Saturday, October 5, 2013

Hula-hooping Research

My little sister was just that.  Little.  She was so petite that I felt gigantic by comparison (being the more shapely sister), and in the early sixties she was awfully cute in her mini skirts. Cookie (my sister) could climb on the monkey bars, slide down hills on a cardboard box, and hula hoop. She could keep that hula hoop going for what seemed like forever.  I, however, could not.  It was not my thing.  I was the studious sister. That's what I said, but secretly, I wanted to hula hoop, too.

A few weeks ago, a friend showed me her weighted hula hoop.  Knowing my previous less than illustrious history with hooping, I was not optimistic.  The idea of exercising in the comfort of air conditioning while I watched reruns of McGuyver on Netflix was awfully appealing, though.  With one-click shopping, a weighted hoop of my own was on the way in no time.  The day the hoop arrived, I was glad I could try it out in the privacy of my home with no one to see.  I hate to say this, but I couldn't make a single round with that hoop. After longer than I am willing to confess, I finally made ten revolutions and I yelped out loud.  I was thrilled.

Here's the strange thing.  Nearly everyone who has visited lately has tried the hoop.  Oddly enough, the skinny girls can hula-hoop forever.  Round and round.  My sister, not quite so petite as she once was, could get a few rounds but nothing like when we were children. (I am only a little ashamed to say I was kinda glad.)

Today is Sister Saturday, the day every month when my sister and I hang out together. As you might expect, I have brought my hula hoop.  Today, we have been blessed that her daughter and two granddaughters have joined us, and we have had a girlie girl day. Fun!  My niece is excused from hula hooping because of recent surgery, but I have recruited everyone else to help with a little research. A little hula-hoop research.  You should see those girls go.  They can really hula hoop!

We have all taken turns and here are the results:
Brother-in-law Joe (not as slim as he once was) managed to hula hoop a total of 2.6 seconds.  He hoops like I do.  Poorly.
My little sister, former hula-hooper extraordinaire, hooped for 13.8 seconds.  She says it was not this hard when she was little!
I managed to make it 15.1 seconds.  Sad to say, but that was an improvement.  After all my practice, I am still not much of a hooper.  (In my defense, I had just eaten two bowls of gumbo.  In her defense, so had my sister.)
Nephew Ben managed 31.5 seconds.  He was fast as lightening with flashy style and could have gone longer if he had not been showing off.
Grandniece Lindsey is as tall and slim as a Vogue model at thirteen and she hooped 8 minutes and 22
seconds.  Non-stop.  She was having a grand time.  It was amazing!
Grandniece Gracee is as petite as her Nana was a few decades ago. She, of course, was determined to best her sister. She hula-hooped for 21 minutes and 33 seconds, smiling and chatting the entire time. She, too, had a great time.  It wasn't work, and it wasn't really exercise.  It was fun.  I was astounded!

Here is my interpretation of the data:  My frantic efforts to get the hoop in motion were counterproductive. The bigger my hip motion, the quicker the hoop fell.  The girls were able to hoop and hoop and hoop.  The motion of their hips was subtle but steady. They were relaxed and barely moving. Their style was nothing flashy, they just  made a good steady start and kept going, and they had a grand time doing it.

Relaxed, slow, and steady.  That's the way to go the distance in hula-hooping.

I was really startled by those results.  I tend to pack as much as possible into every day and, as a result, some days it feels like I'm moving at the speed of sound.  I get lots accomplished, and I really like the pace, but more than one time I've just burned out.  I hula-hoop just like I live my life, with all-out effort, working as hard as I possibly can.  I burn a few calories, but relaxed and steady? Nope. That's not my style. Fun? Who has time? After watching those little girls and that weighted hula-hoop, I'm wondering if maybe I should reconsider. Tonight, it looked like relaxed and steady is more
productive than I realized.  For sure, it was considerably more enjoyable!

Maybe you are running at the speed of sound, too.  Are you exhausted yet?  If not, you probably will be before long.  Why not take a lesson from the hooping-experts? Slow down, relax, keep moving steadily along.  You might just have a lot more fun!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Frogs: The Blessing in the Plague

Friday is not just my day off. The best Fridays are also Yard Work Day. Today was one of those wonderful days when the only place I need to be is home, and the only thing I must do is whatever I want to do. What a grand day!

