FULLY ALIVE!

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


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Cleaning House

My parents were Neatniks – especially when it came to housekeeping.  Saturday mornings began with my dad inspecting our closets, our drawers and under our beds.  Everything had better be hanging (and in order) or folded (and sorted into the right drawer).  And, in his words, “There shouldn’t be anything under your bed except the floor!”  If just one piece was found not properly folded or in the wrong drawer, he dumped the entire contents of the drawer into the center of the bed and you folded everything again.  Sometimes he would “help,” but I really think that was more about keeping an eye out to make sure the work was done to his satisfaction.  Seems to reason that I soon learned to be organized.

My maternal grandmother was likewise organized and one of my aunts was fanatically neat.  Following in their footsteps (and fearing my dad would appear out of nowhere with a dust mop or broom in hand), I became a super neat housekeeper.  But I didn’t last.

It’s not that I have become a slob (those who know otherwise, Shhh), but I just shifted priorities along the way and determined a level of neatness and a level of messiness that I can live with.  I also learned some secrets to making your house appear cleaner than it really is when guests visit.  My mother told me to buy lower wattage light bulbs and to use lamps instead of overhead light.  A friend told me to boil a little cinnamon and water on the stovetop – you get that “fresh baked goods” aroma.  A colleague taught me to drag the edge of a book across the carpet to simulate vacuum cleaner marks and to keep an empty basket available for collecting miscellaneous small items like magazines and phone chargers then all the items can easily be stashed inside a closet or (forgive me Daddy) under the bed.  And finally, someone told me that you don’t let guests stay longer than 30 minutes because the longer they stay, the more they notice.

Isn’t this just what some people do with their lives?  They clean up the outside and focus on outward appearances.  Or they know secrets to making their lives look clean.  A lot of stuff (sin) gets swept under rugs, stashed in closets and stored under beds.  But we read in 1 Samuel 16 that the Lord looks at the heart.  It does no good to “look like” a Christian or even to “act like” a Christian if the heart is not clean.  Consider the cries of the psalmist, first in Psalm 139:23-24 (NIV) – “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” and then in Psalm 51:7 (KJV) – “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.”

Your Heavenly Father will, just as my earthly father did, show you the places in your life that need cleaning. He will also help you, washing you whiter than snow.

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Let God Finish

When I was a younger woman – and before there was Cable TV, I enjoyed watching the PBS Channel. PBS was the precursor to HGTG, Food TV and all the other DIY channels. One of my favorite shows was The Joy of Painting with Bob Ross. Take a look at an excerpt of an episode in time lapse:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WCLyUSqmr_k

Bob would begin with a blank white canvas, clean brushes and an assortment of colors that always seemed to include Yellow Ochre and Cadmium Blue. From those few resources and in a matter of minutes, Bob would create a masterpiece, but as you watched him paint, you couldn’t help but wonder because his work never looked like what he said it would be. He would smear some blue over here, some yellow over there then spread a little black over it all, add some streaks of white then scrape some of the paint off and, as the French say, “Voila!” There, right before your eyes would be a beautiful scene – a forest, a cabin, a trail, a bubbling brook. You could almost hear the birds chirping, smell the pine trees and feel the coolness of the water.

You just had to let Bob finish his work.

Our lives begin as blank canvases. Along the way the canvas gets smeared with a little sweat, stained with a few tears, streaked with happiness and scraped with pain. Looks like a mess. But “we are God’s masterpiece…” (Ephesians 2:10 NLT)

Let God finish His work.


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Anything You Want

When I was a young girl, my Dad told me that I could have ANY thing that I wanted IF I was willing to do an honest day’s work for it. “As a matter of fact,” he said, “if someone has something to give you, they will let you know. In the meantime, plan on going to work to get what you want.”

And so, I began working when I was 15 years old. I’ve worked since with the exception of one year during undergraduate school when I literally begged my Dad to give me a break. “Can’t I have just one semester without working?” I whined. And one semester is what he permitted. Then it was back to work – two jobs, sometimes three.

