June 28, 2017/Lively Stones

Most people have heard at least one of the songs by The Rolling Stones. I mean, SATISFACTION is pretty well known. I have to admit that I’m not a huge 70’s ‘rock’ fan, and I was never a huge fan of that particular group. Some of their hits were just too raucous for my taste. That said, they had a huge following and have toured for many years.

My taste in music runs from opera, to Broadway show tunes, to Big Bands, to songs you can sing to like Don McClain, The Beach Boys, the Temptations, Petula Clark, the Monkees, or the Everly Brothers. That said, however, I love music.

I think God enjoys watching His children celebrate life through music and dance…even rock. 1 Peter 2:5-Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.

While Peter goes on to describe Jesus as fulfilling the Old Testament prophecy of the ‘cornerstone’ which God described in the next verse, this verse also has a message to us.

We are lively stones.

We are part of the house that Jesus began building while here on earth. It is our job to join together to offer our spiritual selves in works that God will find acceptable. Just as Jesus is the cornerstone of our faith and the symbol of God’s temple, so too, we have our place in what He is offering up to His Father. We are ‘young’ in faith and need tempering…but Jesus is acknowledging that as we begin our walk away from the ‘human’ way into the spiritual way we should walk joyfully.

The journey is difficult and not without problems. What lifts us is the loving grace of His example.

The British comedy AS TIME GOES BY has a character how likes to say: “Rock on.”

Rock on today.

Be a lively stone.

The house Jesus is building will last through eternity and we are part of it…so celebrate our relationship with Him.

June 27, 2017-Stop. Look. Listen.

Kindergarten used to be a time of learning to socialize with others, establish bathroom habits, and discover various basic survival skills. One of those skills was the importance of red lights, amber lights, and green lights.

I well remember the teachers imparting the three words: “Red means stop. Amber/Yellow means wait. Green means Go.” (Once you began driving, however, you learned different meanings. Red can mean: “I’ll speed up and no one will notice.” Yellow I associate with Jim on the television TAXI as “What does the yellow light mean? Slow down. “What…does…the…yel…low…light mean? “S-L-O-W D-O-W-N.” And green now means: Faster than a speeding bullet….

Much like the warnings teachers attempted to give us when we were young, God gives us warnings to aid us in keeping on a straight path. Hebrews 6:9-12-But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak. For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister. And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end: That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

We, as Christians, need to remember to stop, look, and listen to those around us. To truly carve out the time to minister to others in the faith and those around us. We are to be the beacons of hope, working through our faith and God-given patience to be caring, compassionate ambassadors for Christ.

As you go about your life today, LOOK at those around you. SMILE as if greeting a long-lost friend. LISTEN with your full attention when someone speaks. STOP to show that you care. In this way, you show the reflection of the faith in Christ that sustains you…

June 26, 2017/Hairsbreadth

Two years ago, we suffered and survived a weather ‘event’. I say the word event because whether the ‘weather experts’ want to call it ‘straight winds’ or a tornado, we lived through and witnessed the force and power of nature up close.

We learned a lot going through this experience. Half of our house was destroyed. Trees blocked all the streets leading to our house. Our handicapped bathroom was gushing water from broken pipes and had fallen down into the crawlspace below the house. The giant oak tree that we’d adorned with its very own ‘face’ had been lifted up and crashed through the bedroom landing right on the bed where we slept. My dog’s wire crate was crushed into mere inches. We had no power for a week. I found that it took three 64oz. water-filled soda bottles to do a quick hair wash and ‘bird bath’.

We came within a ‘harisbreadth’ of dying. The definition of hairsbreadth a very small space or distance. Had the storm arrived four or five hours later, we would have been killed in bed.

When the storm hit, I had grabbed the dog and her leash and fled to the hall (inner space/no windows/well protected. My husband was checking out the storm and saw the row of trees in our backyard snapping like twigs and quickly joined me as we prayed for the protection of our daughter and family who live one house away.

Once the storm was over, everyone gathered outside. We had lost trees, roofs, and parts of houses–but not one person was  injured. Seeing all the damage, we gave thanks for not one person was injured.