I had just finished cleaning my garden shed and moved to the herb garden. All those empty cardboard boxes were going into the herb garden as part of yet another weed control program. (Cover the ground with cardboard, cut out around the plants, cover over with pine straw. It's going to work great!  I hope.)

As I secured the cardboard and scattered pine straw, a tiny frog jumped on my hand. (Well, it could've been a toad. I didn't look very close) I shook it off and continued working. Pretty soon, I realized there was a multitude of frogs in that garden, and they were hopping on me!

Of course, I started grumbling about the frogs and thinking about Moses and Pharaoh. Mid-grumble, I sensed that still, small voice in my heart. "What do frogs eat?" I had an epiphany, right there between the rosemary and the basil. They eat bugs. Flies, gnats, mosquitoes. Frogs are great for gardens. 

That started me thinking about the plagues and their order. First, the Nile turned to blood, then the frogs came. It was only after the frogs were in place that the gnats came. No one realized it at the time, but the frogs were a living demonstration of judgement tempered with mercy and grace. Gnats are a yummy meal for frogs. By sending those frogs at the beginning, God had given a way out of the plague to come. Isn't that amazing? The frogs those Egyptians probably hated were actually a blessing in disguise! 

There's no doubt that those bug-eating frogs in my garden are a blessing, and I have the healthy herbs to prove it. How many times does God allow something hard into our lives that seems bad at the  time, but ends up being a blessing because it prepares us for something yet to come? I can think of several instances in my own life, and you probably can too. 

This afternoon, I'm thanking God for the frogs - in my herb garden and in my life, and praying you will do the same. 

Battle in the Wilderness: Sweet Solitude (Luke 4:1,2a)

"Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led around by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days..."(Luke 4:1, 2a NASB)

In this passage, Jesus has just begun public service with His baptism. The time for ministry was limited. In three short years, He would offer Himself as a sacrifice for the sin of the world. With just over a thousand days for preaching and teaching, Jesus chose to invest the first forty days in the wilderness.

It seems like an odd way to begin redeeming the world, doesn't it? No one to hear His preaching. No one to teach. No one to heal. We think of this as time alone, but Scripture clearly says He was led about by the Spirit. Just as Moses before Him, He spent this time in the presence of God's Spirit. In a later verse, we see that this was also a forty day fast. Ah, it begins to make sense!

In those times of solitude and sacrifice, all the usual distractions are removed, and there is a sweetness of communion with God that can be found nowhere else. Jesus Himself taught about fasting as a private mode of worship and sacrifice, warning that we are to make no outward sign of fasting for others to see. He who was sinless prepared for service in the most important way of all, quietly, privately, communing with our Lord.

Denying ourselves in this culture is not at all popular, but the power to be found there remains. For today, ask yourself how serious you are about your prayer concerns and the spiritual needs of your children and loved ones. Is your concern great enough to spend time fasting and in solitude with our Lord? If so, offer a sacrifice of fasting (either food or pleasures) as you pray today.

The sweetest times with our Lord can be found when all the distractions are left behind. Today, pray for a willing heart to step aside with Him. Pray, too, that our children and loved ones will be drawn to the sweetness of Spirit they see in us as a result of our time with The Lord.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

A Little Good News

As the news of the shooting in the Capital scrolled across the screen, we all began to express our dismay.  "Oh, no.  Not more shooting."  The tragedy of pointless death was heartbreaking.  As we watched, someone said, "Well, that might have been just an average person...  There's nothing but bad news on all the time. It's more than I can take, so it's no wonder they lost it." 

This complaint of no good news seemed about right to me.  I watched the headlines off and on all afternoon, and never once did I see a piece of "good news".  Taxes, Obamacare, Government shut down... on and on.  Maybe she was right.  There is no good news.

I began to think "That can not be right", so I Google'd "good news".  This was totally shocking to me, but there is a TON of good news being reported, by the major media, on websites dedicated to good news.  Apparently this "good news"doesn't qualify for their primary websites, but there are alternate sites where good news is still available.

According to ABC's website (the good news one -, Zach Hodskin is a 17 year old high school student in Georgia who loves basketball, hits 60% of his shots, and has been offered a position on the Florida Gator's team for next year.  What makes this remarkable is that Zach has only one hand.  He was born missing the lower half of his left arm.  Zach is a remarkable young man.  Just as remarkable is that, in a town in Georgia, a coach saw a boy with one hand and gave him a chance.  I never played basketball, but I'm not sure most coaches would be excited about a one-handed player.  Someone in Georgia was, though, and it payed off in an amazing way.  Perhaps more important, is that the boys who grew up playing basketball with Zach see a team member and not a handicap.  One coach, giving one boy a chance, has made a difference for more than Zach.  He has likely changed his world for years to come.  That sounds like good news to me!

