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Saturday, September 30, 2017

Did I just say that?

When you talk, don’t say anything bad. But say the good things that people need—whatever will help them grow stronger. Then what you say will be a blessing to those who hear you. (Ephesians 4:29 ERV)
Notice our passage today doesn't say "if you talk", or "should you be so inclined as to say something". It says "when" - because we all have moments when our "talk" escapes us kind of unnoticed by our brains! We get those words out there and then think, "Did I just say that out loud?" By then, it is too late! The words that escape our brain's filter often hit a target we never intended to actually hit!
The things people need to hear versus the stuff that comes out of our mouths sometimes can be vastly different. The things we each need to hear are the things that help us grow stronger as individuals and ultimately as a community. When these are the words spoken, we become an immovable force the enemy of our souls cannot deal with!
What helps you grow? It is a fair question because I don't always know what will be the exact "fertilizer" the seed deep within you needs in order to grow. I know you need something, but often I don't know what it might be. It is a good thing I don't have to rely upon my own strength, smarts, or "spirituality" to get those words right! I can rely upon God's strength, his wisdom, and his Holy Spirit within to help me get it "right".
What words actually become a blessing in a person's life? They aren't always the "fluffy" ones, with deep spiritual context. They can be the simplest ones like "I care" or "I am here". We don't always think what it is we have to offer is "good enough" for another to feel blessed by those words, but let me assure you of one thing - those may be the very words that set someone into motion who has been stuck in a holding pattern for a very long time!
A few words, aptly spoken in the appropriate timing are like a treasure one discovers quite unexpectedly. There isn't any "science" to it, but there is Spirit behind it. We don't have to fear the Spirit within giving us words that will hurt - for his love and grace overshadows the words he gives with greater blessing than we will ever realize. We only have to fear those words that escape without going through his filters - for those are the ones with the potential to rip apart or tear down. Just sayin!

Friday, September 29, 2017

There is more than me?

In whatever you do, don’t let selfishness or pride be your guide. Be humble, and honor others more than yourselves. Don’t be interested only in your own life, but care about the lives of others too. (Philippians 2:3-4 ERV)
Okay, a moment for true confessions here. It is very hard being the caregiver to an elderly parent sometimes. There are just times when you want to have a little more sleep, get a little alone time or time with the girls, or opt for a bowl of cereal after a long day's work instead of cooking a meal. We all have these moments, whether we admit it or not, when we just want to ask, "What about me?" In those moments, it could just be God reminding us that not everything in life is about us! There are just times when life has to be about others.
It is so easy to consider our own needs, and even to drift into moments of complaining because they aren't being met as we think they should be. It is hard let go of what we think we "deserve" or should be given to us as a "courtesy" in life. As a new mother, I quickly learned sleep was never guaranteed. Babies have different schedules than ours! I also learned they don't care if it is dinner time for the rest of the family - when they want to eat, it is time to eat! As much as we might want to eat with the rest of the family, the tiny infant has needs that outweigh ours at that moment. It is hard to learn to let go of the things we believe to be our "rights", isn't it? 
By definition, a right is something "due to" someone because of some "claim" made to that "right". Many homes have a particular chair, maybe a recliner, which is "laid claim to" by one family member such as the father. That chair is referred to as "Dad's chair" and the rest of us in the family don't even think of sitting in the chair Dad has laid claim to. There are many "claims" laid in life, but none more important than the claim Christ laid for our lives. The truth is that Christ laid claim to us - at the point of the cross - and now he isn't willing to let anything or anyone else lay to claim to us!
This includes our desire to be in control, make selfish demands, or feel sorry for ourselves when our demands take backseat to another's. We may want a little more sleep, but the needs of another rise above that desire. We may want to enjoy a television show, but the earnest pleas of a small child, crayons and coloring book in hand beckon us to redirect our attention. We may want to shut out the day over a warm meal and relaxing bath, but the neighbor's flat tire or dead battery require some resource only we possess. Not all in life is going to be "fair" - nor is it going to cater to our desires. In fact, scripture reminds us to avoid too much of an "inward" focus because when we have one, those inwardly focused choices will be selfish, and selfish choices take us down a pathway of prideful decisions. Just sayin!

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Forgive, don't remind

Forgive someone, and you will strengthen your friendship. Keep reminding them, and you will destroy it. 10 Smart people learn more from a single correction than fools learn from a hundred beatings. (Proverbs 17:9-10 ERV)
Some of us find ourselves facing opportunities on occasion in which we know someone we care about deeply needs a little correction in their life - the choices they have been making aren't all that wise or they are going to take them into places they shouldn't dabble. There are times when we want to stop them in their tracks, but we must be very cautious not to over-step our bounds in the relationship. In those moments, we are caught in a hard place - we want to save them the hardship of the wrong choice, but we also know there are times when the individual just isn't prepared to listen to us no matter how imploring our arguments to the contrary might be.
Here are a few thoughts for us today:
1. Forgiveness might just be the ticket that changes someone's course. We might not think it, but there are times when we forgive the other person's failure, wrong steps, or plain ignorance and they find release, or their "way back" as a result of that step of forgiveness. We may not be able to stop the actions of the other individual, but we can extend the grace of forgiveness, not "overlooking" their missteps, but bringing them under the blood of Jesus, not holding those missteps against them. Grace draws them back - holding it against them because you "warned them" of the results of their actions ahead of time pushes them further away.
2. None of us wants to be reminded of our failures, but there are times when a gentle reminder of where certain past actions have landed us can keep us from making the same mistakes repeatedly. It isn't that we throw them back in anyone's face, but we use the lessons learned from those times to keep us each focused on the right path now. For example, when my kids were growing up, I tried to teach them to have a little bit saved up for those unexpected emergencies, or opportunities that came their way. There were times when they would have spent it all, having nothing for the next venture in life, then they found themselves sitting home, missing out on something they might have wanted to participate in. I simply reminded them of the wisdom of creating the "cushion" that allowed for these opportunities. I didn't have to rub their noses in their misspending, I just let the consequences of their actions help them learn the lesson.
3. We may want what is best for each other, but never forget that we each make our own choices in life. We can guide and advise, but we don't control the rudder of the other person's ship. We can pray for them, stand along side them, support them in hard times, and create a loving environment in which they can find grace and hope. We cannot always rescue, for sometimes the rescue someone needs is best delivered by the hand of God reaching out to them where they find themselves. It may not be easy to let God reach them, but it might save them lots more falls into that same pit! Just sayin!

