Search This Blog

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

More than a game

Your eternal word, O Lord, stands firm in heaven. Your faithfulness extends to every generation, as enduring as the earth you created. Your regulations remain true to this day, for everything serves your plans. (Psalm 119:89-91 NLT)

If you have ever played that little game of birds and objects to be toppled known as Angry Birds, then you know just how frustrating it can be at times. There are various levels within the game that have challenged me more than a little - the exact "formula" for calculating just the right point an object must be struck in order to get it to topple is sometimes just a little more elusive than I would like to admit. Yet this game makes me think - so I enjoy it. The more I am challenged by a difficult level, the more I focus on finding the solution! In life, there are "difficult levels" to complete - hard solutions that seem to evade us for sometimes longer than we might want to admit.

At each level of this game, the player is given a set amount of "resources" by which the level must be "cleared". Sometimes I get 3 birds, all of varying "talent", while at others I might get 7 of other "talents". Each bird has a different "function" within the scheme of the game. The yellow one can go very straight and has a "power" feature that speeds it up, but it is most useful against wooden objects in its path. The tiny blue one doesn't look like much, but it divides into three small birds, each with a unique skill of breaking icy objects. The really fat red one is good for toppling piles with lots and lots of "clutter" in them, while the white one drops an egg and then sails away. The last one is the black bird - a bomber bird, capable of doing damage even after it hits its mark.

While all of these are valuable, sometimes the most valuable object I need isn't one of these "given resources", but the ones I must use some of my earned coins to purchase. There are birds that shake the entire foundation and cause things to topple, others that are like an "extra" bird capable of doing greater damage to whatever it hits. Why is all this important to you? You may not play this game, but you do play the game of "real life" everyday. You are given various resources, capable of certain tasks, but sometimes you come up short in the resource category. At those moments, you often look at what you have in reserve (those coins) so that you can somehow pull out those extra resources and tackle the problem at hand.

While all of this is good, the truth of the matter is that God has unlimited resources. The challenges that seem to elude our mastery are often the ones he is counting on us to simply ask him for the solution to, then stand back in wonder as he "topples" the barrier in front of us! Yes, he gives us the resources we have at our disposal and even the "eye" or "skill" to see how they will help us tackle the problem ahead. He shows us how to use what we have been given, but there are times we must trust him for the "little extra" the problem demands in order to fully be dealt with! 

Everything in the hands of God serves his plan. The key is understanding his plan. When I finally see the solution to the level I have been challenged with, it is like I have a light go on inside my head. The way to clear what has hindered my progress becomes apparent - not because I figured it out, but because I relied upon what God sees and knows to be the "weak points" by which that obstacle can be toppled. Just sayin!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Delivering on the play

We should help others do what is right and build them up in the Lord. 
I have to ask - when was the last time you actually can say you helped someone else do what was right, not just what was convenient or easiest? Sometimes it is the hardest thing to do to actually help someone do what is right - because it requires so much more than you might really know at the outset. There are times when doing the right thing is easy - but most of the time it requires a little more thought, effort, and even elbow-grease!
Some will think this means we just encourage one another to do what is right - like a cheerleader on the sidelines rooting for their team. If we are truthful, the game isn't won because of the one cheering on the sideline, although it may bolster the waning enthusiasm of those on the field. The game isn't even won because of the excellence of the coach on the sidelines, although his expertise may help to navigate a great strategy to further the progress of the players on the field.
The game is won by those "IN" the game! It can also be lost by those same individuals. The outcome might be changed a little by the excellent coach or the enthusiastic cheerleaders. It may even be the fans in the stands, hooping and hollering, that think they helped win the game. The ones on the field, in the game, those are the ones who know the specific and sometimes extreme effort it took to move the ball, or deliver on the play!
Looking at our passage again, we see a twofold instruction: Build up (using words of encouragement) and help (getting your hands dirty). It isn't as though my part of the job is to just give lip-service to this thing you are going through - it is that I am to give knee-service, hand-service, back-service, or whatever-is-needed service to help you actually walk this thing out on a daily basis! It is one thing to tell someone you will praying for them - it is another to walk with them through the journey! Just sayin!

Monday, May 29, 2017

Counterfeit or not

Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers[a] of this world, rather than from Christ.  For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body.  So you also are complete through your union with Christ, who is the head over every ruler and authority. (Colossians 2:8-10 NLT)

Have you ever been duped? In some situations it is easier to be deceived or cheated, isn't it? The less you really know about something, the easier it is for someone to convince you what they are saying is correct. The more you know, the harder it is for someone to tell you something that isn't true. Yet, there are times when our "know" doesn't match what we "show" or "do". We still get "duped" somehow! Just how does this happen when we have the knowledge? Shouldn't that be nearly impossible? Not really, for knowledge is only "head deep" sometimes and never really gets into practical application - we know the truth, but it isn't "at work" in us.