Have you ever noticed that when tragedies happen, governments suddenly decide that it is ‘okay’ to pray? Suddenly, these same entities that want nothing to do with religion or God allow dignitaries, politicians, and leaders to acknowledge God?

We lost a lot of ‘stuff’ in a storm.

We wondered, as many do, “Why us? Why, God? Why now?”

Our handicapped bathroom shower (which was an older one-piece unit) has now been replaced with a modern tiled shower and bench. Our bedroom lay out was redesigned so as to make it much more friendly if my husband eventually must use a wheelchair. Windows were installed that allow more light. Blinds that are easy to open and close replaced drapes.

We went from the “Why?” to “Thanks” when praying.

God’s power can be taught and meditated upon with one simple sentence from Matthew.

Matthew 10:30-But the very hairs on your head are all numbered.

Think about it–our God knows the numbers of each and every hair on the head of every single person on earth.

The power of a storm is enormous…but the power of God is INFINITE.

As we walk through the storms of life, be ASSURED that Christ Himself has acknowledged His Father’s power…and His love for us.

There is a purpose in every earthly storm that comes our way. We may not see it at first. We may not see it while we are alive. But we are to be confident that the God who knows exactly how many hairs are on our head on any given day is watching over us…and He loves and cares for us.

June 24 & 25/Responsibility

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all admit when we are wrong and take our ‘licks’?

Today’s news mentions a difficult situation where blame is being tossed back and forth for a death. This is serious business. It would be easy to attach blame quickly. So many times we rush to judgment based on what we read online.

But is what we read online true?

That is the question.

Lately, we tend to see opinions posed as facts.

Complications arise when people make decisions without getting all the information needed. Governments do the same. Imagine a doctor who ‘presumes’ where a tumor is positioned and begins cutting. He will be ‘searching’ through your body. That isn’t good. That is why the discovery of radiation by Madame Curie was such an aid to medicine. Now we have all kinds of imaging. Doctors have more clarity when they operate because they can ‘see’ where the tumors are so that they can remove them. Even the, doctors can get some surprises!

If we could get to the facts, it would be much easier to assign the responsibility and come up with the proper punishment. Old Testament laws did make certain situations easier. If your neighbor’s ox got onto your property because you were a lackadasical owner and didn’t keep your fencing up it was your fault. If your ox escaped through no fault of yours and did damage you had to pay damages–but not as much.

The phrase: SEEING IS BELIEVING is popular. None of us want to be tricked in real life…no matter how much we may enjoy going to witness the tricks of a magician as entertainment.

God sees all…and, as Jeremiah points out to us He has everything under control.

Jeremiah 29: 11-For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 

Confessing a mistake is never easy but it simplifies our lives. Saying, “I am sorry,” or “I was wrong” means accepting swift responsibility for our actions. The longer we wait, the harder it is…and, often the harder the punishment.

Rely on God’s wisdom and direction. Accept the responsibility of your actions and confess your faults. You will be wiser and happier..

June 23, 2017/Stumbling Blocks

One of the very big issues in the early church involved eating. As many foods were offered to other gods (or idols) during this time period, a lot of Christians were wondering how they should act if they were offered these foods as part of a meal.

This may seem a bit foolish to us now–until we stop and realize that we still face these type of issues. Is it wrong to drink wine? What about someone who is on Weight Watchers faced with attending a great church suppers? How do we treat a pregnant teenager who isn’t married?

Paul offers his take on how we should approach getting beneath the surface of such matters in 1st Corinthians 8:  Now as touching things offered unto idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth. And if any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know.
But if any man love God, the same is known of him. As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one. For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,) But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him. Howbeit there is not in every man that knowledge: for some with conscience of the idol unto this hour eat it as a thing offered unto an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled. But meat commendeth us not to God: for neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse. But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak. For if any man see thee which hast knowledge sit at meat in the idol’s temple, shall not the conscience of him which is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols; And through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ. Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend.

Paul tells us not to get so focused on action but on spirit. We all know about ‘intentions’. Offering food to idols in those days wasn’t abnormal. What is more, Paul makes it clear that these so-called ‘idols’ have nothing compared to our knowledge of God. He makes it clear that God provides food for us and that it is not the FOOD that is the problem–it is the IDEA of that offering.