NBC news has a site ( entitled Today Good News.  Their site tells the story of two Girl Scout troops who were selling cookies and received an order for 6,000 boxes of cookies. The girls were thrilled and, of course, began to think about everything they would do with the money that they would earn.  Not only would it help with sending girls to camp, but money was also earmarked to help a Portland homeless shelter.  Little girls who wanted to make a difference had their hearts broken by the cruelty of someone who called the order a "joke".  When the Girl Scouts opened the office doors to start selling cookies, the townspeople had lined up into the parking lot, waiting for their chance to help.  Those sweet people in that town bought 4,000 boxes of those cookies by day's end. One day sales - 4000 boxes of cookies!  Can you imagine what that did for those little girls?  Will they ever get over people they did not know standing in line on an early Saturday morning to help them?  I expect not.  For years to come, those girls will remember that even strangers helped them, and when it comes their time to help, they will.  Their gifts to the homeless shelter will be all the more precious because of the miracle it took to provide them.  A little piece of their world was changed by the generosity of strangers.  That also sounds like good news to me!

When you Google, you are sure to find an entry for Wikipedia.  I thought you might be interested in what I found on Wikipedia when I Google'd "good news".  This is a direct quote:
"In Christianity, the gospel, also known as the Good News, is the message of Jesus, the Christ or Messiah - God's ruler promised by the Scriptures."  How very true!  I can't think of any better news than this:

"But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8)

Isn't that good news?  God didn't wait for us to clean ourselves up and get ourselves straightened out.  Jesus died for us to pay the penalty for our sin and set us free from its hold on our lives.  Now that is really good news. In fact, it's the best news of all!

Divine Encounters (Luke 3:22)

And the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased. (Luke 3:22 KJV)

Yesterday, we saw that Jesus obeyed in the issue of baptism, and when He prayed, heaven opened. Today's verse tells us that, when Heaven opened, the Holy Ghost took the bodily form of a dove, flew down, and as I read this, "descended upon Him".  In my mind's eye, I see a dove sitting on Jesus's shoulder.

We have grown so accustomed to this verse that it hardly seems unusual at all, but consider this. John in his camel skin outfit is in the Jordan River with Jesus, having just baptized Him. Jesus is dripping wet, and suddenly a big white bird flies down and lands on His shoulder. Since this is the Holy Ghost in dove form, Jesus knows this bird, because it is part of the Trinity with Him, and contains His essence. No one else knows this dove nor do they know that it is the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove. I don't have to imagine very hard to know that the bystanders were not only stunned, their eyes were riveted on Jesus. (Which is, admittedly, the perfect place to be looking)

While the crowd is standing there with their mouths gaping, a Voice from heaven booms out. Clearly understandable, the Voice says, "This is my much loved Son, and I am well-pleased with Him." Right there in the middle of the Jordan River, the people experienced the Holy Trinity in a profound and unforgettable way. They probably told everyone they saw for weeks about these remarkable events. Really, they were probably talking about the Divine Encounter that occurred in the least likely place, at the most unexpected time, for the rest of their lives.

Divine Encounters are not always as dramatic as this one, but they always leave us changed and astounded. In what way have you experienced the divine recently? Where have you seen our Lord demonstrating His power and His love? Are you telling everyone you see about this wonderful news?

Pray today that our children, our loved ones, will come face to face with the divine in an unassailable way that cannot be mistaken for anything except God Himself, and that it will leave them not only astounded, but also changed to be more like Jesus.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Gilding the Statue

Half-way through yesterday, my college-student son sent me a text.  "Hey Mom.  Did you know the government shut down?"  He knows I'm not always up to date on the latest current events and likes to keep me informed.  The whole shutdown situation, however, has prompted me to check the news a little closer this week.

This evening, I was looking at the New York Times app on my iPhone and saw the oddest thing.  Long story short, a restoration of the General Sherman statue in Central Park has been underway.  It was painstakingly covered with 1,200 square feet of gold leaf.  What sounds really crazy, at least to this sparkly girl, is that it was too shiny.  To correct the shininess problem, gilders were hired to glaze the statue with darker glazes.  It gets interesting here.  The dark glaze "did not dull the gold.  It accentuated it."  The dark glaze brought out all the detail of the statue.  It made it better and more "human".

