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Archive for July, 2012

Sometimes I just need a little extra reassurance to strengthen my trust in God.  Call it a return to “Lessons in Trust 101.” Maybe that’s why the fate of this little bird seemed so important to me.

After being  shaken out of its nest during last week’s gusty thunder storms, I found this little guy perched on a fallen limb right outside my front door late Friday afternoon. He  looked so sad,, cold and alone that I  couldn’t help but worry about him. Being so close to the ground and away from the safety of the nest, I feared my dog, a cat or some other rural predator might be able to get him. I didn’t think he would survive the night.

Suddenly it became urgent to me that he survive – maybe because his forlorn appearance triggered a kinship with the way I felt inside. I don’t know, exactly, but   I felt helpless and unsure what to do for him. If I moved the branch, he might fall off onto the ground and lose the meager safety and camouflage of the branch. I didn’t want to pick him up. because I was afraid his mother bird would abandon him and I  didn’t know where his nest was to put him back. Yet I knew he wouldn’t survive without help.

As I pondered his situation, I remembered this verse:

Aren’t two sparrows sold for only a penny? But your Father knows when any one of them falls to the ground. Even the hairs on your head are counted. Matthew 10:29-30 (CEV)

Though it might seem a little silly to some, I began to pray for this little guy.  I already knew God cared for him, but at the core of my being,  I needed to see my big, strong God prove his care for such  a small, defenseless bird – especially  right at that moment because of things going on in my life and in the lives of those closest to me. I sensed God saying, “Watch and see what I will do” as this  precious object lesson about his protection unfolded right before my eyes.

Friday night turned into Saturday morning and  when I looked out the window to check on him, the little bird  was still there. I also saw a second bird perched on the branch with him.  Through the day when I glanced out at the branch, he was still there, sometimes alone, but often with his guardian-angel bird, even after the Saturday afternoon downpours.

When night fell again, I prayed the same prayer for him, encouraged that God had protected him for one night, and believing he could protect him again. He did. I looked out early Sunday morning and the little bird still huddled on his perch, his guardian-angel bird close by.

But 2 hours later when I went out the front door to walk to the church, he was gone. I walked closer to the branch, looking for feathers or signs of an attack (oh faithless me!) but saw nothing to show that something “got” him. Apparently he had finally flown away on his own to a safer perch.

I may never know whether he had been dazed by the fall and finally recovered  or if he had finally developed enough strength  to fly away on his own, but the lesson af the sparrow will stay with me for a long time. God cares for the sparrow and he  will take care of me too because I matter to him.

Thank you Father for  sharing such an important lesson in trust at a time when I  needed it the most. Amen.

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“So then, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us, too, put aside every impediment — that is, the sin which easily hampers our forward movement — and keep running with endurance in the contest set before us,”        Hebrews 12:1 CJB

Why does it feel like we never get anywhere when we’re trying to make changes in our lives? Probably because we always seem to take 2 steps backward for each step forward.

Lot’s wife in Genesis 19 is a great example of this. She hated living in the country so she persuaded her husband to move to the city of Sodom. After all, her husband was a wealthy man with flocks and herds. His servants could care for the critters and she could live the life of luxury she wanted.

City life wasn’t perfect either, but she overlooked the problems because she had the life she wanted. Until two angels came with a message to leave the city so God could destroy it. Lot’s family would be saved with one condition – don’t look back.

But even though she wanted to live;  even though she held her husband’s hand and fled from the coming destruction, the lure of her dream life beckoned to her. All her hopes and dreams were back in the city. Fear of the unknown future and feelings of overwhelming loss stared her in the face.  Even as she was pulled forward, she planted her feet in the ground and resisted the forward pull. Then she’d stumble and try to regain her footing, only to resist again. Finally, the forward motion against the grief in her heart hurt too bad. She gave in and actually looked back at what she’d left behind and she lost her life because of it.

Often, we know what God wants for us. We know the right things to do and how to do them. But  there is this resistance to our forward movement, pulling us two steps back for every step we struggle to take forward. We stumble and feel like we’re not making any headway. The past may not be perfect, but it feels safe because we know what to expect. And so we eventually give up the forward struggle for change.

