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REFLECTIONS OF REFLECTIONS!

reflection

It was so easy to tell this was a house where Death had come. There were numerous cars lining the country driveway, most with out-of-state license plates. People were coming and going, obviously bringing food and seeking to help. The elderly man who had passed away was several states removed from the place of his birth.

Not long before the viewing on the evening before the funeral, the doorbell rang. On the stoop stood two middle-aged men, dressed nicely, wearing somber expressions. I looked at their faces, and immediately said “I don’t know who you are, but you are obviously near relatives of my father!” The resemblance was amazing, to be a generation removed.

It reminded me of a time when our youngest son was less than a year old. A visitor at church had dropped off his little daughter, and entered the sanctuary. After the service I heard someone greet him, and as he spoke, he added, “I don’t know anything about that baby boy in the nursery, but I can tell you, that was his father up in the choir!” He was right.

That type of comment makes one realize that as we go into the world, calling ourselves Christians, people look at us but do not know us at all. Yet when they see our face, can they tell that we belong to God? We should have such a close relationship to Him that it shows in our face. In Acts 4:13 Peter and John were preaching, and confounding many. Luke writes, “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they [Peter and John] had been with Jesus.” The association was obvious in their faces.

Proverbs 13:20 reminds us how important it is that we choose our friends carefully: “He who walks with wise men will be wise, But the companion of fools will be destroyed.” It is our testimony and our reputation that is at stake when we run with fools. God is not glorified, and Christ is not honored. One apple, the Bible says, will rot the whole bag! One potato, left in that plastic bag on the floor, will soon ruin the good potatoes that it touched.

This new year has hardly begun, but it’s not too late to get a relationship with God back where it should be. If you’re afraid to set the alarm, pray that God will wake you 15 minutes early, so you can read His word before leaving for work. And when He does, since you have prayed, get up, get your coffee or Coke, and spend some time with Him.

The biggest thrill of your life should be that you hear someone say, “That man has to be a Christian–he looks just like what I’ve imagined Jesus to look like!” Wouldn’t that be something wonderful?

Father, You truly are our father. When we’ve had earthly dads who have disappointed us, we have sometimes given those attributes to You. Or when things didn’t go the way we thought, we blamed You. Help us to see through the pain and troubled times that You are a constant companion, loving and kind, doing the best for us. Help us spend so much time talking to You, Father, that we begin to look like You. In Christ Jesus, Amen

© Arnon Ayal | Dreamstime Stock Photos

EXAMS, TESTS & PRAYER!

dreamstimebooks

The books were right there, laying on top of the piano where I had left them the afternoon before when I arrived home from school.  I distinctly remembered  having every intention of studying, but then I pulled out the piano bench to learn “The Peer Gynt Suite” by Edvard Grieg! Where had my mind been?? SAT’s would start today! Of all evenings to have gotten a little extra cramming in, last night was the one! Trig was killing me, and physics was right behind it! Sigh. Why do some people have it so easy, while others have to work so hard for a C? Not fair! Picking the books by up, I headed out the door, already feeling the noose around my neck.

The classroom wasn’t crowded, so the teacher separated us in order to cut down on the ability to cheat. There were no cell phones in those days, and calculators or open books were not allowed in the room. Also, this teacher was a hawk: he didn’t miss an eyeball drifting sideways. I looked down at the paper, and the first problem might have been in Greek. Against the rules of the test (do each one in order), I went to the next–wow! Easy! So I zipped through the pages answering the ones I could, then going back to the ones that needed more brain time. Meanwhile, the brainy students were going one by one.

A month later the trigonometry teacher stepped into the English class and asked for attention. He gave the results of those who had scored highest in all areas. Then he stopped. “In Math, although I have no idea how she did it, considering she is failing trig, Sandy Day scored the highest.” Thank you, Mr. Whatever (his name is erased from my memory bank.) (Intentionally, probably).  I knew right then I had figured out how to take tests: go quickly through the ones you know, then go back to the harder questions. Granted, there are probably rules that prohibit doing this now in the technological age, but at that time it worked well.

No one has to be a Rocket Scientist to know that life is full of tests. Only the naive think that when they get out of school, tests will be over! The test for your driver’s license, college classes, balancing checkbooks, having quarterly reviews at work, making the outgo and the income equal out–at least in some respects,–all of those and millions more are tests. It’s definitely not exaggerating to say that each day we have tests in some form or the other. If you have kids, you have testing. If you are married, you have testing.

