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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

What's God like?

The heavens declare the glory of God,
    and the sky above proclaims his handiwork

Psalm 19:1

Ever wonder what God is like?  Maybe you even wonder if there is one!

Look up.  See for yourself. 

Examine the skies.  Their expanse.  Their beauty.  Their unsearchable heights. 

In the daytime.  The skies cause us to open our eyes wide in appreciation.
At night.  They take our breath away.

The glory of God declared. 

His works displayed.

Too majestic for words.  Too mysterious for explanation.  Too wonderful to ignore.
Worthy of all our praise.

Today at noon.  Tonight before bed.  Go look up.  See for yourself.  The glory of God.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A Grandmother's Love

To Katie, Trey, Blake, Mary, Elizabeth, Chip, and Betsy

I was cleaning up my kitchen with no intent to eavesdrop but then I heard my Mom in the next room extolling the virtues of each grandchild.  Deciding to scrub the sink til it was shiny, I moved closer to the wall between us....

No offense intended

Last Sunday in our Young Marrieds' class, a really good teacher shared some great truths.  I could take about 5 different blog posts to tell you about his lesson (and maybe I will.....) but one thing that he tossed out as an aside really stuck with me.  He said that he and his wife pray "to be un-offendable".  He went on to explain that they want to be folks that don't get their feelings hurt easily, don't assume the worst in terms of motive, intent or message but instead believe the best about people and situations.

Sounds like an application of I Corinthians 13: 5 to me where Paul explains that LOVE  is  not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered. 

Can you imagine what our homes would be like if husbands and wives and brothers and sisters weren't "offendable"?  Our churches?  Our communities?  Our country?  Our world???? What would happen if, instead of letting our feelings get hurt and then reacting out of retaliation or at least self-protection, we just let go of the offense.  No keeping score of the last wound received or delivered.  No assumptions that someone else intended to hurt us with that remark or exclusion or slight. No desire to inflict pain in an effort to alleviate our own.

Wow.  That would make a whole lot of difference in our marriages.  In our friendships and our parenting.  In our neighborhoods and our schools and our churches.

That's become my prayer, too.  To be unoffendable.  I hope you'll join me.

And we'll see the fruit  - because Love Never Fails.  (I Corinthians 13:8)

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Those church people............

As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones,
    in whom is all my delight.   Psalm 16:3

Sometimes I hear people complain about or criticize folks in church.  Labeling them (us) as hypocrites.  As shallow and unthinking.  Or cold and judgmental.  As too too legalistic.  Uncaring...or unwise.  Too boring...not serious enough.  Yep, all those things and more are often levied against God's people. 

And they're probably all true.  At least of me, anyway, at some point or another.

But my take on the church - well, I love it!  I find the "saints in the land" to be "the excellent ones" for sure.  "All my delight" is upon those who go by the name "Christian". 

I agree they - uh, we - aren't perfect and perhaps we deserve the criticism we get. We've each one dropped the ball at times and, in all honesty, inflicted hurt upon and/or endured hurt from the people that are supposed to love us the best. But I wouldn't trade my fellow believers for all the other people in the world.  God's folks are the best.  I don't know how anybody survives without the Body of Christ.  The saints have welcomed me when my family has moved to a new town.  Fed us when we had babies. Laughed with us over funny stories.    Supported us when we had crises. Prayed for us when we faced decisions. Defended us when we were attacked.  Rejoiced with us when God brought blessings and cried with us when times were tough. Showed up out of the blue to help us with projects that we feared we couldn't do alone.  I've seen the saints pay bills for folks they didn't even know, buy cars for a needy family anonymously, and house kids going through rough times. 

I don't know what your experience is with the people of God, but I'm here to tell you, mine proves they are the best people in all the world.

And I just want to go on record as saying  I love you all!!

Monday, July 14, 2014

In spite of the circumstances................

I was on the listening end of a courageous conversation the other day. A really brave young woman dared to whisper through her tears "sometimes I just want to leave".  She didn't have to admit that to me. She could have done her best to maintain an image of one who has it all together. Polished her faux halo of perfection.  Kept me believing that  her life was peachy keen and worthy of envy and emulation.

She's not alone in her desperation. I've heard similar sentiments recently from several other really incredible young women.  A couple were young mommies, one was a more seasoned mom and others were 20something career gals.  Diverse life stages.   Women who seemed to have everything "necessary" for a good life - including Jesus! - yet reality reveals a very different picture.  Loneliness. Deep sadness. Frustration.  Thinking that they've climbed the ladder they thought was success, only to find it was leaning against the wrong wall.  Feeling angry inside and not knowing how to process it.   Wanting to get out of the pit they find themselves in...leaving at least emotionally if not physically. Depending on unsuccessful ways of coping against the feelings they don't want to have. Sure that there must be a better way and wondering if it just has a different zip code.

My heart hurt.  I prayed.  But I felt...feel...inadequate to help.  What do I have to offer them that will get them to a place of hope?  That will keep them in the places they committed to?  That will deter them from false promises of happiness? 

I don't know.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Ouch, that hurts!

Sometimes I surprise myself by being surprised that hard times come.  Duh, I should know that by now.  But I still get blindsided sometimes by the fact that life's not always easy.  My head surely knows better but my heart seems to expect that fairy tales happen in real life. All my wishes granted.  For me and all my family.  All the time.  Every day.  All day long.

Reality is that some things are hard.  It can be hard to be a Mom of toddlers.  It's also hard to parent adult children.  And it's hard to not be a Mom.   It's hard to adjust to a new job.  It's hard to persevere in the same job for a long time.  And it's hard to not have a job.Sometimes it's hard to get meals on the table.  It's hard to pay for all those meals.  And it's hard not to have anything to feed your family.  It's hard to be in relationships and have conflict.  It's hard to sustain relationships.  And it's hard not to have relationships.  It's hard to go through difficulties.  And it's  more painful than imaginable to watch someone you love go through tough times.

