December 30, 2011
My husband is learning wood turning on his lathe and he describes one of his projects as a bowl that turned into a plate and wound up being a toothpick holder. His most recent creation is a vase that swapped ends when a chunk of wood fell out of the base and the bottom became the top. I wonder if God has some of the same issues with us when we’re on the Potter’s wheel. “…Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this? Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?” (Ro 9:20b-21 NIV)
December 29, 2011
Generally speaking most of us hope to be an example to others around us, but I’m wondering if we sometimes underestimate our simple physical presence. As Paul & Company, (276 men in all) were about to be shipwrecked an angel appeared to Paul and said, “…God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.” (Acts 27:24b NIV) Putting myself in Paul’s place I’m trying to wrap my head around God giving me the lives of those with whom I work, or volunteer and serve with. I wonder how many lives may have been saved during war or terrorists attacks simply because there was one God-fearing man or woman who kept their courage and faith in God.
December 28, 2011
In subfreezing weather I took Charlie the dog for a walk and I used considerable caution because the sidewalks were snow packed and ice crusted. When I heard someone approaching quickly from behind I stopped and pulled Charlie off to the side so they could go around us. Breezing past me was a man on a unicycle with a dog leash in each hand tethered to two medium sized dogs. The acrobat had to wait for a few seconds at the crosswalk for cars to pass, all the while peddling backwards and forwards to keep his balance. There was absolutely nothing about this picture that made any sense to me…until I applied it to our work in the church. At one time or another we’ve all tried to juggle multiple ministries - sometimes we’re successful, sometimes we’re not.
December 27, 2011
The other day I was eating breakfast at Denny’s when a family with two rag-a-muffins sat in the booth behind. The children were in the 3 – 5 year old age group and from the conversation it sounded as though the family might be staying in the motel next door. The children wanted pizza for breakfast and the mother put her foot down. “You’ve had piazza three days in a row. You need to eat more healthy. How about pancakes or fruit and yogurt?” The children dug in their heels, incorporated tears with their protest and then mom relented and let them order pizza with hot chocolate. Although it’s not a laughing matter, I can’t help but see shades of God’s people in the character of those children. We too have been known to dig in our heels, and mingle our wishes with tears and sometimes God lets us have our way…even if it’s not in our best interest.
December 26, 2011
My back deck overlooks my neighbor’s yard and her BBQ grill sits directly under her kitchen window. The resident long-haired stray cat will often perch on the grill, slowly waving its tail and looking into the house. Normally I wouldn’t think too much about it, but with snow on the ground and the temperature below zero the visual tugs at my heart. When I consider those who are spiritually lost, I can’t help but wonder if they too sometimes peer into the life-window of the believer and see a glimpse of what they are missing.
December 23, 2011
Gift giving and receiving is often determined by what we feel are needs. I love the fact that it’s not just during the Christmas season, but rather throughout the life of the believer, that God meets all our needs. “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19 NIV)
December 22, 2011
Since last fall my diet and exercise regime has taken a back seat to meetings, events and scheduling conflicts. I’m not suggesting that my gym partners at the fitness center are judging me, but some might certainly use me as an example for motivation to stay with their own program. It’s easy for us to look at someone else with slipping abs, thicker thighs and wing flaps and say I’m glad I don’t look like them. However, it really never crosses our minds to think that others may be giving us the once over and using us as an object for confidence in their own righteousness. “The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector.’” (Luke 18:11 NIV)
December 21, 2011
Within in a span of one week I had to travel to Denver for two separate meetings. On the first trip it was dusk when I pulled up behind a vehicle at a stop light and a flash went off. I knew it had to be Denver’s street traffic control camera and I, along with the driver in front of me, immediately started looking at the cars around us wondering who the guilty party might be. I didn’t feel I’d broken the law, and yet I kept replaying the situation in my mind fearing that I would be getting a traffic ticket in the mail. On my second trip I watched for overhead cameras like a hawk and I was on my best behavior. However as I was driving on an arterial and keeping up with the flow of traffic we crested a slight rise in the road and there was another flash…this time coming from a van parked on the side of the road. Looking at my speedometer I was a couple miles an hour over the speed limit, but again I couldn’t tell if the camera was taking my photo, or the photo of the cars around me. I couldn’t wait to get out of Denver, because now I was concentrating more on cameras that I was on pedestrians. I was at the last stoplight going out of town when, you guessed it, there was yet another flash. Although paranoia had set in, this time I knew for a fact that I had done nothing wrong. There are times in my life when the Lord sends me a flash right at the moment of sinning which gives me the opportunity to repent and move forward…however, that doesn’t mean that in a week or so I won’t also get a reminder of my sin.
