Thursday, November 29, 2012

Diamonds in the Ruff

"Don’t be proud at all. Be completely gentle.
Be patient. Put up with one another in love."
Ephesians 4:2
“I give you a new command. Love one another.
You must love one another, just as I have loved you."
John 13:35

     When we lost Little Mac a few weeks ago, I didn't want another dog - at least not for a while.  Watching that little guy die was hard and made me dread the reality of losing people I love.  In a few days, however, I started weighing the pros and cons. In one scale I put the years of joy that white furball gave us  and in the other, the hurt of the loss.  The dog had been worth my tears and had brought much more joy than sadness to our lives. The house seemed empty and lonely when I came home alone.  So, we started praying about and looking for our next furry friend.
Best in Show - National Kennel Club
Wire Haired Fox Terrier
      God used the National Dog Show, aired on Thanksgiving Day, to help us understand the importance of choosing a dog that fits our lifestyle.  Some dogs need large spaces and athletic owners so those breeds came off our list. Nick wanted a Siberian Husky, but we learned that these beautiful,working dogs are virtually untrainable off a leash.  Go figure: dogs bred to pull a sled want to run for miles. Some tiny dogs need to be "only pets" or they border on having nervous breakdowns when another pet gets too much attention. Some breeds need constant companionship and interaction with either a human or a second dog.
Best for Us
Pound Mutt - Gus
     The announcer for the National Dog Show asked: "Is it any wonder so many dogs end up abandoned or in shelters? People want a dog for the way it looks or because they've seen it in a movie, then they find out their new dog needs something they can't or don't want to give."  
     The expectations we impose on others (be it dog, spouse, child, friend, or spiritual leader) usually turn into killjoys. Why? Because we design our expectations to meet our needs (nervous diva dogs) not the other person's.  Expectations originate in positive snapshots we've taken of other people and relationships: air-brushed heroes, photo-shopped charm, cultural norms, and romanticized ideas that can't find roots in real soil.  We each want someone to love us for who we are, but we're all guilty of imposing our expectations on others. 
     God loves the mutts and the best in Show, the artistic and the logical, the criers and the stoics, the detail people and the big-picture people, the affectionate and the reserved, the extroverts along with the introverts.  He accepts us just as we are but doesn't leave us as diamonds in the ruff (sorry, couldn't help it).  He refines us for His purposes. How many people do we hound because they aren't meeting our expectations?  How many blessings do we miss in the people we're with because their "inadequacies" and "flaws" nip at our heels?
      Lord, thank You for loving us just the way we are, but thank You for not leaving us in this condition!  Guide our thoughts and affections to accept other people as You accept us.  Show us how to find the blessings You hide in those close by and elevate our joy!  May we obey Your command to love one another.
In the Name of Jesus, our example for loving people in all walks of life.
"Show family affection to one another with brotherly love.
Outdo one another in showing honor."
Romans 12:10

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

No Leftovers at Our House

"Let the peace that Christ gives rule in your hearts.
As parts of one body, you were appointed to live in peace.
And be thankful."
Colossians 3:15

Because we traveled to Atlanta to enjoy Thanksgiving with family, there are no leftovers at our house. No turkey sandwiches, turkey a la king, . . . etc., etc.  That's the downside of not cooking the Thanksgiving meal in your own home. The upside is someone else does the cooking and worries about who sits at the kids' table this year. I'm thankful either way. 

Gratitude paves the path to peace in Christ. 
Thanks, thanks and more thanks brings peace, peace and deeper peace. 
Just as sin piles up until we must "put" it somewhere before it suffocates us, gratitude accumulates in a long list of blessings that must be counted and savored in a release of  thanks to God. We could thank Him every second for some grace gift, even when we feel pressed down by an uncertain future.

Each second the choice stands before us:
      To focus on the "upside" by expressing gratitude to God for a past or present blessing and let His peace rule our hearts, or;
      To focus on the "downside" by ignoring the blessings and questioning God's love, goodness and faithfulness. 
      God's mercies are new every morning. Blessed assurance floods the soul that savors His blessings and tastes His peace.   
"Give thanks as you enter the gates of His temple.

Give praise as you enter its courtyards.
Give thanks to Him and praise His name.
The Lord is good. His faithful love continues forever.
It will last for all time to come."
Psalm 100:4-5

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Three Rs

"The disciples were still talking about this
when Jesus himself suddenly stood among them.
He said, 'May peace be with you!'” 
Luke 24:36
Using the Three Rs to enjoy the Presence of the Lord.