It is a stretch, I know, but when I read about gilding the statue, I kept thinking, "We beheld His glory."  I looked up the verse just to be sure.  "And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.  John 1:14 KJV  That statue restoration has provided an unintentional demonstration of a Biblical principle.  When our Lord Jesus came to earth, He was filled with the glory of God, and had a luster to Him that rivaled those streets of gold to which He was accustomed.  Not even the dirt and dust of this earth could dull that shine.  Instead, it brought out the details and made His Father easier to recognize.  Jesus didn't dull the glory of God.  He accentuated it.

I love some sparkle, and "Have a super sparkly day!" could easily be a theme for me.  Not one of my jewels, not one of my rhinestone sparkles, however, can rival the sparkle that comes from Jesus inside, reflecting the glory of God through the dust of this world.  After a long, hard day, I don't feel exactly sparkly, but that does not matter one bit.  What matters is whether or not the grime of the world dulled the luster of my Lord shining through me. 

The Prayer That Opened Heaven (Luke 3:21)

Now when all the people were baptized, Jesus was also baptized, and while He was praying, heaven was opened, (Luke 3:21NASB)

The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. (James 5:16b KJV)

We could write a book about the baptism of Jesus, but today we are looking at the last part of this verse, the part about what happened when Jesus prayed. I do recognize that we need the next verse to complete the thought. With that said, though, this is an astoundingly profound bit of Scripture.

Heaven opened while Jesus was praying.

Wow!  Jesus (Matt 3:13-17) told John that He had come for baptism "to fulfill all righteousness". He was not being baptized because He had repented of sin. He was being baptized as an act of obedience that showed us the way.  There was a three step process here:
1. Obedience to the Father
2. Prayer
3. Heaven opened

James (the brother of Jesus) would later write about the effectual, fervent prayers of a righteous man. They accomplish much. We have a tendency to think that prayer accomplishes much, but that is not exactly what Scripture says.

Here we see that Jesus demonstrated heaven-opening prayer, and it began with obedience. He was perfect and sinless, but he was also obedient, and when He prayed, things happened. When He prayed, heaven opened.

James writes that the prayer of a righteous man accomplishes much. None of us are righteous, but we can have the righteousness of Christ when we put our trust in Him.  Obedience moves us closer to righteousness, thereby moving us closer to "availing much" prayer.

I am not saying that God only hears the prayers of perfect people. I am saying, however, that, when we are in right relationship with our Lord, we can pray more effectively. We can allow Christ to pray through us.  What happens then? When Christ prayed by the Jordan that day, heaven opened. Wow! That was some availing much prayer!

If we want truly "availing much" prayer (and who doesn't?) then we must move closer to "righteous" status. When I work in the prayer room, my first action is always to get clean before The Lord by asking Him to show me my heart and what is displeasing to Him. He never fails to find something that needs to go. It is only after some divine heart-cleansing that I am ready for availing prayer. I'm not so good about that in my daily prayer. I tend to pray constantly throughout the day, but if I started with thorough heart cleansing every day, repenting of all God finds that displeases Him, how much more effective could I be?

Today, let's begin the work of interceding for our children and our loved ones by praying for ourselves. Let's pray for a heart checkup, a Divine examination of our hearts, asking Him to show us what needs to go. Let's take a step closer to righteousness. Only then will we be ready to pray that those we love will take steps toward righteousness too.
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Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Asking for 1000

A little over a week ago, I began to think that maybe, just maybe, God wanted to do something new.  The thought of a blog had occurred to me several times, but, to be perfectly honest, I wasn't exactly sure what this blog business was all about.  I guess I'd read some blog posts, but I have never followed a blog or had any idea how one gets started.  In all things computer, I usually just rely on my sweet son Ryan (now a senior computer science student at Georgia Tech.  Yea Ryan!)

Last Monday night, I sat down at my computer and prayed the simplest prayer. "Lord, if you want me to do this blog thing, You will have to show me every step."  Instantly, I thought, "Google it." That's how God talks to me sometimes.  I ask for help.  He says Google it.  We have such a sweet relationship.  Of course, I Google'd how to set up a blog.  One of the very first sites on the list was a blog about how to set up a blog.  That made me laugh so much that I just clicked right on it, did exactly what it said, and in about thirty minutes, I had a blog set up.

