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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Close Encounters of the Divine Kind

Are you ready for a close encounter of the divine kind? There will probably be no funky music, no mysterious lights and certainly no space ship lowering from the heavens, as in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. But when you brave up and make yourself available for a divine encounter, you just might find the results even more magical and significant than anything Richard Dreyfuss ever encountered.

Today I read in the Bible about two distinctly divine encounters. First Phillip (Acts 8:26-40) and then Ananias (Acts 9:10-21) received quirky but divine marching orders from above. And both men, regardless of how they felt about the assignments, got up, went forward, and met their challenge head on. And indeed, the results were extraordinary.

First Phillip is told by an angel of the Lord to "go south along the road which goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza." We, the readers, are told as an aside, "This is desert." In other words, this was no plumb assignment! But Phillip, with no other details to go on, filled up his canteen and headed into the desert.

Once he's on his way, Phillip notices a fine chariot transporting an official-looking guy from another country. Surely God couldn't meant for him to talk with this guy. But that was exactly what the Holy Spirit prompted Phillip to do. Acting with a supernatural boldness, Phillip approaches the chariot, notices the man is reading the Scriptures and as, quite bluntly, "Do you understand what you're reading?" The finely dressed man responds with unexpected humility, "How can I, unless someone guides me?"

Talk about an invitation. Phillip doesn't hesitate, doesn't second guess his ability, doesn't waver on his commitment to see this odd job through. He climbs aboard the fancy chariot and begins from where the man had been reading in Isaiah to talk with him about Jesus. Could you and I do that? Could we take Old Testament Scripture and use it to talk about the Jesus of the Gospels? Hmmm.

It doesn't take long before the Ethiopian Eunuch Phillip is talking with becomes more than intrigued. Something, Someone, stirs within him and before Phillip can even pose those pivotal soul-winning questions, the Ethiopian man is pointing out a body of water (in the desert? hmmm.) and asking Phillip if he can be baptized. And indeed Phillip, probably a little astonished by how quickly this has all transpired, says, "If you believe with all your heart you may." Notice Phillip doesn't pose the conditions of baptism to the man quite accurately. He makes it sound more like a commitment to Disney than a life-changing covenant with God Almighty. But the Spirit of God clears things up and the Ethiopian asserts, "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God." Enough said. Phillip baptizes the man and literally disappears. His job was done.

Did you notice how Phillip just made himself available, answered some simple questions and followed the prompting of the Holy Spirit? He didn't even do a flawless, perfect job of sharing the plan of salvation. If it had been completely up to him, the Ethiopian man might have never committed to following Jesus. But something extraordinary, something divine, something out of this world was at work here. The Holy Spirit had arranged this whole encounter from beginning to end. He called Phillip, arranged for him to meet the Ethiopian man at the right spot, put the gall and the courage in Phillip to talk to this royal official, opened the Scriptures to the right passage, gave Phillip the words to say, and most importantly drew the Ethiopian man to Himself. The Bible says that no man can come to God unless He draw him to Himself. And that's exactly what He did. And then, I believe, He even provided a baptismal pool in the desert.

That is a close encounter of the divine kind if ever there was one.

I'd love to tell you about Ananias's divine encounter as well, but I don't want to keep you here forever, so I'll let you read it for yourself in Acts 9. Please read it. These are two of my favorite passages in Acts because they give us a glimpse of what can happen when ordinary believers like you and me say "yes" to God.

You see, God is still looking even today for willing folks to encounter lost folks, discouraged folks, and confused folks. He's looking for able bodies (and you don't even have to be completely able-bodied, for that matter) to step up with a little courage for a divine assignment. He's asking us to listen to His instructions, refrain from asking questions, and just do as He has commanded. He's asking us to be ready for surprises, to go with the thing, to give room for Him to work, to overlook our own deficiencies, and to trust Him with the results.

If you're up for the challenge of a close encounter of the divine kind, here are a few suggestions for being Phillip-on-the-spot:
  • The best way to be prepared for such encounters is simply to be a good student of the Word of God. You don't have to be a teacher of it, an expert on it, or a theologian. You just need to be comfortable turning the pages, familiar with the contents, and confident in its message. Be in it every day so that when you're asked to explain it to someone you won't panic. You may not know all the answers--I'm sure Phillip didn't either--but you'll know where to find them.
  • Begin today practicing your response to the tugging of the Holy Spirit. No matter what you hear the Spirit call you to do, if it lines up with the Word of God, do it. He may lead you to write a note of encouragement to someone, apologize for an offense, seek reconciliation with someone, tell someone thank you for a simple act of kindness, speak a word of truth at an awkward moment. Who knows? But if you're in the habit of obeying the prompting of the Holy Spirit consistently, then it will be no unusual thing for you to obey Him when He ask you to do something a little out of the ordinary...such as taking a walk in the desert. (Out here where I live, He could actually ask that of me!)
  • When you do have one of those divine encounters, don't panic. Trust that the Holy Spirit is right there with you. Give Him room to speak up, both to you and the other person. And let His assignment for you be what it is and nothing more, nothing less. You may just be there to plant a seed, to pose a question, to give a hand, to listen. Or you may be the vessel through which He'll change a life. You never know. But nothing can happen without the Holy Spirit. Don't edge Him out. Give Him all the room He needs.
I'm excited to see what close encounters of the divine kind we might have today, this week. If you've had one recently, would you share that with us? Or if you have a tip for how to be prepared for such extraordinary encounters, we'd love to hear that too.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Better Plans

David had come from the pasture to the palace. It hadn't been an easy journey. Since the time God had anointed him the next king of Israel, he'd been shot at by a mad king, chased by his army, and survived a wilderness experience. But finally he felt like he was right where God had wanted him. All was well.

And as David looked around and realized how God had protected him, exalted him, and honored him, he was humbled. How could he live in a palace of cedar while God's presence, the ark of the covenant, resided in a tent? Surely this couldn't be right.

So David purposed in his heart, out of the purest of intentions, to build his God a temple, a place of honor and glory and beauty. Sounded like a good idea to David's spiritual adviser, Nathan. "Go ahead David. Do whatever is in your heart. God is obviously with you, so go for it!"

But God had other plans.

Let's pause here a moment. Have you ever had great plans? God-honoring plans? Pure and lovely and good and sweet plans? Only to find out that God had other plans?

I have.

Sure, I've also had selfish and self-centered and prideful plans. I've had silly plans, too. But honestly, I've had some purely pure plans...plans born from a loving and full and humbled heart. At least I think I have.

And I've had those plans overruled by God.