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Armor is meant to be worn

1Wear the full armor of God. Wear God’s armor so that you can fight against the devil’s clever tricks. 12 Our fight is not against people on earth. We are fighting against the rulers and authorities and the powers of this world’s darkness. We are fighting against the spiritual powers of evil in the heavenly places. 13 That is why you need to get God’s full armor. Then on the day of evil, you will be able to stand strong. And when you have finished the whole fight, you will still be standing. (Ephesians 6:11-13 ERV)

It was Abraham Lincoln who penned the words, "Be sure you put your feet in the right place, then stand firm." Where we have our feet planted is an important thing to take notice of as it determines just how secure our stand will be in the end. I have planted my feet on occasion on more than one "moving stone" and ended up getting a little wet, muddy, or losing my footing all together. It is too late to consider your next step when you have already lost your footing!

One of the ways we determine our "footing" in life is just how well we are "secured" within the armor God intends for us to put on in our lives. If you have ever been in a museum or at a movie studio, you may have come across the suit of armor worn by someone, or used as a movie prop of some kind. The true armor of yesteryear was made up of some pretty impenetrable stuff - heavy metals that kept the wearer safe against attack, but also made it a little less than easy to move! The good thing about the armor we are told to "don" is that it not only protects us, but it makes it easy to move when we need to and stand firm when that is the best plan!

The armor we "don" isn't made of stuff that we can see as much as it is made of stuff we can sense and lean into when we are experiencing attack. The helmet of salvation, for example, can be sensed when we are receiving all manner of accusation - those voices that want to wear us down with thoughts like "you aren't good enough" or "you have gone too far to ever come back again". The belt of truth may not seem significant until we are faced with confusing choices that need to be sorted out, weighed in the balance of truth until we see clearly which choice rises above all the rest.

While armor is helpful to the warrior, the "everyday commoner" didn't usually wear a suit of armor in yesteryear. It was the knights, warriors, and such who donned such suits. In case you didn't realize it, none of us is an "everyday commoner" in God's family. We are all members of his army and as such, we are given the very best "suit of armor" to wear that both protects and defends us in times of attack. A soldier doesn't want to be "unprotected" when under attack, as much as we don't want to lose footing when we know to do so would result in wet feet, twisted ankle, or other not so pleasant results. To be "secure" we need to surround ourselves with the things provided to us that help us to stand as strong as a tall, immovable cedar. Just sayin!

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Love is seen in actions of obedience

Where God’s love is, there is no fear, because God’s perfect love takes away fear. (I John 4:18 ERV)

The work of the Holy Spirit within us helps us to live with a sense of confirmation we are loved by God, regardless of our past misgivings or our present performance. We are unique in his eyes, not because we stand above anyone else, but because of who stands "within" us. Christ's presence with us gives us the ability to love above any fear of judgment as we approach the throne of God's grace. I think the Holy Spirit has the tough job of convincing our mind and heart of that truth sometimes, though. We want to believe God could never truly "love" us because we think of his love in terms of how we humans "love" one another. So often, our human love is performance based - we see the actions of another and then we either feel loved or not. Maybe this is why God did so much to demonstrate his love for us - because he knew we'd equate "doing" to "loving".

This is how God showed his love to us: He sent his only Son into the world to give us life through him.  True love is God’s love for us, not our love for God. He sent his Son as the way to take away our sins.  That is how much God loved us, dear friends! So we also must love each other.  No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us. If we love each other, God’s love has reached its goal—it is made perfect in us. (I John 4:9-12 ERV)


God isn't above "showing us" his love. He realizes actions speak louder than words. He also knows we will need continual reassurances of that love because we have a tendency to forget his love isn't based upon what we do, but upon what he does for us. The primary goal of God's love was to reach out to those who are far off from him, bringing them near his heart through the grace provided in Christ's death, burial, and resurrection. The continual goal of his love is to keep us renewed in mind, body, and spirit day-by-day. In turn, his desire is for us to love each other with HIS love, not just our own human form of love. We don't always know "how" to do love in this way, so he provides the presence of the Holy Spirit within us so we will be prompted to love as he loves. He is our tutor in love and trust me on this one - we all need a lot of tutelage when it comes to loving as he loves!

You have likely heard scripture quoted when someone tells us that "perfect love" will not afford any opportunity for fear to exist. As each of us know, loving another deeply is a little bit scary. We have to both be a little bit more vulnerable than is comfortable if we are to ever grow in that love. Until we are vulnerable, stripping away the parts of us we use as "filters" to keep others from really getting to know us as we are, we are only living with or among one other, but not really loving one another. What the Holy Spirit does is create an environment wherein we can allow those filters to be discarded, because perfect love (God's love within us) creates an environment where fear of acceptance doesn't exist. We are accepted because Christ lives in us - plain and simple. We aren't perfect, but in Christ we are seen as perfect. The actions of obedience we take each time we do as God asks of each of us move us closer and closer to showing those "signs" of perfection within us. Love is seen in action - so when we take steps of obedience, we are showing forth God's love in our actions! Just sayin!

Monday, September 25, 2017

Brave as a Lion

The wicked are afraid of everything, but those who live right are as brave as lions. (Proverbs 28:1 ERV)

What gets you to the place of taking action in your life? Sometimes it is much easier to just be sidelined, not in the thick of things, letting things swirl out of control without us being right in the middle of those things, isn't it? We don't actually want to be all that "brave" or "into" the actions because there is a little bit of risk beyond what we may really want to take if we choose action over being sidelined. There are really a couple of things that place us on the sidelines - one is the choice to not even put forth the effort so we aren't asked to "play" in the game - the other is that we aren't quite ready because we haven't quite learned what is needed to keep us safe if we were to be in the thick of the action. Another may be something we didn't control, but which left us kind of "laid up" or "lame" for a period of time - making it almost impossible for us to move beyond the sidelines until that "injury" is mended. Sideline sitting is just not the same as being in the game, though. To mend or to learn makes the sidelines a little more endurable, but we are likely eager to be back in the game. To lack the desire to even play in the game, that is where we need to ask God to help us!

