Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Seeking the Kingdom

This morning at my kitchen table, I began the "bible study roulette".
Have you ever engaged in that? When you open the Bible and consider whatever scripture your eyes land on must be your word from God? As usual, it did not work well for me so I began to wander around in the Gospels which can always speak to me.

Here's the verse that settled in and took a'hold of me. See if you recognize it:
But He (Jesus) said to him, "Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?"

Now to my knowledge, I have never really paid attention to the verse. However, when I put this verse in context with the surrounding verses, an old familiar story became new for me.

This guy in the crowd asked Jesus to intervene in an important situation that he was struggling with in his life. His situation was personal, filled with deep emotions and had life changing consequences. This guy need assistance to see that the right thing was done.

Jesus answered him not with a direct answer, but with the above question. "Man, who made me a judge or an arbitrator over you?"
It's like Jesus was saying,.."C'mom man! You're not paying attention to what I'm saying!"

As then, as He always does,....Jesus begins to teach the people to stop focusing on our worldly life, and start paying attention to the things that will last eternally. The parable of the "rich fool" in Luke 12 is talking to all of us, and I think we can all assume that we are ALL in danger of being the rich fool,..regardless of our financial worth or what is occupying our minds at the moment

The issue is not the "things" we deal with in our lives.
The issue is our Hearts.
Not paying attention to our important things in life will have devastating results. Temporary.
Giving no attention to our heart will cause spiritual disaster.

The rest of the verses in that chapter are then spoken directly to the disciples and reminds us to "Seek the Kingdom of God" and don't worry about all the other stuff in our lives.
Personally,..it's a full time effort for me to keep my mind thinking about about the "Kingdom of God".

I can picture Jesus cupping one of the disciples chins and gently turning that worried face upward to Heaven and whispering,..."Look up!"

It felt good to have Him do that to me at my table this morning.

Friday, February 22, 2008

The Antique Store Owner

On a trip to Hot Springs today, I passed a large antique store which had a huge banner declaring that it was

Usually that type of store does not make me turn my car around, but today, for some reason, it did.

I have been in several antique stores in my life, but this one is the mother of all antique stores in Central Arkansas.
It did not have aisles, it had tunnels.

The piles and stacks covered almost every square inch of wall and floor space. Hundreds of items hung from the ceiling. There were so many antiques that most were not even visible. I was afraid to touch anything for fear it would trigger an avalanche of dusty doors, windows, pictures, bed rails, cans, tools and a thousand other assorted things that were stacked (or thrown) 8-10 feet above my head.
This is the truth,.....OSHA would probably close it down as a hazard to the public.

The elderly owner did not see me come in but somehow found me in one of the tunnels. He began to chatter and asked me if I needed anything.
"Nope. Just browsing".
My standard answer when I shop.
I like to shop alone.
He did not get the hint.

He followed me though each burrow and provided a constant stream of conversation, peppering me with questions and volunteering the history of every piece I showed an interest in. He kept insisting that I must be looking for something particular.
"Barber chairs and telephones booths!" I said, convinced that he would have neither.
I was wrong.
He had both.
He told me "But my telephone booth is in the back in storage and is not ready to sell"
I laughed out loud!
If the store looked like this,..then what, in Heaven's name, would his storage be like?

Several times, as I meandered and he followed, I inquired about the phone booth and each time, he was insistent: He would not sell it.
For some reason,..that frustrated me.
And I did not even want the stupid phone booth.

I wanted to tell him how crazy it was that he had a store full of a million things that he obviously was not interested in selling.
I wanted to tell him his ridiculous prices were the reason his store was so full.
I wanted to ask him why he would advertise a "sale" and then be cantankerous about the one thing I was interested in.
I wanted to tell him that I was a nurse and we have big medical names for people who hoard stuff.

Hours have passed now, and I am not longer aggravated at this peculiar old man.
I am amused.
It is, after all, his store and he can run his insane business however he chooses.
It is not my business,..it is his business.

Maybe his goal for each day is to get a customer to drop in so he can frustrate them by NOT selling anything to them! I can hear it now:
"Honey, how was your day at the shop?"
"Oh it was great dear. I had three customers come in but I kept all our stuff and sent them out the door irritated!"

I love to try to relate stories like this to some kind of life lesson.
Tonight, however, I am a bit stumped.
I am going to ponder it for awhile.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Letters to the Unseen

Dear Peace,
I have read all my life in Philippians that you will guard my heart and mind. It's true that when you are there, you do indeed surpass all understanding, but this morning I have a question:
Where are you?
It appears that you have left your post. You have left me vulnerable and unprotected.

