Monday, October 31, 2011

Monday, October 31, 2011 - Putting the "Hallow" back in the evening

"Go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always even to the end of the age."
Matthew 28:19 (The Message) 

"Preach the word of God. Be persistent, whether the time is favorable or not. . . . 
work at bringing others to Christ." 
2 Timothy 4: 2 and 5 (The Message)
    Two years ago I decided to use Halloween as an outreach event in our driveway.  Our kids weren't interested in trick or treating so for years we had simply turned off the light and turned in early. That was before I went for my usual evening walk on Halloween night three years ago and complete strangers smiled and called out greetings. Children I'd never seen ran up and told me about their costumes.  Something clicked in my brain that said, "This night has tremendous God-potential. People come to your door and accept what you give them."
    So, two years ago, we invited friends to join us, set up a table, a couple of easy games, a cooler of juice boxes and of course, a huge bowl of candy on a table in the driveway, and guess what? Complete families showed up at our driveway and hung out a bit so we could get to know them.  When they asked Tom where he worked, we used the opportunity to put a business card or church flyer in their hands and invite them to church.  Some showed up and a family eventually joined because of this simple "you're doing it anyway why not let God use it" evening.  And those who didn't respond still knew us, knew where we lived and felt free to call when they needed help. Tonight doesn't have to be all about the candy and costumes. Families will come to your door and want you to give them something. What if you gave them more than they were asking for? 

Sunday, October 30, 2011

October 30, 2011 - Double-blink wink

"For the truth about God is known to them instinctively. 
God has put this knowledge in their hearts."
Romans 1:19 
(The Message)

"But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father secretly.  Then your Father, Who knows all secrets, will reward you." 
Matthew 6:6
 (The Message)

     God blessed me with some amazing teachers along my educational journey, even if I did have to deal with a couple of sadists.  I think I felt connected to teachers and professors because, as shy as I was, deep down I connected with their calling to teach.  Sometimes I would be working on the assignment along with 30 other students in the room only to glance up and make eye contact with the teacher. Sometimes, I would receive an unexpected smile, wink, or, in one case, a two-eye wink.  All of these gestures sent me back to work with the warm feeling that teachers were generally good people who wanted to help me succeed, in spite of their high expectations.  
     I bought a book for Nick and me to read together called When God Winks at You, by Squire Rushnell.  His subtitle sold me: "How God Speaks Directly to You Through the Power of Coincidence,"  since Nick and I have been discussing how to know when God is speaking to us.  The book contains story after story of situations which only a Mighty and Sovereign God could have orchestrated.  
     Many of these blog entries describe what Rushnell calls "Godwinks:" incidents when God answers a prayer, reveals He's watching us, and directs some action squarely at our hearts.  Some stories detail a lifelong mission while others served as turning points or anchors to help people hold on through tough times. If we flippantly or insistently call these Godwinks "coincidence" we miss God's affection, revelation that He's working in our lives, and that He wants to bless us in every way imaginable to keep us close to Him as we.  
     Yesterday He confirmed to Nick and me that what we're reading applies to us as well. Nick has mentioned in the last two or three days that he likes the color orange.  I took note for any future purchases in his behalf (birthday coming up!).  He also dreams of owning, or at least driving, a  Lamborghini.  In fact he has collected every Lamborghini Hot Wheels makes, or so he thought.  However, while waiting on a prescription yesterday I roamed down the toy aisle, casually glancing through the Hot Wheels for any new Lamborghinis hanging on the peg board. There was only one that didn't look familiar to me. Of course it was a beautiful shad of orange, not garish or safety orange but a smooth egg-yolk orange. What other color would it be? Not only did Nick not own this model, he had never seen it before in all his perusing in the stores we visit.  So, who was this wink for: me, the mama who scored big with my son by locating this priceless ninety-nine cent treasure? Or, Nick, who's been asking, "How do you know when God's speaking to you?" as he seeks to know God better?  In my opinion, God did a double-blink wink.