At the time, it hurt. It baffled me. It felt like I was being passed over, excused, or even misunderstood. But as the Lord slowly revealed His other plans for me, I realized that God had the bigger plans. Maybe they weren't as fun or even as immediately satisfying. Maybe I didn't get to do the "big" thing I'd wanted to do (think build the temple), but I got to do the thing God ordained for me to do.

The Bible tells me that there are plans He has for me. He has things planned just for me, unique plans, special Kay plans. If I don't do them, potentially no one will or can. The Bible requests that I walk in those plans and toss aside my own. Sounds radical, I know, but that's the biblical command.

Turns out God's plan for David was for him to be a mighty warrior instead of a builder. He would tear down; Solomon, David's son, would build up. Maybe David would have preferred to be the builder, but that wasn't God's plan. It probably didn't fit David's temperament as well either. God knew what He had crafted David to be, even if David didn't fully appreciate it at the time.

Meanwhile, if David did what he was supposed to do, God would do something extra special for him. Instead of David building God a house, God would build David one. He wouldn't build him a house of brick and stone, but one of a different nature. He would erect for David a lasting kingdom, an eternal house, a family name. Even today we know the Jewish people as the House of David. And of course we know the king that eternally sits upon the throne of the House of David is the Messiah, Jesus Christ. God did a mighty big thing through David. He established the lineage of Jesus.

What if David had plowed ahead with his own plans, as I sometimes do? What if David had argued with God? But he didn't. He humbly confessed his amazement that God would desire to establish a house for him and he took hands off and sat back and allowed God to do just that. He said yes to God's plans and pushed his own aside.

Do you have a plan that you've been stubbornly holding onto, pleading with God to give you the desires of your heart? Instead maybe you should follow the prescription of Psalm 37:
  • Trust in the Lord (vs. 3)
  • Do the good God has called you to do (vs. 3)
  • Dwell in the land in which He has planted you (vs. 3)
  • Feed on His faithfulness, His promises to do what He has said He will do (vs. 3)
  • Delight yourself in the Lord -- in His Word, His ways, His character (vs. 4)
  • Commit yourself to being obedient to Him (vs. 5)
And then allow Him to give you the desires of your heart (vs. 4). Perhaps He will plant new desires. Perhaps He will give you more than you ever dreamed of, more than you deserve.

David let go of his plans for better plans. Do you need to let go today?

Friday, July 22, 2011

I'm On Your Side

I'm on your side. I'm for you. I've got your back! You can count on me.

Those can be purely magical words, can't they? When you're back is against a wall, when you feel like the world is rising up against you, when you've made a huge mistake and you don't know how to make things right, it can be a huge relief just to know that someone is standing there with you.

We've all had times when we felt alone in the battle. We've felt misunderstood, outnumbered, scared, overwhelmed, on the defense, left out, and defeated. Those times are going to come. But it sure helps to know that there is at least one other person who is forsaking all else in order to stand right there with you in that awkward spot.

I thank God for the people who have stood in the corner with me in times past. I bet you're grateful for a few folks like that too. Maybe you had a teacher who came alongside you in a difficult subject to help you succeed. Maybe you had a parent who went to bat for you when a bully was making life difficult, scary. Maybe you've had a few friends who have weathered life's storms with you. Aren't we all grateful?

Today I read in 1 Chronicles 12:18 these words from David's supporters, his mighty men:

We are yours, O David;
We are on your side, O son of Jesse!
Peace, peace to you,
And peace to your helpers!
For your God helps you.

The end of that verse reads, "So David received them, and made them captains of the troop." You bet he did. Wouldn't you? What a sigh of relief he must have breathed as he realized that he had some good, strong, smart, and capable men on his side!

I don't know if you're feeling backed into a corner today or not. But my bet is that someone in your life is. Maybe someone close to you has creditors breathing down their neck. Perhaps you have a friend who is battling the mighty giant cancer. Maybe someone has been misunderstood, under attack, or ostracized for their beliefs. You might have a friend who is battling an addiction, fighting a custody battle, or trying to work through a difficult marriage. More than likely you know someone who is weary from a battle of some sort. Do you? Have you thought of someone who fits that description?

Sometimes, as in the case of David, it is quite clear that the person fighting the battle of their lives is standing smack dab in the middle of God's will. Like David, God is for them. You know that to be true. They have walked a godly path and suddenly they have found themselves, by no mistake of their own, to be accosted by the bandits of the enemy. They are under a sudden attack and have been taken completely unaware.

In such cases, you have complete freedom to take their side, stand up for them, even stand in the gap for them. And you feel victorious and valiant and brave all the while. You're standing for the innocent, the godly, the lovely.

But what about those times when the issue takes a grey hue? What about the times when you're not sure if the friend or family member is quite so innocent, blameless, or even right? That's a tough call.

But here's one thing I know. A friend sticks close, even when the going gets tough. And we can stand by someone even if we don't believe he's completely guilt-free. We can still offer support, love, grace, forgiveness, wise counsel, a shoulder to lean on, an ear to hear them out, or a word of encouragement. We don't have to get caught up in trying to teach them a lesson; God has that covered. We are not called to cast judgment, but to give love and mercy and grace. 

I'm all for tough love and boundaries, but I'm afraid we -- I -- err too often on the side of disassociation rather than the side of sticking close when the going gets tough. But unless God clearly directs us to draw a line in the sand and stay on our side, I think we might do the more Christlike thing by stepping closer to our hurting brother or sister rather than stepping away.

Just a thought. What do you think?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Why We Should Let It Go

Do we actually get any "points" for biting our tongues--literally biting our tongues? I've done that a few times lately. I've actually bitten down on my tongue to keep from saying something I knew I shouldn't say, to keep from interjecting my opinion where I knew it wasn't welcomed, to keep from defending myself against what I considered to be unfair remarks.

Believe me, there have been plenty of other times when I let my tongue fly and said whatever entered my mind. I'm not proud of that; I'm just being honest with you.

But I have felt convicted that I should probably learn not to speak everything that comes into my mind. I should probably filter my thoughts through a biblical and godly sieve and only say those things that give grace, that show understanding and wisdom, that can be spoken with true love, that center on truth and that ... are any of my business.

Today I read Proverbs 19:11 and was reminded that indeed I need to be slower to speak and show a little discretion when I do.

The discretion of a man
makes him slow to anger,
And his glory is to
overlook a transgression.
Proverbs 19:11

But as I looked a little more closely at this verse and meditated on its meaning, I was struck by the fact that it doesn't say to "just bite your tongue." You see, by the time we're having to bite our tongues, the harm may have already been done. Whether I speak my displeasure or not, I've already become angry, indignant, offended, critical, or just plain ticked off. I may not speak my mind, but my mind is already headed down a dangerous path. I've already begun to build a case against that person, to argue my side on the inside. And I've probably already recorded their misstep in my "record of wrongs." 

