Lessons from Loss

I’ve decided to take another week off, before getting back to my series on Godly traits. On Monday my daughter texted me that a woman from our former church had died unexpectedly. I was in shock. Mary was only a few years older than me. She had five grown children, a devoted husband and her first grandchild, a girl, whom she adored. She was dearly loved, not only by her immediate family, but by siblings and church family and friends. What really floored me, and many others, was the fact that last summer Mary had gone into the hospital with a lung infection. After months in the hospital and rehab, she seemed to get better. She got to go home and resume a somewhat normal life. Not long after life started having some semblance of normalcy, Mary lost her sister to cancer, this was just last month. Last week, Mary ended up, back in the hospital and Monday morning she died.

Sweeny family. Mary is in the middle with her husband Paul. My daughter took these pictures this past spring. Photo credit  Rebecca Trumbull.

Sweeny family. Mary is in the middle with her husband Paul. My daughter took these pictures this past spring. Photo credit Rebecca Trumbull.

I felt myself questioning God. Why, Lord? Why? This was a beautiful woman; one of your sheep, who loved and gave and was gracious. She was a beautiful soul, inside and out. She loved her family and took others in as if they were part of the family. She exuded the peace that passes all understanding and I would often see her posting quotes from Ann VosKamp’s One Thousand Gifts on being thankful. The funny thing was, I didn’t really know Mary that well. We moved in different circles as our kids were growing up and while we went to the same church, we weren’t able to spend vast amounts of time together. However, I still feel this loss. It is as if in a galaxy full of stars, Mary’s shown so brightly, that the burning out of that star affected the whole universe.

Image by  Gerd Altmann  from  Pixabay

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

I am not sharing this with you to look for sympathy. This was a tragic and unexpected loss, but what I wanted to do was use these musings as a branch from which to tie a rope, take a leap, swing out and fall into the river of God’s grace.

How do we deal with these things? How do we get past the shaking of the fist towards the sky, to the questioning why, to the acceptance, to the choice to believe that He is good, no matter what, to the final step of lifting our hands in praise, adoration and thanksgiving? Two words come to mind which I have used on the blog before, baby steps.

Image by  Barbara Jackson  from  Pixabay

Image by Barbara Jackson from Pixabay

A baby does not learn to walk immediately. It is a process. They reach, they scoot, they rock, they roll, they crawl, they grab, they pull themselves up, they move around the furniture and eventually they let go and take those first steps. Those first steps aren’t perfect, but they are full of enthusiasm. When we are new in our relationship with Christ we are full of enthusiasm. We want to tell the world what He has done, not only for us as individuals, but for the whole world. We want to share the good news that Jesus loves the unlovely, rescues the drowning, lifts up the cripple and fully redeems that which was completely lost.

Then life happens. We experience disappointment, pain, heartbreak and loss. If we are being honest with ourselves we do not like these things and many of us probably thought when we came to Christ that it was going to be smooth sailing. How very wrong we were. If anything, it seems, at least for some, that we are being shot at by the biggest guns available on a US battleship. Worse yet, we might be getting hammered by friendly fire, while well intended, completely misses the mark and wounds us instead of helping us out.

So how do we approach loss without losing our faith? How do we endure pain without giving up hope? How do we continue to walk when we are clearly wounded and would rather lay down and die?

One baby step at a time.

Baby Step 1 - Shaking fists and questions.

Image by  Niek Verlaan  from  Pixabay

Image by Niek Verlaan from Pixabay

God is much bigger than we are. He created us and He knows our frame is but dust. As the Creator he manipulated that dust, breathing life into it. Don’t ever think, He doesn’t get it. He most certainly knows our weaknesses, our pit falls and our innermost feelings. You might not be literally shaking your fist at Him, but He knows what you are thinking on the inside. Sometimes it is okay to get mad, to raise our hands, not in praise, but in frustration, anger and pain. The key is to not stay there. It is okay to say:

I don’t get it.

It’s not fair.

Why? Why? Why?

I don’t like you right now?

It hurts and you let it happen.

That is exactly how I felt about Mary’s death. She was a vibrant woman and God let her die. I couldn’t help thinking, there are thousands of others, suffering with debilitating illnesses, pain and complete loss of ability to remember their own families or even how to use the bathroom. Why not take one of them? Why not relieve someone else of their burden? But He didn’t. He took Mary.

It felt wrong to have those thoughts and feelings, but they are real, visceral, but real and doesn’t God know that? He gave His own Son to suffer and die. He knows loss. He knows pain. Jesus knows loneliness and abandonment.

This is an absolutely acceptable part of grief. Whether your loss is the death of a loved one, an unfaithful partner, a divorce, a rebellious child, a parent going through Alzheimers, or the loss of a long time job, it is okay to feel anger, and it is okay to question why.

Baby Step 2 - Wear the blanket.

Image by  Katrina_S  from  Pixabay

Image by Katrina_S from Pixabay

When my father died back in 2006, I distinctly remember walking in a fog. Life just seemed rather cloudy and my brain felt full of cotton. Often when we grieve we think that the best thing for us is to throw ourselves back into life, subduing the overwhelming sense of loss to a dull ache. In most cultures the process of grief is much more elaborate and loud.

In 1985 I spent a summer in Africa. During that time, I got to experience a true death wail. It was unnerving as a group, of mostly women, wept and wailed and cried over a baby who had tragically passed away. This was no reserved whispered ceremony. This was a loud progression of frenzied sobs and tears. They let their expression of the sadness they felt erupt into the still, dark night, like a mass of molten lava pouring out of a volcano.

While I do not expect that, here in our US of A, we are going to start doing a death wail, it is good to allow ourselves to feel grief. I truly believe wrapping yourself up in the blanket of grief every once in a while, helps you to heal faster. If putting on a real blanket helps with the symbolism, go ahead. However, you do it, take some time to feel the sadness and the pain. Cry, sob, moan and even wail. It’s okay. Then when you feel a bit of relief, put the blanket away and go live life. Eventually, you will find, you don’t need that blanket quite so often. Eventually, you will be able to put it away, all together.

Baby Step 3 - Choices.

Image by  Pexels  from  Pixabay

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

The best way to handle making choices during a time of grief is to choose slowly and thoughtfully. Don’t rashly give up your faith. Don’t decide to sell everything you have, join a commune and move to Tibet. Don’t start drinking. Don’t obsess on your loss. The greatest mistake we make when we are in the throes of grief is to think we are okay and we can handle this on our own. It is important to choose to take care of ourselves and to allow people to take care of us. We were not meant to be islands. We are supposed to live in community with others. In fact you might find there are others who have already been through the grief process before you. They can help, if you let them .

