Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Ken Davis - Hotel Keys

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

A Big God Who Cares About Little Things

On Sunday afternoon, Jason and I stretched out on the couch and watched an interesting show about the odd relationships between animals of different species.  The show featured a dog and cheetah who were raised together and were now the best of friends, a giant turtle and goose who were lifelong mates, and a dog and fawn who were inseparable.  Each tale was heartwarming, but two of the stories literally brought tears to my eyes.

The first was a dog who was born blind but adopted by a mama deer.  The deer watched over the dog, groomed him and offered him love and companionship beyond what you could imagine.  She offered her warmth when he was cold and her tender kisses when he was lonely.  She walked beside him and led him around the farm.  After several years, the dog miraculously received his eyesight, but even upon discovering that his best friend was a deer, his affection for her seemed unchanged.  It was a precious story.

The second account was similar, only this one included a goat and a forty-year-old blind horse.  When the horse lost sight in both eyes, the owners made the decision to put him down.  But after observing an unusual scene, they changed their minds.  A large goat in his teens took on the responsibility of being the horse's guide.  He nudged the horse in the right directions, walked in front of him at a specific distance to lead him to his favorite grazing spot and even ran to the house to alert the owners when a wild storm had trapped the horse in a tangle of trees.  After witnessing the care and attention of the goat, the owners felt certain that the horse would be fine.  He had a friend and caretaker.

I was amazed at the relationships formed between these animals, but I was also blessed by a realization.  If the Lord cares enough about a blind dog to allow him to be befriended by a mother deer, how much more does He care for me?  If He cared enough to send a goat to help and guide a blinded horse, who or what will He place in my path?  The Bible assures us that not one sparrow falls to the ground without the Lord's knowledge.  He knows, and He cares.  But as much as He cares for the animals, how much more does He care for us?

He cared enough for the blind dog to send a mama deer.

He cared enough for the aged horse to send a guiding goat.

He cared enough for us to send His only begotten Son.

I'd say He cares a lot.  What do you think?

Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God? But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows. - Luke 12:6-7

Monday, July 28, 2014

Focusing on Dead Trees


While hiking on Paris Mountain, Jason and I came to an open cliff that overlooked the countryside. Stretched out before us lay a valley of towering pines and mighty oaks, hemlock and rhododendron. In the distance, we could see buildings of different shapes and sizes, hazy, but still visible.

But as we surveyed the beautiful scene, we were shocked to realize that we were both focused on the same sight--one dead tree in the midst of the many living. It wasn't a large tree. In fact, compared to many of the trees, it seemed small and insignificant. But, for some reason, as we scanned our surroundings, that one dead tree caught our attention.

Isn't that the way it is with hard times in our lives? Most of the time, we're surrounded by good things--a beautiful scene. But when those trials arise, it seems like that's all we can focus on. They stand out in our lives just like that one dead tree stood out in the midst of the living. During these times, it's hard to see anything else, for no matter how hard we try, our attention keeps returning to the trial. It was for these times that God gave us Psalm 121.

I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth. He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber. Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD is thy keeper: the LORD is thy shade upon thy right hand. The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul. The LORD shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore. 


*****Excerpt from Random Ramblings of a Raving Redhead***** 

Friday, July 25, 2014

Get Mad, Get Even or Give Grace?

I've been teaching through the story of Joseph in my ladies' Sunday School class, and let me tell you, there's some good stuff in there.  When you really delve into a story like that, it's amazing what you can discover.  For the most part, the lessons have been humbling, and each week I find myself saying, "Lord, make me more like Joseph."  Last week was no different.  Take a look.

And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, Forasmuch as God hath shewed thee all this, there is none so discreet and wise as thou art: Thou shalt be over my house, and according unto thy word shall all my people be ruled: only in the throne will I be greater than thou. - Genesis 41:39-40

On the surface, there's no new revelation here.  I mean, we all know the story of Joseph.  Most of us have heard it since we were in diapers.  Joseph interpreted Pharaoh's dreams, so Pharaoh made him ruler over all the land.  It's a big deal, but to be honest, after hearing the story so many times, this order of events lacks the "shock and awe" factor.  But when I began thinking about what this order of events entails, I was amazed.

Joseph was made ruler over all the land, all the people.  Only Pharaoh was higher than he was.  Everyone else answered to Joseph.  Everyone!  That included Potiphar (who had thrown Joseph in jail), Potiphar's wife (who had lied about Joseph and accused him of wrongdoing), the butler (who had forgotten about Joseph for over two years), and eventually his own brothers (who had sold him into slavery).  Suppose for a moment that you were Joseph and had just been given the news that you were ruler of it all.  What would your first thought be?

