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Because It’s the Right Thing To Do, That’s Why!

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What a long day! It seemed as though it had lasted for a week, and it felt so good to sit down, take off my shoes, wiggle my toes, and be at home. Some days–whether you want to live like that or not–are just totally out of control from the moment your feet hit the floor. Don’t be smug: if you haven’t gotten there yet, say a quick prayer of thanks, for your day will come. We all have to have days when we give and give and give.

Morning had started with a sick grandchild needing to be picked up at school and taken to the doctor. Glad for my elderberry syrup, which I swear by, I hoped I had built up an immunity to whatever might be stirring in the young one’s body. Later, sitting in the pediatrician’s office was a grandma’s nightmare. At least the room was divided by a “half wall” where well children were kept on one side and those with fevers, viruses, and all sorts of rampant germs who were just waiting for another host were on the other! That was the side we were on. The runny noses, the coughs, the red cheeks… sigh. It wasn’t long before we were taken back, the dreaded swab done, temperature taken, etc. There was no strep (they said. Turned out they were wrong). Back to the little one’s house for bed.

Leaving there, the phone rang again. Could I stop by and pick up the gifts for a friend’s Angel Tree child? Sure, no problem. I would deliver them to the church. And while I was heading in that direction, I needed to stop by a building at the University and drop off some paperwork. Actually, it was a week overdue. Oh well. Better late than never. Better to ask forgiveness, right?

That done, my husband called: could I pick him up at the shop where the work on our cars is always done, so they could keep it overnight? Sure. I’m in town. No problem. Do I want to eat out? No. He eats out three times a day, just to make up for all those years of working, I think.

The phone rings again; my daughter is in town (versus a few miles out), and wondered if we’d like to meet at the pizza restaurant with the grandkids. So much for not eating out. By then it was almost supper anyway, so we ate. It wouldn’t have mattered if I had just eaten anyway, mention pizza and my appetite goes into overdrive.

Afterwards I did the last few errands, and as I got back in the car, a friend texted. Her dad had been taken to the ER. He had ripped out a newly inserted port, not understanding why it had to be there. She could not get it through his mind that it was going to keep him alive. They were on the way to the small ER in her town. Over the next hour we texted back and forth as the ER was unable to re-insert the port, and he would have to be transported by ambulance to the bigger hospital in our town. The day was now late. She was tired, and the last thing she felt like doing was accompanying the ambulance an hour to the larger ER. But–it is what it is. You do what you have to do.

We continued to text, and it was going to be a long night. The ER was so packed that beds were lining the hall, theirs included. On one side a woman was throwing up every few minutes; on the other was a suicidal man who did not want to be there. Not a place you would be want to be, and the evening had just started. People who work ERs should have extra angel wings.

My mind started bugging me. By now I was home, settling in for the evening, praying for my friend, her father, the wait–and all the time my mind was asking questions of itself: wonder if she had supper? I bet she didn’t think to bring a book, a tablet, something to do while she waited. Our ER is notorious for eight to ten hour waits. Seriously. Did she have anything to do? Was she feeling like she had to stay right by her dad, even in dementia? Yes, I was sure she would. Was her husband there yet? No, he wouldn’t be leaving work until late. She was as tired as I was. I was home. She wasn’t. I was sitting in my chair. She was sitting in the hall at the ER.

Recently our pastor preached about a faith that is active; one that acts when it wants to be passive. I knew what I had to do. Was I going to get up and do it? I had to. Not because of guilt, of trying to earn points with God, but because I had a sister in Christ who needed to know someone loves her. I packed some food, got some books, and took out, texting as I drove (at red lights) so that she would not think I was doing anything except resting, since she would feel she had to talk me out of it.