1) Stop
2) Breathe in and breathe out.
3) Focus and apply the three Rs: 
     Realize you're not alone.
     Recognize the Lord God is with you always, but especially right now, in this moment. 
     Reaffirm His Presence by thanking Him for being with you right now, this moment. 
4) Enjoy the Peace that comes with knowing Jesus is with you.
5) Now enjoy it some more.
6) Repeat.

 "Teach them to obey everything I have commanded you.
And you can be sure that I am always with you, to the very end.”
Matthew 28:20

"So let us never stop offering to God our praise through Jesus.
Let us offer it as the fruit of lips that say they believe in Him."
Hebrews 13:15

Monday, November 19, 2012

From Your Current Location

"Here is something I am still sure of.
I will see the Lord’s goodness
while I’m still alive.
Wait for the Lord.
Be strong and don’t lose hope.
Wait for the Lord."
Psalm 27:13-14

     On our recent trip to Louisiana, we set our GPS destination for our old address in Springhill. The thing gave us three routes, and options confuse this Type A personality.  We just wanted the best route, but what's "best?"  The first would get us there about four minutes sooner but would require a lot of twists and turns.  The second route would take us through towns with more stops and better roads.  The third route the most direct but appeared to be farther on the map.  So, did we want to arrive sooner but dizzier, well-fed and full-tanked, or later but straighter?
     We started with Route 1, but missed the exit so we defaulted to Route 2. This route jogged us north when we knew we wanted to go south, so we re-set the GPS to use Route 3. Then we decided to make a detour through Magnolia for lunch so the GPS recalculated to get us to our destination from our new location. Our roadtrip wasn't the most direct or the quickest, but we arrived on time and in good shape.  
     If this trip doesn't describe our spiritual lives toward the holiness of Christ, I don't know what does. Accepting Christ means we know where we'll end up, but will have our own story about how we got there.  Sometimes I feel like I'm spinning my wheels or going in circles. At moments I feel so off the grid I wonder whether or not I can get back on track.    Then there's YOU - you seem to have it together, you seem to know how to handle the mountains, the swift rivers, the desert sections of the journey. YOU seem to be always ahead of me or off on some adventure while I'm changing my tire or getting pulled out of a ditch.
     My route might only cross yours occasionally and your route may seem more direct than mine, but we're still going to end up at the same destination of Christlike if we keep moving forward in Christ.  If I see you resting in a meadow by still waters while I'm wandering in the desert, it could be you've found a temporary oasis in your own desert leg of the journey. If you see me doing a victory dance on top of a mountain you conquered years ago, give me a thumbs up and smile.  
     God - in His complex, loving, efficient God-mind - designs a "best" route for each of us Our ETAs may vary, but our God is the same faithful, strong God Who leads us always toward His holiness from our current location.
“Because Your love is faithful,
You will lead the people You have set free.
Because You are so strong,
You will guide them to the holy place where You live."
Exodus 15:13

Friday, November 16, 2012

A Dog's Life

"You hold me by my right hand.
You give me wise advice to guide me.
And when I die, you will take me away
into the glory of heaven." 
Psalm 73:24

     The Bible doesn't say whether or not dogs go to heaven, but if there's a snowball's chance they do, I know one who should be there now. Our Westie-Maltese, Little Mac, was a better being than me. He was unquestioningly loyal, over-the-top friendly, unconditionally loving, eager to please, great with people of all ages, smart as a whip, and always nearby for cuddling and for comfort.  He barked only until he knew we were ok with the noises he heard. He cleaned up under the table and counters. He was a world-class greeter for us and a guardian for our cat, Sonny, and intervened when a neighborhood cat threatened. He was a back-warmer who loved socializing with his people and their people.  And, he managed all these wonderful qualities with a dog's I.Q., no poseable thumbs and no verbal language skills.
      I don't measure up to a dog's life, yet God promises me heaven. If dogs were smart enough to understand the future, they might revolt.  But we humans know just enough to be dangerously un-Christlike.  We withhold kindness because we've heard too many bad endings. We think through good intentions until we've missed the opportunity for a random act of kindness. We fear need too much to be generous and we disdain imperfection too much to be loyal. Many of us have been hurt too deeply to love again or to love well, and we can be too cowardly to guard other people's reputations. Some of us are too lazy to be helpful and too self-consumed to care. What we need are better ears to hear the Spirit and a quicker response time so we don't depend on our eyes to be our guides.  
"We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us." 
1 Corinthians 13:12

