Saturday, May 17, 2014

Mamie has a little hopping problem

Maggie the Wonder Dog is my big sister, and she is trainin' me. I'm the apprentice wonder puppy and I am 18 weeks old. That's what Mama said. Really, I don't know what a week is. Well, I don't guess I know what eighteen is, either.

This appren'ice work is really hard. 

I love to run and run and run. I think thass the job I want!  And hop! I love hoppin'!  I like to hop on stuff, too, like Ole Lou, and Maggie, and the cats, and just everything! Nobody minds if I jump on them. Ole Lou just says, "You be careful there Lil' Bit!" Ole Lou is big and I can't even jump on all of him! But he don't care. Oops. Doesn't care. 

Maggie cares, though. She doesn't like it much. Usually she just shakes her head and looks at Mama. My neighbor was here yesterday when I was hoppin'. I was doin' great hoppin'! I was going so high I was jumpin' right on Maggie's head, and she was sitting up. I was thinking maybe I could grow up to be the Wonder Hoppin' Dog. 

You are not gonna believe what Mr. Sam said to my mama. He said, "I wouldn't care if Maggie bit her for that. She prolly wouldn't bite her bad." Can you believe that? All I was doing was hoppin' on her head! What's wrong with hoppin'? The worst part is what my mama said. I hate to tell you this, because my mama is really nice, but you should know. She said, "I wouldn't care either. She's driving Maggie crazy, and she needs to learn. Get her Maggie!" Can you believe that??? I think my mama tried to get me killed!!! Maggie growled at me, but she dint bite me. Thank goodness. (I sure can't thank my mama for that!) 

Anyway, Maggie had tole me about gettin' a little talkin'-to when you get in trouble and I got one last night! Boy Hidy! I don' know what that means, but Mr. Sam says it sometimes. My mama said (among lots of other things), "Mamie you need to learn that your freedom ends where Maggie's nose begins. You be nice to your big sister!" I don' even know what freedom is! And I waddnt hoppin' on Maggie's nose anyway. I was hoppin' on her head! 

Maggie tole me that Wonder Dogs give a lesson of the day. I wish they'd give me a differnt one than "don't hop on your sister's head"! Here's the Apprentice Wonder Puppy lesson but I ain't giving you one every day. Oops. Sorry. I'm not giving one every day. 

Don't hop on heads. Unless it's Ole Lou. 

Sorry. Maggie said that was a terrible lesson, and I have to try again. 

It's okay to hop. But it's not okay to hop on sisters. 

Okay. Tryin' again

Even something that is fun, like hoppin', stops being nice when it hurts someone else. Be careful what you do! 

I finally got it! And that's the end. 
By Mamie the Apprentice Wonder Puppy

Finding Answers (Luke 7:20-22)

When the men came to Him, they said, "John the Baptist has sent us to You, to ask, 'Are You the Expected One, or do we look for someone else?'" At that very time He cured many people of diseases and afflictions and evil spirits; and He gave sight to many who were blind. And He answered and said to them, "Go and report to John what you have seen and heard: the BLIND RECEIVE SIGHT, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the POOR HAVE THE GOSPEL PREACHED TO THEM. (Luke 7:20-22 NASB)

John, in prison and evaluating a life spent pointing people to the Messiah, the One he believed Jesus to be, needed to be sure.  He sent his disciples to speak with Jesus. "Are you the expected one?" they asked. John was saying, "I need to be certain. Reassure me." 

Jesus was as busy as He could possibly be, curing sick people, casting out demons, restoring sight to blind people, and causing the lame to walk. People were constantly pressing in on Him, wanting to touch Him and the power that emanated from Him. With all the responsibility, fame, and "busyness", He still had time for John. He still had time for John's questions. He still had time to reassure an imprisoned and soon-to-be-executed man. 

I'm not sure why people think Jesus was grumpy with John's disciples, but that's the impression I've been given all my life. In studying this, I hear it a little differently. We might disdain questions, but Jesus was not, is still is not, threatened by our questions. "Look around at the evidence of My impact on these people's lives. See what I am doing and see the miracles. Remind John of what Isaiah wrote. He said the Messiah would do all these things.  Tell John the best thing to do with questions is to look for the answers in Scripture."

