Faith or Fact?

I remember the first time I ever heard the term ‘poster child’. I was 10 years old, sitting in the living room with my mom and her friend waiting for Sunday dinner to be ready. They were discussing a picture on the back of a magazine where Easter Seals presented their poster child, encumbered by leg braces, and supported by metal crutches.  Since then I’ve come to hear different nuances of that term ‘Poster Child”.  They are the ‘Poster Child’ for discord, ‘Poster Child’ for medical mystery, ‘Poster Child’ for anger, ‘Poster Child’ for drama. I never hear ‘Poster Child’ for optimism, ‘Poster Child’ for human service, ‘Poster Child’ for – well anything good.

I’ve spent some time contemplating a ‘Poster Child’ designation, wondering what I could do to earn that designation.  On April 7, 1986 the Los Angeles Times published a requirement for choosing the Easter Seals Poster Child. They need a special talent described as “a regular, delightful kid,” 6 to 12 years old, who has another, far more elusive talent–the ability to be happy and whole despite a physical disability.”  There are no negative connotations in that description, in fact, it is the antithesis of negative. Here’s what I discovered. Faith. I want to be the Poster Child for Faith. How hard can it be, right?

Don’t I believe Proverbs 3:5-6? “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” Faith works well when the path is straight, and plans are falling into place. But what if plans fall, and fall really hard? Suddenly I realize that wasn’t faith; that was fact. The road ahead is visible, the path is straight, I can see it. Hebrews 11:1 says “Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will Blocks Spelling Faith Falling Over As Symbol for Lack Of Trustactually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.”

I love it when I have a clear view of the future. I get enthused about projects that come with a plan. I’m motivated by forward progress. How about you? Do you give a little cheer when you check that task off your list? Or even better – when you throw the list away. Don’t we gain optimism and incentive from verses like Psalm 20:4 “May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed.” I know I do. I’m all over that one! And I have no problem reminding God that he promised to do that. And God has no problem reminding me that the desires of my heart must first align with His. You know. Like Psalm 40:8 “I desire to do your will, my God; your law is within my heart.”

When the road gets rocky and that once smooth path becomes a precarious obstacle course and there is nothing but brambles ahead, where is my faith then? Do I trust? Or do I find myself pulling out the ledger and noting the facts, the visible evidence of God’s blessings? Do I relinquish my faith? Or do I relinquish control and take the advice of Hebrews 4:7? “Today when you hear his voice, don’t harden your hearts.”

I realize after much soul searching and introspection, that what my heart demands is authentic faith that needs no physical evidence that God is with me not just in the good times, but also the bad. What God promised me in the light is life navigated smoothly along visible, well maintained tracks, a few curves, a few hills, but not much deviation from plan. When the dark times come, when it’s impossible to predict why or what or how, when life feels like a train wreck, I have to keep believing. What God promised me in the light is still true in the dark.

Joshua 23:14 “You know with all your heart and soul that not one of all the good promises the Lord your God gave you has failed. Every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed.”

To be a Poster Child is a reward – a man-made, humanly designated reward. What my soul craves is not to be a Poster Child of Faith for human recognition, but to have a faith that pleases God.   Hebrews 11:6 “It is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.”

So how about it. What do you want to be the ‘Poster Child’ for?

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Inside Out

I hear there is rain in the forecast; or is it snow? It’s April, after all.  But that means cloudy and overcast, not much sun but what does that mean? Cloudy outside and a great opportunity to be sunny inside.  Awhile back I wrote about how a candle shines brightest when the room is darkest.  I love the words of Jesus in John 8:12 when he spoke to the people and said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”  If we have that light inside and our hearts are right, the outside takes care of itself.

When it’s dark, gloomy, and raining, don’t we put on a raincoat, and maybe even shield ourselves with an umbrella? Why is that? Sure, too keep from getting wet. DUH! But isn’t it more than that? We also use those tools to make sure our clothes stay dry, stay warm and worse yet, and keep us from getting sick.  We protect the inner layer so we don’t suffer the ill effects later on.  That’s how it is with the rain that drips irritations, drizzles frustrations, and all out cascades pain into our lives. We have to get out the armor, the rain coat, the umbrella (favorite Bible verses, supportive friends, and PRAYER).

This morning I was thinking a lot about the tragedies that have happened lately and how much devastation has taken place at the hand of evil people. That isn’t the thought pattern I choose to follow all day so I grabbed my Bible and started reading in Ephesians and I want to share it with you.   This is Ephesians 6:12-18  “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.  Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place,and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.”

It’s a new day we’re approaching . . . in fact the new day is here now.  Ready? Have you talked with God yet? Have you told him everything that’s on your heart? He knows it anyway, but share your heart with him.  Acknowledge everything before the lord and so you can see the next steps in your path. That’s why we have the light. Matthew 5:16 says “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”  It’s a good start and that’s all we need to get our shine on. Did you know our world depends on us to bring light? Somebody has to do it. Why not us? Let God carry you high today…..shine, shine, shine.  God will make today beautiful.