Recently, I found a different test–one laid out in Scripture put there by the hand of God. I wasn’t looking for it, but this, still able to be called the being the beginning of a new year, is a good time to do a self-examination, or test. I was reading Psalm 15, and was immediately impacted by the question the psalmist asked in prayer: “God, who may dwell with You in Your holy place?” (My paraphrase). And then he gets his answer: anyone who lives a blameless life (wow, can anyone do that?); who walks in righteousness; who refuses to engage in conversation that is slandering to another person; who does not listen to gossip; who does not harm his neighbor; who speaks out against sin; who criticizes those who are committing the sin (that doesn’t go down well in this age of “tolerance,” does it?); who commends (and encourages) those who are faithfully following the Lord; who keeps a promise even if it ruins him; who does not extract the highest interest rate he can get by with, thereby putting a burden too heavy to bear on those he lends money to; who refuses to testify against an innocent person even if he is bribed heavily to do so—this man will stand firm forever. Whoa!! Those are the goals of someone who wants to serve God with his entire life. This obviously was not a test where one could say, “That one is easy, that one I’ll come back to, that one I’ll never figure out,” etc.!

It is easy to see that those are the standards of someone who must have a close and wonderful relationship with the Creator God! It is, as Paul writes in the book of Romans, the reason that the commandments point us to Jesus. Just looking at that list, and then seeing where you “test” out against each one of those attributes, tempts us to throw up our hands and quit trying. That’s why we need a Savior. If there were a chain with thick heavy links holding you to God, and each link was one of the commandments, or one of those characteristics in Psalm 15, how many would it take to break chain holding you to God? Only one. Someone had to pay the price for us, or no-one would be dwelling with God in that holy place!

Hallelujah, there was Someone who was able to pay that price, live up to the standard God had set, and then paid the debt that we could never pay. Yes, He lets us sin, and no, He doesn’t like it when we do. But if your child disobeys, and then is truly repentant, you are ready to forgive. So is God. Let’s try for a “Well done, good and faithful servant,” when we stand before Him, having passed His test!

O God, how we can relate to the psalmist as he cried out, “Who can abide with You?!” We see our failings–and I confess, Lord, that I am not always sorry the moment I fail You–and feel we can never be good enough.  Then I realize how badly I need Your grace, and Your forgiveness. Help me–and others–draw near to You, so that You will draw near to us. Thank You for Your grace, Lord God, and for Jesus Christ. Amen

 

© Simon Lawrence | Dreamstime Stock Photos

LOOKING BACK, LOOKING AHEAD

HUNTING

The woods were so frightening! Was that a giant black widow in the web above my head? Maybe a bear was behind the tree, or even a skunk. The loaded gun felt weird tucked under my right arm and balanced with my left hand, and knowing it was ready to shoot caused me fear also. I had always heard that Indians could walk so softly that no one could tell they were in the woods, so I tried my best to make no sound. Behind me, in single file, my grandpa and grandma were also walking quietly. My grandpa must love me a lot, I reasoned, to take me hunting for the first time in my life, and let me lead the way! If I got off the trail at all, he would whisper a quiet encouragement to guide me left or right, back to the trail. I didn’t have to look back to know he was there; for one thing, he was my Grandpa and would never leave me alone in this fearsome place! For another, his quiet words of command to stay on the path, though like a gentle whisper, were evidence that he was there. I didn’t know which was greater, my fear, my excitement, or my pride.

That happened more years ago that most anyone who reads this can conceive, yet I can still feel that experience as though it happened yesterday. I was maybe eight years old, but he gave me such a gift that day as he did what no one else had ever done: he showed he trusted me to handle a gun, lead our way, and listen for his voice.

Now, so many decades later, it is the end of another year and a time to look back at this past twelve months. Did you walk an unknown path, knowing your heavenly Father was behind you, never leaving you, or did you doubt His faithfulness? His still, small voice is a command to our heart if we are about to get off the path; did you listen for it? Sometimes it is a red flag of warning if you don’t want to listen–it probably means you want to do you own thing! Did you act in a manner that He found faithful to His wishes? If so, you have done well.

Some days I feel like that eight-year-old, ready to take on the world. Other days, I feel a hundred and twenty, dreading to put one foot in front of the other! But one thing I know, every day has something to teach me. There is not a day that goes by that I do not discover something new. And because of that, I can look forward to 2015 knowing that I still have so much to learn: so much about Jesus, so much about  myself, and so much about what my purpose is in living. He has plans and a purpose for me, Jeremiah wrote, and I find it only by being in the center of His will.

You may be thinking, not me. Nope, not after the mistakes I’ve made. Not after the way I messed up last year. Not after the sins I committed, when I flagrantly yelled at Him, “Let me do this on my own!” Yet Isaiah 57:15 tells us, “For thus says the High and Lofty One Who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: ‘I dwell in the high and holy place, with him who has a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.'” There is such hope for the backslider! All you need is a humble spirit of sorrow for what you did when you got off the right path, confess it to Him (1 John 1:9), and you are forgiven! You can start 2015 out with a clean record! How much better can it get?