Realistically, change will never be a straight line forward. It will be this up and down, back and forward kind of motion. But the key is to make forward progress – to take two steps forward and only one step back to reach our goals:

  • Acknowledge the resistance to forward movement in our lives. No, I don’t mean to look back on  the past and mourn for it like Lot’s wife. But we do need to recognize the effect of the past on our lives, so we can consciously find ways to  push forward against it.
  • Be willing fail. In our forward motion to grow and change, we will fail at times. Cultivate an attitude to get up and keep going to say, “OK, that didn’t work, let’s try something new.”
  • Set our eyes on the goal. That way, even if we fall down, we’re still pushing forward and will eventually make visible progress. Each time we push forward against the inertia of the backward pull, we’re strengthening our resolve to move forward.
  • Most important, hold the hand of the One who can help you make the changes you need to make in your life. That way, even if you resist, he can help you make forward progress.

We’re not alone in this life’s journey. All those who’ve gone before are cheering us on, urging us  keep moving forward, to live a victorious life in Christ!

Help me Lord to keep moving forward with my eyes on you until I reach the goal:  a life pleasing to you. Amen.

 

 

 

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“I will hurry, without delay, to obey your commands.”        Psalm 119:60 NLT

One of the pitfalls of being a writer is that it’s too easy to become distracted when I sit down to the computer to write – especially if  I feel stuck and am having a hard time crafting a particular scene.

Under the guise of “research,” I soon find myself surfing the Internet, looking for ideas to jump-start my creativity or I check my e-mail, just to see if a member of my writing group left a critique on something I submitted. Maybe I’ll just do a quick online cryptogram puzzle or work on marketing an article I wrote last week instead, because the ideas won’t come. Before I know it an hour has passed and I haven’t gotten any writing done.

It’s really called “procrastination” – putting off intentionally and habitually something that needs to be done. (Meriam Webster Dictionary)  And most of us do it at one time or another.

Writer Raymond Chandler had an interesting way to deal with his procrastinating side.  He set aside about 4 hours each day to write. Even if he didn’t feel like writing or was “stuck” on a particular scene, he would sit down to write anyway. He had two basic rules  during that 4 hours:  “A. you don’t have to write. B.  you can’t do anything else.”

Chandler’s “do nothing else” rule is kind of like a mental time-out for  chronic  procrastinators  Eventually boredom sets in and we do what needs to be done because there’s nothing else to do.

So here’s today’s challenge for all the chronic procrastinators out there: Choose one task from your to do list that you’ve put off. Set aside a block of time and implement Chandler’s rule – you don’t have to do that task, but don’t allow yourself to do anything else. No cheating!

Now, try applying that rule to your spiritual life. Is there something you know God wants you to do, but you’ve put it off? Like setting aside time for prayer or Bible reading each day? Or maybe helping someone else? Try applying Chandler’s “do nothing else” rule for that one thing until you can say like the Psalmist, “I will hurry, without delay to obey your commands.”

Father, help me make obedience a habit! Amen

 

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“But Jesus said, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children.””        Matthew 19:14 NLT

It was a concerned Sunday School teacher – Edward Kimball – who introduced young D. L. Moody to Christ at 17 years of age. He later became an evangelist.

J Wilbur Chapman attended one of Moody’s Chicago meetings during the 1870”s and was saved. He began working with Moody to set up the crusades and hired former baseball star, Billy Sunday, to be an advance man for the crusades.

Billy Sunday began holding his own  evangelistic meetings and in 1924, in  Charlotte, NC.. The Layman’s Evangelistic Club evolved from those meetings and those laymen were instrumental in inviting Mordecai Ham to Charlotte for evangelistic meetings in 1934.

 A 16 year old in attendance at Ham’s meetings accepted christ as his personal savior. His name was Billy Graham, who became a prominent American evangelist through the remainder of the 20th century, holding televised crusades around the world.

We never know who our lives will touch, but there are threads connecting us all. A Sunday school teacher made a difference in my life at 8 years old when she told me about a loving Christ. At age 14, I began teaching my own class and  I am a youth teacher today. Whenever I am tempted to give up, I remember these statistics:

  • 88% of Christians had an experience with Christ before age 19.
  • Of those, 68% were between 9 and 14 years of age.
  • There is a 30% chance for an entire family to be saved if you win a child to Christ.

Our children are our heritage! We must reach them while their hearts are tender for Christ.

Father, help me to see, love and reach out to the children around me, encouraging them to come to you! Amen.

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“But if we live in the light in the same way as he is in the light, we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from every sin.”        1 John 1:7 CEB

Here is a fun game you can play with your children or your children’s church group. Try drawing a face  on a clean sheet of paper while wearing a blindfold. The results will be fun for all to see. But even more fun is watching the children while they work.

