Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Like Father, Like Son

Sunday night I was getting ready for bed when my phone rang.
My first thought was, Gee. It's late. Who would be calling me at this hour? What if it's an emergency?? Oh, dear!!!
So I quickly dropped what I was doing and went to answer my phone.
As I picked it up, I saw that it was my son. And I thought again, Oh, no. What's happened?
So, as cheerfully as I could I said, "Hello!" and waited in anticipation.
Then I heard his voice. "Uh, yeah. I'm at Meijer and I'm looking for refried beans like you use when you make burritos..."
Relieved that there was no emergency, my mind immediately searched for that recipe - assuming Josh was going to make them for himself and was calling to ask about the rest of the ingredients.
But my mind was wrong.
Because the rest of his sentence went like this, "...but all I see are baked beans and black beans. Where are the refried beans?" I chuckled inside as I instructed him to move a couple aisles closer to the front of the store where the tomatoes and tomato sauces are.
"You'll find them in that aisle," I said.
"OK. Thanks. Bye," were his parting words.
Then I hung up the phone, shaking my head as I recalled the many times his father has done the exact same thing. Because, apparently it's easier to call me than it is to find a store employee when one needs help locating an elusive item.
Guess I should be honored that they think I know so much. *wink*


Monday, July 29, 2019

Friday, July 26, 2019

It's My Pleasure

So, I haven't even set foot in Chick-fil-A this week.

Because I've been at church for VBS!

Lemme tell you about my week at Vacation Bible School.
Initially I was going to be in a room with 3rd and 4th grade girls.
In my imagination we were going to have fun girl-time for several minutes each day as we wandered between activities. We were going to have significant conversations about God, and grow in our relationships with Him through Jesus. The time we spent together was going to be engaging, yet calm. Intriguing, yet orderly.
That's what I do each Sunday morning.
It's what I requested and was granted.
It's my comfort zone.
It's what I wanted.
But it isn't what God planned.
Because it isn't what I needed.

Due to the abundance of 3rd and 4th grade boys who registered for VBS, my room was turned into a girls AND boys class. (Now, I raised two boys. I'm not afraid of them, and I don't think they have cooties. But put me in a room with 12 or so of them between the ages of 8 and 10, and I get a little nervous!)
So I probably don't need to mention there were times when our little room of nearly 30 kids got kinda loud - and at times it felt like pandemonium was going to rule the day.
But, I will.
Because it did.
I mean, somehow (That would be, by the grace of God alone - through the faithful prayers of His servants.) we managed to make it from one activity to another (Even when I took us to the wrong one once!) and we covered all the lessons, and we had good discussions, and all that. But it wasn't what I had anticipated or expected or planned. And part of me felt like I was failing.
Then - on top of my fear of failure, God began addressing the needs HE saw in me.
That is, in the tender, gracious, undeniable way HE always does God alerted me to the pride which was lurking in my heart. Time and time again - even in the middle of moments when I was delighting in His love and sharing it with the kids - God's Spirit would call my attention to my sin and HE would beckon me to put on humility, instead.
Sometimes I wondered if anyone could hear it echoing in my heart.
Daughter, please put your self away. I Am the focal point. The glory is all Mine. You needn't be concerned about what they think of you, or how anyone may be evaluating your performance. None of that really matters. Just keep your eyes on Me. Keep pointing these precious children to ME.
And when I did that?
When I surrendered my will to HIS...
When I trusted HIM to reach the children in spite of the noise...
When I believed HE is able to work in ways I do not understand and did not plan...
 When I listened to my Father and did what HE said? Oh, the joy!

So, in spite of not going the way I originally believed it would, my week at VBS resulted in joyful fellowship with my Father, more hugs from my new young friends than I can count, and delightful memories which I'll cherish for a very long time to come.
Dare I say? This week was even better than a peach shake with a side of waffle fries!


Thursday, July 25, 2019

HE is Good. So Good!

Praise be to God,
who has not rejected my prayer
or withheld his love from me!

~Psalm 66:20

OK, here it is.
The reason I am so enamored with this verse, and the psalm, and ultimately the GOD behind it all.

Because He could have!

