Friday, December 22, 2017

Jesus and Jujitsu

Just three days before the big Christmas holiday, it seems as though most of the people around me are at the climax of the preparation frenzy. Shopping, baking, wrapping gifts, preparing food for the incoming relatives, last minute decorating. It'll all get done, and I won't worry about it if it doesn't.

Earlier this week I received the wonderful gift of laughter, generated by a little video someone had shared on Facebook. Perhaps you, too, have seen it.  Surely it has gone viral by now.

It was a clip of a children's Christmas program, specifically a nativity scene.  All the participants were roughly between the ages of two to six, so I have no doubt the director had her hands full getting those kiddos to cooperate and do what she wanted them to do.

On stage right a large chorus of children was serenely singing a classic Christmas carol, perhaps it was "Away in a Manger."  All was well over on that part of the stage, and the kids looked and sounded nearly angelic.

Over on stage left was the manger scene and its cast of characters.  There was Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus sleeping in the manger.  A couple of wise men with bath towels on their heads and scratchy beards fidgeted in the back, and a donkey and sheep were clustered there near the manger, too.

All was well for a verse or two until one of the little characters there in the stable, the 2-3 year old girl in the fuzzy white sheep suit, got bored. She was done playing by the rules from that point on.

She crossed stage left and grabbed the baby(doll) Jesus out of his bed.  For a while she stood there, rocking him lovingly in her arms along with the rhythm of the music. It was sweet.

Until she had enough of that.

She began gyrating her hips a little bit more, swinging baby Jesus in time to the music. Mary was beginning to look concerned.

Next, the little sheep began bogeying all around her area of the stage.

Then she grabbed Jesus by the ankles and whipped him around in front of her in large figure eight shapes.

By this time, four-year-old Mary was alarmed. It was time to retrieve and protect her baby.

Heading over to the little sheep girl, Mary grabbed for her baby.  An unsuccessful tug of war ensued.

Finally Mary authoritatively threw her arm around the neck of the sheep girl and took her business down to the floor.  It looked remarkably like a rear naked choke hold, so common in jujitsu sparring.

That baby's life was at stake, and it called for desperate measures.

Joseph walked over to the scene of the fight, looked down at it, and stepped back.  He wasn't gonna get entangled in that mess.  Not even for Jesus.

At this point the camera panned to a referee mother coming from the audience and up the steps to the stage to rectify the situation.  End of video.

Honestly I've watched that video several times, and I'm just so thankful for the wonderful laughs it has given me.

And then, I kept thinking about it over the last few days since I first saw it.

What if we all were so deliberate about having Jesus?
What if we were all that determined to hold him, to spend time with Him, to love Him?
What if we wanted Him so much we would fight for Him - fight our schedules, our distractions, our hobby and leisure time - fight it all just to be with Him?

This Christmas my wish for you is that you'll have Jesus. Look for Him, find Him, spend time with Him. Love Him and celebrate His presence. That's the best GIFT I can wish for you, and I do so with all my heart.

Merry Christmas, friends!

Monday, December 18, 2017

Road Tripping at Christmas (Part 2)

As I wrote in my last post, Christmas and road trips seem to go together.

     "After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod,  Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, 'Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.'" (Matthew 2:1-2)

These magi (traditionally called wise men) traveled a long way, and I'm willing to bet it wasn't an easy journey.

Because, well, because of camels.

Camels are gloriously weird creations of our awesome God.  For many desert travelers, camels are the transportation mode of choice. They are wondrously designed to maximize all water intake.  Even camels' nostrils participate in the collection of moisture.

However, let's be clear on this: camels have horrible body odor and have worse tempers.  They spit when they feel threatened.  There is no doubt about it, camel tenders and riders have their work cut out with these beasts.

I uncovered a few things about camels I hadn't known before as I was reading up on the wise men.

Camels have a stride not common to most other four-legged animals.  That is, the left two legs move then the right two.  Although they typically travel at about 25 mph, they can move at speeds as high as 40 mph, often swaying the passenger into motion sickness.

Camels are so adept at utilizing all moisture within their bodies that their urine is excreted as a thick paste.  This could make it tricky keeping the camp clean.

Some camels spread a virus known as MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome), so the tenders may become sick.  However, camel poo, if you care to chow down on camel "apples," kills dysentery-causing germs.  So, if you have the poos, eat the poo.

I think we can all imagine that the journey the wise men took in search of the Messiah was not a luxurious, relaxing trip.  It was long, hard, hot, and full of all sorts of challenges.

And then they arrived at Jerusalem.  Unlike many men, they stopped and asked for directions. 

At this point I went to my Mapquest program and calculated the distance from Jerusalem to Bethlehem.  

Six miles.  

Six miles from Jesus.

Six miles from the baby King.

Six miles from salvation.

Six miles from forgiveness.

