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Showing posts from November, 2020

Perfect Pitch

Back in the day when I used to play guitar (I mean 'way' back in the day), one of the continual struggles I had was keeping it in tune. I always had to begin by setting the first string with my pitch pipe and then go from there. I have known others who play piano and often comment how moving a piano will cause it to sometimes go out of tune. It is like the wood gets tweaked ever so slightly and with that 'tweak' the strings that were once spot on with pitch are now out of tune. If you have ever worked within the framework of a team having to complete some type of project together, you may have noticed just how 'out of tune' you can get with each other when one goes off doing their own thing, or someone doesn't explain the steps well enough and you just have to guess how to proceed. In a matter of time, the project that was pretty straight-forward has a few more nuances that you are challenged with just because of the subtle shifts in process design or work t

At the starting block again?

God gives a hand to those down on their luck, gives a fresh start to those ready to quit. (Psalm 145:14) There are times we all feel like quitting, when all we want is a fresh start, but have absolutely no way of figuring out what a 'fresh start' would really look like. Many have heard the words of Vince Lombardi, "Winners don't quit and quitters don't win." Another quote goes something along the line, "Quitters are good losers." So, we keep plugging along, hoping not to be labeled as a quitter, yet desiring nothing less than a fresh start. I think God may look at us, realize our desire to quit, that insane desire for a fresh start where others say no fresh start is possible, and then somehow begins to meet this despondency with his provision of that 'fresh start' we all desire. Robert Ingersoll once said, "Happiness is not a reward - its a consequence. Suffering is not a punishment - its a result." There are indeed times wh

Make that a double-stack, please!

Is there anybody here this morning that just needs grace? Wait - I just felt that gust of wind as all our hands went up in the air simultaneously! For some of us, we think grace (mercy) is probably the thing we need most, but have no idea how much those around us also need that same grace. We all have moments when mercy is the furthest thing from our minds when it comes to what the 'other person' deserves (but remember that grace is really undeserved favor). If we were totally honest today, there are times when we neither want to extend mercy to another, nor are we actively seeking it from another! We just want to get "even" and hope no one notices our silliness (or shall I say 'foolishness'). I am so glad we don't serve a God who looks for opportunities to "get even" with us! Consider this for a moment. Just how much grace do we really need? A whole lot and then some more (oh yeah....and some more)! God is all mercy and grace—not quick to

Hillside vs. Hilltop

On a recent rock hunting trip with my son we observed a huge house atop a very rocky hill, sitting all alone and covering just about every square inch of that hilltop. We marveled at how it must have been very costly to build, so far from town, amidst all the rocks of the desert land and without immediate access to all the regular 'utilities' that are enjoyed by us city dwellers. We imagined it cost them a pretty penny to run the water and electricity, but to stabilize the hilltop enough to ensure a house of that side didn't shift and come down in the monsoon storms of Arizona summers was another feat all by itself. There must have been a great deal of detail that went into planning for the house's build and a fairly lengthy prep process to get the land readied to receive all would become this sprawling house. Not all things built in life are going to be easy. Some 'building projects' in our lives will be to focus us high above what others can see or appreciate.

Christmas is not a competitive sport

Christmas is fast approaching and many will make the season all about the gifts they have to amass for the family and friends on their lists. Others will focus on the elaborate decorations and colorful lights. Some will find 'alternative' ways to have those 'ugly sweater' parties - perhaps even an 'ugly face mask' party this year in light of the pandemic. Right there in the midst of all the shopping, list checking, celebrations, and decorations, there can emerge this desire to 'keep up' with someone else. The desire to not be 'outdone' by the neighbors in the display of decorations and lights can drive some to place life and limb at risk as they climb ladders, shimmy up trees, and cross dangerously steep rooftops. The endless hours hunting for 'just the right gift' can wear the best shoppers out - even when they are shopping online this year! Whenever we try to 'keep up' or 'one up' somebody, our motives turn from celebrat

