Making It Home: Coffee

We all have our ideas of what makes a house a home. My home would not be home without coffee. We all have our morning rituals. Mine is basically grab a cup of coffee and head out on the deck with my Bible. No talking please, at least until I’ve finished my first cup. Oh yeah, and there’s a “Poppy, go outside?” mumbled as I head out the door. And he does. I’m at home. I miss this ritual when I’m away from home.

Right now I’m sipping my fully loaded Green Mountain Breakfast Blend with Peppermint Mocha creamer as I type. So how about some observations?

  1. Coffee is a seed/bean from a plant. It is planted carefully and grown in the shade until it can be transplanted into moist soil where the roots can get established.
  2. When a coffee plant grows, matures, and bears fruit, it is ready to be put to use for the purpose it was made.
  3. Coffee is put through the fire to make it useful for our purposes. In a 550 degree oven, the beans are roasted until they reach an inner temp of 400 degrees. This browns them and allows the flavorful caffeol oil locked inside to emerge. (My source)
  4. Coffee is ground to make it useful for our purposes. The beans are put through grinder and ground to bits, and no longer even looks like a bean, a necessary process for the flavors to come out as we make it into the cup of coffee we drink.
  5. Coffee is put through hot water to make it useful for our purposes. It is soaked in boiling water to release its flavor.
  6. Coffee is hard to swallow black (just my opinion!).
  7. Coffee is bitter when percolated, so add a dash of salt.
  8. Coffee is best when filled with yummy creamer.
  9. Coffee energizes and gets the day started off right.

Lessons we can learn from coffee: The Christian life is like coffee.

  1. When we allow Christ to make His home in our heart, His seed is planted in us and that Christ-like character begins to grow us into a new person that will eventually take over and transform the old us. (2 Corinthians 5:17) Like coffee plants we need careful attention as we are developing. We need to be in the word and prayer and with other believers at this point to get our roots established.
  2. We will grow, mature and bear fruit, becoming the person God designed us to be and ready to be useful to the Father, waiting for Him to process us. “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:20)
  3. Our preparation for God’s purposes often involves being put through the fire, ground to bits, and feeling like we are drowning in boiling water. We will no longer even look like who we were before this. This change is not fun, but it is necessary. We are roasted (tested), ground (remade), and brewed in hot waters (humbled) where the sweet flavor of Christ is released and put to use.
  4. We often are hard to swallow at first. We may be bold and brassy and tend to storm the gates of hell with a water pistol in our zeal, but God isn’t through.
  5. He keeps working with His creation. The Holy Spirit seasons us with salt to get rid of the bitterness, then adds cream to make us appealing to the lost world He is seeking. He develops in us the fruit of the Spirit and we become tasty to those around us. They desire to drink in more of the Jesus in us.
  6. We become to each other that energizing, flavor-filled source of encouragement!

I realize my extended metaphor is rather a loose one, but you get the picture. As you welcome people into your home for a cup of coffee or meet another lady at Starbucks, I encourage you to remember that Christ is at work in you, even in your personal hard times, using you to encourage others in their Christian walk. You are helping others to develop a home in their hearts where Christ dwells and works and uses them to spread flavor to the world as well.

Children Are a Treasure From the Lord

Psalm 127

Unless the Lord builds the house,
    the builders labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
    the guards stand watch in vain.
In vain you rise early
    and stay up late,
toiling for food to eat—
    for he grants sleep to those he loves.

Children are a heritage from the Lord,
    offspring a reward from him.
Like arrows in the hands of a warrior
    are children born in one’s youth.
Blessed is the man
    whose quiver is full of them.
They will not be put to shame
    when they contend with their opponents in court.

Nearly every baby born is viewed as a treasure at his birth. I’m sure some are not looked forward to, but the tenderness of a baby predisposes them to be cherished just for their helpless state. But that first time the child cries all night, I can tell you, it is really hard to keep the perspective that she is a treasure. Our sleep deprived brains sense the cause of our sleep deprivation as a minor enemy, and it is very challenging to find the balance, patience, and courage we parents need. We may feel guilty placing the screaming baby in the crib alone and walking out for ten minutes to get a grip on our frustration, but we also feel guilty and fearful holding that bundle of stress knowing our anger and frustrations are rising.

