Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Barefoot Souls

I love this lady and am humbled she loves me
- toenails and all!
     Delana Barber of Daphne, Alabama, psychology teacher and pastor's wife, is known for saying off-the-wall things that take people by surprise. She likes to shake things up. For instance, she's known to say, "I love your toenails, girl." (She's known for a lot more than that, but that's what I can quote in this blog.) The first time she told me this I felt both disgusted and comforted: disgusted at the shape of my toenails yet comforted that someone would love me in spite of them. After all, we can't feel truly free with someone when we have to hide our flaws.
     The two verses from "Jesus Calling" today prove God loves us down to our toenails, regardless of their condition. The verses also contrast how the same holy God worked in the soles of Old Testament faithfuls with how He works in the souls of believers today. 

To Moses:
 “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals. The place you are standing on is holy ground.”  Exodus 3:5

As Moses stared into the burning bush on the back forty acres of the desert, God told him to remove his shoes and bare his soles. Later Moses climbed Mount Sinai and walked through camp to the tabernacle to spend time in God's shining Presence.  His soles revealed how much time he spent in the Presence of God.

But to believers in Corinth Paul wrote:
"Don’t you know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit? The Spirit is in you. You have received Him from God. You do not belong to yourselves."  1 Corinthians 6:19

      Moses walked to and from God's Presence, removing his shoes to show reverence and to symbolize that nothing stood between him and his God.  However, souls don't wear shoes so there's nothing between us and God's Spirit. He resides on the fertile ground of our belief. We live with His Spirit burning in us, burning away darkness and shining through us to bring others into His Light.
       When we accept Christ as our Savior, there's no stepping into or out of God's Spirit. We carry Him - His shining Presence - in us and become His burning bushes, His Mt. Sinais, His tabernacles, His lions' dens, His fiery furnaces, His still small voices, His messengers, His prophets, His temples, His lights on dark hillsides, His salt to preserve and to add flavor, His shining stars, His upper rooms, His prison dungeons, His platforms and microphones. We become whatever He calls us to be wherever He can use us to reveal Him to the world. With God in us, it's our souls, not our soles that reveal how much time we spend in His Presence.

Father, You alone know how to shine best through each of us today. Thank Your for taking up residence in such humble homes. Just as Jesus was born in the manger, You choose to dwell in our dusty souls.  Please, transform us into whatever - whoever - will best reveal You to people who need You.  Thank You that we can't hide anything from You. Fill us with the joy of knowing we live barefoot before You: known for who we are and loved down to our toenails.  
In the Name of Jesus Who washed the dusty feet of His disciples  

Monday, October 29, 2012

Divas Fall Harder

Don't need divas in my life - how about you?  I read an article about 15 divas from the entertainment and sports worlds who pitched fits or broke rules on airplanes because . . . well, because they're divas who think the rules don't apply to them.  Each "diva" (male or female) was either removed from the airplane (one pilot taxied back to the terminal to drop off an inebriated actor who urinated in the aisle), or arrested when the plane landed. 

No one will get special treatment when God asks us why He should allow us to spend eternity with Him.  Only Christ's death pays what we owe for our sin. If we could get into heaven based on the good we do, how sweet we are, how talented we are, how we stack up compared to other people, or on our pedigree, then heaven would be a pride-filled place and God hates pride so much that He ejected Satan, the ultimate diva, from heaven. 

Jesus called us to show our love for Him by doing what He taught us to do: love others (enemies, too), pray for our persecuters, serve others sacrificially, sit at the foot of the table, get in the back of the line, give more than we're asked for, and go farther than we're asked to go.  This is how people see the Holy Spirit in us instead of seeing us.  This is how they know Who God is and are drawn to Him.

Don't seat me next to a diva on an airplane, please.  The higher they perch the harder they fall. 

