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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Defining moments

I knew from my knee jerk reaction to the email that my struggle wasn't over.  That from time to time I would experience setbacks in my quest for wholeness and soul health.


I clung to the hope that, at the very least, some progress had been made.


It was a sweet email.  Sent for the pure reason of encouragement.


The email wasn't the problem.


My acceptance of it was.


This dear friend, in thanking me for being a listening ear said "You are one of the kindest people I know.  I am so glad we are friends".


How could that do anything but encourage me?


Because deep in my soul the response came - "She doesn't really know me.  If she did, she wouldn't feel that way"


Because of a defining moment from many years ago.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Handling Disappointment

A series of disappointments that felt like setbacks piled on top of one another in my life recently.  Nothing unbearably grievous but discouraging and painful nonetheless.  I found myself waiting for the tide to turn and things to "balance themselves out".  For some affirmative answers to prayers instead of the no's and even wait's that kept coming.


Another disappointment showed up instead.


How do you handle the curveballs of life?  Do you get angry?  Do you try harder?  Do you give up?

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Follow the Leader

Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ

1 Corinthians 11:1




A few years ago, a sweet and generous friend invited my kids and me to spend a few days with her and hers at her beach house.  Being at the beach is my happy place so, of course, I leapt at the chance.
Because of an earlier commitment, I couldn't leave at the same time as my friend.  In spite of my notoriety as being directionally challenged and having to depart waaaaay later than wise for the 6 hour drive, I was determined to join her.  So I said yes yes yes and figured it would all work out.


Being the wise and compassionate friend that she is, she was not content to leave me to my senses.  She took her husband's mobile GPS system, made sure it was programmed for their favorite route, and insisted I use it to get there.


She's a gem.  For sure.


I packed up my two youngest as well as a buddy for my very youngest and set out long after dark.  I don't like to drive unfamiliar routes in the dark.  And especially not in the pouring rain.  But I plugged that system in and focused only on its instructions.  Turns out, there are several ways to reach this place.  And a few tricky, unclear turns to make.  But with this handy-dandy device, I was able to follow the tried and true route without mishap.  I felt more confident and a lot less worried than if I had had to navigate the journey with just my instincts.


Not once did I consider it arrogant or presumptuous of my generous friend to suggest I use her pre-programmed GPS.  Not once did I think of declining her offer and just winging it.  Not once did I presume to be better off on my own.


Instead, I was immensely grateful and fastidious to follow it precisely.


I knew she'd been there a hundred times before and she knew the best way.  Even if it wasn't easy in the dark with rain pouring and three other lives depending on my ability to stay out of the ditch, I knew I could make it if I just followed the instructions.  Since I couldn't follow her car directly, I could instead follow the path she laid out for me.


She showed tremendous compassion and concern to see to it I had a path to follow.


Why, then, are we so reluctant to do the same in life?  Instead of telling someone a season or so behind us "just follow me, I can help you get there", we get down in the ditch with them and agree that it's a hard place to be.  In an effort to maintain humility, we parade all our failures, whine about our woes, and insist everything is just impossible.  I remember as a young follower of Christ, I wanted a role model with skin on.  I wanted someone that I could watch and trust enough to emulate.  I didn't expect (or even want) perfection - just someone that would say - "you can imitate me because I am imitating Christ". Someone willing to be scrutinized...because they weren't afraid of what would be found.  Someone willing to be examined because their reputation was of no concern - only Christ's.  Someone willing to be followed because they were willing to follow The One.


I found some "someone's" like that.  They didn't see themselves as worthy of emulation but they were "programmed" to reach their destination just like that GPS.  And I listened to their instructions, I watched the screens of their lives, and I imitated what was there.


I am forever grateful for those people. 


Granted, it's hard to be a "human GPS".  We're liable to make a wrong turn or project an ETA incorrectly.  And that might cause some angst to whomever is watching our screen.  But just as Mike Mulligan and his steam shovel Mary Anne, in that classic children's favorite, worked harder and faster because people came to watch, maybe the same will be true of us.  Maybe just knowing that someone else is imitating us, we'll be more careful to imitate Christ...instead of expecting to be excused for laziness or error or stumbles.


I still need those people in my life.


And I need to be one of those people so that someone else can follow me.


And then someone else can imitate them.


And then someone else...and then someone else...


And when we look up ahead, instead of "someone", we will see The One. 


And He'll get us across that finish line.


Will you say with me,


Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ



??

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Choices....and Consequences

There's lots of buzzing going on about "choices".  What choices are good, which ones are right, what should or shouldn't be.  I hear passionate insistence about the right to have the freedom to choose.


