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Friday, October 23, 2020

Put that tongue on hold, please!

 


When I was 8 years old, I overheard my Aunt Delores describing my sister and I to a friend. Speaking of my sister, she said, “Janie’s sweet and quiet and you hardly hear a peep out of her.” And then she pointed in my direction and said, “But that one right there; she can talk a mile a minute!” 

Looking back on that I probably should have been offended. I wasn’t. Instead, I was wildly impressed. Seriously? A mile a minute? For a kid who didn’t have an athletic bone in her body, the fact that I could go a mile in a minute, in anything, was the best news ever! And so, my track record began. 

In Jr. High, my teacher changed the seating order twice, in hopes that moving me by kids I didn’t know as well, would quiet me. It didn’t take long for those kids to become my best buds! Some call it talkative. I call it as just being friendly!

As I grew into adulthood and learned that sideways glances and eye rolling aren’t a good thing, I started to tame the motor mouth, patiently waiting my turn to speak. And speak I did…but were my words always measured and meaningful or was I just spewing them out to get in my word quota for the day? Ask my husband…he has this answer...I assure you!

In my ripened age now, I’ve been contemplative on my words and their impact on others. Proverbs tells us that “the overflow of the heart comes off the tongue.” I’ve observed this in many ways in my life. We all have. Just turn on the T.V. Can you think of anyone who lost a position or a relationship because of words that came too quickly? Lying words. Angry words. Bitter words. Manipulative words. Insert hand raised emoji here. And then insert a big arrow pointing to me. 

My mama used to say two things to me, growing up, that went hand in hand. 1.) If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. 2.) You catch more flies with honey than vinegar. Good advice. I remember it, and on rare occasions, I apply it. 

Today, I saw a meme that said: Knowledge is knowing what to say. Wisdom is knowing whether to say it or not. This quote goes along with scripture that pretty much knocked the socks off me this week, in my study of 1 Peter.  

1 Peter 2:23 – (speaking of Jesus) When they hurled insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.

And to drive this point home just a little (or twist the knife a little deeper into my convicted heart) here’s verse 24:

He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.

No one suffered more unjustly than Jesus. He took my sin to the cross that day. (he took yours too…FYI). If anyone was worthy of retaliation, it was Him. He was in every essence God – he was perfectly capable of saving himself. He chose not to. He could have lashed out at those that were saying such wrong and hateful things. He chose not to. He could have retaliated. He chose not to. He could have come up with some amazing threats – after all – he was God and held their eternity in his hands. He chose not to. Instead, he entrusted himself to a loving Father who judges fairly. 

Jesus set the ultimate example of holding your tongue.

My husband recently shared a devotion with me. He claimed it meant a lot to him, but I think it was actually one of those moments where you show someone something under the guise that it was good for me, but the ulterior motive is…you really need this lady! You know what I mean? Well, it was good for me. He’s always right, that husband of mine.

The devotion talked about “Witnessing your thoughts”. In other words, taking the time to step aside of your thoughts and think about what they will sound like once they exit your brain and come off your tongue. Will they be helpful or harmful? Am I wanting to say this out of anger, retaliation, defense? Be a witness, first, to how those things you want to say will be received? Take the situation, the person you're speaking to and your emotions into account. Are these thoughts honey or vinegar? I know you’re thinking, “Well geez, by the time I do all that, the person is gone, or I’ve missed my opportunity to let them know what I’m thinking.” Well, then, point taken. Sometimes, things are better left unsaid. Silence often speaks louder than any words we can conjure up in the moment. However, taking the time to process doesn’t necessarily mean we won’t speak them. But, taking the time to witness our thoughts gives us the time to speak them in the way that they are intended, which should always be; to build each other up.

Jesus held his tongue at a time when, by any human standard, it would have been acceptable to speak.  He did not have to speak into his circumstances. He left his case in the hands of God who always judges fairly. And that, should be our goal, in any situation. How does God judge this? And then, allow him to handle it. If he wants you to speak into it, trust him to give you the wisdom of when and how to do so. How he judges me, in any situation, should be all I really care about. Jesus left it up to God to be the judge…and so should I. It’s easier said than done, I know. I’ll most likely stumble along the way…but I want to witness my thoughts and allow God to handle my situation fairly. 