“If you love me, show it by doing what I’ve told you. I will talk to the Father, and He’ll provide you another Friend so that you will always have someone with you. This Friend is the Spirit of Truth. The godless world can’t take Him in because it doesn’t have eyes to see Him, doesn’t know what to look for. But you know him already because he has been staying with you, and will even be in you!"  John 14:14-16

“Ask, and it will be given to you. Search, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened to you. Everyone who asks will receive. He who searches will find. The door will be opened to the one who knocks." Matthew 7:7   Lord, God, thank You for knowing that asking You for what we need keeps us from developing diva attitudes about what we have. Every good gift comes from You. We have nothing without You. Gracious Lord, help us humble ourselves by comparing ourselves with You, with Your Son.  Thank You for covering us with the protection of Your Son's Sacrifice.  We were unworthy of Your time or attention but You made us Your heirs. Bless the Lord, o my soul!
In the Name of Jesus, Morning Star, King of Heaven and Earth

Friday, October 26, 2012

Seven Billion Possibilities, One Personal Opportunity

"If everyone is special then no one is special." 

Ever heard that one?  Teachers bounce this idea around schools as they decide how to reward achievers without making those who aren't as gifted or talented in the academic world feel like failures.  This saying makes me wonder:

"If everyone is different, then no one is different."
"If everyone feels weird, then no one is weird."

We live among seven billion people on earth and no two of us are alike.  Amazing, creative God! Each of us is special in the sense that each of us is unique, which is probably why we feel "weird" and "different."  No one understands us because we are one of a kind with a one of a kind walk.  Seven billion people covering a planet 197,260,000 square miles have an infinite number of ways to glorify God in unique ways:  Seven billion possibilities for turning on the Light, seven billion combinations of how the Spirit could express fruit in people's lives.

What unique fruit combination could the One True Vine produce through branches who are "all in?"  What could He make of us with His Spirit flowing unhindered through us?  Yes, everyone is special, but I'll only discover how special when I'm all in and the Spirit is in all of me.

"I am the vine. You are the branches. If anyone remains joined to me, and I to him, he will bear a lot of fruit. You can’t do anything without me."  John 15:5

"The strength to keep going must be allowed to finish its work. Then you will be all you should be. You will have everything you need." James 1:4

Thursday, October 25, 2012

In the Right Hands

"LORD, you are our Father. We are the clay. You are the potter.
Your hands made all of us."
Isaiah 64:8

Just because it's in calligraphy
doesn't mean it's important.
Just because we feel ordinary
doesn't mean we're less important

     From the time I had two quarters jangling in my pocket, I've invested in paper and writing implements. Woolworth's was my favorite place to shop for little notebooks, sketch pads, stationery, pencils, pens, markers, etc.  With paper always at hand, I dreamed of filling at least a notebook, and maybe one day a book cover, with meaningful words strung together in meaningful expressions which would meld into a memorable experience for me and for readers. Whenever writer's block hit, I'd change pen colors because purple might say it better, or gold metallic would get attention and respect.  When I didn't have content, I used calligraphy to proclaim less important ideas with a flourish. 
   However, most real work requires less flourish and more function.  For instance, my job teaches me that justice could hardly be dispensed without sticky notes, staples and blue ink pens. A clear, legible print is preferable to calligraphy.  Cases wouldn't, couldn't be scheduled without a simple calendar, and where would I be without whiteout?  The little container on my desk keeps all these "ordinary" tools available for the opportune moment. In other words, I don't keep parchment paper and calligraphy pens in my office since sticky notes and ball points get the job done better.   

The real tools of justice!

     Is that why God made us from clay - squishy, flawed, muddy, wet, messy everyday clay? He makes an orinary, common substance extraordinarly useful by His power. Feeling more like a Post-it than parchment? God's purposes mean we're valuable and irreplaceable for certain callings and jobs. Feeling as unique as one silver staple in a row of staples?  Our feelings don't change the fact that God can use us to "hold it together" as a testimony to His power among people falling apart without Him.    
     Thank You God for preferring to work with imperfect, weak people instead of using inanimate objects to express Your glory. Thank You for breathing life into us and molding us. Today, Lord, we ask You to be creative and artistic in our lives.  Remove the hard chunks in our spirits and personalities to make us more pliable in Your Hands. Thank You for not tossing us out as unusable. Write Your glory into our lives for others to see.  Mold us to be more Christ-like in every circumstance.  Thank You that You're creative enough to make something beautiful of our messy, flawed, muddy, squishy lives.  We submit everything about ourselves - our minds, hearts, emotions, wills, words, gifts, work - into Your capable fingers. 
In the Name of Jesus - the Word of God

"Isn’t the potter free to make different kinds of pots out of the same lump of clay?
Some are for special purposes. Others are for ordinary use."
  Romans 9:21

How terrible it will be for anyone who argues with his Maker!
He is like a broken piece of pottery lying on the ground.
Does clay say to a potter, “What are you making?”
Does a pot say, “You don’t have any skill”?   Isaiah 45:9

Friday, October 19, 2012


Lord, you have seen what is in my heart.
You know all about me.
You know when I sit down and when I get up.
You know what I’m thinking even though you are far away.