As an “old” mom let me just say, place the baby safely in the bed. Walk away. Wake your husband or call your mom. The baby’s safety is the priority at the moment, and sleep deprived, stressed moms need to take a step back. Don’t feel guilty. Know that you are doing what is safe and healthy for that little one you love so – most of the time – just not at 3:08 a.m.

But that is only the first threat to viewing our child as a treasure. Those threats keep coming, new ones arrive with each natural step in a child’s development.

In the high chair feeding stage, when they throw their sticky green food on your beautiful white blouse as you head out to the office, in that moment they may not feel like a treasure. What do you do? Laugh so you don’t cry and change the blouse. It is what it is.

At two years old when the answer to everything is “NO!” and you can’t win because nothing pleases them in those moments, they don’t feel very treasure-like. When that three or four-year-old has a lay down on the ground fit in an inconvenient place and you are terribly embarrassed, they don’t feel like that treasure they did the day they were born. When that pre-teen’s smart mouth kicks in and you want to exchange them for that sweet child you used to know… nothing to treasure there. When they are sixteen and rebelling against your authority, or twenty-three and they are so far off the path of righteousness that you wonder if they will live, the treasure meter reads zero.

All of those experiences make you lose perspective on this treasure God gave you, this baby, child, teen or adult treasure. It will likely cause you to feel a wave of negative feelings from irritation to fear to anger to disgust to desperation and hatred. But those feelings are only that – they are feelings conjured up by thoughts and chemicals in our brains. Don’t trust you feelings! The truth is found in God’s word – children are a heritage, a treasure, a reward. That is the truth. That is not a feeling. That is from God not man. That can be trusted.

If we keep this truth ever-present in our minds the Enemy of Our Souls will not be able to gain power over us. He will not be able to make us say or do something we may regret. But we must always know the truth, for the truth sets us free. (John 8:31-32) Free from the enemy’s grip and the fleshly temptation to view what God calls a treasure as an inconvenience, or to allow our minds to be wrapped up and controlled by those negative emotions that our child can trigger in us.

That is why it is crucial to have God’s word stored in our memories. Feelings can only be changed by placing God’s truth in our minds to overcome the barrage of negative thoughts that trigger negative emotions. Scripture tells us how to do that, and it is really a very simple concept, but a difficult one to master.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Philippians 4:8

We are to replace every negative thought with thoughts that are true and noble and right and pure and lovely and admirable and excellent and praiseworthy! If you can do that with every thought, your emotions will fall in line and you will be exercising the Spirit’s fruit of self-control. It can be done, but it takes a lot of practice, trust me! Why don’t you start today. Choose to trust the truths of God’s word and keep them ever before your eyes, don’t trust your feelings.

That child, no matter their age, really is a treasure – God says so!

Because a Little Bug Went Ka-choo!

Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the Lord has helped us.”

1 Samuel 7:12

My husband and I were recently talking with one of our adult children about a major change coming in their life. We were encouraging her (and ourselves!) by reminding each other of all the ways God had brought her to where she currently is, and that He would surely continue to lead her down a good path – not a bump-free path, but a good one. Mid-conversation, the Rosetta Stone (aka Dr. Seuss) book, Because a Little Bug Went Ka-choo! came up. It was a childhood favorite of our kids that has been a useful tool in adult life.

If you aren’t familiar with the story, the gist of it is this. A little bug sneezes which causes a small seed to fall off of a plant nearby. The seed lands on the toe of a worm who then kicks something, and the story is off at a fast pace, full of catastrophes that get bigger and bigger until a whole town is affected. At the end of the story you are reminded that all these disasters happened…

“All because a little bug went ka-choo.”

That same cause and effect principal plays out in our lives. Little decisions and seemingly inconsequential choices often yield big, unanticipated results. We all understand that the big things like what we choose to do for a career or who we marry, are important. But we overlook the fact that small things bear big fruit later in our lives as well. Things like helping someone out in their need, writing a note to someone who is on our heart, or having a kind, joyful spirit to those around us.

