Monday, April 30, 2012

Hey, you limping?

If you have ever engaged in the pastime of people-watching, you soon realize there are many "styles" of walking.   Some take slow, meandering steps, not appearing to have a care in the world.  Others walk at an "all-out" pace you'd imagine a marathon runner to require.  Still others seem to "strut there stuff" as they swagger along.  As any physical therapist will tell you, your "gait" tells a whole lot about what is going on in a person's entire body.  For example, if you shuffle a lot when you walk, it could be an indication of a lack of muscle strength, or perhaps a neurological deficit which is keeping the person from performing the normal "heel-strike" type gait.  The therapist observes for limps - knowing a limp on one side of the body affects so much on the other - called an antalgic gait (you are protecting one side with the work of the other).  A waddling or duck-like gait might cue the therapist to consider the effects of muscular dystrophy.  Amazing isn't it - one simple action telling so much detail!

Fools on the road have no sense of direction.  The way they walk tells the story:  "There goes the fool again!"  (Ecclesiastes 10:3 The Message)

Did you ever consider the "fool" as having a particular "walk"?  Even their "steps" manage to display so much about them!  Their "gait" is one without direction - they may start out well, but soon veer off course and across rough terrain in no time.  Guess what?  We all have a "gait" in a spiritual sense - a walk of sorts which reveals much about us.

A sense of direction is something many just seem to be "gifted" to have, huh?  It is like they possess some kind of "radar" which gets them anywhere, in the shortest distance possible, without having to stop to ask directions. When it comes to "spiritual radar", these kind of people seem to walk without any real sense of trouble, lack of faith, or seeming effort in obedience.  They make most of us quite "jealous" in a kind of "spiritual" sense of jealousy (if there was one).

What is it about some folks - they just KNOW where to go, what to do, who will be their support, etc.?  It is like they have an "insiders" track on life.  No wonder we have a tendency to envy their seeming "ease" at walking out this Christian experience.  If you know me well enough, you realize I suffer from serious osteo-arthritis in my right knee.  On a good day, I can "clean up" my gait, walking with only a slight limp - almost able to fool anyone into thinking I've got this pain mastered.  On most days, my limp is obvious to even the blind!  My gait betrays the pain I experience with each step!

Believe it or not, our walk betrays much about what is really on the inside of each of us - the condition of our heart, our minds, and our emotions.  On a good day, we can seemingly walk without much effort - "Limp Free".  On most days, our "limp" is pretty evident, isn't it?  The truth is, I can do a whole lot to "try" to convince myself, and others, that I am not in pain.  As much as I try, the truth betrays itself in my "walk".  The same is true in our spiritual lives, my friends.  Our walk betrays the condition of our heart, mind, and emotions!

I have learned to be an observer of the "walk" of others - simply because it tells me so much about the other person.  Some say the eyes are the window to the soul.  I'd have to say your walk is the true "betrayer" of what is really going on inside!  It is hard to mask an "imperfect" gait in the physical sense - it is even harder to do it in a spiritual one!

So, I wonder if you've ever considered what your "spiritual gait" says about the condition of your spiritual life.  It may be filled with all kinds of "halting" steps - spurts and starts, but just kind of spastic in nature.  That's okay!  God can work with it!  It could be like the shuffling feet of one suffering from a neuroligical deficit such as Parkinson's.  Why do we shuffle?  It may be because we are just not "sure" of our step any longer and need to stay as close to "grounded" as we can in our uncertainty.  We haven't learned to trust God enough to take the bigger, wider steps which resemble a steady and sure walk.

Regardless of our "spiritual gait" - God can work with it!  The fact is - we are walking!  It is the fool who never realizes the inefficiencies of his gait!  It is truly a wise one who realizes the "faltering" of their steps and turns to the one who can help!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Calgon....take me away!

Have you ever just left a small gift on someone's desk while they were out of the office - no note, no explanation, just something which might bless them on a day when nothing seems to be going right for them?  What happens in the moment the person notices the gift upon their return?  They ponder it, don't they?  It gives them "cause to pause".  There is this period of time between the "shock" of receiving the gift and the moment their curiosity causes them to ask, "Hey, who put this here?"  For just a brief period of time, they stop focusing on the issues which made them so irritable in the first place, don't they?

14 A quietly given gift soothes an irritable person; a heartfelt present cools a hot temper.  (Proverbs 21: 14 The Message)

Have you ever been on the receiving end of this type of "blessing"?  If you have, you will definitely understand what I am about to say.  The undeserved kindness of another "shuts you down", doesn't it?  In the moment where you "pause" and "consider" the blessing, something "transformational" begins to happen.

In the tiniest of gifts, there can be the biggest of rewards!  It would be easy to discount the moodiness of a coworker with huge deadlines looming, plans not coming together as they should, and "issues" just cropping up at every turn of the clock.  Yet, isn't there something awesome in figuring out one small way to bless their day?  

I have been on the receiving end of these types of blessings more than once.  It may have been a lovingly written note just letting me know they were standing by me during the rough patch - thinking of me, there for me.  It could have been the bit-sized candy bar labeled with "Break wrapper, savor the richness, and feel the stress melt away".  At other times, it was just the nudge of a friend saying, "Let's go to lunch - you NEED lunch!"

Stress increases irritability, does it not?  Do something to relieve the stress in a positive manner and it is a wonder how much of the irritability seems to "melt away".  I think this was the premise of the Calgon commercials where the lady of the house is depicted as up to her ears in all kinds of chaos, then in a moment she announces, "Calgon, take me away!"  The next scene finds her all "de-stressed" in a bath beads.  It looks so simple, huh?

Irritability is a condition in which we are "readily excited" - almost to the point of being impatient and often to the point of being downright angry.  It is not a good place to be.  No wonder Solomon reminds us of the "cooling effect" of touching someone with our "heart".  It is not the "gift" which releases the frustration and irritability - it is the "heart" behind it!  So, the next time you can share a little of your heart with someone who is "readily excited" - do it!  Your "gift" of heart can make all the difference to them!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Ummm...Have you seen our present mess?

We have all experienced those moments when the "mess" of our present "muddle" seems like more than enough to handle - then along comes someone telling us to get "deeper" into the "muddle"!  I think we all probably might have responded similarly to the one who tells us to get ourselves into a deeper muddle - it probably went something like, "Are you nuts!  Things are more than I can handle right here and you want me to do what?"  Hey, this is not a new response!  In fact, there is a similar one recorded in the Bible!

