My construction project

Let’s hear it for Friday. Ah yes…there it is! Hurray for Friday! How has your week been? Not all good. Not all bad. But it sure has been a week, hasn’t it? Do your weeks sometimes remind you of that college challenge to see how many grown people can fit into a telephone booth? Or maybe a Volkswagen Bug? I realize some of you might not even know what a phone booth is. I’m sure those who don’t are the one who will know how to Google it. Weeks are always busy, some of them more regimented and packed than others. Yesterday I fessed up about being slightly frayed around the edges with our construction project. When I look around at what clearly is my house, I remember my dad’s description of my authentically teenager inhabited room….like an explosion in a mattress factory. Only this time it’s real. If you can picture that, you would also know why I couldn’t let you in if you came to visit right now. So bring on the weekend – and it’s just about here. A few more hours and then – relief. Well maybe.

I can see the end of construction in sight now.  The second I got home from work last night, Tim said “Hand me that drill.” And for the next 2 hours we assembled closets. Yes! Soon I will no longer be fishing my clothes from boxes and laundry baskets stored in corners and under other boxes.  The desire of my heart is to now reassemble the rooms of my house. For months each room has become a storage area for pieces and parts of things that didn’t belong there. So this weekend, I’m praying that God gives me the desire of my heart. Psalm 139 tells me that God knows all about me, knows my thoughts, and understands what will bring calmness to my spirit. Having things back where they belong – well, that’s one way to bring calmness to my spirit.

There’s a life lesson in all this that goes far beyond the months it takes to tear out a wall and reconstruct a room. That’s how it is with a life formed of a physical body, mind, and spirit. We are constantly, even without realizing it, trying to keep those pieces in balance. We get physically tired when we lack sleep or working to over exertion. Our minds get tired when we have too much to think through or overwhelming decisions to make. Sometimes I think so hard I get brain cramps. Then there is the spiritual piece that is so hidden we forget that we need to nurture it and tend to it or we become spiritually starved.  Remember Proverbs 4:23 “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”  Guard your heart. Don’t we often think that means to look away from doing things that are wrong?  That’s true. Of course it is.  But could it also mean to put up a defense by reading God’s word and feeding our spirit a perpetual infusion of spiritual food?

But the key is finding ways to feed our spirits so we don’t lose our faith. If we find ourselves in a mess, let’s be thankful that there’s a way to clean it up and start the trek back to order. Jeremiah 3:15 offers this small glimmer of encouragement “Then I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will lead you with knowledge and understanding.” I love that because it’s a hidden promise that we aren’t in the game alone.

In all things – I know the truth of Jeremiah 31:3 The Lord said “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.” Sometimes the days are long, we look around and wonder how did we get here? How do we get out?  The answer is in acknowledgement.  “Lord, here I am and I’ a mess. This project is no longer fun. I’m learning and I’m listening.  Please show me the next step so I can get back on track starting right now. Teach me to be more like you. Strengthen my faith because I’m going to need it.” And you know what?  God is able.  Ephesians 3:20 “He is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.

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FO-R-E-G-I-V-E

Ten years has passed since attending a family picnic as guests of a couple we often visited when up north at our cabin. I’m not sure why that event kept rerunning in my mind yesterday, but maybe it’s because of the Memorial Day ceremony.  Attending any social engagement with Tim is like being at a party on a blind date with someone who knows everyone and you know exactly zero! He is off like a lightning bolt meeting new people whom he will still remember 30 years later. Not me. I never learned the art of working a crowd and am content to quietly observe. That day was no different.

Scouting out an observation deck, I found a picnic table with an older gentleman that appeared to be about the age my father would have been at that time. He was quietly sitting and I was all primed for quietly observing … why not go sit over there?  We fell into casual conversation and I learned he was the age of my dad and had been in World War 2, as had my father; but his experiences were 180 degrees different.  I also found out that he had grown up in close proximity to where my parents grew up. But all those similarities, while they connected us in some tenuous way, what captured my attention were his hands.  One thing I love talking about careers people have chosen and their lifetime adventures along the way. I remember this gentleman worked at Lobdell’s the same factory where my maternal grandmother managed the lunchroom. But what I remember most was all the while he talked I noticed black marks on his knuckles. Then I realized they were tattoos – letters tattooed onto his knuckles.