“Can those little things have a big impact, really?” you may ask. Yes!

Recently, I sent three cards to some people God had put on my mind. I simply let them know I was thinking about them and I cared about their plight. Then I shared a verse I was specifically praying for each. Just this week all three came to me and said the exact same thing. “Your card came at just the right time.” It was a small discipline that took me five minutes (the Lord has been working on me in the area of card writing since January), but it paid off in impacting hurting hearts.

All because a little card was written…

Several years ago when I returned to teaching after many years off raising children, it was traumatic for me. The first 3 weeks I cried every day driving to and from school. But I determined that I would be joyful and positive around my students because I knew this was a ministry to which God had brought me. I determined to speak positively, look for the best in each child, and give them a smile and word of encouragement as they left my room every day. While many students responded to my kindness by being chatty and eager to get to know the new teacher, one ninth grader was particularly silent around me, only answering questions when called upon and never speaking to me otherwise. As I recall, it was a few weeks into the school year before she spoke to me personally.

Leaving class that day she looked at me and asked sarcastically, “Are you always that way?”

“What way?” I asked in return.

“Smiling and happy,” she replied with a bit of a sneer.

“No,” I answered honestly something like, “I have struggles, sadness, and tears, but I try to put those away when I’m here at school to help make it a brighter, happier day for you kids.” I may have even mentioned Jesus’ strength, I really don’t recall.

That was all that was said that day. But in the days that followed she started lingering after class to talk to me, smiling and talking casually with me, dropping by my room during breaks or after school, and even asking my advice on those all-important high school issues. That small beginning led to a friendship that developed and continued after she graduated. Now, nine years later, we talk on the phone almost daily. She values my advice (I believe) and I’d like to think I’ve helped her through some struggles. She’s married with a new baby and comes to me with questions and prayer needs, and I feel honored to call her friend.

All because a scared teacher smiled…

When our daughter was in 4th grade our new children’s pastor planned to take the elementary kids to camp at an our-of-state college. We decided she could go. She loved the camp, the songs, the stories, and she grew in her faith that week as we had hoped and expected. But one thing we didn’t expect was that she would come home declaring, “That is where I will go to college one day!” We thought Sure you will. You’re ten years old. But a few years later when her big sister was looking for a college, Little Sis said, “Check out my college. We can be there together in two years.” Big sister ended up visiting and realizing that school was God’s place for her. Two years later, after much prayer and 4 different college Preview Days, that’s exactly where Little Sis went just as she had declared she would. She not only earned her degree, she established herself and her future career in a new state and met a godly young man who is now her husband.

All because a little 4th grader went to kids camp…

What about Big Sister? She also found her career. But she found her calling, too. One day as she was out for a jog she stopped to compliment an older couple working in their yard on their beautiful flowers. From that she developed a relationship with those retired missionaries that propelled her to foreign lands as well.

All because a little girl listened to her sister…

All because a young woman went for a jog…

All because a missionary retired to that home on that street…

What is the moral of my story? God is weaving your life together bit by bit. Not just in the huge decisions, but also through the mundane choices we make with little thought. Through our kindness, our fear, our smiles, and every other nuance of who we are. Jeremiah 29:11 TLV states, “For I know the plans that I have in mind for you,” declares Adonai, “plans for shalom [peace] and not calamity—to give you a future and a hope.” God is weaving together the fabric of your life. Be upright, God-honoring, kind, and faithful in all you do. Even the tiny, insignificant things that would seem to have no impact past this very moment. It will seem small but may quite likely have a great impact on your life.

“One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much.” Luke 16:10

Thoughts on a Foggy Morning

What is it about fog? It’s only moisture in the air, yet it has something mysterious, beautiful and scary about it. As I sit on my deck this foggy morning, I see lessons all around me in the fog. It’s as if God’s voice is proclaiming through nature basic lessons I have known for years, but need to be reminded of…

Trust me when you can’t see where you are going.

I created all things and I provide the moisture and the needs of each one, even you.

