FULLY ALIVE!

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


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Pebbles: Watch Where You Step

Okay, so I’ve been walking.  Today, I made four miles!  Nothing for some of you, but for a heavy-hipped sister more accustomed to stilletos, suits and years of sitting behind a desk, that was major!  And let me tell the story accurately – I walked three miles, did a bit of housework and then felt inspired to walk some more, so I did another mile.  Tomorrow’s goal is four consecutive miles!

I’ve planned several routes so that I can keep track of the mileage, but I’ve had to make a few changes because of various encounters – dogs, heavy traffic, uneven surfaces, street work…the kinds of things you might expect.

But today I was almost “taken out” during the first three miles.

Not by the dogs, though I met several – some small, some old, some noisy and one that is quite large! (Thank you, Lord for high fences and the big stick I carry with me.)

Not by the traffic that whizzed past me (if anyone or anything really whizzes in this small town) when I walked a stretch on Main Street.

It was a pebble!

Not a boulder.  Not a rock.  A truly, tiny pebble!

I try to watch where I am stepping (there seems to be an inordinate amount of animal poop in this town), but I was listening to music on my MP3 player and praising God as I walked.  And then it happened.

My ankle turned.

Even though my doctor told me years ago that the expression “weak ankles” was a misnomer (a wrong or inaccurate use of a term), I have them!  I know!  The left is weaker than the right even.  I’ve had sprains, strains, torn ligaments and have sported an inoperable chip fracture for more than 25 years.  My ankles are weak.

And that pebble got me.

Now, I would have seen a big rock.  I’m looking for that poop.  My eyes scan for fallen branches, twigs and even acorns and nuts.  I wasn’t looking for pebbles – especially on the section of my route where I encountered it.  But it got me.

And that’s how life is.  We often miss “the little things;” we aren’t watching for them.  Surprises catch us off guard.  Our enemy can catch us off guard, too, and he can take us out!  Which is why the Scriptures teach us to be self-controlled and alert; our enemy, the Devil prowls seeking to devour (1 Peter 5:8); to pray at all times and keep alert with all perseverance (Ephesians 6:18); to watch and pray (Matthew 26:41, Mark 14:38); to be on guard (Mark 13:33) and to keep awake and be sober (1 Thessalonians 5:9).

If I had been watching, looking, paying close attention, noticing how the surface was changing, I probably would have missed that pebble.  I would have taken a different route or, at the very least, changed sides of the street.  Likewise, if we remain awake, sober and alert, we improve our chances of seeing the Devil and changing our routes to avoid his traps and snares.

But how often do we walk without watching.  The way is familiar.  We are paying attention to other things.  Our minds wander.  We are distracted.

Satan counts on those distractions.  He often sends them!  Satan knows that God is the captain of our ship; our guide as we walk with Him.  When we lose sight of our captain or our guide, we are left (or think we are) to navigate our own way.  We choose the path, and frankly, we often choose wrong.  Our way is not His way (Isaiah 55:-9), and our way can lead in the direction of missed opportunities, missed blessings and mistakes.  Our way can lead to sin.

A little distraction shouldn’t be a problem, right?  It’s okay if I watch this one movie.  I’ll drink with the girls this one time.  Since I’m hanging out with the boys, smoking this one joint won’t be a problem.  Telling an off-color joke just once should be alright.  Who’ll know if I fudge on my taxes just a little?  My husband doesn’t need to know EXACTLY how much I spent; it’s just a little white lie.

Remember, it was a pebble that took me out.

THIS WEEK reassess your walk and the route that you are taking.  Are you watching where you step?  What paths and routes do you need to change?  Has a pebble taken you out?  Seek first aid (“If we confess our sin, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9), and commit to walking a different route!


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Naked Christian

For some time I’ve been following a blog, Chronicles of a Kid Next Door, written by Edmond Sanganyado.  Last week Edmond changed the title of his blog to I Am a Naked Christian.  In actuality, Edmond changed more than just the name of his blog.  He changed his focus.  He changed his purpose.