The greater feat, the more glorious approach, according to Proverbs 19:11, is to completely overlook the other person's transgression. To refuse to count it against them. To let it go, without recording it mentally. To continue to see them as friend rather than foe. To resist the urge to argue--even silently, within.

That takes a whole different approach than just clamping down on your tongue, doesn't it? So how do we become people who truly fit the Proverbs 19:11 description? How do I become that person who graciously shows discretion, refuses to get angry over the smallest thing, and overlooks that which would otherwise be listed in my record of wrongs?

Here are a few thoughts for us to try:
  • Appropriate the grace of God. He has shown us grace over and over and over. I need to learn to approach each relationship with a bucket of His grace, ready to sprinkle it liberally all over every conversation, every interaction. When someone else is in a raw mood, is argumentative, doesn't see things the way I do, I need to give grace...without grudge. (Ephesians 4:29)
  • Consider others as more important than myself. (Philippians 2:4) Look at things from the other person's perspective. Is he hurting? Is she tired? Is she doing the best she can with the circumstances she's been dealt? Is he likely to come back later and admit that he wasn't thinking straight? Is she just venting? 
  • Put down my weapons. I have a friend who often reminds me, "Kay, put the weapons down. You'll never be able to discuss this issue in a productive way until you've put your weapons down." When I get on the defensive I pick up the weapons of blame, accusation, recall, and justification, to name a few. When I put those weapons down, I'm more likely to hear the other person, both their words and their feelings. Plus, they don't feel pushed into a corner so they're less likely to respond to me like a caged animal. Bottom line? You can't have a friendly conversation with guns in your hands.
  • Learn to respond rather than react. I can predetermine that my responses will be Christ-like--kind, tenderhearted, forgiving--beforehand. (Ephesians 4:32) Or I can react in anger, sarcasm, slander, bitterness. (Ephesians 4:31) I'm better off to follow the plan I've established before the situation even occurs.
  • Let Christ rule in my heart. (Philippians 2:5-8) Jesus showed us over and over that true love is manifest in sacrifice. It may be a real sacrifice to not speak to an issue, to not respond in anger, to not express my displeasure. But that's ok. That's what it means to be a follower of Christ. And in the end, that's always the best route.
So today, I'm trying to keep my tongue out of danger. Rather than clamping down on my words when they're just about to leave my mouth, I'm trying to filter my words by adjusting my heart. And I'm hoping not to just spare someone a barrage of ugly, hateful, or sarcastic words, but I'm trying to keep my heart soft towards that person as well, so we can continue to have a good and healthy relationship. Will you join me?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Yield


I was one of those extremely emotional and sometimes out-of-control kind of kids. At least I was as a teenager. I still remember the feeling of helplessness during a teenaged meltdown. I'd get upset and begin crying, blubbering, seeing red (so to speak) and before I knew it my emotions were off the charts and I couldn't reign them in for the life of me.

I'm glad to report that I haven't behaved quite like that in a long time, but those emotional storms can still come my way occasionally. There are times when anger or hurt or frustration can grow (because I've neglected to deal with things one at a time) to the point that my feelings are encompassing me like an angry storm cloud. And if I don't seek shelter immediately in the arms of my God, I know the raging winds, violent rains, and thunder and lightening are sure to follow.

I don't know if you "just lose it" occasionally or not, but I know it happens to the best of us. The author of Psalm 77 indicates that he had gotten himself in such a temper tantrum--whether it was caused by self pity, anger, sadness, or frustration with circumstances--that he couldn't see himself out of it. The emotional storm had erupted and he couldn't seem to calm it.

More amazing, even when he called out to God, his spirit continued to be disturbed and grow faint with distress. Does that seem odd to you? Shouldn't a simple cry for help to our God settle the storm? Not necessarily.

Listen to the psalmist's words:

In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord;
In the night my hand was 
stretched out without weariness;
My soul refused to be comforted.
When I remember God, then I am disturbed;
When I sigh, then my spirit grows faint.
Psalm 77:2-3

Like a child caught up in an uncontrollable temper tantrum, the psalmist can't be soothed, refuses to be calmed down, resists the embraces of his Parent. I've experienced that resistance from my own children when they were younger (and in their early teen years, too). And as I think way back I can even remember that feeling of being so distraught that you can't even yield to the soothing attempts from someone who loves you. Emotions are running too high, zinging around you like a fierce lightening storm, and it feels like you'll never be calm again. The storm will never lift so the sun can come out. 

What's that all about? I gather from Psalm 77 that there comes a point in our distress when we have to be willing to yield to God's work in our lives. We can resist His calming hand and continue to thrash around with emotion and accusations and tears and complaints...or we can stop...yield to Him and allow sanity to be restored.

At first the Psalmist blames God for his inability to see the light at the end of the tunnel. He says,

Will the Lord reject forever?
And will He never be favorable again?
Has His lovingkindness ceased forever?
Has His promise come to an end forever?
Has God forgotten to be gracious?
Or has He in anger withdrawn His compassion?
Psalm 77:7-9

I've done that too. I've gotten myself into such a tizzy over my circumstances, gotten so wrapped up in my emotions, that I couldn't fathom things ever being peaceful again. I've come to the conclusion that God must not be paying me any attention because if He was He'd calm the storm. And like the disciples on the boat being tossed here and there by the storm waves, I've felt the need to wake Jesus up so He could heed my cries. Where is God? Is He asleep? Does He not care?

To make matters worse, the psalmist makes a conscious decision to meditate on his problems, to sing songs of woe while lying on his bed at night, to rehearse over and over and over again the trouble surrounding him, and to ponder the misfortunes that have recently come his way. And he's even gone back in time and added all the other bad things he's experienced in the past to his current list of woes. He has chosen to throw himself a pity party and he's not leaving any time soon. (see Psalm 77:5-6)

I've hosted similar pity parties and my bet is you have too. They're rather fashionable, you know. Quite the rage among us mortals. But also quite destructive.

In the end, thanks be to God, the psalmist decides to change the direction of his thoughts. He makes a decision to stop thinking about his troubles and turns his thoughts to God instead. Listen in.

I shall remember the deeds of the Lord;
Surely I will remember Thy wonders of old.
I will meditate on all Thy work,
And muse on Thy deeds.
Psalm 77:11-12

Did you see the hard-fought for, conscious decision to change his focus? I "shall remember," I "will remember", I "will meditate on", and I will "muse on." Finally, the psalmist has taken off his party hat, put down his noise makers, and acknowledged the One who has been there all along just waiting to be welcomed in. But I can't stress enough how much work and effort that took on the part of the psalmist. It's no small feat to choose to stop wallowing and decide to start praising instead. Can I get a witness? Amen! And amen!

