Monday, August 14, 2017

NOTHING TO FEAR


 

Look at that worried little face.  Sad, isn’t it?  Don’t you just wanna cuddle him and say “don’t worry baby, everything will be alright”?

Have you ever heard the story about a guy who was terrified of monsters under his bed?  He spent many years and many dollars being treated by a psychologist, but it was no good.  He was still afraid of monsters.  One day, he went into a bar and told his fearful woes to the bartender who promptly told him, “well, just cut the legs off the bed!”

Problem solved!  I wonder … can all fears be dissolved that easily?  Well, one way is to consider that not all fears will necessarily materialize.  As a wise old fortune cookie once said, “fear is interest paid on a debt you may not owe.”

But seriously, how does one “cut the legs” off of fear?  Especially in today’s world, with many national leaders sporting dubious hairdos and formidable rhetoric, and volcanoes, and freakish activities on airplanes, and asteroids with murder on their minds, and people’s “identity” du’jours, and the threats of becoming cashless, not to mention no more cursive writing, oh my, I can feel my nerves tightening up and my gut dancing an evil jig and …..

Okay, hold it right there, knock it off.  What’s needed here is not a contemptible collage of catastrophes, but rather a superlative soliloquy of Sovereignty.  In other words, the Big Picture.  I love to sit and ponder Daniel’s perspective.  He wasn’t freaked out by who was the king (Daniel 2:20-22).  He understood potential terror, because he stood in the middle of it (Daniel 3:13-27).  Through everything, he proclaimed God’s sovereignty. The apostle Paul certainly endured circumstances that will (probably) never be ours (2 Corinthians 11:23-29).  But to the end, he proclaimed the Kingdom of God (Acts 28:23).

Jesus repeatedly told His disciples to “fear not, it is I (literally, “I Am”).  He is all that’s needed for the Big Picture.

My gracious, loving, and omnipotent Father, thank You for giving me the proper perspective:  don’t look under the bed, but look up, towards You.  Rejoice and don’t be anxious, why?  Because my Jesus is near and so is Your peace! (Philippians 4:4-7).  I’ve read the end of Your Book, and You win, and it’s permanent, for all eternity.  As I walk through this life and trip myself up on circumstances, please help my unbelief, instead fixing my hope on You.  How dinky and unimportant things on this earth appear when I lean into Your secure arms and believe Your promises. 

 

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

DO YOU KNOW WHERE ........ ??






You know how it is when it’s time to take pets to the vet, only to find they’ve evaporated into thin air?  It’s amazing how something so furry and sometimes smelly can vamoose to a Twilight Zone dimension.  One can say the same about kids.  They’re here one second and gone the next, playing hide-and-seek, except the mom is unaware a game has begun.  This happens at home, in stores, restaurants, anywhere a kid can squeeze through a hole the size of a Tootsie Pop.  I myself used to enjoy learning spy-lessons from Nancy Drew books, then climbing well-leafed trees in the neighborhood, and spying on unsuspecting neighbors.  All the time, my poor mother wondered where in the world I had gone.  And when it neared twilight, well, that was one unhappy mama, fearing the worst.  She also feared when my brother disappeared, because she was sure he was creating a stink bomb in the basement, or worse, in someone else’s basement.  And sometimes, he was.

I remember a few decades ago, there was a popular evening newscast warning, “It’s 10:00, do you know where your children are?  It was a reminder to keep the kids off the streets, close to home.  Time to go round up those rogue kids leaving messes everywhere they go, possibly getting into trouble, or absentmindedly wandering willy-nilly.

Here’s a jolting thought -- have you ever asked yourself, “Do you know where your heart is? There is no doubt that my Father knows exactly where my heart is at any given moment.  So I’m never truly lost.  However, in my me-oriented world, it’s become obvious that I really need to call to my heart daily, even hourly.  Is my heart just dancing along, singing tra-la, before accidentally falling into a sin-hole?  Is my heart deliberately, willfully slipping under a fence to sample the green sin-grass on the other side?  Is my heart ignorantly tripping over a sin-stone that someone else’s heart may have placed in my path?

