Wednesday, December 27, 2017

"I don't want that!"


"I don't want that!"

I've thought this phase many times after opening a gift on Christmas morning.  All I could think was how I'd be heading back to the store to stand in a return line! 

 It's bad enough that I didn't get what I wanted, but now I must use my time and energy to return it.  Then adding insult to injury, I don't even get the money back to buy something I want because the store returns the money to the credit card.  Major bummer.

Did I mention that gift giving and receiving is my last, very last, love language?  The cruel joke on me is that I married a #1 Gift Giver!   And, he's sort of a bad gift picker!  Love him!

In my mind, I have said many times...Do you even know me AT ALL?  Okay, I may have said that out loud...more than once.  I love that poor, sweet man, who loves to shower gifts on my stone, cold heart.

Get ready to gasp, because I'm about to tell you the most horrific Christmas story EVER!  It's the time I throw his gift on the floor.

Yes, I did.

 In my defense, we had agreed that we would not be exchanging presents that year because of a special trip.  But guess what?  On Christmas morning, he came down the stairs with an arm load of gifts and a big happy smile.  He was speaking his love language loud and clear, BUT, I couldn't hear him.  I had nothing for him because I took the whole, "no gifts" thing literally.

It was not a happy Christmas morning as I cried while I angrily opened gifts and complained that I had nothing for him.  The first gift was a full-body cozy blanket thing with sleeves that zips up the front.  That goofy blanket thing triggered something in my overheated body and I throw the package on the floor and said...maybe yelled, "I don't want that!"

That was a long time ago, but I still can see his pain.  Since then, I've tried so hard to be accepting of his gifts.  Can you believe, he is still bringing me gifts?  (I just returned three things last month that he bought me for my birthday.)  Lord, bless his generous heart!

In all honesty, I am learning to be a better giver and receiver!  And I will never again believe him when he says, “no presents.” 

A few days ago, we all celebrated the biggest gift giving day of the year, and it's also the day we celebrate the greatest gift ever given.  God's gift to us, Jesus.  I think God's love language may be Gift Giving too because he has so many gifts available to whosoever will.  The gift of salvation, the baptism in the Holy Spirit, peace, provision,  protection, joy, love, and forgiveness...just to name a few.

In 1 Peter 4:10, there is a simple verse that says so much about how God entrusts His many gifts to us.

 Each of you as a good manager 
must use the gift that God has given you 
to serve others.

What?  No returns!  I have to use it and serve others.  I guess I won't be saying, "I don't want that!" to God.

This verse tells us that not only do we have to keep the gifts God gives us, but we MUST use them.  And not for ourselves, but they are meant to serve others.

When you’re returning all the “I don’t want that,” gifts this year, remember, if you're willing to accept His gifts, He has so much more to give you.




Wednesday, December 20, 2017

The Packaging

I love beautifully wrapped presents, but somewhere over the years the practical me stopped buying bows and ribbons.  The main reason for the lack of luster in my Christmas wrappings is because I'm cheap.  That is followed closely by the extra time it takes to tie up and decorate the packages.  And let's not forget, less to clean up which works nicely with my personal life goal of making everything in my life as simple and uncomplicated as possible..for ME!

With these three things always before me, the frills were set aside many years ago, for the cheapest and quickest form of wrapping.  Still, I will admit, I do love to see Christmas trees with all those coordinating packages displayed neatly around the bottom of the tree.

There really is something to be said about the packaging.  The mystery of a box wrapped in pretty paper draws the eye and creates wonder as to what could be hidden inside.  On Christmas morning, all those beautiful packages are an amazing thing to behold,  just not at my house.   

However, when it comes to the packaging, God and I have something in common...the simpler the better.  

When God's gift to all mankind burst on the scene, the surroundings were a stable, livestock, and a feeding trough.  When God's gift was laid in a manger, the descriptive words were lowly, stripes of cloth and no room for them.  

There was no pretty-paper, bows or ribbons found in Luke 2:6-7.  

So it was, that while they were there, 
the days were completed for her to be delivered. 
And she brought forth her firstborn Son, 
and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths,
and laid Him in a manger, 
because there was no room for them in the inn.

The greatest gift that has ever been given came with the simplest of packaging.  In fact, Isaiah 53:2 takes it a step future in describing the packaging.          

...He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.

It's an amazing thing when you think about it.  The very words of Isaiah were meant to tell us how simple the packaging really was, but those words never fail to stir my emotions because I don't see the package that way.  

