Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Date

                                                   calendar July 26 
                        

Yesterday was a special day for me.  I always had a special place in my heart for July 26th.  On that day in 1899, my grandfather, Edmund Just was born.  And on the day of his 21st birthday, he married his sweetheart, my grandmother Florence.  They wee married for almost 60 years.  Theirs was a true love story.  They raised 8 wonderful children, and had 38 grandchildren...and I have no idea how many great grandchildren.  A special day.

I'm afraid not everyone will consider July 26th a happy memory.  Yesterday, we received word of a tragedy.  One that every parent prays never comes.  A sweet young toddler was the victim of a horrible drowning accident.  Her family used to live in this area, but moved away to minister to others in another state. 
July 26th will mean a totally different thing to this precious family.  A day that changed their lives forever. What can you say in a circumstance like that?

Some people try to console the grief stricken family with words that are intended to comfort. 
"She is with the LORD."
"She is in a better place."
"The angels came and took her away."
"God wanted her to come and live with Him."
"I know how you feel."
"You have another child"....or the heartwrenching  "You can always have another child."

That family does NOT want their child or loved one to be anywhere but with them.  They don't want to hear about God wanting her more than they did...and they don't think anyone can know how they feel.
The best thing to do is just be there...and if you cannot...pray for the family.  For the most part, there is nothing you could say.  No words suffice.

Why do tragic things like this happen?  There is no answer.  No one knows why.  We won't know until we reach heaven.  Until then, we lean on each other.  Sometimes we are the ones who are doing the holding...other times we are the ones that are doing the leaning.  God gave us the people in our lives to support us and for us to support.  No (wo)man is an island.  We are not meant to live in a cocoon.  Hold the ones we love close...for we never know how long we have with them. 

Friday, July 22, 2011

You Can't Outgive the Giver

               


Check out this story of a young boy who was trying to catch a fly ball at an Arizona Diamondback's baseball game.  He apparently had it, but dropped it.  It was inadvertedly given to another boy.  This boy, Ian was so excited to have the ball.  That is...until he was told that it had originally been caught by the younger little boy named Nicholas..  Without missing a beat, the older boy went down the stairs, and handed the beloved ball to the crestfallen fan.  He didn't bat an eye (no pun intended ) and gave the ball to the one it belonged to.
Now it's an amazing story on it's own...but there is a twist.  All of this was done, under the eye of a TV camera, who happened to be filming at the time.  He had no idea that the camera was on him; that commentators were talking about his actions and giving a blow by blow description of his kindness to a stranger on live TV.  The announcers were so amazed that they sent for the boy to go to their booth.  There awaiting him was a 'contract' which consisted of 4 baseball tickets and a signed baseball bat from his favorite player, Justin Upton.  The boy was clearly shocked that people were making a big deal of his honesty and integrity.  He did the right thing.
Ian did not go to the game that day expecting to be rewarded for his deeds.  He was excited to get the ball, but when he saw the heartbroken Nicholas, he gave the ball to him out of the goodness of his heart.  He could have been selfish, and kept the ball.  After all...he didn't know Nicholas personally.  Who would care?  The kid would get over it.  Life isn't fair, sometimes.  And unbeknownst to him...the cameras would be rolling. 
Instead, he gave...and he was given MORE than the just a baseball.  He was given much more than he could have dreamed of.  And the cameras were rolling.
What would the cameras see if they were filming YOUR life?  What does God see when He sees YOUR life?  Are you selfish and self centered...always looking out for the bottom line..what is good for you?  Or do you look around and see how you can bless others?  Do you see how you can give to others without expecting praise or something in return?  You will find that God will bless you more than you can imagine, when you do.  You cannot outgive God.  He will reward your good deeds with unexpected blessings.  As a good Father who wants to give good things to His children, He will in turn bless you.  Will your life be a bed of roses?  No.  But He sees you, and will be pleased.  And really, that's all that matters.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Hem

                                          

Steve surprised me a couple of days ago and got me four allamanda bushes.  I have wanted some, because I can remember vividly the beautiful allamanda bushes in my grandmother's front yard.  The faint smell of the delicate yellow leaves unneduately transport me back in time to 1968...

Anyway, he surprised me by buying them.  We had wanted to redo the front flowerbed.  It always seemed to be so messy.  Between the mulch and the scraggily firecracker plant leaves...it left the front walkway looking unkempt. 

He dug up the firecrackers, cleaned up the old mulch, and planted the allamandas.  He then placed a raised border around the walkway and remulched it. 