Thank You God for the thousands upon thousands of winks You've sent my way.  You constantly speak Your Love and affection to us in personal ways. Help us to stay vigilant to both receiving them and to obeying the prompts You send us so others may receive them. May we offer You our best efforts of praise and thanksgiving today. 
In the Name of Jesus Who wanted us to pray secretly so we would know You, and no one else, is answering us 

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Saturday, October 29, 2011 - God Medalists

     We had a blast with our middle school worship team in our home last night for the Oreo Olympics, complete with opening ceremony and the passing of the Oreo Olympic torch into Oreo Olympic Stadium.  We had the chopstick relay, Oreo pair figure skating, Distance Roll, Accuracy Roll,  and Oreo Sculpting among other events. And, as in any Olympics, winners were awarded medals for scoring highest in the most events. 
     For our fire-side devotion I presented a magic wand (purchased for $1.00 at Dollar General, so I'm not expecting much spark) and asked: "If you had a magic wand, what would you make disappear?"  They responded: "Hormones," "gossip," and "certain school subjects."  
      I asked them a question God's been answering for me all my life: "Has it ever occurred to you that the very thing you'd most like to disappear may be the exact thing God's using to bring out His best in you and to reward you?"   To zap away the challenge means to zap away the reward.  What would we lose if hormones disappeared? No gender, sex or babies. (However, it would be interesting to see the advertising world regroup and scratch their heads for a while if sex didn't sell.)  Without hormones, we'd all look alike, be bored to death and go extinct.  Without gossips how would we learn to depend on God's opinion of us and rise above the peer pressure and the downpull of people?  Without the self-discipline it takes to do the work in our least favorite subjects, we'd become lazy, spoiled,  "gimme this, gimme that" children and the world would topple since no one would do anything they didn't want to do.  And, who would appreciate the actuaries, chemists and engineers of the world?
     Things haven't changed that much for us as adults.  If we had magic wands wouldn't we be tempted to erase the adult versions of these top three middle school issues?

Hormones = Inner turmoil. Who doesn't still struggle with getting our hearts and minds to fall in line with what we know is right?  Who doesn't argue with themselves about what to say or do in emotionally-charged situations?  Anybody out there still feel like you're in middle school when it comes to self-control in response to negative situations and emotions? 

Gossips = Stirrers of all kinds.  Gossips, dissenters, troublemakers,  along with catty, critical and overly-competitive people display amazing tenacity and make our lives miserable if we give them too much room of say-so.  

Certain subjects = Any responsibility we consider a pain in the neck.  No career or job escapes drudgery; for each sparkle of glamour comes a drop of sweat.  Data must be entered, forms signed, checklists checked off,  meetings attended, deadlines met.  Every accomplishment costs time and effort.  Living day-to-day requires us to do laundry, pay bills, and maintain what we own.  No one who's breathing escapes work or decision-making except for the mentally incompetent or insane. 
     Jesus listed unexpected rewards for anyone trusting God to help them face what they wish would disappear.  

Matthew 5:3
NIV: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
The Message: “You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and His rule.”

 Matthew 5:4
NIV: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted”
The Message: “You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.”

Matthew 5:5
NIV:  “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.”
The Message: “You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are – no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be brought.”

Matthew 5:6 
NIV: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they will be filled.”
The Message: You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for
God.  He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat."

Matthew 5:7
NIV: Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.”
The Message: “You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for."

Matthew 5:8 
NIV:  “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”
The Message: “You’re blessed when you get your inside world – your mind and heart – put right.  Then you can see God in the outside world.

Matthew 5:9 
NIV:  “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”
The Message: “You’re blessed when  you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.”

Matthew 5:10
NIV: “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
The Message: “You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.”

Friday, October 28, 2011

Friday, October 28, 2011 - Blinders

"Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting."
Psalm 139:23-24
    My "Aha!" moment this week came to me through something David Akin said during one of his sermons at FBC Benton this week:  "God looks at eternity the way we look at yesterday." 
     I had a glimpse of eternity last night.  I was a bit moody and tired after leaving Julie, Nick and Addy at the airport, so when 8:30 p.m. rolled around and it was time to get Nick from a Halloween party at school, I was mildly irritated that I had to drive at night in the rain. Tom, our usual runner of nighttime or rainy day errands, didn't feel well and had taken non non-drowsy medicine and gone to bed.  As soon as I was on the other side of  the door I had just banged shut, I stopped in my tracks and berated myself for my rotten attitude in the face of so many blessings. I quickly and thoroughly repented - and prayed God would heal Tom while I was at it.  Looking back, I know why God wanted me to get Nick. We were both experiencing "post-part-'em blues" and needed mutual comfort. My ride home with Nick opened the door for one of the most bonding, precious, rewarding, and delightful times I've spent with my son. 
     God saw it coming, but I had to look back to get a glimpse of eternity.  
     Lord, remove our selfish blinders and help us see how You're using our "present" to build the future You want us to experience. I know we can't know everything and we can't handle knowing much, but keep us keenly aware of the potential purpose for everything that happens in our lives. Looking back, the signs are as clear as the high definition of a blu-ray movie, but we only see what becomes apparent after the fact. For You, Eternal, Mighty, Knowing God, the outcomes are already as clear as if they'd happened yesterday: All mysteries are solved. Help our unbelief; teach us to trust You more deeply with more of the details of our lives.
In the Name of Jesus Who reigned in heaven before Time began

