Thursday, October 23, 2014

A Cart, A Cart, My Kingdom for a Cart!

Today I had to pick up some supplies for a wedding with which I'm helping.  The trip was supposed to be relatively simple.  Pick up the wooden bases for the lanterns and some small flameless candles. . . and possibly some ribbon. . .and maybe some floral supplies if they were on sale. . . and. . . and.  As I entered the store, I had it in my mind that I only needed a couple of things, so I bypassed the shopping carts.  After all, I didn't need one for the few things I was picking up.

Unfortunately, a few minutes later, I was standing in the ribbon aisle with a box of candles under one arm, four lantern bases under the other, along with some rolls of burlap.  On each finger I was wearing a roll of ribbon, some sapphire, other emerald.  Knowing that I had better check out or get a cart, I decided to head to the register, but as I did, I noticed some raffia at a good price and remembered that I needed that as well.  I eyed the raffia and then the collection of stuff in my arms and wondered if there was any possible way to add the new item to my current load.  Thankfully, after shuffling some things around, I was able to grab the raffia, after which, I hurriedly made my way to the register before I dropped everything.

Naturally, the line was four customers deep. As I stood there, trying to wait patiently, I felt the ribbon shift.  I readjusted in an effort to secure the falling item, but in the process, I ended up with the sharp edge of the wooden bases cutting into my forearm.  I dared not shift again lest it all come tumbling down.  Finally, another register opened up, and I rushed over and dropped everything onto the counter.  My hands were cramped.  My arms had indentations all over them.  And as I exited the store, I eyed the shopping cart and wondered, Why didn't I just get a cart?  Even if I had only ended up with a few items, this entire experience would have been much more delightful.

You know, I often have the same thought in life.  I march along in my own strength thinking, I can handle this.  It's not that much.  But before I realize it, my arms are full and my strength is gone.  I find myself precariously trying to balance everything lest I drop it all.  I take on too much, and then I pay the price.

And all the while God, just like the shopping cart, is standing by, offering help to carry the heavy load.  His hands don't get tired, and they're big enough to carry whatever I need.  He doesn't get overwhelmed by the weight of the burden or bogged down by the immensity of the task.  He's there.  He's available.  All I need to do is ask, yet I find myself doing the very same thing I did with the shopping cart this morning.  I don't know if it's pride or stubbornness or what, but you would think I would know this by now.  God desires to help me.  In fact, He'll carry the entire load if I'll simply let Him.

So, as I end this post today, I am asking myself, "Why don't I let God carry my load?  Even if I only face small troubles today, the entire experience will be much more delightful."

Are you, too, carrying a heavy load today?  If so, may I urge you to call on the One who can lift any burden and carry any load.  Stop struggling and striving to find that perfect balance.   Give it all to Jesus.  Not only will He carry your burdens, but He will also carry you through those burdens.  He longs to help.  Will you disappoint Him?

Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:
Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. - I Peter 5:6-7

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Talk About Stinkin' Thinkin'

Today, I'd like to do something that I rarely do--I'm posting a blog just for me.  First off, let me say that this is a re-post, so if it sounds familiar, you'll understand why.  Second, the reason I'm doing a re-post (particularly this post) is frankly because I needed to hear/read it.  I hope you, too, will receive a blessing from it.

I spend a lot of time at the computer.  Some days more than others.  Then, of course, there are some days when my mind is ready to get up but my body is determined to stay and finish the work.  These days do not bode well.  The conflict between mind and body produces some. . . well, let's just say, interesting results.

Such was the case a couple of days ago when I was typing out my blog entry.  I had already written an article for a company I do freelance work for, prepared my lessons for my college class that evening, answered e-mails and done some editing on my book.  I needed a break.  I should have taken one.  But, no.  Adamant to finish my blogs before I rose from my desk, I soldiered on.

Perhaps that's why one of the sentences I was typing didn't quite say what I meant for it to say.  I was referring to an instance where something popped into my mind, only that's not what I typed.  In my bleary state, I typed "a thought pooped into my mind."  Once I realized my mistake, I had a good laugh. You know, that giggly kind where you're still laughing four hours later.  (I told you I was tired!)  Anyway, I corrected the mistake and carried on with my posting, which, by the way, if you noticed anything strange in one of my recent posts, please let me know.  I'll fix it right away.  I'll be the first to admit that I'm not perfect and errors slip by me, as I'm sure you've noticed.