There is a tell-tale sign of being duped - we somehow end up being offered a "counterfeit" to the real and we actually buy it! It really doesn't matter to us that it is counterfeit, for we are more concerned with how it looks than we are about how it really performs! In life, the things that "dupe" us are those things that help us present a good front, but they lack the ability to change how we think or respond - they lack the truth to give us true freedom. There are a variety of "good fronts" we can each display, but the counterfeit only goes so far - eventually the truth will reveal our true character!

Some see the one who is duped as an "easy mark" - simply because they don't take the time to test what it is they are being told - making it easy to convince them they are making the right choice. Sometimes the hardest thing to do is take time before one acts upon a certain idea or choice of direction in life, but it is that "up front" decision that makes the destination all that more determined in our lives. Either we take the time to choose wisely, or we run the very real risk that the destination will only have a "false front" for what is really at the end of the road when we follow that false direction. 

The Greek statesman Demosthenes said it this way: "A man is his own easiest dupe, for what he wishes to be true he generally believes to be true." We can believe a whole lot of things - influencing what we will "do" when presented with anything that even vaguely resembles whatever it is we believe. Surround yourself with truth, immerse your thoughts in the Word of God, and you will be less likely to accept what merely "resembles" truth! Just sayin!

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Row on

Commitment is an act, not a word.  (Jean-Paul Sartre)  It was Sartre who also said that the only one who has time to rock the boat is the one who is not rowing it! The facts are quite plain - get in, grab an oar, and start rowing! Actions are needed - not just words - when it comes to this walk with Jesus! The Christian group Selah has a song entitled "Hold On". In it you will find the words:  "You gotta hold to His hand, God's unchanging hand. You gotta hold to His hand, God's unchanging hand. You gotta build your hopes on things eternal. My God will never let you down." As much as we think we are doing all the "rowing" in this life, the reality is that God is the one who has our hand in his, moving not just the "boat" of our life, but the waters upon which it rests!

He is the Lord our God. His justice is seen throughout the land. He always stands by his covenant—the commitment he made to a thousand generations. (Psalm 105:7-8 NLT)

Sartre indicated this thing called commitment is an action - perhaps starting with words, but backed by all manner of action until the evidence of the fact becomes a reality one can trust in with all of one's heart. This commitment begins first with our heavenly Father. The one who stands by his covenant is the one who holds our hand! There is no other who will match his faithfulness, nor is there any way we can humanly be "perfect" in our commitment, but we can take steps in obedience as he calls us to. This is perhaps the single-most important way we reveal our love - in taking action toward obedience. I believe love is the ultimate act of commitment - it is the ultimate culmination of actions taken, not for ourselves, but because we trust in and rely upon another.

By the very act of committing one's self to a matter, we are indicating we are about to change. Think about it - when we agree to save money, don't we take the first step to open a saving's account and arrange for a sum to be deposited? We change how it is we handle our money because we make that commitment. When we agree to go somewhere on a certain day at a certain time, we prepare to be there as planned, requiring a "change" from our present location to the other. All of commitment requires change - therefore, the greatest actions of love lead us toward change - first his actions pull us toward change, then our actions respond to actually enter into that change. 

Too many times I think we approach commitment as though it was just a matter of the mind or heart. In reality, giving thought to, or emotionally responding is good, but it lacks the "feet" that are required to realize the evidence of true and lasting change in our lives. Change requires movement - therefore, it can be assumed that commitment requires movement (action), as well! God might part waters, move mountains, and answer our every need even before we utter the words that we have need - actions based on his commitment to us. Parted waters, moved mountains, and answered prayers are not just a display of his love, they are "avenues" for our change! Avenues are only of value when they are traveled - no road is ever created just to look at it! Just sayin!

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Working hard or hardly working?

What do people really get for all their hard work? 10 I have seen the burden God has placed on us all. 11 Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. 12 So I concluded there is nothing better than to be happy and enjoy ourselves as long as we can. 13 And people should eat and drink and enjoy the fruits of their labor, for these are gifts from God. 
(Ecclesiastes 3:9-13 NLT)

There are always going to be days when we just look at whatever we are doing and wonder if it is all worth it. This is just a human reaction to stuff when it gets a little harried and difficult to go through. We want to know whatever it is we are "enduring" is going to somehow be worth it. I have taken on projects that physically tax my body - only to wonder half-way through why in blazes I ever started the task! This can be especially true in the hard work we undertake that actually stretches us beyond capacity. We don't enjoy the stretching process much after we get into it, even though we may have been totally gung-ho at the start!