God could have rejected the prayer of the psalmist, and He could have withheld His love.
God was in no way obligated to turn toward the psalmist in mercy. Nor is He indebted to us.
God did not have to forgive the sin spoken of in v.18. He wasn't forced to give ear to the psalmist's cries, or to pay attention to his praise. God could have turned aside His holy head and completely ignored him.
He could have.
But HE didn't.
The perfect love of God compels HIM to show kindness to everyone who surrenders to Him.
And it is that lovingkindness upon which I want to focus in our study today.

The word love in Psalm 66:20 comes from the Hebrew word checed and, as used in this verse, it refers specifically to "lovingkindness in redemption from enemies and troubles".
Our psalmist friend has certainly accounted for plenty of troubles in this psalm, hasn't he!
Are you familiar with Joseph's story?
(I am referring to Joseph the son of Jacob, not Jesus' daddy.)
The Joseph whose story is told in Genesis certainly had his share of troubles. It'll take some time but - if you have never read about Joseph - I would encourage you to get your Bible, start in Genesis 37 and don't stop until the end of the book. It's some amazing stuff!
The very quick version is this: Joseph was Jacob's favorite, and his brothers were terribly jealous of him. So much so that they sold him into slavery but made up a story of his death to pass on to Jacob. Joseph was puchased by a rich man whose wife tried to seduce him, such that he ended up in prison. And here's where we get to that lovingkindness.
But while Joseph was there in the prison, 21 the Lord was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden.

~Genesis 39:20b-21
That kindness God showed Joseph? The same love spoken of by the psalmist in 66:20.
And it was that lovingkindness which led to Joseph being released from prison, and put in charge of the land of Egypt, and organizing food for seven years of famine, and providing food and home and hope for his family (Yes, the same brothers who once sold him off eventually came to him for help.). And it was that lovingkindness which ultimately led to Joseph recognizing the grace and mercy and power of a perfectly loving God.
3 Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph! Is my father still living?” But his brothers were not able to answer him, because they were terrified at his presence.
4 Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come close to me.” When they had done so, he said, “I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! 5 And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. 6 For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will be no plowing and reaping. 7 But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.
8 “So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God.

~Genesis 45:3-8a
Who did Joseph believe was responsible for his life in Egypt?
Much more happens in the story over the next five chapters - including the death of Jacob - and Joseph's brothers ended up terrified again that he was going to seek revenge on them.
19 But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? 20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. 21 So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.

~Genesis 50:19-21
Again, to Whom did Joseph give cedit for his position in Egypt?
All through his trials, Joseph had experienced the lovingkindness of God. How did that relationship impact both his outlook, and his understanding of his circumstance?

Both Joseph and the psalmist experienced the checed of God. They each faced troubles and they each were delivered from them through God's lovingkindness. And as a result, they each trusted that God is good. Even when their circumstances were not.
How about you, friend? Do you have the same confidence?
Perhaps an appropriate response would be for you to spend some moments in prayer - thanking HIM for the hope you have, or asking HIM to fill in the hole.
May God - who is always good - supply you with the fullest joy as you trust in HIM today.


Wednesday, July 24, 2019

The Victor

Do you remember my tale of woe regarding the savage herbivore who ravished my would-be lilies?
Do you remember that the short one escaped?

Well, just take a look at it now!

Ahhhh, yes! And I am so happy with my precious, beautiful, shorter-than-the-others, brave little flower. Even more, I am delighted that one other flower had not yet shown itself when the angel of death loomed near. If you look closely you can see its bud just above the bloom.
Mmmhmmm. I'm going to have TWO flowers blooming in that little lily patch for the rest of the summer.
In spite of the voracity of our neighborhood deer.

Take that, Bambi!


Tuesday, July 23, 2019

It's the Little Things

So, the other day I made a quick stop at the store on my way home from work.
(Just had to pick up a few things.)
When I got home I guess I made some noise as I set the bag and my purse on the counter - because Matthew came jogging into the kitchen where I was standing, taking the few items out of said bag.
I looked up, a bit startled by his sudden appearance, and saw an equally confused look on his face. He must have made a quick assessment of the scene and determined that I didn't need any help because he said, "Oh, you don't have more bags to bring in?"
At which point the light went on for me, and I understood Matthew's actions.
For many years I have tried to instill in my kids a mind-set for service. Such as, when I get home from grocery shopping it is thoughtful, kind, appropriate, and courteous for them to help unload the van. But sometimes when I come home from the store Matthew is in his room and doesn't hear me enter, thus I unload all the groceries by myself. He may then come into the kitchen when I'm bringing in the last bag, or when I'm putting things away and he always says, "Oh! I'm sorry. I didn't hear you." And I know he regrets not helping me with the task.
So this time the keys I dropped, or the cans that clanged (or whatever noise I made) alerted Matthew to my arrival - and he jumped to action to lend a hand.
Only this time I didn't need any help.
"Nah, I'm good," I said. "But thanks for checking!"
And Matthew returned to his room with a small grin on his face.