Do  you have goals for 2015? It seems only once in a great while that a “New Year’s Resolution” is actually kept for the year. But a goal, ah–that’s different. That’s a commitment to stay on the path that God has for you, so that you can be more like Him. What does that look like, to be like Him? Do you actually hunger and thirst to be righteous? Do you want to let others go before you? Do you mind if someone gets credit for  what you’ve done? Do you let someone else have the last word? Do you love others more than you love yourself? Yikes. That stabs. Do you keep the church’s sticker off your back windshield so that if you cut someone off in traffic, they won’t know which church you attend? My license plate says “EL EWE.” LU. I know that no matter how I drive, someone is going to recognize that I am associated in some manner with a certain university and church, and that God’s reality in my life shows in my driving. Ouch. It causes me to drive better, I will say that!

So what about 2015? Can we make some commitments that we will handle this year better than 2014? That we won’t waste as much money, perhaps eat healthier to keep our temple in better condition, that we’ll treat our family as we treat our boss, etc? We could fill up a dozen pages. But let’s go back to a few posts to the “Do Not Fear” and pull out the two greatest commandments: Love the Lord with all that we are, and love our neighbor as much as we love ourselves. We can reduce our huge list to two things. And we can trust Him to be behind us every step of the way, whispering if we start to get off track, and loving us. What a God to walk with in the next year!

Holy Father, how we fail You, but how faithful You remain! Your word tells us that even when we are unfaithful, You stay faithful to us. You are willing to save anyone who calls on You, but how can they call unless they hear? And how will they hear unless we tell them? Give us boldness and courage to know You have our back, have ordained our path, and are accompanying us ever step. We love You, Lord. Thank You for the cross. Amen

DO NOT FEAR!

DONOTFEARAs the group sat in a circle around the room, everyone spoke of their experiences raising an adopted child. We sat and listened, occasionally looking at each other obliquely, as we heard all the terrible situations they were enduring. These people were going through fire in many cases. It was not a support group, but a group formed of parents who had adopted, and had been invited by the state to come together and tell what raising a non-biological child could entail. They were, in effect, warning those of us who had been approved for adoption how traumatic it was going to be.

Finally, as the time was winding down, my husband and I joined the conversation. “We have two young biological children,” we informed them. “Children who were prayed for before conception, wanted as much as any of you wanted the child you adopted. We have nurtured them, loved them, and not exposed them to anything we felt would be harmful to their well-being. In spite of all of this, our children are going through the same problems you are having with your adopted children. This may shock you, but we feel that perhaps what you think of as a result of a child being adoption, is not the case. We believe that what you are seeing is a child, acting like a normal child!” Although the parents were almost unable to grasp what we had said, it relieved the fears of many of them (to the aggravation of the state workers, I might add!) that they would never have the family they had desired. They had thought all their problems were the result of adoption.

Fear today has become a daily, constant companion, have you noticed?! The economy has left millions concerned for their jobs, concerned whether their income will pay the bills, and dreading–or living in fear of–unexpected repairs to cars or homes, or medical emergencies. Not only the economy, but life in general has become fearsome. Relationships are being subjected to turmoil because unhappiness at home, for whatever reason, creates an environment where we want something different–and the kids live in fear that mommy and daddy will divorce. There is no end to fear. The story above illustrates for me what we see happening in America through situations that all around us. In other words, we zero in on what we think is the reason for our problems, when in fact it probably isn’t. Fear that most people still have huge racial hang-ups may not be the case as much as it is just the few who are causing problems the rest of us do not feel at all. Most people are open to living agreeably with their neighbors, but if you are of another ethnic background it is easier to believe everyone is against you. And fear of not being accepted by those you admire creates a lifestyle of engaging in activities to make you look like Hollywood’s version of what is acceptable, leading many down an empty path of searching for something that isn’t going to be fulfilling.

That is not how God intended us to live. We are to love our neighbor, which is not Hollywood’s take on love, but showing through our actions the type of love that Jesus portrayed while He was on the earth. He ate, walked, healed, and loved the sick, the wounded, the outcast, the afflicted. We want to love those who can love us back. Shame on us.

God’s plan for us is not fear, it is peace, love and a mind that is not swayed by wrong values. Do we believe that? Do we practice that in our lives? Do we stress about money? Yes… then trust Him. He will not give us what we want, but He will definitely provide our needs if we trust Him. And, as He told Joshua time and time again, “Do NOT fear!” Fear is not His best for us, whether it’s the economy, raising our children, facing obstacles in our family situations, relationships at work, our job…. keep going. We are not to fear. We are to rely on the plans and purposes He has for us, and rest in His everlasting arms. They hold us up, and we can relax in them.

