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Showing posts from February, 2018

Another take on the mask

16 Admit your faults to one another and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous man has great power and wonderful results. 19 Dear brothers, if anyone has slipped away from God and no longer trusts the Lord and someone helps him understand the Truth again, 20 that person who brings him back to God will have saved a wandering soul from death, bringing about the forgiveness of his many sins. (James 5:16, 19-20 TLB)

Our pastor spoke about authenticity recently, another in his series about being established in our walk with God. As he said many times in the sermon, we finally come to the place of experiencing God's tremendous love for us once we are courageous enough to be the 'real deal' with God and others. There was a point in the sermon where he told us how hard it was for him to develop this authenticity in his own life. Now, you might think it wouldn't be a struggle for a pastor to be 'real', but the truth of the matter…

NOTHING - EVER

For I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from his love. Death can’t, and life can’t. The angels won’t, and all the powers of hell itself cannot keep God’s love away. Our fears for today, our worries about tomorrow, or where we are—high above the sky, or in the deepest ocean—nothing will ever be able to separate us from the love of God demonstrated by our Lord Jesus Christ when he died for us. (Romans 8:38-39TLB) Separation occurs wherever there is a point of some type of parting. When I wash clothes, I 'separate' them into stacks of dark, medium, and light colors. Why? Those darker ones have the potential of causing me a great deal of extra work if they get in with the lighter ones because they can actually leave stains on the lighter ones. It makes sense to separate them into these piles because of the potential of one to affect the other in a negative way. I have been at some homes of people where even the cans of food are stacked neatly in rows of whatever is co…

A lesson about paper towels

Don’t criticize and speak evil about each other, dear brothers. If you do, you will be fighting against God’s law of loving oneanother, declaring it is wrong. But your job is not to decide whether this law is right or wrong, but to obey it. (James 4:11 TLB)

As I was considering this morning's blog, I thought about a roll of paper towel hanging from the side of my refrigerator. Do you remember back in the day when paper towel just came in one size? The sheets were all pretty large squares and if you needed less than one square, you just had to take the whole thing. Today, we can tear off these 'half-sheet' sized pieces if we need only a small piece. If we have a slightly bigger job, we can tear off three of these sections, allowing us enough to complete the job, whatever it may be. Some of us want to have the same kind of 'a la carte" way of picking and choosing just how much of our lives we want to give to each other. Sometimes we want to give just a little bit to …

Are you criticizing me?

To learn, you must want to be taught. To refuse reproof is stupid. (Proverbs 12:1 TLB)
"The trouble with most of us is that we would rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism." (Norman Vincent Peale) The ruin of many a good man or woman began with the downward spiral of the heart's push and pride's pull! There is no greater battle some of us have than to remain teachable when we get to the point of having a little knowledge. As we have all heard at some point in life, a little knowledge can be a very dangerous thing - it can launch us down paths we might regret later on. I have a little knowledge of plumbing, but I am not a plumber. I have a little knowledge about car engines, but I could not keep one running today because the technology under the hood mystifies me. The knowledge we possess isn't always the thing that saves us - it can be the very thing that the heart uses to push us into pride's path and that certainly can be a very slippery slope!
Wh…

Oh, but this is beyond remedy!

Stop for just a moment to consider your most "damaged relationship". It is likely the one that is the most "strained" every time you have contact with this individual. It is the one you might not really understand the 'why' behind the damage, but the damage has been done somehow and you might not have a clue how it can be fixed. If we really stop to consider it, the most 'damaged' of relationships we have is that we have with God himself - but the good news is that the 'fixing' of that damage is not our doing! In fact, we might think we are the ones that bridge that gap by our good efforts, but the truth is it is Christ that bridges any gap we might have allowed to be created through our sin - first in our relationship with him and then in our relationships with others.

