
"For I know the plans I have for you" declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."
Jeremiah 29:11

Why you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, "If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that."
James 4:14-15

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding.
Proverbs 3:5

There is an event that happens in my life almost every year. Some years I look forward to it and other years it just feels like too much effort. I've prayed to be able to modify it, have a tad more control over it but for the past few years, it's gotten completely out of my control.

This year, as in years past, as the date loomed closer I felt myself getting anxious, trying to find tactful ways to say, "Folks, this just doesn't work for me." None was forthcoming. Then God stepped in and made a way.

The event is going to happen but not the way I anticipated. Enough change has happened that not only does this new style work for me but now my anticipation is one of great delight. I'm so looking forward to the event, with no dread in sight.

I would love to say that I "let go and let God" but the truth is too many other things crowded my thought process and I just didn't have time to obsess over it. So today when I woke up and realized that I'm excited, eager for what is coming, I felt so blessed.

Then I wondered. Why can't I do that in all things? God is in control. My Abba knows what is good, right and best. So why don't I just trust in Him? The top of my head answers are awful. Fear, selfishness and control issues seem to be the things that get in the way of trusting God. Oh and arrogance, that's another one.

I am grateful for these moments when God shows me that His way is best. I'm just praying that I learn from them and that my trust grows and grows. It may be over worked and now sound trite but "let go and let God" really is the best thing to do.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Belongings


 

If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. Romans 14:8

For the past several years I have worked in a school where the principal made all of the decisions, somewhat arbitraily. At the end of each school year teachers and staff are shuffled around without much thought to how that might impact those individuals. Bad as it was for the teachers, it worse for those of us in paraprofessional positions. Often we would not know where we would be placed until the day we returned for the new school year. Several of us have commented over the years that it makes us feel like furniture. We can be picked up and moved without comment, question or thought. It's not a nice feeling. It would seem that each of us should have some say in where we work.

          That principal is retiring this year and as it occured to me that her replacement might not treat us like her belongings, I realized that that is exactly how I want God to treat me and He won't.

          My biggest problems occur when I think I know what is best. When I use my  pesky free will, that is when things tend to spin in an ugly direction. Why?  I don't know what's best for me but my Abba does and yet, He is the one who gives me choices.

          Back to the principal, she placed us wherever with no thought to whether we were suited to the position or not. She did not know what was best for us. She knew what worked for her; what made sense to her. She knew what was easiest for her. She didn't consult with us at all. Just last year she placed me in a position which was absolutely a wrong fit. I was there for most of the school year, until a shift in student numbers offered me a ticket out. It was eight long, hard, uncomfotable months. That placement was not good for me but Abba worked it for my good.

          The perspectives and blessings that came from that time are for another message. The point here is that I resented her lack of concern for my thoughts and opinions but I beg Abba to disregard what I'm saying or praying and let His will be done.

          I love, love, love, when God picks me and plunks me down somewhere, anywhere. When I can see His hand in my circumstances I'm thrilled. I pray for opportunites to submit, to obey and He graciously gives them. I want Abba to control me, my life and every aspect of it because I know that He is for me. Not to say that my principal was against me, but I certainly was of little consequence to her. My value with her was negligible but my value with my Abba is something I can't begin to understand.

          I resented the principal treating me like a belonging but I pray every day, "Abba I belong to you" and I dearly want Him to treat me like His belonging.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Something in Common


 

Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? Matthew 7:3

Recently I spent time with two women who are very dear to me. I want for both of them, what I want for everyone I know, for them to know and feel the love of Jesus.

Both women are “Christians.” They both attend church. One of them is extremely active and committed to her church. The other one vacillates between a couple of different churches but she also is involved with in a Bible study.

After spending a few days with the two of them together I was given each one's perspective on the other. Both of them said basically the same thing. Each women is worried about the others lack of peace and contentment. “She seems so angry.” Was spoken by both of them about the other. While I absolutely agree that each one is angry and peace is lacking in both lives, in very different ways, what I found amusing was that they could see it in each other, but not in themselves.

Thinking about it later I realized that though the circumstances of their lives are very different and the things that make them anxious are quite diverse, the root cause of the angst is exactly the same. Neither of them is truly in a relationship with Jesus and both of them would be appalled to hear me say that.

It may sound like a judgment to you too, as you read those words. Who am I to say anything about another woman's relationship with Jesus? I'll answer with this, “By their fruit you will recognize them.” Matthew 7:16a

This is not to say that these are “bad” people with “bad' fruit. They are both lovely women but I would say, with no fruit. One is doing great things in church, so an organization benefits and that is good. Maybe it's even fruit but it's not planted, if you will, for the right reason. The other is checking the right boxes, listening to “Christian” music, attending church and Bible study but it stops there. In both lives there is anger, a lot of anger and the erroneous belief that you have to look out for yourself. Ironic since both of them get a lot of support, in differing ways, from a lot of people.