                             You know when I go out to work and when I come back home.                             You know exactly how I live.
                             Lord, even before I speak a word,
                             you know all about it.

You are all around me. You are behind me and in front of me.You hold me in your power.
I’m amazed at how well you know me.
It’s more than I can understand.
Psalm 139:1-6
     A trunk of dress up clothes waits for Addy in her room at my house.  She, like her mother and her Uncle Nick did, loves to put on costumes. She's going to be a cupcake, sprinkles and all for the Harvest celebration at their church. In the box there are superhero capes Nana made for Nick, an assortment of hats, a magic wand, gloves, beads, a fireman's jacket, apron, and a safari shirt and binoculars, among other items. Addy will be able to imagine being whomever she likes.
     I've noticed God's people, including me, like to play dress up. When we're growing in Him we're front and center, hearts open and fertile to receive the seeds of transformation in His Word.  We're authentic in our search, about our needs, and when it comes to admitting fault. But when our attitudes slip into apathy or anger or the fear of being discovered as hypocrites, we hunt down the dress up trunk and throw on something to give the "right" impression:
We throw on a cape and do something good in a big way;
We add bling by tossing extra coins into the collection plate;
We stack on another hat, put on an apron, and serve more people in more ways;
We might even pull out the binoculars and start hunting for specks in the character of another believer.
When our costumes fail to cover what we want to hide, we move to phase two: we slide into "fellowship" at the last minute and slip away as soon as possible. We escape before one of our brothers or sisters in Christ sees our lack, our need, our frailty, our sin.  Now if even I, one of the dull bulbs in the chandelier, can see this pattern and sense something's wrong, then none of us (God's people) are too bright if we think we can dodge God's all-seeing eyes. 
What's the answer? Authenticity - with both God and His people. We learn to relax in God's Presence and accept His acceptance. We relax inthe warm bath of His love for us in spite of our imperfections and sin. We remove the dress up clothes and admit our faults and sins to each other as the first step in living accountable lives. Acceptance and authenticity, authenticity and acceptance: gifts God gives us and we learn to give one another. 
"the LORD replied, "My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest."

Exodus 33:14

Thursday, October 18, 2012

To Budge or Not to Budge

35-36 At daybreak, the court judges sent officers with the instructions, “Release these men.” The jailer gave Paul the message, “The judges sent word that you’re free to go on your way. Congratulations! Go in peace!”
37 But Paul wouldn’t budge. He told the officers, “They beat us up in public and threw us in jail, Roman citizens in good standing! And now they want to get us out of the way on the sly without anyone knowing? Nothing doing! If they want us out of here, let them come themselves and lead us out in broad daylight.”
38-40 When the officers reported this, the judges panicked. They had no idea that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens. They hurried over and apologized, personally escorted them from the jail, and then asked them if they wouldn’t please leave the city. Walking out of the jail, Paul and Silas went straight to Lydia’s house, saw their friends again, encouraged them in the faith, and only then went on their way.  Acts 16:35-40 (The Message)