Inaction will not help us develop in any respect - it becomes too easy to just let things go by without really taking notice of them. What we "brave" might actually make us a little "braver" in the long run. Honore de Balzac, the French novelist, says it this way: "It is easy to sit up and take notice. What is difficult is getting up and taking action." We might not want to "brave" the things in front of us, but let me assure you of this - until we get in the game God has asked us to engage in, whatever that may be, we will never develop the courage to move forward. We will endure the sidelines, but we will have no reward in the victory, for we did not participate in it. There are probably areas in each of our lives where God has asked us to step up and take some form of action. In those areas, big or small, it is often the first step of obedience that is the hardest.

Rarely do we just jump up and down with delight when the challenge ahead of us appears hard or like it will be very costly. I need new counters and faucets in the bathrooms - they are quite old, scratched, water spotted, and just need a little refreshing. The task seems simple enough as the counters/sinks are those one piece jobs. It looks like there aren't that many steps to the task, but let me assure you of this one fact - every time (and I mean every time) I have undertaken a "remodel" task of any nature, it usually has way more steps and dollars required than I ever dreamed when starting the task! Has it stopped me? I will admit, it has "slowed" me, but it hasn't stopped me completely. I deliberate for a while on how to do it, when is the right timing, how much the supplies will cost, what other things I could encounter when I get into the project, etc. Eventually, I get to the point that I undertake the project. It isn't that I am all that brave, I just get to the point I ask God to help me "brave" the task at hand and then I jump in.

Have I been injured and laid up on occasion? You betcha! Have I encountered difficulties beyond what I first dreamed possible? Certainly! Have I enjoyed overcoming those difficulties? Absolutely not! At least not until they are fully past me and I am "in the clear" from whatever they were. But...life's greatest blessings don't necessarily come to us on the sidelines of life. The celebration of victory goes to those who were participants in the journey toward it! Just sayin!

Sunday, September 24, 2017

More than Good Enough - we are GOOD

Sometimes a song's lyrics will just speak to me almost as deeply as scripture does. One such song is entitled "Good Enough" by Dara Maclean on the album "Wanted". Almost all of us desire to be "wanted" by someone. We seek that attachment - that connection to another individual. We go through life pursuing what we think will make us a "wanted" friend, wife, husband, employee, etc. To many of us, this equates to a pursuit of being "good enough" - we don't believe we will be "wanted" until we are somehow "good enough" in one way or another. We change our appearance, develop our talents, learn a new skill, etc., all in pursuit of being "good enough". My question is, "When is good enough really good enough?"

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. (Genesis 1:27,31 ESV)

Good enough is elusive - an ever-changing definition, meaning one thing to one person and another to the other person. The meaning can even change based on the circumstances, resources available, and the effort one can "afford" to put forth to accomplishing whatever is needing to be done. Since this is a moving target, it hard to define "good enough". Maybe I will let the words of this song speak to us today. It begins with the words I think many of us would say if we were honest with each other about how it is we feel a great deal of the time:

I got to keep my head up one more day and get by; look perfect on the outside, but I’m dying on the inside. I could work so hard, slave the day away,  but end up broke tryin’ to find my place in my attempt to prove I’m worthy, but it’s already done.

Chorus: So I won’t spend my whole life paying my own price; tryin’ to be good enough. I’m gonna just let You love me. Finally see me the way You see. I’m believing Your grace is enough for me.

It is so like us to live our whole lives in search of some "good enough" point. We work so hard, but get very little forward progress because the mark is always changing. If we could only see ourselves as God sees us, stop trying to live up to some "moving target" either we set for ourselves or allow another set for us. We might just begin to rest a little more, trust a little deeper, and live with a contentment that isn't performance based, but grace based.

Thank God I don’t have to hold on with my own strength. I’m not the one who saved me, so I’m trusting You completely, ‘cause the best in me is only You. I run out, but You come through. Now I’m never looking back, You don’t see the past, all You see is I’m forgiven.

All he sees in us isn't because we "measure up" by our doing, getting, or striving. All he sees in us is by the gift he provides - the supreme gift of grace which mends every broken part, replaces all the damaged places, and creates anew what our misdeeds have worn beyond fixing.

If You said it, I believe it. If You did it, it’s completed. Ooh, I was hurting, You were healer. I was broken, You’re redeemer. So I won’t spend my whole life paying my own price, tryin’ to be good enough.

Good enough costs us - there is more "spent" on trying than we might realize. Rather than trying, maybe it is time we trust that God has already declared us "good" and that is better than "good enough" anyday! Just sayin!

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Joy-Filled

Always be filled with joy in the Lord. I will say it again. Be filled with joy. (Philippians 4:4 ERV)

In modern days, we often equate happiness to joy and vice-versa. Happiness is dependent upon the circumstances. Joy is something much deeper, welling up from within. This is why scripture tells us to be "filled with" joy. When people are "favored" in some manner, by good fortune, luck, or some happening that delights them, they are said to be happy. When people are said to be joyful, it usually wells from a deep sense of contentment and fulfillment. There are subtle differences, but one is very dependent upon circumstance while the other is more of a lasting emotion. A lot of people try to give really deep meaning to one and a shallower meaning to the other, with happiness being very fleeting and joy more of a lasting emotion. The truth is that both are emotions - one can be a little longer lasting because it is based in keeping our eyes on Jesus even when the circumstances aren't all that great.

I think that is truthfully the only thing different between the two. Happiness tends to be short-lived because it is focused on the moment, while joy might just be a little "longer lasting" because we are constantly renewed in that joy each and every time we take time to focus upon Jesus. When we see that individual we haven't seen in ages, we are happy - the circumstances give us a sense of delight or thrill. When they are gone, that sense of happiness begins to wane. Joy is a "renewable" thing - it comes in waves and fills us often to overflowing. How? We take time to focus upon Jesus and his grace, love, peace, and other blessings begin to fill us up. In time, what we are filled with begins to "spill out", and others begin to sense this sense of deep joy we have in life. They may not understand it, but they sense it. I have often experienced a deep sense of joy and had nothing going right in my circumstances simply because I didn't take my eyes off Jesus during those harder times. I may not have been entirely happy to be going through those times, but as long as I kept my eyes on Jesus, nothing and no one could steal my sense of joy.

