FULLY ALIVE!

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


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Grace for Squirrels

Yes, the squirrels, again.  We are still at war.  Or at least we were until this afternoon.  Here’s what happened.

During travels to the beach last week we stopped for a waterfront picnic and a little shopping in one of the small communities between our home and the beach.  I found something called a “Soda Bottle Birdfeeder” and had to have it.  Really.  I couldn’t wait to return home to “install” it – especially since it required me to drink a soda before I could use the bottle.  (A soda is a very rare treat for me these days.)

Anyway, I guzzled a Sprite thinking the green bottle would be ideal.  After washing and drying the bottle, I inserted the hanger, filled the bottle with birdseed, attached the spigot-like piece that would permit small birds to perch and feed and promptly suspended the feeder from an iron hook that hung over a branch of a tree in my backyard. The birds seemed to immediately find the new feeder and began devouring the seed. Joy – for me and the birds.

I marveled at the birds and new feeder for a day before noticing that it appeared to be hanging somewhat lopsided. A closer inspection revealed the handiwork of a squirrel. Unable to cling to the iron hook and unable to reach the “spigot,” a squirrel had apparently hung upside down from a nearby branch and chewed a hole into my “soda bottle feeder. Just a few more nibbles would have caused it to tumble to the ground had I not noticed in time! I bought the feeder because I knew the squirrels would not be able to reach the “spigot” and would not be able to grasp the hook; it never occurred to me that they would figure out how to chew holes into the bottle.

To say that I was livid would be an understatement! The squirrels had already overtaken the other feeders that I have in my back and side yards; “Surely,” I thought, “they will let the birds enjoy this one.” Even as I was inspecting their handiwork, they were munching away at the seed in my other feeders. So, I took the feeders down! Every one of them! Then I sat on my back porch and watched for hours how they (and, sadly, the birds) came to the branches and the posts in search of seed to find none. “Let ‘em starve,” I told my mom.

I wish that I could have captured the ruckus. It seems that every bird and every squirrel in the town descended upon my backyard. They screeched, grunted, cawed and made sounds imaginable and unimaginable. They flew away or scrambled through the trees only to return again and again to the sites where the feeders had stood or hung. I felt badly for the birds, but those squirrels! THOSE SQUIRRELS!!!! I just want to enjoy the birds. I don’t want greedy little squirrels eating up all of my seed – MY SEED!

And that is when the Holy Spirit spoke so clearly to me. “Have you no grace? Yes, even for the squirrels?” I thought, “Seriously?” And His Spirit said, “Yes. Seriously.”

Now let me go ahead and tell you that it wasn’t really about the squirrels but about me and my propensities for showing (or not) grace to others.

Max Lucado describes grace as “God’s best idea. His decision to ravage a people by love, to rescue passionately, and to restore justly.” He says that nothing rivals it and that “when grace happens, generosity happens – unsquashable, eye-popping bigheartedness.”

If you’ve followed my blog for any time, you’ve probably read about my love for giving gifts. But if I am honest, I choose to whom I give. In that instance with the squirrel, it was clear that the same applies to grace. I choose to whom I extend grace. And I immediately wondered, “What if God chose to whom He extended grace? Would he extend it to me?”

 

Ephesians is clear that our behavior as Christians is to be permeated by kindness, characterized by compassion and evidenced by consideration of others. We grieve (1 Corinthians 12:26) and rejoice with others. We forgive (Ephesians 4:32). We love (John 13:34-35). We extend grace just as we have received grace (1 Peter 4:10).

So, I fed the squirrels.

Squirrel Feeder

 

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Shake the Blanket

They don’t create comics like they used to! My sister and I used to fight over who would get to read the Sunday comics first. To this day I still like Peanuts! Charles Schultz was pure genius and all teacher. Yes, his comic strip offered humor but also many lessons, some profound, and wisdom to those who would ponder.

Consider a short four-frame strip with Charlie Brown and Linus as the main characters. Linus, rubbing his blanket along his left cheek, says to Charlie Brown, “This blanket absorbs all my fears and frustrations. At the end of each day I shake it out the door, thus scattering those fears and frustrations in the wind.” Charlie Brown, listening intently and watching as Linus shakes the blanket asks, “What about tomorrow?” to which Linus replies, “Tomorrow I start with a clean blanket…not unlike the proverbial clean slate.”

Now, there’s some wisdom for you.