3 But David's men said, "We live in fear of our lives right here in Judah. How can you think of going to Keilah in the thick of the Philistines?"   4 So David went back to God in prayer. God said, "Get going. Head for Keilah. I'm placing the Philistines in your hands."  (I Samuel 23:3-4 The Message)

David was the one asking for them to get "deeper into the muddle" and the entire army of men responded back, "We live in fear of our lives RIGHT HERE!"  If we just look at this portion of the passage, we might feel like David was an insensitive leader, or completely self-centered.  So, when we look a little deeper, here's what we find - David did not act alone!  He consulted God first!  He took what he knew to God - the Philistines were attacking the region of Keilah and raiding the fields of grain.  He asked God what to do with what it was he knew - "Should I go after these Philistines and teach them a lesson?"  He received his confirmation before involving others - God said, "Go. Attack the Philistines and save Keilah."

We have all responded at one time or another with the admission of living in fear right here in the present muddle.  The things we face seem insurmountable to us - because we can only see our own mess, the impact it has on us, and the impression we have of being "surrounded" on all sides can seem to overwhelm our faith at times.  David was probably not immune to this same fear at times.  He hid in caves, trying to escape the pursuing armies.  He escaped in the dead of night, to get a running start on his enemies.  He knew the wisdom of retreat.  Yet, he also knew if God was for him, none could stand against!

We often don't realize the impact of our actions.  David clearly did not move ahead of God's plans here.  He FIRST consulted God - then he ENGAGED others in the plan.  Whenever we do this the other way around, we get the cart before the horse.  We all know how well that one works!  David's men were honest - We live in fear right here in Judah!  In their present mess of trouble, they were fearful for their future state.  They were surrounded on all sides - Judah was under siege.  The enemy was unrelenting.  I don't think there is anything wrong with their honesty of "faith-struggle".  It is often when we are honest about our struggle that our deliverance is made possible.

David knew their next move - but he had to overcome their present fear.  He doesn't just plunge ahead.  He regroups with God.  Often the most telling thing we do with our fear is revealed in who we take it to!  We have a tendency to take our fears to other men - those with similar fears.  What does that do for us?  If we were honest - we all just have one big pity-party with it!  When we take those same fears to God, what does he do with them?  He clarifies and confirms the steps we are to take!  David received the confirmation from God - "I'm placing the Philistines in your hands".  The first time around, God said to David, "Go.  Attack the Philistines and save Keilah."  This time around, he confirmed the victory!

In feeling doubt, we often shrink away.  In finding faith, we plunge ahead.  Whenever we find ourselves shrinking back, we would do best to admit how the enemy's attack (the muddle) is impacting us.  When we "feel" surrounded and under siege, chances are our faith is taking the blunt of the blow!  The only place to have our faith "settled" and "made sure" again is at the feet of Jesus.  If we don't get it the first time, then we need to go back again until we do!  

In the midst of the muddle, we are often involved with others experiencing the "muddle" with us.  There is great wisdom in walking with another through the muddle.  We do better with having our flanks covered with other warriors.  Yet, we need to be sure we have right "order" to our battle.  First - seek God's plan.  Then, engage others!  When we engage first, we are open to all kinds of "advice" which not be what God intends for the present battle.  God's advice comes in the quiet of place of prayer - his battle charge comes in the presence of others of like faith!  The battle charge begins in the quiet of his confirming counsel!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Pure Grace

I have a tendency to run the full-length of emotions in life - how about you?  Some days, I am on top of the world, others I am in the pit looking up.  The ups and downs, twists and turns of life just keep us in knots, wondering what is coming next.  It is one things to feel these various emotions because of another's action within our lives - quite another to feel them because of our own actions, isn't it?  One brings a sense of anger and retaliation, the other brings a sense of frustration and shame.  

Living then, as every one of you does, in pure grace, it's important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him.  (Romans 12:3 The Message)

The main reason we experience these ups and downs in our emotions is our viewpoint - it colors our interpretation of life.  I wonder if we really know what it means to live in "pure grace".  I think we might have an idea of grace - but I think we may not fully appreciate the depth of grace - going to the deepest places of hurt and sin in our lives.  We don't understand its breadth - reaching into the periphery and uncovering what only festers where it is hidden.  Amazingly, we do understand how to cover up, run from, work to be free of, and involve ourselves in all kinds of spiritual contortions in order to "feel forgiven".

Paul writes to the Roman church (and to us) about the grace of God - pure and simple - adding nothing to it!  It is this grace which sets man right with God.  This same grace restores hope to the hopeless soul.  Nothing is quite like grace.  Looking at our passage closely, we see Paul setting out some important truths:

1.  Living is at its best when it is in "pure grace".  There is nothing more fulfilling than to be aware of how much God has forgiven in our lives, the ways he has changed a hardened and unyielding heart, or the phenomenal job he does in changing our mindset.  Yet, we live far short of "pure grace", don't we?  We "muddy" the grace of God with the actions of our own attempts at "feeling forgiven".  We want to do something to "feel forgiven" - like serving out of obligation rather than love, engaging in religious activities for the sake of how it makes us feel.  Then we wonder why we just don't break free from the feelings associated with our past failures.  It is almost always because we don't understand grace - a gift, pure and simple, with no strings attached.  Look again - Paul reminds us we don't bring our "goodness" to God - he brings it to us!  No matter what, God's grace is ours - we just have to learn to accept the grace we have been given and stop trying to "add" to it!

2.  We only understand ourselves when we behold God.  Why?  He is our creator - we are created in HIS image.  When we look upon him, we see exactly what he created us to be!  As we behold him, we see how he sees us!  It is in beholding what he is - pure, holy, loving, righteous, long-suffering - the revelation of how he sees us becomes more real.  We are definitely not pure - but in Christ, we are totally pure.  We are definitely not the embodiment of love - but in Christ, we experience pure love.  We are certainly not long-suffering - but in each extension of God's grace, we begin to understand the limitless supply of his grace.  

3.  It is his action within us which helps to "even out" those ups and downs of emotions.  It is what he does in and for us which produces "evenness" in our character.  Left to our own devices, we would still ride the roller-coaster of emotions.  We simply cannot experience lasting emotional stability if we are counting on any human effort of our own to make us "feel" right.  Eventually, we will disappoint ourselves!  We will do something, say a few choice words, or forget our commitments.  In the end, all the religious effort to be "good" or "pure" will just not "make us" so!  Only grace has the ability to accomplish what grace is intended to do - to pardon, to release, to erase.  Nothing is quite like grace!

A TV commercial is out right now featuring a soccer team and their soccer mom.  The soccer mom is handing out bottles of colored, sweetened, "fortified" beverages.  She announces they need to "drink up" because they are losing water out there on the field.  One little girl bravely asks, "Coach, if we are losing water, why aren't we drinking water?"  I have to ask, if we have fallen from grace, why are we trying to replace it with anything less than grace?  Just some food for thought today.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

We are what we eat!

