Sunday, June 18, 2017

Words of Truthful Instruction

"Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love."
Lamentations 3:32 (NIV)

We all know how powerful words can impact us.   Words can cut us deeper and have greater wounds than any knife.  Words can also build us up so we feel we are flying on a cloud.  During the past few weeks, I've spent a great deal of time thinking about the impact of words.  As I listen to people discuss situations, both at home and at work, I think about the meaning behind the words that are being shared.  During my time of reflection, I thought about what types of words I was hearing - and many of them felt as if they were words of instruction

This reflection took me to my dad.  He was a great man filled with joy, love, and faith.  His words, whether written or spoken, were always truthful.  Sometimes they were meant for comfort.  Sometimes they were meant for instruction. Yet, always they were filled with the truth.  As we were growing up, many times the truthful instruction could be painful.  My parents were more strict than others.  Each time I embarked on asking to do something that was out of our family's scope, it was met with the same answer - NO.  After being disappointed by not being able to do what others were doing, I just stopped asking.  It wasn't worth the disappointment.  

Of course, there were also the times when Daddy had no problem sharing truthful instruction, especially if I did something wrong.  That always was met with a "louder" voice, ensuring I received the message.  You get the point.  Again, it would make me sad, partly because I disappointed my dad, the other part because the "loud voice" was never a good thing.

Then, I found our verse for today.  Certainly as I grew older, I realized that when my dad would come to me with truthful instruction, it was because he cared.  That level of caring and love comes with a level passion.  Daddy didn't want me to make mistakes like he did.  Daddy wanted my life to be good and faith driven.  His purpose in doing that was his unfailing love.  No matter how bad the deed, he was still there.  His love was in His words and deeds.

Sounds a bit like our Heavenly Father, doesn't it?  Through His word, He provides us truthful instruction - ensuring that our lives are guided to the path and journey HE wants us to be on.  Yes, sometimes, the path we want to take is not the path God has planned for us.  Many times, that is when His words may seem louder than usual.  Yet, He does this not to make us feel guilty for our sins - remember Jesus took those all away for us.  He does that to help us hear the instruction He has for us.  Let's face it - somebody needs to tell us the truth and NOBODY does that better than Jesus!!

Words of truthful instruction, regardless of where they come from, can make us "grieve", feel bad, or even get angry.  Yet, let us take time when we get those words and maybe, just maybe, we can see that the instruction is coming from a place of unfailing love by the person sharing those words with us. That type of instruction is always a gift.  

"Heavenly Father, I ask that you help me to truly listen when you share words of truthful instruction.  Let me be reminded that they come from a place of love and caring, and that those words are for my benefit.  Take the guilt and anger away and replace it with reflection and hope.  In your gracious name I pray, Amen."

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Unsung Hero - Abigail

"Then David accepted from her hand what she had brought him and said, "Go home in peace.  I have heard your words and granted your request."  1 Samuel 25:35 (NIV)

"Keep the peace"!  How many times have we heard those words throughout our lifetime.  They can range in context anywhere from two siblings quarreling to armies battling.  I think as adults, we often do many things to try to "keep the peace".  Most people prefer harmony versus arguing.  What does keeping the peace look like?  Well, it could be one person putting aside their opinion of an argument so as not to let the argument continue.  It may be another person not bringing something up that could cause an argument.  Or it could be someone who intervenes to stop a battle from brewing.  

Hence we come upon Abigail.  Abigail's story is one of courage, yet humility.  She does something very brave to "keep the peace.  Her story involves her husband Nabal and King David (yes, the David and Goliath David).  David is now King and helped out Nabal's servants one time - ensuring their safety and well-being.  When David sent his servants to Nabal to ask the same of him, he answered with an emphatic, "NO" (very ungrateful guy).  As you can imagine, David, along with his many troops, didn't take this answer lightly and decided they were going to wreck havoc with Nabal. 

Along comes Abigail.  Nabal's servants went to Abigail.  They shared the goodness David had provided them and didn't believe Nabal was being fair.  They also shared that a battle was brewing.  Abigail gathered many provisions (wine, bread, sheep, grain, cakes, etc.) and she went behind Nabal's back to bring them to David and company - in order to keep the peace.  When she got to where David was, she offered a humble apology for her husband and gave him all the "goodies" she brought along.  It was then that David shared the words that are above - "Go Home in Peace."  