The truth is that God designed hard work - regardless of how we might feel about it right now! The design of God is for each of us to be stretched now and again - so we don't grow "flabby" in our faith. He wants us to be challenged - so our trust grows deeper and our hold on his truth becomes more solid. Have you ever noticed just how close you grow to God during the tough times? Do you think that is by accident? Nope! It is by design!

The enjoyment of life is not a sinful thing - God designed for us to work hard, then to enjoy the fruits of our labor. I know there have been times when I decided to build something for the garden, or perhaps repaint a room to freshen it up a bit. It took lots and lots of energy, stretching me to capacity at times. When I get to finally admire the job at the end, it is kind of rewarding - like the "fruit" of my labor becomes some kind of "artwork" I get to take it for a while and just "enjoy".

We don't know the scope or magnitude of all God has planned for us, but we can rest assure that if we apply ourselves to it, we will enjoy the fruit of whatever it is he has purposed for us to do! This is what we hold onto as we "go through" stuff that seems harder than we imagined it would be. This is what we gather around when we recognize we need help in the journey. No one sets out to fail. No one sets out fully knowing what they will encounter, either.

What we realize from our "hard work" may not seem like much today, but continual application of what we know as we continue to journey from this piece of work to the next will eventually result in a finished masterpiece we can stand back and enjoy fully as we see what all came together. Just sayin!

Friday, May 26, 2017

Mom, Friend, and Companion


When she speaks, her words are wise, and she gives instructions with kindness. She carefully watches everything in her household and suffers nothing from laziness. 
(Proverbs 31:26-27 NLT)


Today another family sees the end of an era of the watchful guidance and oversight by a wonderful mother, tremendous friend, and loving lady. My sister-in-law has lost her long and arduous battle with breast cancer. I don't often write tributes to individuals, but feel compelled to do so this morning. She was a great gal and leaves a huge hole in her family with her passing. She was always one to put her kids before her own self - one who loved well and was loved so very much in return. She didn't seek the lime-light, nor did she stand out for what the world would see as some "great accomplishment", but her children will stand for years to come recounting her love, generosity, guidance, and support - perhaps the greatest accomplishment one could ever strive for anyway!

She was the "careful watcher" over her household, noticing the small things that mattered in life and supporting every dream of her children. She found ways to help them deal with life when they couldn't deal with it very well themselves and always found ways to show them she'd leave a door open and a light on for them when they just needed to find their way home again. She was taken way too early, but she leaves a lasting legacy in the hearts of many she has known and touched down through the years. Perhaps this is the greatest treasure one can take to their grave - knowing they have loved well and were loved well in return.

My friends, many fight valiant battles today against diseases not fully understood and endure many hardships associated with that long battle. It is my hope each will have been surrounded by such a loving family and dedicated group of friends, while being held in arms of comfort when words could not express the deep sorrow as each cascading report was received that gave less than encouraging news. It is also my hope that each of your homes are as filled with the love I have observed in the home of my dear friend and family member. There is no greater blessing than to have been loved well, for I believe it bespeaks the truth that you have loved well yourself! Just reminiscing....

Thursday, May 25, 2017

I have a high "IQ"

Intelligent people are always ready to learn. Their ears are open for knowledge. (Proverbs 18:15 NLT)

Intelligence is measured in a number of different ways, but most commonly we hear of someone's IQ (intelligence quotient) as the measure of just how "smart" that individual is or is not. I am not a proponent of measuring "smartness" by this quotient, for I have met many a highly "intelligent" individual who lacks common sense or much in the way of spiritual insight. The higher IQ doesn't guarantee that individual has filled their "spiritual tank" as much as they might have filled their "intelligence tank". With an empty spiritual tank, all the intelligence in the world leaves you lacking some of the best and most beneficial of knowledge there is - the mind of Christ!

I believe it was Erma Bombeck that eluded to the concept of judgment slowly, but surely turning to compassion and understanding - simply by becoming a parent. The mindset changes when the circumstances of life change, doesn't it? The hard and fast way of seeing things, always black or white, suddenly gets blurred when we see these wee ones in front of us and then have to make sense of how they see the world through their innocent eyes. The way we see things doesn't always "add up" in their understanding of life - so we have to bend a little in how we hold fast to the way we think things should be so that we don't destroy their ability or willingness to learn something. A parent has one way of defining a "clean room" for example - a child sees that they can quickly identify where their clean underwear are, even if they are in a pile on the floor where they landed after the laundry was all folded!

