Construction Zone: Studs

Studs.

Yep, you read it correctly.

No. Not a horse, nor the handsome guy in anatomy class, but the two-by-fours within your walls.

My husband is a fantastic handyman who has saved us many a repair bill through the years. I find paying in Yankee dimes much preferrable to ruining our budget by paying an exorbitant bill from our checking account for home or car repairs.

My husband is also quite the kidder. His favorite handyman joke when working with walls or hanging pictures for me involves a stud-finder. In case you don’t know, a stud-finder is a large matchbox sized, battery operated gadget that can detect boards within a wall so a person will know where to hang heavy objects. As you move it across the wall it beeps when it senses the more dense area where a stud is located. My Sweetheart’s joke is to sweep his stud-finder around him and finally across his body, and at that moment hit the test button which causes it to beep. He does this with a flirtatious grin, and of course I reward him with a quick kiss and “That’s my stud!” or laughter and eye rolls, depending on my mood. Even after years of this same joke, it never ceases to bring joy to our days.

post-2232962_1280Through all our years of marriage I’ve learned many things about studs that I did not know as a young bride of 21. I knew there were boards within the walls of buildings. And I knew they were needed to support the roof. But that’s about all I knew those many years ago.

Since then I’ve learned that studs have to be at the right distance apart to make a structure strong and stable. Studs need to be placed “16 inches on center” for THE best stiff, strong wall. This doesn’t mean there are 16 inches in between the studs, but that measuring from the center of one board to the center of the next will give you 16 inches. Some buildings don’t measure up to this standard. Older homes, or ones constructed by someone on the cheap or in a haphazard way may yield other results. Twenty-four inch centers is common, but not nearly as strong.

Secondly, I learned that studs need to be certain dimensions, not just any ole board will do. Two-by-fours are the standard stud size. That means that when they are cut, they are 2 inches thick and 4 inches wide. After that they are kiln dried which causes them to shrink as the moisture evaporates. Then they are further reduced in size when they are planed to make them a uniform size for building (usually about 1 1/2 by 3 1/2 inches).

wood-690402_1280I also learned that studs are usually made of particular kinds of wood. Softwood is generally used behind the walls for construction projects, whereas hardwoods are used for the beautiful furniture and embellishments we see in the rooms of our homes. Softwoods are generally coniferous trees such as pine and cedar, those that grow quickly and do not lose their leaves in the fall. While hardwoods are deciduous trees, like oaks, which lose their leaves. Softwood is preferred because it is easier to saw, plane, bore, and nail because of the structure within the wood, and I wonder, if not possibly because it grows more quickly and trees can be replaced within a few years rather than decades.

So how does our woodworking lesson relate to life?

1 – The unseen supports inside us are very important. I may look like a happy-go-lucky, got-it-all-together kind of woman on a random Sunday morning where your local God-fearing congregation is meeting. But on the inside I may be a sinful mess, a doubting mess, a fearful mess, a depressed mess, a burdened mess, a prideful mess, or any of a number of other messes. You don’t see the real me. Only God does. And I don’t see the real you. I’ve learned through years of walking with the Lord that the scriptural principle is, what’s on the inside is going to eventually come out. We are to be more inwardly concerned with pleasing God than pleasing people.

A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things. Matthew 12:35 KJV

Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ. Galatians 1:10 NIV

2 – Your internal “studs” must be made of the right stuff. This is obvious. Heaven knows those cardboard houses I built as a kid couldn’t even withstand one rainy day. Yet we try building our inner man based on popularity, acceptance, the world’s opinions, and even our own feeble human wisdom. Softwood such as this won’t work for a stable life. While soft wood may be best for building physical structures, we want to build our spiritual homes on the hard truths of the Word of God. God’s words from scripture, when taken in daily and applied to building our lives and homes, will build in us the character, faith, submissiveness, patience, love, and a host of other things that are required to live a life of love as Christ commands us in the New Testament. When we seek Jesus first and follow His commands we are building with the right materials.