My beloved friends, let us continue to love each other since love comes from God. Everyone who loves is born of God and experiences a relationship with God. The person who ref…

A little lesson in calculus

Have you ever been asked a question just way too hard to be answered? Somehow the answer eludes you when you most need it, or you simply cannot conclude you even come close to knowing the answer at all! I once heard it said that if the question was just too hard to answer, changing the question could help. When we ask things a slightly different way, it is amazing how the answer may emerge! When God's truth is revealed to us, asking for a response from us, we sometimes have a hard time accepting or 'knowing' that truth. At other times, that very same truth becomes so easy to grasp or 'know'. It isn't that truth changes - it is that we are hearing the question that beckons us to understand truth in a slightly different way. I think God often asks the questions differently so that we will eventually get to a full comprehension of the truth!

The whole Bible was given to us by inspiration from God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is…

Capacity overload

The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others. (Mahatma Gandhi)
Serve - to render assistance, be of help, be useful. The actions of service are not always as evident today as they may have been in a time when our pace was slower and our lives were a little less "cluttered" with all manner of distractions. I was watching a series of shows called "Little Men" over the past couple of days and observed several 'actions of service' that stemmed from a desire to honor another, create something meaningful another could put to use, etc. In the last episode I observed something akin to someone being on "overload". Deadlines were approaching, unexpected changes in circumstances were making demands on the individual's time, and it was getting harder and harder for her to 'keep up'. Because of the extreme 'overload' the character was carrying, the things she once enjoyed so much became an extreme burden to her. …

Pickles anyone?

5 Happy are those who are strong in the Lord, who want above all else to follow your steps. 6 When they walk through the Valley of Weeping, it will become a place of springs where pools of blessing and refreshment collect after rains! 7 They will grow constantly in strength, and each of them is invited to meet with the Lord in Zion. (Psalm 84:5-7 TLB)

Strong carries different meanings for different folks. To the one who cannot open the jar of pickles, strong are the hands of the one who makes it look so easy. To the one who cannot take their failing pet to the vet for those last few moments of life together, strong are the arms of that one who stands alongside even though it wasn't their lifelong pet. To the one who needs a trench dug through tough Arizona soil, strong are the arms of the teenage man who wields the pickax in rhythmic movement until that soil yields to his strength. Strong is often observed in ways we might label as "service" toward another. When we were w…

Let's get love right

Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, "I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear." Love is indeed harder to sometimes abide within, but the actions of hatred come easier than many would imagine. Love requires investment of one's self - entirely and without hesitation. Hatred has a very low 'ignition point' most of the time - making it an easy 'burn' for us, but hatred, like love, has to remain fueled in order to actually continue to grow.

Love is very patient and kind, never jealous or envious, never boastful or proud, never haughty or selfish or rude. Love does not demand its own way. It is not irritable or touchy. It does not hold grudges and will hardly even notice when others do it wrong. (I Corinthians 13:4-5 TLB)

The total truth about love is probably not known to any of us. I think we all see bits and pieces of love in action around us - experiencing it in varying degrees depending upon a number of factors ranging from our ow…

Stop overshadowing me!

Leo Buscaglia was quoted as saying, "No one can grow in the shade." As a professor of special education at the University of Southern California, Buscaglia taught many students throughout his career - each one learning that if we "overshadow" another long enough, we stunt their growth. We need to let others experience the light in order to grow! It was his firm belief that love began around the supper table - around a good, old-fashioned meal. Why? If done well, with clear expectations set that media and electronics would not be interrupting this time, it became the place where dreams were shared, thoughts were expressed, ideas were proposed, and people got down to the business of getting to truly know each other. If we want to allow others to grow, we need to give them a way to shine!

If I had the gift of being able to speak in other languages without learning them and could speak in every language there is in all of heaven and earth, but didn’t love others, I woul…

To everything there is a time

There is a right time for everything: A time to be born; A time to die; A time to plant; A time to harvest; A time to kill; A time to heal; A time to destroy; A time to rebuild; A time to cry; A time to laugh; A time to grieve; A time to dance; A time for scattering stones; A time for gathering stones; A time to hug; A time not to hug; A time to find; A time to lose; A time for keeping; A time for throwing away;  A time to tear; A time to repair; A time to be quiet; A time to speak up; A time for loving; A time for hating; A time for war; A time for peace. (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 TLB)
In hindsight I can see how some years are different than others - going through them may be like riding a roller coaster of sorts, but when the year is over, I can look back and observe there were subtle differences in those months that passed. Zora Neale Hurston puts it this way: "There are years that ask questions and years than answer." You might find yourself in the year that asks more questions…

Bring on the enemy!

