Saturday, March 31, 2018

Terca!

The difference between perseverance and obstinacy is that one comes from a strong will, and the other from a strong won't. (Henry Ward Beecher)

Boy, is that ever the truth! The strongest thing to overcome is our "won't" moments - those times when we dig in our heels and just determine we "won't" change the course of things, or the behavior we are being challenged to lay down. The more we determine we "won't" do something, the more we desire it! There are lots of times we label our obstinacy as being sort of something we have no control over, like a force that is 'forcing' us to do something. The root of the issue is our stubbornness, not our commitment. We commit very well to pursue something - we are just choosing the "wrong something" to pursue!

First pride, then the crash— the bigger the ego, the harder the fall. (Proverbs 16:18 MSG)

Obstinate people aren't going to compromise - they are unyielding, dug in, there for the long haul. The hallmark sign of an obstinate person is that they are not easily controlled. They will not hand the reins of control over to anyone else and they make that quite plain. Some call this stubbornness, but there is a degree of obstinacy that goes well beyond just being a little stubborn. The determination to always be right, in control, unyielding to any idea other than their own - these are symptoms of an obstinate heart.

Some label obstinacy as being "determined", but it is really nothing more than being "self-willed" and "strong-minded". If we could manage our will well enough, would we ever need a Savior? No, because we wouldn't get ourselves into places of unyielding compromise if we had a will that always functioned by making the choices that God's will declares to be right for us! Ego may be a small word, but it is a big problem! It keeps us doggedly determined to do some things in ways we choose to do them that may not be exactly correct.

Headstrong individuals are all around us - even right before us in the mirror looking back at you know who! The more headstrong we are, the more independent we attempt to function because we see little need for others to ever lend their help, ideas, or plans. There is no room for 'deviation' from one's own plans and that can be the greatest battle for us at times. As Beecher said, the will isn't the issue most of the time - it is the won't that messes us up more than the will. We label it being 'willful', but maybe we'd be more accurate if we labeled it as being 'won't-ful'.

Every now and again, my BFF reminds me I am being a little "mulish" in my behavior. She calls me "terca" (stubborn, mulish, obstinate). It is usually because I am refusing help, but the truth of the matter is that she is probably a little bit right - I am being "terca". While stubbornness to avoid the wrong stuff is not bad, carried to the extreme of thinking we can get past all the wrong stuff on our own is quite arrogant and 'mulish' indeed. We might just do well to examine our 'will' and our 'won't' now and again - because I think it is possible to get those two mixed up now and again! Just sayin!

Friday, March 30, 2018

Tumbling along

“Cursed is the strong one who depends on mere humans, who thinks he can make it on muscle alone
and sets God aside as dead weight. He’s like a tumbleweed on the prairie, out of touch with the good earth.  He lives rootless and aimless in a land where nothing grows." (Jeremiah 17:5-6 MSG)

We probably hear the next couple of verses more often in "church circles" than the ones above. The next couple of verses in this chapter say, “But blessed is the man who trusts me, God, the woman who sticks with God. They’re like trees replanted in Eden, putting down roots near the rivers; never a worry through the hottest of summers, never dropping a leaf, serene and calm through droughts, bearing fresh fruit every season." The idea of being solidly rooted, immovable or unaffected by the worst of circumstances is one we get encouragement from, so it is more frequently quoted that the one I chose this morning. Yet, the Curse comes before the Blessing in this passage. Why? I think God may have been using Jeremiah to point out some failures for the nation of Judah. They had drifted into practices God had told them to avoid, accepted cultural norms God told them would get them into all manner of trouble, and allowed many a compromise to honoring only ONE God in their lives. All that said, the curse comes before the blessing - not as a message of defeat - but as a reminder none of us is above this sin of pride.

Dependence upon our own way of doing things - making it on our own - choosing our own way over that of a life of obedience to the boundaries God sets - these are all struggles with a root of pride. We want our own way - declaring we are able to 'muscle through' in our own efforts, following our 'well crafted schemes and plans'. I don't know about you, but some of the most 'well crafted plans' I have created in my mind have been pretty 'ill crafted' in the end. Somewhere along the way, my 'muscle through' became more like I was 'muddling through'! News alert...human beings are fallible. They lack ALL the resources they need - there are just some things outside of their control no matter how much muscle they exert! God cannot be set aside in our lives in place for us being in control - things just won't end well for us! Maybe we fall under that 'curse' Jeremiah spoke of in this passage - being too dependent upon self or others is never going to end well.

I live in Arizona, so I have seen my share of tumbleweeds in the middle of the desert. The tumbleweed comes from a form of the Russian Thistle - a prickly plant that is out of its native soil most of the time! It actually is quite a prickly little thing, living best in a rather salty soil. It doesn't need much to drink, so it is prolific even in arid times and places. It gets the name of tumbleweed because it grows to a certain point, what some may call "maturity", and then it breaks off from the roots. Now, that may seem a little counter-productive to detach from the roots as it seems to end life. The truth of the matter is that this separation from the root is what allows it to disseminate its seeds! The dead plant spreads its seeds by separating from the root - by allowing death - by taking advantage of the winds to blow it wherever it will go.

I think this is an apt illustration of what pride does in our lives. Yes, there is quick, green growth. It looks like something good is about to come out of what we are doing. Yet, in the end, we get big (full of ourselves), but there is no real 'solid root' to our accomplishments. The thing we thought was 'massively important' really becomes more of a nuisance than a blessing. The tumbleweed actually was brought into the plains in the Dakotas in bags of wheat and flax seed. Because they are an opportunistic seed, they soon found their way from there to places never before touched by these thorny little plants. This 'nuisance' plant has become a prolific nuisance in over 19 countries now. It takes advantage of what starts out to be something quite good (wheat and flax) in order to get an inroad into an area, much like pride takes advantage of good seed to get an inroad into our lives. It doesn't take long to realize that a little 'bad seed' goes a very long way, almost undetected until the 'thistle thorns' begin to burrow into tender places! Just sayin!

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Back in the day...

15 It is God’s will that your good lives should silence those who foolishly condemn the Gospel without knowing what it can do for them, having never experienced its power. 16 You are free from the law, but that doesn’t mean you are free to do wrong. Live as those who are free to do only God’s will at all times. (I Peter 2:15-16 TLB)

I know the moments seem to be magnified these days when someone chooses to do something so wrong it just cannot help but make headlines. The actions of a few make the lives of many a living nightmare. I was talking the other day with my BFF about how different it is to grow up today. We reminisced about the times when we grew up - running from sun up to sun down with the neighborhood kids - likely no emerging from whatever 'play' was at hand until we were called for supper. The mischief we managed to get into was indeed 'child's play' and we didn't live in fear of our lives. We went to school without having to carry bullet-proof backpacks, or experience the repeated 'active shooter' drills. Our 'drills' were those designed to get us all lined up neatly on the playground while the fire alarms blared signaling it was prep in case we had any type of 'explosion' in the chemistry lab from an experiment gone awry! We didn't dream of package bombs and we didn't kill ourselves because we were made fun of on social media. Our form of 'social media' was the playground talk at recess or over the lunchroom table when the 'cool kids' huddled together to talk about the hand-me-down dresses we 'uncool kids' might have had on! I wonder where we really started to 'go wrong' as a society. Some may postulate it was Rock-n-Roll, or those pot smoking hippies, or even the protests of the early sixties for human rights and women's lib. It matters not where the turning point was - it matters if we can reach a turning point today - back in the right direction!