In addition, choose truth. Often we question whether God really loves us when someone or something has been taken away from us, but if we keep our eyes on scripture we will remember verses like:

The Lord appeared to him from afar, saying, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness.
— Jeremiah 31:3 (NASB)
nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
— Romans 8:39 (NASB)
Finally, brethren, rejoice, be made complete, be comforted, be like-minded, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.
— 2 Corinthians 13:11 (NASB)
But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us,
— Ephesians 2:4 (NASB)

God does love us and He always will. He will always be there for us, even in the midst of trial and grief.

Baby Step 4 - Take Action

Image by  Olya Adamovich  from  Pixabay

Image by Olya Adamovich from Pixabay

Once we have worked through the emotions of anger, pain and sadness we can begin to, once again, take action. Action might start out with something simple like getting out of bed, taking a shower and getting dressed. Eventually, you might be able to go out and take a walk or meet a friend for coffee. Down the road, you may make it to church and then out to do something fun again. Your loved ones would not want you to stop living life. Besides it is in the choice to start living again, that God reveals His most precious and magnificent promises.

After I found out Mary was gone, I knew my sadness and shock was not as sharp as the edge on the sword her family was and is feeling right now, but I also felt that God had let me down. I prayed for Mary’s healing and He didn’t come through. That evening, my husband and I took a walk. I looked up at the expanse of night sky and heard His voice saying, “I’m still right here.”

Wow! That was just what I needed to hear. He is still right there and He always will be. He is there for us to lean on, pound on and depend on no matter what and knowing that is sometimes all we need. When I realize He is really all I need to get through, I am able to raise my hands in praise to Him and I can start remembering what I am thankful for.

My friend Mary was a Christian. She is with Jesus now. She is also with her mom and her sister who went before her. She left behind a legacy of love, and friendship for her family and her friends. The world is a more beautiful place because of her and I can be thankful that I knew her.









Traits of a Godly Person: Moral Excellence - Part 2

In our world today, it is hard to talk about morality. As soon as the word shows up in a conversation or on social media, accusations fly of a judgmental attitude or intolerance. While it is true, that some people who try to be moral, can be harsh and unloving, that does not define what morality is, or who authored the idea. As I said last week, moral excellence is merely the desire to do what is right and avoid what is wrong. The question then must be pondered as to who determines what is right and what is wrong.

Image by  Johannes Plenio  from  Pixabay

Image by Johannes Plenio from Pixabay

If we believe we evolved from a primordial soup, then the determination of what is right and what is wrong can get a little slippery. The mentality of most animals is survival of the fittest. If we did, evolve from animals like monkeys or, as my husband likes to ponder, bears (since we really should be hibernating in the winter), then we would only be concerned about our own survival and our own well being. If I feel I am being threatened, don’t I have a right to eliminate the threat? If I feel hungry, don’t I have a right to eat whatever I want, wherever I want without any repercussions? If I believe I need a new car, shouldn’t I just be able to go to the car lot, pick out a car I like and then go demand the keys? Maybe I feel a little blue, shouldn’t I be able to drink, smoke pot and take opioids without any long term effects?

My examples are a little extreme, but I am trying to make a point. Our society and our world as a whole does have a moral standard. We have laws in place that are meant to protect. Where did those laws and standards come from? Did some monkey come up with them? Did a being, somewhere along the evolutionary line decide, “Hey, I want to be a good person and I want everyone else to be a good person, so I am going to come up with a set of standards. I’ll call it a moral code. It’ll include things like: we shouldn’t kill each other; we shouldn’t go over to our neighbor’s cave and steal his wife, no matter how pretty she is; we probably shouldn’t steal his food either….”

If we have truly evolved, then why are we still so blasted ugly? We hate, we kill, we covet, we have affairs, we promote twisted sexuality by making porn available, we steal, we do drugs, we even kill ourselves. How is this moral excellence? How is this morality at all? It’s not.

By placing ourselves under the authority and wisdom of a loving and just creator, we can easily buy into the moral code that He provided. The ten commandments were taken as truth ever since God’s finger wrote them down for Moses on Mt. Sinai. In recent years, however, attacks have been made on these commandments in a real and visceral way, from cars crashing into stone fixtures on which the commandments were inscribed, to Satanic groups protesting them, to lawsuits filed by the ACLU, this early list of moral codes has been focused upon as a religious issue, but in reality aren’t the ten commandments a moral standard that everyone, should ascribe too? From the religious right, to the liberal left, the Satan worshippers and the members of the ASLU, shouldn’t all of us live by these ideals: to not murder, to not covet, to not steal and so on.

Image by  Jondolar Schnurr  from  Pixabay

It is hard to talk about moral excellence without broaching these ideas. That being said, let me remind my readers, I am writing to an audience made up mostly of people who believe similarly to myself. I am not trying to convert you to my belief system, though I would be thrilled to talk to you about it. I am just trying to get you to think about the whole picture. Why is the world so against the idea of a moral compass? What is wrong with wanting to have standards of right and wrong? But hey, if I take on the mentality of those who would prefer to not have a moral code, then by all means, do whatever you want, as long as it isn’t hurting anyone. But then who is going to decide what hurt really is and who is really feeling it?

Okay, I’ll step off my soap box now. Ha, ha.

Image by  jussiak  from  Pixabay

Image by jussiak from Pixabay

So how do we, as Christ followers attain and maintain moral excellence? I have several ideas and if you have more, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

1 - Know To Whom You Belong

Know that the Lord Himself is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.
— Psalm 100:3 (NASB)

If you have made a decision to believe in the work, death and resurrection of Jesus you are part of His family now. Knowing where you belong, can make a big difference in where you place your trust. The one you trust determines where you are going to place your faith and how you are going to live your life.

2 - Grow in that Knowledge

6 Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him,
7 having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude.
— Colossians 2:6-7 (NASB)
Image by  O12  from  Pixabay

Image by O12 from Pixabay

A relationship with Jesus is not static. When you determine to follow Jesus, you don’t suddenly arrive and become that morally excellent person you should be. You have to learn more and learning takes place by studying His word, being around others who will encourage your growth and reading authors who studied the Bible and lived life.

3 - View it as a Relationship

I think we learn more and are more motivated if we are invested in the relationship. Being a Christian isn’t just a contract between, you, Jesus, the Father and the Spirit. It is a living, thriving, growing, loving relationship.

Jesus answered 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 home with him.
— John 14:23 (ESV)

I have always loved that verse, because it sounds so familial. God is going to come and make a home with us. it doesn’t say, He’ll meet us at the office or in the garage, but in our homes. That is so relational.

