Friday, August 31, 2012

Do your best, He'll handle the rest

"God is greater than man"
Job 33:12

I watched the Little League World Series last weekend.  Well, I watched as much as I could.  They're just boys ~ the same age as my Amazing Boy ~ and for every boy who's celebrating a strikeout or home run, there's another little boy who's disappointed by what has just happened. So I stopped watching when I couldn't stand seeing any more disappointment. 

What are ya gonna do.... I'm a mom, after all...

I was watching the semi-final game ~ the game that would decide which US team would play for the championship ~ and it was quite a ride.  The team that would eventually win ~ Tennessee ~ was ahead in the last inning by a wide margin, but then the other team ~ California ~ caught up.  So they went to extra innings where Tennessee pulled ahead again and won. 

It was hard watching that sixth inning, as California caught up.  Not because I was rooting for Tennessee; I didn't care which team won. 

I just didn't want either team to lose. 

And every time a batter got a hit or scored a run, it meant the pitcher felt bad for not striking him out, or the fielding player felt bad for not making a clean play.  And then when there were two outs, but California had gotten closer, every batter that came up was afraid he'd be the last out. 

And somewhere in the midst of all this, when a batter was coming up, and he looked a little nervous, the coach had some great words for him.  He said, "Just relax and do your best.  You're not going to win this game, and you're not going to lose it."

It was a good reminder to the boy.  He didn't have the power to lose the whole game.  Frankly, even the boy who gets the last out of the game isn't responsible for losing, though he may feel like it.  Everyone who participates in the game plays a part in the loss, or the win. 

It's a good reminder for us, too.  Especially if you're the type who has trouble forgiving yourself for mistakes.  Think about Peter, denying three times that he even knew Jesus.  Big mistake, right?  This one knocks him off the All-Star Team, right?  But God wasn't done with Peter.  He continued to serve God until the day he died.  And even after, really, if you consider that we are still benefiting from the letters he wrote, 1 & 2 Peter.

And more importantly, Peter's failure did not affect God's plan.  That's the beauty of it; nothing can. He allows us free will, and He allows us to suffer the consequences of our own sin and others'.  But nothing happens without His consent. 

Some people get confused by that.  How can we have free will, if God is sovereign over all?  To me, it's a simple as:  He knows what choices we're going to make, so He just accounts for them. 

A few years before my family moved to this state, my father nearly got transferred to another state.  So, if we hadn't moved here, would I have met the Apple of my Eye?  Well, how easy would that have been for God to coordinate?  Easy. 

It's just like with Peter.  If we fail, God gives us another opportunity to succeed.  And another and another. 

Now I'm not saying God wanted one or the other team to win.  He's got bigger plans than that.  Like what He wants to teach those boys, and their coaches and their families.  Those are the plans He has that will not be thwarted. 

So relax.  Just do your best.  Make mistakes and have successes, and know that you're only one part of His plan.  Let Him use you as you grow in Him, and rest in the knowledge that He is sovereign.

~ "And we know
that all things work together for good
  to those who love God,
to those who are the called
   according to His purpose" ~
Romans 8:28

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Children of God

"Now these were the names"
Genesis 46:8

Have I ever told you about my kids?  I have two of them, and they're Awesome and Amazing. 

My Awesome Girl is 15.  Coming on fast to 16.  She's an artist, in more ways than one.  She draws and paints, and takes stunning photos.  She also plays more than one instrument, without the benefit of formal lessons.  The Apple of my Eye has taught her a lot of what he knows about the guitar, and when it comes to the piano, she just sits down and works on it until she teaches herself a song.

She loves math and science, and is great at those.  She sometimes takes on more work than she needs to, because she likes the challenge.

She's repainting her bedroom herself, because she got tired of the color it used to be.  So she chose colors, bought the paint with her own money, and got to work.  But the transition is hard, until the room is finished, and I'll tell you why ~ because this child likes things just so.  A place for everything, and everything in its place.  That's when she feels good about her room.

She loves books, especially fantasy stories about dragons and elves.  She loves music, of many different styles, all of it loud.  She loves playing volleyball, and being with her friends.  She's deep and complex and strong in her faith.  And she loves me, and her dad and her brother ~ and our dog and our kitty ~ with a quiet, strong, unmistakeable love. 

My Amazing Boy is 12.  He's an athlete ~ he loves playing baseball, but he also runs, and plays hockey in the backyard, and enjoys kicking a soccer ball once in awhile, or tossing a football, or playing impromptu volleyball.

He loves US history ~ especially tales of action.  He reads and studies above and beyond what's in his textbooks, to learn details about the things that interest him.  He's good at math, and excels at doing work in his head, while I'm having to work it out on paper.

His imagination is like none I've ever seen.  Though he adores his sister, even at a very young age he was comfortable playing by himself.  He would get out his cars or his toys and imagine lengthy, detailed scenarios for them.  Or he would use the toys to act out a movie or TV plot he had seen. 

He has always been mature beyond his years, gentle and kind and compassionate.  He asks deep questions about God and the Bible, and remembers what he has been taught.  His joy is constant, and he lightens any rooms he's in.  He's firm and confident in his faith.  And he loves me, and his dad and his sister ~ and our dog and our kitty ~ with a fierce, powerful, yet gentle love.

I could also tell you that one of my kids is sometimes stubborn, and one of them is sometimes lazy.  I could tell you that one of them is unduly nervous about spiders, and one of them is unduly nervous about going into unfamiliar places.  But I would also tell you that even those are negative traits, it doesn't change how I feel about them. 

Days gone by...

 I could go on and on about my children.  That's how it is for parents.  They are precious and special to me, and I'm convinced ~ thoroughly convinced ~ that there are none like them.  And I would do anything for them.

And this love for my children has changed the way I read the Bible.  Specifically, it has changed the way I read lists of names.  "The son of Dan was Hushim.  The sons of Naphtali were Jahzeel, Guni, Jezer and Shillem."  That's from Genesis 46.  Twenty verses of God listing names.  Do you find that boring?  When I read Scripture like this, I imagine God with His wallet open, and one of those little photo accordions unraveling, and He's enthusiastically reciting:  "And this one is Reuben, you remember he was Jacob's firstborn... And here's Judah with his boys, oh, and there's his grandson, Perez ~ he's going to be next in the Messianic lineage, you know..."

It might be tempting to skim over these parts of the Bible, but don't do it.  God wrote it ~ read it.   Say the names out loud, and maybe even write them.  See what jumps out.  Benjamin had ten sons.  Dan had only one.  If you read the New King James version, you might notice that Issachar had a son named Job, and you might wonder if it's the Job.  Scholars disagree, but by noticing this detail, you can get in on the wondering.

And when you read, think about yourself.  Know that He speaks your name with love.  He loves the sound of it, and every bit of you.  He treasures the quirks that make you you, and He knows how your uniqueness can bring Him glory.  And even though He's working to rid you of your flaws, He loves you anyway. 

He loves you big, and high, and far; unceasingly and unconditionally.  That's who He is.  He is Love, and He Loves You.