She figured it would be two hours more than it had already been, and best case scenario, they would let her drive him back to the facility where he “lives.” Worst case scenario, they would wait for the ambulance transport, probably most of the night. Miracle of miracles, about the time I was half way there (it is a thirty minute drive for me), she texted and said they were letting her take him back to her town–and soon! I looked at the food, thought about the time, wondered if I should have tried to have gone, but I knew my answer: yes. This was my friend. She needed encouragement. She needed reinforcement that she wasn’t alone. That someone else who had been there with a dementia parent was on the way. It wasn’t the gift, it was the thought. I was glad I had made half the journey. I told her I had been halfway there, but would head back home. She knew she was loved.

Home again, it felt so sweet. Sweet to know I did what I felt I had to do. Not because of a sense of anything except the desire to say yes to the Lord to feed one of His sheep, to love my “neighbor” and to show her that her value was placed above my own.

In other words, I did it because I wanted to serve, to put my faith in action, and to know it’s what God wanted me to do. How much better does our Christianity get than that?

FALLING, RISING, AND PRESSING ON!

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The school bell rang, hardly coming to a silent hum before the school exploded with children from every door. Lunch time! Some would be staying inside to eat in the cafeteria, some had brought their lunch and were allowed to eat outside, while the ones who lived near the school were allowed to walk home. The bright, warm sunshine just invited one to hurry home and see mom for a few moments.

We lived about a mile away, but I could still half-run, half-walk, long enough to make the trip quickly. Mother would have my sandwich ready, and I could enjoy a slower pace going back. The exercise felt good after sitting most of the morning.

It went just as I had envisioned: reaching home, my sandwich was ready, with milk and a cookie on the side. After a quiet time with Mother, I began the walk back to school. The first part of our “dirt” road after leaving my house was the beginning of an upward hill, then the ground became fairly level with only slight fluctuations until just before the school, where there was another slightly smaller hill. I had to do something to break the monotony, so I decided to walk the center of the road with my eyes shut. Cars came down the country road very seldom, so there were no safety issues, and this was “in the old days,” in any case!

Eyes clinched shut, I hummed a tune as I walked. Each step was sure. It never occurred to me that my “straight line” might not be so straight. Neither did it occur to me to check my path–it felt like it would be cheating if I so much as squinted. Half-way to the top of the hill, my right footstep hit air! The step was followed by my body also hitting air before landing with a thud in wet mud. I had stepped completely off the road and fallen into the fairly large ditch running along the right-hand side of the road. Unaware that I wasn’t staying in a straight line, I had been going at a diagonal as I walked; I had been sure that my steps were staying right on target along the center! The unfortunate thing was the rain we had had the night before: the ditch was not yet dried, and the mud coated my dress, shoes, and socks.

As badly as I hated to go back and face my mother, what choice did I have? Wow, I was really going to have to hurry now! Back at home, I did my best to make my blunder not seem quite so stupid; looking back, I can imagine that Mother spent quite a while that afternoon trying to get the West Virginia red clay out of my clothes. I didn’t get into (too much) trouble, but probably only because Mother knew I had to get back to school as quickly as possible.

How like modern day life that experience seems now! Even though I’ve tried to walk the Christian walk for so many years, yet I still find myself closing my eyes to God’s design, and straying off the path. In the real world, it doesn’t take much to get us off the straight and narrow, and we end up falling into a ditch. Because we cannot see Satan, we assume he isn’t bothering us, when, in fact, one or more of his demons are following us most of the time, waiting to tempt us with the best bait he can use–the one he knows we’ll respond to. What’s your weakness? Someone being nice, when you’ve had a fight at home? Someone buying the ____ (fill in the blank) that you’ve been wanting? Someone who seems to have no problems in their life, and they treat you with condescension? Whatever your button is, he knows, and will push it to get you off the straight path. And it is so very, very easy to get your halo out of the glove compartment in the car on Sunday or Wednesday, and put it on before entering church, while leaving your dirty laundry at home.