In that moment I was so proud of my son, as I reflected back on the years. As I remembered frustrating days and bitter moments when I wondered if he would ever listen to me or learn to do the right thing.
As I considered the joy I've had in recent months watching him mature and make solid "adult" decisions.
I mean, I recognized that being at the ready to help bring groceries into the house really is a little thing - rather insignificant in the grand scheme of life. But the man behind the action used to be a boy who nearly had me at my wits' end, and I just wanted him to know I see and admire how much he's grown.
Even when it shows up in the little things.


Monday, July 22, 2019

Psalm 66:20

Praise be to God
who has not rejected my prayer
or withheld his love from me.

~Psalm 66:20


Friday, July 19, 2019

It's My Pleasure

I fell in love.
I fell in love with a boy at Chick-fil-A this past week.
That is, I was working in the dining room and I noticed someone looking at me.
It happened first when I was at the condiment stand re-filling straws or napkins or ketchups or something. (These really go fast during the lunch rush!) I turned around and there he was. A bit startled, I apologized for nearly bumping into him and then asked if he needed anything. He said, "No. I'm just watching you." So I smiled at him, said, "OK!" and continued with my work.
Moments later as I was emptying the trash I saw him again. Standing a few feet away, watching my every move. I invited him to come a little closer so he could see what I was doing.
"Have you ever seen something like this?" I asked, as I lifted the bin into its compartment.
He just smiled, and said, "My name is Connor. What's your name?"
"I'm Karen," I replied.
Then we talked about the similar sounds and letters in our names as we walked back to his table where his mother and brothers were sitting. Connor was quick to point out to me that his name had a "C" in it, not a "K". I made note of the difference but said it was neat that we both have "r" and "n" in our names.
Then I had to excuse myself to go on to other duties.
But each time I passed that table, Connor's eyes were on me and I fell more and more in love with him.
At one point I leaned in and said to him, "You know what I'm going to do? I'm going to go somewhere and see if I can hide from you. But you can't watch where I'm going, OK?" His mom made him avert his eyes and I walked to the other side of the dining room - but stood directly in what would be his line of sight if he was looking straight ahead. When he looked up, there I was! And the smile on his young face was the best thing I've seen in a long time.
So kind. Full of grace and esteem. Absolutely free of judgment. This little boy didn't care that I was getting kind of perspire-y, that I had forgotten to wear earrings, or that I did un-glamorous things like emptying trash and wiping messes off the floor. He just offered a sweet smile which said, I like you!
So when I passed by him again I got down on his level. I looked into his eyes, and I said, "Connor, I really, really like you."

And somehow this consitutes WORK for which I get paid??? Not sure how I got to be so blessed, but I am definitely looking forward to the next time Connor and his family come for lunch!


Thursday, July 18, 2019

With Certainty and Confidence

But God has surely listened
and heard my voice in prayer.

~Psalm 66:19
I mentioned in my video Monday that while I was interested in studying the meaning of the words "listened" and "heard" in Psalm 66:19, the part of the verse which really beckoned my spirit was the confidence expressed in the phrase "But God...surely". And since one of my greatest desires is to listen and respond obediently to the Holy Spirit, I am choosing for our study this week to focus on that phrase. It comes from the Hebrew word aken and is the same word used in verse 16 of this passage from Genesis. So, let's take a look.
10 Then Jacob departed from Beersheba and went toward Haran. 11 He came to a certain place and spent the night there, because the sun had set; and he took one of the stones of the place and put it under his head, and lay down in that place. 12 He had a dream, and behold, a ladder was set on the earth with its top reaching to heaven; and behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. 13 And behold, the Lord stood above it and said, “I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie, I will give it to you and to your descendants. 14 Your descendants will also be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and in you and in your descendants shall all the families of the earth be blessed. 15 Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”
16 Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.” 17 He was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.”
18 So Jacob rose early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up as a pillar and poured oil on its top. 19 He called the name of that place Bethel; however, previously the name of the city had been Luz. 20 Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me and will keep me on this journey that I take, and will give me food to eat and garments to wear, 21 and I return to my father’s house in safety, then the Lord will be my God. 22 This stone, which I have set up as a pillar, will be God’s house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You.”

