Sunday, September 17, 2017

DEAL OR NO DEAL ??


Look at those shoes! I have happy-dancing-feet that I was able to find a bunch of shoes that are really cheap, really-really cute, and really-really-really comfortable. I got a great deal, and I consider this exercising good stewardship over the finances the Lord has provided. I’m pretty sure my hubs likes the fact that the money I spent on my little shoe-tribe would have bought only one or two pairs in stores and/or magazines.

Isn’t it fun to feal like a deal maker, to be able to manage and control an “agreement” to get what you want? What a power surge! In some circles, that’s called “haggling.” I don’t attend garage sales, but many people do, and haggling is often part of the process. My 95-year-old father has spent a lifetime haggling. He’s made some really great deals, from buying unusual antiques to wheedling freebie replacement boxes of waffles from the company that made the grevious error of producing broken and/or smashed waffles in his beloved breakfast stash.

Yes, definitely, the more I think about it, making a deal is a control issue. It’s usually harmless fun. But now I’m thinking of the flip side, the harmful side, i.e., the phrase “make a deal with the devil.” Many people, usually unbelievers, unknowingly are making daily “deals” with Satan by allowing him to influence their minds and hearts to the lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life” (1 John 2:16). I’m thinking Satan is always really pleased with the deals he’s making, and that includes making people think they’re the ones in control of these deals. People are haggling with Satan, ignoring the Lord, trying to get the most stuff out of life, and forfeiting their souls in the process. Satan loves haggling.

On the other hand, I’m pretty sure that the Lord God does not love haggling. He has never once considered allowing anyone to “make a deal” with Him regarding salvation. He will never accept our offers, our deals, of our own good works or our own righteousness in exchange for heaven. That’s because He has accepted ONLY the work of His Son on the Cross, through His own blood, obtaining eternal redemption (Hebrews 9:12), purchasing eternity for us, a one-time offering for sins (Hebrews 9:28). Now that’s a power surge!

My Jesus, my Lord, my lips stumble to speak words that express my heart’s gratitude that You allow no deal-making. Otherwise, You would not be my sovereign Lord, You would be like me, and clearly, You are not (Psalm 50:21; Isaiah 55:8). I know that You have forgiven me for my pre-salvation sin of trying to trick You into letting me into Your heaven. I thank You for daily reminders in Your word that I’m to trust You, not to haggle with You to get things I want. At the end of this life, all the shoe-bargains will be meaningless. Thank You for keeping my perspective properly aligned. With my first breath in heaven, all that will matter is being with You and seeing Your glory (John 17:24). Come, Lord Jesus.

Monday, September 4, 2017

EVERY PERFECT GIFT



As a wee child, even though I bore a super sweet curly-headed resemblance to Shirley Temple, it was a clever deception.  I was always a stingy child. It probably started when my parents had the audacity to bring home a squalling noise-factory they referred to as my “brother.” As this brother grew older, the folks expected me to share (!) my toys and my room and my desserts with him. Even if mom gave me bigger toys and bigger slices of cake, I still felt deprived somehow. It took awhile before I began seeing this brother as a person to be enjoyed. And I failed to appreciate mom for being Mom and not my personal Mrs. Santa. Sadly, I think the need to hold onto what was MINE grew roots deep into my brain, because I feared that things were temporary and could be taken away at any moment.
Somewhere a few years ago, I saw a drawing/cartoon of a little girl holding her well-loved teddy bear (or maybe it was a doll?) tightly in her hands. In front of her was a smiling Jesus, and He was holding a really big teddy bear in His hands behind His back. The message is that all she had to do was release her raggedy beloved bear to Him, and He would replace it with something so much better. She look suspiciously at Him.
It’s true that sometimes we (meaning me) like to hold onto things tightly. Even though we/me understand fully that sometimes He certainly might have something much better in mind for us/me, there’s a stingy, untrusting fear that maybe He doesn’t have our/my best interests at heart.
I recall some instances in my life when I put on my big-girl pious hat, offered Him my trust, and loosened my grip on some object/circumstance, expecting to receive something better. And He did indeed give me a tremendous gift. 
He offered me ... His empty hands. He offered me Himself. He offered me an opportunity to worship and praise Him, not just a gift. Apparently, He thought I needed a change in perspective. So I remained “giftless” for a season. It was then that I learned to trust and love Him more, because there were no competing affections. I learned that temporary earthly stuff was diddly squat compared to eternity with my Lord and Savior.
My Jesus, how I thank You for the times of “giftlessness.” I thank You for gently showing me that Your grace is sufficient for me, that You alone are sufficient. I thank You for causing me to remember Thomas, by showing him Your empty hands, that were not really empty. Those crucified hands showed that You, my Lord and my God, lovingly died for sins, among which is greediness for gifts. You are my gift, and because You secured eternal life for me on the Cross, I’m assured of sinless adoration of You. How I look forward to that moment when I see You face to face, my perfect Gift.

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.