Monday, May 22, 2017

Do I Have Egg on My Face?

This morning, I was fixing a simple breakfast which included scrambled eggs.  As I smacked the first egg on the edge of the counter, it didn't crack.  I smacked it harder and a small crack appeared.  After the third whack on the counter, the shell finally broke.  "Man," I said to myself, "that was a hard shell."  The second egg was exactly the same. It took three tries to break the silly thing.  By the third egg, I had learned my lesson.  I forcefully whacked the egg, the shell breaking into a million pieces and egg running everywhere.  The shell of the third egg was paper thin.  It would have broken under a mild squeeze.

I see a couple of valuable lessons in this story. (Hey, at least something good can come from the mess I made.)  First off, how often are we like the first two eggs with shells that seem impenetrable?  How many times does God have to "smack us on the counter" before we'll break?  You see, while God does want what's best for us, sometimes that requires us to first reach a place of brokenness.  But like the eggs, we don't want to be broken.  We don't want to release everything that we've been keeping inside.  We're fearful of the change that will take place once we're broken.  And so, we resist.

The second thing I took away from the morning mess was a reminder of Proverbs 3:5:  Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.  This morning, I was leaning on my own understanding, and it led to disaster.  Through my flawed thinking, I assumed that since the first two eggs had been difficult to crack, the third would be the same way.  It wasn't.  I made a decision based on faulty conclusions just like I often do in life.  I study the situation and act in a way that makes sense to me.  The problem is that God's ways don't always make sense, and because of that, I often ignore them and go about things the way I see fit.  The result?  You guessed it -- egg everywhere!

If you think about it, the two lessons actually go together rather well.  If we're trusting in the Lord and not leaning on our own understanding, we won't be so hard-shelled to begin with.  We'll allow the Lord to break us because we'll trust that He knows best.  So what's it going to be -- trust in the Lord or egg on the face. . .and the counter. . .and the floor. . .?

***Excerpt from Daily Discussions of a Doubting Disciple***

Friday, May 19, 2017

Are Rules Made To Be Broken?

I love that I live within walking distance of the Swamp Rabbit Trail.  It's an ideal place (though sometimes a bit busy for my liking) for my morning prayer walks.  The trail stretches on for miles in either direction, so I can walk however long or far I choose on any given day.  Yes, it's a wonderful thing.

That being said, there are some who could use a good course in trail etiquette.  For example, if you're riding a bicycle and coming up behind someone,  you should make that person aware of your presence rather than speed past them and cause them to wet their pants.  Seriously, people!  But the one that really perturbs me is the "no passing" sections.  There are places where the trail zigs and zags or snakes around an obstacle.  In these areas, it is difficult and sometimes even impossible to see oncoming traffic.  For this reason, the "trail people" (I'm sure they have an official title, but I'm not sure what it is), have gone to great lengths to ensure the safety of all trail users.

They began by painting lines along the length of the trail.  A dotted yellow line means it's safe to pass while a solid yellow line indicates a no passing zone.  Sounds familiar, right?  Those lines might as well be invisible.  I could count on one hand how many people actually slow down and wait their turn rather than passing through those areas.  On the contrary, I cannot tell you how many times I've been run off the trail because someone attempted to pass, swerved to avoid oncoming traffic, and literally bumped me right off the trail.  How rude!

Obviously, I wasn't the only one who noticed this behavior because, before long, there were instructions painted on the trail itself at the start of these "no pass zones."  The instructions were clear and direct:  "Stay Right."  The letters are big and bold, impossible to miss.  But has it done any good?  Nope!  Lastly, they put up a series of signs warning trail users of the dangers ahead and to wait their turn rather than passing.  Still, the rules are ignored and people zip past, not caring whom they may run into or knock off the trail.  It infuriates me!

Honestly, I have to wonder if these people are as unwilling to follow the rules of the road as they are the rules of the trail.  If so, it's no surprise there are as many accidents as there are.  Why can't people understand that rules are there to help us and to keep us safe?  Furthermore, why don't they seem to realize that the rules of the land are not multiple choice?  They must all be obeyed, or there will be chaos.

Sadly though, we all do the same thing from time to time.  We're all guilty of committing those "little sins," you know, the ones we think don't really matter.  Going a few miles over the speed limit.  Overeating.  Telling a white lie.  Going home early from work a few days a week.  Omitting our daily time with God.  They're not big things like murder or rape or adultery, so they're not big deals, right?  Oh, so wrong!

Every sin is a big deal to God.  If all we ever did were those things we consider "little sins," Jesus would still have had to die for them.  Sin is sin!  There is no little or big.  So, when God tells us to do something, we ought to do it.  Otherwise, there is punishment for us, and it could cause someone else great harm.  Think about it this way, our failure to obey God in the "little things" could result in someone else getting pushed off the trail.  What trail?  The trail to truth.  The trail to eternal life.  When others see us claiming to be Christians but disobeying God's Word, they will likely turn away.  Why would they want that kind of faith?  Our disobedience in the "little things" could be leading others astray.