What a difference the border made!  It kept all of the mulch from spilling out onto the walk, and defined the flowerbed.  It's funny how one little thing like a boundry can make such a huge change.

Boundries.  We set them all of the time.  But did you know that God sets boundries for US?  David tells us in Psalm 139:

O Lord, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O Lord. You hem me in—behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.            Psalm 139:1-6

God knows us inside and out.  There is nothing that we can do or think, that He doesn't know about. He has searched us.  Kind of like an internal Google...He searches me and knows all about me.  He knows what we're thinking...uh oh.   It is almost unfathomable that He knows what we're going to say, before we do!  Kind of makes you cringe sometimes, doesn't it?

He "hems us in"  behind and before.  By placing His Hand on us, He keeps us anchored in our place.  Like those plants, without a 'hedge of protection' around us, our lives can tend to be messy....all over the place.  When we are in God's Will, we are surrounded by the boundries He has set around us...to keep us safe and free from danger.  Staying within the boundry also helps define us as Christians.

Like those plants...some of our 'growth' can get out of hand...and sneak out of the cracks in the boundries.  We have to be vigilant, in spotting the weeds before they get too big, and plugging the holes or cracks up, to keep us close to Him.  Like the boundries that we set for our children, in order to keep them safe...He sets boundries for US, for our protection.  He doesn't give us boundries to stop us from having fun...it is for our future security.

It IS too wonderful for us to understand...how the Creator of the universe cares enough about each of us, personally enough to know about every minute detail of our life...and not only knows....but cares. 

Thank you, God for caring enough about our Eternal future, by sending us your Son.  May we show You how much we care, by living our lives for You.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Don't Borrow From Tomorrow

                                         
I was talking with a neighbor the other day.  We were sharing about similar experiences in dealing with elderly parents.  He was commenting on how easy it is to worry about what is coming around the corner.
Off of the top of my head, I told him that we don't need to borrow from tomorrow. 

We can waste so much time and energy on concerning ourselves with situations that we create for ourselves in our minds.  So many times those two little words 'what if' can creep into my subconscious, and consume my thought pattern.  It can become like a worthless mantra....'what if this happens...' or 'what if that happens..'  It becomes like a spinning hamster wheel in our heads.

What do we do when the wheel is spinning out of control?  We need to do what Carrie Underwood says and declare, "Jesus, take the wheel.".  Take it from my head....stop the relentless worry and torture that we impose upon ourselves. 

It is human nature to worry.  Jesus taught about this tendency.  He thought it was important enough to speak about it in His Sermon on the Mount.  In Matthew 6:34, Jesus told the people, “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble." 

We are given 24 hours in a day.  Not 48.  We don't need to try and cram tomorrow's concerns into today's timeframe.  This doesn't mean we shouldn't wisely plan for the future...but we shouldn't fret and worry about what may or may not happen.  It shouldn't consume and eat up the 24 hours that we do have.  It isn't in our hands, anyway.  Worry only cripples us.  It strips us of the ability to move ahead...to do what is needed to be done.

So borrow many things...a friend's shirt...a cup of sugar...a DVD...but don't borrow anything you can't repay.  Once your time is spent...it's gone.  You can't get it back.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

A Senselss Murder

                         
                            
          

There is so much controversy concerning the verdict in the Casey Anthony trial.  Casey was found 'not guilty' in the murder of her 3 year old daughter, Caylee.  The jury deliberated, and decided there was not evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that she was guilty of murder. People are divided over the outcome of the verdict...to the point of violence.  Most people are upset that justice wasn't granted in the little girl's death. The blame didn't go to where we thought it should . No one was held accountable for a senseless murder.

Two thousand years ago, there was another senseless murder of an Innocent.  He did not deserve to die.  But, unlike Caylee, there wasn't very many people on His side. There were no crowds outside His 'courtroom' demanding justice.   Most people were screaming for His death.  He had done no wrong, yet He said not a word in His defense.  Who could be held accountable for His death?. The answer may surprise you.

It wasn't Pontius Pilate, the one that sentenced Him to be beaten.  It wasn't Herod, who refused to even handle the case.  It was the sins of you and I that put Christ on the cross.  It can be so easy to point fingers at those individuals that we think "get away with murder" when in actuality our sins are just as wrong.  Perhaps not as horrific as some, but wrong, nonetheless. 