Live as those free to do only God's will at all times. There are a couple of imperatives in this command. First, we are to live - not just exist in some semblance of what might be called 'life'. We are to really live as though all of the day matters - as though every action is important. Second, we are to live as those who are free - not to do whatever pleases us, but with consideration of what pleases God first and then what honors our fellow-man second. Freedom has been taken to extremes by some, while others still only dream there might be some freedom for them somewhere at some time. There are many kinds of 'bondage' (lack of freedom) beginning with the condition or state of our souls and going on from there. Nothing matters as much as the condition of our soul - for that soul which has never experienced the grace and forgiveness of their Creator has not really experienced any great sense of freedom at all! Lastly, freedom is an "all the time" kind of thing - it isn't now and again, but consistently lived out in our daily lives. Freedom comes because we live according to the will of God 'at all times' - not just when the urge hits us, or in 'pockets of society'. Live at those free to do - not free to be - but free to do. There is a purpose to our freedom - it is to do the will of God at all times. Some equate freedom with the will to do as they please whenever they please, but the will of God is to override our will - especially when that freedom of will leads us down a path other than the one he would have us choose.

We live free, not as powerless creatures, but as those who have experienced the ultimate power - that of our Creator's hand and heart. Power doesn't come in our actions, but in the actions of Christ coming through us, touching the lives of those around us. Those hungering for power need to realize any power other than the power of Christ pales in comparison - it will be lack-luster when held up to the light and majesty of his power! Power doesn't come when we take advantage of others - it comes when we put them first. It doesn't manifest itself in the actions of 'advantage', but in the actions of love. If we seek for an advantage in life, we will likely find any advantage we obtain is soon lost because others are seeking for the place of advantage equally as hard as we are! There is no greater place of 'advantage' than in the arms of Christ - for his 'advantage' comes in the form of grace, compassion, love, and true freedom. Just sayin!

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Consider the audience

Going through the motions doesn’t please you, a flawless performance is nothing to you. I learned God-worship when my pride was shattered. Heart-shattered lives ready for love don’t for a moment escape God’s notice. (Psalm 51:17 MSG)

I will be the first to admit there are days when I am merely going through the motions. Something deep inside of me just isn't all that excited about doing whatever it is I am doing. I don't quite see the thing ahead of me with any real sense of passion. While these days are not frequent, they can really bog me down when I allow them to influence me for very long. Going through the motions is nothing more than putting on a performance. You feel one way, but are doing something entirely contrary to the way you truthfully feel. Why do we do this? I think it may be it is easier to just go along for the ride than it is to step up, take ownership for how we feel, and allow ourselves to really face the day without masks. A flawless performance - many of us know very well how to give these. Few of us will actually ever step beyond the performance, but when we do, we find a liberty and a peace that transcends whatever bit of pride we are hiding behind!

To 'perform' one needs an audience. Real or perceived, the 'audiences' in our lives frequently dictate the 'performance' we render. There are times we consider only the audience we can see, discounting those who look on that we don't really think are observing our 'performance'. As a parent, I quickly found out more was 'observed' than I thought. The things modeled in the behavior of one of my children oftentimes revealed to me they had been observing my 'performance' much closer than I ever dreamed! Their choice of actions or words were a direct comparison to my own. Now, if this is me sitting quietly reading with a leg crossed over the other and the child imitates that exact pose and takes up his/her own reading book, I might find it delightful. If that child imitates my 'less than stellar moment' when I lost control of my emotions and let my anger fly, I am not as 'flattered' by that 'performance'.

One thing I learned in theater - you must consider the audience before you. You must know how much to project your words so you will be heard. You have to 'read' their connection with you so you can vary your actions and your topic ever so slightly to keep them engaged. The need to 'perform' varies depending on the audience. I am so grateful for those in my life that don't need to see a performance from me. The ones I can get totally 'real' with are perhaps most inclined to actually extend grace in my life where I need it most, but they are also not willing to let me 'perform' to the audience. They want reality through and through. While this may be challenging, they keep me grounded and honest. There is nothing wrong with that! In fact, the more honest I am with them, the more honest I discover I am being with others. While I may be tempted to 'perform', they hold me accountable to just being th real me. Not a bad thing considering it is the real me that Jesus wants to come through anyway. Just sayin!

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Grace again...yup

I came across a quote the other day that spoke to me deeply: "Who has a harder fight than he who is striving to overcome himself?" (Thomas a Kempis) Let that one sink in a little and it may just give you a moment of pause as it did me. The very thought of overcoming myself is almost maddening, for there are many complex issues within that are actually in conflict with each other, the Christ-centered beliefs I want to live by, and the way I should be living if I were living by the standards others would create for me to live within. The conflict is real for all of us - we honestly don't appreciate the full impact of this struggle until we step back and ask ourselves if what we are doing at the moment is actually what Christ would desire of us!

23 But anyone who believes that something he wants to do is wrong shouldn’t do it. He sins if he does, for he thinks it is wrong, and so for him it is wrong. Anything that is done apart from what he feels is right is sin. (Romans 14:23 TLB)

The Apostle Paul has been laying out various responses to those who were struggling with the rules of the Law of Moses and the liberty of the Grace of Christ. Law and Grace have a hard time most of the time, because grace changes the 'why' behind the rule. It doesn't always do away with the rule - for it is still a 'rule' to not kill your brother, or steal his belongings, or commit adultery. Those rules didn't go out the door just because grace entered it! In fact, the only thing grace does with the rule is make it possible to keep the rule for the right reason - because it is the right thing to do! Grace changes things for us because it moves us from keeping rules SO THAT WE CAN BE MADE right, to keeping the rules BECAUSE WE HAVE BEEN MADE right.

Overcoming one's own desires is sometimes the fine balance between grace and rule-keeping. We know what is right - because our conscience and scripture don't contradict us. We want to do right because we know it is the right thing to do. We hate to do wrong - knowing there will be both consequences and end-results we may not like at all. Yet, the fight continues between our 'striving' to live right and our 'actually' living right! We get this all wrong at times - thinking it is us doing the work. I have said it before, but it bears repeating - there is a new force at work within us - it is no longer us in control.

