Obedience – In “Seuss”-ical Style

Published in honor of Theodor Seuss (Dr. Seuss) Geisel’s birthday, March 2, 1904. We share this reposting of a the following poem. It is a bit fun and silly as “Seussical” things are. But it has a point. Allow God to pierce your heart.

dr-seuss-hat-clip-art-cat_hat_by_2hello2-d32lileObedience – In “Seuss”-ical Style

I am Sam.

Sam I am.

O Great I Am!

O Great I Am!

I’m not sure I like this, O Great I Am!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Do you like to obey The Lamb?

Do you obey Him here or there? Do you obey Him anywhere?

Will you obey Him in your house? Will you obey Him with your spouse?

Will you obey Him in peace and strife?

Will you obey Him facing death or life?

Would you, could you in a car?

Obey Him. Forgive them, just as they are.

You may like it, you will see, obeying the One who died on that tree!

Will you tell Him, “Let me be!” or will you obey continually?

In a palace, in the desert, in success and in your failures?

At home, at church, at work or play! Could you, would you, just obey?

In the dark? In the lonely dark? Would you obey Him when all is dark?

Would you, could you, in the sun?

Could you, would you when you’re having fun?

Can you, will you in your thoughts? Will you, or won’t you as you ought?

Up on the mountain, down in the valley?

Around the world, or just next door?

Whether you’re rich or whether you’re poor? . . .

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

You do not like the word “obey”?

You do not like it so you say.

Try it, try it and you may.

Try it and you may I say! …

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I do so like to obey the Lamb!

Thank you!

Thank you, Great I AM!

 
Original poem by Debbie Stovall. Copyright August 1, 2016.

The Yellow Rose – My Lesson on Discouragement

The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Matthew 25:40

College years can teach us many lessons. And not just through lectures in history, biology or English, but life lessons. Lessons that impact the way we live, such as

Choose your friends wisely.

Be where you should be – whether at class at 7:45 a.m. or not at the bar at 3:00 a.m.

Choices have consequences.

One of the most helpful, life-changing lessons I learned in college was not in a lecture hall, but in my own bedroom during God’s “Life 101 Class.” I don’t remember all the details. I know I was alone in our little apartment on the campus of the University of Alabama. My roommates, three godly young women, had gone home for the weekend. For some reason I stayed on campus alone, which rarely, if ever occurred.

This particular weekend I found myself alone and depressed. It may have been over a guy or a class I was struggling with, I can’t recall. (That’s how depression is –  at the moment it seems like it will never change, but once we’ve gotten past it, we can’t always recall the “whys.”) All I remember were the desperate feelings of failure, isolation, and deep darkness. At that moment I felt life would never get better, nothing would ever change. I was overwhelmed and hopeless. Gloom had surrounded me; pessimism, despondency, and a myriad of negative feelings overwhelmed me.

alone-beautiful-bed-1907444.jpgThat day I struggled to perform. I hardly got out of bed for hours. I ate as a panacea. I was lost in the barrage of the Enemy’s fiery darts that assaulted my mind. Somewhere in the midst of the negative thoughts, a moment of clarity came over my mind. I realize now it was God providing a “way out” for me. But I had to choose to act on it. Scripture tells us that “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)

In that moment of clarity I reached for God’s word. Once again I don’t remember much. I don’t remember what verses I read. But in my wanderings through the Word, I kept recalling a favorite elementary school memory verse from my 3rd grade Sunday School class: “Do onto others what you would have them do unto you.” It’s from Luke 6:31. I have no idea what version of the Bible it was from. I can’t locate that exact wording in any of my Bibles today, but that was word-for-word the way I had memorized it probably 10-12 years before that day.

As this mantra from scripture that I knew of as “The Golden Rule” ran through my mind repeatedly, it began to confront an issue I had. (God’s Word does that!) The issue that day was loneliness. I wanted someone to call me or check on me or show kindness to me in some way. I was wallowing in my loneliness and blues. As the verse played almost like it was on repeat through me mind, I suddenly saw a different meaning hidden within it.

I had always had a childish understanding of the verse thinking it meant “don’t hit your brother because you don’t want him to hit you” or some such thing. But suddenly I caught on the words “Do to others.” Do. Do. Not don’t. I wish someone would Do something for me. Do. Call me. Do. Take me out to eat. Do. Bring me a present.

Then came a realization – I had not done any of these things for anyone in weeks! I was told in scripture to Do what I wanted done to me, but I wasn’t doing.