"All the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are Your thoughts, O God!
How vast the sum of them!"
Psalm 139:17

If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there Your hand will guide me, Your right hand will hold me fast."  
Psalm 139:9-10

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Wednesday, October 26, 2011 - Innocent as a Lamb

"The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, 'Look, the Lamb of God,
Who takes away the sin of the world!'"
John 1:29

"We know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure."
1 John 3:2-3

Addy isn't displaying a bad attitude,
merely the tongue she recently discovered in her mouth.
     Addy dumped my loaded baked potato in my lap yesterday. The little stinker gripped the paper tablecover with her strong little hand and pulled when I wasn't ready. We're still adjusting to the skills she's acquired in her last month, still, she's as innocent as a lamb and her motives are pure. She means no harm or problem to anyone since her actions erupt from instinct and curiosity.  Anything and everything she does is new, delightful, and exploratory. In a couple of years it won't be funny if she sticks out her tongue at someone, but now, it's adorable. Life's exciting through her twinkling eyes. 
     It doesn't take long for us to lose that sweet innocence to satisfy not only our needs but our wants. Our motives grow selfish and prove impure; our words reveal sarcasm and insincerity; our actions become hurtful, manipulative or so self-preserving that we never consider how others are surviving. 
     Amazing! The Lamb of God died a violent death so our sins could be washed as white as snow. Humbling! God gave His Innocent Lamb so sinners like you and me can stand pure and innocent as lambs before Him, growing in our abundant new life. 

What can take away my sin?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
Oh! precious is the flow
That makes me white as snow,
No other fount I know,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus!  

Lord, I praise You for Your gift of the only Innocent Lamb.  No one else could pay the price and we would be doomed without Your Love and Grace.  Born again, innocent again. How in the world does that work? I praise You that it works for our good  in Your kingdom. Thank You for babies who remind us of the Innocent Lamb and of the new life we have in You,
In the Name of Jesus, the Innocent Lamb of God Who shed His blood for guilty sinners like me

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Tuesday, October 25, 2011 - Higher Power

"Because Jesus was raised from the dead . . . "  1 Peter 1:3 (the Message)

     The fact in that verse should clear our heads, open our sleepy eyes wide and help us relax about whatever this day holds. I went to a funeral yesterday for a brother in Christ who has now relocated to his permanent home "because Jesus was raised from the dead." His wife will see him again "because Jesus was raised from the dead."  We can pray in faith for miracles "because Jesus was raised from the dead."  We can scale or move towering mountains, endure valleys "because Jesus was raised from the dead."  Roadblocks no longer signify the end of the road,  "because Jesus was raised from the dead."  Sickness, depression, frustration, anger and grief all serve as temporary faith-refiners (1 Peter 1:7) instead of permanent ways of life "because Jesus was raised from the dead."  Relationships can be restored, forgiveness received and given, and ordinary people can be transformed into giant slayers and passionate missionaries "because Jesus was raised from the dead."  In fact, (and you knew this was coming, didn't you?) "because Jesus was raised from the dead," nothing is impossible and we're left without excuse for the lack of spark in our spirits. 
"I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints, and His incomparably great power for us who believe. 
That power is like the working of His mighty strength, which He exerted in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly realms,
far above all rule and authority, power and dominion,
and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come." Ephesians 1:18-21
    Sovereign God, show us how to open our lives to Your amazing Power. We don't want to be lifeless, ineffective believers and churches. We want what You want: to make a difference, to light the way, to introduce someone else to life in You. Use us as YOu see fit: we're instruments in Your Hands. Reveal Your Son to others through us. Empower us with the same power that raised Jesus from the dead to glorify, praise and honor You.
In the name of Jesus Who died and was raised from the dead to prove His Power over everything and everyone 

Monday, October 24, 2011

Monday, October 24, 2011 - Mi Casa Su Casa

"Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing."
 1 Thessalonians 5:11