How difficult do WE make it for ourselves because we hold on to the fears and frustrations of yesterday? Are we constantly replaying the video of past hurts and reliving old dramas? Do we spend too much time thumbing through the records of wrongs that have been committed against us?

God gives us grace sufficient for today, for what is right in front of us (2 Corinthians 12:9), and His word encourages us to forget what is behind (Philippians 3:13). We cannot grasp the joys and take hold of the promises of a new day if we are clinging to the past and holding on to the old.  Let it go.  Lay it down.

We tend to blame everything and everyone for our struggles and failures, our hindered progress when often we need simply look at ourselves.

THIS WEEK reflect on the things that you need to let go of including the hurts and hard feelings toward yourself or others that you need to lay aside. It’s spring and time for spring cleaning – a great time to shake the blanket.


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A Million Miracles

Since my second retirement, I’d become addicted to daytime television.  Not the trashy, mindless, dribble (though I believe you have to keep it ALL in balance –  see an earlier post confession – Television 8, Prayer 1), but rather I try to watch what I believe will teach, help, inspire and grow.  Such is my justification for my near addiction to the daytime television show, The Doctors.

Daily I am amazed by the miracles of life – not of the individual doctors, though I am in awe of the knowledge, skills and wisdom that God has imparted to them.  But it is the miracle of the human body that most astonishes.  If we would stop and consider, likely we witness millions of miracles on a daily basis.  Just think about the miracle of conception – a sperm and an egg uniting then dividing to become a human being.  Think about the miracle of birth.  I once heard a neurologist share a presentation on all the ways and all the junctures at which “something” could go wrong from conception to birth.  He said it was a miracle that anyone was born alive much less born with a whole and healthy body and mind.

Burn yourself and watch the body heal.  I’ve been very cooking challenged lately and bear the scars of burns to prove it.  A seemingly small and innocent burn on my hand blistered, festered, oozed and ached.  But after a few weeks, it has healed – smooth to the touch and pain free.  Though discoloration remains that, too, is fading with each passing day.  Break a bone, cut a gash, stretch a tendon.  The body has a whole unique system for dispatching white cells, regenerating red cells and doing tons of other things that I couldn’t begin to understand much less explain.

How about surgery?  I’ve had a few different procedures.  Imagine someone cutting you – not just a nick at the surface but deeply through layers and layers of skin and tissue then playing around with some of your organs, cutting things away, “lasering” and “lanceting” and cauterizing things and then STAPLING (who thought that up?!) you back together perhaps adding a few needle and thread stitches along the way.  And after all that you’d think you’d have to lie in bed not just for days or weeks, but months, possibly years!  But if you’ve had surgery, you know they get you up and out of bed walking – sometimes within hours of your procedure. If that’s not a miracle – what is?!!!!

Surgery or no surgery, that your heart beats, that your eyes see, that your ears hear, that your brain interprets the sights and sounds, that you walk, that you think, that you speak – those are miracles!

Today I watched a new version of The Ten Commandments – not the Charlton Heston version that I grew up watching, but a much less Hollywood version. I happened to flip the channel just at the point when the newly fleed from Egypt Israelites were complaining about not having enough food to eat.  Grumbling, they actually said they might as well have stayed in Egypt and died (Numbers 14:2 NIV).  In Egypt they declared, they sat around pots of meat and ate all the food they wanted (Exodus 16:3 NIV).  And when God GAVE them manna, they detested it and called it miserable (Numbers 21:5 NIV).  At this point in the movie, I had very unholy thoughts.  I actually telephoned my sister to tell her about the movie and my thoughts declaring that I would have told the Israelites to just take their little ungrateful, manna detesting hips back to Egypt then.  That’s why I’m not Moses!  (I have since repented.)

There are miracles all around us all the time!  Yet, we find so much to complain about.  God evidenced great patience with the Israelites, and thankfully, He does with us as well (me included).

THIS WEEK as many of us celebrate the Easter season, pause and reflect on the million miracles that God performs daily in our lives including the gifts of grace, mercy and salvation and the “Egypts” He has delivered you from.  Repent of your grumblings, and recommit your life to His service.  If you do not currently have a personal relationship with Christ, there is no better time.  Please click the SALVATION tab above to learn how you can invite Jesus into your life as your Savior and witness firsthand the miracle of Salvation.


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Peace on Earth (Part 2)

NOTE:  We’re vacationing, so Monday’s post is early!