Most of us have heard that saying to "keep your friends close, but your friends closer" right? Ever think about the meaning of that one? Keeping our friends close makes sense because they bring awesome things into our lives in special ways by their laughter, hugs, tears, and even their wisdom. We WANT that stuff in our lives. Our enemies, on the other hand...well....they don't bring the kind of stuff most of us would label as "awesome". You might think keeping your enemies closer is so that you can wreak as much havoc in their lives as they have in yours, but just when they aren't looking! Is it possible the real meaning of this saying is keeping our enemy "closer" might just reveal some stuff about ourselves that otherwise would go undiscovered? “There is a saying, ‘Love your friends and hate your enemies.’ But I say: Love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way you will be acting as true sons of your Father in heaven. For he …

Crown him

10 The Lord loves those who hate evil; he protects the lives of his people and rescues them from the wicked. 11 Light is sown for the godly and joy for the good. 12 May all who are godly be happy in the Lord and crown him,our holy God. (Psalm 97:10-12 TLB)

How do we actually "crown him" Lord of our lives? I think it is in the small ways, like when we choose to be kind when a hurtful word would be easier or quicker to say. It might be in the moments when we give of ourselves unselfishly to help another who is struggling to figure something out. It could be in those moments you offer yourself for 'whatever needs to be done', knowing someone is having a hard time keeping up with the tasks at hand. It is definitely in those moments when we actively choose to worship him, but it is also in those small things that might not seem to matter all that much, but that make all the difference in the lives of another.

Someone once said you can get happy in the same pants you chose t…

Truly honorable

The man who tries to be good, loving, and kind finds life, righteousness, and honor.  (Proverbs 21:21TLB) How does one live in a manner that expresses the goodness of God? This is probably one of the hardest questions for us to answer in life because goodness, true goodness, often evades the human mind and heart. "Good" expresses the meaning of moral excellence - virtue taken to the 'nth' degree. This is why it is sometimes hard for us to truly grasp this type of behavior - because it is motivated in a heart not corrupted in any manner by sin - or with a sin nature at the core of all its actions. Indeed, we need an exchanged heart, for ours is incapable of this type of 'moral excellence' or goodness. A loving and kind disposition is what stems from this goodness of heart. Honestly, if we struggle at times to act in a way that expresses the love of Christ, it is probably that we haven't connected in some time with the heart of Christ! We need more time get…

Truth to be Trusted

For all God’s words are right, and everything he does is worthy of our trust. He loves whatever is just and good; the earth is filled with his tender love. (Psalm 33:4-5TLB) Some of us need to hear these words today because we have had our trust violated, someone giving us their 'word' and then never 'making good' on that word. As a result, many have a hard time ever trusting again, going through life a little skeptical. Trust lost is a hard thing to regain - is it not? The good news is there has not been even one moment of time in which God's word could not be trusted! He CAN be trusted, but our circumstances in life have made it harder than some would imagine to ACTUALLY trust him - especially when that breach of trust was caused by someone in a position of authority in our lives. Break it down - ALL God's words are right. There is no "sometimes he gets them right", or "every now and again he hits the nail on the head". ALL his words are r…

Deserts, Beaches, and Mountaintops

What makes the desert beautiful is that somewhere it hides a well.   (Antoine de Saint-Exupery)
We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they are good for us—they help us learn to be patient. And patience develops strength of character in us and helps us trust God more each time we use it until finally our hope and faith are strong and steady. Then, when that happens, we are able to hold our heads high no matter what happens and know that all is well, for we know how dearly God loves us, and we feel this warm love everywhere within us because God has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. (Romans 5:3-5)

I grew up in the desert of Arizona, very much before all the sprawling expanse of industry and growth took over much of the desert land around Phoenix. As a child, I'd spend hours and hours just poking sticks in holes to see what was in them, turning over rocks to see if I could find lizard eggs, and lazing under Palo Verde trees …

So, what's that you say?