"The LORD has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted."
Isaiah 61:1
     When Julie, Nick and Addy arrived, they said our new house felt like home because we were here. Suddenly, because they were here and the house smelled like our family's favorite meal together, our new house felt even more like home to us, too.
   Tom was born in Florida, I was born in Georgia, Julie in Alabama, and Nick in Louisiana. Both our parents now live in relatively new homes and sometimes it's hard to know where to call home, as in "Yes, we're heading home for the holidays." I know the cliche, "Home is where your heart is," is true, but we've been blessed to have our hearts stretched to cover at least a half a dozen states, including Arkansas, our home for the last year, and North Carolina where we've spent many cozy hours at the Noland cabin. We've found that home is certainly not a single location, but any place we've enjoyed healing, fellowship, and nurturing. God always sends certain members of His family to open their hearts and doors to make us feel at home, which is why Lucado's quote below rang especially true for me this morning:
"It's no accident that hospitality and hospital come from the same Latin word,
for they both lead to the same result: healing. When you open your door to someone,
you are sending this message: 'You matter to me and to God.' You may think you are saying, 'Come over for a visit.' but what your guest hears is, 'I'm worth the effort.'"
--Max Lucado, Live Loved
Mostly we think of isolating ourselves to recuperate from the day's efforts. We see the work involved to prepare and impress guests, when all they need is an open door, a warm spirit, and a place they feel accepted, important, and at home. 
     Father, You gave us family on many levels: the intimacy of immediate family; the roots of extended family; the joy of church family; the community of neighborhood family; and the brotherhood of humanity. You created us to need each other, so help us rise to the occasion when we want to selfishly sink into our sofas. Energize us with the joy of service and the love You have for people. Guide us to know how to be "people people" when it doesn't come naturally. Show us the big picture so we don't waste our lives getting comfortable here on earth. Equip us with Your Spirit-gifts and help us bring as many people as possible home with us.
In the Name of Jesus Who had no place to lay His head on earth yet fed 5,000 hungry people

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Sunday, October 23, 2011 - Thought Police

"We take every thought captive so that it is obedient to Christ."
2 Corinthians 10:5
  Smoke detectors - you've got to love them, but right now the word "love" doesn't come to mind. We've discovered we have the Barney Fife model of not one but two of these devices IN THE KITCHEN and within feet of the oven. Therefore, each time I open a hot oven to baste what's in it, or to rotate a cookie sheet for more even browning, the alarms start beeping and we have to stop everything to down them down to silence again.  We've worn down the batteries in both alarms in the two and half months we've lived here and I have yet to write "batteries for smoke detectors" on my shopping list. Ooops. I'm enjoying the peace, but won't we pay dearly if a fire breaks out in the night before I get new batteries?   
     If there's an area we could use an annoying Barney Fife to say, "Nip it in the bud," it's as our thought police. We let our guard down for one movie and can't remove the nasty language or images emblazoned on our minds. We leave negativity unattended for a few moments and the next thing we know, we're choking on bad air and weakened by its effects. We allow criminal thoughts to run rampant in our home turf and wonder why we're insecure, ineffective believers.  
"Be careful what you think, because your thoughts run your life."
 Proverbs 4:23 (NCV)  
"Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth."
 Colossians 3:2

"The work of righteousness will be peace, a
nd the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance forever."
Isaiah 32:17

"Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." Romans 12:2
God help us with our thought lives. Lord, purify our minds and guide us to desire pure minds.  Strengthen us to turn off negative thought triggers as You empower us to turn on Your positive flow of promises. Keep our hearts and minds set on You. Rein in wild thoughts and squash them on the spot. Fill our heads with praises and thanksgiving. Equip us to see You in every situation instead of seeing the obvious negatives.
In the Name of Jesus, who told us to set our minds on things above.

Inspired by Live Loved, by Max Lucado

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Saturday, October 22, 2011 - Time Keeps on Slippin' into the Future . . .

"There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven"  Ecclesiastes 3:1    
     Ahh! All Mama's (Coco's) chicks are under my wings again. I've craved having Julie in the kitchen with me, talking and looking forward to dinner. I can't get enough of watching my sweet son-in-love, Nick, send Addy into squeals of giggles with his playfulness. And, Addy's own precious glowing smiles and copy-cat noises send me over the top.  She added icing on the cake bay zealously attacking the toy I gave her. She's here, she's happy, she's healthy and for the next week, I get to feel her soft skin next to mine and personally experience her vibrant bursts of excitement. 
    One week: the thought can bring the greatest delight, frustration, or sadness. For a visit with Adalyn, Julie and Nick, a week can't satisfy this mama hen's heart, but a week at the hospital with a sick child or a week of loneliness can feel like an eternity. We've all taken on too much for a short term by thinking, "I can do anything for a ____________ (day, couple of days, a week, a month)." We survive those challenging times because we know they won't last.  
     Our God Who knows us better than we know ourselves divided the days from the nights, gave us the moon to measure months, and assigned us only a certain number of years on earth. He knows we're overwhelmed by too much at once and would waste time if time were limitless. He calls us to live for Him and love Him and other people in this moment.  He asks us to trust Him for strength and courage to face the big challenge of this day. Then, the day passes and we look back to see where we are in our faith walk. Did we hang on and now we can move on in deeper faith? Or, did we cave in to that one second of temptation and regret our weakness?  When we learn to love Him in the seconds and moments, He arranges the weeks, months and years into a unique mosaic of fulfilled purpose filled with His deeply satisfying Presence and pleasure.  

