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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Totally Unrelated

Today I'm taking a brief detour from writing about my daily Bible reading, although I did read some mighty good stuff from 2 Chronicles, Psalm 86, Proverbs 21 and Acts 21. Briefly I'll let you know that I was reminded not to harden my heart against the reproof of God's Word, to seek God even when I'd rather hide from Him in shame, and to persevere despite my fears.

But I want to take just a few minutes to share some neat things with you. These are all totally unrelated and of little value to you, perhaps, but I'm just in one of those sharing moods.

  • I am typing today's post on a brand new computer! Yay! Because it's new and has a longer battery life than 15 minutes like my old one had developed, I am typing from the comfort of my red sofa. I have selected a beautiful bright orange flower to be my monitor background. I am happy.
  •  After two cancelled appointments, I am finally getting my hair cut today. This is a blessed day.
  • I had a wonderful morning with the MOPS moms at our church yesterday morning. They keep me young and grateful. Here's a photo of these lovely young things:
 Sierra Vista First Baptist MOPS Group

Thanks for stopping by today. And thanks for allowing me to just share some good and happy things with you today. I hope you have a blessed day!

Monday, August 29, 2011

It's His, All His

So how do you like your church? That's assuming, of course, that you have one, that you attend one on a regular basis, participate in its ministries, serve in it, and tithe to it. Assuming all that, how do you like your church?

Whether you're the young person who slumps in the pew during the sermon and heads out to the DQ for a Blizzard with the rest of your gang after the service, the young parents who checked your kids into the nursery before breathing easy in the worship service, the older adult who has a hand-crocheted lap blanket marking your usual place in the congregation, or the pastor who stands at the podium each week looking out on this diverse bunch, I'm sure you have some feelings about your church.

I certainly do.

There have been Sundays when I left a Sunday School class feeling dissatisfied, a little put out that my teacher didn't ever seem to get around to the lesson. There have been weeks when I wanted to pull a few parents aside and share with them the basics of sending their children to the bathroom before the service. There have been Sunday mornings when I looked around at our church's auditorium and thought that if I have to endure that ugly dark orange (ugly dark green, ugly dark red...depending on the church of the day) upholstery and carpet one more week I'd surely scream. And there have been days when I sat through the sermon and thought to myself, "That had nothing to do with me. I got absolutely nothing out of that."

Surprised? If you know that I'm married to the pastor that preached those sermons you might be! Actually, thanks be to God, I can honestly say that my husband has fed me spiritually from behind the pulpit for over 21 years and the only days I've walked away from his sermons feeling slighted were when my own attitude was standing in the way.

Still, the truth remains, some days I haven't liked my church too much. And I'm not really referring to the building we meet in, the address we have on our letterhead, or the color of the carpet. Some days I've held my fellow brothers and sisters in contempt. I've been put out with their lack of commitment, fed up with the petty arguments, ticked off with their behavior, and tired of their disrespect for all things holy. I've wanted to gather them together and solve the whole dilemma with a hearty shout of "Grow up, for pete's sake!" As though that would be the godly way to put everyone in their place...a better place...um, my place.

Now that's just the truth. It's the ugly truth. And I'll own it, but I hope you won't hold it against me.

Because I'm betting that it's also the truth that you've had similar feelings. Except maybe your feelings, depending on which pew you sit on, may be directed more toward the pastor, the staff, the staff wives, or, yes, fellow lay folk. My bet is that if you're a young parent you've been put out with your child's Sunday school teacher or nursery caregiver at least once. If you have a teenager maybe you've gotten ticked off with the youth minister once or twice. Or if you're a senior adult maybe you've felt neglected or overlooked.

I hear you.

We all have some ill feelings toward our church occasionally. After all, the church is a family and family members tend to get a little peeved with each other now and then. That's common, normal.

But then again, there's not supposed to be anything common or normal about the church. That is if the church is truly God's church.

Today I read in my daily Bible reading

Therefore take heed to yourselves 
and to all the flock, 
among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, 
to shepherd the church of God 
which He purchased with His own blood.
(Acts 20:28)

What struck me was not so much the admonition to the pastors or overseers of the church, but the way Paul described the church: the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.

That phrase right there is the one thing that has kept me in the ministry saddle all these years. And not only has it kept me firm in my calling, but it's reignited my love for the people I serve over and over and over again. You see, I figure if God loves the church so much that He purchased it with His own blood, then I really have no reason to get bent out of shape over little things that don't go my way. 

