Friday, February 26, 2010

Unwanted Guests


As I sat on my couch this morning, minding my own business and reading my devotions, I heard the sound of the doggie door. This is not an unusual thing around my house. What made it unusual this morning was that both my dogs were in the living room with me.

I sat quietly trying to hear any sound coming from the back of the house. Nothing. Thinking it must have been the wind rustling the doggie door, I glanced out the window. All was still. Again, I heard the noise. This time my dogs heard it too. I crept through the house and cautiously approached the back door where the doggie door is located. I peered out the window. Nothing. I had just begun to relax when a large black head poked through the doggie door. I screamed. Somehow our neighbor's dog had gotten out of his fenced yard and into our fenced yard.

I used my foot to push the big head back through the doggie door, then allowed Mitch (my 90-lb. shepherd) to help me deal with the "visitor." He chased our guest out of the laundry room and into the back yard. I opened the side gate and shooed him through, then closed the gate behind him. Our guest didn't seem happy to be on that side of the fence, but I know that Mitch is very protective, and I didn't want the other dog to get hurt. He seemed sweet enough, but you never know with dogs.

I had just sat down with my Bible again when I heard the doggie door. This time there was no question about what had come through. The same dog waltzed right into my living room and began exploring my rug. "Oh no you don't!!!" I said as I chased him back through the house. After quite an ordeal to get him out again, I discovered that he had pushed the bottom of our gate open to gain access to our yard. I fixed the gate, and thankfully, I haven't seen the dog since then.

You know, life is full of unwanted guests. Unwanted health issues. Unwanted circumstances. Unwanted thoughts. Unwanted emotions. The key to taking care of these unwanted visitors is to deal with them. We can't ignore them in hopes that they might go away. If I had done that with my visitor this morning, there's no telling how many "surprises" I may have found in my house. Don't ignore them; deal with them.

Once they're dealt with, it's also wise to investigate how they got in to begin with. That way we can work to prevent such unwanted visitors from coming again. Does it always work? No, not always, but it certainly helps. There are things that are beyond our control and that we need to leave in God's hands. However, there are many things we can take care of if we will take the time to deal with them and work to prevent them from coming back. After all, we don't want any "surprises," do we?

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Room


Heaven as written by a 17 Year Old Boy
This is excellent and really gets you thinking about what will happen in Heaven.

17-year-old Brian Moore had only a short time to write something for a class.. The subject was what Heaven was like. "I wowed 'em," he later told his father, Bruce. It's a killer. It's the bomb. It's the best thing I ever wrote.." It also was the last.

Brian's parents had forgotten about the essay when a cousin found it while cleaning out the teenager's locker at Teays Valley High School in Pickaway County.

Brian had been dead only hours, but his parents desperately wanted every piece of his life near them, notes from classmates and teachers, and his homework. Only two months before, he had handwritten the essay about encountering Jesus in a file room full of cards detailing every moment of the teen's life. But it was only after Brian's death that Beth and Bruce Moore realized that their son had described his view of heaven.

It makes such an impact that people want to share it.. "You feel like you are there," Mr... Moore said. Brian Moore died May 27, 1997, the day after Memorial Day. He was driving home from a friend's house when his car went off Bulen-Pierce Road in Pickaway County and struck a utility pole. He emerged from the wreck unharmed but stepped on a downed power line and was electrocuted.

The Moore 's framed a copy of Brian's essay and hung it among the family portraits in the living room. "I think God used him to make a point. I think we were meant to find it and make something out of it," Mrs. Moore said of the essay. She and her husband want to share their son's vision of life after death. "I'm happy for Brian..... I know he's in heaven. I know I'll see him.

Here is Brian's essay entitled
"The Room."

In that place between wakefulness and dreams, I found myself in the room. There were no distinguishing features except for the one wall covered with small index card files. They were like the ones in libraries that list titles by author or subject in alphabetical order. But these files, which stretched from floor to ceiling and seemingly endless in either direction, had very different headings.

As I drew near the wall of files, the first to catch my attention was one that read "Girls I have liked." I opened it and began flipping through the cards.. I quickly shut it, shocked to realize that I recognized the names written on each one. And then without being told, I knew exactly where I was. This lifeless room with its small files was a crude catalog system for my life. Here were written the actions of my every moment, big and small, in a detail my memory couldn't match. A sense of wonder and curiosity, coupled with horror, stirred within me as I began randomly opening files and exploring their content. Some brought joy and sweet memories; others a sense of shame and regret so intense that I would look over my shoulder to see if anyone was watching.