Lord, my dog has put me to shame. Help me live a life worthy of Your calling.  Fill me with Your love and the desire to be Christlike for Your Name's sake. Make me sensitive to where I'm needed and willing for You to use me. Thank You for creating dogs, God, because they express Your love to us as well as anyone or anything can.
In the Name of Jesus, the Good Shepherd Who died for some unappreciative sheep

Thursday, November 15, 2012

More American As Apple Pie

"Enter His gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; 
give thanks to Him and praise His name." 
Psalm 100:4

     A friend's daughter who's studying abroad recently commented on her Facebook wall that it felt strange to have no Thanksgiving Day before the Christmas season hit full force the day after Halloween. I would have to agree.     Thanksgiving Day is an exclusively American holiday I hope we never skip or relocate to another month since our gratitude is the prelude and benediction to the miracles God offers us at Christmas. Notice how thanksgiving ties into both glorifying God and our salvation in Psalm 50:23 and the story of the Ten Lepers.   
"The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me;  
to one who orders his way rightly I will show the salvation of God!” Psalm 50:23
"And it came to pass, as they were on their way to Jerusalem, that He was passing along the borders of Samaria and Galilee. And as He entered into a certain village, there met Him ten men that were lepers, who stood afar off: [humility of separation from people]

and they lifted up their voices, saying, 'Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.' [humility of need and desperation]

And when He saw them, He said unto them, 'Go and show yourselves unto the priests.' And it came to pass, as they went, they were cleansed. [humility of obedience]

And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, with a loud voice glorifying God; [humility of recognizing God alone could heal].

and he fell upon his face at His feet, giving Him thanks: and he was a Samaritan. [humility of recognizing Jesus as God, Jesus as the source of his healing - in SPITE of his race and previous "outcast" status; humility of worship and thanksgiving]

And Jesus answering said, 'Were not the ten cleansed? but where are the nine? Were there none found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger?' And He said unto him, 'Arise, and go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole.'"  (Luke 17:11-19, American Standard Version)

     Ten were healed but only the thankful one was made whole from skin to soul. He recognized Jesus as God the Giver and himself as the humble recipient. The one who gives thanks as a sacrifice both glorifies and receives God. Come before God with thanksgiving and be made whole.

Father, thank You for a season of thanksgiving to remind of from Whom all our blessings flow.  Thank You for time to reflect on Who You are and how You give and heal and make whole.  We're broken and shattered, but sacrificing thanks to You in our brokenness  leads to wholeness. Strengthen us to praise You with a loud voice.  Open our eyes to see the many ways You give and provide.  May we be the ones who fall at Your feet in praise, worship and thanksgiving.

Inspired by One Thousand Gifts, by Ann Voskamp

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Better Than Drano

"Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit,
let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads
or a sentiment in our hearts,
but work out its implications in every detail of our lives.
That means we will not compare ourselves with each other
as if one of us were better and another worse.
We have far more interesting things to do with our lives.
Each of us is an original."
Galatians 5:25

      Imagine the space we'd free up in our heads if we dislodged the compare/contrast machine located behind our eyes. How much room would swell in our hearts if we expelled the jealousy monster and that personal judgment seat?  Ridding ourselves of these thought mongers would also eliminate the extra baggage of self-condemnation and insecurity.  We could breathe freely, live simply, glow brightly and become more godly. We could create, learn and move forward without the chugging noise of shouda-coulda-woulda in the background.     
      Satan clogs our heads and hearts with gunky thought processes to blind and bind us, but Christ died to free us from comparisons. Christ gives us new minds and hearts, eyes and ears.  He didn't die for us to bemoan or proclaim our gifts, brag about or criticize our churches, or even to evaluate our ministers and ministries.  God's unconditional love for us meant death of His only perfect Child.
 "Christ didn’t have any sin. But God made Him become sin for us.
So we can be made right with God because of what Christ has done for us."
2 Corinthians 5:21
      No even one more of God's young'uns comes close to perfect, so what possible good does it do to compare ourselves to other believers? However, our unclogged uniqueness allows God's Spirit to flow freely through us, transforming us into people more like Christ. 
"We’re free of it! All of us! Nothing between us and God,
our faces shining with the brightness of His face. And so we are transfigured much like the Messiah, our lives gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like Him." 2 Corinthians 3:18-19
     Lord, unplug the unhealthy thoughts. Blind us to the fuel for contrasts and comparisons.  Keep us pure and clean and focused on thanking and loving You in return for all You've done for us. Open our eyes to how You've made us unique and how You want to use our individuality to glorify You.  Bless Yourself through our submission.
In the Name of Jesus Who became dark sin to bring us into the Light

