Thursday, May 30, 2013

Truth to See Me Through

Part of our move to a new life in Prague was leaving behind a number of things. 

One of them is family and another is friends. There's no doubt that maintaining long distance relationships takes a fair amount of extra time and attention to keep them healthy and vibrant. 

We're committed to that effort and feel we're doing a decent job of it by God's grace.

We also left behind a mountain of material goods. We really struggled with a small window of preparation before our departure. It's not always easy to figure out what you'll need and what you won't, what to take or what to leave. 

When the decisions have to be made quickly the results are not always pretty. [as in this photo]

So here we are in the USA wanting to use every minute to enjoy family (especially those pesky grandkids) and connect with friends BUT needing to spend loads of time sorting what to keep, what to give away, what to sell, what to store, what to take to Prague. 

Making the decisions is only stage 1. Stage 2 is figuring out where each category of items needs to go. Give it away to whom and how, prepare it for a garage sale with a price, set it in the pile to take to Prague hoping it will all fit, figure out how to store it safely away from mold, etc. Stage 3 is taking all those plans to completion. 

I'm tired just writing that out for you. 

And it doesn't even include the dentist and doctor, haircut and eyeglass appointments, nor all the shopping for necessities like vitamins and supplements, clothes and stuff we can't get there, nor the various meetings we have scheduled from state to state. 

Now I'm totally overwhelmed.

ThankFULLy God always has every thing under control.

As I'm considering the pressures around me I'm reminded of the following verses I shared today with a friend whose husband is in the hospital with a 'concerning symptom array'.

"But now, this is what the LORD says - he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: 'Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze."  Isaiah 43:1-3  (NIV, 1984)

I'm thinking these words are equally valuable for critical health threats as for crushing activity levels.  

Where is God meeting you today with this passage?

Monday, May 27, 2013

How to Please God in 3 Easy Steps

Okay, now that my blog-promoting title has caught your attention let me see if I can deliver.

Before I give you the steps I want you to realize that there's sacrifice involved. So get ready.

The other thing you need to know is that whatever we bring to God has to come through Christ. 

That's because God's Son is the One who opened the way for us to His Father by the sacrifice of His own life. His blood cancels the debt of my sin and the wrath it required, and allows me to build an intimate relationship with the Creator of the world.

Now that the basics are in place, let's get started.

Step 1
Praise God continually for who He is, what He's done, what He is doing, what He will do in your life, the lives of those you care about, the lives of those around you, the lives of every person on the planet, and how lovingly, wisely, perfectly, . . . He's doing it all. 

Step 2
Do good to others intentionally, faithfully, lovingly, creatively, continually, . . . in the face of your perceived inadequacies, lack of resources, unacceptability, . . . , in sacrificial ways that demonstrate the existence of God.

Step 3
Continually share the good news about the setting for and results of Steps 1 and 2 no matter how much you might have to sacrifice in personal peace, the court of public opinion, . . .

You may be wondering how I can write so boldly about these sure-fire ways to please God. Let me suggest that it's because I'm merely sharing the directions God gave Paul to record.

"Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise - the first fruit of lips that confess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased."  Hebrews 13:15,16 (NIV, 1984)

So maybe the steps are not exactly 'easy' but at least they're clear and concise. 

Go ahead. Give 'em a try. Then let me know how it's going.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Socks for Holiness!

It wasn't a pretty sight. 

The tip of my toe was sticking out of one of my favorite socks. 

Well, they weren't so much my favorites as they were the ones on my feet so I'd have to go put on a new pair.


As I pondered my wiggling tootsie I started to think about hole-i-ness and holiness. 

I know that holiness is the goal God sets before me.

"Be holy, because I am holy." Leviticus 11:44,45; 19:2; 1 Peter 1:16 (NIV, 1984)

But being holy sure isn't as easy as poking my toe through my sock. That kind of hole-i-ness seems to simply appear on its own without any effort on my part. Maybe now and then I feel my toe rubbing on the inside of my shoe while I'm walking along, but that's all. No pain.

God's kind of holiness is quite different. 

"Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful.  Hebrews 12:10,1114 (NIV, 1984)

I have to admit that the kind of work it takes to yield my will to God's can be pretty painful at times. It's downright difficult to have my wants go unmet and my ways fall apart even if they are frivolous and selfish . . . even when I'm thankful they crumble because I know they don't feed my deepest desire which is to please God.

Hallelujah, it's God's process toward God's goal. 

"Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it."   Hebrews 12:10,1114 (NIV, 1984)

I thank God that He's in charge of the holiness transformation in my life. That means that every aspect of His perfect character is being applied to making me fit to spend eternity with Him. It's not as easy as putting a hole in my sock, but the rewards are much greater.

This is an undertaking I can really get on board with. Let's go, God!

"Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord."  Hebrews 12:14 (NIV, 1984)

Maybe it would be helpful if I wear socks with holes in them all the time. At least then I'd have a steady reminder about where I'm headed. 

OR maybe I should go around collecting hole-y socks so I can pass them out at churches to remind all of God's people about His goal for us. I could even make a sign, "Socks for Holiness".

Yeah, now that's an idea. 

How about you? What suggestions do you have for promoting holiness?

Monday, May 20, 2013

How to Beat Insomnia

Maybe like me, you've been fighting a long-time battle with insomnia.

Or maybe you only hear the clashing swords from time to time.

I do better on some nights than others, but I had a string of losses last month. 

Not sure why it takes me so long to remember to turn to the Source of all wisdom and power. 

Never mind. I made it there finally and the insight is worth sharing.

Actually, I'm not even going to take the time to tell you the way I came upon this clever little strategy. I'd have to chalk it up to the Holy Spirit anyway so that's the short and true explanation.

When I find myself struggling to go to sleep (or drop off again) I make the effort to turn my mind and heart toward God through His Word. Lately I've been meditating on Psalm 23. It's been going something like this.

THE LORD is my shepherd ...
     The One and Only, above all others in every way . . . 

The LORD is my shepherd ...
     The Reigning Creator and King of all that exists . . .

The LORD IS my shepherd ...
     God was from the beginning and is ever-present . . .

The LORD is MY shepherd ... 
     God called me to Himself and I am part of His flock . . .

The LORD is my SHEPHERD ...
     God cares for me as a shepherd, guiding with love and security . . .

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.
     God grants me personally the privileges of a daughter . . . 

The LORD is my shepherd, I SHALL not want.
     God oversees every detail of the future He has planned for me . . . 

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall NOT want. 
     God will say 'yes' and 'no' to me according to His perfect will . . .

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not WANT.*
     God intends to bar any unmet needs from my life as I trust . . .

I've never been able to complete this careful review and expansion through verse 6 before falling asleep. The LORD's Truth settles my mind and heart and causes me to relax in His everlasting arms. 

Next time you're struggling on the field of sleep-defying warfare, give this idea a try and let me know how the Great Shepherd of the Sheep answers. Thank you.

*Psalm 23:1  (KJV)

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Raid of the 'Not MEs'

When we were raising our children the 'Not MEs' visited regularly. Whether it was a toy left out or a missing last cookie the cry was heard, "Not ME. Nope, not ME!"

Apparently there were outsiders who would sneak into the house when my back was turned and undertake all kinds of dastardly deeds. Funny, I was never able to catch one.

Maybe that's why I heard their names called the other day.

I'd noticed that morning that the container of dish soap was nearly empty. I reminded myself as I set out to make lunch that I needed to refill it. 

I pulled out the large jug under the sink and reached for the squeeze bottle. It was as full as it is in this photo. 

In my surprise I called out, "Hey, who refilled the dish soap?"

The old refrain was heard anew, "Not ME. Nope, not ME!"

I had to chuckle. Did my Honey really think I'd fall for that old trick? After all, there are only two of us here now. Besides, refilling the container was a blessing to me - a good deed. 

He came out of his office and I thanked him for his kindness. We spent a few minutes reminiscing about the days of the 'Not MEs' when responsibility was hard to pin down. 

This time around the prompt for their appearance was a positive one. I began to consider what the results of a raid by biblical 'Not MEs' might look like. Have you seen anything like this lately?

"Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture."  Psalm 37:3

"She [wife] brings him [husband] good, not harm, all the days of her life."  Proverbs 31:12

"He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God."  Micah 6:8

"Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers."  Galatians 6:9,9

"But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you."  Luke 6:27,28

"Test everything. Hold on to the good."  1 Thessalonians 5:21

"For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."  Ephesians 2:10

Monday, May 13, 2013

Whatcha Done for Me Lately?

"He is your praise; he is your God, who performed for you those great and awesome wonders you saw with your own eyes." Deuteronomy 10:21 NIV 1984

Some would say these words were recorded in an ancient setting. Since Deuteronomy is in the Old Testament, that’s true. 

Others would say the verse refers to some of the most amazing events ever recorded. Since they include God rescuing His people from the grip of Egyptian slavery and having them cross the Red Sea on dry land, that’s true too.

I've been pondering a more personal impact in these historic words. Since they are God-breathed and have been retained for my benefit, I want to mine their treasures.

I notice that when I read of a miraculous happening in Scripture, I marvel at all that God can do. It might be His tender care of an orphan like Esther that results in an expression of His power in the lives of a nation. It might be the way He restores a woman like Naomi from abject abandonment to a secure family embrace.

I find these biblical accounts of the Father's omniscient omnipotent ways inspiring. But I don't need to settle for what happened in the Old and New Testament though it's pretty amazing stuff. My own life carries the mark of God's gracious redemptive work.

I'm a sinner saved by grace out of a life of distress and dissipation. I have a 45-year strong marriage to a man of integrity provided at a time I did not acknowledge God's love or sovereignty. Our family is a loving, growing blessing for which I can claim no credit. There are marvels galore in the paths I've walked and continue to negotiate.

Even beyond these monumental gifts, there are the so called "little things" that happen throughout my days. The sometimes-but-not-always-subtle incidents that I somehow seem to forget to cherish.

There's the apartment we secured the third day after we arrived in Prague, the sunsets we enjoy over our balcony railing that take away my breath, our weekly skype visits with our grandchildren that delight my heart, the Rye Krisps I discovered at our regular grocery store after weeks of searching, the local body of saints where I settle into worship, and the moment my Honey caught my arm before I stepped out in front of a tram. 

Whenever I consciously choose to stop and revel in God's goodness to me and the reality that I deserve not one whit of all the intimate and active love He lavishes on me, I am overwhelmed. My heart responds with humble adoration. 

The words of Moses certainly reach far beyond Old Testament times. They call out to all of us to remember who God is and to ponder the "great and awesome wonders" He's performing in our lives, the ones we see with our own eyes.

What wonders have you seen lately?

"He is your praise; he is your God, who performed for you those great and awesome wonders you saw with your own eyes." Deuteronomy 10:21 NIV 1984  [emphasis mine]

Thursday, May 9, 2013


I don't know about you, but I get a little frustrated with obstacles. (My Honey would say that's probably the biggest understatement of the century.)

Some hurdles are expected and though they still slow me down I seem to find perseverance in the midst of the extra effort they require.

The challenges that really get to me are the ones that seem to pop up out of no where. I feel like I'm sailing along in the flow of life and BAM a collection of unexpected barriers confront me.

Take a recent Sunday for instance. We went out the door on time all dressed and enthusiastic about gathering to worship God. When we came up from the metro and turned down the street this is what we found. We stopped short and stood still, wondering what to do.

The sign says CHODNÍK UZAVŘEN* but it wasn't any help because we can't read Czech. Well, we could pronounce the words. It was their meaning that escaped us.

We were not in a casual wandering mode. We needed to get around the corner to the left to meet Tram 17 which was about to arrive any minute. If we missed it, we'd be late to church. How were we supposed to negotiate this gauntlet?

My Honey is a man of considered action, especially when it concerns faith issues. No such flimsy hindrance was going to make him late for corporate worship. He stepped off the curb and walked right around the whole mess. I, in my ongoing need for practice in yielding, ignored that shiny yellow walkway and followed him into the roadway and up to the street light. 