Can I tell you how SHOCKED I was?!! I wasn't even sure what a blog was and I had just started one!  I thought maybe I had just lost my mind, because as soon as I started this wild project, I immediately knew I would be writing twice a day.  One minute I didn't know what a blog was and the next I'm blogging or whatever it is called twice a day?  Craziness!!

I posted this good news on Facebook the next morning, then went to work.  People seemed a little stunned when I gave them the news.  They were all WHAT??? I think most people were about as lost as I was about it.

I could see this was an odd kind of craziness I had begun, and really needed to be sure I was called to this.  Writing twice a day is HARD! When I need to know if I'm on the right path, I just ask for confirmation.  This time, I felt like I needed something really clear, so I asked God to show me for sure.  "If this is right, let me have 100 views the first day and 1000 the first week."  Really, I had no idea how ludicrous that was for a first time blog.  Now I know that it takes months to build up readers.  But who knew?  Not me.  I just asked for what I asked and waited.  I must have checked the stats about a thousand times that first day.  By 8:00 the next morning, I had 170 views!  170!!!! Unbelievable!  I felt like God had given me exceedingly, abundantly above all that I had asked.  Confirmation!  It felt really good and empowered me to press on.

The big test came Saturday.  I loved the view count.  I was constantly checking the view count.  A big part of the excitement was just astonishment that people were reading what I had written. I was amazed. In a flash, though, I had a confrontation with the Lord about the importance of ONE.  If even one life was touched or changed, that had to matter, too.  If I didn't care about the individual, my excitement about the crowd didn't matter.  I was totally convicted.  "That's it," I thought.  "I am not checking stats or view counts one more time until Tuesday morning.  God can do whatever He wants and I will just find out on Tuesday."  It was, truthfully, an act of submission and utter abandonment to the will of God.

The stat checking had already become a habit, so I had to discipline myself not to check that first day, but by Sunday I was peaceful with it.  This morning, however, I was eager to look.  I waited until 7:38, very nearly a full week since the blog went live.  Stopped at a stoplight, I checked as I waited.  There were 1000 views.  Not 1001 and not 999.  Exactly what I had asked God to do.  I'm a little ashamed to admit it, but my first thought was, "I should've asked for more." At the same moment, I was laughing out loud at how funny God can be.  He had given me such a huge number the first day, but exactly what I asked for the first week.  Both came straight from the hand of God.  Both were confirmation.

Here's the funniest part of all.  I'm not sure I'd have had the same response if He had given me 2000 views, but that 1000 did something wonderful in me.  It showed me exactly Who is in charge, and it is not me.  1002 might have happened by chance, or 1013, but exactly 1000?  Not likely.  I have laughed all day over that 1000.

I had a number I had planned to request as a "sign" for the first month, but decided it would be about pride rather than confirmation, and who wants that?  My current request is that God give me as many viewers as He wants, but that He would use every story, every devotional, every post to touch at least ONE person for Him.  I'm pretty sure I can count on God to answer that prayer. 

I have no way of knowing where you are in your relationship with Christ, but  I can say with certainty that every promise in the Bible can be counted as a personal promise.  Our God is faithful and true.  He is able to do whatever is needed to accomplish His plan in your life.  All my numbers and view counts were silly, but God humored me.  He must have taken delight, though, in my submission to whatever He wants to do with the project He started in the first place.  He will take great delight in your submission, too.  Ask Him to accomplish His perfect will and watch to see what He does.  He will have you laughing in delight before He's through.  I'm living proof of that!

The Showdown (Luke 3:19,20)

But when Herod the tetrarch was reprimanded by him because of Herodias, his brother's wife, and because of all the wicked things which Herod had done, Herod also added this to them all: he locked John up in prison. (Luke 3:19, 20 NASB)

Herod Antipas was the youngest son of Herod the Great, who, in his will, divided his kingdom among his sons. He left the job of Tetrach of the region of Galilee and Perea to Herod, where he ruled for 42 years.  Herod had antagonized the Jewish people many times, but his marriage to Herodias was particularly heinous. He had traveled to Rome to visit his brother, fallen in love with his brother's wife, and the two of them had left their spouses and married. Not only was his new wife the former wife of his brother, she was also his niece (which made the marriage incestuous).

