Ever Insult a Rhino?

A number of years ago my husband and I had the opportunity to visit the San Diego Zoo. Mark had a conference that he was involved in and I went along. I had never been to California before and I was looking forward to some beautiful sunny weather. Unfortunately, when we went it was during an occurrence of La Nina and the weather, while sunny, was extremely chilly. I made the best of it. While my hubby was schmoozing with big wigs, I was fully dressed, laying on a lounge chair shivering. Ha, ha. However, it was a beautiful resort and we did get to do a little sightseeing while we were there, including their famous zoo. 

The San Diego Zoo is famous for its size as well as the variety of interesting animals who call it home. After buying a sweatshirt for me, to keep me from shivering to death, we had fun exploring. Coming upon the rhino exhibit my husband and I were fascinated with how visible these magnificent beasts were. The low wall allowed for a full view of one particularly sturdy black rhino munching on long grasses. 

Pixabay

Pixabay

I do not speak rhino, so I did not expect the craggy monster to understand what I said, but apparently he did. When the rhino had picked up a large mass of grasses he lifted his head and looked at me. With all that vegetable matter hanging out on either side of his pointy proboscis he looked rather silly. I told him so.

"Hey! You are goofy looking!"

No sooner had the words left my mouth than that rock of an animal began rotating his body so that his large derriere was facing me. My husband found this most amusing, while I was worried I was going to experience something worse than just rhino flatulence. I decided to move further down the path, but my spouse began to empathize with the poor, misunderstood rhino.

"That's okay! She treats me that way too!"

Pixabay

Pixabay

The rhino was not to be consoled. He continued to move his butt end so that it was facing me as I moved down the path. Finally, he lifted his tail and passed gas! I guess he told me. I'll never insult a rhino again.

My reason for sharing this story has to do with our ability to hurt people with our words, both written and spoken. While, I am fairly sure the rhino did not understand what I said, people are much more in tune with the words spoken to them. The same is true of the opinions we share on social media. 

We often feel because we live in a free country we have the right to say whatever we want, wherever we want, with what ever enthusiasm we want. While it is true that we have many freedoms and rights because of the nation we live in, does that give us a carte blanche to spew without regard to who I might be hurting or offending?

Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity Than he who is perverse in speech and is a fool.
— Proverbs 19:1 (NASB)
But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth.
— Colossians 3:8 (NASB)
Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.
— Colossians 4:6 (NASB)

I think this last verse really sums it up well. We are to let our speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt. Most of you know that adding salt to a dish, helps to make it tasty, but adding too much salt can make that same dish taste terrible.

Pixabay

Pixabay

I am all for speaking truth. As a Christ follower, I am obligated to share the truth of the gospel and the words of God from the Bible, but I can choose to do it in a way that is offensive and overly salty, or I can share as His Spirit moves and gives opportunity. It is in this intimate walk with Christ that my words will be just the perfect seasoning. Having a close relationship with Jesus will enable us to know when to speak and when to be quiet; when to share the truth and when to just give words of comfort. 

As you go forward today draw close to Him, think before you speak and remember to never insult a rhino!

What Do You Believe?

The word faith as defined by Webster's dictionary means, a firm belief in something for which there is no proof. We often associate the word faith with religion. The Jews believe in Yahweh, the Muslims believe in Allah, the Christians believe in Jesus and the atheists believe in nothing. Even the lack of a deity is a belief, because there is no absolute proof. You can say there is no God, but how do you know for sure? Can you take a rocket ship into the furtherest reaches of space and discover that there is no being who calls himself God? Probably not and even if you had the resources to build a rocket and go into space, the vastness of that place would make it impossible for you to ever truly discover wether or not there is a supreme being known as God. 

Jeremy Thomas  on StockSnap

Jeremy Thomas on StockSnap

Faith is just that. It is the ability to believe without proof. Every day we make faith based choices. I have faith that when I get out of bed the floor I step on will hold me. I have faith that the air I breathe or the water I drink will not kill me. I have faith that when I drive to work, everyone else will obey the traffic laws, driving the speed limit, stopping at red lights and driving on the correct side of the road. A parent exercises faith when they put their child on the school bus. A patient exercises faith when they go to the doctor. Even scientists exercise faith in many of the theories and scientific laws they put forth as fact. 

At some point in your life, you might want to ask yourself, what do I believe? Maybe you are wondering what I believe. Belief comes with an aspect of trust. Whatever I believe or put my faith in, I am choosing to trust. Trust seems to be a big issue in our world today. We live in a society filled with mistrust, whether it be in the President of the United States, in our educational system or in our own spouses. In many cases a child cannot even trust his own parent where abuse is involved. So who do you trust?

So what is the big deal? Why have faith? Why bother trusting anyone, but myself? Any of you who remember Simon and Garfunkel, probably remember the song, I Am A Rock, which included lyrics like, 

I’ve built walls
A fortress, steep and mighty
That none may penetrate
I have no need of friendship
Friendship causes pain.
It’s laughter and it’s loving I disdain.
I am a rock
I am an island
— Simon and Garfunkel - I Am A Rock
Mikkel Schmidt  on StockSnap

Mikkel Schmidt on StockSnap

Even though we probably have all felt like an island at some point in time, the reality is that we need people. Not only that, but we need to be able to put our trust in someone who won't let us down. 

