FULLY ALIVE!

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


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Where’s Your God?

It’s funny to me in a way that when crises come – floods, shootings, cancer, death… – one of the first things you hear is, “Where is God?”  People wonder how can a loving, merciful and gracious God permit such tragedies to happen.

But what about during the good times?  Where is God?

Is He front and center in your life, or is He periphery, an accessory, in the margins?

Matthew teaches us that we are to love the Lord our God with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our mind (Matthew 22:37 ESV) and that we are to seek first His kingdom and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33 ESV) while Proverbs tells us to commit our work to the Lord (Proverbs 16:3 ESV).  In short, God is to be central and to be first in our lives.

Too often though, when times are good – we are healthy, relationships are working, jobs are secure and paying well, children are obedient… – we forget about God.  He is anything but first and anywhere but central.  He’s actually more like an accessory – a scarf we throw on or a brooch we pin on at the last minute.  He’s in the periphery, off to the side, penciled in the margins of our lives.

What is important to us is apparent in our lives.  What we love is no mystery.

Friends know that I love “great big ol'” necklaces and brooches. The bigger the better.  My philosophy is if someone can’t see it across the room, then what’s the purpose of having it on.  I’m not a petite woman, so that itty bitty jewelry just doesn’t work for me.  (That was my story when I got married, too.  No little diamond for this girl.  Big girls need big diamonds.  Hey, just saying.  Didn’t work, though.  Frown.)

That’s how our faith in God and our commitment to His plan and purpose should be.  Recognizable.  Obvious.  Unhidden.

Not to brag.  Not to boast.  Not to call attention to ourselves, but to bring glory to His name.

God’s glory IS the reason.  It is the reason for everything, and all that we are, all that we do is to bring Him glory.  Especially in our living.

As Christians, we are called to live in a way that proves we belong to the God who calls us into His kingdom and glory (1 Thessalonians 2:12 GW).  How do we do this?  Put Him first!  First thing in the morning when you rise – thank Him, praise Him, seek His direction for the day.  First in your finances – tithe from the top not the leftovers (if there are any).  First in your relationships – family, marriage, friendships – cutting loose those that hinder you from serving Him.  First in your interests and pursuits – career, education, hobbies, recreation.  First in your times of struggle – turn to Him, seek Him, pray to Him – first rather than Facebook, friends or phone.

THIS WEEK engage in self survey.  Where is Your God?  Do you leave Him on the dresser when you go to work?  Is he tucked “safely away” until you need Him?  Out of sight, out of mind?  Pray asking God to be first in your life then be intentional, living in a way that proves you belong to God.


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Something to Worry About

Yes, last post I wrote that worrying was for the birds, but as I continue to reflect upon the teaching of Matthew – and all the Scriptures, I realize there is something that you should worry about.

Your focus. That you have it wrong.  Your thinking.  That it’s misguided.

Admittedly, my own focus and my own thinking may have been off, too.  While I wrote that worrying was for the birds, was I making too light of it?  When we look at the teaching of Matthew 6, we are told several times not to worry.  Specifically, in Matthew 6:25 (CEB) we read, “I say to you, don’t worry about your life…”  Verse 28 asks, “Why do you worry about clothes?” and verse 31 says, “Don’t worry and say, ‘What are we going to eat?’ or ‘What are we going to drink?’ or ‘What are we going to wear?”  And if we missed or misunderstood any of those, verse 34 makes it crystal clear, “Stop worrying about tomorrow.”

Whether you read the Common English, New International, King James or some other translation, the teaching is the same.  Whether your Bible tells you not to worry, not to take thought or not to be anxious, the command is the same.  No translation offers suggestions; they all offer edicts.  Directives.  Decrees.  Commandments.  And this is where and how we get off base with our thinking and our focus.

Let me be clear.  Worrying is not just problematic.  Worrying is wrong.  Worrying is a sin.  At the risk of offending some readers, I will be bold.  Worrying is a sin just like stealing, killing and adultery.  OMG you say.  But if we disobey God’s word, we sin.  Hmm, you wonder.  Don’t just take my word, let’s consider examples.  Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:2-3).  Lot’s wife (Genesis 19:7 and Luke 17:32).  Jeroboam (1 Kings 12:25-33).  Jonah (Jonah 1:1-3).  While you are reading, read 1 John 2:3-6 which cautions us, “Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, ‘I know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.”  Can it be any clearer?  If we do not keep the commandments of God – not just the ten, but all the commandments of His word, we sin.