Adversity will come in life. What we do, where we maintain our focus during those seasons of adversity - this is what determines how it is we will navigate within those seasons. William Arthur Ward says it this way: "Adversity causes some men to break; others to break records." I think the thing that keeps us moving along when it seems like we should be beat down by life is this deep-seated joy of the Lord within. Where his presence dwells, there are endless possibilities, even when the circumstances seem to suggest otherwise. Just sayin!

Friday, September 22, 2017

I forgot that blessing

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. (Melody Beattie)

What or who is it you find yourself complaining the most about? Chances are that thing or person is never going to be viewed as a blessing in your life until you change your way of seeing them just a little! I used to complain about not having a car when I was first married with young kids at home. If I wanted to go some place, I walked, rode the bike, or hitched a ride from a friend. Many a grocery trip was comprised of one child in the child carrier on my bike and another peddling alongside, with a backpack of groceries on my back. Then one day quite unexpectedly I was blessed with a car - as a gift! My in-laws bought a new one and no longer needed that little VW Rabbit. I was overjoyed to receive such a blessing. That is...until it began to break down every other day! Isn't it amazing how quickly we can view a blessing as a curse when that blessing doesn't live up to our "expectations" of the blessing?

I look up to the hills, but where will my help really come from? My help will come from the Lord, the Creator of heaven and earth. (Psalm 121:1-2 ERV)

It is hard to always remain positive when bad things are happening, or people aren't behaving as we might have expected them to in a particular situation. It is much easier to begin to find fault and pick apart that circumstance, or the other person's character, than to just be grateful for the blessing they have been. Yes, the car broke down frequently. There was some type of wiring or computer problem under that hood, but most of the time it got me to where I needed to go. On the occasions it broke down, it actually drove me to learn a little about taking care of a car. You see, we didn't have much money, so every time it broke down, I had to break out the "auto repair for dummies" book and try to figure it out! Yes, my hands got greasy. Yes, it interrupted my plans a little to have the car not work as it should. Yes, it cost me a little extra here and there. But...it was a gift and a blessing - so I had to often adjust my perception by reminding myself of that fact!

Often we need to remind ourselves where it is our help comes from - because we look for it in the manuals, in other people, or in some form of man-made thing. The truth is, when we are truly standing in need, our help comes from the Lord. There were days I would be stranded somewhere with two small kids in the hot Arizona sun, head under hood, and hot pavement under my feet. In those moments, sweat dripping down my nose, I'd ask God to show me which wire, widget, or fuse needed a little tweaking. In time, he'd guide me to the right solution. Once it was the fuel injector, another time it was the fuel relay switch, and so on. In time, I got to know more about that little car than I probably knew about my entire house! Why? God helped me realize a blessing isn't always "self-maintained". Sometimes blessings in our lives need a little more attention in order to "function" at full capacity. 

What blessings have we been overlooking that may need a little bit of our attention today? It could be the blessing of a human nature, or something entirely material, such as the refrigerator that needs a good cleaning inside, outside, and underneath. It could be the one relationship you find is strained and just not going as well as you want it to, the one which demands attention, but you avoid like the plague because it is "so hard". Our help for dealing with blessings that are disguised or overlooked is to realize they all have come into our lives by God's hands and it is by his hands and guidance that they are maintained! Just sayin!

Thursday, September 21, 2017

The past has no cure

I have carried you since you left your mother’s womb. I carried you when you were born, and I will still be carrying you when you are old. Your hair will turn gray, and I will still carry you. I made you, and I will carry you to safety. (Isaiah 46:3-4 ERV)

There are times we just need to be reminded of God's faithfulness toward each of us - today may be one of those times for some of us. Regardless of what you are going through, if you look hard enough, you might just realize that God is the one who has been carrying you for quite some time! From moment to moment, we may forget who is at work in our lives, believing God has abandoned us on occasion simply because things get a little tougher than we would have wanted. Whenever we get to feeling like we are abandoned, we just need to look to our Creator - for the one who creates will never abandon his creation.


It was Elizabeth the First who said the past could not be cured. Too many times we go about our day's efforts trying to improve upon (or cure) what yesterday brought our way. What is past is past - what we are left with is sometimes a little bit of the aftermath of the past, but we cannot ever change the past. What we can allow to happen is for God to change us in our present so our past mishaps and misgivings don't have to be repeated. The past may not be cured, but it sure can be repeated, can't it?


The seasons of the past that weren't all that great give each of us moments of grief because we would have done things differently if we only knew the outcome was going to be what it turned out to be. We wouldn't have spoken those words that cut to the quick. We wouldn't have allowed the distance to come that is now like a cavernous abyss we see no way of crossing. We wouldn't have chosen that route of downward compromise. Those choices were made, but today's choices remain to be made. What we focus on is not the ones we made in the past, but the ones we can make in our present.


Choices made incorrectly in the past haunt us in the present and make choices today harder because we may fear repeating them or really don't know what choices will yield different results. This is when we lean into Jesus' care over our lives just a little bit harder. We stop doubting his provision and start trusting him to help us do things differently - making better choices today, not so much to cure the past, but to improve the present and make way for the future. Just sayin!

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Too high, or too low?

The poet Edward Young reminds us, "Too low they build, who build beneath the stars." A building site is often the most significant part of the building. Too much on hard, impenetrable stone and the necessary foundation might not be as easily placed as one may imagine. The running of pipes to bring fresh water and take away waste is made all the harder when the ground is solid with impenetrable stone. To accomplish the placement of these, blasting may need to occur. The process is costly, loud, and riddled with all kinds of dangers. Too much shifting sand and the foundation will never be secure, for the ground beneath is subject to every flow of water from storms and every gust of wind. Sure, the building may go up, but will it stay up? Jesus reminds us to not lay up our treasures on this earth, but to look to what it is we can lay up in the heavens instead. Why? There are a whole lot of forces seeking to destroy or "take away" those earthly treasures - but there is a "guard" who keeps each one of our heavenly treasures secure!