The child isn't "unintelligent" - he or she is adaptive to the situation at hand and applies the knowledge at hand to get the job done. To the child, the drawers are nice, but when you can see everything and don't have to go through the extra steps of opening the drawers - that is a bonus! Their primary concern is that they know where their toys are, who is interacting with those toys, and just how much time they can spend with those toys before bedtime encroaches upon their enjoyment. Over the course of time, the child must learn there is a time for play and a time for work - a tough concept for a child to grasp - not because it requires a high IQ, but because it requires a "bending of the will". This is often where true "intelligence" is judged - not in that we can remember all the facts or systems in the world, but that we know when our needs may have to be put on hold to meet the needs presented by another.

God's mind isn't going to mysteriously just "populate" ours with his thoughts and ways of seeing things, but the more we are willing to lay down how it is we insist on perceiving things, the more we are opened to the way he does. The simple truth of the matter is that our spiritual tank must constantly be refilled, and this is done by allowing more and more of the mind of Christ to be revealed to us. We then determine how much we will allow those thoughts to determine our actions, lending to the overall "intelligence" we exhibit in the matter at hand. Sometimes the best "IQ" we can display is the one in which we admit we don't have all the answers and we just need God to give us a little more insight into the matter! Just sayin!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Let's be sensible here

Sensible people keep their eyes glued on wisdom, but a fool’s eyes wander to the ends of the earth. 
(Proverbs 17:24 NLT)

Although I like the style of some shoes, I wear "sensible" shoes because I have undergone multiple knee surgeries and value the health of my knees more than the style I display on my feet! Despite the fact I may admire some of today's fanciest cars, I drive a very "sensible" vehicle that gets great gas mileage and has room for more than two of us so we can go places together. I enjoy rich foods, but choose "sensible" foods over the rich ones because they don't end up on my hips quite as quickly! "Sensible" choices are under-appreciated sometimes, but stop for just a moment to consider what "sensible" means and you might just learn to appreciate those choices a little more.

Sensible carries the meaning of someone having sound judgment - there is a basis to the choice they make that isn't just haphazardly chosen, but is consistent with other choices that lend to a solid foundation. The most important part of "sensible" choices is that the one making them is "cognizant" of some matters that lead to those choices - they aren't made without thinking. We find "sensible" choices are often labeled as "wise" or "intelligent" choices. They are the ones people think of as logical or practical. They aren't the fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of choices!

I don't know about you, but I do better in an environment that fosters sensible choices and encourages sensible actions. It seems to "fit" best with what I honestly believe God sees as "best" for my life. Those times when I have launched over into the irrational side of "choice camp" have not ended as well for me - how about you? The irrational side of the camp is often missing something we might call "foundational principles" - there is some foundation, but it can be situational and oftentimes changing as fast as the weather!

Our eyes wander, don't they? We just have a hard time with focus. In the doctor's office, while having my eyes examined, they usually tell me to just focus on the green dot in the center of the screen. Do you know how hard that is when all these other moving things on the screen are occurring? They tell me to look straight at their left ear, and then my mind wanders to why their earlobes are formed that way, or how their earring seems to pick up the pattern in their blouse and now I am looking at their blouse!

What might not occur to us is that "sensible choices" are actually much harder than the irrational or "impractical", "irrational", or "unreasonable" choices we find ourselves making from time to time. It is all because one requires focus and the others don't! Sensibility is not easy - it means we remain true to the foundation - we don't compromise the integrity of the foundation just because we get distracted. Sensible choices align with wise principles - so one might think the key to making them is to evaluate the wisdom in the choice. While this may be true, wisdom isn't the thing always the clearest to see - it sometimes requires us to settle down long enough to actually hear the small voice pointing out the wisdom, or lack of it, in the choice we are about to make. Just sayin!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Written in the heart

Love is friendship that has caught fire. It is quiet understanding, mutual confidence, sharing and forgiving. It is loyalty through good and bad times. It settles for less than perfection and makes allowances for human weaknesses. (Ann Landers)

An honest answer is like a kiss of friendship. 

(Proverbs 24:26 NLT)

As my kids were growing up, we faced all manner of "tragedy" where friends were concerned. One week the "best friend" would not have paid enough attention to the other - the next these "best friends" could be the best of buds. The pendulum swing of friendship almost drove me crazy during their teenage years! The message they heard from me was quite consistent and has not varied down through the years - if they are the type of friend you really want, you will work this out. 

Sometimes we get into a place where true friendships are tested - times when a sideways glance or a word spoken in haste can set in play a wide variety of emotions and unrest. At others, the simple smile or knowing look can tell you there is a connection deeper than words can ever explain. The value of a true friendship is really immeasurable - for it keeps you straight when you want to go astray and it reminds you how much you really need one another even when you don't always say it.