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

What to do when your shoulder cries on you

 "A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger."
Proverbs 15:1

    My right shoulder may open the door to a new career in meteorology.  Last night it predicted the frosty 32 degree morning waiting to greet us.  Aching, heavy arm!  The grumpy thing was disagreebly difficult to adjust to a comfortable position and I needed sleep or we'd all be grumpy tomorrow.  
     I reached for the heating pad, put it on low, wrapped the area as best I could (shoulders are bendy, you know) and waited. Sure enough, the warmth seeped in and through and it wasn't long before my shoulder and I were relaxing, content and sleepy again.
     If I had ignored the pain my whole body, mind and spirit would have suffered.   
     I wish I were as adept at picking up on people-pain as I am body-pain.  My ears interpret grumpiness, discontent, and discomfort as signals to step back or to lash back (at least inwardly).  What I see as irritating, distancing and difficult, God wants to use to train me in compassion. He prefers I respond by wrapping and soothing instead of ignoring or exacerbating the pain - even if the person is bendy and difficult to cover with love.
"Love is patient. Love is kind.
It does not want what belongs to others.
It does not brag. It is not proud.
It is not rude.
It does not look out for its own interests.
It does not easily become angry.
It does not keep track of other people’s wrongs."
1 Corinthians 13:3-5

Father, thank You for Your patience with us when we're out of sorts and act just plain weird! Lord, Your loving-kindness and mercy never end - yet Your children can be rather stingy and conditional with it.  Please fill us with so much we can't hold it back from each other - especially within the body of Christ with other believers. Help us care enough to take the time to see through each other's weirdness and to wrap, soothe and warm, just as You do for us.


Monday, November 12, 2012

Down By The Riverside

     Veteran's Day has given me a rare day alone at home and I've wondered all weekend what I would do with it.  Creature of habit that I am, I woke at the usual time, enjoyed lying in bed sleepily recalling the weekend we shared with our church and community family in Springhill, Louisiana.  As they say, "God showed up."  His Spirit was obvious in the faces and voices of the musicians, in the words and encouragement of the leaders, and in the response of the congregation as we celebrated together the heritage of Central Baptist Church's 90-year anniversary.  I woke up wanting to fan the after-glow of yesterday's fellowship into full flame again, so I put the dog in the car and we went for a ride to see what colors God had on His palette this morning. 
     Everywhere I looked driving up Hot Springs Highway offered a burning bush, a field, a stream, a bridge, a gate, a barn, a driveway, a trail, a new curve in the road or a hill to top.  It was too much "God" to process. I could've spent all morning exploring, but I stopped at the riverside and let Little Mac stretch a bit as I absorbed the canvases Abba laid before me in this particular studio of His. 
      Down by the riverside, God reminded me of a few important lessons.  First, it's easy and tempting to look back to yesterday and think God only shows up in certain places or under certain conditions. We cling to those places and conditions wanting God to work in and around us exactly like He did then. But like a river, His work moves on through changing locations and landscapes. We must keep this faulty reasoning and miracle-binding nostalgia from blinding us to God's work where we are today.      

        Step Two of God's lesson plan for me today centered on this large leaf I watched fall in the river. 

It had hung in the same place for at least nine months watching the river roll by, shielding waders and swimmers, advancing in musical skills from a soft flutter to a crisp clap, and fighting off summer rains and storms to change from  translucent green to autumn brown.  What a life!  But, at this precise point in its leaf life, it was time to find out where the river goes; time to ride the rapids
    The leaf landed gingerly on the still waters, floating on its back to view its branch home and the sky beyond. In a moment,  a current caught it and pulled it under, popped it back up, drew it under again, rolled it, swirled it and sent it, stem up, faster and faster toward the first set of rapids. What a ride!
     God's creation shouts His glory and whispers His truths.  We don't have to stay where we are spiritually.  We don't have to be afraid we'll never be used again or never know His power like we once did.  We don't have to settle for half-hearted worship or lack-luster praise or shallow fellowship.  Today can be the day we look back to appreciate what God has done just long enough to let it propel us into finding out what He's doing today, where we are.

