Apr 262010
 

Ominous clouds loomed, shoved around by a gusty wind as our Christian scouting club marched toward the outdoor meeting site. We joined hundreds of other youth on a grassy hillside for a worship experience. The forecast was bad. A gust of wind picked up one group’s canopy into the air and dumped it into the lake!

Unbeknown to us, a storm cell was actually headed directly for our camp. We began the service by praying for God’s will to be worked out in the weather. Just moments later, we learned that the cell had completely disappeared from the radar weather map!

The service continued, a mixture of songs of praise and inspiring words. At the end of the service, one of our young people made a decision for Jesus for the first time!

After Jesus calmed the storm, the disciples had this to say about Him:

“Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” Mark 4:41

Would our young person have made his decision anyway? I don’t know. I do know that God always speaks. We just can’t hear Him until we stop and listen. This may have been the listening moment for this young person and God acted to protect it.

The rain and storm was held back until the closing prayer. I felt a slight mist during the prayer that let me know the storm was still there, waiting to be unleashed. We experienced a torrential downpour that afternoon, accompanied by thunder and lightning. When our leader decided to break camp and head home for the safety of our youth, again,   the rain subsided until all the kids were safely on the buses. Then it resumed with a vengeance.

My God can calm a storm any time He wants. When He does, He will do it in a way that makes it clear Who did it. Can God calm storms in your life, in your heart? Yes He can. Anytime. Anywhere. Give Him permission today to calm your storm in a way that will let you brag on Him!

Apr 222010
 

I have several thick, heavy, over-sized flannel shirts that I enjoy wearing in the winter. Sometimes I will plan to wear one, only to have it mysteriously disappear. Later, I will discover it wrapped around something- my youngest daughter!  I know that you can tell from previous blog posts that I share a special relationship with my daughters that is an important part of my life! The first time or two that she swiped my shirt, she would respond a little sheepishly when discovered.

Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son… “Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, both good and bad, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.”But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. ‘Friend,’ he asked, ‘how did you get in here without wedding clothes?’ The man was speechless. Matthew 22

I told her once that I was happy to have her wear my shirts or jackets any time.  “Whoever is in my clothes belongs to me,” I said. She has an open invitation to wear them whenever she wishes, knowing that I will never rebuke her for doing so.  She belongs to me, and while I say it somewhat jokingly, my shirt covering her is a sign of that fact! Her behavior is irrelevant. Good day or bad, she still belongs to me. That can never change.

The king welcomed everyone in to the banquet, good and bad. He freely provided wedding garments so that all would be comfortable and feel that they belonged.  The garment was a visible sign of approval, of belonging. Jesus said that His kingdom is just like that!  He freely provides the beautiful garment of His righteousness to us. We don’t deserve it. Can’t earn it. Can’t beg, borrow or steal it. All we can do is to just accept it. I can see my daughter relaxing in my shirt, relishing the welcome warmth of it, reveling in the knowing that she belongs in it. I can relax in Jesus’ garment, comforted as it covers me completely, knowing that I belong in it, knowing that I belong to Him!

Apr 192010
 

Sometimes we wonder where God is and how to get His attention. We wonder why we are sad or depressed or discouraged. People who know we are Christians wonder why we are upset and why our faith doesn’t seem to affect our lives.  David felt the same way!

My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When can I go and meet with God?

My tears have been my food
day and night,
while men say to me all day long,
“Where is your God?”

These things I remember
as I pour out my soul:
how I used to go with the multitude,
leading the procession to the house of God,
with shouts of joy and thanksgiving
among the festive throng.

Why are you downcast, O my soul?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and  my God.
My soul is downcast within me;
therefore I will remember you…

Psalm 42

David had plenty of opportunity for depression and discouragement. He knew a secret, however. He knew that no matter the circumstances, the secret was praising God. When we praise Him, it connects us to Him in a way that allows His power to flow into us. It will change our whole day! Our Father knows that when we focus on our troubles, that is all we can see. Our attitude and the direction of our life will be dictated by that focus. He made us. He knows how we tick! He knows that if we turn our attention to Him, if we put our energy into praising Him, it will lift us up in a way that nothing else can. We become billboards for Him when we have peace and joy in our lives that is baffling to those around us.