One of the most valuable treasures we can have is that of a true friend. They aren't afraid to speak wisdom into your life. They are there when you just cannot figure out what to do next. Their smile encourages your heart and their tears weight you down with a sadness so deep you are certain their grief is your own. There are times of laughter and equally times of quiet appreciation of just being together. There is no compulsion to speak, nor is there the censure placed upon the words you find necessary to speak at the times they most need to hear them.

The one who finds such a treasure has innumerable resources at the ready - for that friend will stick with you through thick and thin. There is strength found in their words of encouragement, hope in their words of trust, and freedom in their words of pointed advice. The time you spend together doesn't need to be "filled" with anything - for it is the time that "fills" each of you more than words can ever tell. It is as though you just "sense" each other's need and without even noticing, you have set about to meet that need.

We can look many places for wisdom and truth, but it is found first in the relationship we maintain with Jesus and second in the friendship we maintain with that one God has placed in our lives to help us maintain balance, center our focus, and yes, even to develop our patience or open our eyes to things we just don't see in ourselves. Their words may not be recorded in the pages of history for others to read, but their words and actions write a message of love and hope so deep within our hearts that it shall never be forgotten! Just sayin!

Monday, May 22, 2017

Premature birth

Just as you cannot understand the path of the wind or the mystery of a tiny baby growing in its mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the activity of God, who does all things. (Ecclesiastes 11:5 NLT)
Viability is determined for the fetus at a point in time when the baby can "exist" in an environment outside of the womb. Premature birth may actually "harm" the tiny infant because it cannot fully support life outside of the womb - intensive intervention must be performed repeatedly to sustain the life of a 24 week fetus. It may be possible for the tiny infant to survive, but the effort which must be put forth to see that life sustained outside of the womb when born too early is astronomical. There are times in our own walk with Christ when we try to birth something way too early, resulting in a whole lot of extra work, or "re-visiting" of the subject matter time and time again in order to sustain that thing which was birthed way too early!
When we "mess with" God's timing or his purposes in our lives, we often can see issues associated with "prematurity". That portion of our character God was developing within us may just not come to full growth, requiring quite a bit more work than may have been required if we'd have just allowed him the time or the right circumstances to see it developed fully. It is not uncommon for us to rush God - thinking we have a full impression of what he wants for us. I know that every time I have rushed his plans, I have experienced way too many problems to count. It isn't that he isn't there with me - it is that I am not ready for what I have tried to "birth" ahead of schedule!
As the baby develops within the mother's womb, the mother can become very curious about what is actually occurring. There are "signs" that something is afoot inside there, but do we know exactly what it is? Nope! We can guess - based on the things we are experiencing - but we don't fully know if 10 toes, 10 fingers, 2 ears, and a perfect little button nose are as they should be. We don't know that until the time of birth. While some will argue we can know this with the use of ultrasound, I would have to remind us that even the most clear picture in an ultrasound still pales in comparison to the "true picture" of that which we will hold in our arms later.
While development is taking place, we wait - often quite impatiently. This where the rub comes in - we don't like to wait. We rush God's handiwork so many times in our lives simply because we don't "know" what he is doing. The truth is that we don't trust him to be doing the right stuff! We want to "see" because we don't often trust what we cannot see or fully understand. I don't "see" gravity, but I see the results of it. I don't "see" the air I breathe, but I know it must contain sufficient oxygen to sustain my life because I am still pink and upright! There are things we all come to "trust" without really thinking too much about them - so why do we want to rush God into "showing us" what we cannot see he is doing rather than allowing him the time to be about his perfect work?
I think most of us would agree - it is hard to trust what we cannot see, but there are definite struggles with seeing something way ahead of God's perfect timing! Let's not rush God's hand or challenge his timing. We may not fully "see" what he is up to within us, but we can trust he is creating what will be good and right. That is just what he does. Just sayin!

Sunday, May 21, 2017

The window is open

You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it. (Psalm 139:13-14 NLT)