Mom and I have a favorite spot we like to stop by whenever we visit the local shopping mall.  We are not there very often, so when we do traverse the mall, stopping into the See's Candies is a great treat.  The tradition has carried on for ages - stop in and you get a free chocolate!  I often don't want mine - so Mom scores!  She gets a "two-fer".  If you have ever experienced the chocolates from a See's, you know this is good chocolate.  It is not like buying a candy bar at the grocery store.  I really am not a connoisseur of chocolate - a plain chocolate bar from the grocer is fine for me!  Yet, it really does not compare to the richness of the "finer" chocolates you find at the store in the mall.  Some words are kind of like this - some go down easy, but they lack the "smoothness and taste" of the wise!

8 Listening to gossip is like eating cheap candy; do you really want junk like that in your belly?  (Proverbs 18:8 The Message)

Idle talk and rumor are kind of like the grocery store bought chocolate - tastes good at first, but when you experience something more "gracious", you realize just how far short they fall!  The one who engages in the consumption of gossip often finds they are never truly satisfied with what they take in - there is a drive for more.  I know one equally sized store-bought mini chocolate bar does not satisfy as much as one finely crafted chocolate from our favorite chocolate store.  Why?  The fact may be as simple as the less costly one is designed to get you to eat more!  This is also the case with idle talk and rumor!

When you explore the meaning of the word "gossip", you may be surprised to discover it also includes the kind of familiar "chit-chat" we all engage in from time to time.  It is "light talk" - an exchange of information which no one really considers to be wrong to exchange.  The problem:  We often engage in an exchange without considering the impact of the content being shared!  We may not even set out to share anything in a malicious, secretive manner, but in the "light talk" we share stuff some maybe should never hear about another!

The scripture points us repeatedly toward "considering" the words we choose.  As a writer, I often "strike" the words I originally put into printed format before publishing them for public view.  The "word-smithing" of an idea is at my disposal at the computer.  I have the "editing" capability when it is the written word.  Too bad I don't also have this "editing" capability on my spoken words!!!  Before we even realize it, words are spoken which we may have done well to have exercised some type of "editing" function over prior to speaking them!  It's true, isn't it?  We need an "editing" filter over our mouths!

Just as the store-bought candy seldom satisfies, idle chit-chat seldom satisfies either.  There is always a tendency to "get into somebody's business" if the conversation continues long enough.  The sharing often leaves us feeling "bad" inside.  It is what Solomon refers to as "junk" in the belly!  Guess what?  We are "consumers" of words - both written and spoken.  Not all carry the same satisfying effect, do they?  Some are definitely designed to get us to "consume" even more - like a juicy tid-bit of gossip.  Others are spoken only once, yet their consumption brings deep, meaningful satisfaction to the soul.  These are "wisdom words".  A steady diet of these makes one more satisfied than hours of "junk words".

We can learn much from what we consume.  The old saying, "You are what you eat", is definitely right on the mark, is it not?  Maybe it is time for a little change in our "diet".

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Batter up!

Back in the day, when baseball was just starting out as a national pastime, the pitching was a whole lot different than it is today.  You'd hear the announcer say, "Here comes the wind-up..."  In a few quick moves, the pitcher would go through various "contortions" until there was a sudden release of the ball, sending it sailing toward home plate.  It was the "wind-up" which gave the ball its speed.  Without the wind-up, the ball was not likely to cross the plate, but if it did - the batter was more likely to hit it dead on, sending it as far as his swing would allow.  

14 The start of a quarrel is like a leak in a dam, so stop it before it bursts. (Proverbs 17:14 The Message)

The beginning of a quarrel is something like the "wind-up" of the "pitch" which will send the entire conversation into a direction it may never have intended to go!  Learning to control the "pitch" often determines if the ball will ever reach home plate!

The illustration provided in our passage is plain - a leaky dam is indeed not much of a threat until it begins to expand!  Just as the ball in the hand of the pitcher is no threat until it is released toward the plate, the thoughts we think in the moment are not much of a threat until they are spoken!  A small leak in a huge dam can keep a structural engineer up at nights!  Wonder if a small word spoken in haste keeps us up at nights?

You have probably heard me say, "Think everything you say, but don't say everything you think!"  Not sure where I first heard this, but it has stuck with me for years and years.  I have repeated it many times and many have their own "ah-haw" moment with this seed thought.  Not everything we think is worth speaking.  Some words are just not wise to speak simply because the relationship is not strong enough, the words are unkind, or the words are not meant to be spoke in this moment of time (the timing is off).  

We often "wind-up" long before we launch the words which will "cross the plate".  The words which lead up to the "explosive" pitch are often more important than any others we speak.  In leading up to the "pitch", we often say a whole lot of other stuff which seems insignificant at the moment, but when the "pitch" is released, they ALL hit home!  

The other important thing to realize is the purpose of the "wind-up".  It is designed to INCREASE the velocity of the ball's delivery!  If our words leading up to the "final pitch" do the same thing, no wonder the "pitch" carries such a punch!  The "build-up" to the actual words which culminate in a quarrel are merely those which give "velocity" to the quarrel.  

A wise pitcher learns to control the ball.  A wild ball may cost him the game.  Learning to control our words is much like the control of the ball.  When we learn to understand the difference between being "set" on the mound and being in the full "wind up" mode, we learn a lot about control.  The "set" is when the pitcher has an eye on all the other players in the game.  The "wind up" is when the pitcher is set into action to deliver the ball across home plate!  Each has a purpose - one has more risk than the other.  Watching other players, seeing their moves, being aware of their desire to "advance" a base, are skills wisely learned by the one who takes the mound.  

We need to learn to be wise with the use of our words.  The words we choose not to speak are just as important as those we do!  As we learn what gives "velocity" to our delivery, we also can learn what brings "control"!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Hide or Seek - You Choose!

When I was a youngster, we played the simple game of "hide and seek".  In those days, we had a great neighborhood for hiding.  We had 13 citrus trees, a huge mulberry tree, and two pretty impressive sized junipers.  All provided ample hiding space for one who could scurry up the trunk and into the cover of the leaves fast enough.  In addition to this, we had all kind of hiding places behind the pigeon coop, around the pool area, behind the garage, and even behind a row of shiny silver trash cans.  Yet, as I recall all the places I hid, none was as safe as the place I run to now!