To me the packaging is quite the opposite.  He is the epitome of the word beauty and majesty and I am even more drawn to Him and in love with Him for the simplicity of the packaging.     

In a few days, the Christmas paper will be flying through the air and when that happens, it won't  matter if your presents were designer trimmed or dollar store wrapped.  

But now and forever, there is one special gift, one very special gift where The Packaging really does matter.


...He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.

Yet, we do!



Wednesday, December 13, 2017

To Be Held

Our 15-month old grandson loves to be held.  When he's on the other side of one of the many baby gates in our house, I'll hear a sweet little voice call out to me, "Hi."

He will repeat his greeting to me over and over until I connect with him.  Then he will extend his arms to me, and I cannot resist his need to be held.

Reaching over the gate, I swoop him up in my arms and he beams with happiness and a sweet sigh of contentment escapes his lips.  To be perfectly honest, I'm happy too.

I think one of the simplest act of love expressed to a child is to hold them.  When they fall, we hold them.  When they cry, we hold them. When they are happy, we hold them.  When they are sad, we hold them.  When they are hurt, we hold them.  Holding the hurting, wounded, sad or even happy child is what a good parent does.  A child knows he is safe when held in the arms of his parents.

For some people, Christmas can be a stressful,lonely or difficult time. This year may be a reminder that there is an empty chair at your table.  For others, you may be feeling the pains of estrangement this Christmas.  Whatever the case may be you may be facing a lonely Christmas.  If you find yourself in one of these places, you may need To Be Held.  

In my life, there has been difficult times when I know HE held me.  In my times of need, I can picture my arms extended to my Heavenly Father and His ears open to my, "Hi, Hi, Hi."   And He never fails to response to my need to be held.  

For I am the Lord your God,
the one who takes hold of your right hand,
who says to you, ‘Don’t be afraid, 
I am helping you.’  
Isaiah 41:13 NET

This week, don't allow sadness, hurts, loneliness or even the busyness of life to rob you of your opportunity to be held.  









Wednesday, December 6, 2017

AGAIN with the Wise Men

There isn't really anything new under the sun when it comes to the Christmas Story.  It has been told, retold, turned inside out and upside down!

I've heard a load of sermons in my lifetime about everything from the strips of cloth that Mary wrapped the baby Jesus in, to the donkey that brought her to Bethlehem. (which is actually not in the Biblical version of the Christmas story. LOL)

When I was a kid, my least favorite part of the Christmas story was anything related to the Wise Men.  It's highly unlikely that I ever said these words out loud, but I thought them...AGAIN with the Wise Men.  

 What do we really know about these three guys...
  • Yes, they were wise.  
  • They were not typical men.  Why? Because they stopped to ask for directions.
  • They brought gifts and smart men do come bearing gifts.
  • They were perceptive.  
  • They would not be circumvented from their purpose or plan.   I guess that would make them goal oriented. 
Wait...I like goal oriented.  I happen to be a focused planner myself.  These guys had a purpose and a plan, and nothing was going to thwart them from their goal.  I'm suddenly relating to these three guys.

On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, 
and they bowed down and worshiped him
Then they opened their treasures 
and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
Matthew 2:11

There is a phase that has been used many times in the story of the Wise Men that goes like this, Wise Men still seek Him.  As used as that one sentence has been in the telling of the Christmas Story, it does bear truth...the wise men of the Christmas Story sought Jesus out with purpose.  They came to worship Him.     

I think the next time I hear about the Wise Men, I won't be saying, "AGAIN with the Wise Men." These three guys got it right.  They came to worship HIM!


Have you?










Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Countdown To Christmas

The Countdown To Christmas has officially begun, and I love everything about the Christmas season; the music, the snow, the smell of cookies, the sound of a crackling fire, the spirit of giving and the story of the birth of Jesus.

My Christmas tree has been up since November 3rd and now with December 1st only a few days away the clock is ticking.  There is much to be done before Christmas Day.  Decorating (for you slackers), shopping, cooking, baking, church and school programs, entertaining family/friends and lets not forget the eating.  I can't think of another holiday that brings as much planning, joy and happiness as Christmas.

This Countdown To Christmas has me thinking about how I want to see the next 26-days unfold.  Yes, I want all the people, fun, food and gifts but I also want to focus on the real celebrant, the One that Christmas is all about.  NO, I'm not talking about Santa, but the other Christmas guy--JESUS!

