Monday, April 30, 2012

Happiness in unhappiness

"in much wisdom is much grief"
Ecclesiastes 1:18

A friend of mine was unhappy the other day. 

And that made me happy.

Well, that didn't really sound right.  Let me explain.  No, there is too much.  Let me sum up.  {Great movie...}

I talked to a friend of mine the other day, and she was disappointed about a circumstance in her life.  She had been hoping for an opportunity for something she wanted, and it wasn't happening.  At least not yet.  And when I saw her, I could tell she was unhappy, and I pretty much knew why.  But when I sat down next to her, to talk about what was bothering her, there was more to the story.  There was another reason she was unhappy.

She was unhappy because she was unhappy. 

She was disappointed in her reaction to things not going the way she wanted.  She accepted God's decision, but it still made her sad, and she wished that wasn't the case.  She wished that accepting God's decision meant being happy about it. 

And we all know that feeling, don't we? 

Trust is a tricky thing.  We can have complete faith in Him, and in His plan for our lives, and still not be happy with the way it has to be. 

Much like Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.  {Matthew 26:39}

And that's why my friend's unhappiness made me happy.  I was impressed with her desire to trust Him, to accept His decision, and with the high standard she was holding herself to, instead of just having an attitude of "it's my right to be unhappy with His decision."

It's okay to be unhappy with God.  He can take it.  It doesn't mean you're not trusting Him. 

But being happy with God is better.  It's better for you

And wanting to be happy with God means you're halfway there.

~ "Whoever trusts in the Lord, happy is he" ~
{ or she! }
Proverbs 16:20

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Sure, it's an open door, but who opened it?

"those who take counsel, but not of Me"
Isaiah 30:1

You know what's hard, sometimes?  Knowing what God would have us do in a given situation.  The Bible has everything we need to know to live a life pleasing to God; to "run the race" well.  But it doesn't always answer questions like, "should I quit my job?"  "Which house should I buy?"  "Is this the solution to my problem?"

So we sometimes rely on other things, like our own wisdom, or the input of others we trust.  Or sometimes we look to circumstances that seem to be orchestrated by God.  We speak sometimes of doors having been opened or closed by God, but we don't really know that that's situation.

Case in point ~ well, two cases in point.  Well, okay, two cases, one point:

1 Samuel 24, David has been running and hiding from King Saul, who intends to kill him as soon as he can catch him.  When David was in the wilderness of En Gedi, Saul was informed that he was nearby, so he took 3000 of his men and went looking for David in the caves of that area.

Well then, as we are told in verse 3, Saul entered one of the caves to ~ ahem ~ "attend to his needs".  In other words, he had to see a man about a horse.  He had to powder his nose.  He had to answer the call of nature.  Okay, I think you get it.

And this just happened to be the cave in which David and his men were hiding.

And this was David's big chance.  Or so his men told him.  "The Lord has delivered him to you!  That you may do to him as seems good to you!"  David's men were in danger simply by being with David, and they wanted that danger gone.  They wanted Saul dead, and the Lord had made that possible.  Or so they thought. 

But David thought differently.  Verse 6:  "The Lord forbid that I should do this thing to my master, the Lord's anointed, to stretch out my hand against him, seeing he is the anointed of the Lord."  Yup, David sounds pretty sure of himself.  Not going to do it.

But then look at chapter 26.  Saul and his army had stopped for the night, and he and his army slept in a deep sleep "from the Lord".  And while they were sleeping, David and Abishai, the son of his commander Joab, were able to sneak up on Saul.  And so Abishai believed this was an opportunity from the Lord.  And again David was encouraged to kill Saul.  But David refused.  He said, in essence, "I don't know what plans God has for Saul, but I know it's not this."  He would not make the decision that is God's to make.

David knew he was anointed by God to be the next king.  And he knew he had done nothing to deserve the death sentence Saul had called for.   So is it that hard to believe that God deliberately put Saul, vulnerable, in David's path? Well, it was for David.  Circumstances implied he should take Saul's life when he had the chance, and his counselors advised him to. 

But David knew the Lord well enough to know that was not God's plan.  He knew better than to strike down him whom the Lord had anointed.  He knew the Word of the Lord. 

And that, I believe, is the key.  No, the Bible will not tell us if we should take a job or take a vacation or take a chance.  But it tells us to love Him, and nothing above Him.  And to love our neighbor as ourselves.  And that His glory is more important than our dreams or our comfort.  And remembering those goals, remembering what He has taught us in His Word, will be our guide for what's not in His Word.

~ "Woe to the rebellious... 
who take counsel, but not of Me,
and who devise plans, but not of My Spirit" ~
Isaiah 30:1

Saturday, April 28, 2012

A Candid Shot

"we love because He first loved us"
1 John 4:19

It's evening, and we're barbequing for dinner.  The Apple of my Eye has started the coals, and I've prepared the spice rub for the ribs.  It's a combination of ideas and flavors from Memphis, Tennessee, and Vancouver, British Columbia, of all places....  I've perfected it with spices and herbs until it has become the standard by which my family judges barbeque... I mean to say, it's good stuff....

And while we're waiting for the coals to be ready, I've come into the living room to do some work.   Outside the window, in the backyard, is my family.  My Amazing Boy is taking swings with his baseball bat, hitting into the net that the Apple of my Eye bought him at the beginning of this season.  He (Apple) is giving him (AB) batting tips, but while he (Apple) is doing that, he (Apple) is sitting next to my Awesome Girl on the brick wall of the planter.  She's got the camera in her hand, which is not unusual for her.  Photography is one of her passions.  She'd been taking pictures of the action ~ and the flowers, I'm sure ~ in the backyard, when she sat down to show her dad what she'd done so far.  So there he sat, with a bat in one hand, and the camera in the other, giving advice to both of our offspring.

That's a good man.

I looked out the window, and saw this little snapshot ~ her leaning into him slightly so they could both be looking at camera screen, while off to the side was the thwack! of Amazing Boy's bat, and the occasional sound of him saying, "Daddy?" cuz he wanted to ask a question.

And I thought to myself how much I love my family when they're just being themselves.  Not performing any great task, not really being particularly impressive or marvelous in any way.  Just being who they are. 

I think God loves you and me that way.... when we're just being ourselves.  Maybe you sing in the car as you drive to work... maybe you stick your tongue out the side of your mouth when you're concentrating on something... maybe you have to have the covers pulled up just so when you get into bed...  I think He finds us charming, because He loves us so much.  Of course, there are things about each of us that He's working to change ~ and if we love Him, we want that, too.  But even if we were better, He couldn't love us more.  Just for who we are.

~ "Behold what manner of love
       the Father has bestowed on us!" ~
1 John 3:1

Friday, April 27, 2012


"Then Samuel died"
1 Samuel 25:1

It's very interesting to compare the attention paid by Scripture to the death of Samuel, to the verses that tell us about the death of Saul.  The lesson I think it teaches me is about where my focus is.