Six miles from eternal life.

Everybody in the story had the same information.  Herod, the teachers of the Law, the Jewish scholars, and the three wise men all knew a baby had been born in Bethlehem, and they all knew who the baby was.


Herod knew and tried to kill him.
The teachers and religious scholars knew and ignored him. Apparently six miles was too much.
The wise men went, covered six more miles, and bowed down and worshipped the babe.

Six miles!

The road trip these wise men took helps me examine how far it is between Jesus and me.  What will I do, what am I willing to do, how far will I "go," to be with Jesus?

This Christmas season will I make my heart a "manger" where Christ can reside?

Will you?

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Road Tripping at Christmas (Part 1)

                  "Ever since the magi first went in search of Jesus more than
                   two thousand years ago, it seems that Christmas and 'road trip'
                   have gone together."  -Max Lucado

Will you be traveling this holiday season with or to your family?

Years ago, when our children were quite young, we made the yearly Christmas pilgrimage to my parents' home, a trip of about 100 miles.

My preparation prior to this annual trip included completing all the home decor for the season, writing and mailing the holiday cards, keeping track of all the children's school and other Christmas activities, purchasing and wrapping all the stocking stuffers and gifts for our immediate family and an extended list of other relatives, baking all the cookies, preparing our contribution to the holiday party spread, and finally packing suitcases for the six of us.

The husband's responsibility was to gas up the car.

As many of you know, road trips with kiddos are not always serene, relaxing occasions. They are more like endurance events. And mind you, in those days, we had no cell phones, car tv's, or handheld gaming devices to amuse the kids. Entertainment was found by looking out the windows.

Snacks were provided frequently and in abundance. Eating was not a matter of the children being hungry. No, snacks supplied amusement.  And quiet.

With overly-excited children came over-active bladders. This situation was concerning when the driver operated in his we-will-not-stop-till-we-are-there mode.

There would be at least one bathroom-related change of clothing, somewhere en route.

We would experience the usual trilogy of "I'm bored," "Are we there soon?" and "He's/she's touching me,"ad nauseum.

And yes, there would be vomit. We could bank on it.  Somebody would vomit. And then we'd debate whether the offending child was car sick, even though that malady wasn't normally a problem. Of course, within 24 hours of arrival 75% of the children would  come down with some form of winter virus.  Relatives would wonder if my children were always that cranky.

None of the children would nap during the journey, even though we'd strategically timed the trip to coincide perfectly with nap time. Let me amend that - they would finally fall asleep ten minutes before arrival, having slept just enough to leave them uncooperative about everything for the rest of that day and irritable.

We'd safely arrive at our destination and then celebrate all the aspects of the holiday together.

Typically, we attended a Christmas Eve worship service, and we always sang Silent Night there in German.  Afterwards the children tried to tolerate the old folks cooing over them as they squeezed the children's cheeks.

"My how big you've grown," they'd marvel.

I'd smile and pray hard at those moments that none of my littles would retort, "My how fat you've become!"

After church we'd gather together for an amazing spread of food, enjoyed by all but the littlest ones. They'd think the food was weird and would only eat two tiny meatballs if it was a good night. The adults congregated around the shrimp bowl, sharing memories of the past year.  We have even been known to barter for those last few precious pieces of shrimp down in the bottom of the bowl.

When most of the guests were finished eating, Grandma gathered the children around her and recited The Night Before Christmas. I have wonderful memories of those spellbound faces and twinkling eyes, but I sure wish I had more photos.

Then the moment those kids have been waiting for would finally arrive.  Gifts appeared and there'd be a virtual storm of tearing paper and flying bows.  Even the family dogs got in on the "paper, paper" frenzy. Months later remnants of red and green papers would be found behind the planters and between the couch cushions.

Bedtime was always a tricky deal.  The children were over-excited and the parents were sleep-deprived.  Getting everyone bedded down with minimal meltdowns and avoiding the typical grandma's-house-stalling-tactics was quite the challenge.

Even so, I'd never change those road trip holiday Christmas gatherings for all the money in the world. Stresses, fatigue, trials, and sicknesses aside, the memories we made are so precious to me now.

These days, along with the memories from many past Christmases, I enjoy watching my grown children creating their own memories and family Christmas traditions.

Another journey of great significance happened two thousand years ago. In my next post, we'll examine the road trip made by the Three Wise Men. Travel woes, drama, and gifts were part of their story, too.

It wasn't exactly road trip euphoria for them, either. Oh, but what a Gift!

Monday, December 11, 2017

Be Careful What You Read!

I've always been of the mindset that one cannot have too many books. An avid reader all throughout my life, I've read thousands of books and have accumulated way too many for the strength of my bookshelves. It's probably time to purge. Again.

