Saturday, September 28, 2013

Every Little Flower and Bird

An old song has been echoing in my head for weeks.  I'm not really sure how it made its way to the front of my brain. It was written by John Peterson and copyrighted in 1948, so it's been around a while.  Lately, I've been singing it all the time.  I had been wondering about this song, as well as several other old songs from a songbook my mother had when I was a child.  That book is long gone, but thanks to the wonders of Ebay, I was able to secure an old copy of the book recently.

The song in my head, "It Took a Miracle" was in there, and for the first time I read all three verses of the song.  It talks of how God's might and miracles are written in the sky.  The last verse especially captured my attention.

"And every little bird and flower are testimonies, too."

When I stepped onto the patio this morning to feed the boys (my two failed barn cats and an elderly dog), I noticed my begonias, Mexican petunias, and roses, and thought, "Every little flower is a testimony to God."  How about that?  My yard is full of God-stories!  What kind of God-story is in your yard?

                                           My Spring Azaleas (of course not in September)

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The Blazing Fire (Luke 3:15-16)

The interest of the people by now was building. They were all beginning to wonder, “Could this John be the Messiah?” But John intervened: “I’m baptizing you here in the river. The main character in this drama, to whom I’m a mere stagehand, will ignite the kingdom life, a fire, the Holy Spirit within you, changing you from the inside out.” (Luke 3:15-16 MSG)

What a word picture! Despite all the years of waiting, the people were still anticipating their Messiah and were wondering about John. "Maybe he's the one," they thought. John did not give those rumors time to get started. "Nope. Not me," he said. He went on to tell them a little about Jesus. I wonder what they thought when he spoke about baptism by fire. It is such a vivid idea in my mind. A blazing fire and somehow being lowered into it but emerging (hopefully) unscathed. It brings Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to mind.

When John explained his metaphor, he painted a beautiful picture, didn't he? The idea of igniting implies that the tender is ready and the fire is laid. Jesus is coming, John explained, to ignite the fire in our hearts with the Holy Spirit. It will give us "kingdom of God life" in our hearts and change us completely. We will be fresh and new. Here's the wonderful part that would be easy to miss: the Holy Spirit is coming to stay, to live within our hearts, and Kingdom life (the life God desires for us) is available permanently.

The pilgrims who walked the Emmaus road with Jesus described the experience with these words, "Our hearts were strangely warmed". In the presence of Jesus, that fire of the Holy Spirit burned within them and made them different.

The fire is laid in our hearts, the tender is ready. How bright is that Holy Spirit blaze? Are we keeping the fire stoked with Bible study and obedience to the commands of our Lord? What a wonderful thing it is to be cleansed, changed, warmed by the fire of His love!

Pray today that we would keep the fire burning bright with our faithfulness and that our loved ones will see that fire in us and want it for themselves.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Maggie's Big Adventure

Thursday is Maggie's big day.  It's PLAY DAY!  Maggie goes to day camp at the vet's office, and she loves it!  Today, when I dropped her off, the assistant had a little fumble with her collar.  "Oh, don't let Maggie get loose!" the secretary said.  We all had a good laugh, remembering her big adventure. (It wasn't at all funny at the time, though.)

It happened like this...

When my son was in high school, headed to Georgia Tech, I began to worry about how I would manage with the upcoming empty nest.  I did what any sensible middle-aged mama would do.  I went back to work, ran for alderman, and bought a high-maintenance dog.  Maggie is an 11-pound Shih Tzu who thinks she is queen and that everyone should pay homage to her.  She can dance like a ballerina, walk on her hind feet like a lady, sit, shake, high five, stay (sorta), and roll over.  I think she can count to three, but maybe not.  She can also herd cows.  (We happened on that by accident, but it's a story for another time.)

In a stroke of a true silliness, my office manager at the time (who owns Maggie's full sister) and I decided they should have Sister Spa Day.  Maggie and her sister would go to the vet for grooming together.  What fun they would have! Or so we thought.  The first trip went fairly well, but not too long after we started this, the two girls went with Aunt Judy to the vet.  Unfortunately, Aunt Judy opened the van door and Maggie saw her chance.  Did I mention Maggie LOVES to run fast?  Maggie jumped out and started running.  She ran across the street and into a field, where she ran and ran.  Suddenly, she spied another field with trees across yet another street.  This particular street, however, was one of the busiest streets in town and it was the busiest time of day.