I ceased my sniveling, sloppy crying, sat up from laying in bed, and started mopping my wet and snotty face on my sleeve.

If I wasn’t doing anything for anyone, why was I expecting anyone to do anything for me?

At that moment I made a decision. I would do one kind thing for someone. That meant getting my clothes on and stepping out of the apartment, out of my darkness, but I did it.

beautiful-bloom-blooming-133472Once again I don’t know where the thought came from, but as I rummaged through my brain for something kind to do for someone, a friend of mine came to mind. I knew she was The One. I knew she liked yellow roses. I knew I would like to get a flower from someone. So I put on some clothes, headed to Kroger, and bought one yellow, budget-stretching rose, (any extra is budget-stretching for a broke college student) and then drove to her apartment.

As I stood at her door waiting for her to answer, I realized I had a little smile on my face. Doing something for someone else gave me a bit of joy.

Then the door opened. She stood there with swollen eyes and no smile. In that moment I knew that she was as desperate and needy as I was. I tumbled into her tiny college apartment amidst a flurry of “What’s wrong?” “Are you ok?” etc. Her mood of the day matched mine: discouragement, worry, fear, loneliness, worthlessness… .

We sat on the couch. I handed her the rose. Tears flowed. From both of us. The rest of the afternoon was spent commiserating – misery really does love company. We moaned and whined and lamented to each other for quite a while. The crying eventually turned into the laughter-through-tears kind of emotion, and smiles crept into the room.

As I left later that day, my mood, and hers, had changed. We both felt loved and heard and needed. I think I had gone there with the rose hoping I could buy her friendship and she would sit and listen to my woes and make me feel better. And I did feel better. We both did. The Life 101 lesson I learned was that when we bless others we in turn are also blessed. When we obey scripture, real answers come from the Father for our problems. As we offer help to someone else, we are actually helping ourselves. This lesson has never left me. Even today some 35 years later, when I am feeling down, my go to question is “Who can I do something for, and what can I do?” Many lives have been impacted through the years, and my life has been rescued from depression and fear over and over.

We should not be surprised at this lesson. In Genesis 12:2-3 God says to Abram, “I will bless you; … and you will be a blessing.  I will bless those who bless you.” I believe that these words are just as much true for us today, because in Matthew 25:40 Jesus tells us, “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ ” When we do something to bless others we are doing something for our Savior and we will reap a harvest of blessing.

A challenge goes with this blog.

Before you go to bed tonight, find someone and do a small kindness for them.

 

Childish Whimsy: Puppies and Kittens

In women’s ministry we frequently read and discuss the stories of Mary and Martha presented in the Gospels. Sometimes I’ve felt proud of the woman I was and at other times I’ve felt judged by the lesson presented. There is great wisdom in studying these two women, each of whom had her own strengths and shortcomings.

But today we will view the principles of this story through a childish lens.

Here’s a little background to set up the article. When I was an elementary school child I thought that all puppies were boys and all kittens were girls. To me, the rough and tumble life of dogs seemed more like the boys I knew, while the prissy, picky catlike behaviors seemed more girlish. (Weird, I know. Don’t judge me.)

So let’s look at dogs and cats for a bit.

Dogs. Man’s best friend. Loyal companions. Rambunctious. Full of life. They come when  they are called, obey commands, and are happy just to be in their masters’ presence.

And then there are felines. They look at you when you call them as if to say, “How dare you disturb my repose?” They sniff at their food and turn up their noses, plop into your lap or onto your computer keyboard at the most inopportune times, and seem to exude an aura that all the world is about them. Cats are caught up in their surroundings. They are in charge and don’t always have the will to come when their master calls, nor do they do his bidding or find all their joy in just being his. Cats are out for number one. If what they want makes their master happy too, then good. But if not, so be it.

English languageday-2But dogs love and obey their master with their whole tail-wagging, tongue-hanging-out being. He is their joy and focus. All their life, their sheer existence is tied up in their master. He (or she) brings them joy. They follow him around, sit beside him or on his lap, and jump and lick and bounce around his feet the moment he gets home. The Master feeds them good things and takes care of their every need. Their whole desire is to be at their Master’s side; their life is intricately tied up with his. Dogs get it: they understand the “one thing” that they have been put on earth for.

This characteristic of dogs is very much like the most vivid lesson to be gleaned from the story of Mary and Martha: Jesus wants us to have a mind and heart focused on Him. In Luke 10 Jesus stated, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but one thing is necessary.” Only one thing, Our Master. Is He all that is necessary to us today? Do we simply desire to be with our Master, to know Him and please Him? As women we wear many hats and are pulled in many directions. But to have our hearts firmly settled in Him is the only thing that matters. That alone will bring us peace and give us direction.