~ "rejoice that your names
      are written in heaven" ~
Luke 10:20

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Have a God day

"Your will be done"
Luke 11:2

I've been seeing ads for what looks like a cute movie.  I say that knowing sometimes movies aren't what they seem.  Have you ever gone to see a comedy, only to discover that the only funny parts were the clips you saw in the ads?  Or gone to a movie expecting one plot, and then learning that was only the sub-plot, and there's a whole 'nother aspect to the movie you didn't know about?

So, this isn't an endorsement; I haven't seen the movie.  I've only seen a cute ad.  The movie is "The Odd Life of Timothy Green".  I think that's what it's called.  It's about a couple who has no children, until a child appears in their house (from the garden?) and "adopts" them.

But I particularly like a scene in which the mom and dad send little Timothy off to school.  Dad calls after him, "Have a good day!" but Mom quietly reproaches Dad, saying, "That's too much pressure for him."  So Dad corrects his good wishes to Timothy, saying, "Have the kind of day you're going to have!"

It's funny to think that "Have a good day" might be pressure.  It's an amusing movie line because it's an expression of good will, not a commandment.  It's also funny because it gives insight into the mother who would worry about pressuring her child by telling him to have a good day. 

But I love that line "Have the kind of day you're going to have."  It struck me as similar to the way we should pray for one another; what we should hope for those we love:  "Have the kind of day God wants you to have." 

We have a tendency to pray for what we want.  What we think is best.  As a mom, I would be so happy if my Amazing and Awesome children grew up without pain.  I want them to make the team, get the part, be recognized for their gifts and have friends who won't ever hurt them.  I want the Apple of my Eye to have the job of his dreams, and I want all those I love to be in perfect health forever.

But not only is all of that not going to happen, I think God would say that's not necessarily for the best.  I know that if my child's feelings are hurt by a friend, then my child will learn to be a better friend to others.   I know that pain ~ emotional or physical ~ makes us more compassionate to others.  And I know that we are to esteem others higher than ourselves, which sometimes means being happy that someone else made the team or got the part.

What do you want for today, for yourself or someone you love?  A day that runs smoothly, by your terms, might mean you don't need Him, and don't pray.  A day with no struggles might mean a day with no growth.  A life on earth with no tribulation is simply not His will ~ it wasn't for Jesus ~ so why do we pray for it?

I'm not suggesting we shouldn't share our hopes with God, but we should desire His will overall.

Do you want to be blessed today, and tomorrow and the day after?   Pray for His will ~ no matter what that may look like to you ~ and you will be.


~ "not My will, but Yours be done" ~
Luke 22:42

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

As a zephyr

"not by might"
Zechariah 4:6

It's been hot lately.  I know; it's summer.  It's supposed to be hot.  Doesn't mean I have to enjoy it, though.

I'm really more of a "cloudy-and-cool-weather" kind of a gal.  I probably belong in Seattle or something, but this is where God has me, so I guess I'll just grin and bear it.

Although, truth be told, sometimes it's more like "whine and bear it".  But that's a confession for another time...

I was helping out in our Children's Program at church on a recent Sunday, and even though it was morning, it was getting hot already.  But part of my job called for me to sit in the hallway of the bulding, outside the classrooms for awhile, greeting kids and parents, and directing anyone who didn't know where their child should go.

So I left the air-conditioned classroom to sit in the hallway, and of course immediately noticed the temperature difference.  But after I sat there for a minute, I noticed the breeze.  It was slight, but it was there ~ and so pleasant.  It made the difference between hot and too hot

Then later that day, my family went to my folks' house so the kids could go swimming.  I didn't feel like going in the water, but I sat with my feet in the pool for a few minutes, then went to sit in the shade to read, and the breeze blowing on my wet feet was so cool, in comparison to the rest of me.  The breeze was slight, but it made all the difference. 

And I thought, "this is how God is... slight, but making all the difference." 

Now, hear me out ~ I'm not saying God is slight.  He is mighty and powerful and completely sovereign.  But He is also a still small voice (1 Kings 19:11-13).

He created the universe, but with just a word (Genesis 1).

He sent His Son to rescue us, but He came as a helpless newborn (Luke 2).

His Spirit is the power that came upon Samson when he killed a lion with his hands (Judges 14) but as the wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes, so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.  (John 3:8)

His work in our lives is often subtle, even unnoticeable, if we aren't looking for it.  His effect can be just a tweaking, if that's all we need ~

... but it makes all the difference. 

~ " 'Not by might, nor by power
       but my My Spirit,' says the Lord." ~
  Zechariah 4:6

Monday, August 27, 2012

Seeing what's right

"right in his own eyes"
Judges 21:25

I'm reading a book about the U.S. Civil War this week.  Specifically, about the Battle of Gettysburg.  It was a book that was recommended for my Amazing Boy, so I'm reading through it first to see if he should read it this year, or maybe wait until next year.  He loves American History, but war books can be hard to read, so I need to know how detailed it is, ya know?

There was an interesting line of dialogue in the book.  It was a soldier talking with a young girl who was helping with medical needs.  They were both northern, and she was bemoaning the fact that the war ever had to happen.  She said to the soldier, "Oh, why didn't we just let the South secede?  Do you think it's that important to keep the country together?"  And he replied, "Yes, but what I think isn't that important.  Our President thinks it is, and he has a longer, clearer vision than I do."

I just loved the faith he had in Lincoln ~ the faith he had in his leader.  That's the sort of attitude we need to have about God.  Here's what I think, but it's more important what God thinks.  That's trust. 

Years ago, when I studied the Book of Judges, there was a line that caught my attention, and has stayed with me.  It was:  "In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes."  It's such a sobering sentence.  It really illustrates how people were living, and the consequences of their choices.  To do what is right in your own eyes is not the choice of someone who's trusting God.

And just the other day, I read an article where the author said that that verse sounds a lot like today.  That life is like that now, too.  And I thought, "He's right.  But at least I know I'm not living that way." 

Oh please.  Who am I kidding?  I immediately had a check in my spirit, that I knew I was just as culpable as those Israelites. 

Here's an example.  James 4:10 says to "humble yourself in the sight of the Lord."  It doesn't just say "humble yourself", but "in the sight of the Lord".  It's easy to be humble in my own eyes.  All I have to do is let somebody in front of me in traffic, and then I pat myself on the back. 

But then I think about Psalm 139:23-24 ~ "Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my mind.  Point out any wicked way in me."  It's quite something else to humble myself in His eyes, and it can only be done if I ask Him to show me the wickedness in me.

James 2:10 says that if anyone keeps the whole law, and yet stumbles on just one point of it, is guilty of all.   Any time I do what seems right to me, without finding out if I'm doing what He would have me do, or doing it the way He would have me doing it, then I'm just like the children of Israel, doing what is right in my own eyes.

We make dozens of decisions every day.  Some big, some small.  Maybe He doesn't care what I make for dinner, or what you wear to work, but every day we have opportunities to show our trust in Him.  To seek His will rather than just choosing what is right in our own eyes. 

~ "The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
And His ears are open to their prayers;
But the face of the Lord
is against those who do evil." ~
1 Peter 3:12

Sunday, August 26, 2012

If we're not obeying, we're disobeying

"this people has not obeyed Me"
Jeremiah 35:16

The other day I shared my thoughts on obeying God's commandments.  The important lesson to me was that coming up with my own ideas might result in great cornbread, but it's not going to result in my being in His will for my life. 