"I can do everything through Him Who gives me strength."
Philippians 4:13
"I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing
with the glory that will be revealed in us."
Romans 8:18
"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him,
who have been called according to His purpose."
Romans 8:28
"No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us."
Romans 8:37

Father, thank You for the precious moments, the golden hours. Thank You for days, months, seasons and years; for beginnings and endings. You know the dosages of joy, challenge, and sorrow each of us needs to become a person who glorifies You. Guide us to let You arrange our seasons. Fill us with hope for a life spent loving and honoring You. We praise You, God, for You ordain every moment of our lives - not on a whim - but with eternal purpose.
In the Name of Jesus Who fulfilled His purpose on earth in 33 years and Who will reign in heaven eternally!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Friday, October 21, 2011 - Hospitality

"He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High
 shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty." 
Psalm 91:1 
    They're here. They arrived last night around 7:00p.m. to walk through our doors, take the tour of the house and move into their rooms at the end of the hall. I couldn't wait for them to see "Addy's room" with her new custom-sewn quilt that makes Joseph's coat of many colors look lack-luster. In addition, I had filled a box with memorabilia for Julie to plunder, filled the backyard pots with flowers to make their stay feel more "vacationy," decorated the porch for fall, and filled the fridge with homecooked favorites. Tom had cleaned the carpet and prepared the hot tub and taken care of a million other details to prepare for his baby girl and her family. To put it mildly, we rolled out the red carpet and flung our arms wide to welcome them. 
     God searches among His people for the red carpets we lay out for Him. He longs to see us open our hearts and lives to Him. What preparations do I make for Him each day? Am I cleaning out and cleaning up for Him?  Have I customized my life to fit His desires, to make Him happy?  He's given us every reason to want Him with us and He's preparing a place for us in heaven, but now, on this earth, it's our turn to be hospitable.
Lord, God, come and make Yourself at home in our hearts, families and churches. We're putting out the welcome mats and rolling out the red carpet. Enter. Cleanse. Heal. Release. Unite. Your Will be done in our hearts and homes as it is in heaven.
In the Name of Jesus, our Brother, Friend and the Host of heaven

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Thursday, October 20, 2011 - The Problem's in the Plumbing

Grace means:
     *including others when others exclude us;
     *forgiving others though they don't ask our forgiveness;
     *leaving spite out of the picture in spite of spiteful treatment;
     *accepting people while rejecting the sin attached to them;
     *treating people as we would like to be treated instead of the way we feel they deserve to be treated;
     *making someone look good when we could shrink them down to size;
     *speaking kindly rather than in kind;

In fact, Grace has nothing to do with expressing feelings but everything to do with expressing God's character.  Amazing Grace: a tall order, but something Christ pours into our lives daily.  

"Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, 
that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need." 
 2 Corinthians 9:8

The problem's in the plumbing. All the muck and yuck of selfishness, ambition, defensiveness, fear, anger and bitterness clog near the heart and prevent God's Grace from flowing out to others. Or, we've grown cold and immoveable, keeping layers of icy standoffishness between us and the people who need love and grace. We've lost our love, passion and appreciation for the blessings God gives us and the mission He calls us to fulfill.  Either way, the problem's in the plumbing.
Lord, You are Grace Itself. How many times a day do You open Your Arms to us when we've been less than adorable?  How often do You hear our confessions, yet never hold them against us?  Loving Father, help us do the same for one another.  Unclog our spiritual plumbing so what You pour into us flows out to others in amazing expressions of Love and Grace. You keep Your Arms open to us so how can we fold our arms and refuse grace to others?  Break down the hindrances; dissolve our stubbornness with Your loving rebukes and encouragement to fulfill our calling to be Christlike. Flow, River of Life, through us and run into the streets or our communities so the world will experience Your Amazing Grace through Your people.
In the Name of Jesus, the Living Water 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Wednesday, October 19 - Imitation: the Highest Form of Praise