We may not have a problem with eating this food for it means nothing to us–but for others, it may seem as if we are acquiescing in acknowledging these gods as having values. To someone who is a babe in faith, this may pose a real problem.

IF we tempt another with an action we know may cause them a greater chance to sin, then we must truly try our best to avoid putting said temptation in their way.

Many times, people use these verses on drinking alcohol–but there is more here to think about. There are a host of choices in life that tempt us–alcohol, gambling, sex, food, money, etc. Then there are other things…like politics. Want to see someone cause a big argument in a few seconds?

Look, we can hash out all these issues as to whether they are right or wrong in the sight of God (and often do) but the REAL issue Paul wants us to address is where we are in SPIRIT. We KNOW how to push the buttons of other people.

Paul is trying to get us to look at a complicated issue and bring simplicity to it. When you KNOW what you are doing (eating a big piece of cake in front of someone who just began dieting? Serving wine to someone who just returned from an AA meeting? Bragging about your new home to someone recently foreclosed upon?) you are, in fact, offending the tenets of our faith.

Christians are not perfect. We should, however, do what we can to try to please God…that means truly listening and caring for our brothers and sisters in Christ AND others. Take time today to truly listen to those around you and do your best to provide an example of upholding the Christian spirit in love and understanding.

 

June 22, 2017/Why It Has Got to Stop/Why It Will Never Stop…

I’m writing this on the 20th as I just read about another youngster committing suicide.

This has got to stop.

This young child was twelve.

TWELVE!

A young girl with her entire life ahead of her was being bullied.

I know a lot about being bullied. I was bullied in high school. We didn’t call it that then. We called it what it is: My high school days were hell. To this day, I hate going back in that school…and I have to as my grandchildren will attend there.

Bullying is another word for square pegs. We, the square pegs of society didn’t fit in. If only I could grab these kids that are being bullied and tell them that THEY are the winners. They are the ones who won’t follow the crowd. Who won’t be ‘cool’. Who won’t cave into the ‘Everyone else is doing it’, or ‘Everyone else is thin,’ or ‘Everyone else gets better grades, or is dating, or is pretty, or is having sex, or has things come easily, or are better at sports, have more ‘bulk’, have grown taller, etc.’

I wish I could do that but I can’t. Not to my grandkids or yours. Not because I don’t want to but because during puberty you don’t always listen to adults…especially when they mouth platitudes like: “You’ll get through it,” or “Sticks and stones,” or “Just tell somebody.”

You won’t tell somebody because that admits what you are already feeling: INADEQUATE.

So how do you survive? What can you do? What can parents do?

For one thing, GET YOUR CHILD OFF SOCIAL MEDIA. PERIOD. Yes, I know that kids have to use computers. Heck, teachers don’t so much teach as give assignments and check work online. Parents can loot at their child’s grades online. FINE. But no child needs Facebook, Twitter, SnapChat, Instagram, etc.

We are, and have been, robbing our children on their innocence. They don’t need to watch CNN…nor should they. You don’t need to see an atrocity happening in real time. It’s bad enough reading about it fifty years later.

Some say, “Keep the kids busy.” Sure, that helps..but all the love and the business only goes so far. There are still hours of the day when these children are put in the position of a black lamb among white sheep; a smaller chicken in a flock. They will be shunned and pecked simply because of being different than the others.

You can do a few things, however. First, praise them for who they are: beautiful creatures created like NO ONE ELSE. God made them who they are for a purpose and a reason. Who are we to question Him? Who are ‘they’ to question Him?

Second, talk to them. Search out books that show real people who achieved much by being different; by taking a path unlike others; by seeking a purpose and a joy that gives them the passion to ignore the bigots and bullies.

Thirdly, allow them to talk and show them that surviving is the greatest ‘pay back’ you can give to a bully. Show them what it will be like when they come back a success. I learned early not to pray for vengeance. My prayer became: GOD, HELP ME TO LIVE LONG ENOUGH TO SEE WHAT GOES AROUND COME BACK AROUND.

It works.