We see a very similar lesson in the Biblical account of Mary & Martha, as we can see through the lives of dogs and cats, a focus on the one import thing: the Master. So instead of bringing on thoughts of self-condemnation and judgment by asking if you are a Mary or a Martha, may I ask may I ask a rather innocent question, are you a cat or a dog at heart?

Discipling: A Tribute and a Challenge

Disciples – disciplers. Learners – teachers. Mentees – mentors. We all have these relationships, whether they have been formally declared or not. We all teach many and are taught by many people in life. Those around us display examples before us from the time we are born, and we begin early on to mimic, to follow, to adapt to the ways of these wise, or not so wise teachers, depending upon the family or community into which we were born.

In God’s word we see this concept of discipleship being held up as an appropriate way to live out the Christian life. Jesus himself tells us in Matthew 28:19-20:

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you….” 

He didn’t just instruct us to go share the Gospel, but to go further and to teach and guide. Later in the New Testament, Paul instructs Timothy in the same way. He tells him to be both a disciple and a discipler. In 2 Timothy 2:2 Paul writes to his young mentee:

“The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” 

To be able to say those words as Paul did requires that we have learned how to live so that we may honestly and in good conscience say to others in essence, “You can trust what I say. I base it on God’s word. Follow my example.”

mentor-3563661_1280.jpgAs a girl I was blessed to have had this kind of people in my life. I was discipled by many wonderful Christian friends and mentors.

The Kirkleys, a man and wife who were my choir director and Sunday School teacher, taught us more than just music and random Bible stories. They systematically taught us behavior altering principles upon which to base our life, and they lived it out. They weren’t perfect people, but even in the ups and downs they taught us impressionable young people how to walk through even hard things in a godly manner. They showed us what a beautiful marriage was and how to serve humbly and effectively.

Then there was Laura, a generous-hearted older girl in our youth group. She was off in college by the time I was in high school. She was being discipled through the Navigators, a Christian organization active on her college campus. In turn, she chose to invest in us entrepreneurship-3822492_1280.jpgyounger girls. She faithfully came home every weekend to attend church and while there would meet with our small group of chatty girls to walk through scripture and help us answer the questions we had and build a foundation for life based on God’s word. Even today some 40 years later, I refer back to those Design for Discipleship books, the verses and illustrations they contained, and the principles they taught me.

Then there was my iron-sharpens-iron friend, Joan, who was, and is still to this day, the  godliest woman I know. I was mouthy, flighty, and immature. She was a rock, full of fun, yet grounded in godly wisdom. She walked beside me as a friend my age going through similar circumstances and always shining the spotlight of God’s word on what was going on in life.

There were many others. Mr. D, a favorite school teacher and deacon in our church who opened his classroom each day for Morning Watch and acted as a role model and the Heavenly Father’s guide through those tumultuous high school years. Mrs. Latham who taught me in 3rd grade and started me on the path of scripture memory, and her daughter Fran who invested in us in college and challenged us to live pure, holy lives as she was doing herself. Marcie who challenged this anxiety-filled teenage girl to memorize an important scripture verse with her (Philippians 4:6-7 because we were volleyball-team-1586522_1280both worriers.) And there are a string of others too numerous to mention. What would I have turned out to be without their wisdom and guidance? Every teen in our youth group at church was impacted by these people. Today, those grown up youth from the 70s are pastors, teachers, moms and dads, doctors, engineers and god-fearing members of society in many other fields.

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You have probably had similar people pour into you. As an adult, you are now aware of and thankful for the impact of these people upon your life. But what are you now doing with what you were given?

As society has progressed the world has changed. Commitments, electronics, busyness, as well as work and hobbies among other distractions have morphed us into people who are less connected and therefore have less influence for good on the world around us. Are you today offering the same kind of discpling and teaching to younger Christians around you that you were given growing up? It is so easy to not get involved, to not teach, not disciple because of our lifestyle, and to choose to leave it up to someone else.

As 2019 is dawning on us, I challenge you today to start fresh and make these words of Paul a cry of your heart this year. “The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” Take what you have been given and pass it on. Invest in the next generation of Christians. Grow. Multiply. Share. Invest. Do it intentionally.

help-2444110_1280What do we teach them?

God’s word.

How to live it out.

How to study it.

How Jesus would have us treat others in these volatile times.

