FULLY ALIVE!

Your life will be as bright as the noonday sun. Job 11:17


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Bump and Lift

Pickpocketing is one of the oldest and most widespread crimes in the world. It happens around the world! And in a matter of minutes, it can rock your world! Lifting your money, credit cards, identification and other valuables can take mere seconds. You, however, may not realize until much later how much you have lost and how vulnerable you were and are.

How does it happen? A common technique is “bump and lift.” An approaching thief will walk toward you, intentionally bump into you and, while you are distracted by the “bump,” lift your wallet or other items from your person. Just like that, you’ve been robbed.

Would it surprise you that Satan, who comes to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10), uses the same technique?

Your days are joy-filled. Your branch is producing an abundance of fruit. Too much fruit for Satan. Bump!

Life is good. You are happy. All is going well – very well! You dwell in peace. Your peace robs Satan of his. Bump!

You are growing in your faith – going to church, attending Sunday School, joining Bible Study… You actually look forward to spending quiet time with the LORD each morning and have committed to rising early to meet Him. Satan cannot allow this! Bump!

Your witness is strong. Opportunities to share the Gospel abound and you obediently welcome and respond to each one, ready to share your testimony and God’s Word. Satan must put a stop to this. Bump!

Joy, peace, spiritual growth and intimacy with God, sharing the Gospel – these are the things Satan seeks to rob from us. How? Through a distracting “bump” followed by a quick “lift.”

Your days are joy-filled and you are bearing much fruit. Satan “bumps” you with a bit of gossip, a need for recognition, desire for the approval of others or some negative self-talk – anything to “lift” your joy.

Life is good; you are at peace. Satan “bumps” you with relationship discord, abandonment, family dysfunction, problems at work – anything to “lift” your peace.

You are growing in your faith and have committed to spend more time with God and in His Word. Satan “bumps” you with insomnia so that you can’t get up in the morning. He “bumps” you with sick or whiny children, a needy husband or a dog that escapes the house and has to be chased – anything to “lift” your time with God.

Your witness is strong; you welcome opportunity to share your testimony. Satan “bumps” you with a medical diagnosis, financial disaster or some other tragedy that seems to come out of left field – anything to shake your faith and “lift” your trust in God.

Satan is cunning (2 Corinthians 11:3); he is clever (2 Corinthians 4:4). Just like the pickpocket, Satan is often coming right toward you; you see him. You might even smile at him and give him a nod (especially if you are a good Southerner). He likely will smile back because he knows how to distract you so that he can “lift” your joy, your peace, your growth, your intimacy, your witness, your testimony – your power!

And just as you may not readily know that the pickpocket has robbed you, you may not readily recognize what Satan has “lifted” from you because he is also subtle.

How do we protect ourselves from our enemies?

A Google search yields tons of ideas for outsmarting pickpockets – wear money belts, secure your bag across the front of your body, leave your valuables at home, steer clear of commotions, stay vigilant in crowds… These are all good ideas, and we might even be tempted to try to apply some of them in our war with Satan – especially staying vigilant. In fact, 1 Peter 5:8 tells us to be alert and sober-minded because our enemy prowls, looking to devour.

But a good thief knows how to pick his victims. He’s watching. Satan knows how, when and where to come for us. He looks for the chink in our armor.

But God.

Satan looks for the chink in our armor, but God has given us the gift of His Holy Spirit to indwell, to guide, to keep, to help through all the “bumps” of life.

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Where You Look is Where You Will Go

Research has made clear the dangers of driving while distracted. We’ve been well cautioned that behaviors like talking on the cell phone, fiddling with radio dials, chatting with fellow passengers, reading texts, balancing beverages and, the one I am guiltiest of, putting the finishing touches on our make-up do not mix. Likely you’ve had your own distracted experience and can testify to the truth of the research.

But what about distracted walking?

Never thought of it, have you? As one STILL dealing with a broken foot, I can tell you that it is a real thing. A very real thing! I don’t need the research to tell me (but it’s available) that walking while distracted can cause serious bodily harm to the walker.

The CDC reports: “In 2015, 5,376 pedestrians were killed in traffic crashes in the United States. This averages to one crash-related pedestrian death every 1.6 hours. Additionally, almost 129,000 pedestrians were treated in emergency departments for non-fatal crash-related injuries in 2015. Pedestrians are 1.5 times more likely than passenger vehicle occupants to be killed in a car crash on each trip.” (See https://www.cdc.gov/Motorvehiclesafety/Pedestrian_safety/index.html)

While one is not likely to be putting on mascara while walking, it seems that many of the same distractions impact drivers and walkers. Bottom line, we need to watch where we walk. The CDC actually advises that one needs to be aware of his/her surroundings. Since my “tumble” and subsequent broken foot, I have become almost obsessive about watching where I am walking.