When is the last time (especially if you’re a mother or wife) you went to another room for an item, saw the washer in the side room, remembered there was a load of clothes that needed to be thrown into the dryer, then recalled the dryer had a load that needed to be taken out and folded? As you turned around with a load of folded clothes in your arms, there wasn’t much to do with them except take them to the rooms to which they should go. Entering the last room, the vacuum cleaner was sitting in the corner since you had intended to vacuum that rug; stopping to do that, and finishing, you return the machine to the linen closet, only to remember that you had started for something twenty or thirty minutes before; what was it? Now you have to retrace your steps, trying to recall what you had needed. Not that you’re off the path, but just the constant mind game of how hard it is to keep your focus on your original goal!

That’s what the Christian life is all about: keeping our eyes, as Paul says, “pressing on toward the goal, to win the prize for which God has called (us) heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14 NIV). We get sidetracked so easily even when we’re committed to doing the best for Christ that we can. It may be something so innocent as a busy schedule that leaves no time for devotions, or a bad driver who cuts us off in traffic; someone who criticizes our work ethic when we’re doing our best–so many things can push that button. But we need to remember that it’s very possible we are the only Bible someone else may be reading, so we need to keep our testimony as pleasing to God as possible. Proverbs 14:16 tells us that the righteous man may fall seven times, but he gets up again.

We have His promise that if we confess our sin, He is faithful and just to forgive us the sin, and the cleanse us from all unrighteousness (I John 1:9). We tend to carry the sin on our back for awhile, (or a long while), yet God sees the white robe of Jesus Christ laid across our shoulders when He looks at us. We don’t have to let Satan use it against us, for if God is for us, who can be against us? (Rom. 8:31).

Don’t let getting off the path, falling into a ditch, letting the stains of the world, or sin, cause you to quit. Get up, confess it, and God will cleanse you of it and make your relationship beautiful once again.

 

 

 

God STILL sends Love Notes!

Sillhouette of a couple

The perfect wedding. They were so in love, and it was evident each time they looked into the face of the other. They had taken time to get to know each other, become fast friends, enjoy the same simple pleasures. Life was good. Both were concerned that their marriage be built on the foundation of faith in God, and that He be, not just a figuredhead, but the true Head of their union.

Over the next couple of years they added the traditional pets: two dogs, two cats. No babies yet! Gradually work seemed to be taking more and more of his time, and the paychecks began to be larger–although they really didn’t need the extra money. She, too, worked outside the home, and evenings became their only bonding time. By then she was tired. And he was getting ready to pull an all-night shift.

He was so engrossed in doing a great job at work that he didn’t notice the time passing, and the distance between them becoming wider. Their love was still deep, but her loneliness was growing. I’ve been there myself: you know your spouse is providing for you, but they just don’t “get it” that a relationship has to be continually having investments, in order to grow. Actually, it is the very same way a savings account gets larger, in order to be ready if a tough time comes! If you don’t add to the balance, soon it becomes stagnant, and then, when there’s no activity, fees set in and the balance begins to erode, slowly, month by month. You ask over and over, “can we do something together?” and then the asking slows down… and becomes quiet, rather than cause contention.

And so it has become. This beautiful couple had a love account that was starting to get depleted–not on his side, for he was working almost double normal hours each week in order that she could have everything she wanted. But what she wanted was his presence. He didn’t get that. Eventually, on an innocent shopping trip, an old friend happened to cross her path. They talked over coffee to catch up on “old times.” He showed an interest in her life, in her loneliness, and was compassionate. (Hint: don’t ever discuss your marriage with a former flame. Never. He–being a guy–wanted to “fix it.” It’s a guy thing. It’s what they do.) He, because he wasn’t solid in a relationship with Christ, did not care she was married, just that she was lonely. She, on her side, was so isolated from friends and fun, that she was vulnerable to someone seeming to care. One thing led to another, and another.

After a few short months, it became obvious that her affections were being turned from her husband toward someone else. He, on his part, was clueless. Life had become a routine of work, sleep, a couple of hours with his wife, and work, sleep. The one day he took off had become a day to fight over his schedule, so he avoided that by sleeping extra.