Jesus was exactly right. John had spent years in the desert, studying Scriptures and preparing for ministry. Although he did not have a paper (or electronic) copy of God's Word, he had memorized large sections. Now was the time to remember all he had learned, all he had hidden in his heart. He had the answers to all his questions already, safely stored away, deep inside. 

There are two things we need to glean from this passage. The first is that Jesus has time for us, no matter what questions we need answered or how great our doubt. The second is that Jesus was right about finding answers to the big questions of life.  We need to start in Scripture and recognize the fulfillment of those Scriptures in lives changed by Christ. 

Do you have questions? Do you have doubts? Take them to Scripture and find your answers in the evidence of God's word in Christ Jesus alone. 

Pray today that we and our loved ones will turn to Scripture rather than the world for the answers to our questions and our doubts, and that all our doubts will find their end in Christ alone
Here's the link to last might's post:

Friday, May 16, 2014

Friday night with friends: Fleeing Temptation

Maggie the Wonder Dog is our guest blogger tonight. She is an eleven pound Shih Tzu that works on her mama's farm and is able to do all manner of amazing things. (She's herding cows in the picture) She's been very busy recently dealing with her apprentice wonder puppy. Please welcome Maggie back as guest blogger. 
I am so happy that my mama finally let me write a blog again! Trying to get my little sister trained as apprentice wonder puppy has been a very hard job. It has not been easy, but that is a story for another today. 

Today, I'm going to tell you about gathering eggs. Well, actually, I'm telling about not gathering the eggs. Here's what happened. 

Mr. Bill the Magnificent has been out of town this week. He is very nice and works very hard helping Mama on the farm. He has so many other jobs, I don't know how he does it! My mama said he needed a rest and it was a good thing he took some time off. 

Anyway, I just love for Mr. Bill to take off. When he is away, my mama does all the work on the farm, and she lets me help. This morning, we went to the barn and fed everyone, brushed the horses, and let them out for their day. I found a chicken feather, and Mama let me carry it all day long!

This afternoon, we worked at the new greenhouse. I just love it when mama starts digging!  I really like rolling in the dirt she just dug. I don't think she likes it as much as I do, but she laughs. (Usually.)

This evening, we went back to the barn to feed and I heard the chickens squawking. Mama was going in to gather the eggs and feed them, but she wouldn't even let me in the door of their pen. I thought they were saying, "Maggie, Maggie, let's play," and I tried to explain that to Mama, but she would not listen. 

I really like playing with the chickens and they like playing chase with me. When I bark, they will run and squawk, and flap their wings. They can run fast! They always let me chase them, and they never chase me. That's the best way to play chase! It's my favorite game. 

Mama said, "Maggie, you are supposed to be fleeing temptation. You know what happened with the chickens the last time!" Yes, I do, but I was kinda hoping she had forgotten. I was playing chase with the chickens, and they were running and squawking like always. My mama told me to stop, but I didn't see any harm in a little chase, so I kept playing. 

All of a sudden, I tagged one of my mama's good chickens. It was one that lays green eggs, and she was flapping her wings like crazy! She didn't like getting tagged on the neck very much. Anyway, I was so happy that I shook her just like my pull toy. I don't think that shaking business is good for chickens. It makes them stop flapping, and they won't ever play chase again.

My mama was so upset. You would not have believed it. She talked about my nature and that I was going to have to get rid of that bad chicken shaking habit. I couldn't understand that. I like chicken shaking, and it doesn't hurt me one bit. It helps me run faster, and it makes me stronger. I don't think it hurts me at all, but Mama said, "Maggie, it may not hurt you, but it has destroyed this chicken. You have to think about others when you decide to do something." I was in time out for a long time about that chicken. 