In the past decade, attempts have been made to strip Christmas of everything "Jesus."   The truth is, it's highly unlikely that December 25th is actually the birthday of Jesus, but it is the day that we, who call ourselves Christians, have chosen to remember His birth.

For that reason, as the Countdown To Christmas begins, and with it, pressure from outside forces pressing in to make Christmas about anything but the birth of our Savior, I want to be on Mary's Team.

Mary, the mother of Jesus, knew how to take the crazy out of Christmas.  When the angel proclaimed to her, Blessed art thou among women...she didn't try and give the job to another or say, "Sorry, I don't have time for this.  I'm planning a wedding.  I can't fit another thing on my to-do-list!"

No, when Mary received the news...she rejoiced in God her Savior

"Oh, how my soul praises the Lord.  
How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!"
Luke 1:46 & 47 (NLT)

How about you?  Will you join me on "Team Mary" this year?  Will you take time in the busyness of the season to remember and declare from the depth of your soul to anyone with ears to hear...or eyes to read...

"Oh, how my soul praises the Lord.  
How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!"

...and Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Thankfuls


Thanksgiving is tomorrow.  If you are like most people who celebrate this day, you will take time before or after your meal to share something that you're thankful for.  I wish I could say that we practiced this tradition at every one of our Thanksgivings, but we may have missed a few years.  

Over the past six months, we have had the privileged of having our son, daughter-in-law and three amazingly wonderful grandchildren living with us.  We are three generations under one roof.  Next fall, they will return to Northern Asia to continue their work there.  Our son's family has a nightly tradition called "Thankfuls."  They don't do "Thankfuls" just on special occasions or over the month of November or at the Thanksgiving table.  It's every night all year long.   

Some nights, our grandkids will ask us to join them for "Thankfuls."  We go upstairs and sit on their beds while each one says one thing that they are thankful for that day.  The "Thankfuls" they usually share consist of time that someone spent with them, a thoughtful gift they received, a kindness shown to them or something yummy they ate.

To me, it's not as much about the item they are being thankful for as it is the lesson of gratitude that is being nurtured in them every single day. 

In I Thessalonians 5:16-18 (TLB) it says this... 

 Always be joyful. 
Always keep on praying.
No matter what happens, 
always be thankful
for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.

Our country has had some struggles this past year.  There has been much division over the parsing of words and taking of sides.  Sadly, this division has even found its way inside the Church.  By Church, I don't mean a building made of bricks and motor but a Church made of blood, flesh and bone.

Here are the verses that proceed this call to rejoice, pray and give thanks, no matter what happens around you. (verses 14 & 15)

Dear brothers, warn those who are lazy, comfort those who are frightened, take tender care of those who are weak, and be patient with everyone. See that no one pays back evil for evil, but always try to do good to each other and to everyone else.


Tonight, before you lay your head on the pillow, tell someone your "Thankfuls," and be KIND OUT THERE!

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Not Suprised

Surprises can be loads of fun, like receiving a homemade German Chocolate Cake for your birthday. (See photo!  Yes, that's the husband.)   Another awesome surprise is unexpected money.  Who wouldn't want a surprise like that?

I've had many great surprises in my life.  Far too many to list, but one of my top 10 surprises was when our son unexpectedly arrived home early from Northern Asia.  That was such a happy and joyous occasion.  I couldn't stop smiling.  He was home, safe and with us.  That was a welcomed surprise.

However, I do realize that not all surprises are happy ones.  There are many unwelcome surprises in life and sometimes these can even cause us to question our faith.  Like sudden unemployment, the death of a loved one, relationship issues, sickness or even the loss of property or possessions.  No one would ever jump out from their hiding place and yell, "SURPRISE your house just burned to the ground!" 

Yup!  All surprises are not welcome.

Recently, someone near to me experienced some unwelcome surprises.  Even as the disappointing news was relayed to me, I didn't feel concerned or worried for this family.  A single phase poured over me like a healing ointment.

"God's not surprised by this."

We don’t know the storms ahead of us, but He does. In His infinite wisdom, He knows the what, why, where, when and how of all our situations.  He sees our lives playing out from beginning to end, not moment by moment.  Nothing we have gone through or are going through or will face in the future is a surprise to our God.  

We may be frazzled when we are caught by surprise, but God is NOT SURPRISED nor unprepared!  He knows the events of my future and yours before we experience them.  I don't know about you, but for me that equals a peace that passes all understanding no matter what the outcome. 