A file named "Friends" was next to one marked "Friends I have betrayed." The titles ranged from the mundane to the outright weird. "Books I Have Read," "Lies I Have Told," "Comfort I have Given," "Jokes I Have Laughed at."

Some were almost hilarious in their exactness: "Things I've yelled at my brothers." Others I couldn't laugh at: "Things I Have Done in My Anger", "Things I Have Muttered Under My Breath at My Parents." I never ceased to be surprised by the contents Often there were many more cards than expected. Sometimes fewer than I hoped. I was overwhelmed by the sheer volume of the life I had lived...

Could it be possible that I had the time in my years to fill each of these thousands or even millions of cards? But each card confirmed this truth. Each was written in my own handwriting.. Each signed with my signature.

When I pulled out the file marked "TV Shows I have watched," I realized the files grew to contain their contents. The cards were packed tightly, and yet after two or three yards, I hadn't found the end of the file. I shut it, shamed, not so much by the quality of shows but more by the vast time I knew that file represented.

When I came to a file marked "Lustful Thoughts," I felt a chill run through my body. I pulled the file out only an inch, not willing to test its size, and drew out a card. I shuddered at its detailed content. I felt sick to think that such a moment had been recorded. An almost animal rage broke on me.

One thought dominated my mind: No one must ever see these cards! No one must ever see this room! I have to destroy them!" In insane frenzy I yanked the file out. Its size didn't matter now. I had to empty it and burn the cards.

But as I took it at one end and began pounding it on the floor, I could not dislodge a single card. I became desperate and pulled out a card, only to find it as strong as steel when I tried to tear it. Defeated and utterly helpless, I returned the file to its slot. Leaning my forehead against the wall, I let out a long, self-pitying sigh.

And then I saw it. The title bore "People I Have Shared the Gospel With." The handle was brighter than those around it, newer, almost unused.. I pulled on its handle and a small box not more than three inches long fell into my hands. I could count the cards it contained on one hand..

And then the tears came. I began to weep. Sobs so deep that they hurt. They started in my stomach and shook through me. I fell on my knees and cried. I cried out of shame, from the overwhelming shame of it all. The rows of file shelves swirled in my tear-filled eyes..... No one must ever, ever know of this room. I must lock it up and hide the key. But then as I pushed away the tears, I saw Him..

No, please not Him... Not here. Oh, anyone but Jesus. I watched helplessly as He began to open the files and read the cards. I couldn't bear to watch His response... And in the moments I could bring myself to look at His face, I saw a sorrow deeper than my own. He seemed to intuitively go to the worst boxes.

Why did He have to read every one? Finally He turned and looked at me from across the room.. He looked at me with pity in His eyes. But this was a pity that didn't anger me. I dropped my head, covered my face with my hands and began to cry again. He walked over and put His arm around me. He could have said so many things. But He didn't say a word. He just cried with me.

Then He got up and walked back to the wall of files. Starting at one end of the room, He took out a file and, one by one, began to sign His name over mine on each card. "No!" I shouted rushing to Him. All I could find to say was "No, no," as I pulled the card from Him. His name shouldn't be on these cards. But there it was, written in red so rich, so dark, and so alive.

The name of Jesus covered mine. It was written with His blood.. He gently took the card back He smiled a sad smile and began to sign the cards. I don't think I'll ever understand how He did it so quickly, but the next instant it seemed I heard Him close the last file and walk back to my side. He placed His hand on my shoulder and said, "It is finished."

I stood up, and He led me out of the room. There was no lock on its door. There were still cards to be written.

"For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Use of a Lamppost


Too many Christians use the Bible like a drunk uses a lamppost: for support, rather than for illumination. - Margaux Ayn Schaffer

What a sad statement! Unfortunately, it's true. There are many Christians who come up with their own set of rules, then pick and choose Bible verses to support their stand. Often this results in twisting the Word of God or taking it out of context. This is wrong, and furthermore, it is typical behavior of the Pharisees. That's what they were all about. Rules and regulations.

I'm not saying that Christians don't have rules. We do, and they're very evident in God's Word. What I'm saying is that our beliefs and standards need to be based on the Word of God and not what "the latest, greatest preacher" is preaching. We need to use God's Word as it was intended. . .for illumination, not to support our rules and guidelines.

As Christians, we need to stand up for what is right, but let's make sure that what we say is right is based on God's standard and not our own.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

TITHING by Douglas Leblanc


Tithing is part of the Ancient Practices Series written by Douglas Leblanc. In the book, he tells the stories of several families whose lives were changed as a result of their decision to tithe. The key verse he uses is found in Malachi 3:10 and says, "Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it."