I don't know if you're in the middle of an emotional maelstrom today or not. Chances are, someone is. I've been in a few in the past six months or so. Life isn't easy and we can get so twisted out of shape so easily. But there's hope today for a peaceful retreat from that chaotic emotional storm. There's One who is just waiting to put His loving arms around you and soothe you. And He doesn't offer false hope. He offers solutions, rest, victory, unconditional love, forgiveness, strength, wisdom...you name it...whatever you need to get to sunnier days.

So if you find yourself in the middle of a temper tantrum today, may I suggest you quit flailing your arms about long enough to allow Him to put His strong arms around you. Lean in to Him, yield to Him, rest on His strong shoulder. And choose to focus on Him instead of your woeful circumstances. Wondering where to begin? Check out the rest of Psalm 77 for a few suggestions. The psalmist focused on God's ways, His character, and His unwavering relationship with the people He loves. It's a good place to start. 

Yield.


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Busy? And Proud of It?

If you were to see an old friend at Target today how would your conversation go? I'd like to take a shot at it. Would it go something like this?

"Oh, it's so good to see you! What have you been up to?"

"Well, we've been really busy. 
You know how it is with three kids. 
Things just never seem to settle down!"

"Oh, I do know! We've been so busy too! 
I have to make a list everyday or else 
I forget what I'm supposed to be doing. 
We've just got so much going on!"

That sounds a lot like some of the conversations I've had with friends. And to be quite honest, if I haven't been busy, I almost feel like I need to say I have lest I look like I'm less engaged in life, less important, or less active. Do you feel that way too? Like busyness is some badge of honor, some symbol of importance, some status indicator?

What in the world? What lie have we bought into?

Jesus told busy Martha (you know the story...the one in Luke 10:38-42),

Martha, Martha, you are worried 
and bothered about so many things;
but only a few things are necessary,
really only one, for Mary has chosen the good part,
which shall not be taken away from her.
(Luke 10:41-42)

According to Jesus, our Lord and Master, it is common to get caught up in the trap of being busy with many things. Not only that, but our busyness can easily become a source of pride and even contention as it did with Martha. But Jesus contends that we are better off getting involved with only a few things. He suggests that we focus on the few necessary things and quit busying ourselves with all that other stuff, especially if we're then going to gripe about how busy we are and how lazy or unhelpful someone else is. 

How many times have I said something like:
  • "I'm the only one who cleans up around here! It'd be nice if someone else would help out every now and then!"
  • I'm just exhausted. I had so much to do today!
  • You'll just have to fix yourself a bowl of cereal for supper. I was too busy doing other things today to think about dinner.
  • I want to read my Bible every day and spend more time in prayer, but I just have a hard time fitting it in every day.
  • One of these days I'm gong to ...(fill in the blank with all sorts of good intentions), but right now life is just too busy.
Hey, we're all going to have some truly busy days. Days when things get out of control due to circumstances beyond our control. But I know for me that much of my problem with busyness stems from my inability to say "no" to the trivial, the worldly, the time-consuming, and the urgent. I neglect the important things Jesus referred to in Luke 10 because I'm dealing with some emergency. And often that emergency could have been avoided if I'd planned ahead, used my time more wisely, made a better and wiser choice, or spent time with the Lord to begin with.

I told you our busyness and the subsequent pride it breeds is one of my pet peeves. But I also told you I have to fight this temptation myself constantly. I'm still too busy doing the frivolous, the unnecessary, the worldly, the draining. I want to stream line so I have more time and energy for the truly important, the godly.

But you know what happens? Every time I even consider cutting back on some things or withdrawing from some busy activity, I get afraid. I become fearful that others won't value me as much. Others will think I'm lazy, self-absorbed, uninvolved, you name it. It's hard to draw that line between streamlining so you can focus more on the "holy things" and yet also staying involved and engaged in the world around you. Do you find it to be so as well?

So here are a few guidelines I've come up with this morning to help with that issue:
  • Begin the day with the Lord, allowing Him to order the rest of the day according to His plans for me.
  • Before committing to anything long term, run it by God in prayer. Give Him the opportunity to tell me "no." And heed His direction.
  • Periodically, ask God if there is anything I'm doing that just really doesn't need to be done. Give Him the opportunity to weed out that which is distracting me from the really important.
  • Remember that there are "a few things", according to Jesus, that are really important. For me those need to always include my relationship with Him, my family, my devotion to His Word, and telling others about Jesus. Those are some biblical priorities that never change.
  • Resist the temptation to brag about busyness. Don't wear busyness like a badge of glory. It's not. That's a deception straight from the enemy. If I quit taking pride in my busyness, perhaps I'll be more likely to stay restfully focused on that which is truly important.
I'd love to know how you go about staying focused on the really important things instead of being overloaded with the cares of the world. Do you find this to be an issue in your life too? I'd love to hear about it. Please, do tell!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Look What I Found!

It's funny the memories that stick with you. I've heard that we remember the things that either evoke exceptionally good feelings or the very bad ones. This particular memory is definitely one that brings back the good emotions.

The first day of 7th grade I met Candy. She had the longest brown hair I'd ever seen--it went all the way to her seat! That is one thing Candy and I did not have in common. But in so many other ways we were very much alike. We both played the French horn--I struggled while Candy eventually got her Masters degree in music--, we both had braces, we both loved to read Nancy Drew books, and we were both Christians.

Candy and I still keep in touch and occasionally my family even gets to visit her and her husband Randy. In fact, every February, without fail, I receive a birthday card from Candy with a handwritten note in it that details everything that's been happening in her life and the life of her family over the past year. I love those notes.

But Candy used to give me notes that I loved even more. I don't know if she would even remember this, but it's one of those sweet memories that has stuck with me over many, many years.

All the way through middle school and high school Candy used to bring me little neatly folded pieces of notebook paper and hand them to me at least a few times each month. I'd open them knowing what type of message I'd find inside, but clueless as to the details. You see ever so often Candy would write out complete Bible verses for me to enjoy. I suppose these were scriptures that she either learned of in church, read on her own from her Bible, or received from her mother or one of her older sisters. The verses ran the full gamut from Old Testament to New. They were promises from God, convicting instructions, wise proverbs, soothing psalms, and words of Jesus.

I would read the verses over and over, trying to let them fall on me just like they must have settled on her, in such a way that they would compel me to want to share them with someone else. I don't really remember how I reacted to these handwritten pages of scriptures, carefully penciled in Candy's immaculate script. I don't remember now if I'd try to memorize them, tuck them away somewhere for safe keeping, put them on my nightstand and read them over and over, or just what. But I know that my friend's deliberate passing on of the Word of God has stuck with me all these years and it is perhaps one of my most vivid teenage memories--right up there with pep rallies and band trips and mean teachers and awkwardness.