This world is far more complex than you understand, Dear One, but I keep it all running smoothly.

The fog yields more complex, deep revelations to my soul, the inner workings of His Spirit in mine, things I’ll try to explain, but can’t.

The Beauty of Fog. Fog shrouds the world in a curtain of beauty much like a bridal veil. The harsh world looks softer. The plants lose their dryness, plump up, and look fuller, greener, richer. The birds hop on the ground to feed. Surfaces are damp and cool not even hinting at the blistering heat to come as day fully dawns. The owls and roosters and chickens echo more clearly to my ears on a foggy morning. Is it because my mind is stilled and I’m really observing, really listening? In this pre-dawn hour of beauty my soul is restored.

“He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul: he leads me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” Psalm 23:2-3 NKJV

The Scariness of Fog. Why is fog scary to us? Just a few thoughts: every creepy movie has fog, disasters can be caused by fog, ships are lost at sea in the fog, and search parties are thwarted by the foggy terrain. In the fog could lie doom or success. So why do we focus on the doom? Fear. In our hard times when a fog shrouds our every decision, we are very aware that the world is full of things beyond our control. Fear takes the controls. We doubt God. Yes, that’s it, that’s why the fog is scary. We doubt. We have read about Our God in scripture. We sing the songs and hear the sermons, but when the unexpected comes do we truly believe, or do we just hope? We become fearful because our faith is small and we aren’t convinced the Father is there, is for us, will do good to us, and can even make a difference. Foggy times in life are scary because they are times when faith is absent or small.

“When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You. In God, whose word I praise, in God I have put my trust; I shall not be afraid.” Psalm 56:3-4 NASB

The Mystery of Fog. Why is there a mysteriousness about fog? Is it the unknown lying behind the fog? Is it the ethereal quality of fog that makes it seem magical and unknowable? Maybe it’s societal conditioning that makes me see fog as mysterious. Every unicorn or dragon seems to emerge out of the fog. The fog holds the unexpected – it could be negative, but often it is positive. As we walk through foggy times in life let’s not forget that: the fog holds the unexpected. Faith holds the unexpected too. Fog and faith, how do those intertwine? It takes faith to walk through the fog. Faith is strengthened in the fog, the unknown. Faith is taking that next step toward whatever is concealed by the fog. The mystery of the hidden should not alarm us, for God knows the hidden things. We are to have faith to act when we cannot see.

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see…. By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible…. And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” Hebrews 11:1,3,6 NIV

Let’s challenge ourselves to choose faith over fear. To view the mysteries of life confidently knowing that all things are in His hands and under His control. To loosen our grip of control. To see the beauty in the foggy times, looking for the gifts God has for us in the fog. May your faith muscle be strengthened this week as you exercise it each day in the fog and the unknown of life.

Freedom

We have just celebrated our country’s birth: Independence Day – The Fourth of July. This day 245 years ago set us free from the tyranny and control of England. As our new nation was created citizens were empowered by this new freedom. They could buy, sell, trade, own land and more without having to pay taxes to a government thousands of miles and an ocean away. While we gained the freedom to worship and live as we chose through the American Revolution, we also gained a less desirable freedom, we had the freedom to choose to sin and do evil.

As with humans everywhere this baby country did not live peacefully in joyful freedom, but instead people, as sinful humankind will do, used their freedom as license to take what was not theirs, strike out in anger or retribution, enslave their brothers, and overall allow their freedom to lead to bondage. When men are free they have the right to choose, but they must be careful to choose wisely. Will they choose freedom from sin or freedom to sin?

We have that question before us every day of our life. Will we, will I, in my freedom chose to do evil, to sin? Or will I choose freedom from sin which requires me to self-govern and deny myself and choose to not do everything my heart desires, to reject the freedom to do evil?

Our society today is suffering. We are suffering from sin. People daily choose to do as they please regardless of the consequences. Regardless of whether it negatively affects others. Even regardless of the law. We as a nation are increasingly becoming a people who do what we want, when we want no matter the cost. How can we change our culture? How can we come back to a freedom that embraces honor and respect for others?