     When Dorothy Hammill's hair flung out in a perfect circle as she ice skated in the Olympics, millions of women made appointments that week to get a "Hammill" cut. Bo Derek's braids sent people into a braiding frenzy as if we thought a bunch of skinny braids on our heads would make us perfect tens. Jennifer Anniston sent curls out with her board-straight shiny hair hanging straight around her face in the popular "Friends" sitcom. Even my curl queen, Andie McDowell, ironed her beautiful curls to fit "in" with the rest of the world. When will the madness stop? When will some curly haired heroine step up and change this trend for the rest of us?  I could save 15 minutes every day if frizzy and bushy were the new look. Men, you're just as bad about the hair on your faces. From the Grizzly Adams look to the scruffy Don Johnson half-beard to a Tom Selleck mustache to the Johnny Depp goatee to clean-shaven, styles change for you, too, and you're just as quick to follow them. 
     If only we believers cared as much for the part of us that isn't visible. What if we were as watchful and quick to follow God's example of love as we are to follow a lesser star's style?

"Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents.  Mostly what God does is love you.  Keep company with Him and  learn a life of love.  Observe how Christ loved us.  His love was not cautious but extravagant.  He didn't love in order to get something from us but to give everything of Himself to us. Love like that."  Ephesians 5:1-2 (The Message)

How well do we imitate God's love? After all these years of growing in Christ, God's unique, unconditional, all-forgiving Love still seems unattainable in my life. Leading into Ephesians 5:1-2 (above), Paul insisted on mentioning forgiveness as inseparable from God's love.

"Make a clean break with all cutting, backbiting, profane talk. Be gentle with one another, sensitive. Forgive one another as quickly and thoroughly as God in Christ forgave you." 
Ephesians 4:31-32 (The Message)

     I've experienced moments when I knew the peace of having forgiven everyone I needed to forgive and of asking for forgiveness from those I had wronged, but by and large, my imitation of God's love is a poor one. As Jesus said (in the end of Matthew 5, according to The Message), "This is what God does. He gives His best - the sun to warm and the rain to nourish - to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus?  Anybody can do that." 
     I've still got a lot of resentment and worldliness to snip out of my life to imitate God's love and there's always selfishness growing like a wild gray hair Vidal Sassoon can't tame.  Just like a fashionable "do" requires upkeep and conditioning, my imitation of God's love requires daily upkeep and un-conditioning. 
    Lord God, will we never believe that imitating You is the only way to become the people You designed us to be?  We pursue endless shortcuts to avoid doing the one thing You ask of us: to love You and others unconditionally. We intend to love but grow too defensive to take the next step when we're ignored or pushed back. You kept loving us; You didn't step away from the rejection. Help us imitate You and see how big eternity is compared to what we face here. Revive us in Your Love, Lord.  Guide us to model Your great Love that lifts us out of the darkness. Shine through us and help us love in spite of circumstances and people who don't love in return.  Thank You for not giving up on us. Thank You for loving us when we don't give You a thought. Thank You for being bigger than all our shameful, selfish sin.  Help us imitate You because You are our Righteous Hero.
In the Name of Jesus, the Perfect Imitation of God the Father

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Tuesday, October 18, 2011 - Seriously

"And I will ask the Father, 
and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever-- the Spirit of truth." 
John 14:16
"When He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth . . . "
John 16:13
    Parents have a tough job helping their children learn the difference between using their healthy, active imaginations and, well, lying.  Unchecked imagination leads to trouble (especially in October) yet squelching a child's imagination leads to a lack of humor and creativity. 
     Jesus used parables to teach truth because He knows we all love and learn from a good story.  He used humor in His illustrations to make certain truths clear.
"How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye?" (Matt. 7:4)
     The Holy Spirit breathes in our lives to continue Jesus' teaching tradition. The Spirit teaches us truth through the humor, frustrations, and burdens in our daily lives and underscores certain lessons we need to hear "one more time." He highlights comfort and grace when we forget those are meant for us in every failure and circumstance. And, His rebukes grow just a little stronger each time we pretend He's not serious because He's always serious about "guiding us into all truth."  Believers can't escape the truth: we deceive ourselves if we imagine we can.
"-- the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept Him, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. But you know Him, for He lives with you and will be in you." 
John 14:17
"If we claim to have fellowship with Him yet walk in the darkness, 
we lie and do not live by the truth." 
1 John 1:6
"If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us." 
1 John 1:8

