Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Wrinkle Cream, Integrity, or Both?

For we have been consumed by Your anger and by Your wrath we have been dismayed. You have placed our iniquities before You, our secret sins in the light of Your presence. For all our days have declined in Your fury; We have finished our years like a sigh. As for the days of our life, they contain seventy years, or if due to strength, eighty years; yet their pride is but labor and sorrow; for soon it is gone and we fly away....So teach us to number our days, that we may present to You a heart of wisdom.

Psalm 90: 7-12

I have been a nurse for nearly 30 years. One statistic I repeatedly share with people is that 10 out of 10 people die. I have never seen this statistic altered in spite of advanced health care technology, new medicines, brilliant doctors and researchers, detox diets, and wrinkle creams. People die-with or without wrinkles. People die young, old and every age in-between. People die with billions of dollars in their bank accounts or barely enough money to be buried. Good, bad, righteous and evil, all people die. 

I realize my life goal is to convey hope, and I am fairly confident that most of you reading this do not feel very hopeful. But as I read this psalm, I am struck by the message it speaks to me-Life is brief, but our biggest problem is not how brief life is, but the sin in our life. 

Why does this psalm address sin? Because sin shortens our life. Repeatedly, God instructs us to live clean, pure, and righteous, so that our days will be lengthened. Do righteous people die young? Yes. But, we also know that God is sovereign, and the number of our days belong to him. So, what is our response to be? Do we fight to live longer by believing in the power of modern-day medicine and anti-aging miracles? Do we continue to slather billions of dollars worth of wrinkle cream on our faces and necks to deny the fact we are aging and are going to die? Do we live with integrity and wisdom ignoring the use of advanced technology and wrinkle creams? Or can we do both?

I believe integrity and wrinkle cream can abide together, along with the use of modern technology. The difference in our life success and longevity, however, will be determined by our focus. This psalm exhorts us to grasp the brevity of life, so that we will live this life with wisdom. J. I. Packer writes:

Be wholly committed to Christ’s service each day. Don’t touch sin with a barge-pole. Keep short accounts with God. Think of each hour as God’s gift to you, to make the most and best of. Plan your life, budgeting for 70 years (Psalm 90:10), and understanding that if your time proves shorter, it will not be unfair deprivation but rapid promotion. Never let the good, or the not-so-good, crowd out the best, and cheerfully forgo what is not the best for the sake of what is. Live in the present; gratefully enjoy its pleasures and work through its pain with God, knowing that both the pleasures and the pains are steps on the journey home. Open all your life to the Lord Jesus and spend time consciously in his company, basking in and responding to his love. Say to yourself often that every day is one day nearer. Remember that, as George Whitefield said, man is immortal until his work is done (though God alone defines the work), and get on with what you know to be God’s task for you here and now.

We cannot minimize the impact of sin in our life. God does not. Live with integrity. Live for Christ. Psalm 90 ends in verse 17 by stating, "Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us; and confirm for us the work of our hands; yes, confirm the work of our hands." You see, God provided this life for us to bring glory to Him through our work. Sin distorts His glory and shortens our life. I have decided to live for Christ regardless of the number of days ordained, and I will do this with the aid of wrinkle cream and modern day technology. When I die, it will not matter the state of my skin or my health, but my soul. Today, in wisdom, seek the forgiveness Christ has to offer and live with integrity, in sickness or in health, and with or without wrinkles. 

Today, Father, teach me how to wisely invest the life You ordained. There is a difference between spending and investing. Teach me how to invest into eternal purposes. And like Jonathan Edwards proclaims, "Stamp eternity on my eyeballs!"

Thursday, September 19, 2013

What Will Be Your First?

Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him. 

1 Corinthians 2:9

As I reflect on the many "firsts" I have had in my life, I feel the warmth of love and tenderness of having had experienced these precious and priceless moments. The first word my oldest daughter spoke at the age of 6 months. The first time she reached out her little hands to be held and hugged. The first time she ate spaghetti and wore more on her face than consumed in her tiny belly. Her first hair cut. The moment my daughter looked up at me on her third birthday and asked, "Is my two all gone?" The first child to graduate high school and then college. The first time the man who would become my husband would reach out and take my hand and place it into his. The moment I remember feeling loved and accepted by someone other than my family. My very first nursing job after graduating nursing school. The moment I reached my goal of getting through grad school and getting to don the garments bestowed on those who survived. Yes, I have had many wonderful firsts and I anticipate a future filled with them. 