Father, I praise you for being a living God that wants a daily connection with me! I trust you to keep it a two way connection that will allow others to see joy in me. I want others to see that being a Christian makes a daily difference in my life!  Amen.

Apr 142010
 

The first mowing had come and gone last week and still there were several trees in the front yard that were keeping a tight hold on their leaves! My daughter was getting ready to mow for the second time and I wanted to keep from raking leaves in the spring. That is just wrong! Anyone walking by our house would have seen me vigorously shaking the limbs, trying to get a few more leaves to fall. Some came down, but most of them remained tightly fastened in their places.
Just days later, all of a sudden, all of the leaves were down! Every last one of them! And all with no more shaking on my part! What huge event happened to strip the remaining leaves from the trees? A thunderstorm? Hail? A midnight sneaking leafblower? No, none of the above. The only thing that could remove these trees is much less dramatic and much more powerful. The gentle nudging of tiny, fragile, pale green new leaves. God-designed.

Isn’t that just like Him? Our often dramatic and violent means are never as effective as His. He knows just the right touch in just the right place.

Do I have any dead leaves hanging on in my life? Negative habits, maybe? How often have you tried to remove something by attacking it directly? It’s just like repeatedly saying, “I won’t think about rabbits”, and then finding that all you can think of all day long are bunnies, rabbits, hares, jackrabbits… and it won’t stop!

When an evil[a] spirit comes out of a man, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that man is worse than the first. Matthew 12

What habit needs to be swept out of my life? Will I be more successfuly by focusing on building positive things into my life and letting them crowd out the negative? What change do you need in your life? Just like the pin oaks, why not let your Father gently crowd out the evil by replacing it with good.

Apr 122010
 

My brother and I used to accompany our grandpa on fishing expeditions to various lakes in northern Canada close to where he lived. We enjoyed the adventure immensely! Truck, old rowboat, small outboard motor, 3 rods, 2 small grandsons, one grandpa, one cool summer evening. Perfect, right? Yeah, right up until we pulled the string of fish out of the lake into the boat while we motored to another choice fishing spot.

The large northern pike, incensed at not only being caught, but being required to breath air, thrashed mightily around the bottom of the boat. “The fish are splashing on me!”, one of us said. Grandpa, not understanding the severity of the issue in our minds, calmly told us not to worry. “DON’T WORRY?”, my brother replied.  How could grandpa be unconcerned about this obviously disruptive fish behavior?

This week in Tennessee, almost every tree that draws breath [yes, trees breathe] is budding and blooming. Pollen everywhere! In the midst of this riot of color, I am amazed at the engineering and creativity our God puts into each variety of tree bloom even though they last only a few short days!

OK, I know you’re wondering- how is he going to pull fish and flowers together, right? Well, it’s in the “W” word. Worry. Grandpa could see  that we were worried about things of little consequence.  Jesus said,

“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry…  Matthew 6

Yeah, that’s the tie in. I was impressed this morning that I need to focus on this promise. We spend so much time worrying. I could worry about housing concerns, finances, work issues, blah, blah, blah.  But why? None of these challenges are a surprise to my Father. A wise coworker told me this morning in the midst of her challenges, “God is still God!” And she was right.

So, as we enjoy the fantastic variety in the explosion of spring growth, let’s remember that if our Creator spends energy on things so temporary, He will provide for us too.

Father, give me the faith to rely on You to  provide what You think I need.

Shared 4/12/2010.

Apr 062010
 

Saturday night.  Twelve men in agony.Their leader executed in disgrace, one committed suicide, another publicly disavowed  his leader, all eleven in deep anguish and despair.

What a way to end a weekend. Life as they knew it was over. The future was bleak and uncertain over 1900 years ago on Saturday night. And here we are, this last Saturday night, on the eve of Christianity’s most recognized holiday. Easter. Celebration of Jesus’ resurrection, His power over death. What do you think of when you think of Easter? The cross? The resurrection? The gospel? Eggs and bunnies?

