Construction Zone: Electrical Outlets

As long as I can remember I have been told to unplug a plug from an electrical outlet by holding on to the plug and gently pulling the plug from the outlet. That being said, my life doesn’t work that way. The only plugs that are gently unplugged are the ones that are in easy reach.

IMG_7344As I was packing my laptop computer recently, I wondered if I would need an electrical strip to give me extra distance for plugging my computer in. I forgot that we recently purchased a different type of electrical strip that the cord came from the side of the plug in the electrical socket instead of the top of the plug. I say that so that you will understand that when I pulled the electrical strip’s cord, it did not come out easily. I pulled with a little more strength and the plug came free along with the broken plate and broken socket. My husband was out of town, so when I called him early in the morning, his first response was not “Hello” it was “What’s wrong.” I told him what I had done and that I was afraid I was going to burn the house down. He assured me that everything would be ok and he could make repairs when he returned home.

Why is it that we do not heed the warning until it is too late? And then when we see the result of our action, we want someone to fix it so we do not reap the difficulty of our action. As a child I was told to come straight home from school (I lived in walking distance), don’t talk to strangers, and don’t get in a car with anyone I did not know. These warnings were to keep me safe from harm. My Mother wanted to be sure that I would be safe when I was alone or with friends.

sign-304093_1280.pngWhat warnings do we receive today? Don’t text and drive! Drive Safely! Observe Caution lights at railroad crossings. Do unto others….

God gives us warnings too. In James 1:19 He tells us to watch our tongue. “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” In James 4:7 he warns us to “resist the devil” so that he will “flee from you.” We should heed the warning to confess our sins regularly. I John 1:9 ESV tells us that “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” God also warns us to “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.” Ephesians 4:31

God gives us a warning to forgive others. “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone.” (Colossians 3:13) “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” (Matthew 6:14)

Our God is so good. He will forgive us when we do not heed his warning, but we may still have to suffer the consequence. How much easier life would be if we kept close to his word and did things right the first time.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9

 

Dirt Digger

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” So God create mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. Genesis 1:26-27

 

In my kitchen, I have a sign that says, “Sometimes when I open my mouth my mother comes out.” It probably wouldn’t be so funny if it weren’t so true. The older I get, the more I find I sound like her. The older she gets the more she looks like her own mother.

“Mama guess what happened today while we were at Grandmother’s!”

My brain began to imagine all manner of scenarios and possibilities, an infinite number swirled through my head. Last time I had heard that statement they’d found a rodent skull and brought it to me for my approval. Like Carter and Carnarvon uncovering King Tut’s tomb, their exciting archaeological find was destined to change the world. At least that’s how they’d acted. So, when asked, all I could honestly say was, “I have no earthly idea. What?” Maggie, unable to contain her excitement and wait until I’d finished taking dinner from the oven spilled out a sentence that forced me to give a puzzled glance toward Mama. As I slipped off my oven mitts and carried on with the tasks of dinner prep, I learned that apparently not only did Mama’s small-town Alabama have a garden club, and in a somewhat stalkerish-like manner they combed the streets looking for yards to win their beautification award, but also, I was standing in the presence of their latest winner.

granny-1280445_1280“It’s really informal,” Mama said.

I giggled and Maggie proceeded to give, in detail, an account of how they’d been going about the day when the doorbell rang, and Mama had been presented with the award. I’m still a bit foggy on some parts of the ordeal, but it is perfectly clear to me why she won.

She loves the dirt. She likes to be outside. On any given occasion she can be found, sans shoes, clothed in overalls meandering about her yard with any number of garden implements. Her summer zinnias are breathtakingly beautiful. She will be the first to say being in the outside air is healing. I used to not believe or understand such a phenomenon until she proved me wrong.

Once I had the bad pneumonia. The can’t-shake-it-despite-big-meds-and-a-week-in-bed pneumonia. My kids were little and if it weren’t for an army of help I’m not sure they’d’ve survived my infirmity. I was ordered home to convalesce. It was January and it was cold out. Every day I talked to Mama and every day she’d said for me to go outside and get some fresh air. Every day I said ok and when we’d hang up I would roll over and go back to sleep. That was until she grew tired of my apathy and said: “Give the phone to Scott.” As I rolled over I heard him say, “Yes ma’am” and “ok bye” followed by dragging sounds indicative of moving stuff, opening and closing doors, dings of a microwave, and before I could say a word of protest he was dragging my pajama-clad self out to the front yard. He wrapped me in a quilt, shoved some warm hot toddy beverage in my hands and balcony-life-person-103127explained that I was to stay there “Cause your Mom said so.” By the end of the day, I’d taken a turn. I was finally on the road to recovery and the end of sickness could be seen. All because by proxy of my Husband I had obeyed her.

