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Archive for February, 2013

 Holding Glasses over BibleToday I stumbled across something so beautiful in my daily Bible reading I just had to share it with you. I am just finishing up the book of Deuteronomy.  At the end of chapter 30 as the Israelites are reminded of all God has taught and commanded over the past forty years of wandering, they are told this:

Deut 30:11 Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. 12 It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, “Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” 13 Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, “Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” 14 No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it.

Communication can be so complicated in our environment. There’s always the fine print. The fine print pretty much contains the critical details that will come back to haunt you at some point. Before you sign up for what is contained in the regular print, you’d better read the fine print.

Reading the fine print isn’t as easy as it sounds. Not only is it fine (meaning very tiny) but it is also confusing, technical and long. You must search for detail, hire a lawyer to explain it or take your chances.

The fine print is all about how you will be precluded from receiving the benefits that are promised in the large print. Your product may carry a money back guarantee but the fine print will guarantee that’s probably not going to happen.

The thing about the fine print is you have to live by it to get what you’ve been promised but you’ll never be able to understand what it is you have to live by.

Not so with the precious Word of God – it is clear with no hidden elements.

In the Old Testament, God was careful to describe in detail just what needed to take place in order for the people to reap the blessings He so desired to pour out on them. He even told them exactly what to do if they messed up and violated His commands. More than that, He gave them clear instructions for what to do in case they accidently sinned and weren’t aware of it. It was the perfect instruction manual for the maintenance and operation of God’s people.

The New Testament is even clearer and more to the point. Love God, confess sin and believe in the Son.  It’s not difficult and it is certainly not beyond our reach. It’s accessible to everyone, young or old, rich or poor, wise or ignorant. Rather than spend a lot of time writing fine print, God spent His time making sure we had everything at hand we needed to reap the guaranteed benefit.

He gave us the Word in black and white, detailed and encouraging. He gave us brains to understand it and called pastors and disciples to study it and help us dig deeper into it. (Thank you, Pastor Jeff)

He gave us the Holy Spirit to stir hearts in a way that we know right from wrong, even when society tries to tell us different.

He gave us each other for accountability and encouragement, to share with and rejoice with, to witness to and be moved by, so we could see His word working before our very eyes.

I challenge you to pick up His Word today and know that whatever you read you can believe and trust. Don’t even bother to search for the fine print because there is none.

For the word of the Lord is right and true; He is faithful in all He does.” Psalm 33:4

 

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Attractive Woman Holds Her Cap Isolated on a White Background.Took our first bike ride of the year on Monday and let me tell you, it was cold. Your first clue that the picture to the left is not me is the smile on her face. Let me admit right up front I am a fair weather rider. I hate being cold. My brother in law has suggested electric gloves and vest but I am resistant. Riding is a hobby. Hobbies are supposed to be enjoyable. What is enjoyable about riding in weather so cold you have to plug yourself in to survive? Nothing!

The only reason, and I mean ONLY reason, I ride when it’s cold is because it’s important to my husband and he is important to me.

To make this ride especially memorable (not in a good way) our power went out in the house just as we were leaving. We noticed the neighbors didn’t have power either so just figured it was a little glitch and would be back on before we got back.

Four hours later we returned, chilled to the bone, and discovered we still had no power. No power means no heat, no hot coffee, no hot shower. I was not happy. Anyone who rides knows that if you are cold on the bike, you will be twice as cold when you get off. The chill really sets in and you find yourself shivering from the inside out.

So without removing any of my seven layers (undershirt, thermal shirt, long sleeved t-shirt, sweater, vest , wool zip up sweater and leather jacket), I pulled a blanket around me and still couldn’t stop shivering.

I finally suggested we get in the car and take a drive with the heater at full blast, which we did. After about an hour I felt sufficiently thawed. When we returned home we still had no power – for probably another two hours. We managed to survive and once it came back on we cranked the stove, huddled around it and drank hot coffee.

I was telling my story to friends at church on Tuesday evening and received an email a few hours later. I thought she voiced a great point so I’m sharing it with you.