4 - Choose morally good things

It is easy to let our guard down and start watching shows and reading books or going to movies that may not be what is best for us. We all have a different standard factor, meaning some people can watch horror films and not have nightmares afterwards. When I was younger I used to love to watch scary movies. I still occasionally get fearful when I am home alone, thinking the boogie man is lurking in the shadows. I don’t watch scary movies any more. Now I am noticing that other things seen in shows are starting to bother me as well. That is only one example. You know what your standard triggers are. Just like an alcoholic has to stay completely away from alcohol and those situations, we need to make choices to head to the moral high ground, so that God’s work in us is not for naught.

Image by  Free-Photos  from  Pixabay

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!
5 Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near.
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.
8 Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.
9 The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
— Philippians 4:4-9 (NASB)

I love this passage and I often quote it when I am feeling anxious, but verse 8 really can up our moral excellence factor, if we allow God to bring those things to mind.

Image by  Pexels  from  Pixabay

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

I hope this study of the traits of a Godly person is challenging your thinking and causing you to dig deeper into God’s word and into your relationship with Him. Thanks for reading.

Traits of a Godly Person: Moral Excellence - Part 1

The phrase, moral excellence, to some, might conjure images of judgment and prudishness that they want nothing to do with. However, moral excellence is simply the desire to do what is right, and the choice to avoid doing what is wrong.

We all face moral choices every day. Most of us will not kill, even though that customer we dealt with might be deserving. Most of us will not harm, especially those who are weaker, like a child or a person who is ill. But does this trait of moral excellence come into the world with us or does it have to be taught and learned?

If you have ever taken the time to watch children, you will know the answer to this. Children can be taught kindness, goodness, honesty, and other morally excellent characteristics, but left up to their own choices most will choose to demand their own way and demand it immediately. Moral excellence goes out the window when a coveted toy is involved or when competition to win the game is at stake.

Pixabay - boy with slingshot

The Bible confirms our sin nature:

All have turned away, all have become corrupt;
there is no one who does good,
not even one.
— Psalm 14:3 (NASB)
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
— Romans 3:23 (NASB)
For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.
— Romans 5:19 (NASB)
He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification
— Romans 4:25 (NASB)

We live in a fallen world. It is easy to turn away from that which is morally excellent in order to have fun, feel good and be accepted. Our minds are filled with messages that tell us, if it feels good do it, if there is a rule break it, and anything that is conservative and restrictive is bad, while all that is freeing and pleasurable is good. We are inundated with bad news which causes us to wonder if it all is worth the effort, but even amidst all the chaos, God is still good and He is still working.

Here are a few quotes on excellence:

Moral excellence comes about as a result of habit. We become just by doing just acts, temperate by doing temperate acts, brave by doing brave acts.
— Aristole
We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.
— Will Durant
The quality of a person’s life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence, regardless of their chosen field of endeavor.
— Vince Lombardi
We need to internalize this idea of excellence. Not many folks spend a lot of time trying to be excellent.
— Barack Obama

As you can see, most of these quotes, other than Aristotle’s are not specifically referring to moral excellence, but you could take each quote and plug moral excellence in for excellence to get the idea. If moral excellence is something that comes about only by habit, then what sorts of choices do we need to be making to be morally excellent?

I think the first thing we need to understand is the word morality. What does Webster’s online dictionary say? Here are several definitions related to moral as an adjective.

1 - of or relating to principles of right and wrong in behavior

2 - conforming to a standard of right behavior

3 - capable of right and wrong action

These definitions work from the perspective that there is a moral standard and that is what I want to address.

There are two other definitions that speak to a perceived morality - which means it is someone’s idea of what morality is.

4 - expressing or teaching a conception of right behavior

5 - sanctioned by or operative on one's conscience or ethical judgment

My belief system revolves around a moral God. God is not only morally excellent, but He is perfect. A being that is purely loving, good, kind and just, cannot be morally corrupt. I also believe that God is the author of morality. He was the one to create us and to put us into a world dependent on choices. He also made us with a free will. We are able to choose to do right or to do wrong.

In the Garden of Eden, God set a moral parameter.

15 Then the Lord God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it.
16 The Lord God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely;
17 but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.”
— Genesis 2:15-17 (NASB)

The command that God gave Adam, was straight forward; if you do this then this will happen. There wasn’t a plethora of other voices telling Adam, “Dude, you can make up your own morality.” Well, there was one voice, and that was all it took.

1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?”
2 The woman said to the serpent, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat;
3 but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.’”
4 The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die! 5 For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
6 When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate.
7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings.
— Genesis 3:1-7 (NASB)

How quickly this all came about. One day Adam and Eve are grooving in the garden, enjoying the beauty of their relationship with God and each other, in a setting beyond what we could possibly think or imagine. They had purpose in their lives to care for the creation God had given them and actually walked with the Almighty in this amazing place. BUT, that wasn’t enough. Eve was tempted by that which wasn’t known.

Isn’t that one of the major problems involved when we stray from the right and wrong that God laid out from the beginning of time? We want to know. We want to know what that tastes like, looks like, feels like and sounds like. We want to take our lives into our own hands, but in reality what we do is exchange a good and gentle master for one that is harsh, and unrelenting.

Image by  진혁 최  from  Pixabay

Image by 진혁 최 from Pixabay

When it comes to moral excellence it becomes a matter of choice. Adam and Eve chose to do wrong. I choose to do wrong when I get angry, eat too much or become fearful. We are no different from our forefathers. The Bible is full of real people who were less than morally excellent, yet God loved them and used them anyway.

Not wanting this post to get too long, I’m going to save what moral excellence looks like for a Godly person until next week. This week, do some homework. How often do you think about the choices you make? How often do you hear those messages that say you are the one who decides what morality is for you? If you come across something specific, or have a thought from the Spirit, I’d love to hear about it.

Have a great week, everyone and thanks for joining me on the blog. If you know anyone who might benefit from reading these blog posts, please pass it on. I appreciate all your support.






Traits of a Godly Person: Faith - Part 1

I was praying for clarity this morning as I thought about this post. I wanted to have some semblance of organization to my thoughts, as well as a sort of progression to the traits as we look at them. I am definitely a picture learner. It helps me to see a picture in my mind of what I am learning. That picture gives me the ability to remember the concepts better. At my age, anything that helps me remember is good. Ha, ha.

Image by  congerdesign  from  Pixabay

Image by congerdesign from Pixabay

As I prayed, it seemed the Holy Spirit was impressing on me, the idea that Faith is the precursor to all the other Godly traits. Not only did it seem a Spiritual impression, but logically it makes sense. Without faith, we cannot know God, otherwise why would Jesus repeatedly refer to faith when interacting with people. Let’s look at a situation involving our Lord.