Wow, you’re getting preachy, you say! Yes, sometimes life is not all dessert, but meat. Check out God again–this time with your heart. The thing that amazes me is that people say the Bible is full of “do’s” and “don’t’s.” Christ said there are two things that are important: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and love your neighbor as [much as you love] yourself. Two things, and we have peace. Then let us go do them.

God, forgive us for taking the easy way out. For answering back in anger, for not seeing truth where it is, for wanting an easy life. You didn’t promise us that, and Jesus certainly didn’t experience that! Give us the faith to trust You as we go about our daily routines. Please–help us to glorify You. Amen

 

LET IT GO!!

let it go

She looked at me with hate, viciously grinding out her words,”I’d like nothing more than to kill you!” I confess I stood for a moment in stunned silence; how many people hear this said to them? Not only said, but truly meant. That was rough. What was rougher was that this was my only sister.

Going through a bitter divorce, she and her ex wanted nothing more than to hurt each other. The easiest way to do that is to tell lies, right? Or push buttons (spouses always know where to push the hardest)! In her case, her husband told her lies about having a relationship with me (there was none), and she believed him.  Maybe you’ve been there. The problem was, because she believed him, which involved me, now she wanted to hurt me. And what better way than to do it through my children? She called my adult children and told them (I can envision her dramatic anguish at having to tell them what she knew) what she had found out, which had not a grain of truth in it at all. She had “evidence” (I never knew what, probably a forged letter), and–of course–it destroyed more relationships for many years. For more than two decades, losing not only my sister, but the closeness that had been built between two of my daughters ate me totally alive, but finally, through time and much hurt, I had to “let it go.” I couldn’t fix it, but I had to move on before it killed me.

My story is no different than thousands of others. I have come to learn that the majority of people have something in their past that is like an albatross around their neck. Maybe it was marrying the wrong person while on the re-bound, and never really having a marriage. Maybe it was having a child outside of marriage, and later having to watch a boy/girl friend abuse the child. Maybe an abortion, which continually haunts you. Maybe you gave a child up for adoption. I know what you feel: every child you see may be him/her, right? And it will always be. Somehow you have to come to the point where you “let it go” and trust God’s love for the child to be working out His plan for your child. I have lived long enough now to know most of us have to be tested by fire. Relationships are destroyed, homes are destroyed, and in the end we are tested to see whom we love the most: ourselves or the Lord.

Israel had the same problem. Adopted by God and raised as a cherished child, she became a great nation, only to fall into sin that destroyed the relationship. God had to put her through the fire in order to try to re-establish the relationship, finally sending His only Son to bear not only the sins of Israel, but the sins of those (us) who were grafted in–the Gentiles. Read Deuteronomy, the last several chapters. It sounds like the USA today!

Soon the first of 2015 will be upon us, and thousands will be making a resolution to start a new life with the new year! Putting behind us those things which bring pain, those things which cause us to harbor bitterness (which gives Satan a foothold in our lives), those things which have hurt us so badly but do not hurt the other person–now is the time to “let it go.” We don’t want to spend the rest of our lives with those feelings “frozen” inside of us, like cancers, eating us alive from the inside out! We want to be free to experience the joy God is so willing to give us. We want to exchange the sadness we feel–or have felt for years–for happiness that only comes when our lives match up with the guidelines He has laid for us.

Last night at a basketball game, I was impressed at how close the guys could come with the ball to that line that marked the court. It could bounce within inches, but they deftly caught it and kept within bounds! We need to have such spiritual tenacity that we don’t let the balls we juggle each day fall and bounce away, where we step outside the lines to grab one. That only comes with diligence and practice. Spiritual exercise, the Bible calls it. Do you know how to do it? I haven’t been very good at it either. But I know Jesus promised that if I would ask (in this case, that He help me), I would receive; if I knocked, the door would be opened; if I seek, I will find! (Matthew 7:7). So, how about if we both “ask” for God’s joy to replace the sadness of our past? And while we’re at it, we can seek that joy and find that it is only in Him–He alone is the Way, the Truth, and the Life! Not a popular statement in this day of “tolerance,” but what will you say when you die and find you were wrong?

I can almost hear your thoughts: “but He gave me a rock, when I asked for a piece of bread,” “He took my (mom, dad, whatever),” “He did this, He did that… He is not to be trusted.” And because He didn’t do life the way you wanted it done, you withdrew your trust–you decided to punish Him by withdrawing your love. Just like my sister: you were hurt, so your revenge is to hurt back. Sadly, that’s no solution at all, and the ripple effect goes far and wide. It really is time to “let it go.” Trade in your sadness for obedience and joy before it’s too late.

