Feb 132016
 

church editI’ve done some good things in the last few days. Served my church. Served people around me. That’s good, right? Well, I was thinking so. Still do. So why is it that I can still feel something lacking?

Early this morning, before the sun came up, my valley was filled with a heavy fog. So heavy that no hills were visible. So heavy that there was a steady drip of condensed water from the eaves. As the sun broke over the hills to the east, it steadily burned through the fog, working its way across the valley until all that is left of the fog now is a sluggish drop or two from the eaves. What remains is a perfectly still, perfectly clear morning, the sharp green outline of my hills against a perfectly blue sky.

Sometimes it feels like good things can fog up my view of what is maybe more important. Just like the fog this morning obscured the rays of the sun, at least for a while, do you ever wonder whether good things in your life block your view of the Son?

But wait, aren’t good things, well,  good? Umm, yeah. For me, I believe that doing good things, imitating Jesus, can make us look more like Him one good thing at a time. But is that the best thing? Is that the most that He wants from me?

Apparently Jesus doesn’t think so.

He was resting with some of his favorite friends, Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. Martha was working hard, making sure that everything was just right…for Jesus. That seemed like a very good idea! Mary was chilling, focusing solely on everything Jesus said.

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him.  She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.  But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” -Luke 10:38-42 NIV.

So, yes, good things are good to do.  But are they distracting me from  the one thing that is really needed? And what is that? For me it is spending more time listening for God speaking His words into my mind and my heart.

 

Jan 092016
 

[embedplusvideo height=”200″ width=”300″ editlink=”http://bit.ly/1OTFIoc” standard=”http://www.youtube.com/v/lAdwX8HypJM?fs=1″ vars=”ytid=lAdwX8HypJM&width=300&height=200&start=&stop=&rs=w&hd=0&autoplay=0&react=1&chapters=&notes=” id=”ep2578″ /] I had nothing. Nothing at all. I was faced with sharing an inspirational moment with a group and I had nothing to share. Mentally and emotionally I was in a bad place, which didn’t put me in the right frame of mind to be creative and inspirational! FInally getting around to priorities, I poured my frustration out to God. Within one minute, He gave me exactly what I needed and the right spirit to share it well!

Anybody else have a tough week? Yeah, well, in those moments, I have to reach for what I know.

Be still, and know that I am God:” -Psalm 46:10 NIV.

Know. Not hope, maybe, possibly….but know.

This is God’s Shut Up and Listen text. “Be still, son,” He says to me, “and I’ll show you one more time that I am in your life for good, that I’ve got your back. Your storm is a ripple in a puddle to Me. I can see past the waves. BTW, I own the waves! Chill son, and know…”

Hide me now
Under Your wings
Cover me
Within Your mighty hand

When the oceans rise and thunders roar
I will soar with You above the storm
Father you are King over the flood
I will be still, know You are God. -Hillsong.

Settle. The command my daughter uses to calm the dogs. It is accompanied by her placing a hand firmly and gently around the muzzle. It is to calm the dog so they know who is in charge at that moment and they needn’t worry, stress or fuss about whatever is going on around them.

“Settle,” God says to me. Know that I am in charge of you and this moment. I am King over the flood. I will hide you, cover you. Just be still and know.”

As I watch the hills slowly take shape in the predawn darkness in my valley, I’ve got no fancy theology to share, no sophisticated statements to make. Just straight talk about what’s real.

Father, let me rest easy in what I know. Gently remind me when I forget. You are King over the flood. You are King over me.

Nov 152015
 

war against evilThe world watched in shock Friday at the bloodshed and carnage that changed the face of Paris. As the casualty count grew, world leaders chimed in with their support, some heartfelt, some anemic. This is the third time in a hundred years that Paris has been touched by war. Yes, I said war.

It’s a war between good and evil. I know that it is common now to explain away terrorism, excusing their behavior, assigning noble purposes to their actions, but make no mistake, evil is evil. When a terrorist act, which by definition is for the purpose of creating fear and not to punish guilty individuals, is perpetrated, that is evil, pure and simple.

As a Christian, I believe that this world is indeed in the middle of a war, a war between good and evil. A war to determine whether God’s law of love will prevail against Satan’s kingdom of hate and destruction. Evil acts, whether performed by terrorist groups, nation-states, or individuals, all have one thing in common- men and women choosing wrong over right.

Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8 NIV.

Evil will continue until Jesus comes to take His children home. What should we do in the mean time? Grieve for those in great suffering. Reach out to help. Call evil by it’s right name, and yes that means not only in Paris, but Beirut and elsewhere. Support justice and punishment for evildoers. And yes, pray. Pray for the evil doers that they will come to their senses and recognize their evil. Pray for the victims maimed and lost. Pray for the families left behind. Pray for those on the front lines fighting to protect us.

