Oh, Danny Boy…

Oh, Danny Boy!

Whenever we move from one year to another there are lists all over media…Top Stories, Funniest Moments, Most Influential People, etc. etc. you’ve seen them. I don’t mind confessing that I like lists; not only do I like these re-cap lists but I like the ones that tell you 10 Ways to Organize Your Closet, 6 Foods to Eat Now and I also like making lists. I make grocery lists, vacation lists, I have lists of restaurants I want to visit, books I have read, books I want to read – yep, I’m one of those!

Lists help me stay organized and focused, help me set personal goals, let me find things easily and, most important, remember stuff.   A well-written list is clear, exact, and brief. When life is very busy and chaotic, a list helps me feel like I have been productive as I cross off the “dones”.

Perhaps my little OLM (Obsessive List Making) may seem weird to you but it works for me and I think God must like lists too because His Word is full of them.  The Ten Commandments comes to mind as one of God’s most well known lists but recently I found an amazing list in the Book of Daniel.

As a young Israelite man, Daniel was taken to the land of Babylon to serve in the household of the king. He served for about 70 years and, in the Book of Daniel, he describes his experiences.

In Chapter 10, Daniel had been mourning, fasting and praying for 3 weeks.   He sees a vision of an amazing man dressed in linen with a face like lightening. The man speaks to him, calling him a man of high esteem (v11)…How did Daniel become “a man of high esteem”?!

Ready? Here’s the list, Daniel was:

DETERMINED – Daniel “made up his mind that he would not defile himself” – Daniel was a man of firm resolve, strong in mind, determined.

 OBEDIENT – He seeks permission from the commander to not defile himself – he obeyed earthly authority! He was bold, not afraid to speak to the authority over him when he knew he answered to God.

WISE – When the commander said he was afraid of his leaders, Daniel had a wise solution, “lets do a test!”

DEPENDED ON GOD – Daniel is asked to interpret the Kings dreams. By asking for time to consider the dream – he demonstrates wisdom. He consults his friends, he knows he needs support, together they ask God, he depends completely on God to supply. Chapter 2 has a wonderful prayer of praise to God, he was a man who knew the source of wisdom and blessing, he was humble.

GOOD INFLUENCE – Daniel’s three friends face a horrible test when they are ordered to worship a statue. Daniel’s example of strength much have been a good influence.  Shadrach, Meshach and Abnego refuse to worship the statue and are thrown into a raging inferno, they trust God to deliver them.

COMPASSIONATE – The king has a dream and God gives Daniel the interpretation. Daniel is appalled by the meaning of this dream and wishes, for Nebuchadnezzer’s sake, that the dream did not apply to him, a man of caring and compassion!

HONORABLE AND HARD WORKING – There’s a new king on the throne.   It was common for a new ruler to kill any servants that might possibly be loyal to the old king. Not only did Daniel serve well, he distinguished himself. Daniel was accomplished, and worked hard with excellence.

PRAYERFUL – When the order is given to pray to the King, Daniel is found making his usual petitions and supplication to the Lord. Daniel was a man of consistent and disciplined prayer.

GUARDED HIS TONGUE – Daniel never speaks against those who plotted against him; he was a man of honor. He does not cry out or plead for mercy when put into the lion’s den, he trusted his God. When the pit is opened, he still honors the king who put him in there and gives glory to God. Daniels example caused this pagan king to praise the one true God and give the order that all should honor God.

KNEW THE WORD – Daniel read the Word (Chapter 9 – he reads the words of Jeremiah). He was a man of prayer and fasting. He was a man of confession who humbled himself before God and confessed the sins of the people. He was deeply grieved over sin. He knows God has allowed these difficult days and knows that God has the power to because of His great compassion.

Daniel, the man of high esteem, is given a wonderful promise. The angelic being tells him to “go your way to the end, then you will enter into rest and rise again for your allotted portion at the end of the age.” Daniel 12:13

Daniel obeyed and honored God all his life. There is no record of his ever asking for anything for himself yet God gifted him with great wisdom, gave him favor with 3 different rulers/kings and preserved his life. Over and over Daniel consistently demonstrates wisdom, integrity, humility, obedience and devotion to God.

Want to be a person of High Esteem? Be a Daniel!

 

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When Your World Quakes…

Before…

Routine keeps me on time, on task, nothing forgotten.  Mental to-do list of who, what, where, when and how.  Small warning signs of trouble may be ignored but this time, God was speaking, preparing for the test and trial.  I knew something was coming, I did not know what.  Easy to praise the Lord when life is going according to my plan but much too easy to coast and think, “I got this…”

During…

The major interruption.  The unexpected, unplanned, unanticipated event; not on my schedule.  All routine out the window, calendar useless, reminders, lists, obligations, email alerts all ignored.

The cords of death encompassed me, and the torrents of ungodliness terrified me. The cords of Sheol surrounded me; the snares of death confronted me. Psalm 18:4, 5

Trying to breathe, to remain calm, to put two coherent thoughts together.  Who to call/text?  There is one, the One who is above all others.  In these moments, I can only fall at His feet.  Heart pounding, I open His Word…

“I love You, O Lord, my strength.” The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge; my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies. … In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried to my God for help; He heard my voice out of His temple,
and my cry for help before Him came into His ears.Psalm 18:1 – 3, 6

This enemy is bigger than any ever imagined and foundations are cracking, rendered powerless, without knowledge, adrift without a schedule or plan to follow.  Refusing to dwell on what might happen, what could happen, what is the worst that could happen; choosing to focus on the One Who gave His permission for this trial, this test.

Then the earth shook and quaked; and the foundations of the mountains were trembling and were shaken, … He bowed the heavens also, and came down with thick darkness under His feet. He rode upon a cherub and flew; and He sped upon the wings of the wind. Psalm 18:7, 9 – 10

God rushes in, He allows every earthquake to accomplish His purposes and He stands at the epicenter with His arms wide.  He gives strength to bear my burden, He sends Aarons and Hurs to keep my arms strong and heart lifted to Him.

He sent from on high, He took me; He drew me out of many waters.
He delivered me from my strong enemy, and from those who hated me, for they were too mighty for me. They confronted me in the day of my calamity, but the Lord was my stay. He brought me forth also into a broad place; He rescued me, because He delighted in me. Psalm 18:16 – 19

The quake was strong, intense and thankfully short.  There were aftershocks that occurred without warning; they were accompanied by shortness of breath, sleeplessness, loss of appetite and ability to focus, a constant sense of anxiety.  God, His character, His Word, His Truth needed to be repeated, often, and deeply planted to recognize and reject the lies, to slow the breathing, to quiet the mind.

As for God, His way is blameless; the word of the Lord is tried; He is a shield to all who take refuge in Him. For who is God, but the Lord?
And who is a rock, except our God, the God who girds me with strength and makes my way blameless? He makes my feet like hinds’ feet, and sets me upon my high places. He trains my hands for battle, so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze. You have also given me the shield of Your salvation, and Your right hand upholds me; and Your gentleness makes me great. You enlarge my steps under me, and my feet have not slipped. Psalm 18:30 – 36

After…

Back on schedule with minor, manageable, interruptions; they are welcome after all the rocking and rolling.  God chose to deliver and give what was requested, He was gracious and merciful to me.  Ultimately He gave the one thing He always and consistently gives, His gave according to His will and purpose.  Would I be praising the Lord as much if my request did not agree with His will?  Difficult to say, I like to think I would and I know I would trust Him to lead me through whatever He allows and I know there will always be another quake. Lord, help me continue to sing…

The Lord lives, and blessed be my rock; and exalted be the God of my salvation, … He delivers me from my enemies; surely You lift me above those who rise up against me..Therefore I will give thanks to You among the nations, O Lord, and I will sing praises to Your name. Psalm 46 – 49

Glorious Clothing

For He has clothed me with garments of salvation,
He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness,
As a bridegroom decks himself with a garland,
And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. Isaiah 61:10

Finding clothes I like, at the price I want to pay, that are comfortable and stylish is a challenge.  For me, shopping requires planning and preparation.  Not too long ago I went ISO pants suitable for work.  I knew it would not be easy.  I ate a hearty breakfast for energy.  I wore an outfit that would be easy to take off and put back on so I would not end up a wrinkled mess when I was done.  A pair of  flat, comfortable shoes were an important tactical decision.  I picked “pizza day” to shop so I would not need to rush home to make dinner, just make a phone call to arrange delivery.  I was focused, I was prepared, I was determined.  I hit the racks, flipping aside hanger after hanger of rejects and pulling the rare but possible contender.  Two hours later, after three rounds in the dressing room, trying on 18 pairs of different pants all labeled as the same size – victory!!  One pair fit perfectly, was the color I wanted, were on sale.  I drove home tired and happy with one pair of pants and two matching tops.  Can I get an “Amen”, sisters?!?

My search to find “just the right thing” is a pale reflection of the desire God has given us to dress appropriately.  Isaiah 61:10 describes the beautiful and perfect outfit God has chosen for me.

  • The garment of salvation – a brand new garment that fits me perfectly because it was designed by the Master Designer just for me, the perfect size, the right price – FREE.  The garment that cost me nothing cost Jesus everything.
  • The robe of righteousness – red, the same red as the blood Jesus shed on the cross.  When God sees me, He sees the red robe, He declares that I am in right standing before Him.  He sees nothing else.
  • The bridegroom’s garland – a fragrant ring of colorful flowers that encircle the neck of the happy groom.  Each flower, joined together in an unbroken circle representing the complete joining of the groom to his bride; Jesus, the groom, I, the bride.
  • The bride’s jewels – each one carefully chosen to adorn and enhance the beauty of the lovely bride; each jewel represents my treasure preserved and saved for this special day, this moment.  The bride herself is a jewel, rare, precious, highly valued.

God’s outfit is simple, it is not one size fits all or even most.  It fits me and it is glorious.  God’s outfit for you will be same but different, your garland, your jewels will be unique to you and fit you perfectly.  God dresses me and sees me in my outfit already; I will not see myself in it until I get to heaven.  On that day, my clothes shopping days will be over forever and I will not need or want any other clothing.  Hallelujah – I cannot wait!!

Back At It!

One thing about life that I know for certain is that nothing is certain!  Life suddenly got crazy busy and I found that there was little time and no energy for writing or reading and commenting on others’ blogs but, happy to say, I’m back…

Who can speak and have it happen if the Lord has not decreed it?  Lamentations 3:37

One of the most challenging truths of the Christian life is knowing that nothing happens without God’s permission.  The good, the bad, the ugly, the bitter and the sweet – any and all of it, God allows in our lives.

You probably know the story of Job; he is the supreme example of a man whom God allowed to be tested and tried with every possible calamity.  A man upright and blameless, God permits Satan to test him.  First, much of Job’s livestock is stolen and the rest burned; the raiders kill all but one of the servants responsible for watching and caring for the herds of oxen, donkeys, sheep and camels.  Next, Job’s seven sons and three daughters die when a windstorm causes the collapse of the house where they were having dinner. Job is then afflicted with sores over his entire body and his wife, in her grief, tells Job to curse God and die – being dead has got to be better than being in this mess!

But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.  Job 2:10

And that is the key, we believe the lie and the liar who whispers that a God who is really good would never allow trouble, grief, struggles or pain into our lives.  The same liar that persuaded Eve to bite the fruit tries to convince us that a “little” sin is ok because God does not want us to be “unhappy”.

Now don’t miss this, over and over the Bible gives examples of people pleading with God to relieve their pain and suffering and God answers; much of Jesus’ ministry was devoted to healing.  Job honestly poured his heart out to God and asked Him more than once why he had even been born.  God knows it all, there is no point in holding anything back from Him so pray for your difficult circumstances to change and remember that God may want to change you.

I know God has allowed me to learn more about myself during trials than at any other times.  I have learned how dependent I am on Him, how weak I am, how much pride is hidden in my heart.  Adversity has shown me my strength, helped me understand His grace, and developed my faith in Him.  Pressing through adversity with acceptance brings Him glory.

Yep, the past few weeks have been busier than usual with a lot of things, many of them really great and memorable; all of them an opportunity to witness God’s goodness all the time.  Thanks God, for ALL of it!

Nothing Test

“i’m starving!”, you say when you walk in the door at the end of a long day at work or school.  Are you really starving?  Did you eat at all today?  Probably, but maybe not.  Did you eat yesterday?  Very likely.  The “I’m starving” complaint is quickly followed by it’s annoying companion, “There’s nothing to eat in this house.”  This is most often uttered in front of the wide-open refrigerator.  Are your shelves and fridge completely and totally bare?  Probably not but, possibly.  Is there breakfast cereal, some almost out of date milk? Then there is food to eat in your house, it’s just not the food you want to eat!

Hunger by choice or circumstance is a very real problem everywhere but for most of us in present day America, food is always available for purchase or can be found for free/low-cost.  We are told regularly and often the average American is eating too much and obesity is considered by many to be a serious health issue.

Now it came about in the days when the judges governed, that there was a famine in the land. Ruth 1:1

Famine is a devastating, extreme and wide-spread shortage of food.  There has never been a famine in America.  Gratefully, most of us don’t have any idea what it means to be truly starving.  In a time of famine, the cupboards are literally bare.  There is no food of any kind available to anyone for any price. Famine drives people to extreme lengths to obtain food for themselves and their children.

This famine drives a man, Elimelech, to leave Bethlehem with his wife and two sons and travel to the land of Moab.  Elimelech chose Moab, and while there, he dies, leaving his wife Naomi a widow.  His sons marry Moabite women and then, the sons die. Naomi is bereft of her two children and her husband.  Naomi, hearing that there is food in Bethlehem decides to return home alone.  Her two daughters in law insist on going with her and Naomi urges them to stay in their own land with their own people; one daughter in law agrees but the other, Ruth, refuses to be parted from Naomi.  The two women, mother in law and daughter in law travel to Bethlehem.  Naomi is so crushed in spirit, she now insists on being called ‘Mara’, which means, bitter.

Even in a time of famine and loss, there is blessing.  Naomi/Mara refused to see the blessing of her faithful daughter in law, Ruth who traveled with her, leaving her own people and culture behind.

When you are completely empty it makes logical sense to go somewhere, anywhere, to get full. God allowed the famine into their lives and he allows famine to overtake us.  Maybe your famine is the loss of a loved one, loneliness and sadness is crushing your soul. Perhaps you are experiencing a famine of work, you need a job desperately.  You just don’t feel connected to God, your prayers seem to go unanswered, a time of spiritual famine.  Whatever your present famine, be careful  where or who you go to fill yourself up.  Many things and people promise fullness and don’t deliver.  Elimelech chose Moab, a land of idolatry, it is much easier to turn to the world and things of the world in a time of famine, don’t turn to an idol, turn to God.

God will sometimes strip us of everything, allow the famine to test us.  What will we do when we have nothing left?  Will we turn to Him, depend on Him or look to the world or our own resources to “get us through”?  Trials are an opportunity and we have the choice to become ‘mara’/bitter or better.  Unlike Ruth and Naomi, who had no idea if or how things would work out, we know the outcome of their story.  The famine they experienced was not a coincidence and if you are in a time of famine, of being stripped to nothing, this is not a coincidence for you either.

Moving to Florida was, for me, a small famine.  I was stripped (by choice) of familiar people, places and things.  It forced me to look to God for comfort, strength and peace.  God was getting ready to do something amazing for them and through them. God has given my many new friends, a job and now I can find my way around pretty well in my new neighborhood.  God had a plan and a purpose in their famine and bitterness and He has a plan and purpose for me and you in our “test of having nothing”.  Naomi and Ruth did not see it – we rarely do – but God calls us to keep moving, take the next step and to rely on Him – it’s called Trust!

300 Days – Part 2

Conversation – the informal exchange of ideas by spoken words.

My best friend and I have regular conversations.  She talks, I listen, then I talk and she listens, pretty typical right?  But have you ever had a “one-sided” conversation?  A “one-sided” conversation occurs when the other person does all the talking and you do all the listening, or maybe you are one doing all the talking and if you are, snap out of it!

A “one-sided” conversation is really a monologue.  How do you feel when you walk away from the monologist?  I can tell you I feel frustrated and very reluctant to repeat that experience.  Maybe you did try to make some comments but the talker apparently does not need to breathe regularly because he/she just kept on talking and talking…

Reading the Bible relationally is talking and listening to God as He speaks through His written words, it is a conversation with the King – it is that simple.

Since the Bible is God speaking to His people it is to be taken very personally.  I picture Jesus sitting in my living room, waiting to talk with me, He is the living Word.  He has much to tell me and He wants to hear what I think, what I want and need, and my concerns.  Jesus wants to have a conversation with me – wow!

How I Read Relationally

Each day, I sit with Jesus and my Bible, my notebook and my coffee.  I begin reading from the point where I ended the day before.  I read until God nudges me to stop.  I might read a single word, one or two sentences (verses) or an entire chapter, it varies.  Sometimes, I talk to God about what I just read, sometimes I listen; God and I converse with and about these verses.  I may read and pause over and over again, each time with God and His Word is different.

When I don’t understand the verses I ask Him to teach me, to help me.  Parts of the Bible are difficult, I don’t let that stop me, I just keep reading, God will help me understand what I need, I may make a note to do some research later on the difficult sections.  Some verses are warnings, “Don’t do this!”  Some verses are rebukes, “Look what you did!”  A rebuke makes me pause to confess, asking God to forgive me.  Always, always, I learn something about God, something I can thank Him and praise Him for, about His character.

As God and I talk together, I am taking notes.  I want to remember what I learn and also because, for me, taking notes helps me see connections, helps me clarify my thoughts.  I do recommend making some notes.  I always write down two specific things:

  1. What I learn about God, and
  2. How will I apply this to my life – this is my “take away” or personal application.

Often, what I write ends up in this blog or is used to encourage or teach someone else, God’s Word is never wasted.

God and I are simply talking and if you overheard our conversation you would say, “Oh, you’re praying!”  You got it.  I read and then I pray about what I just read, using many of the same words and then wait till God answers or tells me to read some more.

Here is a very quick example from Psalm 27, verse 1.  God’s Word is in italics.

  • The Lord is my light and salvation – Oh God, I am so grateful for your light that leads me and for the gift of salvation – thank you!
  • Whom shall I fear? – I am sorry I don’t always trust you, I worry about things.  Help me not to let fear stop me.
  • The Lord is the defense of my life – You, God are my true defender.  I am safe only always with you.
  • Whom shall I dread? – I don’t have to worry what people think or say about me because you love me!
  • What I learned about God.  God is light, He protects and defends me from everything and everyone!
  • What is my take away?  God does not want me to worry or be afraid and when I am I can call on Him for strength and courage.  He will be my light when I am in the dark places!  He will show up! (Your take away may be different, remember it is personal application!)

I have been reading the Bible for years yet I have barely uncovered its rich treasure.  Reading relationally is drawing me closer to God than I have ever been, it is the most peaceful and productive part of my day.  My plan is to read the entire Bible relationally and then start over, I am nearly halfway there.

How did my best friend become my best friend?  How did I get to know her?  We had many long conversations.  My goal is to know the God of the Bible and that happens as we have many long conversations.

Try reading the Bible relationally – if you have never done it, it takes a bit of practice.  Pick a favorite part of the Bible and have a conversation with God about it.  Please let me know what God shows you!

What to know more? – Part 3 coming soon!

Glad I’m unable

Now to Him who is able…Ephesians 3:20

This is the day, this is the time.  No more waiting or hesitation.  This moment will never come again, it cannot be “done over”; it is a once and done moment and in the blink of an eye, the next moment is here.  We are captured by time and there are no guarantees in this life except for the breath I am on in this moment.  What are you hesitating over?  “Don’t put it off, do it now!” Proverbs 6:4 (NLT)

God is so mighty and majestic, awesome in power, abundant in mercy.  If I were to see Him right now my eyeballs would melt right out of their sockets, like the soldiers in the Indiana Jones movie!!  My mind would expand and blow up, it could not absorb His greatness, His light.  I would die, no one can look at God and live.  But God sent Jesus.  The holy one, the promised Son, the image of the invisible God.  Jesus walked among people, they were able to look at Him, touch Him, hear the sound of His voice. “He has no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him.  He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.” Isaiah 53:2 -3  I can see Him through Scripture and that is enough; I know someday I WILL see Him face to face and it will be glorious.  I believe He is my Lord and that God raised Him from the dead and He gives me eternal life.  Do you believe this?  If not, what is holding you back?

God alone is able.  I am completely and totally unable to be or do anything other than who and what God created me to be.  Even in that, my power, strength, stamina, ability, and knowledge is profoundly limited.  Are you self-reliant?  God is showing me I am weak in so many area’s of my life.  But He is teaching me to celebrate and not fear my weaknesses because through them God’s power and life in me is perfected and made strong.  At the same time, I can celebrate my unique personality and talents as gifts from Him, keeping me in balance.  As I listen to His voice, I decrease and He increases.  God is leading me from self-esteem to God-esteem, self-image to God-image, self-confidence to God-confidence.

I am glad I am unable, it is freedom!

You Get What You Get

There was a very limited menu in the home I grew up in and my kids were raised in the same kind of home.  Meals were prepared, you sat down to eat and you ate what was served.  Most meals were planned and prepared based on Dad’s favorites, available budget and Mom’s inspirations.  As a kid, we never ate brussels sprouts, casseroles, or raw broccoli because my Dad did not like those; we did eat mashed potatoes, gravy, pot roast and roast chicken – big Dad favorites.  In my home, I do most of the meal planning and always have, in general I did it the way my mom did, I cooked what my husband and I liked and what the budget would allow.  I did try to include some kid favorites such as macaroni and cheese.  My kids never had to eat brussels sprouts either but they were expected to eat whatever was cooked and served without complaining.

I didn’t have a lot of patience for complaints about the food choices then and I still don’t have a lot of patience with complaints or complainers; it is all too easy complain and once that train gets rolling it is very difficult to stop.  The Israelites apparently complained loudly and often, there are numerous episodes of their complaining recorded in the Old Testament.

The book of Numbers, chapter 10 verse 33 tells us that the Israelites left the mount of the Lord and walked for three days, their first, organized march.  They had spent a year camped in the desert and at the end of these first 3 days they set up camp; Numbers 11 records that they immediately start complaining!

They complain about the situation they are in,

“Now the people became like those who complain of adversity in the hearing of the Lord;”

And then they complain about what they are not eating,

Who will give us meat to eat? We remember the fish which we used to eat free in Egypt, the cucumbers and the melons and the leeks and the onions and the garlic,”.  

Next they complain about what they are eating, 

“There is nothing at all to look at except this manna.”

Moses jumps on the “Complain Train” bemoaning the difficulty of leading these baby whiners,

I alone am not able to carry all this people, because it is too burdensome for me.  So if You are going to deal thus with me, please kill me at once,”

God’s anger is kindled greatly and He has a dramatic and swift response to this chorus of complaints:

  • Warning – the Lord sends a fire that burns the outskirts of the camp.  Certainly God could have burned it all, He chose to burn just some and the fire died out when Moses interceded in prayer.  Has God given you a gentle warning?  Are your complaints becoming tiresome to those around you?
  • Mercy – God anoints 70 elders, men to assist Moses in listening to complaints and settling disputes.  There were over 600,000 adult male Israelites at this time and an unknown number of women and children, a lot of complainers and problems.  Have you considered that God may be holding back on allowing some bigger/worse problem your way?
  • Provision – God sends quail and lots of it, 36 inches deep worth of quail.  I have never eaten quail but I guess it would be a welcome change from manna.  Most people are like me, I have everything I need to survive, maybe not exactly what I want but what I truly need.  Does this describe your life?  Am I, are you, grateful for what you do have?
  • Punishment – Plague, possibly a result of all the quail, rotting since there was too much of it to collect, clean and cook.  The people were so greedy the place was renamed Kibroth-Hattaavvah, Graves of Greediness.  God is patient and long-suffering but He is also just, He will never protect us from experiencing the consequences of our choices.

I cannot be too hard on these Israelites because this sounds so like me at times.  I complain because it is too hot or too cold, my feet hurt, I’m tired, I don’t like where I am, I want to be somewhere else, I have to dust the stuff I have, I can’t afford to buy more stuff, I wish I could afford a steak, I am sick of eating salads, brussels sprouts look and smell weird, my clothes are shrinking, I have no time to exercise, exercise is too difficult, and on and on and on it goes.

Complaints are an insult to God.  Complaining sends the message that God’s gifts are just not good enough.  Philippians 4:6 tells me that I am free to ask God for whatever I want but I need to ask humbly and receive whatever He sends with gratitude.  This story makes me think of Violet Beauregarde from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  She’s the greedy girl who wants everything she sees.   She ignores Willy Wonka’s warning about his experimental chewing gum, grabs it and pops it into her mouth.  She begins to turn a delightful shade of blue and inflates, turning into a huge round blueberry.

So be careful!  You get what you get but when you get what you want it might make you sick but not to worry, no brussels sprouts served in this house!

Assigned Parking

“Anything you can do I can do better.  I can do anything better than you.”

Some of you might recognize these lines as song lyrics written by Irving Berlin from the musical, “Annie Get Your Gun”.  The song is a musical duel between the competitive leads, Annie Oakley and Frank Butler.  The words are all too true, no matter how good you are or think you are, someone is always better.  Competition can be energizing, it causes some people to work or train harder, to study or practice more, to do whatever it takes to be the best.  Competition can be discouraging, someone will get a higher score than you, someone else can do what you do faster, better, easier and it can make you think it is just not worth the effort.

When I started to blog I discovered an important aspect was connecting with other bloggers, reading what others were writing and thinking, commenting on other blogs and receiving comments on my own posts; this is a part of blogging I am enjoying very much.

It did not take long to discover that some of the people blogging are really, REALLY GOOD!  Way way better than me at expressing themselves and their posts are really REALLY informative, thought-provoking and helpful!  Reading and following these accomplished and gifted people make it easy to allow discouragement to overshadow the inexplicable urge to write and continue blogging.  So you cannot imagine how happy I am to be reading the book of Numbers in my Bible.

Now if you have ever read the book of Numbers it is not exactly the most exciting book in the Bible!  it is one of the first five books of the Bible or the Pentateuch.  Numbers begins with God instructing Moses to take a census of the nation of Israel and counting people and things is the predominate activity in the first 7 chapters – maybe exciting to an accountant but not so much for the rest of us.  But the Bible is full of truth and treasure and in chapter 2 God had a gem for me and for anyone else feeling over-looked and discouraged.

Now the Lord spoke to Moses and to Aaron, saying, “The sons of Israel shall camp, each by his own standard, with the banners of their fathers’ households; they shall camp around the tent of meeting at a distance.” 

In the books prior to Numbers, God had given detailed instructions to the Israelites about His tabernacle, His laws and how He is to be worshipped.  Now He gives them very specific camping instructions; who is to camp where.  God tells Moses which tribes are to camp to the north, south east and west of the tabernacle, who is assigned as the leader of each tribe, and, He repeats the number of men (the census totals) for each tribe.  God assigns each one their parking space.  No one is omitted, everyone knows where they need to go and everyone has a specific spot.

I love what I see about God here:

  • God is a God of order and not chaos.
  • God is not random or capricious.
  • God  has a perfect plan.
  • God has an assigned place for everyone.

Yep, I may not be the best blogger or whatever else I attempt, but God has a plan, a purpose and a place that I only I can fill and He has the same for you!  My challenge and encouragement to myself and to you is to keep on keeping on; whatever God is calling you to do and wherever you are – hang in there and don’t stop.  Do it to the best of your ability, ignore the “competition”, and keep putting one foot, or keystroke, in front of the other.  God’s got me an assigned parking spot, it is right where it needs to be and I’m parking there!

A Different Christmas

Christmas Morning, December 25, 2014

It is a different Christmas this year.  For the first time in a long time it is quiet, there is no noise, no cries of “get up”, “what’s to eat?”, “Santa was here!”  It is a joyous day but it is different from past Christmas days.

Maybe your Christmas is very different this year too.  Maybe for the first time you are alone.  Perhaps God has put you in a new family or maybe added some new family members, maybe this is your first Christmas missing someone you dearly loved.  Are you far from home this Christmas or are you home again?  For some, being home is full of joy but not for all, home can be painful when struggle and strife dominate every day.  Your Christmas tree may be piled high with gifts but perhaps there is no tree this year – it is just too hard, there is no money.  Maybe you are one of those who has to be at work this Christmas, you would rather be home but for a variety of reasons you are working, you are a police officer, a fire fighter, in the military, in a hospital, etc.

Everyone has a different view of Christmas and some reject Christmas totally.  I love Christmas.  I love the traditional, American style Christmas I remember as a child, the Christmas I created for my own children and the Christmas I now see my children creating in their homes.  I love making and eating cookies, watching corny Christmas movies, Christmas songs, Christmas decorations.  I love choosing the “perfect” gift, I love watching people unwrap their gifts.  I am so grateful that for me, Christmas is happy but I recognize that is not true for everyone.

Long ago in Bethlehem there was a different Christmas.  Only a few realized it even was Christmas and those few were an unlikely bunch, a handful of shepherds, a young man and his young betrothed.  Sheep herders, half-asleep in a field, on guard against thieves and predators; the outcasts of their day, ignorant, smelly, loners.  The shepherds are filled with terror when an angel appears and makes an astounding announcement and then, a multitude of angels appears and sings praise – what must that have sounded like?!  Oh yeah, that boring, ordinary night became a very different Christmas for those men.  A young man, Joseph and his young betrothed, Mary – now the birth was no surprise, they had had 9 months to think about it, to be gossiped about, to wonder about the conception, to consider their future.  What was different was the place, like most women, Mary probably envisioned herself giving birth in her home town, aided by a local mid-wife and other women that she had known all her life, experienced women who could help and support her during labor and after the birth.  Instead they found themselves in a strange town, alone, surrounded by gaping shepherds – does it get any more different than that?

Jesus, the Sunshine from on High, was born that day – the world was now completely different, it was the first Christmas.

If you do not celebrate or recognize Christmas as a celebration of the birth of Jesus, I urge you to reconsider.  The birth of Jesus fulfilled numerous Old Testament prophecies, He came to earth with a single purpose, redemption and reconciliation  – the salvation of mankind.  There are no words I can share that can convince you or persuade you about Jesus, read the Bible for yourself and ask God to give you understanding.

One guarantee about life it that change is constant, maybe your Christmas is the same as always (for good or bad) or maybe it is radically different.  There is one, singular, unchanging constant and eternal truth about Christmas – it is ALL about Jesus and not about me or you, not about culture or tradition; it always was, always is, always will be about Jesus and one day Jesus will return and EVERYONE will know it – oh what a glorious day that will be!!!

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!

For it is written, “As I live says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall give praise to God.” Romans 14:11