Holy God, the years have passed in a blur, with no solutions to the problems that have been the result of trying days. But I have enough faith in You to know that Your purpose and plans for me are not to harm me but to give me life. If I could control You, You wouldn’t be God, You would be just like man. Thank you for being the sovereign power of the universe, the great I AM, the Creator, the Sustainer, the Redeemer. I ask for freedom from past choices that I made, past consequences that were from the actions of others, and ask that You be my joy, not another person, not this short life. Help me, Lord, to let it all go, and embrace the freedom that is found in You! Amen

ATTITUDES OF GRATITUDES

gratitudeThe idea came from a magazine article, and seemed so appropriate! The suggestion was made to create a “Thanksgiving Jar,” large enough to hold one year’s worth of hand-written notes. This is good, we thought! As the year went by, any time something happened that was worthy of a grateful attitude, the instructions were to write it down and put it in the jar. The reason was quite obvious since most of us, in our busy lives, remember only the major incidents. We soon forget the hundreds of things that happen, like that car that almost pulled into our lane and ran us off the road, the driver who stopped for a green light and we almost plowed into the back of them, and hundreds of other (non-driving!) happenings.

And so we began the day after Thanksgiving: getting our jar, we put it in a prominent place on the mantle. Soon it began to have notes put inside, and for once good intentions were carried through! The year went by and it wasn’t long (those of you who are over forty will understand, perhaps, better than younger people) before it was Thanksgiving again.

Feasting on turkey with all the trimmings, satiated with the type of meal that required easy-activity while it digested, we brought the jar to the now-clean table. Each of us would take out a note, read it, and if necessary remarks were needed (most of which were, “Oh, my goodness! I had forgotten about that!), it was talked about before being passed on to the next person. It was truly a Thanksgiving to be remembered, and we sat in awe at the situations God had brought us safely through!

Recently my husband and I were discussing our daily Bible reading. I learned many years ago that I need a “goal” to focus on in order to get through some of the more difficult (okay, boring) chapters: for instance, the long instructions for building the temple, the decisions on how to handle those with leprosy, the numbering of the tribes of Israel, and more, which are easy to skip unless you want to apply your mind to learning why God has those in the Bible. I had decided that reading it through for this year would be with the goal to learn why the disciples had asked Jesus to teach them how to pray. That is so strange, to me! Nehemiah prayed, Esther prayed, David, Isaiah–why praying is all through the Old Testament. So why did they ask this particular question?

My husband, though, suggested that it might be worthwhile to take a sticky note, put it at the point where we begin our reading for the day, and see what can be found for which to be “grateful”–or something, as it were, that we can thank God for, as we read. Tough. As you read through much of Moses’ writings, he was instructing the tribes how to give sacrifices (that one is easy–how can we ever say “thank You” enough for the cross, and the once-for-all sacrifice?), the list of do’s and don’t’s for the tribes as they entered Canaan, and hundreds of examples. I’m sure it will get easier as soon as Joshua enters the scene, but it is still causing us to focus on “attitudes of gratitude”  that we tend to overlook as we read! Never do I want my Bible reading to be a check mark on my “to do” list! I want to always remember to tell God “Thank You” whenever He does something small or large, easy or hard. On an aside note, it has never set well with me for a parent to have to remind a child over perhaps five years of age to say “thank you” when someone does something for them! They are given a lollipop, and Mom says, “What do you say???” The child, like a robot, says “Thanks.” The mom is right, it needs to be done, but if you begin it early enough it should be an automatic, true, heart-felt response by four or five. But then, how about us? By forty, fifty, or more, do we remember to say “Thank You!” to God for what He does for us? Waking this morning? The air we are breathing? The sight to read? Have you recognized His authority in your life, and realize that “every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of Lights, with Whom there is no variation or shadow of turning?” (James 1:17 )? We should have it down long before we reach middle age!

This year why not start your own Thanksgiving Jar? Then, next Thanksgiving, take time as a family to read each note, and prepare to sit back and be amazed at the faithfulness of God through the year! Sure, it may be a tough year. But one thing is a promise if you are truly one of His own: He will never, not for one second, leave you or forsake you. What a promise to start your jar with! How much better can thanks get than that?

By the way, I chose the picture because these two sweeties–eight weeks apart–were so grateful to be cousins. It is good to see the pure love two young ones can have in their innocence!

Thank You, God, for waking me this morning; for the wonder of technology that I can write about Your eternal mercy and grace toward us, Your children, to any person who reads this; thank You for the cross, Lord, for exchanging Your glory in heaven to live on this earth, be crucified, but raised again by Your own power, to triumph over death! Thank You for the promise that You will come back for us, and so we will ever be with You. It will take all of eternity to thank You for everything. Amen, and amen!

DOES GOD STILL SPEAK?