 Jesus set the example on the cross for me – by his wounds I am set free!


Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Caught up in the air

 


2020 has wreaked havoc – worldwide, continent-wide, state-wide, county-wide and for me somedays, home-wide. I’m guessing many of you can relate.  About six weeks into the pandemic I found myself sitting on my front porch, just waiting for a trumpet to blow.  “Surely, Jesus is on his way to come get me,” I’d think, as I sat there in my weary state.

Seriously, I’ve never anticipated His return more than now. What a sweet reward, after all this suffering, to hear the melodious sound and be caught up in the air with him.  The pandemic, hate, violence, child trafficking and…. the list of evils that fill our headlines could go on for days. I may or may not have suggested to Jesus that this would be a good time for his return. What would he do without my suggestions?

I had the privilege lately to have a conversation with a young man who was feeling fear about worldwide issues. He told me that as a child, when things were scary in the world, his mom would quote Revelation to him. He was young then and the things she spoke of were scary to him. Now, as a grown man, seeing all the signs of the times around him, his mama’s voice and the scriptures of Revelation are replaying in his mind. From our conversation, I sensed that he was not a believer and had real fear. I had the opportunity to offer him some resources to help him understand these scriptures better and to deliver the good news that, Christians are promised a quick trip to paradise before all those scary things in Revelation take place. I hope he ponders this more and makes that very important decision to get aboard the glory train with me one day.

My conversation with him, put the “longing,” that was already in motion in my heart, into high gear. Talk of the End Times doesn’t scare me. I say simply…  “BRING IT”!  For the Christian (that’s me and please oh please, I hope it is you too) this rapture is our big moment. It’s the thing we’ve been standing in line for. You know that line, right? The one in the hot blazing sun, with a full bladder, dressed in a parka, for hours on end all while clutching a one-way ticket to paradise! The big show – the glorious moment we have waited and longed for.

1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 says: For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel… (now let’s just stop right there. The voice of an archangel? Surely, this must be the best sound in the world. Better than a baby’s giggle, the ping of a sealed canning jar or the whispered “I love you” from your soulmate. This must be a voice that will perk our ears like no other.) …and with the trumpet call of God. (first the melodious voice of the archangel and then a trumpet call – you just can’t make this stuff up) …. First, the Christians who have died will rise from their graves. Then, together, with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up on the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever.

Those that have died before us will have resurrected bodies – just as Jesus did when he rose on the third day. They will meet their soul in the sky alongside those believers who are still alive, who will be caught up, body and soul to meet the Lord! 

What an exciting moment that will be. To read this, you would think this would take a long time. I often wonder if we will be somewhat like balloons drifting slowly up to heaven, waving to each other as we go and marveling at how good so and so looks to have been dead for so long. But on the contrary, we won’t even have time to revel in the magnificence of the moment. We won’t have time to be frightened or excited or any other kind of an emotion. I know this because 1 Corinthians 15:52 says – It will happen in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye. Try to measure that. I double dog dare ya! You just can’t measure the twinkle of an eye. That is how quick our Savior will come back and rescue us from this corrupt world.

But the best part of that Thessalonians verse is…Then we will be with the Lord forever. Like an epic movie with no ending – we just keep on living in paradise. Never more to suffer. No evil. No pain. No disappointment. No tears. Bring it – I say – Bring it!

It’s easy to look at our world today and think that surely this must be the end of time. However, I’m sure those Christians who struggled through the Bubonic plague, World War 1, the Holocaust and so many other scary times in history, must have thought the same thing.

Jesus tells us himself in Matthew 24:42 – “So you, too, must keep watch. For you don’t know what day your Lord is coming.”

So, I remove myself from the porch and I keep watch. Like the old adage says; good things come to those who wait. I can’t think of a greater reward for our waiting. In the meantime, while we keep our ear attuned for the trumpet sound, we must keep our nose to the grindstone. There are a couple of things we must do and they both pertain to a four-letter word – L O V E.