He changed.

I’ve thought a lot about his post explaining the change.  He wrote, “Today, I choose to be naked. I surrender before the Father, and watch as He removes the Son’s spotless rob of glory. I watch in awe as the Holy Spirit removes my garment of self-righteousness and sin. I am naked, but Christ clothes me with his glory.”

It seems that our focus is often more about what to wear, what to put on.  We are constantly bombarded by messages about our appearance and what we wear.  We are victims and slaves to fashion, style and labels feeling pressured to obey fads and trends.  And while it is not exactly true that “clothes make the man” (or the woman), how we dress and what we wear is important.

How often we have read the words of Ephesians 6 – “Put on the whole armor of God…Stand, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness…as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace…take up the shield of faith…take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit.” (Ephesians 6:10-18 ESV).  We read in 1 Timothy that “women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control” (2:9 ESV) and in Deuteronomy that “a woman shall not wear a man’s garment, nor shall a man put on a woman’s cloak.” (22:5 ESV).

But before we can “dress properly,” we need to undress.  Just as you don’t poor new wine into an old wineskin (Matthew 9:17, Mark 2:22), you don’t put new garments over the old.

Edmond wrote, “I choose to strip down all my perceived abilities. I choose to regard all my personal achievements, wisdom and knowledge as nothing, but sewage quagmire. The accomplishments that hid, my flaws and the praises that covered my folly, I throw them in hogwash. I cannot clothe myself in my capabilities anymore. I am done.”

I replied to Edmond’s post, “I’m stripping down and joining you!”  Since posting that response, I’ve thought about what I need to remove, take off, strip away.  Like Edmond, I strip away my perceived abilities – for me, it’s that independent self and that spirit of not needing ANYone.  Sometimes that has included God, or at least that’s what my actions and attitudes implied.  I refuse to dress one more day in self-righteousness.  I will not pin a spirit of independence to my chest like the big brooches I am known for wearing.  There will be no more necklaces of false humility.  Bracelets of selfishness will not jangle around my wrists, and I will not walk in shoes of arrogance.

The key phrase to show what caused God to become angry with the builders of the Tower of Babel comes in verse 4 of Genesis 11. “They said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves.'”  We were made to rely on God and give Him glory. Instead we have chosen to rely on self and seek our own glory—to make a name for ourselves.  Isaiah 43:7 tells us that God created us to display His glory, that is, that his glory might be known and praised.   In short, it’s not about us.  It’s not about me.

Today, I join Edmond in choosing to be naked. “I surrender before the Father, and watch as He removes the Son’s spotless robe of glory…and as the Holy Spirit removes my garment of self-righteousness and sin. I am naked, but Christ clothes me with his glory.”

THIS WEEK take a long look in the mirror, preferably a full length.  What do you need to take off?  Are you willing to strip – completely naked?

Read Edmond’s post at http://gracemusing.com/2015/09/19/for-the-first-time-i-am-a-naked-christian-this-is-why/.


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Walking

I walk.

I don’t run.

I’m not entirely convinced that running is that good for you.  Too many ‘things’ that wiggle, jiggle, flap and bounce.

Walking, though, is a good thing.

But walking is a funny thing, too.

I’ve been walking in a quest to be healthier.  It’s funny how I now notice other people walking.  Kinda like the red car theory – you tell people not to think about red cars and suddenly, they’re every where.  But not really; they were always there.  You just begin to notice them more.  Same thing if you buy a red car.  Suddenly it seems you see red cars at every turn.

Back to this walking thing.  Some people are what we call pigeon-toed.  (The correct term is in-toeing.)  Others are slew-footed (a terrible term we used as children,  but the correct term is out-toeing.)  Still others walk with limps, skips and hops.  My neighbor takes three steps, stops, stands and takes three more.  He moves very slowly, but I applaud his continuous effort.

As Christians we are called to walk, not to run.   As a matter of fact, we read in Ecclesiastes 9:11 that the race is not to the swift.  But we read also in Colossians 1:10 that we are to walk worthy of the Lord.