I remember teaching school full time, working in a Department store 20 hours every weekend and managing an after-school tutorial program two afternoons a week while attending Graduate School full time. And that was one of my “easy seasons.” For another season, I taught school Monday through Friday and worked in a hospital laboratory Friday nights, 16 hours each Saturday and 16 hours each Sunday (a 40-hour weekend) – two full time jobs.

I’ve worked in schools, hospitals, offices and department stores. I even (this is the honest truth) sold cemetery plots door-to-door. Finally, I am retired – honestly. I get the check every month. And I still work two jobs!  Why? Many reasons, but partly because my Daddy created a true workaholic and partly so I really can have what I want…without charge cards.

I doubt my Dad was the first or only parent to tell his child that they could have what they wanted if they worked for it. That was not just the mentality, but the prevailing attitude, spirit and belief of our day. You want it? You work for it. For many, there was much truth in that thinking, and they have the homes, cars, clothing and “toys” to prove it.

But there is one thing that working cannot bring you.

Eternal life.

Ephesians 2:8-10 (NIV) makes it clear that we are saved by grace, through faith – and this is not from ourselves. “It is the gift of God” and not by our works, “so that no one can boast.” No one can buy or work their way into Heaven. It is the work of Christ and His work alone that opens wide the doors of Heaven for us to enter.

Isn’t that good news? It is for me; I can only imagine how many jobs I’d have to work to go to Heaven!


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Weebles Wobble

But they don’t fall down!

Now, if you think I’ve lost my mind, then you are way older than I am or you are what my great grandmother used to call “a young’un.” If you don’t remember Weebles, you’re either too old or too young.

Weebles is a trademark for several lines of roly-poly toys that were launched as part of Hasbro’s Playskool division in 1971. I was already well past the Playskool age, but the commercial jingle for these egg-shaped toys was so catchy that everyone repeated it. Besides, they were everywhere. There were Weeble Pals who rode a Weehicle and went to Weeschool and afterwards played together in the Weebly Wobbly Treehouse or went to a Weebles Barn Dance in Weebleville Town Center! It was a wonderful world because – Weebles Wobble but they don’t fall down!

If only our world could be that simple.

Contrary to what some believe, Christians are not perfect. The Bible does not teach that Christians never fail, never stumble, never wobble. But the Scriptures do teach that Christians get back up – guess you could say we wobble, but we don’t fall down! I will even be so bold to say that if one falls down (and stays down), then that one was not a true believer.

Now, before you get upset with me, click away from this page or turn your computer off altogether, look at the Scriptures for yourself. 1 John 2:19 says, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.”

Here’s the deal. Christians are human. Christians wobble. But Christians are miserable in their wobbling (SIN) and cannot continue in that way.

Consider Abraham. Called of God. Friend of God. But he wobbled. And not just once! He told Sarai, his wife, to lie and tell the Egyptians she was his sister (Genesis 12:10-13). Fast forward to Genesis 20 and we see Abraham lying to Abimilek, King of Gerar, telling him that Sarah (name changed, same wife) was his sister. In Genesis 16:4 he slept with Hagar, his wife’s maidservant because he either doubted God’s promise, was impatient to wait or thought he knew better than God.  Either way – big wobble!

Consider Moses. He killed an Egyptian and tried to hide the body. He later lost faith, grieved God and was not permitted to enter the Promised Land. He wobbled.

Consider David. He committed adultery with Bathsheeba and arranged for her husband, Uriah to be on the front line of battle since a cover up scheme fell through (2 Samuel). He wobbled.