Now when I am sick, she doesn’t even have to ask, she knows I make my way to the outside to absorb and take in the healing of the sunshine and air. She’s often right, in fact, I’ve not really ever known her to be wrong that much. She’d beg to differ though because that’s just how she is. She is humble and kind, caring and loves unconditionally. She is easy to talk to and has an amazing sense of humor. She is artistic and talented, but again she’d beg to differ because she’s just like that. I have never known another quite like her and I hope and pray that there will come a time I am given the compliment that I act like my Mama.

I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death. Philippians 3:10

Surviving the Doldrums

Finding genuine contentment in the waiting place.

“Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.” Psalm 51:12

When my kids were young my favorite family read-aloud book was a story about a discontented fisherman’s son. All he wanted was to get in his boat, catch a breeze, and sail as far away as he could. But every time he set out he got caught in the doldrums. He was neither moving forward or backward, he was just stagnant. Stuck.

I loved the book so much because I can completely relate to that feeling of stuck-ness. I often picture myself sitting in the middle of the ocean on my pieced-together, Huck Finn raft with my little tree limb mast and mainsail made of old bed sheet staring at the sky, waiting for the wind to move me along to my next destination. But the wind doesn’t come. And my discouragement grows as hot as the sun beating down on my face. There’s not a thing I can do to make the wind pick up and blow me ashore. I just have to wait. And waiting is hard.

At our house, we often call the doldrums the “in-betweens.” Those times in life you find yourself between where you’re leaving and where you’re going. That may be a major transition, say, moving off to college, or it may be something smaller, like a season of stillness between ending a season of active ministry and beginning another. Typically, before the doldrums, there’s a season of mountaintops and valleys when the Lord is showing Himself powerfully. You are awash with His goodness, feel His presence almost tangibly, and hear His voice loudly. But during those in-between times, those waiting times, those doldrums, especially if the waiting lasts for a long season, you find the voice of God grows muffled, and His presence is faint.

51bcvjaaq1l._sx373_bo1204203200_.jpgIn one of the lesser-known Chronicles of Narnia, The Silver Chair, Jill and Eustace arrive in Narnia and meet Aslan on a mountaintop. There Aslan gives them four specific instructions about finding the lost Prince Rilian. He then blows the two down into Narnia below, but gives them this warning, “Here on the mountain I have spoken to you clearly; I will not often do so in Narnia. Here on the mountain, the air is clear and your mind is clear; as you drop down into Narnia, the air will thicken. Take great care it does not confuse your mind. And the signs you have learned here will not look at all as you expect them to look when you meet them there. That is why is so important to know them by heart and pay no attention to appearances. Remember the signs and believe the signs. Nothing else matters.”

Aslan knew Jill and Eustace would face the doldrums, a stuck place, and they would need help to find their way back to the truth. In the waiting place, your mind can trick you into believing lies, about yourself and about your Father.

This season I’ve found myself in the deep throes of a nasty, despairing doldrum. I’ve found myself shouting my questions and frustrations to the stillness, “Who am I, Lord?” “Are you there Lord?” “Will you meet with me?” “I can’t do this.” “You can’t use me.” “I am inept and inadequate.” And I wait for His familiar whisper, and it doesn’t come. My heart aches and then I begin to recount what He’s told me so often on the mountain and in the valley. And I begin to take those steps that take me back to what I know:

Step 1: Examine My Heart. (2 Corinthians 13:5; Psalm 139:23-24) I ask the Lord to help me take a good, deep, honest look at my heart and mind. There may be a sinful habit or stinky attitude or some pervasive disobedience I need to bring under the authority of Christ. Repentance always brings restoration.

Step 2: Take the Next Step. (Psalm 37:34) When I am waiting on the Lord, I need to be sure I am seeking to keep His ways. Even, and most especially, if I don’t “feel” like reading my Bible. I read it. When I don’t “feel” like praying, I have to be honest and tell God how I’m feeling. When I don’t “feel” like meeting with that person or doing that Bible study. I do it. One step of obedience at a time. And that obedience is more times than not a serious struggle.