December 20, 2011
As my grandma got older the dishes that she washed by hand weren’t always as clean as they should be. I’m sure there were many contributing factors, such as failing eyesight, loss of concentration and even relaxed cleaning standards. I’ve noticed lately that every once in awhile as I’m washing dishes the person drying them for me will hand back a utensil that needs to be re-washed. I suppose I was focusing more on cleaning the areas that I thought were touched by food. For instance I’ll wash the surface of the plate more thoroughly than the bottom because theoretically, there wasn’t any food on the bottom. Spiritually speaking, we believers are often guilty of just cleaning the parts of our lives that we think have been soiled by the world. “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.” (Matt 23:25-26 NIV)
December 19, 2011
Today I’m attending the funeral service for a friend I’ve known for almost 38 years. Our relationship has been something similar to the traffic pattern of city streets. We haven’t always been on the same street, but over the years our paths have often intersected and when they did we would pick up our conversation where we left off. I’ve always thought of the holidays as being a bad time for someone’s death because it would somehow mar the season for years to come. But I’ve changed my mind with Mary’s passing. I’ve now been given the opportunity to unwrap the gift of memories that she has left for me and I’m having a Mary’s Christmas.
December 16, 2011
Would you believe that right in the middle of the holidays I’m doing a huge house spring cleaning project? Me neither. It all started so innocently. All we wanted to do was to buy a new bed. When we took the old bed out and moved it upstairs, someone suggested we should steam clean the carpets before bringing in the new bed. Next someone said, “Well, if you’re going to clean the carpet, you really should first paint the room.” So here I am two weeks before Christmas stumbling over bedroom furniture now in the living room, putting masking tape around baseboards and carrying a paint brush around. This is so not what I had in mind. I do however see similarities in the situation with making a request of God. If I ask Him to increase my faith, He’s likely to give me other spiritual projects to do just in order to build that faith. A simple request is not always so simple.
December 15, 2011
While she was in high school my daughter Leslie wanted to be like her friends and she was especially bummed because everyone in her peer group had a curfew and she didn’t. We now laugh at the fact that she even went so far as to plead with me to give her one that would match her friend’s. Because I trusted Leslie, I simply required that she call and check-in with me around 10:00 pm. I thought if she were having a bad time and wanted to get out of an uncomfortable situation, she could use me as an excuse by saying, ‘My mom just told me I have to come home’. If on the other hand if I knew who she was with and that she was having a good time, she could stay as long as she liked. As believers one of the hardest things we have to do it to take ownership of our freedom in Christ. I can hear myself saying, ‘Lord just please give me a curfew and tell me what time you want me home!’
December 14, 2011
Recently I attended the Woodworkers’ Christmas party and their gift exchange was mostly comprised of hand crafted items such as turned bowls, carvings, ornaments and wall decorations. While the expertise of turning beautiful wooden bowls was talked about, the extreme difficulty of turning a bowl while leaving the live edge (the natural edge) of the wood intact was also discussed and revered. My mind turned to the skill of the Carpenter. In the Lord’s hands the believer’s live edge remains intact, all the while our hearts are being crafted into a thing of beauty.
December 13, 2011
There are times I’m confident I know a certain passage of Scripture and what it means, only to discover that it doesn’t say exactly what I thought it said. I find this especially true when looking for a word to direct me to a specific passage of Scripture. In my quest I’ll check my own concordance, brainstorm with another person or go on line to Gateway Bible. I really appreciate the search I can do on Gateway, but it’s not unusual for me to type in my phrase and read the response, “Key word search ‘0’ results.” Recently a friend was into his daily devotional when he began reading about Job’s Reindeer. Bob laughed, “I said, ‘Wait a minute…Job had a reindeer’?” After re-reading the meditation Bob cleared his head and focused on Job’s Redeemer.