It came as a huge shock when she let him know she was involved with someone else. It was, perhaps not a wake-up moment, but at least the alarm was going off. Could they seek counseling? She agreed. After all, she thought she still loved him, but she wanted her husband back, and was willing to see if they could change. It didn’t work out well. Counseling brought out feelings and resentments that put him on the defensive. What was he doing wrong? Working so she could have so much!! Where was the fault in that? He didn’t consider that women are extremely different from men. For women, it’s usually about the relationship: the harmony, the listening with true attention, the conversations below the surface, the quality time (and watching a movie together is NOT quality time–either can do that alone!), the affirmation that she is attractive and smart. She gets her strokes, usually, from him. For men, it’s about providing. And sex. Not necessarily in that order. Theirs is a life revolving around their profession first, and family second. Or further down (that’s a generalization, not always true, I understand that, so don’t email me.) He generally gets plenty of recognition from the boss, co-workers and clients.

He was torn totally out of his world, which was her! Depression, rejection, his love, his “investment” into a profession to give her everything, all of it was now like a boulder on his shoulders. They tried to work together but the fight was becoming too much. Finally, in desperation, after a few months he decided if she wanted a divorce, he would give it to her. At the next counseling session, he would tell her. He would let the other guy have what he himself prized most in life.

They met in the counselor’s office, and sat down. He had brought a list of what he was going to say, so that he didn’t forget anything important. He was ready.

The strange thing was, the night before, while he was tossing and turning, he felt God saying to his heart, “I DARE you to love her! I DARE you to love her!!” He had no idea what it meant. It did not make any sense.

Me: At the same time, I went to bed, hundreds of miles away. Usually a very-early-to-bed person, this particular night I stayed up hours beyond normal. I was agitated, and this couple was heavy on my mind. When I finally went to bed, I felt God saying “Court her! Court her!” It rang a bell, but at midnight my brain is on flat-line. I just knew the couple was heavy on my heart. I figured perhaps God was telling me to tell him that he should try to woo her the way he had done when they first met, and fell in love. Okay, I could do that. Still, something “niggled” at the back of my mind. I didn’t have many hours before I had to get up. Finally I fell asleep. My first thought on waking was “OH! That was from FIREPROOF, the movie!” Okay, I could tell him that, as well.

During church that Sunday morning I was having a tough “pity party.” I felt as though I was doing nothing for God; yes, I write, and yes, sometimes get “likes,” but was I reaching anyone to tell them God loves them? Would anyone be in heaven because I have lived? Worse, would anyone be in hell because I have lived? I could think of a couple, and prayed God would save them, but the depression had me down. I felt so useless!

The afternoon came, and I remembered the message I needed to give him. Searching for a name on Facebook, I found it, and sent a private IM. All I could do was tell what had happened the night before, add where I remembered hearing it, and beg forgiveness for interfering. I pressed enter, and it was gone. Then I noticed there had been no activity on the account for ages, and figured, “Oh, no! He won’t see this perhaps until it’s too late!” I figured perhaps there was someone I could call to get his cell number, and then I could send a text to say, Look at your FB message.

The Husband: I had my cell in my pocket when it made a funny, several note, beeping. I had never heard that before! What on earth was happening to my phone? I hit the screen light up, and saw there was a message from Facebook! Wow! I had NEVER had that happen before! The whole message that had been sent to my Facebook account–which I hadn’t been on in weeks–appeared, and I read it, astounded!

Me: Before I could even think of who to call for a phone number, probably within 15 seconds, a message popped up on Facebook: CALL ME! and the number. I did.