5 And when Jesus entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, imploring Him,
6 and saying, “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, fearfully tormented.”
7 Jesus *said to him, “I will come and heal him.”
8 But the centurion said, “Lord, I am not worthy for You to come under my roof, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed.
9 For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come!’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this!’ and he does it.”
10 Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled and said to those who were following, “Truly I say to you, I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel.
11 I say to you that many will come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven;
12 but the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
13 And Jesus said to the centurion, “Go; it shall be done for you as you have believed.” And the servant was healed that very moment.
— Matthew 8:5-13 (NASB)

In order to understand the wonderfulness of this passage, we need to be clear on what is happening. The Centurion was an officer in the Roman army. He was a man of authority. He probably was fairly well off and he fully understood how things worked within the hierarchy of the Roman kingdom.

Image by  jacqueline macou  from  Pixabay

Obviously, he was a man of compassion, because he was deeply concerned for his servant who lay “paralyzed at home, and fearfully tormented.” He didn’t just come and ask, the passage says, “…imploring Him…” We do not know what the servant’s illness was. It could have been anything, including demon possession, but whatever it was came on fairly suddenly, and could have been deadly. Having been on the receiving end of malaria, I understand the severity of an illness that leaves you flat on your back and hallucinating, due to a fever, that when once measured at a clinic in Africa ,was over 105. However, it is clear that this servant was important to his master. Doesn’t this say something about this man? He probably could have gone out and purchased another servant without any thought, but he cared for this one.

Image by  Stefan Schweihofer  from  Pixabay

In addition to being a man of authority and a man of compassion, this Centurion was curious. If you know your Bible, you know that many times when Jesus was present, there were large crowds. Often these crowds were docile and listened intently to hear what Jesus had to say. Other times, the crowds got a bit rowdy, especially if there were Jewish religious leaders present who did not agree with what Jesus was teaching. I am speculating that Roman soldiers were often milling about, just to make sure the peace was being kept. This particular man must have been watching with some amount of intensity, because he knew what Jesus was teaching and doing. He observed how Jesus handled the people and how they responded to him.

Image by  Wajari Velásquez  from  Pixabay

The next characteristic of this man, is humility. He didn’t seem to feel dumb approaching Jesus. He just did it. He came to Jesus and immediately let Him know the problem he was desiring help for. How many times have I been afraid to speak up or try something new because I was afraid? More often than I’d like to confess. Pride, and the desire to not be uncomfortable, often keeps us from learning new things, meeting new people and experiencing life to the fullest. This Centurion was probably not accustomed to asking for help. He was a man who ordered others around. I can imagine the plan that went through his head as he contemplated walking up to Jesus and posing his desire for his servant’s healing. He didn’t hesitate. He just did it.

The Centurion shows great respect to Jesus. He knew the tension that existed between the Jews and the Gentile Romans. Under the circumstances it is understandable why there would be tension between the conqueror, and the conquered. This man approached Jesus with this thought in mind. When Jesus offered to come to the Centurion’s home, the man responded, “Lord, I am not worthy for you to come under my roof…” Not only did he understand the cultural differences, but he honored Jesus as a man on equal footing, or even at a higher position of authority than himself. This proclamation brings us to the focal point of the passage.

The Centurion had faith. He knew Jesus could heal his servant without even being at his home. What an amazing statement of faith. HIs faith and declaration of it was so outstanding, that it says “…when Jesus heard this, He marveled….” I find that so fascinating. The Son of God, marveled. Would it be that my faith could be as straight forward and sure as the faith of this Roman Centurion. I would love for my faith to make the King of Heaven and Earth marvel! How about you? Jesus goes on to commend the man’s faith before the crowd. He says, “…Truly I say to you, I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel.” This heathen man’s faith was the stepping stone for all Gentiles to partake in the salvation from sin given freely by Jesus.

I love this passage. It is a reminder of how important our faith is. Next week we will look more specifically at what having faith means to us in today’s world. Have a marvelous week and keep the faith!





Mulling it Over - Part 7

We have been working our way through 2 Peter 1:1-11. If you are just coming in to this series and want to check out the previous posts just click on the links below:

Part 1 Part 4

Part 2 Part 5

Part 3 Part 6

Today we are going to mull over verse 8:

For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
— 2 Peter 1:8 (NASB)
Image by <a href="https://pixabay.com/users/Skitterphoto-324082/?utm_source=link-attribution&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=image&utm_content=2254970">Rudy and Peter Skitterians</a> from <a href="https://pixabay.com/?utm_source=link-attribution&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=image&utm_content=2254970">Pixabay</a>

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There is something about spring that really sets our hearts to racing. It is like a romance with nature, as she offers her ever increasing beauty for all of us to enjoy. The same can be said of our relationship with the triune God head. He is ever increasing our ability to experience Him more deeply. Let’s take a closer look at today’s verse by breaking each phrase down. Please remember, this is my take on the passage. I am neither a Bible teacher or a scholar, just a Holy Spirit filled woman who follows Christ.

For if these qualities…

The qualities referred to are the ones previously mentioned. Let me list them: diligence, faith, moral excellence, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness and love.

…are yours…

Have you made these qualities a part of your life? Remember back in verse 4, Peter refers to God’s precious and magnificent promises, which, when we claim them as our own, we become partakers in the divine nature. All of these qualities are the same qualities we see in God. It is His divine nature that gives us the ability to make these qualities ours. We do that, when we make Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. I will talk more about this event in the days leading up to Easter.

…and are increasing…

I find it interesting that Peter was sure to include this phrase. The aforementioned qualities are not just to be ours, but are to be increasing. It really is easy for many people to be “good” for a day, a week, a month or even a few years, but remember last week, when I shared Jeremiah 17:9?

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?

Even the best of us, fall short. It isn’t enough to have the quality of self-control, or diligence or brotherly kindness. Each of these needs to be practiced and it is by practice that they become more a part of who we are. Instead of anger, it becomes our natural response to be kind. Instead of hatred, we return love. Temptations that once assailed us, will no longer have control over us, because our diligence and self-control are stronger.

…they render you, neither useless nor unfruitful…

If those qualities are increasing, then we are neither useless nor unfruitful. We are often encouraged to be about the Lord’s business, whether that means sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ, or being involved in a ministry for the homeless. It really doesn’t matter what we do, as long as these qualities are increasing in our lives. Being fruitful isn’t just about the souls we are going to take to heaven with us, it is about glorifying God in all we do and say.