1-3 God is a safe place to hide, ready to help when we need him. We stand fearless at the cliff-edge of doom, courageous in seastorm and earthquake, before the rush and roar of oceans, the tremors that shift mountains.   Jacob-wrestling God fights for us, God-of-Angel-Armies protects us. (Psalm 46:1-3 The Message)

We all have "hiding places" we run to, don't we?  Some are more skilled at the "hiding" thing than others - try as we might, we just cannot seem to find them when they "duck for cover".  The problem with most of our "hiding" places is the "purpose" behind our need to hide in the first place!  Sometimes we hide because the guilt of our sin seems too big.  At others, we hide simply because the "work" of being exposed is just too much - we'd have to keep an eye on our facade of being righteous.  Probably one of the most telling reasons for hiding is the tendency we all have to feel "inferior" to someone else - so we hide what we see as our flaws and imperfect abilities.

Regardless of why we are hiding, we need to recognize - there is only one safe place to "hide".  The purpose of hiding is to prevent something from being discovered.  The only "safe" place where we can be who we really are is in the presence of God.  Yet, we run for all kinds of other "cover" instead of the one place where we can just "let down our hair" and be "real".  Why?  I think it may be as simple as us thinking our "cover" is working!

Look at our passage again.  God is a safe place to hide - not to conceal us, but to help us when we are in a place of need.  It is in the very presence of God where we are changed - our need to conceal becomes void!  He is even a safe place for one to seek!  Hide or seek - he is it!

I know many of my readers face challenging times today.  There are battles with cancer, the depression of loss, the pull of some secret sin, the exhaustion of trying to be all things to everyone in your life.  Regardless of the challenge - run to God.  Hide in him for a while.  In your "running for HIS cover", you are running right into what will meet your every need.  No tree, bush, shed, or other "hiding place" really could have done the same for me back in the day!

We desire to stand fearless on the "cliff-edge" of the challenge before us, don't we?  Courage seems to slip through our fingers as sand slowly falling through the hourglass.  We just don't know to get a grip on what has us in the fight of our lives.  Here's the secret - run to God.  He knows!  Seems too simple, huh?  It really isn't.  You see, when we run to the place where we are safe to be exactly who and what we are, we are open to receive the very thing we need to embrace to face the challenge head-on.

It is in being "real" with God, in the secret place of his refuge, that we are able to "get real" with the things and people we deal with today.  God already knows we fear the "cliff-edge" - - we do ourselves no favors by covering up our fear.  He already knows the storms are heavy upon us - - we do "ride them out" by trying to row against the winds!  Instead, we "sail through them" by allowing him to direct our sails.

So, run to the only hiding place where all things good are at your disposal - God's presence.  Afraid to?  Don't be!  His grace is sufficient to forgive your sin, his love fills every gap in our behavior, and his heart is always towards his children!  His joy stuns our senses with the awesomeness of renewal and awakening.  His peace settles the rushing waves of doubt and fear which seek to overwhelm our minds.  His healing touch energizes our frailness with renewed vitality.  No better hiding place, indeed!

Monday, April 23, 2012

The best defense is a good offense

There are times when we all need to hear the words which will bolster our courage, increase our faith, and help to put "steel in our spines" again.  No matter how hard we try, we sometimes experience moments of doubt - the siege against us seeming to be far more prepared than our own defense.  The truth is, we are often caught unaware in the moment of attack in our lives.  Most of us have little to no clue of the next thing which will put us into a tailspin.  

6-8 Hezekiah rallied the people, saying, "Be strong! Take courage! Don't be intimidated by the king of Assyria and his troops—there are more on our side than on their side. He only has a bunch of mere men; we have our God to help us and fight for us!"  Morale surged. Hezekiah's words put steel in their spines.  (2 Chronicles 32:6-8  The Message)

The situation:  King Sennacherib, the king of Assyria, is coming against the fortified cities of Judah.  His strategy was to take the city of Jerusalem as his own.  He put the fortified cities under siege.  Do you know what this means?  When a king puts a fortified city under siege, he is doing so because it is a stronghold!  It has walls of defense which makes attacking it a little more challenging than a fight of an enemy standing out in the open!

You have probably heard it said, "The best defense is a good offense."  The only plan our enemy has when he sees our "walls of defense" is to attempt to isolate us from help - from those things which supply our need.  As the things we need are cut-off from our use, we become weaker - making attack possible.  In fact, when a walled city was encountered, the very "futility" of fighting against the "walls of defense" was a tactic to distract!  The king would keep the inhabitants so busy fighting the attacking forces so no attack of his armies would be possible from those within the city.  Distract the city long enough and he'd find the "chinks" in the cities defense.

This is how the enemy of our soul operates - first, he seeks to separate us from the very things which supply our need.  Time in the Word bolsters our faith - cut this off and we grow weak, allowing doubt to enter in.  Time in prayer unburdens our heart - attack here and the emotions are allowed to build to a breaking point.  Words of encouragement from those who walk alongside in the battle help us to remain focused - eliminate these and we walk alone, vulnerable to all kinds of attack.

If this were not enough, he looks for the chinks in our armor, as well.  The small areas left undefended in the moment of his distraction with the current skirmish at the wall.  These moments of dis tractability are all the opportunity he needs to scale the wall and begin his inroad into our stronghold - the mind!  His attack begins outside of the mind - his aim is our mind!  Why?  It is not a secret to him - it is our stronghold of defense, for all we do begins with thought.  If he can get into our thoughts - doubts begin to form, fear begins to muster, and we begin to respond in ways we find totally out of character for us.

To those who find themselves under the siege of the enemy in their lives, I speak the words of Hezekiah:  "Be strong!  Take courage!  Don't be intimidated by the enemy!  There are more on YOUR side than on his!  His power is limited!  Ours is limitless - in and through our God we have more than enough to resist his siege!"  He seeks to distract - God says, "Keep your focus on me, not him!"  He seeks to find the chinks - God says, "Let me shore them up with my defenses!"  He seeks to attack the stronghold of our minds - God says, "Let me consume your thoughts!"

Steel in your spine!  This is the result of having both a good defense and a great offense!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

This "fits" me well!

Did you ever consider something you put on, thinking it would make you look good, then immediately pull it off, replace it back on the hanger and return it to the rack at the store?  Your first impression was, "I have seen others wear this and it looks so cute!"  Your first impression on you:  "Uh....this does nothing for me!"  Maybe it is a "girl thing", but I think guys go through this frustration once in a while, too.  They may just not admit it!  There is one form of "attire" which will never disappoint, never look odd on us, and always flatters us!