Don’t save treasures for yourselves here on earth. Moths and rust will destroy them. And thieves can break into your house and steal them. Instead, save your treasures in heaven, where they cannot be destroyed by moths or rust and where thieves cannot break in and steal them. Your heart will be where your treasure is." (Matthew 6:19-21 ERV)


We humans spend a great deal of time "storing up". I realize that every time I have to reorganize the pantry, or get rid of the stuff stacking up in the garage. It isn't always that we will have need of the stuff, it is that we don't know if we will need it again! Some time ago I developed a little system that helps me determine when something is not really needed in my life. You see, if I don't use it at least once a year for those "stored items", it goes. If I don't use it at least twice a year for those "closeted" items, it goes. I keep a jacket around, but don't use it more than a couple times a year because I live in a climate that doesn't warrant jackets too many days out of the year. Most of the time I get by with a sweater. I don't need more than one jacket, though, because it doesn't make sense to keep something that I won't use more than a couple times each year.

The stuff we "store up" on this earth can often get in the way of what it is we are "storing up" in the heavens. We can get so earthly focused that we miss out on what other blessings God has prepared for us in his presence. We get distracted, pulled away, and often totally miss how God wants to move in our lives. While I don't always do a good job of ridding my home of the stuff that gets "stuck in corners", I am getting better at it. It is made a little harder because I have an elderly mother who blended a lot of her stuff into my household when she came to live with me 9 years ago. Little by little, I have been able to weed out some of this stuff, but there is still stuff hanging around I don't think we will ever use. You likely know how that goes. It is hard to let go, especially when you are forced to pare down because you are "blending households". I wonder if God ever looks at us and shakes his head because we are so caught up in "blending households" (ours with his) and just won't let go of some stuff we call "treasures", but pale in comparison to what he has in store for us. Just askin!

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Who's at the helm?

Show me your faithful love this morning. I trust in you. Show me what I should do.  I put my life in your hands! Show me what you want me to do. You are my God. Let your good Spirit lead me over level ground. (Psalm 143:8,10 ERV)

Edward Gibbons reminds us, "The winds and the waves are always on the side of the ablest navigators." Sometimes I find myself navigating on the worst side of the winds and waves, how about you? It is like all I can do is barely keep the boat of my life from capsizing and the wind and waves seem to be working against me at every turn. In those moments, all our efforts are placed in just making it through the storm. The ability to navigate the storms of life aren't so much found in our own strength or "navigation skills". The ability we need to navigate the wind and waves is that which comes from the Spirit of God helping us to read those winds, observe the movement of the waves coming against us, and then to successfully point the nose of our "life boat" at the right "attitude" so we don't capsize. The attitude of the nose too high and we could end up in pieces; too low and we will take on way too much water; turned sideways and we will likely end up in the drink. The "attitude" makes all the difference.

Our psalmist reveals a couple things about his "attitude" we might do well to keep in mind when the winds and wave come our way:

Expectancy - there is an attitude of actively awaiting what is needed to endure and overcome these winds and waves. It isn't passive waiting, but active looking ahead. Too many times we don't look beyond the present wave - we just get so focused on the one right in front of us. The psalmist reminds us of the importance of keeping our gaze fixed on what is in our immediate focus, but what also is about to come as a result of the movement or position we assume throughout each rise and fall of the waves.

Trust - here is the crux of learning to be wise navigators in the storms of life. We must learn where it is we will place our trust. It isn't in the strength of the boat, but in the wisdom of the one who we allow to navigate it through the storm. I recently rented a motorboat to do some fishing. I was so busy trying to navigate the boat, I barely got to enjoy the fishing! The one navigating the vessel is ensuring the safety of all that is within the vessel. To trust the navigation of our life's "boat" to anyone other than Christ is dangerous.

Faith - he knows the destination is level ground. In maintaining the right attitude as it applies to the wind and waves, the psalmist reminds us we can look forward to the level grounds. They may not be in our immediate line of sight, but when we are expectant and trusting in the right navigator, they are assured! Just sayin!


Monday, September 18, 2017

Blessing in what we have come out of

16 But Ruth said, “Don’t force me to leave you! Don’t force me to go back to my own people. Let me go with you. Wherever you go, I will go. Wherever you sleep, I will sleep. Your people will be my people. Your God will be my God. 17 Where you die, I will die, and that is where I will be buried. I ask the Lord to punish me if I don’t keep this promise: Only death will separate us.” (Ruth 1:16-17 ERV)

Naomi found herself widowed, losing both sons, as well. A widow in her day and age relied upon sons to take care of her, but now they were gone and she only had her two daughter-in-laws who could possibly help support her. The desire to remain together as a "family unit" is strong, but when it comes to leaving a place where you are comfortable, surrounded by friends and other family members, it can be quite difficult. The time comes when Naomi wants to return to her home land - to be nearer her own kin. Perhaps someone will act as a "redeemer" on her behalf to provide for her needs well into her advanced age. This means "new ties" would have to be broken in order to return to "old ties". One such tie would not be broken, though, for Ruth's desire was to stay with her mother-in-law. There are indeed times when the journey one thought they were taking for their "well-being" ends up totally contrary to where they thought they were headed. It could be that journey "ends" with "new beginnings".


Naomi had moved away from her homeland not in search of great wealth, but in order to survive famine and hard times. The truth of the matter is that sometimes we find ourselves in "new places" because the circumstances dictated a change in our "normal plans". Something got "disturbed" in our normal course of actions, causing us to be in places of uncertainty, hardship, and even despair on occasion. It is in these moments we find what defines us and what will direct our future actions. Naomi knows the provision of her needs could be accomplished in this foreign land she was in, but she also knows the provision of her needs may be even greater should she be in the place where God has prepared for each of her needs to be met. Just because some of our needs are being met right where we are doesn't mean God hasn't prepared something much greater for us when we go into the place he prepares for us! Both are places of provision, but one is better than the other!