When I was a student at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, IL the president at the time often used the terminology, “being a person of excellence.” For some reason, that has always stuck with me. The reason we want to be a person of excellence, is because of who we are representing. It makes sense to me, that if the qualities of diligence, godliness, self-control, and so on are increasing, we will automatically be useful and fruitful.

so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;
— Colossians 1:10 (NASB)

This verse from Colossians also talks about increasing, specifically in the knowledge of God. It also talks about bearing fruit. This idea of increasing in the knowledge of God and bearing fruit, seems to go hand in hand. Maybe that will need to be looked into at a future date. That brings me to the last phrase of this verse.

…in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Once again, knowledge. Not just any old knowledge, but the true knowledge of Christ. There is plenty of untruth in the world. There is falsehood, lies and a twisting of the truth. People say there are no moral absolutes and everyone should be able to do whatever they want. That would be fine, if every single person was increasing in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, there are many false teachers and false teachings out there. Often, they are dressed in robes of that look godly, but really are not. All the more reason, we need to be diligent, increasing in these qualities and truly learning more of God, by studying His word, the Bible.

How do we increase in this knowledge? Reading the Bible, prayer and fellowship are good practices to get into. Don’t just read your Bible, study it. Don’t just pray, but do spiritual warfare when you pray. Find a church where you can actually worship and hang out with other like-minded, godly individuals. In addition, ask God to show you which of these qualities you need to be increasing in.

I hope you are enjoying this study of 2 Peter 1:1-11. Have a great day and check back again next week.

Mulling It Over - Part 2

It was a good morning to stay inside. The temperature hovered at 32 degrees Fahrenheit making the moisture that fell turn everything into something similar to a glazed doughnut without the sweet taste. Even now, as the temps have risen to a balmy 34 degrees, the ice still lingers, stubbornly clinging to branches, wires, driveways, cars and buildings.

Ice on back door
Ice on branches
Ice on plant hanger

I am looking at a portion of scripture that I introduced last week in the New Testament book of 2 Peter. Peter, one of the original twelve disciples, authored 1st and 2nd Peter. Here is the passage again.

1 Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ,
To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ:
2 Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord;
3 seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.
4 For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.
5 Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge,
6 and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness,
7 and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love.
8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
9 For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. 10 Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble;
11 for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.
— 2 Peter 1:1-11 (NASB)

Last week we looked at verses 1 and 2. You can see that post here. This week we will dissect verse 3. If you have not been a participant in my Mulling It Over series before, let me briefly explain how this works. I love to let the Bible speak for itself. The Holy Spirit gives us the capacity to understand scripture, so what I am doing is sharing with you what I have learned in my study of certain scriptures. I think is is wonderful to study the Bible in different ways, so I would strongly encourage you to do further research and study on various passages, but for this particular study we will just chew on what it says and let the Bible do the talking.

On to verse 3:

...seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.
— 2 Peter 1:3 (NASB)

…seeing that His divine power…

The fact that it is divine power, means that it is power of God, not men or machines or whatever you want to use to fill in the blank. This power is from God. It is His to give and His to withhold. Here are a few other verses that talk about His divine power.

With Him are wisdom and might; To Him belong counsel and understanding.
— Job 12:13 (NASB)
I will instruct you in the power of God; What is with the Almighty I will not conceal.
— Job 27:11 (NASB)
O God, You are awesome from Your sanctuary. The God of Israel Himself gives strength and power to the people. Blessed be God!
— Psalm 68:35 (NASB)
Daniel said, “Let the name of God be blessed forever and ever, For wisdom and power belong to Him.
— Daniel 2:20 (NASB)

…has granted to us…

I looked up the word granted in Webster’s Online Dictionary. There are two specific definitions that I feel define the way the word is used in this sentence. The first says, “…to permit as a right, privilege or favor.” God has given us rights. He has privileged us and he has given us favor. It may not always seems like it, but it is true.

The second definition says, “…to bestow or transfer formally; to give the possession or title of by a deed.” God, in His great generosity gives us things. Just as a good father loves to give his children gifts, so too, our Heavenly Father derives great pleasure from giving His spiritual children gifts.

If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!
— Matthew 7:11 (NASB)
Therefore it says, “When He ascended on high, He led captive a host of captives, And He gave gifts to men.”
— Ephesians 4:8 (NASB)
Arise, walk about the land through its length and breadth; for I will give it to you.”
— Genesis 13:17 (NASB)
Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.
— Matthew 7:7 (NASB)

So what, exactly, is it that God granted to us?

…everything pertaining to life and godliness…

The word everything is pretty all encompassing. We could all list things that we have wanted that God didn’t necessarily give us, so why does it say everything. The key phrase here is pertaining to. Everything pertaining to life and godliness. We all might think, now wait a minute, there are plenty of things pertaining to life that I haven’t been given. For example, a woman who desires to have a child, but is unable or someone looking for a life partner, but not able to find the right one. What about the man or woman who is out of a job and can’t find work, or people in other countries who live in fear for their lives and the lives of their children? Isn’t the ability to find love, have a family and have a secure, safe place to live all part of life?

How many of you remember the song, sung by Lynn Anderson, I Never Promised You a Rose Garden? Here’s a refresher if you have the time to listen.

The first few lines go:

“I beg your pardon, I never promised you a rose garden

Along with the sunshine, there has to be a little rain sometime.”

It might sound rather trite, especially if you are going through a hard time, but there is great truth there. God didn’t promise us that we would have everything we want, or even everything we need. The power He has granted to us is the ability to live life, regardless of what difficulties come along.

Notice that the verse says everything pertaining to life and godliness. There seems to be a connection here which cannot be ignored. Godliness goes hand in hand with living life. We don’t become godly after life is over, we become godly as we live life. As many of you have already experienced becoming godly often happens during the most difficult portions of life, not during the rose garden moments, but during the monsoon moments. It is during these monsoon moments that God grants us what we need to keep living life, or the grace to give up.

Pixabay

Pixabay

There is nothing wrong with giving up, particularly if you have struggled and struggled. There are times that the giving up is more a matter of our pride than it is the desire to get what we want. We don’t want to look weak, or stupid, or unable to cope. We don’t want to ask for help or admit that this is definitely not what we thought life would look like. But it is okay! Come to terms with it, you are weak, sometimes your decisions are stupid and frankly I have had many days where I just could’t cope, but God has always been there through it all and that brings me to the last portion of this verse.

…through the true knowledge of Him who has called us by His own glory and excellence.

That divine power that grants to us everything to live this journey we call life and make us godly is only obtainable through the true knowledge of Him. In other words, it is through our acknowledgment and acceptance of Jesus as our Lord and Savior that we are able to live life and be godly. We can’t do this on our own and that is precisely the point.