As I thought (and giggled) about the mistake, I realized that thoughts "poop" into my mind all the time.  It's what I call stinkin' thinkin'.  You know what I mean.  I'm talking about those thoughts that are ugly, misleading and downright dangerous.  Those thoughts that make you bitter.  Those thoughts that stir up anger.  Those thoughts that slip in unannounced and then take over.  One minute you're singing, "Praise God from whom all blessings flow," and the next you're saying, "I can't believe I'm having to do all this work while he's sitting there doing nothing."  "I can't believe she had the nerve to say something about me being disorganized when she's the most disorganized person I've ever met.  "I guess if the sheets are going to get printed off, I'll have to do it.  After all, I do everything else."  "Why is it I never hear from this person until they want something from me?"

Wow, do you smell it?  Like a fresh pile of manure, isn't it?  Bitter.  Resentful.  Proud.  Angry.  Frustrated.  And sneaky.  They're there before we even realize it, and often, before we can catch them, they've already dictated our mood.  Gone is the attitude of praise.  Gone is the thought of worship.  And in their place--nasty, smelly, poopy thoughts.

Am I the only one who struggles with this?  Does anyone else have trouble putting Philippians 4:8 into practice?  Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

Think on these things.  Things that are positive.  Things that make you feel good.  Things that put you in the proper frame of mind.  Things that set your heart upon worship and praise.  If a thought doesn't fit into one of those categories, it needs to be dealt with, and fast!  Stinkin' thinkin' doesn't lead to anything good.  On the contrary, stinkin' thinkin' leads to stinkin' attitudes which lead to stinkin' actions and stinkin' reactions.  Then the process continues and repeats.

It's time to stop the stink!  The next time a thought pops into your mind, make sure that's all it's doing.  No pooping allowed!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Who's Your Daddy?

As I thought about what to write this morning, I simply couldn't escape thoughts of the series I've been teaching in Sunday School.  Well, actually, it's a series within a series.  The main series is Miracles of the Old Testament, but we are currently studying about Elijah's contest with the prophets of Baal.  Being one of my favorite stories in the Bible, I thought I knew it inside and out, but the Lord has revealed some interesting points to me throughout the past few weeks.  One of those is the thought I would like to share with you today.

Allow me to set the scene.  Elijah has challenged the 450 prophets of Baal to a little contest.  Each would build an altar with a sacrifice, then cry out to their God/god.  The God/god to answer by fire would be declared the one true God.  Simple.  Direct.  I like it!  Elijah even allows the prophets of Baal to go first.  So they build the altar, place the sacrifice on top and cry out to Baal.  And they cry and cry and cry.  After a few hours, the prophets begin leaping on the altar, still crying out to Baal to send down fire to consume the offering (and the altar on which they're standing).  Duh!  In fact, Elijah has the same attitude I do.

And it came to pass at noon, that Elijah mocked them, and said, Cry aloud: for he is a god; either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaked. - I Kings 18:27

I'm glad to know that I'm not the only one who gets a little sarcastic from time to time.  I wonder if Elijah was a red-head too.  Anyway, he mocks, but it's what he says during his mocking that made me stop and think.  Not about Baal, but about my God, the one true God.  Look at what Elijah says:

Maybe he is talking -- Isn't it good to know that God can talk to you and listen to me at the same time, or vice versa?  God can be talking to hearts all around the world and listening to different hearts at the same time.  The line of communication with God has no "hold" button.  While He is a personal Savior, He can deal with many on a personal level all at the same time.  Baal couldn't do that.  Neither can any other god.  But my God can!

Maybe he is pursuing -- The Bible teaches us that our Lord is a Shepherd, searching for His lost sheep.  He is pursuing those who have gone astray.  But unlike the parable of the shepherd who left his fold of ninety-nine to go out and find the one, our God never needs to leave.  He can search for that one lost lamb while remaining with the other ninety-nine.  None of His sheep are ever alone.

Maybe he is on a journey -- Well, that goes right along with what I just said.  God doesn't leave His children alone.  He never takes a vacation from them, even though I wouldn't blame Him if He did.  Despite our faults and failures, He sticks with us through thick and thin.  When we call, He's there. . . always!

Maybe he's asleep -- Can you imagine what God would miss if He were to go to sleep?  How would He know about my problems?  How would He hear my praise?  How could He protect me?  He couldn't, and that's why He never sleeps.  Never!  He doesn't grow tired.  He doesn't "faze out" for a minute or two.  He doesn't miss a thing because He's always paying attention.  He is alert.  He is on watch.  And I'm so thrilled to know that I don't have to wake Him up every time I want to talk with Him.