They just made me wonder how many of us do just what they did and how often? We look at someone else and see the major issue in her life. Do we step back and ask ourselves, “Could that be my issue too?”

Standing outside it was easy for me to see that all those ladies need is to truly surrender to Jesus, to admit that control is not in their hands. My prayer now is that as they think about each other and in coming to an answer for the other lady, they will find their own answer as well.




Monday, May 8, 2017

Varied Results



Forgive as the Lord forgave you. Colossians 3:13

The other day I read an account of a woman who struggled with forgiveness. One day while volunteering at church she saw a woman sobbing in the back row. By the author's words the woman had “badly mistreated” her. Still she felt compelled to reach out. She did and found that her enemy had a good reason to be heartbroken. She found forgiveness in her heart and the two became friends. That's so nice. Doesn't it sound just like a thing God would do? Sure it does. I believe, however that God often does things a bit differently.

Through the last few years I've had opportunities to reach out to people who have been less than kind to me. I've been called upon by people who have treated me as less than but suddenly when they need help or prayer, find that I have value after all. I've reacted differently in each situation. At times, I have willingly responded to what I see as God's call on my life. Other times I've reluctantly responded and less often, thanks to God's grace, I've grudgingly responded. The results have been varied as well. I have had the experience where that connection opens the door to friendship but more often than not, the relationship doesn't change. The person to whom I've shown kindness, has received the kindness and seemed to appreciate it only to return to our original state of interaction once the issue is resolved.

At first I took that personally and so hard. How could that be? I obeyed my Abba. I reached out or responded to a person He set in my path, just to have her relegate me to the fringe of her life. As my faith and trust has matured I've come to see that my Abba always has His hand on my heart. The outcome to my responding to the call is not the important detail. What truly matters is doing God's will.

We can pray and hope that the kindness we extend is returned to us directly but when that is not the case, as often it is not, we need to know and believe that our Lord is never, ever outdone in generosity. Any kindness, favor, mercy or grace we extend to another will be poured into our own lives in ways that we could never ask or imagine.

Forgive as you are forgiven, not anticipating instant reconciliation or gratification. Give whenever you are offered the opportunity. Let grace flow in and out of your life because grace is always victorious.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

New Friend


 

You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Matthew 25:43-44

Over the past couple of months I've made a new friend at work. This is an odd friendship as it is not with a co-worker but with a child. She's a fifth grade student at my school who I met while doing my student dismissal duty. At first glance we may not seem the most likely of friends, an older woman and a young girl and then it gets odder.

The older woman in the scenario, me, tends to be pretty straight forward about what she believes, that Jesus Christ is Lord and I wear cross earrings or pendants fairly often. The young girl also wears a symbol of what she believes, on her head, covering her head. Got the visual now?

Our friendship started one day when she asked me if I like football and if so, what team? I'm a Redskins fan and she is a Bengals fan. Better represented, I'm a fan. She is a FAN. Before long she was watching my games as well as her own, so that we could discuss them. Don't you love her? I'm telling you this kid! She's adorable.

Then the week came for serious make it or break it time. This was the week that would seal or destroy our friendship. Our teams were playing each other. For the week leading up, my little sweetie would ask me every day to promise that no matter the outcome of the game, on Monday we'd still be friends. The big day came and miracle of miracles (perhaps not for either team but for us) our teams tied! More bonding!

That same week another teacher on duty with me pulled me aside to ask a question. “How is it that you love that kid?” She asked me, no accusation in her voice, just true bewilderment. She went on to comment on what she sees in me, all very nice. (I wish that I were the person she sees.) Then she asked again, in light of what she sees as deep faith in Jesus, how could I love that particular kid? A kid who, to her, represents the enemy, the people who attacked our country while those very children were attending “our” schools.

I get where she's coming from, I do. However, I don't see an enemy when I look at my little friend. I'm not blind. I see the thing on her head but I also see and hear her heart. She's darling! And, she wasn't even born in 2001! Beyond that her manners are impeccable. She's kind and obviously being raised well.

So, my response to my co-worker? “I don't really think about any of that. I see an adorable kid who loves football and is being raised well. To be fair, I am aware of our differences. We're told to make disciples of all men. I may be the only Jesus that little doll is seeing right now and someday, that may make a difference.”