Just this week so far, it has been necessary to ask my heart, where are you?  Are you being enticed by sinners (Proverb 1:10)?  Are you putting your hope in riches (Psalm 62:10)?  Are you despising reproof (Proverb 5:12)?  Are you being tender to others (Ephesians 4:32)?  Are you storing up His Word (Psalm 119:11)?  Are you wholly trusting Him (Psalm 28:7; Proverb 3:5)?  Are you singing with thankfulness to God (Colossians 3:16)?

My Father, thank You for constant reminders in Your Word, those that tell me to bring my willy-nilly heart back home to You before it gets into trouble.  Thank You for loving me, despite the fact that my heart can be deceitful and whiny.  You want my heart to remain close to You.  You're not being a killjoy to my heart for what it thinks is entertaining and self-deserving, but You want it to be nourished by You, for my heart's healthy growth and for Your glory.  Today, I praise You for Your relentless encouragement to my heart to seek and rejoice in You (Psalm 105:3).

 

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

FORGIVE ME

One of our previous dogs, Sophie Mae, reached adult behavior by 6 months of age. If she wanted to chew on something like a chair leg, I’d just give her a chew toy instead and say, “Sophie’s toy.” She’d look at me with a face that said, “well, alright, do you think I’m stupid?” When I told her “good girl, all is forgiven,” she’d say, “oh goodie, let’s play ball!  The problem never presented itself again, as she took correction as instruction, learned from it, and went happily on her way. 

Lily Rose, on the other hand, was such a sensitive little soul. She was so aware of everything she had ever done that she lived in fear of being murdered by me, which is silly, ’cause I never murdered her, not even once. Not when she chewed furniture or shoes. Not when she visited the kitty box looking for a midnight buffet. Not when she shredded toilet paper all over the house.

Lily’s way of dealing with anxieties, after destroying something, was to hurl herself on her back and go into leg-kicking spasms of guilt while shrieking, “forgive me, don’t kill me!” Even though I was far from happy about her escapades, we kept working on the anxieties and after a couple of years, the destructive tendencies subsided. But through her life, she absorbed and held onto everything that she, or Sophie, or every dog in the world, has done wrong, living in a constant state of self-imposed guilt and unforgiveness, spasming on the floor at the least little thing, sometimes for hours, laying there on her back, internally screaming “I'm horrible, don't look at me!” She never truly believed she was forgiven, even as I’m saying, “let’s play ball.” She’s saying, “no, I can’t play! I can’t forgive myself!.”

Which has led me to think about stuff in my own life that I’ve thought I couldn’t forgive myself for. Imagine my surprise the day I realized that God never says anything about that. Because it’s not my job to forgive me. It’s already accomplished! If I insist on wallowing in my sin, I can’t commune with other believers, and I can’t fellowship with God. Because of what Christ has done on the cross, all my sins have been permanently forgiven (Luke 5:20; 1 John 2:12) and I'm reconciled to God. If I selfishly insist on wallowing in my already-forgiven sin, I’m telling Him that what He did isn’t good enough, that instead I still have to fix things for myself. I'm ignoring the obvious -- that “there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).

Thank You, my Jesus, that because of Your perfect work on the cross, I can move on in joyful communion with You. If all I do is concentrate on my past sins, or how I might sin tomorrow, I’m fixing my eyes on myself, when I should be focusing on You (Hebrews 12:2).  I do still sin, but upon repentance and asking for Your forgiveness, I truly believe that I'm forgiven because You said so (1 John 1:9), not based upon my own flawed feelings. Because of that, I can experience daily freedom, joy, and the peace that only You can give (John 14:27).

