November 28, 2014

Ready to Go

Recently my husband’s elderly aunt was hospitalized with a deadly strain of pneumonia. When she understood her condition was not survivable, she told the doctors she was ready to die and they stopped all treatment. We often see such a thought process in the elderly who have lived a long life, or in those who are weary of physical suffering. It strikes me that at baptism we symbolically say something similar. We are ready to die — die to ourselves, and be raised to a new life. The emphasis is usually placed on the new life we have in Christ, but I wonder if we’re lightly dismissing the death of the sinful nature. When we enter the waters of baptism we are saying, “I’m ready to die.”

November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving Aroma

We are having a smoked turkey for Thanksgiving, thanks to the efforts of my son, Troy. While I appreciate not having to cook, I must confess I miss the smell of the Thanksgiving Day feast baking for hours in the oven. I'm reminded of the consecration of the priests, when Aaron and his sons were given specific directions for the slaughter and dissection of a ram that was to be sacrifice to the Lord. “Then burn the entire ram on the altar. It is a burnt offering to the LORD, a pleasing aroma, an offering made to the LORD by fire” (Ex 29:18 NIV). As believers we still make sacrifices to the Lord, but I wonder how many of those sacrifices have actually gone through the fire and produced a pleasing aroma to the Lord.

November 26, 2014

Love Those Enemies

Police detectives on television crime dramas always interview friends and co-workers of the murdered victim. More often than not the interviewee reports that victim was well liked and, “didn’t have an enemy in the word.” Most believers would love such sentiments written as their epitaph. However from a spiritual perspective, I’m wondering if our enemies are more valuable to us than our friends. “When a man’s ways are pleasing to the LORD, he makes even his enemies live at peace with him” (Proverbs 16:7 NIV).

November 25, 2014


Since my childhood there have been changes to Halloween and some alternatives offered are church parties where kids dress up as Bible characters, or Fall Festival activities. I appreciate choices for parents, but I have fond memories of Trick or Treating and if I were raising kids today I’d probably still take them around the neighborhood. A recent television news segment interviewed a man who wanted people to consider having an “Alternative Christmas.” Basically he wanted people to donate their traditional Christmas to his suggested benevolent cause. I’m no more impressed with his suggestion than if an environmentalist ask me to give up my Birthday or Anniversary for global warming. Paul warns us about people who delight in false humility, “Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day” (Col 2:16 NIV).

November 24, 2014

Those in Need

Sunday I visited a church where empty seating was scattered throughout the auditorium, however none of the available seats were contiguous enough to accommodate more than three people. When a family of six arrived after the service had already started and I witnessed the Golden Rule in action. The whole back row of worshippers, without being asked, picked up their belongings and gave up their seats to the family and then they dispersed throughout the auditorium. “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. … Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality” (Ro 12:10, 13 NIV).

November 21, 2014

Giving Thanks

This week I attended a meeting where the topic of discussion for one segment of the agenda was to share a memorable Thanksgiving experience. The impromptu exercise garnered four volunteers, but one man who normally enjoys such opportunities sat silent. When the meeting was over I ask my friend why he didn’t contribute. Looking a little sheepish he said, “I didn’t have anything to say. Anything I said would have been boring.” He paused, “The truth is I have nothing memorable because we don’t celebrate Thanksgiving.” Say what — what’s not to like about Thanksgiving? I’ve heard reasons why people choose not to celebrate Christmas, Halloween and Veteran’s Day, but eliminating Thanksgiving is a new one. The writer of Hebrews reminds us why we are to be thankful, “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire” (Heb 12:28-29 NIV).

November 20, 2014

Meet & Greet

There is an on-going conversation about church friendliness — or lack thereof. In the process of visiting local churches, I’ve discovered each church has their own level of outreach. I’ve observed that people who are shy, introverted, anti-social, disconnected, newer members, or those carrying heavy burdens tend to sit around the perimeter of the sanctuary. Interestingly, visitors also gravitate to the perimeter of the room. Not surprisingly, those who meet & greet visitors are often the very people who are most uncomfortable in that situation. It would behoove those of us who are more outgoing to follow the example of Jesus and look at our perimeter. Passing through Jericho “…Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today” (Luke 19:5 NIV).