I didn't set out to “save a soul.” I didn't even set out to make a friend. All I did was respond to a child. By doing so, perhaps I've planted a seed, perhaps not. What I know for sure, my co-worker is right, on the surface, she seems to be on the side of our enemies. What I also know for sure is that my Father said to love my enemies and in this case, this precious kid makes that so easy.

Maybe we should all try looking beyond clothing, skin color, professed beliefs and start looking at hearts. Some are sweet and some are bitter, either way, we're called to pray for them. If we don't that makes us wrong, not them.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Fear Not


 

So do not fear, for I am with you, do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10

Do not be afraid, or depending on the translation of your Bible, fear not. Those words are said to be in the Bible 365 times. Stop for a second and let the significance of that sink into your soul. 365 times we are told not to be afraid, to fear not. 365. That's one time for each day of every year.

Regardless of the circumstance, the story surrounding the words, just consider the significance of the number of times they are used, 365. So what day is the fearful one? On which day of the year should we be afraid? None. Not one day, because like every moment of our lives, every hair on our heads, Abba has it covered. Jesus came to save us from the power of fear and death. There is nothing we will face that isn't already known to our Father in heaven, our loving Abba, who day by day loves and cares for us.

There is no place we can go, no action we can take, no circumstance that can come along that can separate us from God's love.

Fear not. Easy for me to say right? Wrong. Through my numerous years of life I've had many, many opportunities to feel deep fear and I'm sorry to say that too often I've succumbed to those fears. I'm still learning to have a verse from God's love letter ready to combat those fears. Psalm 23:4, Isaiah 41:10, Luke 2:10, Psalm 25:1-3, Psalm 56:3-4, Psalm 91, to name just a few. There are so many more verses, verses that use the words, “fear not” or “do not be afraid” and verses that just breed confidence. Search for them, find them, make them your own and then, fear not, Abba is with you.

Friday, April 28, 2017

God Willing



This message is five years old. I'm reusing it because I believe that it is a very powerful and important lesson. I am so blessed to say that I'm still following Adam's example. He and his family have since moved away. I miss them! Thankfully I still get to see a few pictures and God willing I will see them again in person one day.


Now listen you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” James 4:13-15


Children are often instructed to watch, listen and learn from those people with more experience. Surely parents are the earliest teachers of any child. Sadly, far too many children learn all the wrong things. The other day I was blessed not only to see the result of great parenting but to be taught a lesson by a five year old.

My little friend Adam was quite excited to tell me that he would most likely not see me at church on Sunday. After inquiring about my intentions toward church attendance he said, “I probably won’t be there. We’re going to Orlando this weekend, God willing.” Now, to make this even more precious, hear it spoken with a tiny speech impediment, one that he is outgrowing rapidly and that I will miss. The words “God willing” were sweet enough but hear it as, “God wiwwing” and it’s even more adorable. A few minutes after our first conversation Adam repeated the information again. His family was planning to go to Orlando, God willing. In the brief ten minutes we spent together I heard Adam tell at least three other people the same story with the same modifier. He had plans, God willing. Those words coming out of that child, with a face so absolutely beautiful, impish and precious that it defies an accurate description, just grabbed my heart.

This is a kid you want to hug every time you see him. He’s that adorable and on top of that, he was speaking with authority straight from the Scripture. For the rest of the weekend and on into the next week I thought about Adam’s words. “God willing.” It is how we all should view our plans. They are not written in stone. We need to keep our hearts and minds open. We will go here or there, do this or that, God willing. It’s a humbling, submissive statement and I am so grateful to Adam for shining such a tender spotlight on it.

Further, I’ve thought about the way Adam is being raised. I know his parents or better said, I’m acquainted with them. They are sweet young people and on meeting them you know why their children (I knew Adam’s older sister first) are so great. Jesus is clearly the center of their family.

A few years ago my granddaughter Faith told me that God speaks to people all the time but that grownups don’t always listen. I heard Him loud and clear through Adam and I’m grateful, and now God willing, I have to go to work.




Saturday, April 22, 2017

What Do You Want


 

The king said to me, “What is it that you want?” Then I prayed to the God of heaven and I answered the king,” Nehemiah 2:4-5a

The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.” Psalm 145:18

For many years people have asked me to pray for or with them. This started many years into my walk with Jesus, many years after I made the decision, as an adult to follow the Lord and do His will. That seems like it would make it pretty simple for me to say yes to those requests, right? Truly it has become pretty easy but it didn't start out that way. I had no clue what to say or how to say it.

Abba has also given me the great gift of encouragement. He often calls on me to be an encourager, a Barnabas, to someone near to me. These aren't necessarily people I know well or even like. They are people God chooses and puts in my path.