God called us, each one of us, by His own glory and excellence, which was personified in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus is the crowing glory of the Father and Jesus is the perfect man, a man of true excellence. When we come to know Him by our faith in His virgin birth, life, death and resurrection, we are given the ability to live this life, no matter what it throws at us. Our loss is an opportunity for gaining more of Him. Our weakness is an opportunity for being infused with His strength. Our stupidity is an opportunity for learning more of Him and growing in His wisdom. Our deepest, unmet desire is an opportunity for becoming intimate with a Holy, loving god.

I hope this verse has given you hope. You are not living this life alone. He is with you, granting you the ability to live life, no matter what storm you are going through. Hang on!









When Our Thoughts are a Train Wreck

Have you given any thought to your thoughts this past week? In last week’s introductory post, New Year, New Mind, I asked you to spend this past week thinking about what you think about. Most often it is our thoughts that sabotage our efforts to make our lives better, whether it be eating better, exercising more, getting rid of clutter, making new habits or just being more thankful or joyful.

I don’t know about you, but my thoughts often look just like this train wreck.

Pixabay

Pixabay

Just how that train got where it got, from where it was coming from, is a mystery, but something definitely went wrong! That is just how our thoughts work. One minute we are fine. We are motivated, energized and raring to go conquer the world. The next moment we are a sobbing, angry, anxious train wreck. This week I would like to look at several areas of train wreck mentality.

Train Wreck #1 - Being Self Absorbed

We are all guilty of being self absorbed. Who hasn’t felt selfish, possessive, jealous or needy? Unfortunately, the train wreck of self absorption is reaching epidemic proportions. Let me break it down:

I’m too - These two little words lead to all sorts of inner focused thinking. I’m too fat. I’m too thin. i’m too tall. I’m too short. I’m too ugly. I’m too young. I’m too old. I’m too dumb. I’m too tired.

In addition to the I’m too problem, there is the parallel Not Enough dilemma.

Not Enough - Not good enough. Not smart enough. Not pretty enough. Not loving enough. Not slim enough. Not organized enough. Not talkative enough. Not brave enough. Not motivated enough….you get the picture. I’m sure, if you are reading this post, you have heard these words in your own head. I certainly have. I have gone over and over the same tracks as the train of self absorption chugs along.

Not a good enough wife.

Not a good enough mother.

Not a good enough grandma.

Not a good enough daughter.

Not a good enough Christian.

Not a good enough employee.

Not a good enough friend.

On and on it chugs along until suddenly it derails and there I am a self absorbed mess.

Have you really thought about how being self absorbed affects you? Not only does it cause physical issues, such as increased heart rate, high blood pressure and auto immune problems, it also causes a plethora of psychological and emotional problems, from anxiety disorder to narcissistic tendencies. Take a look at this interesting article from Psychology Today. While not the definitive authority on psychological disorders and treatments, I think the article makes a pertinent point.

But what’s most fascinating to me here is that I haven’t seen discussed by writers on the subject just how many psychological dysfunctions can be accurately understood as “maladies” of self-absorption. From a variety of phobic, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive impairments, to many depressive disturbances (including bipolar disorder), to various addictions, to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and to most of the personality disorders, self-absorption can be seen as playing a major (if not dominant) role. So any effective treatment of these dysfunctions needs to include significantly reducing these obsessively self-centered—and self-defeating—tendencies.
— Leon Seltzer, PhD., Psychology Today (online) - Posted August 24, 2016

You can see the whole article here.

Our self absorption tendencies may just lead us to a bitter end.

Pixabay

Pixabay

Train Wreck #2 - Demanding Our Rights

This one is a direct outcome of the first train wreck of being self absorbed. Let me say that people should have rights. Our country came into being and was founded on the idea that people should have a right to worship as they want. The men who authored The Declaration of Independence, felt that certain rights were so important, they were willing to go to war to ensure their solidity.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
— Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776

However, the rights that Jefferson, Adams and others were referring too had to do with basic tenants of self-government, including freedom of religion, and the freedom to govern ourselves. When they were talking about government over themselves they weren’t talking about the rights that so many today are yelling about. They were talking about the right to work a job, own a home and yes, to even own a gun. The governing process had to do with community and country as a whole.

Today the rights battle continues as women seek equal pay for equal work, as well as equality on pricing of necessary products such as deodorant and razors. Did you realize that women usually pay more for these products? These desires are good. What becomes a problem is when the demand for rights is born out of a self absorbed mentality.

I want it and I want it now!! Watch this short video.

Isn’t this a perfect analogy of how thoroughly self indulgent we can be. Truly, aren’t we just a bunch of spoiled, rotten, children at times? Demanding our rights, and not taking into consideration the desires, needs and feelings of other people, is not what our forefathers meant when they brought the Declaration of Independence into fruition. A rights based mentality, must be balanced by an equally serious mentality of individual responsibility. An attitude of responsibility means that we cannot be self-absorbed.

Train Wreck #3 - Not Caring

This is probably the mentality that causes the most problems. When we are self absorbed at least we care enough about ourselves that we might still be willing to try to take care of ourselves. We might even be caring enough to care for other people. Demanding our rights means we still want something. We want something that is important enough to us to be willing to yell and fight for it. Unfortunately, when we get to the point where we no longer care, that is when trains derail and we crash.

Think about a time when you gave up, or you wanted to. How did you feel? How did that feeling change the way you were doing things? I have done the, counting calorie thing, many times over the course of my adult life. I have kept track, written things down, measured and tallied. No matter how many times I restarted, I always got to a certain point where I just didn’t care any more. I would lose a few pounds, feel better, fit into my clothes better and so on, but still, somehow or other, I would end back up at the same place.

I don’t care.

I can’t tell you for certain, why we often get to a point of not caring any more, but it does happen. I believe there are many reasons we get to this point in our lives. Fatigue, illness, relationship struggles, work problems, family crisis, national unrest, the list goes on. With our computers, televisions, smart phones and other instantaneous technology, we are constantly plugged in and on the spot. We see what is going on with everyone else and everyone else knows all our struggles as well.

We are finite, limited human beings and eventually all the input does its job of desensitizing us and bring us to that creaky bridge where our train begins to clackety clack across. Finally, the bridge drops out from beneath us and we plunge into the canyon of hopelessness and despair.

Who cares!

Why bother!

I give up!

When we get to this point, it is time to reevaluate how we got here.

Next week I’ll be sharing a video that I hope will make you laugh, but that makes a pertinent point that we can’t ignore and will hopefully give us hope to care again and start living a mentally healthy life.

Until then, have a great week and be careful, not to have a train wreck!

New Year, New Mind

I thought it would be beneficial to start 2019 with a series about our minds. Depending on how you feel right now, you might be thinking there won’t be much to talk about, because after the holidays there is not much going on in my tired brain. Ha, ha. However, as much as it feels that way, our minds are always busy, not only working around the clock to keep us going physically, but also working to keep us going mentally and emotionally.

