Sunday, July 29, 2012

Going Beyond

Before we got a fence, my son's dog, Buddy, used to go out back on a long lead when he went outside.  We would hook him up and he would go about 40-50 feet out until the lead would tug on his collar and then he knew where his boundaries were. There is a little circular path where he walked back and forth.  He rarely had a tug on his collar after awhile - he was very aware of how far he could go before the tug happened.

One day, Buddy's lead was broken and we couldn't get it to hook onto his collar.  I let him out and just stood there, watching him to make sure he didn't go too far.  Well, he didn't.  It was as if he still had his lead on him.  I was amazed at how he continued walking the exact same path, no further.  He didn't even try to go any further than his boundaries.  He was content with the familiar and he was trained to be bound. I don't even think he realized the chain was gone!  I thought for sure that Buddy would realize he was free and that he would run like the wind, well past his normal boundaries.  But he didn't.  It was quite intriguing.  And then it got me thinking...

It kind of reminded me of how I can be sometimes.  It is for freedom that Christ has set me free, according to Galatians 5:1.  But free from what?  Do I act as if I'm free all the time?  Not so much.  I have been not only saved from sin but I've been set free not to sin and yet often I stay in the same place, wandering on the well-trodden path that I've made just inside my boundaries of the world.  It's as if I don't realize the chain has been snapped and I'm free to go beyond these walls of bondage - but I just don't see it.

How often do I continue to have the same negative thoughts when things get tough?  How often do I worry and complain?  How often do I make the wrong choice because the right one just seems too hard to make?  Every time I decide to willfully sin, I'm acting as if I'm still in chains, still a prisoner to the very sin that Jesus set me free from on the day I received His promise!  Why do I do this?

Maybe it's because, like Buddy, I am comfortable and it is familiar?  I've been trained to be bound. Maybe I am afraid to go beyond the "normal" and experience Christ's freedom?  I mean, what might He ask me to do out there?  What might I encounter?  No matter what, I only know that today I want to go beyond.  I want to experience the freedom Christ died to give me!  I'm reminded that He is with me and He is guiding me - He says He will never leave me or forsake me...do I believe this?

Go beyond, my friend.  Choose wisely today.  Give Him the opportunity to show you how freedom feels and trust Him to help you choose.  The world believes that freedom is being able to sin; that being "free" means we can do whatever our sinful nature wants.  But that will always keep us bound in chains.  It's not very challenging to go with the flow, to continue to make the choices we used to make that were easy to make but left huge, painful consequences.  We think that's adventure?  No way.   It's much bolder and a lot gutsier to go past the boundaries and break free from the chains that sin has bound us with into the new life of freedom Christ promised us!  Now that's adventure.

Buddy did the right thing by staying in the safety of his boundaries.  But we do the right thing by running free, far past the world's boundaries that we used to be bound to!  Christ has broken the chains, my friend!  True freedom comes when we realize that we are free not to sin.  Our freedom is exhibited best when we walk in the Truth - the new life He has given us - the freedom that comes when we choose what, in our own power, would be impossible. 

Romans 6:14-18  Sin is no longer your master, for you no longer live under the requirements of the law.  Instead, you live under the freedom of God's grace.  Well then, since God's grace has set us free from the law, does that mean we can go on sinning?  Of course not!  Don't you realize that you become a slave of whatever you choose to obey?  

You can be a slave to sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous living.  Thank God!  Once you were slaves of sin, but now you wholeheartedly obey this teaching we have given you.  Now you are free from your slavery to sin and you have become slaves to righteous living!
 
 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Do You Know Him?

July 22 is a day that hits me hard every year.  It was twenty-five years ago this past Sunday that one of my college roommates was hit and killed in a car accident.  Every year my mind and my heart go right to that day in 1988 and I'm reminded of the impact it had on my life.

Patty was a bit quiet.  She was kind of the "outsider" of the group of four of us. Not because we didn't like her but because she was quiet and hard to get to know.  A few nights before Patty's accident, the three of us decided to reach out to her and try to get to know her a little better.  We all cleared our calendars and decided to have a girls night out!  We had a roommate picture taken because the local fire station was having a fundraiser and they were taking group photographs.  We thought it would be fun to get a professional photo taken together as roommates so we dressed up in our best clothes and did our makeup (you can imagine how big our hair was in 1988!) and headed out to the fire station.  Afterwards, we danced in the living room to the new album from Midnight Oil, made popcorn, giggled and had a really fun time.  The walls were coming down and Patty was starting to open up.  It was a really fun night for all of us.