Sometimes it is easy and natural to grab the hand of another and pray. God's grace is there before I even ask for it. Other times it's hard and awkward and I pray fervently for God's help. Sometimes the encouragement is as natural as breathing. God's grace again. Other times, at quite a loss, I pray for Abba to shine a light on what it is I'm supposed to be doing or saying.

God doesn't always say yes to my prayers. In fact I've been praying for so many years for one specific thing and currently the answer is still no. So it isn't like God is just waiting to do every little thing I ask of Him. His will is perfect, right and best and He answers my prayers accordingly. However, any time I pray, “Lord give me the words.” “Lord, help me know what is needed here.” Then, He always answers and answers immediately.

Many times I've sat in front of a blank page knowing that a card, an encouraging word, a Scripture needs to be sent but having no idea what to write and I pray, “Okay, Abba, I know you want this done so please use my hand.” And He does! Or when that person comes to me for prayer, face to face, no time to think or look up a Scripture, again I pray. “Lord, it's all you.”

Aren't those profound prayers? Can't you just see why the God of the universe is all over saying yes to those prayers? The fifty cent words, the eloquence, the length.... Oh wait, none of that is in those prayers.

I'm sure there were times that Nehemiah prayed in a way that was nothing but eloquence and beauty. I hope I do that sometimes too. The lesson here, what we see in Nehemiah, what I've learned in times of urgency, is that all we need is a sincere and open heart.

Then “pray to the God of heaven” and give your answer, say the prayer, write the note. God will guide you when you empty yourself of you, of expectations, and just follow His lead.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Gone



And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. Matthew 27:50

Last night we went to church for a Good Friday service. The service was amazing. Our music director and pastor worked together perfectly to create the right mood, a very somber, dark mood. In our church that service culminates with a very loud boom which signifies the closing of the tomb. After that all is silent. Silent. People who normally greet each other, plan where to eat brunch or when to get together during the week are walking out in silence. Why? Because our reason for being, our hope is gone. Of course for us, in 2017, that is symbolic and not literal but believe me, in that moment it feels real.

Each year something stands out to me in the telling of Christ's final hours on Earth. Often it is the total betrayal from too many near and dear to Him. This year it was the fact that in those moments Jesus was gone. The service ended and our full of life pastor did not say a word. He did not say “Go in peace” as he does on Sunday because there is no peace to be shared in a world with no Jesus. A world with no Jesus.

Sitting there I knew that this was a reminder, that indeed there is very much a Jesus. He lives and reigns and He's coming back. I know this to be true but it felt awful, as it should, to hear that boom and sit in the aftermath of His suffering and death. It felt awful to me and I wondered at the intensity of loss the disciples must have felt. The Scripture says they scattered.

This morning I woke up and felt the weight of a few things that are happening in my life and in the lives of a couple of people I care for deeply. I sat up and thought how great, it's Saturday which means I have extra quiet time, more time to be with Jesus.... Oh! It hit me again, in the aftermath of the Crucifixion there was no Jesus. Today I could get up, get my Bible and be with my Savior but what of the eleven who were left after the betrayal of Judas and the torture of Jesus? Where was their hope?

Scripture says they scattered but then later it says that Jesus found them all together again. They were drawn to each other out of shared experiences, shared loss perhaps but I still wonder where and how they found the energy and ability to move, to seek each other. My husband thinks fear motivated them and maybe he's right. I know I felt an emptiness that had a bit of fear in it this morning when I thought, this is the day that we remember a world without a Savior.

Fortunately for me, for you, this is a day when we remember a world without a Savior. We look at how things were but we also know how things are now. We have a Savior and tomorrow we can all stand and say that Christ is Risen only to hear our fellow believers reply, He is risen indeed.

Thank you Jesus for the sacrifice that gives us new life and new hope every time we remember that Christ is risen, Christ is alive and Christ is coming back.

I

Friday, April 7, 2017

Water



Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him. John 7:38

Just a few minutes ago I made a lovely pot of tea. This is not unusual. I do it almost every day, often more than once a day. This morning I emptied the water left from yesterday out of the tea kettle. Why? Excellent question. There was nothing wrong with that water. I could have just added to it.

While I was waiting for the train whistle sound, indicating the boiling point, I cleaned out a dish and ran my garbage disposal, more running water. Then I filled a large cup with water from my refrigerator. During these processes I also washed my hands and my counter. Water, water everywhere....

I was taken this morning, not for the first time and hopefully not for the last time, by how very grateful I am to have clean, plentiful, hot and cold running water. Today that led me to think of all the other “ordinary” things we take for granted.