That second field was exactly where Maggie wanted to be, so she headed out at top speed, dragging her leash behind her, with Miss Judy and the vet's office employees chasing along, desperate to catch up.  Maggie, who has no idea about cars, darted in front of a car, racing across the street.  The first car slammed on the brakes, stopping exactly on the loose leash.  Maggie gave a giant tug, broke free, and kept going.  She was not letting anything keep her from the next field of fun!  As she scooted across the second lane, oncoming traffic screeched to a halt.  Yep.  You guessed it.  Three car pile-up and Maggie just made it past.  She was still running.  (If you were in one of those cars, please don't tell me.  I'm just glad you were safe and thank you for not hitting my wayward dog!)

Unbelievably, Maggie made it to the second field, where she raced around and into the tree line.  Not another sign of Maggie.  By that time, I had left work to search for my dog.  Before long, patients and their families were out helping me look.  Not a sign of the little scamp.  I looked for her until I finally had to get back to the office, then searched again after work until dark.  I was not at all comforted by the people who stopped by and told me the coyotes would eat her during the night.

It was pretty awful to go home to my empty nest without my Maggie. My mama (who lived with me) was as pitiful as I was.  We were both trying hard not to cry, and doing a poor job of it.  Later that evening, I began to pray for Maggie.  She'd never spent a night outside before.  She'd never been alone before.  I couldn't imagine how scared and lonely she must have been.  Not to mention how I was feeling.  "Lord," I prayed, "Please tell someone how to find Maggie and help them to find her."

The next morning, a friend called to say he and his wife were bringing me a dog.  My first thought was, "Good grief! I only lost my dog yesterday.  I'm not ready for another dog!"  There was something so cheerful about his greeting that I paused and asked, "Which dog?" What sweet words followed!  "Your dog," he said.  "I'm bringing you YOUR dog!"  I could hardly believe my ears!

That morning, he had awakened and had known how to find her.  A former pilot, he used aerial photos to examine the area and found a little shed in the woods.  He and his wife drove there, and she walked down the path, straight to the little shed.  You guessed it! Maggie had spent the night (maybe the entire time) on a mattress on the floor of the shed.  She was waiting to come home! She was stinky from the mattress, but didn't even have leaf litter in her fur.  She was unharmed and she was safe.

To this very day, when I look at my big friend, I always think, "the seeker and saver of dogs."  I will never get over how my prayers were answered when the exact way to find my dog was exactly what he decided to do and exactly how he found her.  He's my hero and the answer to my prayers.  I often wonder if he realized that his plan was divinely inspired.

You know, a lot of energy was expended seeking and saving my lost dog, but there are countless people who have also lost their way.  For one reason or another, their desire to be free and their need to run have taken them where they never expected to be.  There is One who came to seek and to save the lost, and those lost ones are a high priority for Him.  The good news is that there is a plan to find them, and we are the hands and feet to carry it out.

Perhaps you are the very one who will seek and bring to safety a lost soul.  How can that happen?  When you know what needs to be done, do it.  Just do it.  That's what my hero did.  He saw a need, recognized a solution, and did what it took to get the job done.  Returning a lost dog is a wonderful thing.  Returning a lost soul... now that is priceless.

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Proving Our Repentance by Our Actions

John the Baptizer was not the typical itinerate preacher. He dressed in camels' hair, lived in the rocky, barren wilderness, and ate honey and locust. I'd probably have shunned him as a religious nut, but his preaching, just as radical as he looked, drew big crowds. 

People lined up to be baptized.

"Being a descendant of Abraham is not enough. Being baptized is not enough. God's wrath is coming and you don't want to experience it. The Kingdom of God will be here soon. Prove your repentance by your actions," John told them. "Live generously. Be kind. Love."

One day, some soldiers were in the crowd. "What about us?" they asked him. "What should we do?" (from Luke 3:14)

Roman soldiers were the toughest guys in the region, the first century version of our marines, but with considerably less integrity. 

If they wanted more money than they were paid, they could demand and receive it from the populace. 

They could falsely accuse someone, demand a bribe, and be assured of getting it. 

They could double fines and skim the extra. 

The soldiers had free reign and limited consequences, but, on this particular day, John's words struck a chord. "What about us?" they asked.

It's a great question. They weren't just hearers. It seems they wanted to be doers, too. 

There was no doubt John would have instructions for them, and that his instructions would be tough, but they didn't want to be left out. 

If the Kingdom of God was at hand, they wanted to do what it took to be a part.

Ponder that for a moment. Jesus has risen and His return is closer than its ever been. The Kingdom of God is available to us today.

Are we willing to do what it takes to be a part?

Are we willing to do what it takes to please God?

If we want to please Him, here's what we should do: Love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength. Love our neighbor as ourself. 

Jesus condensed the entire Scripture into these two laws. They're simple and easy to understand, but they're not optional. 

Love God. Love everyone. 

If we want to be a part of the Kingdom of God, that's where we start.