November 19, 2014

Keeping Watch Over the Flock

I talked with a woman who told me she has attended the same church for nine years and even though it’s the denomination of her youth, in this particular church she still feels like a visitor. Because this is one of the churches I’ve visited, I knew exactly from whence she came. Interestingly a few weeks ago she began attending another church and she said, “I’ve been moved to tears by the outpouring of fellowship and biblical teaching.” The simile of a shepherd and flock with the church comes to mind. “Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds; for riches do not endure forever, and a crown is not secure for all generations” (Proverbs 27:23-24 NIV).

November 18, 2014


In the advice column “Ask Marilyn,” columnist Marilyn vos Savant differentiated between lying and acting. “Say you’re a soldier and an enemy asks you for information that would aid the opposition. Should a person of high moral character tell him the truth? Of course not.” Personally, I’ve never understood liars, but I’m now wondering if some people I’ve heard tell lies have convinced themselves that in certain circumstances they are simply actors playing a part. “The LORD detests lying lips, but he delights in men who are truthful” (Proverbs 12:22 NIV).

November 17, 2014

Opinion, Theory, or Fact

I recently interviewed a woman whose pet peeve is people presenting their opinions as fact. After some thought I realized that whether a speaker or a listener, the difference between opinion and fact is seldom clearly stated. What I find even more interesting is that society tells us to accept what is said on the grounds of “to each his own,” rather than asking others to quantify statements. I now have a greater appreciation for Paul’s clarification about his own opinion, “Now about virgins: I have no command from the Lord, but I give a judgment as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy. Because of the present crisis, I think that it is good for you to remain as you are” (1Cor 7:25-26 NIV).

November 14, 2014

Comfort Received

Part of Bill’s current cancer regiment is similar to dialysis and for two and three hours at a time he is hooked up to machines and IV’s. The length of time required for treatment makes it easy to build relationships with nurses, doctors and other patients. Most of us subconsciously divide the patients from the medical professionals; the sick from the healers. However, during a recent treatment I learned that many of the medical staff themselves have had cancer, including one young female doctor celebrating 12 years of living with cancer. “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God” (2 Cor 1:3-4 NIV).

November 13, 2014

Guest or Host

I visited a friend’s church and as I sat in the auditorium people around me visited with one another, but no one spoke to me. When I told Dave about my experience he said, “I know what you mean. I go in and sit down and no one ever comes around to talk to me either.” Dave wasn’t being critical, but he was serious. It cracked me up because he has been a member of his church for about two years. It occurs to me that even as we sit in the pew we resemble our namesake body parts — feet, hands, ears, eyes, unpresentable and presentable parts. “But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be” (1 Cor 12:18 NIV).

November 12, 2014


Recently we dined at an Italian restaurant and our waiter Gavin introduce us to a trainee who was shadowing him  for the evening. Unfortunately, Gavin was not the best example of good service. Rather than reaching around us to serve our food, he reached across the table. He served the entrées and topped them with grated cheese, before removing the empty salad plates and soup bowls. Thinking of church discipleship in a similar manner to server training, it strikes me that many of us are just like Gavin. We may know the Gospel message, but our example and the way we try to teach others to serve it leaves a lot to be desired. However, we can take comfort in knowing that the Apostle Paul also lacked a certain finesse. “When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple” (Acts 9:26-27 NIV).

November 11, 2014

We Need

I’m still cogitating on the woman who feels everything she needs is right in front of her, all she has to do to succeed is open her eyes and see it. So often in the church we tell ourselves, and even those outside the church, about the needs in the body of Christ. We need teachers, music directors, qualified elders, bigger buildings ... and especially young families, because without them the church will surly die! I can only imagine how the Lord must feel when we verbalize to the world about things we think our individual churches need; implying that our needs are not being met. “And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Matt 6:7-8 NIV).

November 10, 2014

Open My Eyes

Recently I interviewed a woman whose unstructured personality was filled with enthusiasm, inspiration and motivation. Her spiritual compass included being open to any creative force that keeps ideas, imagination and creative juices flowing. Offering a unique perspective she said, “Everything I need is right in front of me; everyone I need is right in front of me — I just have to open my eyes and see.” While I don’t subscribe to her view on spirituality, I’m intrigued by the resolve that she is fully equipped for whatever comes her way. As believers we are so busy trying to equip ourselves for the Lord’s work that we fail to see He has already given us everything we need to be successful. The message in Michael W. Smith’s song, “Open the Eyes of My Heart Lord” is about our seeing the Lord. For many of us, seeing the Lord is not the issue; the issue is seeing what He wants us to accomplish.