After reading the 23rd chapter of Jeremiah this morning, my thoughts about reading went in somewhat of another direction.  The two words "reading" and "caution" seemed to pair up in my mind after I thoroughly studied that chapter.

Jeremiah was a prophet of God, and in that chapter God tells Jeremiah what He thinks about the other prophets in the land and what Jeremiah should say to them.

It's not a pretty conversation.  In fact, God gives a scathing denouncement of those prophets.  Here is how God describes those false prophets:
  • They follow an evil course.
  • They use their power unjustly
  • They are wicked and godless.
  • They prophecy by Baal.
  • They lead the people astray.
  • They commit adultery.
  • They live a lie.
  • They strengthen the hands of evildoers.
  • They are like Sodom and Gomorrah.
  • They spread ungodliness.
  • They fill others with false hopes.
  • They speak with visions of their own concocting.
  • They spread false peace to the heathen.
  • They don't hear the counsel of the Lord.
  • They don't see and hear His word.
  • They run and prophesy their own messages.
  • They prophesy lies and dreams in His name.
  • They are delusional.
  • They hope the people will forget God's name.
  • They steal false words from one another.
  • They wag their own tongues.
  • They lead His people astray.
  • They tell reckless lies.
  • They do not benefit people in the least.
  • Each one's word becomes his own message.
  • They distort the words of the Almighty God.

So what does any of this have to do with books?

May I just urge a word of caution to you, please?  Tis' the season when many are Christmas shopping.  Books are often the gift of choice.  Buy carefully. Pray before you buy.

The Bible tells me there were prophets in Jeremiah's days that were not godly men.  I am under no illusions to think that there aren't many false prophets, teachers, and speakers nowadays, too.

Our department and bookstores are full of books on the shelves that espouse the words, thinking, and visions of men and women who are not in alignment with the Word of God. Just as in Jeremiah's day, they say nice things that give us good feelings and spread hope, but nonetheless, those words are not coming from the mind of God.

There are also many seminars, conferences, and speaking events that promote and feature some of those very same authors.  Beware.  Just because an author is wildly popular does not mean he is a man or woman of God.  So many of them have their own ideology and thinking that makes us feel good and gives us hope, yet is contrary to the words in the Bible. Their own self-promoting agendas have deluded them.

My takeaways from Jeremiah chapter 23:

1.  Be careful to whom you listen!
2.  Be careful what you read!
3.  Be careful what you watch!

False prophets exist today, too!

P.S. If you need some meaningful and inexpensive Christmas gifts, may I suggest an idea? I still have some copies of my first four Bible Study booklets available. Each book examines one book in the Bible in depth. The reader can move through the book at his own leisure.

At $10 each (which includes tax and shipping costs) these books may be a perfect fit for somebody on your Christmas list. Email me at jillgoes@gmail.com if you're interested, and thank you to those of you who have enjoyed these studies over the past years.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Jeremiah - A Man of Many Moods

Mood swings. We all have them. I know very few people who sail through this life with nary an up or down in their outlook on life.

Some folks are mostly positive.  I like to put myself into this category, although yes, I know I whine and complain (and justify it!) on some occasions.

Others are basically negative, unpleasant people.  The glass-is-half-empty-and-there's-nothing-left-anywhere-to-fill-it-either people. If we're honest, it's awful challenging to be around these folks.

And then there's the prophet Jeremiah, the main character in the Bible's Old Testament book by the same name.

The book of Jeremiah is 5.2% of the entire Bible, and with its 33,002 words, it is the longest book in the Old Testament.

God gave Jeremiah an important message to deliver to the people, the message that they should turn from their sin, repent, and return to following God.  Through Jeremiah, God told the people that He was going to send Babylon to punish Judah and they should surrender to God anew.  They largely rejected the message and viewed it as treasonous.

The other priests and prophets of the day were primarily spreading an untrue message.  They were preaching the feel-good, all-is-well, prosperity-is-coming type message that so many then and now love to hear.

For his obedience in delivering God's word, Jeremiah was beaten, imprisoned, mocked and ostracized. The Bible says he was put in stocks. Very few people listened, believed, and repented.

Today I studied the 20th chapter of this intriguing book.

What struck me is how human Jeremiah was.  This "big man of God" was just a normal guy.  In fact, he was a whole lot like most of us:

He had his own unique character, personality, and calling.
He was not one having a "tough skin."
He cared deeply about whether people accepted or liked him.
He didn't like being rejected by anyone, especially by his friends.
He had a hard job to do.
He didn't know how his life would all pan out (and even though he was obedient to God's call, things weren't looking good).
As he got older, the difficulty of his life calling seemed to create more suffering in his life.
All the people seemed to be against him.
He appeared to be the only one holding fast to his faith.
His emotions were battered on many days.
His steadfast faith in God caused him suffering.
He whined.
He complained.
He praised.
He questioned.
He asked for answers.
He wanted vindication.
He suffered.
He obeyed.
He suffered more.