Like the last dying leaf on an autumn tree, 
I cling to what I know,
Afraid to let go,
Lost and alone in my own strength.
Then Your Spirit comes to me,
Whispering, "Child, I'll set you free,
from all that would hold you back." 
     Lord, thank You for working wherever we are, wherever You send us or wherever You keep us.  Thank You for the firm foundations of how You've worked before and for the promise that lies ahead if we'll let You take us on the ride of our lives. God help us trust You, trust Your plan, trust your Word. May we die to self today to see You live in and through us.  Thank You for the accountability of friends, for the body of people You testify through, for the encouragement and inspiration we find in people who've experienced Your power.  Give us the courage to make today the day we let go and let You sweep us forward.
In the Name of Jesus, Giver of New Life, the Root of Jesse, the Promised Messiah, the Vine
"For my part, I am going to boast about nothing but the Cross of our Master, Jesus Christ. Because of that Cross, I have been crucified in relation to the world, set free from the stifling atmosphere of pleasing others and fitting into the little patterns that they dictate. Can’t you see the central issue in all this? It is not what you and I do—submit to circumcision, reject circumcision. It is what God is doing, and he is creating something totally new, a free life!"  Galatians 6:14-16

Saturday, November 10, 2012

We're Not Nolands for Nothing

"For instance, we know that when these bodies of ours are taken down like tents and folded away, they will be replaced by resurrection bodies in heaven—God-made, not handmade—and we’ll never have to relocate our “tents” again. Sometimes we can hardly wait to move—and so we cry out in frustration. Compared to what’s coming, living conditions around here seem like a stopover in an unfurnished shack, and we’re tired of it! We’ve been given a glimpse of the real thing, our true home, our resurrection bodies! The Spirit of God whets our appetite by giving us a taste of what’s ahead. He puts a little of heaven in our hearts so that we’ll never settle for less."  2 Corinthians 5:1-3

    Nick named his facebook page "Nick Has Noland" to be funny, but he's right in a way.  We're not Nolands for nothing.  At one time my answer to "How do you spell it?" was to say "'No - Land'  We have no land: our ancestors were either sailors or paupers," but then I  had to explain the word "pauper" too often. Now I just say sailors, which better represents our Noland spirit anyway. 
     In American culture, waves of people move on and on and on and wave good-bye too often.  Sometimes I wonder where "home" is and get a tad misty eyed that the days of Norman Rockwell towns and 'It's a Wonderful Life" community spirit seem to have slipped into the past.  I like the idea of an Aunt Bea of Mayberry waiting for us in the old home-place that's as stable and glowing as a Thomas Kincade painting - especially during the holidays. The Waltons, poor as church mice, were the luckiest people in the world to have that two-story on a mountain named for them. 
     Then I remember, believers are all No-lands:  this world is not our home, we're citizens of another kingdom. No-land doesn't mean "No Home" but that our home can't be painted or sold.  We're blessed more than most to feel at home in Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Louisiana and Arkansas.  Together with believers from all these states our hearts have been nurtured, tested, trained, sometimes spoiled and sometimes bruised, but always loved because God's Spirit covers us like the tabernacle. 
     Today we travel back to one of our homes - Springhill, Louisiana, where Julie grew from 5 to 10 and where Nick arrived just in the nick of time to call Louisiana his birthstate.  We're heading to the town where Tom and I served with a community of go-getter loving people until our hearts were so full they felt like they would burst.  Today, we Nolands will be blessed to fellowship and feast with family. God, in His great grace, continues to allow us to live up to our name. Blessed, blessed, blessed.

Father, one day we'll sit at Your table feasting with You and Your other children and our hearts will rest at home.  For now, thank You for the glimpses You give us of that day and the hope these glimpses offer. Thank You for transcending time and space to draw us together in Your tabernacle, wherever we are. Thank You for moving and breathing in and around us so we can always reach You. Thank You for fellowship with other believers which feeds us and spurs us on to good works.
In the Name of Jesus, the Firstborn in Your family Who has gone ahead to prepare a place for us 
“Don’t let this [trouble] throw you. You trust God, don’t you? Trust me. There is plenty of room for you in my Father’s home. If that weren’t so, would I have told you that I’m on my way to get a room ready for you? And if I’m on my way to get your room ready, I’ll come back and get you so you can live where I live. And you already know the road I’m taking.” John 14:1-4

Friday, November 9, 2012

I Think That I Shall Never See . . .