Scripture says: 
Romans 3:23-24    For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
1 John 3:4-5    Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. The price for all sin is death. 
Romans 6:23a    For the wages of sin is death

We have ALL been sentenced to the death penalty.  The death penalty?  But we didn't do anything so bad as to deserve that!!  Yes we did.  We have sinned.  Notice the verse didn't specify "murder" or "stealing" or "adultry".  It didn't say only "bad" sins deserves death.  ALL sins deserves death.  And we all have sinned.  We are guilty as charged.  No appeal can be accepted.  We are on death row.

But wait.  The verse is not over.  Verse 23 goes on to say:  "but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus.".  We have been given a reprieve.  The governor called at the last second to grant us a full pardon.  Did we deserve it?  No.  But all we have to accept that gift.  It is not an automatic exoneration.  We have to show true repentance, change our ways and believe that Christ died for our sins.  We have to confess that He is our Savior and Lord.  Then the death sentence is lifted.  We are free to walk the streets of Heaven...no guilt attached to us.  Undeserved to be sure, but free nonetheless.

As for Casey Anthony....she as will we, will ultimately be judged by the Only Judge that counts. The verdict He pronounces, will not be shown on Fox News or CNN.  As with us, that is a personal decree that will be done in private.  If we have accepted Christ as our Savior we will be declared not guilty....if we ignore Him and decide that we have no need for Him in our life...the sentence will be guilty as charged. 

Romans 14: 10-12      You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat.  It is written:
   As surely as I live,’ says the Lord,
‘every knee will bow before me;
   every tongue will acknowledge God.’

  So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God.

And as for little Caylee?  A good friend of mine, Becky said yesterday, "The best thing is that little Caylee Anthony is playing at the feet of Jesus not at all concerned about today's events."  That is so true.  Her killer will be judged by the Great Judge.  We just have to keep in mind that one day, we will, too.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

When Things Aren't What They Seem To Be

                                                                


Jacob had met the girl of his dreams.  He loved Rachel so much.   She loved him back, too.  He had met her when he had began to work for her father, Laban.  He had fallen in love with that shepherd girl at first sight. Isaac had grown so fond of her whole family.  Rachel had an older sister named Leah.  Poor Leah would have a hard time ever finding a husband.  She was anything but beautiful.  She had what they called 'weak eyes'.  It must have been a birth defect...they didn't look like everyone else's eyes.  It definitely had an effect on her looks.  It made him shudder to think of it. 
But all he had to do was look at his lovely Rachel.  She took his breath away with her beauty.  He had undertook a contract with Laban.  He would work hard for him for a total of seven years.  His payment would be his beautiful Rachel for a wife.  He could hardly wait!  The wedding was finally here!!
Jacob's stomach began to jump as he saw his beloved being brought in next to him.  Her eyes were downcast and her face draped in soft silk scarves. 
The two of them listened carefully to the rabbi, as he went through the ceremony.  Jacob could hardly bring himself to look over at Rachel.  In order to steady his nerves, he concentrated on the teacher, before them.
After they were pronounced man and wife, Jacob's heart leapt for joy!  As was the custom, the father of the bride was the one to deliver the bride to her husband on the wedding night.
The next morning, to Jacob's dismay, he found that he had not married Rachel, as he had thought...it was her sister Leah!
He ran to Laban and demanded he be told why he was deceived.  Laban told Jacob that in his country, the youngest sister could not be married before the oldest.  He told Jacob to go on his honeymoon, and then when he returned, he would be given Rachel as a bride, also...but he was obligated to work for him for seven additional years.  Jacob agreed, so as to be able to marry the woman he truly loved.
(Story found in Genesis 29)

I can just imagine the horror in Jacob's heart, when he realized that it was not Rachel that he had truly married.  he had trusted Laban to be true to his word...and he was not.  Now Jacob had to pay the price for somone else's deception. Jacob was not a stranger to deceit.  With his mother's help, he had tricked his father, Isaac into giving him the family birthright...instead of his older twin, Esau.  He no doubt, remembered what it was like to be the wrongdoer...the sinner.

So what did Jacob do?  He paid the price and moved on.  He continued to do what he was asked to do.  He could have said, "Forget it!" and left town.  He could have reacted with violence.  He could have schemed retaliation against Laban.  But he didn't.  He just kept going forward and did as he was asked.  Was it fair?  No.  Did he look foolish in the eyes of others?  Perhaps.  But Jacob didn't focus on these things.  He let his driving force be love.  The love he felt for Rachel.

What do we do when we have been deceived...when someone pulls the rug out from under you, and lies to you?  There are many ways we could handle it.  We could act in retaliation.  We could plot and scheme to 'get them' for what they've done.  We could, depending on how hurtful the deception is, withdraw and not let anyone close to us again, to prevent future hurts.  Or we could respond as Jacob did...with love.
Now that's not to say Jacob acted perfectly.  He did treat Leah different from Rachel.  He showed Rachel more love and concern than he did Leah.  He may have harbored deep resentment toward her for years.  But he tried. He focused on the positive part of the situation.  He had his beloved Rachel.

As a result, God  entrusted Jacob to be the father of the twelve tribes of Israel.  That would have never happened if Jacob had wiped his hands of the whole matter and ran away. Despite his many sins and failures, God blessed him.

When you have been lied to, or deceived  take heart.  Not if...but when.  It is inevitable that it will happen at some point, if you have any connection with the human race.  Remember that you yourself are a sinner.  Forgive that person.  If you hold onto the resenment, it will only wound you further.  Does that mean that you let that person, or others walk all over you?  No.  You stand up for yourself and do what is necessary.  It may take a little bit of 'tough love'.  But try hard to let love be the motivating force behind your actions.  It won't be easy, but God calls us to do so.   If we are acting on our own, it is impossible. Yet, if it were impossible, He would not tell us to do it.  That's why we need the Spirit's help.

It may take a long time to recover from the betrayal.  Take it day by day...minute by minute if necessary.  That's ok.  Keep trying.  You will win out in the end.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Facing the Son

                                         


     Steve planted some pepper plants a few weeks ago.  They're a few inches high now, and it won't be long before they'll be ready to transplant.  I noticed that at first glance, it looks like something is wrong with them.  They almost looked crooked!
     In reality, they are not planted incorrectly...they are leaning on purpose.  They automatically lean toward the direction of the sunlight.  It's like they want to raise their faces to the sun....to soak in it's goodness and warmth.  If you turned the plant around, with it's leaves toward the shadows, you would soon find that it is leaning the other way...toward the sunlight.  It's like it has an innate knowledge of where the sun is, and it can 'see' it, and find it's way back.  If a plant is denied sunlight, it will wither and die.
     We are a lot like those plants.  After we become a Christian, we may find ourselves in the shadows.  But the difference is, that when we let the Spirit lead us, we have an instinctive desire to search for the Son. We inherently long to point our face toward the Light of the Son and let Him warm us and give us strength.  Like the plant, if we neglect our time in the Light, we will spiritually wither and die.  We can find that nourishment, by keeping daily quiet times and daily prayer...or communicaiton with God. We can keep ourselves from getting dry by soaking up the Living Water of His Word, the Bible.  All of us go through dry spells from time to time.  That is normal.  We just have to remember to keep looking towards the Son!

Friday, July 1, 2011

True Freedom

                                                     


Two Hundred Thirty five years ago, our forefathers banded together to form a new nation.  One that did not have to answer to imperial doctrine.  They declared independence from Great Britan.  That was put into written form in a document called the Declaration of Independence.  The second sentence is one of the most recognized statements in history:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
The colonies declared that they were now liberated.  Free from Brittish rule.  We are now a democracy because of their bravery, tenacity and in the words of the doctrine their "reliance on the protection of Divine Providence".

We may all possess the freedom of speech, the freedom of religion, the freedom of the press, the freedom of assembly and the freedom to petition, but are you really free?

There's more to freedom than just liberty.  We may have claimed freedom from tyranny, but we can still be under bondage from another type of enslavement...sin.   

2 Peter 2:19  states They promise freedom, but they themselves are slaves of sin and corruption. For you are a slave to whatever controls you.
Not to stand on a soapbox and point fingers...(for if I did that, I would have 3 fingers pointing back at me) but if we put anything in our life ahead of God, that is sin.  If we have something in our life that we put too high on a pedestal, it can begin to control us.  It might not be what we think.  True, it could be something serious, like drugs, alcohol or sex...but it could be something like...television.  How about video games?  Are you obsessed with your iphone...or...horrors...facebook? 

Many of these daily distractions are not in and of themselves bad...but it's what we do with them that can cause a problem.  When we begin to think of something in an obsessive way, it can control us.  It can become a god to us without us even realizing it.  It's easy to do...but can be more difficult to break away from.

Peter was warning us of the tendency that humans have to let things control us.  God wants us to let His Spirit control us.  To have Him control our thoughts and actions.  When we let the Spirit lead us, it is easy to keep in tune with what God wants us to do.

As we commemorate our nations independence this weekend, ponder on your own freedom.  If you aren't as free as you'd like to be...you know Who to ask for help.  He's waiting to help you take your shackles off.

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