I don't know about you, but I think I might be seeking some revenge.  Yep, payback was certainly in order, wasn't it?  These people had done him wrong, and they weren't even sorry about it.  Now, Joseph had the chance to make them pay.  He could make them suffer like he had suffered.  He could get mad and get even, but he didn't.  As far as we can tell from the Biblical account, Joseph treated each of them with grace.  They didn't deserve it, but then, isn't that what grace is--unmerited favor?  Despite their mistreatment of him, Joseph showed mercy and grace. . . and so should we.  After all, haven't we been given grace?  Do we deserve it?  Well, let's see.

I can honestly say that I haven't thrown the Lord in jail nor have I sold Him into slavery, but I have accused Him of wrongdoing when He didn't do things my way, and I have forgotten about Him when things were going well and I didn't think I needed Him.  Nevertheless, God has forgiven me.  Day after day, He gives me grace.  I don't deserve it any more that Potiphar's wife deserved it, but God has given it all the same.  Now, it's time for me to follow His example.

There will be people in this life who will hurt you beyond belief.  Some will betray your friendship.  Some will lie about you.  Others will forget you or turn against you.  When these things happen, it's so easy to get mad.  It's natural to want to get even.  But the Spirit reminds us that we have a new nature now, which means the situation merits a new response--grace.  No, they probably don't deserve it.  But grace reaches out to the undeserving.  It reached out to you.  It reached out to me.  Will you extend it to others?

Thursday, July 24, 2014

What Will It Take?

I don't usually enjoy documentaries, but yesterday I decided to watch one on the hunt for Noah's Ark.  Obviously, it was not portrayed from a Christian standpoint, and while the producers tried to sound neutral in their beliefs, it was quite evident that they did not believe in the existence of Noah's ark.  They treated it as a myth, legend or simple story.  Still, the facts about some of the different "ark hunters" were fascinating, and I found myself intrigued by the information.

What intrigued me the most, however, was the determination of some of the "experts" to contradict all the findings that indicated that Noah's ark did, in fact, exist.  When one explorer found a piece of petrified wood that matched the wood recorded in the book of Genesis, he had it dated and discovered that the dates also matched up.  However, when the wood was exposed to carbon dating, the facts no longer matched.  Another explorer found a shape that resembled the ark, and after taking precise measurements and performing a multitude of tests, proclaimed it to be the ark of Noah.  Still, the scientists found fault with the theory.  A third explorer is still searching the mountains of Ararat for Noah's ark, but the local trail guide seemed unimpressed.  Her statement was something to this effect, "He honestly believes that Noah's ark is out there.  He's even tried to convert me several times, asking me wouldn't I give my heart to Jesus.  He's trying to make a believer out of me.  So, I told him, 'If you can show me Noah's ark, then I'll believe.'"

Really?  A team of Christians from China discovered what they believed to be Noah's ark, packed tightly under some glaciers.  After clearing an opening in the ice, part of the crew went down into the cavern and filmed their discovery.  The film shows them walking through a large wooden structure that was divided into rooms.  The details found within match up with the Genesis record exactly.  But since the Chinese refused to disclose the exact location of their discovery, their video was considered a hoax.

It seems to me like the world is screaming for proof that the Bible is true, yet when the evidence is given, they deny it and use "other science" to disprove it.  So the question is, do they really want to know?  I think not.  But an even greater question is this:  What will it take for them to believe?  Another world catastrophe?  The death of a loved one?  The rapture?

I'm reminded of King Agrippa in Acts 26:28:  Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.  Almost, but not quite.  It was as if Agrippa took the same stance as the trail guide at Ararat--"You show me what I consider proof, then I'll believe."  But will they?  The fact of the matter is that one day, everyone will believe.  Unfortunately, it will be too late for so many.

If you haven't made the decision to accept Christ's gift of salvation, I beg of you, don't wait another day.  Give Him your heart today.  Believe in His great love and sacrifice for you.  Surrender your life and your all to Him.  Don't wait for more proof.  Faith isn't about proof.  It's about accepting the unexplainable.  It is believing in the unseen.  You have nothing to lose, but everything to gain.  Don't be an Agrippa.  Accept Christ as the Lord of your life today!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

I Hate It When That Happens!

Sunday was, well, an interesting day.  Sunday morning was the usual.  Hurry up and get ready.  Pack up the car, making sure I have everything I need for the church slideshow, my Sunday School lesson, the offertory, special music and so on.  Then off to church, and the rush continues.  Set up.  Play the piano.  Teach Sunday School.  Get to choir practice (although I actually missed this step).  Play the piano again.  Sing for special music.  Breathe.  Okay, so you get the drift.  Sundays are special, but they're also busy.