Yep, there are hard times that come into each of our lives.  Whatever race the Lord has marked out for us will have bumps and potholes and sometimes seemingly impassable brick walls.  If, however, we can learn to view them with His wisdom - that they are designed to bring us good - we will not only be less surprised when we happen upon them but we will even be able to run through them with joy.  Here's a verse that helps me:

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:1,2

If we have dedicated our lives to serving Christ, we are indeed "living sacrifices".  The way we live our lives is our offering - our worship - to Him.  The greatest part about this is not that we are committed to Christ but that He is committed to us.  He takes the responsibility of making us holy and acceptable to God, of transforming us from being like the world to being like Him.

A picture from the Old Testament helps me understand this..........when an animal was offered as a sacrifice to the Lord, the priest laid it out on the altar.  Of course it was dead, but sometimes it would slip and slide right off that hallowed place.  It was the priest's job to keep it there.  To hold it in place so that it could be consumed by the fire that made it a holy sacrifice to the Lord, the priest had long piercing meat forks that he plunged into the flesh if it should begin to slide.  A stab in the flesh would pull it back into its place on the altar and not allow it to slip off.

Those hard times we go through are like those forks in the hands of the priest.  Our flesh sometimes needs a poke - or a deep piercing - to keep us in the place of close proximity to the Father, to maintain our attitude of worship of and dependence upon Him.  To let us experience Who He is.

It hurts.  My flesh doesn't like being pricked. I'll bet yours doesn't either.

That financial crisis might really be a stab in fleshly materialism.  That heartbreak might be what it takes to keep us soft and tender.  Those constant demands of parenting might instead be piercing what remains of selfishness in our hearts.  The repeated thrusts out of our comfort zone are possibly the fork of the Priest pushing us out of complacency and into compassion for others.

The only way for the offering to be holy and acceptable is if the priest keeps it in the place of sacrifice...and we need our minds transformed to see that as good and acceptable and perfect.


Wednesday, July 2, 2014

It's my pleasure

I love good customer service. I love it when I ask a Publix employee where to find flaxseed and I am then escorted to aisle 9. I enjoy being cheerfully greeted when I pop through the doors at Quik Trip  I applaud ARMC for sending me a survey to check the quality of my last visit. I relish saying "thank you" at Chick-fil-A just so I can hear "it's my pleasure".  And I appreciate Race Trac's clean restrooms and Sodapalooza free refills. I love good customer service.
We all enjoy good service. And companies, for the most part, are good at delivering it. So good in fact that most of us have come to expect it. Maybe even demand  it

So imagine my surprise when my doctor told me he had "fired" some patients. I thought back to several disappointments I'd had with his office and felt relieved that I hadn't complained about the grumpy receptionist or the delinquent immunization paperwork or the phone call for a minor emergency that never got returned. He went on to explain that his office was overloaded, his staff was overworked and he had some patients who were so demanding they they could not be satisfied. Through tired eyes and with slumped shoulders he said "They can't accept that some of our decisions don't go their way. They got mad that we couldn't do things to suit them all the time.  So I fired them. Not my employees. Those arrogant, impossible-to-please patients." I was now way past relief and into full- blown gratitude that I had not expressed my opinion all these years as to how they could better serve their customers . Whew.  I figured it was safe to assume, since I was sitting in his office, that I was not one of the patients he let go. I asked him how it felt. Great, he replied. Great.

I later reflected on times I've been a dissatisfied customer. To be sure, some of those were just plain bad experiences. An important - and promised - deadline missed. Shoddy installation of an expensive product.  Broken locks on a hotel room door.  Erroneous information by an technician on a price quote. Repeated misdiagnoses that eventually necessitated scarring surgery. Happy customer I was not.  Understandable.

But other it possible that my expectations were unreasonable?  Or at least self-centered? Was I so accustomed to getting what I wanted that my desire for good service had morphed into a demand instead? Have we as customers become arrogant and irrational?  Do we think that companies should bow before our throne of exaction?

And, if they refuse - whether the reason is justifiable or not - how do we react?  Do we throw an adult version of a temper tantrum?  Do we harass the poor employee who has to deliver the unwanted news?  Do we rant about our experience to all our friends....and all over social media?  Do we complain to the home office and insist on reparations?

I wish we didn't. 

But sometimes we do.

Whether it's a doctor's office or a fast food restaurant or some other provider of goods and services, are we as the American customer just a little over the top in what we think should be delivered?

And have you ever noticed that those folks who are the most onerous hardly ever say "thanks" when you are finally able to deliver what they demand ?

Kinda makes you wanna fire 'em, ya know what I mean?

Minus three Orphans

The religious observance that God the Father considers pure and faultless is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being contaminated by the world.  James 1:27

This very week, as only Providence Himself could plan it, three of my friends are boarding planes with their respective hubbies and biological children to cross the ocean and each rescue an orphan.  To bring him or her back with them and adopt them into their family and raise them to adulthood.  What a picture of God's love, what a testimony of His grace.

There's about a bazillion widows and orphans in this world.  Lonely, afraid, maybe even desperate... needing love and help and security. That you and I can give.  Maybe we're not all "called" to bring them all to our house.  Maybe it seems like too gargantuan a task.  Maybe it is....all by ourselves.  But if we all just follow His command, to care for them in some way, maybe we can get the job done.

Even if we can't get to all of them, this week there will be three fewer orphans in the world.  Shelley, Michelle, and Jess, I'm praying for you and yours.  And, readers, I'm asking you to pray for them, too.

And if you want more info on how you can give or pray...or maybe even rescue one yourself, contact me and I'll get you started.  Thanks.