I share this story with you today because I read in 2 Kings 22 about Shaphan the scribe coming to king Josiah and saying, "'Hilkiah the priest has given me a book.' And Shaphan read it before the king."

Finally the Word of God had been found in the house of God. But Hilkiah the priest didn't keep it to himself...he shared it with Shaphan. And the scribe didn't keep it to himself. He shared it with Josiah. And Josiah didn't keep it to himself. He read it before the people. And as they read, God spoke and their hearts were convicted and things began to change and God blessed. Because the Word of God is powerful and accomplishes great things in our lives without fail. That's just its nature.

And this has me thinking: Am I sharing the Word of God with anyone? Sure I share what I read with you here five days a week. But when was the last time I said to someone personally, "Let me tell you what I read yesterday in the Bible"? Have I told my children what I've read? Have I shared my insights with my husband? Have I written out a verse and given it to a friend?

Nope.

So today I challenge you and me to share the Word of God with someone today. I mean it. Really. Let's tell someone what we've read in God's Word some time recently. You can share with your 8 month old baby, your husband, your walking buddy, your e-mail friend, your co-worker, your mom, your teenager, your grandmother, you name it! But wouldn't it be grand to get into the daily, that's right daily, habit of telling someone what we read in the Bible and why it meant so much to us?

That's what Candy did for me all those years ago and I still remember those notebook paper pages with four or five handwritten scriptures on them like I saw them just yesterday. Those are sweet, precious memories that continue to speak loudly to my soul. I think those are the kind of memorable things we'd all like to do for the people in our lives. It's as simple as saying, "Hey! I found a verse in the Word of the Lord. Let me share it with you!" And when we do share it we can be assured that it will not return void, but will accomplish something with God's blessing. Like the scriptures Candy used to write out for me, the words themselves may fade from the minds of those we shared with. But the fact that we took the time to share the treasure will not. The act of sharing itself will speak volumes. For we will have shared the Bread of Life.

So if you take me up on this challenge, and I hope you will, then let me know who you share with and maybe even which scripture you pass on to them. I'd love to know!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Don't you just hate that moment in a scary movie where the heroine has just breathed a sigh of relief because her stalker is out cold and she carelessly lays down her weapon and lets down her guard? She seems oblivious to the normal turn of events in such scenarios, but you're no dummy. You know what's coming...

The villain, thought to be lifeless on the floor in a pool of blood, somehow rallies to and reaches out for the carelessly abandoned weapon. The heroine is cluelessly leaning against the wall, running her fingers through her sweaty hair and assuming the battle is over. Suddenly the music intensifies, the villain wraps his evil fingers around the weapon and rises in one last attempt to take his victim down with him.

All the while I'm screaming at the TV, "Hey you dummy! Look up! He's after you! It's not over yet!"

Fortunately the heroine hears my cries of alarm, gets a grip, grabs the weapon and puts a true and final end to the villain. Finally, the threat of harm is indeed put to rest. All is well.

But that's exactly why I don't watch many scary movies--too many heroines who are too quick to breathe a sigh of relief. It gets my blood pressure up and causes me to head to the kitchen for comfort food.

Today I read one of those nail biters in 2 Kings 20. King Hezekiah had just hung in there and sent his enemy, the king of Assyria packing. Praise be to God, he had not given into the nasty king's threats and sarcasm, but had trusted in God to defeat Assyria's mighty army. And God had told Hezekiah through the prophet Isaiah that indeed the Assyrian king would pack up his men and horses and chariots, skeedaddle, and even end up dead within his own land. God had allowed Assyria to take the people of Israel into captivity (He had his holy reasons), but He wasn't about to allow this wicked king to take down Judah and the city of Jerusalem.

And so with the king of Assyria dead and the threat gone, Hezekiah breathes that infamous sigh of relief. Big mistake. Happy to be rid of his enemy, Hezekiah invites the king of Babylon in to see all of the treasures of his house. He shows him the silver and gold, the spices and precious ointments, and the armory. Scripture makes it clear that there was nothing of value Hezekiah didn't share with the king of Babylon.

Hezekiah had forgotten that just because one enemy was no longer a threat didn't mean that he had no worries. He had let his guard down. When Isaiah found out about the king of Babylon's friendly little visit with Hezekiah he warned him of the consequences. He told Hezekiah that one day Babylon would come in and take all of those precious belongings, nothing would be left. Not only that, but Babylon would take away all that was of value to Judah. They would even take "some of your sons who will descend from you, whom you will beget; and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon."

Do you know who those "sons" would be? Does Daniel, Meshach, Shadrach, and Abednego ring a bell? There would be a huge payment for Hezekiah's negligence to keep his guard up.

This little story made me think about how we also mistakenly let our guards down sometimes. Just when we've defeated one spiritual enemy, put down one idol, resisted one temptation, or defeated one urge of the flesh, we rest a little too easy and the next threat catches us by surprise. Maybe it's pride or maybe it's just neglecting to size the enemy up correctly, but we put down our spiritual weapons, get up off our knees, put away the Word of God and rest on our laurels. And before we know it the enemy is rearing up from where we thought we'd knocked it out once and for all and we're caught unawares.

Have you had a spiritual victory lately? I hope to goodness you have. But take a clue from both our careless heroine and the overly confident Hezekiah. Keep your guard up. Put on the full armor of God every day. Pray, for the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. Walk humbly with your Lord, for pride goes before a fall. And know your enemy. It's true that Jesus has won the victory, but there remains a few battles to be fought. And your integrity, your joy, your peace, and your testimony are on the line.

Hey, let's be careful out there today.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Raise Your Hand If You're NOT Sure!

Remember the Sure deodorant ads? "Raise your hand if you're "sure"!" Picture people raising their hands in classrooms, on the dance floor, on the basketball court, on a roller coaster, yada, yada, yada. The point? If you wear Sure deodorant you can be so sure about having sweet-smelling, sweatless underarms that you can raise your hand (Shoot! Your whole arm, for that matter!) with confidence.

Ah, if only it were that simple to be sure, to be certain.

But whether we like to admit it or not, most of us have our doubts about things...even things we're supposed to be sure about.

At times we doubt...
  • God will provide.
  • God will answer our prayers.
  • God's even paying attention.
  • God cares.
  • God can do anything at all about this particular situation.
  • God loves us.
  • God is good.
  • God noticed the wrong someone else did.
  • God will ever really bring justice.
  • God will forgive.
I've doubted all those things and more at times. But I'm not sure I would have admitted it at the time. Especially to God Himself.