Today, I really thought just a little chicken chasing wouldn't hurt. It's not like I was going to do any chicken shaking, but Mama says, "One thing will lead to another. Flee." I had some fleas one time. That was not fun at all. I didn't want anything to do with flea-ing, but Mama laughed. She said, "No, no, Maggie. Not fleas. Flee. It means to run away from doing something that is wrong or will get you in trouble or might hurt someone else. And you need to flee from anything that involves my chickens!"

Well, I didn't want that chicken-shaking time out again, so I flee'd. (Actually my mama helped. She kept the latch on the chicken door.)

Here's the Wonder Dog Lesson of the day:
Flee what's wrong
Flee what hurts others. 
Even if you don't really want to. 
And especially if my mama's chickens are involved. 

The end. By Maggie the Wonder Dog 

Are You the One (Luke 7:18,19)

The disciples of John reported to him about all these things. Summoning two of his disciples, John sent them to the Lord, saying, "Are You the Expected One, or do we look for someone else?" (Luke 7:18, 19 NASB)

By this time, John the Baptizer was already in prison.  This prison was not the kind of facility we have today. There were no televisions, video games, libraries, or meals. There were no work programs. Instead, it was more like a dungeon with rats, hunger, and isolation. It was a dangerous, horrifying place. His only crime was speaking the truth about Herod's unlawful marriage to his brother's wife, Herodias. John knew that Herod would eventually have him executed, but while he waited, there was plenty of think to think.  

John's disciples visited him in prison, keeping him informed on events in the outside world. Every time the stories of Jesus spread throughout the country, the disciples shared them with John. He must have listened in amazement. Healing with a word. Raising the dead with a word. Could it really be? Jesus was his cousin. John had known Him all his life. Could His cousin really be the Messiah? John had been convinced about Jesus, but in those hours of isolation and self-examination, he needed to be sure. 

The day he was born, John's father had prophesied "And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; For you will go on BEFORE THE LORD TO PREPARE HIS WAYS; To give to His people the knowledge of salvation By the forgiveness of their sins, (Luke 1:76, 77 NASB). 

John had known all his life that his God-appointed job was to prepare the way for the Messiah. He had lived in the wilderness and dedicated his life to knowing God and proclaiming His words. At the end of his earthly life, he looked back on those hard years of preaching and pointing the way to the Messiah. He had directed people to Jesus, and before he faced the Almighty in eternity, he needed to be reassured that he was right. 

Much has been written about John's doubts of Jesus, but maybe the one he doubted was himself. John was only a few months older than Jesus. He was still a young man. Perhaps he simply wanted to face the hereafter with the confidence of a life well-lived and a ministry well-done. He was the forerunner for the Messiah. If Jesus was the Messiah, (and John thought He was) then John's work was complete, and he could die in peace. 

Looking back on his life, his decisions, and his ministry were not, in any way, wrong. In fact, those are tasks we all should do from time to time. Periods of self-examination help us to recognize where we've pleased God and where we have not. They allow us to recognize the need for change and take steps to accomplish that change. 

For today, spend some time in reflection on your life, past and present. Ask God to reveal what pleases Him and what does not, and pray for the will and strength to make the needed changes. Pray, too, that our loved ones will, in their own self-examination, be drawn back to the One who loves them most. 
Link for last might's post:

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Jack is Back

Jack is back. You may remember Jack, the stray miniature donkey that was really a miniature horse.  He lives in Blue Springs with his family, but he is a terrible rambler. In fact, he is the worst prodigal I have ever seen. Never content at home, he escapes as often as possible. His ramblings have frequently brought him to visit my horses. When he was arrested for getting in the street a while back, he was returned to his family, who intensified their efforts to contain him. 

I didn't see Jack for weeks, and thought the prodigal had finally changed. Early one morning last week, I headed to the barn, put out feed, and let the horses in for their breakfast. When I went back to let them out, I opened Belle's stall door and out walked Jack! He was visiting again. Since all my previous efforts with Jack were futile, I just let him into the pasture and sent word to his owners. 

Jack didn't come back for a few days, and I was optimistic. As I headed up the driveway last Thursday, though, I had a surprise. Jack was tied to a tree, patiently waiting for his owners to come get him again. Before his arrest, I had watched him crawl back and forth under my fence like it was a wonderful game. There is no way I can contain him. I don't know what his owners will have to do to keep him home, but it seems a nearly insurmountable problem. 