First, we must each individually choose freedom FROM sin. We must make it our goal to live self-less, not self-ish lives. We must wholeheartedly obey Jesus, seeking to live out the truths of scripture each day. We must put others first and self last as we are instructed in Philippians 2:3-4, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” We must become individuals of integrity and character who are lighthouses to those passing by in this dark world.

Second, we must proclaim Jesus to everyone we meet. The only hope for a fallen, sinful society is Jesus. The book of John tells us, “Jesus said…, ‘If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free…. Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. … if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.'” (John 6:31-32, 34, 36) Real freedom comes through knowing the truth. Jesus is the truth. It is through knowing Jesus, the truth, and abiding in Him, making daily choices to live like Him, that we are set free from sin. And that is the only true freedom we will ever have.

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John14:6

Making it Home

This year, in conjunction with our women’s ministry’s activities, Priceless will begin a series of blogs under the theme of “Making it Home.” We’ll have to see exactly which direction the Lord takes us. The articles will be focused on the home, our roles as nurturers in our households, and how to make our houses into homes, whether physically, spiritually, emotionally, or even as arms that reach out to our neighbors, friends, and family members. I hope you’ll follow along with these articles and that they will bless you and give you ideas and inspiration in many areas of your life.

Old fashioned “homemaking” has become obsolete. Have you noticed? We love to have beautifully decorated homes, but we often see ourselves more as interior decorators and hostesses rather than the homemakers our grandmothers were. Between jobs, school, church, ballgames, music and dance lessons, leisure activities and such our houses have become simply stop-overs where we change clothes and sleep. (I almost added “eat” in there, but in reality we have lunch dates and dinner with friends, or we eat out while shopping or grab fast food on the way to The Next Thing, so even meals aren’t nearly the focus of the home they were when we were all younger.

We all long for home. When we are away we want to be home for the safety, security, or rest. We long for the security and rich relationships the word “home” suggests, yet we congregate as a family in an angry, chaotic atmosphere or in a building that seems full of loss, regret, and depression. Maybe even within the walls of our houses we long for “home” because the place we dwell does not satisfy our hearts the way our grandmama’s little frame house did. We want to be able to abide in a place where we are known, loved just as we are, cherished, and desired. Yet feelings of anxiousness and distance often characterize our life at home. If we feel this way, how much more must our children?

To have an abode full of joy, care, peace, and nurturing, we must learn to abide. Full joy and love and meaning in living can be found only through abiding in Jesus Christ, having an intimate relationship with Him. All the decorating and entertaining and money spent will not yield joy, contentment, and a happy home. The first home we must build is our spiritual home, that home in our heart for Christ to dwell in, otherwise we are an empty shell like an old warehouse or a burned out building. Scripture relates Jesus’ words to us about abiding, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” (John 15:9-11 ESV) Full joy comes through abiding in Him.

As we traverse this year of articles, we hope your heart will grow into a home where Christ abides, and your physical home will grow into that place of joy, contentment, beauty, and deep healthy relationships. We hope this series will help you turn your heart toward home.

Steve and Annie Chapman – “Turn Your Heart Toward Home”

Cabana Boy

Do you have a servant’s heart?

Confession. My family and I are total goofballs. We act the silliest and find humor in the most unusual things. Like, having British accent days or taking on a character role for the day, pranking each other, or making word plays until its ridiculous (think “Facing the Giants” and the whole Hindenburg sketch of misusing words and playing with them). We are so much into silliness that we occasionally make each other annoyed if one is in the mood to play and another is not. I say all that to set up my “Cabana Boy” story. Hopefully your will enjoy a bit of our weirdness and maybe even identify with it.

As I sat on the back deck writing that cloudy Monday morning, I was deep in thought researching an upcoming lesson. Time moved on without my notice, and I was oblivious to the fact that the sun had come out and I was squinting and shielding my computer screen from the glare. Until my goofy husband, in his best Cabana Boy imitation popped outside to my rescue. He came bearing the umbrella, but of course he had to add a dramatic flair.