"Don't just listen to God's Word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves." James 1:22 nlt
In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: The Shouting Scripture and the Author Who Didn't Want to Write 

*** I'm sharing about my Jordan Journey at a brunch April 1 at 10:30-12 at Global Outreach home office, 74 Kings Highway, Pontotoc MS, and you're invited. Comment or message me if you'd like to come.***

If God has called you to help with this ministry of digital and in-person outreach (both in the US and around the world), here's the link to give your tax-deductible donations: Global Outreach Acct 4841 or you can mail your check or money order to:
Global Outreach/ PO Box 1, Tupelo MS 38802. Be sure to put Account 4841 in the "for" line.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Two tunics (Luke 3:11)

And he would answer and say to them, "The man who has two tunics is to share with him who has none; and he who has food is to do likewise." (Luke 3:11 NASB)

This is not my favorite verse. I'm telling you that right up front. I would much rather read "I will never leave you nor forsake you". Instead, for today, we are at the "what to do with two tunics" verse.

John's listeners were people who had spent a lifetime making sacrifices as payment for their sins and throwing a few coins in the offering as an extra gift. There was an order to it. A plan.

John emerged from the desert with something altogether different. He told them they needed more than a sacrifice. They needed a repentant heart. A changed heart.  It was much easier to just give up an animal. Forgiveness? Reconciliation? Repentance? Much harder, but essential for getting right with God.

It was not a familiar idea, and they asked John what they should do. What does this "bring forth fruits in keeping with repentance" look like? John's answer was startling. "If you have two tunics, give one to the man who has none..."  An extra tunic was a precious thing. We are accustomed to closets full of clothes. They were not. They were not giving away unused leftovers. It was something that mattered.

Why did John (the man wearing a camel hide) tell them to give away their extra tunic? First of all, generosity is a theme throughout Scripture. We are to be as open-handed with others as God is with us. Secondly, receiving from God requires open hands and open heart. When we cling so tightly to the stuff of this world, it's not only harder to cling to our Lord, it's harder to receive all He has for us. Extravagant giving requires that we look past our own life and recognize the needs around us.  It requires us to risk being uncomfortable as a result of our giving.

Maybe more important, extravagant giving requires us to recognize Who is in charge and who is not. We are not the source of everything we have.  No matter how hard we work nor how much money we make, God is ultimately the One who provides. It's all His, and when we share what He has given to us, we acknowledge that in a very tangible way. We take our eyes off ourselves and get them on others and on the Giver of all good gifts.

John was trying to help his listeners learn to live their lives in a way that matched up with the new-found repentance they claimed to have. Live like you mean it. That's what John was saying 2000 years ago and it's good advice for us today.

How many tunics are you holding?  Today, live like you believe the faith you claim. Let go and give.

Live like you mean it.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Grocery Cart Inspector

I finished the last chart with an hour to spare before my next meeting. It left just enough time for the dry cleaners or a quick grocery run, but not both. I, of course, opted for groceries.  

As soon as I grabbed my cart, I headed past the cheese and olives (two favorites) in favor of fresh produce, feverishly trying to remember what I had intended to buy in the first place. I filled the "baby basket" part with lettuce, mushrooms, and gluten free bread.

I was en route to the chip aisle when I noticed a little boy in the gluten-free food section. "That's odd," I thought, and headed over to take a closer look.  

I didn't need anything. I was just nosy. 

The basket inspector arrives.

About that time, his mom appeared.  She assessed my basket with a quick glance. The produce sat atop the two sticks of peppered salami, just in case of basket inspectors, and it was a good thing it did.  

She assumed from what she could see that I was a healthy eater (and I am) and gluten-free (and I am).  Based on her assumptions, she struck up a conversation about how the food you eat affects you, how bad she felt, and what food choices I thought she could make that would help her feel better and improve her health.  

This lady asked for health advice on the basis of my grocery cart, or what she could SEE of it. I gave her what I thought was good advice and sneaked on over to the chip aisle.

When I looked at all those chip bags, I remembered that sweet lady and her cute little boy.  I did buy chips, but they were organic mixed vegetable chips... just in case I ran into another basket inspector.

I inspect baskets, too.

I confess I'm guilty of being a basket inspector myself, and I'm not usually the one who takes note of all the healthy choices in the basket.  

Sometimes I look at a basket filled with hotdogs, chips, and soft drinks and think, "I hope they are having a cookout."  I look at a basket filled with nothing but unhealthy choices and think less charitable thoughts.

Unfortunately, grocery baskets are not the only things I notice (well, inspect), and  I'm probably not the only one.  

What do others see when they inspect our lives?

We may call ourselves "fruit inspectors", but most of us take note of the people around us and the lives they live. For the moment, I'm not worried about the inspections I make. That's an issue for another day. Today, I'm concerned about how well I stand up to the inspection of others.  