The verses that tell us about Samuel's death are few.  Chapter 25, verse 1; and chapter 28, verse 3 tell us only that Samuel died, and that the Israelites gathered and lamented for him, and buried him at his home in Ramah.  That's it.

I feel like there's honor in this simplicity.  It reminds me of a verse in Acts 13 about David's death:  "David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell asleep and was buried with his fathers."  The End.  No more words necessary.  Glory to God.

Saul, on the other hand, dies not only a battle death, but a soap opera-worthy death.   In chapter 31, Saul is severely wounded by an enemy archer.  Afraid of death, or torture, or torture then death at the hands of the Philistines, Saul commanded his armorbearer to kill him with his sword.  But his armorbearer refused, and rightly so, to kill the man that God had anointed as king.  So Saul took a sword and fell on it.  He died alongside his armorbearer (who also killed himself) all his officers, and three of his four sons.

And, in fact, the Philistines did mutilate his body, decapitating him.  What David had done to their champion, Goliath, they did to Saul, the king of the Israelites, who stood head and shoulders above his people.

Samuel was righteous and gentle; obedient and a man of integrity.  Saul was a man who refused to repent.  We are told by 2 Corinthians 7:10 that "Godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation; the sorrow of the world produces death."  Saul's sorrow led to his grave, and David would soon ascend the throne.  Psalm 75:7 says that God puts down one, and exalts another.  The Book of 1st Samuel ends with the end of Samuel's life, and the end of Saul's life.  Saul spent most of his adult life running, but he was running after a man; running to capture and kill David.  Samuel died running the race God had set before him. 

There's a man at my church whom I'll call Dave ~ because that's his name.  He's an older gentleman, so we've never hung out together, and he doesn't have a wife with whom I might chat, so I don't know much about him.   But he's been coming to my church for the last three or four years, with his son and his son's family.  And last year, on Easter Sunday, this gentleman, at the age of 93, accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior.   I was a little surprised, because I assumed that because he came to church regularly, he had a relationship with Jesus.  But something in the sermon touched his heart, and he realized that sitting in church is not the pathway to eternal life.  Listening to sermons and singing songs of worship are not what God desires, as much as He desires a relationship with each of us. 

Dave is in a hospice now, and not expected to live much longer.  He is nearing the end of his race, but he is finishing well.  His marathon of 94 years took him directly into the arms of Jesus, who waits with His arms open wide as Dave nears the finish line. 

What's your goal?  Which way are you running?  And what does the finish line look like for you?

~ "let us lay aside every weight, 
and the sin which so easily ensnares us,
and let us run with endurance
the race that is set before us,
looking unto Jesus,
the author and finisher of our faith" ~
Hebrews 12:1-2

Thursday, April 26, 2012

I've got that for ya!

"let all your needs be my responsibility"
Judges 19:20

While we were in Texas a few weeks ago, my family got to go to one of the Six Flags amusement parks for the day.  So that morning I dressed very intentionally ~ keeping in mind the weather, the fact that we'd be there all day, and that I'd be walking a lot. 

And then the question of what to bring.  I didn't want to be carrying my purse cuz there's no place to put a purse on a roller coaster.... So I was bringing a fanny pack instead, but that's much smaller, so I had to choose what I wanted in there; what might we need over the course of the day?  And I went to the Apple of my Eye, and to my Amazing Boy and Awesome Girl, and asked them what they wanted me to put in my bag for them.  You know how a mom's purse is:  it needs to be everyone's resource.

And honestly, it was my pleasure to do that for them.  To make sure I would have what they thought they might need, whether it was chapstick, or pain reliever in case of a roller coaster-induced headache.  While I want to teach my kids to be self-sufficient, this was one of those times when I was happy to take their needs onto myself, so they could just enjoy themselves.

Sometimes that's just the thing to do, ya know?  To be what someone else needs.  To carry their burden or be there for them.  It's a good prayer to have ~ that He would enable me to be part of what people around me might need at any given time.  A smile, a prayer, a word of wisdom or encouragement.  I can have all that packed in my bag every day, if I get all I need from Him, from Whom all good things come! 

~ "have something to give 
       to him who has need" ~
Ephesians 4:28

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The One True God

"holy and true"
Revelation 6:10

One of my favorite stories is that of Helen Keller learning that language existed.  Her mind had been locked in a tomb of darkness and silence, until Annie Sullivan found the key.

Helen said, "As the cool stream gushed over one hand, she spelled into the other the word 'water', first slowly, then rapidly.  I stood still, my whole attention fixed upon the motion of her fingers.  Suddenly I felt a misty consciousness as of something forgotten ~ a thrill of returning thought, and somehow the mystery of language was revealed to me.  I knew then that 'w-a-t-e-r' meant the wonderful cool something that was flowing over my hand."

With this realization, Helen raced around the yard and then the house, asking for the names of objects and people that she never knew had names.  All of a sudden, on that day, she knew for the first time, how much she didn't know.

You probably know that there's stuff you don't know, but do you know how much you don't know?

God is more than we can possibly comprehend. 

He is a Savior, and a Servant.

He died, and He is the Source of Life.

He is the Shepherd, and the Sacrificial Lamb.

He rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, and He will return on a horse.

He is the Prince of Peace, but in righteousness He judges and makes war.

He is Father, and Son, and Spirit. 

And I can't comprehend that. 

But I can believe Him.  And I can obey Him, and praise Him and desire to serve Him by serving others.

And I can seek to know Him, to the fullest of my capacity for what He has revealed in His Word.  As interesting as the stories are, I don't read it to find out more about David or Paul or Abraham or Esther.  I read it to learn more about God.

And I want to learn more about Him, because I love what I know...

"Therefore know that the Lord your God,
He is God.  
The faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy 
for a thousand generations 
with those who love Him 
and keep His commandments."
Deuteronomy 7:9

"He is God, who has made us, 
and not we ourselves.  
We are His people and the sheep of His pasture"
Psalm 100:3

"He is God, in heaven above 
and on earth beneath"
Joshua 2:11

"He is God who judges the earth"
Psalm 58:11

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Speed bumps weren't God's idea

"I will guide you"
Psalm 32:8

I hate speed bumps.  They're too.... bumpy.  They're jolting and abrupt and they cause the car to lurch no matter how slow you're going.  You practically have to slow down to a crawl to try to go over them gently.  And they annoy me because even if I'm already obeying the law ~ which is 10 mph in a parking lot ~ they force me to go even slower.  And if the law is 10 mph, then I should be allowed to go 10 mph, right? 

Now, of course, I wouldn't insist on going 10 mph if circumstances called for slower driving.  I know that if there's a pedestrian, or another car, or rain or something, that I need to slow accordingly.  But if it's an empty parking lot, and I'm the last one out of the store, it annoys me to have to slow down for no reason.