A back fence moment

Who doesn't love a juicy piece of gossip? The water cooler used to be the place of 'gossip-gatherers' in the work place, the back fence the ones housewives would gather at after hanging the laundry out to dry, and school playground for those a little younger. Has much changed? We may not have 'water coolers', back fences, and spend very little time on the playground anymore, but we have other ways to share those 'juicy tidbits', don't we? I think God may have placed so many warnings in scripture about speaking against another person, gossip, and the like, simply because of the tiny spark of gossip that it takes to ignite a huge fire that can damage a reputation! Truth be told, we all need to deal with the words we speak about others. “ You must not testify falsely against your neighbor ." (Exodus 20:16) "No lies about your neighbor." Seems like a simple 'rule' to live by, but just try living it out when you are caught up in the fr

Do You Bear Resistance Marks

I was charged with the task of cutting some soap the other day - something you might think would be insanely easy. It is this rich mixture of glycerin, oils, and the like, so shouldn't it be like cutting butter? First of all, let me assure you I am not a weak person - I have a great deal of strength in these hands and arms still. I can still wrestle the pickle jar open with best of you! The soap, on the other hand, just about did me in! No matter how much 'strength' I had in these hands, arms, and even my upper body, I just couldn't cut the loaf pan sized chunk of soap into 1/2 inch pieces. Something was awry with the soap as it set up and it made it insanely hard to cut. Do you know what we did with that soap? We let go of the idea of it being 'bars' of soap, chunked it up, put it back in the heat, and poured it into smaller silicone molds that will allow it to just 'pop out' perfectly sized! Hermann Hesse once said, " Some of us think holding on m

Huh? Whatcha say?

The more we get into this life here on earth, the more we realize it gets very complex very quickly. As little kids, the most complex things we had to worry about were whether we'd watch one cartoon over another, play with this toy over another, or choose to play indoors or outside. The choices we had to make were very complex at the time, but then we grew up! Now we have to figure out how to fix the broken sprinkler valve, where the best deals are on the groceries we need this week, how well we can stretch that paycheck with prices going up on everything, and who we can really count on to be there when we need help. Yes, life gets pretty complex as we grow older, but trust me on this one - we lend to the complexity of things when we forget to put God in the center of it all! You are right and you do right, God; your decisions are right on target . You rightly instruct us in how to live ever faithful to you. My rivals nearly did me in, they persistently ignored your commandments.

Super-Hero vs. Villain

Have you ever watched one of those 'super-hero' shows where the villain is hard at work trying to destroy all things good and true, while the 'super-hero' is combatting the villain's every move? What comes across is that the villain believes in his heart that he cannot and will not be stopped. No matter what forces oppose him, he will continue to move his agenda forward. Along comes the super-hero, countering each and every villainous thing with some 'perfect' response to keep the villain from succeeding. One thing any super-hero is known for is their desire to continually 'do good' - it is that very desire that keeps them going and actually makes them unstoppable. It isn't necessarily his ability that keeps him going - it is his availability that does. How available are we when in comes to doing good? If we want to live 'super-hero' like lives, we might just want to focus on being more available to doing good in life rather than bemoanin

A little house-cleaning needed

Have you ever stopped to consider how hard it is to get your body to do what your spirit is telling you to do? You likely will find that the way to your "body" is not so much through your "spirit", but rather through your "mind". What you believe in your mind, you see acted out in your body. What you commit to in your mind, you usually see commitment toward in your body. What you focus on long enough in your mind will eventually become a primary part of your life. Most of the time, we try to get our body to dictate what our spirit should do, but it should the other way around. Your spirit should be the one dictating to the body since you get to your body through you mind. If you want to really change the way you are making choices in life, you need to ensure the spirit is working on the mind, not your body! “Still, if you set your heart on God and reach out to him, if you scrub your hands of sin and refuse to entertain evil in your home, you’ll be ab