In Romans 8:28 (GW), God gives us an island of hope to stand on when we get blindsided.  It's a place to drive a stake in the ground to hold on to when doubts rush in and we feel our lives have turned from peace to disstress. 

We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God—those whom he has called according to his plan.

A few verses after that, in verses 35, 38-39, we find more encouraging words to hold on to when troubles or trails take us by surprise.  

 "What will separate us from the love Christ has for us? Can trouble, distress, persecution, hunger, nakedness, danger, or violent death separate us from his love?  …The one who loves us gives us an overwhelming victory in all these difficulties.  I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love which Christ Jesus our Lord shows us.  We can’t be separated by death or life, by angels or rulers, by anything in the present or anything in the future, by forces or powers in the world above or in the world below, or by anything else in creation."

The greater the unwanted surprise, the greater God will show Himself.  Remember the three Hebrew boys in Daniel 3, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.  They faced death in a fiery furnace.  God was NOT SURPRISED but these boys were when He showed up. 



  


Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Moving in the Right Direction


In October, my granddaughter's first grade class took a field trip to Potter's Zoo in Lansing, Michigan.  This zoo is about an hour drive from her school.  The kids, parents and teachers were all happy and excited to finally be on their way.  They were scheduled to go the week before, but the trip was canceled due to a "chance of rain."  Of course, the day of the actual trip, it was colder and rainier than it would have been the week before.  It's Michigan...enough said!

The school decided to push ahead in spite of the weather and off they went to the Lansing Zoo.  The bus was on the move.  I know you're thinking it so I'll go ahead and say it...the wheels on the bus went round and round...on the wet pavement, on their way to Lansing.

About 40-minutes into the one hour trip the bus rolled to a stop...at the Saginaw Zoo.  Oopps!  This zoo was closed for the season.  After some heartfelt apologizes and lots of sighs, they pressed on and finally made it to their destination.

This little story got me thinking that movement doesn't always mean productivity.  In fact, if you are moving in the wrong direction it can be counter productive.  For example, the Children of Israel moved for 40 years in the desert, while a whole generation lost out on seeing the Promise Land.  Lots of movement, but no productivity.  Then in Jeremiah there is a verse directed at the tribe of Judah.  They were so stubborn and determined to go the wrong way that the Prophet Jeremiah recorded these words.

Jeremiah 8:4-5 Message Bible

“‘Do people fall down and not get up?
    Or take the wrong road and then just keep going?
So why does this people go backward,
    and just keep on going—backward!
They stubbornly hold on to their illusions,
    refuse to change direction."

How destructive my granddaughter's zoo experience would have been, if the driver refused to change directions.  Yet, in our spiritual journey we do things similarly when we clearly see the road markers and continue in the wrong direction.  

I know in my own life, I'm a fast mover and can misinterpret movement for productivity missing the markers along the way.  I have to remind myself to slow down, pay attention and sometimes I need to change direction as I endeavor to maneuver through life in a productive way for the Kingdom.    

Help me Lord, to move in the right direction, not just move for the sack of movement!


Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Teach Me

The elementary school years were not easy for me.  I struggled to pay attention and found sitting in a chair for hours painfully uncomfortable.  I often wondered if my problem was due to my superior academic abilities and the teacher was teaching far below my brilliance.    

Hey, it's possible. FINE! I may have been of the "late bloomer" persuasion.  

Due to my remedial learner ways, there have been plenty of life lessons that required repeating.  For example...the 4th grade.  Oh the shame!

I really was an exceptionally good teenager and ended up in the National Honor Society, but oh those elementary years.  Wow-those years were another story all together! The skipping school in the 1st and 2nd grades.  Most first graders would have learned their lesson but not me.  I was a repeat offender.  There was the black crayon on the hardwood floors, the stealing and lying.  I was a bit of a scraper as well.  The mischievous things I did are far too numerous to mention in a short devotional.  I was most certainly a slow learner.  

I wish I could say that those days are far behind me, but spiritually speaking I'm still a bit of a slow learner.  Recently, while having my quite time I wrote this prayer in my journal.  

"Thank you Lord for lessons both great and small, you are forever teaching me your ways. I pray I'll be a quick learner."

Sometimes I think my pen writes ahead of my brain, and I have no idea how it does that.

As sincere as my prayer was, I know I'm not alone in the the slow learner's class.  You may not have repeated a whole year of school, but I'm guessing that you have had to start over again because you didn't learn a lesson the first time.  

