Sunday, May 28, 2017
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!
Wednesday, May 24, 2017
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
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!
Sunday, May 21, 2017
Saturday, May 20, 2017
Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last; but a woman who fears the 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 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
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!
Wednesday, May 17, 2017
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
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!