10-11  I will sing for joy in God, explode in praise from deep in my soul!  He dressed me up in a suit of salvation, he outfitted me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom who puts on a tuxedo and a bride a jeweled tiara.  For as the earth bursts with spring wildflowers, and as a garden cascades with blossoms, so the Master, God, brings righteousness into full bloom and puts praise on display before the nations.  
(Isaiah 61:10-11 The Message)

We are "dressed up" whenever we are wearing the "suit of salvation"!  Nothing is more appropriate for the occasion, more flattering to our "frame", or produces the "wow" experience than the "suit of salvation".  We can try to "cover up" our "frame" in many different ways, but only one thing truly covers us - the blood of Jesus.

Think of the wedding - bridegroom all decked out in the tux.  Pants with a razor sharp crease, collar and cuffs starched, shoes gleaming with a fresh coat of polish, and the tails flowing gently down the back.  He cuts a right fine image, does he not?  No flaw is seen at that moment - only the beauty of his frame awaiting his bride.

The bride - all adorned in bejeweled gown, lotioned and powdered with the freshest of scents, hair all adorned by the veil, topped by the tiny tiara twinkling in the light.  She also captures the attention of those who behold her beauty - no flaw apparent.  As she approaches the altar, her beauty seems to radiate even more so.  The groom's appreciation of his bride seems to be set on his face and glimmering in his eyes.  The crowd is set at awe.  The garments do much for those who wear them, don't they?

Outfitted in a robe of righteousness - even in the more intimate times when we can really "let our hair down", so to speak - God outfits us with righteousness!  We don't wear our robes out into public, but tend to wear them around the house - where we are who we are.  Even in these times of "relaxed intimacy" of being ourselves, we are outfitted in something far better than we could ever imagine - right standing with our Savior.  It is amazing, isn't it?  God takes care of our "covering" both for public view and for his private enjoyment!

Even the earth is adorned in beauty - an image of the righteousness of God.  I marvel when I see the Arizona cacti in full bloom this time of year.  I ponder how something so beautiful can come out of something so prickly and ugly.  The surface looks like nothing good could come from within - then as the desert floor begins to come alive, the blooms surface, adorning what looked so "unfruitful" with tremendous beauty and glory.  The barrel cactus wears a crown of flowers.  The saguaro wears many little crowns.  The ocotillo blooms brightly with rich red flames at its tips.  Even the floor of the desert is alive with orange poppies, pink desertpeony, fuscia trailing windmills, and the rich redness of the firecracker bush.  God leaves his mark even in nature.

How marvelous we are adorned - one and all!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Oh, those are BIG waves!

The idea of "hope" is the anchor which holds every person in the battle of cancer treatment.  The chance the latest chemo treatment may just be the one to kick those rebellious cells into remission gives one a chance to believe things may turn out well.  Working hard at a task, seeing incremental changes which appear to be in the right direction, gives a soul expectancy for things to be different from what they are today.  We all live with some element of "hope" in our lives.  If we did not, we'd shrivel up and die - if not physically, at least emotionally!

12 Unrelenting disappointment leaves you heartsick, but a sudden good break can turn life around. (Proverbs 13:12 The Message)

In the NIV, the same verse is translated:  12 Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.  We cannot live with "deferred hope" for very long without feeling its effect upon our bodies, minds, and emotions.  Our "anchor" begins to shift into sandy ground - we just lose hold of "firmness" in our lives.

Have you ever walked along a rocky place on the seashore and observed the many grooves worn by the constant pounding of the waves?  In fact, when you look closely at these rocky surfaces, you will see them worn smooth in some areas, pocked roughness in others, and nothing like what they looked like when they were first formed.  What has happened to them with the pounding waves is evident - or is it?

We don't see the many tiny pieces of the larger rock which are no longer there!  In fact, truth be told, hundreds of thousands of waves have carried away pieces of the larger rocks, tiny piece by tiny piece - until the rock no longer resembles itself any longer.  This is the effect of living without hope - constantly being battered by life - carried away by the waves of disappointment.  We are never unaffected by the waves of disappointment - especially when they are unrelenting.

I am not a widow, but I am divorced.  I can imagine a portion of the grief a widow or widower must encounter day after day - but my circumstance is different.  We often don't recognize the various waves which are "carrying away" tiny pieces of the widow's heart as those waves of grief sweep over her, but their effect is real nonetheless.

I have not lost both my parents, but I have lost one.  When dad passed, it was like a part of my world ceased to exist.  I no longer had the counsel of my trusted adviser - no one to run to when something broke and I just could not figure out how to fix it.  I lost the one who never questioned my ability, but always encouraged me to be my best.  Tiny pieces, lost in the waves.

I have never been homeless, but I have experienced the uncertainty and fear of losing a job.  The seemingly endless nights of reworking the plan, trying to make ends meet.  All the waves of hope this interview might be the one.  Tiny pieces, lost in the waves.

I choose not to look at the pieces carried away by the waves, but the thing which is created by the waves themselves.  I think of the beauty hidden from view - exposed by the waves.  This is hope.  The perspective of seeing something new out of something we may not have chosen for ourselves is all we can hold onto at times, but it is never a disappointment in the end!  As long as Christ is riding the waves with me, I never doubt the effect of the waves!

Friday, April 20, 2012

God likes what he sees!

So many times we form opinions of others based on what we see.  The only "chink" in this method of "opinion forming" is we don't have the full picture!  Every now and then I am surprised by something someone does or says which I really never expected them to do.  I am quite certain I have surprised people more than once with my own actions!  Yesterday was one of those days for me! True confessions are a good thing - aren't they?  When we can realize how we miss the mark, we are taking the first step toward correcting our actions!

8 But Noah was different. God liked what he saw in Noah.  
(Genesis 6:8 The Message)

As I write this blog, our hospital is under full review for our renewal of license.  This is a process which comes every three years, with periodic "rechecks" in between.  In the frenzy of the activity of the morning "start-up" activities, I found myself answering my peers in a curt, rather sharp manner.  Ugh!  I was sensing the "frenzy" and then responding to it in my own form of "frenzy"!  It was only when I saw the look on my closest friend's face that I stepped back a moment to regroup.  She actually helped my "check" myself!

Do you know what FRENZY means?  Look it up!  You will find it is a condition of the mind in which the mind becomes wildly excited by the input it is receiving!  Now if we were all truthful, whenever this occurs, we all have a tendency to "act out of character" just a little bit, don't we?  It is like we just "could not help ourselves".  Uh oh!  Gone to meddling now, haven't I?  But....don't forget....I am meddling in my own muddle first!