Pixabay - mind

When I was young, I used to think emotions were a part of us, but just sort of came out of nowhere. When I finally was taught that the brain actually has an emotional center, called the amygdala, I realized that God did, indeed, create our brains to process emotions. It is fascinating that the amygdala, which is a tiny, pea-sized, part of the brain, plays such a huge part in our lives. It is also interesting to me that the hippocampus, which is the main center for processing memories, is right next to the amygdala. If you think about it, most of our memories center around emotions.

Pixabay

Pixabay

The start of a new year is the perfect time to think about our physical health. Most of us begin new routines, hoping to take off the pounds we put on at the holidays and get into a diet and exercise regimen that will lead to improved health. We also try to begin new habits, like a weekly cleaning routine for our homes or getting rid of clutter. This might also be a good time to think about our mental and emotional health. How often do you start a routine, with enthusiasm and motivation, only to have it stall out in just a few weeks? I know for me, this is more about my thought patterns than it is my ability to get up earlier to exercise.

Prove me, O Lord, and try me; test my heart and my mind.
— Psalm 26:2 (ESV)

Have you ever had any of these thoughts cross your mind after a few weeks of trying to diet or take control of the clutter in your home:

I’ll just skip today. I’m too tired to exercise.

I’m stressed out, so I am going to eat this ice cream to feel better.

Life is too busy to go to the gym.

Why bother?

I can’t do this?

I won’t do this?

I have all of these thoughts, and more, on a fairly regular basis. The common factor in all of this is my mindset. If I am not sold out on doing something, I won’t do it. For that matter, even if I believe, and know, that it is something beneficial, I still won’t succeed, because my mind comes up with excuses or rationals for why I can’t or won’t. Our minds can sabotage our efforts before we even get started. My husband has a saying at this time of year, “My resolution is to not make any resolutions.” His reasoning is sound, he is a logic professor after all. Why make resolutions that are not going to be kept? Why set yourself up for failure and disappointment?

I believe that our minds are meant to know God and when they do, they delight in obeying His law. God’s law would include things that are beneficial for our well being, including physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. Unfortunately, because we walk in the flesh we walk through life carrying a battlefield in our minds. We struggle to do what is right and good and best, but often fall short. Paul, the Apostle, fully understood this conundrum.

22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being,
23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.
24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?
— Romans 7:22-24 (ESV)

Next week, I would like to delve into a few of the thought patterns that go on in our minds that easily thwart our efforts for self-improvement and can even be counter active and destructive. Until then, I’d like us to take this next week to think about what we think about. What are the regular thought patterns that go on in your head? What voices do you hear over and over? What sorts of thoughts set you up for failure? And finally, what do you think might be ways to turn those thoughts around?

I’d love to hear your feedback on the thought patterns you struggle with. Leave me your ideas in the comments.

Until then, have a great week!

How to Keep Christ in Christmas

Last week I discussed Getting Through the Holidays Without Losing Your Mind. You can read that post by clicking on the link. In that article I gave four areas to look at to take care of yourself during the busy holiday season. Those areas I referred to included, figuring out what you can let go of, setting boundaries, taking care of yourself and practicing gratitude. These things are applicable to all who experience stress during the Christmas season. This week I would like to specifically speak to those who celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday.

Pixabay

Pixabay

For those of us who follow Christ, Christmas is equal in importance to the celebration of Easter. If Jesus had never been born, we wouldn’t have access to the Almighty God, who created us for His good pleasure. Christmas is the epitome of strength becoming weakness; that almighty power coming into acute focus as the baby born to Mary. He was fully God and became fully man. Imagine, a being who is so huge in our incomprehension, being made into a tiny, fertilized seed, growing for nine months in the womb and making the pressurized journey down the birth canal to explode into the light of a sin filled world. To me it is incomprehensible! Yet, I know it to be true. I also know that it was not just love for us, but love for His Father, that drove Jesus to choose obedience to that vulnerable birth and obedience to an even more vulnerable cross. It is this mentality that needs to drive us as we immerse ourselves in the festivities of the Christmas season.

Pixabay

Pixabay

We all know how easy it is to get caught up in the busyness of this season. There’s shopping and decorating, baking and cleaning, wrapping and gathering, all good things, but so often as we focus on getting our to do list checked off, we lose sight of the true meaning of this holiday. I know I do. I can easily become overwhelmed with all of the things I need to get done and fret that I don’t have more time to do them. We also, all know that fretting does not lead to peace and isn’t peace, part of what makes this season so beautiful? At least it should. So, just how can we keep the true meaning part of our focus? Here are several ideas.

Keep Jesus Close - As you shop, wrap, bake and decorate meditate on Him. Remind yourself of His birth and remember that He is with you wherever you go. You might think it is silly, but I often imagine Jesus sitting next to me in the car or standing next to me as I wash dishes. Hey, He endowed all of us with an imagination, so I have no shame in using it. Envisioning Him as a person with me, helps me to focus on the fact that He really is there even though I cannot physically see Him. It helps me to remember why I love Christmas, because it is all about Him.

Listen to Music - There is nothing better, in my mind, to help me get in the true Christmas spirit, than listening to Christmas music. It doesn’t just have to be traditional carols like The First Noel, It Came Upon a Midnight Clear, or Oh Holy Night, but songs that really speak to the message of why we celebrate this season bring the truth back into focus. It is also good to listen to different versions of these Christ-focused carols. For instance my husband and I both agree that Josh Groban’s version of O Holy Night sings as if he was actually there, feeling the peace and beauty of the birth of Jesus. On the other hand, What Child is This, as portrayed by Andrea Bocelli and Mary J. Blige is the most amazing and powerful version of this song I have ever heard. The culmination of their voices is almost angelic as they usher us into the powerful glory of our Lord’s vulnerability.

Having music playing while you are in the car going to the mall, or to a party, or when you are wrapping presents or baking cookies can help to keep your mind in a state of peace and joy throughout the season, even if circumstances around you are difficult.

Watch Christmas Movies - I know a lot of people don’t like to watch the same movies over and over. My husband is one of them, but he tolerates my love for seeing these classic movies every year and occasionally watches them with me. There are fun movies like White Christmas and Jingle All the Way, but there are also movies with a message that transcends this particular holiday. Take for instance A Christmas Carol. A book originally written by Charles Dickens, it was first made into a movie in 1910. Hollywood has come a long way since then, but my two favorite versions are the 1984 version with George C. Scott and the 1992 version with the Muppets. I just finished watching the George C. Scott version the other day and these two scenes really stood out to me.