When I was twelve, my family was faced with some difficult financial stresses. It put a strain on my parents relationship and I was old enough to know that it was creating hardship in our family. It was at that point in time that I decided I needed someone I could trust and gave my heart and life to Jesus Christ. In order to be able to fully trust, we have to be able to be fully vulnerable and know that we will not be hurt by doing so. 

Jesus has been, not only my Savior, but my closest friend. Maybe you are reading this and thinking, "I don't get it! How could you have a friendship with a being who is so far beyond what we know and understand?" That is the beauty of this faith! I believe, not in a religion. I believe in a relationship.

Jesus speaks in the Gospels of relationship. He speaks of dwelling together, like a family.

In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you.
— John 14:2 (NASB)
Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.”
— John 14:23 (NASB)
“I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.”
— John 17:20-21 (NASB)

These are not the words of a being who wants to keep his distance, nor one that makes demands we can never keep. These are the words of the God Man, both fully God and fully Man. His desire is that we be with Him and that we have oneness with Him and His Father. When I put my trust in someone, He was the one. 

Who are you trusting in today? The government, the law, the psychic or yourself? Why not put your trust in the one who has loved you with an everlasting love. 

King Solomon is considered to be the wisest King of all time and this is what he said, 

My son, do not forget my teaching,
But let your heart keep my commandments;
For length of days and years of life
And peace they will add to you.
Do not let kindness and truth leave you;
Bind them around your neck,
Write them on the tablet of your heart.
So you will find favor and good repute
In the sight of God and man.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make your paths straight.
Do not be wise in your own eyes;
Fear the Lord and turn away from evil.
It will be healing to your body
And refreshment to your bones.
— Proverbs 3:1-8 (NASB)

Mulling it Over - Part 1

We struggle with life, just like everyone does, but we live with knowledge of a world beyond what our own eyes can see. A spiritual world where a real battle wages. This is a battle of good versus evil, more real than anything we might read in a Tolkien saga or the world of Harry Potter.

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Abide

What does it mean to abide? When we talk about our homes we sometimes refer to them as our "abodes". Simply put, our homes are where we abide. We sleep, eat, shower and live in these places we call home. Why then does Jesus say in John 15:4, "Abide in me, and I in you"? How do we abide in Jesus? 

Think about the other people that live with you. Perhaps it is only you and your spouse, like my husband and I. Your children are grown and have (finally) moved into their own abodes. Maybe you are a multi-generational family with children, grandchildren and grandparents all living together. Whatever the situation, who we live with can affect our daily lives. Parents with small children are (hopefully) trying to provide a safe and nurturing environment for their kids. Their main concern is caring for those children. Families who are caring for their aging parents live their lives around the care and security of people who have their own sets of needs and sometimes health issues. Two people who are new to the empty nest syndrome may be trying to navigate rediscovering this stranger they married. All of these situations require time, effort and choice.

In the same way if we are serious about our relationship with Christ and we desire to abide in Him and allow Him to abide in us, we must invest time, effort and choice. Don't limit yourself to certain times of the day, after all, the people you live with are there on a regular basis. You can rationalize, "I don't have time to do daily devotions." Do you also not have time to clothe and feed your children? You do that without thinking. So too, our relationship with Christ should be done without thinking.

When you wake, pray before you get out of bed. When you are standing in the shower, recite those scriptures you are trying to remember or think on the words of a hymn or praise song. When you are driving to work pour out your concerns to Him. When you are at the grocery store thank Him for all the good things lining the aisles. Abiding is living with our focus on Him. Day in. Day out.

And observe especially, it was not that He said, ‘Come to me and abide with me,’ but, ‘Abide in me.’ The intercourse was not only to be unbroken, but most intimate and complete.....

Who would after seeking the King’s palace, be content to stand in the door, when he is invited to dwell in the King’s presence, and share with Him in all the glory of His royal life?
— Andrew Murray - Abide in Christ

A Personal Story of Growth

Between my freshman and sophomore years at college, I had an internship with my church's youth pastor. He took three of us college age adults and offered a summer of intensive training as co-leaders of our youth group. I knew I wanted to serve God, but I was not sure what that was going to look like, so I was excited about the opportunity to learn and grow under Pastor Dave. Our tasks involved working directly with the youth, planning and implementing activities, as well as speaking and leading our church's midweek prayer services. Not only that, but Dave met with us weekly as a mentor leading us in prayer and memorization of scripture. This was a time of phenomenal growth and excitement as a young person.

church

However, God has His own way of causing growth in our lives and His ways are not always pleasant. About mid way into this summer adventure I began having pain under my left armpit. After a few days large red lumps developed. Not being one to hurry to the doctor, my mother had a two volume set of medical diseases put out by Reader's Digest. In another day or two, when the red lumps painfully erupted, I knew I had a case of boils. An armpit in the heat of summer is not a pleasant place anyway, but throw in some oozing, festering lumps and you can be sure I wasn't a happy camper.