If you have ever watched people, you know we humans come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and dare I say, complexities! The wide range of dissimilarities is evident, while the even wider range of similarities is glaringly obvious, as well! We all have skin - although it may be dark, light, paper-thin, or leather-like from too much time in the sun. We all have eyes - some with two rather well-working ones, others with neither working well. We all have a heart beating within and lungs expanding to take in air and let it out when it is no longer useful to our bodies. As I watch people around me, I observe one thing with almost all of them - their eyes. Why? As it has been said, the eye reveals much more about a person than almost any other feature of their make-up, for it is the window to their soul. The eye betrays or confirms their "heart condition".
It was the American author Minna Antrim who said, "A beautiful woman delights the eye; a wise woman the understanding; a pure one, the soul." She is also quoted as saying, "Experience is a good teacher, but she sends a terrific bill." The soul is defined by the "bill" it has had to pay - the "debt" that has been accumulated by the tremendous amount of experiences one has endured over the course of one's lifetime. The make-up of every man and woman is impacted by the types of experiences one comes into contact with and how we each choose to deal with them, or perhaps reject them completely. The "bill" we owe is often the direct result of us having taken on more than we should have!
The soul is revealed through the window of the eyes - the heart condition of each individual is evident to those who will look deep enough to discover the truth within. When I look into the eyes of those closest to me, I most often see love - even when I know they are frustrated with me, the circumstances I am presenting, or the difficulty I am creating in their lives right now. There is something of God in those eyes - for within the eyes of those I have chosen to surround myself with I can frequently catch huge glimpses of grace and love. Perhaps this is the one thing we should always have in common, but which oftentimes escapes us more than it should.
My BFF and I frequently quip about being able to find "a good man" and just how hard that actually is, for we all carry some baggage from our past. Some of us have made a rather short list of "qualifications" for those we will allow into our lives, while others have a list so lengthy it almost makes it impossible for anyone to get close to them! My qualifications are simple - love God with all your heart. In turn, your soul will reveal elements of his grace, your mind will be settled on truth, and your spirit will soar to heights I can only sometimes imagine. If your eyes reveal that love - I am drawn to you without question. I don't care if your skin is dark or light, you are tall or short, you have too much "fluff" or are buff beyond measure. I care about what your eyes reveal as to the condition of your soul. 
Maybe we'd be better off today if we'd stop looking at the statement we make with our clothes, the number of tattoos or piercings we have, or the precision of our make-up applied and just look a little deeper into the window of our souls. It could be there that the deepest and most meaningful connections will be made for mankind has been created with the capacity for so much of God's grace and love to fill and indwell the inner man. Just sayin!

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Beauty is more than skin deep

Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last; but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised. 
(Proverbs 31:30 NLT)

I was taking a look of some recent photos of movie actresses as they are now in their seventies or older. They look nothing like what they used to! In fact, those who have chosen to "stay young" by getting all that botox, collagen, and who knows what pumped or implanted into various areas of their bodies look a little bit "morphed" from what they were! Maybe they see this as an improvement over the wrinkles and natural sagging process of older skin, but eegads - it can be scary! Those voluminous lips stand out like nobody's business! The perfectly toned skin is obviously stretched to capacity - it barely moves when they blink, talk, or smile!

Audrey Hepburn once commented about "true beauty". She said, "The beauty of a woman must be seen in her eyes, because that is the doorway to her heart, the place where love resides." She was so right! Those stars can primp this, puff that, and plump whatever, but their eyes tell a much different story at times! They often betray the true emptiness of their heart - the misery of the years of living in the constant "circle of attention" they have endured. Try as they might, they cannot "mask" the absence of peace, love, and true joy that is only there when one has made Christ the center of their lives.

One of my favorite quotes about beauty comes from musician David Allan Coe: "It is not the beauty of a building you should look at; its the construction of the foundation that will stand the test of time." The foundation is paramount to what is built upon it. A bad foundation creates a less than reliable building! I have a great BFF who isn't afraid to go without make-up or just hang-out on vacation in our baggy sweats or even enduring "hat head" after a long day fishing. We don't have to "put on airs" to be together - we can be real with each other - and I value what has been built upon that foundation of genuine concern for each other's well-being more than anything else in the world. Without it, I don't know where I'd have gone astray!

Beauty is fleeting unless it is built upon a great foundation. No matter how much you try to "apply it", it comes from much deeper. It isn't applied, injected, repaired, or "refreshed" by any substance. It is the result of a right heart, a settled mind, and a restored spirit. Just sayin!

Friday, May 19, 2017

Praise Him, all creatures here below...

Praise the Lord from the earth, you creatures of the ocean depths, fire and hail, snow and clouds, wind and weather that obey him, mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars, wild animals and all livestock, small scurrying animals and birds, kings of the earth and all people, rulers and judges of the earth, young men and young women, old men and children. 
(Psalm 148:7-12 NLT)

I had the privilege of enjoying a solid week with my BFF away from the busy schedules of work life with both of being able to just "settle into" the beauty of nature and the peacefulness of the cool pines. It was enjoyable to take walks among the tall pines and take in the wonder of huge boulders balancing precariously one upon the other. The gentle lapping waters of the lakes and the sound of tiny scampering feet as the squirrels made their way from one "stash" to the other just has a way of relaxing the soul and re-centering the mind. We took one Sunday morning to enjoy a rather leisurely, but long hike through the woods, listening in wonder as the trees seemed to carry the tune of praise to the one who created their majesty. I recall turning to my BFF and sharing that it seemed to me the trees were keeping beat with the song of praise gathering in my mind and spirit as we traversed that forest land. It should never amaze us that even nature cries out to the Creator!