You see this phrase confirms that Jesus didn't just die for me or for you or for my family. He died for the church. He loves the church. He considers the church precious and worth it all.

So if Christ died for the church, surely I can speak well of it, support it, confess my sinful attitudes about it and repent of them, go back next week even if someone offended me last week, give my tithe even if I don't agree with the budget, give a little grace, forgive, get over it. And I don't just mean I should swallow my grievances and put my big girl pants on and go put up with those "crazy people" because it's the right thing to do. I mean I should love the things my God loves. Really love them. And if He loves His church then who am I to get mad at it? I should love it too. Really love it!

If you're considering picking up your toys and leaving your church because it just doesn't suit you anymore, would you do me a favor? Would you pray about it first? And I don't mean pray about whether you should stay or go. Leave that one alone for just a few more days at least. Instead, pray for God to give you a love for your church, a godly, supernatural love. A gracious love that recognizes your church's faults, your pastor's mistakes, your Sunday school teacher's shortcomings, and that ugly green upholstery, and loves anyway. Ask Him to help you see your church the way He does.

Granted, He still may direct you to leave and go to another church. But at least you can leave with love in your heart for the place you are leaving. You can leave on His terms and not your own.

Oh be careful how you build your case about your church, dear friend. Remember, it's His church. He paid for it with His own blood. It doesn't belong to you or to me or to your pastor or to your family. It's His. And He loves it...

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

In a Pickle?

I'm going to share one of my lesser known little secrets with you. I'm going to divulge one of my greatest worries, my least favorite predicaments.

Here goes:

I hate it when I'm shopping for clothing and I accidentally wander into the Petite section!

Now maybe that sounds silly to you. But standing at 5'8", I always feel like I'm in some sort of out-of-bounds area when I suddenly realize I'm looking at petite sized clothing. I quickly take my hands off the merchandise, look around to see if the cute little ladies around me have noticed that a giant has encroached upon their space, and dart for the nearest area not marked as "Petites." If someone does seem to notice me or (heaven forbid!) ask if they can help me, I lie and say I'm looking for something for my mom mumble "no thanks" and dart away.

I hate being caught in a place where I just don't belong.

The only thing worse than being caught in the Petite section of the women's clothing is being caught in "a place" where God has clearly told me not to go or even "a place" where I know His presence doesn't reside.

You may not steer clear of the Petite section, but I hope you have that same fear of the "godless place." I've put "place" in quotation marks because, quite honestly, it's not always a physical place. Sometimes it's a relationship. Other times it's a state of mind. Or it could be a situation, a job, a television show I'm watching, a book I'm reading or a conversation. Do you identify?

Today I read in 2 Chronicles 18 about Jehoshaphat, one of the rare good kings of Judah. He was a man who actively sought God, walked in His ways, took delight in following the Lord, and strongly stood for righteousness among a wayward people (2 Chronicles 17:3-6). But even this man wandered into "a place" where he obviously didn't belong.

In chapter 18 of 2 Chronicles, Jehoshaphat wanders into an alliance with the king of Israel. He wanders into a circus of sorts as King Ahab paraded his wise men in front of him and lavished upon him a great meal. He wanders into a contrary discussion with God's chosen wise man, Micaiah. And he eventually wanders onto a battlefield that God had clearly instructed him to stay off of.

And yet, while King Ahab dies on that battlefield, King Jehoshaphat is spared.

He's spared by God's grace. Ahh, the amazing grace of God! Graciously God spares this man who had casually then defiantly wandered into a godless place.

And He's done the same for me, more times than I can count. Much more serious than accidentally wandering into the Petite section, wandering into a godless "place" can have dire consequences. And even though the grace of God has abounded in the past, I need to steer clear of any place, any situation, any dalliance, any conversation, any activity, ... you get the picture... where God is not there.

Today I'm thankful for this story in the Bible that reminds me it is important to pursue God, to stick close to Him, and to purposefully not wander off from Him. But I'm also thankful that it shows the abundant grace of God for those of us who get lost a little too often.

Have you wandered off recently? Do you look up today and suddenly realize that you have drifted away from where you belong? Take a cue from a tall woman in the Petite section. Get out of there! And get back where you are supposed to be right away. After all, you'll find a better fit in the long run.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Nothing Takes the Place of Honesty

Did you hear the story of 11-year-old Nate who amazingly shot a three inch hockey puck through a three and a half inch opening from 89 feet out? Did you hear how the whole crowd stood to their feet and whooped and hollered, but not for Nate?