Maybe, though, I need to be a bit more specific. I have become preoccupied with looking at the ground. I am watching for pebbles, cracks, debris – anything that might cause my foot (which is still in a CAM boot) to twist or cause me to lose my balance, stumble and fall.

It dawned on me recently, though, that perhaps I haven’t been as conscientious about my real walk. My daily walk. My Christian walk.

Am I watching where I am going? Where are my eyes – on the world or on Jesus? Am I distracted?

In this case, my focus needs to shift.

Rather than looking down (at those things, people or situations that have tried to bring me low) or back (at my past – good or bad) or around (at the world), I need to be looking up – to the resurrected Christ! The truth of the matter is that where you look is where you will go.

Looking down, we can become consumed by our troubles. Looking back, we can miss the opportunities before us.   Looking around, we can become caught up in the trappings of this world.

Let’s look to Jesus, “the founder and perfecter of our faith!” (Hebrews 12:2a, ESV)

Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus (Hillsong) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=czxd5oa-gi0


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Sacrificing Isaac

Today I laid my Isaac on the altar.

If you’ve spent any time in Sunday School or church, you know the story of Abraham, formerly Abram, and his wife Sarah, formerly Sarai.  In fact, you don’t have to be a Christian to know the story of these two and their surrounding cast of characters – Sarah’s slave, Hagar; Hagar’s son by Abraham, Ishmael and the promised son of Abraham and Sarah, Isaac.

Whoever thinks the Bible is boring need read just this one of many fascinating stories from the pages of Scripture.  It rivals any romance novel, rag newspaper or reality television show.

The difference?  This story is found in the Scriptures.  The Bible.  The infallible Word of God.  It is, as Timothy teaches (2 Timothy 3:16), God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.

I can attest to the usefulness of this story for teaching and correcting.  I read it just this morning.  For the gazillionth time.  But it spoke afresh to me.  I recommend you take time to read the full story of Abraham and Sarah in the book of Genesis; together, let’s look at Genesis 22:1-17a (ESV):

After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac. And he cut the wood for the burnt offering and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place from afar. Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.” And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son. And he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So they went both of them together. And Isaac said to his father Abraham, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they went both of them together.

When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built the altar there and laid the wood in order and bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son. 11 But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 12 He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” 13 And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called the name of that place, “The Lord will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.”

15 And the angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven 16 and said, “By myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 I will surely bless you…”

Did you get it?  In short, God asked Abraham to take his son – his only son, his son that he had waited about 100 years to have, his son that God had wrapped many promises around, including that through him Abraham would have many descendants, in fact, too many to number – yes, that son, take him and sacrifice him on an altar.  Yes, that means kill him.  Let me insert here that if Abraham had waited long for Isaac, so had his wife, Sarah.

To say that Isaac was a much-wanted child is a major understatement. To say that Abraham is in a conundrum is trivializing this situation.  To say that God is asking a lot of Abraham is a minimization.  As far as Abraham is concerned, I am sure he is feeling that God is asking for everything – give Me your son then go home and face Sarah (who, by the way, didn’t know about this conversation between God and Abraham).

That’s God.  He asks for all.  Everything.  Our Isaacs.  We all have one.  That thing (or that person) that we love – perhaps (if we are truthful) more than God.  Perhaps, that we have made into a god. We learn in Exodus (20:5, 34:14) and Deuteronomy (4:23-24, 5:9, 6:15) that God is jealous.  He loves us and will have us love no other gods before Him (Exodus 20:3).

While as far as we know this was not the case with Abraham; he had not made Isaac a god, but the lesson is there for us.  God tested Abraham because He had plans for Abraham.  He was to be the Father of Nations.  God tests us, too.   When God calls us to take that thing or that person, our Isaac, and lay it on the altar, it is in doing so that we pass the test.  It is in doing so that we truly humble ourselves to be used by God.

What is your Isaac?

 

Not My Will (Alvin Slaughter) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4cIzBdyVWww


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Sideways

Life.

It did it again.

Came, and knocked me sideways.

Matters of health. Matters of the heart. Matters of the head.

It didn’t matter to life.

Didn’t matter that THIS was not a good time. You know – during the holidays; at the beginning of a new year; during the first days of a new semester; after I had made some commitments and promises and begun some new endeavors, while other family “things” were going on…

Life did not care.

How can so many things be going sideways – all at once?

If you think I have an answer, stop reading right now.

I don’t have an answer. But through the past weeks I have gone from tears to a down right pity party to finally remembering that while I was caught completely off guard – or as I told a friend, having the rug pulled out from under my one good foot (the other one is actually broken) – Jesus was and is fully aware.

It is during times like these I remind myself that nothing catches my Lord off guard.