Well, while I was thinking about the subject of obeying "my way," I found myself thinking about complete disobedience to His commands.  It's important for us to come face-to-face with the concept of disobedience, because we do a lot of it.  Of course, there's also plenty of examples of that in Scripture.

In 1 Samuel 13:9, "Saul said to the people, 'Bring a burnt offering and peace offerings here to me.' And Saul offered the burnt offering."  But Samuel had told Saul, "I will come down to you to offer burnt offerings and make sacrifices of peace offerings.  Seven days shall you wait, til I come to you and show you what you should do."  That was back in 1 Samuel 10:8.  Saul had not waited.  And for his disobedience, in 13:14, Samuel told Saul, "Your kingdom shall not continue... you have not kept what the Lord commanded you."

It's a painful passage.  I feel sorry for Saul there.  Everything went downhill for him after that.  But the consequences were his, just as the disobedience was.  And of course God knew ~ literally ~ the condition of his heart.

And how about Moses' biggest mistake?  In Numbers 20, when the Israelites needed water, God told Moses to speak to the rock in front of them, but instead, Moses struck the rock.  His consequence for that was that he was not allowed to enter the Promised Land.  Harsh, it seems to me, but not unduly so apparently.  God's God.  So He oughtta know.

But it seems to get even harsher to me in Numbers 27:12-14.  The Lord said to Moses, "Go up... and see the land which I have given to the children of Israel.  And when you have seen it, you also shall be gathered to your people." {In other words, "you shall die."} "For in the wilderness of Zin, during the strife of the congregation, you rebelled against My command to hallow Me at the waters before their eyes."

Did God have to keep reminding him?  Well, consequences are sometimes inescapable.  God reminded Moses of the crime as much for us as for Moses.  Moses’ sin was extreme.  Moses' sin was disobedience.  Or in the words of Numbers 27:14, Moses' sin was rebellion

Admittedly, some of God's commandments are harder than others to obey.   But we need no more inspiration than to see Jesus following His Father's instructions.  Luke 22:42 records Jesus praying to His Father, saying, "not My will, but Yours be done."  Suffering and dying on the cross was His Father's will, and He did as He was told.  In Luke 23:46 He says, "Into Your hands, I commit My spirit."  It wasn't taken from Him; He gave it.

So what are the commandments that we disobey.  In what way do we rebel against Him?

Psalm 27:14 says "Wait on the Lord; Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart.  Wait, I say, on the Lord!"  Man, waiting is hard.  But we know the rewards.

Nehemiah 9:5 directs us to, "Stand up and bless the Lord your God forever and ever!"  How ya doin' with that; obeying that one 100% ?

Me neither.

And how about all the times we are commanded to give Him thanks?  Like 1 Thessalonians 5:18, "Be joyful always; pray continually.  Give thanks in all circumstances."

If you're having trouble thinking of a reason to give thanks in all circumstances, try this:  Take a breath.

Do you know that the air we breathe is 79% nitrogen and 21% oxygen?  Do you know that if the earth's atmosphere were 24% oxygen, then the earth would burst into flame?

But it's not.  It's 21%.  Exactly the right balance for breathing.

Here's another reason to give thanks:  Take another breath.

Do you know that when you take in a breath, you inhale 150 million air molecules?  And when you exhale, you breathe them out?  When Jesus was on earth, He did the same thing.

Take a deep breath.

You just inhaled 150 million air molecules that Jesus breathed out when He was on earth.

There's always a reason to give thanks.  There's always a reason to obey.

~ "Let everything that has breath 
    praise the Lord" ~
Psalm 150:6

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Learning again, from my dog

"the seeing eye, 
the Lord has made them both"
Proverbs 20:12

We have a dog.  A sweet, wonderful, loyal dog.  Well, sweet and wonderful if you're in our family.  Or one of the half-dozen or so other people she likes.  To everyone else, she's just a dog.  Well, a loyal dog.  Well, loyal and noisy.  Well, loyal and noisy and cute.  Because there's really no denying that she's a good-looking specimen!


One of the things that makes her an attractive and interesting-looking dog is her eyes.  They are not just two different colors, as is sometimes the case with her breed.  She doesn't just have one brown eye and one blue eye.  She has one blue eye, and one that's half-blue and half-brown.


I thought about her eyes today, and thought to myself that I'm a little like her now.  Both my eyes are the same color ~ brown ~ but they are different from each other.  You see, I've been wearing contact lenses for about 16 years, but just a few weeks ago, I started going without one.  I have worn contacts for my distance vision, but my near vision has been getting worse, so my eye-doctor suggested keeping one contact in for distance, and having my other eye be the dominant eye for near vision. 

It's been working pretty well.  I can see better when I read, and still see well to drive, so I'd call that a success.  But there are times when I can tell my eyes are not looking at life from the same perspective, and I wondered today if this is how Holly sees life!  :)

Of course eye color has nothing to do with vision, so we're different in that way.  But over the past few days, I've thought that this is not a bad way to go through life ~ one eye for distance and one eye for near.  It has made me think, more than once, about what I need to be focused on.   Keeping an eye on the near ~ the here and now; while still remembering what's ahead ~ what the future holds and how to be ready.

One of the my favorite things about the Bible is that it tells about the past, present and future.  And I love every bit of it.  I love learning the history, but also applying wisdom and knowledge to my life now, and looking ahead to what He has planned for the future. 

It's hard sometimes to have my eyes adjust, but I know that overall I'm seeing better by being able to see well, both near and far.  And it's how He wants me seeing.


~ "Lift your eyes now and look" ~
Genesis 13:14

Friday, August 24, 2012

Taking the chance

"time and chance happen to them all"
Ecclesiastes 9:11

My Awesome Girl got a job. Well, I guess it's not really a "job" in the formal sense.  It's a babysitting gig, but on a regular basis.  The mom works from home, so she pays my girl to come over and help out with the two kids.  It's been about once a week for several weeks now.  My girl is having fun with the kids ~ mostly just playing with them, but also keeping them in line when necessary.  She's so good at it. 

I remember when I was a baby-sitting teenager, all I wanted to do was get the kids busy doing something ~ or to bed ~ so that I could read.  I wasn't really interested in interacting with them. 

Believe me, I'm a much better mom than I was a baby-sitter.

After I had my own kids, I loved spending time with them.   I loved reading to them, playing with them, or watching them play.  Going to the park, baking cookies, whatever.  I couldn't imagine putting them in Day Care, and I'm very fortunate that we've been able to live on one income, and I've been able to stay home with them. 

My daughter's new employer has chosen differently though.  After a long battle for good health for her and her son, she now works to help others improve their health.  I'm sure she's glad to be able to work from home, and to have someone to help watch her children while she does. 

Her choice ~ to work, and have someone watch her kids ~ is my daughter's opportunity.  And I started thinking how often that is the case.  Someone else's choice becomes our chance.  Maybe it's a job they don't want to do or can't do.  Maybe it's a ministry they said "no" to.   Doesn't mean that someone made a wrong choice.  It might be exactly what God was calling them to do.