DOESGODSTILLSPEAK

Her Christmas sweater was finished: a beautiful pink, with inlaid floral print. Rounding up my sewing items, I missed my needle. I looked everywhere, checked the sweater, checked the floor–and finally gave up. I was so happy with what I had made, and could hardly wait for her to open it, even though I wouldn’t be there. You see, she was so upset with me, not on her own account, but taking up the offense of someone else. I did everything I could to be sure I was kind, but she was so angry. This gift was my way of telling her I still loved her. As I lay down to sleep, I knew my mom and dad would be taking the gift home the next day; it was packed in the car, and waiting. As I slept, I dreamed of the sweater: I saw the sleeve, with the needle stuck in it. When I woke, I thought about the dream. I knew that if that had really happened, she would never believe that I had not left it there on purpose, in order to hurt her for being angry. All morning I thought of it. Finally, minutes before my folks left, I told my mom. We went out to the car, and I felt so stupid! I got the package out, unwrapped it, and carefully checked the sleeve. There, right as in my dream, the needle was stuck. I never doubted the Lord was keeping me from a worse relationship with my beautiful niece.

You’d have to know me, you see. I can be obsessively, compulsively, disordered! If I cross stitch, it is not enough to have the thread colors I need: I get them all–someday I might need them. I sell on eBay, big time. Seven a.m. comes, and I boot up the computer, and by 8 a.m. begin work. I shut it down at 8 p.m., and so it goes, 6 days a week. Sunday mornings before church I answer questions, and after lunch, begin work. OCD. ADHD. If I have to list twenty, I list fifty. OCD. I never meet my goals, all self-inflicted.

This year, as a study focus as I read my Bible, I began early looking for the answer to one question: WHY did the apostles ask Jesus to teach them to pray? Nehemiah prayed “HELP,” so why did the apostles feel insecure?

Genesis began my conflict, but not with prayer: as the Creation took place, God rested. It was before the fall, before anything bad had entered the garden, and He rested. I struggled with the why. He seemed to be saying, “Sandy, when do you rest?” At night, Lord. Not good enough. He rested at night as well. I tossed and turned, metaphorically speaking. Uncomfortable with the computer on Sunday. Not because of the computer, but because I knew I was addicted to working. Workaholic. So I asked my honest husband. “Are you concerned about the work you do on Sunday?” His answer shook me, for we had not discussed this. “Yes. The past two or three weeks, I’ve been trying to cut out my work and rest.” Ugh. Now I was really uncomfortable. I turned the radio on a couple of days later. Sure, the preacher I “happened” to turn to was preaching on resting one day a week. I called a minister’s wife, an older-than-I-am woman whom I know to be godly, and put it to her. Yes! She and her preacher husband take a day a week to rest–if they can’t get a whole day in, they take two half-days. My discomfort turned to churning. I was recognizing that God was choosing my path. The Bible Study began in September. Hebrews! Great, I love that book! Lesson 2: resting one day a week as God did. Are you seeing a pattern? Everywhere I turned, I was facing giving one day to God. Talk about sacrifice! For me, to not work, to not be productive, is a sacrifice! But I was hearing, and I was listening. Struggling big time, but knowing I was going to have to be obedient. My main concern? What am I going to do? How can I fill hours doing nothing? Daunting. To a couch potato it probably sounds like heaven, but to me it sounded terrifying.

A month ago, the call came. Would I take on a project for church, listening to the sermon, and then writing a discussion for people who want to use the sermon as a topic to teach their children, to discuss and grow as a family, or to have a group meet in their home. I can’t begin to say how honored I felt. How amazed I was. And how I saw that God had been preparing my heart to leave eBay alone on Sundays, and do this for His glory.

The first and second Sundays took all afternoon, until evening. Today was not quite as long, but the joy in knowing that He loves me so much that He “spoke” to my heart about the lack of resting from my work, and then filling the gap with His work was so awesome I was speechless as I ever get.

So for me, and for many others, yes! He does speak, He does love, and He is active in our lives, in our dreams (yes, there will be those who doubt that, but not me!), and He gets all the glory! His grace, as always, still amazes me.

 Holy Father, that You can take someone who is so taken up with meaningless things, and use us, is totally beyond our comprehension! Thank You for Your love, Lord. Thank You for using vessels of clay to hold Your marvelous works. Amen

picture compliments of © Dennis Sherman | Dreamstime Stock Photos

THE BLAME GAME!

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“I didn’t do it!” my child exclaimed when I called his name! Good grief, all I did was ‘holler’ for him! Parental thought: he has a guilty conscience… so I call again (against all rules of good parenting), “Come here!” I needed to source the reason for the comment. He stood in front of me, obviously wishing for a hole to open up. “What did you do?” “Nothing. Rachel did it.”  Hmmm, interesting. A counselor could make the most of this situation, but contrary to a child’s opinion, mommy’s do not come with eyes in the back of their heads, nor the wisdom of Solomon. Ten minutes later I had my answer: he had broken a piece of Depression Glass, hidden it in a drawer, and added lying to the mix.