I found encouragement today as I thought about Jeremiah and his challenging life.

He was honest with God about his feelings.
He let his emotions all hang out. He griped. He whined. He begged.
He told God exactly what he was thinking.

In doing so, he was often able to move through his doubts and weaknesses and press onward to a state of praise, worship, and continued obedience.

I want to remember that it's always completely OK to bare my heart and tell everything to my Lord. Why wouldn't I want to talk with the One I Love about every single thing?

After all, He already knows it all. And He loves to be with me no matter what is on my mind.

Go ahead. Tell Him your stuff. Freely.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

A Reckless Man!

Every time I read the story of blind Bartimaeus, I think to myself, Now there’s a man of exorbitant faith. I don’t know if I’ve ever known somebody who has such a reckless faith in Jesus.

Read Mark 10:46-52 if you want to meet this unusual man. I promise you – it’ll be worth the time it takes you to read those seven verses.

Let me set the scene. It was common in those days for the disabled and the beggars to sit or lay along the roads in and out of the cities, right outside the city gates. That way, the poor could panhandle all the travelers and merchants as they passed by on the only routes to and from the towns. 

Many of the poor and destitute literally survived by permanently camping out right along these paths, relying on the handouts of the few generous people who passed by them.

Bartimaeus was one of these unfortunate people along the roadside. 

And so, it came about that the blind Bartimaeus heard and sensed that Jesus and his men were coming past him as they left Jericho. He knew what he should do.

Although I’ve read this passage many times, each time I see something new in the story, and this reading was no exception.

I couldn’t stop thinking about these four words in verse 50: “Throwing his cloak aside …” The ramifications of those four words astounded me, for they indicate so much more about the faith of Bartimaeus when I really think about them.

As a destitute blind beggar, the clothing on his body and the cloak on his back were probably his only possessions. 

His cloak was his “seat” during the morning and evening.

He relied on it as protection from the sun during the heat of the day.

At night, his cloak kept him warm. It was a barrier from insects and small predators.

Wrapped around him, his cloak was his shelter, his bed. It was his only security. 

Rolling up snuggly within it, he might experience his only source of comfort.

It was always with him. He knew its feel, its smell, and its great value to him in his station in life.

It was likely everything he owned.

So, when he “[threw] his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus,” he risked the loss of literally everything he owned. He stepped toward Jesus in faith, leaving everything behind. Everything he had.

If Jesus didn’t heal him, there was no guarantee his cloak (his “wealth,” his “home,” and his “security”) would be there when he returned to search for it. The blind man may never be able to find it again.

In faith, he blindly stepped toward the voice of Jesus.

Then, in faith, he told Jesus the desires of his heart, and Jesus healed him.

No matter how “blind” we are, Jesus loves when we leave all behind and recklessly risk losing it all as we step towards Him in faith. 

The reckless, exorbitant faith of this man, Blind Bart, inspires me.

How reckless is your faith?

Monday, November 13, 2017

Prayer of a Wise Man

Billy Graham is one of the men I respect most on this earth.

He is an American Christian evangelist.  Back in the mid-forties he began preaching the gospel message to thousands in stadiums around the United States and thereafter around the world.  In response to his simple, Bible-based gospel presentations, over the years millions of people have committed their lives to Christ, and have secured assurance of eternal life in Heaven with God.

It was one of his sermons that compelled my father to make his own simple commitment to Jesus Christ shortly before I was born.  My father's decision that day gradually shaped how he lived throughout the rest of his life.  At 83, he continues to live by Christian principles.

Born November 7, 1918, Graham has seen and experienced quite the kaleidoscope of world history and has seen great changes in transportation, war and peace efforts, technology, and morality.

This man of faith just turned 99 years old a few days ago.  As he enters his 100th year, one of his most famous quotes continues to be, "My home is in Heaven.  I'm just traveling through this world."

Health issues and simple concerns of old age are keeping him home these days.  He no longer preaches to large stadiums.  Minute by minute he simply enjoys spending time with Jesus, praying, reading the Bible, and enjoying visitors.

I cannot help but be challenged and inspired by this man.  When he soon stands before the King of Kings, I know he will be welcomed with "Well done, my good and faithful servant."

At 95 years old, Billy Graham offered a prayer over our country.  For whatever reason, it seems the media has kept its distance and has resisted trashing this man, even when prayers like this one hit the "world" squarely on the head.

This prayer was timely then, and is still timely today.  Oh, that those of us whole-heartedly following the Lord would humble ourselves and pray in agreement:

"Heavenly Father, we come before you today to ask your forgiveness and to seek your direction and guidance.  We know Your Word says, 'Woe to those who call evil good,' but that is exactly what we have done.