With a giant smile and the gracious motions of a prime example of Cabana Boy from the best resort you’ve ever been to, he launched into his spiel. “Your Cabana Boy at your service, Ma’am. Which way would you like the umbrella tilted? Is that better, does it cut the glare on your screen? Would you care for a beverage or fruit? No? Then please know that I am at your service today whatever need you may have. We aim to make sure you have a pleasant stay.”

My heart was light as my Cabana Boy retreated back inside to his Covid-office at the kitchen table. How pleasant and joyful he was. What a servant attitude. My mind began to wander. It turned to spiritual things as I pondered this man that so exasperates me some days, but was so joyful today. We are so far from perfect. My husband likes to say we are two warped boards that God has strapped together through marriage to help straighten up the warps. But today, he operated with a servant’s heart of love and it got me to thinking…

How am I as a servant of the Most High? Am I a joyful, kindhearted servant ready to go the extra mile as the Father presents opportunities? Am I looking for ways to serve Him? Ways to serve others and make another’s life a little easier? Do I serve with a great attitude, or grudgingly and dutifully? Do I reflect love and kindness to others as I serve? Am I the five star Cabana Boy who makes life pleasant for those around me? Are you?

In our fleshly nature, we humans are selfish creatures. We do things out of obligation or what’s-in-it-for-me. If we do it because we feel we must, we often reflect that through a bad attitude as we serve. We serve as the Cabana Boy who is just in it for the paycheck, and not as the one who serves from the heart because “It’s my pleasure.”

Spiritual growth is about becoming more than it is about knowing. We sometimes reverse that thought and think the more we know about God and scripture the more mature we are spiritually. But today let’s focus on becoming. Becoming that joyful servant of God. Take a moment today to ask God to make you into His humble, joyful servant.

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Father God, Change me. Make me a joyful servant. Create in my a servant’s heart and a steadfast spirit willing and ready to serve You and those around me as a service to You. Reshape my motives. Remake my heart of stone into a heart of flesh that serves with love and joy and kindness, reflecting You in all I do. Amen.

Do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Galatians 5:13

I Just Want to Be Where You Are

We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. We love, because He first loved us. 1 John 4:16-19

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Do you remember your big high school crush? You thought about him all the time, and you probably tried to learn everything about him that you could. You knew his class schedule, his locker number, his car, his address, his birthday, and many of his likes and dislikes. Your best girlfriends would run reconnaissance for you to find out what he was doing after school or where he planned to be Friday night. Am I right?

Why did you do all this? Because you were “in love!” (Insert heart eyes emoji here.) Maybe you truly were and maybe you weren’t. Maybe you married that crush, or he was the one that got away, or you were thankful that you were the one that got away. The bottom line, desire for him, feeling loving feelings, drove you to know everything about him. It also made you want to be wherever he was, what’s the use of knowing he’s going to be at the skating rink Friday night anyway if it’s not so you can happen to show up there to get his attention, right?

As you grew up you learned that whatever you love you want to be around. It’s baby’s first day at day care… sob… I don’t want to leave him…sob! Kids gone off to college… “Let’s go see them this weekend!” You live states away from your parents… “When can we go home for a visit?” When grandkids are born you may decide… “We need to move closer to the kids.” We humans just want to be near the ones we love.

It’s not just humans though. My little fur baby is considered a companion dog – meaning if I walk from one room to the next he follows. I never get to eat supper without a little beggar by my feet. I never go out the door without him scampering out with me. I can’t even go to the bathroom alone anymore; it’s much like having a toddler again. And if I have to leave the house without him I must command him to “Stay.” But I come home hours later to see him sitting up on the back of the couch waiting eagerly for me, and breaking into a spinning, licking, yapping welcome as soon as I am within range. He wants to be where I am.

It is natural to desire to be with those we love. To be in relationship. We were created that way. God is relational. He created us to be in relationship with Him and others and to desire relationships. But an issue arises. We focus on earthly relationships with other beings we can see and touch often at the expense of our relationship with our Creator. Those high school crushes captivated every corner of my mind and left little space for me to think about God.