Well, thanks for letting me get all that off my chest.  But really, my main complaint is how abrupt and steep they can be.  Not gentle.

Which is why I believe that speed bumps aren't God's way.  God is gentle.  He instructs and teaches and guides.  He has given us His Word, and put people in our lives that will lead us where we will be in His will.

Now, of course, we can veer from that if we want to.  Free will and all that.  But going too fast in the parking lot has repercussions.  Accidents, tickets, damage to the undercarriage of the car from bouncing too fast over speed bumps....  And if we veer from His best for us, there'll be repercussions for that, too.  So of course He'd rather we not incur those.   I'm just glad that if I'm in His word, and near to Him, I'll only need a nudge to stay on course.  So much gentler that way!

~ "The king's heart is in the hand of the Lord,
like the rivers of water, 
He turns it wherever He wishes" ~
Proverbs 21:1

Monday, April 23, 2012

You know what?

"reveal to me"
1 Samuel 28:15

Are you the kind of person who likes to shake a present to see what's in it?  Do you like to see the sizes and shapes of your gifts under the Christmas tree, or do you prefer to be surprised?  The Apple of my Eye won't even let me put presents for him under the tree until Christmas morning.  He doesn't want to accidentally guess what's in a package.

Once when I was a teenager, I was trying to cajole my sister into telling me what she'd gotten me for a gift, instead of just waiting for Christmas, or my birthday, or whatever it was.  She said calmly, "Fine.  It's on the shelf in my closet.  Go look."  And all of a sudden, I didn't want to anymore.  As much as I wanted to know, I realized it would be better to wait until the time was right.  It would be wrapped, and it would be a celebratory day of fun, made better by the gift my sister had gotten for me.   The timing of receiving a gift is important.  The timing of finding out is important.

Today's verse is from Chapter 28 of 1 Samuel.  You can tell that because under the quote it says, "1 Samuel 28...."  Oh, you saw ~ right.  Okay, you're good.

Anyhow, it's toward the end of Saul's life, but of course he doesn't know that ~ yet.  What he does know, is that those pesky Philistines are gathering for war.  Again.  And when he sees that, he is afraid, and his heart trembled greatly. So he did something he had never, ever done before.  He inquired of the Lord.

But the Lord did not answer him.  But really, why should He?  Saul had disobeyed God by disobeying Samuel, God's prophet and representative.  Now Samuel was dead.  And Saul had killed all the priests in his rage over imagined treason by David.  Actually, that's not true.  He had killed all but one priest.  That one priest had escaped, and if you think he was going to report for duty now to help Saul with his communication dilemma.... well, he just wasn't.

Now, even knowing all that Saul had done ~ to David, to Samuel, to the priests, to the people he was supposed to be leading.... I do feel sorry for him.  But Isaiah 55:6 says "Seek the Lord while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near."  If we refuse to talk to Him, there will come a time when He won't listen.

So the only option Saul can think of is a witch.  A medium.  Now mediums, sorcerers and the like have been forbidden by God (Deuteronomy 18) and Saul himself outlawed them from the city.  So he had to ask his servants to find someone for him, and indeed they knew of a woman in a place called En Dor.  So Saul put on a disguise to go to her, to ask her to return to the craft that he had forbidden.  And, um, God of course...

Ezekiel 34 prophesies dire words for the shepherd that does not care for the flock.  Saul, the king, is forcing her to sin for his benefit.  And when she succeeded, she know it was not of her power.  She was frightened, thinking she might now be punished by Saul.

But he puts her at ease, and begs her to tell him what she saw.  And what she saw, was Samuel.  And at Saul's request, Samuel did what he had tried to do for Saul over and over during his life ~ reveal God's truth.  "The Lord has torn the kingdom out of your hand, and given it to David.  Because you did not obey the voice of the Lord... the Lord has done this thing to you this day."

And if that's not bad enough.... "Moreover the Lord will also deliver Israel, with you, into the hand of the Philistines.  The Lord will deliver the army of Israel into the hand of the Philistines, and tomorrow you and your sons will be with Me."

Okay, Saul, you wanted to know what to expect.  Well, be careful what you wish for.  He was struck with fear, and had the energy to return to his camp only because his servants and the medium urged him ~ practically forced him ~ to eat. 

And then in chapter 31, we see it play out exactly as Samuel has prophesied.  To Saul's credit, he did indeed go into battle, despite knowing what would befall him.  He was struck with an arrow by the enemy, and not wanting to die at the hand of the enemy, he asked his armor-bearer to kill him.  But the armor-bearer refused, so Saul took his own life, falling on his sword.

And do you think, that maybe as much as Saul wanted to know, maybe he was sorry he knew?  Knowledge is like that sometimes.  Sometimes we wish we didn't know what we know.  Makes you wanna just trust the One who knows, doesn't it?

~ "For every matter 
there is a time and judgement...
for man does not know what will happen" ~
Ecclesiastes 8:6,7

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Being loved

"be friendly"
Proverbs 18:24

My nephew was in town this week.  My sister and her family came down to spend their spring break with us.

My nephew is a sweet, smart, sincere 7-year-old who adores my kids ~ 5 and 8 years older ~ especially my son.  My nephew is not the copying type, so he's not one of these kids who wants to imitate older kids.  He likes to do his own things most of the time.  But he wants to share it with my Amazing Boy ~ toys, video games, movies. etc.

And my boy loves him right back.  Never exasperated or bored by hanging out with a cousin almost 5 years younger.  Just patient, engaged, interested in what his cousin has to say.

And I'm so proud of him.

It's not always easy to be important to someone.  It can be a burden, or it can elevate our importance in our own eyes, which can make unbearable to others around us.

You are very important to someone.  Might be your spouse or a family member.  Or could be that annoying acquaintance at church or in your neighborhood.  The one you hope you won't run into when you're in a hurry... The one who only wants to talk about their problems at home, or how much they hate their boss.  That person.

Someone in your life can't wait to see you.  Can't wait to share the joys and sorrows in their life.

So how do you handle it?  Is it your joy to edify, love, counsel or encourage?  If not, why not?  Cuz I'm betting there's someone in your life who does that for you.

And if by some chance there isn't, you should pray for someone who will bless you that way.

And then find someone to bless. 

~ "A man who has friends 
 must himself be friendly,
but there is a friend 
who sticks closer than a brother" ~
Proverbs 18:24

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Battery not required

"A prayer to the God of my life"
Psalm 42:8

I think I have a love/hate relationship with technology, especially when it comes to my children.  I love my iPod, and being able to have music with me wherever I go, so I'm glad for them to have iPods, too.