Christ reminds us that in Him we can anticipate, and journey life with excitement, because He is preparing for us a kingdom filled with things that our eyes have not seen nor our ears have heard nor our minds can even conceive. Jesus, a man who died to let us experience eternity filled with firsts. The first time I look into the face of the Man who died for me and declared "clean and forgiven." The first time I will wake up knowing that eternity promises to be free from body aches and pain, difficult relationships, disease, disasters, hate, evil, jealousy, lies, abuse, fatigue, strife, drudgery, and trials of various kinds. Jesus, a man who promises to fill my heart with love the first time I see Him face to face. 

What will be my first? I can only Imagine, as the song by MercyMe goes. 

                                                 I can only imagine 
What it will be like 
When I walk 
By your side 

I can only imagine 
What my eyes will see 
When your face 
Is before me 
I can only imagine 

Surrounded by Your glory, what will my heart feel 
Will I dance for you Jesus or in awe of you be still 
Will I stand in your presence or to my knees will I fall 
Will I sing hallelujah, will I be able to speak at all 
I can only imagine 

I can only imagine 
When that day comes 
And I find myself 
Standing in the Son 

I can only imagine 
When all I will do 
Is forever 
Forever worship You 
I can only imagine

What will be your first? Come to Jesus, and with great anticipation, Imagine. 

Father, today I come to You with excitement and anticipation as I imagine the joy of what will be my first moment in Your presence. Keep my eyes and heart upon you. Hope does not disappoint (Romans 5:5) and You, Jesus, are my hope. 

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Who or What is Light Source?

"The eye is the lamp of your body; when your eye is clear; your whole body is full of light; but when it is bad, your body also is full of darkness."

Luke 11:34

"Walk as children of light."

Ephesians 5:8

Most recently I have been filled with a persona that has been anything but light bearing or light giving. Darkness has been invading my soul, and like any dark room, you are bound to bump into things or people and incur personal or collateral damage. My damage has been collateral, as my oldest daughter plainly conveyed to me. In the darkness of my soul, I have been bumping into the hearts and emotions of my family members. 

Not understanding where the light of my soul had taken refuge, I came upon a quote by Kim McMillin in her book, When I Loved Myself Enough. McMillen writes, "I learned that when I am feeling pain it is because I am living outside the truth." Yes, I have been living outside of the truth, so it makes sense why darkness has been my friend. 

What is this truth I have been living outside of? It is the same truth that many people forget: That the approval of people, the perfect job, respectful children who live neat and tidy, stress free relationships, checkbooks that balance, friends that remember you, families that live in perfect and peaceful harmony, a world that extends forgiveness, houses that never need cleaning, newscasts that highlight peace and tranquility among the nations, circumstances that lead to favorable outcomes, and a schedule that is balanced with perfect margin for breathing space are not necessary in defining or fulfilling one's purpose. People, jobs, nor relationships provide the guiding light of truth. All of these sources are really shadows cast over the true source of light-God himself.

Luke states that the eye is the lamp of the body, and that when the eye is clear, we are filled with light. So, it comes down to focus. Focus sets my heart in motion. If my eyes are focused on the one who is the true source of light, then my heart and soul will not languish from a darkness that prevails, or an exhaustion that defeats. Yes, I have been depending on others and circumstances to be my guiding light. Instead, I found darkness.

God is the true light, and He is truth. He reminds me that my identity is in him alone. The pain I feel living in the fragile shadows of false light or truths disappear when He becomes my focus. My purpose becomes clear, and I am absent of the emptiness of depending on others to fill and sustain me. "The Lord is my portion, says my soul, therefore I have hope in Him." (Lamentations 3:24)

Who or what is your source of light? Remember, whomever or whatever you follow as your light becomes your identity. Today, identify with God and allow Him to illuminate the truth of who you are: walk in the power and discovery of His guidance and provision.