Don't ever think the Master of all Creation takes for granted even one breath of praise. He is ever-listening to even the "breathed praises" of our minds! James reminds us that every good and every perfect gift is from the Father above. Nothing exists without his care - nothing then should remain silent where it comes to giving him praise and worship. As I set one foot in front of the other, pausing to take a photo here or there of the loveliness of the scenery I was beholding, the doxology so many of us may be familiar with kept running through my mind - "Praise God, from Whom All Blessings Flow". The words are simple actually:

Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

(Thomas Ken, 1694)

The power of praise - it cannot be underestimated, for it has a way of filling the empty soul and encouraging the downcast spirit. The mind is renewed and the heart is set free to take in the beauty around, not by accident, but because God has purposed to allow us the enjoyment of taking in such magnificent moments. It doesn't matter where you worship God, although his plan was always for us to do it in conjunction with other believers. It matters that we engage in the action of praise and the heart-connection of worship. If it has been a while since you celebrated the goodness of God and enjoyed the many wonders around you that he has prepared for your enjoyment, then maybe it is time to just relax a little - allowing his presence to sweep over you until you are once again at rest and in peace. Just sayin!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Mountain climbers don't skirt the mountain

If you have ever climbed a mountain, you know there are times when you get so out of breath you just don't think you are going to make it any further. The stress of going up that additional altitude just puts a strain on you that your body takes a while to adjust to, even for the most "conditioned" climber. The fact that we have climbed a mountain before doesn't always prepare us for the next great peak we must scale. Every climb can and will be slightly different, even when we traverse the same mountain again!

God arms me with strength, and he makes my way perfect.
33 He makes me as surefooted as a deer,
 enabling me to stand on mountain heights. (Psalm 18:32-33 NLT)


We are always going to be faced with things in this lifetime that seem to be as immovable mountains - the only way to move past them is either to walk the long, long way around them, or climb the hard climb to get over them. There is something magnificent that happens in the climb, though, that we don't actually find when we just choose to "skirt" the perimeter of the mountain. We don't get the newness of differing perspectives. On the ground, at the base of the mountain, the view of the mountain may appear different as we skirt the great expanse of its base, but we still don't have the advantage of "higher perspective".

You have heard the old saying that we cannot see the tree for the forest. If we never climb the mountain, we get bogged down in the details of what we "can" perceive, and we never get to a different perspective that could alter our perception. I think mountains come into our path because God wants to change our perspective - to help us see the beauty of the wood within those trees, or that there is much, much more in life all around us that we don't see because we are so focused on the "tree" issue in front of us. Yes, the climb to actually come into that "new perspective" is hard. Yes, it is going to challenge what is within us. Yet...if we stay where we are, or settle for skirting the base of the issue looming over us, we will never see what God sees!

The largest perspective comes as we move from the broad base of the mountain-like issue into the smaller areas at the peak of that issue - the more we "take on" the mountain, the less we see of the mountain and the more we see of what lies way beyond the base of that huge issue that stood in our way. Those who make it to the peak see very clearly that the real issue is usually something far different than what they perceived at the base of that mountain! Some of our hardest climbs bring us to the best understanding of the real issues we need to deal with in life!

We don't climb blindly, though. We prepare for the climb, but we don't spend endless hours and days and weeks and months just preparing. At some point, we stop skirting the base of the mountain-like issue and we just take the first steps upward. This takes a degree of faith, believing that when the climb gets us into tight spaces or tough territory to navigate, we will be as sure-footed as the deer continuing that climb! If you have ever tried to walk around a mountain-like issue, you just find there are other mountain-like issues behind that first mountain you didn't appreciate as there because you couldn't see them! When you climb the first mountain, you soon see where it is you need to navigate in order to make the journey in the least and more "productive" amount of time! 

Overcomers don't skirt the mountain - the take on the mountain, ascending into the heights until their perspective of the mountain and what lies beyond it changes enough for them to move beyond it! Just sayin!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Why the guard rails?

Guard rails exist beside the side of the road for a reason, don't they? They are not decorative. They aren't put kn totally flat,non-winding roads. They are there for our safety...to keep us from gong over the edge into a ravine or a ditch. They come in places of the road where it would be easy to miss just how close to the edge we were without them. We don't always know the "proximity" we are maintaining to the edge in our lives until we begin to bump up against some of the "guards" God places there to keep us safe!