That latter Scripture is one that I’ve been pondering.

What does that look like – walking worthy?  The Scripture continues and says we not only are to walk worthy, but to please Him in all respects.  It is that simple three letter word “all” that gave me the most insight.  First, let’s get it clear that we can never earn God’s love and this Scripture is not about us trying to walk in a way that earns us anything or in a way that proves that we are worth or deserving of anything.  It also does not mean that we walk so that God becomes obligated to acknowledge us or that God is somehow enriched because of us – in the same way that a skilled surgeon is “worth” a lot to a hospital or a knowledgeable leader is “worth” a lot to a school.

Remember that the Scripture not only said to walk worthy of the Lord but to walk to please Him in all respects.  Hebrews 11:6 teaches us that without faith it is impossible to please Him. Consider these Scriptures together, and walking worthy means to walk – act, behave, exist in a way that shows how worthy and gracious our God is.  Walking worthy means walking by faith.

Let’s go a little further.

Walking is, for most of us, an everyday act.  Whether walking to work, walking in our yard or walking around our house.  And because it is such a common act, I believe Colossians is telling us that in all our acts, all our doing, all our being, all our thinking, all our speaking, all our choosing…, we are to exhibit our faith in God.  This is walking worthy to please in all respects.

If you are not careful, you can struggle with Scriptures such as Colossians 1:10, so let’s talk about what walking worthy does not mean.  It doesn’t mean walking perfectly.  As we walk worthy, in faith we walk in step with the Lord and in the shadow of His grace remembering that He alone is worthy.

The walking that I’ve been doing to better my health is not for the faint of heart.  My friend and I walk miles – one, two, three.  We’ve not made a continuous four mile walk yet, though I know that some days we have walked that and more in totality of steps.  We’ve walked in the hot summer heat and humidity.  We’ve walked in the rain.  We’ve walked mornings and evenings.  It’s not always fun, but it is for our good.

Walking worthy is not for the faint of heart but it, too, is for our good.  The really good news is that we do not walk alone.  God has sent His Holy Spirit to be our Helper and to walk along side us (John 14:26).  The same Holy Spirit that raised Jesus from the grave enables us and equips us to walk worthy of His call.

Finally, understand that just as our human gaits are different – remember in-toeing, out-toeing – so our Christian walks may appear different.  Do not compare your walk to another’s.  Colossians 2:6 says, “As you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk with Him.”  I believe that Scripture tells us two things:  (1)  “As you have received” meaning, “Now that you have received,” you are to walk with the Lord, but also (2) “As you have received” meaning “The unique gift He has given you guides you” as you walk with the Lord.  The latter I read much as I read Romans 12:6-8 and 1 Corinthians 12:4 that we, as Christians, are given different gifts.  We are given different walks, but all are walks of faith and all are to walk pleasing to the Lord.

How’s your walk?

THIS WEEK reflect on your personal walk.  Are you walking worthy?  Just as you need to prepare for a physical walk (proper shoes, right outfit, water…), you must prepare to walk worthy to please the Lord in all respects.  The first preparation is a surrendered heart and relationship with Jesus Christ.  If you do not know Christ as your personal Savior, visit the Salvation page (tab at the top of this page).  Pray to receive Christ as ruler of your Life, and He will send His Holy Spirit to walk along side you.

If you are saved, reflect to determine if anything is hindering your walk.  We choose walking paths that are smooth and obstacle free.  Nothing like a twisted ankle because you stepped on an uneven surface, rock or twig.  There an be obstacles in our spiritual walks, too, and sometimes we place them; sometimes we embrace them – addiction to television, busyness, overextending ourselves, video games…  Identify and address your obstacles.

Lastly, reflect on the uniqueness of your walk.  Are you trying to walk in someone else’s shoes?  Trying to be like your pastor?  Trying to be like a television evangelist?  Trying to be like someone you have deemed great?  Walk the way and in the way that God’s Holy Spirit calls and leads you.  If you are not sure of or do not understand your walk, pray and ask God to reveal His will for you.