What's amazing to me is that the owners keep coming to get him and they keep trying to, well, keep him. I would have given up on this little horse long ago. Their perseverance with Jack is surprising, but their constant, consistent efforts makes me think of something Peter wrote. 

"The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance." (2 Peter 3:9 NASB)

Maybe Jack's owners hope he will finally change and be the stay-at-home horse they meant him to be, and I hope that, too. His wanderings are really pesty, though, and I wonder if my own ramblings are as pesty to God. Of course, God 's hopes for us are as high as Jack's family's are for him. That's why He constantly, consistently takes us back from our wanderings, keeping us safe until we finally decide to be where and who He meant us to be. 

Are you a faith-rambler? Do you wander to and from faithfulness to our Lord, or stay close beside Him all the time? Jack's ramblings have caused him to miss out on the closeness of a family that loves him. What have your ramblings cost you?  Stay close, dear ones. Stay close. 

Risen Dead Goes Viral (Luke 7:16,17)

Fear gripped them all, and they began glorifying God, saying, "A great prophet has arisen among us!" and, "God has visited His people!" This report concerning Him went out all over Judea and in all the surrounding district. (Luke 7:16, 17 NASB)

When the dead son sat up, everyone saw it, and they were "gripped by fear". This is not just a little surprised. They were stunned, having never seen such a thing before, and overwhelmed by the mystery and beauty of the miracle, as well as by the One who had performed it. No one but Jesus could take credit for the miracle, and no one tried.  

As the crowd dispersed, they began to talk among themselves. They could hardly believe what they had seen, but it was indisputable. They had seen the dead son get down from the funeral bier, walk, and talk. They had seen his mother's great joy. They knew it was real.  

One person after another heard the animated conversations and asked about their excitement.  What they heard was unbelievable, but a quick trip to the widow's house confirmed the story. There was living proof. The story went viral. 

Before much time had passed, everyone in Nain knew it, and passersby took the story back home with them. It wasn't long before the story of the dead son walking was spread throughout Judea and the surrounding districts, and Jesus got every bit of the credit. God got all the glory. People were drawn to their Messiah. One word did all that. One single word from Jesus. 

The wonderful truth is that Jesus still does miracles today. He still intervenes in our lives and brings the most unexpectedly marvelous changes. He still transforms our hearts of stone to hearts of flesh and makes us living, breathing testimonies of His grace and power. Those miracles of grace can be used to transform our "Judea and surrounding districts".  They can be used, but only if the story of what Christ has done in us is told, and if we continue to be walking proof of what He has done. 

Are our lives an ongoing testimony of the miracle God has done in us? If not, what changes are needed?

Pray today that our own miracle of grace would be so apparent from our lives that all will hear of it, including those we love the most, and it will cause them to want a miracle of grace for their very own. 
Here's the link to last night's post:

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

No Need to Fret

It was drizzling rain when I headed to the barn this morning. I checked the weather forcast and, sure enough, there was a chance of rain all day, increasing toward the late afternoon. My weather app showed rain, but there was nothing on the screen about storms. 

The afternoon schedule was just about over, so I headed down the hall to my office and a quick look outside. To my surprise, the sky was gray and completely overcast. It was suddenly dark, and my first thought was, "Oh, no. Not again." A quick check of the weather app still showed rain, so I turned to the young weatherman I've learned to trust. There was, indeed, a chance of storms. To my surprise, that sweet Matt Laubhan had written exactly what a community still reeling from the destruction of a tornado needed to hear. 

"This WILL NOT be a high-end severe weather event in Mississippi. In saying that, it only takes one damaging storm affecting you to be significant for you personally. I know people are still a little freaked out about what happened a few weeks back. This is no where near as strong of a setup, but you should still stay weather aware." (From WTVA web site 5/14/14)

His words were amazingly comforting. When I read it, I thought, "Don't fret. Be not afraid."  The weatherman sounded a lot like the angels. In Scripture, the first words out of their mouths are always, "Fear not!"  We humans are uncertain, easily frightened creatures and we crave the reassurance of someone who knows what is to come. In uncertain situations, we like to have someone who is strong and can handle anything to be in charge. 