December 12, 2011
A few days ago a mugger walked up to a car with a gun and told his intended victim to give him everything he had. The victim refused and was ordered out of the car. In spite of the gun, the would-be-crook (5' 5", 148 lbs) got the tar beat out of him by the victim…an Ultimate Fighter (6’, 250 lbs). I have to confess I love this story and I laughed out loud when I saw the accompanying police photo of a battered and bruised mugger. On the spiritual level, can’t you just picture Satan thinking we are a wimpy victim, but in reality we’re an Ultimate Fighter?
December 09, 2011
There is a TV ad for the Salvation Army that tugs at your heart with images of folks who are weary and apparently without hope. The marketing aspect of the commercial is to encourage donations to the Salvation Army for the upcoming Holiday Season. I was with them on their plea until the final clip of the ad in which there is a young African American man with corn rows sincerely saying, ‘Thank you for your support’. When I noticed a hefty looking ¼ inch gold necklace peeking out from under the neckline of his tee-shirt the illusion of sympathy went right out the door. Whether believers or not, it’s unlikely that this current generation would give up their gold for another’s need. “All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.” (Acts 2:44-45 NIV)
December 08, 2011
I’m in the process of signing up for on-line classes through a Christian university. One of the documents that I have to sign and send in with the application is the ‘Life Together Covenant’, which says I agree to accept the stated responsibilities as a participant in the university. There are Biblical responsibilities stated with book, chapter and verse and then there are the university’s expectations. They include illegal substances, tobacco, alcoholic beverages and gambling. The covenant appears to be Ten Commandment-ish – as in chiseled in stone with no waivers. The expectations are directed toward fresh out-of-high school young people. However I’m a senior adult and occasionally I like to have a glass of wine and take a chance on the lottery when the prize money gets high. Using worldly thinking I could get around the alcohol issue because the university would never know, but it would be just my luck to win the Powerball and I’d have to fess-up to breaking the covenant.
December 07, 2011
My daughter’s Shi-Tzu doesn’t like snow and ice covered sidewalks, so she bought some dog-booties that he likes even less. Once Charlie gets his shoes on for a walk his gate and stride is similar to a high stepping tarantula trying to shake gum off his feet. Every footstep is suspended in mid air and thrown out to the side. I can’t help but laugh when I see Charlie’s indignation as he tries to throw off his boots. It makes me wonder if the great cloud of witnesses might just get a chuckle out of us when we are in a similar situation. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” (Heb 12:1 NIV)
December 06, 2011
In the Parable of the Talents the master gives one servant 5 talents, another two talents and the third one talent. It just dawned on me that regardless of our position in life, rich or poor, believers are in the role of the servant with five talents. We put our money to work and gain more. We are faithful with a few things, and the Lord has put us in charge of many things. We are the benefactors from the talents of the lazy servants. In spite of everything we have, we are given more and have abundance. Where I am today and how God has blessed me has a direct correlation to my management style. “Well done good and faithful servant!...Come and Share your master’s happiness!” (Matt 25:21 NIV)
December 05, 2011
When TV commentator Andy Rooney recently passed away there were many eulogies. Reporter John Roberts said, “Andy would tell it the way he saw it. You never walked away saying, ‘I wonder what he meant by that?’” Jesus taught in parables, it wasn’t unusual for people to walk away saying, ‘I wonder what he meant by that?’. I can certainly relate. For me, listening to parables would be somewhat akin to hearing someone talk in tongues…I just don’t get them unless someone interprets. Thankfully the New Testament writers spoke a spiritual language that we can all understand. “We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us.” (1Cor 2:12 NIV)
December 02, 2011
In discussing forgiveness, salvation and worthiness, a Bible study member said, “Some people are convinced that they have done such bad things in their past that their unworthiness stays with them even when they stand before the Lord. They are just wired to be guilty.” She makes an interesting observation. Looking back at my re-birth in Christ I didn’t automatically feel at home in my new skin…and even after decades of being a believer, there are times that someone shows me my Christian skin is a little too tight or a little too loose. I suppose we all come to the Lord with some faulty wiring. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Cor 5:18 NIV)
December 01, 2011
I hate starting a new exercise video because muscles that haven’t been used in a particular discipline rebel very quickly…and they hold a grudge. Following along as best I could with a new series, the instructor encouraged me by saying that I need to learn to ‘be comfortable in the uncomfortable’. What a great thought for me as a believer. Spiritually speaking I often ask the Lord to protect me from evil, to help me run away from sinful situations and keep my mind heaven focused, but it has never occurred to me to ask that He keep me comfortable in the uncomfortable.