Step 3: Stand Firm on the Truth. (Ephesians 6:13-18) Here’s where faith becomes sight. In the doldrums I may not hear God’s voice clearly; I may not sense His presence, but I don’t have to have those things when I have the Word. I read it. I memorize it. I say it to myself over and over and over again. I can trust his instructions—even when the way is stagnant and foggy. Just as Aslan said, the way those instructions are walked out may not look like I expect (rarely do things turn out like we expect), but I can trust the Author is true to His Word.

Doing these steps while in the doldrums is tough. In the doldrums, apathy tends to want to invade your heart like Southern kudzu. You’ll have to fight to cut back those desires and inclinations of the flesh and find your way back to the truth. As Psalm 27:14 tells us waiting is not inactivity—even in the doldrums, your Abba is working on your behalf. To wait well in the doldrums takes supernatural strength and courage. And God is faithful. You keep seeking Him and one day you’ll find this powerful fresh wind of the Spirit comes and instead of your makeshift raft getting capsized, you’ll find the King has helped you build a sturdy vessel that can withstand the waiting.

“Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!” Psalm 27:14

sunset-298850_1280

In-Dependence Day

This 4th of July you’ll probably go to the lake or cook out, ski or swim or sit out in the lawn chairs and celebrate wholeheartedly the birthday of our nation. We Americans will enjoy patriotic music, watermelon, and fireworks as we think of the independence we have because of the fight for freedom back in 1776.

As children of God let us also celebrate our dependence.

Dependence on a loving Creator who provides not only our basic needs, but many things for us to cherish and enjoy.

Dependence on Jesus as our Savior and Rescuer. The knight in white armor riding to our rescue.

Dependence on Him for our future, not only our eternal home in heaven, but for our daily struggles tomorrow and the next day and the next…

Dependance on the Holy Spirit as our Comforter and Teacher.

This word, dependence, is not a word we like. From a very young age we each chomp at the bit for independence. Freedom. But as we grow in Christ we learn that true freedom comes only through submitting our lives to Christ. In God’s world of paradoxes, the first is last, the servant is the greatest, the impossible is possible, and freedom comes in daily choosing death to our self-will. So today as you say a blessing over your barbecue and potato salad, whisper a prayer to your Father and offer up that independent spirit as a sacrifice, and begin to live “in dependence” on Your Abba.

barbecue-bbq-beef-604655.jpg

 

Leaves

5 Timely Tips for a Successful Time with the Lord

I love the colors of summer. Beautiful green leaves swaying in the breeze high in the trees is such an amazing sight. I love watching the green leaves change from the soft, tiny, yellow-green colors of Spring into the dark green colors of Summer.

Along with the beauty of these wonderful leaves on these tall, stately trees comes my problem. My satellite receiver for my television system is in the only spot it could be placed at my home. Between the satellite that is sending the signal from high above the earth to my personal satellite receiver are these beautiful leaves of summer. My television reception gets bad once the leaves start coming out in spring. Once the leaves satellite-dish-870328_1280are fully formed, my tv reception goes from bad to worse. There are some work arounds but for most television stations, I have very little or no reception. It is not easy to get the tree limbs out of the way. My trees are so tall and stately. There is no easy way to trim back the tops of these trees to get the tv signal through to my home receiver. Oh my! Such a major problem for just a few tv shows. Before you tell me to use cable, I live beyond cable. We are checking into other options but still have satellite tv at this point.

Is there anything that gets in the way of your relationship with the Lord? Just as the leaves get in the way of my satellite system, things can get in the way of our relationship with our Lord. Does your mind ever wander during your quiet time? Do the prayers that you are sending up ever get pixilated like a distorted tv signal?

How can you keep your relationship with the Lord strong like a perfect satellite signal?

1. Get rid of the distractions. Set aside a special time to be alone with the Lord. Protect that time. Make this a part of your daily routine.

2. Set aside a special place to have your quiet time. A special place is important so that    everything you need will be waiting for you.

3. Have a plan for your bible study. Knowing what you are going to study saves time from not having to figure out what you are going to read.