But I just have a simple iPod.  Theirs do a whole lot more.  Games, internet access, and the ability to communicate with friends.  Plus, we have an extra cell phone that they share.  Just something for them to have if they are away from me, so I can check in with them.  The good thing is, I know I can trust them.  They have always shown themselves to be responsible with their choices; they always ask before purchasing games or music, and they use their own money. The bad thing is, they're looking at a screen more often than I'd like them to.

I try to remember that things are different than they used to be.  When I was their age, I was on the phone a lot.  That's how I communicated with my friends.  My kids rarely talk on the phone; they text or email instead.  And they use their iProducts for school as well as fun.  They have a Bible on there, as well as a dictionary and of course, a calculator and access to the internet.  So it's not like they are always playing games.  But still, I just sometimes wish things were like they used to be, and technology wasn't such a big part of our lives.

But this week, I'm getting a valuable reminder of what a blessing technology can be.  The battery on the kids' cellphone isn't working, and we haven't had a chance to do anything about it.  Which means for the past several days, when my kids are away from me, I can't communicate with them, and I just hate that!  :)  We're together most of the time, so anytime I'm away from them, I have symptoms of withdrawal, and I just hate not being able to check in on them, or even tell them I'm missing them.

And it's got me thinking ~ albeit not for the first time ~ about how awful it would be to not have the ability or opportunity to communicate with God.  I'm so used to praying whenever and wherever I want.  Long or short, good or bad stuff, He's ready and waiting at all times, to hear from me.  What a joy.... what a privilege... and not to be taken for granted. 

I'm very, very grateful that He hears me when I call.

~ "Evening and morning and at noon I will pray,
and He shall hear my voice" ~
Psalm 55:17

Friday, April 20, 2012

Just let stuff happen

"where are you from?"
1 Samuel 30:13

So how do you feel about coincidences?  You a fan?  When it's a good thing, we generally call it a coincidence; as in "You were there too?  What a coincidence!"  But if it's a bad thing, we might call it a freak accident, or a fluke.  

The word "fluke" is a great word.  Do you know it's the word for a whale's tail, and that no whale's tail is exactly like any other?  Sort of like human fingerprints.  So every fluke, is a fluke.

Man, I love words....

Okay, remember the tale of David & his men returning to their camp at Ziklag, only to find out that the Amalekites had carried off all the women and children? Sucks.  Darn those Amalekites...

David and his men were distraught.  Verse 4 of chapter 30 says they wept until they had no more power to weep.  And the men even spoke of stoning David.  As if that would solve the problem.  But I digress...

David, however ~ and this is important ~ David strengthened himself in the Lord (verse 6).  He called the priest to bring him the ephod, which was the closest thing David had to the ark of the covenant.  And he inquired of the Lord as to what to do: "Shall I pursue this troop?  Shall I overtake them?"

When David trusted himself, he made David-led decisions.  But he was trusting in God, and God lead him:  "Pursue, for you shall surely overtake them, and without fail recover all."  So off they set.

And then, in verse 11, David's men just happened to come upon a man, an Egyptian, who just happened to be the servant of an Amalekite, and he just happened to have been left behind by his master because he was too sick to travel.   But it just so happened that he just happened to be with the Amalekites at the time they attacked Ziklag, and he just happened to know where they had gone afterwards. 

And David and his men found the Amalekites, and recovered all their loved ones.

Coincidence?  Not if you ask me.

Strengthen yourself in God, my friends, and watch what happens. 

~ "The humble He guides in justice,
     and the humble He teaches His way" ~
Psalm 25:9

Thursday, April 19, 2012


"beauty for ashes"
Isaiah 61:3

Ever have one of those mornings where everything seems to go wrong?  We had one of those on vacation last week.

While we try to be flexible when it comes to our schedule on vacation, you have to have a plan, right?

Well, nothing went according to plan.  We got a late start leaving the house, because Awesome Girl wasn't feeling good.  "But that's okay.  We still have plenty of time to do everything..."

We had planned to go to two places ~ the Lyndon B Johnson Library and the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower garden ~ and then meet family and friends for dinner.  The Library and the Garden were both near each other, on the campus of the University of Texas at Austin, so once we did the 90 minute drive to get to Austin, we'd have four hours to visit both places.

But then the 90 minute drive turned into a 140 minute drive because of the traffic.

But that's okay.  We had snacks in the car, so we'd just grab a quick lunch and head to our first destination ~ the wildflower garden.

We chose to go to the garden first, because my Awesome Girl just loves to take pictures of flowers, and we wanted her to have plenty of time to take all the pictures she wanted. 

But when we thought we were close, and we asked the Navigation System for help, we discovered we really weren't that close.  It was actually several miles away.  Back in the direction we'd come.


So off we drove, back through the traffic, to visit the wildflower garden.  Only to find that the cars and parking situation were nuts!  Turns out we'd somehow managed to choose to visit on the busiest day of the year ~ the day of their plant sale.

So we drove around until we found a parking place, then headed in.  We were starving, so we ate a quick lunch in the little cafe.  Then we headed out for our Awesome Girl to start taking pictures.

Which she did for several minutes.

Until the battery in the camera died.

And we didn't have a spare.

Well that was about all I could take.  I'd been looking forward to this for my daughter, and I was so disappointed that it was not turning out to be a fun day for her.

And then I realized that we had a choice ~ sulk and gripe and complain about all that went wrong, or give it over to Him, and let Him turn our attitudes around.  And I thought about this verse from Isaiah, and the phrase "beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning".  And I started praying for Him to make something beautiful out of this day that was so frustrating.  Not so much for me, but for my girl.  And when I realized how much I wanted it, I realized that it mattered that I wanted it.  That God could make something beautiful for me, but only if I chose to see it that way.

Sometimes I think we make a choice to keep dwelling on the difficult, the painful, the frustrating.  We choose to call our friends and share our struggles with an attitude of "woe is me"

The rest of our day went well.  The Apple of my Eye had the idea to use an outlet in the gift store to let the battery recharge enough for my girl to take some more pictures.  Then we bought some chocolate  ;)   Then we enjoyed a scenic drive to the restaurant my in-laws had recommended for dinner ~ and it was wonderful. 

My girl took some beautiful pictures, and the garden was a pleasant place to visit.  Not to mention the joy of spending a whole day with my family.  So while the day itself wasn't perfect, the memories will be.
~ "to comfort all who mourn,
to console those who mourn in Zion,
to give them beauty for ashes,
the oil of joy for mourning,
the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness" ~
Isaiah 61:1-3

And only God can do that!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Share and share alike

"share alike"
1 Samuel 30:24

As chapter 30 begins, things are unusually bad for David; even at this point in his life where he's being pursued by a practically rabid King Saul, intent on killing him for no reason at all.... Curious to know how it could be worse than that??

Well, David had been hangin' with the Philistines ~ yes, those Philistines.  In order to evade Saul, he'd been hiding with the enemy {details in 1 Samuel 27 and 29} until the Philistines (wisely) decided they didn't trust him to fight alongside them.  So they sent him away.