~Genesis 28:10-22
I suppose a bit of background to help set the context of this passage would be helpful.
Just before Jacob has this dream/encounter with God, he had followed his mother's advice and scheme to steal his brother's birthright, and their father's blessing. Needless to say, big brother was ticked. (And was making plans to kill Jacob.) Thus, mom's additional advice for Jacob to get out of town - which led to the journey when the above dream took place.
So we have Jacob - conned by his mother into being deceitful, angering his brother to the point of homicide, running for his life. Not exactly the precursers I would anticipate which would lead to the blessing of God. But then - God didn't ask for my opinion, did He!? Anyway, the dream happens and everything changes for Jacob.
What does God promise Jacob in verses 13 and 14?
Do His words sound at all familiar to you?
They should. Look at Genesis 12, 15, 17, and 26. God had been saying essentially the same thing to Abraham and Isaac for years!
With what additional promises does God follow up in verse 15?
What is Jacob's response in verse 16?
The word "surely" here is the same word used in Psalm 66:19 and is an adverb used with strong assertive force. In other words, the speaker who uses this word is confident of the thing about which they are speaking. So, of what does Jacob express certainty?
What vow does he make in verses 20-21?
OK, now based upon what you know about biblical history and God's covenent with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob - did God keep the promises He made to Jacob in his dream?
Was Jacob right to express confidence in God, and to trust Him to keep His promises?
Thinking of Psalm 66:19, do you think the psalmist was reasonable in the confidence he expressed?
And what about you, my friend?
Do you have certainty that you can trust God?
Do  you believe He is who He says He is? And that He will do what He says He will do?
If you are struggling to find that kind of confidence today, may I encourage you to re-read the Genesis passages above? And this one from Hebrews?
Then spend time asking God to strengthen your faith as you seek to believe Him.
He is trustworthy, friend. And I am sure He will do it!


Monday, July 15, 2019

Psalm 66:19

But God has surely listened
and heard my voice in prayer.

~Psalm 66:19


Friday, July 12, 2019

It's My Pleasure

What do you do in the drive-thru when your guest enjoys puns and silly math games as much as you do?
Why, you have more fun than usual, of course!

Wednesday I was confirming an order when I discovered a woman whose sense of humor closely matches mine. That is, I said to her, "Looks like I have for you a Chick-fil-A biscuit meal with a small coffee - two sugars and a 'whole'. I mean, two half & halfs. Get it? Two half & halfs make a 'whole'?"
Usually when I say something like this the guest at the window chuckles politely with me, but this time was better. The woman who had ordered that coffee with two sugars and a whole sincerely laughed.
Then we got into a conversation about playing with numbers and figuring out percentages, and a whole host of other math-related things. And as I was handing out her food my guest confided that Algebra was her favorite and most successful class during her schooling days. She said, "I could do Algebra 2 when I was in Algebra 1. But not Geometry. No, I just didn't 'get' Geometry."
And I? Couldn't resist.
I said, "OK. I have one more joke. What did the acorn say when it grew up?"
She shrugged, and I said with as straight a face as I could, "Gee! I'm a tree!"
And we shared another laugh - as she plotted out in a positive direction.
Oh, I crack myself up!


Thursday, July 11, 2019

When We Confess

If I had cherished sin in my heart,
the LORD would not have listened;

~Psalm 66:18

If you watched my video Monday, you know the word translated "cherished" in Psalm 66:18 actually means "to see". It is the same word used in the Creation story when God looked at what He made and saw that it was good. (Genesis 1:4,10,12,18,21,25,31) It is also the same word used in Genesis 6:5 when God saw that the wickedness of man was great upon the earth.
Thus, I believe the idea being expressed in Psalm 66:18 goes beyond what we typically think of when we use the word cherished. More than the notion of clinging to sin - of embracing it - I think this verse is suggesting mere awareness of sin in our hearts. That is, I think the psalmist was proposing that if he had simply known sin was in his heart (If he had seen it there - and not done anything about it.) then God would not have listened to his prayer.
Seems a bit drastic, I know, but I think it shows us just how seriously God takes sin. In fact, as I was getting ready to write this post I heard a song about the holiness of God (No one will ever convince me HE is not in control of every little detail.) and my spirit cried out in sorrow for the sin in me, and all around me in this world.
Indeed. Sin is a very big deal to God.
For that reason, as we consider Psalm 66:18, I want to also take time to examine a passage from 1 John.
Go ahead and read through these verses slowly and prayerfully.
5 This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.
8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