Dear Death,
My question for you is:
Who are you?
You are obviously under God's power because He uses you for a wide variety of reasons in scripture. Most are unpleasant.
To me, you are the most destructive weapon of my most feared enemy. The wound you have inflicted on me is staggering.
But then,....God Himself rejoices when you bring one of us to Him.
I don't understand you death.
Are you Satan?
Are you an angel?
The Apostle Paul taunted you in I Corinthians 15, but I will not.

Dear Hope and Joy,
What a blessing the two of you have been to me. Neither of you have left my side, even when I was at my lowest place. You both are the reason I can get up each morning. It is an indescribable encouragement to know that you are steady in spite of emotions. I have not always felt you in my circumstances, but I have known in my head you were there. When "peace" takes a break, and my heart begins to fail me, you stay in my mind.
I don't always understand you, I can occasionally explain you, but I am always grateful for you.

Dear Jae,
I would give anything and everything I own this morning to hold you, look into your eyes and hear your voice.
I have been unable to stop myself lately from looking through our pictures so I could see you more. Your absence in this home may not be discussed every moment, but is a steady thread of pain that is woven into all we do. We may laugh at a good or funny memory, but as the laughter goes away, and we each draw back into ourselves, we walk away from the moment with the bitter reminder of what we no longer have.

We are still learning to keep the family car on the road with one wheel off, but every once in a while, I just have to pull over and get out to survey the damage. I shake my head in amazement that the car still runs.

Our family of 5 still lives, you there, and us here.
You now have understanding, and we have none.
Until death (whoever he is) brings me there, with you, I will do my best to hold onto the God who loves us both so very much. Trying to understand God exhausts me, but my hope in Him is my spiritual, emotional and mental salvation.
I have no idea what Heaven will be like when I first get there, but surely,....surely,....God will let me find you.
Be looking.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Coping 101

In my job, my co-workers and I each have our own "class" which we teach to our patients. It just so happens that the class I teach every single month is Stress Management.
I begin each session by reminding my patients that the info I will share with them is not new and it is not rocket science.
"Hearing a message repeatedly is an effective way to change our behavior", I tell them.
"It's the reason we go to church every week" I say. No matter how good the sermon, it is normal to have heard the content before.

So. Several time a day, every month, I get to tell people how to handle the hard things in life.
Does God have a sense of humor or what?

For most of my adult life, stress management had always been something I gave lip service to, but never felt as if I really needed to implement. However, in the past 4 years, I have learned a great deal about stress and how it affects me.
My very own crash course in "Coping 101".

Lesson #1:
You can fool your brain with positive self-talk, but you can not fool your body.
This chick's physical frame has taken a beating. I will spare the details of what worry does to this little ol body, but it is pitiful.

Lesson #2:
The things that are stressful are often not important.
Really? I just learned that in the past 4 years?
I am positive I was told that in kindergarten.
Slow learner I guess.

Lesson #3:
Keep a pen and paper near the bed.
When I wake up in the middle of the night, I can make a "hit-list" of things to do the next day.
If I tell Ralph that I didn't sleep well the night before, he usually will ask: "Is there anything I can do"?
He knows about my "hit lists", and tries to to help me get things marked off!
Bless his heart. I love that man.

Lesson #4:
Night-time is my enemy when I am under stress.
I have learned that this is the time when I am the weakest physically, emotionally and spiritually. I have always needed a lot of sleep, and when I experience a sleepless night, my fuse is short the next day as well.

In the recent hours and days, in II Corinthians 20:5, the phrase ...."taking every thought captive"....kept coming to my mind. As I looked it up, the passage spoke of spiritual warfare, not necessarily about worry. However, are they not one and the same?

Psalm 16:7 tells me that "even at night my heart instructs me". Oh how I love that verse! In fact, I even wrote in my Bible margin "Me too"!
I have learned that when there is a scripture on my mind, especially in the middle of the night, it is God Himself talking to me. To anyone looking, I may appear asleep, but God Himself sees directly into my raging heart. My head may be unmoving on the pillow, but God knows it holds a mind tumbling out of control. He penetrates through the darkness of my bedroom and gives me His words.

Lesson #5:
In spite of the #1 lesson, I still must focus on the positive.
The King of the Universe will give me peace when I let Him.
He never takes His eyes, ears and voice off of me.
All things here are temporal.
I am not of this world.
Heaven awaits.