But we need to be ready to seize the opportunities He presents to us.  I love the excitement in that.  We don't know when they're coming.  My Awesome Girl didn't go looking for this chance, but she was ready when it came.  And if we respond to the occasions He gives us, we will be blessed, and we will bless others.  My girl is getting that chance now. 

The opportunities are many.  Are you ready?

 ~ "Sanctify yourselves, 
   for tomorrow the Lord 
    will do wonders among you" ~
Joshua 3:5

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Corner pieces are the best

"wondrous things from Your law"
Psalm 119:18

I make the best cornbread I know.  I hope that doesn't sound arrogant.  I've had a lot of different kinds of cornbread.  Some sweeter than others, some with actual corn in it, as opposed to just cornmeal.  I've even had some that has jalapeno peppers in it.  I personally think that it's better when it's a little sweeter, and free of corn kernels and peppers.  So that's how I make it.  So naturally I think it's the best.

Makes sense, right?

But I came upon this perfect recipe by accident.  See, I do a lot of substituting in the kitchen.  You know, the recipe calls for cream, but I use milk.  Or my family doesn't like a certain ingredient, so I leave it out, or substitute something we like.  Early in my marriage, I had a recipe that called for wine, and we don't drink it, so I didn't have any.  So I used vinegar.   I'm pretty sure we ordered a pizza that night...

But the cornbread recipe was a happy accident.  A wonderfully successful substitution.  The recipe called for sour cream, and we were out.  Which is odd, cuz I love sour cream, so I'm rarely out. 

Anyhow, I was out of sour cream, so I used vanilla yogurt instead, and it was delicious.  And now we make the recipe that way all the time. 

I'm a lot better at substituting now.  And I'm glad I did with that cornbread, but substituting is a risk.  And whether or not the result is palatable, it's no longer the recipe that was given to me.  If we don't follow the directions, we're not going to get the result the originator intended. 

God's word is full of directions for us.  All of them are designed to work together to achieve His desired result.

You've probably heard of the Ten Commandments.  But there's a whole lot of others...

Proverbs 3:5-6 instructs, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight."

Micah 6:8 tells us to "do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God"

Deuteronomy 13:4 says "You shall walk after the Lord your God and fear Him and keep His commandments and obey His voice; you shall serve Him and hold fast to Him."  That one sentence is a six-pack of directions for us.  

It says in Hebrews that it's impossible for us to follow His instructions without faith.  Makes sense.  Why would we bother, if we didn't have faith?  It goes on to say, in Hebrews 11:6, that "he who comes to Him must believe that He exists, and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him."  Think about that phrase, "earnestly seek Him".  My dictionary describes earnest as sincere, grave or serious, and it's from the Hebrew word for "pledge".  We have to think about the weight of those words, and then pledge to seek and follow Him.

God wants the best for us.  We don't give our children rules and guidelines because we enjoy inhibiting them {note to my kids:  Honest!}  We do it because we want them to live their best life and bring glory to God.  Jesus commanded us to love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our mind AND to love our neighbor as ourselves.

And Solomon summed it up this way:  "This is the conclusion of the whole matter:  Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man's all." (Ecclesiastes 12:13)

Couldn't have said it better myself. 

~ "Make me walk
in the path of your commandments, 
    for I delight in it" ~
Psalm 119:35

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Good enough to be #12...

"the people worked together 
with all their heart"
Nehemiah 4:6

There was a lot of talk this year, before and after the Olympics, about the "Dream Team".   That was the nickname for the US basketball team in the 1992 Olympics.  It consisted of Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Charles Barkley, Scottie Pippen, Karl Malone, Patrick Ewing, David Robinson, John Stockton, Chris Mullin, Clyde Drexler and Christan Laettner; and was the first American team to use active NBA players.  It has been called the greatest sports team ever assembled.  You can argue with that, if you want, and if you do, I'll be on your side.  But there's no arguing that they were successful.  They won the gold medal that year, and beat all their opponents handily.

photo credit:  glovesoffsports.com

This year was the 20th anniversary of that team, so there were plenty of retrospectives and "where are they now?" specials on TV and in print.   One of those was in Sports Illustrated, where I read an article about a scrimmage game between the members of that team.  They divided up into two teams, and played for bragging rights. And in the course of this article, I came across a quote by Michael Jordan about the team.  According to the author, Jordan told him "coldly and matter-of-factly, that Christian Laettner was the weak link on the team."

At first I thought that comment by Michael Jordan was unnecessarily rude, and I thought maybe he was a little arrogant.  But then it occurred to me that maybe it was only the author's opinion that Jordan was "cold" about making that statement.  Maybe Jordan was just stating a fact, and not really meaning to criticize Laettner.

The truth was that Laettner certainly was not as accomplished as the other players on the team.  He had never had any professional experience, having only played for Duke University, (though that team won the NCAA Championships in 1991 and 1992).   He was also the youngest man on that Dream Team.

So let's assume that Jordan was not being cold; let's assume he was just being truthful.  Let's assume Laettner was the worst player on the team.

Well that, my friends, is a compliment. Because being the worst player on that team ~ and somebody had to be, right? ~ meant being the 12th best player in the country.  And that's pretty impressive. 

It's a good reminder that it's not important to be #1.  Indeed, we can't all be.  Someone is always going to be better, or more successful, or more talented.  That shouldn't be our goal.  Our best will be less impressive than someone else's best, but still what's needed for the team's goals to be fulfilled.

So what is it that you are good at?  Not what you're great at, but good?  Praise God for that.  You're just what's needed on the team!

~ "At this the whole assembly said, 'Amen,' 
and praised the Lord.  
And the people did as they had promised." ~
Nehemiah 5:13

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Remembering what I have forgotten

"Remember the Sabbath day"
Exodus 20:8

I didn't vacuum last Sunday. 

Nor did I do any dishes. 

I didn't wash my car or clean out the garage or sweep the backyard.

Or hitch up the horses to the carriage.

And I'll tell ya why.



Because we don't own any horses.  Or a carriage.  



But the reason I didn't do any of those other things is because of an offhand comment my sister made a few weeks ago. 

It was a Sunday afternoon, and my Awesome Girl was going to vacuum my car for me, when in the middle of the task, the vacuum cleaner quit working.   It's the only one we have, and I was not excited about the prospect of paying to have it repaired, so I sent an email to a few friends jokingly {but not really} asking them to pray that my vacuum cleaner would miraculously start working again.  My sister gave me some advice on how she'd fixed her own vacuum, and then jokingly {but not really} said, "Why are you vacuuming on a Sunday??"

The next day I went online to the manufacturer's website and found some troubleshooting advice that enabled me to miraculously get my vacuum working again, and the problem was solved.  But my sister's comment had gotten me thinking. 

What effort do I make for Sunday to look different than the other days?  In what way is Sunday the Sabbath for me?  Scripture says we are not to do any work, but what does that mean?  Not going in to the office?  Not vacuuming?  Not cooking dinner? 

I know a lot of people disagree with the "right" way to recognize the Sabbath; the right way to act, or the things to avoid.  When my kids were younger, I read the Laura Ingalls Wilder series of books to them, and we all marveled that there were families who would walk to church on Sunday, rather than hitch up the horses to the carriage.  Frankly, walking seems like more work than hitching up horses...