The Husband: As I read the message and called, I had the incredible bathing of the Holy Spirit washing over me, literally, as Romans says, “being poured out within my heart,” as I realized anew how much God loved me! Here was the confirmation of what HE wanted me to do, and here is what had taken place the week I had just lived through:

The morning of the counseling session, I had gotten to the counselor’s office, ready to offer my wife her divorce. Upon being seated, we began. When a question was asked me, I tried to answer, but my tongue seemed like concrete, and I could not think clearly. It got so bad that, at one point, both the counselor and my wife asked, “Are you okay?” I was worse than a mute–I literally could do hardly anything except grunt and LISTEN. During that session God really opened my ears, AND my understanding, and I learned more about my wife’s feelings for the previous months than I had had any clue about. I saw things from her perspective, not mine. Toward the end, when I should have said what I had come to say, I still couldn’t. And then the counselor ended the session: “I do not want either of you to TALK to each other for the next 30 days!” My wife hesitated, then said, “I don’t think that’s long enough; could we make it 40?” Yes, it was changed to 40 days!

What was I going to do for forty days?? How was I going to make it? I decided to go to a Christian bookstore and look for a devotional to get me through the weeks. As I looked at the shelves, my eyes went to the top row. There, staring back at me, was a book “THE LOVE DARE!” Remember, this was the next day after I had felt God tell me, “I DARE you to love her!” I picked the book off the shelf and thumbed through it. Only if you’ve been there can you imagine the astonishment I felt when I saw this was a workbook for a FORTY DAY assignment on loving your wife and winning her back! God was DARING me to love her! He was providing a book to work through for the 40 DAYS we were not to communicate! I walked out after buying the book, and started reading as soon as I got home.

As soon as I began, I saw the book was based on a movie I had never heard of: Fireproof! I had no idea what it was about, who made it, or what the theme was–I just knew I had to get it! I went out and rented the movie, and sat down and watched it. And wept, and wept. God’s love for me washed over me, and I could feel a tiny twinge of hope begin being fanned into life deep in my spirit. And so I began my forty day journey.

Day seven was finished, and I was working on day 8 when the message came through my phone. As I read it, I could now connect all the dots! Was I losing my mind, or had God really spoken to someone else, saying “Court her,” mentioning Fireproof, and confirming that what I was doing was His perfect will for me? The joy, the peace that passes all understanding, the incredible feeling–no, KNOWING–that God loves me personally was so overwhelming that the subsequent telephone call was a time of worship, praise and rejoicing that somehow, in His time, God would heal my heart, and hopefully heal my marriage.

(Me, now:) No, I haven’t heard yet what the outcome is, and am still praying that God does a miracle with this beautiful couple–as well as the others who are going through similar troubles. But don’t ever think that you are too insignificant that your Heavenly Father has no time to think of you. He is on your side, and if you are committing your life to Him, He will fight your battles. He is working to restore, to give you more than you could ask or think. And in doing so, He may even use someone else who is sinking in their own mud puddle, thinking they are useless to Him! His love notes to us, His messages of life and hope are never ending. Seek for Him, and you will find Him! Knock at the door, and He will open it, and come in! Don’t ever give up on God because someone has hurt you, or life hasn’t gone your way. Perhaps the consequences can’t be fixed, but the peace that will come in the new relationship with Him will last forever. If you’ve made choices that are not able to be fixed, let Him meet you right where you are. You say you have NOTHING to offer Him?

Remember, He made the world out of NOTHING.

An additional post script: I held back on publishing this, hoping to hear that things were turning around. A visit recently coincided with a Sunday, and this faithful husband came to the church. As I listened, across the room, I had chills as, over and over, the pastor exhorted those who were locked in a battle to not give up! It was the theme of the message, and another confirmation that God was still fighting for the marriage. The strength, the pastor said, was not going to be from the husband, but from God. The victory would be from God, and all would know that it was He who had brought it about. I pray He does.

Father, the battle is still raging for this precious couple, as well as thousands of couples within the reach of this blog. Please restore to them the joy of their marriage, the joy of their salvation, and find, in You, fullness of joy. In the priceless, matchless Name of Jesus Christ, the redeemer and kinsman of our souls, Amen!

 

© Ice | Dreamstime Stock Photos

POURED OUT AND OVERFLOWING–The Aftermath!

