July 25, 2011

Adventures in Wallpaper: I Hired a Stripper

“Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin… Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Psalm 51:2 and 10 (NIV)

In many places, the Bible tells us to actively use the principle… think before you speak. Unfortunately, I am a slow learner. Sometimes that gets me into trouble and sometimes it just causes an up-roar. Let me tell you what happened a few Sunday’s ago.

Bob and Stephanie took a daddy-daughter vacation to the mountains. I was glad for them to go as life is too precious not to make those kinds of memories. Since I was gone most of June, I was quite happy to stay home and enjoy some coveted alone time – just me and the cat. Plus, I had a project in mind that would keep me busy.

I wanted to take down the wallpaper from the master bath and give the entire room a face lift. Why not? I know how to do more than just spend money! However, once I started I realized one important thing. I sorely underestimated the time it would take to get painted-over and old wallpaper off the walls. Icks! I’ll be doing this forever!

Well, long-story short, I made a few phone calls and got some help for the next week. That Sunday morning the girls in class asked a normal question, “Barbara, what did you do this weekend?”

Without thinking, I responded, “I hired a man.” A nanosecond later, we all realized how that sounded, especially after someone yelled, “Just how long has your husband been gone!” After recovering from severe laughter, I attempted to explain the man was going to take off some wallpaper. Another blessed soul then spouted out, “OMG! You hired a stripper?”

Needless to say, it took a while to regain composure and the attention of the class. But we finally had a Bible Study that I pray honored our Lord. Anyway – who says Christians can’t have fun. Yet, I really should have thought before I spoke.

Fast forward a bit, on Tuesday my helper came. I only contracted for 5 hours of work in an effort to just get ahead of the game and not deplete my bank account. As a surprise, the hired help brought 2 helpers with him so I thought, “This is going to be a slam-dunk in getting done.” I figured along with added man-power, they’d bring all the fancy steamer machines and be done in record time so I could paint the next day. Things were looking up!

Obviously, God had a few lessons in store so things didn’t go entirely according to my plan. You see, they never did bring in any heavy super-duper wallpaper stripping equipment. They armed themselves with spray bottles of warm water and scrappers. Heavens that is what I was doing! The end result was messy and incomplete. While they did get about ¾ of the paper down, they didn’t take any of the residual wallpaper backing off the wall. It’s nowhere near ready to paint. The stripping job wasn’t at all I what expected.

Needless to say, part of me was very disappointed because I thought they would complete the task that I so quickly started. Then again, I had put in a few days on my own and knew this was not a fun task that could be done quickly. My expectations were skewed and I still must finish the task to prepare the walls for paint. Paint doesn’t work well if the walls are not properly prepared.

This started me thinking about my heart and what gets stuck to it day by day. Things like the wallpaper of worldliness, the paint of pride, nail holes of nastiness and many other things too embarrassing to name. The canvas of my heart is no place a Holy God would want to paint. Yet, that is precisely His desire.

Great is His desire to paint the image of His Son on your heart and mine. However, our hearts are not prepared and the truth is – there is nothing we can do on our own to strip away all the sin that sticks to us like super glue. Fortunately, God has a remedy.

God sent His Son, Jesus, so die on a cross bridging the gap sin creates between Creator and His creation. In doing so, Jesus takes our sin and strips it from our beings and it is gone. That sin never comes back. Awesome, but what about my new sin? Once we accept His truth and enter into a personal relationship with the Son, the Father then gifts us with the Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit’s job to convict us of sin as it arises and prompts us unto confession, thereby stripping our hearts, cleansing our hearts thoroughly and completely – preparing us for whatever God has in store next.

Now listen to this: The Holy Spirit doesn’t charge by the hour! Jesus already paid the price in full – for a lifetime of service, so to speak. The Holy Spirit doesn’t have union hours so He is accessible at anytime, for as long as you need Him. And the best thing is that He so completely does His job there is never anything left unfinished. He’ll come back time (really He never leaves) and time again as we have need. Truly, He does that and more.

If you need crud removed from the walls of your house, don’t come to me for a recommendation. Sorry – I felt let down by my workers. But if you need crud removed from the walls of your heart, I HIGHLY recommend the Holy Spirit of God – satisfaction guaranteed!


July 18, 2011

The Age Old Question: What is The Meaning of Life?

I want to know - does everyone really love Raymond? Having occasionally watched the television show, Everyone Loves Raymond, I am not certain, Raymond loved Raymond! At any rate, I took a small break from my work the other day and I did it in front of the TV set. Channel surfing brought me to a rerun of this series.

The premises centered on Ray preparing to be the “mature adult” by taking on the responsibility of explaining the birds and the bees to his oldest daughter, Ally. Apparently earlier in the day she began asking “questions” and Raymond bolted out of the room unprepared to deal with the topic. But having rethought the situation he wanted to readdress the issue in hopes of doing the right thing by his child. Armed with several books and a set of notes, he proceeded to broach the delicate subject with his bright-eyed little girl while she was playing with her dolls.

Much to his surprise, Ally really didn’t want to know where babies came from, but why they came. She threw her dad for a loop when she asked, “I want to know why we are here. Why did God put us here?” In essence, she was asking, “What is the meaning of life?”