Lord, You are the Father of Truth and Satan reigns over lies and deceit. I don't want anything to do with him or his appeals to my pride. May You guard my heart from imagining I'm any better than anyone else or that my sin doesn't break Your Holy Heart as much as the next person's. Fill us with Your Light of Truth. Unlock our hold on fantasy and fiction hindering Your sanctification in our lives. Give us grace to handle Truth and to hear where we need to get back on track. May we, as Your children, find the delightful balance of hearing and speaking the truth in love because truth without love can be harsh and love without truth leads to dangerous places. Rid us of the logs in our eyes and make us less anxious to tell others about their specks. 
In the Name of Jesus, the Truth Who sent the Spirit of Truth to us!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Monday, October 17, 2011 - Glow-rify

     Tom instructs the choirs he leads to sing "Glow-ry" in place of the rather muffled sounding "glorrrrry."  Anytime a choir can avoid singing "r's" in the middle of words improves overall diction and clarifies the song's meaning for those listening.  It feels a little strange to sing "glow-ry" but it's the best way to pronounce the word as a group so listeners understand the word.   
     God's glory remains a mystery in spite of years of pageants, movies and Bible studies. "Glory" means "weight" and artists and producers usually choose white smoke or bright light to depict God's glory. As believers, we communicate this mystery of God to people by letting His Light glow in us: His weight (importance) and Presence should shine in everything we do.

     Father, open the gates of Your Grace to flow into our hearts and glow in our lives. Glow-rify Yourself in us.  Cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Cleanse us from every speck that blocks Your Light and line up our hearts with Your will. Show us how to pray passionately and powerfully for everything You want and, when we're uncertain, teach us Your Will.  Help us fulfill the part You've given us. We can't overestimate Your Power, Your genius, or Your Love.  You're the only ONE who can make our paths straight. You hear us. Amazing. You answer us. Astounding. You Love us. Astonishing.
      We don't deserve Your attention much less Your Love, but thank You for all of the above. Help us draw in every bit of Your Spirit You want to pour into us, our churches, our communities, and our nation.  Our stubbornness stills revival - not Your Generous Spirit. Breathe into us the fruit of the Spirit and Your Love for other people. May we not deny You complete access. 

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Sunday, October 16, 2011 - To the bottom of the hill

     I finally talked Nick into watching all 10ish hours of the "Lord of the Ring" movies with me over the last week while he was home sick.  He loved it and wishes there had been more to the story, but thank goodness Frodo's burden was removed from his hand (forcibly removed, yes, but removed).
     In the final movie, the evil ring Frodo must destroy begins to weigh more with each step toward his destination. The skin on his Hobbit neck is broken and bleeding from the chafing chain.  The enemy terrain he must cross is rocky, dark and dangerous.  Time and again Frodo seems to fall down for the last time under the weight of his burden.  He and his faithful Hobbit friend, Sam, arrive at the top of the next hill only to see a valley filled with enemy soldiers. Frodo begins to despair. 
     "It's impossible," Frodo says. "How will we ever make it to the mountain?"
     "Help will come, Mr. Frodo," says Sam.  "Let's just get to the bottom of the hill."  

     Worry weighs us into despair when we stare too intently into the future. Walking in God's Will as we fulfill our calling means God provides what we need to make it to the bottom of the hill, to take the next step for today, to have the next necessary conversation, to let go of the thing we're gripping too tightly, and to do whatever difficult task He calls us to do.  Let's just get to the bottom of the hill, friend. Help will come.

Father, You've opened Your throne of Grace to us and we need Your Grace and Mercy. When worry clouds descend on us, break through with Your Light, Your salvation, Your Strength. Guide us to look to You - not to the resources we can pull together. Remind us of all the paths You've opened in the past for us, all the ropes You've thrown out to us and friends You've provided. Strengthen us to turn worry into prayer and to let praises transform despair into content no matter our circumstances.   
"Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, 
that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need." 
Hebrews 4:16

"You are my hiding place . . . 
You shall surround me with songs of deliverance."
Psalm 32:7

God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.  
Therefore we will not fear."
Psalm 46:1-2

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Saturday, October 15, 2011 - Treasuring the Treasure

"How can a young person stay pure?
By obeying Your word and following its rules." 
Psalm 119:9
One of my favorite quotes from the movie "Courageous" takes place when one of the fathers tells his 15 year old daughter, "Boys want to win your heart, but they don't know how to treasure it."  
     God the Father sees how vulnerable we are to those who would intentionally or unintentionally mangle or break our hearts and gave us His promises of protection in His Word. However, His unchanging Word, like a prescription or an action plan, only works when opened, learned, trusted and applied to our changing situations. We're to spend each pearl of wisdom and gilt every action with His commands. 
     Can I say I treasure the protection and promises God's given me? Am I burying His unchanging truths in my heart to avoid breaking His?  My obedience to His Word is the true measure of my love for Him.  