The ironic thing is that even the strongest person, the most authoritative person, is not really in charge. God is. He made the world and everything in it, He holds it together, and is utterly in charge. When He says, "Fear not," He means it. There is nothing that will ever come our way that He cannot handle. There is nothing He can't bring us through. Whether the storms of weather or the storms of life, He is able to deliver, come what may. 

I like the way the psalmist says it. "The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. (Psalm 34:17 NIV)

He doesn't stop all troubles, but He carries us through. No need to fret. No need to fear. 

Fret not, dear ones, no matter what you are facing. Turn to the One in charge. He's sure to help and He will bring you through. 

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Tupelo Tornado: A Matter of Priority

The previous owner of my home planted additional azaleas every spring, stretching into the woods surrounding the small lake behind the house. I have continued the tradition, planting extravagantly some years, but at least a few plants every year. You may not be able to tell it from this picture, but, after more than two decades of planting, I now have acres of azaleas that are simply beautiful. 

Those lovely azaleas were just beginning to bloom in late April. In fact, the weekend before the tornado, the reports of bad weather in the forcast had me concerned. My greatest fear was that wind, rain, or hail might disturb my precious blooms. Not once did I consider that the coming storms might bring death and destruction in their wake. 

The morning of April 28, 2014, I stopped on my way to the car to look at the azaleas that were beginning to bloom.  Heading to work, I fretted about the blooms. I wanted the full dose of extravagant color again this year. Less than twelve hours and one big tornado later, those blooms had lost their hold on my attention. In fact, if there were blooms after that morning, I never saw them. 

That morning, azalea blooms were high on my list of priorities. That evening, the priority list included the safety of friends and family, recovery after the terrible destruction of homes and property in this part of our state, gratitude for my own safety. Azaleas were off the list completely.  

Don't get me wrong. My priorities are usually in pretty good order, and there is nothing wrong with enjoying the azaleas or hoping the blooms will survive. Azaleas, however, need to come after concerns about safety for the people in our area, not before. 

If the truth were told, most of us could use a little work on our priority lists, couldn't we? If you were to list your priorities in order of importance, what would be on the list? If you listed your priorities in order of how you spent your time and money, how would the list look?  

This evening, use a few minutes to examine your life. Take a serious look at  where you invest your money, your time, your energy. Are those priorities the ones you meant to have? Don't wait for another disaster to make adjustments in your priorities.  Make them now. You, as well as the ones who should be at the top of your list, will be glad you did. 

The Power of One

And He came up and touched the coffin; and the bearers came to a halt. And He said, "Young man, I say to you, arise!" The dead man sat up and began to speak. And Jesus gave him back to his mother. Fear gripped them all, and they began glorifying God, saying, "A great prophet has arisen among us!" and, "God has visited His people!" (Luke 7:14-16 NASB)

Resuscitation, restoration, and reverence. It was quite a bit to happen as the result of one single word. That's the power of one word spoken by the Son of God, however. When Jesus touched the bier on which the young man's body lay and spoke "Arise!", he did more than resuscitate that young man. He changed that funeral bier into a sleeping cot. Those who were unclean because they had touched the dead body were suddenly cleansed because the body was not dead after all. He returned hope and joy to the grieving mother. Everyone in the crowd that accompanied the mother and everyone in the crowd that accompanied Jesus were gripped with a reverent fear that resulted in spontaneous praise and glory to God. One single word was all it took. 

There are several lessons to draw from this. The first is the power of a word well spoken. Our words can have far-reaching consequences and it is important to choose them well. Words can bring great healing or great harm, and caution is needed when handling them. 