        I love stories with twists at the end, not twisted endings. The book of Acts recounts the story of some Philippian businessmen who exploited a demon-possessed girl to make a living. However, their free lunches ended when Paul and Silas came to Philippi to preach the Gospel and the girl constantly distracted them from their work. God used Paul to cast out the demon and to restore her mind. The two missionaries became public enemies number one and two, and "justice" doled out a public beating and a night in jail.  
       Jail time didn't stop them from praising God as their jailmates listened. Around mindnight God joined in with the rumble of the earth beneath the prison floors. The jailer, astounded that Paul and Silas stayed put instead of escaping, wanted the salvation he saw them living. He and his family became believers and when morning dawned so did the good news that Paul and Silas were free to go on their way.  
      At this news, I would have taken my "Get out of Jail Free" card and boot-scooted back to Believers' Headquarters, thanking God for my freedom. I would have assumed that my mission was accomplished when the jailer and his family were saved. Not Paul. He saw the bigger picture and stayed to right a wrong. He wasn't about to scurry out of town and leave a wrong impression. He had committed no crime, but couldn't say the same for the Philippian leaders. They had illegally ordered beatings and jail for two Roman citizens in good standing without a trial. Paul stayed to address this wrong and to stop these officials from becoming tyrants.  
        How did he do it? He staged a non-violent sit-in: "But Paul wouldn't budge."  Stubborn Paul? Indignant Paul? Angry Paul?  Maybe a little of all three, but Paul knew if he and Silas slipped quietly out of town, the townspeople would dismiss them as troublemakers. He didn't budge until the town officials came to him in public, in broad daylight, to apologize and to lead their victims from jail. The officials, realizing the seriousness of their mistake, "panicked," "hurried," and begged.  Still, Paul and Silas refused to be rushed out of town before they finished God's work. They made a last stop at Lydia's home to encourage new believers and "only then went on their way." 
     Living for Christ guarantees God will shake up the people around us. When our lost friends, co-workers and neighbors get angry or uncomfortable because we don't hide who we are in Christ, we must not let their responses budge us from finishing what God leads us to do. Our fear must not silence us in the streets or choke out our midnight songs. God will show us the bigger picture and strengthen us not to budge from the Truth.
Father, give us courage to live for You among scoffers, doubters, mockers, and  oppressors. Slipping away from uncomfortable confrontational situations for the wrong reasons doesn't glorify You, but aids and abets the same tyrants we complain about and fear. We praise You our Rock, our Shield, our Strong Defender, our Hiding Place.  You fill us with righteous indignation when wrong reigns. You bring to light what wrongdoers want to keep in darkness. You give us courage and wisdom to speak Truth no matter how the world responds. May we glorify You in everything we say and do.
In the Name of Jesus Who promised us the right words at the right time
"But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it.
At that time you will be given what to say,"  Matthew 10:19

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Warning! Warning!

"Look to the LORD and His strength; seek His face always."
Pslam 105:4

     We tuned in to a British sitcom one night just as a patient consulted with his doctor.  The conversation went something like this:
Doctor:  Are you taking the medications I prescribed?

Patient:  Oh, yes. I'm doing even better than that. I'm taking these as well. (He produces a bottle labeled "Herbal Pills.")

Doctor:  What is this?

Patient: I don't know but the shopkeeper said it would help my particular problem.  It's all natural.

Doctor (aggravated and taking the bottle away): Well, so is poison ivy but you don't go sticking that in your mouth, now do you?

Patient: Well, of course not! It's got "poison" in the title.

     Why do we need wisdom? Because not everything and everyone wears a warning in their titles.  Temptations look harmless and don't come with the warning "Leads to Addiction," or "Will Destroy Your Family." Life would be easier if people wore warning labels of the hidden dangers in their characters, their motives. Want to keep your valuables? Stay away from Beauregard the Bandit and Gerta the Greedy. Not crazy about confrontation. Don't push Arlene the Angry's buttons.
    We need our Guide through this crazy mine-field of a life.  We need the One God Who lives up to His many wonderful names: Comforter,  Prince of Peace,  Savior, Faithful, Friend of Sinners, Love, the LORD God, Mighty to Save, our Shield and Defender.  We don't need substitutes or additional guides.  Connecting with His Presence and His Word nourishes us with that healthy glow.

"Those who look to Him are radiant;
their faces are never covered with shame."
Psalm 34:5

Monday, October 15, 2012

Large Print Blessings

"When I look at the night sky and see the work of Your fingers -- 
the moon and the stars You have set in place -- 
what are mortals that You should think of us, mere humans that You should care for us?" Psalm 8:3-4
     I'm praising God that He woke me early and with the energy to take Little Mac for a much-needed walk.  I'm grateful for the divine jumpstart that had me dressed and out the door before I could change my mind or put in my contacts.  So glad I didn't.
     On one of Little Mac's numerous sniffing and contributing pauses in our walk, I saw the bright  "Morning Star," which I mistook for an airplane at first.  God used astigmatism and poor vision to enhance my star gazing experience.  The longer I stared at it the brighter and bigger it grew. It seemed to multiply into a chain of stars then pulsated until it looked like a white Roman candle bursting on sight. No amount of blinking or turning the head reduced the star to normal size.
     Maybe God's gift of a star with a life of its own in the black sky can teach me:
to look up when the way is dark;
to keep gazing at God's gifts for their full effect;
to remember He uses human weaknesses to enhance our understanding of His strength;
to trust He's with us, watching over us and winking at us when we make eye contact;
to see how He makes opportunities to reach us through even light years with His love;
to let me in on what it was like to see a new star in the sky 2,000 years ago and to tell me a miracle is just around the corner.
     Even weak eyes, when they're open and looking, can spot God's gifts because He provides them in large print.