Completely dumbfounded by this turn of events (“Are you sure you don’t want to talk about sex, because that’s what I studied?) poor daddy Ray offered this answer to one of life’s greatest questions, “God put us here because heaven is too crowded.” Now really, Ray! Then again, I can remember several times, I was caught off guard by the innocent but straightforward question of a child and not being prepared! Can you?

The scene was comic but the question was serious and serious questions deserve answers.

For kicks I Googled, ‘what is the meaning of life’ and came up with 92,300,000 results. I did not take time to read them all. The first result was from Wikipedia. It listed numerous theories or philosophies from Platonism, to Christianity, to Classical Liberalism, to even a theory – so appropriately named – Absurdism. The second search result that popped up led to a site where to find the meaning of life, you had to answer their question of why are you looking for the meaning of life? Can’t you just picture Charlie Brown going “UGH!” after stumbling across this site?

Okay, this time I want to take a stab at this $65,000,000 question. I didn’t put in decades of research to conclude my theory. I took no polls or surveys to formulate my conclusion. I simply decided that the answer to what is the meaning of life is exactly the same answer to a question posed by a fictional TV character: Why did God put us here? And I know it is not because heaven is over-crowded.

The Scripture is clear that God uses the simple to confound the wise - the earthly wise that is. We always want to make everything so complicated. I am beginning to believe that knowledge is going to be the death of us. Spiritually speaking, it was for Adam and Eve so why should we be any different. I may have to rethink my knowledge is power stance in life. Of course, I believe that knowledge without godly wisdom in place is useless. But I digress.

What is the meaning of life? Why did God put us here? I wish I could say you heard it here first, but I can’t. The answer is as old as the WORD. Jesus, Himself, gave us the answer to this question over 2000 years ago, to confirm that which had already been given by God, the Father, long before Christ walked on earth. Here it is:

“Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 22:37-39 (NIV)

If you need the short version: Love God, love people. Let me mention, don’t neglect the order which this was spoken. Love God first, people second. If we’d just concentrate on loving God in everything we do, and loving people (remember Jesus died for them too!) then we’d all be living the meaning of life instead of questioning it.

Asked and answered,

July 11, 2011

Looks Like a Duck, Acts Like a Duck, but Doesn’t Quack Like a Duck

“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them and they follow Me.” John 10:27 (NASB)

If you spend any length of time with me, you will discover I am a critter person. I love animals. I appreciate God’s creation and take delight in them. I have discovered that sometimes, they can learn a few tricks from me and other times, I can learn a few tricks from them. We have a cat that lives with us and she brings a great deal of enjoyment to our lives. Now I could go on forever about my cat but not today. Despite the title, I really don’t want to dwell on ducks either. But for this moment, I want to talk about geese with a side of sheep.

There is a small pond just outside our backyard. It’s not good for fishing, but it does play host to turtles, herons, ducks and geese. I pay particular attention to these animals during the spring, because that’s when we start to see the babies. Who can resist a small feathery yellow gosling or baby duck? I can’t!

Earlier this year, one of our Canadian geese couples hatched seven babies. We missed seeing them as tiny chicks but have watched them grow from toddlers to full grown geese. During their progression into adulthood, I took up feeding them. My husband groans every time I do this. Apparently, geese can be messy.

Often, I’d walk down to the water and toss out bits of bread. After time, this evolved from riverbank rendezvous’ to backyard BBQ’s with various assortments of whole grain breads and buns. Not only did the place of feeding change, so did the method. I went from tossing them bits on the ground to hand feeding. Currently, all but one of the nine geese (including mom and dad) will take food directly from my hand. They’ve even permitted some light petting. Did you know that geese have very soft necks? Each one has its own personality. One goose is very shy, coming right up to me but refusing food from my hand. Three geese exhibit gentleness in plucking food from my fingers but the other rascals can get a bit aggressive. I’ve gotten first-hand experience in “to bite the hand that feeds you.”

After snack-time ends, the mob usually follows me back onto the porch and stares longingly as I enter the house. I am convinced that if I left the door open, they’d come in and make themselves at home! Before you ask, no I don’t let them in.

We love having them as regular visitors to our home especially when they stare into my office window. It’s hysterical to see them waddle onto the patio and peck on the sliding glass door. However in June, sometime unexpected happened. We were gone for almost the entire month. When I got home, I wondered if “my babies” would still come around. Would they still recognize me? Would I recognize them? Soon, I got my answer. When they finally made an appearance, I discovered all signs of childhood had disappeared. I couldn’t tell the parents from the offspring.

However, one thing had not changed. Every time I stepped onto the patio with bread, they would all come running. If I saw them before they saw me, I could call out to them and again they would all come running. At this point, if any other tag-along goose came to receive a morsel, it would be chased away with great fanfare. Apparently, I was private stock for the original nine only.

One morning last week, I was watching television when I spotted a group of geese in the back yard. I hopped up and armed myself with a few slices of bread and jumped onto the back porch. My babies had come a calling! But to my amazement, the geese didn’t run to me. I thought, “What’s up with this?” I called out to them and all I got was a blank stare.