And worrying is not somehow a little or a lesser sin.  That’s more of our “misthinking.”  Adultery is a BIG sin.  Stealing is a BIG sin.  Murder is a BIG sin.  Worrying is a little sin.  A cute sin.  A “I can’t help myself, and anyway we all do it” sin.  As my pastor says, we think people go to hell for the BIG sins and, perhaps, to an air conditioned hell for the little sins.  No. Sin is sin.  If you’re thinking otherwise, I caution you; your thinking is misguided.

Matthew 6:33 (CEB) tells us that we should “desire first and foremost God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness.”  In other words, our focus should be God, His kingdom and His righteousness rather than worrying about our lives, our clothes, what we will eat or drink or about tomorrow.  Further, Matthew teaches, when God is first, all those things will be ours, too!

THIS WEEK reassess your thinking and your focus.  What are you choosing to worry about?  Understand that worry steals your strength and buries your blessings.  Search the Scriptures for examples of those who worried and disobeyed God and those who cast their cares upon Him.  Decide which group you want to be associated with.


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For the Birds

Last fall my mother gave me a bird feeder – one of the beautiful, hand crafted ones that had to be erected on a post.  For my birthday, my sweetie had it erected, and I have enjoyed it every day since.  I had him position it outside one of the kitchen windows so that I could watch while doing dishes (might be why I see it EVERY day – smile) and while eating breakfast and dinner (two times I most often sit at the kitchen table).

I’ve spent hours watching the birds.  Cardinals, Blue Jays, Chickadees, Wrens, Robins, Sparrows, Goldfinches, Titmice,  Thrushes, Eastern Bluebirds, Blackbirds, Wood Peckers and Mourning Doves.  And those are just the ones that I recognize!  Now, in case you are wondering, yes, I feed them a variety of seeds and nuts which is why I have so many feathered visitors.  Over time I have noticed the character and habits of some of the frequent visitors.  I thought the Blue Jays and Cardinals were aggressive until those Rusty Blackbirds and Brewer’s Blackbirds came along.  They are larger, louder and quickly take over the feeder – so much so that I’ve since purchased another smaller feeder that I hung from the limb of a tree in my backyard.

Yes, I’ve noticed greedy birds, aggressive birds and persistent birds. But after days and days of watching – morning, night and early evenings, I’ve never seen a bird having a nervous breakdown.  A panic attack.  A pity party.  A worry session.  Even when they have come and found the feeder almost empty because Momma Bird Debbie didn’t refill it yet, they peck at the scraps, fly away and return later – still singing.

What’s my point?  Matthew 6:26 (KJV) tells us to, “Behold the fowls of the air…”  In other words, Stop.  Look.  Learn from the birds.  The passage continues, “…for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them.”  They don’t plant, so they don’t harvest.  The Message translation describes the birds as “free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God.”  And while the King James translation of this passage ends with a question – “Are ye not much better than they?” The Message translation concludes with a powerful declarative statement – “And you count far more to Him than birds.”

Matthew Henry’s commentary on this Scripture reads, “There is scarcely any sin against which our Lord Jesus more warns his disciples, than disquieting, distracting, distrustful cares about the things of this life” while Barnes’ Notes tells us to, “Put confidence, then, in that Universal Parent that feeds all the fowls of the air, and do not fear but that He will also supply your needs.”

If we read ahead in Matthew, we find two verses, 33 and 34, that conclude this section of the Scriptures, and we are wise to read them in conjunction with verse 6 for they provide the closure to verse six’s lesson:

            33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

            34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day

is the evil thereof.

Let’s go back to Matthew Henry for the clarification. “Thoughtfulness for our souls is the best cure of thoughtfulness for the world.”

Bottom line, our worries about the world – hair, clothes, shoes, house, vehicles, job titles, degrees, relationships… – all those things that we believe define us and all those things that we mistakenly label as NEEDS rather than WANTS, do us no good.  Those worries only cause us stress and rob us of peace and joy!  And here are two bonus lessons for you.  Lesson 1:  The joy of the Lord is your strength (Nehemiah 8:10, NIV).  Lesson 2:  Satan comes to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10, NIV).  And guess what he wants most?  Your joy!  Not your stuff!  He wants your joy because he knows that that is your strength!

I would say that worrying about the world is “for the birds,” but that’s not even true.  Behold.  Look.  Learn from them.  You count far more to our Lord than the birds.  Seek Him and His Kingdom.  “That’s a good way to starve,” you say.  No, that’s the best, the right, the only way to surthrive this world!  Seek Him first and all “the other” will be added!

THIS WEEK BEHOLD the birds.  Look.  Learn from them.  Act on your new learning!