Thursday, June 1, 2017

WONDERING AS I WANDER

 
Today, my hubs and I had a rather Twilight-Zone-ish experience.  All we wanted was to use a gift card to dine out at a favorite local restaurant.  We drove the 20 minutes, zoomed into the parking lot, and saw … a ghostly building with a “closed permanently” sign on the front door.  What a drag.  Oh well, we’ll just Google the address of the second restaurant on the gift card.  And by golly, this restaurant ALSO was permanently closed!  Whaaaat?  Ok, the third restaurant on the card we KNEW was open because we’d eaten there a couple of weeks ago.  We drove another 20 minutes and arrived at a very closed building, but for this day only, for preventative repairs.  By now, my stomach is gurgling and my blood sugar is starting to dive, and those little peppermint patties in my purse are siren-calling to me. I’m muttering in my mind that this is too hard, we should just go home and have a double-decker p.butter/jelly.  We forget about the gift card and head for another favorite reliable restaurant … you guessed it.  Finally, luck came with #5, where we indulged in something breaded, cheesy, and gooey.  I desired a huge chocolate cake to finish off the meal, mostly to sublimate my confusion and low-level frustration, but I refrained from cake today.

 

Why am I dragging you along for this ride, you ask?  Because, as usual, in my pondering of bad “luck” the Lord showed me to myself.  Again.  As I insolently  asked Him, “so, exactly what was I supposed to learn from this runaround today?” and He said, “go sit in a corner with my Word and think about it.”

 

Ya know how when you’re reading in the Old Testament about the wandering, grumbling, disobedient Israelites in the desert for 40 years, and you think to yourself, “well, I would never behave that way.”  Really?  Pride, much?  I then saw a gross similarity between me and them.  I was wanting to go home and have pb&j.  They wanted to go back to Egypt where all the yummy food was (Exodus 16:2-3).  I grumbled about running in circles all over town for an hour, dodging road construction.  They “were impatient because of the journey” and dodging the Lord’s disciplinary lessons (Numbers 21:45).  Oh yeah, I’m waaaaay more righteous and pious than those guys.

 

My God, how I thank You, first for causing me to ask You for your purpose (even though with an attitude).  And second, for Your immediate answer.  I thank You that I needn’t worry about dying in the wilderness as immediate punishment for my attitude, because I know that You have already permanently transferred me to your Kingdom.  I need fear no divine vengeance from You, knowing that your loving divine discipline is for my good and Your glory.  I praise Your patience and tender mercy in dealing with me, your whiny child, teaching me to whine less, glorify me less, and praise You more.

Friday, May 12, 2017

HONOR ROLL

 
 
’Tis now a little past the season, but it’s still fresh -- that glorious time of citizenry grading another new President on his work during his first magical 100 days, showing him the love … or not.  Oh, the aroma of judgment wafting around the country, forming into lampoon-shards of “you’re incompetent!” thus forcing said President into self-defense mode, which also never makes anyone happy.

It seems that no matter who’s elected, a few people, or a lot, are gonna loudly proclaim that he deserves a rotund “F.”  Sadly, Presidents seldom make an immediate A+ impression.

When you think about it, who really does make the honor roll?  Most brand new spouses flounder in each other’s eyes during the first 100 days … or hours. New employees/employers soon show their colors of slothfulness and/or bossiness.  Even wee babies find fault with their parents’ lack of ability to move fast enough to fulfill their copious needs and wants.  Hey Dad -– you can do better!  C-minus for you!”

Oh dear, I just had an appalling remembrance.  Thirty years ago, when I was a brand new, uneducated, and temperamental baby Christian, I recall having sporadic tendencies to “grade” God on His 100-day performance as my own personal miracle worker.  I sometimes felt that He didn’t perform as I thought He should.  I grumbled, whined, and sulked at Him.  If I didn’t immediately get what I wanted, my large inner child muttered, “but this isn’t right, You aren’t giving me what I want!  I’m not impressed with You right now.  You’re not doing a good job!”  Yes, I was the very embodiment of the clay talking back to its potter (Isaiah 29:16, 45:9).  I’m now retroactively shocked at myself.