So that brings me to the questions I need to ask. Did I love God or the guy? Probably both to some degree, but I definitely focused on the human one. Do I love God now? Does my focus in life reveal a true love for God or does it show a divided heart that is still going after other people or things first? I believe our actions and speech can reveal a lot about the health of our relationship with God. Do I talk about things of God or things of this world more often? What do my actions indicate that has captured my heart? My priorities will tell me what I love the most, and often that is self, not the Father.

If the answers to the questions above reveal something that bothers you, it’s time to get alone with God. Schedule some alone time to be with the Father. Grab His Word, a journal and a pen if you like, or just take a hike in the woods, whatever works for you. Allow yourself to communicate with God and start to re-establish that love relationship with Him if it has grown cold through the years. As you come to know Him better you will want to be with Him more. Let this song be the anthem of our hearts. I Just Want to Be Where You Are

What Did You Say Your Name Was?

“Hello. My name is Jesus and I’ll be your representative today. How may I help you?” (And yes, he pronounced it “Gee-sus.”)

What?!

Talk about doing a double-take.

Everything in me wanted to ask, “Did I hear you correctly? What did you say your name was?” but I refrained since this was a business call, the third to his company within an hour. Instead I jumped into my issue. My husband handed off this job to me after the extremely frustrating call number one ended when the representative (not Jesus) hung up on him. By accident I hope! The second call took 20 minutes and yielded only the phone number for Jesus. So I went into this call frustrated with the company I was dealing with. I just wanted to get my business done and get back to the other demands of the day.

For about 40 minutes I talked with Jesus. He responded with kind, helpful patience. (Would you expect anything else from Jesus?!) It took much patience, and time. He delved into computer records, updated info, and even made a trip to consult with a manager. I had a weird case!

Jesus was not only kind, but persistent as well, and he eventually got all our issues corrected. I was no longer annoyed with them. I expressed how grateful I was for his thoroughness and patience, and told him I loved his name.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

My chat with Jesus brought a smile to my heart and made me think. Jesus treated me well. Jesus was kind. Jesus took care of my needs. Jesus didn’t quit on me when things got tough. Jesus respected me and listened to me. Jesus went the extra mile to do what needed to be done. Jesus helped me. Jesus listened to me. Jesus asked if there was anything else he could do for me. With Jesus as my representative I was well taken care of.

And that goes for all of us! When Jesus is your representative, you are well cared for.

When Jesus is your representative…

… you are treated kindly and compassionately.

… your needs are met.

… you are not abandoned when things get tough. He walks through those tough times with you to get it fixed.

… you are respected.

… your voice is heard.

… He is always looking for what else He can do for you.

… you are loved!

If the world seems mean, your days seem dark, you feel down or discouraged, or you don’t know the right answer, turn to Jesus. He is a kind representative in life. He is for you. He is your friend! Settle down and rest in that friendship and representation.

“There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” Proverbs 18:24

Sprint or Marathon

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

1 Corinthians 9:24-27

In this race of life, what are you – a sprinter or a marathoner?

This thought was triggered by something I was reading recently. I’d never really considered that the attitudes of the two were different. (I’m not a runner, could you have guessed that?) I started comparing and contrasting the two and how that applied to life. It’s interesting, If you google “sprinters habits” and marathoners habits” you get some thought provoking info.

A sprint is a short race you run at full speed. You go all out and give it everything you got. A marathon, on the other hand, being a footrace of over 26 miles, requires exceptional endurance rather than a short burst of speed. These two types of races require different training, different amounts of time, different settings, and a different mental focus.

According to speedendurance.com, the sprinter’s motto is “If you don’t have to run, walk. I you don’t have to walk, sit. If you don’t have to sit, then lie down.” This sounds like a good motto to me! But let’s examine how that works in life. It really sets up a life of doing only what you must do – the urgent. You may wake up, sprint to get ready for work, then get to the office and sit thinking “What’s next?” A sprinting-through-life mindset is full of stops and starts, short races to get one task at a time done throughout our day. Sprinting takes short bouts of focused attention. Sprinters may run many, many miles if you add up all their short races put together, but their races are round and round the track, and they end up at the same place at the end of the day.