Open your heart and life to those coming along behind you, and let them learn by watching you live. It is the most generous, life-changing gift you can give. You’ve been issued a challenge. Do you take the challenge?

“Find Us Faithful” by Steve Green

We’re pilgrims on the journey
of the narrow road,
and those who’ve gone before us
line the way.
cheering on the faithful,
encouraging the weary,
their lives a stirring testament
to God’s sustaining grace.
O may all who come behind us
find us faithful.
May the fire of our devotion
light their way.
May the footprints that we leave,
lead them to believe,
and the lives we live
inspire them to obey.
O may all who come behind us
find us faithful.

What’s Your Watchword?

Definition:

watchword – a word or phrase expressing a person’s or group’s core aim or belief; a word or motto that embodies a principle or guide to actions of an individual or group

Do you have a watchword?

As of late it has become trendy and fashionable to have a “word for the year.” Have you chosen one? Or maybe more accurately, has a word chosen you?

It seems that each year about this time, fall through early January, a word or theme starts popping up in connection with the theme of my life at the time. One year it was live. Another year it was grace. And still another surrender. Each word had to do with something I was going through, and each became the guiding principle of my life that year.

I encourage you to seek the word the Lord has for you. Maybe it’s just one word like mine, but perhaps it’s a phrase or a scripture verse, a guiding principle God is planting in your heart for this year. A word that gives you vision and purpose. One that challenges you.

How do you find your word?

  • Pray.
  • Read God’s Word and meditate on it.
  • Journal some thoughts and prayers, reflecting on your current situation, desires, and concerns.
  • Listen as God speaks in a still, small voice to your heart.
  • Seek the Father.

Proverbs 29:18 tells us that, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” Do you have a vision, a word, a guiding verse from the Lord? I challenge you to seek out a specific word for this year from the Lord, a word to give life focus and direction. As children of God we need to be arrows that are properly aimed and fly straight to hit the mark and accomplish all God has for each year of our life.

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End of Year Reflections

Closing the book on 2018

 “For you shall not go out in haste, and you shall not go in flight, for the LORD will go before you, and the God of Israel will be your rear guard.” Isaiah 52:12

It has been said that the past is the part of our story that has already been written and set in cement. But today and the days to come are the blank pages of our story waiting to be written. We can’t change our past, but we can change our future. As this, the last day of the year is upon us, may we pause to reflect on this past year, to learn from it, come to grips with it, forgive it, and put it to rest, so that we may march forward boldly living out the story God has for us.

calendar-handwriting-notebook-636246.jpgThis past year some have had the best year of their life! Others have experienced a year of overwhelming trauma, grief, illness, or regret. But to most, it was just another year. So I must ask, are we simply ticking off the years of this one life we possess? Or are we evaluating, learning, reflecting upon, and growing from the things we have experienced?

Things I’m reflecting on? Some major and minor joys, and some major and minor disappointments. A beautiful wedding. A missions appointment. A new son-in-love. Serious illness of those I love. The rapid passage of time. Escalating pain of arthritic joints. A new puppy in the house. Another year of reading through the entire word of God. A daughter thousands of miles away during the holiday. The loss of dear Christian mentors. The year has been a mix of grief and joy, welcomes and goodbyes, hopes and fears, success and failure.

imagesMy greatest joy and sadness are one and the same this year – I have a child who has moved abroad to work and spread the love of Christ. I’m so proud of her, so thrilled with this grand adventure God is taking her on, and yet at the same time so sad that she’s not at home with us and we won’t see her for months if not years.

Our daughter is living in Peru and has shared with us some of their traditions for the New Year holiday. A few seem to correlate with our U.S. traditions. They eat their favorite foods, typically seafood, empanadas and rice dishes, which would equate with our black-eyed peas, turnip greens and ham, and at my house, tailgating food as well for watching the New Years’ Day bowl games. They throw rice around the house encouraging financial prosperity – once again the black-eye peas here in the U.S., where tradition says we’ll get a dollar for every black-eye pea we eat on New Years’ Day. They also wear yellow grapes-typical-rituals-new-yearunderwear, (?!) kind of like the way we wear goofy glasses and hats. And just like we count down to midnight watching the ball drop in Times Square, they have their own countdown. During the countdown to midnight they eat 12 grapes – representing each month of the year – for luck.

But my favorite of their traditions has a deeper meaning. The people of the community all go outside together and burn rag dolls, often dressed up to look like themselves in a piece of their own clothing. The burning of the effigy signifies that all of the past year is done and behind you and it is time to start anew.