Why did my mind get caught up in the "frenzy" of the moment?  In my case, I was on sensory overload.  There were too many people asking me questions, telling me what they needed, all at the same time.  In trying to keep all this organized in my mind, I "flipped the switch" from being "in control" to allowing the frenzy to control me.  Rather than stepping away a moment so I could regroup and calm the frenzy inside my brain, I stayed in the thick of things.

There is great wisdom in recognizing the "breaking point" we all experience from time to time.  There is even greater wisdom in knowing when it is time to step away for a few deep breaths.  Nothing anyone else was doing was actually "wrong" in the moment.  I was what was wrong!  I was allowing input to determine my response - when I could no longer hold onto input, I snapped.  

I wonder what God thought when he watched all this unfold.  The truth is, I still think he "liked what he saw", just as he did when he looked at Noah, or considered the heart of David.  God sees the bigger picture, he knows our responses even before they come, and he looks deeper than the response - right into the heart.  God forgave my blundering responses - because he recognized my heart was hurt by my own actions!  

Why did my "heart hurt" when I acted in this manner?  I guess it is as plain as the nose on my face - God has been in the business of changing my heart for a good many years!  He has softened it, rearranged its priorities, sensitized it to others, and made it beat best when it is listening to his!  If you find yourself ever "undone" in the moment, just remember this - God sees your heart, not just your actions.  He knows the actions were wrong, but he knows the integrity of your heart.  It was this integrity which allowed me to apologize to my peers later in the day when things had calmed just a little.  

Don't know how you respond in the moment of frenzy, but I do not think I am alone in this muddle!  Thank goodness God sees our hearts first - our actions matter, but it is our heart he really directs his focus toward, as it affects our responses to life.  When he sees a right heart which just "skipped a beat" for a moment, he allows us to deal with the "arrhythmia" of an irregular beat or two, then move on!  What a gracious God indeed!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Dangerous NOT to belong!

In school I found there were various groups of people - some were pretty popular, others not so much.  In the moment, almost all of us wanted to be part of the popular group.  It was not so much the desire to "do" what they did, but to be considered to be "part of" their group.  In fact, if I had considered some of the stuff they "did", I might have reconsidered my all-fired desire to "fit into" their group!  Isn't it funny how we view others from the limited perspective of how being "part" of their "circle" will benefit us?  This is certainly not a new issue in society - nor is it soon to be resolved!

15-17 Mordecai walked out of the king's presence wearing a royal robe of violet and white, a huge gold crown, and a purple cape of fine linen. The city of Susa exploded with joy. For Jews it was all sunshine and laughter: they celebrated, they were honored. It was that way all over the country, in every province, every city when the king's bulletin was posted: the Jews took to the streets in celebration, cheering, and feasting. Not only that, but many non-Jews became Jews—now it was dangerous not to be a Jew!  (Esther 8:15-17 The Message)

In looking back, I have discovered we often believe it is more "dangerous" for us to be outside of these "groups" than it is to be on the "inside track" with them. As I consider some of the things I engaged in just to "fit in", my hair curls!  The type of speech I used, the ways I tried to dress, the out and out rebellious deeds - they just mount up and make me shake my head!

Isn't it amazing how many times we consider it a "benefit" to be anywhere other than we are, be doing something other than what we are doing, or to be someone other than we are?  If we re-read this passage closely, we see an amazing thing happening here.  

First, Mordecai was exalted because he refused to compromise his values.  He stood strong when asked to bow to Haman in homage - instead choosing to believe no one other than God himself was due this type of honor.  Our values are the one thing no one can truly take away from us.  When they are rightly rooted in the Word of God, the promises and commands contained within, we find these to be both a comfort and a strong foundation for our lives.  In looking back over my life, I discovered how much every "compromise" of a value cost me.  Values are a guiding principle - compromise them and you soon realize how much compromise costs.  Yet, hold fast to them, and you will be rewarded - maybe not in the moment, but God never forgets his children!

Second, when even one person stands upon the values they know to be right and sure, an entire nation can be affected!  We will never fully realize the impact of our "deciding moments" - not only in our own lives, but in the lives of those who observe them.  What we choose to do with the decisions of today determines the course of tomorrow - for us, and for those we influence.

Last, we never know the impact of our remaining true to our values upon those with dissimilar values.  In fact, for Mordecai the very fact he held to his beliefs and was honored for this stand began to cause those outside of the faith to consider what the "benefits" of his faith really were.  Wouldn't it be great if our deciding moments of today began to influence others to "investigate" the hope we have in Christ?  I wonder if the day will come when those who don't believe in Christ will ever feel it is a "dangerous thing" to NOT believe?  Who knows what impact we could make if we lived true to our convictions - refusing to compromise, standing upon what we believe to be true, and delighting in doing the will of God!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

In the periphery...

Have you ever come into a situation where you "think" someone is talking about you, so when you are asked your opinion based on just a little bit of knowledge of the gist of the conversation, you begin to launch into some answer which makes you look great (at least in your eyes!)?  Then, as quickly as you began, you find yourself caught off-guard when you realize they weren't even speaking of you, but another!  You are mortified to find out you have "built up" or "bragged on" someone you don't even like!  Haman found himself in just such a spot:

6-9 When Haman entered, the king said, "What would be appropriate for the man the king especially wants to honor?"  Haman thought to himself, "He must be talking about honoring me— who else?" So he answered the king, "For the man the king delights to honor, do this: Bring a royal robe that the king has worn and a horse the king has ridden, one with a royal crown on its head. Then give the robe and the horse to one of the king's most noble princes. Have him robe the man whom the king especially wants to honor; have the prince lead him on horseback through the city square, proclaiming before him, 'This is what is done for the man whom the king especially wants to honor!'"  (Esther 6:6-9 The Message)

It is a pretty ridiculous thing to be so full of ourselves, isn't it?  Whenever we see "us" as the center of the universe, we are headed for a fall!  The universe does not always rotate around "us" - in fact, it rarely does!

Haman wanted Mordecai out of the way - not paraded through the city streets on a horse dressed in regal attire.  He imagined the king could have no other "favorite" than him.  Imagine his surprise when he discovers there are actually other people in this world of importance to the king!  Sometimes I think we approach God in just this way - we imagine "us" as the center of his universe!  In fact, we hope and pray everything will rotate around us!  Sadly, we find we are not in the right place at the center of God's universe!  The real center of the universe is God - not us.

One thing is for sure - whenever my eyes are on me, I don't see you!  The same is true when my eyes are on me - I don't see God!  Regardless of how hard we try, we can only really "behold" one thing at a time.  Sure, there are things in our periphery vision, but they are just "in the periphery".  They are not the object of our focus.  The real truth is God is never content with just being in "the periphery" of our lives.  

