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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Are You Plugged In?

For those of you who may not live in this area, South Carolina summers are notorious for afternoon thunderstorms. The daily forecast is the same day after day: highs in the 90's with afternoon thunderstorms. These storms are often very severe, bringing with them hail and damaging winds. As a result, many people spend countless nights without power.

We have been blessed this season in that we have not yet experienced a power outage at our house. To me, power outages are both scary and annoying. Their frightening in that they leave me in the dark for long periods of time, unsure when my power will be restored. Their annoying in that they interrupt my normal pattern of life and make everything more difficult. Plus, they always make me feel stupid because I walk from room to room flipping light switches when I know full well that the power is out. I've even been known to stick things in the microwave, push the appropriate buttons and become frustrated anew at the reminder that the power is out. It's like my intellect goes out with the power.

What's truly shameful, however, is how often I do the same thing in my spiritual life. I go about my day "flipping switches" knowing full well that I have yet to "plug in" for the day. In my haste, I forsake my Bible reading and prayer time so that I can accomplish all that is on my plate for the day. So I work and fret, work and fret, but all the while, nothing is really getting accomplished. I set out in my own power to accomplish things that can only be accomplished in God's power. In a sense, I'm trying to let my candle take the place of God's chandelier. Have you ever tried to work by candlelight? It's possible, but it sure is frustrating! The same can be said when we forsake God's power by not "plugging in" each and every day.

Are you plugged in today, or are you wandering around in the dark, flipping switches and wondering why nothing is happening? Get plugged in. Recharge your batteries. Accept the power that God is offering.

Oh, and while you're at it, will you check the microwave? I think my soup's done.

Monday, June 27, 2011

How Are You Walking?

It's been a couple of days since I last walked my dogs. The first day, I woke up with some nasty sinus junk going on, and I could barely sit up, so I figured I could be excused one day. However, the next day I woke up to rain, and I am NOT one of the ultra-dedicated health nuts that will get out and walk or jog in the rain.

So, as I laced up my shoes this morning, Mitch became aware that we were finally going to get to go out again. He literally took off in a run and drug me down the trail. I honestly didn't know my legs could move so fast, but I fear I will greatly regret it in the morning when I can't move. Still, I couldn't fault him for his eagerness. Mitch loves to go. For him, being cooped up in the house for two days is equivalent to twenty years in prison. He had his energy stored up, and he was ready to run.

By the time I got back with him, I was sweaty, sore and struggling to breathe, but I knew Tippy's walk would be much easier. I let Mitch in the house while letting Tippy out. I hooked the leash to her collar, and we set out. She didn't seem as eager as usual for her walk. Instead, she seemed eager to sniff. . . EVERYTHING. We'd walk for a minute and then stop and sniff for three. She lumbered along at her own pace, oblivious to anything except her own desires. Finally, I had had enough. I decided I was going to walk, and I would drag her if I had to. I knew I wouldn't have to because after a good scolding, she picked up her pace and limited her stops to a few necessary potty breaks.

I was truly amazed at the difference between their attitudes. One couldn't be stopped, and the other couldn't be made to go. One was thoroughly excited while the other seemed bored. I always knew my dogs had different personalities, but they really proved it this morning.

It made me think of the ways we serve God. Some of us are like Mitch. We can't wait to get out and do whatever it is God called us to do. We're excited and filled with energy. Nothing can deter us from our mission. Some of us are like Tippy. We're content with salvation and long to do nothing more than sniff here and there. We'll check out a few things, and if everything is to our liking, we might comply with a command or two. Otherwise, we're completely focused on our own desires.

It's possible, even, to be like Mitch one day and like Tippy the next. I know I've seen it in my own life. One day I can't wait to serve the Lord. I know what He has laid out for me that day, and I'm excited to get started. Other days, the Lord has to pull me along as I plod at my own pace oblivious to everything but my own desires. As I walked this morning, I asked God to help me be more like Mitch in my desire to serve Him and less like Tippy. Not only will I accomplish more for Christ, but I'll find more joy in the journey. After all, Mitch's walk, while tiring, was uplifting. Tippy's was frustrating.

Are you walking with the Lord this morning? If so, are you walking eagerly beside Him, ready to serve Him throughout your day? Or are you lagging behind, only doing the things that are absolutely necessary? Are you walking willingly or being dragged? Are you Mitch or Tippy?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Trying to Beat the Storm

Last Saturday, Jason and I were blessed with an entire Saturday to do nothing but spend time together. He didn't have to work. There were no church functions or family gatherings. No, it was just Jason, me, and the dogs. It seemed like an excellent opportunity for a family hike. After all, the dogs and I aren't getting out as much as usual due to the hot weather, and Jason hardly gets out at all anymore due to his work schedule.

