Monday, January 30, 2012

The Light Turned Yellow

       The light turned yellow just in front of him so he did the right thing - he stopped at the crosswalk. Sure he could have made it through by accelerating but he wasn't in That much of a hurry. Better to be safe...
       The woman tailgating him was furious. She honked her horn and screamed in frustration as she slammed on her brakes, causing her to drop both her make-up and cell phone.
       As she continued her ranting, a tap on her window revealed the face of a very serious police officer. He ordered her out of the car, handcuffed her, and took her to the police station where she was searched, fingerprinted, photographed, and placed in a holding cell.
       A few hours later, another policeman approached the cell, opened the door, and escorted her back to the booking desk where the arresting officer waited with her personal belongings.
       "I'm sorry for the misunderstanding," he began, "but when I pulled up behind you and heard the horn blaring, the wild ranting and raving, and saw the frequent hand gestures, I also noticed the 'What would Jesus do?' bumper sticker, the 'Choose life' license frame, the chrome Fish emblem, and the 'Follow me to Sunday School' window naturally, I assumed the car must have been stolen!"

OUCH!  There are two obvious lessons we could learn from this story. The first is that you should never have anything on your car that could compromise your witness when you're angry or frustrated.  That's a common answer to this dilemma. The second, and more appropriate choice, is just to remember at all times that others are watching you, so live (and drive) as if Jesus is your constant companion. He never leaves us, remember, so whatever you do and however you act directly reflects on His image in the world.  Perhaps that's why the Apostle Paul admonished us in Philippians 2:12 to "Work out your salvation with serious caution, tenderness of conscience, watchful against temptation and shrinking from whatever might offend God or discredit the name of Christ!" (amplified) It's a difficult task, but realizing the risk of tarnishing His name, it is one worth striving for.

**adapted from an anonymous story found in the teachers' lounge at MES :)

Monday, January 23, 2012

God's answers to a broken heart

       Back in 1971, the Bee Gees recorded a song called “How can you mend a broken heart?” that became a #1 hit for many weeks. While their solution to the question goes unanswered, it is a sad fact that mentoring, or just being a giving person, can often bring people into your life that will eventually break your heart. It could be someone who leaves your “circle” and takes half of your friends with them, or it might be a close friend that gets offended and turns against you. It may be someone that you have spent time and tears on that returns to their former lifestyle. It may be an innocent misunderstanding that goes on to fester into full-blown resentment, or words carelessly spoken that are then harbored by the listener. Often, the break comes as a result of mistrust and hurts from past experiences - yours, theirs, or both! 
       Whatever the cause, there are a number of inevitable feelings that occur. There are feelings of betrayal - “How could he/she do this to me?” There may be feelings of guilt - “What did I do, or what did I not do, to cause this?” Sometimes, there is just plain anger - “After all I’ve done, where do they get off treating me like this?” And not many things hurt as much as someone misjudging your motives and intentions. While we may feel any or all of these conflicting emotions, there is often an overriding feeling of sadness that accompanies loss of relationship and hovers like a dark cloud overhead.
       While these experiences are costly in many ways, there are some things that we can do to minimize the depth of hurt and length of time that we choose to be affected. First, it is important to remember that God is still on the throne, still reigning. He knew beforehand that this was going to happen and has taken the necessary preparations to somehow use this experience for good - either yours or someone else‘s (
Ro. 8:28; 2 Co. 1:3-4). We don’t see the big picture, as God does, and He has a plan that even uses the worst of situations to bring glory both to Him and to His people! 
       Look for ways to reconcile. If repentance from you is needed, go to them. If misunderstanding has taken place, address it - in person if possible, or an any way they will allow you to. If it’s a pride issue, lay it down. God will bring truth in His time. Whatever it takes that you have control over, do it. (Ro. 12:18; Matt. 5:23-24)
       Look past the person that is hurting you and pray for the need or lack that is in his or her life that is causing them to react as they are. Prayer is a powerful remedy for getting rid of self-righteousness and a critical spirit. We are all broken people that have need of God’s constant “fixing”. After all, God often uses experiences we have to show us things in our own lives that need addressing! (Remember the plank, splinter illustration? Ouch)
       Don’t be swallowed by self-pity. Even Jesus was betrayed and forsaken by His closest friends at the time He needed them most. Instead of resenting them, His love and forgiveness caused them to repent, return to Him, and go forth with even more conviction and tenacity. Pouring love on the “offender” is not only Biblical, but a sign of our own relationship with Christ. (Matt. 5:44-48) And remember, there are always other people involved, either participating or watching! Be a light! (Matt. 5:16)
       Last of all, try to find the lesson that may be taught through this experience. Are you too gullible, too trusting? Did you share too deeply and too soon, making yourself extremely vulnerable to someone who had not yet been found trustworthy? Did you expect more than the relationship could bear? Is God showing you something that will help someone else later? There are lots of reasons that hearts break. Some are preventable, some are not. In the end, however, it is not the broken heart that matters - it is where and how we mend it…and God’s way always brings the best result! Trust Him! Turn your broken heart over to Him, and allow Him to do whatever it takes to fix it! He is near for just such times as these...Psalm 34:18!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Reminders from a Ranger