Today I read about a guy who we often bash for his doubts: Thomas. Doubting Thomas, we've dubbed him. Poor guy. He indeed had some doubts. In John 11:16 he expresses his doubts in an offhanded, sarcastic sort of way. Jesus has just told the disciples that they'll be going to Bethany where His friend Lazarus has recently died. He has a plan and everything is under His omnipotent control. But Thomas finds that hard to believe. His response to Jesus' plan of action?

"Let's also go, that we may die with Him."
John 11:16

Do you hear the sarcasm?  That's often what comes out of my mouth, too, when I don't quite believe something. I get a little snarly. I don't want to admit my doubts for the record; I just want to express them in a casual come-what-may-because-I-don't-really-care sort of way. Can you relate?

But before we get to the more infamous passage about doubting Thomas, I think the guy actually grows up a bit. You see, he's still doubting, but this time he owns his doubts. He's bold about it. He doesn't cloak his doubt in witty jabs; he just comes right out with it:

Unless I shall see in His hands 
the imprint of the nails,
and put my finger into the place of the nails,
and put my hand into His side,
I will not believe.
John 20:25

No more surly sarcasm; this time Thomas just says it point blank: I've got some doubts and I need Jesus to clear them up.

Ah, the audacity. And yet, while the fellow apostles may have been aghast at Thomas' remarks, Jesus doesn't seem offended or disappointed in Thomas. Eight days later, when Jesus returns to the room where the disciples have gathered again, Jesus speaks directly and intentionally to Thomas' doubts.

"Thomas, reach here your finger,
and see My hands; 
and reach here your hand,
and put it into My side;
and be not unbelieving,
but believing."
John 20:27

I'm not really sure whether Thomas bothered to touch Jesus' scars or not. We're not told. We simply know that the man who had earlier expressed doubt now exclaims, "My Lord and my God!" Obviously he not only now believes Jesus is risen from the grave and standing before him, but he, more importantly, believes the risen Jesus is God Himself. Thomas goes from having serious doubts to having monumental faith. And that faith is now more specific in nature. He had believed in Jesus enough to follow Him around the countryside for the three years, but now he believes in Him enough to put his complete trust and faith in Him. He has proclaimed Him Lord and God. That's a pretty impressive transformation.

So how did Thomas get to the point of huge, life-changing faith? He admitted his doubts and declared that only Jesus Himself could clear them up.

I think the lesson for me today is that when I have doubts--and we all do--I shouldn't try to swallow them, ignore them, pretend them away, or disguise them with sarcasm. I should confess them directly to Jesus and allow Him, in His own time (He delayed 8 days with Thomas), to set them right. And I believe that when I do that Jesus can then move me from doubting a little to believing a lot.

So this morning I did just that. I told the Lord about a few of the things I'm having a hard time believing right now. I confessed my little faith and asked Him to increase it. I admitted my lack of vision, my desire for proof, my skepticism. And I know He'll get back with me on all of those things, just like He did with Thomas. Why? Because He wants me to believe. According to John 20:29 I think Jesus would like for me to get to a point where I don't question nearly as much as I do, and that's my goal too. But until I get there, I think He'd have me take those doubts to Him rather than simply allow my insecurities to grow.

Don't be afraid, dear friend, to raise your hand if you're unsure. With Jesus there are no stupid questions and there are no doubts He'll refuse to address. And after you've raised your hand and confessed your doubt, my bet is that Jesus will fortify you with a new, more powerful faith so you can be an even more convincing witness for His faithfulness.

Tradition has it that Thomas later spread the gospel to India and helped dispel others' disbelief about the resurrection. That's what can happen when we allow Jesus to address our doubts head-on. So raise your hand if you're not sure!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Dreaded Question

There are two words my husband dreads hearing while we're watching a movie together. Come to think of it, my two kids don't like these words either. Personally, I find the response to these two words to be the very thing my enjoyment of the film rests upon. If you can't answer this particular question, I might as well pack up my popcorn and head for the mall.

I have no need to utter these words as long as we're watching a Disney movie, a cute chick flick, or even a romantic drama. But if you want me to go see a movie filled with spies and intrigue, murder and mayhem, or robots and special effects, you're going to have to get over it and give me the answer to this two-word inquiry.

"What's happening?"

Because my family has refused to answer this question one too many times, I still don't understand the goings on of movies like Star Wars, Harry Potter and the whatever, the Matrix, or Braveheart. And then there's just a huge host of movies I haven't even bothered to see because I know my family members will just glare at me if I utter those two dreaded words. And, no, there's no point in me going to those movies alone because then I have no hope of getting that question answered by anyone at all.

I'm not a dimwit, although my family might beg to differ when it comes to movies. I scored quite high on reading comprehension tests back in the day. But for some reason when people start whispering code words, pulling out mystical weapons, taking on secret personae, or going into dimly lit rooms to have intelligence meetings, I find myself out of the loop.

That's pretty much how I felt this morning as I read through portions of 2 Kings. To put it bluntly, I got lost. 

I have a lot to read each morning if I'm going to get through the Bible in a year (which I'm not because I'm hopelessly behind), so I don't really like to reread portions. I have other times when I meditate on scriptures, study the Bible, and search through the Bible for answers to questions. But when I'm reading in the morning I like to read straight through and just let it fall on me, simple and sweet. 

Well the chapters I read in 2 Kings weren't simple this morning at all. As I read, I found myself asking that dreaded two-word question: what's happening? Fortunately my family was no where around and I think God is a lot more tolerant of my ignorance than they are. But  I didn't hear any small, still voice answering my question either. So I did what I rarely do and reread. I went back and tried to really pay attention to who said what to whom, who went where, why they said that, and what was going on before we ever even got here. 

Unfortunately, just as in many of the movies my husband chooses to watch, I also had to step lightly over a lot of blood and guts, murder and mayhem, conspiracy and intrigue. Like I said, I'm not too good with that sort of plot line no matter how many times I push rewind. If you'd like to give it a shot, I was reading from 2 Kings 9-10. Good luck...and enjoy!

Of course when I read my daily Bible reading these days I also feel a little self-imposed pressure to pull something out to share with the minions who gather at this blog each day. Ahem. So while I'm stumbling over one murder plot and onto the story of Jezebel's body being eaten by the dogs, I'm trying to figure out what I'm going to write about. What pithy maxim, what practical application, what piece of wisdom can we pull from this horrid interesting story?

But nothing came. 

Except this.

The further we get from God, the more our lives resemble a horrible, convoluted, messy plot in a movie filled with murder, mayhem, intrigue, and conspiracy. Not to mention evil.

You see we all have a few problems. Right now, I have a few problems. Those problems weigh heavy on our minds, break our hearts, concern us, keep us on our knees. That's life, even with God. 