Then came the news flash -- this attitude is the equivalent of “grading” God!  It took some growing up on my part to learn that I had no business giving Him a “B” (or worse!), when instead I should be humbling myself before Him, asking Him teach and grade me (Psalm 25:5).  I think often of Job being tactfully graded by God with, “and where were you when I did …. [everything]?” (Job 38:4 – 41:34).  And Lord, lest I become prideful over my great growth, if You catch me grading You ever again, please put me in a corner to think about what I did.

My gracious, loving, patient, and sovereign Father, how I thank you for teaching me, causing me to cease grading You in any way, but instead to be praising You in every way. You created me, not the reverse (Psalm 100:3). Please continue to mold me, being taught by You in every aspect of life.  My Jesus, I’m to learn from You and find rest for my soul (Matthew 11:28). How freeing it is, knowing that You, the God of my salvation, will teach me Your way, and instruct me in the way I should choose.  All your paths are lovingkindness and truth.  Why would I want anything else?

 

Friday, April 21, 2017

NO VACANCY !!

 
I haven’t flown anywhere in the last 10 years. Because I’m old and my arms get tired.  I’m sorry, sometimes I become a little ditzy listening to the spectacular news reporting of incidents where airplane powers-that-be have hauled allegedly innocent people off planes.  People have been threatened with handcuffs if they don’t leave, because somebody more “important” is boarding.  The plane has overbooked.  Folks are booted off if their baby is behaving, well, like a baby.  These passengers have tickets in hand.  Nevertheless, bump, off ya go.  I do understand that “small print” is involved, so yes, the airline ivory tower can reverse our destiny, no matter how kindly, or rudely, we may protest. Maybe the polite thing to do would be to send a preemptory “no vacancy” text to passengers to prevent boarding trauma.  At any rate, I’ve decided that possibly I might enjoy cross-country dunebuggy travel, the better to appreciate roadside scenery.

Actually, this overbooking isn’t a new-fangled idea.  Remember when there was a No Vacancy sign at the inn for Jesus’ parents (Luke 2:7)?  They were booted to less desirable accommodations.  Remember when Jesus spoke to the Jews, telling them that although they were descendants of Abraham, “My word has no place in you” (John 8:37)?  Sadly, there was “no room” for His word in most people’s hearts that were already overbooked and overflowing with earthly things.  He was the Son of Man, and He had no place to lay His head (Matthew 8:20).

You know what occurred to me?  I suspect that some people harbor a secret fear, that they step through heaven’s door and then hear the booming voice, “We don’t have room for you, somebody more important than you just showed up, we overbooked heaven.  Sorry about that, but out you go!”

I confess that, as a baby Christian, that thought was dancing around in the back of my mind.  Thankfully, His very Word rooted out that unsettling fear.

My God, I am so humbled that You have securely and permanently saved me.  It’s not because I bought myself a ticket to heaven, but because my Jesus bought it for me.  By Your grace, I have been permanently saved (Ephesians 2:8).  It’s not because I’m important, but because You are sovereignly important (John 1:12).  You do not change (Malachi 3:6) and my Jesus does not change (Hebrews 13:8), so once You saved me, You will never boot me out.   You have not sneaked any “small print” into my heavenly boarding pass contract that could be reason for my expulsion. Because of my Jesus, I have permanently “passed out of death into life” (John 5:24).

“Oh magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together” (Psalm 34:3).

 

 

 

 

Sunday, April 9, 2017

WHAT YOU LOOKIN' AT?




If you’ve ever been owned by a cat, you can identify with that sometimes creepy feeling that comes from a kitty unblinkingly staring at you with its intense guilt-and-fear-inducing glare, and you swear that kitty must be an alien subversively implanted in your house, like “pod people,” only cute, and with fur.

In a somewhat related way, decades ago, my 3-year-old brother once had a one-sided conversation with another small child in the grocery store.  He was installed in the cart seat when I heard him sternly say, “you quit looking at me, boy!”  Sure enough, another kid in a cart seat was looking at my brother.  No clue why, just staring him down.  And little brother repeated his demand, “quit looking at me!”