Having made plans Friday evening, when Saturday morning came, I was ready to go. I wanted to allow Jason some time to sleep in as that is a luxury he rarely gets. But once he was awake, I was ready to go. I'm just that type of person. If there's something to do or somewhere to go, I like to get to it as soon as possible. Jason is the exact opposite, which is not bad, just different. He likes to take his time planning things, getting ready, just lounging about and relaxing. (I guess that explains why he's always so laid back and I'm so high strung.)

I tried to get things moving Saturday morning, pointing out that it was getting late, and we needed to get started. My prodding was answered by Jason's calm reasoning that we didn't need to be in any hurry since we had the entire day. I wasn't convinced. I wanted to get out before it became unbearably hot. I wanted to have enough time to leave options in our hiking trails. I wanted to leave soon enough that we could have a full hike and still get home in plenty of time to have some relaxing time around the house. But Jason had other ideas. It was after lunch before we finally arrived at our hiking trail.

Interestingly enough, we were only about twenty minutes into our hike when the thunderstorm rolled in. Dark clouds covered the sky. The wind whipped through the trees. Thunder rolled and boomed. And we picked up our pace. We knew the trail we were on was a loop. We had intended on doing the loop and picking up a longer trail at the end. We figured the distance to the entrance of the loop was about the same if we turned and went back as it was if we just kept going forward. So we hiked very quickly, but not quick enough. Rain drops began falling all around us. Within moments, we were plodding through a complete downpour. I'll spare you all the details, but by the time we reached our truck, all four of us were soaked to the bone, and we had only walked a total of a mile and a half.

Now, there are a couple of different ways of looking at this. If we had left the house when I had wanted to, it is quite possible we could have completed all of our planned hiking before the storm rolled in. On the other hand, it is also possible that if we had left when I wanted to that we would have been in the middle of the long portion of the hike when the storm rolled in. That would not have been fun! So please understand that I'm not saying that I was right.

The point that I would like to make is that sometimes we think we have more time than we really do. Jason didn't want to hurry because he thought we had all day. God had other ideas.

Sinner, if you're waiting to accept Jesus because you think you have all the time in the world, think again. God may have other ideas. Accept Him today before it's too late.

Christian, if you're waiting to be a better witness until you've grown comfortable or learned more about the Bible, stop putting it off. We have no way of knowing when the storms will roll in and take another soul into eternity.

There are times to wait and times to act. This is a time to act! Hurry, before it's too late!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Gnats, Really?

You know how I feel about summer hiking, and chances are, as the summer continues, you'll hear more about it than you care to. It's amazing to me how an activity that can be so pleasurable in the fall, winter and spring can be so completely miserable in the summer. I literally have to force myself to go out, and even then, I find myself coming home with a not-so-Christian attitude.

As I plodded down the winding path just a few days ago, one question permeated every fiber of my brain. Lord, why did you create gnats? Seriously, by the end of the hike I was truly wondering if they had been placed on earth just to annoy me. These critters have absolutely no clue what "personal space" is. They fly in my eyes, my ears, my nose and even my mouth. And it's truly a suicide mission because once they enter any of those areas, the chances of them coming out alive is slim.

So, as I battled with keeping a good attitude, I made a mental note to do a little research and find out the purpose of gnats. Believe it or not, they do actually have some purpose. For one thing, they act as a food source for many birds (which is fine by me). Evidently, they also aid in the decomposition of plant matter. I guess that's important. Other than that, I think maybe they are just tools for teaching patience. God certainly used them to remind me of a few things.

For example, just as I questioned the purpose of the gnat, I often question the purpose of trials in my life. Lord, why is this so hard? Why am I going through such a hard time? What are you trying to teach me through this? Just like the gnats, the trials are irritating and frustrating. They tire my body and darken my mood. They make my trip miserable instead of pleasurable. But just like the gnat, my trials have a purpose. I may not be able to do a search on Wikipedia to discover that purpose, but if I'll wait patiently, God will reveal it to me.

In the meantime, I'll just keep plodding along. It may not be the most enjoyable thing, but if there's one thing I've learned through the years, it's that both gnats and trials are worse if you're standing still.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

There's No Place Like Holmes by Jason Lethcoe

Griffin Sharpe is not your average American boy. He's observant--very observant. He can tell you the number of stairs he just climbed, the number of breaths you took during a recent conversation, and whether or not the man across the street brushed his teeth this morning. His matter-of-fact attitude and curious nature, however, only add gas to the fire of ridicule he receives from his peers.

When his mother sends him off to spend the summer with his uncle, Snoops, in London, Griffin is elated yet nervous. After all, he has never met his uncle and knows very little about him. On the train ride, our young hero is thrilled to discover that the address he is heading to is the address of England's finest detective, Sherlock Holmes. The thrill dies away when Griffin learns that his uncle is not Sherlock Holmes, but a inept detective wannabe with a harsh demeanor and an ungrateful attitude.