Jason's parents took us out for lunch, and after that, we dropped off some food for a family in our church that is going through some difficult times.  While there, Jason also did some repair work on their only vehicle, and by the time we finished there, it was less than two hours before choir practice.  From that location, it would have taken us thirty minutes to get home and then another thirty to drive back to church, so we thought it would be best to simply drive back to church and get some work done there.  This was fine, but by the time church began, my back was killing me.  I would like to believe that this was the cause of the attitude that came on, but I fear it was not.

On two separate occasions before church began, two different people complimented me in such a way that my head grew about two sizes.  By the time church started, my back was throbbing but I felt very good about myself and my abilities.  A little too good, it would seem.  Proverbs 16:18 tells us,  Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.  Pride had found a home, and unfortunately, the destruction and fall followed promptly on its heels.

As I was wrapping up my evening offertory, I realized that I had not prepared anything for the children's offering which immediately follows the regular offering.  The guitarist usually plays for that, but he was out of town, and I hadn't even thought about it.  So, I finished my offertory and flipped through my book for something light and upbeat.  Finding the perfect song, I pulled the music from the sheet protector (it's printed horizontally instead of vertically) and placed the two pages on the music stand.  As I neared the end of the second page, I realized that the song continued on the third page--the third page that was still in the sheet protector in the book that lay on top of the piano.  My mind rushed about, trying to figure out how to devise my own ending and finish the song.  The children were finished and returning with their baskets, so I needed to end.  I struck a chord and grimaced.  Wrong chord.  Flustered, I looked for a place to pick up the melody and salvage what was left of the piece.  It was as if my hands took on a life of their own.  Despite my willingness, they continued to beat out one wrong chord after another.  I willed them to stop.  I begged them to simply quit playing, but noooooooo!  They continued.  Until finally finding the ending chord of the song. 

I let out a breath and shook my head, and the entire church erupted in laughter.  The pastor looked at me and asked, "Was that a new ending?"  Mortified and trying to refrain from bursting into tears of embarrassment, I replied, "Yeah, I made that up myself.  Do you like it?"  From there, I hurried to my pew and tried to regain my composure.  It didn't happen!

Here, some kind people had tried to give me a word of encouragement, but I had translated it into, "Wow, I sure do have it all together.  Look at me."  Well, everyone was looking at me, and you know, it wasn't all that I thought it would be.  I guess I deserved a good dose of humble pie, and let me tell you, it wasn't tasty.

If I could leave you with one word of advice today, it would be this:  keep your pride in check.  No, we shouldn't be negative about ourselves and forever putting ourselves down.  There is a healthy level of self-respect, but keeping that balance can be a tricky thing, especially when people are telling you how great you are.  What I failed to do yesterday was to remember that whatever I am, I am because of God's grace.  It is He that works in and through me, and I can't take credit for any of that.  Please don't make the same mistake I made.  You may find yourself the center of attention, but like me, you may discover that the position is not all that it's cracked up to be.

For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself. - Galatians 6:3

Monday, July 21, 2014

Something Worth Singing About

A bird doesn't sing because it has an answer; it sings because it has a song. - Maya Angelou

When I stumbled across this quote the other day, all I could do was read it over and over again.  Since that day, I've not been able to shake the thought from my mind.   It has blessed me, convicted me, bewildered me and encouraged me.

Sometimes in this life, I feel imprisoned by doubts and plagued by uncertainties.  I often bring my burdens to the Lord in the form of questions.  "Lord, how is this going to work out?"  "Lord, why is this happening?"  "Lord, what should I do now?"  "Lord, how am I supposed to pay the bills?"  "Lord, why can't I have what others have?"  "Lord, when will my work bring forth the fruits I desire to see?"  When?  Why?  How?  Where?  What?  Yes, life is full of so many questions.

And often, I convince myself that my happiness depends on having the answer to all my questions.  I tell myself that I would truly be content if only I knew the "hows" and "wheres" of my life's journey.  I don't know about you, but things seem easier when I know the plan.  I like to have a plan.  I'm not a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of girl.  No, I like blueprints, outlines and note cards.  I find security in knowing what to expect and what to be ready for.  And when life doesn't cooperate, I find myself in a pity party that would put Eeyore to shame.

But I'm so thankful for a patient God, who, in the midst of my most recent pity party, took the time to remind me that I have a reason to sing.  No, I may not know all the answers, but I know the One who does.  And that, my friend, is worth singing about!