~1 John 1:5-9
What message does John declare in verse 5?
In saying that God is light, John is declaring God's holiness. His purity.
And he contrasts that light with darkness - that is, a "brand of moral, spiritual obscurity" which is associated with wickedness and results in misery. (a.k.a. sin)
How about verse 6? What conflict does John point out here?
The word "fellowship" implies something shared in common, an intimacy. Specifically in this verse, John is suggesting a person having the same mind as God and Christ. Not some sort of casual acquaintance, but real and truthful sharing.
So, based upon what you know about these words (light, darkness, and fellowship) does John's warning in verse 6 ring true to you?
It's a big deal! Sin breaks our fellowship with God.
Conversely, what does John assert in verse 7?
But is it really possible?
Can we truly walk in the light as He is in the light? Can we be holy like He is holy?
What about sin? Verse 8 pretty much convicts us about its presence in our lives.
So how is it possible for us to walk in the light? How can we be free from our sin?
(Verse 7 reminds us that neither of these - walking in the light, nor being free from sin - are possible without the blood of Jesus!)
How does verse 9 show us what to do?
To "confess" means to not deny, rather to admit our guilt to God in agreement with Him regarding the wrong we have done. In so doing, we step out of the darkness and are freed from the guilt of that sin.
Thus, we walk in the light as He is in the light, and we have fellowship with HIM.

Finally, how does John's teaching relate to Psalm 66:18?
And how are you going to respond???


Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Yes, Dear. That's What It Means.

I was sitting in Panera yesterday between appointments when my phone rang.
It was Matthew.
He said, "Uh, you know the fruit in the refrigerator in the plastic bag?"
I was well aware of the item to which he was referring. And I added, "You mean the bag with two knots tied on the top?"
"Yeah," he said. "Is that something you're saving that you don't want us to eat?"
"Yes, Matthew. You are correct. The two knots tied on the bag were meant to communicate that the fruit is being saved for something and you are not to eat it at will. You understood my message."
At my confirmation Matthew let out a disappointed sigh, and I let out a chuckle. Even as I promised he would be enjoying the fruit with dinner in the near future.
"OK. Good-bye," he said.
"Good-bye. Thanks for checking!"

Sometimes I write a note, but this time I decided to invite my hungry men to use their intuition and common sense. Glad it worked!


Tuesday, July 09, 2019

The *Not Happy* Report

So, the barbarian animal that recently munched on my hostas?
Has been at it again. But this time it attacked ate my lilies.
(Thus, I believe the culprit is a deer. The lilies are too tall for a bunny to reach.)
I made the sad discovery as I was watering my zinnias last week, and while I was disappointed I knew it wasn't the end of the world. After all, these lilies are in the back yard and no one but me will really miss them. But I did take a picture and colored a white spot on the tips of the stems - just so you can see how many buds the vandal deer consumed.

Moments later, however, I came upon a scene which really got me angry.
That is to say, a couple of years ago I planted lilies by our driveway - where lots of people can see them - and I have been tending to them lovingly ever since. And early this summer I got so happy when I saw a marked increase in the number of stems coming from one particular set of lilies. Every time I passed them my heart did a little leap for joy in anticiaption of how beautiful they were going to be all summer long.
But last week after I decided not to be upset about the lilies in the back yard which had been eaten, I came upon this sight: *cue Psycho music*
Ahhhhhh! Are you kidding me? I'm counting 32 stems which have been violated by some savage beast, who didn't even care about or stop to consider the joy it was stealing from me - all for a moment of juicy pleasure, as it wiped out any possibility for these lilies to produce flowers this year.
Thirty-two stems!!!
Each one which would likely have produced anywhere from 4 to 8 flowers throughout the summer. That's hundreds of blooms wiped out by one thoughtless, brutal herbivore.

The nerve.