Father, I know we've been taught to close our eyes when we pray, but today, may we pray with our eyes open and searching.  You call out to us, speak and teach us through Your creation. You long for us to respond with time and attention.  Thank You for wanting relationship with us, for caring whether we love you in return.  We write people off when they don't respond; You send stars.  Thank You for the quiet morning filled with the giant print of Your great love for humankind.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Using The Right End of the Pencil

"I will praise the name of God with a song,
And will magnify Him with thanksgiving."  
Psalm 69:30

"Something always comes to fill the empty places.  
And when I give thanks for the seemingly microscopic, 
I make a place for God to grow within me.  
This, this, makes me full . . ."  
("One Thousand Gifts," by Ann  Voskamp)

I would like to sharpen this pencil.
     Do we have "empty places" to fill? Is someone missing from the dinner table? Has regret left bullet holes in our perspective?  Do our discontent and wants erase all the blessings God's written into our existence?
     God's as big as He's ever been, as alive and active as always (in spite of the obituary Nietzsche wrote for Him) and He will act as He will act. We can't make Him any bigger (magnify Him) except in our own lives. When it comes to individuals, He knocks at the door, waiting for an invitation. He's not like that person at the theatre who arrives late then pushes past all the prompt and comfortable people to get to the one seat in the middle of a wide row. He waits for us to volunteer to step out of the way, then He enters and distributes blessings. 
     Let's turn the pencil around and use the other end to scribble down the good, to sketch the beautiful scenes, and to compose songs of praise.  This is how we magnify the Lord with thanksgiving.

Father, it's foggy out this morning, like clouds on a mountaintop rolling quietly into the valley, like Emmanuel - God with us. Thank You for pure white mornings. Thank You for Saturdays, extra sleep, and flexible schedules. Thank You for using people like Sarah Young ("Jesus Calling") and Ann Voskamp ("One Thousand Gifts") to remind us that You roll the fog of Your Holy Presence in and around us daily, willing to enter at our invitation.  The door is open - flow through us and accomplish Your Will in us as You accomplish Your Will in heaven.
In the Name of Jesus Who filled the empty place between You and us.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Be Specific

"And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ."
Ephesians 5:20

      "Thank You, God, for everything."  Done. I obeyed one command in the Bible and it's just now 5:00 a.m. 
Thank you for the light in her eyes, her soft skin,
her button nose, enough hair to put in pig tails,
sloppy kisses, joyful jabbering,  a busy little body,
a healthy appetite, and that happily contagious smile.
      As I read "One Thousand Gifts" by Ann Voskamp, I'm convicted that courtesy "thank Yous" leave both me and God unfulfilled.  Have you ever given a gift to someone you felt didn't "get it?"  As the recipient's mind grabs at explanations, the words "thank you" float through the fog with little sincerity to carry them.  Maybe the gift was deeply personal, wrapped in layers of meaning about a mutual experience, or maybe it was intended to make its recipient laugh, but failed.  Awkward.  Embarrassing.  Unfulfilling. 
    We short change God while saving time as we categorize gifts from God without embellishing: Thank You for my family, my job, my church, my friends . . . but that's as dry and unconvincing as the "everything" prayer.  "Category" prayers leave God, and me, yawning since they lead to another form of repetition. But, what if I tell God why I'm thankful today, knowing tomorrow will bring a new reason to be thankful for the same person, thing or event. 
"Thank You, God, for Tom who thoughtfully cooked breakfast and brought my portion to me on our wedding china." 
"Thank You, God, for Nick who brought his project to where I was so we could be together." 
"Thank You for my beautiful, gifted Julie who nurtured our friendship with her call."
"Thank You for my talented, handsome "other NIck" who reached across hundreds of miles to make us part of their lives today with a video." 
"Thank You God for the five spontaneous cyber kisses Addy gave me when we Facetimed (and thank You for the technology that allows me to receive those sweet kisses.)"  
"Thank You for the freedom to be creative today at work."
Telling God why we're thankful deepens our gratitude, develops our sincerity, and says, "I get it and I love the thought You put into it."  