What a great symbolic way to end the year! How often do we carry over the pains of last year into the clean slate of the next year – the fresh start that our Father gives us.

Oswald Chambers, in My Utmost for His Highest, offers us this wisdom on the subject of how to deal with our past:

God is the God of our yesterdays, and he allows the memory of them to turn the past into a ministry of spiritual growth for our future. God reminds us of the past to protect us from a very shallow security in the present.…God’s hand reaches back to the past, settling all claims against our conscience.… Let the past rest… in the sweet embrace of Christ.

So I encourage you this last day of 2018, take some time to be alone with the Lord. Read in His Word – His letter to you. Reflect upon the past year. Weigh the good and the bad. Forgive. Let go. Rejoice. Mourn. Then pray to your Abba, offering these hurts and joys, pains, regrets, and hopes to Him. He will do more with the pieces of our lives that we offer Him than we can ever imagine. And this is my prayer for each of you:

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. Ephesians 3:16-21 NIV

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Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God. Philippians 3:13-14

The Gift of the Green Glass – A Christmas Memory

One of my favorite Christmas memories is of my youngest child – who is now an adult, one with a very generous, people-minded heart. He has had that generous, caring spirit from the time he was a preschooler. It’s part of the personality God gave him.

During the Christmas season of 2000, he was a chubby-cheeked little 4-year-old, the youngest of 4 children, and the nearest grandchild to his paternal grandparents. We lived only a block away. So he was the baby, close at hand to be spoiled.

26994101_10213301992496189_3796884010690880513_n.jpgThe grandparents had downsized late that summer. Both were well into their 70s with declining health, and had uprooted themselves from their home town to be near us in case they needed help in their latter years. We talked daily on the phone and saw them, if not daily, at least by the second or third day. On those days I found myself too embroiled in running the house and my gregarious 4-year-old hadn’t seen his grandparents in at least 24 hours, he would begin to beg to go see them “by myself.”

I could see Grandmother’s back door from my house and we lived in a safe neighborhood, so I would stand on the porch and watch him dash across the neighbor’s yard to get to his Granddaddy and Grandmother. It was their joy as much as his. Many times I could hear their robust, joyful greetings echoing down the street when he arrived there.

At 4, he was old enough he’d gotten money for his birthday that year – a $20 bill (from that same set of grandparents if I remember correctly). So late November my little guy announced that he wanted to go Christmas shopping with his own money. I told him sure, and that I would be glad to help him out with the money. But he was determined to “buy it myself.” (He was definitely in the “I can do it myself” phase.)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe dashed off to K-Mart one night, just my boy and me. He was determined to buy for Daddy, his brother and 2 sisters, Grandmother & Granddaddy, Meemaw Polly, and me, which he planned to do later with his daddy – 8 people to buy for with only $20. I really didn’t think it would be possible. I explained to him about taxes, and that each gift would have to cost $2.00-$2.50 at the most. I anticipated having to add some cash of my own when we checked out.

First, he found a fishing lure for Daddy for $1-something. Good so far. He got cute socks which were in the $2 range for one of the girls. And on and on he went with his shopping. Before we knew it we had trekked around all of Kmart and gotten everyone a gift that met the requirements, except for Grandmother.

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He was very particular. I made suggestions and showed him a few possibilities on the shelves as we walked by, none of which he liked. He finally said he wanted to get Grandmother a beautiful drinking glass he thought, so we headed to housewares. I wasn’t really sure we’d find anything that met his needs, but we looked. Suddenly his face lit up! He pointed a little higher than he could reach to a pretty, green cut-glass drinking glass. As I lifted it off the shelf for him to see, I realized it was light-weight and made of unbreakable plastic that looked like fragile crystal. He took it in his hands and felt of it for a couple of minutes before he declared, “This is it.”

He then started explaining to me why it was what he wanted.

“Grandmother’s hands hurt and she can’t hold onto those slick-sided slippery ones. This one has crinkled sides that make it easy to hold. The heavy ones are hard for her to lift, but this one is light. The skinny ones tip over too easily, but this one is short and round and can’t be bumped over by accident as easily. And it’s really beautiful! She will love it.” And you guessed it – it only cost $1.00. I was thrilled and stunned. He had studied his grandmother and new her needs and was on a mission to find just the right thing for her hands that were hindered by rheumatoid arthritis.

6b5e438dd5f97cb672e1b5f979806b40He had done it. He had generously bought for the whole family with his little $20 bill. At the cash register he had $2.00 and some change left over – just enough to go shopping with his Daddy to buy something for me.