The point, though, isn't what you feel is okay or not okay to on the Sabbath.  It's just not clearly spelled out in Scripture.  Each of us might have a different understanding of how to honor it, and we will have to answer to God for how we obey Him on that issue.

I think what's important is the wording of Exodus 20:8 ~ "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy."  I have not been giving any thought to making Sunday different from the other six days.   The Sabbath is supposed to be a day of rest for me and my family; and more than that, it's supposed to be a holy day.

And I'd forgotten to remember that.

~ "For in six days the Lord made 
the heavens and the earth, 
the sea and all that is in them, 
and rested the seventh day.  
Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day 
and hallowed it." ~
Exodus 20:11

Monday, August 20, 2012

Abba, Father

"access... to the Father"
Ephesians 2:18

What do you know of John F Kennedy Jr?  Nearly everyone in the Kennedy family is famous for being a member of the Kennedy family, but JFK Jr is more famous than most.  Son of President John Kennedy and Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy.  Nephew of Robert F Kennedy, grandson of Joseph P Kennedy, he could have been famous simply for his relatives.

But as he grew, he stayed in the public eye.  He went to law school, and was ridiculed for having to take the bar exam three times on his way to becoming a lawyer.  He started a political magazine, got married, and died in a small plane crash at the young age of 38.  He was in the public eye his whole life, and certainly one of the most photographed men in America, due to his good looks (1988's Sexiest Man Alive according to People Magazine) and America's fascination with the Kennedy family.

But with all that, if you look for him on the internet, you won't just find pictures of the man he became; you'll also find pictures of the boy he was.  Despite all he accomplished as a man, the pictures of him with his father are some of the most enduring of the 20th century. 

photo credit: Stanley Tretick, Look Magazine

I happened to see this picture the other day, and all of a sudden I thought of the phrase "access to the Father".  Who, but his son, would be allowed to crawl under the President's desk?  There's a wonderful intimacy there.  I've heard that phrase many times, but I was so tickled to have that image in my mind as I thought about our access to the Father. 

We ~ you and I ~ are His beloved.  And as it says in Ephesians 2, we have access to Him through His Spirit.  Ephesians 3 says we have "boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him".  Access with confidence!  Do you have that confidence?   I hope so.  If you have the faith, you should have confidence, because it says right here the faith is enough. 

photo credit:  Cecil Stoughton, White House photographer

Put yourself in that picture, walking and talking with the Father, whose attention is devoted to you.  That's the kind of relationship He wants with you.

It's a beautiful thing. 

~ "that you may be able to comprehend...
the width and length and depth and height-
to know the love of Christ
    which passes knowledge" ~
Ephesians 3:18-19

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Lessons from the Games

A few more thoughts on the Olympics before my brain gets back into thinking about things upcoming.  Like autumn, school, tonight's dinner, etc...



The spiritual lesson from hurdling: 

There are going to be obstacles in life.  If you stop to focus on them, they'll seem bigger.  Keep your momentum, stay on the path God has you on, and don't break your stride.

"Call upon Me in the day of trouble; 
   I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me." 
Psalm 50:15


The spiritual lesson from swimming relays:

Do YOUR thing the best you can.  Your teammate might be doing the backstroke, or the breaststroke, when you've been called to do the butterfly.  Do the butterfly.

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


The spiritual lesson about coaches:
God has put someone in your life to encourage, challenge and edify you.  He expects you to do the same for someone else.

"Therefore let us pursue
the things which make for peace 
and the things by which one may edify another."
Romans 14:19


The spiritual lesson regarding arrogant athletes:
It doesn't matter how hard you've worked.  Your body, your skill, your tenacity are a gift.  Same with your eyes and ears, your arms and legs, your heart and lungs.

"Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, 
and comes down from the Father of lights, 
with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning." 
James 1:17


The spiritual lesson from the athletes' apparel:
Strip away anything in your life that might hold you down, or encumber you.  He expects us to do much, with little.

"And He said to them, 'Take nothing for the journey, 
neither staffs nor bag nor bread nor money; 
and do not have two tunics apiece.' " 
Luke 9:3


The spiritual lesson from falling:
Finish what you start.  If your task, if your journey is not done, then pick yourself back up and finish what you started.

"Let us not grow weary while doing good, 
for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart."
Galatians 6:9


The spiritual lesson from success:
Hard work is mandatory, and it is never wasted.

"You have persevered and have patience, 
and have labored for My name's sake 
and have not become weary."
Revelation 2:3

~

Saturday, August 18, 2012

First and Last

"Our Father, Who art in heaven,
Hallowed be Thy name"
Matthew 6:9

So I found myself watching a new show a few weeks ago.  Well, new to me.  I was over at my folks' house, where I don't have control of the remote ;)  and was watching a show that my mom likes.  {She, by the way, is also Amazing and Awesome.  It's a hereditary thing.}
 
It was one of these shows where competitors vie to win a show on that network.  The Food Network has one for aspiring TV chefs, and HGTV has one that's for aspiring TV decorators, for instance.  There's probably others.

Anyhow, the competitors generally have two different kinds of challenges ~ one in their field (cooking or decorating or whatever) and one on camera, to see how they would do as host of their own show.  Naturally, they're all pretty good in their chosen field ~ or else they wouldn't be there ~ but not all of them are comfortable with public speaking, or "camera-speaking".  So as the contestants compete in their challenges, the judges and advisers give them advice.

Well, one of these mentors gave a piece of advice that I thought was one of the most important and helpful I'd ever heard.  It applied not only to working in front of a camera, or working without a script, but really, to any public speaking at all.  It also applies to situations where you have to confront someone, job interviews and even things in writing.

So what was this magical piece of advice? 

"Have a good opening, and a good closing." 

I know, right?  Wonderful.

Hello's and good-bye's are often the most awkward parts of conversations, especially with someone you don't know well, or at all.  Written work, speeches, complaints to businesses.... these are all times when you know what your message is, but might not be sure how to lead in to the subject, or how to get out of it once you've said what you have to say. 

And while I was thinking how helpful this little nugget is going to be in my life, I realized that this is the perfect advice for prayer, too.  How do you open and close your prayers?  Is it just a series of complaints, followed by a series of requests, punctuated by pauses whenever you get distracted?   So what's missing?

Praise. 

Look at this.  It's Jeremiah 12:1.  Jeremiah has some questions for God, but before he launches into them, he opens with praise.  "Righteous are You, O Lord, when I plead with You; Yet let me talk with You about Your judgements."

Don't you love that?  Don't you love that we have a God of whom we can ask questions ~ even about His judgement ~ without being struck down?  That in itself is reason to praise Him.

Praise is not just telling Him something He already knows.  Praise is acknowledgment of who He is.  It is a reminder to us of the privilege we have in a sovereign Lord who cares what we think, and wants to hear from us.

Praise should be the first thing we say to Him in the morning, and the last at night.  When we come to Him with questions, needs or worries, they should be accompanied by praise.  First and last.  Now That's a good opening, and a good closing. 

~ "Yours is the kingdom 
and the power and the glory forever.  
Amen." ~
Matthew 6:13

Friday, August 17, 2012

Jesus, take the wheel...