4. Have commentaries or study guides available to help you as you read the scriptures. I find that if I use my phone to do this, I often get distracted and do not make good use of my time. If I need to use my phone for a reference, I try to shut out anything else that is open on my phone.

5. Have a prayer list. When you tell someone you will pray for them, do you really pray? A list keeps these people prominent in your thoughts.

As you spend time with the Lord, remember to keep the signal uninterrupted with nothing in its way. Ask the Lord to help with this so that your time with the Lord is used to its fullest.

Mark 1:35 tells us “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.”

Luke 6:12 says “One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God.”

Luke 5:16 says “But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray.”

forest-3409907_1280

Don’t let anything get in the way!

 

A Time to Dance

I was a bit early to the one of many annual dance recitals that take place every Spring. It was hot. According to the car thermometer, the Alabama summer was already making itself known despite it still officially being Spring. Humidity and heat – the makings of longings for a pool and fully functioning air conditioning. I was “hot as the Devil’s Armpit.” Sweat dripping down my back and the thought of a heavy meal nauseating. I enjoy people-watching (I tend to be a bit voyeuristic in nature), so despite my sweaty back and underlying nausea, I took the opportunity to people-watch.

dancer-682443_1280I find it ironic to be such a clumsy non-dancer type I’ve spent many an hour at a dance recital. Little frames with tutus that bounce with every energetic step. Slicked back updos (my particular participant and her cohorts were sporting a “side bun” held firmly in place by enough hairspray to open the ozone layer. Little lashes highlighted with initial introductions to mascara. Shiny lip gloss. And so many sequins the airport landing lights pale in comparison.

I giggled as I watched the same scene play out over and over. Mamas herding those energetic bouncing tu-tus to and fro, gripping bag upon bag filled with I don’t even know what, emergency hairspray and sequin adhesive I suppose.

Daddies dressed in their Sunday best counting the minutes to shed their tie and unbutton their collars. Siblings long ago lost in an electronic device, video games preferred over recital. Perhaps there is a video channel dedicated to just such a thing, perhaps not.

Grandparents and great grandparents braving the heat to cheer on a beloved grand baby, declaring they “Wouldn’t have missed it for the world.”

shawn-ang-513551-unsplash.jpgBouquets of flowers purchased to gift the performers, destined to wilt a little in the sun, all except for those few prepared recital veterans who had brought a preparatory styrofoam cup with water. I mused at how despite their obvious differences and backgrounds, for this moment in time on this particular day, they were all the same, sharing the common denominator of coming to see the cutest and best dancer there, their own. As I watched then file past me I was reminded that this season with its updos, tutus, sequins, and fun, this season is a familiar one, a season of dance.

The King’s Book says there is a season for everything a time to mourn and a time to dance. Perhaps that is why those days, those recital days are so meaningful, because it has been declared by the Lord Himself that there is a time to dance.

dance-1609233_1280

And a time to rest!

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:

    a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
  a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
    a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
   a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace. Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

Practical Peacemaking

A Hoscotch Approach: 10 Hops in the Right Direction

Our most recent “Construction Zone” article touched on peacemaking. We asked you to coment your practical tips that would help us all in this area. Today we continue with a few practical tips of our own. Feel free to add other tips in the comments at the end of this article. We said that peacemaking started with loving God and loving others. Today will focus on that latter phrase: loving others. In particular, loving others in the midst of conflict.

1. Listen. Really listen. When you find yourself in a difficult discussion, allow the other person to fully express their concerns and fears. Listen to understand. Too often we listen just waiting our turn at replying and therefore we never truly hear what is being action-adult-advice-1120344said. In fact, we may be planning our next volley of words in our own minds and therefore we literally do not hear a word the other person says; we only hear our own inner thoughts. Listening is our God-given way of taking in the facts. Use this gift.

2. Try to understand the reason they are upset. Often the reason they say they are upset is not the true reason. Are they operating out of fear? Guilt? Anger? Hurt?  Revenge? Jealousy? Insecurity? Ask questions to try to get to the root cause. Once again, listen carefully. Be discerning and trust your intuition. Notice what escalates their strong responses, this will lead you to the real issue; it shows you’ve hit a nerve with them.