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Lord, Hear Our Cry

The National Day of Prayer is an annual observance held on the first Thursday of May, inviting people of all faiths to pray for the nation. It was created in 1952 by a joint resolution of the United States Congress, and signed into law by President Harry S. Truman.  So, as presidents have formally done every year since 1952, President Obama on today, Thursday, May 7, will issue a proclamation urging our country to “turn to God in prayer and meditation.”

No one can seriously question whether our country – our world –  needs prayer.  We are troubled and in trouble.  Just read the headlines or watch a little television as I did earlier today.  Within an hour I heard stories about teens committing suicide because of cyber bullying, women swindling money from unsuspecting men by purchasing fake pregnancy tests, celebrities posing in the nude, men scamming hundreds of thousands of dollars from senior women desperate for love, Syria continuing to use chemical weaponry and families searching for lost loved ones in Nepal.

But I have mixed feelings about this day.  I am not sure we need a National Day of Prayer any more than we need a Black History Month or a Veteran’s Day.  Some things, some people, some history as well as some practices, like praying, need to be a part of every day.  They need to be habit.   I am also skeptical in 2015 of the government’s involvement in prayer.  Yes, the day is part of our country’s heritage born from the first call to prayer in 1775, when the Continental Congress asked the colonies to pray for wisdom in forming a nation to the call to prayer by President Lincoln when he proclaimed of a day of “humiliation, fasting and prayer” in 1863.  Those days, those times and those prayers seemed different to me.  It seems there was a time when our country was led by those who truly believed in God, who consistently sought His guidance and faithfully asked Him for wisdom and direction.  Such was the case not just for our national leaders but also the leaders of our cities, towns, communities, schools and churches.  These days?  Not so much.

But according to the National Day of Prayer website, this day “has great significance for us as a nation as it enables us to recall and to teach the way in which our founding fathers sought the wisdom of God when faced with critical decisions. It stands as a call for us to humbly come before God, seeking His guidance for our leaders and His grace upon us as a people.”  This statement is how I have made peace with the day.  And the spirit of this statement is what I pray everyone will embrace – but not just for a day, for always and every day.

The web has been inundated with “model” and “sample” prayers shared for this special day.  These actually might be the first misstep.  Rather than recite a prayer scripted by someone else, I encourage you to embrace the theme of this year’s National Day of Prayer – “Lord, Hear Our Cry.”  Cry out before the Lord sharing what is in your heart.  Don’t worry about the “right” words, embrace the right attitudes – humility and gratitude.  Don’t fret about the “right” posture, pray as the Holy Spirit leads you – standing, sitting, opened eyes, closed eyes, prostrate on the floor.  The theme is not, ‘Lord, Look at Me,’ but rather, “Lord, Hear Our Cry.”

Matthew 6:7 (ESV) reminds us, ““And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words.”  On this National Day of Prayer, pray freely.  Pray openly.  Pray passionately.  Pray from the heart, and know that “When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles” (Psalm 34:17, ESV).


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Cleaning Closets

Deciding is half the battle “they” say.  You know, the infamous, elusive, unidentified “they.”  I’m hoping “they” are right with this one because I have decided to clean my main closet.  It’s huge, and it is a mess – partly because for a few days I haven’t followed my own rule of putting things back where they came from and partly because I really need to get rid of some stuff!  Maybe I should start with the shoes I bought for student teaching…  Hmm, that was more than 35 years ago.  Perhaps I will get rid of the dress I wore when I first met my in-laws.  That might be a good choice since (1) I am divorced, (2) I weighed a LOT less then and (3) it’s almost 20 years old!  This could be a good time to toss the ugly Christmas sweaters – the ones that were so popular in the 70s and 80s.

Are you getting a picture?  We often hold onto things much longer than we should – and not just dresses and shoes.  How about attitudes, thoughts, grudges, wounds?

Ephesians 4:22-23 (AMP) says, “Strip yourselves of your former nature.… And be constantly renewed in the spirit of your mind [having a fresh mental and spiritual attitude].”  In other words, let the past go.  Clean the junk out of the closets of your mind and heart.  Let go those thoughts of what you think you lost, how things might have been, what you’ve given up, ways that you were mistreated, times you felt overlooked or undervalued.

It helps to have someone help me clean the closet.  I tell stories about my stuff, we laugh, and we bag it or box it and take it out. Then we forget it!  Kinda like Isaiah 43:18-19 (NIV) which tells us to “Forget the former things” and to not “dwell on the past” because the Lord is doing a new thing.   You must clean out the old to make room for the new.