I wanted him to rest his hands on the table so I could see if the letters spelled something.  Remember, if there are words, I read them. If you’re wearing a printed t-shirt, I’m going to read you. When he finally relaxed his hands on the table I could make out the letters O-R-G-I-V and my curiosity blurted out “Do those letters on your knuckles stand for something?” He then laid his hands out so I could read the full text branded on fingers.  F-O-R-E-G-I-V-E-N  “Forgiven?” I had to ask, and he had to tell me his story.  He had been in World War 2, went in as a kid with no burdens, and came back a man encumbered with vivid memories and a bitter heart. He said he fell into alcoholism and a series of damaging choices. He blamed everyone for his condition and treated all his loved ones like they were his personal hell. At his lowest point he realized this wasn’t the way he was going to live out the remainder of his existence and he started searching for the solution for his torn soul. He stumbled into a church one night and met his savior, Jesus Christ, and came to understand the true meaning of forgiveness.

He told me his bitter spirit of unforgiveness was killing him from the inside out. He knew that when he came to Christ, he was a new man and that God had totally forgiven his sin and he had to forgive the atrocities he had witnessed as a result of being in war.  He wanted a visual reminder of where he had been and that he would from then on need to put on a spirit of forgiveness every day to guard his heart and mind from invasion by past experiences.

His story reminded me of Joseph in the Old Testament.  His own brothers hated him so much they sold him to slave traders.  And Joseph forgave them. Genesis 50:15-17 “After burying his father, Joseph went back to Egypt. His brothers sent Joseph a message, “Before his death, your father gave this command: Tell Joseph, ‘Forgive your brothers’ sin—all that wrongdoing. They did treat you very badly.’ Will you do it? Will you forgive the sins of the servants of your father’s God?” When Joseph received their message, he wept and we all know that he forgave them – even though they had hated him so much that they betrayed Joseph and sold him as a slave. “

How many times in life has someone done something to hurt you? We all have painful memories of situations that have festered and contaminated our spirits.  It’s for these times that God implores us to forgive.  We don’t need tattoos on our knuckles to be reminded to have a forgiving spirit.  Let me leave you with one last passage from the Message translation Galatians 6:1-3” Live creatively, friends. If someone falls into sin, forgivingly restore him, saving your critical comments for yourself. You might be needing forgiveness before the day’s out. Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their burdens, and so complete Christ’s law. If you think you are too good for that, you are badly deceived.”

 

You are now free to move about the planet …

You are now free to move about the planet ….

It seems like we should use a different word than ‘celebrate’ when we talk about Memorial Day.  I guess it sounds strange to say we’ honor’ Memorial Day, even though we are honoring anyone in the military who have given their lives in the ravages of war so Americans can continue to live in freedom.  In searching for a good description of Memorial Day I found it on the homepage of msn.com today, May 27, 2013.  “Memorial Day is a day of remembrance for those who have fallen during service to our country. Memorial Day was originally called Decoration Day, as its purpose was to visit cemeteries and place flowers on the graves of soldiers who had died in the Civil War. In 1882, people started calling it “Memorial Day,” and by the time World Wars I and II had ended, it had evolved into a day to honor all fallen military men and women, no matter what war they fought in.”

While we are off ‘celebrating’ a day off work, parades, picnics, ball games, and a multiplicity of activities, let’s be immeasurably grateful because we have freedom that allows us to have a day off work, attend parades, picnic with loved ones, play ball, and participate in that multiplicity of activities. Freedom is not free. We know we have thousands of soldiers serving in stateside and in foreign countries. We know that when a person enlists in the military they are contracting with every United States citizen to be their defender, to the point that they could be sent into a war zone at any time. Freedom is not free.

When we go to our jobs every day, they are jobs we’ve chosen for ourselves.  The way we spend time through the day and evening hours have few restrictions and dependencies; we are free to move about country 24/7/365 according to our own plans. This isn’t how it works when you wear a military uniform.  Freedom is not free.

The ravages of war take precious lives. It doesn’t matter if you are a conscientious objector, if you don’t see the point of battle, or if you think the military is a nothing more than an arm of politics, the fact is we need our military to defend the land we live in, to protect our borders, and to be peacemakers – even if it means they give up their own life. I’m as much against war as anyone and I pray for peace every day, just like millions of others, but the fact is – war is real. Recently I was listening to a group of people sharing their opinions of the military as an organization. It was apparent that none of them served their country in any capacity – but I bet they will be celebrating Memorial Day with parades, picnics, ball games, and a multiplicity of activities.  I guess that’s why I find the term ‘celebrate’ incongruous with Memorial Day.