Father, when I sit in darkness, remind me that I am not following the true light-You. Help me to recognize when I have allowed the outcome of circumstances or the approval or others to replace You. You alone are my hope. In You alone I walk in truth. Thank you for revealing Truth. Thank You for being Light.


Saturday, June 22, 2013

Cup of Algae Anyone?

If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink

John 7:37

I love fresh eggs. My family has raised chickens since 2000, because I am convinced that the only good egg is the one you retrieve everyday from your personal poultry flock. In recent years I have enjoyed experimenting with a variety of breeds, simply because I enjoy the colors and plumage of these distinct birds. My current flock is beautiful, and I have enjoyed their color and markings. 

Birds like people need daily care. My husband consistently tends to our flock during the nine-month school year, while I take over during the summer months. In our recent transition between him ending his care and me taking over, we lost one of my favorite birds. She had not been sick, to my knowledge, nor had she shown any signs of illness until the day before her death. I mused over the possible cause of death. 

As I began my daily summer care, I noticed that the water container my husband had set out was discolored. Upon further inspection, I was shocked to discover that the water was filled with blue-green algae growth. Had my husband not changed their water? How could he have not noticed the pea-soup colored water? Further, I discovered a swimming pool filled with stagnant water covered in blue-green algae that was tucked behind the chicken coop. Mystery solved. My chicken had died from drinking water contaminated from an over growth of blue-green algae, which can produce a deadly toxin. I went from being sorrowful over the loss of my one hen to grateful that the remaining 29 had actually survived. I removed the pool immediately and scrubbed the water container and filled it with clean, fresh water. 

Drinking algae contaminated water is not a practice I recommend, but many of us daily drink from spiritually contaminated containers filled with "spiritual algae" in an attempt to satisfy our longing and thirsty souls. Our minds and intellect thirst, and we often quench this with material that leaves us panting and dissatisfied. Our souls and emotions thirst too, and we turn to the culture that can leave our souls languishing.  

Jesus is the only source from which our souls can daily drink from and be satisfied. His  "spiritual water" is filled with Hope, Compassion, Loving-kindness, Forgiveness, Justice, Peace, Patience, Gentleness, Love, and Goodness. His guarantee is that when we drink from His "water container" we will never thirst again (John 4:14).

What "cup of algae" have you been drinking? Although you may not think your drinking hole is contaminated,  it may be that there is a delayed reaction and that the full impact of your choice has not yet been realized. My hen died. Are you in the process of dying spiritually or emotionally? Today, choose to drink from a source that is pure and clean and promises life eternal and life in abundance. Today, choose Jesus. 

Jesus, thank you for offering "spiritual water" that is pure and promises life eternal. Thank you that your love and kindness never cease and your compassion never fails. Today, I choose to drink from the fountain that sustains and satisfies. Today, I choose you. Amen. 

Monday, May 6, 2013

Brown Paper Bag Love

While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

2 Corinthians 4:18

Years ago I attended a church were a kind, elderly widowed man faithfully attended. This man had been a pillar in both  his community and church. His aging body beguiled his once prominence and strength. Never would I have known his importance in the community, because his gentleness and humility was his drawing card. 

Naturally being drawn to the older elderly, I began to bring him Christmas gifts each year wrapped in brilliant colors and pizzazz. On one particular Sunday I came prepared to deliver my usual bag of goodies. What was different this year, though, was when I approached him sitting in the pew he was waiting for me. He had taken note of my consistent yearly packages and decided he would reciprocate. Sitting next to him was a small brown paper bag folded over. His frail hand was resting on top of the bag with an anticipatory grin spread across his face. "How sweet," I mused. I greeted him and delivered my simple gifts in my usual elaborate packaging. Reaching down, the man quietly and simply handed me the brown paper bag. We exchanged pleasantries and I went on my way. 

Admittingly, I blew off the contents of the bag and went about my day. Later I opened the brown paper bag, and to my complete shock, I found the most beautiful, hand-crafted, hand-painted wooden egg from the Ukraine. The artistry of this gift continues to be astonishing. Like the man's earthly opulence hidden behind meekness, his extravagant gift of love was hidden behind a brown paper bag. 