Yet the Lord will command his lovingkindness in the day time, and in the night his song shall be with me, and my prayer unto the God of my life. - Psalm 42:8
 


Friday, July 18, 2014

Sound the Horn!

Some things just strike me as hilarious, causing me to burst into laughter, usually much more laughter than what the situation merits.  One such occasion took place several mornings ago as I was walking the Swamp Rabbit Trail.  It is customary for those who are passing to let their presence be known by shouting out, "Passing on the left" or signaling the person they are trying to pass by horn, bell or whatever method is available.  When the trail first opened, everyone seemed to be really good about following this unwritten rule.  As time has passed, however, many have gotten lax, especially some of the bicyclists.  And let me tell you, there's nothing like having a bicycle come up behind you and zip past you at lightning speed, especially since some of those newer bikes make no sound.  There have been several times I nearly wet my pants because of some inconsiderate bicyclists zooming past me without any warning.  Not nice!  So much for a calming walk!

Anyway, on this particular morning, I was walking along, listening to the two men chattering behind me.  I could tell from the way they were shouting at one another and from the speed at which they were closing the distance between us that they were on bicycles.  I didn't need to turn around and look.  The closer they came, the louder their voices rang out.  At one point I was thinking, Good grief, dude!  Is it really necessary to shout like that.  But on the heels of that thought, everything went quiet.  Before I could enjoy the peace, the silence was broken by the most pathetic little bicycle horn I've ever heard.  Beep, beep.  The poor thing sounded like a goose with a head cold.  I couldn't help myself.  I just burst out laughing, as the two men passed me, looking over their shoulders and probably wondering if I was some kind of lunatic. (They might have a point.)

I didn't mean to laugh, but the sound of that horn was just so hilarious.  Add to that the fact that the one man felt the need to signal me after how they had been shouting at one another.  The whole thing just struck a chord in my funny bone, and try as I might, I couldn't pull myself together.  In fact, I was still smiling when I got home.  What a great way to start the day!

But you know what?  One day another horn will sound, only this one won't be pathetic.  It will be loud and majestic.  It will ring out across the entire globe and signal the return of Jesus Christ.  But on that day, only some will be laughing.  Those of us who are saved will be basking in the love of Jesus and enjoying merriment like we've never know before as we're whisked away from this earth and pulled into Heaven's embrace.  As for the rest of the world, there will be total chaos and confusion.  What happened?  Where did all those people go?  For you see, they didn't hear the trumpet.  They weren't ready.  They hadn't readied their ears, but more than that, they hadn't readied their hearts.  Jesus came, and they were left behind.

My dear friends, if you have not asked Jesus into your heart and life, I plead with you to do so today.  Don't put it off.  Don't wait for another day.  Prepare your ears to hear the trump of God.  Prepare your heart by receiving Christ's gift of salvation.  Please don't be left behind.  I guarantee you, it's no laughing matter.

For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. - I Thessalonians 4:16-17

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Time for a Wardrobe Change

Last Friday night, a group from our church attended a comical play about a family who traveled and sang gospel music at churches around the country.  One of the daughters in this fictional family didn't actually sing but signed each song to enable the deaf to enjoy the music as well.  Her sign language, however, was self-taught and was beyond eccentric (much like my brother-in-law's).  I don't remember laughing so hard in a very long time.  By the intermission, my cheeks were aching, but my heart was light.

One thing that I found interesting about the play was that it was set in the time frame of a single church service.  This meant that not only were there no scenery changes, but neither was there a need for wardrobe changes.  Both the stage and the cast were appareled in one "garment" for the entire play, allowing the production to flow smoothly and without pause.  In this respect, it was very different from other plays I've seen, and I'm sure it was a benefit for all of the cast and crew.

I was thinking about this as I read Ephesians 4:31-32 this morning:   Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.  

In the production Friday night, the cast was able to go without a wardrobe change.  We, as Christians, don't have such a luxury.  The word "Christian" literally means "little Christ" or "Christlike," so if we're truly going to walk the walk and talk the talk, we're going to need a change of garment.  If you've accepted Christ as your Savior, one wardrobe change has already taken place.  You've already exchanged your filthy rags of sin for God's spotless robe of righteousness.  That change took place the moment of salvation.  However, the Christian journey does not and cannot end there.  The show is not over.

According to this passage in Ephesians, there are some things we need to take off and others we need to put on.  Bitterness, wrath, anger, clamour and evil speaking are not fetching garments on anyone, but they're especially unattractive on a Christian.  They don't fit.  They're out of place.  They don't belong.  Wearing our white robes of righteousness with jewelry of resentment and a belt of bad attitude is like wearing a ball gown with tennis shoes and a football helmet.  They just don't mesh.  Instead, we should accentuate our white robes with rings of kindness, a broach of forgiveness and a tiara of tenderness.  Off with the old; on with the new.