Goodness knows I am all for freedom.


It's just that I've come to a conclusion about the root of the debate.


It's about freedom all right.
But.....
We aren't clamoring about freedom to choose.  We want freedom from consequences.


Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Treasures of truth for the Mommies

This past week brought several opportunities to remember the early years of motherhood.  A tantrum at CVS (by a toddler - not by one of my pharmacists!) A weekend with my (perfect) grandchildren. And an unfortunate mishap most likely brought on by sleep-deprived distraction.


As I watched the power struggles and the infinitesimal patience required and the apparent self-doubt, I recalled a verse.  The last part of one, actually, that has ministered grace and encouragement and hope to my fragile soul ----especially during the early years of motherhood.


He tends his flock like a shepherd:
    He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
    he gently leads those that have young.


Isaiah 40:11


He gently leads those that have young.


I still remember the first time I encountered that verse.  Or at least the first time it leapt off the pages to pour water on my parched and despairing heart.


I was in the fellowship hall of Eastside Baptist Church in Marietta at some ladies event.  I hadn't wanted to go -- I was tired to the point of tears, lacking confidence to the point of pathetic, and pretty sure everybody else had read some book that I would never know the title of.  I only had two littles at the time and I was seated at a table with "the experts".  Mothers who smiled and had nail polish on and could actually string three words together in an intelligible sentence.  One of these women had SEVEN CHILDREN.  SEVEN!!!!!!!!  That's more hands than two parents have COMBINED!!  And they were all breathing, growing up well, and walking with Jesus, for crying out loud!  I wasn't even sure I could keep these two humans assigned to my heart alive, much less trained up in the fear and admonition of the Lord!  (Sometimes I figured they would likely have the fear part down but it would probably be fear of ME and not of God...) And sitting within arm's reach of me was a coherent, smiling, composed woman with SEVEN.


This verse was written on a card for the centerpiece.  I was pretty certain I'd never seen it before and wondered if it really was in the Bible.  So I asked the seven-children-super-Mom if it was, figuring she probably had all 66 books, 1189 chapters, and 31,173 verses memorized. And if it was, could it somehow help me cope?

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Closing out James

We've spent a lot of Wednesday's Words with our friend James.  I hope you've fallen in love with God's Word through him...I especially hope that we've all learned to take the Truth he shares from the pew to the pavement of our lives.


"Saving faith" shows up in how we live. 


Or it's not "saving" us at all.


That's what James tells us.


Before we close out this epistle with the last two verses, let's take a brief power walk in review.


The theme of this entire book is succinctly spelled out in second chapter - v. 20 - "...faith without works is dead(useless)". 

We learned that James is not teaching salvation by works but rather demonstrating to us that genuine  faith results in works.


And he pens an entire letter explaining how.


Faith that works
1. Enables us to rejoice in trials because we have confidence that God is working all things for good
2. Drives us to the Throne for wisdom to know how to handle what comes our way
3. Reminds us that God only gives good gifts, regardless of what the packaging looks like to us
4. Transforms our hearts so that our personality becomes one that listens long and speaks short -- and is slow to get angry because we know that anger won't accomplish what we desire
5. Embraces God's Word, trusting it to conform us to the image of Christ
6. Takes responsibility to care for those who can't take care of themselves
7. Shows no favoritism in an attempt to gain personal benefit
8. Delights in showing mercy instead of judgment
9. Tames the tongue
10.Demonstrates wisdom in behavior of peace, gentleness, deference, and good works
11. Knows that our asking God to meet our desires works better than expecting others to do so
12. Results in humility because we see the truth about who we are in relation to Who He Is
13. Does not criticize a brother
14. Does not value riches nor trust in them
15. Suffers well
16. Prays in the midst of all circumstances


And, finally, the last two verses:
My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.


What is James's last demonstration of faith that works?


The same as he's already suggested.


Love.


Just one more way that it manifests itself.


James closes his letter by urging us to love one another enough to feel responsibility for each other's spiritual wellbeing.  No, he's not condoning being a busybody but he is saying we are our brother's keeper.  And if one of us is straying, then the faith of the others should reach out to bring the one back.


That's not just James's idea.  Peter said the same thing. (I Peter 4:8)
And so did Solomon - Proverbs 10:12 - Love covers all transgressions.
So did Paul.  I Corinthians 13:13 - But now abide faith, hope, and love, these three, but the greatest of these is love.


And so did Jesus.
“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets  Matthew 22:36-40


Amen.


Thanks, James.  Let's keep in touch.  I need your exhortation in my life.
Amen.