As we move closer to Thanksgiving, I pray that we are thankful for the simplicity of a plain red coffee cup rather than searching to find evil in the wrong corners. Instead, that we remove our heads from the sand, recognize the war and  true evil for what it is, and choose to fight it.

Nov 082015
 

unconditional surrenderUnconditional. Absolute. Complete. Also maybe harsh, inflexible, intolerant. Unconditional surrender. What was required of the Axis powers by the Allies at the end of World War II. What was NOT required of General Lee at the close of the Civil war. Confederate soldiers were permitted to keep their sidearms and their personal horses, one small right act before federal policies and practices continued the devastation of an already crushed South.

Unconditional. A word that refuses forgiveness and opposes redemption.  We even have idiomatic expressions for this [and no, I don’t use that “i’ word very much]. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. A more obscure one- Don’t throw out the champagne with the cork. The idea of going to extremes, such extremes that we discard good along with the bad. We do this all the time. We evaluate an action or decision by a person and write them off completely for that one thing. Unconditional.

Have you ever noticed that the truth about God is often opposite, inverse, antonymic (is that a word?) of and to the truth about us and the sin in our world? God takes that same word, unconditional, and applies it to the way He loves us. Yes, absolute, complete, yes inflexible. And maybe this is why we just don’t get it. When we think unconditional, all we can think of is negative. We can’t seem to let love be in the same sentence with that word!

And yet God continues to force those two words together. Unconditional. Love. In a way that boggles and confounds us.

I am a thorn in Your crown
But You love me anyway
I am the sweat from Your brow
But You love me anyway
It’s like nothing in life that I’ve ever known
Yes, You love me anyway
Oh, Lord, how You love me.
-Sidewalk Prophets

We pull away from God because we… just…. can’t… believe that anyone could love us with no strings, no conditions, no if’s.

I paid a huge price for you:
all of Egypt, with rich Cush and Seba thrown in!
That’s how much you mean to me!
That’s how much I love you!
I’d sell off the whole world to get you back,
trade the creation just for you.  -Isaiah 43:4 The Message

There it is. The message is clear. He would give…anything…everything… to get you back. That is the measure of His love for you. When that doesn’t make sense to me, it is when I am measuring love from my view, through my eyes. I try to limit God to what I can do, how I can love. This takes me down a path of rejection and denial. No! Not Him rejecting me, but me rejecting a love that makes no sense to my narrow, limited, conditional mind.

I enjoyed the sound of the rain in the predawn darkness this morning. That gentle, uniform, unconditional sharing of life-giving water that blessed our entire valley. I am reminded yet again that God loves me with a love that won’t stop, a love with no strings.

Unconditional.

Oct 182015
 

Value and BehaviorI was listening to my pastor preach yesterday. Since I had served earlier in the service, I was sitting on the front row, which is a really good place to pay attention since EVERYONE can see you! He was talking about our minds and the struggle for control that goes on there every day. He talked about what we put into our brains and how we think affects our behavior. He shared some good stuff about left brain, right brain, about visualization, about habits, good and bad.

Right in the middle of all this, he stopped cold and talked about something entirely different- my salvation. He reminded me that my salvation is not tied to all this! My quality of life and my influence on others, sure! But not my salvation.

If you read my writing much in the past, you’ll see this theme crop up over and over. Why is that? Is it that I’m running out of topics? No, it is because I keep looking for new ways to express something that I need to hear and I think you do as well.

Regardless of your faith walk, there’s something of value for you here, I promise.

In the workplace, we have standards of behavior. We have employee handbooks, and policies. We expect coworkers to follow these as a picture of what success looks like in the work environment. When they don’t,  we as leaders are bound to counsel and correct, allowing coworkers to see that their behavior and performance is unacceptable and how it can improve. What we often forget- is that regardless of the behavior, that coworker has great value as a person. How we display that fact is a measure of our own maturity as a leader and as a human being.

At home, we have expectations. For our husbands, for our wives, for our children. If they don’t behave a certain way, succeed at a certain level, measure up to a certain arbitrary point, we express disappointment, anger, disgust, favoritism, dismissal.

They start to believe that their behavior has indeed set their value.

Why? Because we have made this clear through our actions and words! Because maybe we indeed do believe that their value is related to their behavior!

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.        -Romans 5:8, NIV.

God totally rocks at this! He sets our value high, before we even have a chance to let Him power us into looking more like him.

If we truly love someone, if we truly care about them through and through, then we make their value clear in all that we do, even in counseling activity at work, even during discipline at home.