I have been in that position where I was wronged…and eventually, I watched as that person was paid back. God handled it. I must admit to satisfaction upon seeing HOW He did it. To be honest, I actually pitied my enemy. The lesson they had to learn was hard.

Lastly, read the verse below–whether Jew, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, athiest, agnostic, purple-people-eater, whatever. In this matter, it is advice that is worthy of study. In our effort to become so politically correct and not offend, we are losing the ability to provide an ethical and moral grounding to our young people.

Romans 12:14-21-Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not. Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits. Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.

Understand what Paul is saying here: You put coals on the head of your enemies by doing good to them and for them. Overcoming evil like bullies begins with not only liking yourself but them.

Impossible?

Maybe.

Maybe you can’t stand them in person but you can find it within yourself to pity them. To wonder what has gone so wrong in THEIR life that they work to try to make yours a horror. Then take whatever bring you joy and peace in your young life and infuse yourself with that passion and be strong. Find a mentor: in your school, your church, your family, your friends and let them know you feel inadequate. I’m betting money you will learn that they see things in YOU that have overlooked.

Sometimes the race is to the swift. Sometimes it is to the strong. MOSTLY, HOWEVER, PEOPLE OVERLOOK THAT THE RACE ITSELF IS THE JOURNEY.

You are like no one else. You have value…so much value that God created you from His love. Satan saw to it that we have selfish sins like PRIDE which evolves some into bullies. God, however, saw to it that we could overcome such evil through His love for us in sending His Son.

When I was young, I would have given anything to be a round peg. I am so THANKFUL that I fought through. I wouldn’t change being a square peg for anything now!

June 21, 2017/Painful Changes

 

I think my body hates me.

Seriously.

In a short time I will enter the ‘golden’ years of Medicare…or is that the ‘rusty’ years? Such changes come with age. Your social life becomes tales of doctors you see and the people you meet in their waiting rooms. Your eyes grow spots and cataracts. Your belly grows on its own. Your bathroom habits start to become as important as they were when you were a toddler. And the pain…Oh, the pains that suddenly spring out of nowhere.

When I was young, my husband often tried to stay past my curfew. We had a step-down living room with a huge grandfather clock right near the two stairs. Anyone walking into the living room caused that clock to shake just enough to rattle the large weights. Now, I was living home and attending college and my parents had their bedroom down the hall with a closed hall door…(talk about trust here!), but there was many a night when my husband tried to sneak past that clock so as not to reveal that he had overstayed my curfew.

I look back on that time with great fondness. We may have thought we were getting away with something but that clock gave us away EVERY time.

So it is with our walk with God. Job gives us a great example here.

Job 14: 14-22- If a man die, shall he live again? all the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come. Thou shalt call, and I will answer thee: thou wilt have a desire to the work of thine hands. For now thou numberest my steps: dost thou not watch over my sin? My transgression is sealed up in a bag, and thou sewest up mine iniquity. And surely the mountain falling cometh to nought, and the rock is removed out of his place. The waters wear the stones: thou washest away the things which grow out of the dust of the earth; and thou destroyest the hope of man. Thou prevailest for ever against him, and he passeth: thou changest his countenance, and sendest him away. His sons come to honour, and he knoweth it not; and they are brought low, but he perceiveth it not of them. But his flesh upon him shall have pain, and his soul within him shall mourn.

No matter what we may believe we can escape while alive, death comes to us all.

One day God will call. Until that day, we are prone to dealing with the sorrow, pain, and sin of normal life. Many walk on knowing that we are being ‘worn down’ stones with no hope. It is the way of the human…until we find Christ.

Suddenly, there is an open door that allows us the grace to endure pain for we understand that it is temporary. Jesus tells us that in John 14:2-In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.

Pain is not fun. It isn’t pretty. It sucks you dry. Those that endure it, suffer. Those that witness loved ones undergoing pain, suffer.

It does, however, come to us all–much like aging.

Christians, however, have the answer to Job’s question: If a man die, shall he live again?

The answer is Yes–for whosoever believeth in Jesus Christ shall not perish but have  everlasting life with Him in Heaven where we will be free from the bonds of sin that were the cause of our pain.