Unfortunately, this wardrobe change is not quite as simple as pulling off your dress clothes and slipping into your favorite t-shirt and yoga pants.  No, this change of garments takes a lot more work.  And not only that, but it also requires constant effort.  It's not a single wardrobe change.  It's a daily, and sometimes even hourly, thing.  Casting off the unattractive and donning the appropriate attire.  Over and over again.  But the biggest difference is that the wardrobe were trying to cast off is often much more comfortable than the one we're trying to put on.  Bitterness often feels much better than kindness.  Bitterness comes naturally, while kindness takes work.  So, in essence we're trading out what feels good for clothes that are initially less comfortable.  The good news is that, over time, those "new clothes" will fit and feel better.  We'll get used to them.  We'll learn to appreciate them.  And maybe before long, we'll prefer them over the "old clothes."

What are you wearing today?  It is said that our clothes make a statement.  Oh, yeah, they certainly do!  So what are you saying?

Monday, July 14, 2014

Packing Light

And he called unto him the twelve, and began to send them forth by two and two; and gave them power over unclean spirits; And commanded them that they should take nothing for their journey, save a staff only; no scrip, no bread, no money in their purse: But be shod with sandals; and not put on two coats.- Mark 6:7-9

In this passage, Jesus is sending out His disciples to do great works in His name. The passage goes on to tell us how the disciples, through the power of Christ, healed the sick and cast out demons. I imagine, however, that when they were given their instructions, they were a little perplexed. I know I would be.

Basically, Jesus tells them to set forth on a journey without taking any provisions. No food. No money. No extra clothing. Nothing but a staff (presumably for protection from wild animals). That's it! Now when we go on a trip, my husband does a wonderful job of packing light. He takes only the bare essentials and has no problem with wearing the same shoes with every outfit. Me? Well, let's just say I like to be prepared. I might need rain gear or snow shoes. Sunscreen and insect repellant? Yep, I've got it. How about an extra set of clothes in case the ones I'm wearing are eaten by bears or something. You never know, so I like to be prepared. It's safe to say I'm not a light packer like Jason. But what Jesus was telling the disciples in the above passage goes far beyond light packing. They weren't to take anything but a staff. Can you imagine? No deodorant, toothpaste or change of underwear. I certainly wouldn't want to be their travel companion. Gross!

I imagine a hand going in the air. "Um, excuse me, Jesus. How are we supposed to provide for ourselves? How are we supposed to eat?" Jesus just smiles and continues to give other instructions for the journey. When the directions are completed, the disciples are sent out. Now, let's fast forward to their return from their journey.

And the apostles gathered themselves together unto Jesus, and told him all things, both what they had done, and what they had taught. - Mark 6:30

Interesting! Excitement fills the air as the disciples recount their stories to Christ. They speak of healing and restoration. They talk of powerful sermons and stirring devotions. But what's interesting to me is what is not mentioned. There is no mention of their want. No mention of a lack of provision. No mention of starvation. By what's not mentioned, we can see that Christ provided for the needs of the disciples. Though they took nothing with them, they had everything they needed.

In closing, let me just say that sometimes it looks like we don't have what we need to complete our journey. Our strength is gone. We're out of time. The bank account is empty. Our health is failing. Whatever the case may be, it may seem like we're headed out on a journey without any provisions. Just as with the disciples, God will provide what we need when we need it. Trust in His promise.

But you might want to go ahead and take your toothbrush. I don't think anyone wants you to leave that behind.

But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus. - Philippians 4:19

*****Excerpt from my new devotional book, 
Daily Discussions of a Doubting Disciple*****
Click here to order your copy today. 

Friday, July 11, 2014

Seriously? -- Part Two

We're talking about "seriously moments"--those occurrences that are so weird or out of the ordinary that you can't help but shake your head and mutter, "Seriously?"  Yesterday, I told you about poor Mitch getting his collar stuck in the bathroom cabinet handle.  For today, I was planning to tell you about how my computer's antivirus caused a virus in my computer, forcing it to shut down and not boot back up.  However, after having dealt with that problem over the weekend, my computer did the same thing yesterday.  It couldn't have been the antivirus because we uninstalled it; however, I think the culprit was actually another program that I was using or had used both times my computer went crazy.  So, yesterday, I uninstalled that program, and as of right now, the computer seems to be working smoothly.  (Lord, please let it continue to behave.)