That was one precious Christmas for our family. Grandmother never used any glass besides the green one for the rest of her life at home. It was exactly what she needed! She loved it!

IMG_8019Grandmother and Granddaddy have passed away at separate times in the last several years. And you know what? I now have that cup in my cabinet. I now have achy, arthritic hands and cherish that light-weight, easy-to-grip cup that won’t tip over easily. Are there lessons in this story? Probably many. The lessons I learned from my 4-year-old? Study those you love and get them something that meets their needs no matter how small and inexpensive it is. Use what you are blessed with, no matter how meager it seems, to bless others. You will have the joy of giving and you will give joy that carries on for many years beyond that moment.

And most importantly, just like my sweet 4-year-old, our Heavenly Daddy knows exactly what we need! He studies us and anticipates our every need. For every situation in which we find ourselves, be it a trial, loneliness, or busy-ness, finanacial or relational issues, or having cancer, a broken heart, or arthritic hands, He is there with just what we need. He provides The Perfect Gift. In fact, He has already provided the Most Perfect One – His Loving Son who died on the cross as a sacrifice to redeem our sinful, broken hearts and lives and bring us into His presence for eternity.

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. James 1:17 NIV

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Happy Thanksgiving from Priceless!

1 Chronicles 16:8-34

Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name;
    make known his deeds among the peoples!
Sing to him, sing praises to him;
    tell of all his wondrous works!
10 Glory in his holy name;
    let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice!
11 Seek the Lord and his strength;
    seek his presence continually!
12 Remember the wondrous works that he has done,
    his miracles and the judgments he uttered,
13 O offspring of Israel his servant,
    children of Jacob, his chosen ones!

14 He is the Lord our God;
    his judgments are in all the earth.
15 Remember his covenant forever,
    the word that he commanded, for a thousand generations,
16 the covenant that he made with Abraham,
    his sworn promise to Isaac,
17 which he confirmed to Jacob as a statute,
    to Israel as an everlasting covenant,
18 saying, “To you I will give the land of Canaan,
    as your portion for an inheritance.”

19 When you were few in number,
    of little account, and sojourners in it,
20 wandering from nation to nation,
    from one kingdom to another people,
21 he allowed no one to oppress them;
    he rebuked kings on their account,
22 saying, “Touch not my anointed ones,
    do my prophets no harm!”

23 Sing to the Lord, all the earth!
    Tell of his salvation from day to day.
24 Declare his glory among the nations,
    his marvelous works among all the peoples!
25 For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised,
    and he is to be feared above all gods.
26 For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols,
    but the Lord made the heavens.
27 Splendor and majesty are before him;
    strength and joy are in his place.

28 Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples,
    ascribe to the Lord glory and strength!
29 Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
    bring an offering and come before him!
Worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness;
30     tremble before him, all the earth;
    yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved.
31 Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice,
    and let them say among the nations, “The Lord reigns!”
32 Let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
    let the field exult, and everything in it!
33 Then shall the trees of the forest sing for joy
    before the Lord, for he comes to judge the earth.
34 Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
    for his steadfast love endures forever!

May you be blessed this Thanksgiving Day! And may you celebrate all your many blessings with a grateful heart!

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Christ-Followers & Popcorn

Christ-followers are like popcorn.

No kidding.

Maybe I have too much fall festival, fireside, popcorn moments on my mind right now, but I was suddenly struck with some obvious similarities.

So “How?” you ask.

bowl-food-popcorn-37348.jpgPopcorn is not the same thing when it comes out of the bag or pan as it was when it went in. Popcorn kernels are small, hard, unappetizing, and inedible. I think I’d have to be literally starving to eat one intentionally. It’s not that they don’t contain the same nutrients before and after being popped. It’s simply that they have to be changed before they are consumed as popcorn.

Likewise, Christ-followers are not the same after they come to know Christ as they were before knowing Him. In 2 Corinthians 5:17 (ESV) we are told “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” We may come to Christ as mean, bitter, hateful people, full of selfishness and underhanded motivations, hard nuts to crack as they say. But when Christ begins wooing us and we turn loose of the reigns on our own life allowing Him to remake us, we become gentle, joyful, peaceful people, filled with the unconditional love of God. The fruit of the Spirit is manifested in our lives causing us to become tasty morsels that nourish the world and produce usable fruit in our lives. We become those fluffy white buttery bits, rather than closed off hard kernels.

chef-cooker-cooking-8717.jpgPopcorn has to undergo some heated times to fulfill its purpose and become the yummy, useful thing it was meant to be.  I’ve occasionally wondered how popcorn was discovered. Did a mom in ancient days accidentally spill some kernels into the fire as she was pouring them into the pan, only to have a tasty treat pop out and hit her apron a short time later? Who knows. But I do know that it takes fire or extreme heat. Even in the random 100 degree heat of a Southern summer’s day, I have never had the popcorn in my pantry accidentally pop. It takes REAL heat. Fire.