"you have kept My command to persevere"
Revelation 3:10

See this picture?  This is from a couple of years ago.  I went boating with a group of friends on a nearby lake. 


There are several ladies there, and I know it's a little hard to see, but it's important that you know that I am one of the ones who is standing.

I'll explain that in a minute.

This is not a boat that belongs to anyone on the boat.  It's a rental boat, property of the city, or the Lake Association, or something.   So no one has to have a license or any training whatsoever to drive it, or pilot it, or whatever you do to a boat...

It's not a fast-moving boat.  It's no big deal to stand while the boat is in motion, although I'm sure there's still a small amount of risk.  It is a moving vehicle, after all.  For the most part we're sitting while we're moving, unless someone's getting up to get something to nibble on, or passing something to nibble on, or getting a napkin because they've dribbled what they've nibbled on.

The only person who can't stand, is the one who is piloting it.  Or driving it.  Or whatever you do to a boat...  You have to be in a seated position to speed the boat up, or slow it down; to change from forward to reverse, or back again; and to steer.

So what you can garner from the fact that I am standing, is that I am not sitting. 

I am not driving. 

Or piloting. 

Or whatever you do to a boat...

I wasn't driving the boat because no one would let me.  Not that I was trying all that hard; I don't care who drives.  But I had offered to take a turn the previous year, and, um, had a little trouble docking the boat.  No damage; just a little bumping.  But a year later, they were still teasing me about it...

You see, it's very tricky to steer a boat.  You have to turn the wheel ever so slightly, and then wait for the boat to respond.  It's not really like driving a car.  It's easy to turn the wheel too hard if you don't realize you have to wait for the boat to respond.

Believe me, I know.

Or you might turn the wheel slightly, and nothing happens, so you panic and turn it harder, and then you feel it starting to turn, and you realize it's turning too much, cuz you turned it too hard, so then you turn the opposite way, and fall into the same trap. 

Believe me, I know.

I thought of all this silliness the other day when I was talking with a friend about making decisions.  Sometimes we pray about things to do or not do, and we read the Bible, and we get advice from friends who read the Bible ~ and we're still not sure what to do.  So then we just make the best decision we can. 

But then sometimes life, or people, or opportunities don't happen, or react, or turn out the way we thought they would. 

So then we panic and go the other way.

And I think the lesson here is: give it a chance to work.  Sometimes this applies to our prayer life.  God does not work at our pace, and sometimes we pray, and when we don't feel an answer is coming fast enough, we go the other way, and decide to do something about it ourselves. 

And sometimes it applies to a decision we've made.  So pray, and read Scripture, and ask God for wisdom, which He promises to give in abundance.  Then make the best decision you can, and have faith in Him.  Even if you've made a mistake in your decision, He won't abandon you.  He will guide you back to His will, and He will use all things for good.

He is a God of order, and detail.  And He has a plan for us.  Sometimes that's working His will in our lives, and sometimes it's working with our free will.  But we need to trust Him to see us through when we think we're going the wrong way. 

~ "Indeed we count them blessed who endure.
You have heard of the perseverance of Job
and seen the end intended by the Lord - 
that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful" ~
James 5:11

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Acknowledgement

You are the Root of Jesse
"In that day there shall be a Root of Jesse, 
who shall stand as a banner to the people; 
for the Gentiles shall seek Him"
Isaiah 11:10

You are the Door of the sheep
"Then Jesus said to them again, 
'Most assuredly, I say to you,
I am the door of the sheep.' "
John 10:7

You are the Rock of my strength
In God is my salvation and my glory;
The rock of my strength
Psalm 62:7

You are the Branch of Righteousness
"In those days and at that time
I will cause to grow up to David
A Branch of Righteousness;
He shall execute judgement and righteousness
in the earth"
Jeremiah 33:15

You are a Horn of Salvation
"Blessed is the Lord God of Israel
who has raised up a Horn of Salvation for us"
Luke 1:69

You are my All in All
"There is neither Greek nor Jew, 
circumcised nor uncircumcised,
barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free,
but Christ is all and in all"
Colossians 3:11

You are Faithful and True
"Now I saw heaven opened, 
and behold, a white horse.  
And He who sat on him
was called Faithful and True"
Revelation 19:11

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Strong inside and out

"run with endurance"
Hebrews 12:1

Did you watch a lot of the Olympics?  I watched a ton.  I didn't see any sailing, or weightlifting, or speed walking, or judo.  Or boxing, but that was by choice.  I saw everything else.  You gotta love athletic events that inspire you to sit in a chair and watch TV for hours a day...

And I had an interesting thought while I watched athletes amaze me in a variety of events.  From runners to rowers, to swimmers and gymnasts... jumping, throwing, hitting, diving... I kept thinking about a phrase I've heard a lot lately:  core strength.

A strong core is your main source of support, and strength.  It's about a strong back, and strong gluteus muscles, so that the burden of supporting your body is made easier.  Your core keeps you up and helps you balance, whether you're simply standing, or doing something a little harder, like balancing on one foot.

Your core muscles are connected to your legs by your gluteus muscles, so a strong core enables you to squat, and kneel.  And more importantly, to get back up again!

A strong core is about strong upper abs and obliques, so that turning to one side or the other is easier and safer.

A strong core is about supporting your upper body, so you can lift and carry.

As a matter of fact, the only time your core muscles are uninvolved in what you are doing, is when you are lying flat on your back.

But what's interesting is that most of the muscles that make up the core are deep tissue muscles underneath, invisible to the mirror, and to those around you.  It's not just about having "six-pack abs".

The stronger your core is, the higher your degree of ability.  The stronger your core, the better able your body is to respond to what you demand of it, and the less likely you are to injure yourself in unusual movements. 

Whatever He has called you to do for Him, it's going to get difficult ~ if it hasn't already.   This is where a strong core comes in.  Your core, is the Holy Spirit.  You are the hands that serve, and the feet that go, and the mouth that speaks.  He is the core, that gives you strength and keeps you balanced.  The Holy Spirit enables us to stand when our knees are trembling, and hug when our arms are tired.  He enables us to exert ourselves in ways we think we're not capable. 

Hebrews 12:1-2 says "Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that was set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."  The author of Hebrews could very well have been thinking of the Ancient Olympics when he wrote this, and I thought about it while watching the marathon on Sunday.  You don't need a ticket to watch the marathon, so there were millions of spectators lining the streets of London.  This is the picture I get in my head when I think of those words, "great cloud of witnesses"

This is what I think of when the finish line seems awfully far away ~ even if the finish line is just getting to my nice warm bed that night.  There are those who have gone before us, and those who walk with us.  This is our great cloud of witnesses, as we are strengthened by the Holy Spirit, and with our eyes fixed firmly on Jesus. 

I saw a lot of remarkable things in the Olympics.  Things that stood out above the other images.  A runner from Grenada, who won that country's first Olympic medal ever.  But upon winning his heat, all he wanted to do was exchange name bibs ~ as a show of respect ~ with the loser of that heat, Oscar Pistorius of South Africa, who had made it to the Olympics on two artificial legs.

Or David Boudia, the gold medal winner in platform diving.  He had barely made it out of his semi-final, the 18th highest score in a sport where only the top 18 get to move on.  And when asked about his qualifying, he smiled and shrugged and said, "God is sovereign.  I was fine with making the final, or not making it."