Thursday, October 11, 2012

Anytime, Anywhere

“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God,
“Who is, and Who was, and Who is to come, the Almighty.”
Revelation 1:8
     I recently heard an economist reason that gold is not the best investment with the real threats of nuclear attacks and the end of civilization. What good is a bar of gold when you're hungry or thirsty?  How can a bar of gold dress or shelter you when civilization is destroyed?
     Revelation 1:8 should settle our hopes and investments in the only One able to fulfill our deepest needs and undetected dreams. Nothing else stands the test of time so we don't and won't need things. Too many tugs on our heroes' capes exposes them as humans who share our foibles and weaknesses. Even loving, lifetime friends and family members can't be readily available to help us through every crisis or to celebrate every milestone. They have their own crises to weather, their own milestones to honor. Nations have fallen, are falling, and will fall: no borders last forever and no government is no-fail. Our souls will find as much rest in things and people as we might find trying to sleep in a rickety bed balanced on an old swinging bridge between warring tribes with a stormy brewing. But,

Yes, my soul, find rest in God;
my hope comes from Him.
Truly He is my rock and my salvation;
He is my fortress, I will not be shaken.
 My salvation and my honor depend on God;
He is my mighty rock, my refuge.
 Trust in Him at all times, you people;
pour out your hearts to Him,
for God is our refuge.
Psalm 62:5-8
     His Light has led us out from hours, days, seasons and souls of darkness. He's present, breathing the same particles of air with us in this moment - no matter what the moment holds - because we are in His heart and the two cannot be separated.  
"But you are a chosen people,
a royal priesthood,
a holy nation,
God’s special possession,
that you may declare the praises of Him
Who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light."
1 Peter 2:9
     He's in our future - though we forget to paint Him as the light, the backdrop and central Character. God calls us to rest every bit of ourselves on His Character and to live with a lighter heart because He doesn't shift on His throne, He doesn't shift in His moods, and His Love for us never drops one degree.  

 Every good and perfect gift is from above,
coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights,
Who does not change like shifting shadows."
James 1:17

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

One Rascal At A Time

"And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, 
giving thanks to God the Father through Him."
Colossians 3:17

     Yesterday, God spoke sternly to us through His Word and "Jesus Calling" about the stream of complaining, the discontentedness and general contrariness that can fill our spirits and gush out of our mouths. 
 "Do everything without complaining or arguing
so that you may become blameless and pure,
children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation,
in which you shine like stars in the universe."
Philippians 2:14-15

     Today, He reminds us of the antidote, the cure, for the dissatisfied soul. Surprisingly, it's less expensive than retail-therapy and doesn't involve packing my bags to start over somewhere else. Yesterday was about "Do everything without complaining" and today is 
giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ"  Ephesians 5:20
      Always. For all things. Maybe this will cost more than I wanted to pay after all.

"Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, 
and giving of thanks be made for all men"
1 Timothy 2:1
     and giving of thanks be made for all men. All people. Don't turn away from that thought like I want to do: "Giving of thanks be made for all men."  Yes, I can do that! - I can thank God for congregations, masses, crowds, nations. I have no problem thanking God for humankind when they're lumped together, only when they're pulled apart, like individual splinters from a chunk of wood. After all, what causes dissatisfaction in our lives?  What most often sets off the alarms of anger and frustration? It tends to happen one rascal at a time.
"But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you," Matthew 5:44
"bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you."
Luke 6:28
Father, we don't feel thankful for people who mistreat us, seem bent on making us look bad, delight in our failures, pour salt in our wounds, or take what we thought was intended for us.  It's hard to have a thankful heart when we feel abandoned or burned by people who claim to love us.  But Your Word says to thank You for them and so we offer You the sacrifice of our thank offerings for them now.  
Hebrews 13:15"He who sacrifices thank offerings honors Me, 
and he prepares the way so that I may show him the salvation of God." 
Psalm 50:23
Thank You for the brothers who sold us out: they intended it for evil, but You use it to teach us humility and to prepare us for leadership.  Thank You for the Judas who broke our hearts; You use him to teach us discernment and dependence on You rather than people. Thank You for the Absaloms who threaten to take what You give us; through them You prove no one can take what You give. Thank You for the Sauls - the jealous, angry, crazy people; through them You become our Hiding Place, our Strong Tower, our Sanity.  Thank You for the weak people who mean us no harm, but whose weakness leaves us hanging awkwardly with no support. Thank You for the demanding people who ask us for more than we can or should give; their demands help You teach us to say "no" with grace.  Thank You for using weak, frail, and fallible people to increase our faith in Infallible You.  Thank You that their roles in our lives can deepen our satisfaction in Your Everlasting Love and Faithfulness.  Help me remember that I've failed others in all these ways, sometimes without realizing it. I ask Your forgiveness for letting them down and pray You use my past failures as stepping stones of faith for the people I've failed. 
In the Name of Jesus Who prayed for those who put Him on the cross

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

I'd Like to Complain about the Complainers . . .

"Do everything without complaining or arguing
so that you may become blameless and pure,
children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation,
in which you shine like stars in the universe."
Philippians 2:14-15

    To obey this verse from Philippians means we have to address the complaining spirits within us. Here is a dictionary definition for "complain."
To complain: 1.Express dissatisfaction or annoyance about a state of affairs or an event.

     I don't mean to complain, but don't some people consider it their God-given right, their duty, to complain?  Can't say where that idea originated but it wasn't the Bible.  From jail, Paul wrote believers to tell them to stop complaining - to never complain  -to do everything without complaining.  Is that possible?  Aren't we hypocritical if we're dissatisfied and annoyed but act as if everything's peachy-keen?  Yes.
     The last thing God wants us to do is to wear a mask over our sin and negativity. He calls us to humbly confess our sin and despises the artificiality of masks, wolves in sheep's skins and the saccharine sweet words of flatterers.  He knows these tactics don't work or only work for a while before the truth is revealed. 
     And what do we know? That putting a lid on our frustration and anger can only make things worse for somebody somewhere down the road. So, if we're not to live a complaining, argumentative life, but we must be honest, what's the answer to this dilemma?
     A pure character.  God sets the goal of "blameless and pure" before us. The grateful heart is too busy thanking God to complain to others.  The heart growing in love for God has difficulty practicing anger as a lifestyle.  As it turns out, constant complaining and a readiness to argue remove any masks of spiritual maturity and clarify our character for other people.  

Father, shut our mouths before we start our complaining and arguing. Shut our mouths and scrub our hearts.  Fill us with gratitude and praise for all the good gifts You give us every day, moment by moment. Bless You, Lord, for putting up with us!
In the Name of Jesus, the Lamb silent before the slaughter  


Monday, October 8, 2012

Fertilizer Failures

"The LORD appeared in the past saying: 
 'I have loved you with an everlasting love;
I have drawn you with loving-kindness.'" 
Jeremiah 31:3

How many times have you heard people say, "I wish I hadn't made this choice or that mistake (chosen this path, married that person, settled for this job, etc.), . . . but then, (as the light dawns) I wouldn't be where I am today (know God's Presence, His forgiveness, His healing, have this spouse, this child, etc.) if those things hadn't happened."  We expect God to use the fertile soil of our obedience and our love for Him to plant and harvest good works and good results - that pattern fits into our "reward" system. However, the most amazing part of God's amazing grace is how He uses our failures as fertilizer for something beautiful in the future.