Oct 032015
 

[embedplusvideo height=”142″ width=”200″ editlink=”http://bit.ly/1jFxZvJ” standard=”http://www.youtube.com/v/n-0SZYTVZks?fs=1″ vars=”ytid=n-0SZYTVZks&width=200&height=142&start=&stop=&rs=w&hd=0&autoplay=0&react=1&chapters=&notes=” id=”ep3190″ /] Lots of strong feelings this week in the wake of Thursday’s mass shooting less than a day’s drive north from where I’m sitting this morning. What a hard thing for families and friends to have their loved ones forcibly taken from them by evil. I can think of lots of words being used  in connection with this disaster- unfair, evil, justice, sickness, heartbreak, vengeance, grace,…..wait. What? Grace?

I ran into this song on the radio last night. Listened to it over and over. Shared it with some loved ones.

It’s nothing less than scandalous,

This Love that took our place.

Just call it what it is,

Call it grace. -Unspoken, Call It Grace

Yes. even for this troubled young man, even to his dying breath, the gift of salvation powered by grace, powered by completely undeserved action, could have been his.

It IS mine, every day that I choose to open my heart door to Jesus. Even on days that I fumble at the door knob and get in the way of the door swinging freely. It can be yours, today and every day, even if you can’t figure it out or even know what it means. It is yours for the wanting.

But where sin increased, grace increased all the more,   Romans 5:20 NIV.

The strange and shocking difference between our world and Jesus’ kingdom is centered in how we place value and worthiness on people.

“Although my memory’s fading, I remember two things very clearly: I am a great sinner and Christ is a great Savior.”
― John Newton, Amazing Grace

Today, as I wait for the sun to rise, I stand in shock and awe at the scandalous, reckless grace gift that saves me. And I am amazed at the secret of grace that I keep forgetting- when I value the people around me with grace in mind, I am copying Jesus and, just like he planned, can become just a little more like Him each day. Not because of me, but because of Him.

Sep 272015
 

hang in thereWhew! Last week at work was one of my roughest in quite a while! I know that it was a difficult one for many of my coworkers as well. It would take more than one hand to count my failures this last week.

A couple of the biggest…failing to timely recognize two of our coworkers who transferred out of our laboratory family to other opportunities that are better matches for their needs at this time.  I am so thankful to both of you for the time we were able to spend together.

When we go through difficult times, it’s easy to get distracted and forget the important things, letting the short term circumstances drag us down. It’s hard to hang in there until I remember at least these three things:

One. I am blessed and happy to be where I am because I am where I am supposed to be right now.

The very steps we take come from God; otherwise how would we know where we’re going? Proverbs 20:24 The Message

Two. I am fortunate to be surrounded by great people. From my boss, whom I trust and respect, to my fellow leaders, to my coworkers in the lab who serve with excellence and help me laugh at least once each day!

Three. I see good happening every day. Sometimes through my doing. More often, through the work of those serving alongside me. It’s far better for me to celebrate all these things than to allow a relatively small number of things change the color of the entire week.

Yes. Right place, Right people. Right things happening!

For those of you who catch me in a down moment, remind me to hang in there! If you’ve joined me by having periods of discouragement recently, hang in there! Things like this don’t define us or our success. God is not surprised by the boulders in our path. Taking a longer view reminds us that in relation to the journey, the boulders are just pebbles. Celebrate the fact that the journey is headed to the right destination!

Sep 112015
 

9 11 facebook timeline cover banner for fb in memory of twin towers sept 11 2001 facebook cover photo

Fourteen years ago. Do you remember where you were? I was standing a few feet from a portable radio in the laboratory just outside of the Emergency Room at Tennessee Christian Medical Center. While the hospital is no longer as it was, I have strong memories of that morning. I remember calling for hospital staff to meet in the chapel. I remember bowing at the front of the darkened room, begging God for a message to encourage and strengthen. I remember, minutes later, speaking to a full chapel, the huge display bible open in my hands, sharing the message of Moses at the Red Sea. When trapped between the sea and Pharaoh’s army, he spoke:

Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. Exodus 14:13 NIV

Just like I knew then that the message I spoke was not from any thought of my own, I know now that my God does not want His people to fear. The terrorists on that day hoped to instill a spirit of fear in America. They were physical instruments of the evil one, just as he continues to plague us with a spirit of fear in our hearts now.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. 1 Timothy 1:7 NKJV

A spirit of fear darkens the spirit of the young father who just lost his job. A spirit of fear of failure weakens the intellect of the brilliant high school student, her ability masked by it. A spirit of fear clouds the mind of the elderly woman feeling the end is near, not sure of her future.

I know that  the future of this great country does not lay with its people cowering from an evil power. I don’t know about you, but I know that my God has no interest in me living my life in a spirit of fear, frightened of what my life on earth will bring and uncertain of my salvation.