John could not be silent, and denounced the marriage. Herod arrested and imprisoned John. Undoubtedly John knew the risk he took in speaking out against Herod, but fear of consequences did not stop him from speaking truth. John's job was to preach "a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sin" and he did not hesitate to call sin when he saw it.

John was extremely popular and had attracted crowds of people by his preaching. Herod may have feared that a revolt would be triggered by John's denouncement. His father had killed all male babies under the age of two in response to the magi's questions about a newborn king. In their family, threats to their power were not tolerated. John's family had had enough of silence. A showdown was inevitable.

John's passion for truth and righteousness led him to a decision point. Speak or be silent. When we remember that John's ministry was not about denouncing sin but calling people to recognize their sin, repent, and receive forgiveness, his need to speak out is understandable. In the end, his need to speak truth superseded his need to preserve his life.

Ours is a country founded on the premise of individual rights, which includes the freedom of speech. There are people on both sides of every issue speaking out, but how do we respond personally to the evils we see around us? Is there a point to our words? John did not just denounce evil. He had a solution for sin and was eager to share it. Repent and be forgiven. He told everyone he met, no matter how important or powerful they were.

The question for us is this: How committed are we to sharing the good news of the forgiveness and cleansing that only Christ can give? How committed are we to bringing light to a dark and lonely world?

Today, pray that the faith we claim and the words we speak will match, and that we will not hold back when truth needs to be spoken. Pray too that the believers our loved ones encounter will be bold as lions and gentle as lambs as they speak the words of life to them.

Repent and be saved. Four words that are filled with life. Speak them today.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Drying Rosemary

When I visited the Garden of Gethsemane earlier this year (where Jesus was praying for us before He was arrested and crucified), I was amazed by the enormous olive trees. Some of them are more than 2000 years old, so yes, they were there when Jesus was praying. All these centuries later, I knelt and prayed by the very same trees where Jesus had knelt. How amazing is that?  The very surprising thing about the Garden of Gethsemane is that there were rosemary bushes everywhere, so the fragrance in the garden was incredible. Ever since, I've been determined to root my rosemary cuttings and make new plants in all my landscaping areas. I want my yard to smell like the Garden of Gethsemane! 

Yesterday, I snipped some tender young rosemary branches so that I could start rooting it, which is not the easiest thing to do. I trimmed off the lower leaves and dried them. My drying technique is so amazingly fast that I thought you might like to hear it. 

I put the leaves on a paper towel, cover them with another paper towel, microwave them for one minute, stir them around a little, then nuke them for another 30 or 40 seconds. The goal is to get them dry but still green. That's all there is to it! Perfectly dried rosemary for cooking (or whatever) in under two minutes!

There's a faith lesson in this wonderfully fragrant plant. The herb of memory, rosemary leaves are believed to quicken the mind and prevent forgetfulness.  It represents the importance of remembering all that God has done for you – in forgiveness, cleansing, healing, freedom. 

This evening, look in your spice rack for rosemary and crush a few leaves in your hand. Breathe in that lovely aroma and think on all that God has done for you. As you remember, be sure to thank Him for the sweet smelling sacrifice our Lord made of Himself on your behalf.   

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The Power of Words (Luke 3:18)

So with many other exhortations he preached the gospel to the people. (Luke 3:18 NASB)

There was a lot more of this—words that gave strength to the people, words that put heart in them. The Message! (Luke 3:18 MSG)

An exhortation is a little speech (or a few sentences) strongly urging people to do something. John didn't just tell them to repent. He gave specific examples of how repentance would look in their lives. He helped them find their way through the early days of this remarkably personal faith they had embraced. 

I love how the Message describes it. "Words that gave strength to the people, words that put heart in them". John spoke with words that they could remember, that they could hold to and use during the difficult days. Remember, they lived in an occupied nation with enemy soldiers who were often harsh and cruel, and who served under a ruler who was cruel, if not insane. A word of encouragement that strengthened their heart was exactly what they needed. 

The psalmist described the Word (God's Word) this way:  "Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path." (Psalms 119:105 NASB) That is exactly what the word of God is supposed to be for us. It's like a little palm-sized lamp that gives us just enough light to see the next step. It strengthens and encourages us if we will allow it. 