I think Douglas Adams states it very well when he says: "I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I ended up where I intended to be." We often intend to go in one direction, but find our destination just a little bit different than where we were "going". Naomi was in search of provision (food, shelter, and daily needs met). Her "going" was directed by her husband, the leader of the household, taking her into a land she neither knew, nor one in which she really felt a sense of "belonging" while living there. When her circumstances change, her desire to be "home" really drove her to pick up and return, although she had little to return to where she was going. Yet, in so doing, she was finding herself "ending up" where she intended to be - safe under the protection of a kinsman redeemer. Not only did she end up where she intended to be (and where God intended her to be), but she had a companion for the journey, and a friend for life in her daughter-in-law Ruth. God made a way for the provision of her future needs by the blessing of this daughter-in-law in her life - for it was her service that found them at a place where all their combined needs would be cared for all the rest of their days.


Naomi's intention: Get home and somehow she'd find scraps in the fields where some manner of small provision could meet her needs. 

God's intention: Gather in the fields of the one who would become her kinsman redeemer - the one who would make way for handfuls of grains to be left "on purpose" for both the women's needs to be abundantly met. 

God's intended destination for us may not necessarily become evident to us within hardship, but regardless of where we come into the "place of his planned provision", we need to remember this - the journey hasn't been wasted, for we often bring INTO the final destination something of great blessing from what we have COME OUT OF. Just sayin!

Sunday, September 17, 2017

A grace-filled touch

Cesare Pavese said, "We do not remember days, we remember moments." There are lots and lots of moments in my lifetime that come flooding into my thought on occasion, some bringing warm feelings of pleasure and others causing just a little bit of pain as a little bit of the memory of an old wound is recounted. I had one such unpleasant memory on my recent trip with my BFF while we were just sharing a little of ourselves. What struck me the most is that she sensed my intensely deep pain as she reached out and just simply touched my arm, and in an instant, without one word from her, the pain dissipated. God has a way of helping us even when we don't recognize we need that help, my friends. In any moment, we never know when a moment remembered can become a time of healing - no words necessary, just the touch of grace.

Praise the Lord! I thank the Lord with all my heart in the assembly of his good people. The Lord does wonderful things, more than anyone could ask for. The things he does are great and glorious! There is no end to his goodness. He does amazing things so that we will remember that the Lord is kind and merciful. (Psalm 111:1-4 ERV)

God's greatness isn't always displayed in big ways. We think Charlton Heston and the Ten Commandments parting of the water kind of moments are those we will remember the most, but it can be the simplest of touches that brings the greatest of memories. The acts of God don't have to be catastrophic to be memorable! There are moments when we don't expect anything to happen, and we are caught off-guard by the greatness of God. There are other moments we look for the big "event" to reveal some majestic thing about God's grace and goodness, only to sense nothing more than his faithful presence with us as we go through them.

Moments define our past more than days. Moments define our present more than any accumulation of days. It is the accumulated moments that make up the memories we will take away. It can also be those moments that we commit to memory that can define us even when we don't want them to give us that particular definition. It sometimes becomes imperative to let go of some moments in order to allow the memories of those moments to no longer be our defining moments, though. The moments we want to define our lives are "grace moments" - those moments in time when God reaches in and just touches us where we most need a touch.

We may not always know which moments have defined us, but in God's faithfulness, he reveals those worth adding to our defined character and those which we should just let go of in order to no longer allow them to hold us bound to that definition any longer. When we have those "grace moments", we need to commit them to memory, recount them often, and allow the newness of their strength to envelope our lives. Just sayin!

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Which way?

"Over every mountain there is a path, although it may not be seen from the valley." (Theodore Roethke) I had the chance to head to a lovely area of the Northern Arizona rim country this past week, enjoying a little R&R with my BFF and some quality time in nature. It always manages to recenter my focus and calm my weary body, despite the strenuous climbs down paths unknown, or long days awaiting those telltale nibbles that let me know there is a fish on the hook! One of my favorite things to do is to just look out over high places on the mountain's edge and see the vastness of the valleys below. While I appreciate the many things seen deeper down into those valleys, such as the lush meadows, abundant wildlife, and tall pines, I always appreciate the perspective one can obtain when one climbs to the top of the mountain for just a little bit of a different vantage point. As Roethke said, the path is there, but sometimes we just need to change our vantage point to see it a little because there are things that obstruct our view at times.

God is the one who gives me strength. He clears the path I need to take. (Psalm 18:32 ERV)


There are times when friends will ask my advice on which path to take in life. While I appreciate being asked, it sure can put me in a little bit of a predicament when I may not have the same vantage point on that path as the other individual has been given. I am not walking in that other person's shoes, although I may have taken similar paths. The best I can do is offer some advice on how I chose the path I did and what I looked for in confirmation that it was the right one to choose. If you are considering a particular path today, here are some tips:

- We don't want others to choose it for us. It is rarely the right path for us when another chooses it on our behalf, insisting we take one over another. About the only exception to this one is when we are clearly headed down a very wrong path and the other person is pulling us back from that direction. If we are headed in a direction in which we will experience harm or loss, we might just do well to heed their advice to consider the direction we are headed. When choosing our path, we should consider what God has to say about it (in his Word), and perhaps even listen to the advice of those who might have already explored similar paths (remembering that no two paths are equally the same).

- We may want to take the one that is "marked" the clearest, but it may be the one with the absence of those "markings" that brings us to the place we will find the greatest blessings in life. We want the path easiest to travel, well-marked, and often well-traveled. As much as this is a good thing, a well-traveled path could just be a rut dug by frequent passage! Sometimes we need to forge new paths, which may be a little scary at first, but in so doing, we come into new explorations others haven't experienced. In these times, we become the leaders and not the followers. We help others to see new vantage points that were previously undiscovered by them. 

No two paths are the same. No two vantage points will take in the same view. In each person's exploration of similar paths, the lessons may be similar, but they remain absolutely unique to the individual exploring those paths. Choosing one over another is often a matter of conscience, allowing the Spirit's presence within us to confirm the right one for us to travel. Remember, it may not be evident because the mountain looms ahead of us, but it is there! Just sayin!

Friday, September 15, 2017

Discovery begins...