Plant a tree

I came across a little bit of truth that made me ponder a bit. You see, most of us have a very hard time understanding faith - we cannot really explain it, although we try to put it into words, those words somehow just fail to adequately explain how it is we live our lives in Christ Jesus. Here are the words I'd like you to contemplate just a little this morning: A man has made at least a start on discovering the meaning of human life when he plants shade trees under which he knows full well he will never sit. (D. Elton Trueblood) I'd have to say Trueblood not only hit the 'faith' nail on the head, but he also described how it is that Christ calls us to live our lives. If you have ever planted a tree from seed, watched it take root, then begin to fill out a little bit, you are encouraged, aren't you? You know it is well underway toward becoming a full-grown tree - but you realize you may never really sit under those outstretched boughs and actually feel the comfort

More, More, More - a close second to Me, Me, Me

It is that time of year when kids everywhere begin to write out their wish lists for Christmas. At first, the new bike or gaming system is all they want, then the list begins to grow and grow and grow. We actually encourage our kids to 'complete' this wish list task by writing a letter to Santa. As the list grows, so does the discontent - the more we want the more discontent we become with what we have. Discontent can produce positive outcomes in life - such as when we are no longer content just barely being able to button our jeans and we begin a concerted effort to avoid the cookies and put in a little more exercise everyday. Discontent can also have a very negative outcome when it drives us to compare what we have with what another has, then begin to complain about what we don't have in this life. What makes the difference between the positive and negative outcome with discontentment? I believe it is where we turn with our discontent - turn in the right direction toward

Pressure leaves a mark

“Whenever this happens, my heart stops— I’m stunned, I can’t catch my breath. Listen to it! Listen to his thunder, the rolling, rumbling thunder of his voice. He lets loose his lightnings from horizon to horizon, lighting up the earth from pole to pole. In their wake, the thunder echoes his voice, powerful and majestic. He lets out all the stops, he holds nothing back. No one can mistake that voice— His word thundering so wondrously, his mighty acts staggering our understanding. He orders the snow, ‘Blanket the earth!’ and the rain, ‘Soak the whole countryside!’ No one can escape the weather—it’s there. And no one can escape from God. Wild animals take shelter, crawling into their dens, When blizzards roar out of the north and freezing rain crusts the land. It’s God’s breath that forms the ice, it’s God’s breath that turns lakes and rivers solid. And yes, it’s God who fills clouds with rainwater and hurls lightning from them every which way. He puts them through their paces—first this

Be on God's side

Sir, my concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God's side, for God is always right. (Abraham Lincoln) I have never really understood how a nation can be so divided when it is has been given so much in terms of freedom, liberty, and foundation, yet we see this division all the time. There seems to be this great need to 'pick sides' and then remain firmly committed to the 'side' you picked. In school, I remember not so much 'picking sides' as being 'picked for a side'. There would be someone appointed as the 'team captain' and then the two captains would stand there and 'pick' their players one by one - taking turns so as to be 'fair' in the choosing. What you dreaded most was being amongst the last to be picked - because that really meant they didn't view you as worth much on the team. What this world refers to as 'sides' has existed since the beginning of time - it may have looke

Moments come, moments go

Moments come and moments go - we walk in and out of harm's way - moments of safety and moments of harm. What we do to prepare before the moment comes determines how we will face the moment when it does. We desire protection, but do you know what brings protection into our lives quicker than anything else? Being prepared! When I go out into the desert, I take water - more than I will likely need, but sufficient to be prepared for the extreme heat. When I take a hot pan from the oven, I reach for the pot holders - I know the heat will burn me, so I 'insulate' against it. When I get into the car, I buckle up - preparing for the worst, but trusting I will not need their 'tug' of safety. Moments come and moments go - what we do with this moment today may be what helps us prepare for the moments that are about to come. Thank you! Everything in me says “Thank you!” Angels listen as I sing my thanks. I kneel in worship facing your holy temple and say it again: “Thank yo