This love, wrapped in a brown paper bag, reminds me of the way the King of this universe delivers His love. While the world waits to have God deliver His extravagant love in houses, cars, careers, deep friendships, taylor-made clothing, words that stroke our egos, and other sightly acts and gifts of confirmation, God chooses to deliver His love hidden behind simple, rough packing. Often we ignore or rebuke these gifts as inferior, because they do not appeal to our selfish desires and senses. But know this, the packaging may be rough but the gift inside is extravagant. 

My dad's suicide was one such gift. At first I rebuked the thought that a God who loved me would hand me a package wrapped in such pain and trauma, but what I learned over a period of several months was that inside this roughly donned package was "hand-crafted" and "hand-painted" gifts of beauty that only a King could have crafted and delivered-love, compassion, insight, grace, forgiveness, understanding, and most importantly being personally attended to by the King of the universe. God delivered so much of my understanding of life through this "brown paper bag" of love. In fact, like the egg, I would never trade my gift with anyone else. 

What is inside your brown paper bag? Perhaps you have dismissed this gift or have been angry at the way it was packaged and delivered. Sometime diamonds are delivered in rough packages. Today, take hold of your bag. Open it. Embrace the love, because like me, once it is opened you will never want to let go. 

Jesus, you were delivered on a cross. Blood streaming down. Because of this, I now have eternal life. God, thank you for brown paper bag deliveries-the unseen gift of eternal life. 


Thursday, April 4, 2013

Wonder and Amazement

But Peter said, "I do not posses silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you: In the Name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene-walk!"...And the people saw him walking...and they were filled with wonder and amazement.

Acts 3:6, 10

Reading the story of how Peter healed a lame man in the strength and power of Jesus Christ was moving, but what really stood out to me was the response of those who had known of this man's history. From birth this man was lame. Each day he was taken and set down at the temple gate to beg for his daily bread. After his miraculous healing, the people "were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him." 

After reading this, my mind began to question the last time I had been filled with "wonder and amazement." When was the last time I remember seeing or experiencing someone being healed? Being a nurse one would think every day, and in reality this is true. But what saddened me was that in the presence of every day miracles, my soul's vision and ability to experience "wonder and amazement" lay shrouded under daily doubt, grumbling and complaining, and attitudes that reflect my inability to see opportunities in trials. Yes, God still performs healing miracles of mind, body, and soul daily, but I had allowed daily disappointments to blind me to His glorious, healing presence. 

How about you? How different would your influence be if you would open up the window of you soul to view the daily miracles of God's healing and grace? How different would your attitude be if you chose to praise God "in all things" in place of complaining and grumbling? What if instead of doubt you saw possibilities? When is the last time you were filled with "wonder and amazement?" What is clouding your vision to see the every day miracles that God performs?

God still performs miracles. Jesus Christ still heals. The ability for us to see these daily acts of healing lies in where we choose to place our focus. Today, I am going to choose to see the miracles and healing of life all around me, regardless of how small or seemingly insignificant. I will choose to remember that Christ died so that I may live eternally in His presence. How about you? Choose this day whom you will serve-Be saved and be filled with "wonder and amazement."

Today, Father, remind me of the every day miracles you perform. Fill me with thanksgiving. Heal my hurts. Restore my hope. Fill me with the wonder and amazement of You. Lord, today, I am filled with "wonder and amazement" that You love me, a sinner. For this alone I stand amazed. Amen!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Stepping with Intention

Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.

Galatians 6:9

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. 

John 3:16

Hiking trail three in Turkey Run State Park, located in Central Indiana,  in early spring can not only be breathtaking but very treacherous. My husband and I began our hike through the ravine that leads to ladders mounted into rock. Ice still clung to the rocks overhead, and black ice rested boulder and mud, while sheer ice covered the stream as we decidedly moved forward. Each step on our hike was deliberate and intentional, because lack of focus and intention would ultimately lead to a wrong choice, a misstep, and finally a mishap. 