Fast forward to a few days later.  It was about eleven o'clock in the morning on Friday morning.  Patty left about an hour and half before and was on her way home for the weekend in her new Ford Escort that her parents had given her a few weeks before.  The phone rang and Beth, one of my roommates, answered the phone.  Within moments, she was curled up on the floor with the phone draping off her hand and she was screaming.  I couldn't understand what she was saying so I took the phone from her.  It was Beth's mother on the line.  Her mother worked at the hospital and told us that Patty had just been brought in and was pronounced dead - she had been in a terrible accident.  Now I was shaking and in disbelief.

After hanging up the phone we stood in the kitchen, hugging one another and crying.  It all seemed so unreal.  We couldn't understand how she had just been in the house not two hours prior to this - and now she was gone.  I went upstairs to her bedroom and the towel she used for her shower that morning was hanging on her doorknob.  It was still wet.  I sat in her room holding her towel and sobbed.

This was the first time in years that I had thought about God.  After being raised in church, I was now a "free" woman - doing what I wanted, skipping church, not praying and I don't even think I owned a Bible.  But I knew about heaven.  I knew about God.  I knew about Jesus.  I knew about hell.  And now I was wondering to which place Patty went that morning.  Did she know Jesus?  Why hadn't I asked her about this?  Why didn't it matter to me before this horrible accident?  I was questioning everything.

The photo we had taken of the four of us came in a few days later and was the last photo taken of our sweet friend, Patty.  To this day, I believe it still hangs in her parent's den in West Virginia.  I wish I had a copy of it, but I'm so thankful that her parents have that memory of her - with a big smile across her face, all dressed up with her friends.

Every year at this time I'm reminded of how fragile life can be.  We learned just this week that we can never be sure if we will see tomorrow after watching what happened to those in Aurora, CO.  Life is brief, but eternity is forever.  We can never take our lives for granted.  I want to encourage you to live your life as if today may be your last and final day on earth.  How would you live?  With whom would you share your faith?  Who, in your life, needs to know Jesus?  Do you know Him?

As it turned out, I did not really know Jesus in 1988.  I knew about Him, but I never gave Him my heart.  I never knew all that He had done for me and even though I went to church as a young girl, I never made Jesus the Lord of my life until much later in life.  I now know how important knowing Him is.  I pray you do, too.

If you want to know more about who Jesus is and why you need to know Him, please visit www.ChristianityExplored.org.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Acts of Kindness...

Here are some fun ideas you can do with your kids to show love and kindness to others this summer:

1.  Volunteer at the Humane Society or local animal shelters - children love animals, so give them an opportunity to put their love into action!  They can walk, play with, or feed the animals.

2.  Volunteer to clean up trash at a community event, county fair, or alongside public roads.

3.  Find a Military pen pal for your family and send him or her letters and care packages.  Go to http://militarypenpal.tripod.com/ for a list of addresses and instructions about what to send and how to send it.

4.  Collect crazy and fun hats for kids receiving chemotherapy treatments at the local hospital.

5.  Help cook and/or serve a meal at a homeless shelter.  Check the local yellow pages for homeless shelters and soup kitchens in your area.

6.  Do yard work such as mowing lawns, gardening or planting trees for the elderly or disabled people - check with local senior citizen centers or your place of worship for a list of people in need.

7.  Visit a Nursing Home - your kids can play games with, read books to, or just talk with the elderly.  Your youthful, cheerful kids will be sure to brighten their day, and your kids will learn a lot by talking with the elderly about the past.

8.  Make care kits with soap, toothbrushes, shampoo, etc. for the homeless or for military personnel.

9.  Work together to write and prepare a puppet show and present it at the local children's hospital.

10.  Run or walk in a charity race, making sure to tell your children what they are walking or running for.

11.  Collect canned food for local charities in your neighborhood.

12.  Bake cookies or brownies and take them to the local fire station and/or police station to thank them for their service to your community.

I'd love to hear your ideas, too!


Monday, July 16, 2012

The Pit

A man fell into a pit and couldn't get himself out. 

A subjective person came along and said, "I feel for you down there." 

An objective person came along and said, "It's logical that someone would fall down there." 