Abigail walked out in faith and courage to keep peace.  She didn't do it for the glory or the praise.  Remember, she did this behind her husband's back.  Abigail stepped out for peace.  How many times have we done the same?  As a parent, we may sometimes help our spouse to see things from our child's perspective to keep the peace.  As a child, we may help our parents see things from a sibling's perspective to keep the peace.  Outside of the home, it may also happen at work.  Helping to share information or feedback in order to help keep peace.  Typically, we don't do this expecting praise or thanks.  We step out in faith to keep the peace.

This type of stepping out is such a wonderful example of simple faith.  It takes faith in God that He will help the peace be lived out.  God was with Abigail as she approached David.  God is with us when we approach conflict.  He is there to help us keep the peace.  God granted David the words, "Go home in peace," to Abigail.  He says the same to you and me. "Go home in peace, Susan."  I don't know about you, but those words are truly the only praise I need to hear.

There is an ending to Abigail's story.  Upon her return home, her husband was in a drunken stupor.  So she waited until the morning and told him everything she had done.  As the Bible shares, "his heart failed him" and ten days later he died.  When David heard that, he asked Abigail to become his bride - and she did.  Isn't that the same for us?  When we are able to try and keep the peace, God blesses us.  It could be with the peace that we were hoping for.  It could be with greater understanding of the other party.  It could be with His love.  Chances are - keeping the peace can bring all three!  

The next time you think about "keeping the peace", remember our gal Abigail and the courage and humility she showed, and the grace that was granted to her.  Simple faith can bring simple peace.

"Heavenly Father, we thank you for the example of Abigail.  As she showed us, simple faith in you and courage to step out helped to keep the peace and saved many lives.  Help us to be like Abigail, keeping the peace, and may your love shine upon us.  In you peaceful name we pray, Amen!"

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Unsung Hero - Naaman

Doubt - it's a confusing feeling.  Think about the last time you doubted a situation, doubted a person, doubted intentions.  The insecurity and loss of self assurance is profound.  As much as I hate to admit it, there have been many times in my life when I have doubted.  I have doubted one's love for me.  I have doubted the work that I have done.  I have doubted my level of faith.  And yes, I have doubted my Lord.  I am not proud of those moments of doubt, but they are a part of my sinful nature.

Today, we read about Naaman.  Naaman was a soldier servant to a king.  Naaman had leprosy and was told by his servant girl that he should go to a prophet of the Lord for healing.  With permission of his king, he went.  Naaman's expectation was that the prophet would come out of his house and with "a magic wand" sort of event, he would be healed.  That is not what Elisha (the prophet) did.  Elisha told Naaman to go to the Jordan and dip himself in the water seven times - and by those actions he would be healed.  Naaman was disappointed with the words of Elisha and headed back home, not dipping himself.  Naaman doubted what Elisha told him.

Naaman's servants convinced him that he had "nothing to lose" by going to the Jordan.  So Naaman went, and as you would expect, was healed.  With humility, Naaman went back to Elisha said said the words that are stated above, "Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel."  Naaman teaches us much in this small story.

As I've shared, there are times when we doubt things in our lives.  When those times arise, just like Naaman, I tend to figure out how I can take things into my own hands.  When the doubt involves lack of recognition (whether in emotion or work), I can fall into self-pity.   When the doubt settles into prayers that are unanswered, I can fall into a lack of praying and focus on what "I" need to do to fix things.  As you can imagine, my ways are never the right ways.  

What Naaman teaches us is to never doubt what God can give us - for His intentions are always right and true.  It may not happen in the way "I" intend it to happen, but it happens in God's correct and right way.  If we should doubt, let us come back to our God with humility and thankfulness.  How grateful we are that God forgives our sinful nature of doubt and brings us back to His righteousness.  Lift your doubt to God - He will bring you healing!

"Heavenly Father, thank you for the example of Naaman.  As I see how doubt can be rooted in may different situations, help me to always turn to you, God.  By your strength, by your direction, and by your love, lift my doubt and bring me to eternal healing in you.  In your gracious name I pray, Amen!"

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Unsung Hero - Andrew

"The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, "We have found the Messiah" (that is Christ)."  John 1:41 (NIV)

The white tombstones.  The red, white and blue flags.  All lined up in a row.  There is something about the picture above that has always brought the words Unsung Heroes to my mind.  Each Memorial Day, it is hard not to be grateful for the thousands of men and women who have unselfishly given their lives to let us have the freedoms we have in the United States.  Yes, I agree, every day should be Memorial Day.  Yet, this last Monday of May has always brought reflection, and thanks, to the many who have died so we could have the freedoms we enjoy.

It made me think about the unsung heroes in the Bible.  There are so many who have given unselfishly of themselves in honor of God.  I thought it would be fun to explore some of these unsung heroes during the next 4-5 weeks.  I am certain that there are hundreds, but let's take a look into a few.