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20 NIV

For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. 1 Corinthians 3:11-13 NIV

wood-877368_12803 – Your “studs” need to be the right size. If I tried using a 1×4 within the walls of my home I would find them collapsing under the weight of the roof. If I used 1/4 inch plywood it would be even worse. If I cut my studs too short, I’d find myself having to duck my head when I entered my home. We would never do that, and would consider it shoddy work if a builder we hired did such a thing. However, we frequently build this way in spiritual matters. We take shortcuts and don’t measure up. We grasp onto one verse and use it as a proof-text for what we believe. We ignore the harder teachings of scripture because they are too challenging, they convict us too much, or because we haven’t read enough of His word to know better. We need to be students of the Word on a daily, methodical journey to learn all we can of God’s ways and the nature of the world through His Word. Anything short of observing the full counsel of the Word of God, is taking shortcuts and not measuring up in our building materials.

Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. Matthew 7:24 NIV

Those [seeds] on the rocky ground are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. Luke 8:13 NIV

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15 NIV

I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word. Psalm 119:15-16 NIV

4 – “Studs” need to be on at least 16 inch centers. We may be firmly grounded in scriptures about “honor your parents” or “thou shall not covet” or “for God so loved the world” or other basics we’ve been taught since childhood. These are not unimportant, but they are few and far between as far as strong support for our spiritual house goes. These represent lives built on 24 inch centers or worse. As we’ve grown physically older, have we matured spiritually too? Have we studied His Word deeply and participated in Bible studies and classes that have added deeper truths and more complex theology to our walls? Have we gotten to know the Father personally from His word rather than just religiously? Have we added teachings on spiritual gifts, grace, wisdom, and other matters to our lives? The deeper teachings of God’s word grow us stronger. With each new revelation from the Word of Truth we add more studs to our walls constructing stronger Godly houses with numerous 16 inch center studs.

Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good. 1 Peter 2:1-3 NIV

Though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. Hebrews 5:12-13 NIV

So as we evaluate our spiritual house, I must ask – If I run a spiritual stud-finder across you, will it beep or will you have to mash the test button? Will it be just one, or many studs, spaced closely, offering strong support, cut to the right dimensions, and made of appropriate materials?

architecture-building-construction-534220.jpg

 

7 Years and 1 Ziplock Bag of Sand

IMG_5498by guest blogger Kelly Archer

During our recent move, these glasses were one of the last things to be packed.

I had been planning on literally holding them in my hands while someone drove me to the new house so that no piece of sand would be displaced. These glasses are such an important symbol of our marriage and I did not want the sand to be spilled or altered in any way. As noted in scripture, “…what God has joined together, let no man separate.” (Matthew 19:6) My earthly eyes did not want to change the way the sand had fallen into the glass from our wedding ceremony, because I felt like it would alter our covenant. (I know, I know… it’s just sand.)

After putting Scarlett to bed one night before the move, I walked into the kitchen to find a ziplock bag of our sand and the three glasses, freshly washed, and crystal clear.

IMG_5497I stood there with tears in my eyes… to which Nick replied…

“I meant to have it back in the glass before you noticed.”

Part of me was so mad. The other part of me was laughing, because it is totally something Nick would do. Did the glasses need to be cleaned from dust and fingerprints? Yes. But I planned to do it my way and clean the top of the glasses, not literally pour the sand out!

Yes, I know, the easiest and safest way to pack would be the way Nick did, with the glasses wrapped in bubble wrap.

I share all of this to say, this is an earthly thing that will one day be gone. One day there will be a new heaven and a new Earth. I’m so thankful our marriage is based on the foundation of Jesus Christ, not on a glass of sand. I pray that God continues to bless our marriage and that together we continue to serve and advance His kingdom.