Some will be meticulous,feeling the drawing with their fingers to decide the placement of eyes, nose, mouth and hair. These drawings may be  good,  thought they may still be a little distorted.

Others will use their imagination to picture the face in their mind, then drawing what they see there. They will have all the parts, but not necessarily in the right places. LOL!

In a variation of this game, I asked each individual in my class to draw a person or animal. The first person draws the head, adding as much or as little detail as they want. They fold the paper over what they have drawn, leaving just a little of the neck exposed,before passing their paper on to their neighbor. The next child must draw the  body without looking at what the first child drew. They repeat the folding process, leaving the beginning of the legs exposed, then pass it on to a third child who finishes drawing the legs.

It’s fun for all to see the finished drawings because no one knows what the person before them drew. You may end up with an alien, wearing a diaper, walking around on cow hooves for legs.

These simple games are  great illustrations for today’s verse. When we live our lives in spiritual darkness, we can’t see the whole picture of who we are or what we can be. Problems we face may seem distorted and seem bigger than they would if we saw them in God’s light.

Since we are social beings, we will interact with others.  When spiritual darkness obscures our vision,, those interactions may be ill-fitting or even harmful to us or to those around us.

But when we walk in the light of God, there is no place to hide our faults and flaws. Once we see them, we  can allow him to use his divine eraser to rub out those less than perfect areas of our lives and to  redraw them according to his plan. In his light, we can see what is going on in the lives of others and can fellowship together in love and unity, rather than hurting and judging them.

Father, shine your light in my heart today! Amen.

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I will give thanks to you with a heart that does right as I learn your righteous rules.”        Psalm 119:7 CEB

Even the blueberry patch has rules.

1. Weigh your containers on the way into the patch. There are some containers that don’t need to be

weighed though – those with 2 legs. You can fill them up with as many as they can

hold for free – although you won’t be able to freeze those berries later!

2. find a row and start picking. If you have time, pick from start to finish on both sides so you have lots of berries to take home.

3, Pick into a small container and then dump them into a larger container for transport. It is easier that way – you don’t have a lot of weight to carry around. Be sure your transport containers have lids so the berries don’t spill on the way home in the trunk!

4. Take a large 5 gallon bucket to sit on in the rows.

5. Pick only the really blue ones – they are sweet and juicy.

6. Always go with a friend or make some new ones there as yo talk to the folks in the next rows, Voices carry well in the berry patch!

7. Pay for your berries on the way out and thank the Lord for a bountiful crop as you load up the car!

8. Be sure to make something to share with others and tell them about the bountiful blessings of the Lord!

Thank you Lord for a good morning in the patch! Amen.

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“It’s news I’m most proud to proclaim, this extraordinary Message of God’s powerful plan to rescue everyone who trusts him, starting with Jews and then right on to everyone else! God’s way of putting people right shows up in the acts of faith, confirming what Scripture has said all along: “The person in right standing before God by trusting him really lives.”        Romans 1:16 MSG

So – how many photos of your children or grandchildren do you keep in your wallet?

I have to chuckle – whenever a group of people get together, inevitably someone pulls out a photo of the newest child or grandchild and everyone else “oohs” and “aahs” over the photo. After all, we are proud of our offspring, and it is a wonderful conversation starter. It’s easy to talk about them because we’re so proud of them – who they are and the things they accomplish. And people usually seem to be genuinely  interested – the younger the child, the better!

No wonder they call our small portable photo albums “brag books.” They contain memories we  delight in sharing with others.

What would it look like if we kept a “brag book” of our walk with Christ and pulled it out for everyone to see whenever we gathered together?

“Oh this is me before I knew Jesus as savior. Boy was I a mess. And here’s one of me after I met Jesus. What a difference he made in my life.”

“And this is a picture of me at my job. I was out of work for a year; then I prayed and God answered the prayer with this job.”

Or    maybe, “This is my nephew. We prayed for him and God healed him.”

It is so easy to take photos these days. We have digital cameras and even cameras on our phones. Here’s a challenge – start putting together a “brag book” of photos associated with things Christ has done for you – a visual diary of your faith. Next time you’re in a group, share one or more photos with them and tell them the story behind it. You may find that it isn’t so difficult to “brag” about the One you’re most proud of!

Father – help me to record the things you’re doing in my life  so that I will delight in sharing your story with others! Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

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