That's right; they were cheering for Nate's twin brother Nick who was outside the arena, but whom they all assumed had just shot that amazing shot worth a whopping $50,000.

When Pat Smith arrived at the arena with his twin boys and bought three raffle tickets for a chance to take that shot, he had no real hopes that he or his boys would be called forward for the shot. But, just minutes after Nick had left the arena to play around outside, his name was called. Stunned, Pat sent Nate forth to take the shot for his brother. After all, the chances of the kid getting that little puck into that little hole were miniscule.

But that's exactly what Nate did. He swung the hockey stick like a seasoned pro and zoomed the puck right into that small opening. The crowd roared and thoughts of paying for his boys' education played like fireworks through the dad's mind. Everyone was celebrating!

For a little while at least.

Here's what I read in the Bible this morning. I almost wonder if Pat Smith of Owatonna, Minnesota, didn't read the same passage as he lay his happy head down on his pillow that blissful night.

Bread gained by deceit is sweet to a man,
But afterward his mouth will be filled with gravel.
Proverbs 20:17

I don't know if Pat Smith's mouth felt like it was filled with gravel the next morning or not, but whether it was stones in the mouth, a sick feeling in his gut, or just a convicted conscience, the dad picked up the phone and made an amazing phone call. In fact, I daresay his phone call was more amazing than his son's hockey shot.

Mr. Smith called the contest officials and admitted that Nate, not Nick, had taken the winning shot. Nick's name had been called, but Nate had stepped onto the ice. And even when they signed the legal documents after all the hoopla, Mr. Smith had "lied" about which son had taken the shot. Harmless enough right? It's all in the family, after all.

But Mr. Smith knew that he and his boys needed to do the right thing. He admitted the fraud and turned the matter back over to the contest officials. As it stands right now, it looks like the insurance company that funded the winnings will not be paying the Smiths a dime. While many people think they should, I see no reason for such gregarious generosity. I certainly applaud Mr. Smith's honesty. That's what this blog post is all about. But I don't think the insurance company is under any obligation to hand over such a large sum of money to reward honesty. Now if all us folks out here want to get together and send in our nickels and dimes to fund the boys' college funds, that's a different matter. 

And whether we collect any money for this family or not, we do owe Mr. Smith a round of applause. I'm thankful for a bright light of honesty in a dim world of dishonesty. In fact, when I just visited the Good Morning America web site to research this story a little before writing about it, I noticed a poll about whether or not the boy should keep the money or not. The poll seemed to be asking not just if the insurance company should pay out, but if the family should have come forward with the truth or not. I clicked my answer: "No, the brother who took the shot wasn't the brother that entered the contest." Then I waited to see where my response fell among the others. I was dismayed to see that 3,791 people felt he should have kept mum about the deception, while only 2,771 agreed with me that the father did the right thing. I'm stunned.

But then again, what would I have done? I'm not so sure. I'm totally proud of Mr. Smith's response, but with a $50,000 college fund on the table I'm not totally sure I would have done the same thing. I'd like to think I would. But who knows? 

I guess the only way to really know what I would have done would be to add up all the "little" opportunities I have for honesty/dishonesty and gauge my answer based on the statistics. Quite honestly, I'm a little afraid to even do that. 

What do you think? Did Mr. Smith do the right thing? Did he do what you would have done? Or would you have sent the wrong twin onto the ice to begin with? I'd love to know!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

And That Was All I Needed

Sometimes I finish reading my daily Bible reading and feel the need to read on because I didn't quite find that special nugget of truth I was hoping for. That's just being honest. But today I read one sentence and I could have stopped right there. In fact, I did stop there for a few minutes to just chew on this wonderful statement:

Now Solomon the son of David
was strengthened in his kingdom,
and the Lord his God was with him
and exalted him exceedingly.

How wonderful for Solomon! 

How wonderful for you and me, too. You see, if God is my God (and He is!) then He has promised to do the same for me. I've entered into a covenant relationship with Him and He has agreed to do those very things for me. If you've entered into that same covenant relationship through the blood of Jesus Christ, then He will do the same for you, too.