When a woman comes to him for help in finding her husband, Griffin's uncle jumps at the chance to prove his detective skills and outwit his accomplished neighbor, Holmes. But when the kidnapping turns out to be merely the beginning of an elaborate plot, Snoops enlists Griffin's aid in solving the crime. Will they solve the mystery in time, or will Snoops, once again, find himself a step behind Sherlock Holmes?

There's No Place Like Holmes is a fantastic read for children and adults alike. The plot is thorough, yet simple enough for even a young child to understand. The characters are well-written and evoke a lot of emotion from the reader. The overall flow of the story is smooth, leaving adequate time for thought but advancing the story at a quick enough pace as to prevent boredom. Though the book has a Christian theme woven throughout, the author never seems "preachy" or "in your face." On the contrary, I feel he does an excellent job in portraying a proper Christian attitude and lifestyle.

This book is clean and suitable for readers of all ages. It was a joy to read, and I have to admit that I didn't want to put it down. I especially enjoyed the extra tidbits included in the book such as the mini-mysteries in the back. This book definitely has something for everyone.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the 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 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Journey Home

My body aches all over, but I guess 22+ hours of riding in a car in four days will do that. I look forward to seeing my family in Delaware, but I never look forward to the 10-hour car ride. The funny thing is that the 10 hours on the way up seem to go quicker than the 10 hours on the way home. I don't know if it's the time of day we're traveling or the fact that my body already feels like it's been run over by a truck, but the trip home always seems to take longer.

Still, there's nothing like seeing the sign that reads, "Welcome to South Carolina." That moment is one of the few times you'll hear me shouting for joy at 1:00 in the morning. Then, I literally count the miles. When I turned onto my street in the wee hours Monday morning, I could feel tears coming to my eyes. Of course, that could have had something to do with the pain in my back, but I think it was mostly the joy of finally being home.

Sometimes, the journey is long, and we feel we can't go another mile. Sometimes we just feel like we'll never arrive at our destination. But no matter how long the journey, home sounds sweeter all the time. Can you imagine what it will be like to finally reach our Heavenly Home? The joy I felt Monday morning can't even begin to compare to what it will be like to arrive at my final Home.

I know the journey is hard. In fact, my bottom is still testifying to that fact. But the fact I want to leave with you today is that the destination is worth it -- that is, if you're going where I'm going. If you're not sure where you're headed, please contact me. I'd love to give you directions.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Finding Peace in the Shelter of His Arms

The last couple of weeks have been trying to say the least. Jason has been swamped with work, racking up 50-60 hours each week and not getting in some days until 2:00 in the morning. I have been no less swamped. I've had article deadlines to meet, a website to create, CD publishing to do for my pastor and his family, the house to upkeep, a trip to Delaware to plan, dogs to walk, blogs to write, books to read, and so on.

On top of the busyness, things just seem to be going wrong. I left my $400 phone (which I got for free) out in the rain and ruined the motherboard. I went to pick up my prescription at the pharmacy only to find out that they no longer carried the generic brand I was using so they switched me to a new generic brand which is $15 more. Little things. Big things. It all kept piling up, and I wanted nothing more than to drown my sorrows in chocolate cake and Pepsi. Then I was reminded of a verse.

Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. - John 14:27

Jesus knows how stressful life can be, and that's why He offers peace. Not just a temporary feel good, but true deep-down peace that remains with us on good days and bad. He assures us that we don't need to be troubled because there is perfect peace in the shelter of His arms. No matter which way you look at it, that's something that can never be found in a piece of chocolate cake.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Making a List & Checking It Twice

I have a program for improved eyesight that I try to do daily. The program consists of several different exercises like eye stretches, visualizations, and stress busters. It's actually a very good program, and I've just recently gotten myself back in the habit of performing the daily exercises. When I got to a particular exercise this week, I had trouble remembering it. I thought I had done all the exercises several times before, and I could remember all of them but this one. After I completed the exercise, I remembered why I didn't do it the first time around.

The purpose of the exercise was to dispel stress. I was to write down everything that was bothering me, tell why it was bothering me, and explain how I planned to deal with each situation. By the time I was finished, I didn't feel stress-free. I felt depressed. For the rest of the day, my mind was completely focused on my problems. "That's the last time I'll do that exercise," I complained.

Funny enough, the next morning I received an e-mail from a well-known fitness expert. In her newsletter, she was discussing positive habits she has adopted over the years. The very first one on her list was to begin each day with a list of things she was thankful for. Thinking about my discouragement the day before, I decided to give this exercise a try. I grabbed a pen and paper and started making a list. Several minutes later, I had a smile on my face and joy in my heart. In fact, that joy was with me throughout the day because each time I felt disheartened, I took another look at my list.

My challenge to you today is to begin each day with a list of thankfulness. Sure, the list may look exactly the same some days, but that's not the point. The point is to start your day with a focus on the positive. Then, when Satan comes to bring you down, you can refer to your list and say, "I refuse to be discouraged because. . . " It really works, and it's much less stressful than focusing on your problems.

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. - Philippians 4:8