Obviously, Marely is miserable and it is his knowledge that everything he did in life was meaningless. “….mankind was my business….” Wow! If that doesn’t remind us to take a look at our priorities, I don’t know what will.

I love this scene of transformation. Scrooge was a changed man. Oh, that we would be so changed by the spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ who dwells within us and gives us the ability to be new, each and every day!

Do Something to Serve - I know this seems a bit counter intuitive, when we are so busy, why do something that makes us even busier? The point is to love and worship Jesus by showing love to others. It might be something as simple as baking cookies for your co-workers or leaving a card for your mail carrier, thanking him/her for her hard work. It can be something more complex like visiting shut ins or serving at your local soup kitchen. Often these places are inundated at the holidays, because people are thinking about serving others. Why not schedule your service for February or March, when many of these people are forgotten?

Set Up Some Sort of Memorial - This might be your nativity. Letting your children be involved in getting the pieces out and setting them up helps them to remember Christmas is about Jesus. If you don’t have a nativity and don’t want to make that purchase, decorate a jar with Christmas colors. Every day have you and your family members write down on small slips of paper things they love about Christmas, the Christmas story or things they are thankful for, then on Christmas eve or Christmas morning go through your jar, reading these things out loud. You could then spend a few minutes in prayer, praising and thanking Jesus for all He has done for you.

However you celebrate Christmas and no matter how busy you are, I hope that you will take the time, even if only for a few moments to really think about what the reason for this season really is.

Have a great day!

Mulling It Over - Part 4

Some time has passed since I worked on this passage in 2 Timothy, but I have the time, so I wanted to get back at it. If you remember we were taking a look at 2 Timothy 2:20-26. You can see the first three parts by clicking on each of the links: Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3. Here is the passage again as a refresher. 

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Pixabay

20 Now in a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and of earthenware, and some to honor and some to dishonor.
21 Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.
22 Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.
23 But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels.
24 The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged,
25 with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth,
26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.
— 2 Timothy 2:20-26 (NASB)

Today's verse is quite pertinent in our society where social media dominates our time. Whether you are on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or some other form of social media there is no doubt that these communication avenues are powerful both in a positive and a negative way. 

23 But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels.
— 2 Timothy 2:23 (NASB)

As you know, I like to tear the verse apart. 

But refuse...

I think most of you understand the meaning of the word refuse. Words such as decline, refuse, reject, and spurn, all refer to the act of turning away by not accepting, receiving or considering what is being offered. I like the idea of not even considering. How often do we think about accepting an offer?

How many of you get sales emails in your inbox? How many of those do you read? Of those, how many do you actually click on to look at? If you are like me, you often find yourself clicking over to a site to see what new merchandise they have, and what the current sales offer is. Of course, it doesn't end there. I'll often put a few items into my shopping cart before I finally exit the site. Other times, I actually buy the items I put in my cart. I didn't refuse the offer and actually it started with just a consideration of the offer.

Pixabay

Pixabay

Now lets move on to what it is we are to refuse, or even consider. 

...foolish and ignorant speculations...

I may get into trouble here, but I believe that a high percent of what is posted on many of these social media platforms are foolish and ignorant speculations. It is one thing to talk about what you did today, share an outfit or post a recipe you want to share, but when these platforms become soap boxes for preaching, arguing or spreading hate, I believe we have moved into the arena of foolish and ignorant speculations. 

Let me say at this point, I am not against having discussions about hard topics on social media platforms, but I believe as Christians we have to be extremely careful what we say and how we come across. Topics can quickly escalate from stating the facts to spewing hateful, emotion based opinions. When I think of what our Founding Fathers meant by Freedom of Speech, I do not know that they were thinking of photos sharing body parts or using explicatives like conjunctions to string sentences together. 

Let's take just a moment to look at the words foolish and ignorant.

     foolish - Webster's online dictionary uses phrases like - showing lack of good sense, absurd or       ridiculous, and marked by a loss of composure. 

     ignorant - Webster's defines this word in this way - destitute of knowledge or education, lacking comprehension, unaware, and uninformed.

Do we really want to look foolish and ignorant when we are putting ourselves out there on social media or any other communication platform. Whether you are having a discussion with friends at the local eatery, posting opinions on Facebook or writing a blog, use discretion when choosing your words. Remember words convey a message, both spoken and written. As Christ followers, we want our message to be one of hope, truth and love. 

Finally, 

...knowing that they produce quarrels. 

Isn't it amazing that Paul, who had no knowledge of social media, knew exactly the kinds of exchanges that could take place when we start rambling off our opinions and feelings without using forethought and caution? Obviously, the tendency towards volatile emotions and conversations has been around since Adam and Eve left the garden. We, by the sin nature into which were born, are protectors of our right to be right, even if we are wrong. 

Pixabay

Pixabay

Why do you think Paul included these words in his letter to Timothy, who was a young man pastoring one of the early Christian churches? I believe it had to do with Paul's God given understanding of the outcome of such behaviors on the church. Dissension, arguments and quarrels will divide and destroy a church. They will divide and destroy a marriage, a family and yes, even a nation.

Let this verse be our standard when speaking or writing, for His glory and the encouragement of others.

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)

What is the Point of Easter?

We live in a day and age where sin is no longer called sin. We classify, categorize and explain it away; or we don't talk about it. It doesn't matter how we define it, what God called sin from the beginning of time is, in fact, still skipping around on planet earth, just like those dust bunnies lurking under your fridge. Sure you can sweep them away; suck them up in your Hoover, but before you know it they will be back, breeding and growing.

Easter Eggs

I mean, what is the point of Easter? Colored eggs? Candy? A new dress? All those things are great, especially in the context of family, but that is not what Easter is about. Easter is about Jesus. Christmas is about Jesus. One is about life and the other about the death that leads to life. Without Jesus there would be no Easter. So what was that all about? The blood sacrifice, demanded by God, paid for by His only Son....It was because of sin. There! I said it! It was because of disobedience. Jesus died and rose again because of anger, rebellion, pride, gluttony, murder, rape, gossip, addiction, adultery, bullying, incest and a plethora of others.

So today, in this month, when we think about, ponder and celebrate Easter, ask yourself, "Why?" I'm celebrating because I believe in a God who is so good, not only did He love me in my most pitiful, dark and sinful state, but He provided a way out of it.

Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6 - NESV)

Photo Credit:  Rebecca Trumbull

Photo Credit: Rebecca Trumbull

Exclusivity? Absolutely. Show me a belief system that is not is some way exclusive. But in Christianity we are not able to cross the gap that came about because of sin and it separates us from God. Only Jesus can do that. That is what Easter is all about.