This is what the Scripture says: “God’s teaching is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart.” It is the teaching of faith that we tell people. If you openly say, “Jesus is Lord” and believe in your heart that God raised him from death, you will be saved. 10 Yes, we believe in Jesus deep in our hearts, and so we are made right with God. And we openly say that we believe in him, and so we are saved. (Romans 10:8-10 ERV)

In what ways are God's teachings near to each of us? First, it becomes apparent his teachings are near us whenever we hear the Word of God spoken aloud, or spend time discovering the truths within our Bibles. Next, his teachings are near us each time we observe another walking and breathing right next to us. Each of us is his creation - the work of his hand - therefore, when we live among each other, we are observing elements of who and what God is by observing each other. Lastly, all of nature displays his wonders - evidence of who he is and how he works is all around us in the displays of nature. Whether it be the tall trees or the secretly balanced boulders high atop some mountain structure, all speak of his greatness and care. Since there are so many ways of discovering truth about God, that means none of us is without some evidence of him everyday - we only need to look!

What is the purpose of having evidence of his teachings in so many places and ways? It is so that man is able to find restored relationship with God himself. The one who created it all desires nothing more than to have his creation know him and understand his heart. He displays himself in so many ways and at so many opportunities so that none of us is without excuse as it comes to knowing him. His heart is revealed in the gentle breezes, rippling brooks, and cloudless crisp skies. His caring heart is evidenced in the eaglet taking food from the parents, the school of fish jumping wildly after the bugs gathering on the surface, and the mother bear protecting her cubs from all manner of intruder. In all, we see God's heart and we hear his cries for mercy and restoration.

How is it we embrace these messages? We simply open our hearts by acknowledging that he is Lord of Lords, King of Kings, and the Creator of all things. We acknowledge "Jesus is Lord" and in so doing, we begin to understand the mysteries of his death, burial, and resurrection. We are embraced by his grace and restored to right fellowship with the Creator of all things. We are "made right" by taking the evidence of what we see and hear, what we feel and experience, and then trusting in his love and mercy to do what none of us can do ourselves - be made right in his sight. It isn't a mystery to be discovered through our own effort, but one to be experienced because he gives us so much undeniable evidence of his presence with us and his care over our lives each and every day. Just sayin!

Thursday, September 14, 2017

It isn't what I want

God you owe me...

Have we ever said this in one fashion or another? Stop for just a moment to assess your motivation behind that thought. At first, it is possible that we just want something a little bit better than what we have because what we have gives us troubles, such as a poorly running automobile. It might be we want a matching suit of clothes instead of the second-hand stuff we are wearing. Or perhaps it is the sinking feeling that we aren't going to get as much in our stocking this year at the holiday season as someone else will. Regardless of the motivation, the root of the motivation is discontentment - we haven't really accepted the blessings we have been given. We are not content with what we have been given or will receive in the near future - believing "something else" will be more satisfying or rewarding may be sort of naive on our part.

We may believe there is something "unfair" when others are blessed in ways we may have wanted to be blessed ourselves. Some of us have kids who love us and are actively engaged in our lives.   What we may want is for our kids to call more often, be less dependent upon us for financial support at some point, or to produce us some grandchildren because all our other friends have some. Others have strained relations with their loved ones. The one who has that strained relationship with their children might just long for nothing more than the immediate restoration of that relationship above all these other things that give us such discontent. Discontentment often discounts the circumstances of the other person, my friends. When we learn to see life through the eyes of the other person, we often realize just how blessed we are and how much we should want to share that same blessing with the others God has placed in our lives!


Riches and honor come from you.
    You rule everything. You have the power and strength in your hand!
    And in your hand is the power to make anyone great and powerful!
13 
Now, our God, we thank you,  and we praise your glorious name!
14 
All these things didn’t come from me and my people.    All these things come from you.     We are only giving back to you things that came from you.
(I Chronicles 29:12-14 ERV)

Discontentment takes many forms, but at the root of it all, we desire "more" or "different". We want shinier, bigger, newer, and the list goes on. In God's eyes, maybe the one thing we need "more" of is him. God's hope is that we will acknowledge his desires in our lives, seeing them as the only thing that really brings contentment and fulfillment. Discontent gets us looking externally. Contentment is found first inwardly, in the grace of God working in our hearts and minds. Then it gives blossom externally in the giving of ourselves to one another in love and gratitude for the many blessings we have been given in each other. Just sayin!

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Be a giver

24 Some people give freely and gain more; others refuse to give and end up with less. 25 Give freely, and you will profit. Help others, and you will gain more for yourself. (Proverbs 11:24-25 ERV)
I watched a movie over vacation that was about a man wrongly imprisoned for a crime he did not commit. He spent about a quarter of a century behind bars serving time for a violent crime he had been wrongly accused of all those years earlier. Yet, in the midst of all the harshness of prison, living a life he neither bargained for, nor "lived up to", he did not grow bitter. He longed for the day he'd be able to be free again. That day came when they discovered the "real" criminal because of new evidence. His release was bittersweet, though, for his main desire was to reunite with his father and have his father know of his innocence. It was almost too late, for his father was in the final stages of Alzheimer's disease and didn't recognize his own son. Isn't it just the way things go at times - we want something so desperately, only to find what we believed would be so easy becomes such a hard thing for us to deal with in the end...
One day, the released prisoner finds himself in church, but without anything to give other than himself. He explains to the preacher that he cannot put anything into the offering plate because he has nothing to give. Yet, in the scenes that are displayed one after another, we see this man giving more than he knows. He gave a young boy a much needed friend, a worried divorcee raising two children someone to watch over her and her family, and a dying father the attention of a loving son. He had so much to give, but it didn't look like much compared to those who could write out the large checks. In the end, the courts help to make right what had been wronged in this man's life, allowing him to be given a large sum of money for what amounted to his lost wages all those years. In the end, he pays off the debt of the single mother, restores hope to a dwindling church worried about keeping its doors open, and blesses more lives with his generosity than we would ever know.
Generous people don't always display their generosity in their financial giving, though. He was generous long before he had come into money. He gave of his time maintaining the property of the single mother. He gave of himself to a boy without a good father image, feeling lonely and bullied by his peers. He gave what he was - not what he possessed. In the end, it may just be the greatest lesson some of us can learn - what we are is much more important to others than what it is we can "give". When we give of our true selves to another, blessing them in turn, we may be giving the greatest gift we can give. Just sayin!

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Is it bread yet?