Committed to the Wait

To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible. (Thomas Aquinas) Faith is somewhat of a hard concept for many of us to understand because it is 'elusive' and kind of linked quite closely to 'hope'. As a matter of fact, some would define faith as hope - the believe something will happen in a particular way or at a specific time. Take faith to mean there is a great confidence in something or someone and you are pretty close to what most people define as faith, but there are others that will assure you it is belief in something or someone that is not always based upon proof. They will ask if I can prove there is a God and I have to ask them if they can prove there is not a God of the universe. Even the belief there is no God is faith is something or someone other than God - such as self, the 'mystical' force that must be with you, or the like. Faith isn't a 'thing' - it is a commitment of heart and mi

Not just barely free

I have to admit - at times I keep score. Not so much in your life, but in mine. I keep score of the things I do that are right steps toward a healthier lifestyle. I keep score of the steps I take in a day by wearing a smart watch. These are pretty 'harmless' things to keep score of in our lives, but when we start to 'keep score' of times we fail to take the right steps, we are doing just the opposite of what Christ does on our behalf. God doesn't 'chalk one up' on our 'account of misdeeds' just because we make a bad choice. We don't earn merits and demerits in some 'heavenly accounting system'. Prayer, going to church, reading our Bible - good actions, but they don't 'even out' the score when we do dumb stuff! In fact, it isn't about evening out any score - it is about all the demerits going away because God only sees the side of us that reflects the 'merits' of Christ! Because of the sacrifice of the Messiah, his

It is never too late

It is never too late to strengthen the foundation of faith. There is always time. With faith in the Savior, you can repent and plead for forgiveness. There is someone you can forgive. There is someone you can thank. There is someone you can serve and lift. You can do it wherever you are and however alone and deserted you may feel. (Henry B. Eyring) I want Mr. Eyring's words to speak to us today. It is never too late - to repent, to forgive, to thank someone, to serve, to life up another. I know a great many struggle with the idea they have gone too far, done too much, been too bad in their judgment  - it is too late in their eyes to seek or find forgiveness. Nothing could be further from the truth - grace wins each and every time. All that passing laws against sin did was produce more lawbreakers. But sin didn’t, and doesn’t, have a chance in competition with the aggressive forgiveness we call grace. When it’s sin versus grace, grace wins hands down. All sin can do is threaten us

A little waste recycling needed

Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.  (Will Rogers) How true is that statement? We all amass 'experience' as we move through life, some of it more 'worthy' of proclaiming than others. Certainly some of our judgment has been 'flawed' on occasion, yet there are even good things that come out of our bad judgment. The fourth police car has just passed my house bound for a residence at the end of the street, along with a fire truck and ambulance. Curiosity would make we want to find out what is going on - good judgment would tell me to trust the local authorities to do their job and pray for whatever is happening at the moment. Good judgment isn't learned by giving into every moment of 'curiosity' we have toward a matter, is it? In fact, there are times when we have to deny our curiosity because it is bound to lead us down a path we shouldn't be traveling! A leader of good judgment gives stability; an exploit

Scrap Pile Growing?

A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing. (George Bernard Shaw) How are you doing on that 'mistake' count? I could fill journals! Mistakes are a part of life - good or bad judgment is the only thing that contributes to mistake making - right timing combined with bad judgment can make for an equally messed up outcome. There are lots and lots of checks and balances that are in play every day to keep us from 'messing up', but you and I both know we don't always follow the rules or maintain a perfect balance! Mistakes aren't always bad, though. Yes, they can be costly, but the 'expense' of making a mistake is actually one way of saying we just had an investment made into our 'learning'! For a good man may fall seven times and get back up again, but the wicked will stumble around and fall into misfortune. (Proverbs 24:17) Scripture doesn't tell us a good man won't fall (fail) - it