My go-to Bible character for slow learning is King David.  When the prophet Samuel comes to confront the King about his sin with Bathsheba, David is incensed with the "sheep stealing" culprit in Samuel's story. King David is livid, until Samuel says, "Thou art the man."  In Psalm 51, David pleads for the Lord to forgive him for his "sheep stealing" ways.  Then in Psalm 86:11 (NET) he prays this prayer. 

O Lord, teach me how you want me to live!
Then I will obey your commands.
Make me wholeheartedly committed to you!

King David made some big blunders but he also did some stuff right.  In Acts 13:22 (GW) he was remembered by God like this...
‘I have found that David, son of Jesse, is a man after my own heart...'  

Being teachable is an awesome trait, even for we who are slow learners.

"Thank you Lord for lessons both great and small, you are forever teaching me your ways. I pray I'll be a quick learner."


Wednesday, October 25, 2017

You have a mustache!

A month ago, our daughter and her family left for Northern Asia.  It was sad to see her go, but when she insisted on taking her four amazing and funny children with her, well that was just grandparent cruelty.

We love and miss all our grandkids, but our daughter's third child, kept us laughing with his funny 3-year old view of the world.  This little man has been struggling recently with telling the truth.   A few days before they left our house to begin their long journey to Asia, a black marker-goatee with a full mustache suddenly appeared on our little guy's face. (The photo is a reenactment of the actual event.) 
This boy!
His mom asked him, "Who drew that mustache on your face?" And his reply was. "I don't know."

When the story was retold to me, I laughed out loud seeing it was his face.  Still, he stuck to his story after being questioned a number of times.

There was so much going on in the packing process that our bearded-boy escaped punishment, except he had a beard for a few days that he couldn't see...but we all could.  It was a constant reminder to everyone but him that a wrong had been done.

The next day when his mommy was tucking him in for a nap, he confessed to the crime.  She hadn't asked him about it, he just confessed.  I'm sure you can only imagine her shock at a child admitting a wrong all on his own!  Evidently, his little conscience  needed cleansing.

That little preschooler isn't so different than, shall we say, YOU...okay, fine--me too. We may be walking around with black marker on our faces swearing to the world that we have no idea how it got there.

Great news, there is a verse in 1 John 2:1 (GW) that gives us all hope....

My dear children, I’m writing this to you so that you will not sin. 
Yet, if anyone does sin, we have Jesus Christ
who has God’s full approval. 
He speaks on our behalf when we come into the presence of the Father.

The day of this incident, I was gone but when I arrived home, I was greeted by my bearded grandson and I said with surprise, "You have a mustache!"  He smiled at me and went about his play.  He was't in the least bit affected by his actions...he couldn't see it.

We may think our sin is hidden, but God looks at us and says, "You have a mustache!"  He sees.  He knows and through Jesus Christ we can be clean.

Personally, I've never been fond of hearing these words..."You have a mustache!"


Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The Little Things

In marriage, it's the little things that remind us more than the big gestures that love is alive and well.  It might be coffee in bed, pants that make it all the way to the laundry basket, dishes in the dishwasher instead of the sink, watching TV with the one you love and giving them full control of the remote, or even the occasional meal out.  It can be this type of little stuff that gets our attention.

(Actual note from one of our grandson's
 classmates following a minor surgery he had.)
About a month ago, I had a little things kinda week with the Lord.  It was a reminder that He sees.  He knows.  He cares.  The little things that impacted my life that week may seem inconsequential to some but not me. 
  • I noticed the food that was provided.  
  • I noticed the lost package that was found.  
  • I noticed the note that was discovered in my grandson's backpack.
God specializes in the business of "The Little Things."  In John 6:9, I'm sure no one could have believed that one boy's small lunch could feed thousands.  It was a little thing that brought a huge blessing.  Here's how John 6:9 (TLB) says it, “There’s a youngster here with five barley loaves and a couple of fish! But what good is that with all this mob?”  