Galatians 5:13-15 says “It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don’t use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that’s how freedom grows. For everything we know about God’s Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself. That’s an act of true freedom. If you bite and ravage each other, watch out—in no time at all you will be annihilating each other, and where will your precious freedom be then?”

Memorial Day exists because men and women died so I could be free to move about the planet. I will never take that for granted. Freedom is not free.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LVhnaVAQeTo

Strung out lives

It’s that time of year . . . graduation and life thoughts.  If it seems like you’ve read this before, stop wondering.  I figure if TV is allowed reruns – we who love blogging, can repeat once in a while too. God bless your day with his best.

Many years ago I read the book by Steven Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People. I can’t say the book changed my life, but if asked, I could probably still recite the list of habits. One, however was seared into my mind and frequently comes back to me.  You may have guessed it’s Begin With the End in Mind.  The deep meaning behind that thought consistently impacts my acts and reactions. If you don’t know the analogy, let me help you out.  In his book, Covey asks his readers to imagine being at their own funeral and observing what the guests say about them.  I know.  Morbid! But embedded in that statement is the reality that our lives are made up moments all strung together that make us who we are. At any given point we have opportunity.  What do we do with these strung out opportunities that define our lives? More pointedly, what is the attitude that characterizes me?  I’m convicted daily of how many times I say “I want to . . .” or “I should do ….” I catch myself falling into the pattern of aimless wandering because I’m so busy.  Life is busy. I’m over committed and should give some things up.  Really?  But these things that keep me so busy are the acts I’ve chosen because I want to be remembered for them. But still I want to do more, take on another activity, another project, another hobby, another – well you understand.  So the key is the decision point – at the junctures of all those strung out moments how do I decide?  How can I sort out the important from the trivial and the memorable from the dull?  When I look at all those decisive moments that have become my life, what do I want to be remembered for? I’ve thought of a few.

  • Faith in God and complete trust in His sovereignty:  While this sounds simple, it’s a serious act of turning over my will to God’s will even when I don’t understand His ways.
  • My relationships – wife, mother, grandmother, sister, friend:  My role is to be loving, attentive, empathetic, authentic, involved, thoughtful, encouraging, supportive, and spread infectious joy.
  • Employee, co-worker:  How to carry my fair share of the work, be a team player, be genuinely supportive no matter what, be loyal, practice gratitude, be complimentary, give recognition, project joy
  • Personally: Be discerning, live with integrity, be diligent, act with kindness, take care of my physical body, strengthen my mind, guard my heart and mind from deceit and wrong, be joyful

Admittedly, that’s quite a list and it could be even longer, more intense and transparently revealing.  In the context of a full life though, not impossible.  Much of my list is comprised of attitudes which in reality are the foundation of how I’ve built my life.   And Proverbs 4:23  says, “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues [attitudes] of life.”  I’ve never met anyone who lives more than one moment at a time. In fact, I don’t know of anyone who has more than 60 seconds in a minute or 24 hours in a day.  In Ephesians 5, I read the instruction to make the most of every opportunity.  When I look down from heaven I hope people use these words when remembering me: unshakable faith, kind, compassionate, made others feel like they matter, involved, eternal cheerleader, supportive, encourager, attitude of gratitude, enthusiastic, positive, lover of life, infectious joy.

Most of all I want to be remembered for being who God intended me to be and that regardless of all the defective decisions I’ve made, He was able to take the broken and rebuild them for good.  I am His workmanship, created by Christ Jesus to do good works. Ephesians 2:10   Here’s the wrap-up  2 Timothy 4:7 speaks to me.  I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

Be still

Ok everyone . .  .UP UP UP everybody up! Rise and shine! Good Morning !

Ya know? Sometimes technology is not my friend. Today is one of those days.  So now that you’re up anyway, here’s my thought on what to do when a day starts out less than optimistic.  Change the song going through my head from ‘oh brother, what now’ to Psalm 40:3 “He has put a new song in my mouth— Praise to our God.” Here’s my teachable moment. Sometimes things don’t go according to my plan. Today’s little irritations were just that; tiny inconveniences.  But I know how easily those little things can mushroom into – well – what are mushrooms?  Fungus.