But when he and his men arrived at their home at Ziklag, they discovered that the Amalekites had been there in their absence.  They had burned the city and had taken captive all of their wives and children.  David and his men were understandably distraught, but David showed why he was a man after God's own heart, strengthening himself in the Lord (verse 6) and then inquiring of the Lord what to do (verse 8).  And the Lord answered "Pursue, for you shall surely overtake them, and without fail recover all."

So off David went, with his 600 men.  At least, there were 600 of them until they got to the Brook Besor, and there 200 of them remained because they were too tired to cross. 

Now, at first I thought these 200 must be single guys, because anyone with a wife and family being held by the Amalekites is going to find the strength to rescue them, right?  Well, maybe not...

The Brook Besor was about 13 miles south of Ziklag, and though it was called a brook, at some times of year it belies that name. And these 200 men were weary to the point of exhaustion.  And perhaps, because of that, David saw them as a liability.  So they stayed behind, guarding the supplies.  David is a warrior, but with the heart of a shepherd.

So David and the 400 pursued and attacked the Amalekites, and recovered all that was taken ~ just as God had said ~ and the spoils of war as well.

But when they rejoined those men who had stayed behind, the returning warriors ~ well, the worthless and wicked ones (verse 22) ~ thought that the spoils of war should not be shared, "except for every man's wife and children, that they may lead away and depart."

David replied, "My brethren, the Lord has preserved us and the Lord has given into our hand.  They shall share alike."  As the poet John Milton said, "they also serve who stand and wait."

It reminded me of the parable Jesus told in Matthew 20, of the workers in the vineyard.  Those who were hired early felt they were entitled to a higher wage than those who were hired in the last hour of the day.  It's one of the many times we can read the words of David foreshadowing those of Christ.

David knew that it's impossible for all, in any endeavor, to give equally.  God doesn't compare.  God wants each of us to give the best we have; to do the best we can, based on how He has equipped each of us.   Everything else is for Him to decide.

~ "Peter, seeing him, said to Jesus, 
'But Lord, what about him?'
Jesus replied, 'what is that to you?
   You follow Me.' " ~
John 12:21-22

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Run, Forrest, Run!

"what have I done?"
1 Samuel 29:8

Chapters 25, 26 and 27 of 1 Samuel are an interesting few chapters in David's life.  They represent a microcosm of David's successes and failures, and I think, as we look at an overview, there are some great lessons for us.

In chapter 25, David is offended and insulted by an impulsive, ungrateful fool (Nabal) and his response is to get revenge by killing Nabal.  He is stopped by the wisdom, humility and grace of Nabal's wife Abigail, and when she arrives to stop him, he wisely uses that opportunity to think better of his plan, and he turns around and leaves.

In chapter 26, while on the run from King Saul, he comes upon a sleeping Saul, unguarded by his sleeping army.  David, this time showing wisdom and righteousness, refuses the opportunity to harm "the Lord's anointed".

And in chapter 27, David had the colossally bad idea of hiding from Saul by living with the Philistines, the longtime enemies of the Israelites.  He convinced their commander that he was on their side by making him think he was conducting raids on the camps of the Israelites, when in reality he was raiding enemies of the Israelites.

So in these three chapters, we see David running, hiding, lying and fighting.  There's some serious stumbling here, but after every failure, we see triumph, because David always got back up after falling.

Sometimes our walk with God seems like an obstacle course.  We stumble along, tripping ourselves or being tripped by others, but He is still working in us and through us. 

When I drive my Amazing Boy to the baseball field, I drive by a lake where there are walkers and runners of all shapes and sizes.  {And by that I mean some human, and some canine.}  One Saturday morning recently, I drove past a man who had a very laborious gait.  I couldn't tell if he'd been injured, or if maybe he'd been born with one leg a little shorter than the other or something.  But his walking was very wearying to watch.

And I thought, man, if walking was that much trouble for me, I wouldn't bother.  I would only walk from Point A to Point B ~ for transportation, not for pleasure.  I know the value of walking for exercise, but knowing me, I would frequently decide it's just too much work.  And then I would eat a Snickers bar...

We are to run in such a way as to obtain the prize God has set before us, and that requires getting back up when we're down ~ as many times as necessary.

~ "those who run in a race all run,
 but one receives the prize. 
Run in such a way that you may obtain it" ~
1 Corinthians 9:24

Monday, April 16, 2012

Get moving!

"every living creature that moves"
Leviticus 11:46

We stayed at my in-laws' house when we were in Texas last week.  They have a beautiful new home in a beautiful new neighborhood.  So new, in fact, that the GPS navigation system in their car thinks they live in the wilderness.  The car on the little navigation screen seems to go right off the road and into the bushes.  And since their house is on the edge of their community, their backyard overlooks all those beautiful wild bushes and trees.

That wonderful view extends as far as the eye can see ~ and my eye just loved what I was seeing.  I stood there one morning, drinking my tea, and I just couldn't tear my eyes away.  And the thing that I found so compelling?


The bushes and trees and grasses were waving in the breeze, there were birds flying and butterflies fluttering, and even the occasional buzzing insect zooming by.  I somehow felt afraid that if I looked away, I might miss something.  I wanted to see what the next bird or butterfly might be, and I wanted to see nature doing all the neat things it does.

I somehow think that movement pleases God.  Not movement just for the sake of movement, but with a purpose.  Accomplishment.  Obedience.  Being.

To be sure, there are those who are too active.  They are about their own busyness, instead of the Father's business.  {See Luke 2:49}

But there are also those who are not active enough.  Maybe not doing enough to share His love with others somehow.  Perhaps not doing what they are meant to be doing.

There's a time to be still and know that He is God.  But there's also a time for zooming, flying and fluttering!

~ "O Lord, how manifold are Your works!
In wisdom You have made them all.
The earth is full of Your possessions...
in which are innumerable teeming things,
living things both small and great" ~
Psalm 104:24-25

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Resting, Resting

"I will give you rest"
Exodus 33:14

The past several days have been very busy ones.  Visiting with family, airplane travel, road trips, visits to historic places (and one amusement park) that call for a lot of walking. 

And today I am thinking about rest.  An old hymn came to mind today, called "Jesus, I am Resting, Resting".  {Words and music by Jean S. Pigott and James Mountain ~ 1876} The chorus goes like this:

Jesus, I am resting, resting,
In the joy of what Thou art; 
I am finding out the greatness
Of Thy loving heart.

I am reveling in the sense of rest that is available to me in Him.  I am quietly content for His many blessings ~ wonderful and far more plentiful than I deserve.  And just think, as the song says, even as I rest in the joy of what I know about who He is, I am only yet scratching the surface of the greatness of His loving heart. 

Rest.  And be joyful.  You're discovering the greatness of His heart! 