One of our Bible college students is a former Army Ranger. When it was his turn to present a chapel devotional, he used the Army Ranger's Survival acronym to teach an amazingly applicable lesson.  I have been thinking about it for the past couple of weeks and decided to share it with a few Biblical insights that have been stirring in my spirit!
        (the Army's lesson)                   (Biblical application)
S  - size up your situation; Take a realistic assessment of the positives and negatives and then make a plan, but always remember God's ability to intervene in your situation! Strengthen your resolve on God's Word!
U  - undue haste makes waste; Be still and know who your God is; Understand His desire to guide you and seek His direction before rushing in!
R  - remember where you are; The old song says "This world is not my home, I'm just passing through" and it's right! You're a citizen of heaven, a child of the King. All that we're dealing with is temporal. Even the worst of situations will eventually pass!  Be strong!
V - vanquish fear and panic ; Our enemy's greatest weapon is fear because it clouds our judgment and makes us act impulsively. When tempted to give in to it, find others to stand strong with you and focus on God's promises. Fight back using the Word!
I   - improvise;  Look for new opportunities, new applications, new ways to share your passions - be creative and take a calculated risk! (refer back to the lesson of the U) What has God given you that the others in the Body of Christ need? Invest in God's family, in order to show your increased love for God!!
V - value living; Each day is a gift that we have to use for God and the fulfillment of His plan - don't be selfish. It's not just about you! God's mercy and grace were given so that you might love and serve Him...
A - act like the natives; Seek out those who have walked the path ahead of you and learn from their experiences. The Bible says there's nothing new under the sun so whatever you're facing many others have also. Find someone to confide in and help you along the way! And be confident in God's promise of Isaiah 42:2-4 that there's nothing that can overwhelm you if you are in God's care!
L - learn the basics; There is no substitute for preparation! Study of God's Word, prayer, fellowship, worship - these are still the essentials; without them you're in danger no matter where you are!

Thank you, Kevin, for this amazing devotional!  It really stuck with me and I know it will help others as well!!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Separate But Equal

Today is the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. Having recently read and watched "The Help" I have been thinking about race relations and the whole "separate but equal" strategy used to keep the races apart. Those who advocated it were under the false impression that the color of their skin somehow made them superior, and therefore entitled to more benefits and opportunities. 

Christians often look at the unsaved with the same bias, thinking that somehow God loves them more or thinks more highly of them than others. In truth, there is no difference from God's point of view. The only thing that separates saved and unsaved is a choice.  Think about it. God created all people in His image to manifest His glory. He provided a way for all people to be redeemed into His family and to be released from the penalty of sin. He loves all of us, cares for all of us, and has wonderful plans for all of us. The only difference is in our choice.

 When we choose to do things our way or to refuse the gifts that He has provided, He is restrained from intervening in our lives. We have to figure out our own problems, fight our own battles, and forge our own path. When we shake our fist and deny His right to be our master, we cut off our access to His promises, His blessings, and the inheritance He has set aside for us. We are left with worldly wisdom, temporal blessings, and future judgment!

Our simple choice to receive all that He has provided opens unimaginable blessings, both for this life and the next. Our path is secure, our future full of hope, and our present circumstances are protected in the shelter of His loving hand. We no longer have to worry about the storms that may come, the trials that we face, or the looming disasters that surface on the horizon. Our Father watches over every detail to make sure nothing comes to us that He hasn't already planned for. The forces of darkness don't have a chance.

On this day devoted to equality and justice for all, take a minute to thank God that He orchestrated a day of decision for you - that you had the choice in front of you, and that you chose to do things God's way. Then honor Him, not by feeling superior over those who haven't yet chosen the right path, but by sharing with others what God has done for you so that they too may decide that God's way is the only way!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Precious Moments and Sweet Memories!

We are visiting our out-of-town family & friends this week. With 5 kids, 12 grandchildren, brothers, sisters, numerous other relatives and lots of friends to see, it is a busy time! Because our visits are months apart, everyone wants to see us and we want to see everyone. Packing in all that we want to do is not an easy task! So...beyond the "catching up dinners" with extended family, we always have at least one huge dinner that Dan cooks when all the kids and grandkids come! It's wild chaos because (removing the baby twins from the mix) there are 9 kids age 3-7! This week's visit included water balloons, dance party on WII, pretend sword fighting, and lots of chasing, screaming and yelling. It also included hurt feelings, crying, "accidents", and indignant cries for justice. Throw in a couple of "beyond picky" eaters and two babies that occasionally need attention and you have a recipe for Excedrin headache #1! 

I LOVE spending time with everyone, but if I had a choice I would prefer to see each family individually. That way, each grandchild gets attention and the adults actually enjoy the visit! I am totally happy during the quiet times of coloring and playing games, of rocking babies and building legos. I also love early morning coffee chats and late night jacuzzi conversations. I "need" the sweet hours of sharing with friends - those special people in your life that you don't have to explain anything to cause they just know! You can just totally relax with no agenda and pick up where you left off during the last phone conversation. 

It's these precious moments and special times that I miss the most when I'm so far away. Everyone back home says, "Oh how lucky you are to go to CA where it's so warm and sunny" but in truth I don't even really notice the weather. It's nice to go out the door without 10 layers, it's true, and to take off in the car without scraping the ice off the windows first, but that's the least of the reasons I love being here. The little blessings and sweet moments are like spoonfuls of sugar that refill my spirit. They renew my heart and adjust my perspective. They give me respite from the many responsibilities I have at home. They truly restore my soul and I thank God for the opportunities I have to indulge in these visits!  If I get to enjoy sunny days and warm weather, well that's just gravy!!