But when you read the Scriptures, Abraham is known as Father of Many Nations (Genesis 17:5), and God calls to Moses while he is out tending sheep (having killed the Egyptian and fled). God talks to him again at the burning bush and chooses him to bring redemption to His people, the Israelites (Exodus 3). And David? We read in 1 Samuel that the Lord sought out a man after his own heart – David, the adulterer, the one who omitted some of God’s instructions on how to transport the Ark resulting in Uzzah’s death, the schemer who tried to hide his affair with Bathsheeba and the one who did not attend to his own household and children.

Abraham, Moses, David.  They wobbled, but they did not fall down.

You’ll wobble.

You’ll fall short, miss the mark, behave contrary to the nature and will of God. Wobble, wobble, wobble. But when a Christian sins, relationship is unchanged. Position is unchanged. You are still God’s child. You are still covered by the precious blood of Jesus. But fellowship is broken. You lose your joy. You lose your praise. You lose your peace.

Understanding that there are no BIG sins and little sins, I think we can agree that David’s sin was horrendous! But when confronted, look at David’s response in Psalm 51. Notice what he does and what he does not do. He confesses his sin. He seeks forgiveness. He humbles himself before the Lord. He asks for restoration. He doesn’t make promises. He doesn’t try to strike any deals. He doesn’t make excuses.

If you are wobbling or if you have wobbled, don’t fall down but do go down – on your knees. Pray.  Acknowledge your sinfulness – and that is what it is. Don’t try to “dress it up.” Acknowledge your sinfulness to the Lord asking Him to take control of your life and seal it afresh with His precious Holy Spirit.

He will!  And you can get back up again!

BONUSES for You:


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If It Looks Like a Duck

It’s funny – the things we accept at face value and the things we do not.  Get a piece of paper; it can be a scrap, and see how you do on this little Yes or No test:

  1. I have purchased a dress ___ sizes too small promising myself that I would lose enough weight to wear it. (You fill in the blank.)
  2. I have befriended someone (welcomed them into my home, introduced them to family, scheduled special events with them, etc.) when I knew the relationship would be the equivalent of putting a hot coal inside my shirt.
  3. I have said that I liked something (when I secretly thought, “Yuck!) only to receive that something later as a gift.
  4. I have purchased a shoe in a size other than what I know that I wear thinking I could “make them work” for a special occasion (and because they were cute).
  5. I have dated (or married) a man believing that I could, eventually, change him into the man of my dreams.

Each question is worth 20 points.  I trust you to score your own paper.  You do not have to report your score; I’ll let you “sit with” it.

There seems to be two camps – the one that believes you can always turn a situation around and the one that agrees with the old anonymous proverb that says, “If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, looks like a duck – it must be a duck.”

Here’s my thinking on that proverb…Wrong!

You may think this season of your life is pretty hopeless.  It might be looking like unemployment, feeling like cancer, sounding like a mean boss, smelling like divorce, feeling like loneliness, tasting like failure…  Looks can be deceiving.  So can feelings and all the other senses.

We’ve been following Joseph through several chapters of Genesis, so let’s keep learning from him

Genesis 37:23 (NIV)  “So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe—the ornate robe he was wearing…” Looks like nakedness.

Genesis 37:24 (NIV)  “…they took him and threw him into the cistern.” Tastes like abandonment.

Genesis 37: 28 (NIV)   “…his brothers pulled Joseph up out of the cistern and sold him for twenty shekels…” Sounds like slavery.

Genesis 39:6b-7 (NIV)     “Now Joseph was well-built and handsome, and after a while his master’s wife took notice of Joseph and said, “Come to bed with me!” Smells like a set-up.

Genesis 39:20a (NIV)        “Joseph’s master took him and put him in prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined. Looks like, smells like and feels like the end!

Wrong, again!

Genesis 39:20b-21a (NIV) tells us, “But while Joseph was there in the prison, the Lord was with him…” And two chapters and two years later, we see Joseph not just leaving prison and not just being restored to his former position, but he is positioned second only to Pharaoh. Genesis 41:39 -41 says, “Then Pharaoh said to Joseph…, ‘Only with respect to the throne will I be greater than you…I hereby put you in charge of the whole land of Egypt.’” Looks like a test, and looks like Joseph passed with flying colors. Will you?