Yessiree, there’s just something about being stared at that automatically makes us defensive and on-edge, saying, “what are you looking at?”

In His ever-perfect timing, the Lord brought these instances to my mind while I was reading in Luke 22:61 about Peter’s three-time denial of Christ right before the crucifixion.  And the Lord turned and looked at Peter.” He then remembered the Lord’s prophecy, causing him to fall to his knees and repent.  He didn’t have to ponder why Jesus was looking at him.

Tell me, have you ever felt the Lord “look” at you?  I have.  For instance, in moments of weakness, I’ve denied knowing Him by not taking opportunities to introduce him to others.  And then I see Him “looking” at me with His words -– “whoever is ashamed of Me … whoever denies Me” (Mark 8:38; Matthew 10:33).

My precious Lord Jesus, as I walk with You through this Easter week, I marvel at Your finished work on the Cross.  Everything You did glorified Father God by Your obedience to Him.  I see how important it is that I not only be looking at Your words in Scripture, but that I humble myself to be looked at by You, that You tenderize my sometimes stubborn and weak heart to be obedient to You, to be repentant of my sins, knowing that You are faithful and just to forgive me.  I know why You are looking at me.  It is to prompt me to obedience by pointing others to You alone for forgiveness of sins and to be reconciled to the Father. How I look forward to an eternity spent with You under Your merciful and loving gaze.


Thursday, March 30, 2017

WHATEVER YOU DO ...


My mother was born with artsy-crafty genetics on steroids. No object is safe from her bedazzling, sewing, or painting talent. Numerous attempts were made by both of us to activate my own gene, but it soon became apparent that mine was dead on arrival. It also became apparent that, as a teenager, I needed, what’s the word ... oh yeah, motivation! I had a tendency to do things halfway. If at all. I believe the biblical definition is “sluggard.”
This was probably mom’s motivation decades ago in presenting me with her wee painted rock emblazoned with “do it right.” She figured I’d carry it with me for the rest of my life and become encouraged to be sluggardly no longer. I have indeed carried it with me. Sad to say, the admonition to do things completely and correctly didn’t kick in until a few decades later. 
I’ve recently noticed several t.v. commercials pushing the idea that doing things halfway is never a good idea. I suspect the marketing directors’ moms were behind this. Offering a rain-drenched person half an umbrella, or painting only half the house, is rather obvious slothfulness. Diagnosing a problem, but not fixing it, such as a dentist telling a patient that he has a really bad cavity, then walking away, is downright cruel. Or telling homeowners that their house is infested with termites, but too bad, you’re on their own! The lesson is that people must be willing to do things completely, to do things right!
Mom’s desire that I not be a sluggard finally found its way into me via Scripture. Once the Lord saved me, I found it very comforting to know that Jesus was never a sluggard, that He didn’t have to be prodded and reminded by His Father “to finish the work” given Him (John 4:34). He didn't just diagnose our sinfulness, and then tell us, "you're outta luck, bye-bye!"  On the cross, when He said, “It is finished” (John 19:30), His work was complete and it was right. Salvation was secured at that moment, to God’s glory.
My Jesus, how I thank You that You set Your face to do what You came to do. In Scripture, and by Your eternal life, You are an example for me. I’ve learned that whatever my hand finds to do, I’m to do it with all my might; that whatever I do, do my work heartily, as for the Lord; and that I not be lacking in diligence, serving You (Ecclesiastes 9:10; Colossians 3:23; Romans 12:11). I praise and thank You, that everything You do throughout all eternity is right.

Friday, January 20, 2017

NOT MINE!


 
Hashtags + snarky comments = how to do life in today’s world.  For some people.

Of course, I myself am not a snarky person.  Well, hardly ever.   And let me also say that I never-ever spout political commentaries.  Until today, because hashtags and politics seem to collide and procreate quite often on social media, and it’s just too hard to resist tiptoeing through the hashtags.