But one of the other remarkable things I saw was Usain Bolt.  He's the man they call the fastest man on the planet, easily winning the 100 and 200 meter races.  Easily winning.  But that's not what impressed me.  There's a certain arrogance to him, and he won all his heats, and both races by margins wide enough that before he crossed the finish line, he was already easing up.  And I said to the Apple of my Eye, "I'd like to see what that guy can do when he really gives his all, all the way...

Well last Saturday night was the Men's 4 x 100 relay.  Bolt was the anchor for the Jamaican team.  They took gold, and the U.S. took silver.  But Bolt was finally feeling threatened.  In order to beat the U.S. team, he had to run full speed, and even lean at the finish line. 

photo credit: olympics.time.com

The lesson for us here is, while there are days we will struggle, there are also days we won't have to.  We are all gifted in some way, which can tempt us to not give our all, when we know "some" will be enough.   But we are not invited to not give our best, when what's at our core, is His Spirit. 

~ "You are able, 
   for the Spirit of the Holy God is in you" ~
Daniel 4:18

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Lights in the firmament of the heavens

"See the highest stars, how lofty they are!"
Job 22:12

Did you see any of the meteor shower this past weekend?  It was so cool.  We lay out in our backyard both Saturday and Sunday nights, but Saturday was definitely the better night.  We saw several meteors streaking across the sky.  Some smaller and briefer, others larger, and leaving a trail behind them for a second or so. 

Photo credit: earthsky.org
We lay on the ground in our backyard for 45 minutes on Saturday night, and about 20 minutes the next night.  We probably would have tried to last longer, but we'd all been swimming that day, and that, and the heat we've been having lately, had left us a little drained.  And of course, it's really not very comfortable to lie on the ground for any prolonged period of time...

But it was fun to lie there next to each other.  We talked and laughed and quoted movie lines, and then oohed and aahed and pointed at the sky.  Which was silly and pointless really, when all four of us were already looking at the sky....

But there was also silence for long minutes.  We just lay there and looked and thought to ourselves.  And I don't know about them, but I was thinking a lot about God.   I thought about when He created the heavens and the stars.   I thought about how many stars He has put up there, and that I can't even see them all!  I thought about the patterns they make, and the differences from season to season and hemisphere to hemisphere. 

If everything He has created reflects Him, then I think stars reflect His beauty, and His mystery.  And His light.  And sparkle.  A lot to think about.  And such glorious thoughts to think!

~ "He counts the number of the stars;
He calls them all by name" ~
Psalm 147:4

~ "I consider the heavens, 
the work of Your fingers,
the moon and the stars, 
which You have ordained" ~
Psalm 8:3

Monday, August 13, 2012

Gifts that keep on Giving

"your love for one another"
1 Thessalonians 4:9


I had some candy the other day.  

It wasn't mine; it was my Amazing Boy's.  

And I didn't ask.  He offered, and then insisted.  

I'm very blessed to have a son so sweet.

~

He got the candy from his sister, my Awesome Girl.  

She bought it for him.  

She bought it because she had a gift card for a store, and while she was getting something for herself, she wanted to get something for her brother, too.   

I'm very blessed to have a daughter so thoughtful.

~

Awesome Girl got the gift card from her aunt and uncle.  

They bought it for her for no particular reason, 
other than they love spoiling people they love.

I'm blessed to have a brother and sister so giving. 

~

My brother-in-law and sister-in-law are in my life because of the man I married ~ the Apple of my Eye.  When you marry someone, you get everyone who comes with them. 

I fell in love with him because he's sweet and selfless 
and loves me so much.  
And I'm very, very blessed to be married to him.
 {Happy Anniversary, my love!}

~

The reason he's so wonderful, 
is that he was raised by two fabulous people.  
Gentle and wise and funny and loving.  

I'm very blessed to have such extraordinary in-laws.

~

Kindness begets kindness.  
Do something thoughtful for someone,
 and they will do something thoughtful for someone else.  
Blessings become a chain. 

And maybe, just maybe, you'll get some candy.

~ "Now about your love for one another, 
we do not need to write to you,
for you yourselves have been taught by God 
to love each other" ~
1 Thessalonians 4:9

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Priorities

"You did not choose Me"
John 15:16

I thought you might like to know ~  these are some of the things that prevent me from choosing time with Him.

The heat
I have Bibles, notes, prayer cards, devotional books, etc in three places:  at my desk, next to my bed, and in the family room.  But when it's hot, I tend to spend a lot of time in the chair nearest to the fan, so I can stay cool.  (We're trying not to use our A/C this summer.  $$$....)  In addition, the heat often leaves me listless and without purpose.  Now that I think about it, it has the same effect on my cat....

Lack of sleep
While I do pray anytime I'm having trouble sleeping, once I get up after a restless night, I have trouble concentrating.  Often I don't even try to pray or study, because I think I won't be able to give it my "best".  Whatever that means...

Lack of routine
I like a predictable schedule.  I like my reading, praying and studying to be at certain times of the day.   It helps me to be sure I accomplish the things I want to, like getting through a certain book, or finishing my Bible study homework, etc.  Don't get me wrong, I still pray.  My mumbling to God happens at various and unexpected times during the day.  But I also have notes and reminders for people in my life who need prayer for healing, or travel or some such.  Without following a routine, I sometimes forget to pray for someone, if the need is not urgent.  Although, isn't all prayer urgent, in its own way?

Lack of routine the previous day
If my day is weird, something's not gonna get done - laundry, helping one of my Amazing and Awesome kids with their schoolwork, getting something done for my ministry or for church, making a phone call, running an errand...  So that means the following day is going to be a "catch-up" day.  And unfortunately, if I feel overwhelmed, I'm liable to choose something that seems more "substantial" to get accomplished.  Like clean underwear for my family.  Yes, I sometimes choose underwear over God.  That's so pathetic, I know...

Any kind of ailment
Headache, sore throat, having tweaked my back sleeping wrong.... Please see: "Lack of Sleep".

The Unexpected
Sometimes I all of a sudden see something that needs to be done, and I can't think of anything else until I take care of it.   Sometimes an opportunity comes up.  Sometimes a visitor stops by.  Sometimes someone needs me.  And then guess Who falls off my To Do list?

The Olympics
I've watched more than my usual amount of TV the past two weeks!

I say He is my priority, but it certainly doesn't look that way...


~ "The law of the Lord is perfect...
The testimony of the Lord is sure...
The statutes of the Lord are right...
The commandment of the Lord is pure...
More to be desired are they than gold,
Yea, than much fine gold;
Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb" ~
Psalm 19:7-10

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Batter up!

"show me where I have been wrong"
Job 6:24

Interesting article in Sports Illustrated recently, about the Pittsburgh Pirates' Andrew McCutcheon.  McCutcheon is a great hitter, but the article was about when he wasn't a great hitter.  That is to say, it's about when he was slumping. 

A slump is a tricky thing for an athlete, and I think especially for baseball players, and even more especially, for hitters.  Bringing a stick into contact with a 90 mph baseball is arguably one of the hardest thing to do in sports.  The best of them only succeed only about 30% of the time.  So when a successful hitter suddenly becomes an unsuccessful hitter, even temporarily, it can be frustrating.  The athlete often works with coaches and gets advice from fellow athletes to solve the problem, or fix errors in their approach to hitting.