I’m not perfect, neither is Nick, and neither is our marriage. But, with daily prayer and continually placing the other first (which is not always easy), our marriage is rewarding in so many ways. I’m so thankful for a Godly man to lead me and our family! It’s been a wonderful 7 years full of ups and downs, and best of all becoming parents to not one, but two girls! I wouldn’t change a thing. I love you, Nick. Thank you for being the best, for working hard, for taking care of me and Scarlett, and for being the best trip planner and the best cook, among many other things!

Epilogue

Nick setup a repeat, very sweet, sand ceremony tonight, and the glasses have been put in their new place. ☺️

I can’t wait to see what God has planned for us for the next 50+ years. ❤️

Happy 7th Anniversary! #myprincecharming #7years

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Lessons From a Child

by guest author Laura Nixon

“The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” ‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭16:9‬ ‭

vintage-1892082_1280.pngSo my kiddo started a new ‘game’ lately. When I’m walking, he puts his head against my back and follows right behind me. My EVERY move. I go left, he goes left. I go right, he goes right. I go faster or slower, he goes faster or slower. He can’t see around me so he’s trusting my every move to be his next step. Sounds like loads of fun, right?! My thoughts too. Until I started realizing that this is exactly how God wants us to be with Him. Relentless faith. Following so closely and trusting His every move. Not looking at what’s around us, or what obstacles may come, or even the outcome, but following His every step. Having our eyes fixed on Him. Or in this case, our heads.

“Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” Galatians 5:25

When Jesus called each of the disciples, He went to them, right where they were, and said, “Follow me.” (John 1:43, Matthew 4:19, 9:9). He didn’t tell them where they were going. He wanted them to trust Him enough to lay down their lives and follow Him. Not one time did Jesus lay everything out for them, or tell them the plans for their future. He simply said, “Follow me.”

Jesus tells us this very same thing today. “Follow me.”

couple-follow-me-friendship-7707As much as we want to know our future or what’s next, Jesus doesn’t lay out a plan of our entire life for us and then tell us to decide if we want it or not. He simply says, “Follow me.” He wants us to let Him be our eyes and our shield as we take refuge in Him. He wants us to have relentless faith, trusting Him enough to lay down our lives to follow Him, keeping our eyes fixed on Him, taking one step of obedience at a time, and trusting Him with the outcome. Letting HIM direct our paths, as we follow every step He takes. He may not take us on the paths we thought, or even the roads we chose, but we can be sure of this, He will never leave us nor forsake us. And, He will ALWAYS work things out for the good of those who love Him and are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

So, we have a choice to make. Whether it’s starting a relationship with Him, making Him the Lord of your life. Or, whether it’s obeying  Him day by day, minute by minute. But our Father is saying to us, “Follow me.” Do we trust Him enough to do it?

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” ‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭3:5-6‬ ‭

“Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking?” And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come and you will see.” So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour.” ‭‭John‬ ‭1:38-39‬ ‭

“The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” ‭‭John‬ ‭1:43‬ ‭

“And he said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.’ Immediately they left their nets and followed him.” Matthew‬ ‭4:19-20‬ ‭

“As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him.” Matthew‬ ‭9:9‬ ‭

“It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” Deuteronomy‬ ‭31:8‬ ‭

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans‬ ‭8:28‬ ‭

Peace-Filled Postage

 

But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness. Turn to me and have mercy on me; show your strength in behalf of your servant; save me, because I serve you just as my mother did. Give me a sign of your goodness, that my enemies may see it and be put to shame, for you, Lord, have helped me and comforted me. Psalm 86:15-17

When we were younger my sister was a collector. At any given time she’d have a “collection” going. She collected all manner of things: trolls, cherubs, clowns. She collected sentimental things and not so much. Nowadays we’d call it hoarding. She was particularly good at collecting stamps. Ever so often we would have to make our way to the cramped stamp store on the top floor of the mall, Century Plaza to pick up a stamp or 10 to add to her collection.