~ "And He said, 'My presence will go with you, 
 and I will give you rest' " ~
Exodus 33:14

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Deep in the Heart of Jesus

"they realized they had been with Jesus"
Acts 4:13

I love traveling.  I love seeing places I’ve never seen, learning about the history and the people of that place.  I don’t want to eat fast food, or chain restaurants; I want to eat at the local, mom-and-pop restaurants.  And I don’t want to eat what I eat at home, but something that’s a specialty of that area.

So one of my favorite memories from this vacation came the other night, while in Dallas.   We were at a Texas Rangers baseball game, which is one of my favorite ways to experience a city, and in the 5th inning, we joined the crowd in singing.  Now, I’ve been to a lot of baseball games, in 14 different stadiums, and although there’s always singing, each experience is unique.  And this was the first time I’ve ever joined a crowd to sing “Deep in the Heart of Texas”!  I just loved being a part of their tradition; feeling welcome.

It’s great fun for me to sort of absorb the culture when I visit somewhere.  And I’m reminded that that’s either a good thing, or a bad thing.   We do start to become like those we hang around with.  It can even give us a reason to sin, if we can rationalize that it’s what everyone else is doing, or it’s not as bad as our neighbor. 

I once heard someone teach, “Do whatever it takes to be with Jesus.  Learn to like what He likes.”  That sentiment has echoed in my mind for many years.  Insisting to ourselves that He is a part of our lives has to be non-negotiable.  That realization that He is with us, and the desire to be with Him, and have him with us, will improve our character as we allow His Spirit to be stronger in us than our own.

~ "Know this day, and consider it in your heart, that the Lord Himself is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other" ~
Deuteronomy 4:39

Friday, April 13, 2012

Following the Leader

"follow His steps"
1 Peter 2:21

Spent the morning in Dallas today.  We are visiting family in Texas this week, and we drove to Dallas yesterday.  So today we spent some time walking around Dealey Plaza, which is the place where President John F Kennedy was assassinated.  It was a beautiful morning, actually.  The weather was perfect for walking around ~ mildly warm, and overcast.   The clouds kept the sun from beating down on us, but they also lent a somber tone to our exploration.  

Because the president was in a moving car at the time he was shot, and because there is so much conjecturing and not enough facts, there’s quite a bit of walking ~ from the Book Depository where Lee Harvey Oswald allegedly fired the shot – or shots… to the overpass from the direction the motorcade was coming, down the street to the grassy knoll.  And there are other people walking and pointing and taking pictures, and because it’s the heart of a city, there are plenty of cars.  

My brother-in-law had dropped us off, and gone to find a place to wait with the car, and after seeing everything we wanted to see, we were hurrying back to where he had parked, but by this time, I was completely turned around.  If you know me and my sense of direction, you’ll know that’s not saying much, but I had no idea which way was north, or which way we had come from, so I was letting the Apple of my Eye do the leading.   We couldn’t walk four abreast on the sidewalk, so he and my Awesome Girl were in front, and I was walking behind with Amazing Boy. 

As we neared an intersection, and had to make a decision about going straight across or turning right, the Apple of my Eye turned his head slightly, and said something to me.  I knew he was telling me which way we needed to go ~ just keeping me apprised ~ but I couldn’t hear him over the sound of the cars going by. 

I didn’t really need to know which way to go.  I only needed him to know which way to go.  But just in case whatever he said was important, I wanted him to know I hadn’t heard him.    So I called to him, “I can’t hear you, so I’ll just follow you.”  And as I spoke the words, I realized that I’ve said that same thing from time to time, to God.

God’s hard to hear sometimes.  We’re so easily distracted during prayer.  Sitting down to Quiet Time, the first thing one realizes is that “quiet” is impossible.  It’s simply turning off the TV or closing the kids into their bedrooms to play, only to hear the hum of the dryer, or the noise of traffic, or the singing of crickets.  Pretty soon, I’ve forgotten about God as I try to decide what color to repaint the wall in front of me.  And I’ve probably told Him what I wanted Him to hear without ever hearing anything in response. 

But following?  I’m good at that.  I follow my husband on city streets and confusing freeway interchanges, and I follow God through His Word.   What should I have for dinner?  I don’t know, but I know I should love my neighbor.  What color should I paint that wall?  I don’t know, but I know I should spend more time in that chair that faces it, reading my Bible and thanking Him for being who He is.  And who He was.  And who He always will be.

When Jesus left His disciples, He promised them His Spirit to be their guide.  And all they had to do ~ all we have to do ~ is follow.  

~ "he who does not take up his cross 
and follow after Me 
   is not worthy of Me" ~
Matthew 10:38

Thursday, April 12, 2012

I really don't know clouds, at all

"behold the clouds"
Job 35:5

Man, there were some beautiful clouds last week.  We were driving home from lunch with friends, and looking at the clouds, and comparing the images we saw in their shapes.

We a saw a rat, running very fast.  We also saw a mouse's head, and a shrimp, and a seahorse.   At least, that's what they looked like to us.  But it's a matter of opinion.

At first, they're just clouds.  You have to study them a little to notice the shape of something.  And maybe you'd see a shape that I didn't realize, or I'd see a shape and then you would say, "hey, look at that... I see it too!"

It takes a little bit of perspective and a little bit of imagination, and a willingness to change your mind about what you're seeing. 

So I think, in a way, the problems and situations in my life are clouds.  What each one looks like to me, and what they might look like to someone else, and what they actually are, are three different things.  Sometimes I might be right about the impact and purpose they have for my life.  Other times, someone else might be able to give me a better perspective on something I'm too close to.   Maybe what seems like a good thing is more difficult than I thought, or a problem turns out to be a blessing. 

The lesson?  Be open to other points of view... trust God in your life... and enjoy the view!

~ "Ascribe strength to God...
    His strength is in the clouds" ~
Psalm 68:34

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Not Alone in the Lone Star State

"every man to his family"
Judges 21:24

We were traveling all day, flying to the Lone Star state of Texas to visit family. 

 I'm so thankful to God for family.  Godly love is a love that loves no matter what, and that's what family is like. 

There it is, folks ~ the legendary Yellow Rose of Texas!
Oh, not always, I know.  It takes strength and patience to love some people.  But sometimes we are the ones who require strength and patience to love. 

"Judge not, that you not be judged.  For with what judgement you judge, you will be judged; and with what measure you use, it will be measured back to you."
Matthew 7:1-2

A friend of my mother's was saying the other day, that her grown children ~ who are my age ~ never call.  Part of me can understand that.  Life can get so busy sometimes.   Running a home, being a wife, mother, teacher, volunteer, etc can seem to take up all the hours of the day, leaving just enough to sleep, and then do the whole thing over again.