One of the most viral was the #notmypresident cerebral joy fest.  It’s yuge!  Uh-oh, I just snarked, didn’t I?  Well, anyway, no matter who the political contenders are, some of the townspeople are inclined to rise up with pitchforks and torches and if they can’t run him/her outta town, at least they express their dismay with great gusto, and marching.  Why?  Because the townspeople refuse to have someone as their leader with whom they disagree mightily.  Doesn’t matter if the contender is ultimately elected fair-and-square (or unfair-and-unsquared), the people still insist that this person is #notmypresident.

And since nothing is new under the sun, I believe that long before social media and hashtags ever existed, that same thought process was in townspeople’s minds, regardless if the leader was an elected president, a king, or a despicable ruler.  In the people’s minds, they’re muttering, “#notmine!”  But ya know what?  This rebellious attitude of refusing to acknowledge leaders is the same as refusing God’s sovereignty. "The Most High God is ruler over the realm of mankind and He sets over it whomever He wishes" (Daniel 5:21).

Remember Pharaoh?  What was his attitude toward God?  Who is the Lord that I should obey His voice to let Israel go?  I do not know the Lord!” (Exodus 5:2).  Yep, #notmylord. 

Ungodly and unrighteous men “suppress the truth in unrighteousness …; even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks …; they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer” (Romans 1:18, 21, 28).  In other words, I want what I want, and if God doesn’t agree with me, well then, He’s #notmygod.  Frankly, the hashtag attitude is all through Scripture.  Men are wise in their own eyes, and if anyone, especially God, doesn't measure up, gets the hashtag eye roll.

My God, I know that You have forgiven me for my pre-salvation eyerolls at You, and my prideful rejection of You.  I refused to acknowledge Your sovereignty, and I refused to trust You.  I am eternally thankful that You saved me.  Please keep me from being wise in my own eyes, not expecting You to bow to my wishes, and to trust You daily, regardless of my personal and/or worldly circumstances.  I know that this earthly life is but a blip in time.  I want to be continually looking up in anticipation of that day when I’m face to face with my Lord Jesus Who saved me. And every day, I will humbly honor You as #myGod.

Monday, December 19, 2016

AM I BOTHERING YOU?




Over the last few years, my husband and I have become caretakers for my parents.  Their common refrain is, “I don’t want to be a bother!” They’re sure that they’re depriving us of a much more exciting life. They think they’re doing us a favor by trying to do things themselves (like driving!) instead of asking us. They don’t always tell us when one of them has taken a tumble, or spent several days searching for a lost object, or botched a recipe. They want to appear as strong and independent as possible. As much as we try to help them understand that it is a privilege, a gift from God, to care for them, they still worry about being bothersome to my husband and me. So now I sabotage their worry by walking in the door bearing groceries and start right off by whining to them, “you’re right, you guys really ARE a bother, we could be extreme sporting in his-and-hers barrels over Niagara Falls!” Thankfully, despite weak eyes, ears, and knees, they still have a strong sense of humor.
You know what just occurred to me? I wonder if sometimes I have that same mindset towards God, of not wanting to be a bother to Him by prayer, petition, intercession, or fellowshipping. Do I ever think that I’m doing Him a favor by not telling Him when I mess up, because I suspect He’s probably busier with more important things, and because I want to appear strong and independent? Do I really think I’m making His life easier by trying to handle everything myself?
My loving Father, You already know everything about me and my life, so why would I even consider holding anything back from You, the Creator of all things? Is anything a bother to You, too difficult for You? No. I thank You that I was given the right, through belief in Christ, to be called Your adopted child (John 1:12-13). In this Christmas season, and every day thereafter, I thank You for the scriptural reminders that my Jesus reconciled me to You (Romans 5:10), gifting me with bold and confident access to You, through Him, in the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 2:18, 3:12).  It is a privilege and a gift from Youto care for me!
Every day, You regularly call Your children to draw near to You. What a relief, and how I praise You, that because of the gift of Your Son, I know that I can never a bother to You!