I never really minded much because post stamp purchase we would make our way to Hickory Farms for a tasty sample of cheese and an inevitable beef stick purchase. If Mama was feeling real generous we would also be the recipients of a double doozy cookie and an impromptu trip to the Afterthoughts, a purveyor or fine 90s costume jewelry. It frequently featured a buy one get two free special affording Mama, Kel, and Me our own black plastic bag with a delightful accessory to call our own. I liked hoops, plain hoops. I still do. Kel liked big flashy earrings. She still does. All that to say I remember vividly those days. But the stamps, they never appealed to me, not really. To be frank they got on my nerves a bit.

batch-business-close-up-209641Recently Scott Martin began receiving a monthly parcel in the mail. The content of said parcel is most definitely of value but my favorite feature is the stamp on the top right of the envelope. I giggled when the first introduction to this monthly parcel yielded a batman stamp. From then on I’ve found myself looking forward to the choice of stamp atop his parcel. There have been, presidents, scenery, landmarks, and just for the eclipse last year, some eclipse ones, you can hold your thumb over the picture of the moon and it will eclipse. We kept that one and put it on the fridge.

A while back I found myself sans Martin children at a meeting we frequent. This meeting always has a “free table.” Much like their Aunt Kel, my Martins are “Collectors” so the free table affords them many a treasure. A pair of megaphone cheerleader socks, a book written in the 1960s that I am certain no one will read. A puzzle missing 3 crucial corner pieces. Any number of one man’s trash becomes a Martins’ treasure. Treasure laid out with an invitation of “Free” scribbled onto a piece of folded copy paper. We always leave with more than we came. So when I found myself at the meeting with no Martins I was certain I would leave empty-handed. That was, until I came across the stamp collection activity. There in yellowed envelopes were dozens of stamps begging to be catalogued and loved. I thought for certain my Maggie would love them. I couldn’t have been more wrong. She was not in the least interested.

close-up-colors-images-709237I had attempted to discard them several times since the meeting but I just couldn’t do it. They make me smile. I feel nostalgic when I see them. I wonder about the mail they’ve carried across the world. What those letters might’ve said, who might’ve written them. I’ve wondered about the hands that have purchased them and those that have removed them from their parcels. I’ve even wondered if the spit that licked them might be analyzed to reveal the licker was famous. Perhaps JFK licked that 1/2 cent Ben Franklin when he wrote to Jackie. Far-fetched and symptomatic of a way too overly active imagination I’m sure.

One restless night I organized an envelope of “210 U.S. Stamps” into colors. ROY G BIV to be exact. Just the act of quietly sitting and sorting brought a calm I hadn’t felt in a long while. I studied them and wondered and as I made the determination where each one belonged, I pondered its message.

There was one that struck me. I’m not much of a signs and wonder kind of gal, but I was in awe of that one. So many times as of late I’ve just not known what to do and I’ve resorted to looking for a sign. There printed on a 4 cent stamp from who knows when in history were the words “Pray for Peace. In God is our trust.” I don’t suppose He could have made it any plainer to me. The fact is I know Him, I just do not always whole-heartedly trust Him, and Peace has been known to allude me for far too long. I am thankful for the discarded collection of stamps and I am thankful that once again the King shows Himself faithful by using the discarded and seemingly unworthy to sooth my broken heart and to set me straight when I’ve been uncertain of the direction to take.

stamp

 

When Order Becomes Chaos

A new Year brings a clean slate with new beginnings in many areas of my life.

Every few years I get a new address book. This had to be the year. My old address book is coming apart, and several people have moved several times.

My creativity for adding new addresses to pages that already have addresses going in multiple directions, and on top of cracking white out, and with Post-it notes that have lost their stickiness, tells me that it is time to retire this address book for a new one. My plan was to actually have an address book that started out in alphabetical order.