We must be careful and be on guard.  No sin is too small.  Each one cost Jesus His life.  And each one can serve as a hindrance in our ministry of leading others to Him.  Let's follow the guidelines set forth in the Bible and do our best to practice trail etiquette each and every day.  Other travelers will be grateful, and God will be pleased!

Therefore thou shalt love the Lord thy God, and keep his charge, and his statutes, and his judgments, and his commandments, alway. - Deuteronomy 11:1

Thursday, May 18, 2017

When the Best Doesn't Feel Good

A week and a half ago, while on my prayer walk, I heard the pitiful cries of a dog coming from the bottom of a deep ravine.  Unable to resist an animal in distress, I investigated and discovered that the whining was coming from a puppy who was stuck and couldn't climb up the steep bank.  Unfazed by snakes, bugs, poison ivy and whatever else may have been lurking in the overgrowth, I climbed (and slid) down the hill and rescued the terrified canine.

Once back on the road, I had to decide what to do with the poor thing.  My first thought was to keep him.  He was so cute and precious, and I could feel myself getting attached to him with every step.  I got him home, gave him some milk (which he promptly devoured) and set up a little bed in a box for him until I could figure out what to do.  As much as I wanted to keep him, I knew it wasn't in his best interest or ours.  We're too busy to train a puppy right now.  Besides that, Mitch has been the only dog in the house for nearly a year and a half, and I'm not sure how he would react to having to share his attention again.  No, I knew in my heart that the best thing to do was to take him to the animal shelter.

The problem was that the nearest shelter didn't accept strays until noon.  It was 9:30.  That gave me way too much time to grow attached to this adorable bundle of joy.  So, I put him in the box with a pillow and blanket and did my best to ignore him.  He got comfortable and stayed put, barely making a sound, but he watched me intently.  When noon finally arrived, I dug up every ounce of resolve I could muster and made my way to the shelter.

Of course, this would be the day they were swamped.  There was nothing for me to do but to wait my turn, all the while holding and comforting the scared pup.  Before long, he had calmed to the point that he was nearly asleep on my shoulder.  Passersby commented, "You should keep him" and "He's fallen in love with you."  They weren't helping!!!!  I was having the hardest time staying in that line.  I wanted to turn around and leave.  I wanted to take that sweet thing home and show him just how wonderful life could be.  But I had to do what was best, and while I knew we would offer that puppy more love than he could handle, it was not the best thing for any of us.  So, with tear-filled eyes and a heavy heart, I finally handed him over and walked away.

It broke my heart to do it.  I'm still haunted by it.  Yet I have no doubt that I did the right thing, the best thing.  Now, if I could only be sure that little puppy understood that too.

Friend, it gives God no pleasure to do things that seem unfair or hurtful to us.  He takes no joy in seeing us writhe in frustration or confusion.  But because of His great love, He will always do what's best for us.  It may not seem best at the time.  It may not even seem good.  But God sees and understands what we don't, just as I saw and understood what the puppy couldn't.  He knows what's best, not only for us but for all those around us.  He has a perfect plan, and while it is painful at times, He has promised that they are not plans of evil or ill intent (Jeremiah 29:11).  He is busy working all things for our good, and I believe sometimes it pains Him as much as it pains us.  But because He is good, He will always do what's right.  And we can trust in that, no matter how difficult the day may be.

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. - Jeremiah 29:11

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Facing Regret

Very few days go by when someone doesn't stop me on the walking trail to comment about my red hair.  Fortunately, all of the comments so far have been nice ones, and oddly enough, the majority of the compliments come from older gentlemen.

This morning was no different.  A man about the age of my dad pulled up behind me on his bicycle and confided, "I hated my red hair every day of my life until it all fell out, and now I'd do anything to have it back."  He chatted with me a bit more, then road off, hollering back over his shoulder, "I love your hair.  It's beautiful!"  I called out, "Actually, I like it too!"

His comment stuck with me as I continued my morning walk, and I wondered how often I'm guilty of the same thing.  How often do I complain about something that might one day be taken away from me, leaving me full of regret and an immense desire to have that very thing back?  I admit, it was convicting.

We, as Christians, should be the most thankful people in the world, and we shouldn't let a day go by that we don't thank the Lord for all His many blessings.  In fact, we should even thank Him for the things that we don't like about our lives because they may be blessings in disguise.  That job that sucks the life out of us.  That task that we dread doing every day.  Those extra pounds that don't seem to want to find another home.  The red hair.  The green eyes.  The freckles.  The wrinkles.  The cellulite.  We look at these things and turn up our noses in disgust, but is that the proper response?  Will we one day discover that what we had wasn't so bad and the alternative is unthinkable?  Like the gentleman I met this morning would say, "Red hair is better than no hair."

My point?  Instead of complaining about things, how about we live each day with an attitude of gratitude?  If the thing we don't like is something we could (and should) fix, like weight issues or bad habits, then we ought to work on it through the power of Christ.  But if it's simply the way God made us or something that He has provided for us, let us be grateful instead of griping.   We are blessed.  Let's make sure we act like it!

In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. - I Thessalonians 5:18