I believe in America. Even though we make shockingly poor decisions, about our government and as a society. I know that as long as we refuse to accept the spirit of fear and move forward, working hard and doing right by those around us, we can prevail.

I believe in my salvation through Jesus Christ. Even though I often neglect Him, even though I make shockingly poor decisions and disappoint Him often, I know that He wants to remove my spirit of fear and replace it with power to do right, love to care for those in my reach, and a sound mind to think and act in ways that please Him.

Sep 052015
 

I take care of my ownA flash of anger crosses the father’s face as he cuts off a relative’s cutting comment about his treasured teen daughter. He lifts her to her feet and walks proudly arm in arm with her across the restaurant floor, sheltering her from hurt and discouragement.

  I take care of my own.

 

The young girl persistently tugs her toddler sister’s arm, pulling her away from a danger only the older sister can see. The snake slithers slowly by.

I take care of my own.

A black and white mare charges a group of larger horses intent on nipping at her young foal.

I take care of my own.

A young single mom gets into trouble over the weekend. Rather than shunning and allowing her job to be in jeopardy, her supervisors circle around her, vowing to protect her from hurtful comments and giving her the time to heal.

I take care of my own.

Satan stands in heaven. “You have this so-called law. Your people can’t even keep it. As I’ve said, you’re government doesn’t work!

Jesus slowly stands to His feet. He turns and gently lays His crown on His throne. Rolling up His sleeves, He flexes His powerful biceps. The shadow of a cross flashes across the throne. Turning toward the world He created, a small smile crosses His face. “Watch this!”

I take care of My own!

Whether a colleague in trouble, a daughter in tears, a niece bowed down in embarrassment and hurt, a husband attacked by vicious coworkers, when you rally around someone within your circle of responsibility, fiercely protective, lavishly caring, vigorously defending, generously giving, you are modeling Jesus’ love for you and those around you. Without realizing it, you honor and please Him by copying His fierce, lavish, vigorous, generous love.

Look to your family, your close friends, your employees. Don’t flinch. Don’t think twice. Proudly dive headlong with words and acts to protect and care for those who have been entrusted to you.

Take care of your own!

Aug 022015
 

bashingBashing. The new international sport. Tweet bashing is an actual term in current use! In fact, bashing has become so popular that some are pretending to bash, just to get more attention! Think I’m kidding? see how many #bashing have nothing to do with bashing. Pseudobashing?

Apparently, I am completely out of touch with current events. I woke up with a start the other day when several bashing related issues piled on top of each other in my consciousness.

The first thing I noticed was the confederate flag. Yes, it has been linked in the media to at least one horrific current event. Using their same logic, we will find ourselves bashing the American flag as well, since it too has been the backdrop for extremists and criminal acts, and at a much greater frequency.

Then I started picking up on the whole wild animal killing thing. Yes, the irresponsible disrespect shown by some recently for the remaining wildlife diversity on our planet is shocking and disappointing. It does indeed say something about our culture when we place so little value on the creation around us. However, this is beginning to expand to include all hunting, which is very narrow-minded. In addition, what does it say about us when these stories get far more attention than, say, the fact that close to 1 in 5 children in this country are malnourished.

Last Friday, I posted something on Facebook asking for prayers for the firefighters across California. There are close to 2000 of them battling a growing monster less than one hour from where I’m sitting right now. Thousands of people being evacuated. How naive I was. While there were only supportive comments to my post, I became aware of a nationwide focus on bashing California! Criticizing the government for poor management, categorizing Californians as loose, liberal, wasteful, pot-growing, evil, immoral, the list is long…. that deserve to burn, and this even from christian sources! Did you know that there are whole sites and phone apps designed to facilitate “drought shaming”? Yes, it is a term. Applies to people making judgments, often misinformed, about water abuse and posting them online.

What’s with all of this hate! It’s so popular. It’s also exhausting. And dangerous.

Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs.  -Proverbs 10:12 NIV.

Do we as Christians, or even as responsible citizens, have a responsibility to act against wrong in the world around us? Certainly. Generating so much hate against whole states, races, cultures, or other groups because of a few instances, admittedly sometimes terrible instances, of evil… which is the greater sin?

I fear that we are allowing ourselves to spread hate and bash others with such willingness and to such extremes that we are creating our own destructive wildfires, raging out of control, threatening to devour everything in their path, even us. These wildfires are far more real and destructive than the physical ones putting my adopted state at risk.

I challenge us this week. When faced with a bashing issue in the real, or in social media, rather than jumping on the hate bandwagon, find a way to make a loving comment. Find something to support, someone to care for. That’s how we bash the bash.

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