We have lost our spiritual equilibrium and reversed our values.
We have exploited the poor and called it the lottery.
We have rewarded laziness and called it welfare.
We have killed our unborn and called it choice.
We have shot abortionists and called it justifiable.
We have neglected to discipline our children and called it building self esteem.
We have abused power and called it politics.
We have coveted our neighbor's possessions and called it ambition.
We have polluted the air with profanity and pornography and called it freedom of expression.
We have ridiculed the time-honored values of our forefathers and called it enlightenment.

Search us, Oh God, and know our hearts today; cleanse us from sin and set us free.  Amen!"

May this prayer take flight on Holy Spirit wings, sweeping over our nation anew, bringing fresh repentance and restoration to the Lord.

His heart is always for redemption, for us to turn fully back to Him.

Come with me, will you?

Thursday, November 9, 2017


I am an organized doer, but every now and then I come up upon a massive interruption that interferes with all my plans.

I like to start my day with a list of tasks, cross them off one by one as I accomplish them, and victoriously crumple and lob the finished list in the trash bin at day's end.

I find great satisfaction in setting and accomplishing my goals.

It's just that those goals aren't always HIS, and to get my attention, He sometimes has to make an interruption into my life.

The interruption that came my way the other morning wasn't pleasant.  In all ways it was acutely painful.  I awoke with a splitting migraine headache along with a flair of another health issue I regularly battle.  Frankly, I was miserable.  It was the kind of sick that one cannot even think clearly enough to manage a call to the doctor.

Because of this unexpected interruption, I missed an appointment for major car service, a lunch meeting with other writers, and I didn't even get near my list of to-do's for the remainder of that day.  Instead, I sat curled up in a cozy blanket, stretched out on a recliner, and loopy from prescription medications.

I did have a sweet time of rest and prayer, though.  Talking to Jesus throughout my day was relaxing and calming.

Maybe He had missed me.
Maybe He created the interruption.
Maybe I ought to train myself to recognize those divine interruptions more quickly.

Research is full of data about interruptions in the work place.  One survey reports that employees suffer an average of 56 interruptions per day.  I'm fairly sure my husband would argue that the number in his office is more than that.  Some days he comes home claiming to have accomplished nothing due to all the interruptions.

The Bible, too, is full of famous people whose lives have been interrupted.  Divinely interrupted, to be sure.  From the beginning of the Old Testament to the end of the New, there are plenty of examples:

Adam was interrupted by a snake and an apple.
Abraham's life was interrupted by an unexpected moving plan.
Jonah's life was interrupted by a moment of disobedience and a large fish.
Joseph's life plan was interrupted by a lengthy prison sentence.
Samson's life was interrupted by a timely haircut.
Moses was interrupted by a bizarre fiery bush that didn't burn.
David's life was interrupted by a beautiful woman bathing on a nearby roof.
Mary's life was interrupted by a miraculous pregnancy.
A bunch of fishermen's lives were interrupted by a man wanting them to follow him.
Lazarus' life was interrupted by a four-day stay in a tomb.
Malchus' life was interrupted when his ear was violently sliced off.
Jesus' life with his Father was interrupted by 33 years on earth spent with us.

And there are so many more.

I'd like to say I welcomed the interruption to my plans the other day with grace and a Godly outlook.  I'd be lying, though.  Instead, I grumbled, complained, whined, and huffed and puffed in frustration.

I want to get better at this.  I do want to wear the Holy Spirit lenses at all times, those "glasses" that enable me to see and welcome each divine interruption.  I want to see them as clearly as if an elephant were entering the room next to me.

Lord, teach me to graciously accept the interruptions that come my way throughout each day.  With your Holy Spirit living in me, give me the ability to see your divine interruptions clearly and to know your purpose for them and my part in them.  I eagerly ask you to have your way in me at all times.  I love you and want to please you.  Amen.

Have you experienced any divine interruptions in your life lately?

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Threatening To Unravel!

Whether it's due to old age, dried-out fibers, or a little bit of "assistance" from the puppy, the blanket on son Caleb's bed is disintegrating.

There are pieces all over, in between the sheets, and lying on the floor around the bed like snow.

It's totally unraveling.

Kinda like me today.

There is:

  • an overabundance of laundry waiting for attention
  • a little hint of marital discord
  • a difficult full-of-legalese contract from my literary agent needing my response
  • an after travel lack of groceries in the house
  • some out-of-control hormonal fluctuations and hot flashes giving me the going over
  • an overnight bellyache that is still lurking
  • leftover empty cartons and containers to trip over from our goodies for the 325 trick or treaters we had two nights ago
  • a work crew from the sewer company jackhammering in the street out front of my bedroom at 7:00 in the AM this morning

The thought comes easily to my mind, for I've heard it said so many times:  "God won't give you more than you can handle."  (2 Memes 10:14)


In spite of the fact that I do feel overwhelmed, and I do feel a potential to unravel, I can say without a doubt that the statement is false.  Although spoken by well-meaning Christians who are attempting to encourage, it would mean we can handle everything that comes our way, no matter how much or how hard it is.  That view essentially means we don't really need God at all because we've got it handled.