November 07, 2014

Pouring the Water

I visited a Presbyterian Church which began their service by “Pouring the Water.” A young girl in her early teens stood in front of the congregation with a pitcher of water. My view was blocked by the podium, but she poured a portion of the water into some type receptacle. Because no explanation was offered, I was left to my own imagination as to the meaning of the ritual. At the time I thought the symbolism might be connected to washing the disciple’s feet; then when I got home I went online and found a reference to the Holy Spirit being poured out. Finally I called Steve, who is a member of the congregation, to ask for the meaning. When he told me it was for baptism it cracked me up because that particular symbolism was not on my radar.

I’m now wonder if something similar happened in the Corinthian church. The intention was for the Corinthians to come together for the Lord’s Supper, but the meaning was lost because the people were eating and drinking without waiting for one another.

Paul had to remind them not only of the symbolism attached to the elements of the Lord’s Supper, but also the purpose. “For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord” (1 Cor 11:26-27 NIV).

November 06, 2014

Cold Turkey

Recently, after decades of chewing tobacco, my friend quit cold turkey — and now the doctor wants him to lose 30 pounds. Comparing the two it seemed logical that if he could quit chewing, surely losing weight should be a cakewalk. I was reminded of the woman caught in adultery and the way Jesus responded to her. He didn’t condemn the woman; nor did He tell her to make a plan, taper off, or gradually leave her adulterous ways. He did however, tell her to quit cold turkey. Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin” (John 8:11b NIV).

November 05, 2014

I Was a Stranger

The pastor gave instructions for people to leave their seats and greet one another. A few empty chairs separated me from a middle-aged man who hesitantly, and almost apologetically, approached me saying, “Are you a visitor?” We introduced ourselves and when Dan volunteered that he is usually very introverted, I complemented him on greeting a stranger. It was clear that Dan was completely out of his comfort zone, and he humbly credited the Spirit with motivating him to reach out. We returned to our seats and I had to smile when the pastor then revealed his sermon title, “Do Not Neglect the Gift You Have.” In determining who will be allowed into heaven the Lord will say to those on His right, “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in …” (Matt 25:35 NIV)

November 04, 2014

Continued Rejoicing

I was overjoyed and relieved to find my gold ring. Bill rejoiced with me, in part because I didn’t ask him to put on rubber gloves and become a Crime Scene Investigator to help me go through the trash piece by piece.

Bill lamented his experience with losing things in his 20 X 30 woodworking shop. “I know it’s in there; I just set it down in the wrong place, or else I’m looking right over the top of it.”

It strikes me that with the missing ring, the coin and Bill’s tools, none are totally lost — they each were somewhere in the house or the shop. We all have family and friends whom we suspect are spiritually lost, yet we can take a measure of comfort in the fact that the Lord always knows exactly where they are. “I have strayed like a lost sheep. Seek your servant, for I have not forgotten your commands” (Psalm 119:176 NIV).

November 03, 2014

Dumpster Diving

The other day while doing chores around the house I discovered the gold ring I had been wearing was missing. The ring has family significance and I looked in all the obvious places, while being thankful I had not gone out of the house other than to go to the mail box. As the day wore on, the more obsessed I became and I retraced my steps with greater determination.

I felt a kindred spirit to the woman in the parable of the lost coin; however, I think Jesus understated her search. I’m certain the woman did much more than light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully for the coin. I made multiple dumpster diving trips through both large and small trash cans; inspected the garbage disposal; crawled on hands and knees with a flashlight looking under furniture; swept a path through the leaves to the mailbox  — and begged the Spirit for keen eyesight and wisdom.

The next day as I sorted out the curlers I used for giving my mother-in-law a hair permanent I found the ring in the thrice searched bowl of curlers. And yes, I called others to rejoice with me!

The point of the parable is finding the lost, but I’d never considered the Lord dumpster diving in order to find some of us. Jesus said, “In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:10 NIV).