I think the disciple’s question was fair.  "What good is that...?"  In the natural, what good is one little lunch when thousands need food?  When that disciple asked his question, there was just one little thing he left out of the equation...Jesus.  
  • A few weeks ago, my diabetic husband forgot his wallet and was far away from home without money or food for the whole day.  It was an unexpected little thing how Jesus provided for his need.  
  • My daughter, who was leaving for Asia in days, found out a package she needed was delivered to the wrong house.  After following up with the Post Office it seemed the package was missing and time was running out.  As I turned to leave the Post Office, the supervisor said, "Wait!  It's here."  A coincidence?  I think not.  It was another one of the little things. 
  • It's been a difficult season watching our son and daughter-in-law maneuver through the minefield of their children's readjustment to the United States after 3-years in Northern Asia. There has been lots of tears as our grandchildren adjust to a new culture, new home, new church, new school and new friends. Then another little thing that meant so much to them and to us...happened.    A thoughtful note was put in their son's backpack by another student.  It said, "I know it's hard being in a new place.  You're doing great."

Any of these incidents might have brought a "What good is that...?" comment.  But, not from me.  I rejoiced with gratitude in my heart that the Lord uses the little things to bless and remind us that He sees. He knows. He cares. He intervenes.  

I wonder what little things are coming your way this week.  






Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Lead Me

Three weeks ago, 1-year old grandsons were staying at our house. (Yes, I said that correctly.  There were two new walkers at our house.) It was a delight to watch these little guys play side by side in the house.  They were completely occupied  with whatever toys surrounded them.

That was, until the glass sliding door opened to the great outdoors.  When this happened, both boys ran to the door.   They were filled with wonder at the world outside the safety of Grandma's house.

At least once a day, I'd try to take them for short walks around the backyard.  As we walked, I'd hold out one finger on each of my hands and inevitably both boys would latch on to that finger.  This allowed me to lead them.

To these little guys, my finger represented safety, and their act of latching on showed their trust.  

Occasionally, one or both would break loose and try to go their own way (usually right for danger).  I'd hurry to their sides and hold my finger out again.  It was like my finger and their small hands were powerful magnets being drawn together.  These little one-year-old boys couldn't resist and would latch onto my finger again.  Then I'd lead them in the direction I wanted them to go...away from danger.

This simple illustration goes well with Psalm 25:4

“Show me Your ways, O Lord;
teach me Your paths.
Lead me in Your truth and teach me,
for You are the God of my salvation …”

In my many years of walking with the Lord, I wish I could say that I have always been drawn to His extended hand like a high-powered magnet, but not so.  I have resisted the Lord's leading and have at times choose my own path.  

This week, you may be at a crossroads in your own life.  You may be struggling with which path to take.  In times like these, more than ever, don't let go of the hand that leads you.  He will lead you into places that are fruitful, peaceful and pleasant.  Hold on to His hand.   

"Lord, here's my hand, Lead Me!"



Wednesday, October 4, 2017

A Promise is a Promise


There isn't a parent alive that hasn't heard the phrase...  "But you promised!" ...at least once.

I know I have from my kids, grandkids, and even from adults in my life.  Sometimes promises are just dog-gone hard to keep.  Time management can get in the way, as well as, one’s personal finances.  How many vacations to Disney have you planned and canceled?

One of my personal favorite promise-breaking excuses is, "I'm too tired."

Any of these excuses will usually bring the prompt reply, "But you promised!"  I hope you read that with a 'hint of whine' because it was implied.

Yes, that all too familiar phrase, A Promise is a Promise, is hard for we mere mortals to live by.  It is our nature to be promise breakers.  But not God.  In 2 Corinthians 1:20 (NIV) it says, "For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so, through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God."  

Now that I'm getting up there in years, there are some promises in the Bible that catch my eye more than others.  Like this one I read in Isaiah 46:4 (GW)

Even when you're old, I'll take care of you.
Even when your hair turns gray, I'll support you.
I made you and will continue to care for you.
I'll support you and save you.


 "Okay, God, A promise is a promise!" 

AMEN!




Wednesday, September 27, 2017

The Baby Gate

My house is loaded with baby gates.  These gates are at every staircase and dangerous doorway in our house.  These baby gates have an important function.  They are there to protect the baby from harm.

The reason our house is loaded with baby gates is because we have house guests for a year and one of  our guests is a new walker.  (The picture is of our actual house guest.)  At the writing of this devotion, I'm proud to say that we have not had any tumbles down the stairs.

There is a problem with the baby gates.  I have seen a number of funny Facebook videos of toddlers scaling baby gates like soldiers readying for war.  I have also seen babies capable of pushing down a baby gate, as well as the brilliant little ones whose tiny hands figure out how to unlatch a locked gate.

There is a scripture that speaks to an adult situation that is similar to these baby gate escape artists.  It's found in Psalm 141:3 (GW)

O Lord, set a guard at my mouth.  Keep watch over the door of my lips.