Actually, at times He definitely will give us more than we can handle on our own, just so we are constantly reminded of our need for Him and for a savior.  He loves it when we run to Him, asking for His help (and his love and companionship as we travel through those hard places!)

Many stories in the Scriptures show how God put humans' backs to the wall.  Without God, all would have ended in disaster.

Let's stay true to what the Scriptures really do say.  The verse that has been twisted into the 2 Memes 10:14 version above is 1 Corinthians 10:13:

"No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind.  And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.  But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it."

My frustrations and feelings that I may not be able to cope may always be there, though.  I may sense an imminent unraveling at times.

Even so, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."  (Philippians 4:13)

All things, through Christ.  Not on my own.

I won't unravel.

Instead, I choose to:

Thursday, October 26, 2017

What's the Matter?

What is the matter?

What is your matter?

One of the major Biblical prophets, Isaiah, had a matter to address - the sin of his people.  Israel's matter was ugly, rampant sin.  God wanted to settle the matter, once and for all.

God used Isaiah to talk to the people, and these are the words Isaiah spoke to them:

"Come now, let us settle the matter," says the Lord.  "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool."  (Isaiah 1:18)

So what is your problem, issue, dilemma?
What is the matter?

Coming to the Lord with our problems, our matters, is really a simple process.  We just make it so complicated.  We stall and don't deal with our matters in a timely manner.  We craft a plethora of excuses.

Come:  He wants us to move toward Him.  To Him.  To initiate the resolution.

Now:  Don't delay any longer.  The matter won't likely resolve on its own.

Let:  Allow it to happen.  His way.  The best way.  According to His plan.

Us:  Together, working with Him, we will deal with the matter.

Settle:  Lay it to rest.  Forever.

The Matter:  Whatever the problem is.

Says the Lord:  He is the One with all the wisdom, help, love, and solutions to whatever ails us!

"Come now, let us settle the matter," says the Lord!

So what's your matter?  How will you choose to deal with it?

Monday, October 23, 2017

Wooden Spoons and Grace

Lindsay (on left) with me
For whatever reason, daughter Lindsay has always had a way with her Dad.  When I talk to my husband (her father) about her, he has no explanation for this phenomenon.  He just laughs and admits she could wrangle just about anything out of him.  It's not that she is a favorite of our four children, but for whatever reason his soft spot for her is huge.

We did not "spare the rod, spoil the child."  No, we tried our best to hold to Biblical standards of discipline.  Some of the children seemed to get the paddling more than others.  Of our four children, Lindsay was probably the least strong-willed, the most compliant.  She didn't seem to need the corrections as much as the others.  In fact, just a sideways look from Mom or Dad, and she was immediately remorseful and totally reformed.

I had in the house a varied collection of wooden cooking spoons that we used when the kiddos needed a "reminder on the behinder."  Some were large spoons with long handles.  Others had slots in the spoon end.  The kids claimed those spoons were highly dreaded.  A few of my spoons had very short handles.  I called those the purse models.  Just because we were out and about did not mean a free ticket to misbehave.  The kids were well aware that I always had a spoon along, just in case.

There was one mysterious incident involving Lindsay that we came to understand years later.  She had misbehaved, and Dad had the duty to take her up in the bedroom and make an adjustment on her backside.  Days later, she informed us that together they devised a plan: while he smacked the spoon down hard onto the bed she would cry appropriately.  The two of them were smirking at each other the rest of that evening, enjoying their own private secret.

We all understand now that Grace was administered that evening up in her room.

The story of the adulteress brought to Jesus in John 8:1-59 is one of the best illustrations of grace.

She was caught in the act.
The law required stoning of such a person.
She didn't speak a word.
No denial.
No begging or asking for mercy or forgiveness.

Jesus extended it to her, though, in his great compassion and love for her.  

Those who brought her looked for allegiance to punishment; Jesus looked for compassion.

Jesus maneuvered the situation so that the woman could see and know that all were sinners.  The others were forced to admit that they were no better than her.  He leveled the status of all.

This is truly the gospel message right here in a moment.  We all have sinned and are in need of a savior's grace.

             Romans 3:23 "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."

Jesus didn't look to condemn her; he found a way to save her.  That is why he came, after all.

The older ones in the crowd left first.  Why were they the first to wander off?  Maybe the younger ones hadn't dealt yet with their own pride and self-righteousness.  It was hard for them to give up their indignation.

Oh, and why wasn't the man who was participating in the act of adultery with her brought in?