The second important lesson is the impact that can come from the intervention of Jesus in the life of just one person. Not only can He stop the destruction of ongoing bad choices, He can bring healing to all those who love the one who has encountered Jesus, as well as those standing by and watching. In this instance, hundreds of people were affected by the young man's encounter with Jesus before his feet ever hit the ground. As soon as he sat up on the bier, lives began to change. Every single life has more influence than we realize. Every single encounter with Christ makes a difference we cannot begin to imagine or understand. 

My life, your life, the life of our loved ones all touch more people than we know. Is that influence for good or for ill?

Today, pray that our encounter with Christ would bring change and leave a lasting impact on all those with whom we have contact, especially our loved ones. Pray, too, for the believers who encounter our loved ones to be faithful to Christ and have a testimony of faith that is both strong and unassailable.  
Link to last night's post:

Monday, May 12, 2014

Tupelo Tornado: giving and receiving

She was born in 1929, the thirteenth of fourteen children. When the deadly tornado of 1936 came through Tupelo, killing more than 200 people and destroying much of the town, she was only seven years old. Her home was destroyed and she and her family walked 19 miles to stay with relatives whose home was intact. 

She laughed as she told me about being the thirteenth child.  "I always said that made me lucky, and I guess it did. I've been through two tornados and lived to tell about it. At least I still have a roof over my head this time. I'd hate to walk nineteen miles now." 

Seventy-eight years later, the tornado of 2014 roared through Tupelo and almost completely destroyed her home again. Although a few walls are still standing, the house has been condemned and she is in dire need of a new home. In good health for an 85-year old woman, she is unwilling to leave the land and home she loves. 

 Fiercely independent, she has made her own way all her life. She was betrayed early by a philandering husband, left to raise two young sons by herself, and did a fine job of it. She has never taken help before, and doesn't want to take help now. Her church has been generous, but even their help has been hard for her. I suspect she's much better at giving than receiving. 

We talked at length about allowing people to help. The blessing would be greater for them than for her, I tried to assure her. She didn't see it like that. Taking help from strangers just isn't her way, she insisted. We went back and forth, but she wasn't budging. 

After a while, I ran out of new arguments, and, to both our surprise, tears started trickling down my face. "When we give to you, we are doing it for Jesus, and we want to do for Him because He's been so good to us. Can you understand that feeling?" She nodded her head as she wiped her eyes with the back of her hand. "The man who will help with your house is my friend and I trust him. He's not a stranger to me. Can't you please let him do this for Jesus?" We were both weepy as she started nodding her head. I hugged her, took a deep breath, and started looking for some Kleenex. 

Being on the receiving end of great generosity cannot be easy for one as independent as this sweet lady. She's never had much, and doesn't need much, she has tried to explain. She can make do with what she has. That's true. She can make do, but she doesn't have to this time. A portion of the body of Christ feels called to help her, and I'm not sure she can avoid it. 

Her persistent refusal to accept help that seems heaven-sent was a little frustrating, and I've been left wondering how often God has tried to help me without success because of my own stubbornness. How often has He wept over my refusal to allow Him to change my life for the better? 

How often has He longed to change your life, but was unable to do so because you refused Him?

I've thought a lot about giving and receiving today, and I've realized something very important. It is always more blessed to give than receive, unless God is doing the giving. In that case, we would do well to accept all He wants to give. 

Raising the Dead With a Word. (Luke 7:14)

And He came up and touched the coffin; and the bearers came to a halt. And He said, "Young man, I say to you, arise!" (Luke 7:14 NASB)

The KJV uses the word "bier" instead of coffin. It was not a box with a lid but, instead, an open box of sorts with very low side walls. The body would be clearly visible on this bier.  As you know, a dead body of any kind was considered unclean (Numbers 19:11), as was anything the body touched (Lev 22:4). When Jesus touched the bier, He became ceremonially unclean and would need to go through the ritual of cleansing to be made clean again. 

Jesus was not one bit worried about becoming unclean. He walked up to the bier and touched it. The men carrying it stopped in the street, and Jesus did the most remarkable thing anyone had ever seen. He spoke to the young man (who was dead) and said to him, "Arise!" and that is exactly what he did. The young man arose. He was raised from the dead (not as Jesus was, to a new body) but resuscitated to his former body. With that one word, arise, the boy regained his life. 