It was Kempis who also said, "He who loves with purity considers not the gift of the lover, but the love of the giver." It isn't grace we need to focus on, but the one who gives us the grace to live in right standing with a holy God! We consider the giver, not the gift. When the struggle is real within me over something I want to do, but know better than to do, I often have to remind myself God didn't give grace so I could ask for forgiveness - he gave it so I wouldn't need to! Just sayin!

Monday, March 26, 2018

Cyclical Reboot Mode?

Because the Lord is my Shepherd, I have everything I need! He lets me rest in the meadow grass and leads me beside the quiet streams. He gives me new strength. He helps me do what honors him the most. (Psalm 23:1-3 TLB)
"Because" is a big word in the hand of Jesus! Because we are his, we have all we need - everything - nothing missing or incomplete or lacking in any manner. We are secure in this knowledge, my friends. We are allowed to rest - not made to rest, but allowed to rest. There are times when God guides me to take times of rest, because he knows without it, I will be on a downward slope toward burnout. I imagine the same to be true for each of you. We can all get a little too over zealous in our pursuits. Right now I have a couple of projects in mind, several started, and a bunch almost complete, but not quite there yet. If I don't manage these well, something gets left 'undone' or 'half-done'. God helps us have times of rest so that we get to the place of not leaving anything undone that needs to be done!
Last night my tablet took it upon itself to go into some 'warp speed' rebooting mode repeatedly. Right in the middle of what I was enjoying (a game of solitaire), it started this continual cycle of rebooting and rebooting. The problem is that NONE of the reboots allowed me to reset the device so it would stop doing this cyclical reboot. There are times I feel like I am doing a cyclical reboot in my own life - just spinning and spinning - but never really getting to the point that things 'set' so I can move on. How about you? Are there times when you just need to be led into rest? I bet there are more times than you might first recognize. God took you there without much resistance most of the time, but those times when you just were spinning out of control like my tablet were the times you probably remember most. Why? You needed those times the most! You were spinning and nothing was getting 'set' in your life.
It is in the moments of well-deserved and much-needed rest that God actually renews us, but he also is moving in our lives to help us learn what it is we need to 'do' next. He uses these times of rest to set our minds into focused renewal - spirit following suit - body finding a similar type of regeneration complete with enough energy to complete what is ahead. We might think we don't need these times of rest - because we have so much to accomplish. "BECAUSE" we have so much to accomplish is the exact reason for the "BECAUSE" of God's pulling us into that place of rest. He allows us those restful moments 'because' of the 'because'. If we all want to get to the place we are consistently doing what brings honor to God, then we need to heed these places of rest and actually settle back into that rest. It is there we learn how to honor him - it is there we are taught - it is there we are most open to hearing what he wants to show us.
At 4 this morning, my mind was spinning on all the projects I'd like to accomplish today. I have four cupboards to finish the sorting and relocation of stuff in the garage; a cabinet in mom's bathroom that needs the bottom lined anew; a desire to clean and organize a couple kitchen cabinets that have 'gotten out of control'; sheets to wash and beds to make; clothes to launder, hang up, and iron; lunch and dinner to prepare; a refrigerator that needs a good scrub down; and the list could go on for about another four inches. Instead of bouncing up, after being awake a great deal of the night because of the neighbor's barking dog, I rolled over, told my mind to shut off a while, and slept in until 6:30 (a rarity for this gal). God was reminding me that I was in a 'reboot cycle' that needed to finish the cycle and I shouldn't resist it! Maybe we all need a little extra leading into rest by the one who knows how to give us perfect rest! Just sayin!

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Impress me

Since you have been chosen by God who has given you this new kind of life, and because of his deep love and concern for you, you should practice tenderhearted mercy and kindness to others. Don’t worry about making a good impression on them, but be ready to suffer quietly and patiently. (Colossians 3:12 TLB)
Do you worry about making that "good impression" when you are with other people? If you spend even six or seven minutes in front of the mirror everyday, you probably are concerned even slightly with the impression you make from a physical stand-point. Even if all that time is spent shaving a little stubble from your face, or putting on a minimal amount of make-up, it is still 'work' that goes into the 'impression' you give to others. I doubt you do it entirely for yourself! We can spend a great deal of time 'perfecting' the outward 'impression' we display, but I wonder if we spend equal amount of time on the inward 'impression' we will display? It might come as a shock to you, but that inward impression isn't always going to display as 'tenderhearted mercy' or 'kindness to others' if we don't allow some inward 'work' to be done!
Inward change is what most affects the outward impression we portray to others anyway. The more God works his Word into the fibers of our inner man, the more God works his grace outward through every action and word which will leave 'impressions' on others. When I sit at the breakfast bar, I have a tendency to wrap my feet around the pub legs of the stools that line that space. If I am there more than fifteen minutes, like I can be if I have taken my laptop to the counter to write my blog, there are 'impressions' left in my calves where I have wrapped them against the corners of those stool legs. Those grooves left by the chair's legs go away in a few minutes, but they begin to hurt if I assume that position way too long. The grooves become noticeable to me after a certain time, requiring me to reposition myself. The impression left by our actions in life isn't always that easily 'erased' - sometimes it leaves 'painful grooves' in the lives of others, and even in our own lives!
An impression is left in more than a physical sense whenever our actions are less than kind or merciful, though. There are the immediate sensations left on the intellect, emotions, and sometimes the physical being. There can also be lasting sensations (impressions) left when the immediate becomes a little more 'prolonged' in nature. While we can never fully control how another perceives our actions, we are in control of most of that impression - or at least we should be! This is why it is so important to allow God to 'work into' us what will bring out the tender mercies and unending grace which leaves the lasting impressions of his love and mercy long after we are gone! Just sayin!

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Sentimental gush

9-11 So this is my prayer: that your love will flourish and that you will not only love much but well. Learn to love appropriately. You need to use your head and test your feelings so that your love is sincere and intelligent, not sentimental gush. Live a lover’s life, circumspect and exemplary, a life Jesus will be proud of: bountiful in fruits from the soul, making Jesus Christ attractive to all, getting everyone involved in the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1:9-11 MSG)

Sentimental gush - that is what I kind of feel when I watch some of those sappy "and they lived happily after" love stories. Yes, I believe people can "be in love" and that "love will find a way" and all those other cliches about love. Don't think I am down on a solidly committed and growing relationship - it is just that our world often portrays love in ways that are totally gushy and then doesn't show the very 'hard' side of that loving being vital and vibrant! In REAL life, the problems are bigger than momentary conflict that can all be solved within a two hour time frame! In real life, love engages all of our senses, begins with our laying down of self, and grows only to the degree that we allow the love of God to shine through us!