I think this is what Jesus had in mind when he told us in was impossible to serve two "gods" - God and mammon.  Either money is in our focus, or God is.  One or the other is really in the periphery - no two things dwell together in equal focus!  Try it.  Put your coffee cup in front of you on a napkin.  Then put your spoon on the napkin.  Take a good hard look at them.  You will either see the cup, the spoon or the napkin - all three are in the "picture" together, but only one is in focus at a time.

What we focus on the most determines our course.  If we focus on the cup, we likely will crave the coffee.  If we focus on the napkin, we will think less of the coffee, and more of the protection it provides to the desk against the tiny drops of moisture which could destroy its finish.  If the spoon is the object of our attention - sparkling in its glittery brilliance - we will not remember the combined sweetness and bitterness of the coffee it stirred just a short while before.

Silly illustration, I know, speaks to the truth - one object is all we can truly keep in focus at a time.  How hard do we have to work to keep the correct focus in life?  Probably pretty hard!  Focus is tough - it is a learned thing.  I know when I learned to shoot a semi-automatic rifle, focus on the target through the tiny aiming device on the end of the rifle was the hardest thing to learn.  Yet, in the end, I became an expert marksman.  So, it is possible to refine our focus!

So...what's in your focus this morning?  What is in the periphery?  Does your focus need to change?  Always remember this:  Your focus determines your destiny!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Are you willing?

There are times when silence is definitely the best "tactic" to utilize - yet there are others when remaining silent will just worsen a situation.  Learning how to use silence in a positive manner is a skill many of us never fully grasp.  In fact, many of us don't like silence.  We avoid it at all cost.  There are also a group of us who like to express our opinion - invited or not.  Either way, what we do with the silence is important - what we do with the spoken word is even more so.

12-14 When Hathach told Mordecai what Esther had said, Mordecai sent her this message: "Don't think that just because you live in the king's house you're the one Jew who will get out of this alive. If you persist in staying silent at a time like this, help and deliverance will arrive for the Jews from someplace else; but you and your family will be wiped out. Who knows? Maybe you were made queen for just such a time as this."  (Esther 4:12-14 The Message)

Esther finds herself in such a predicament.  Her cousin, Mordecai, has learned of the king's decree (issued through Haman) to destroy all the Jews in the land.  The day has been set - all are to be killed - none spared.  To date, Esther's family line has not become a topic of discussion in the court of the king.  She is a Jew, yet we doubt Haman is aware of this as the decree is issued.  If he knew the peril in issuing a decree which would affect the king's "special lady", he might have thought twice!

Her dilemma becomes more apparent as she learns of the decree - to remain silent, or speak up about her heritage - either way carries some form of loss to her and her family.  Have you ever been in such a situation?  You could speak up, but if you do, you will be "implicated" in the process?  You could remain silent, but your silence will affect you just as severely - and possibly even others?  Not a great place to find yourself, is it? 

The choice we make in the moment is often what determines the outcome.  Isn't it amazing how one seemingly insignificant decision can make such a huge difference?  Silence is indeed a difficult "weapon" to learn to master.  I call it a "weapon" because it is indeed a weapon in the hands of one skilled in its use.  Silence in the hands of a skilled debater can give the audience just enough time to consider the point being made.  Silence in the hands of a vindictive person can give someone just enough rope to hang themselves!  Either way, it is a weapon of one sort or another.

Esther learned something in her years of growing up under the care of Mordecai - trust.  She learned to trust wise counsel.  She may not have possessed the things of other young women in the community - orphaned at an early age.  Yet, she possessed something many others did not - a caring and compassionate counselor (Mordecai).  Look at where he positions himself each day - at the gate of the court of the king.  He is at the "ready" - just in case she needs him.

In seeking counsel, she learns of her deciding moment - speak up or remain silent.  In trustful faith, she determines to speak what she knows may be the words which define her fate.  She cannot remain silent, but she can prepare for the message!  She takes three days of fasting and prayer - calling on those who are of like faith to do the same.  It is a great thing when we "rally the troops" to storm hell's gates, is it not?

In the preparation of the three days, the king's heart will be prepared.  In the same three days, hers will be faith-filled and revealed as faith-full.  The words of this passage which are spoken over and over again in churches across this world:  Who knows - - perhaps you have been prepared for such a time as this.  I had a pastor once tell me these words in just a slightly different manner.  I have held onto them all these years.  In closing, I will leave them for your consideration:

Are you willing to prepare a lifetime to be used even one day in the hands of God?

Monday, April 16, 2012

That's an odd custom!

In a world as diverse as ours, we see all kinds of "customs" and "ways" which are somewhat different from those we may have been raised to observe.  The passage of time even affects the customs and ways of various people.  Just look at the tendency to all eat dinner as a family in the 50's being replaced with the "catch as catch can" type of family gatherings we see today.  Yet, when a people holds to a custom, there are others who can always find fault with it.

Haman then spoke with King Xerxes: "There is an odd set of people scattered through the provinces of your kingdom who don't fit in. Their customs and ways are different from those of everybody else."  (Esther 3:8 The Message)

Haman was not so concerned about Mordecai (the cousin of Esther) being a Jew as much as he was concerned about Mordecai refusing to bow down to him in some sign of awareness of his "masterful" position he had obtained in the government.  Haman had bee promoted to the "top dog" position - highest official of the land next to the king himself.  In keeping with this "regal" position, he desired the pomp and circumstance which went with it!  Bowing as he passed was just one of those "customs" he desired.

Mordecai was a Jew faithful to his upbringing.  He knew the teaching of the Law of Moses - you shall have no other gods before me.  In other words, he would not bow before any other - only God himself.  It was not a thing of disrespecting Haman, but a matter of honoring God.  As a result, Haman labeled him, and his fellow Jews, as "not fitting in". 

I guess King Xerxes had never really observed the customs of the Jews as much of an affront to himself, but he liked Haman, so he went along with the plans of the "little weasel".  It is truly a sad day when the leadership of the land cannot or will not take time to investigate the circumstance before allowing the passage of a rule which impacts so many!  The vote of the "popular" may not always be to the advantage of the rest of society!

The message which spoke to me today in the study of this passage really centered on being a people who just "don't fit in".  You see, Mordecai was not content to "blend".  He had an "identity" in his heritage which he held as his current manner of behavior.  In fact, Mordecai was never disloyal to the king.  He had even uncovered a plot to harm the king - being sure to get word of the plot to the king through Esther.  In short order, the king dealt with the rebels who plotted against him, recording the actions of Mordecai's "good deed" in the annals of the king.