And then there are times when we find ourselves with PROBLEMS. Those are the times when our lives look more like a conspiracy theory movie or some science fiction thriller than a sweet romantic comedy. And how did we get there? The same way the kings of Israel and Judah got into the problems of 2 Kings: by pulling further and further away from God, going our own way, and making one bad choice after another until those problems are piled around us like bloody bodies in a refuse heap. It's an ugly picture, I know. But then I just spent 30 minutes reading gore and violence.

You see, while I couldn't really make heads or tails of what was going on in those passages this morning, I think I did get the bottom line of it all. When we're living apart from God and shaking our fists in His holy face, we can expect no less than mayhem and madness in our lives.

So here's the application for you and me today. 

Are the decisions I'm making today, small and big, thickening the plot or sweetening it? 

That's not just a cute little question to admire; it's one we really need to ask ourselves because I've found that once you're in the middle of a thickened plot it's too late to ask "what's happening?" By then the sticky, maddening web has been spun and the only way out is through a string of hard decisions, difficult conversations, and heart-wrenching apologies, some of which will go unaccepted. Quite honestly, sometimes there's no way out of the mess. We just have to live with the consequences and pray that God redeems something from the wreckage.

So I leave you with some heavy stuff. Sorry. But that's what happens when you spend the morning with the likes of Jehu and Joram and Jezebel in 2 Kings.

Keep your life simple, friend. Stick with God, the only One who can always answer the question, "What's happening?"


Wednesday, July 6, 2011

White Horse and All

If you're a baby boomer (I barely qualify by having been born in the last official year of the baby boom) then you've probably noticed along with me that Hollywood seems to be aging with us. Or maybe it's just that the Hollywood actors and actresses I've followed since young adulthood are moving into roles that portray the next obvious faze in their lives and mine. I've watched Meg Ryan, Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, Kevin Bacon, Marisa Tomei, and Denzel Washington progress from hot, young ingenues and hunks to hip thirty-somethings to seasoned stars. And now they're all playing the same parts I am: tired, dated, and slightly heavier middle-aged adults trying to figure out what's next!

Case in point: Tom Hanks in Larry Crowne


and Steve Carrell and Marisa Tomei in Crazy, Stupid, Love. 



Actually I'm really looking forward to seeing both of these movies this summer. For one thing, I love a good romantic comedy, which I'm assuming these to be. Second, both movies feature some of my favorite actors and actresses. And finally, I can relate to the whole "How did I get here and how do I move on gracefully?" theme.

We women love a good chick flick, huh? Or at least most women I know do. Why is that? Well, for one thing I think we all love the common, every-man kind of hero they usually feature. Gone are the days when the romantic lead was portrayed as perfect and dashing and without flaw. When Hollywood figured out that none of us were buying that image anymore, they stopped trying to convince us that he's out there. We know he's not out there because we all thought we married him, only later to find out later that we didn't.

Don't get me wrong; I love my husband. He's handsome and good and funny and smart and a lot of fun. But I also get to wash his dirty clothes, clean the tooth paste out of his sink, and throw away his soda cans (which I find on the table beside the sofa most every morning). He's a plumb, but he's not perfect. And fortunately he would agree. And he'd add, "Back at ya, Kay!"

We all love a cute, witty, and brave love interest. But we generally love their scars, their baggage, their faults, and their fears as well. We have no choice. That's simply reality and to ignore it and try to pretend otherwise is only dangerous and stupid. We have to accept our heroes, warts and all.

But there's one exception.

Today as I read my Bible I was reminded that there is One man who takes my breath away every time and He will never prove to be less than what I first thought Him to be. In fact, with each passing day it becomes clearer and clearer to me that He is indeed braver, stronger, more capable, and even more loving than I once thought imaginable.

Just like in the movies, it doesn't take much to sweep me off my feet. Here's the lines that took my breath away today:

Pilate:  Are You a king then?

Jesus: You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.

I just love the way Jesus doesn't back down to this man of authority. He's already been slapped for speaking "disrespectfully" to the high priest. Now Jesus has asserted that He is indeed what the religious leaders have accused Him of claiming to be--a king. Not only that, but He even claims that He was born for this very cause. At this point it should be clear to all--both then and today--that Jesus is either who He claims to be or a lunatic. I prefer to believe He is the King, exactly who He claims to be.

Don't you just go weak at the knees when you think of what Jesus did for you? Don't you just get a little breathless when you consider that He would have dashed onto the scene for the very same sacrifice even if you had been the only one who needed a savior? And don't your palms get a little sweaty when you remember that He's coming back...for you? 

He's my knight in shining armor...and there are no warts, no faults, no baggage, no personality glitches, and no weaknesses. He has no latent fears, no secret past, no hidden agendas. He's strong and never goes weak, even when it may appear to others that He's lost His power. He hasn't lost it; He's just lovingly laid it down. And He knows when to speak, when to be quiet, when to answer a question with a question, and when to shoot straight. He says exactly the right thing. He never has to apologize. But He always accepts my apologies without making me gravel. He's available at my every beck and call, and yet He's not needy or aimless. He's the most important "man" in the world, and yet He has time for me...all the time. And I never have to wash His dirty clothes, but He's washed mine.

Here's another passage I read last week that took my breath:

The Lord your God is in your midst,
a victorious warrior.
He will exult over you with joy,
He will be quiet in His love,
He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.
(Zephaniah 3:17)

Ah, now that's a real knight in shining armor. One who rides in as a victorious warrior, sweeps you off your feet, laughs with you over private jokes and sweet little remembrances, quietly professes His love for you in hushed, private tones, and then proclaims His affection for you with boisterous shouts to all who are around. Be still my heart!

I'm looking forward to seeing Tom Hanks in Larry Crowne and I think I'll even give Steve Carrell a shot in Crazy, Stupid, Love (if he can keep his language under control!). And I certainly enjoy going to those sorts of movies with my own romantic/comedy hero, my husband. But for a truly breath-taking, heart-stopping, swooning good time...I open my Bible.  That's where I meet my real Hero...until He returns for me one day, white horse and all.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Let's Not Play That Game!

I love games and I'm quite competitive, though I've learned to tone it down a bit since I now have kids and have to set a better example, yada, yada, yada.

Still I love to play a good board game, group game, guys versus girls game, card game, etc. Especially if I can possibly win.

And I can, trust me.

But there's one game I've learned I can't win at...at least not in the long run. That would be the blame game.

Ever play the blame game? I have. I've blamed my circumstances, my upbringing, by parents, my husband, my children, my church, my financial situation, my physical limitations, my age (I've used that one more and more recently!), and...gasp...God. In an effort to come out on top, I've blamed anyone and everyone for my shortcomings and mistakes and inabilities. Out of a need to look like a winner, I've tried to make others look like losers. And when the stakes got too high or the score got out of control, I've called "foul!" on whoever was the closest, the easiest to blame.