As we passed fellow sojourners, we listened as they conveyed the trials of the up and coming trail that lay before us and behind them. They shared their battles wounds from missteps and asked their questions about the trail that yet lay before them and behind us. We joked, we admired the canyons, but we never forgot the importance of staying focused and stepping with intention. My husband commented that the trail was like "trying to figure out a jigsaw puzzle." 

This trail reminds me of the importance of "stepping with intention" through life. How different would our lives be if we were more mindful of the choices we made, if we analyzed our words before we spoke, if we, with great intention, decided the best way to "love one another?" What if every step was calculated and best suited for the situation? And what if after that we still made the wrong choice?

My lessons that day? Keeping my mind focused and being intentional of my steps kept me safe and mostly dry. Although I did make a few poor choices that led to sinking in mud and water, being focused and intentional allowed me to be quick and change direction without the misery of being stuck in a wrong decision and lamenting over the consequence. 

We are all navigating the "jigsaw puzzle" called life. Each day we muse over the next piece. Often we haphazardly attempt to connect the pieces to form a meaningful picture, but find that nothing makes sense and only leads to pain, frustration, and wasted time. The challenge we should all accept is that we must choose with intention the next step that will lead to the most success with the least amount of personal and relational damage. If we choose wrongly, then we must be quick to recalculate our decision and redirect our steps. We must accept forgiveness and continually move forward for the good of all. 

Christ died to free us from the burden of our sin. He stepped with intention to the cross, because He understood it was for our good He was dying. For whose good should you begin "stepping with intention?"

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Hooked by Fear

Fear Not

God, 365 Times!!

I am slow to learn a lesson. In fact, most of my life lessons have come through taking a "life field trip" in place of learning in the "classroom." I was the "why" kid growing up, and typically insisted on doing what the adults in my life attempted to protect me from-consequences. Recently the ancient directive by God to "fear not" was solidified in my mind on a late night fishing trip. And yes, I had to learn this lesson on a "life field trip."

My husband and I decided to take our fishing poles and cast off a dock located near a cemetery. It was dark and cold when we arrived, and the area was vacated. As we began to park, we saw a truck with its headlights pulling in. I casually remarked that perhaps "Jack the Ripper" had been resurrected. As we walked down to the dock, my mind began to wonder about the unknown visitor we thought was present. My mind, and admittedly my husband's mind, began to allow fear to dictate our behaviors. After every cast, we both looked back toward the cemetery and began to imagine apparitions appearing to overtake us. Really, I was more concerned about who had pulled in after our arrival. My husband began unsheathing his fillet knife in his mind, and role played the many ways he would protect his "fishing damsel" in distress. Actually, I believe he was rehearsing self-preservation techniques. After a few short minutes, we decided to call it quits and go back to our truck.

The short journey back to the truck was not without consequences. In my fear, I had not anchored my bright, pink crappie lure, with two treble hooks, to my pole. I was completely self-absorbed and not realizing that I was jerking my pole back and forth as I continually scanned my environment with as much variance in degree as my body would allow. What snapped me out of my reactive responses was my husband's unusual use of colorful expletives cast towards me. Suddenly, my fear turned to curiosity, and as I turned to inquire the nature of my husband's use of words, I saw the consequences of my fear dangling from my husband's temple-my bright pink fishing lure. I had hooked my husband. The lure initially struck his nose, bounced up to his eye, and then decidedly landed above his eye and attached to his temple. Thank goodness his hat, and not his skin, took the hook. After I recovered from laughter, I then realized why God continually tells us to "Fear Not."

When we fear, we hook into ourselves and not God. Fear prevents us from trusting God and places trust in ourselves. It creates a self-protective layer that refuses to acknowledge others around us. We damage others with the hooks of our words, our actions, and our careless omissions. "Fear not," because we make poor choices. Trusting in God empowers us to care about what is happening to those surrounding us. It reminds people that if my God can take care of me then He most certainly can take care of them. Why "fear not?" Because "He is with us." Today, hook into God and not fear.

Father, today, help me to trust you. Remind me that fear creates pain in those around me. I will trust in you, because you will always be with me. In you, Oh Lord, I trust. Amen