Jesus' directions to the woman:

1.  Go
2.  Now
3.  Leave your life of sin.

Go back home, immediately "pack your bags," and move on to a new way of living.

Jesus wouldn't have told her to do something that was impossible to do.  In just a few moments this woman was given a whole new lease on life, a hope and a future.

She met a man who showed her true love, not exploitation.

She learned her worth as a woman was equal to all of the men, even the scholars and leaders of her society.

And, she met the Lover of Her Soul.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

What Happens in Your Driveway?

We live in a broken world.

Every day it seems more obvious that the majority of those around me are simply hurting people.

The daily news verifies that this is so.  The faces of the people I see while doing daily grocery shopping and errands tell me this is so.  The repentance and enthusiastic response to the evangelistic crusades that Franklin Graham has been leading in Texas this month tell me this is so.  Even the hunger I detect when walking through the halls and rooms in my own church tells me this is so.

There are so many hurting people.  People who need answers.  People who need the Truth.

Today the responsibility I bear as a Christian is in the forefront of my thoughts.  There is no time to waste.  My life is not my own.  There is limited chance to reach these people.  Someday soon that limited window of opportunity will be gone.

Followers of Christ do not have the right to live a life of limited influence.

Someone is watching you today.  Someone needs you to be Jesus right in front of them.

Great responsibility.
Powerful opportunity.
May I own it.

Jon Acuff, speaker and author, made this statement two days ago to a group of church leaders, and I think it applies to every single one of us that calls himself a Christian:

"The first church a neighbor visits is your driveway.  You don't get to be a good church and a bad neighbor."

I think that hits right at the heart of the issue.

We need to live so that we show the Truth.


Monday, October 16, 2017

Lost and Found

Recently I read the story of the Prodigal Son again.  See Luke 15:11-32 if you want to refresh your memory.  It's a classic - one of the best stories ever.

I've always loved this parable, yet this time I seemed to see so much more in it than every other time I read it.  One son gets "lost" and is "found" in the end.  The other son is "lost," and as of the end of the account is still quite sadly "lost."

I allowed myself a few minutes to think back over my life and recall various items I've lost.  I'm sure I lost many more things than those that came to mind.  However, the fact that I remembered these items is proof that in some sense they were valuable to me or to others.

Here is the list of the things I recall losing:

1.  A small change purse on the train to Hershey Amusement Park.  I was probably seven or eight at the time and traveling there with my best friend and her family.

2.  My baby daughter's security bunny in a McDonald's.  I speculate it fell on the floor and was put into the trash by someone.  If you've ever had a child who needs that favorite blankie, or pacifier, or whatever it is, you know how devastating a loss like this can be.

3.  My young son in a clothing store one day. Yes, he thought he was being so clever when he hid under a circular clothing rack in a department store.  He didn't even make a peep until I became nearly hysterical.

4.  My daughter's Cabbage Patch Big Wheels tricycle.  Actually it was stolen, but she was heart-broken, unable to ride with her posse up and down the block after that.

5.  My son's trumpet.  He left it sit there at the bus stop when he got on the school bus.  Thankfully it was recovered and returned to us.

6.  My child's orthodontic retainer.  (It went into the school cafeteria trash can when the lunch tray was dumped.)

7.  My grandmother's diamond ring, which was to eventually be mine.  An alzheimer's sufferer, she could've put it anywhere.  Or flushed it.  Or ate it.

8.  An earring.  The partner to it still sits in my jewelry box, many years later.  Why do I still have it? I really liked those earrings.

9.  Lots of hair after the birth of each of my four children.  Seemed like I was increasingly losing more of myself.

10.  Weight.  I've always "found" it again later.

Some of these things are lost forever; some have been recovered and returned.

Thinking about the story of the Prodigal Son on a deeper level, I've come to realize that we tend to come and go.  We, too, go lost, missing for periods of time.  Sometimes we come back home.

There's an old saying, "I got to rock bottom, and then I realized there was a basement under that."  I suppose there's several ways one can interpret the meaning of that statement.  For one, things can always get worse.  Or two, there's always a shelter, no matter how bad things get.  There's always another way out.  The Father is always waiting and searching for us.  He wants us home with Him.

The prodigal (lost) son packed all he had, not just an overnight bag, and left for a distant country.  His intention was to get far away and have a rip snorting' good time there.  He hadn't really thought beyond that.

How many of us regularly travel to "a distant country?"

Just as that lost son did, we, too, squander our "wealth" there with wild living.  That is, we dabble outside our relationship with Jesus in the wild living of worldly pleasures and pursuits that don't satisfy.

Are you "found?"

Are you home?

Let me assure you with all certainty, your Daddy wants you back.

Humbly repent, turn around, go back.  Please.

There's a party waiting for you there.  A grand celebration beyond the limits of your imagination is waiting for you.

And He's there.  He's been anxiously waiting for you ever since you left.