Max Lucado tells us that God “sees the needs of tomorrow and, accordingly, uses your circumstances to create the tests of today.” He sees your needs, and He sees the needs of others. He uses you and your circumstances to create tests that will bring about His desired results. Sometimes your testing is to bring about a certain result in you. Sometimes it is to bring about a certain result through you, meaning you are the vehicle chosen by God to do a work in someone else’s life. Whichever situation is the case, you want to pass the test. Lucado also reminds us that “some tests end on earth, but all tests will end in heaven.”

So, it might walk like a duck, quack like a duck and even look like a duck, but what it really is is a test! And you want to pass!


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You Just Have to Wait

You ever watch people in a waiting room?  I’m in one now – waiting at the Toyota Dealership while my car is being serviced.  I thought it was going to be brief.  My Dealer has an express lane which requires no appointments if you simply want an oil change which is what I want along with a quick rotation and balancing of my tires.  Wham. Bam. In. Out.  That’s what I planned.

But the Dealership has other ideas.

First, there are about 12 other people ahead of me.  And already I’ve been paged to return to the service desk.  Mike, my service rep, has a list of recommendations, – “Some urgent, some can wait,” he says.  It’s a long list with no prices.  After a bit of chat (and some pricing), I decide that we will take care of about three things on the list.  Then I take a seat.  And wait.

I am in the waiting room with a growing body of fellow Toyota owners, but I came prepared for the wait and so did they.  Cell phones, hand-held games, Nooks, iPods, iPads, Kindles.  One might mistakenly think we are in a Circuit City or Radio Shack were it not for the floor model vehicles, rubber mat displays and tire racks surrounding us.  There are some good old fashioned hard back and paperback books, too.  That’s what I have.

But I am having trouble concentrating on my book.  I am caught up watching my new “friends.”  Even with all the gadgets plus the dealership-provided flat screen television, vending machines, comfortable sofas and magazines, we don’t wait very well.  No one seems to “stick with” their entertainment for very long.  They text a little, flip a few magazine pages, watch a bit of television, text again, make a phone call, get a beverage from vending, take a few selfies, make another call, play an online game, flip a few more pages…

Waiting is hard.  We don’t like to wait.  Ours is the get-it-done-now generation.  In the grocery store line we roll our eyes and look with disdain at the woman with eleven items in the ten-item-or-less lane. (Yes, you do.)  We exhale (loudly) as we stand behind a senior citizen searching pockets for exact change at the post office window.  We ride on drivers’ bumpers and weave through traffic always in search of the fastest lane.  We buy the gadgets that promise to shrink our waists overnight, grow our hair 2-4 inches in one week and make our teeth five shades whiter in two days.

We don’t like to wait.  On mechanics.  On shoppers.  On weight loss. On white teeth.  On God.

Well, we can buy the gadgets, and perhaps lose an “overnight” inch or two (hope you realize it’s water loss) and use the paste that will actually whiten our teeth at least a half shade.  But we cannot hurry God.

Consider Joseph’s story.  You know it well, but let’s look at an excerpt found in Genesis 40:13-14, 23 (NIV):

“Within three days Pharaoh will lift up your head and restore you to your position, and you will put Pharaoh’s cup in his hand, just as you used to do when you were his cupbearer.  But when all goes well with you, remember me and show me kindness; mention me to Pharaoh and get me out of this prison… The chief cupbearer, however, did not remember Joseph; he forgot him.”