In my angst, I *might* have considered putting venison on the menu for dinner that night.
But then I got closer to my would-be flowers and had this pleasant encounter:
I located one stem which didn't reach as high as the others and had, therefore, escaped the decimation expereinced by its taller comrades. (Lesson learned: Being short sometimes has advantages.)
Thus, in a moment of sudden reprieve I decided to pardon the leviathon of its grevious offense, and choose instead to look forward to the blooms which this little shoot will produce. (Secretly, this lone survivor gives me a sense of victory over that deer. As in, the ability to say, "You missed me! You missed me! Na-na-na-na-na!!!" Re-visiting my childhood with that statement.)

Oh, and I did go immediately to The Home Depot garden department and purchased a spray (which won't harm the killers animals) guaranteed to repel four-legged plant eaters. I sure hope it works!


Monday, July 08, 2019

Psalm 66:18

If I had cherished sin in my heart,
the LORD would not have listened;

~Psalm 66:18


Friday, July 05, 2019

It's My Pleasure

I seriously have so many joys working at Chick-fil-A.
But some of them stand out more than others, and today I want to tell you about one of the stand-outs.

See, there's this "wheel" in the kitchen for us to spin when we're working at the front counter. On it are several options for fun things we can do - like giving a child some Chick-fil-A cow swag, or passing along a DOC card (for free food on a future visit). And the other day when I spun the wheel it landed on "give away a meal". So my charge for the day was to choose one guest and surprise them by giving them their order for free. And as I went to my register I whispered a prayer, asking God to help me choose the "right" one. Then, I all but forgot about it as I went about my duties.
Until a couple of women came in for lunch and the first one to order was having a hard time deciding. She furrowed her brow a couple times and semi-apologized for taking so long, explaining that she was trying to figure out the least expensive way to place her order. Should she order a meal, or this and that seperately, or... she wasn't sure.
And then I remembered.
I had a free meal to give away!
So I said to her, "Hey! It doesn't matter. I just remembered that I get to give away a free meal today, and I choose you. So order whatever you like. You won't have to pay for it!"
I am not exaggerating when I tell you that this dear woman nearly started crying. She looked at me, and she looked at her friend, and she smiled bigger than I've seen anyone smile in a really long time.
I have no idea what the story is behind her reaction, or how one free meal could possibly have such a significant affect on a person but I'm telling you - I knew without question in that moment, God answered my prayer about choosing the "right" guest with whom to bless a free meal.
And when she gushed words of thanks to me, you can know without question that my very sincere response was, "It's my pleasure!"
Because it was.


Thursday, July 04, 2019

Teach Me How to Pray

I cried out to him with my mouth;
his praise was on my tongue.

~Psalm 66:17
As I mentioned in my video Monday, Psalm 66:17 has been an inspiration and a good reminder to me to give God praise each time I am also crying out to Him for help.
God knows we are needy and He loves to meet our needs. But He is also ALWAYS worthy of our praise. And I believe we can delight Him doubly when we come to Him with praise - while we're simultaeously confessing our need for His hand in our lives.
I think Paul was convinced of the importance of this kind of prayer, too. And today I want to spend time examining what the Spirit said through him on this subject.
6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