Marathoners, by the nature of the race, have to be just the opposite of this. Their race takes endurance and perseverance. They also need periods of rest after a race allowing the body time to recover and repair, but theirs mindset is one of being in it for the long haul. They must exercise great mental self-control to keep their focus throughout the hours of a race. No stops and starts and resting every few minutes for them. When the going gets long, tough, and painful, marathoners must exercise not only their muscles, but their minds in order to power through to the end, which is miles away and takes them to whole new places.

So how does running races apply to the average person, to you and me? You’ve probably already picked up on some ideas you can apply to your life, but here are mine.

  1. Goals and focus are important. Years ago a study by a major college found that students who wrote down their goals out-performed those who did not. Baseball legend, Yogi Berra, once said “If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.” As we run this race of life that the apostle Paul talks about, are we running toward the right goal? A marathon runner can run his 26 miles in wrong directions and never finish his race. A sprinter can give it all he’s got and be the fastest one on the track but loose the race if He runs toward the wrong goal. So I ask you today, what goal are your eyes fixed upon? Is it getting that new house? Nothing wrong with a new house, but should that be the ultimate goal we are running toward in life? Is it beauty? Or wealth? Or physical health? Or friendships? Or jobs? All these things have a place in life if they do to capture our sole focus in this race.
  2. Focus on the right things. So what are the right things to focus our attention on? We turn to God’s Word to find those things. Salvation. Faith. A relationship with the Father. Love of God and our fellow man. Family. The Body of Christ. Obedience to God’s commands. … And I’m sure the list is longer than I can develop here. Stay in God’s Word and seek the things He would have your life be focused upon. “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33)
  3. Exercise mental self-discipline. Often we are sidetracked in our life by faulty thinking. The arrows of the enemy shoot lies into our minds. Our prideful heart deceives us with good-sounding thoughts that when examined are contrary to what scripture teaches. Our own inner self-doubt makes us distracted and undermines our confidence in the Father that He will empower us to accomplish all He has called us to do. Let’s exercise self-control not only in body by in our mindset too. Let’s throw off the negative, untrue, prideful, doubting thinking that weighs us down so that we can really run this race. Hebrews 12:1-2 tells us “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.”
  4. Pace yourself. Americans in general have a I-can-do-it-all attitude. Add one more thing to your already full plate? Sure! why not? One thing we need to learn is how to say “no.” We spend so much energy doing good things, that we have depleted energy for accomplishing the goal of our life. We must learn to pace ourselves – to weed out those good distractions and time-wasters in order to fulfill God’s purposes and calling on our lives. A marathoner doesn’t stop to eat lunch or text their boyfriend; they put distractions aside in order to finish the race even though it is long an arduous. Let’s “run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” (Hebrews 12:1)
  5. Life is not a race to win or lose. You’ve probably heard the phrase, “The one who dies with the most toys, still dies.” But how often do we operate in life as if we have to have the most, go to the best vacations, achieve the highest goals, and be the best? We’re not on this earth to compete or to win, we are here to “glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” (The Shorter Catechism) THE highest goal we can ever achieve is to live our lives in a way that pleases God, whatever He calls us to do. In Galatians 2:2 Paul makes a comment that shows us even he evaluated his motives in this race of life. He said, “I wanted to be sure I was not running and had not been running my race in vain.” Are you running your race in vain? Let’s get alone with God and do a little self-evaluation.
  6. Be faithful – commit to your life race. In 2 Timothy 4:7-8 Paul presents the attitude we need to embrace to stay committed to the race and finish strong. He states that when he dies he wants to be able to say with confidence, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.”

A marathon is long and difficult and takes more than just physical strength. Let’s start living like marathon runners, running our lives for a single goal that takes all our time, energy, focus, and patience to achieve. While we may have short sprints within our marathon, let’s make sure our long-team purpose is to finish this race well and be able to echo Paul’s words – “I have finished the race – I have kept the faith.” Persevere ladies! And encourage others to do the same. Get your running shoes on, let’s run for the prize!