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Fried Crabs, Part 1

In the little town where I currently reside (most of the time), it is common to see street side vendors and their hand painted signs advertising “Fried Crabs.”  While one or two have a food truck of sorts – old converted vans, others have a folding card table dressed with a vinyl cloth and accented with an electric deep fryer and all sorts of odd plastic containers.  One bears some kind of cornmeal mixture while others contain spices and sometimes mixtures of liquid ingredients.  I’ve never dared ask exactly what.  There is, too, the old ice chest which holds the crabs.

There are always small gatherings of people when I pass.  Some standing.  Some finding a seat on an array of odd furnishings – old metal folding chairs, worn wooden stool chairs and, the one that always makes me smile, the discarded seats from cars and buses.  While some customers grab their fried crabs and go, others sit, chat, swat flies and swap stories as they eat their crabs.

I’ve only viewed these vendors from what I’ve deemed a reasonable distance.  I’ve never tasted their wares and have no desire to.  Why?  I eat with my eyes first, and these sites are less than appealing to me.  I cannot get past the looks of the ice chests – blackened and smudged exteriors, the plastic containers – yellowed and stained and sometimes the vendors themselves – greasy aprons and unkempt hair.  I have looked for the health department rating certificates, but have yet to spot one.  I’m thinking there are none.

So, I take a pass.  Again, I eat with my eyes first.

Don’t we all?  Well, at least most.

Appearances are important.

Given the choice of a bright, shiny, well lit diner or a dimly lit fast food restaurant surrounded by a littered parking lot, most would choose the diner.  Given the choice of drinking a tall glass of clear, cool water or taking a swig of water from a chipped cup with remains of a previous meal encrusted around the rim, most would choose the glass.

Our sensory systems – taste, smell, vision, auditory and touch – are intertwined.  Research shows that our vision heavily influences our tasting, smelling and even our thinking.

First impressions are powerful.  In a matter of seconds we form impressions.  It is our human nature to quickly evaluate and move on – I will eat that.  I won’t eat that.  I will buy that.  I won’t buy that.  I will like this person.  I won’t like this person.  Good? Bad?  Right?  Wrong?  I cannot say unequivocally, but I can tell you it is how it is.

It is how we are.

Which makes me think again about the teachings in Isaiah 43:10 (ESV) –  “You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “and my servant whom I have chosen…”

Not just those who travel to foreign lands or those who go door-to-door or those who engage in street evangelism – all Christians are witnesses.  Everyday, everywhere, all the time we are the Lord’s witnesses.

Many think of witnessing as something you do.  We equate it with certain acts and behaviors like passing out tracts, sharing testimonies during street revivals, ringing doorbells or praying the sinner’s prayer with someone after sharing an outline of faith.

But the truth is that we are witnesses all the time.  And note that Acts 1:8 says, “You shall be witnesses…” not You shall do witnessing.

So like it or not, you are a witness.

What kind of witness are you?

I once heard a minister say, “Your witness is only as good as your personal relationship with Jesus and the extent to which you submit to the power of His Holy Spirit allowing Him to work in and through you.”

What does it look like you are selling?  When people see you, are they drawn to Christ or do they turn the other way?

People are watching.  We are making impressions, and they are evaluating.  What kind of witness are you?

THIS WEEK reflect on your witness.  How are you presenting God’s truth?  Remembering that we eat with our eyes, consider first your appearance –  not just your dress or hairstyle, but how you carry yourself, your speech and your actions because, indeed, people will struggle to hear what you say when they are focused on watching what you are doing.  What might you need to change?  Is there something you need to stop doing (gossiping, telling off color jokes, lying, hanging out with a certain crowd…).  Is there something you need to begin doing (speaking truth in love, being on time for work, being more quiet, spending more time alone or with a different crowd…).  Pray that God’s Holy Spirit will whisper to you revealing actions you need to take to strengthen your witness.  Pray that the Holy Spirit opens your ears and your heart to hear, receive and act swiftly upon what He tells you.