Every time I read this scripture, I'm reminded of the times I've shoved pass the guard at the door of my mouth and allowed my words to fly without restraint.  I ignored the prompting of the Holy Spirit and did as I pleased.  I don't know about you, but for me when this happens, it never ends well.  If only babies would heeded the gate that is there to protect them, but they don't.

And neither do we.

Maybe someone reading this has had a recent experience pushing down the gate or possibly, you were the recipient of someone's stinging words.  Whatever the case, the guard has a purpose just like the baby gate.  It's there to protect.

The Lord is willing to be the guard at the door of your mouth, if you let Him.  Don't push down the Baby Gate.



Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Dirty Filter


It's that time again.  The changing of the furnace filter.  I've known for over a month that the filter needed to be changed, but I couldn't remember the size.  So day after day, week after week, the dirt would get thicker and thicker hindering the filter from doing its job.

Finally, I put the size in my phone so I'd have it with me at all times.  Still, I have not bought a new filter.  You may wonder why.  The truth is having the correct information and acting on it are two different things.

This whole furnace filter debacle caused me to think of my own life.  It was years ago in a counseling format that I first heard the word "filter."  It was used to describe how people hear things.  If the information comes to them through a dirty filter, usually due to life experiences, then it's anybody's guess what the person may actually hear.  Even if every word you are saying to help them is awesome, wisdom from on high and amazing, they simple can't hear a word because of a clogged up dirty filter.

So, that said, I found this Pinterest worthy filter cleaning miracle in Ezekiel 36:25-28 (TLB).  

"Then it will be as though I had sprinkled clean water on you, for you will be clean—your filthiness will be washed away...And I will give you a new heart—I will give you new and right desires—and put a new spirit within you. I will take out your stony hearts of sin and give you new hearts of love.  And I will put my Spirit within you so that you will obey my laws and do whatever I command...And you shall be my people, and I will be your God."

I'm pinning that one.  (For all non Pinterest users you won't get the humor in that last remark.)  That verse is a miraculous filter cleaning promise; new heart, right desires, new spirit, heart of love, indwelling of the spirit,  What more could a person ask for?  Oh, yes, one more thing, filters need to be maintained. So you may want to revisit Ezekiel 36:25-28 on a regular basis.

Gotta go.

I have a dirty filter that needs to be replaced with a new one--clean and fresh, ready to filter out the dirt.  I think I'll buy a bunch of filters because filters need to be changed often!



  

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

"Mine!"

When children first learn to talk, the parents are overjoyed with each sweet word that is uttered by their protege.  

"Dada!"  "Mama!"  "Bye Bye!"

Then other words begin to appear, and these words can be underwhelming. 

"No!"  "Shut-up!"  "Poop." (A personal favorite of my grandsons.)

As a toddler's vocabulary increases, so do the words we don't want our sweet babies to say.  Then the parents must adjust their conversation to protect the child's budding vocabulary.   Remember the spelling years!  I-C-E  C-R-E-A-M! 

Even with all we do to protect our brilliant off-springs, they will still pick up some unapproved words.   A word in our house that seeped into our young children's vocabulary was "MINE!"  

I have no idea where my children could have heard such a selfish word...she lied.

MINE, when spoken in a possessive way, reeks of selfishness.  I understand selfishness all too well.  I'm in a continuous battle with this ugly word, "MINE!" 

It's my time.
It's my money.
It's my car.
It's my phone.
It's my desk.
It's my IPad.
It's mine, mine, MINE!

I've heard my husband teach many times on tithing.  In an attempt to help people understand what is actually theirs and what belongs to God.  He says that when we ask this question, "How much of my money belongs to God?"  We have the wrong premise because in actuality everything we have is 100% God's and that 100% isn't taking only about money.

I have one of those Bible apps on my phone that gives me the scripture of the day and a few weeks ago this was the scripture that popped up on my screen.

"Don’t you know that your body is a temple that belongs to the Holy Spirit? The Holy Spirit, whom you received from God, lives in you. You don’t belong to yourselves. You were bought for a price. So bring glory to God in the way you use your body."    
1 Corinthians 6:19-20. (GW)

Time, money, cars, and phones seem small in comparison to my very being.  This scripture sets the record straight.  I don't even belong to myself let alone own all my worldly possessions.

Next time I get in a tug-of-war over ownership, I need to remember what's really "MINE!" 


The only time that word sounds good, and can even bring peace, is when God looks at me and says, "MINE."