The pick-up truck pulled in beside the bins, just another vehicle in a long line. An elderly gentleman and his wife got out of the truck, walked to the back and started taking boxes out. There were sheets, dinnerware, comforter sets, crib sets, canned goods and health products. They filled one of the bins completely full, got back into the truck and pulled off. They had smiled and nodded at the workers, but made no show of their generosity.

The large group of college students jumped out of the bus, tools in hand or tool kit, gloves and boots on, ready to work in one of the more damaged areas. They started cleaning, hammering, fixing–anything that needed to be done. At lunch they stopped for a short break, ate their packed lunches, and went back to work. Some of the students circulated among the householders, trying to find out if there were immediate needs that required priority. They weren’t pushy, obnoxious or arrogant; they were just a large group of students helping out in a neighborhood full of needs, to the best of their ability.

A group of teenage girls came from a local youth group, cases of crayons, books, puzzles and more, ready to entertain children, calming them while their parents needed to get their lives re-arranged after a tornado. The girls were sweet, caring, and helpful with the children. They had come to do a job in loving their neighbors, and were doing it the best way they knew how.

This community is like thousands of others around the nation. People who have had their lives completely blindsided, being helped by other people whose only motive is to make things easier for those suffering during a time of disaster.

The humanitarian organization was there, handing out water, blankets, food, and other essentials. They, too, were serving. They, too, were motivated by concern and love.

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You look around at the lives interacting, and see the services offered in love, see those who need love at the moment, need comfort, encouragement and physical needs met, and you have to ask–where did these people come from, the ones who are helping? They’re not military, nor paid workers–just ordinary folks like you and me, alert to a time of tragedy and how they can help. It’s love in action.

At a time in America when Christians are taking the flack for everything from reading their Bible in public to having their social media censored, these people aren’t letting it bother them. One looks at them, not trained, but helping without being asked. You look beyond where the vehicles are parked and see van after van, a bus here or there, all with church logos on them. All putting their faith into action.

Did they stop and ask those who need help if they are worthy? Certainly not! Did they bring up anyone’s lifestyle, their hobbies, their language, their race, their looks? Certainly not. These people did nothing to deserve the help, material items or love brought to them: they received it because they are made in God’s image, and the church is to love them. To show love such as Jesus would show. To perhaps cause one of them to question, “I thought Christians were hypocrites, were judgmental, and arrogant because they say their sins are forgiven! But you aren’t acting like that. Can you tell me why?”

If they, as ordinary human beings, can serve and love their fellow neighbors like that, without asking “are you worthy for us to help you,” how much more does the God in heaven love them. He doesn’t judge them by their past or their present, either. If they decide they want to believe that He is the Son of God, turn from their sins, and follow Him, every sin they have ever committed is instantly forgiven! A debtor whose debts are paid, and a bill marked “Paid In Full” hand-delivered by Christ to them.

For those of us who have loved Him for years, we have found Him faithful. He has never left us, never moved away–through the hurts from the world, through the evils that have occurred because the world truly is full of evil, through the bad times and good. He has carried us, held our hands, snuggled us closely while we wept, and carried our burdens. Is life always easy? Absolutely not. But the advantages of being a follower of Jesus Christ–and having a relationship with Him–is so overwhelmingly in our favor that it’s hard to understand someone rejecting Him. He is good, He is faithful, even when we are not. How much more can you ask?

Don’t get your eyes on people who fail you, for there will always be those, both inside and outside of a church building. Get your eyes on Jesus, knowing He will love you through it all. But He’s not a Genie to be used only when you need a favor–He’s the holy creator of the universe, the One Who spoke the world into existence. He has plans and a purpose for you, if you’ll trust Him enough to take His hand. Just do it.

 

© Angela Farley | 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

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

 

FACADE…… OR FAITH?

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The smell of brewing coffee seemed to seep under the door to the hotel bedroom, enveloping the room in the ambiance of a European coffee shop, and even though I had had very little sleep, the odors pulled me from the warm covers toward the kitchenette. I didn’t even take time to get my glasses, without which nothing is clear.