There’s a saying that’s been going around, “Every family has that one crazy relative. If you don’t know who it is, it’s probably you.”

Here’s another saying, “Everywhere you go, there you are.”

What do these two sayings have to do with peace on earth? Well, in our last post we discussed that before there can be peace on earth we must individually have peace within, so without a lot of extra words, let me just jump to the point. Might you be the one robbing yourself of peace? “No way!” you think. Well, let me just offer you three more quotes.

“Nobody screws me up better than me.”

“Who needs enemies when you’ve got yourself.”

“Make sure your worst enemy is not living between your two ears.”

Again, are you robbing yourself of peace?

There are events and seasons that seem to thrust us into deep self-evaluation and self-reflection, and Christmas is one of them. This can be a good thing – pausing to consider the love of family and friends, the blessing of health, the satisfaction of a prosperous and fun career, the joy of children… It can also be not so good – dwelling on the loss of loved ones, failing health, the stress of unemployment or job disappointment, the fear of miscarriage…

The latter (and similar) thoughts can quickly launch one into a depression that robs one of personal peace.

What are you telling yourself? What script do you keep running through your head? “I’m no good.” “I’m all alone.” “I can’t make it.” “Nobody loves me.” “I’ll never – have children, get that job, leave this town, be able to afford a house, get married, be in love, go to college, be healthy again…”

It’s time to replace those thoughts. It does no good to simply try to just stop them; you have to replace them. Craft some new thinking based on Philippians 4:8 (NKJV): “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.”

What does this mean? What does it look like? Sound like? The Message translates the same text: “…filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from Me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.”

Do that, and “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7b NKJV)

THIS WEEK: Make note of the thoughts that rob you of peace. Write substitute thoughts then practice using them. (e.g. THOUGHT: I’m just no good – always have been, always will be! SUBSTITUTE THOUGHT: In Christ I am a new creature – old things, thoughts, ways and deeds are passed away! (2 Corinthians 5:17)


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Peace on Earth (Part 1)

WATCH:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J8OYvHPpGDY

Before we can have peace on earth, we must have peace within our communities. Before we can have peace within our communities, we must have peace within our families. Before we can have peace within our families, we must have peace within.

Ourselves!

Unfortunately, instead of Christmas being a time of peace, it is a time of great stress for many. Overfilled calendars and planners, strapped budgets and strained family relationships often come along with the holidays. How, then, do we overcome the accompanying anxiety and dwell in peace? Let’s look to Paul.

While confined in a Roman prison he penned the text of Philippians proclaiming his contentment in whatever situations (including prison) he found himself (4:11).   How? How could he be content, at peace in prison? His “secret” comes in the preceding text, verses 4-8.

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:4-7 NKJV)

There are three key words in this text, and they provide us somewhat of a formula for peace. Prayer. Supplication. Thanksgiving.

In this stressful season and throughout life, pray. About what? Everything! Don’t get caught up in the theology of prayer – what it is, what it isn’t, how to, how not to… Prayer is talking to God. Whatever is robbing you of your peace, talk to Him about it.

Supplication is the fifty cent word for asking earnestly and humbly. Praying is not about laying out a list of requests before God. (Do not confuse God with Santa Claus.) In prayer we come humbly before our Father, and in that relationship of child and Father, we share with Him all that is on our hearts – our frustrations, our confusion, our fears, our angst, our sorrows our disappointments… Whatever you are feeling, tell Him.

Thanksgiving is synonymous with gratitude. “But God hasn’t answered my prayer yet,” you might say. Thank Him for loving you, for hearing you and for accepting the burden that is troubling you. Psalm 55:22 tells us to cast our burden on the Lord and, in the words of Charles Tindley’s 1916 hymn, leave them there! That alone is enough to be thankful for – not only can we give our troubles to the Lord, we are commanded to do so, and He will take care of each one. What else can you be thankful for? Past faithfulness. God’s love. God’s grace. Salvation! Thank Him when you pray expecting that He will answer!

In 1955 Jill Jackson Miller and her husband, Sy Miller, penned another familiar song that shares a powerful lesson for us. The opening line is “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.” Pray in earnest humility thanking God for what He can do, has done and will do – then let peace begin with you!

THIS WEEK: What action can you take each day this week to bring peace to someone or to some situation?

Leave It There:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HyxQZQjLaC4

Let There Be Peace on Earth:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vXFeeJ6LSMc


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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!