3. Examine the anger being thrown at you. If they present with anger, you can usually be assured that there is more to it than that. Anger is generally a secondary emotion displayed instead of a primary emotion that is harder to deal with, such as hurt, fear, sadness, etc. Anger feels powerful, while hurt and other emotions a person has can make them feel vulnerable and in a weak postion. Anger can also ignite within a person the fight or flight response, a physiological response to what they feel is threatening them. Thus, they may lash out at you and attack you verbally or physically (fight) or hang up on you or run away from the challenge of dealing with the conflict (flight). Another form of attack is a more passive-aggressive approach where they do something covertly that is detrimental to you. These things will never bring resolution to a situation. They stall bringing true resolution and healing to a difficult situation.

4. Choose not to allow others to incite you to anger. You are in control of your feelings. Exercise self-control. Many things a person in conflict with you may say or do will feel like bombs being lobbed your way. Whether their behaviors are aggressive or their words are hurtful, cruel, or alarming, choose to remain calm: take deep breaths, follow scriptural principles, realize your fight is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, powers, and spiritual forces of evil.

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Ephesians 6:12 KJV

5. Try to diffuse a voltile situation. This will include things like:

  • Speak calmly and gently.
  • Talk with them in person if possible.
  • If you’re talking in person, maintain a non-threatening, open body language.
  • Rephrase and reflect their words back to them to make sure you understand correctly.
  • Even if you don’t agree with their point of conflict, try to understand why it is important to them.
  • Express your understanding and willingness to come to reconciliation.
  • Don’t belittle or speak down to others.

woman-1708105_12806. Ask for God’s wisdom to understand the meaning and what is often left unsaid behind their spoken words. Pray, pray, pray. As you find yourself in this type of situation begin immediately to pray asking for wisdom, for eyes to see, ears to hear, a heart to understand and a will to obey. Ask God to give you clarity and understanding.

7. Allow God’s love to flow through you to the person opposing you. Human love is imperfect even with our best efforts. God’s love is perfect. Through prayer and putting our own self-will aside we can allow His love to flow through us. Through His love we can love people who would otherwise trigger us to hate them.

8. Keep the lines of communication open even if you are rejected. If you are hung up on or abandoned in the discussion, pray for and seek ways to continue reconcilation: a gentle non-threatening appeal, a call or kind gesture, enlisting the help of a pastor or spiritual mentor. (Note: Texts and emails are too easily misunderstood. Tone and individual differences in word meanings often make these written approaches more harmful than helpful.) 

9. Go the extra mile. Do everything within your power to bring peace and resolution to the situation. Operate in the fruit of the Spirit with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.   Romans 12:18

10. Don’t post anything on social media. Period. (We shouldn’t even have to say that.)

What are your thoughts and tips?

Nathaniel Mckenzie

Construction Zone: Thermometer or Thermostat?

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’This is the first and greatest commandment.And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ ” Matthew 22:37

When building a home in the sunny South, a great Central HVAC unit is ultra important. Folks in our state sometimes die from heatstroke in the summer or from exposure to the extreme cold in winter. So air conditioning and heating are more than a luxury and are just short of being a necessity.

Years ago I heard the analogy that people are either like thermostats or thermometers. Thermometers simply measure temperature. They are gauges that display what the current temperature is. They do not affect the temperature or change it. Thermostats on the other hand are change agents. They are the devices that regulate the temperature within your home, office, school, or car. They cause your heat or air conditioning unit to come on when the house is too hot or too cold. As an Alabama girl, I must note that thermomstats are my favorite modern convenience on a humid, 97 degree summer day.

So if people are either thermometers or thermostats, which are you?

We have probably acted as both at some point in our lives. I tend to get stuck being the thermometer and telling everyone “its too hot in here” without doing anything about it. Our society has enough thermometers at the moment. We need some thermostats who will activate and bring change for the better.

***************

Think with me for a moment.

In our day we find the world to be polarized. It is as if people around us are just waiting for us to speak one wrong word or turn a phrase in the wrong way so that they may react and unleash some of their inner turmoil and anger. Sometimes, we are the ones waiting to jump on the person next to us. At other times we are blind-sided by venom spewed our way over an innocent comment. Our social media postings become 4th of July fireworks shows within seconds, and I’m sure many of you, like me, have found yourself deleting a post because it ignited such fireworks. Even typing this blog I find myself second-guessing and praying that my words are taken well.

As Children of God we are called to be peacemakers. Romans 12:18 instructs us

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 

And John 13:35 reminds us of how the world will recognize us as God’s people.