I had scanned my address book at Christmas and added extra pages as work sheets for addresses that were in my phone and that my husband contributed, so I decided to make an Excel spread sheet. Great Idea. Since I have a new computer, I had to find Excel (but that is another story). I worked to make sure that all of my lists were included. This was sort of a yours, mine, and ours endeavor, but I felt like I was successful. I finally had all of the names in my list and I printed the spreadsheet.

diary-2080420_1280Now it was time to start the task of entering the names in my brand-new address book. As I completed the first page I realized that the names were not in alphabetical order. I looked back at my spreadsheet and realized that after all the work of getting all of the names in my computer list, I had forgotten to do that one last thing, to press the one button that would have placed all of the names in ABC order.

I had already messed up my address book but I thought I could fix the rest of the pages, just not the first page. Back to Excel I went and highlighted all of the names and pressed that one magic button that made all the names go in alphabetical order. I printed off the names so that they would be ready to be a guide for the order of my task.

After I completed all of the A names, I tried to flip over to the B tab. Little did I realize that my address book had been moved when I was about to begin my task, and all of my A names had been written on the P page. First of all, I am thankful that a friend introduced me to FriXion pens last year in bible study. They help to erase the mistakes I make when trying to write quickly when taking notes. I just decided to erase everything I had done in my address book and start over.

I know when I get to the P page, I will find remnants of the addresses of the people on the letter A pages but that is just the way it will have to be. My names will only be in order until I need to add someone else anyway. I am not going to try to be perfect. I am going to understand that just because it is a new address book, I do not have to have all of my “ducks in a row.” If I had done something wrong, God would forgive me if I asked Him to so why not forgive myself for something as petty as this? I am much too hard on myself. God sent Jesus to forgive me of my sins before I ever did anything wrong. He knew I would never measure up to the standard of perfection.

My address book is really pretty with its flowers on the outside and its beautiful tabs all lined up in a row, but once I spill a glass of tea or Diet Coke on it, the pages will not be so beautiful. It will not matter that the people on page P were once the people who are now on page A. They are just as important to me and will be loved just as much as if they were written there at the beginning.

I plan to spend this year trying to remember that it is important to do my best even if my best is not perfect. God made me and He loves me for who I am. I intend to enjoy this year even when order becomes chaos.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10 ESV 

Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? 1 Corinthians 3:16 ESV 

The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: “Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.” So, I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do. Then the word of the Lord came to me: “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the Lord. Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel. Jeremiah 16:1-6 ESV 

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.

 

Reflections of a Heart in a Handbag

We were seated in a circle, our bottoms in seats made of gray plastic and shiny chrome metal. There were ones with arms and ones without. I prefer the withouts; they have a bar across the bottom where I can rest my feet and turn my lap into a desk. I do not need the arms, they make me feel confined. We gather weekly to discuss the King and study His Word. We are intimately acquainted with one another. When you pray regularly with the same people, your heart gets knitted with theirs. Nothing bonds one soul to another like prayer.

She was seated diagonal and across from me; if I were seated at 12 o’clock in that chair circle, she would have been at 4 o’clock. She tends to like the arm chairs. She is older, has a beautiful smile, and always greets others with a kind word.

That particular morning we were discussing Myanmar. A country I was only vaguely familiar with. The Map Lover of our group was holding her hands in the air drawing imaginary places with her hands,

“If India is here, then Burma, Myanmar is here.” Many nodded their heads in recognition. I shook mine. Geography never has been my strength. I am more of a craft-kind-of gal. The Map Lover tried again to explain; clearly she saw a puzzled look on my face.

The 4 o’clock-no-arm-chair occupant placed her handbag in her lap. I thought she would pull out a crumpled tissue or maybe a mint. As I said, she is older and I doubted heavily chocolate-bar-1636220_1280there were any novelties of adventure in that bag. If it’d’ve been my purse she were holding, she could have reached in and pulled out a pen, a pencil, a permanent marker, a half eaten candy bar, a lint covered mint that lost its packaging, who knows when.