Having just kept a young, 7 year old grandson, there was no one for him to blame when things went off course. In fact, when I picked him up from school the first day of my testing period (I would have him the whole week… only grandmas can relate here), he hugged me, got in the car, and someone flipped the switch to “on.” I couldn’t find the “off” button the rest of the week. Women obviously are not the only ones who need to get 35,000 words spoken in one day: he managed in the first evening. I figured it was a result of being the next to youngest in a family of five children, and he was suffering from “undelivered speech.”  As I was saying, he began our interaction with, “Grammy, I accidentally made Yellow today.” (Purple is best, then Green, Yellow needs work, Orange is bordering on a big problem, and Red is “call parents.”). How do you accidentally make Yellow? By the fault being someone else’s, of course. (By the way, between sermons, illustrations and reinforcing good behavior, he made green the second day and purple the next. WooHoo! Grandma’s have become wiser with age.) When he spoke, my mind went back to the forty billion times I had heard, “It’s her (his) fault” from his mom and his uncle–his mom’s brother, the breaker of the Depression Glass. The Blame Game. The truth is, the fruit falls pretty much straight down to the bottom of the tree, doesn’t it? I seem to remember saying “I didn’t do it” to my mom, and I had no one else to blame.

Lying about our guilt is pretty easy, isn’t it? I would love to see in your mind the thought that went circling through as to what you last did that you had to make an excuse for? (“I would have fixed the sink, but you wanted me to mow the yard..,” “I would have mowed the yard, but you wanted me to run to WalMart.” Our ways are a lot more subtle than saying “If you hadn’t told me you wanted me to go to WalMart, I would have had time to mow,” knowing that will 1) push a button, 2) start a “discussion” we don’t want, or…3-10,000) other reasons.

It’s easy to see why: we don’t want to accept responsibility for our actions. What is sickening is that we play the same game with our Heavenly Father! (“I would have gone to church this morning, but God, You know I had to work late, and I was so exhausted I just couldn’t get out of bed in time.”) One of my sons works graveyard, comes home on Sunday morning at 7, and by 8:15 is ready to leave for the early service. I’m so thankful he doesn’t say, “I’ve just gotten off work, Lord–You wouldn’t expect me to go to church, would You?”

If it makes you feel better–which it shouldn’t–Adam was the first to play this game, and he had the impertinence to say it right to the face of the Lord God! Genesis 3 relates the story of Adam as God calls him after he had eaten of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, then asks Adam if he ate of it. “The woman You gave me persuaded me to eat of it!” he excused himself. When Eve was asked, she answered, “The serpent deceived me, so I ate of it!” And so it started… The Blame Game.

When will we grow up enough to learn to admit our failures? Failure is going to happen–but admitting it to God and moving on is growth. Being upfront about our responsibility enables us to accept that we’re not perfect, we have times when we don’t do what we should, and we should not hesitate to admit it. (“Honey, I didn’t mow the yard because I took too long washing my car. I’m sorry. Will you forgive me?”) Life isn’t perfect, and we aren’t either! I love the verse that tells us that “God remembers our frame, that we are but dust!” I think there’s a whole person in my house if I could just get him/her all together…

Look for ways today that give you the opportunity to blame someone else and then see if you’re big enough to take responsibility! Adults have the Blame Game perfected–we’ve had time to practice since we were kids!

Father, please help us, even in our more mature years, to learn to take the responsibility we should when we have not acted in a responsible manner. Help us to acknowledge our guilt, and then put things behind us. Most of all, help us to love the one who has blamed us for having lost out on something in life they feel they deserved; and if we know someone has something against us, give us the courage to go to them and make it right. Amen

 

DROUGHT… A BIG DEAL!

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When is the last time you took a drive through some of the states, and began to notice how many areas have succumbed to the lack of rain? In Florida, it was not unusual to see docks standing at the back of someone’s yard, with the canal or lake many feet away from the bottoms of the pilings, no longer able to be used by their owners. The water used to be almost to the top of the dock. This isn’t a recent occurrence, but has been gradually happening over a period of many years.

When is the last time you had a drought in your life? A time when you didn’t feel as though you were connecting with God, and no matter what you did, you couldn’t feel His presence? Feeling as though your “prayers hit the ceiling”?

Have you taken time to really let His word wash over you, and made the choice to stand on His promises? He tells you that He will never forsake you, nor leave you! So–if you feel like He has, which one of you is wrong? The bottom line becomes, can you believe Him or not? If you can’t, you probably need some serious time of reflection, of self-examination, to see what is wrong. The Bible says that your iniquity can separate you from God–not that He withdraws from you, but you have erected a barrier between you and Him, a barrier of sin, and its consequences are that you will no longer “feel” Him there.