After effects

A few days ago, this blog, Talk Kindness To Me, passed the 200th post. (http://talkkindnesstome.com)  Since this is a repost from April, 2013, there are now close to 400 posts, and my goal has not changed. The goal from day one was to do just as the title suggests, speak only encouraging words and counteract the effects of bullying, which is common today. Maybe I’m wrong about this, but I think there are ways to communicate any message, even reprimands, with an undercurrent of support. The words we use are often impetuous, spoken without consideration of the lingering effect.  I remember being part of an object lesson when a teacher had each of us pound spikes into a  wall.  Then he had us remove the spikes showing big blemishes and scars on the wall.  I still remember the battered wall and how it looked after a dozen kids blasted it with nails, hammers, and claws. He asked us for our opinion on how we would fix the wall and you can imagine our answers.  “That’s crazy.  You can’t fix that wall.  It’s ugly. It’s too big of a mess now. That looks pitiful. You will need a new wall.”

I am always touched when I read the 34th Psalm. Something about the message affects the way I see things. You can read it here Psalm 34, but doesn’t this resonate with the lesson of the spikes and damaged wall? “Come children! Listen to me! Do you want to really live? I teach you! Would you love to live a long, happy life? Then make sure you don’t speak evil words or use deceptive speech! Turn away from evil and do what is right! Strive for peace and promote it!” You know where I’m going with this story so use your imagination to fill in the remaining lesson.  The teaching moment – Words spoken in anger make scars. Lies are the source of deep wounds. There is always the healing process, but some blemishes will remain. The point the teacher was trying to make was this. Think before you speak and think before you act because there will be consequences with lingering effects.

Now what about this? Nobody is perfect. No matter hard we try, we’re going to mess up.  We’re going to be angry, we might even act angry.  We will get irritated, or impatient, or worse – both; at the same time; when we’re tired; when we’re beat down ourselves. If that doesn’t  describe your day today, it could be tomorrow. Don’t worry about that now though. Today is what we have to work with.  The past is the past.  Forgive yourself – and if you need to ask someone to forgive you, take care of that too. Today, let’s make the most of our day remembering that we can make a difference one attitude at a time.  Colossians 4:2-6 “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. “

So let’s start right about here, right about now. “Lord, please help me exude peace, not animosity.  Let me speak words of encouragement always. Amen”

BackTrack to OnTrack

You, Lord God, will keep in perfect peace  those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” Isaiah 26:3 

I couple weeks ago, I posted an acronym I use to remind me that what I want in my life is Peace. Choosing P.E.A.C.E. is based on this verse, Romans 14:19 “Let us make every effort to pursue the things which lead to peace and do those things to edify and build up one another.”  At the end of this post, are the values engendered in that acronym.  Yesterday I had one of those days … Monday? Spring Fever? Unproductive – and worse, totally off track from PEACE. This verse in James 1:8 has totally invaded my conscience. “Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.” I don’t want to be double-minded or unstable, but in that moment – well? Sunday night our pastor reminded us that to live a successful life, we have to keep the main thing, the main thing. I was looking for a sample of my work to send to someone and in the process found a post dated July 11, 2012 from a friend who dared to publicly report on her goals and progress … on Facebook, Twitter, and who knows how many social media sites! Publicly stated, publicly rated.   I’m not sure why I saved her post, but it has to be one of those orchestrated maneuvers known only to God, because that spoke to me. “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, because it is the Lord Christ you are serving. Colossians 3:22-24 What does it mean to work at ‘it’ with all my heart because it is the Lord I am serving?

Sometimes I forget that God is who I am honoring or disappointing with the choices I make. If I let Him in, God speaks to me over the rattle of ticker tape pouring through the task engine. Do you ever feel like that? About the time you feel accomplished enough to slow down, that task engine starts cranking like a turbine. By definition a turbine is a machine driven by pressure. Sound familiar? Pressure to do more, add a few more items to the list, push a few things off to the side and rearrange priorities? What would God say about my commitment to ‘keep the main thing, the main thing’? God is a God of peace and He wants that for us.

It wasn’t by chance that I saved that post titled in huge letters:  PUSHING FORWARD – A Goal/Progress Update

God knew I would be struggling today. He knew I would have said yes too many times to the unimportant while the important were left clinging to the slippery slope while I navigated and realigned with ‘the main thing’.  I’m reminded over and over that God is the God of order not of chaos. Isaiah 45:18 says this “For the Lord is God, and he created the heavens and earth and put everything in place. He made the world to be lived in, not to be a place of empty chaos. “I am the Lord,” he says, “and there is no other.””

So instead of tackling the mess I’ve made with my off-track voyage into chaos, why am I blogging? Because of the last E in P.E.A.C.E. and because the post written 2 years ago by Joanne Sher, which I unearthed, helped bring me back to center today. And remember that ‘main thing’? The main thing is discipleship and what is discipleship?  Well – I can’t cover that in under 600 words, but I can say that of the many responsibilities, teaching, supporting, and encouraging are among those acts found in the disciples’ job description.