Why so much at once? I don’t know.  But if He has allowed this, He surely has a reason and, more importantly, He will surely use this for good. Possibly my good, perhaps someone else’s good, prayerfully for the good of His Kingdom. But He will, as He promised, work all things together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).

So knocked sideways? Stay in His purpose. Diligently obey Him and He will not only straighten things out, He will set you high above all the nations of the earth (Deuteronomy 28:1).


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Just For Looks

This weekend I laughed with a friend as we kicked back and listened to Jerry Clower, Justin Wilson and Jeff Foxworthy on Pandora.   Especially funny to us (because of an inside joke) was Foxworthy’s line about the towels in the bathroom being “just for looks.”

Now I know that my friends and colleagues who are reading this post are at this very moment exchanging some looks.    Upon reading  the names Clower, Wilson and Foxworthy, some are saying, “Who?” while others are saying, “What?”  Still others are rolling their eyes in disbelief that I was listening to these three.

Nevertheless, the towels in my bathrooms are “just for looks.”  They are white!  Bright white, actually.  Not touching them is one of the rules of my roost.  Now if a guest came and used one I wouldn’t get bent out of shape (much), but those closest to me and those who frequent my home the most know.  They KNOW.  The white towels are “just for looks.”

Jeff Foxworthy said this simply did not make sense to him – or any other man (that was the point of the joke – crazy rules women have).

It was a joke – a simple one liner, but it got me thinking.  About looks.  About the things we do “just for looks.”  Because others are watching.  Because we worry about what people will say.  1 Samuel 16:7(b) ESV says, “For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.”

Focusing on looks is clearly a “mis-focus.”  While there is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to look nice or wanting to maintain a beautiful home, we must establish priorities and maintain balance.  Our priority should be to seek the things of God (Colossians 3:1-2) and maintain balance in life.  We maintain balance by making sure Jesus is the center of our lives – much like the hub is the center of a wheel and permits that wheel to roll in balance.

Our lives naturally have a hub.  For some it is family.  For others it is career.  Your hub might be pursuit of education and degrees or it may be the quest for money.  It may be appearances or looks.

Make Jesus the center of your life.  He will provide the stability, control, power and confidence you need.  Isn’t that, after all, what our obsession with “looks” is about?  The Scriptures tell us to “Seek first God’s kingdom and what God wants.  Then all your other needs will be met as well (Matthew 6:33 NCV).

Yes, even the ones “just for looks.”

 

 

 


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She Didn’t Even See Me

I started this morning kinda hard.  Really hard.  As in face down on some cement.  This is how it happened…

I went out early for my morning walk (trying to make at least three miles each day).  On my way to the walking track my feet got tangled in some orange safety netting.  So much for safety because down I went scraping elbows, palms and worse of all, my knees.  Both of them.  You have to know that I am super protective of my knees.  Osteoarthritis has long plagued both, and as I age, it has gotten progressively worse.  Injuring a knee is the LAST thing I want to happen.

Oh well, so much for wanting because I hurt them – scrapes, bruises and swelling.

At this point I wasn’t sure if I was glad or not that no one was around.  My pride was glad that I was alone, but I surely needed some help getting up because I had to kneel on the cement and those injured knees to stand.  More scraping.  More bruising.  And now some blood, sweat and tears.

Nevertheless, I was able to stand and limp back to my car.  I dusted myself off, grabbed some tissues to blot the blood and searched my knapsack for a bandage.  No luck.  I thought I might still be able to walk (I want to get those three miles in!) if I could just get some bandages and maybe some Neosporin and Aleve.  Close to a grocery store, I drove there.  Not open.  Passed two drug stores.  Not open.  Ahhhhhh, a dollar store!  And it was open.

Still early in the morning, there was only one person working in the store and now me.  At this point my knees were swelling and because of the bleeding my pants were sticking to them.  I said, “Good morning, can you tell me where the first aid supplies are?”  The clerk responded, “Huh?”  I said, “Band Aids” to which she replied, “Aisle 12.”  Now hobbling (Is this worse than limping?  It felt worse.), I made it to what I thought was Aisle 12, but I did not see bandages, Neosporin or anything else that looked like a first aid supply except some cotton balls.  Tears welled in my eyes; I was hurting.  I called to the lady, “Maam” (That’s what we say in the South even though I suspect I was twice her age at least.) “Excuse me, but I don’t see any bandages.”  She snapped, “I said Aisle 12; you are on 13!”  As my grandmother used to say, “I don’t know who licked the red off of her candy,” especially so early in the morning, but I just needed some bandages and to elevate and ice these knees.