The disciples were thinking of none of these things that Saturday night. They couldn’t see past Jesus’ grave to the future He had told them about. But not only could they not see the future, they could not see past the grave, back to the work that Jesus had already completed before the cross. Just a few days before,

Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”

He wanted to know what his Father was like. Just like we do. He probably had a vision of his Father as an omnipotent, distant, impersonal and  judgmental deity. Just like us. So often we view Jesus, the Son, as the approachable One, the friendly, loving One. The one that buffers the wrath of the Father for us. Children’s songs are written using Jesus’ name.

Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.  John 14:8,9

What was the work that He completed before the cross? Showing us the Father! This was not the first try. The books of the Bible already written were full of attempts to show us the Father. From Abraham and Isaac experiencing obedient love like the heavenly Father and Son, to Hosea marrying a prostitute and understanding how to live a life of grace-giving and unconditional love. What more could the Father do to help us understand Him? He could send His Son, the One who knew Him best. From calling Zacchaeus down from the tree and to dinner, to rescuing the prostitute from stoning, Jesus lived a picture of His Father. A picture of limitless love, never-ending forgiveness, grace. A picture of a Father who longs to be close to His children.

Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13

Jesus’ own words. Jesus’ own life. His trip to the cross was the finish to the work of His lifetime. Showing us the Father. Let Me show you what love is. Let Me show you how the Father loves. Watch me!

When I think of Easter, let me never forget the cross. Let me never forget the resurrection. And let me never forget the life before the Cross that showed me what my Father is like.

shared with family and friends Easter eve, 4/3/10

Apr 012010
 

A few days ago, we talked about peer pressure and whether it could be a positive force in our lives. We read a text in Ecclesiastes about the power of friends to hold us up.

Solomon was gifted by God with more wisdom than any other man on the face of the earth. That wisdom allowed him to make good decisions all of his life. NOT!

Give me wisdom and knowledge, that I may lead this people, for who is able to govern this great people of yours?” 2 Chronicles 1:10

Years later, at the dedication of the temple, Solomon prayed that God would use him and Israel as a ministry.  And yet, somehow, something changed in Solomon. He was wildly successful beyond any human’s wildest dreams. He was surrounded by leaders of other countries, acknowledging his wisdom, power, and wealth. There is no record of a point when Solomon had a change of heart.

It’s a slow fade when you give yourself away
It’s a slow fade when black and white have turned to gray
Thoughts invade, choices are made, a price will be paid
When you give yourself away
People never crumble in a day

The journey from your mind to your hands
Is shorter than you’re thinking
Be careful if you think you stand
You just might be sinking

-Casting Crowns

Someday we’ll hear the whole story of Solomon’s journey away from God. We do have a record of some of the choices he made.  700 wives and 300 concubines. What kind of a statement is that? Some to firm up alliances with foreign countries, some to satisfy lust. 999 partners more than God’s plan intended. And it just started with number 2.  Who whispered in his ear, suggesting the rightness of that first excess partner?

What or who prompted Solomon to initiate and continue with an extremely harsh tax structure that burdened the common people to support his lifestyle and lust for power? Isn’t that enough evidence to convince you of Solomon’s falling away from God? No. By this time, he had been swayed so much by the evil influences of the countries around him, even the influences of his idol worshipping wives, that he did the unspeakable. He went so far that he actually promoted the worship of Moloch, a religion that included the offering of children to be burned alive. Other worship practices included male worshipers having sex with both male and female temple prostitutes or priests!

And you thought Solomon was wise! Yeah, so wise that he made life choices, not with the guidance of his Heavenly Father, but by following the immoral example and urging of evil companions and allies.  Are friend choices important? Uh, Yeah! God teachs, and we know, that good friends are a major force for right in our lives. Solomon learned that connecting with people focused solely on selfish pleasure and debauchery weakened his resolve to follow God and led to his downfall.

Do you have a friend that pulls you toward poor choices? If you are not strong enough with the Father’s power to stand up to them and influence them, then you need to pray for the strength to limit their opportunity to influence you. Don’t wait. God has beautiful plans for you, including relationships that pull you closer to Him.

shared in the workplace 12/16/09

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