Today, I would like to focus on Andrew.  We don't hear a lot about him.  Yes, we know he was a disciple, but Andrew tended to take a backseat to his brother, Peter.  We read much about Peter and know at times he was a pivotal disciple.  Yet, Peter would have never have known Jesus if it wasn't for Andrew.  As our Bible verse shares, the FIRST thing that Andrew did was tell his brother, Simon Peter, that Jesus was there.  

Andrew was known as the one who brought people to Jesus.  He brought Simon Peter.  He brought the little boy who had the bread and fish to Jesus to feed the thousands.  Many times throughout the Bible he is referred to as Peter's brother, typically not referred to as just Andrew.  It seems as if Peter got the "limelight" and Andrew was in the background.  Yet, he brought many to Jesus and was more interested in saving lives than the notoriety.  

Remember, when we believe that we don't have what it takes to bring people to Jesus, let us be like Andrew.  He stood out in faith and just told people.  He shared the good news and brought the necessary people to Jesus to do outstanding things.  Yes, Peter may have been a primary figure in Christianity, but he never would have been without Andrew.  We all have Andrew moments - when we can bring those to Jesus.  We never know what those good people will do.  On this Memorial Day, please remember the unsung heroes of our military.  Also, remember Andrew - an unsung hero of the Bible.

"Dearest Jesus, please be with all the families that have lost loved ones who died in service to our country.  Those men and women fought for our freedoms, that we might be able to say your name proudly today.  We also want to thank you for the great examples we have of unsung heroes in the Bible.  Let us be like Andrew, bringing people to Jesus so that they can do mighty things.  In your name we pray.  Amen!"

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Solar Faith

Image result for solar panels
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."  John 1:1 (NIV)

Everywhere I look these days, I see solar panels.  They may be on a house or on a company building, but they seem to be everywhere I look.  I went to Home Depot yesterday and there was a company selling them.  I thought about these panels, what they are meant to do, and how they service us today.

As you are probably aware, they help to generate energy.  The panels attract the light and they store it in batteries until you need to use the energy.  Actually, it's a pretty neat idea.  It's unbelievable what the sun can do for us, but better yet, that there is a way to store the energy from the sun to a time and place when your family or company needs the energy.

It made me think about God's word.  No really, stay with me on this one.  I thought about how the intent of these panels was to collect the sun's energy every day and store it until it is needed.  Let's think about the incredible power and energy of God's word.  When I read God's word, there is an energy that fills me up - it helps me to see things differently and provides me the energy to do what needs to get done.  It may be rising up from a difficult situation, gaining strength when I am weak, or putting love back into a broken heart.  Whatever is on my plate or in my heart, God's word gives me the energy to get things done.

If we steep ourselves into God's word, read it every day, we are doing what the solar panels are doing. We are storing up the energy that comes from God's word so it is available when we need it.  There have been days when my morning time with God can't happen.  Yet, when I'm driving to work, I remember something that I read from that great book or how it impacted my life and a smile passes over my lips and warmth drips into my heart.  Our Dear Lord is good, so good, each and every day.  When we read His word, and let it fill our hearts, we KNOW He will be there for us.  Simple Faith. 

It can be hard to find time to open our Bibles every day.  Yet, when we do, see it as Solar Faith, Simple Faith.  Get filled up with His Word, tuck those words away like stored energy, and bring it out and use it when your energy is low.  The words of God have been selected just for us.  For you, for me, and even for those who have yet to experience the love of Jesus.  Those words are for our hearts.  I pray that you find solar faith, simple faith.

"Heavenly Father, we thank you for The Word you have given to us.  We know the power that those words have in our lives.  Help us to continue to steep ourselves in your word, knowing that there will be days when we will need to call upon those words for energy in our lives.  Also, please guide actions in our days so that we might be able to share your word with others.  In your name we graciously pray.  Amen."

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Silent Friendship

"Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights.  No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was."  Job 2:13 (NIV)

Happy Mother's Day to everyone out there!  This Mother's Day, I am in Chicago preparing for a workshop I will be attending.  It was a bit odd not being able to see my mom and children this day, but that certainly didn't take my thoughts away from the day at hand.

As always, I have a story to share.  The other day, I was speaking to someone about what she could do for a friend of hers that was battling cancer.  I thought back on those days with many differing opinions.  There is a part of me that is very grateful for all the wonderful ways God blessed me through friends and family during that time.  Yet, I thought about a different way that was just as impactful, "Silent Friendship".  At first the person looked at me with an odd expression - of course I asked to explain.  