Lord , you alone are my inheritance, my cup of blessing. You guard all that is mine. The land you have given me is a pleasant land. What a wonderful inheritance! I will bless the Lord who guides me; even at night my heart instructs me. I know the Lord is always with me. I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me. (Psalms 16:5‭-‬8 NLT)

As a kid, I would crawl into the upper bunk in our camper while mom and dad were in the cab of the truck. We'd go rattling down the road in search of a good fishing spot for dad to throw in his line and our drive often took us high up into the mountains. As we traveled further and further away from the valley into these elevated places, the road became noticeably more windy and narrower. The combination of climb, curve, and narrowness made the journey slower, but the reward of cool pines and gentle streams to relax by made it worth it.

As we journey through life, the best places we reach are often the ones that were the hardest, narrowest, and often the most "frightening". There are twists and turns, with sometimes a whole lot of unknowns in the way. At the end we look back and are amazed at the "climb", but in it, we are just concentrating on getting there unscathed! My vantage point as we journeyed was much higher up than my parents. I knew dad saw the guard rails, but I saw the reason for them! The rails exist because God has a much higher vantage point than we do!

We might think the things God places in our lives for our safe-keeping are a little too restrictive, but trust me on this one...his vantage point gives him perfect insight into what could prove to be our undoing if we didn't have those safety "rails" in place. We might chafe a little to stay put within those "rails", but we need to get past that feeling of being 'restricted' and start thinking of it more as being 'divinely protected' from what we cannot fully perceive?

The rails? His Word, the Holy Spirit, other believers, and yes, even some very odd things such as gut intuition. All can serve to keep us safe, but not if we ignore them. I recently drove a long section of winding, narrow mountain roads. The drive was enjoyable because the scenery was terrific, but the twists and turns demanded my careful attention. One thing I always try to do in these places is obey the posted speed limit in those curvy places. Why? Someone who knows the layout much better than I do prepared those warning signs to keep me and my passengers safe.

God often prepares well in advance those things he knows we will need for our safty. Our part is to use them and pay attention to them. In other words, we are obeying the safety signs and staying within the limits of the "guard rails" he provides! Just sayin!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Is your tank full?

Remember upon the conduct of each depends the fate of all. (Alexander the Great)


People may be right in their own eyes, but the Lord examines their heart.  The Lord is more pleased when we do what is right and just than when we offer him sacrifices. (Proverbs 21:2-3 NLT)

I wonder if we'd live our lives any differently if we really stopped to consider someone else's fate may be the result of either our actions or inactivity? If we had to do over the things we ended up seeing as "bad results" in our lives, would we? Or would we head aimlessly down that same path again at some point? Most of us would say that we'd definitely not make the same mistakes again - we'd do things quite differently if we were given a "second chance". The most unfortunate fact is that most of the time we don't get "do-overs" in this lifetime! This might actually mean we need to pretty much get it right the first time around!

There are times when grace allows for us to "do again" what needs to be done, but it doesn't always assure us of a chance to do something differently especially with the ones we may have hurt along the way. Those individuals may no longer be living, or they may not be a part of our lives any longer, making it impossible for us to "do over" something which left an offense unsettled between us. What then? Some counselors will tell you to use some method of bringing closure to that negative outcome such as writing the dead parent a letter and then ripping it up. In the letter, you sought their forgiveness, or perhaps you extended yours. Unfortunately, this only takes care of some of the hurt - it doesn't heal it all because we still have a whole lot of living yet to do.

God's grace is perfect - don't get me wrong - it helps us get to the place of a "clean slate", but it takes very careful attention to our wounds to actually see them through to full or total healing. The more we grow in our relationship with Jesus, the better our chances are of doing things right the first time, so all these "corrective steps" don't need to be taken and there aren't wounds formed in the first place. We become aware of our responses toward each other and in turn, we might just find we are "thinking before we speak", considering the consequences before we take that action, or noticing there is a gap that needs to be filled while also recognizing we have the resources needed to fill that gap. 

Too many times we believe our personal conduct only affects us. The opposite is quite true - this is why scripture warns us to consider the company we keep. Does that other individual in your life lead you toward right choices, or are their actions leading you into actions which you will later regret? If the latter is true, then you might reconsider why you are in that relationship with that individual in the first place. Sometimes it is because you are there to be a positive example, but you must constantly be on your guard to not let their negative actions pull you down that same path. It is a hard place to be for very long, and you need balancing relationships that foster the right actions, as well. All of us can be positive examples that help to guide others - especially if we live a life filled with grace and truth.

Fill the tank with the right stuff and the right "performance" is observed. Fill the tank with the wrong stuff and the opposite is quite true. Remember, as Alexander the Great said, the fate of others may just depend on what we are filling our tank with! Just sayin!