While I think the exploration of the topic of tithing is needed, this book did a poor job explaining tithing to its full extent. I felt that the author implied that everyone who tithed would experience some great transformation in their lives immediately following their choice to tithe. I also felt that he implied that we, as Christians, should tithe so that God would bless us instead of stating that we should tithe because it's the right thing to do.

In addition, I found the book to be somewhat dry. The author frequently got bogged down on details that had little to do with his purpose for writing the book. I had to weed through long passages before I found any information dealing with tithing, and even then, I usually disagreed with what was said. All in all, I am disappointed and therefore conclude that this book is not for me.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com http://BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Monday, February 15, 2010

My Knight in Shining Armor


When I was a little girl, I dreamed of a knight in shining armor. I dreamed of a man who would love me for who I am and not wish to change me into something else. I dreamed of a man who would respect me and treat me like royalty. I dreamed of a man who I could talk with about anything. On September 17, 1995, I met that man. His name is Jason Rongione, and he is the love of my life. He measured up to my "dream guy" in every way. In fact, over the years, he has surpassed that dream and become more precious to me than I ever could have imagined. I am so thankful for such a wonderful husband!

What I failed to realize for so many years was that I had actually met my knight in shining armor long before I met my husband. At the young age of six, I asked Jesus into my heart to become my Lord and Savior. Since that time, He has been everything I dreamed of in a knight and so much more. He is my Friend. He is my Love. He is my Protector. He is my Counselor. He loves me when I am unlovable. He loves me when I fail Him. He loves me when I don't love Him as I should. He never leaves me. He never gives up on me. Could anyone ask for a greater Love?

My Jesus, I love Thee. I know Thou art mine.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Trust and Toenails


We have been trying to trim Mitch's toenails for over a week now. When we were hiking regularly, the rocks, asphalt, etc. kept them filed down. Now that we're only going out once a week (sometimes twice), they need some attention.

The problem is that Mitch can't stand for anyone to mess with his feet. In fact, he doesn't like to be constrained in any way. He loves to be cuddled, but if you hold him to where he can't move, he freaks out. We often wonder if he experienced some kind of abuse in his previous home. Anyway, as soon as you grab his feet, he goes wild. He snarls and growls. He wiggles and wriggles. It's impossible to trim or even file his toenails. He just won't cooperate. (However, he does an excellent portrayal of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.)

We've tried being firm. No luck. We've tried being sweet and trying to explain why we're doing what we're doing. Still no luck. No matter how hard we try, we can't get him to understand that what we're doing is good for him. It may be uncomfortable for a little while. It may even hurt a little. But in the long run, it's what's best for him.

After another unsuccessful attempt yesterday, I was voicing my frustration to Jason. I was about halfway through my rant when God thumped me on the head and whispered, "Sound like anyone else you know?"

Who? Me?

Yes, me!!!! Just like Mitch, I balk at help that I don't understand. When God is trying to "trim my toenails," it hurts and it's uncomfortable. I don't understand the process, and I can't see the end result. I don't realize that it is, in fact, what's best for me. I fight. I fuss. I whine and complain. I growl and snarl. I wiggle and wriggle. I don't trust my Master.

So what happens? God has to keep trying. The process must be completed. It's necessary. It's in my best interest. How much smoother would it be if I would just cooperate instead of fighting tooth and nail (pardon the pun)?

But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. - I Corinthians 2:9

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Light at the End of the Tunnel


Sometimes it feels that way, doesn't it? Recently, I know it seems like the light has grown dimmer and dimmer. Thankfully, there is a Light that can never be "turned off." Even during these times when we feel alone and forsaken, we can trust that God is with us and He is in control. Let's pray for one another today. Many people are hurting. Many are discouraged. Many are confused. But prayer is a powerful thing. Our prayers may help someone to catch a glimpse of that Light in the darkness. Prayer changes things!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

LITTLE OLD CHURCH PAINTED

It seems that there was a little old church out in the countryside: painted white and with a high steeple.One Sunday, the pastor noticed that his church needed painting. He checked out the Sunday ads and found a paint sale. The next day, he went into town and bought a gallon of white paint. He went back out to the church and began the job.He got done with the first side. It was looking great. But he noticed he had already used a half gallon. He didn't want to run back in town and being the creative person that he was, he found a gallon of thinner in the shed out back, and began to thin his paint.It worked out great. He finished the remaining three sides with that last half gallon of paint.That night, it rained: it rained hard. The next morning when he stepped outside of the parsonage to admire his work, he saw that the first side was looking great, but that the paint on the other three sides had washed away.The pastor looked up in sky
in anguish and cried out, "What shall I do?"A voice came back from the heavens saying, "Repaint, and thin no more!"