A Christian Scientist came along and said "You only think that you're in that pit." 

A Pharisee said, "Only bad people fall into pits." 

A mathematician calculated how the man fell into the pit. 

A news reporter wanted the exclusive story on his fall into the pit. 

A legalistic Christian said, "You deserve that pit." 

Confuscius said, "If you had listened to me, you would not be in that pit." 

Buddha said, 'Your pit is only a state of mind." 

A realist said, "That is a pit." 

A scientist calculated the pressure necessary in pounds per square inch to get the man out of the pit.

A geologist told him to appreciate the rock strata in the pit.

An evolutionist said, "You are a rejected mutant destined to be removed from the evolutionary cycle - you'll die in that pit so that you cannot produce any pit-falling offspring."

The county inspector asked the man if he had a permit for digging the pit.

A professor gave him a lecture on the elementary principles of the pit. 

An evasive person avoided the subject of the pit altogether.

A self-pitying person said, "You haven't seen anything until you've seen my pit."

A charismatic from the Faith movement said, "Just confess it and you'll not be in that pit any longer."

An optimist said, "Things could be worse."

A pessimist said, "Things will get worse."

But Jesus, seeing the man, took him by the hand and lifted him out of the pit.

(Taken from You Can Understand the Book of Revelation by Skip Heitzig, page 87)

Are you in a pit today?  There's only one true Savior.

Psalm 40:1 "I waited patiently for the Lord to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry.  He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire.  He set my feet only solid ground and steadied me as I walked along.  He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God.  Many will see what he has done and be amazed.  They will put their trust in the Lord."



Thursday, July 12, 2012

Squinting to See Him

In a correspondence with one of my friends last week I wrote "I'm squinting to see the Lord right now - please pray for me."  Have you ever had times like that?  It's like a drought of sorts.

I'm finding as I mature in my faith that these times of drought do come, but that they are often followed up with some very sweet times of refreshment with the Lord.  I'm learning to wait with more patience during my drought because God has been faithful every time to end it eventually.  I get a little antsy sometimes though, honestly!  Well, this morning in my quiet time I feel I finally got some relief.  It was as if the drought ended in my spirit! 

I was reading in Acts chapter one.  When I got to verses 9 & 10, I stopped and couldn't move on.  I read them over and over and over again.  I knew God was trying to show me something, so I prayed He would keep revealing whatever it was He was trying to show me.  The verses were talking about Jesus Christ and His ascension to heaven.  In verse 9 it says "After saying this, He was taken up into a cloud while they were watching and they could no longer see Him."  Then, verse 10..."As they strained to see Him rising into heaven, two white-robed men suddenly stood among them." 

The part I couldn't get past was "...they could no longer see Him.  As they strained to see Him..."  It just kept leaping off the page, directly into my heart.  It was exactly how I have been feeling over the past couple of weeks.  I couldn't see the Lord in my life and I was straining to see Him.  It was almost exactly what I had written to my friend!

My first reaction was "Wow, I'm not the only one!" and then I began to wonder why they couldn't see Him and what it was that was in the way that made it so hard for them to keep their eyes on Him.  Backing up to the beginning of verse 9, it said He was taken up into a cloud.  The clouds were in the way of their view of Him.  I thought those clouds could represent the sickness, lethargy, monotony and frustration I've felt over the past couple of weeks.  But just because the clouds were there, did that mean Jesus wasn't?  No.  It just meant they were in the way, deterring their view of Him.  That's when their faith had to kick in.  That's when my faith needed to kick in!

So today, I'm not squinting to see Him in my life and I'm not straining to see Him either.  I'm just trusting that He is there, no matter what clouds my view of Him in life.  He said "I will never leave you, I will never forsake you."  When Jesus says it, He means it.  He doesn't lie.  So, what will my response be?  Do I believe Him or not?

Yes, the drought is over for now.  I'm feeling times of refreshment in my spirit again!  I'm so grateful for times like this.  I think I need to remember to be thankful for times of drought, too, though because those are the times when I can really build my faith muscles by learning to trust Him, even when the cloudy situations of life are in the way of my view.

James 1:2-4  Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.  For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.  So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Take a Hike!