Her email asked this question:  Have we gotten so bad about not wanting unexpected visitors that our friends will drive around for 45 minutes to warm up? Have we made people feel so intrusive that they can’t stop at a friends house and say our lights are out, our heat is off and we’re freezing, could we bum a cup of coffee off you?

Do you know that it never entered our mind to call a friend? How odd is that? Her email assured me we would have been welcome and I have no doubt about that. But for some reason “dropping by” isn’t something people tend to do anymore. We feel like we have to give advance notice, either out of respect for the friend who might want to pick the dirty underwear up off the floor or out of fear that we might be putting the friend on the spot to come up with a good excuse for why they aren’t available.

It’s like when someone is walking down the sidewalk, stubs their toe and falls. Their first reaction is to jump up and look around to see if anyone saw them make a fool of themselves. But if you’re the person walking down the sidewalk behind them, your first thought isn’t “what a fool”. Your first thought is “I hope they aren’t hurt” and you run to help.

When I hear of someone stuck without power or with a backed up septic or similar crisis, my first thought is to offer my home as a respite. But when I’m the one in the crisis, my first thought is “don’t intrude on someone else”. Why is that?

Look around you.  We have become so isolated in our social activities that we actually believe we can maintain relationships without ever having to find ourselves in physical face to face interaction. Instead, we do facebook, email, text messaging. What started as a fast, efficient method of communication has morphed into evasion interaction.

Here’s what my friend said at the end of her email:  So why do we wait or not ask or just stop by? You still can at our house and if we have to leave and you’re still cold, you’re welcome to stay, sip your coffee and warm up before you leave.

My guess is she’s not the only one with that attitude. I challenge you today to push through the wall of hesitation and step over the threshold of invitation.

Drop in on a friend just because you feel like it.  Call a friend if you need something (I said call not text). Make it clear that you are available for them anytime they need you.

How can we practice the gift of hospitality if no one gives us opportunity?

“Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.”  Romans 12:13

Thanks , Carol, for this great thought. And by the way, I have no idea what I’m fixing for dinner. Thought maybe we’d stop by unexpectedly and see what you’re having.

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Rose On Wood BWIt’s the day after Valentine’s Day and wherever you go you will hear mixed emotions and contrasting expressions of how love was or was not expressed.

A few at work received flowers, a very visible expression of a relationship.  Or is it? I have known women who received flowers at work from a spouse when everyone knew their relationship was in shambles. But, sending flowers was the expectation so he did it.

Fancy dinners out are a topic of conversation today. Candlelight, soft music, expensive menus and muted conversation – those certainly express a deep love and commitment, right? Yes, but not always.

Candy? Cards dripping with mushy phrases? Hugs and kisses? Well of course, that’s what Valentine’s Day is all about. At least that’s what those on the commercial end will tell you.

Today there will also be much disappointment expressed. Someone’s spouse forgot, another was expecting much more than was given, another has no one to share the day with.

We live in a world that pushes us to twist and turn an idea into to something it is not. St. Valentine was a Catholic priest who it is said was imprisoned for ministering to persecuted Christians. This is a far cry from today’s commercialized version of his designated day.

Originally it was a celebration of sacrifice, mercy and reaching out to others. It has become a celebration of romance and a pressure filled time of striving to outdo, out give, overspend and meet or exceed impossible expectations promoted by the florists, card designers and stores.

Let me tell you about my perfect Valentine’s Day. It started with a phone call at work from my husband apologizing for forgetting to put my gift out before I left that morning. He was worried that I would think he had forgotten all together. To tell you the truth, I’d not had the slightest twinge of being forgotten. But his call gave me a great big burst of being remembered. All day I kept thinking about how precious it is that he worries about my feelings.

He did take me out last night. But it wasn’t for a candlelight dinner. No soft music or expensive menu and certainly no dressing up in our finest. You will laugh at this but here’s the story.

First he took me to Goodwill to see if there were any cheap movies we might want to grab. Since we don’t have television, we watch a lot of movies and some of our favorites are ones we’ve already seen and remember enjoying together. Those are the ones we peruse the Goodwill rack for. Not that we always have the same taste, because we don’t. I hold up one and he rolls his eyes. He holds up one and I give it the thumbs down sign. Last night we did find a couple and paid our ninety nine cents apiece, walking out to the car holding hands and carrying our Goodwill bag of entertainment.