~Philippians 4:6-7
Ahhhhh, this is such an encouraging Word about prayer. And we're going to look at it closely. But to get the full effect - the total scope of what Paul is saying - I think it is vital that we study the words leading up to what he says about prayer.
Let's start with "anxious".
Most of us are pretty aware of what it means to be anxious. Even so, I think it is beneficial to look at the word as Paul knew it in his day. To be anxious meant to be "a part" rather than to be "whole". It was to be drawn in opposite directions. To be divided into parts. Pulled to pieces. And I think it is interesting to note that the word is most commonly used in a negative sense in the New Testament. Which I guess would be the reason Paul tells his readers to NOT be anxious.
OK. Are we good with that word?
Then let's move on to "nothing".
And let's really look at it.
Because in a world where we answer questions like, "Honey, what's wrong?" by saying, "Oh, nothing," when clearly something is the matter - well, I think it would be good for us to know what Paul meant.
Uh, he meant nothing.
As in, the word Paul used comes from two Greek words, one meaning "not a possiblity" and the other meaning "one". Making his word's literal meaning, "not even one." That is, when Paul said, "Be anxious for nothing," he meant absolutely "nothing".
Not even one thing!
A high standard, to be sure. But we'll get to how that's possible in a moment.
First, though, let's see what he meant by "everything". Actually, it isn't too mind-stretching. He meant every single thing. Every part which makes up a whole. All of it.
In other words, the very opposite of "nothing".
So he says, Don't be pulled to pieces by even one thing. Instead, in every single thing...
In every single thing, PRAY.
And this is where we're getting into the parallels between this verse and Pslam 66:17.
The word Paul uses here which is translated as "prayer" does, in fact, mean prayer. But more than simply asking for something, it speaks of worship - of relating to and fellowshiping with God. It's recognizing who He is and honoring Him for it. Ahem, it's having His praise on our tongue!
Then we get to "supplication" which also means prayer. But more specifically, it is a "heart-felt petition, arising out of deep personal need". That is, it's crying out to him with our mouth.
All this we are to do, says Paul, while giving thanks for God's grace.
In fact, if we were to translate Paul's words into Psalm 66 format I think we would come up with something like this:
I cried out to him with my mouth;
his praise was on my tongue.
I gave thanks to God while I told him what I need.
And what, according to Paul (by inspiration of the Holy Spirit!), is the result of this kind of prayer?
Ahhh, this is my favorite part!
The peace of God - that is, "wholeness" - when all essential parts are joined together. (Can you say, the complete opposite of "anxious"??!! Like, seriously. Look at it. Anxious is pulled to pieces, and peace is everything joined together. I love how God paints this picture of what it means for us to trust in Him!) That wholeness will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Ahhhh, but we aren't finished. There's one more picture for us to see.
It comes from the word "guard".
And I bet you want to know what that means, right?
It is "to guard (keep watch) like a military sentinel", or (figuratively) "to actively display whatever defensive and offensive means are necessary to guard."
Friends, I'm picturing a line of armed military guards standing between me and anxiety, as I'm on my knees praising God and trusting Him with my needs. And every time anxiety tries to encroach upon me, this line of guards - called the Peace of God - raises their guns and yells out,
Back off, dude. She's mine, and you can't touch her!
And that - the Peace of God standing guard over us - is how we can be anxious for not even one thing.
I cried out to him with my mouth;
his praise was on my tongue.

~Psalm 66:17
How do these words and this prescription for trusting God impact your heart today?


Wednesday, July 03, 2019

On This Day in 2005

Beautiful things happen when you clean the basement.
I mean, besides getting rid of cobwebs and dried up bugs and a plethora of stuff you don't need (Am I making my house sound attractive yet???) sometimes you come across a treasure.
Which is exactly what happened recently when our basement got a bit soggy from all the rain, and I actually started looking around and realized I needed to spend time down there in clean-up mode. That is to say, I got rid of the cobwebs and bugs and lots of "stuff".
And I came across a treasure.
Six old, spiral-bound notebooks which served as my journals, note-taking spaces, and general idea-capsules. Dating all the way back to 2003.
I have not had the time to read through all of them yet.
But the glances I've had have been a delight.
Like this one, from fourteen years ago, today.
It wasn't delightful, necessarily, to remember how awful I felt when I was writing this - to recall painful emotions and the self-deprecation I was carrying around in my head and heart. However, to be on the other side of it and to know God has been faithful in answering the cries of His desperate daughter?
Ahhhhh, such deep, deep joy!
That is, I know I am not yet who He has created me to be.
I know this is a process and God is still refining me.
But as I read this entry and look back on where I was, HE reminds me: I am not who I used to be.
So, I'm opening up my journal and sharing this moment with you - in the hopes that you might be encouraged in some way for your own journey.

O, my Lord, You give me hope in such wonderful ways.
Over the last couple of days I have become discouraged in myself. I have been impatient with my children and in general have been lacking joy. I have the desire to be a holy, godly woman, but I'm not seeing her!
Then there is the body thing, weight gain, menstruation...blah.
So I was just feeling yucky today - fat, and not godly; ready to cry at anything.
Then what shoud I read but an excerpt from Kathy Troccoli in Forever in Love with Jesus, where she says she used to feel shame and self-contempt; where she says that she prayed (in faith because she didn't really think it could happen) that she would one day be comfortable in her skin, and that she would have her character transformed by the Spirit of God.
And I thought, What?! I see such a godly woman in her, and yet she once felt shame and self-contempt?! Does that mean there is hope for me? Yes, it sure does!
Dee Brestin writes, "This is how redemption works: as we press in close to the Redeemer, He will 're-create' us. How He longs to answer those prayers that plead for a redemption of our character."
Lord, Jesus, hear my prayer! I want to be transformed. I want to be beautiful for You. I want to attract others to You! Please work in me that which is pleasing to You!
And that remains my prayer today.
I want to be transformed. I want to be a beautiful reflection of Jesus to the world around me.
I want to attract others to HIM. Lord, please work in me that which is pleasing to YOU!