So when Andrew McCutcheon was going through a slump, one of the hitting coaches came to him to help.  There were some errors in the way McCutcheon was swinging, and by correcting those errors, he got back into his groove. 

This coach had noticed the errors in McCutcheon's a year and a half before, but had said nothing.  Why?  Because McCutcheon was hitting well.  He wouldn't have listened.  He wouldn't have seen a need to make any changes.  Said another hitting coach, "there is one truism about getting a young player to listen to coaching:  He's got to believe there's a problem." 

Boy, ain't that the truth.  And it's not just true of young hitters.  It's true of most of us.  It's very difficult to convince someone to do something different, if what we're doing seems to be working just fine.  You know the old line:  If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

The hard part is that we don't always know if it's "broke" or not.   In McCutcheon's case, his energy and talent were carrying him far, though his mechanics were working against him.  But if he didn't realize there were errors in his swing, did he think that it was part of his success?  Did he think his weakness was a strength?

It's a mistake any of us could make: giving credit for our success to attributes in our character that are really weaknesses.  Here's a truth:  just because it's working, doesn't mean it ain't broke.

The smart thing for a young Andrew McCutcheon, would have been to realize that he had a lot to learn, and show himself eager to be taught.  Maybe he never would have even had the slump if he'd allowed that hitting coach to show him what he could be doing better.

So, are you teachable?   Maybe the best way to be teachable is to ask.  Ask your employer for feedback.  Ask your spouse how you could better show love.  And most importantly, ask God.  Confess what you see in yourself, and be in His Word.   He'll show you something you need to work on.  Maybe several somethings.  But often only one.  I think He's gentle enough to not overwhelm us with all our flaws, but guide us toward improvement in one area at a time. 

He can certainly orchestrate events in our lives to guide us toward change, if that's what we need.

But it's better if we ask.

~ "Teach me what I do not see" ~
Job 34:32

Friday, August 10, 2012

It's all His canvas

"all are gifted artisans"
Exodus 28:3

The family went to a local art festival today.  Dozens of artists with their work on display.  Paintings, mostly, but also ceramics, bronze, marble, basketry, jewelry, and photography.  Though there was a finite number of artists represented, there seemed to be an endless display of creativity.  We wandered around, looking, studying, calling each other over to share something, pointing out details.  We were awed and amazed and astounded, and sometimes puzzled.  How'd they do that?  Why'd they do that?

But I think the thought that I thought the most, the reason for my astonishment at all I was seeing, was the realization that I couldn't do it.  We looked at a painting of a snowy egret, for example, which is an all-white bird.  So if you were going to paint this, you'd use what ~ white paint, yes?  Well, primarily, but there was also some pink and some lavender in this bird.  I never would have known or thought to do that, but it's what made it so realistic. 

I was looking at an amazing creations, and I was in awe at the ability.  Why don't I do that more often with the world around me?  I mean, don't get me wrong; I love the things of nature.  Birds, flowers, animals of all kinds, rainbows, clouds, trees, you name it.  I so appreciate the variety and the color and the texture and the beauty. 

But I thought tonight, that there's been something missing in my appreciation.  The artists whose work I saw tonight were chosen to display their work because they can do what so many of us cannot.  But He can do ~ and has done ~ what none of us can do. 

Every material we work with, is of His hands.  Every idea we have, is of His imagination.  Every thought we have, He has already thought. 

He's so amazing. 

~ "He has made everything beautiful in its time" ~
Ecclesiastes 3:11

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Check again; it's not you



Pride.

Any good thing you have is from God.

Any good thing you do is through God.

Any good thing you are is God in you.


Any questions?


~ "A proud heart is an abomination to the Lord" ~
Proverbs 16:5

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Personal Responsibility

"do not pray"
Jeremiah 7:16
Jeremiah 11:14
Jeremiah 14:11

Wow.  Did you ever think you'd see those words in the Bible?   We're studying Jeremiah in my church, chapter by chapter.  I've read a lot of Jeremiah, but I don't think I've ever read it all the way through, and I haven't really studied it before, so I'm learning a lot about the Israelites of that time, and about people today;  about what God was asking of Jeremiah, and about what God asks of me; and about God Himself. 

It's a difficult book to read, in that the tone is down.  After all, Jeremiah has been nicknamed The Weeping Prophet.  This is not a book about kittens and rainbows and butterflies.  Although really, is there any book like that?  Maybe just the creation chapters in Genesis...


















The point is, God called Jeremiah to preach to a nation who would not listen.  How's that for a hard task?  So it shouldn't be surprising that Jeremiah was sometimes discouraged. 

Take heart from that.  It's okay to be discouraged in what God has called you to do.  Persevere.

But let's go back to these words, from three different places in Jeremiah.  In all three cases, it is God talking.  Here are the verses in their entirety:

"do not pray for this people, 
nor lift up a cry or prayer for them, 
not make intercession to Me; for I will not hear you."
Jeremiah 7:16

"do not pray for this people, 
or lift up a cry or prayer for them; 
for I will not heal them 
in the time that they cry out to Me 
because of their trouble" 
Jeremiah 11:14

"do not pray for this people, for their good"
Jeremiah 14:11

I mean to tell ya, I was astounded when I read these verses.   Was God really telling Jeremiah not to pray for His people?  Why would God tell anyone not to pray!  And especially, why would God tell anyone not to pray for others?  I think intercessory prayers are so precious to God, because they are almost always unselfish prayers.  Why would God not hear prayer?

But the truth is, God was not really telling Jeremiah not to pray, but that Jeremiah's prayers on behalf of the people, on this issue, would not be answered by God.  They were not going to be delivered from the consequences of their sins.

And the reason, was the condition of their hearts. 

The reason, was the insincerity of their own prayers.

Jeremiah 7:9-10 speaks to this.  God challenged them, saying, "Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, burn incense to Baal, and walk after other gods whom you do not know, and then come and stand before Me in this house, which is called by My name, and say 'we are delivered to do all these abominations'?"

As long as they were rejecting God; as long as they were mocking His covenant with them, their own prayers would not gain an answer.  God was telling Jeremiah that his prayers for them would be just as ineffectual. 

So.  Does that scare you?  Should it scare us?  I sure don't like the feel of it, I'll tell you that.  But I'm pretty sure there have been times when I have asked someone to pray for me, but I haven't prayed for myself.  And I'm pretty sure there have been times when someone who loves me has been praying for me, while I've been digging in my heels and remaining stubbornly disobedient. 

I think this circumstance with Jeremiah is unusual.  It's the only time in Scripture that I can find God telling someone not to pray.  But it's far from the only time Scripture talks about having a sincere heart, and putting your feet to your faith.  If I'm not doing my best to live a life that reflects Him as my Savior, then the prayers of another might not be enough.

We need to pray.  Pray for ourselves and for others.  Ceaselessly and with fervor.  Because what might happen if we don't, is enough to make us weep.

~ "Seek the Lord while He may be found,
    call upon Him while He is near" ~
Isaiah 55:6