That single word from Jesus did what the tears of the mother and the efforts of the doctors could not. It restored life, and it was all that was needed. In fact, nothing else, no one else, could make any difference at all. 

We would do well to remember this story. In the most hopeless situations, those that are beyond any hope of redemption, there is still one thing that can change everything. There is still One who can enter the situation and transform it. Have your loved one's bad choices taken him or her to a place of horrid circumstances? Have your own choices left you in a dismal state? Jesus can still make a difference. Jesus still has the power to change. Take your burdens to Jesus and allow Him to bring whatever change is needed to redeem the situation. 

The hopelessness of the mother's situation did not deter Jesus, nor does your own situation. His power is not diminished by human failure. It is made perfect in our weakness. Turn to Him for whatever help you need. 

Pray today that Jesus would enter our circumstances and those of our loved ones to bring whatever change is needed and to restore life to weary, wandering hearts. 
Read last night's post here:

Jesus was all she needed. (Luke 7:12,13)

Now as He approached the gate of the city, a dead man was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow; and a sizeable crowd from the city was with her. When the Lord saw her, He felt compassion for her, and said to her, "Do not weep." (Luke 7:12, 13 NASB)

This grieving widow had already lost her husband, and now she had lost her only son. Just as our community would do in a tragedy of this nature, her friends and relatives had turned out in large numbers to accompany her to the burial ground to bury her son. She was overwhelmed with grief and sobbing every step of the way. 

She had lost her son, and it seemed that nothing could ease her suffering. A crowd of people had come to help and failed. No one had the words that restored hope for her. No one had the touch that gave comfort to her. 

As Jesus and the crowd with Him approached, those with her surely noticed Him. Scripture doesn't tell us if she noticed Him as well, but we know that she did not run to Him or fall at His feet. If she knew she could find help in Christ (and it is likely that she did not), she did not move to claim it. Although she had no way to know it beforehand, Jesus was all she needed. 

Seeing her terrible pain, Jesus was moved with compassion and entered her grief. He stepped closer, and with one touch and a single word, changed everything. Everything. The woman would never be the same again. The son would never be the same again. The crowd would never be the same again. 

We are surrounded by hurting, grieving people. Many of them have no idea how great the comfort of Christ can be. Many have no idea He offers comfort at all. What if Jesus could enter their circumstances and change everything? Of course, He can. We have His Holy Spirit to move and comfort, but sometimes grieving, hurting, frightened people need "Jesus with skin on".  That's where you and I come in. We can be the hands and feet of Christ, if we will. We can be the one speaking words of comfort and healing. We can offer the gentle touch that soothes. We can, if we will. 

Do you know people in need of "Jesus with skin on"? Be the one who offers the hope and healing of Christ. 

Pray today that we will be the hands and feet of Christ, offering hope to the hopeless and comfort to those who grieve. Pray, too, that we will extend that same hand of Christ to our loved ones at just the right time,when they need Him most. 
Link to last night's post:

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Tough Love: The Hardest Love of All

Jesus once told a little story about tough love that seems perfect, and perfectly hard, for a Mother's Day post. I think you will recognize the story 

There was a father who had two sons. The younger son was disrespectful and rebellious. He thought the father was old-fashioned and unreasonable. "I could do things better," he often said to himself. There was constant strife in the home. 

Finally, the father confronted his son. Enough was enough. He wanted peace, and this was no way to live. "If you are going to live under my roof, you will have to do some things my way.  I am the father and you are the son. One day, you will be the father and you can decide how you want to do things. Can you understand that? There are certain things that are expected of sons. If you can't cooperate with that, you will have to live elsewhere. The choice is yours."  Surely he will see the light, the father thought. Where would he go?

The son was young, impetuous, and foolish. "You can't tell me what to do!" he stormed. "I don't have to take this!" Sadly, the father explained that the boy would have to leave. It was the saddest day of his life, and he thought he would die as he watched his son gather his possessions and walk down that long road. "Will he ever come home again?" he wondered.