Since I'm no longer sure that my antivirus was the source of my problem, I decided to forgo that post, but never fear, there are plenty of other "seriously moments" to choose from, and I'm sure you'll appreciate the one I'll share with you now.

As I've mentioned before, we live in an old house, and as old houses go, there's usually something that needs to be repaired.  A couple of days ago, Jason was working to caulk around the kitchen window in hopes of keeping those pesky ants out of our living space.  Noticing the place where the countertop had come lose, I grabbed the newly purchased super glue and decided to reattach the wayward piece.  I mean, it's gluing down a simple piece of countertop.  How hard could it be?  Never, ever ask that question!

Evidently the heat had thinned the super glue because as soon as I opened it, watery glue exploded from the top and covered my hand.  I hurried to the sink and started scrubbing my hands with soap and water, but it was too late.  When the package says that it dries immediately, it isn't exaggerating!  My hand was hard and crusty.  I continued to scrub with the soap, but that didn't help.  Jason got some of his strong cleaner from work and a loofah sponge and scrubbed vigorously, but still the glue remained (unfortunately, my skin was another story).  Next, I tried fingernail polish remover, which worked a little but not nearly as well as I had hoped.  I spent the rest of the evening picking and peeling that stupid glue from my poor little hand.

Now, the fact of the matter is I should have left that job for Jason.  I am not a "fixer."  Handyman is not in my job description.  God has blessed me with many talents, but household repair of any kind is not one of them.  Somehow, I always seem to make a mess of things.  In short, I become more of a hindrance than a help.  I know this.  I've lived this.  I knew better than to try to fix the countertop, but I did it anyway. . . and I paid the price.

How often do we do the same thing in life?  We know what's right and wrong.  We know the things we're supposed to do and the things we should refrain from doing.  But for some reason, we get it in our heads that this time will be different, and we hurry along to do the very thing we know we shouldn't.  Didn't the apostle Paul have the same problem?   For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. (Romans 7:15)  Let's face it, it's human nature, but that doesn't mean it's right.

Every day offers us a boatload of choices.  Do or don't do.  (Whoa, I just had a flashback to Yoda,  "Do or do not; there is no try.")  And actually, he's right.  We don't have to try to do the wrong thing.  It's a choice we make, just as it is to choose to do what's right.  I'm not saying it was necessarily wrong for me to try to fix the countertop (though Jason may disagree), but I'm saying I knew better.  I knew that Dana plus super glue makes a really bad combination.  I had a pretty good idea that I was going to make a mess of things.  But I ignored what I knew and instead did what I wanted.  And look where it got me!

We know right from wrong.  God has given us common sense (though I admit some seem to have received more than others), and He has also given us His Word, which contains clear directions on how to live our lives.  The rest is up to us.  We must make a choice, and that choice will come with its own rewards. . . or punishment.  Just ask me--Sticky Fingers!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Seriously?

You've heard of "aha moments," right?  You know, that moment when everything clicks or when you realize something that you've never noticed before.  We have a lot of those around our house.  Of course, part of the reason for that is because I can be a bit lacking in the common sense area, but that's beside the point.  Yes, we have "aha moments," but we also have a lot of "seriously moments."  You may not be familiar with these.  These are the events that are so bizarre and baffling that you can't help but scratch your head and mutter, "Seriously?"  Unfortunately, those are quite common around our house too, and I'd like to take the next couple of posts to tell you about two such events and what I took away from them.

The first happened a few nights ago after Jason had come home from work.  It was in the wee hours of the morning when he came to bed, and I realized that I needed to go to the bathroom.  I stumbled to the bathroom and was immediately joined by my large shepherd, Mitch.  (Those of you with pets and/or children are familiar with this practice.)  Anyway, as Mitch came closer to snuggle into me, he somehow hooked the metal ring of his collar in the handle on the bathroom cabinet door.  He immediately jerked, which opened the door.  Then (and this is where it gets bizarre), he somehow got turned around to where his head was inside the cabinet and being smashed by the door.  The more he pulled, the tighter he closed the door.  I was trying to untangle him, but he was in a panic and wouldn't stop jerking around so that I could free him.  He began making choking sounds, and I feared he was going to choke himself trying to get free.  So, I responded in my typical way--I began to cry and panic right along with Mitch.

Upon hearing my distress, Jason came running and promptly freed Mitch from his impossible prison. After calming me down and drying my tears, Jason returned to bed and fell asleep.  I, on the other hand, couldn't seem to settle my heart long enough to doze off.  Even though Mitch was already sleeping soundly, I felt an unyielding sense of terror and dread, and it took me quite a while to quiet my fearful thoughts.