First, we mustn’t fear. I must admit – the thought of losing the familiar and not experiencing the joys of this future life (like grandkids and witnessing the successes of my children) can get me a bit weepy and second guessing my suggestion to Jesus that he come back soon. But then…heaven. Paradise. Seriously, can it get any better than that? Surely heaven will be even better than grandkids. So, I need not be afraid. 1 John 4:18 says: There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. Perfect love is the love that happened on that day at Calvary, when he took my sins to the cross. The blood shed for me and you that day by our Savior is the perfect form of love taking the punishment for our sins. This kind of love drives out fear. When you feel fearful, remember that this perfect love – this gift given to us – protects us from fear.  What a relief. We are made complete because of this love. 1 John 4:4 says: Greater is He who is in you than he that is in the world.  If he is in us – who or what can be against us?  (Hint: no one/nothing/nadda/zilch/zero)

Secondly, walk in obedience. 2 John 6 says: This is love that we walk in obedience to His commands. He sets guidelines for us to live our best lives. Optimum living is his goal for us. The verse goes on to say; As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love. What a world it would be if we just followed this simple command – to walk in love. We wouldn’t long for a trumpet blast – that’s for sure. There wouldn’t be a need. Heaven would be here on earth. Unfortunately, we live in a world full of disobedience. So, as Christians, it’s our duty to show His love to others by walking in obedience to his command to love. He’s given us stuff to do, for his kingdom, while we wait for his return. That’s so “dad-ish” of him isn’t it?

His perfect love is for us all. If we respond to the wait by acting in love, we assist him in gathering his sheep for that glorious day ahead. In my Father’s house there are many rooms (I stole that line from Jesus –it’s true). He wants us all to be caught up with him on that day of rapture. There is much work to do while we wait. We walk in love, keep our ear attuned for the trumpet and our eyes ever watching; we remain busy!

Forgive my “punniness,” but I think it’s fair to say that if you get “caught up in his love” for you – you will one day get “caught up with his love” when he calls you home.  Have no fear friends. Keep watch and walk in his love!  See you after the twinkle!

 

Saturday, June 6, 2020

Zacchaeus & Raccoons - they have a lot in common!


Zacchaeus was a wee little man, a wee little man was he…. Can you finish the rest of this old Bible school song? A song sang by children for years, based on the Luke 19 story of a short tax-collector named Zacchaeus who climbed up in a tree to see the Jesus.



Now that you’re humming that little tune in your head, let me divert your attention to another little story. I knew of a couple once who looked at a house that had been abandoned for a few years. From outside, the house seemed to be in good condition except for one minor thing; a tree in the front landscaping had grown up and over the deck with its branches stretching clear to the roof.  Once inside the home, they found everything to be in good condition. They were pleased with what they saw until they got to the basement, where there were clear signs that a creature of some sort had
inhabited the basement. Upon investigation, it was discovered that the overgrown tree had created a wonderful racoon bridge to the chimney. I suppose the raccoons innocently wandered upon the tree at some point. Inquisitive, as they are, they shimmied up the tree and found the roof and began to explore their new territory. Alas, their curiosity led them to a hole (chimney) and they dove in head first; free falling to the fireplace below. I wonder what a sight this must have been. Once they shook off the soot and shock of the fall, they found themselves in basement paradise! They settled in and started a family in their cozy little discovery. How clever they must have felt.



Now back to Zacchaeus. He had questionable character, was most likely hated because of his job and great wealth and was probably ridiculed for his short stature. I don’t mean to add insult to injury by comparing poor Zac to a raccoon, but they do have something in common here. They both climbed a tree and discovered security that they didn’t even know was available to them.



I can identify with Zac and Rac! I can’t tell you how many times I have walked blindly into unchartered territory, fearful and uncertain – seeking security and rest. In case you’re unfamiliar with Zacchaeus’ story or you just need a refresher – once in the tree Jesus called up to him from the crowd. He looked him in the eye and told him to come down because he was going to his house. Zac shimmied down the tree, eager to host this Master that so many had talked about. This man had piqued his curiosity so much that he climbed a tree just to get a gander at him. The crowd murmured about Jesus spending the day with the likes of a sinner. Zacchaeus, so taken by the Lord’s affection repented that day and promised to repay, in excess, to those he had cheated. His heart had been softened to right all his wrongs. Jesus said to him “Today, salvation has come to this house.” Now that is security at its finest. Salvation – eternal security!