When winning is a big deal to you, blaming is an awfully handy tactic.

But it's a faulty tactic too. Blamers are never really winners.

This morning in 2 Kings 6:26-33 I read an interesting account of a masterfully played game of blame. The king of Israel was posed with a serious and delicate problem. Of all things, two impoverished women had gotten together and decided to solve their problems by eating their two sons, one at a time. But after the first woman's son had been slaughtered and eaten, the second woman suddenly thought better about the idea. She decided to withdraw her son from the menu. So the first woman was complaining to the king about her dilemma and asking for his help.

With everyone looking on and waiting for the king's response he freaked out. I don't know if he just couldn't face up to the terrible circumstances that his leadership had created in Israel, or if he was just so appalled by the two women's pact that he couldn't think straight. But he freaked.

And then, fearing the opinions of those who were looking on and waiting for a solution or direction or something, he did what we so often do in a tight squeeze. He blamed someone else. Actually he blamed Elisha, the prophet of God. He even threatened to have Elisha's head over this situation. That's how much he put the blame on this man of God.

Of course God didn't allow that to happen. God is a just God and He doesn't allow us to get away with blaming others.

Next time I'm tempted to blame someone or something else for my own mistakes, shortcomings, or failures, I'm going to consider the rules I unearthed today about the blame game. Quite frankly, they make the game pointless and defeating.
  • So long as I blame others for my sin, I'll remain stuck in it. Honest confession and sincere repentance are necessary for me to get back on the winning side of things. (See Acts 4:19)
  • God is not fooled by my casting blame on someone or some thing else. He knows my heart, my words, and my actions for what they are.
  • No one else is really fooled by my blaming another either. In fact, when I put the blame elsewhere I end up looking immature, silly, self-absorbed, proud, and, frankly, stupid.
  • When I take full blame for my own mistakes I actually advance a good deal closer to the winner's circle. Winners acknowledge their shortcomings so they can address them and better themselves. Winners admit their mistakes and thus everyone realizes that they know their actions were wrong, instead of leaving everyone with the assumption that they don't know right from wrong.
This morning I've already had to take the blame for a few little things, just some mistakes that cost me a little inconvenience. Even then I tried to wiggle myself out of shouldering the responsibility. But that was getting me nowhere. Now that I've accepted blame for what went wrong, I can make the necessary corrections and move on.

What about you? Have you been blaming someone or some thing else for your less-than-optimal situation? I get that. I've been a master at it at times. But allow me to blow the whistle if you will and take a time out. Examine your game plan. Is putting the blame elsewhere really working for you? I didn't think so.

There's victory in confession, even if it's just between you and God. Let me know what you think!

Monday, July 4, 2011

So It's Not What I Would Choose

I know it's Independence Day, but I'm going a different route with my post today. I'm diverting from my daily Bible reading too, although I'm pretty sure I've read this same message in different words just recently.

At any rate, I thought we all could use a song today. One that tells it like it is, encourages those of us who are dealing with "stuff" (aren't we all?), and one that has a good, groovy beat. You generally get all three with Francesca Battistelli.

Listen carefully, tap your foot to the music and enjoy!


Happy Independence Day!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Another Texas Cheerleader Mom?


If you're a mom, you've been there. You've been to that ever-so frightening place in time where you suddenly  want to rear up like a ferocious mother bear and take out whoever is messing with your baby cub.

I've been there a few times lately. My baby cub has been out doing its thing, romping through the bushes and exploring the world, when suddenly I've gotten wind of something, someone, threatening its sweet little ego...feelings...success...heart... Um, well, my cub just got hurt, plain and simple. And this Mama Bear didn't like it...one bit.

And when my Mama Bear instincts kick in I'm ready to rip someone apart. I'm just putting it to you plainly. Truthfully.

Unlike any wild mama bear, however, I have managed to refrain myself for the most part. Refrain from writing a nasty e-mail...making a phone call or two...marching right up there and giving them what for. At least so far.

If you've watched any Lifetime television at all (and I don't suggest you do, if you haven't), then you're probably familiar with the Texas Cheerleader Mom. Truly there has been an incident in Texas where a mom took that mama bear instinct a little too far and sought to take matters into her own hands when her daughter was trying out for a coveted spot on the cheerleading team. Wanda Holloway asked her brother to hire a hit man to kill the mother of one of her daughter's classmates so that she'd drop out of the competition. Wanda was tried and convicted of solicitation and capital murder, but later the conviction was overturned due to a technicality in the jury. Later she pleaded no contest to the charges and served all of 6 months of a 10 year prison term. All the same, hopefully Ms. Holloway learned that it doesn't pay to rear up like a mama bear just because the instinct kicks in.

Today I read about Jezebel and Ahab in 2 Kings 1. Ahab was Jezebel's wimpy weasel of a husband, not her child, but still she stepped in like an angry bear when he didn't get what he wanted. He was told no, he pouted, she determined that he should get what he wanted, and she made it happen. Lies, deception, murder, and mayhem ensued.

But there was a price to pay for this wicked woman's manipulation of events. God saw. God was displeased. Vengeance belongs to God and He always gets His man...or woman.

Hopefully you nor I have considered hiring a hit man to protect our cubs. And hopefully we haven't even resorted to ruthless lies or gossip or manipulation.

But I bet you've been tempted to write that e-mail, pick up the phone or march right up there. Maybe you, like me, have even...gasp!...followed through on such instincts once or twice. What do you think about that?

What do you think God thinks about that?

Here's what I felt Him speak to me this morning.

"Kay, I love your child more than you do. I have wonderful plans for her and no one can thwart those plans. So if someone gets in her way, messes things up, doesn't reward her efforts like you think they should, you can know that their behavior, words, or whatever had to pass muster with Me first. I haven't allowed anything into her life that will ultimately destroy her. In fact, I only allow what will build her, grow her, develop her into someone I can use for even bigger things than you can imagine. I have her in the palm of My hand and I will not allow her to be destroyed, only groomed. You don't need to take things into your hands because I've got this under control."

What a relief.

I'm not saying we should never step up to the plate for our children. But I do know we shouldn't do so in anger or out of revenge. There are plenty of other Lifetime movies that illustrate that point. There will be times when we must be our child's advocate, but only after we've taken the matter to his or her greatest advocate, Jesus.

Being a mom is tough, huh? I'd love to know how you manage to keep your cool when your cub is "mistreated." After all, we're daughters of the king, not wild animals. We might want to remember that when we feel the urge to "rear up."