My husband's favorite thing to do in the world is take long hikes in the mountains.  I enjoy it, too, but mostly because I like seeing him in his glory.  I mean, I like hiking but I'm just not as good at it as he is.  But watching him do what he loves is such a joy for me. Yesterday we had the opportunity to go on about a four mile hike up the difficult trails of Crowder's Mountain again.  It's such a great time to clear the head and get fresh air and spend time with the greatest man on earth all at the same time. (smile)

Yesterday as we were hiking, I realized I don't get to see much around me at all.  I'm basically just watching the path right in front of me, following in the steady steps of my man in front of me because it's so rocky that if you try to look up and around at the sights, you roll your ankle or trip.  If we wanted to soak in the view, we had to stop and rest.  It was kind of nice, though.  Especially at the top...wow...it was gorgeous! 

I love how my husband goes right before me, making sure the path is sturdy, grabbing my hand and helping me at the difficult passes.  He's so sweet to do that because I know he could go faster and work harder if I were not with him but he prefers to have me there, even though it seems to slow him down a bit.  He must love me a lot.

With each careful step, I realized that my hike was similar to how I need to walk through life.  Not looking too far ahead, but carefully taking life one day at a time.  Otherwise, I get tripped up. I need to stop and soak in the view every now and then with my best friend at my side.  In life, I need to do this, too.  Taking time to slow down and soak in the view can be hard when you are a busy woman with a ton of stuff on the calendar!  I need to walk through life steady and slow, careful and following in the footsteps of my husband, the leader God has graciously given me to help guide me.  He's the one who is there to encourage me when I feel like I cannot go another step, he's there to help me when the path gets rocky and dangerous by taking my hand and helping me stay safe.

I've heard it said that it's not about the destination as much as it is the journey, and I must agree.  During my experiences yesterday, my favorite part was not soaking in the breathtaking view at the top (thought it was beautiful), but it was more about seeing selflessness, support and encouragement in the actions of my husband toward me.  The beauty of yesterday was in realizing how incredibly blessed I am to have such an amazing man to walk this journey with each day and that together, we can conquer any mountain.




 


Sunday, July 1, 2012

Oops...I Offended Someone (Again)!

Awhile ago, I was at a ladies retreat and at one point we were sitting at a round table and after our discussion, we held hands and said a prayer.  It was a sweet, intimate moment.  But later on, my girlfriend told me how she giggled to herself when right after the prayer, I took my hand sanitizer and cleaned my hands right in front of everyone!  I don't even remember doing that.  I'm horrified that I did it, too!  It must have been subconscious.  I hope nobody was offended.  I can be such a goober sometimes.

Anyway, I began to wonder why I would do such a thing, even if it was subconscious.  I suppose it's because I knew that the flu was going around and I'm way too undisciplined to keep my hands away from my eyes, nose and mouth.  Keeping my hands away from my face is quite a challenge, for some reason. I even thought about how I needed to train myself by getting one of those Elizabethian Dog Collars...you know the ones that they put on dogs when they have surgery so they don't bite at the wound?  Yeah, that's a great look.  Think I'll go get one later.

My point in this is that I don't always realize how the things I do, whether conscious or not, are often seen by others.  I never want anyone to get the wrong impression about me but sometimes they will, whether I like it or not.  I just experienced this when I said something on my Facebook a couple of days ago that was taken offensively to some people.  I didn't mean for it to be offensive and was mortified when I realized some people found it inappropriate. Yup, there I went again.  Offending people.  Unintentionally.  Woe is me....

I could drive myself crazy worrying about making the wrong impression (you've heard the saying "perception is reality"?) or I could hope that others just realize I'm human and know that my God loves me just the way I am - even if I am a wacky, germ-a-phobe who occasionally does really dumb things.  I'm pretty sure I'm not the only human like that. 

My friend laughed as she realized how horrified I was about the subconscious "offense" with the hand sanitizer because she said her first thought, and probably the first thought of everyone else at the table, was "Hey, pass that stuff over here!" and when she told me this, I realized that I may have made a bigger deal of this than I needed to in my mind.  Why do we do this to ourselves?

Has someone offended you recently?  If so, have you spoken with them about it? Maybe they don't even realize what they have done.  You never know until you speak with them personally about it. Matthew 18:15 says, " “If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back..."

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go wash my hands.  No telling who or what has been on this keyboard....

 Hatred stirs up quarrels, but love makes up for all offenses.  Proverbs 10:12


Got Questions?

GotQuestions?org