If you had the formula for keeping the main thing, the main thing, wouldn’t you share it? Yes, of course you would. Let’s hit just the highlights of 1 Thessalonians 5, but you can read it all for yourself. “And live peacefully with each other. We urge you to warn those who are lazy. Encourage those who are timid; be tender with the weak. Be patient with everyone. Always try to do good to each other. Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances. Hold on to the good. Stay away from every kind of evil. May the God of peace make you holy. God will make this happen because He called you and He is faithful. May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.”

I love that, don’t you? I’m ready to back track to get on track.  Ready? Let’s get out there.

Rain and Idols

I couldn’t help it.  This morning I decided it was high time for me to go look up some scripture that talk about rain. If I copied them all here, you’d never get anything done today and I wouldn’t either. So after reading and cross referencing and thinking about all the constructive uses of rain, I settled on these.  Leviticus 26:3-5 “If you live by my decrees and obediently keep my commandments, I will send the rains in their seasons, the ground will yield its crops and the trees of the field their fruit. You will thresh until the grape harvest and the grape harvest will continue until planting time; you’ll have more than enough to eat and will live safe and secure in your land.” The time that this was written, God’s people were immersed in idol worship.  I’m not a Bible scholar at all, but what I got out of reading that chapter are the two paths available to follow.  Disobedience to God with idols of all makes and models OR Obedience with adoration for God and no idols.

Here we are in the 21st Century, all smug with a trail of history books and translations of the Bible, and we can’t figure out how those people could be so – well – so blind. Come on guys, that’s a no brainer.  Surely you can see that God has rescued you from your circumstances and spared your lives from ruin. Hey! Look didn’t God spare you from famine and how about the sparing of your sons through the Passover.  Then I remember that these people didn’t have the advantage of history.  They were seeing and experiencing this life for the first time. They had Moses and the 10 Commandments – that was in writing. But they didn’t have the public library where they could go to Google the history of God’s provisions over and over.  They didn’t have Wall Street and the stock market to worry about, but they had their own version of survival even back then. And they had their hearts desires . . .  just like we do today.

We might not have an idol made of wood or bronze or gold propped up where we gaze at it and expect that inanimate object to fulfill all our dreams. But we have idols of another element and characteristic. For some it’s their work, others have hobbies, some crave status, money, success or recognition. I’m not sure how to even define an idol today, but I know that when we expect an object or a person or a vocation to change our lives, it’s an idol. If we have singular focus and it ignores or detracts from God and even turns us from him, we’ve got an idol. It’s not too late to start down the path of obedience and begin the trek toward a harvest of peace and abundant joy.

Back in Leviticus the rain was physical and we’ve certainly had our share of  pouring rain, but the truth to think about today is the obedience factor and getting rid of the junk idols that barricade our paths to contentment. Let’s visit Joshua 23:14 which was many years later. ““Now I am about to go the way of all the earth. You know with all your heart and soul that not one of all the good promises the Lord your God gave you has failed. Every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed.”

Tearing down idols seems to be the thing to do.  I’m all over that! What do you think?  Do you have any idols?

Who’s your hero?

I’ve been working on a training course that helps students of an organization develop theirSuccess Ideas Teamwork Plans Signpost Showing Business Plans And Organization personal mission statement. Naturally, as I work, I’m also researching and learning. One of the suggestions for designing your own vision is to think of people who have had a positive impact on your life. Interesting concept and certainly an easy exercise that I had experienced recently.  I remember listening to a broadcast when the speaker asked his listeners to think of 3 heroes in their lives. My first thought was what would it take to be a hero? I mean from my estimation.  Would it be the character who enters a phone booth as a mild mannered young man and bursts forth as Superman, able to leap tall buildings with a single bound? Or would it be a woman who is highly successful and respected around the globe? Or would it be an aging man who has brought millions to at least hear the gospel, who has written books about being totally sold out to God, and who has lived a quiet life, above reproach? More likely, my hero would be someone I know personally, respect for their wisdom, look up to for guidance, and seek their counsel.

When we have a hero, what is our ambition?  To become like them. We covet their approval.  We pursue their advice. We pay attention to their advice and try to emulate their best characteristics. We can’t wait for the time to come when we can get together and have girl talk (or guy talk) And we love them with unconditional love.  I have several heroes, people I look up to, respect, would model my life after – at least to some extent, but they are human. While these people have all the characteristics of strong Christian faith and unblemished moral character, they have the vulnerabilities of being human. It’s getting close to the Easter season and there have been more ads for God-focused movies. This all makes me wonder who is my hero?

Today, what if Jesus were your hero? Here is his resume.

Jeremiah 31:3 ““Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore with loving-kindness I have drawn you.”

Isaiah 53:4 “Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted.

Exodus 20:24 ”Wherever I cause my name to be honored, I will come to you and bless you.”

John 14:18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.”

Proverbs 4:23 “Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life.”

Philippians 4: 9 “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”

Psalm 119:2 “Blessed are those who keep his statutes and seek him with all their heart—

Jesus said in John 14:6 “Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Jesus is my hero.  He lives in heaven, but he also lives in my heart.  My prayer is that Jesus is your hero too. He is the unchangeable, miraculous, constant companion, we can look up to, emulate, and love.  Jesus deserves our ultimate hero worship.

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