To 'love well', one must constantly 'go to the well' - the well of God's grace. Love requires we overlook some stuff at times, knowing when it is time to bring things up and when it is not. It insists not upon the choices of one, but on the melding of 'rights' until both are less concerned about what they 'get out' of the relationship and more concerned with what they 'put into it'. Love engages the senses, but it is also sensible, not relying upon the emotional 'senses' as the primary guide that stimulates action. The love of Christ overshadows our lives, not to hold us back in loving each other, but to provide a protective covering under which we can learn to love 'perfectly'.

Use your head and test your feelings - oh, how frequently these things are not done in unison, but one overrides the other! Either our head gets the best of us and we over-think the issues at hand, so much that the issues get bigger and bigger and bigger until they are 'out of control' as far as we are concerned; or our feelings take over and we get all twitter-pated about stuff we otherwise would have left alone. If we could just get these two to function well together, maybe the quality of our love for each other would be a little more 'Christ-like'. Our minds would be aligned with his and we'd see things in a dimension unlike any other dimension we had considered previously. Our feelings wouldn't be the primary driver in our lives - they'd be under the control of the leadership of the Holy Spirit and we'd be less likely to be following them down a road to trouble or discontent.

Lest you think I am 'down' on love, I am not. I am really most concerned that we learn to love well - as Christ loves us. We have some pretty 'messed up' examples of love when all we consider is what we see in media today, so maybe we'd do well to consider a different example of love and consider Christ just a little more closely. Just sayin!

Friday, March 23, 2018

Tract or Custom Home?

So don’t lose a minute in building on what you’ve been given, complementing your basic faith with good character, spiritual understanding, alert discipline, passionate patience, reverent wonder, warm friendliness, and generous love, each dimension fitting into and developing the others. With these qualities active and growing in your lives, no grass will grow under your feet, no day will pass without its reward as you mature in your experience of our Master Jesus. Without these qualities you can’t see what’s right before you, oblivious that your old sinful life has been wiped off the books. (2 Peter 1:5-8 MSG)
I have often referred to this daily and continual work of "growing up" in Jesus, but how many of us actually consider "growing up" work? For some, it is the ultimate goal in life - but that is probably when you are ten! For those of us "grown up" already, we long for the 'good old days' when life was simpler and our main issue for the day consisted of if a friend would like our outfit! Growing up physically is one thing - growing up in Jesus is quite another! One physical food, rest, and mental investment. The other requires spiritual food, trustful and expectant rest, and a mental grasp on things you might have otherwise been totally blind to! We all realize it is possible to 'grow up', but never really 'mature'. The idea of growing up involves more than growing older - there is supposed to be a physical, mental, and emotional transformation that occurs as we do!
"Basic faith" is to be 'built upon' - it is a foundation only - nothing erected on a foundation is a waste of a good foundation! Recently I viewed a program featuring some techniques on building 'off the grid' in some of the more remote regions of the nation. The idea is that the home owners will build a home that is kind of self-sustaining and live a pretty simple lifestyle, doing without some of the things some 'city dwellers' may have come to expect as 'normal' living. Electricity might be garnered from solar panels, water from springs, and furnishings from those things you can make from what you clear from the land. It all starts with a good foundation 'suitable' for the space where the building will be erected. If it will be up in the trees, having solidly growing, healthy trees spaced perfectly apart is essential. If it will be on the ground of a sloping mountainside, carving out a safe place to build the structure and supporting it with sufficient bracing to keep it from sliding away in a rainstorm is critical!
Each home built represents something unique because it is both built for the environment in which it is to provide shelter within, and it is designed to suit the needs of those who will dwell inside that structure. Some are round, square, or oblong. The design is determined by the foundation. The design of what is "built-into" the structure of our lives begins with the foundation. If that foundation is Christ, then what is built upon that foundation is solid - regardless of how that 'dwelling' takes shape! Some of the buildings are erected in pretty harsh weather conditions - needing to withstand cold and freeze for many months of the year. Double walls may be created, allowing for extra insulation. Some of our lives are didn't exactly take form as 'beach homes', overlooking lapping waters, with swaying palms in the backdrop. Some of our lives are like the ones built to withstand the hard freeze of winter and still be a shelter that warms and welcomes!
Why are our lives all a little bit different? I think God never set out to build "tract homes" - he set out to build "custom dwellings" - places where his Son would be the foundation, but which revealed beautiful attributes of his character in unique ways within each of these 'earthly dwellings'! Just sayin!

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Daily problems, oh, and one more to boot!

26 And in the same way—by our faith—the Holy Spirit helps us with our daily problems and in our praying. For we don’t even know what we should pray for nor how to pray as we should, but the Holy Spirit prays for us with such feeling that it cannot be expressed in words. 27 And the Father who knows all hearts knows, of course, what the Spirit is saying as he pleads for us in harmony with God’s own will. 28 And we know that all that happens to us is working for our good if we love God and are fitting into his plans. (Romans 8:26-28 TLB)

Most days I need someone's help - if not "human help", I certainly need the help and guidance of the Holy Spirit. What is so certain is that we have DAILY problems. They aren't occasional, once in a great while, in the by and by kind of problems that emerge - they are DAILY. Sometimes we don't recognize them as problems, but they are nonetheless. Problems demand a solution - ignore them and they just get bigger. Sometimes the solution eludes us - like it did during a recent 'build' of a database I was developing for the team I support. Do you know how many times I went to bed at night contemplating how I could provide the exact solution they needed in how this database would function? About an entire week's worth of laying my head on the pillow resulted in some type of early morning epiphany of how to accomplish what they set out to have. Each night, I'd have a different set of needs in mind. Each morning, there'd come a new solution to attempt! Now, that isn't just my mind working overtime - it is the help of the Holy Spirit to either bring to mind something I already knew, but just wasn't seeing; or he was giving me a fresh solution to a problem I had never encountered before!

As with the database, we sometimes know what we envision might work, but when we put into action what we feel may be the solution, we encounter hurdles that kind of set us back. I have learned to walk away for a while from what is staring me right in the face, not in defeat, but in quiet contemplation. In those moments of quietness, and even in slumber, God is opening and refreshing our minds! He is clearing out what we see as the hurdle so that we can see the path ahead and how to vault the hurdle! Daily problems demand just as frequent of answers - and there is no better way to find the answers than to get into the posture of listening! There are times when it is better to just stop 'doing' and start 'quietly listening' so that we can see where we have made any wrong moves that have contributed to the problem. When I make a 'wrong move' with the database, it returns an immediate 'error warning' or 'void' calculation. Why? It cannot produce what is needed because something in my 'set-up' of the formula was wrong. There are lots of times I have attempted to just go on in life with 'wrong formulas' - but the 'return' on all those attempts yielded nothing but lots and lots of error messages!