"In Your unfailing love You will lead the people You have redeemed. 
In Your strength You will guide them to Your holy dwelling."
Exodus 15:13

"Do you not know? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary, and His understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak."
Isaiah 40

"As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him,
having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith,
just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude."
Colossians 2:6-7
"And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace,
Who called you to His eternal glory in Christ,
will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you."
I Peter 5:10

Lord, help us quit trying to fix the mess because we get bigger messes. Take them and turn them into something only You can do.  Your creativity and love never leave us without something to show for our willingness simply to give You everything about us - good and bad.   Turn our failures into fertilizer for our faith. Your love is amazing. You don't hold our failures up to shame us and You don't hide them away.  You use them to bring something wonderful into our lives when we submit ourselves to You.
In the Name of Jesus, the God of Second Chances!!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Word Gets Around

"Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.  Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending  as one man for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you." 
Philippians 1:27

Sometimes good conduct lands you in jail.  Paul was jailed for preaching salvation through Christ and disturbing the peace of mind of those who heard him.  Evidently he didn't learn his lesson because the verse above is an excerpt from a letter/lesson/sermon he wrote from jail.  When he couldn't preach the Good News to crowds, he wrote letters to churches,  encouraging them to stand together in sharing their faith in Christ. The Word got around through Paul, wherever he was,

Paul encouraged believers to live their lives so Christ would be proud, regardless of who was watching them. Word would get back to him about how they were doing.  Bad news travels fast so if there were divisions in the church, Paul would hear about them. And the adage "No news is good news" wasn't true for Paul.  If believers were standing united in their faith and preaching the Gospel of Christ, people would respond positively or react negatively. "No news" would mean the church had been silenced, caving to fear and oppression.  

Paul's life teaches us that people react or respond to the Gospel.  We shouldn't be surprised or intimidated when the world accuses us of misbehaving as we live out God's Word through our words and actions. We ain't misbehavin'; we're standing firmly in our love for and obedience to Christ. 

Father, "whatever happens," doesn't seem threatening as I sit with You in the safety of my home, in the sanctuary of this time with You.  However, "whatever happens" is becoming scarier with time.  We feel the persecution and the glares more often.  We sense people are eager to embrace lies when the Truth would set them free.  Give us courage to conduct ourselves "in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ."  May we not settle for "no news" but stand firmly together without fear.  Make us holy as You are holy. Fill us with love for You and for a lost world.  May Love conquer all fear.
In the Name of Jesus Who said, "Be not afraid. . . "

Thursday, October 4, 2012

I Want My Own Spin Room

"'Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit,' says the LORD Almighty."
Zechariah 4:6

     A spin room is as necessary to politicians as the kitchen and bathroom are for the rest of us.  The purpose of the spin doctors in the spin room is to make their candidate (or politician) look good no matter what he/she does or doesn't do. They reduce lies into "misunderstandings," interpret lack of action as deep thought and planning, magnify fortuitous events into premeditated heroism, and let's not forget the one they seem particularly adept at: blaming others for the failures of their guys/gals. 
     I want my own spin room. 
     "Robin lost her temper because she's so passionate about blah, blah, blah," sounds so much better than "That woman was already as mad as a wet hen and ready to blow;' you were just in the wrong place at the wrong time." 
     "Mrs. Noland hasn't acted on that project yet because haste makes waste and she insists on having everyone on board to make the project a success,"  is better than "She procrastinated because she's a people pleaser and this project is going to be controversial." 
     "Robin's taking some time to recharge so she'll be a better servant to God and His people," sounds divine when the truth might be, "She's pouting and needs to get over it."
     We didn't get spin doctors but the Holy Spirit, Advocate of Truth, and Comforter.  He's not here to gloss over our mistakes or flaws, but to transform us with Truth.  He stands by us when we look good or bad, when we're popular or outcast, when we're winners or losers.  He comforts us when people misunderstand our stand for Truth, and He comforts us when we're repentant for falling for lies.

  "And I will ask the Father,
and He will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— 
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 14:16-17

"But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away.
Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you;
but if I go, I will send him to you."
John 16:7

Father, You've given us Your Holy Spirit to guide us in Truth because Truth sets us free.  Truth sheds light - sometimes blinding light - but light in the darkest of places.  Your Spirit of Light and Truth lives in those Who believe Jesus is Your Son Who lived a perfect life, died a sinless death, and rose to live forever as King of Heaven and Earth. Let Truth shine out of us and help us rely on Your Spirit - not the tide of public opinion, not the flow of popular rhetoric, and not even on the power of people we think are closer to You than we are.  You alone speak pure, unspun Truth.  Help us hear and act on Your Truth for Your Glory.  Give us ears to hear and eyes to see what You alone can reveal through Your Spirit. And thank You, for the incredible gift of You with us always.
In the Name of Jesus Who sent the Comforter, the Spirit, our Advocate.