Fire can be dangerous. Going through a fiery trial of life feels dangerous too. You wonder if you’ll survive. But those fires are useful in our lives, just like they are in the life of a kernel of popcorn. If popcorn doesn’t face the fire, it doesn’t become the crunchy treat it was meant to be. It could never be used for food and would not fulfill its designed purpose without great heat being applied. Just like a silver smith, our Father God uses our fiery trials to fashion us into the vessel He means for us to be.

In fact, He uses fiery trials in many ways. As with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, He uses those fires to display our faith in Him which causes even the unbelieving Nebuchadnezzars of the world to glorify His name. He uses those fires to guide us in the direction our life should take, just like the pillar of fire guided the children of Israel where to go. He uses the fire to burn away the dross, the sin, in our lives and make us pure silver that accurately reflects His image to the world. He uses the fires to change us, refine us, remake us.

Popcorn doesn’t make itself. It takes something bigger and greater than the popcorn kernels to take them and make them into something new. It takes people like you and me putting the popcorn and oil and salt in the pan and taking the time to do the process to transform them into something better.

And so it is with Christians. It takes someone outside our self, someone bigger and greater than us, to transform us. We cannot remake ourselves. How many times have we tried and failed. We read a self-help book and feel like that is just what I need. We then set out to make ourselves better. That may last 2 weeks or 2 years, but ultimately we discover real change on the inside cannot be self-manufactured. It can ony be produced by our Creator God. He is the only one who can make us into a new creation. He changes us slowly, over time as we abide in Him and His word abides in us. He is the Chief Corn Popper, not us. As Paul said in 1 Corinthians

“I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.” (3:6-7 ESV)

popcorn-1433326_1280The aroma of popcorn draws people from all around to want it. Just walk into a theater and you’re hit by the aroma. Mmmm! Your mouth waters and you end up with a bucket in your lap and buttery fingers! Walk into a Baptist preschool hall on a typical Sunday morning and you’ll find a trail of grown ups sniffing out which room has popcorn for refreshments that day. It’s an almost irresistible aroma.

As I follow my Savior am I drawing a line of people, and creating a furor by those trying to get what I’ve got? If I’m walking in His ways, spreading His aroma, I will be. Sweet sister, if you find yourself worn out from one more needy soul asking you to pray with them or seeking your godly counsel, a stranger pouring out their burdens to your compassionate heart as you sit on the bench at the park watching your kids play, or a pastor asking you to teach another study, then there is a sweet smell of Jesus attached to you! I’m not telling you to never say No and wear yourself out, I’m telling you keep smelling good! The hungry, needy, perishing world needs to be drawn to the sweet fragrance of Christ in us.

“But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.” (2 Corinthians 2:14-15 ESV)    

alcohol-background-bar-452744.jpgIts saltiness improves its taste. Whenever I eat popcorn, I grieve for people on low salt diets. I would probably never eat it again if I couldn’t use salt on it. It just isn’t good.

Our world is just not good without the influence of Christ-followers. We hear the rudeness, the cursing, the downright mean-spirited comments of the world almost daily through social media and television. Woe be unto us if we are participating in it rather than being salt and light: the peacemakers and spreaders of love, hope, faith, mercy, and the Gospel. Our world is as tasteless as unsalted popcorn when we are not being Christ’s ambassadors and letting Him pour us out of the salt shaker.

So as you sit ’round the fire this fall munching on your warm buttery popcorn, let it remind you to evaluate your life. Are you in the fire in life? Then God will use it to make you who he intended for you to be. Are you spreading the aroma that draws people to your Father? Are you adding saltiness to the world?

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:13-16 NIV

Seasons of Life

Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved too much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored. Titus 2:3-5

Several years ago our church women’s ministry held an event in the fall called “Celebrate the Seasons.” It was a wonderful night out to celebrate the seasons of our lives around dozens of uniquely decorated tables representing different seasons of the year. The fall and Christmas decorations were rich and lavish. The winter tables looked crisp and white. Spring tables abounded in flowers and bunnies and such as you might imagine. For the table I decorated, I chose a summer theme, and as part of my decor used tiny lightbulbs in mason jars to remind us of lightning bugs. It was a fun night of celebration and encouragement.