If the Spirit knows how to guide us with what is in harmony with God's will, why on earth don't we accept that guidance a little more often? I know our pride gets in the way some of the time, but I think our 'hurried' lifestyle might just get in the way a little more frequently. We don't take time out of our busy days to just get quiet long enough to listen. I was making something in my shop yesterday and the solution to it kind of evaded me. I wanted a rolling cart to store my woodworking clamps on that would slide under the workbench and be out of the way. It needed to be at an angle, much like an A-Frame structure. I was constructing it with some new lumber and a little bit of scrap wood I had collected around the shop. It had to be narrow, so as to fit under the bench, but it also had to be sturdy because those clamps can weigh a great deal. I got to the part of making the angled support at the top and chose two pieces of salvaged wood to make the supports. I didn't realize they had some of those embedded nuts in the back of the wood as I set out to saw the desired angle. You know what happened - I jammed up the circular saw with a nut in between the guard and the blade. Yup, that little set back took me about 20 minutes of finagling to get the blade out, the nut free and everything put back together! Do you know what is even worse? I kind of felt like I was supposed to turn the wood over and inspect it before I cut it, but didn't! I knew the wood was the right dimension, marked it, and set out to cut it. The first rule of woodworking is to know your wood! Know the grain, where the knots are, how it is milled, etc.

The first rule of making life decisions - know your guide! We have been given the Holy Spirit to help us avoid those 'time-consuming', potentially life-altering moments when we make mistakes that could damage us, the thing at hand, or another! Just sayin!

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

God-Radar Blinking?

7 Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant. 8 Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit. (Galatians 6:7-8 NLT)

One who deceives will always find those who allow themselves to be deceived. (Niccolo Machiavelli) Mr. Machiavelli has been referred to at the "father of modern political science" because of his commentaries on unscrupulous and oftentimes quite diabolical politicians. While I don't adhere to much of what he describes as "normal operations" within politics, his observations were nonetheless true. Politics at the time of his writings allowed the engagement of some rather immoral and often hurtful tactics. Writing during the Renaissance period, he often observed human life being taken in the name of 'political advancement', mattering not to those with political aspirations as to how many lives were lost. His conclusion is that there would always be individuals set on deception - and there would always be those who would allow themselves to be duped by the tactics of these deceivers.

I am always checking things out on Snopes or Google because the thing just looks a little fishy to me that comes across my email or on my social media feed. I research an item before I purchase it to see what others might have to say about it. I want their unsolicited feedback, not the feedback of those who have been paid to give it! If I get a 'gut read' that alerts me to something being a little 'wonky' with someone or something, I usually get doubly concerned that I not be duped by whatever it is. Maybe some would label me a little bit of a skeptic, or with paranoia issues, but the truth of the matter is that there are a whole lot of people and things put out there today that are dead set on deceiving us one way or another. We not only need 'good radar' to ferret them out, we need "God-Radar" to expose them for what they are!

Our passage today reminds us we can each be misled - deceived. It isn't that we set out to be misled, it is that we get ourselves into the mindset or emotional place that allows for us to be misled. If you have ever noticed just how easily you were 'derailed' in your choices or actions, you might just also realize you were actually led by something. It may not have been anything outside of yourself, though, because our own mind and emotions can be quite misleading at times! This is why we need to guard our emotions and hearts - allowing them to be misled is not an option! We need God to place his protection over our lives so we aren't 'taken in' by either our own lusts and desires, or the lusts and desires of others who seek to mislead us.

God-Radar is more than just a blinking light that tells us something is about to intersect our path - it is that early warning system that tells us immediate course correction is critical in order to avoid collision with what seeks to cross our path. We can be assured of this - there will always be 'stuff' and 'people' who will seek to cross our path with what can prove to be very harmful for us. We can also be equally assured that God will alert us to the dangers ahead, but we have to heed the alert! Just sayin!

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Fickle or Faithful?

“Understand, therefore, that the Lord your God is the faithful God who for a thousand generations keeps his promises and constantly loves those who love him and who obey his commands." (Deuteronomy 7:9 TLB)
Do we really understand faithfulness? Some believe faithfulness to equate to 'adherence' - the idea of living by some code of conduct or rules of operation. Others imagine faithfulness relates to allegiance - pledging one's life, actions, finances, etc., to some cause or individual. I think God's type of faithfulness involves all of these, but it always speaks to his dependability and trustworthiness. It is because he is continually, without variation, dependable in all manner of thought and action, his words carry power and his actions hit the mark each and every time. 
What God requires from us is our 'faithfulness' - allegiance, adherence, and attachment. Allegiance speaks to our dedication to him and no other. Adherence speaks to our commitment to his commands. Attachment refers to the ongoing connection he desires us to have with him each and every day of our lives. It is a multi-faceted statement to say that one is 'faithful' to God or his commands. It is impossible to be consistently committed to adherence to his commands if we lack to the ongoing connection or attachment that gives us the grace to walk out those commands in our lives. 
Allegiance is really the sense of devotion we each need to exhibit in our walk with him. We are to consider him first, listen to him the most, and enjoy his presence above all others. To some, this may seem a bit 'selfish' on God's part - demanding this kind of devotion from his followers - but to me, it seems like the natural outcome of being shown grace for a debt I could never repay! To give myself totally to him means I deny myself more than once in a while. Yet, in denying myself, am I really denying myself anything as good as I enjoy when I consider him first? No way! All that comes from putting him first in my life makes everything else I could come up with pale in comparison!
There isn't an easy road to faithfulness, though. It is a road few travel with ease - for it requires denying self and that isn't going to go down too well with our desire to be in control of our lives! The more we align with what his Word decrees, the more we find being 'in control' just doesn't matter. It wasn't all it was cracked up to be! The more we make a consistent connection with him, the more we learn how fickle our own thoughts and actions really are. There is no denying how 'undependable' our thoughts can be - and that leads to some pretty 'flighty' actions at times! The more we make that connection with him, the less 'flighty' our actions become because there is a dependability in his Words and his commands help us to have a 'steadiness' about us that is noticeable. This brings us back to the idea of 'adherence' - we don't always know how out of alignment we are with the rules of sound living until we realize how unsteady our actions really have been. Just sayin!

Monday, March 19, 2018

I am too busy for a crisis!

Kissinger once quipped, "There cannot be a crisis next week. My schedule is already full." Many of us would share his sentiments. Our schedules could not manage a crisis of any nature - much less a little 'hiccup' along the way. The more busy our schedule, the more we can count on something to disturb it, though! The moment we are too busy for any type of 'crisis', that is the moment we are too busy for life! Life isn't going to stand still so we can manage through some crisis - it keeps coming at us at whatever pace we had 'scheduled' and the crisis will loom until we pay it some mind.