That’s the end of Genesis 40. In my Bible you turn the page to begin reading Genesis 41. What one might fail to notice as that page turns is how long Joseph had to wait between the end of chapter 40 and the beginning of chapter 41. Look at Genesis 41:1, 9-14a (NIV)

“When two full years had passed, Pharaoh had a dream… Then the chief cupbearer said to Pharaoh, “Today I am reminded of my shortcomings.  Pharaoh was once angry with his servants, and he imprisoned me and the chief baker in the house of the captain of the guard. Each of us had a dream the same night, and each dream had a meaning of its own.  Now a young Hebrew was there with us, a servant of the captain of the guard. We told him our dreams, and he interpreted them for us, giving each man the interpretation of his dream. And things turned out exactly as he interpreted them to us: I was restored to my position, and the other man was impaled.” So Pharaoh sent for Joseph, and he was quickly brought from the dungeon.”

He was quickly brought from the dungeon? Are you kidding me? Two years had passed from the time the cupbearer left the dungeon until he remembered to tell Pharaoh about Joseph!

What was Joseph doing in the meantime? Waiting. Waiting on God.

What was God doing? Working it ALL together for Joseph’s good because we can turn a few more pages to find that Joseph reaps reward seemingly for interpreting dreams for Pharaoh. Read Genesis 41:39-40 (NIV):

“Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has made all this known to you, there is no one so discerning and wise as you. You shall be in charge of my palace, and all my people are to submit to your orders. Only with respect to the throne will I be greater than you.”

Joseph waited. God worked.

It wasn’t Pharaoh rewarding Joseph for interpreting dreams. It was God working His plan in His way in His time.

Oh, they’re paging me again. My car is ready. I waited. The mechanic worked.

Max Lucado says, “You can be still because He is active. You can rest because He is busy.”

You can wait because He is at work!

Here’s a bonus for some of you:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vQRUrNkuuOE


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Hurry Up; the Red Light is Coming!

My father taught me to drive.

If you knew him, you would find that statement scary.

Let me be clear; I loved my father.  In the words of my paternal grandmother, I loved him better than Peter loved the Lord.  I was probably 30 years old before I thought he could do wrong.  He and I were like two peas in a pod.  We would stay up late at night talking and laughing.  My mother would scream down the hall, “Go to bed you two!”  And he and I would laugh and keep talking.

My sister and I were reminiscing just recently.

Who got up when we were coughing during the night?  Daddy.  He gave you some cough syrup and poured most of it down your pajamas because he was still half asleep.

Who made you rake the leaves with him and then let you jump into the pile?  Daddy.  Then we raked them again and tied them in big white sheets.

Who woke you up in the middle of the night, carried you on his back to the car and took you (still in PJs) to Krispy Kreme Doughnuts because it was time for the “Hot Now” sign?  Daddy!

And who taught me to drive?  Daddy.

Now, I loved him, but he was a horrible driver.  He wrecked his cars and then he wrecked my first car.  He would speed to work every morning because he never left home in time.  He passed 2, 3, 4 cars at a time.  He fell asleep at traffic lights then took off when the lanes next to him moved and crashed into the rear end of those in front of him.  Forgive me for telling this, Daddy – but He passed a stopped school bus or two in his day.  And he told me (true story) that the yellow light meant “hurry up ‘cause the red light’s coming.”  Once I put on brakes as I approached the intersection and the light was changing.  He said, “No, squeeze the lemon!”

Isn’t that what we do when God seems slow to move?  When He doesn’t answer, doesn’t move, doesn’t open the door, we rush ahead of Him to make things happen in our desired timing.  But, in the words of Dr. Phil, “How has that worked for you?”  Impatience and acting independently of God does not work.  He asks for our obedience, and red lights are often part of His strategy and plan. We read in Revelations 3:7 (NIV) that “what He opens no one can shut, and what He shuts no one can open.”

In Genesis we learn of Joseph who waited years for the fulfillment of a God-given dream. Read the story; the wait was more than worth it. God opened a door wide for him and to the benefit of his family. If He did it for Joseph, He will do it for you.

God’s timing is perfect. Obey His signals – including His red lights and yellow lights. As Joyce Meyer says, “Trusting God brings life; believing brings rest.”

And patience brings green lights!