By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.

In fact, to even be called Children of God we must be peacemakers.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Matthew 5:9 NIV.

And our peacemaking will not be useless, although I imagine it will feel that way at times. But we don’t trust our feelings. We obey scriptural mandates and leave the rest to our Abba. In His word He tells us

Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness. James 3:18

So how can we live in this world as peacemakers? How is this practically accomplished in everyday life? As we build our spiritual houses, how can we express our beliefs, stand firm for what is right, and be agents of change in the world while at the same time being peacemakers instead of firecrackers?

It boils down to a simple New Testament mandate of Jesus:

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ ” Matthew 22:37

The 2 greatest comandments, which sum up all of the Old Testament commandments:

  1. Love God.
  2. Love Others.

Simple. Yet not easy.

How do we love God?

We love because He first loved us. (1 John 4:19) Just as a tiny baby learns to love as they grow and develop under the loving care of their parents, we learn to love from Our Father. We spend time with Him absorbing His character. We dig into his word every day to learn how to love well by 1) obeying His written commands, 2) examining the scriptural example of how Jesus lived on this earth, and 3) letting the Word of Christ dwell in us richly and teach us God’s love. (Colossians 3:16, Ephesians 3:16-19) God IS love. The more we allow Him to permeate our hearts and teach and strengthen and grow us, the more we will learn of love: love for God and love for others.

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister. 1 John 4:16-21 NIV

How do we love others?

We get to know those different from us. We engage in open discussion, actively listening to try to understand, not just waiting to respond from our point of view. We stamp out that fear within our hearts of the new and the unknown – because perfect love casts out fear. (1 John 4:18) We allow the compassion of Christ to permeate our hearts so that we overflow with love, grace, mercy and truth spoken kindly to ALL those we encounter. We give up the “us and them” mentality and view every man, woman and child as an image-bearer of Christ, no matter where they come from, what they look like, what political affiliation they hold dear, or whether they are like us or not. In short, we

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. Phiippians 2:3-4 NIV

This is a high calling. It is much more easily said than lived out. It takes forbearance, patience, and restraint of our tongue (or fingers on the keyboard!). It will take the power of Christ to calm our self-centered hearts and strengthen us to live this way daily. But we CAN do it. Are we going to be satisifed being only a thermometer who spits out info on the temperature of the world around us, or will we allow Our Creator to make us into thermostats that bring His cool, refreshing winds of mercy, peace, love, grace, and truth to the scorching heat of the society in which we live?

Let us learn from each other. If you would, respond in the comments and share practical ways you are building your spiritual house, ways you live out the mandate to “Love God and Love Others” in your daily life.

Love God, Love Others!.png

 

Rocks of Ages

Once I was cleaning out my tired ol’ minivan and I came across a common sight. Amongst the half eaten, hardened french fries, empty water bottles, numerous scraps of paper, and other various evidences of a Martin Family occupancy, I found a pile of rocks. They lay gingerly between seat belt buckles, having been collected just a while before. To the naked and untrained eye those rocks seemed ordinary, as ordinary as any other rocks but I knew these were not just any ol’ rocks, but for reasons I can not fully articulate these rocks were special.

The bunch that made the trip home and now lay anticipating a final resting place in kitchen window were fewer than were initially collected, but I had to limit the number lest I risk an additional 20 pounds of cargo riding around in my van. They had been collected on a typical “Martin Adventure Day.” We have those days often enough – it may be a quick trip to the fascinating recycle plant with the metal-oddity graveyard on its walls. Or it could be a trip to the local creek whereupon we talk about the vermilion darter that could be credited for saving a favorite place to swim and play. That miniscule fished saved a creek jam packed with memories and adventures of my own childhood. I tell the Martins those stories so as not to lose them to time and the break-neck speed of this life. In my mind when I am transported back, I remember the tales of family lore, a most vivid childhood memory standing on a muscadine covered walking bridge, cramming the delicious fruit into my mouth while my Mama was nearby sitting and visiting with our church friends. Ms. Christine’s house may not have actually been yellow but in my memory it was and I can still feel the juice running down my chin and the rushing water below my bare feet. That memory is one of my sweetest and most treasured, and when I am sitting on the banks of that creek I am reminded of it.

beach-15712_1280-e1560444522639.jpgI am unsure the origin of those particular rocks, but if I had to guess I would say there is a high likelihood they were collected as I traveled back to that happy place in my memory. To tell the truth, I’d forgotten they were even in my van, usually they make there way to the windowsill of the kitchen quickly, perhaps those particular rocks were abandoned at my urging that all van occupants carry their own “stuff inside.” So it wasn’t until some time later when I needed the “WayBack” seat to be flat that I found them and brought them back to my remembrance.