12 Dear friends, don’t be bewildered or surprised when you go through the fiery trials ahead, for this is no strange, unusual thing that is going to happen to you. 13 Instead, be really glad—because these trials will make you partners with Christ in his suffering, and afterwards you will have the wonderful joy of sharing his glory in that coming day when it will be displayed. (I Peter 4:12-13 TLB)

The times we manage best in crisis are the times when we realize they are to be 'expected' - they aren't unusual. The other day my daughter wanted to accomplish so much and her morning didn't start out so well. She wanted to wash the car, but the car wash didn't clean it very well. When she wanted a refund or another wash, she was denied. Her car battery died, but was able to be jumped into life again - just long enough for her to make it home and get it changed. She had to wait for the service man to replace it - adding another kink in her plans. Her oil change didn't go as expected, requiring a second trip back to the service place to get them to put the glove box back correctly after changing the cabin filter. Sometimes we might just want to go back to bed instead of dealing with what life sends!

The matters she dealt with seem small to some, for their moments of crisis are much bigger. They expected a routine mammogram, but ended up with a catastrophic diagnosis of breast cancer. They set out to walk home after a night out team-building, only to be left in a life-altering coma and suffering severe brain damage. They went to bed without a worry in the world, but awoke to the screeching of smoke detectors alerting to imminent danger and the loss of all they possessed. Life happens - crisis is NOT diverted - and now we must 'deal'. How is it you 'deal' when crisis comes your way? If you have Christ at the center of your life, you are probably more 'at ease' in the crisis than one who does not, but the crisis still comes.

Our trials may be small compared to those of others, but every trial has a moment of opportunity for us to realize something we might have missed, or been too busy to even consider. If we stop long enough to just 'breathe' in the midst of the crisis, we might just realize how very much we were depending on our own plans to all work out. We didn't imagine other plans may emerge along the way. When our trust is in Christ and our attention is directed toward him first and foremost in each of our daily activities, we may still tend to 'over-extend', but we aren't bound to the frustration of the crisis. We can rise above the crisis, because we live with a confidence that it isn't all about our control, but about his. Just sayin!

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Diamonds - Rough, but still diamonds

The English novelist, William Makepeace Thackeray, wrote: "There are many sham diamonds in this life which pass for real, and vice versa." If you stop for a moment to consider the diamonds you have overlooked as you have gone through this lifetime, you might be surprised at what you discover. To me, I recount the 'diamonds in the rough' that have touched my life in ways some just might not understand. There were hugs from that child I worked with who could not speak more than a couple words due to his mental handicap that touched my soul deep down when I was feeling particularly lonely during my high school days - diamonds beyond value. Those giggles from the kiddos when they discovered some perfectly good way to sneak up on me and startle me with their shenanigans that just warmed my heart because they felt comfortable enough to be silly and free with me - they were diamonds indeed. Maybe even those moments of temper that emerged when someone didn't get their way, but in which we remained calm and made it through despite that initial outburst - diamonds beyond measure. It doesn't have to be 'shiny' to sparkle, nor does it have to be 'brilliantly cut' to radiate beauty - diamonds all start out 'in the rough'.

6 For the Lord grants wisdom! His every word is a treasure of knowledge and understanding. 7-8 He grants good sense to the godly—his saints. He is their shield, protecting them and guarding their pathway. 9 He shows how to distinguish right from wrong, how to find the right decision every time. 10 For wisdom and truth will enter the very center of your being, filling your life with joy. (Proverbs 2:6-10 TLB)

We don't always find treasure just because we are looking for it - sometimes it is discovered quite by accident! We might just realize how truly blessed we are when someone reminds us to have a totally blessed day. We could discover there is a blessing, even in the deepest place, that was hidden to us before, but suddenly we see a value far superior to anything else we take from that place. The treasure is found in the openness to discover it. Discovery is the process of recognizing it - it is the ability to 'see' what others don't see and 'hear' what others only casually receive. There is much to be said about discovering one's 'diamonds', but here are just a few thoughts today:

- What 'diamond' has God been working to reveal to you? It could be that you have been looking for the shiniest and most brilliant of gems, but right there before you is that diamond, all covered in mire and muck, just waiting to be unmasked. Sometimes we have to put a little bit of work into uncovering the true gems.

- When is God's opportune moment to bring 'diamonds' into our lives? It rarely is in those moments when we are 'on top of the world' and thoroughly 'on top of our game'. In fact, it may just be that the most magnificent diamonds are discovered when we are at one of our lowest points - because diamonds are 'dug from the earth' - they rarely just fall into our laps!

- Who has 'diamonds' to share? We often overlook those who don't quite seem like they have much to offer us in life - sometimes to our detriment. I have worked for years with the elderly - do you know how many diamonds I have met in this work? Thousands! I have been a teacher's aid with the mentally handicapped - do you suppose there were many diamonds there? Yup! Hundreds and hundreds. Remember - if you are always looking for the shiniest and easiest to find, you might just overlook the most valuable of diamonds! Just sayin!

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Misery loves company

All praise to the God and Father of our Master, Jesus the Messiah! Father of all mercy! God of all healing counsel! He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us. We have plenty of hard times that come from following the Messiah, but no more so than the good times of his healing comfort—we get a full measure of that, too. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4 MSG)
We probably all have heard that old English proverb, "Misery loves company", but does it really 'love it'? Back some time ago, I came across some research attempting to see if people who spend a good deal of time together actually influence the 'moods' of the other individual. They attempted to see if one depressed individual in the relationship did more to bring down the other individual, or if the opposite would be true and the other brought the depressed one up. It was a good study showing that only the severely depressed individual actually pulled the mood of the other downward. Normal emotional mood swings didn't play as much role in 'pulling the other guy down'. They were part of life and they were momentary mood swings that could easily be changed in the company of another. 
The study stopped short of actually proving the positive mood of one party in the relationship being able to actually impact the negative mood of the other - it just showed that we aren't always negatively impacted by the mood of another. I think we have all felt it from time to time though. We are feeling low and kind of dragging along through life somehow and one of our close friends comes alongside with a much more positive disposition in that moment and what happens? Most of the time, OUR mood begins to change, ever so slightly. I believe even a little while in the right company makes all the difference!
The 'God of all healing counsel' is just dying to display his goodness in our lives. He isn't about to abandon us to our worries and cares. In fact, he helps to actually 'strategically' bring others into our lives that will act as the counter-balance to our current emotional need. Alongside us, they find a way to help us heal, create a new enthusiasm for what lies ahead, or even just be a shoulder to lean on when we think we might want to abandon it all. God's healing counsel isn't always found by us getting into the Word of God, or in spending long moments of prayer sharing our miseries with him. Sometimes his healing counsel comes in us recognizing a need similar to our own in the life of another and then finding some way to be an encouragement to that other individual, even though we might have a need of our own. Somehow, in that moment of being what the other guy needs, we find healing for our own need!
While God will always remain our primary source for emotional strength and 'balance' in our lives, he does use others to help us walk out this daily struggle called 'life'. We don't have to go it alone and this is likely surprising news to some. I have met individuals who think they cannot ever ask for help, or ever be who they really are around others because they figure they have to shoulder life's burdens all on their own. Nothing could be further from God's plans for our lives for we are created to 'partner with each other' in this walk. Yes, it may be true that misery loves company - attracting 'birds of the feather' into the middle of your own muddle - but if we truly want to overcome our misery, we want to find ways to 'look outside' our misery and recognize the misery of another. Just sayin!