Friend, I don’t know why the Lord gave me this word this morning. Perhaps, because like the short man and the forest friend, I need to climb into the unknown with faith – so I can see the hope of the future.


Do you need to find security? Are there unknowns where you need to step out into faith and trust God for the paradise that waits on the other side? I don’t recommend the tree method but there is something you can “leaf” through to find what you’re looking for. Dive head long into His word and see what promise awaits you. You won’t be disappointed. Verse 10 of Luke 19 says “For the Son of Man, came to seek and to save the lost.” Be lost no more – find your security in the promises of the one who rescues you EVERY TIME!

Saturday, March 28, 2020

A Month of Sundays - What if?




When I was a kid growing up in the south, I recall going to the grocery store with my dad and bumping into an old friend of his. My dad caught glimpse of him first, there in the Kroger aisle, and called out his name. When his friend turned around and saw my dad, his whole face lit up with joy. He extended his hand and said, “Well my goodness, if it ain’t my ol’ buddy Bill - why I haven’t seen you in a month of Sundays!”


Now, his friend was using an expression that means a seemingly endless length of time, but for this young girl who was most content in the confines of her own home, surrounded by those she loved the most, a “month of Sundays” sounded like bliss. Afterall, Sunday was, and still is my favorite day. Growing up in the 70’s, Sundays were sacred in my home. We awoke to the sounds of the Happy Goodman Family album blaring from the record player inside our big console stereo system and the smell of bacon frying. We cut and pasted pictures of Jesus in Sunday school, sang old hymns with only the accompaniment of the piano, heard a challenging message and hugged everybody’s neck.


After church, my mom always made a big meal and my sister, and her family joined us. There was no peanut butter and jelly happening on Sunday. This was the south, people! There was always, always mashed potatoes and roast beef or fried chicken and my sister and I fought over who would make the deviled eggs. We rested. Truly rested. We went for walks, played games, sat on the porch swing and listened to music or watched the big box t.v. in the living room. In the evening we went to church again. Before bed, we watched Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom or the Wonderful World of Disney (remember those?) together, as a family. There was worship happening in every nook and cranny of the day. Worship when we woke up to mama’s gospel albums playing, worship at church (not once but twice) and worship in our obedience to rest, as God has commanded us to do. It was simple and wonderful and the idea of a whole month of doing that every day seemed dreamy to me in my young mind.


The COVID19 quarantine these last few weeks has been a struggle for me. I’ve mostly been disappointed for my Senior daughter and the events and dreams of hers that keep getting cancelled or postponed. I don’t like unknowns and sometimes fear looms over my faith instead of vice versa. But God keeps placing that phrase in my mind – “A month of Sundays”. What if?

What if, those of us who are healthy, treated this time as a real “month of Sundays”? What if we consciously made the effort to see each of these days as a day of worship? What if we woke up to Praise and Worship Music, hugged our loved ones and “virtually” hugged those we cannot physically reach through easily accessible technology? What if we were intentional about our study of God’s word, hit our knees in prayer, made Jesus crafts with our little ones and made mealtimes a family event again? On days where the monotony can get the best of us and we feel we might go insane, what if we earnestly sought out ways to draw closer to HIM?


Instead of complaining and succumbing to disappointment and bitterness, what if we chose to call out His attributes bringing praise onto Him and taking the focus off us? When fear swells and faith seems to take a back seat, what if we went to His word and sought comfort from His promises?


What would it be like if we made the decision to treat this month of quarantine like a literal “month of Sundays” instead of a figurative “month of Sundays”?  What if we chose to spend each day in Worship to the One, whose journey to rescue us from sin is celebrated during this Lenten season, instead of viewing this as a seemingly endless length of time?  Just…what if?