     Driving to work this morning I watched the morning sun illuminate leaves and thought, "God could've made only one type of tree, but He didn't."  His creative glory led to seasonal changes embedded in perenniel stability, balls of flame seated among the cool of evergreens. (And thank you to whoever came up with the name "evergreen:" it's a lovely consolation for serving as a backdrop for fall flare.)
     Some of us are evergreens: constant, stable, dependable - and, maybe even a little unexciting to the young and the restless. Others of us are project-oriented, and like hardwoods unfurling the intensity of spring green, we deepen our colors and sprint toward autumn fireworks before hibernating for the winter, or until a new project, job, mission, or calling presents itself.  True, the evergreens among us may be a little envious of the seasonals in the spring and fall, but certainly not in the winter, when we shine and keep the rest of the scenery from fading into a dull and colorless existence. B
     Each needed, each contributing to the landscape, the environment, shouting the glory of God across acres and acres for the world to see as a reminder of the Creator. The trees don't fight for centerstage but stand quietly blazing in their turn, serving as a backdrop then stepping up to fulfill their roles. Why should we do any less than the trees?

"Let the fields and everything in them be glad.
Then all of the trees in the forest will sing with joy."
Psalm 96:12

"For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace:
the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing,
and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands."
Isaiah 55:12

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Put Down the Duckie!

One of our family's favorite Sesame Street songs has always been "You've Got to Put Down the Duckie If You Want to Play the Saxophone."  In one hand Ernie holds his much beloved and world famous rubber duckie ("Rubber Duckie, You're the One. .. "). In the other hand, he holds the saxophone he's learning to play.  Hoot the Owl wisely suggests Ernie "put down that duckie if you want to play the saxophone." 
   What rubber duckie are we holding on to that's keeping us from living our lives in the joyful abandon of God's Song?  Acts 17:28 suggests it might be a chisel:

"We live and move in Him, can’t get away from Him! One of your poets said it well: 'We’re the God-created.’ Well, if we are the God-created, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to think we could hire a sculptor to chisel a god out of stone for us, does it?" Acts 17:28 - The Message
     Insecurity steals our symphony. We can't play instruments of praise to the One True God if we're chiseling out concrete gods of exits, safety nets, walls, heroes, bank balances and rules.  Like the plastic surgeons working on Michael Jackson's nose, we'll end up with nothing left and have to find a new block to chisel.
    In the near future, we'll forget whatever's worrying us today, but the joy we find  focusing on our Maker's Love will linger like a song and only grow stronger. Soon, a new boogie man will appear to threaten our sleep and faith, but we don't have to give him the upper hand. Instead we have the incredible option of laying the worry and fear stealing our joy at the feet of the Creator. Then, with newly freed hands and minds, we pick up our instruments of praise, focus on the Music, use both hands and all our hearts to play joyfully our part of the symphony.   

"But you remain the same. Your years will never end."
Psalm 102:27

Lord, I'm not even giving the boogie men and insecurities in my life names or time today. They're at Your beautiful Feet and I'm lifting my praise to You with all my heart.  You thought of autumn colors and breezes.  You knew we'd need relief from sweltering heat and the dryness of summer's end.  You knew we'd love the music of leaves blowing and crunching.  Your love song lyrics are
"So do not be afraid. I am with you.
Do not be terrified. I am your God.
I will make you strong and help you.
My powerful right hand will take good care of you.
I always do what is right." Isaiah 41:10
Help us respond with gratitude and joy to You, our Creator.  Make our fingers fleet in grasping Your assignments, our hands eager to minister to other people, our hearts full with praise and love for You!
In the Name of Jesus, our Song

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

I Know Who's Going to Win Today . . .