Friday, March 16, 2018

Habit or obsession

It was Benjamin Franklin who reminded us it is easier to prevent habits than to break them. A habit is an "acquired behavior pattern" that is followed so frequently that it becomes what scientists would call 'involuntary'. More than likely we each have one or two habits that have become so 'involuntary' we no longer think about them, we just do them. As a matter of fact, it probably throws us off a little whenever anything interferes with that 'pattern of behavior'. If you are used to rising in the morning, putting on a pot of coffee, and sitting with the paper in hand as your 'routine', you will likely be lost if the paper delivery doesn't occur that day. Your 'pattern' just got disrupted! Most would agree some habits are not bad to have, such as washing our hands and brushing our teeth. Good hygiene is an 'acquired behavior pattern' appreciated by all. Yet there are others which are a little more 'out there' that might not be considered as 'acceptable' by some - the types of behavior patterns we might not want to 'flaunt'. If patterns of behavior can be 'acquired', wouldn't it be wise to consider if they are 'acceptable' and 'good for us' before we develop them?
Investigate my life, O God, find out everything about me; Cross-examine and test me, get a clear picture of what I’m about; See for yourself whether I’ve done anything wrong— then guide me on the road to eternal life. (Psalm 139:23-24 MSG)
If a habit is 'customary' for us, then it stands to reason we can develop 'behavior patterns' that stand up to thorough scrutiny, such as having those 'patterns' observed by others, or God. Those 'patterns' we may not want others to observe or know about are likely the ones we developed because of wrong choices in our lives. It is even possible for a 'habit' to become more of an 'obsession' for us when that 'pattern of behavior' becomes so much of a focus that we have a hard time not engaging in that behavior for any period of time. 
Is it possible for a 'good behavior' to turn into an 'obsessive' one? Yes, if that behavior begins to interfere with other actions we are supposed to be engaging in. For example, getting our hair styled in the morning is positive, but when the time it takes to style that hair exceeds the time we take eating a good breakfast, spending a little time with the family, or doing a little bit around the house to keep things in order, it likely is becoming an 'obsessive habit'.
When I think about habits, here is a little thing I have used to examine if I want to be heading down that 'behavior road' or not:
Help - will this action, if repeated time and time again, help me to develop other positive character traits that are beneficial to me and others?
Acceptable - is this action something that God views as acceptable for my life? (Just because it is acceptable for another may not mean my circumstances are the same - it might not be acceptable for me.)
Benefit - is there a benefit to the repeated action such as the positive development of deeper relationship, or the added benefit of growing in my relationship with Christ?
Intent - will the intentional pursuit of this behavior now result in any unintentional consequences later on?
Time - is the time it will take to make this action an 'involuntary' one going to be worth it? (There are times when the time expenditure outweighs the return on that investment.)
If the habit is not harmful, doesn't detract from solid character development, and won't keep us away from other equally important 'behaviors' or 'activities', then it probably is okay. Yet, we always need to re-evaluate our 'habits' from time to time because it is possible what once started out as a 'good habit' has turned into nothing more than a 'habit' without much long-term benefit for us. Just sayin!

Thursday, March 15, 2018

B.O.L.D.

14 But Jesus the Son of God is our great High Priest who has gone to heaven itself to help us; therefore let us never stop trusting him. 15 This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses since he had the same temptations we do, though he never once gave way to them and sinned. 16 So let us come boldly to the very throne of God and stay there to receive his mercy and to find grace to help us in our times of need. (Hebrews 4:14-16 TLB)

We need to be bold in our faith - bold believers through and through. I know there are times when we face uncertainties and somehow all our boldness flies out the window like some vapor ascending into the unknown. If we are be 100% truthful here, we ALL need a little lesson in boldness! Why? We get doubt in the driver's seat and faith merely becomes a passenger. Passengers don't control the car - although they may try to tell you where to turn, stop, or what's just around the bend, you are under absolutely no obligation to heed their advice. You are driving. Boldness isn't about us driving, but us being willing to allow another to drive us!

BOLDNESS isn't about us having it all together - it sometimes about us recognizing we actually don't have all the pieces in order. It isn't going to hurt us to admit we struggle with boldness - it will only hurt us when we refuse to be honest about our struggles in areas of BELIEF, OBEDIENCE, LEARNING, OR DISCIPLINE.

BELIEF might just be the starting place for boldness to begin to blossom in our lives because every action has some basis of belief behind it. We almost take for granted some of the stuff we believe, but have come to trust in fully. We don't think twice about our next breath most of the time because we just trust it will be there - until one day we find ourselves plunged into icy cold water through a crack in the ice and have to hold our breath until we can find our way to surface again! We don't want to take for granted where we put our trust, do we? We want assurances our trust is well-placed, yet when we take for granted anything (or anyone) we place our trust in, we create an environment where we are just assuming upon the 'good graces' of that person or object. Boldness begins in recognizing God's graces are always to be trusted, but never to be taken for granted.

OBEDIENCE is not an outcome of boldness - it is the outcome of belief. The one who understands where his trust is placed is determined to align his actions with the one he has given his allegiance to by such an alignment. Heart, mind, and body - aligned perfectly so as to take actions based upon trustworthy evidence. Obedience is more than conformity - it is inward strength in action even when outward circumstances don't seem to paint the picture we might want to see. What we believe determines how we stand when asked to go any other way than that which grace would pull us. 

LEARNING is an inward expression of our belief. To learn, one has to trust either the one doing the teaching, or the subject being taught. I don't know why I trusted my elementary school teachers when they told me one apple plus another one apple will yield me two apples, but I did. Before my eyes, I saw one shiny red apple and then another. In my mind I thought those amazingly crisp and juicy objects were good eating! I didn't care why one plus one equaled two, but trusted that more than one apple in the bowl was a very good thing! You see, we don't always question what we learn when we trust the one doing the teaching so very well!

DISCIPLINE is the outcome of having solid beliefs, a committed heart of obedient service, and an open heart to being taught the truths that will keep us safe in life. Discipline is merely focus - it is determined action that won't allow an opportunity for wavering. Nothing bespeaks boldness better than an unwavering ability to stand. Just sayin!

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

It is an ALL-Inclusive thing!