My dear friends, we serve a wonderful God!  He is so loving and true.  He takes such good care of us and watches over us despite our stubbornness and pride.  He is our Father, Shepherd, Friend and so much more.  What a privilege to be His child!  

If you don't know this relationship with God, I urge you to accept His free gift of salvation today.  I'd be happy to show you the way.  You don't want to miss out like the prophets of Baal did.  Notice this verse:

And it came to pass, when midday was past, and they prophesied until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that there was neither voice, nor any to answer, nor any that regarded. - I Kings 18:29

Did you catch that?  Not only did they not receive fire, but they didn't even get an answer of any kind.  On top of that, notice the phrase, "nor any to answer."  It doesn't say simply that there wasn't an answer but that there wasn't anyone or anything to answer.  The god they were praying to didn't exist.  And all the while, they ignored the one true God who could give them everything they needed.  Don't miss out on knowing a love unlike any other.  Ask Jesus to save you today!  No matter what you have done, you'll be welcomed into the fold of God.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Distracted by Clutter

I am writing today's posts much later than usual, but I assure you I have a good reason.  The truth is that I couldn't work another minute in my office before cleaning up the clutter. Over the past few weeks, my office has begun to resemble a junk yard.  Stuff has accumulated to the point that I could barely make my way to my desk, and I was having to rearrange stuff before I could reach my bookshelves.  With the changing of seasons, an assortment of clothes littered my hope chest.  Boxes of books from recent book signings and vendor events were stacked under the window.  But the worst of it was the collection of things that needed to go up into the attic. 

The drop-down door to the attic is in my office, which is no big deal.  It doesn't get in my way or distract me from my work.  However, I find it a pain to pull the door down and climb up into the attic for one thing.  So, what I normally do is wait until I have a few things and then make the trip up the ladder.  Unfortunately, the piles of things for the attic has grown, and I've been too busy with other projects to mess with them.  But this morning, as I stepped into my office, I made a decision.  "No more!  I am tired of this clutter.  I can't move.  I can't think.  I am distracted by the mess.  I will not put up with it a moment longer."  Then I pushed up my sleeves and spent the next couple of hours trying to unbury my office.

It was a lot of work, but I must admit it was definitely worth it.  As I sit at my desk now, I am at peace.  There is no clutter in sight.  I can move.  I can concentrate.  I can enjoy the tasks ahead of me because my mind isn't focused on the mess around me.  No more mess.  No more distraction.  Can you hear my sigh of relief?

Sometimes our lives can become as cluttered as my office.  With so much going on, the lists of demands and obligations can pile up just like the boxes and clothing in my work place.  Instead of putting things in their proper places, we allow people, things and situations to clutter our minds.  And because of that, when we strive to do the work God has called us to do, we find that we cannot move.  We cannot think.  We're distracted by the mess around us.

Sometimes, the problem is the same as that with my office--we simply have too much stuff.  In reference to our lives, I'm not necessarily talking about possessions, although they can cause quite a lot of clutter as well, but I'm referring to tasks and responsibilities.  We stretch ourselves too thin.  We think we need to be the perfect spouse, the perfect parent, the perfect employee, the perfect church member and the perfect friend.  We join clubs, attend meetings and work overtime.  We're always on the go and have no time for the things in life that should bring us joy.  Unfortunately, those are the things that have been buried under the mess.  They're still there, but we can no longer see them through the clutter.

One of the main reasons I waited so long to de-clutter my office was because I was too busy doing a lot of other things. They were good things, but were they things that I really should have been doing?  Were they more important than straightening up my office so that I could be more productive in the work that the Lord has called me to do?  It's difficult to say "no" to a friend's plea for help or your church's need of your assistance, but sometimes it is God's will for us to say, "no."  He has something for each of us to do, and we won't be able to do that work if we're too distracted by all the clutter around us.

Once we do clean up the mess, though, the results are amazing.  The peace of knowing that we're doing the exact thing we're supposed to do is overwhelming.  The ability to do that work without being hindered or distracted is exhilarating.  We can enjoy the tasks ahead of us because we aren't focused on the mess around us.

Come on, gang.  Let's roll up those sleeves and get busy.  We've got some de-cluttering to do!

And this I speak for your own profit; not that I may cast a snare upon you, but for that which is comely, and that ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction. - I Corinthians 7:35