He'll run to you on the path.  Go to Him.  Hurry.

There's no place like Home.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Kindness Is Free

Note:  The following post is an excerpt from my latest book, Risking it All: One Woman's Adventure Giving Away Her Income.  The manuscript is ready for editing.

I no longer have an income.  For now, that’s just the way it is.  We will get along on my husband’s income, and I have every confidence that our needs will be met.

Kindness is absolutely free, though.  It costs nothing other taking the effort to observe where and when it is needed, and making a small expenditure of physical energy to go and distribute that kindness to the one who needs it.

I experienced this firsthand today in our local Subway sandwich shop. 

While waiting in line, I witnessed a sad interchange between the customer before me and the sandwich artist preparing lunch for him and his two other family members.

That clerk asked him if the three sandwiches were together, and he rudely responded, “Yes, but you would have known that if you had paid attention the first time.”

I keenly felt the fallout of those death-disbursing words.  I quietly observed the girl thinking for a quick second before she carefully responded, “Thank you.  It’s been very busy and I just wanted to make sure.”

A very classy comeback to a very mean-spirited remark, to be sure.

However, I could see the defeat on her face as she continued making my sandwich and those for the rest of the customers in the line.  Not only had he been unnecessarily rude in his words and the tone thereof, he had also humiliated her in front of a shop full of customers. 

Every day we have the power of life and death through our words, and today that customer spewed death.  The verse reminding me of this truth came to my mind as I sat there eating my hoagie and watching the activity in the restaurant. 

“The tongue has the power of life and death and those who love it will eat its fruit.”  (Proverbs 18:21)

I formulated my plan.  I waited till the man and his family finished their meals and left.  Then I headed over to the corner of the store where that clerk was busily refilling the drinks refrigerator.

I gave her a few kind words.  I said I noticed how poorly the customer in line responded to her, and I praised her for taking the higher road with her classy response to him.  I said I’ve worked in public jobs and I know people are not always friendly or easy to serve. 
I told her I understand that his one sentence to her held the power to ruin her day and make her feel like a miserable failure.  I told her to pick up her chin and feel good about herself, despite how his words had fallen on her.

With tears in her eyes, she thanked me for noticing and for going out of my way to shower a bit of kindness onto her.  She smiled.

I think I noticed her working and standing just a tad taller after that as she worked around the store.

Kindness is free. 

May we look for ways to “spend” it lavishly on everyone around us.

Monday, October 9, 2017

At A Crossroads

I love Mondays.  Yes, I’m one of those few weird ones who enjoy the start of a new workweek.  To me, they are a clean slate, another chance to improve, and a new possibility of getting it “right.”

So this morning when I was having my coffee and reading time, a verse in Jeremiah 6 jumped out at me.  It showed me that yes, indeed, each Monday is like a new crossroads.

Jeremiah has been telling the Israelites that God is going to bring destruction to them because of their unrepentant hearts and ongoing sin.  God has continually called to them, yet they have ignored Him and continued on in their evil ways. 

But even so, God loves them and yearns for His people to be right with Him.  In the midst of a picture of coming devastation, here is what God says to them (and us) through Jeremiah (verse 16):

Stand at the crossroads and look;
ask for the ancient paths,
ask where the good way is,
and walk in it,
and you will find rest for your souls.”

(I added the bold font to emphasize the action words.)

I’m picturing myself standing at a crossroads.  Most typical crossroads have four options of ways to go, but some have even more than four.  “Five points” is a well-known spot in my little town.  You guessed it – five roads converge at that intersection. 

I traveled to San Antonio, Texas back in the spring.  Somehow the engineers there have figured out how to join eight and more roads together at one crossroads.  It was baffling and sometimes overwhelming.

As it is at many crossroads of life.

So there are usually several ways one can go at a crossroads.  Some of those ways may be wide “highways” or they may be tiny “side roads.”

Often times most people are going together on the same one, the “wide way.”

We are directed to stand and look when we get to these crossroads.  Don’t just charge down the road.   This reminds me of the Fire Safety Motto, “Stop, Drop, and Roll.”  In life we “Stop, Stand, and Look” before proceeding.

Examining the verse again, I think it is significant that we are told twice to ask.  Maybe that is so we keep asking until we are totally sure of the way to go.
Only then, when we are sure of the ancient way, the good way to go, we walk in it.  We do not only know the way to go, we actually walk in it.

Do not follow the crowd where it goes.
Be intentional about your physical, moral, and spiritual choices.
Know that rest for your souls will not come outside of being in the will of God for your life.

I resolve not to simply live my life like the majority of other Americans.  I will stop, stand, look, and ask repeatedly until I know the way to proceed. 

Then, when I recognize God’s path, I will walk in it and enjoy glorious rest for my soul.

Wanna join me?  It's sure to be a great adventure!