If you can believe Him, then make that choice to do so. It’s been an arid week for me–you can always tell, because there may be days when I will write even twice–and then a gap comes! Is it a drought of God’s work in my life? Not usually, but sometimes the busy-ness of daily activities leaves one’s mind so wrapped up in mundane priorities that the day can go by and nothing has been done for His kingdom. Time to shift priorities, wouldn’t you say? Isaiah 58:11 tells us “The Lord will guide you continually, And satisfy your soul in drought, And strengthen your bones; You shall be like a watered garden, And like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.” That’s a promise!

Are you aware that the Bible tells us that in the last days–and by the way, the last days of America can be very different from the last days when Christ returns!–there will be a drought of the Word of God? Amos 8:11 says, ““Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord God, “That I will send a famine on the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord.” That drought will be so severe that God’s word will be hard to find. It better be in our memories now!

That is the other drought we can see as we go across America. A drought of moral values (have you see the television shows that have come out? God forbid that Christians should watch tv porn), of filled churches, or caring Christians–but everywhere a lack of standing up for what is right. We are losing our country due to a drought of holy living.

Like the movie “Courageous,” let us stand up and be counted, not fearing to be different from the world, not fearing rejection, not ashamed of God, but putting ourselves on the front line–standing in the gap for the souls of those going to hell because no one asked God to save them. And while we’re praying, let’s ask God for blessings to rain down, and relieve the drought in our lives!

Father, we can see drought even as we watch the faces of those who are entering the church doors on Sunday: their faces do not reflect peace, but inner struggles, and their lives are full of conflict. Please let us feel Your comfort as we draw near to You by choice! Amen

FEAR NOT!

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Smoke billowed out around the edges of the bedroom door as we looked down the hallway, frantic! About the same time we realized the second bedroom had smoke coming out as well. My husband was yelling, “Dial 911!!” I looked at the brand new phone in my hand and the black screen facing me. Had it been my old phone, there would have been no problem, but the shock of knowing our house was on fire was short-circuiting my brain, and I could not remember how to get it off screen saver. Between the smoke, the fire, my husband yelling, and the new phone, I was rendered incapable of doing what should have been easy! And because my hair is strawberry blonde, it became a joke in our family over the past two years that “Mom’s so blonde she couldn’t dial 911!” All the peripherals were not mentioned!

Paralyzing fear in a situation can cause even a very cool-headed person to shut down on normal reactions! Fear or its climax can render anyone unable to react, and often does.

Have you ever considered the number of people in the Bible who were told not to fear? Joshua had to be told over and over in the first chapter–four times he was told not to be discouraged, that the Lord would be with him; Mary, when met by Gabriel as he foretold her coming pregnancy, told her to not be afraid as he came to her. Abraham, Hagar, Gideon, Elijah–and so many more, our “cloud of witnesses,” all were told in various ways not to fear. Why? Because fear renders one incapable of doing what should be easy! God’s will is thwarted and Satan wins.

How so? Well, why have you not told someone in the family that they are on the road to hell? Because you fear a severance in the relationship! The same could be said of your co-workers, your neighbors, or someone close to you in relationship. What is always the response? “Well, only God knows their heart, and we are not to judge.” Well, half-right  is better than all wrong, I guess, and the truth is, we can’t judge their heart, but we are to be “fruit inspectors.” “Every tree is known by its own fruit” Matthew writes the words of Jesus. A saved person may be in sin for a season, but if so, he will be miserable, enduring discipline from the Lord, and eventually back on the right path.

Does fear cripple you when you think of telling someone about the wondrous things God has done for you? It should have no power over you. Discipling someone, counseling someone, praying with someone, do those possibilities make you tremble? God is with you, my friend! Or how about an example closer to home: do you hold your tongue because you are in an abusive relationship and don’t want to set someone off? That person then has complete control over you. Get help. You can’t? Why? Oh, you’re afraid you will lose the kids, lose….. Are you a parent who sees your spouse belittling one of the children, but you don’t interfere? You will let someone destroy a child, why?

For just one day, write down the times you hold your tongue because you fear the consequence. It may surprise you that victory is so close and yet so far. Memorize the verse “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of a sound mind,” and then–as fear comes into a moment–start praising God for His goodness at all times.

Father, please help us remember that You have not sent a spirit of fear into our lives, even today with all of the atrocities going on around the world. We know that You are still on the throne, guiding all the nations as we watch and marvel of Bible prophecies being fulfilled. Help us to not fear to tell those in our family who are facing hell, that You alone are truth! Amen