And then the same sentiment can be said of you and me:

Now Kay the daughter of Jerry and Louise
was strengthened in her home...
in her work...
in her realm of influence...
in all her duties...
in her family,

and the Lord her God was with her...
everywhere she went...
in every endeavor...
in every battle...
in every valley...
as she contemplated every decision...
in her lonely times...
in her contemplative moments...
and even when she was surrounded by crowds,

and exalted her greatly...
gave her a sort of holy honor
that may not have been noticed by anyone else
but made her special, significant, and worthy
in His eyes...
saw her differently than the rest of the world saw her...
took note of her obedience, the attitudes of her heart,
the sacrifices she made...even when no one else noticed...
and made her a princess in His kingdom.

Oh, the riches of belonging to God! He is so good to care for His own, to love us and tend for us. And when we have even a measure of success, happiness, security, we must attribute it to Him. For our life is in Him alone!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Here's What Has Been Going On

I'm not sure if anyone noticed, but I've been absent from bloggy land recently. Here's why.

First of all, I didn't really advertise it, but my daughter and I spent five weeks in Tucson this summer so she could attend the Summer On Stage Program with the Arizona Theatre Company. She had a blast doing her favorite thing--being on stage with other people who like to do the same thing--and I had a blast doing one of my favorite things--writing. We rented a cute little bungalow near the University of Arizona. It was darling, efficient, a little sticky and warm (because it was cooled with a "swamp cooler" which isn't very efficient during monsoon season, which it was...monsoon season., that is), and easy to keep clean.

Every day I would get up and walk about five miles, take Abby to her camp, come back to my cute little bungalow and have a rich quiet time, blog, and write, write, write. Pure bliss. I got so much done. I wrote devotionals, articles, a book proposal, 10 days of a devotional book for my Satisfied at Last Bible study, and speaking messages.

Then my computer crashed.

Actually, worse yet, my hard drive crashed.

And I hadn't backed up a single thing.

Go ahead and preach to me; I've preached it all to myself a dozen times over.

I was sick.

Fortunately, because I e-mail a lot of my documents to others for publication or for proofing, I managed to recover some things through blessed Gmail.

But I had lost the book proposal, most of the devotional book I'd started and a number of older documents I might occasionally need (like I needed one this morning when I led a training seminar for which I'd written the material a year ago...never to be seen again...)

So, while I was pretty faithful about blogging all summer in my cute little bungalow, my mood and my devotion changed a little when my hard drive crashed. I think I posted one or two posts on my daughter's computer, but that's all I could muster up.

Then I was out of town for a few days on a speaking engagement in Flagstaff, AZ. Lovely. At a cool 74 degrees, it felt like heaven!

And today, while I'm back at work and trying to move along with life, my daughter started her last year of school. That's right. We began the senior year, complete with pancakes and a prayer in her car before she motored off. So along with the sentimentality of beginning that last last year and inching ever so much closer to the empty nest, I'm trying to take it all in while working on MOPS stuff, church ministries, housecleaning, dinner preparation, and the rest. It's good to be back in the saddle.

I still don't have a new computer yet. That will probably come some time later this week or next. But until I get it, I may be a little sporadic in my blogging. It's just not the same tapping away on someone else's keys. Sort of like cooking in someone else's kitchen. I'm still reading through the Bible, mind you, and I hope you are reading the Good Book too, but it may take a few days before I get back into the routine of blogging about my reading on a daily basis.

Meanwhile I can tell you this: God is at work. He has shown up in some mighty big ways in just recent days. I wish I could sit and tell you all about it, but I've got to go do the "mom of a senior" thing and meet my girl at the community college to register her for English 101. I'm getting set for a wingding of a year! It seemed like the senior year thing was hard enough with my son - scholarship applications, college applications, college visits, school events, etc. - but my daughter tends to do everything with a dramatic flair, both literally and figuratively. She'll keep me hopping, no doubt. And I plan to wring every drop of sweet, syrupy satisfaction out of it. This stay-at-home-mom has thoroughly enjoyed tending to my two little chicks over the last 20 something years. And while God is already opening other doors for ministry and writing and such, I'm determined to make this last year of being a Mommy count for all its worth!

You wouldn't waste a prayer on me if you felt like saying a little "getting-ready-for-senior-year-and-all-its-drama" blessing over me right now. And while you're at it, you could pray for a little undeserved recall ability as I try to piece together all that stuff I wrote in my cute little bungalow and promptly lost! Thank you sweet friends.