"Honor your father and mother, 
that your days may be long 
upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you"
Exodus 20:12

But I think it's a mistake to think that these relationships can thrive without interaction.  I can't go long without communicating with my family.  Phone calls, emails, etc.  And most of the time, I'm glad I did.  I go away feeling loved, and usually laughing. 

"Let them first learn to care for their family at home... for this is good and acceptable before God."
1 Timothy 5:4

Because even if we can't find much in common with our families, we have each other in common.   We have a choice when it comes to friends; but family?  That was God's choice.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Many Crowns

"like a tree planted by water"
Psalm 1:3

I read an interesting article a few weeks ago, about redwood trees.  What glorious specimens those are, aren't they?  Exceedingly tall, majestic and often ancient, they are a beautiful reminder of the creativity and strength and might of God. 

Took these myself, on a school trip with my Amazing Girl

Redwoods grow up to a few hundred feet tall, and their trunks can grow up to twenty feet in diameter.  They are hardy trees, too.  They'd have to be, in order to live so long, though.... For instance, a tree that is knocked down can start to grow into several trees, each one originally a branch that was pointing up from the now-horizontal tree.

And sometimes, when a tree is knocked down but its stump is left, a circle of trees, called a cathedral, will grow from that stump.    

The bark can be a foot thick, and is resistant to fire, pests and water rot.

Not impervious to fire, you understand.... just resistant

But all of these details, I already knew, before I read the article.  Maybe I learned it from the guide when we were in the National Park.  Maybe I learned it from my dad, one of the many times we camped in the area. 

But while reading this article, I learned something new ~ and this is the part that felt like a lesson from God.  It said that damage from wind or fire stimulates new growth; and that redwoods nearest the coast ~ more exposed to storms ~ develop the most complex crowns.  That's what they're called:  crowns! 

How's that for a reward for withstanding trials?

~ "Blessed is the man who endures temptation; 
for when he has been approved, 
he will receive the crown of life 
which the Lord has promised" ~
James 1:12

Monday, April 9, 2012

Think twice

"the Lord has held you back"
1 Samuel 25

Has God ever intervened when you were on your way to do something stupid?  If you're not sure, the answer is yes; you just didn't realize it at the time.  This chapter of 1 Samuel has God doing just that:  stopping David from doing something stupid.  But David was wise enough to realize it. 

While on the run from King Saul, David and his men took it upon themselves to guard the sheep and workers of a very wealthy man named Nabal, during the time of the shearing.  Afterwards, because they had served Nabal in this way, they asked if they might have some provisions from him; "whatever comes to your hand."  Which sounds to me like they'd be appreciative of any contribution, no matter the size.  

But Nabal, a harsh and wicked man, said no.  Worse than that, he mocked David, the man chosen by God to be the next king.  Treated him as a no more than a runaway servant, as if he had no idea who David was.

And so David prepared for his revenge.  He and his men grabbed their weapons, and headed off to the home of Nabal.

But in the meantime, Nabal's servants were taking action, as well.  They knew it was wrong of Nabal to refuse hospitality to anyone, much less someone who had done Nabal a favor.  So they did the wise thing.  They ran to Nabal's wife, Abigail.

The truth is, Nabal had to know who David was.  Nabal was wealthy, and an important man in the community.  He would have been knowledgeable about the affairs of the region.  And what's more, it's obvious that Abigail knew all about David!

She hurriedly packed generous provisions for David and his men, and ran to intercept them on their mission of revenge.  When she met up with them, she humbly apologized for her husband {whose name, not coincidentally, means "fool"} and reminded David of what he already knew ~ that God would deal with Nabal, and that vengeance was not David's to claim.

Scripture tells us that Abigail was a woman of good understanding and beautiful appearance.  She was subservient, discerning, decisive and efficient. 

Nabal was a fool.

And the two different personalities of these two very different people brought out the two sides of David ~ the fleshly side and the Godly side.

David had protected Nabal's men and his sheep because it was the right thing to do.  It was common courtesy, and more than that, it was Scriptural.  And so David's response to Nabal's refusal, was anger, and a desire for revenge.

But God stopped him ~ through Abigail.  By hurrying to placate David with humble words and the gift of provisions, Abigail hoped to protect her husband from his own stupidity.  But she protected David from his, too.   She reminded him of his history, and his destiny, and that God would decide Nabal's fate.

And David was grateful.  "Blessed is the Lord God of Israel who sent you this day to meet me!  And blessed is your advice, and blessed are you."  Because the quality that makes David the man after God's own heart is not his faultlessness, but his willingness to repent.

Does that describe you?  How willing are you to see, when God shows you what you're doing wrong?   More importantly, how willing are you to change your ways; to alter your path?  It's not easy. 

Sometimes He sends an obstacle to make us more determined, to strengthen us.  But other times it's a warning.   Listen, and heed. 

~ "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten.  
Therefore, be zealous and repent." ~
Revelation 3:19

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Happy Easter

"early, while it was still dark"
John 20:1

How did you sleep last night?  Any concerns or worries keep you awake?  Did you sleep all night, or did you wake up several times, wondering what now?

What time did you get up this morning?  Did you get up while it was still dark, to attend a Sunrise Service at your church?  Or did you have the luxury of sleeping in a little, maybe enjoying a delicious Sunday brunch?

Can you imagine what it was like for Jesus' followers and loved ones, the night before He was resurrected?  I think for so many of them, there must have been such confusion, muddled by incredible sadness.  I know Jesus tried to tell them that His death needed to take place, but they didn't really understand that. 

I slept fine last night.  No worries; no wondering.  Planning to celebrate Easter service with my church family, whom I love so much.  And then Easter dinner with my parents and my husband and my children.  I slept well the night before "Resurrection Sunday," looking forward to what was to come.

You and I have that luxury.  The luxury of looking forward.... of hope.  It's something that those early Christians didn't have that night.  They had pain, anguish and confusion.

Praise God for hope.

~ "the blessed hope and glorious appearing 
      of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ" ~
Titus 2:13

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Good. And Better.

"even the death on the cross"
Philippians 2:8

I'm thinking about Jesus today.  Which is appropriate, because I'm writing this on Good Friday. 

When I was young, I couldn't understand why this day was called "good".  Jesus dying on the cross was not good.  It was sad, and unfair, and mean.  He was abandoned and abused.  And killed. 

And yes, I understood that the phrase meant it was good for me.  And you.  That His death on the cross was for our sins, and our salvation. 

But that, to me, was the Easter Sunday conversation, not the Good Friday conversation.  Easter Sunday is the beauty of new life.  It is light and color and joy.   Good Friday is blood and nails and thorns and death. 

But the fact is, you can't have one without the other.  There's no rainbow without rain.  No birth without labor.  His resurrection from the dead could not have happened if He had not died. 

His death and resurrection 
are who He is....
His death on the cross ~ His love;
His resurrection from the dead ~ His power. 