"No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, 
but rather tries to please his commanding officer."  
(2 Timothy 2:4 - NIV)

     So, today's Election Day and I know who's going to win. The winner will be . . .  a well-educated, politically savvy, driven, happily-married, father.  This man has and will make mistakes, some serious ones and some magnified through his enemies.  This man will disappoint people because he can't and won't "save the nation" in the next four years. And there you have it, the winner will be a unique human being with failures just like the rest of us, not a demi-god with the plan to save the world.  The One God already accomplished that plan.    Now, whoever wins, we've been commanded to throw ourselves into working for Christ, our Commanding Officer, God sees and allows circumstances to strengthen our faith muscles and sharpen our knowledge of His Word. (Aren't we all more familiar with what the Bible says about different issues now? - even if we only know the verses that support our views.) 
     We can neither allow election results to dim our Light because the results alleviate our fears nor can we hide our Light because we've given up hope that "our guy" didn't win. Our work is to throw ourselves into "this work for Christ."  

"So, my son, throw yourself into this work for Christ. Pass on what you heard from me—the whole congregation saying Amen!—to reliable leaders who are competent to teach others. When the going gets rough, take it on the chin with the rest of us, the way Jesus did. A soldier on duty doesn’t get caught up in making deals at the marketplace. He concentrates on carrying out orders. An athlete who refuses to play by the rules will never get anywhere. It’s the diligent farmer who gets the produce. Think it over. God will make it all plain."  (2 Timothy 2:1-3 - The Message)  

Lord, sometimes we go overboard and let our concern and involvement devolve into entanglement. Disentangle us and remind us that our work is the same regardless of who's in the Oval Office.  Mighty  Ruler - we bow at Your Feet - You alone are Worthy of worship.  We give You honor - You alone are Flawless and Perfect!  God, give us courage and wisdom to bless You with our obedience to Your Word.
In the Name of Jesus, the One on the White Horse returning in splendor

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Some Friends . . .

God knows we each face a different set of temptations,
but He loves and helps each of us through each one.

     "Who can bring any charge against God’s chosen ones? God makes us right with Himself. Who can sentence us to death? Christ Jesus is at the right hand of God and is also praying for us. He died. More than that, He was raised to life."  Romans 8:33-34

     "We have a great high priest. He has gone up into the heavens. He is Jesus the Son of God. So let us hold firmly to what we say we believe.
     We have a high priest who can feel it when we are weak and hurting. We have a high priest who has been tempted in every way, just as we are. But He did not sin. So let us boldly approach the throne of grace. Then we will receive mercy. We will find grace to help us when we need it." Hebrews 14-16

     As hard as it is to believe, some people don't laugh at British humor.  I could bust a stitch over many British comedies. Some friends don't like the movies or books I recommend. Others do.  I laugh in places they don't and vice-versa. Some friends don't like seafood or grits and look at me like I have two heads when I glow over my Mom's tomato gravy. Some of us can handle more pain with less complaint while others of us ask for medication at the thought of pain. Don't ask me to watch surgery, but I have friends who find it fascinating.  Weepy friends, stoic friends, extroverts, introverts, practicals, romantics, affectionate, reserved, those on meds and those not on meds. We haven't all experienced the same depth of suffering in the same areas: the baggage we claim comes around that moving belt in different colors.

     But, in spite of our differences, we have the same Friend Who thoroughly "gets" us.  Jesus understands all the little quirks and packed away hurts and victories that make each of us who we are.  He understands why I like both Mexican pop music and sad melodies; brilliantly sunny fall days and rainy winter days. He can answer why the sound of trains, uncooked oatmeal, and the smell of cilantro comfort me.  He alone can explain my aversions to meat textures, the taste of licorice, animals dressed in clothing, horror movies, and seeing people embarrass themselves.  He knows why I pull for underdogs but find it difficult to commit to groups.  
    Jesus didn't just die to save us but lives to help us on a daily basis. He relates to us and desires to teach us to relate to others.  He loves to pour out His understanding and mercy and lift the burdens we're packing.  He's praying for us at God's Right Hand of Power.
    What a Friend we have in Jesus!

Lord, forgive us for being so quick to judge others for their quirks and weaknesses, so quick to close people off when they're different from us. We try to herd them in the same direction or even die for them, but we don't want to relate to them as unique individuals while we're living. Yet, it's how Your kingdom will grow.
   You, amazing Friend, do it all.  You hold each of us firmly in Your loving Arms and love each of us with our personalized baggage. Fill us full of Your Holy Spirit so we can be more like You in the way we relate to others. We may never understand each other, but help us be merciful and kind. Help us cry and laugh with each other, as appropriate. 
In the Name of Jesus, Friend of Sinners