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Hold Fast

Our youngest grandchild recently turned one.  For being a little guy, he has the grip of a grown man.  Once he gets hold of something, and he doesn't want to let go, there is only one way to break his grip.  If you guessed pry back his fingers, you'd be correct.

The boy knows what he wants and he will hold fast to whatever that may be.  You probably wouldn't notice this in the family photo I posted, but #10 is holding a stick much to his mama's dismay and his daddy's giggles.  He wouldn't let go and as you can see...it's in the family picture as a forever memory.

Speaking of holding on and not letting go, today is our 42nd wedding anniversary.  We married young, but we knew what we wanted.  We wouldn’t be dissuaded.  On September 6, 1975 we took hold of each other and have held on tightly.  Forty-two years ago, we made this forever promise one to another.


To have and to hold from this day forward, 
for better for worse, for richer for poorer, 
in sickness and in health, to love, and to cherish
 till death us do part.   

Over the past four decades, plus two years, we have known blissful bounty and traumatic hardships. We have been blessed with three healthy children, and I had a miscarriage  37 years ago.  We've lived in 16 houses.  Traveled thousands of miles to serve as missionaries in the Philippines.   We've had highs, and we've had lows.  We've had laughing, and we've had tears.  We've known sickness and we've known health.  We've added to our family and we've lost some to death.  In all these years, we've Held Fast to each other and the commitment we made 42 years ago.  

Today, I recall another vow, promise, commitment I made.  I was a mere child, but once I make up my mind (just ask my husband about this) for me there was no turning back.  Just as my grandson held tightly to his stick in the family photo, and my husband and I took hold of each other for life, I also made my decision for Christ and when I took hold of Him, there was no way I was letting go.  

Verse 23 of Hebrews 10 says it way better than I ever could.  "Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful."

Today is my wedding anniversary, and it's a special reminder to continue to Hold Fast.  I'd also like to use this day to challenge you to hold fast to the ones you love and equally stay true to the commitment you made to the Lord.

Grandkid #10 may have dropped from another apple tree, but I think this little guy rolled under mine. You gotta love those strong willed kids because when they take hold of Jesus...they Hold Fast.    





Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Here vs. Present

For most children in the USA, school has either begun or will begin soon.  Just like the photo, I have a vivid memory of sitting at an old wooden school desks at the start of the day and for me, the memories are not all good.

In the 1960's, our school day would often begin with Bible reading and prayer, and yes, this was the public school.  But even before the Bible reading or prayer, the teacher would begin the day with roll call.

Without looking up from the list of names, the teacher would call out the first child's name.  The student's response was usually, "Here."  This would be repeated over and over as the names were called out in alphabetical order.  Then the unthinkable would happen...the pattern would be broken when a child would respond, "Present."

Seeing that my name was near the end of the list, Beverly Smith.  I now had a HUGH decision to make.  Would I be "here" or "present?"  

"Here" was simple, uncomplicated, but being "present" made a power-statement to both the teacher and the class.  I am all in and ready to work.  Bring on the spelling words, oral reading and fractions.  Because I'm present! 

As my nine-year-old mind continued mulling over my choices, suddenly I heard my name called, "Beverly Smith."

I panicked.  My eyes were the size of saucers.  My options ran through my mind at lightening speed, but I was unable to speak a single word.

The teacher glanced up over his reading glasses.  He looked directly at me and said, "Here."  Directing his focus back on the attendance list, he checks the box next to my name and continued calling roll.  

NO! I screamed in my mind.  I'm not here.  I'm present!  But the moment had pasted.  The die was cast.  On that day, I was here.  I daydreamed about what might had been, if only I had been present!

The Here vs. Present dilemma can be seen in many aspects of life.  In relationships, on the job, even in our spiritual lives.  I understand only to well what it means to be Here vs. Present.  In my heart, I want to be present--available and all in, but sometimes my actions answer with a loud, "Here!"

I don't hold any grudge against that teacher who said I was "Here" 51 years ago.  I know people are human and capable of misjudging the actions of other, but not Jesus.  In Psalm 139:7-10 the Word gives us this promise.

"Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.  If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me."   (NKJV)

 I'm extremely thankful when it was me who called the attendance role so many years ago, I called this name, "Jesus!" And His response was without hesitation, "Present, now and forever!"






It Takes Time

Years ago, I was counseling kids camp and about midway through the week, I received a phone call from my husband.  He informed me that o...