Tuesday, July 02, 2019

OK. I'm Saying It.

There are a number of things mothers-of-grown-kids said to me when my children were young, which I swore I would never say to other young moms when mine grew up.
Because - although the words had the best intentions behind them - they did little to encourage me.
And sometimes actually did the opposite.
I mean, now I totally see the wisdom behind their words because I've made it to the other side.
In fact, there have been times when I have been tempted to say the very same things.
You know, like, "This, too, shall pass."
When? Because I keep waiting, and it's still happening.
And, "We've all been there."
Oh? So I shouldn't feel this way, because I'm not the only one? Is that supposed to make me feel better? Because it doesn't. Now I just feel guilty for feeling overwhelmed, irritable, tired, fill-in-the-blank.
Or, how about, "There will be a time when you'll miss these days!"
So not true. I still don't miss those days.
Oh, lots of the moments - to be sure. But not the entire day!!!

Indeed, those are among the statements I pray I will never say to a mother of young children.
But this past weekend I found myself thinking a thought I had when my kiddos were little, and recognizing that it may be helpful for me to verbalize it for a few moms of young 'uns out there today.
So, here goes!

I was outside cleaning the porch and washing windows. Partly delighted with myself for getting it done, and partly ashamed that it has taken so long. (Can it still be considered "Spring Cleaning" if July hasn't arrived yet?) Anyway, I was doing it. And I was astonished at how dirty the porch was.
See, the thing is, years ago Josh turned our porch and its immediate area into a bird sanctuary.
Several bird feeders fill the space and - up until he moved out several months ago - Black Oil Sunflower seeds consistently filled the feeders.
And something I've learned about birds?
They're messy and they don't clean up after themselves.
What that means specifically for our situation is that we have more sunflower seed shells filling the landscape than I could ever count. And in case you were wondering, mertyle doesn't grow well when buried by sunflower seed shells. Some of the weeds managed to push through, but the mertyle is being choked out. What once looked like semi-decent landscaping just looks like piles of shells now. With some languishing mertyl and weeds mixed in.
So as I was sweeping sunflower seed shells off the porch (Because they got all over the porch, too.) into the mertyl (Because, why not? It's dying, anyway.) and recalling all the times I had wished our porch entrance looked nicer, I remembered how much joy came to my son when he could claim that all the birds in the neighborhood liked our house best. Because no one else took care of feeding them with as much love and attention as he did.
This kid used his own money to buy the best bird seed - because he researched and found out what the birds really liked. He would fill the feeders every night, and only at night, because he didn't want to do it when the birds were around - so as not to frighten them. Josh would even adjust the curtains by the porch to give the birds more privacy in their feeders.
Is it any wonder they all flocked to our house day after day, season after season?
They had the best possible advocate and care-taker in my son.
And we?
Had a messy porch with terrible looking landscaping.
But cleaning up the mess and making plans for a nice front porch (Because Josh has moved out, the birds have moved on, and Brian and I want to create a beautiful space.) caused me to remember the thing I've heard (and thought!) so many times. "You can't have nice things when you have kids!"
And, you know? In many ways that's a true statement.
But as I reflected on my son's joy in caring for his birds - while cleaning the mess they left behind, even as I anticipated a lot of work in making the space beautiful again - I can honestly say, it's OK.
It has been totally worth it.
And if I had it to do all over again, I would still opt for a messy front porch - if it meant my son finding joy in caring for God's creation. If it meant my son could be delighted in learning about what birds like to eat, how they migrate and nest and survive, and caring for their little birdy needs.
Yeah. All that wins out over my desire to have a presentable front porch.
So, for what it's worth, mother of young children (especially boys!), don't worry about having "nice things" right now. For today, let your kids be kids and seek to find joy in seeing them finding joy.
Even if it means a messy front porch.

There. I said it!


Monday, July 01, 2019

Psalm 66:17

I cried out to him with my mouth;
his praise was on my tongue.

~Psalm 66:17