Ponder the following Scriptures and the contents of your heart’s closet this week:

Monday:   Proverbs 4:25-27 (ESV)

Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you. Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure. Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil.

Question for reflection: What is calling you to look back and keeps you from looking forward?

Tuesday: Philippians 4:8-9 (ESV)

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

Question for Reflection:  What thoughts do you need to swap – untrue for true, dishonorable for honorable, unjust for just, unclean for pure, etc.?

Wednesday: Hebrews 12:1 (ESV)

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us…

Question for Reflection: What are you holding on to (thoughts, habits, relationships, etc.) that not only “weighs you down,” but impacts your testimony and witness before those you encounter?

Thursday: Matthew 6:19-21 (ESV)

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also…”

Question for Reflection: How many treasures can you find in your closet that might better serve someone else? Can you take them to a neighbor? To Goodwill? To a clothes closet? Other?

Friday: Isaiah 12:2 (ESV)

“Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the Lord God is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.”

Question for Reflection:  Of what (or whom) are you afraid? What (or whom) are you holding on to rather than trusting God?

PRAY: Heavenly Father, I love You. I know that You love me. I trust You, and I trust the plan that You have for me and my life. Search my heart and my mind. Show me those things, those people, those feelings, those memories and those attitudes that I need to let go of. Sweep clean the corners of my mind and the recesses of my heart and fill each with what will honor and glorify You. I claim the peace and joy of an uncluttered mind and a clean heart. In Jesus’ Name I pray. Amen.

SHARE: Post comments to share your reflections and reactions from this week’s post. (One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. One woman’s sharing is another woman’s blessing!)


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Lion Killing, Part 2

Benaiah son of Jehoiada, a valiant fighter from Kabzeel, performed great exploits. He struck down Moab’s two mightiest warriors. He also went down into a pit on a snowy day and killed a lion.  And he struck down an Egyptian who was five cubits tall. Although the Egyptian had a spear like a weaver’s rod in his hand, Benaiah went against him with a club. He snatched the spear from the Egyptian’s hand and killed him with his own spear.  Such were the exploits of Benaiah son of Jehoiada; he too was as famous as the three mighty warriors.  He was held in greater honor than any of the Thirty, but he was not included among the Three. And David put him in charge of his bodyguard. 1 Chronicles 11:22-25 (NASB)

The Scripture says, “He…went…and killed a lion.”

So, the question I left you with was, “How?” “How do you kill a lion in a pit on a snowy day?” “How do you kill your lion?”

You fight.

Sorry. I’m sure you thought I would be sharing a secret.

We know that Benaiah won because the Scriptures tell us. But they do not reveal the details. Sometimes I just hate it when the Scriptures seem to skip over some important detail, but then I stop and think. “God had a reason why.” Proverbs 25:2 tells us, “The glory of God is to conceal a thing, but the glory of kings is to search it out.”

So, while we still do not know all the details, we can be sure that Benaiah fought. He fought his lion. He didn’t simply lie down in the pit, cross his fingers, close his eyes and hope for the best. As a matter of fact, look back at Verse 22 and you will “search out” a clue.

Benaiah son of Jehoiada, a valiant fighter from Kabzeel, performed great exploits. He struck down Moab’s two mightiest warriors. He also went down into a pit on a snowy day and killed a lion. It seems that Benaiah wasn’t drug into the pit. He didn’t fall into the pit. Nobody pushed him into the pit. He went down. He went after his lion. He was determined to take it out! Easy? Absolutely not; it was a lion!

Turn the tables on your lion, the Devil, who prowls seeking to devour. He thinks he has you on the run. Like, Benaiah, flip the script and put him on the run. In an old joke, a Sunday School teacher asks her class what to do when Satan knocks at your door. A little girl responded, “I send Jesus to answer the door.” Ahh, out of the mouths of babes!

To defeat Satan we must turn to God (Matthew 6:13). To resist the Devil, we must submit to God (James 4:7). To stand against the Devil, we must put on the armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-11) and arm ourselves with the greatest weapon, the Word of God (Matthew 4:1-11).

Winston Churchill, rallying troops and indeed an entire nation, during World War II said, “You ask, “What is our policy?” I will say: It is to wage war, by sea, land, and air, with all our might and all the strength that God can give us…You ask, “What is our aim?” I can answer in one word: Victory…at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory however long and hard the road may be… We shall go on to the end…we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be; we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.  Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in… Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”

What enemy is greater than the Devil, our lion? None! We must, therefore, fight – in the fields, in the streets, in the pits on snowy days. Never give in. Never give in!