You must love him with all your heart, soul, and might. And you must think constantly about these commandments I am giving you today. You must teach them to your children and talk about them when you are at home or out for a walk; at bedtime and the first thing in the morning. Tie them on your finger, wear them on your forehead, and write them on the doorposts of your house! (Deuteronomy 6:5-9 TLB)

There are those of us who may postulate the hardest part of loving the Lord with ALL our heart is obeying him. I think it might just be the hardest part of loving the Lord this way is for our 'self' to get out of the way long enough to actually let God connect with our hearts! Pride keeps us at arm's length - shame helps us put up a good front - 'image' drives us to 'religious expression' instead of relationship. Indeed, to get close enough to love God and serve him with ALL requires a whole lot of other stuff in our lives to get out of the way!

I didn't realize I had some really good salvageable wood in my 'pallet pile' until I took some time to actually pull out about 8-10 of those pallets yesterday and start examining what I had. The more I pulled, the more that was exposed. The same happens with our relationship with Christ - the more we are pulled toward him, the more of us gets exposed - but...that applies to Christ, as well. The more we are drawn to him, the more of him we get to know! As Moses was delivering the commandments to the nation of Israel that day, I don't imagine he knew the total 'cost' of loving God in such a manner, but it didn't dampen his enthusiasm one bit.

We often want to know the cost up front - almost as though we were shopping for a new car. We don't want any 'hidden' costs. I think that might just be what Moses had in mind when he spoke these words - there is really no other meaning to ALL than ALL! It was pretty plain - the Word is to affect us deeply, be part of our daily lives, and be used to guide both family and business life. It was to be reverenced, obeyed, heeded, and trusted. It was to fill our conversation, but not just as 'passing commentary'. It was to be that which lent clarity, direction, and encouragement.

Coming - going. Working - playing. God didn't 'carve out' any hidden costs here. He was pretty plain - ALL of us needs to connect with ALL of him - keeping his Word in the forefront of all we do. Why is his Word so important? Perhaps it is because words connect us - they are the foundation of relationship. Yes, there are other 'actions' that occur in relationship, but without communication, we dry up and aren't really going to remain vitally connected. The emphasis on his Word being central in our lives is tied to us being able to live for him with our ALL. The ALL-inclusive plan of God is revealed in his Word! Just sayin!

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

A fresh canvas is art

An empty stable stays clean—but there is no income from an empty stable. (Proverbs 14:4 TLB)

An empty stable stays clean, just as an empty house might remain neat and with things in order. An empty bottle doesn't really serve the purpose for which it was created, nor does an empty heart! Another 'empty' to consider is that of a canvas stretched tightly upon the frame. The frame gives it a 'form', yet the canvas is still just 'empty' until the artist takes up the brush and begins to add brush stroke after brush stroke of color to that 'void'. An empty canvas is rarely seen as 'empty' in the eyes of the artist - simply because he knows all the ways it is to be filled.

There are times we believe 'empty' is a bad thing, but if you actually stop to think about it, 'empty' defines the object as 'not full', not that it isn't open to being filled. The canvas might be nothing more than canvas until it stretched tight upon the frame, but once it is stretched upon the frame, it is now open to being filled. Yet, it is not quite ready - it must be 'primed' to receive that which the artist will add. The artist needs to 'prime' the canvas with a substance known as 'gesso' - a substance which actually helps 'hold' the paint that will be added to the canvas onto that canvas.

Did you know you could add 'gesso' to almost any surface, even vinyl, rubber, etc., and it would help hold paint to that surface? It acts as an 'adherent' when it is applied to that surface. There are also two grades to gesso - one is much stronger and actually helps that which is painted upon that surface to remain true in both color and texture. There is much prep which goes into making the canvas ready to receive the artist's touch - it isn't as simple as just unrolling a little canvas. The frame must be put into place, the canvas stretched and held into place, and then there must be the placement of that which helps what will come next to actually 'stick'!

Maybe then empty isn't really empty! The canvas isn't truly empty - it is ready! The work of 'receiving' that which will be added by the artist actually begins when the artist conceives the canvas - bringing together the parts that will make the canvas in the first place. Who could add to the canvas any better than the one who conceived it in the first place? If you are feeling a little 'empty' these days, perhaps it is just that God has been at work bringing together the pieces and priming the canvas of your life! In his mind, he sees what he will add next - even when all we see is 'empty'. Just sayin!

Monday, March 12, 2018

Water or snow? Both help us grow!

“I don’t think the way you think. The way you work isn’t the way I work.” God’s Decree. “For as the sky soars high above earth, so the way I work surpasses the way you work, and the way I think is beyond the way you think. Just as rain and snow descend from the skies and don’t go back until they’ve watered the earth, Doing their work of making things grow and blossom, producing seed for farmers and food for the hungry, So will the words that come out of my mouth not come back empty-handed. They’ll do the work I sent them to do, they’ll complete the assignment I gave them." (Isaiah 55:8-9 MSG)
It is probably a good thing God doesn't think the way we think, huh? My 'thinker' gets a little muddled in thought at times, making it kind of 'hazardous territory' to travel! If God thought the way we thought, he would be very limited in his approach to issues and to our needs. We see things one or two ways, not really seeing the bigger picture at all, but we aren't limited by that thought when God is the one doing the thinking in our lives!
It is also a very good thing that God doesn't do things the way we might always think they should be done, nor is he limited by the way we choose to do things in our lives. He can 'work beyond' our actions and this is a very good thing indeed! I know I am grateful for each time he has actually worked beyond my actions and even those times he has worked around them in order to change them!
God's thoughts lead to consistent actions. His words activate consistent actions. These two go hand-in-hand. The words and thoughts of God are action-oriented. They produce - never returning devoid of accomplishing exactly what they intended to accomplish. Unlike our thoughts and words, his are reliable and trust-worthy. 
The words of God complete the assignment he has given them to do - not ending their effect until that very thing is fully accomplished. I guess this is why so many of us can say we feel like God's got his attention consistently focused on one particular area of our lives. It is like we are under the magnifying glass in a particular area - with him focusing on a particular thought pattern, attitude, etc. Each time we hear or read his Word, we hear that consistent message to deal with that area. The desire of our heart might be to 'take a break' from dealing with that area, but his desire is that his Word accomplish exactly what he set out for it to accomplish - nothing short of that will do.
If you ever wonder how it is God's Word can seem to come to us in oh so many ways, all saying the same thing, just a little differently, it might just be that God knows we need to hear it all those different ways in order to have it finally accomplish what it is set out to do. The rain comes to produce growth, just as the snow does. Both are quite similar, yet very unique. One is immediately soaking in, the other settles in for a while and eventually the temperature of our souls will begin to affect how quickly it is broken down and allowed to saturate them! Just sayin!