Monday, February 8, 2010

100 Points to Get Into Heaven

A man dies and goes to heaven. St. Peter meets him at the pearly gates.

St. Peter says, "Here's how it works. You need 100 points to make it into heaven. You tell me all the good things you've done, and I give you a certain number of points for each item, depending on how good it was. When you reach 100 points, you get in."

"Okay" the man says, "I attended church every Sunday"
"That's good, says St. Peter, " that's worth two points"

"Two points?" he says. "Well, I gave 10% of all my earnings to the church"
"Well, let's see," answers Peter, "that's worth another 2 points. Did you do anything else?"

"Two points? Golly. How about this: I started a soup kitchen in my city and worked in a shelter for homeless veterans."
"Fantastic, that's certainly worth a point, " he says.

"hmmm...," the man says, "I was married to the same woman for 50 years and never cheated on her, even in my heart."
"That's wonderful," says St. Peter, "that's worth three points!"

"THREE POINTS!!" the man cries, "At this rate the only way I get into heaven is by the grace of God!"

"Come on in!"

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Idle Worship


Idle worship. No, that's not a typo. I'm not talking about "idol" worship where people devote their praise and prayers to statues or other false gods. I'm speaking of going through the motions of worship without truly having our hearts in it. Look at a few definitions of the word "idle":

* of no real worth, importance, or significance
* frivolous; vain
* meaningless; senseless
* futile; unavailing

Sound familiar? I know I sometimes commit "idle worship" during my daily devotions. I want to spend time with the Lord. I know I need to spend time with the Lord. But I have the hardest time shutting everything else out. My thoughts run rampant with things to do and places to go. I find myself unfocused and stumbling through my devotions just so I can be done and get on to "the important stuff."

Other times I have trouble at church on Sundays. Being the church pianist, I have a lot of responsibilities including playing before the service, congregationals, choir, special music, offeratories, fellowship times, playing after the service, communion, etc. This requires a lot of time and concentration. To keep things flowing, I try to make sure I have all the necessary books and music laid out ahead of time. When others involved in the music program are not prepared, it causes me to be unprepared as well. I don't like to be unprepared. The more unprepared I feel, the more frustrated I become. When the service time arrives, I'm annoyed, irritated, and not in the spirit of worship. I do my part. I play the songs. I smile. I act like everything's fine, but inside, I know that my worship is not sincere because my heart is not right. I'm joining in the worship, but it is a futile attempt.

Today's post is a warning to all of us. It's so easy to get distracted by other things that we find ourselves merely going through the motions when it comes to our worship time. Let's be careful. Let's make sure our worship is sincere and heartfelt. If it's not, we shouldn't even bother. God commands us to not use His name in vain. Let's make sure we don't use our time with Him in vain either.

I will praise thee, O LORD, with my whole heart; I will shew forth all thy marvellous works. - Psalm 9:1

Monday, February 1, 2010

What's Inside?


If you squeeze a tube of toothpaste, what will come out? Applesauce? Unlikely. Yogurt? I don't think so. Cream cheese? I certainly hope not. What will come out? Toothpaste, of course. Why? Because that's what's inside.

What about us? When life gives us a squeeze, what comes out? The fruit of the Spirit? It should, but I'm afraid many times that's not the case. When life gives us a good squeeze, the result is often anger, bitterness, frustration, and discontentment. Why? Because unfortunately, that's what's inside us.

I once took a quiz on the fruit of the Spirit. The quiz listed all ten fruits with definitions and the numbers 1-10 out beside them. I had to evaluate myself and give myself a score on how evident the fruits were in my own life. One was the lowest, and ten was the highest. Sad to say, I couldn't give myself any 10's. Worse yet, I wasn't able to honestly give myself higher than a "6" on many of them. What an eye-opening experience that quiz was for me. I thought of myself as a good person, a nice girl, a true Christian. What I discovered was that my fruit was either dried and withered or it had never grown at all. Since that day, I've been striving to do better.

You see, it's not enough to "do" the right things. It must start on the inside. We must "think" the right things. We must "want" the right things. The Bible says that the mouth speaks out of the abundance of the heart. In other words, whatever is on the inside is eventually going to find its way out. That's why it is so important that we fill our lives with the right things. After all, life is going to squeeze us from time to time. What comes out as a result of those squeezes is up to us (and it had better not be toothpaste).

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. - Galatians 5:22-23