The coffee pot was full, sitting on the counter next to the stove. But there–on the back burner–sat a full cup, and even though my husband had gone, his thoughtfulness in making me a cup of coffee, ready to drink, was just too sweet! I hoped it was still piping hot, and, picking it up, took a nice big “swig.” If you’re familiar with Jesus’ return, you’ll know the meaning of a “twinkling of an eye.” It took less than that to realize I had taken a nice gulp of grease (I won’t think about the “juice”) from the cooking hamburger the night before, when they had all had spaghetti & meatballs for supper–before I arrived. The turn from the stove to the sink about four feet behind me took even less time as I gagged, all my reflux actions in perfect working order. It wasn’t pretty.

Adding insult to injury, the grease, besides making me sick as a dog who eats grass, left a taste that HAD to come out of my mouth! So I grabbed a clean cup, looked quickly in the frig for a creamer, poured a good ‘dollop,’ and added the coffee from the hot pot. Aahhh. Taking a big swig of that should fix the taste in my mouth. It did. If you’ve been to Europe you’ll know that for every 5 oz. size cup, there’s enough coffee to grow hair on a bald man’s head. This made European coffee bland by comparison. Later, I learned my married daughter–not a coffee drinker–had made it for me, so pleased she could do something special for mom; in that situation, you read directions. One “scoop” of coffee in the filter per cup, for a 12 cup pot, is great if you have a scoop, but if you’re operating in a hotel suite, really, only tablespoons are available. So, just to be on the safe side, she “rounded” the spoonful, making each tablespoon probably equivalent to 2 scoops of coffee. Twenty four. Even in my sleep-deprived, grease-tasting state, I almost gagged again. Then, part of my brain (fried by the grease) said “dilute it,” while the major part of my brain went by forty years of habit, and rather than turning to the sink to add water, I did what I do at home: I added more coffee to my cup. By the point at which I had done this maybe four times, my caffeine overdose was taking effect, and I realized what I was doing. Also by then I was shaking so badly I couldn’t hold the cup anyway. Even my son (her brother), who drinks his very strong, came in rather soon after all this and filled his cup, only to spit it out in about a second flat yelling, “That’s the worst coffee I’ve ever had!” He took out the filter to make new, and there, in the filter, you could see a slight circle of white barely above the grounds. A filter full of grounds. Her good intentions were completely appreciated but I’m afraid the results were poured down the sink.

God doesn’t waste lessons with me. Immediately (as in once I had stopped shaking from the caffeine, and stopped gagging from the grease), I began to see the similarity to our Christian walk. As I’ve written before, (probably), we smile and send a big friendly handshake or wave to everyone we know as we go into church, or when we’re out in public. We talk like Mr. or Mrs. Super Christian before the world, but when God looks at us, as He did with the Pharisees, does He see the outside of the cup being clean and beautiful, but the inside being something He wants to gag out of His mouth? In the semi-darkness, with no glasses, the grease on the back burner passed for a clean cup of coffee! The relationship I had with the grease, as fast as it was, let me know I wanted nothing to do with what it held.

The same was true for the other cup, the one that could have been taken out by the spoonful, each added to a cup of  hot water, and made a good cup of coffee (that’s what I actually did in Europe). But are we strong for other people, always trying to encourage them, display our efforts on their behalf, but inside have nothing that God wants to use? We have to ask ourselves these questions!

The Pharisees, as we say here in Virginia, “kinda, sorta, figured” that He was speaking of them when He pointed things out. Do you wonder, when you hear the pastor preach something that might possibly apply to you, if it really does? That’s probably the Holy Spirit.

And He’s probably saying, “This is for you. Listen. Learn. Apply.”

God, what a lesson! I’ll hate grease the rest of my life (whether I have much left, or not). Help me, please, to be sensitive to the lessons You have for me, so that I can be beautiful for You on the inside, so that You can use me in any small or big way to help someone who needs to know You better. I love You, Lord. Amen!