~ "He humbled Himself and became obedient 
to the point of death, 
even the death on the cross" ~
Philippians 2:8

Friday, April 6, 2012

No script necessary

"not with excellence of speech"
1 Corinthians 2:1

I had an interesting conversation with God the other day.  A long one.

It was interesting because of the length of it, and the range of my emotions.  I was anxious and hoping; then relieved and thankful; then nervous and irritated; then apologetic and at peace.   Good and bad, up and down...  All of this went on over a period of several hours, during a couple of things going on in my life. 

Normally, when I talk to God, it's not a long conversation.  It's off-and-on over the course of the day (or night) as I'm going about the things I do.  This conversation was more constant ~ and I'll bet He just loved it.   It wasn't eloquent, thoughtful, complete sentences.  It was feelings and emotions and frustrations and joy.  It was asking fervently, and expressing my concern passionately, and then telling Him strongly what I thought.

It was clumsy, because I wasn't necessarily thinking before of my words before I prayed them, but it was sweet, because it was like He was right there with me.

Which He was.

~ "the effective, fervent prayer 
     of the righteous avails much" ~
James 5:16

Thursday, April 5, 2012

They're not stains, they're battle scars!

"six days you shall labor 
   and do all your work"
Exodus 20:9

Today's thought is about laundry.  Dirty laundry.  Well, is there any other kind? I mean, there's clean laundry, but isn't that just "clothes"?  Hmm.....

Okay, so I'm thinking today about dirty laundry.  I was at my Amazing Boy's baseball game last Saturday, when one of the boys slid in the grass to catch a ball.  My dad, who was sitting behind me, said, "Boy, that kid's mom is not going to be happy when she's trying to get that grass stain out of his pants!"  I kind of laughed along with him, but a few days later, I found myself in my laundry room, trying to get grass stains out of my boy's baseball pants.

And it didn't bother me a bit.

I was smiling as I sprayed stain remover on this pants, as I remembered how well he had played.  Hitting and running and sliding are messy.  If you want your kid to come home clean, have him play tennis, right?   The only way my boy would ever come home from a game perfectly clean would be if he'd spent the entire game on the bench.  Cuz you only stay clean if you're a spectator.

The thing is, God wants us dirty.  He wants us in the game, and He wants us coming home tired, dirty, and maybe a little bruised.   It's cleaner and safer to sit on the bench, but we're not accomplishing much.   He wants us to work; He says so more than once in Scripture.  Not to mention the example He set for us in Genesis.

So get to work!  And then rest when you must, and then get back to work! 

And get dirty!

 ~ "Walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, 
    being fruitful in every good work" ~
Colossians 1:10

"Aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, 
  and to work with your own hands" ~
1 Thessalonians 4:11

"If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat" ~
2 Thessalonians 3:10

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Love ~ to go

"an offering and a sacrifice"
Ephesians 5:2

I'm thinking about dogs today.  I'm not really a dog person, but generally speaking, if I'm not actually interacting with them, I love them.  I'm fascinated by all the different breeds; I love seeing dogs in cars, heads out the window as they enjoy the wind blowing their ears back.  I'm just not a big fan of being jumped on or sniffed when I go to someone's house.  When I was young I was generally scared of dogs.  I'd been bitten once, and dogs can be unpredictable, so I've always been cautious.  But if they're mellow, and if I'm able to get to know them, I generally come to love them.  {Being mellow is important because that enables me to get to know them!}

With all that being said, there aren't very many dogs I love, because there aren't that many I have a chance to get to know.  I love our sweet little girl, of course.

But there also a few other dogs in my life on a fairly regular basis, and they are all at church.  Yup, they attend church with me.  There are two families, in our relatively small church, that train dogs to be Guide Dogs.  So almost every Sunday I have the chance to interact with one or two of these sweet, enthusiastic, and almost-always-well-behaved puppies.  

Cute dog I never met.  My Awesome Girl took this photo.
It's interesting to think about Guide Dogs from a perspective other than that of the disabled person.  You know, everyone once in awhile you see someone on TV, or in a store, who has a guide dog.  It's heartwarming.  Such a wonderful gift it would be for someone with that kind of need.  The dogs not only assist, but bring love and cuddling, and who doesn't need that?
This is not a guide puppy.  Just the cute dog of a friend of mine! 
But it's not quite as lovely and snuggly to think about it from the viewpoint of the trainers.  Can you imagine the love and time and effort these people put into raising and teaching these puppies?  They are their pets, and nearly constant companions, as they teach the dogs how to behave in social situations.  And these people are pretty serious dog lovers to begin with, otherwise they wouldn't have volunteered to raise the puppies.

The dog of a neighbor.  Cute, but very barky.
But then then comes the time to give them up.  And the sweet puppy, that they've come to love, and know so well, must be given away.  I know they understand that from the beginning, and that it's their goal.  Sometimes they even become friends with the new owner, which means they still get to see the dog every once in a while.  But usually, the dogs just go on to their new life, and those who raised them in their earliest days only get a Christmas card from the new families. 

It's very loving, very selfless of them, to love and care for and raise these puppies, knowing that it will be someone else enjoying the fruits of your labors. 

But really, isn't that what it's all about?  Isn't that what we're supposed to be doing, in every aspect of our lives?  In a few days it will be Good Friday ~ the epitome of suffering for others.  Seeing those puppies-in-training every Sunday is a good reminder of living a life that's doing something for others.  But this week I'm thinking of His, even more beautiful, sacrifice.  And as one of the recipients of that sacrifice, I'm thankful.

~ "Walk in love, as Christ also has loved us 
and given Himself for us, 
an offering and a sacrifice to God" ~
Ephesians 5:2

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Minestrone and cornbread

"casting all your care upon Him"
1 Peter 5:7

My Awesome Girl had a dilemma the other day.  And I couldn't help her.

I hate that...

So I made her favorite dinner instead.   Homemade minestrone, and my "famous" cornbread. 

It's a problem she's had before, and I've made a couple suggestions to help her fix it, but they haven't helped all that much.   I just don't have the solution.  And I think she knows that.  But she comes to me anyway.

I love that...

I wish I could solve her problem.  But even though I can't, I love that she still comes to me.  I can pray for her and encourage her.  And truthfully, it's my pleasure to come alongside her.  A friend of mine once said that a mother is only as happy as her saddest child, and I think that's true.  If my girl is unhappy, then I don't want to be happy, ya know? 

I love that in this way, I'm like God.  Paul said, "I know that in me, nothing good dwells" {Romans 7:18} which means that anything good in me is not me, it's God.  So this part of me that unselfishly wants to suffer along with her, is Him. 

He suffers with her, too.  And with me.  And with you.  It's the kind of God He is.  After all, compassion was His idea. 

And so was minestrone.

~ "Bear one another's burdens, 
and so fulfill the law of Christ" ~
Galatians 6:2