Better Than a John Deere

Trials teach us what we are; they dig up the soil, and let us see what we are made of. (Charles Spurgeon) If you have wondered about the value of the present 'trial' you are enduring, you might just wrap your words around Spurgeon's thoughts today. They 'dig up the soil' of our lives - revealing to us exactly what we are made of. Sometimes we discover the soil is pretty much 'infertile' - rocky, hardened, and just plain 'uninhabitable'. At others we may find that soil to be easily turned, full of all that will give and bring life, and able to bear much fruit. Do you know something? It is the same soil! It is just that the latter has been 'worked' a little bit more by the hands of the one who knows exactly how to bring forth life and fruit from our lives. Dear ones, don’t be surprised when you experience your trial by fire. It is not something strange and unusual, but it is something you should rejoice in. (I Peter 3:12-13) I am looking at th

God's proving ground

Out of difficulties grow miracles. (Jean de la Bruyere) Miracles still happen, but when we don't find ourselves on the receiving end of a miracle, how do we respond? There will be times when we celebrate nonetheless - because we know God is still in control of the circumstances. There may also be times when we begin to realize we have hardened our hearts toward God because we didn't receive the miracle we sought. At others, we may see something that resembles a miracle and walk away totally unaffected by it. How can there be so many responses to God's presence in the midst of his people? I think it all comes down to the condition of the heart. The more we are hardened to the grace and love of God, the less likely we will be to recognize his presence in the small or large miracles we observe all around us. So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh. They did exactly as the Lord had commanded them. Aaron threw the stick down in front of Pharaoh and his officials. It turned into a sna

The dreaded 'recliner coma'

Do you ever have a hard time staying awake when you finally kick back in that recliner or favorite spot on the couch? It is like some mystical thing happens while you are watching TV or reading your book. Slowly, but ever so slowly, your eyes get heavier and heavier, until there is no resisting the urge to just close them for what you believe will be 'just a moment'. Then...without are snoozing away! The worst part about it is that it is only 6:30 p.m.! The sun has just set behind the hillside and the darkness has crept in - and somehow your body interprets that as it is time for a little slumber! If I happen to drift into one of these 'recliner comas' at that hour of the night, I am usually not able to get to sleep at my regular bedtime because my body will have found rest and 'recovery' after about 30 minutes! As hard as it may be to get up from the recliner and take a few laps around the house, it is what helps me to maintain alertness and to avo

The familiar sound

As I learned of the loss of yet another of the people I have admired in my life, I am reminded this morning of the moments we create each and every day. We have so much opportunity to do good, choosing to be a blessing in the lives of others, but do we always embrace those opportunities? I know I reference our choices so often, but we need to understand just how much each and every one of them matter. There really are NO insignificant choices in life. In fact, each one is noticed - each one is weighed in the balance of right or wrong. Those choices - those moments we create by the choices we make - they are our legacy. What is the legacy you will leave behind when you leave this earth? A good person leaves what they own to their children and grandchildren. But a sinner’s wealth is stored up for those who do right. (Proverbs 13:22) Some believe an inheritance is merely the 'goods' someone leaves behind when they exit this earth. I think it is much, much more. Our 'inheritanc

Got any quirks?

A companion loves some agreeable qualities which a man may possess, but a friend loves the man himself. (James Boswell) Agreeable qualities? What specifically are 'agreeable' qualities? I believe most of us possess these qualities, but maybe don't put a specific 'name' to them. Things like listening to the heart behind the words and then meeting the needs of the one speaking those words might be considered an 'agreeable quality', but what other qualities would you put on that list if you were asked? Would you ever stop to consider being able to bring up a 'disagreeable' subject in a loving way without really creating an atmosphere of disagreement as an 'agreeable' quality? I would. A good friend is able to do more than just bring out the 'good' stuff in you - they are able to bring out the stuff that you know is there, but haven't been willing to deal with! As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens a friend. (Proverbs 27:17) I