"I have hidden Your word in my heart, that I might not sin against You." 
Psalm 119:11
"Your decrees are my treasure; they are truly my heart's delight."
Psalm 119:111
"Truly, I love Your commands more than gold, even the finest gold."

"Those who obey My commandments are the ones who love Me. 
And because they love Me, My Father will love them, and I will love them. 
And I will reveal Myself to each one of them." 
John 14:21

"Forever, O LORD, Your word stands firm in heaven." 
Psalm 119:89

"But You are near, O LORD, and all Your commands are true. 
I have known from my earliest days that Your decrees never change." 
Psalm 119:151-152

Father, Your Word is Living and Active. Infinite God, we can't diminish or get to the bottom of Your treasure of Truth.  Teach us how to anchor each day in Your Word. May our hearts be drawn constantly to what You reveal to us in Your Word. Teach us to treasure and anchor our lives in Your commands, trusting You to protect us from despair and darkness. You gave us Your Word and, too often, we leave it unopened and unapplied because we fear change. Strengthen our hearts to long for Your transforming Sword of Truth to reshape us. 
In the Name of Jesus Who said, "Those who obey My commandments are the ones who love Me."

Friday, October 14, 2011

Friday, October 14, 2011 - Light Up Your World

  "He was transfigured before them. 
His face shone like the sun, 
and His clothes became as white as the light."  
Matthew 17:2

   Both our children experienced intense "fear-phases" at all the normal ages, according to the books I read after Julie's second fear-phase put me in my own fear-phase. Having been afraid of my own shadow as a child myself, I was sympathetic and understood when she became fixated on the witch in Disney's "Sleeping Beauty."  No mama was more sorry she let her child watch a movie until I read that four-year-olds fixate on something imaginary, regardless of what parents protect them from seeing. In other words, if it hadn't been "Maleficent" the witch, it would've been a shadow on the wall.  When Nick turned four, I was better prepared.  
     At seven(ish) both children worried about the possibilities of death, divorce, and that the evil they heard about on the nightly news might arrive at our own front door.  At 12, they worried about handling the responsibilities of growing up, wished they could go back to the simple days of being a child, and feared they wouldn't measure up to what the world would throw at them. 
     My answer to the haunting fears that dark kindles and the worries stillness can bring to mind came from personal battles with fear. Frances J. Roberts describes the power of praise in an entry called "Dynamos of Praise" in her book, "Come Away, My Beloved." The book describes what God revealed to Ms. Roberts through His Word.

"Man has contemplated the power of faith and of prayer, but only rarely have I revealed to men this far greater power of praise.  For by prayer and faith doors are opened, but by praise and worship, great dynamos of power are set in motion, as when a switch is thrown and an electric power plant such as Niagra is thrown into operation. Praying for specifics is like requesting light for individual houses in various scattered places, while worshipping and praise flood the whole area with available current."

If this is a true revelation, it certainly explains the "worship wars" our churches are experiencing. If praise and worship are the "dynamos of power" it makes sense for Satan to attack us in this area of our spiritual lives. But I digress . . 

I decided to test the power of praise in my own life and found Psalm 22:3 (KJV) true: God does indeed inhabit the praise of His people and fear can't stay where God's people exalt and enthrone Him. Perhaps David was a man after God's own heart because he learned to praise God with all his heart in every circumstance (see Psalm 5:11; 6:5; 7:17; 9:2; 18:49; 30:4,12; 34:1; 35:28; 47:6-7; 57:7,9; 59:17; 61:8; 66:1,8; 68:4 for starters).
     The truth that praise holds power led me to teach our kids to sing praises to God to "light" their minds in their dark rooms. 
     Feeling helpless, overwhelmed, unprepared, threatened, in the dark?  Lift your voice to praise God with everything in you and watch Him light up your world.   
     Lord God, teach us to praise You. Sometimes we use praise to open Your door just so we can request a personal favor. Teach us to praise You with upright hearts filled with true love and joy in You as our God. You deserve a world of people shouting and singing Your praises; help us make up for those who aren't praising You. Dwell in our praise. You are God - high and lifted up - and we praise You!
In the Name of Jesus Who said the rocks would cry out in praise if people wouldn't