Over to Aisle 12.  Band Aids, Neosporin and Bacitracin.  Passing by the cooler, I grabbed a bottle of cold water – to drink and to put on these now throbbing knees.  My elbows and palms had begun to burn.  I stopped at the first register to pay.  The clerk walked past me to the third register and yelled, “Down here.”  My Lord, more steps.  And in the wrong direction – away from the door, the parking lot and my car.  By now I am beginning to tremble (don’t know if it was nerves, anxiety or something else).  Trembling and tearing I fumble into my purse to pay.  The clerk takes my money and throws (literally) my stuff in the bag mumbling, “Come again; have a nice day.”

A nice day?!

She never looked up.

She didn’t even see me.

Yes, she saw a woman come into the store.  If I’d committed a crime, she probably would have been able to report accurately to the police that I am Black, heavyset and was wearing black trousers.  She might be able to add that I wore my hair in a ponytail.  Beyond that, she didn’t see me.  She didn’t see ME.  The hobble (or limp).  The tears.  The trembling.  The need for help.  The need for a gentle response.

Rather than be angered, I thought, “How many times have I not seen people?”  How many times have I been guilty of having a conversation (“Come again; have a nice day.”) without really seeing the person (or meaning the words)?

We are commanded to love each other (John 15:12), to lay down our lives (John 15:13), to give (Matthew 5:42) and to look to the interests of others (Philippians 2:4) all so that we might point others to Christ and so that our Father in heaven may be glorified (Matthew 5:16).  We can do none of this if we do not first “see” people.

In my car, crying and bleeding, I prayed, “Father, open my eyes and my heart that I will never pass another person and not “see” them.”  I am grateful to the Lord for this early morning lesson; I just wish I could have gotten it a little less painfully.  😉


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Punished or Positioned

This is a very personal post, one born of conversations with a cherished friend that ultimately thrust me into a place of deep introspection.

My friend is facing a season of challenge, a season that I told her a weaker woman could not endure. I suspect God would not even call a weaker woman to navigate such a season. We are reminded in 1 Corinthians 10:13 that no temptation overtakes us except what is common to mankind, and God is faithful not letting us be tempted beyond what we can bear and when (not if) we are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that we can endure it.  Actually, He will provide a way for us to surthrive!

John Gill’s commentary on the Corinthians pericope gives greater insight, understanding and, I think, comfort and hope! Gill writes:

“Some, indeed, understand these words by way of reproof, that whereas their trials and exercises which had attended them were very light ones, and comparatively trivial; and yet they had given way to these temptations, and had sunk under them, and fallen by them, for which they were greatly to be blamed; or as threatening them with something more severe than anything as yet had befallen them, signifying that though they had as yet stood, and thought they still should; yet they ought not to presume on their own strength, or depend on outward things; since the temptations that as yet had come upon them were such as men might easily bear; there was no great trial or experiment of their grace and strength by them; they had not yet resisted unto blood; there were heavier and severer trials they might expect; and therefore should not be too secure in themselves, but take heed lest when these things should come upon them, in such a time of great temptation, they should fall away.”

Gill continues suggesting that “the words are spoken by way of comfort to the saints; intimating that as no temptation or affliction had befallen them, so none should, but what either came from men, or was common to men, or which men by divine assistance, and under divine influence, might bear; and therefore should not distress themselves with the apprehensions of it, as if it was some strange or unusual thing, and as if they must unavoidably perish and be destroyed by it:

Okay. There are really just two questions the first being, “does God ever give allow us more hardship than we can handle?” (The short answer, of course, is “yes!”) The second question, one which my friend has asked, is “why?” (The only slightly longer but still short answer is “so that we will rely on God and not on our own understanding, strength or power.”

Just as I have when I have encountered seasons of challenge, my friend commented that she felt she was being punished – especially because this season has come about (as so many do) through no fault of hers. Haven’t we all been there? Minding our business, doing right…then BAM! From seemingly nowhere, unexpected and not even deserved (according to us) – a major challenge. A hardship. A struggle. A complication. A setback. Call it what you want, we don’t want it, and we wonder, “why?” Specifically, “why me?”

I will offer you the same question that I offered my friend. Are you being punished or positioned?

I will not attempt to retell but rather will redirect you to the story of Joseph, ask you to read it and consider the question (see Genesis 37). Was Joseph punished or positioned?

If you are at all familiar with the Scriptures, you know there are many others. God positions us for His purposes; every hardship is not about us. Again, look at Joseph. Though he had to endure being sold into slavery, the unwanted advances ad then lies of Potiphar’s wife, imprisonment, being forgotten and more, he was positioned to save his family – including those who authored his hardship.

When (not if) you face a season of struggle, consider you may be being positioned to be used mightily by God. Count it all joy when you fall into various trials (James 1:2-18); your Father is at work! Aren’t you excited to see just what He will do?