 From there we moved on to the local drive-in that makes awesome BLT sandwiches. We slid into a booth like teenagers, listened to the jangle of the video machines under the not so subtle florescent lights, drank from straws and talked.

Looking at him across the table I just kept thinking, this is what 45 years of marriage ends up being – comfortable, no pretense, no pressure to prove our love. There’s not much we haven’t been through and we’re still together –proof enough.

That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the mushy card and the chocolates he gave me later. It’s not to say I don’t love a romantic, candlelight dinner. It’s certainly not to say I don’t get excited about flowers and jewelry and other girly stuff. I do. But it’s frosting to me, it’s not the cake.

Last night was the cake. Him, me, a BLT and words of love expressed in laughter, hands touching, simple conversation and a Harley shirt staring at me across the table.

Proverbs 15:17
A bowl of vegetables with someone you love is better than steak with someone you hate.

 

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Hand ReachingI love the way friends and family rally around when there’sa  big crisis. We pray, we bring food, we give words of encouragement, cards, little gifts, offers of help and anything else that comes to mind because we recognize a critical need.

But sometimes the smaller challenges go unnoticed and yet are often the sandpaper that wears the body down leaving it raw and open to depression and despair. An outsider might look and wonder how something small in comparison to what others are going through could have such impact.

I’m afraid I have been guilty at times of brushing off what I considered lower priority battles.

When my friend went through cancer I was there for her, constantly trying to think of new ways to encourage and give hope. I jumped in and rallied others to do the same. It’s not hard to be inspired into action when someone you love is facing a life and death situation.

But what if it doesn’t look like a life and death situation? What if it’s not big on the Richter scale of crisis but it’s huge on the personal scale of an individual’s limits at that moment in time?

I learned a great lesson summer before last when I severely damaged both my feet in a fall. The first few days were certainly noteworthy on the crisis scale. But after that, life settled into ice packs, crutches, physical therapy, the inconvenience of not being able to move as fast as I wanted and the insult of ugly shoes. (Yes, I am a cute shoe fanatic.)

When I looked around, there were people with much more serious injuries, illnesses or life challenges. Still found my small scale troubles pushing me into depression.

I think my biggest problem was feeling I didn’t have the right to complain or whine or get discouraged because my problem wasn’t that big. Of course, the size of a crisis doesn’t always determine the size of its impact. It made me stop and look around at what was going on in the lives of those closest to me. Were any of them where I was – minor trouble, major impact?

I’ve seen people sail through stuff that would bring a prize fighter to his knees. And I’ve seen people crumble under what appeared to be a minor annoyance in the scheme of things. I think I was almost one of them the summer of the foot fiasco.

Through that experience I have gained a great appreciation for waves of life that keep washing over the solid rocks on the shore. You can be rock hard and still be worn down by constant pressure no matter how gentle a disguise it comes in.

Every time that rock enjoys a little drying out in the sunshine, it once again gets a good soaking. I have friends who are like that rock. It seems that each time they get their head above water, they get soaked again. It’s seldom a tsunami. It is more often a shower. But after a while, a person can get waterlogged and the moments of sunshine are hard to enjoy. Please God, give me insight when they get to that point.

Here’s to my friends who have not gotten the cancer diagnosis or lost the loved one or faced the giant mountain of a lost job or something equally monumental but who still face challenges every bit as life threatening.

I recognize your daily struggle trying to slog through the paperwork for the divorce, the dissatisfaction with the job you have, the annoying health challenge, the trying marriage, the chronic pain, the never-quite-enough money situation, the tough decision making, the acceptance of things not going the way you want them to again.

Don’t discredit your need for help, encouragement and support. Don’t belittle your reaction to what others might consider minor worries.

If it makes you sad, if it makes you tired, if it makes you want to give up and cry – I understand. I’m praying for you. I’m reaching out to you and I’m ready to jump in and do what I can to help.

Just think of me as the very absorbent pink fluffy towel standing ready for the next dousing.

You just call out my name and you know wherever I am, I’ll come running (Carole King, 1971)

When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. Psalm 34:17 (God, from the beginning of time through forever)

 

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