If she were holding my purse she could have pulled out a ziplock bag of change designated for drink and snack vending machines, a plethora of long ago expired coupons, a receipt or two that were at least half my height from that store that must pride itself on giving long receipts with lots of words and savings after the total.

If it were my purse, she could have pulled out a wallet so unorganized and bulging with random things that it garnishes comments every time I actually pull it out to pay, I rarely do that because it takes nearly 5 minutes to cram it back into my purse and something always falls onto the floor when I do so.

If she were digging around in my handbag, and not her own she could have pulled out a few pieces of makeup, a spoon fork thing (a spork), and 3 stray dollar bills.

She wasn’t holding my purse though, she was holding hers, and she carefully unfolded a piece of paper and said, “Here, I have a map of India.”

adult-book-business-297755She pointed and then moved her hand to the right and said “Here is Myanmar.” She passed it to the left and it made its way around the circle. When it got to 12 o’clock, my seat, I held it gingerly in my hands, the crease marks indicative of numerous unfoldings and refoldings. I rubbed my hands over the paper, made soft by time and use. I marveled at the names of the countries, some familiar, some not, and I knew in that moment why she had that map. How she was able to pull it from her handbag as naturally as if it were a tissue or other items found in the depths of a woman’s accessory for necessities.

She is a prayer warrior, (those exact words were used to describe her just yesterday by the Map Lover). She has that map because she prays for those people who live in those far away places. People she has never seen and likely will not ever visit.

She is visual and I have no doubt as she is praying she places her hand over those places as she petitions the King on their behalf. She is a Promise Keeper and when she promises she will pray she does.

I ain’t even gonna lie… I had realization in that moment as I passed the paper to my left so it could make its way back to its owner, who just as carefully as she had opened it, closed it and put it back in her handbag. I pondered the contents of the heart reflected in my purse and the contents of hers, also reflected in her handbag. As the conversation moved on and the subject changed, I held back, pondering on the people I do not see or know personally and how the King has declared we are to go to all nations.

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

Not all can go, but all can pray and I was challenged to do that very thing. To pray for people I may not ever meet in places that I do not know. But knowing that matters not, for the King knows them and He loves them too.

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Pray without ceasing. 1 Thessalonians 5:17

 

Construction Zone: The Foundation

As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in Scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” 1 Peter 2:4-6

As we continue our series “Construction Zone,” we can’t move forward without taking a look at our foundation. Everyone who’s ever built a house or even seen one built is aware of the great time and measuring and care that goes into laying the foundation. It is no different with our spiritual house than it is with physical structures; we must carefully lay our foundation to have a strong house. As 1 Peter 2 reminds us, we are living stones being built up into a spiritual house, and Ephesians 2:20 tells us that Jesus Christ himself is the chief cornerstone.

You’re most likely familiar with the term “cornerstone.” Before the advent of poured cement, the cornerstone was that perfectly strong, perfectly hewn, and perfectly positioned boulder that was laid in the dug out earth to give strength and accuracy to the new structure being built. Jesus is that for us. He is our cornerstone in building our spiritual house that makes it a strong and well-built home.

As we construct our spiritual lives, we have to ask ourself first, “Am I built on the best cornerstone?” Some of us have built our lives on lesser cornerstones of family or a certain person or religion or even the unstable mud of money and possessions. Early on those things may have seemed to us as a teenager or young adult as The Thing that architecture-building-grass-280235would make our life perfect. And newly built structures all look equally perfect at the moment. Only after years of living on a faulty foundation do we find our lives looking like the leaning tower of Pisa or crumbling in shambles and having to be torn down and painfully started all over from scratch so to speak. An examination today of what your life is built upon will save you pain and confusion in the future. It’s better to find the termites early, by accident, than years later when the destruction is irreparable.

If we answered that above question with a firm, “Yes. My life is built on the Chief Cornerstone,” then the next question is, “How are you continuing to build?”