If you have never experienced boils, I can only say, I hope you never do. They are extremely painful. For the most part they can be treated with warm compresses, topical antibiotic ointment and frequent cleaning. If a fever develops see the doctor. For me, there was no fever, just three or four very painful lumps that had to be cleaned and tended several times a day.

In the midst of this difficulty, on one particularly painful day, I cried out to God as I was attempting to clean my wounds.

I asked Him, "Why is this happening? What is it that I need to learn?" 

As if He spoke audibly He said, "Your attitudes are like these boils. You try to pretend things don't bother you, but your spirit is a festering sore waiting to burst. You have a sickness inside of you that you need to let me heal."

Wow! He was right! I had found myself over the course of those weeks becoming increasingly jealous of my co-workers at the church. I was not the dominant, funny, cute personality. I was the work horse. I also found myself frustrated with the youth. They were self absorbed and only ever concerned over having fun, rather than desiring Jesus. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black. There I was acting just as immature as some of the 13 year olds and being a hindrance, rather than a help to my fellow ministers. 

Right there in my bathroom at home I fell to my knees and wept. I was letting God down and I was selfish. I confessed my jealousy, my impatience and my lack of love and asked God to help me to grow.

I kid you not, when I say, within a couple days my boils were almost fully healed; the pain, redness and lumps all disappearing as if they had never been there. I realize a skeptic could say, that the boils had run their course and with proper care were at the point healing could happen. I disagree! God knows me so well. He knows my need for pictures. I am a writer. He knows that pictures will stick with me forever and indeed they have. He knew the only way I was going to "get it" was to make me "feel it."

God does not always smack us up side the head to teach us something, but He does what is needed to implement growth in our lives. I grew in three ways that summer. 

First, I grew in a very personal way. It is not easy to be brought low and told that you are really messing up, but God did that to me. It allowed me, not only to see the depth of my sin, but the heights of His love. My mind grew as it realized that God does speak outside of His word. He speaks in very real "words" to our hearts. My emotions grew as I had to let God take the dross that had floated to the surface of my spirit and skim it off. 

Photo Credit  Rebecca Trumbull

Photo Credit Rebecca Trumbull

I also grew in the area of my relationships. I shared my trial not only with my mom, but went to those I was working with, including Pastor Dave, and apologized for having a bad attitude. The use of "analogy" has become a way God allows me to help and understand others. Through other trials in life, God has brought me to a place where I try to think before I act and where I can have a genuine hurt for others who are in pain, physical or emotional.

And finally, God grew me in the area of ministry and community. I realized this wasn't a "one trick pony" show. We are all part of the body and we are all necessary to the body. It is always hard to watch others getting the praise and credit for their work and good deeds, but I have learned to be content (or at least I try) where God has placed me. Not everyone can be a brain or an eye. Some of us are toes and shins! Ha, ha.

God teaches us in very different ways, but He does it for our growth and benefit and for the growth and benefit of others around us. Don't be afraid of growth, even if it is unpleasant. It is just another way, an Almighty God demonstrates His great love toward us. 

Are Things Getting a Little Prickly?

You all know the feeling. Something nagging at the back of your brain like some sort of prickly bush; that voice that keeps asking, "Is your conscience bothering you? Why? What have you done?" 

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines conscience as "the part of the mind that makes you aware of your actions as being either morally right or wrong." As Christians we allow that it is the Holy Spirit who makes us aware of our actions and whether they are right or wrong. It seems to me, however, that we pay less and less attention to what the Spirit is trying to tell us, especially with regards to sin. God created us with a conscience to guide our choices and our acts. When we receive His Spirit, the Spirit speaks to us, to our conscience to guide us, but also to remind us when we have broken faith with the Creator. Once again God provided a way for that break in our relationship to be restored; through the act of confession.

As we think about Easter and what Christ did for us, it is only fitting that we examine our own lives and hearts to see where we might be breaking faith with God. We need to ask Him and His Spirit to reveal our sins to us. Sometimes sins are obvious, but not always. It is easy to point fingers at others and think, "Well, at least I'm not as bad as So and So!" But that attitude will not restore your relationship with the Father. Humility demands that I ask myself, "What have I done to hurt You?"

God is all knowing. 

O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.
— Psalm 139 1 - 4 (NESV)

We may think that our internal sins, pride, lust, envy...are hidden from each other, but they do not make it past the Holy One's gaze. And dear one, that gaze is one of love. He knows that those things we cling to are only hurting us, not helping. He wants to heal you and He wants restoration of His relationship with you.

So, if you can and if you care and if that prickly bush is poking you, find a moment to go to Him and confess. 

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
— I John 1:9 (NESV)

You will not regret that conversation and you will get rid of that prickly bush.

cactus