William Wordsworth said, "Wisdom is oftentimes nearer when we stoop than when we soar." I would tend to agree, for whenever I have needed great wisdom I find it comes in ways I rarely expected - from places I wouldn't always think to look, or even from the lips of a child. Why is that, I wonder? It may be God isn't always impressed with the more lofty answers - he seeks to inspire with the simple ones. The simplest of answers can be the ones that open the doors wide to great discoveries!

Yes, if you want better insight and discernment, and are searching for them as you would for lost money or hidden treasure, then wisdom will be given you and knowledge of God himself; you will soon learn the importance of reverence for the Lord and of trusting him. (Proverbs 2:3-5 TLB)
Sometimes it isn't that we cannot find the wisdom we need, it may just be we haven't simplified the question enough to really get at the answer. One of the things I frequently attempt to do is re…

I was thinking...

11 No one can really know what anyone else is thinking or what he is really like except that person himself. And no one can know God’s thoughts except God’s own Spirit. 12 And God has actually given us his Spirit (not the world’s spirit) to tell us about the wonderful free gifts of grace and blessing that God has given us. (I Corinthians 2:11-12 TLB)

Have you ever had one of those moments when someone else finishes your thoughts even before you get them out? It is like they are so perfectly connected to you that they just 'complete' you. I have always thought if they could complete those 'harmless' thoughts so quickly and perfectly, how much could they possibly know what I am thinking that is not as 'harmless'? Kind of scary to think about, huh? Someone else knowing you so well that they actually 'get' both the good and bad about you so well they just know what you are going to say next. If that 'someone' is the Holy Spirit, there is a connection…

If I needed advice, I'd have asked for it!

Advice is like snow - the softer it falls, the longer it dwells upon, and the deeper it sinks into the mind. (Samuel Taylor Coleridge) We all have received advice at one time or another, embraced it, and seen the difference in our lives as a result of that sage council. There are probably a few other times we have received 'advice' that we didn't really grasp hold of simply because of the way it was presented to us! As a novice in investing, I appreciated the advice of a more knowledgeable friend when I was seeking ways to make my retirement fund grow. As a novice nurse, I looked to my 'elders' in nursing to help me develop the little tips and tricks they don't teach in nursing curriculum so as to no miss important facts about the patient and to improve the level of trust the physicians placed in me in caring for their patients. We all can grow from advice, but if we treat the Word of God as mere 'advice' we can either accept or reject, we will somehow …

Catch up, please!

O Lord, you are so good and kind, so ready to forgive, so full of mercy for all who ask your aid. (Psalm 86:5TLB) I wanted to take just a few moments to remind each of us of the importance of forgiveness. It isn't that we need forgiveness sometimes as much as we need to forgive ourselves for some misguided step we took. We somehow understand that God forgives us - by our asking / seeking his forgiveness. We have some level of understanding that the forgiveness we receive is based solely upon the actions of another on our behalf - Christ's actions on the cross. We get that we don't deserve it, but that it is freely given. We also comprehend to some degree that it is no longer an offense remembered by God - he wipes the slate clean. Yet, somehow we don't always believe we should forgive ourselves and move on. We get anchored to our failure and spend a great deal of time just kicking ourselves in the seat of our pants because we made those unwise choices! One question - i…

Get schooled!

Be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. (Ephesians 4:2TLB) If you have ever worked with the elderly in that latter stages of their lives, or little children in the early years of theirs, you know just how hard it can be to constantly be telling them the same things over and over again. Add to the elderly's constantly dwindling short-term memory the issues of not hearing well, problems with their sight, and the advances of pains galore and you have a recipe for some challenging moments that put to test the fibers of your character. Think about the boundless energy of a small child and constantly challenging curiosity and you have a recipe for exhaustive patience. I wish I could say I never get frustrated repeating stuff over and over again, but I do. I would like to report I never have an edge in my voice that betrays my lack of enthusiasm to be moving at a snail's pace when I'd like to be zooming ahea…