Sometimes, when the trials and tribulations of the day come knocking upon our door, many around us want to provide advice and counsel.  Nobody does this with malicious intent.  People like to help, and I can certainly relate.  Yet, some of the most profound times when I have needed help have come with someone just sitting by my side.  It's okay not to have words to say - many times we aren't supposed to say anything - especially when things are at their lowest.  Reflect above.  Job had absolutely nothing left in his life - NOTHING.  Yet, his friends came by and sat next to him - just "being".  They did that for SEVEN days - just sitting and letting Job know they were there for him.

The same happens today.  When trials hit us, many times as friends, we just don't know what to say.  Yes, even I struggle with the right words.  Yet, I don't think that's what God wants us to give each other all the time.  He just wants us to be there for each other - just like He is always there for us.  He knows our thoughts, he understands - yes he even gives us hugs and holds our hands - as our friends do for us.  Silent Friendship can be golden.

On this note, I have many wonderful people who have done this for me over the years - just were "being" with me.  One has been my mom.  When I was sick and days were tough - she just came over and was there for me.  That was EXACTLY what I needed.  Maybe she made a silent cup of tea.  Maybe she just sat and read her book - and just let me read mine.  Much was said in those days of no conversation.  The beautiful flowers in the picture are roses my mom gave me for Mother's Day.  Here's to you, Mom - and our silent friendship.

The next time you find yourself wanting to DO something or SAY something to a friend, contemplate that the greatest you may give them is just you "being".  God fills in for the conversation that isn't said.  Let him do what he does best - and may we do what we do best.  For all the mothers out there, I pray that you were blessed with a special day.  Let's face it, as moms, every day is a special one.

"Heavenly Father, help us to know that sometimes silent friendship can be the greatest give we can give to each other.  Just "being" can lead us to feel you, God, among us.  And there is NO greater person to have among friends that YOU.  Please bless all those who need some silent friendship today."

Sunday, May 7, 2017

The Art of God

"Yet you, Lord are our Father.  We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand."  Isaiah 64:8 (NIV)

I received a rare blessing today.  I am travelling on business to Charlotte, North Carolina.  I've never been here before and since I got in a few hours early, I thought I would select one "tourist" spot to visit.  There were many to chose from, but today I headed to the Mint Museum (pictured above).  I'm not sure why the GPS had this address plugged in.  I'm not a huge museum person.   I can't remember the last time I was in a museum.

I will walk through a museum, but I've rarely been able to truly appreciate the art.  I admire those individuals who can look at art and it inspires them - I've never been drawn to art that way.  Yet, today for some reason, my heart took me to the Mint Museum.  My experience was dramatically different.  I truly believe God wanted me to see something I hadn't seen before.

As I viewed the beautiful sculptures and paintings, the craft and design work, my eyes were drawn to the stories printed beside the art.  I read about these artists.  Some artists were from the 1800's.  Some were more recent.  Yet, each artist had a story - a reason to capture the world as they saw it.  All of the sudden, the art had meaning.  I found a new beauty in the art that I had not seen before.  As I walked through the rooms, so silent and quiet, it brought my heart to my Lord and the wonderful passage for today.

Just as the artists I read about today had a story to tell with their art, so our Lord has a story to tell through us.  He is the artist, we are His canvas.  He created us with His hands to be able to tell a story - HIS story.  Through our lives, He has worked us, through the joys and tribulations, to create a masterpiece - HIS masterpiece.  Imagine - being God's masterpiece.  The more I thought about this, the greater my heart was drawn to God.  I owe it to God to be the best piece of art I can be. 

If my life tells His story, then I want to ensure it is a great story.  I want to be the best piece of art I can be - so that He, the artist, is glorified.  That means making good choices, living in God's light - the artist's light.  It means reflecting His greatness to those who view me.  It means I need to work on becoming His masterpiece.  That may seem like a tall order.  Yet, there is GREAT news with this tall order - He will be there with us, to guide us, to help us, and to encourage us.  There is no better artist than our Lord.  Will you join me in becoming a great masterpiece?  

"Dearest God, I ask your help as I try to be the masterpiece that you have created.  As the artist, you have a vision of what I should be to the world.  I ask your help in making that possible.  Help me to reflect the art that you want the world to see.  May your grace and mercy help me to achieve this.  In your artist's name I pray, Amen."

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Thank you for visiting my blog. I hope we can share how God's grace has been life changing and that SIMPLE FAITH, getting back to a life that is rooted in the basics, can truly set us free to achieve so much in our lives.