Doing right makes life better for those who are good, but the wicked are destroyed by their own wicked ways. Doing right sets honest people free, but people who can’t be trusted are trapped by their greed. (Proverbs 11:5-6 ERV)
I sometimes come across people who are bemoaning something in their life's circumstances, announcing they "just want things to be better". It isn't an uncommon thing to face some type of struggle only to wish things could "be better" - the struggle often reveals the unrecognized desire each of us has to see things change in our lives. What most of us fail to recognize is that the struggle is actually the catalyst whereby "better" begins - it isn't where it ends! 
It is what we "do" when we are faced with the struggles that matters. We have a whole bunch of choices when faced with struggles, but the hardest ones may be the most rewarding. They may also be the choices that take the longest to get us to a place of realizing the reward, though! Think of a little bit of yeast. We add it to a mixture of all the ingredients that will produce a loaf of bread in the end. Adding the yeast doesn't make this bread, though. As a matter of fact, although the yeast is the catalyst by which the reactions begin that cause the mixture to "rise", it still isn't bread even after is has "risen to new heights".
The bread isn't bread until it is fired in the oven! While the yeast became a catalyst to change the structure of the mixture, giving it the potential to "rise to new levels", it didn't make the mixture different than what it was - it is still a mixture of ingredients. Until it is placed into the heat of the oven, the mixture doesn't begin to really take the form it was intended to become - bread. Today's present struggles may just be the mixing of the ingredients that begin to provide access to the catalyst that moves us toward our desired and much needed change in life. We may not really see the fulfillment of that change until we have come out of the heat of the fire on the other side transformed into glowing goodness! Just sayin!

Monday, September 11, 2017

A lesson from a barren tree

Did you ever stop to consider how big or how little a situation actually looks depending how close or far removed you are to it? Be up close and personal with the issue and you might see only parts and pieces of it, while missing the bigger picture. Be a little further away and you might miss the detail. At surface level, much may be appreciated, but rise a little further above the issue and you often see much, much more, but not as much as you see until you gain God's perspective on the situation!

17 We have small troubles for a while now, but these troubles are helping us gain an eternal glory. That eternal glory is much greater than our troubles. 18 So we think about what we cannot see, not what we see. What we see lasts only a short time, and what we cannot see will last forever. (2 Corinthians 4:17-18 ERV)

This summer I took a few days in the high mountains of Arizona to just enjoy time with my grand boys and a second trip to enjoy some time with my BFF. On my trip up with boys, I spotted a very old, gnarled tree that had lost all the leaves, bark, and any signs of growth. At the very top of the tree, the broken space of the highest branches became the nesting spot of a great bald eagle. High atop the tree a nest was formed from fallen branches and pieces of deep wood undergrowth. Atop the nest, an eagle stood watch over the vast expanse of the forest. It made me think about a couple of things:

1. The places we might think are the most barren and not likely to serve much of a purpose often can become the place where we find our greatest perspective. We don't often find the eagle nesting among the hidden places of the tall tree's branches like you find the nests of the sparrows or finches. In fact, the eagle finds the highest perch and is often quite exposed in where it nests, but it also have the greatest vantage point from which to watch for threats. Sometimes the barrenness doesn't seem to have produced much in us, but it may just have given us the vantage point to observe for the threats that come our way in life.

2. The most unlikely things can become the greatest blessings in our life, when we see them from God's perspective. That tree didn't seem to serve any purpose any longer for much of the wildlife in the forest. The lack of leaves and small branches didn't make it much shelter from the storms that come or the hot heat of the afternoon sun blazing down upon it. It no longer produced pine cones or seeds for the squirrels to find sustenance in. Yet, it did still have purpose - as the nesting place for the great eagle. We might have to look a little closer at what we discount in life, for it could just be what we discount as "worthless" or "barren" is really the very thing that changes our perspective in life, making us more aware of our surroundings and brings us insight we didn't possess before.

3. Lastly, the nesting spot was at the very highest point in the tree. It was as close to God as that eagle could nest - some of us need to "nest" a little closer to God - maybe it will be at the place of the least amount of "visible growth" in our lives that we come to the place of our greatest nearness to him. Just sayin! 

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Don't is a mighty powerful word

Don't be selfish; don't try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don't look out only for your own interests,  but take interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude Christ Jesus had. (Philippines 2:3-5 NLT)
Don't is a hard word for many of us. In fact, it is not uncommon for us to hear that word and then almost feel challenged to do it anyway! It is as though we know we shouldn't because we have been advised it would be unwise to do it, but there is a defiant part of us that wants to know why or what will happen if we do. I am not unlike others in this matter, for don't doesn't always work as enough of a deterrent to keep me from trying whatever it is. This means we might just need a little bit better of a deterrant!
What things act as deterrant in our lives? There are probably more than we might think, but here are just a few to get us thinking. We might be deterred because we have some fear, either natural or learned, of whatever it is we are challenged with. Fear can be a good deterrant, but it can also be a paralyzing one. We might find the breaking of trust as a deterrant, because an action in the direction we are advised not to go would result in trust between us and another being broken, sometimes irreparably. It is also quite possible we see the thing as not worth doing, so we more readily resist doing it. Regardless of the reasons for not doing something, we sometimes don't have the right filters working in our life to keep us deterred from doing it.
One of the most powerful deterrant we can have in operation in our lives is that of God's word. This is why we are told to hide it away in our hearts...so it will be there when we hear don't and are faced with the desire to do. Another very present deterrant that of the Holy Spirit presence in our lives. His still small voice often challenges just enough to pay closer attention to the command or advice to not do something and reminds us of the consequences if we do. As a child, considering the consequences didn't always keep me away from whatever it was I was told not to so, though. As I got older, I had learned there were consequences to be dealt with if I chose that particular action. Often it is the consequence that acts as an effective deterrant.
One thing must be kept in mind with any "reason" we might choose to not do something and that is the desire to have the same attitude as Christ exhibited in his example to us as he walked this earth. There are times when the deterrant we need to embrace is that little question, "What would Jesus do?" It is often very effective to just consider this for a moment and we will more than likely choose to obey rather than follow our own path. So, deterrant aren't bad, but they are only effective if we heed them! This means our desire to be like Christ must be stronger than our desire to do our own thjng. To that end, we need all these 'positive' deterrants in operation in our lives. Just saying.