When we were back on track I turned around and looked back at the hazards we'd just avoided. It was an ugly set of dirty holes and ugly pipes not to mention the protruding stones. I seemed to see the safety fences and temporary walkway for the first time. Oh well, I thought. They did set up a sorta detour. That's a relief. But my Honey took me on an alternate route that got me where I needed to be without crossing a harrowing obstacle course.

Today I look at this picture and wonder how many times I've faced similar trials - an unforeseen hindrance appears and I feel overwhelmed by the apparent mine field before me.  I know the shock itself throws me off balance. 

I ponder further about how my life would change if I would repeat my actions of that day - ignore the manmade detour and relax into the God-directed path.

"Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed."  1 Peter 4:12-13  NIV 1984

PS   That's my shadow at the bottom of the photo.
PPS   We made it to Tram 17 and arrived on time.

*I now know the sign said SIDEWALKS CLOSED.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Good Ole What's Her Name

I probably met her numerous times before, but I didn't remember her name.

I gotta admit that I never thought twice about what people called her.

After all, she was just a servant. 

And yet, somehow, the name of the maid who failed in her duties is recorded in history.

I mean, how could that happen? 

The girl's behavior was so outlandish that those around her declared, "You're out of your mind."

How could it be that a lowly door keeper who didn't open the door for a special guest gets to be named when so many seemingly more significant others remain nameless?

I don't know the precise reason, but Rhoda is my new best friend.

You see, I identify with this servant girl. 
I have a list of mundane tasks that fill my days as I seek to serve my Master with diligence, love, peace, and joy.

I too fail in my duties.
Every day (often every hour or moment to be honest) I find myself heading in the wrong direction or flagging in my efforts.

I've heard similar words. 
The sting of such condemnation and disapproval when I'm out of step with those around me takes its toll and I question.

Who am I that anyone would find me or my service valuable or noteworthy - now or ever?

The answer is as simple as the nose on my proverbial face.


His infallible Word tells me that as surely as God knew the name of the servant girl who was too excited to open the door for Peter He knows and calls me by my name. Acts 12:13, John 10:3 

The indescribable truth is that the same God who recorded the name of my new best friend in His Holy Word and protected it across the ages recorded my name in the Book of Life for all eternity. Ephesians 1:4, Revelation 21:27

Thank you, God. Thank you for making yourself known to me by introducing Rhoda and Sandra. May your Name be exalted and hallowed in all the earth. Amen

Thursday, May 2, 2013

More Accurate than Punxsutawney Phil

It's been a long time since we've seen the sun over the City of a Hundred Spires. 

And not only have the skies been cloudy, gray blockades against the sunshine. 

They've also kept the temperatures pretty low throughout the month of April.

To give you an idea, two days ago I had to wear my pile-lined winter boots in order to keep my legs warm. 

No joke!

The plants aren't even growing and blossoming properly. The tulips in the flowerbeds around the traffic circle in our neighborhood have sprouted a few limp green leaves and that's all - no buds to be seen.

So . . . if you can't see the sun and the gardens aren't giving proper signals, how do we know it's spring? 

The dates on the calendar are supposed to answer that question. Right now I'm wondering if I should be measuring any seasons by those little blocks. After all, it's been acting like winter outdoors since well before December 21. 

In case you're looking for a surefire way to mark the change to the season that's supposed to lead up to and prepare us for summer, I can help you.

I woke up a couple of days ago and prepared breakfast in the usual fashion - set the water to boil, take out the frying pan and an egg, put the bread in the toaster. I laid out the silverware and plates, drinks and napkins before the toaster popped. 

I went over, took out the toast, and grabbed the knife. Whoa!! Man, that baby just slipped right through the butter. It actually clunked on the dish underneath. I was so surprised I straightened up and stepped back.

I called out to my Honey. "Hey, the butter's soft enough to spread. It sure must've been warm overnight."

I smoothed the butter over the bread and the ease of that task caused my thoughts to fall into place. 

"I guess it really must be spring after all."

You know, this all reminds me that I need to keep my eyes peeled for the signs God provides. They're just the ones He promises and they always appear at the perfect time and place. 

Not only that, God's signs are also the ones I for sure do not want to miss. How about you?

"Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel."  Isaiah 7:14