Gotta go.
I have a hit list of things to attend to.

Friday, February 8, 2008


Speaking with my brother yesterday, I mentioned that I thought it was still a possibility in this world to have a "perfect family". One that loves each other devotedly and does not fight and argue. One where each member of the family remains true to God's word and steadfast in His work. A family where each member enjoys gathering with other believers and sharing the burdens of others. Where each member desires ministry and enters into it with joy.

Then I came to my senses.
I don't think I want to be in a family like that.
In fact, I think my thoughts were heading in the wrong direction entirely.

One of the biblical principles found throughout scripture is that troubles will come to us. Not just physical. Not just emotional. Not just spiritual. All kinds.
Sometimes the troubles and pain come to us all wrapped up together and delivered at our family's little door.
Sometimes the pain is a predictable consequence of our actions. Maybe sinful, maybe not.
Sometimes we never see it coming. Pain just up and blindsides us. It is undeserved and yet, it incapacitates us.

As a nurse, I see my share of physical suffering. I have always quipped that the hospital is the real life "Heart-Break Hotel". However, the physical pain I see daily with my patients never compares in any way, shape or fashion to their emotional or spiritual suffering that they live with. More times than not, the internal pain is from family relationships.

All of my precious patient's family issues are no different than my own. Or anyone else's for that matter.

In I John 2:12-14, John (the beloved!) speaks to three different generations. The children, the fathers and the young men, each have their place in the Kingdom work. Some are young and growing in their Faith, some have the wisdom, and others have the strength to be the warriors.

God created His Gospel to be passed from one generation to the next. He uses His church to do this, but the family unit is where it all begins. The Family is where disciples are born and nurtured. God designed the plan and then set us down smack in the middle of it, knowing our capabilities and our frailties. He also has not been caught unaware of our culture influences. He has set us here in the middle of our family, in this day, for His work.

Families are where we get to practice our Faith and demonstrate God's love and grace in all circumstances,..good, bad, painful or joyous. When the wise, the young and the warriors are faithful or when they are foolish. We are to be loving and grace-filled to each other in all circumstances, but especially when it is not deserved. Families teach us to love God and follow His ways when we don't feel like it. They give us the boundaries and support. Roots and wings.

A perfect family?
Perfection can be a pride thing and pride appears to consistently irritate God.
God has never required perfection, but a family who demonstrates the traits listed above would seem to be pretty darn close.

A steadfast, loving, grace-filled family?
God Himself is in our corner.
Now that's attainable!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

My Mighty Friend Beth

If you have a moment, click onto my "places to go" - Beth Moore link and read her responses to questions from her readers. They are humorous, insightful and inspiring!

Saturday, February 2, 2008

The Disciple Jesus Loves

It's me.
I'm the one Jesus loves.

I know, I know! If you read the Gospels, you will assume, as everyone else does, that it is the Apostle John. The one who wrote the gospel, I, II, III John and also Revelation. I am sure that John enjoyed being called "the Disciple that Jesus loved", but I don't think he is the only one who holds the distinction.

John refers to himself as the one whom Jesus loved. I find it interesting that he is the one who gave himself the title. Is he presumptuous? Self-centered? Arrogant? I don't think so.
I bet John was at first surprised, then encouraged and then overwhelmed at being the recipient of such a profound love from such a profound person.

I have friends and family members who brighten my day just by appearing in it. I literally love looking at them and hearing what is going on in their day to day life. I think of them often and whatever these loved ones of mine deal with in their life, instantly becomes important to me as well. I do not like being separated by time or distance from them, and our time spent together almost always leaves me wanting more.

It is a two way street. I have friends and family that are truly glad when they see me. You can just tell things like that, you know. These friends and family enjoy my presence and enter into whatever is important to me. What an intimate, personal encouragement to see their eyes brighten just at my appearance!

John called himself the "Disciple that Jesus Loved" because he was confident that Jesus, the Messiah, enjoyed his company.
The very idea.
I bet he was confused.
Then amazed.
Left him shaking his head in wonder.

That's how God is with me. He loves me,...His pupil, His follower, His disciple.
It's not just me,...It's how He feels about all of His children.

I am incredibly flawed and find it surprising that God designed a plan that includes me as a player. If He had skin on today, he would spend time at my house, and would let me,...no, he would want me to follow Him everywhere he went.

God's love for me is confusing, amazing and leaves me shaking my head in wonder.