Weeks went by, then months. Every day, the father watched for the son to return. Every day, he listened for news of his son. The things he heard broke his heart. The places he was going, the friends he was choosing... he could hardly believe it. "Is there no end to his foolishness?" he wondered.

There came a day when word came from the far land. His son had wasted all the money he had, lost his job, and ended up feeding pigs on a hog farm, sleeping in the barn. "Aren't you going to go get him?" the father's friends asked.  "No," he would say. "He chose this life. If he wants to come home, he will have to choose to change. I will wait. I can't choose for him." It was agony as he watched that long road.  "Please God, touch his heart. Watch over him. Bring him home. Give me my son back." He prayed and prayed and prayed. The rest of the family was about sick of his hoping and praying. Still, he prayed. 

Finally, when everyone else had given up, the father spotted a lone figure heading in his direction. Could it be?  Maybe... Yes. YES!!! It was his son!!! He had come home.  

"Oh, father. I have made such a mess of things. Would you let me be a servant here for you? I just want to come back. My way was all wrong. I'm so sorry."  The son was so ashamed. "Forget about being a servant. All I ever wanted was for you to be my son. Welcome home. Are you hungry? We're having a little party to celebrate!" The father was thrilled.  

The older brother had a tough time with his brother's return. It was hard for him to let go of all the mistakes. You can be sure the father let go of them, though. It was tough love in action. He let him go, and he welcomed him back. Do you think the father kept bringing up the past? I don't think so. He let the son come back home when the son was ready to be a son, and not a minute before. 

Tough love doesn't keep giving chances. It draws a line in the sand and says, "If you choose badly, these are your consequences. If you decide to choose wisely, this is what you can expect. Make a good choice, and live with what you choose." That's how God treats us. How can we do any less?

Parenting is the hardest job in the world, and the best. God chose you to be the parent for your children. He knew it was a big job, too big for you.  It's a God–sized job, and He offers all the help you need. Just ask. 

But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. (James 1:5 NASB)

Stop Wailing (Luke 7:13)

When the Lord saw her, He felt compassion for her, and said to her, "Do not weep." (Luke 7:13 NASB)

Jesus was often moved to compassion for those around Him, and this grieving mother was no exception. In that compassion, He spoke to the mother. You might expect Him to say something like, "I'm God's Son and I have everything under control," or "I'm so sorry for your loss."  No. He said nothing consoling. 

Jesus, filled with compassion, walked up to this lady, and said, "Stop wailing please." Translations always soften what He said, but the word for weeping here (klaiƍ) actually means "to wail" or "loud weeping and mourning". She wasn't just sad and grieving. She was wailing so loudly that she couldn't hear anything else. She was totally focused on her grief to the exclusion of everything else around her, as most of us would be. 

Before you decide that seems harsh, reconsider the scene. Almighty God was wrapped in flesh, full of grace and power, and standing right in front of her.  The grieving widow was wailing over her loss to such an extreme that she could not see God in the flesh just inches away. Had she realized that God Himself was on the scene, would she have continued to wail? Probably not. 

In the midst of our own suffering and grief, it is easy to wail and mourn like the widow. It's common to forget that, because of the Holy Spirit's presence, we, too, have Almighty God at our side. There is no need to wail. The loss of a loved one brings grief, certainly, as well as the accompanying sadness and longing for the departed one. For followers of Christ, however, we have the presence of God to comfort us and bring renewed life to our situation. 

The time of grief over the death of a loved one is not the only time we mourn and wail, is it? When children make bad decisions, when loved ones are estranged, it is not uncommon to be so overwhelmed by the situation that all we can do is weep and wail. Take heart, dear ones. Jesus says, "Stop wailing! Look at Me and allow Me to work in your situation."  Although difficult to take our focus from our concern to our Lord Jesus, it is the only way to find peace and hope. 

Today, pray that we would stop wailing and start looking to Jesus for intervention. Let's give our concerns to Him and allow Him to do what only He can do, bringing life and hope to replace death and despair. 
Here's the link for last might's post here: