Let’s play a game: Fresh Look Friday

OK! Everybody up! Rise AND Shine!  It’s Friday – Let’s play a game. Come on. You know you want to. We’ll call it Fresh Look Friday. Have you ever heard of Pay-It-Forward? How about Random Acts of Kindness? And here’s one. Have you ever heard someone transform the words of Luke 6:31 which clearly says “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” so they become “Do unto others before they do unto you?” I know. Those play on words usually projects a negative connotation, and that’s what looking through the lens of Fresh Look Friday is all about. Let’s change random to intentional and let’s put back the original intent of Luke 6:31 “Treat others in the same way that you would want them to treat you.”

Before we start, here’s some background for the ‘Pay-it-forward’ tradition. I’m going to take a wild guess that you didn’t know it began with King Solomon. It surprised me too, but look! King Solomon, the wisest man on the planet started it back in Proverbs 3:27-28 “Do not withhold good from those who deserve it when it’s in your power to help them. If you can help your neighbor now, don’t say, “Come back tomorrow, and then I’ll help you.” See? Pay-it-Forward, when you can. God’s words through King Solomon says nothing about cleaning out your wallet. He just asks us to “do good…when it is in within our power”.

Doing good will always cost something, but so does doing nothing.

We’ve all heard about someone in the drive-thru having their ordered paid for by the car in front of them. I was the recipient of one at Starbucks. Funny how most of these performances are enacted at Starbucks or McDonalds.  That in itself brings on the happy. But let’s think real life. We all have limited resources. I don’t know anyone who has an unlimited supply of cash, lives with hours of unused time, and has no idea what to do with the white space in their life.  We could all use some added white space in our lives.

Let’s see … already low on cash … our time runs out before the day is barely started, how will we perform an Intentional Act of Kindness?  There’s your answer. Start with one. Do just one … then repeat “when it is in within our power”. We’ve all heard it’s easier to be pulled down into a pit than pulled up out of one. There’s a fast track to the downward spiral of defeat  – well why not on this Fresh Look Friday create an upward spiral of inner joy? Mother Teresa is credited with saying “We can’t do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”  I might not have that exactly quoted, but it’s close.

So let’s start here with Intent: Proverbs 4:23 Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.

Get the inside right: Luke 6:45 puts it this way. “A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”

The outside will take care of itself: 2 Thessalonians 1:11 “With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith.”

The only requirement for an Intentional Acts of Kindness is that it be from a heart with right motives. Ready? Here are some ideas to kick-start your intent.

  • Leave a note on someone’s desk that says – I hope your day is fantastic today!
  • Send an email message to anyone in your contact list to say you’re thinking of them. It can be a 5 second communication.
  • Leave a bag with some quarters in it at the Laundromat with a card that makes it obvious that they are left Intentionally.
  • Visit someone who can’t get out on their own. Elderly, shut-in, disabled
  • Take a meal or small bag of groceries to a family
  • Mail a post card or letter– the kind that go through the post office
  • Smile and Intentionally say “Hi!” with a smile … and when you say “How are you?” really, really mean it.
  • Make some small cards or buy gift enclosure cards in advance and randomly write kind words, a Bible verse, or encouragement. Drop them into grocery carts or bags as you pass people leaving the store, leave them on desks, on a car windshield (when there is no rain in sight), you can figure it out.  Pretend you’re in the secret service. You are, sort of.
  • OK so sure, pay for someone’s order if you have the resources and you are lead to do so.card to say thanks to servers

The person on the receiving end of any of these Intentional Acts of Kindness will be blessed, and you will be too.

“I have had great joy and encouragement because of your love, for the hearts of others have been refreshed through you.” Philemon 1:7

A few years ago, I printed up some cards with the text shown in this photo, to hand out to people who serve me in restaurants or at retail stores. So you see, blessings aren’t always tangible, but they are felt in the heart like a laser light show of joy. I promise.

 

 

 

What do you believe about God?

I don’t criticize prayers of anyone. Prayer is a very personal exchange between the spirit of a person and the spirit of God. Please don’t interpret this post as a criticism – ever – of another person’s conversation with God. I just want to share my thoughts on praying to an almighty God. “ALL POWERFUL”

The Bible says we can come boldly to the throne of grace. Boldly means courageously, fearlessly, bravely, confidently. Hebrews 4:16 “Let us then with confidence, boldly draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

That verse pretty much sums is up. We don’t have to approach God timidly suggesting that he say yes to pleading prayers of his children. The Bible tells story after story of people asking impossible things and God did the impossible.     Believe God in the dark for what he promised in the light. 2

Hezekiah was struck with a terminal illness and was at the point of death. Isaiah came to him with a direct message from the Lord to “Set your house in order, because you’re not going to recover from this illness. You are going to die.” Can you imagine the shock? God spoke through Isaiah and said, “You are going to die!” If God said it, what would you think? I know. Me too. At this point I would have rolled into a ball and caved. That’s it then, I have my death sentence. But not Hezekiah. He was bold, not just bold, he was on fire, BOLD. Immediately he prayed to the Lord.  “Please, Lord. Remember how I have served you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion, and how I have carried out your will.” Then he caved and wept bitterly.

But the story doesn’t end here. God spoke to Isaiah again and said, “Go back to Hezekiah and tell him I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears. I’m going to give you fifteen more years, productive, successful year.” I assure you God didn’t have one thing planned then changed his mind. I don’t know why God wrote this story into chapter 38 of the book of Isaiah. What he included is as an open invitation to be bold as we approach God. What if he wants us to confirm our trust by coming to him and asking for what we really want? Hezekiah was shaken. He wept bitterly. But he boldly prayed to God who could change his prognosis and heal him completely. God said yes.

There’s another story in the New Testament about Lazarus, a dear friend of Jesus who became ill. Mary and Martha, Lazarus’ sisters, sent messengers to beg Jesus to come quickly and heal their brother, but Jesus didn’t come quickly. Instead he sent this message. “When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” John 11:4 Remember though? Lazarus did die. Then what happened? Mary and Martha were pretty ticked when they greeted Jesus as he approached. You can read the story in John 11, but in the end, Jesus spoke into Lazarus new life and he became well.

The key to boldness is knowing God, trusting his character, having faith that he is all powerful, all knowing, and without him the universe would cease to exist. “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible … all things were created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” Colossians 1:16-17

That is the God who invites us to approach him boldly with faith and full throttle trust. Not that you think God can fix your situation or you think God might possibly help you through the messiness you’re going through or you think God might lead you to a treatment for illness. No! The key to boldness is believing God. Knowing in your soul that God is who he says he is. Belief was an issue for Thomas, and he was looking right at the risen Jesus. In John 20:27 Jesus told him, “Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Believe God is who he says he is.

Do you remember David? He believed God, he believed in the power of God, and he also knew this. “If I had harbored sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened. However, God heard; he listened to my prayer.” Psalm 66:18-19  Start here. Approach boldly. Get your heart right with God then tell him what you want. Believe him for it.

What do you believe about God?

Believe God in the dark for what he promised in the light.

In a word, how do you know?

Do you have favorite words? I do. Words like integrity, wisdom, knowledge, joy, understanding, patience, love, persevere, faith, discernment. A verse in Proverbs 16:21 sort of pulls them all together “The wise in heart are called discerning, and gracious words promote instruction. I’ve heard Beth Moore say it many times, “Sometimes I need a word from the Lord.” You know? Sometimes I need a word from the Lord too. In fact there are times in my life that are satisfied only with a word from the Lord – but not just one word, an infusion of words from the Lord. A few years ago I jumped into the ‘Word to live by’ craze. The first year I chose integrity, then peace, then discernment, and this year I chose joy as my word to live by. The word discernment had the greatest transformational power because it affects choices and decisions. Should I do this? Or wait! What about that?

When I was growing up, my dad was a pastor of a small church in the upper peninsula of Michigan. He was also a carpenter, fixit guy, and maintenance man whose apparel included a tool belt with a hammer, screwdrivers and tape measure. When I followed him around trying to ‘help’ it was often my job to fit something into place so my dad could secure it with a nail or screw. To this day, when something isn’t fitting the way it should, I hear my dad’s echo, “Don’t force. If it doesn’t fit, don’t force it.” ‘Don’t force it’ can apply to so many real life situations. Life is tough, bad things happen to good people, it’s complicated. Some days don’t you just need a word from the Lord? Do you ever stop what you’re doing and say right out loud “This is just not right. I’m getting nowhere. OK, Lord, here I am totally lost for what to do. Change my attitude, sooth my frenzied emotions, change my heart. Give me discernment.” I will plant a new heart and new spirit inside of you... Ezekiel 36-26

Discernment is the ability to know right from wrong. It also helps us detect when we are using force, our own manipulative power, to make something happen when another options would be better. Admittedly, discernment is not easy sometimes. Why? Because we already know life is tough and it’s complicated. Here’s something to consider. Have you ever prayed, ‘Lord please change me’ and really mean it? Have you considered the dynamics at work in a sincere prayer like that? Consider these verses to understand the help from our Father that’s unleashed when we pray, “Lord, take the person I’ve become and change me to be the person you desire me to be. Make the desires of my heart match the desires you have for me.”

When we ask God to make our hearts like his, be assured He wants to give us the desires of our hearts. “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4. A heart like His means I don’t have to force my agenda because my agenda is based on God’s agenda.

God has my back and will cover me because I trust him. “I constantly trust in the Lord; because he is at my right hand, I will not be upended.” Psalm 16:8

I’m not making this up. Psalm 9:10 offers this assurance for anyone who seeks him, “Those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.”

I heard someone say, that if we are not wholly committed to God, we will crumble. I think we could add that if we are not wholly committed to God we will force our agenda, even when it doesn’t fit. Discernment is essential to living life inside God’s plan. Last week, in one of my Bible readings, I found this verse and it fits perfectly into my prayer that God will make my heart like his. Ezekiel 36:26-27  “I will plant a new heart and new spirit inside of you. I will take out your stubborn, stony heart and give you a willing, tender heart of flesh. And I will put My Spirit inside of you and inspire you to live by My statutes and follow My laws.” It might not speak to you the same way that it spoke to me, but it was like hearing Jesus say over roaring, gusting winds “Peace be still.”

Do you need a word from the Lord? Tell him. He’ll lead you to it if you ask.

What if it isn’t about football?

OK Everybody up! Rise and shine! I promise, no more stories about football after today. I have exhausted all I know about the game. Here’s my take on the Super Bowl.

It isn’t really about football. Nobody pays $5000 for a ticket to watch football. According to StubHub, the going price of Super Bowl tickets this year ranged from $2300 to $4518, but averaging all ticket sales the average price was $5,134. One lucky person paid $21,983. Whoever it was, I sure hope their team won. Now if this is really about football, you can watch for under $10 per seat at your local high school. No, this is not about football.

Then what is it? What drives normally sane people to pay insane prices to watch grown men tussle on the field, roll around on the ground, and sprint to the end of the field, clutching a ball that is so misshapen it looks like a defect? I give up. It isn’t about football.

Here’s what I think – and I could be completely out of the end zone here – but I think it’s all about the relationship. Yeh, not the touchy-feely kind of relationship, but the camaraderie, the excitement, the competition, the running with the crowd, and wanting what others have. Ask the companies who shell out $5 million dollars for a 30-second spot in the line-up. Fortune magazine says, “Ads in the February Super Bowl 50 broadcast will cost a record $5 million for a 30-second spot.”  It isn’t about football, it’s about capitalizing on the crowds who don’t pay to see the game, but sit at home in their role as armchair quarterbacks, watching TV. Commercials are not about football, they are about 30 seconds of fame. The price is steep!Capture

My team won Super Bowl 50, but when I watch the game it’s witnessing the energetic plays on the field, the tactics used man-to-man to serve their teams and protect the ball carrier so he can make it into the end zone and without fumbling, and if everything works according to team play, score a touchdown. I watch football, not because I understand the game, but because I understand the relationships. The strongest, fastest, most talented individual is a detriment to their team if they don’t play the position they’ve been given and if they play the game like they are the only one on the field. The only way to be a success in football is to play a specific role, integrated into the team, and be part of it.

Romans 12 is all about being relational and following the rules of team play. Let’s highlight a few of the characteristics of what we do – if we are good team players. We have different gifts to use to make us genuine team players: teaching, encouragement, giving, leadership, mercy. We have a playbook with prescribed actions: Be sincere in love, hate what is evil, cling to what is good. Be devoted to each other, honor others above ourselves, be energetic in running the plays, be joyful, spread hope, share, exercise patience, do not be conceited, play in harmony with your team, don’t look down on anyone for the position they have – it is no less important than yours, don’t be vengeful. Pray for others.

Did you catch a glimpse of any of that on the field? Did you see the face to face conversations, the eye level trust, the unapologetic hugs, grown men jumping up and down in the traditional chest bump? Did you see the obvious perplexed looks of “How could that happen?” If you didn’t watch the game, have you caught a glimpse of any of that off the field, in real life? Football is visible and contained in a 360 X 140 foot rectangle. The playing field of life isn’t so obvious, yet the play by play actions are the most defining and precariously consequential.

What about today? Our game isn’t over. What can we do today to be good team players on the team that matters most – God’s team. Hebrews 3:13 says Encourage one another daily, as long as it is today.

I don’t know. Maybe it is about football. But maybe it’s about relationship.

Ticket stats from http://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/nfl/2016/02/07/super-bowl-50-tickets-denver-broncos-carolina-panthers/79967056/ USA Today

Super Bowl 50 ad pricing from http://fortune.com/2015/08/06/super-bowl-ad-cost/  Fortune.com

Photo credit Laura Heald for ESPN   espn.go.com  http://espn.go.com/nfl/story/_/id/14734266/after-perfect-ending-denver-broncos-peyton-manning-next-rodeo

I was prompted to write this after watching the post game show, listening to interviews of the game heroes who were all about the team, and reading some of the articles published the next day.

 

Super Bowl 50 … Afterglow

I’m curious. Did your team win? Not to gloat or anything, but mine did. Go Broncos! My oldest daughter, who passed away in 2010 was a diehard Broncos fan. She knew every statistic of every player, had strong opinions of strategies used on the field, and even wrote to the head coach with her advice. I have his reply in her mementoes, a letter thanking her for sharing ideas and then explaining why it was his job to make the best decisions. Tammie’s cats were named after her favorite players, John Elway and Herschel Walker. Broncos fan all the way. super bowl 50 broncos sweatshirt

Most of the time, I have no favorite team and who wins isn’t important, but I confess I prayed more than once for the Broncos to win last night. For three days I wore Tammie’s official NFL Broncos sweatshirt, and asked God to give them victory. Maybe that seems strange to you. Really? Bothering God with something as fleeting as a football game? That’s the thing about God. He holds the whole world in his hands but he still cares about individuals and what they hope for.  David’s words in Psalms relay this over and over.

Psalm 4:1 Answer me when I call to you, my righteous God. Give me relief from my distress; have mercy on me and hear my prayer.

Psalm 86:1 Hear me, Lord, and answer me, for I am poor and needy.

Psalm 86:15 But Lord, you are a God who shows mercy and is kind. You don’t become angry quickly. You have great love and faithfulness.

Psalm 90: 16 Show your servants the wonderful things you do. Show your greatness.

God is merciful and kind. God is love and he isn’t just the representation of greatness, he is greatness. My team didn’t win because I prayed that Super Bowl 50 would end in victory for the Broncos. I don’t know why God honored my insignificant prayer. Win or lose, nothing in my life would change, but for my daughter, who is in heaven and not even slightly concerned about NFL stats, I wanted this win. I prayed for the win and God said yes.

What are you praying for today? To everyone else, it might seem insignificant, but if it’s important to you, it’s important to God.

Psalm 84:12 Lord Almighty, blessed is the one who trusts in you.

Psalm 78:7 They put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands.

I’m praying and asking God for some pretty big things for friends who are in need. I’m believing he will say yes. I want him to say yes, but while I wait I remember these words. Psalm 28:7 The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.

Believe God in the dark for what he promises in the light. Have faith. Trust God. ‘Call on me in prayer and I will answer you. I will show you great and mysterious things which you still do not know about.’ – Jeremiah 33:3

Wake up! You need this relationship.

How do you wake up in the morning? OK. OK. I get that. You wake up breathing. That’s good. Keep doing that. But really how do you wake up? To an alarm? To music? To someone shaking you back to consciousness? Does a song ever wake you up? This morning I heard someone singing, “I miss my time with you. Those moments together. I need to be with you each day.” Now that was a blast from the past! It’s been years since I’ve heard Larnelle Harris sing.

Hearing that song reminded me that God wants a relationship with me. Hebrews 8:10 says, God established a covenant (promised) “I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.” Relationship.

There is nothing singular about relationship. It takes you and something else. Another person, a pet, God. See how that works? The way to strengthen the bond of relationship is by being together. Since I’ve been pretty good about spending time with God it’s a mystery why I heard that song, but decided to honor the prompting and start praying for everyone God brought to my mind. I know what you’re thinking – that could take all day, and you would be right about that.Prayer1

I think God does want us to spend time reading scripture, his words, his commands, his promises, his love letter to us. I think our relationship with God is strengthened when we take time to talk to him without distractions, like entering a prayer closet – just God and me. You know. Like Matthew 6:6 describes it, “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen.”

If you look up the word prayer in an exhaustive concordance, you will find hundreds of references to prayer and the people doing the praying weren’t always standing at an altar or on their knees in a temple. How often do you think shepherds and warriors excused themselves from duty and traveled to the nearest tabernacle to pray? No. We can pray anyplace, anytime, for any reason. Over and over in the Psalms we hear David call out to God. Anyplace. Anytime. Any reason. Psalm 17:6 “I call on you, my God, for you will answer me; turn your ear to me and hear my prayer.”

God desires a relationship with you. The song continues “and it hurts me when you say you’re too busy trying to serve me, but how can you serve me when your spirit’s empty”. I don’t know about you, but when my spirit is empty, everything is drained from me. I love these few verses where God assures us that he is always there to fill us up when life empties us out. Jesus understands everything we’re going through because he lived through the same trauma on Earth. “So let us hold on to the faith we have. For our high priest is able to understand our weaknesses. He was tempted in every way that we are, but he did not sin. Let us, then, feel free to come before God’s throne. Here there is grace. And we can receive mercy and grace to help us when we need it.”

I can’t think of a better prayer of relationship with God than this from the Apostle Paul: I ask the Father in his great glory to give you the power to be strong in spirit. He will give you that strength through his Spirit. I pray that Christ will live in your hearts because of your faith. I pray that your life will be strong in love and be built on love. And I pray that you and all God’s holy people will have the power to understand the greatness of Christ’s love. I pray that you can understand how wide and how long and how high and how deep that love is. Christ’s love is greater than any person can ever know. But I pray that you will be able to know that love. Then you can be filled with the fullness of God. – Ephesians 3:126-19

 

Larnelle Harris – I Miss My Time With You

I miss my time with you
those moments together
I need to be with you each day
and it hurt’s me when you say
you’re too busy,
busy trying to serve me
but how can you serve me
when your spirit’s empty
there’s a longing in my heart
wanting more than just a part of you
it’s true
I miss my time with you.

Running after bread crumbs

Once upon a time . . . and the story began. Does anyone else remember the anticipation of hearing all about the adventures of slaying giants and defeating ugly witches; Snow White fully grown and adoringly tended by 7 tiny gentlemen; Cinderella dressed in rags transforms into a beautiful princess when the glass slipper fits; Hansel and Gretel finding their way back home because of breadcrumbs scattered along the path.Bread Crumbs (1)
 
How often do we use breadcrumbs today to find our way back? I’m reminded of this in Psalm 119:55 “In the night, Lord, I remember your name, that I may keep your law.” From the time I was in elementary school, I loved summer camp and didn’t want to miss my opportunity to be there for two weeks. My parents couldn’t afford to send me so I memorized Bible verses to earn a camp scholarship. Today those verses are my breadcrumbs. They run through my mind by day and I wake up with them on my mind in the night.
 
In science class I learned that our physical bodies are constantly trying to find homeostasis – to be in a state of stability, maintaining internal equilibrium and health regardless of outside conditions. Doesn’t it seem like we are constantly trying to find that balance between activity and rest; work and leisure? Sometimes it seems like the nickname for my calendar should be chaos – and I’m working on that – not overcommitting. How about you?
 
Do you, like me tell yourself that things will slow down, I’ll find my stride, life will find a comfortable routine . . . but instead there I am stuck in the spin cycle.
 
You know what? All is not lost! We have breadcrumbs to find our way back. God gives us words to comfort us, guide us, give us hope, fill us with unexplained peace. “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7
 
Scripture verses give me courage when the enemy of my soul lays out before me all the reasons for fear. Breadcrumbs lead the way back to comforting faith. Whether in illness or perfect health, we are one breath away from talking with God.
 
I’m blessed and thankful to have memorized hundreds of scripture verses at a young age, but even if I hadn’t it’s never too late to lay out breadcrumbs so when life gets messy, you can find your way back to a place of peace. Are you weary today? There’s a trail of breadcrumbs to take you back to a place of peace. In Matthew 11:28 Jesus said “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Breadcrumbs – come to me all who labor and whose hearts are heavy – Here’s the path …. let’s get out there!