Spend some time today pondering those verses that you know as God brings them to your mind, and allow them to strengthen and direct you. Maybe you need some time in Scripture to learn new verses. Let those words from God infuse your being and allow them to make you stronger in your faith and more diligent in your obedience.
Pray too that God will bring Scripture memorized as a child to our loved ones and that He will use it to guide, direct, and draw them back to Himself.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Thanks Personified

As my friends on Facebook know, I have been burning up the internet with news of the blog, excitement about all the views, and many words of thanks to those who have given me such sweet comments.  The oddest thing happens on Facebook when I type the word Thanks.  100% of the time, my friend and cousin-in-law Yvonne Vizzier Thaxton's picture pops up.  I do realize that Thaxton and Thanks have the first three letters in common.  Nevertheless, it has happened so many times over the last few days that I have begun to think that Yvonne is the "Picture of Thanks."

The more I have thought about "The Picture of Thanks", the more I think that title fits her perfectly.  She has dealt with wayward children, the terminal illness of her beloved husband, the dementia that stole her mother's mind and then her life, changes in jobs, locations, relationships.  Never once have I heard her complain that something was too hard or not worth the effort.  She sees the best in us all, and her home has always been open to the least of us.  She has done all of this with grace and humor and a spirit of thanksgiving. I didn't realize it until this week, but she has been the Picture of Thanks all along.

I'm afraid I'm more the Picture of Grumbling than the Picture of Thanksgiving.  I excel at nitpicking and complaining, and I am ashamed of it.  When I stop to count my blessings, the list seems endless.  What do I, of all people most blessed, have to complain about?  Really, how dare I complain? 

I don't suppose I am the only one who should be giving more thanks than I usually do.  Maybe you, too, have not been quite the picture of thanksgiving that you should be, either.  There's a pretty quick solution for the grumblies.  When we take our eyes off ourselves and get them on Christ, we fall so far short that "Thank You Jesus" is the only appropriate response.  No complaining.  No nitpicking.  Only thanks.  As we prepare for the upcoming week, let's take some time to prepare ourselves to meet a dark and lonely world.  May the spirit of thanks shine through us this week.  May WE become the Picture of Thanks.

(and many thanks to Yvonne, who did not know about this until after it was posted, for loving me anyway!)

Burning the Trash (Luke 3:17)

"...He’s going to clean house—make a clean sweep of your lives. He’ll place everything true in its proper place before God; everything false he’ll put out with the trash to be burned.” (Luke 3:17 MSG)

NASB translates this by saying Jesus has a winnowing fork in his hand and he will gather the wheat and burn the chaff with an unquenchable fire. 

The Holy Spirit comes into our heart when we allow Him to ignite the fire in our hearts, but John wants us to understand something important. Holy Spirit's job is not to tend the fire. We tend the fire by staying close to our Lord. Our obedience and surrender tends the fire. 

The Holy Spirit gets busy with housecleaning. He wants to keep all that is good (the wheat), but whatever is not good goes straight to the fire. Wikipedia defines chaff as "the dry, scaly protective casings of the seeds of cereal grain..." It's inedible and keeps us from the "good stuff", the nourishing grain inside. Why would we want to hang on to chaff? It's just the waste part. It's wheat trash. How silly we are to argue with The Lord about keeping such useless garbage. But, we do. 

Holy Spirit is no dummy. He knows that, given our druthers, we would try to keep the wheat AND the chaff. Sometimes we are even foolish enough to try to keep the chaff at the expense of the wheat. He has a great solution for that - FIRE. He just burns it up.

Here is the really amazing thing that occurs to me for the first time - maybe the unquenchable fire with which the Holy Spirit has baptized us, the fire of His love in our hearts, is the very fire that burns up our chaff (so we can't get it back) and leaves the wheat. 

How great is that? God is determined to cleanse us and He does it with the powerful fire of His love! Wow! Heart cleanup doesn't seem nearly so scary when we look at it like that, does it?

Well, that brings us to our own chaff. I had a little chaff burning yesterday, and will need some more chaff burned today. I have the worst problem with chaff, but praise God He can handle it! Better yet, He prefers to do a daily clean up rather than handle a mountainous mess at once. He keeps our hearts clean and usable that way. 

Take a look at your life, your heart. What chaff are you storing? What needs to go? Today, invite the Spirit to pile all your chaff on the fire of His love. Just imagine the blaze it will make. The good news is this: burning chaff makes the nicest blaze, and it warms you all the way through!

Today, pray that we and our loved ones will recognize the chaff our Lord sees and will invite Him to cleanse us with His love.