As I counted the bobbling black heads and came up short, I quickly concluded these were not my geese. They looked like them, but they didn’t act like them and while they heard my voice, there wasn’t a glimmer of recognition. As I returned back into the house, I had no followers.

Like my geese, there a large number of people who profess a belief in Christ. Sometimes they all look alike and sound alike. It’s hard to spot the real deal from the imposters. Why become an imposter for the Almighty? The reasons are many. Misinformed. Misguided. Malice in disguise. Looks and actions can make someone appear credible. But even if it doesn’t happen right away – the quacking will give them away. That is why it is so important to be in tune with the voice of the Master. “A stranger they simply will not follow, but will flee from him, because they do not know his voice.” (John10:5)

Last night, I was at a venue where a small devotion was given. My heart cringed as I heard a few threads of truth woven into something not recognizable as Truth. Without a doubt the speaker’s theology was out of the ball park. How can I be certain in my determination? It is only because I know the voice of my Master and a stranger’s voice I cannot follow. Now please don’t think I am trying to sound infallible and holier-than-thou, I am not. I’ve made my share of misinterpretations before. Hey, I thought the geese this morning were mine!

But I pray that every mistake I make only further hones my ability to see and hear what is real, and more easily recognize the counterfeit.

May God bless you with discernment this week and when you hear the right voice, the True voice – FOLLOW HIM!

It’s no game of duck, duck, goose, when the sheep hear the voice of truth!

July 05, 2011

In Captivity to Freedom

“It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1 (NASB)

Today, I am doing all the stuff I declared myself “free” from on Monday July 4th. Yesterday I declared my independence from cooking and cleaning. Therefore, I did neither. I fought against being held hostage inside my home, so I went to the beach. However, this morning I paid the price for my freedom.

Apparently, I didn’t use enough sunscreen, so my legs are a bit burnt. My dishes were stacked, the laundry was tossed about and beds needed to be made. After slathering the tops of my legs with some type of blue gel, I began to get things in order before I could proceed with my day. You see, I have difficulty writing and working among chaos.

However, all last week, thoughts for today’s posting were running rampant through my mind. Sunday during worship, the preacher touched on some of the same things I had mulled over. I had to wonder, how did he get into my head? Preachers have a funny way of doing that or perhaps it is a God-thing. What do you think?

Now I must make a small confession. I just finished writing an entire posting on how I believe we are held captive to our freedoms here in this country. Please I am not being unpatriotic. It is for patriotism that I wrote it. But because it sounded like an editorial for a newspaper, I just deleted it. (I hope I do better with the following.)

However, can I get you to think about this statement, “in the land of the free we are all a captive audience of human beings?” Does that resonate with anyone out there? On what level? I truly believe that this country is in captivity to more things than you can shake a stick at. I attribute near all of this to our freedoms or misuse thereof. It hurts my heart that so many have valiantly died to protect the freedom that I see such misuse of. I do not have a pat answer on how to correct this but I want to give you some food for thought.

Sunday Pastor William said that freedom doesn’t mean liberal or legalism. What a great truth! It made me think about a few things Paul wrote in the Bible. Paul encouraged the believers in Galatians to stand firm in the freedom that Christ gave them and to not be subject again to any yoke of slavery. In Corinthians, Paul warned about the misuse of grace. Just as God offered salvation by grace through Christ, He also offers freedom to the born again believer. Yet just as grace can be misused and taken for granted, so can freedom. That is why boundaries are so important whether imposed by our state (law) or our self (as in self-control) and of course in Scripture. I imagine if the founding fathers of this country had foreseen the use of some of the freedoms they fought for, they might have made some swift additions to the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

Now in this country and in Christ, I have the liberty and the freedom to write this. I am thankful of that. But I have also tried to exercise grace and common sense. You will find no profanity or vulgar explosiveness contained here. And it’s not because I don’t want to offend anyone. It’s because I believe it to be a misuse of my freedom of speech. Not too mention, it is SO unnecessary! As far as not offending, well…. While I don’t make a point to say hurtful things with the intention of offending people, yet there are those who will take offense to almost anything. Have you ever wondered why? Let’s look to Jesus for the answer. Christ Himself was offensive to many people in His day and time. Why? Did He lash out with bleep-bleep words to cause offense? No. Did He purposely slander or malign folks just to make Himself feel superior? No. He simply told the truth and quite often the truth spilled light into a life of sin and the sinner got his feelings hurt. Okay, my flesh says “Too bad, so sad – but the truth hurts.” But God knows once we see the truth and deal with what the truth reveals – then the TRUTH WILL SET US FREE!

Now I am not God and cannot reveal truth the same way He does but if I can make you (and me) think then I’ve done my job with this call to write. When we think about how we use the grace and freedom He imparted to us in love, then maybe we might take one more step in being conformed to His image and being the citizen that would make Him proud. Freedom – thank you Father for this gift.

John recorded Jesus in John 8:36 explaining, “So if the Son makes you free you will be free indeed!” Let true freedom ring, and then don’t misuse it!