By morning, the entire event was downright comical.  What a sight!  Mitch tangled in the handle (which is now bent at an odd angle).  Me in a panic as I fought to free the silly dog's head from inside the cabinet.  Even now, I can't help but chuckle.  Only in our house!

Now you're probably wondering what in the world I could take away from such an event, other than a good laugh, that is.  Well, as I look back on my vain attempts to fix the problem, I realize that I often do the same thing in life.  I fight and struggle and panic over situations that are far beyond my control.  Once Jason arrived at the scene of the predicament, he had Mitch free in a matter of seconds.  He was able to approach the situation from a different point of view and with much more strength than I possess.  But during the entire time I struggled, it never dawned on me to ask for help.  Instead, I fought and grew weary.  I do the same thing with God.

He, even more so than Jason, is able to deal with my problems from a different viewpoint and with much more strength than I could ever possess. Yet, I often fail to ask for His help.  Instead, I struggle and cry and panic, which only leads to sleepless nights and a fearful heart.

Let's face it, life is full of "seriously moments."  They're bound to happen.  The good news is that we don't have to face them alone.  God is willing and able to help if we'll only ask.  We could save ourselves a lot of tears and frustration. . . seriously!

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. - Psalm 46:1

Friday, July 4, 2014

What Difference Does It Make? (Repost)

In my daily Bible reading, I've come around again to Psalm 119, and as usual, I have mixed feelings.  On the one hand, I love the Psalms, and I enjoy the many golden nuggets to be found within each chapter. On the other hand, I know that I have a tendency to get bogged down in those 176 verses and also to be convicted by them.

The theme of Psalm 119, if you don't know or couldn't guess, is the Word of God.  In fact, the Scriptures are referred to in one word form or another (precepts, testimonies, commandments, etc.) in all but four verses of the entire chapter.  But it's what the psalmist has to say about the Word that's so convicting.

As I read through the chapter this week, one thought kept coming to mind--if all God's people felt this way about God's Word, how different would things be?  When was the last time we craved the Bible?  Have we rejoiced in it?  Have we meditated on it?  Have we delighted in it?  Have we memorized it, shared it or fallen in love with it?  When was the last time we chose the Word of God over riches, fame or selfish desires?  The psalmist said multiple times within chapter 119 alone that the Scriptures made him alive, but if that's the case today, why are so many of us walking around with our heads down and shoulders slumped?

Yes, when I read this chapter, I'm both humbled and ashamed.  It is a glaring reminder that I don't love and respect the Bible as I should.  I take it for granted and fail to treat it with the glory and honor that it deserves.  I fear that if I were to ask, many of you would say the same thing.  Could that be why we're not seeing revival like we used to?  Could that be why our churches are not on fire like they once were?  Could that be why we're so complacent to just "live and let live"?

May I be blunt with you? Today is Independence Day here in America, and as a nation, we celebrate how far we've come.  Unfortunately, many of us also cringe at how far we've fallen.  Our Christian nation is Christian no more.  We are being destroyed from within, and I fear it will only get worse unless the Lord comes back very soon.

That being said, the reason our country is in such a mess is because our churches, as a whole, are in a mess.  They're more concerned with rules and guidelines, dress codes and ceremonies, tickling ears and making friends than they are about standing up for the truth.  And the reason the churches have slipped so far is because the people who make up those churches have lost all love and reverence for the Word of God.  Perhaps if we had a few attitude adjustments and started taking God seriously, we would see a change in our lives, our churches and our country.

If you're unsure how exactly you should feel about and treat the Scriptures, turn to Psalm 119 and read a while.  Pay attention to each verse.  Meditate on what it's saying.  Then ask yourself, "Am I as devoted to the Word of God as I should be?"  Then say with the psalmist, O that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes!  Then shall I not be ashamed, when I have respect unto all thy commandments. (vs.5-6)

What difference does it make?  All the difference in the world!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

The Three P's

Most people have a favorite meal.  For some, it's steak.  Others prefer homemade pasta.  A few desire a big pot of soup or chili.  My husband doesn't actually have a favorite meal.  He claims that he likes all food.  I, on the other hand, definitely have a favorite meal.  Around our house, we call it "The Three P's."  It's my preferred meal for casual celebration.  It's the meal I desire when I'm tired and simply don't feel like cooking or making a mess in the kitchen that I finally got around to cleaning.  This tasty treat is also what I request when I'm feeling down and discouraged.  Have I peaked your curiosity?  Good.  The "Three P's" consists of pizza, Pepsi and a piece of chocolate cake.  (Oops, pardon the drool.  The "Three P's" tend to evoke that kind of reaction in me.)