As I write today my mind is stirred up with memories and rather melancholy. Fall is in the air and my spirit is feeling very fall-ish. I’m in the autumn of my life enjoying my empty nest and the pleasures of adult children and grandkids. But this fall season of life seems to scream at me sometimes, “Winter is just around the corner for you.”

A dear friend and mentor of mine passed away mere hours ago. I met her when she was in the autumn of her life, me a mere summer’s child at the time. I have vivid pictures in my mind of moments of wise advice from her, prayers over me when I was worried sick over a teenage child, and gentle rebukes at how I should treat my husband and my own aging mother. As this contemplative mood overwhelms me today I am not discouraged, maybe just a wee bit sad at the rapid pace my life is taking to its final breath. But I am also spurred on as an older woman to take these thoughts captive and try to share them in a coherent way for your encouragement.

Whatever season you find yourself in today, be thankful for it and make the most of it.

beautiful-bloom-blooming-414160If you’re in the spring, plant your habits carefully so that they serve you well through life. Accept yourself & love yourself because God definitely does. Invest your life in the things of God and in people in your life. Love your husband well. Play with your kids and really listen to them. Don’t stress over anything – God’s got this!

“Every one who thirsts, come to the waters; And you who have no money come, buy and eat. Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. “Why do you spend money for what is not bread, And your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, And delight yourself in abundance. “Incline your ear and come to Me. Listen, that you may live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you,… Seek the Lord while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near.” Isaiah 55:1-3, 6

andaman-sea-beach-beautiful-459252If you’re in the summer of your life enjoy the pleasant pastures in which God has placed you. Put your past behind you and seek Him with your whole heart as He is preparing a new thing for you. Let go of anger, regret, and shame. Confess your sins, make amends where needed, and realize your Father in heaven has truly forgiven you.

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” Isaiah 43:18-19

action-bicycle-bike-763398If you’re in a stormy season, hold His hand, trust His great love for you, have faith, and remember that these rains are watering the fertile soil of your life. Learn lessons from scripture: 1) Keep your eyes on Jesus when the waves are high and 2) Your Father is the one who can calm the waves with His voice: Peace be still.

“He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.” Isaiah 40:11

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If you’re in the winter of life, I can’t offer help from experience. I have not been there yet. I can say Keep on! Keep on pursuing righteousness! Keep on being an example! Keep on loving others! Keep on running the race! Keep on letting His word offer comfort and challenge! Please keep on, I’m watching you and learning from your example.

“Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained in the way of righteousness.” Jeremiah 16:31

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross,scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Hebrews 12:1-3

leaves-2901684_1280For those of you raking leaves in your life, like I am, it’s not over. It’s time for us to get our second wind. It’s time for us to reach back and give a hand to those coming up the path just behind us. Speak out with the wisdom you have learned. Pray faithfully. Keep learning. Love well. Make it more than ever your goal “To know Him and make Him known.” It’s time to harvest what we have planted and tended for our whole lives.

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” Galatians 6:7-10

There are so many lessons to learn in each season of life. One little blog article can’t really do this subject justice. But hopefully you’ve been encouraged today. In closing I’ll leave you with a few things Mrs. Joyce taught me through her words and by her actions. Here are just a few that spring to my mind:

  • Be confident in who God made you to be. (I remember her making a “throne” of the chairs for herself to get her seat at the most comfortable position for her.)
  • Be kind. (She was. To everyone.)
  • Offer godly advice or none at all. (She did.)
  • Laugh and enjoy friends and be full of the zest of life. (I’m remembering a women’s retreat to Knoxville when she teased our high school daughters telling them they ought to get a tatoo of Beth Moore’s initials! We rolled with laughter!)
  • Study God’s word diligently and share your wisdom with others. (She modeled this constantly.)
  • Love your family wholeheartedly in word and deed. (She adored her family and shared ceaselessly about them. She also made great vegetable soup and shrimp & grits for them and for those of us blessed to eat in her home.)
  • Pray with people God brings into your day. (This she did for me.)
  • Prayer accomplishes much, so don’t quit praying for that child you are so worried over. (She taught me this at a crucial time in life.)
  • The one who cooks doesn’t have to clean up! (My favorite!)

Take or leave any of my advice. What you really need to do is go to the Word of God and follow every single word. I loved you greatly Mrs. Joyce. See you in heaven when I get there!

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(In honor of Mrs. Joyce McCombs.)