Jesus tells us a story about a couple of builders in Matthew chapter 7. You’ve probably all heard it and maybe even sung a little song about it as a kid, but have you thought about the application of it to your life? Here’s the story:

“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” Matthew 7:24-27

Ladies, even if we acknowledge Jesus Christ as the Chief Cornerstone in our lives, we still have work to do. There is more to be built. The first choice is our choice of the foundation onto which we allow this cornerstone to rest. Is your Chief Cornerstone brick-215779_1280surrounded by the strong rock of hearing and obeying God’s Word or by the shifting sand of disobedience and lack of commitment to His Word? The rock of a heart that is committed to obey will choose to obey in the toughest storms and darkest hours of life. But the wishy-washy heart of those who hear God’s word and do not do them will lead to an unstable foundation that will shift and wash away when storms arise and times get tough, thus leaving an unstable home and life.

We tell our children, “Choices have consequences.” They do. Even for us as adults. Spend some time with your Father this morning and allow your “foundation specialist” to diagnose what is going on out of sight just below your floor. It may be time for some needed repairs before your structure crashes down around you. Build your foundation wisely!

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Familiar Sounds

 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. John 10:27

I sat reading in the favorite 2nd Chance Store the Martins like to visit. It was a noisy place but I could make out the all too familiar albeit faint sound of Lego bricks, thousands of them being separated by small fingers. Thousands maybe millions of small building bricks being sorted. A giant plastic container of them being sorted like sand by tiny hands. Roving eyes looking for just the perfect half inch piece. It was a sound I learned to discern over time thanks to a Lego Lover of my own. From the time those building blocks were no longer considered a serious choking hazard prohibited by yours truly, my Boy has been playing with them.

I learned to store them in a plastic container years ago because lying scattered on the floor just was not an option. It would only take one time stepping barefoot on one of lego-708087_1280.jpgthose curse-word-inducing-devil-bricks in the middle of the night to compel one to purchase said plastic bins for storage. My Boy has likely spent the equivalent of years sorting said Lego Bricks in the very same manner. Plastic on plastic falling like gold doubloons through the hands of a searching and creative child.

Perhaps it was those hours of listening to the background music of childhood play that had attuned my ears to that sound. Immediately I was able to identify that noise as some unknown-to-me child repeated that same behavior in the giant 2nd Chance store. Despite the other noise of the some 23,000 square foot emporium I could pick out the sound and correctly identify it. I tend to tune things out, I had already tuned out chatter and post Christmas excitement, a PA system requesting specific shoppers to come to a specific location, and overhead classic rock, the kind spun on the retro vinyls like the store sells.

I was reading a good book and found myself in the presence of the Reformation. I had been transported back some 500 years and nothing had yet been successful in bringing me back to current day. That was until the sound of play made its way to my hearing. The voice of Jesus is much the same. John 10 talks of a Good Shepherd whose sheep are so familiar with His voice that they can recognize it and immediately discern it from other voices they hear.

That rainy night in the 2nd Chance Store was like that for me. I knew the sound of filtered plastic building blocks so well that when I heard it in the background, half a football field away, I could discern that noise despite the crowd’s chatter and rock and roll songs playing. I could discern that sound in the midst of chaos. I could pick that sound out because I knew it too well. I had spent years acclimating my ears to it. So much so, that I could hear it best.

When we know Jesus, The Good Shepherd’s voice, we can pick it out when we are being bombarded with the sounds of this world, the voices from all directions, all telling us something conflicting. When we know how He speaks, we can discern that above all else. We don’t learn that voice from an occasional conversation, we learn it from daily communication. I’ve got to be honest, I don’t always spend time getting to know His voice, listening to Him. I spend a lot of time talking but not near enough time listening. May I strive to become so familiar with His voice that I can pick it out of a proverbial 23,000 square foot 2nd Chance Store with the discerning accuracy of those plastic blocks on that rainy night.

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