So, on the day when Haman came to complain about Mordecai, why didn't the king remember him?  I imagine the king had many loyal "citizens" of the land.  Haman never presented Mordecai as the "ring-leader" or as the instigator of this attack on the Jews.  In fact, I think he cleverly worked it out to purposefully NOT tell the king about Mordecai being a Jew.  It was his intolerance of the Jewish customs and ways which motivated him.  

We are often faced with customs and ways which we may not fully understand or appreciate.  I am not saying we need to be tolerant of those which hurt others or lead others into bondage of soul, but we do need to be aware of the heart behind the actions.  I personally don't wear dresses to church - but I have attended churches where this was the custom (and I honored their custom).  

Two lessons for us today.  First, look at the heart behind the custom.  When we focus only on what we see and not what is being "lived out", we often miss the purpose of the custom.  Second, leaders do their best when they pause long enough to consider each action in light of those they represent.  When decisions are made in haste, without adequate investigation and preparation, we often miss the unintended harm which comes in our moment of inattentive action.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Anointed with myrrh - really?

Imagine being a young woman, orphaned as a young child, taken in by your cousin to be reared after your parents' death.  You find yourself living in a strange land as a foreigner to the region, your family has been taken from you, and now you find yourself living in a "single parent" home.  Not the life every young girl dreams of, huh?  Then one day, a decree requires you to leave the comfort of the only "home" you really knew.  Taken from your place of comfort, you are ushered into a great harem of others being prepared for the pleasure of the king of the land.  Months of preparation will be required, but in the end, your very life will totally rotate around the king's command.  Esther finds herself alone, at the mercy of the head of the king's harem, and totally uncertain of her future.  Yet, in this story of Esther, I found a little nougat of hope:

When it was Esther's turn to go to the king (Esther the daughter of Abihail the uncle of Mordecai, who had adopted her as his daughter), she asked for nothing other than what Hegai, the king's eunuch in charge of the harem, had recommended. Esther, just as she was, won the admiration of everyone who saw her.  (Esther 2:15 The Message)

Hegai, the one the king had placed in charge of "readying" his harem, sees something of supreme "worth" in Esther.  He spends one year preparing her for the moment of her introduction - the moment of her unveiling.  Six months of myrrh, six months of perfumes and cosmetics.  

The thing which caught my eye was the preparation with myrrh - for six months!  Have you ever seen myrrh?  It comes from a tree which is thorny and grows in the dry, stony soil of the Middle East.  The first part of her preparation is taken from a tree of thorns!  Do you know how myrrh is formed?  From the tree being pierced!  As the penetration of the bark occurs, the sapwood is allowed to "bleed".  The thing which emerges is what we have come to know as myrrh - the very "life-blood" of the tree.  

In Eastern medicine, myrrh is considered a "blood-moving" treatment.  It is often used to heal the conditions of "stagnancy" in the blood.  In our Western medicine, we find myrrh in simple things like toothpaste, mouthwash, and some balms for healing our many "boo-boos".  It has an "analgesic" effect - helping to deal with pain.

Esther is treated with myrrh for six months.  She has been through her own places of "hard, rocky soil" in her life - losing her parents, being raised in a single-parent home, taken into captivity in a foreign land, and now prepared for some purpose she just does not fully realize.  Imagine the condition of her heart.  She is but a teenager - alone, frightened, taken into the harem of a foreign king.  Another round of "hard soil"!  Yet, it was from the "richness" of the hard soil she comes to be anointed for service!

We often wonder about the course God allows in getting us to the place where he wants us, don't we?  It may seem like a whole lot of "hard, rocky soil", right?  Yet, in the midst of the rocks grows a tree (the cross)!  Complete with thorns of its own (Christ's crown).  From the life-blood of this tree, we are anointed!  It is this anointing, repeated over and over again, which prepares us for service to the king!

It is never an easy process to be in the place of "preparation", but when the unveiling comes, what a glorious site to behold!  From the thorns richness has come - from the anointing something beautiful is produced.  The life-blood of the tree becomes the very thing which heals and rejuvenates us!  Glory!  Anoint on God!  Make us a thing of beauty!  A thing of pleasure just for your enjoyment!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Mountains out of molehills

I was listening to a song on the way to work yesterday.  In the verse, a thought crossed my mind which I took as a seed thought for our study today.  The basics of the song inferred we stand on mountains of shame.  Dare I say we do this more than we may actually realize?  

When wickedness arrives, shame's not far behind; contempt for life is contemptible.  (Proverbs 18:3 The Message)

Have you ever heard the saying, "You are making mountains out of molehills"?  In the purest sense, this describes our tendency to respond "disproportionately" to something.  We all have a tendency to exaggerate a situation once in a while.  Yet, as it comes to our shame over misdeeds, I think we start out standing on a molehill and before long it advances to a mountain.

We don't have moles in my neck of the woods, but we do have prairie dogs.  Those tiny mounds of dirt they push up as they burrow into the ground are certainly not very "ominous" in appearance.  Yet, if you are the ground hog, those very small mounds of dirt serve some purpose.

First, they provide a barrier against the forces which would seek to invade their burrows, such as rain water.  They act as small "dams" to keep out the waters.  Second, they provide a vantage point for them to spy out their territory.  As they perch on the top of one of these mounds, they can scout all around.  Only problem - their view is limited to this very "low" perspective.  There are all kinds of "overhead" viewpoints which clearly expose us.  Lastly, they provide something to hide behind.  They can barely peak over the top and begin to "sense" if there is safety in the immediate area.  They can quickly retreat back into their hole if a threat is sensed.

Now, how do prairie dog holes refer to shame in our lives?  Well, rain comes in our lives in the form of "healing" and "cleansing" rain - direct from the throne of God.  We will call this "grace rain".  If we build dams against the "grace rain" we never really expose ourselves to the very thing which will cleanse us!  The barriers we place between us and God in the form of our walls of shame actually serve to keep us from receiving the very thing which he provides for our healing.

We also think we have a good view of our sinfulness - seeing our shame as this huge mound of guilt we stand upon.  Problem is, we don't have as good of a vantage point as we think we do!  God sees our shame as molehills - we see it as mountains!  Silly us!  Our shame looks like an impossibility to overcome - we have worked so hard to get those walls built, after all!

Last, but not least, we hide so cleverly behind those mounds!  We think they cover us from view, but guess what - - it is hard to hide behind a molehill!  Try it - - you will find you have very little "cover" in the scheme of the Almighty's vantage point.  There is nothing which covers sin like the blood of Jesus.  Whatever "cover" we try on our own will be futile.

Just thoughts about molehills and mountains today.  What you do with the molehill determines if you will stand upon true mountains!