Ah, yes!  To me, there's nothing tastier than a hot supreme pizza and a slice of icing-laden chocolate cake, complete with a cold Pepsi to wash it down.  (Oops, there goes that drool again.  My poor keyboard is going to drown if I keep this up.)  My point is that my favorite meal is my favorite for many different reasons.  First off, it's just yummy.  Second, it's typically an easy, no-mess affair.  Third, the meal consists of three of my main comfort foods.  What's not to like?

That last point crossed my mind this morning as I fantasized about my perfect meal.  Comfort food. Now there's a dangerous thing.  The Bible does say that God satisfies our mouths with good things, but there comes a point where food becomes more than He ever intended it to be.  God gave us food for nourishment, not for encouragement.  It's supposed to satisfy our mouths, not our souls.  It is not meant to take the place of God as our Comforter.  Yet, so often, that's exactly what we allow to happen.  When we're happy, we eat!  When we're sad, we eat!  Celebrating?  Let's eat.  Mourning?  Well, we can eat then, too.  What's up with that?

I think it's time for me to discover a new favorite meal. Thankfully, it can still be called "The Three P's," only this time, instead of consisting of fatty foods and caffeinated beverages, it consists of prayer, praise and peace.  In prayer, I can take anything to God.  Good, bad, encouraging, frustrating--it doesn't matter.  I can go to Him with anything, and best of all, I can leave it at His feet.  In praise, I can rejoice in all that God has done for me, but more than that, in Who He is.  As for the peace, well, that actually comes when I practice the first two.  Isaiah 26:3 says, Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.  Did you catch that?  Keep your mind on the things of God, and peace will follow.  It's kind of hard to pray and praise without having your mind on God, isn't it?  On the other hand, it's quite easy to scarf down pizza, cake and soda without giving God a minute's thought.  Hmm!

When I want a yummy meal that's relatively hassle free, "The Three P's" will work fine.  When I need comfort or somewhere to drown my sorrows, it's time to call on "The New Three P's."  Spend time in God's presence.  Cast my cares on Him.  Bless His name and recall His benefits.  Allow His peace to spread through me.  And rejoice in the fact that the comfort I received didn't contain a single calorie, something which cannot be said of the pizza, cake and soda.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

I Don't Want To Get Over It!

Have you ever wondered about the origin of some of the bizarre phrases we use?  Phrases like "fair to middling."  Huh?  Or how about "no skin off my nose," which has been transformed over the years to include other body parts such as teeth and the back?  And what's up with "beating around the bush" or "barking up the wrong tree"?  Perhaps one day I'll write a book on these odd sayings and their origin, but for now, I want to focus on one that I thought of Sunday morning.

We had a guest preacher at church, and during the morning service, he preached a wonderful sermon based on Luke 8:49, which reads, While he yet spake, there cometh one from the ruler of the synagogue's house, saying to him, Thy daughter is dead; trouble not the Master.  The focus of the message was on the last phrase: "trouble not the Master."  Throughout the message, the preacher highlighted different problems of people in the Bible (Jairus' daughter, the woman with the issue of blood, the maniac of Gadara and so on) and explained how their problems were no trouble to the Master.  Their biggest plights weren't too difficult for the Lord to handle.  And at the end, he talked about how salvation and how when we cry out to the Lord to save us, no matter how bad we've been, He'll say, "It's no trouble."

At that point, my mind took its own trail (which it has a habit of doing), and I immediately thought of the phrase, "It's no skin off my back."  But before I could go any further, I was stopped short by an awful realization--that's not true.  While it is true that God can save anybody at anytime, my simplification of the entire process was seriously flawed.  Salvation did cost the skin off my Savior's back and so much more.  He was bruised, beaten, ridiculed and scorned.  He was rejected and abandoned, even by His own Father who couldn't bear to look at the sin Jesus bore on the cross.  My salvation cost Jesus His life, His fellowship with God and more than we could ever imagine or understand.  Yet, He did it willingly because of His great love for us.

It's easy to look at the greatness of God and think, Sure, He can do anything, so what's the big deal?  The big deal is that, while salvation is free to you and me, it costs Jesus everything.  It was a big deal.  Yes, He could do it.  Yes, He could bear the weight of our sin.  Yes, He's the almighty God.  But the big deal isn't that He could do it; it's that He did do it.  The big deal is that He looked into the future, saw what I would be and said, "Now, that's something worth dying for."

Oh, Lord, may I never get over the cross!


For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. - John 3:16