That’s not happening to my day and don’t let it happen to yours. This is a day to be thankful for something. Think of one thing, even the tiniest pleasant thought and let it germinate.  Today is a day that 2 Thessalonians 1:3 really speaks to me.  “You need to know, friends, that thanking God over and over for you is not only a pleasure; it’s a must. We have to do it. Your faith is growing phenomenally; your love for each other is developing wonderfully. Why, it’s only right that we give thanks….you’re so steady and determined in your faith despite all the hard times that have come down on you.”

We have to be thankful – stronger faith in God is fed through the cycle of being thankful. Sir Winston Churchill once said “Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”  Today I had to listen to my head until it told my heart to start by being thankful – just be thankful.  Psalm 46:10 “Be still and know that I am God.”

I hope you enjoy this new song by Amy Grant today.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HYUmQduBPjg

There is never too much of this

Ok everyone . .  .UP UP UP everybody up! Rise and shine! Good Morning

There is never too much of this ….

I woke up this morning to the sound of pouring rain. My first thought? The sliders are open I hope the floor isn’t flooded. My next thought? If you’re guessing it was ‘Ugh! More rain. Why?’ you would be wrong.  My next thought was sincere conversation with God pleading with him to stop the devastation of tornadoes in Oklahoma City and the surrounding areas. Thousands of people in that area have just lost everything and they won’t understand, nor do I understand why they had to endure two days of damaging tornadoes.  Nothing can change the past, not when it’s the weather that we have no control over, or when it’s the effects of a wrong decision.  The past is over.  What can I learn from it?

Here’s one thing I learned August 29, 2005. Don’t complain about the weather! That day and the days after when the destruction of Hurricane Katrina was assessed, I promised God that I would never complain about the weather again.  I might whine a little over cancelled plans due to weather and I might grumble about icy roads for my long commute to work, but when I remember the ruined homes, businesses and lives from back then, I am thankful for the rain and snow we have in Michigan and am grateful that we don’t have hurricanes here.  True, we have tornadoes and we recently had flooding…..tempted to complain but without falling into the trap.

In these times, especially for all of us who have not been personally affected by the ravages of weather, there is never too much of this – praying, caring, and love. Love of others helps us keep things in perspective because when we love people we want what’s best for them and have compassion, even when there is little we can do or contribute.  Thank God for the blessings in your life and ask him for what you can do to be supportive.  There is never too much praying, caring, and love.

1 Corinthians 13:2-10

“If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing. If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.

Love never dies.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=av8Nn1etlFE

What’s up with Sunday?

I woke up this morning with this pouring from my heart:   Lord Jesus, I long to be perfectly whole; I want Thee forever to live in my soul; Break down every idol, cast out every foe; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.  Lord Jesus, look down from Thy throne in the skies, And help me to make a complete sacrifice; I give up myself, and whatever I know; Now wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Words by James Nicholson, 1872 (1828-1876)/ Music by William G. Fischer (1835-1912)
This song talks about idols ; not the kind we prop up in plain sight and bow down to, but things that get in the way of our relationship with God.

Ezekiel 20:19 “I am the Lord your God; follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.”  We are no longer under the strict laws of the Old Testament, but we are still implored to live a lifestyle that pleases God.  Exodus 20:3 “You shall have no other gods before me.”  I have no gold, silver, bronze, or ornate wooden object that doubles as a god, but I have habits and things that I often put ahead of my time with God.  Ezekiel 20:20 “Keep my Sabbaths holy, that they may be a sign between us. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God.”  One way to show my dedication to God is by attending church – but read into this more than it says.  When I spend time with God whether in a house of worship or sitting on my floor at home – God craves that time with me and that’s where my faith is strengthened and my servant’s heart constructed.  God teaches me what is best for me Isaiah 48:17 “This is what the Lord says— your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go.”

It’s Sunday, a day to celebrate life in the most extraordinary way – in worship and in honor and in reverence to God, the creator, the keeper, the sustainer of all things.  Are you planning to be in the 25% of people who attend church 3 times each month? Or in the 40% who have attended church – um…sometime but the memory is vague? If you’re in the other 35%, why not try it today?  There’s a church around the corner.  Go to be encouraged. Go to be spiritually filled up after a draining week. Go because God loves you and longs to teach you what is best for you.

Hebrews 10:24-25 “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

1 Corinthians 14:26 “What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up.”

Sometimes I wonder why God doesn’t take the desire from me to write this blog. Somehow I stumbled onto this passage of scripture and decided maybe it goes something like this:  Psalm 71:18 “Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, my God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your mighty acts to all who are to come.”  So if you’re reading this and wonder too.  Now you know.