While making my tea, I had lights on in my kitchen. I took milk from my refrigerator to make my husband's breakfast. I refilled his vitamin box and used my dryer. Now I'm in my well lit office, drinking the aforementioned tea, typing on my computer and still thinking of the women and children who walk miles to collect water for their families and the men who do the same in order to get their work done.

Just about everything we do requires water in some way. For those of us who are blessed to live in well developed countries, water is a given. We drink it, cook with it, bathe in it, clean with it, swim in it and on and on. Are you grateful for it? I am so grateful for it now, but that has not always been the case and there are still days that I just take it for granted.

For the past thirty years or so I've kept a gratitude journal. I write in it at night, thanking God for the gifts of the day. Just a few years ago I started keeping a blessings journal as well. That one is written in the morning, book ending my day with acknowledgments of all that God is doing and has done for me. A year or so ago I got an even deeper perspective on that when my daughter asked, “Mom, what would you have tomorrow if you only had what you gave thanks to God for today?”

What a great question! It led to a fairly lengthy conversation for us and now I pose the question to you. Given that we all often take some pretty important things for granted (ahem, water...) what will you have tomorrow if it is only the things for which you gave thanks today?

Saturday, April 1, 2017

In All Things


 

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28


I had a little mishap this morning. Nothing major, just a time setback and a small moment of panic while I wondered if I had the wherewithal to fix the issue. A quick scan of my cabinets and yes, in that sense all was well. Seems fairly ordinary, right? Well, not for me.

The thing is, someone else was depending on me. The problem I encountered wasn't going to impact just my day, but the very important event of someone very dear to me. Normally this would be panic mode melt down time but it wasn't. I looked at the disaster, stopped and simply prayed, “Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy. Lord have mercy.” And He did! Right there, in the moment. Peace flowed in bringing with it the obvious solution to the problem.

Later as I was praying and could see Abba's hand all over my morning another larger issue came to mind. I prayed a prayer of thanksgiving that even though right now I can't see the truth of Romans 8:28 in that area of my life, I know that it is true.

A few days ago a coworker of mine had a problem. She's not terribly forthcoming with details so I stood with two other coworkers as we tried to fashion different scenarios that might be occurring. When she did tell us what happened it was almost comical. We were so far off and so dramatic compared to her pretty pedestrian problem. Oh but we were so sure we had great ideas!

So it is with Abba and us. We look at our circumstances and try to find the whys. Why me? Why is God allowing this? And the whats... What good could come of this? What is the point?

I could have done that this morning. Why now Abba? What could possibly be good about this? What do I do now? How could you allow this? I didn't. Instead I chose trust. I asked for God's mercy and it came, swift and obvious. I still can't say why it happened or what all the results will be but I can tell you this, Romans 8:28 says “all things” and that means all things. I chose trust this morning and I pray to chose it in every and all situations because this I can say for sure, God is good and His will is right, good and best.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Love First


 

We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he hasn't seen. 1 John 4:19-20

Human relationships are funny things. We say that we dearly love others, our spouses, children, parents, siblings, but then they hurt us or betray us and a funny thing happens to that love, it diminishes. It shouldn't. It's perfectly understandable to feel the hurt or anger, to want a time out from the other person. It is not acceptable to stop loving them. On some occasions it seems impossible to give love but it isn't. It's a choice.

I have a few people very dear to me, people who also used to be very near to me but are no longer. If I expressed a decline in my love for them most people would nod and commiserate with me. Many would give me examples of similar relationships in their own lives. Wrong! Yes, my feelings have been hurt. That's an understatement. My heart is broken but it wouldn't be if I didn't love the ones from whom I am estranged.

It is my choice to throw away my investment in those lives and see it as a loss or to continue to invest in them and pray for their best, even if I never see answers to the prayers. It is my choice to focus on what is, the hurt and separation or to remember what was, that in the beginning, for years and years, there was love, fun and joy. I need to remember that the person I loved is still there, though they may appear different, that person still exists. True love wishes that joy, fun and love are still prevalent in the lives of those who used to be near. True love still holds them very dear to my heart.

While it is a choice it is not an easy one. Flesh wants to rage at the hurt and sadness, at the empty space. Grace says no. Grace turns my face to the One who loved me first and loves me still, even when I offend Him or walk away to give my time or attention to something far less worthy. Jesus gave His life for us, for people who would never deserve His life or His love. He makes us worthy to receive the gift He gives so freely.

When you're tempted to hold onto bitterness or hurt, to paint someone with the brush of your anger or disappointment, look to the Cross. We're painted in the blood of the Lamb, drenched in love that we disregard far too often but when we're wise enough to receive it, enables us to love in a similar way.