Like the salami hidden under the lettuce, we all have some things in our hearts and lives that might not look quite so great on close inspection. What are we hiding in our heart where no one can see?

Well chosen grocery carts are great. M basket could stand up to any inspector (as long as I kept the salami under wraps), but I wonder if my life could do as well. 

Sometimes I'm impatient and downright cranky.  Sometimes I'm worse than that.  You don't need my list... you probably have one of your own.  

Today, as I look at my life, I want to make it as presentable as the cart was... with one exception. Nothing hidden.  The Inspector who really matters sees it all anyway.

Why not join me in introspection?  

Let's all take a look at our lives and do a serious inventory.  How well do they stand up to close inspection?  

Maybe it's time to "ditch the salami and head to the produce." Let's rid ourselves of the mess in our hearts that does us no good and only ends up hurting us, and choose the things that are good and right.  

Someone hopes to find an answer to their most pressing questions and they may look to you for that answer.  Give them something worth seeing.

Choose a life worth inspecting.

"Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming." Matthew 24:42 nasb
In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: Deadwood and Divine Pruning
This ministry of prayer and outreach (digital and in-person) is only possible because of the generosity of your support. Together, we're making progress, but help is still needed. (I don't get a salary until this ministry is funded) If God has called you to help, here's the link to give your tax-deductible donations: Global Outreach Acct 4841 or you can mail your  check or money order to:
Global Outreach/ PO Box 1, Tupelo MS 38802. Be sure to put Account 4841 in the "for" line.

Best Choices

An 18-wheeler passed me on the other side of the four-lane.  Emblazoned across the side panel was an ad.  "BEST CHOICE" it proclaimed.  I've recently been thinking about choices and where those choices lead us, so "best choice" caught my eye. The "best choice" they were advertising was a brand of ice cream. Imagine that! I really like ice cream a lot, and it is a good choice for dessert, but I'm not sure ice cream is exactly what I'd call "best choice".

Andre Crouch wrote a song some years ago about choices. "Jesus is the answer for the world today. Above Him there's no other. Jesus is the way."  Jesus.  Now that is a choice worth making!

If you want to make the best choice you possibly can, in any situation, in every situation, choose Jesus and His ways.  That's the best choice of all.

Deadwood and Divine Pruning

The shrubs and landscaping in front of my house were overgrown and threatening to completely block the sidewalk. It seems crazy now, but even though it looked messy and was becoming an azalea jungle, I couldn't figure out how to fix it. 

I didn't realize it, but I needed an expert.

My friend, Linda Buchanan, mentioned her new yard man one day. Mr. Bailey was a wonder and a great help, she said, so I called him. That first day, I instructed him to clean up the front and trim the shrubs a little. 

I had no idea what he was about to do.

A few hours later, I walked outside to see an enormous pile of brush. Mr. Bailey had trimmed more than I expected. My heart sank as I thought, "My azaleas! He has cut down my azaleas!" I hurried around front to find, not destruction, but order. He had trimmed up the mess and brought it under control. 

Instead of a jungle, I had lovely landscaping again.

John the Baptizer's listeners were in a similar situation. They knew they had a mess in their lives and that something needed to be done. That's why they had come out to the banks of the Jordan to hear him. Their heritage wasn't enough to save them, nor their sacrifices. They were in a quandary. What then? What could they do?

He began by giving practical examples of sacrificial behavior. Shortly, however, Jesus would come for baptism, and John would recognize exactly what they all needed. The Lamb of God would take away their sin. They couldn't do anything to rectify their guilt but Jesus would do it for them and He would soon set them free.

Maybe you, too, are wondering what to do about problems in your life or in the lives of loved ones. You may not realize it, but, like me, you need an expert. 

The answer is incredibly simple. Look to Jesus. 

He can clean up the mess of your life as well as that of your loved ones. He can clean up the guilt and shame and set you free.

Today, let's pray for a heart willing to accept the kind of divine pruning only Christ can do.

And the crowds were questioning him, saying, "Then what shall we do?" (Luke 3:10 NASB)

The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29 NASB)

Monday, September 23, 2013


Welcome to my new blog! I am currently writing on the gospel of Luke.  I will be adding daily blogs, so be sure to check back frequently. The pattern for posting will be a morning devotional and an evening story, hopefully funny or touching or both.

Weekday posts should be up by 6:30 am CST and evening posts should be up by 9:00 pm CST.  The weekend schedule may be a little different.  Even enthusiastic bloggers have to sleep late sometimes!

Someone has said the evening story is more like evening confession, and perhaps it is.  A little story from my heart to yours.  If it works that way, it will be just perfect.

Thanks for stopping by!  Have fun reading!