Rocks have been a staple in my home, going on 17 years now. They’ve served as numerous presents and gifts. They’ve served as tools and toys. Each has been carefully chosen and picked up. Some are placed in a pocket or in a purse. Others are carried in a fist. Some rocks are shaped like hearts. Some are smooth and some rough. Some are unique in color but are carefully chosen and found to be worthy of making its way to our home.

The rocks are an ever present reminder The King; He likens Himself to a Rock. He names Peter, Cephus – the Rock. He has declared that the rocks will cry out to Him is if we fail to do so.

I recognize soon there is coming a day when the rocks will cease to be gifts for me, when my kiddos will lose the wonder of choosing those gifts. In the years of late I’ve begun to see a steady decline in their collection and presentation and it saddens me. I’m reminded how quickly time flies.

I will admit that when these treasures appeared in my backseat I was overjoyed and delighted to find them there. Reminders that my Rock, my Salvation, will sustain me fully in the coming years through the change that is inevitable, and I can trust that the Rock will uphold me even in the midst of uncertainty.

person-1209310_1280.jpg

No Words

I like to write. I like a word, well more like words. I like the spoken ones, the written ones. I like the words that sound the same but have entirely different meanings, homophones. I like their, they’re, and there. I like words like adjunct, antithesis, and abundantly.

I am rarely at a loss for words. One need only to spend a few moments with me to realize I will fill the gaps, the times of silence with words. I seem to have been born with them in my mouth. Most of the world spends its days learning to speak. I have spent mine learning when not to speak. I have learned that when I am silent, someone else will fill the gaps with their words.

My Mama used to say, “Sometimes there are just no words.”

She spent many a nursing year as a Hospice nurse and she’d heard all manner of words spoken in an effort to comfort the bereaved, well-intentioned words spoken in attempt to make the Dearly Departed’s passing more palatable. My mama knew, the reality is, sometimes there is absolutely nothing that can be spoken by humanity to make things better, to make a bad situation better, words that usher in comfort and good intentions.

Sometimes Mama would use that phrase when she had observed something so bizarre or unique that she lacked the vocabulary to adequately describe it. She used it like an old Southern Lady might tilt her head and proclaim “Well I declare dear” as she has been enlightened on some new idea.

It should not have come as a surprise to me when I lost the words. When they just were not there. I’d found myself shaken to my core and try as I may I simply could not make the words I needed to. I found myself repeatedly in stunned silence. I would attempt to lightstock_503199_download_medium_user_43204746pray and there were no words. Sometimes there would be tears, hundreds of them, they fell as readily from my eyes as words so often do from my lips. I would try to speak but it was like I could move my mouth and no audible sound came forth. I would be screaming inside but not even a whisper was there. My written words were just as few, I would attempt to sit and to write to journal what I knew necessary, but I just couldn’t. My fingers would glide over the qwerty keyboard and nothing…no punctuation, no sentence fragments, no run on sentences and comma splices, the repeat grammar offenses I make. I would slam my hands down on the keyboard in frustration and vacate my chair out of disgust.

I tried all the “tricks” to stimulate communication, reading a favorite author or two, having a more intense and intentional prayer time. I tried to talk nonsense and fluff in hopes that deeper and more substantial words would push their way through. I would pray. And suddenly one day I had the realization of something I had not known before, a promise I have known as truth but never truly experienced. As I poured out my heart and grieved I found myself telling God what He already knew.

“I’ve got nothing.”

He knew, he always knows and by way of provision He brought to my remembrance something I knew, have known, for a long time.

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. Romans 8:26 ESV

He reminded me through His word that there were no words, but there didn’t have to be. He was, He is, interceding on my behalf in a language of words known only to Him. In the stunned silence I could trust He would pray over me exactly what I needed. I could trust that healing would come and that soon enough the words would return.

untitled-design-3-e1554738509921.png