Friday, November 10, 2017

Valuable...

Today I was listening to an interesting story about someone who had been given a guitar. It was a very nice guitar, top of the line. It was, however, extra special because it had been signed by Eric Clapton. Because of this, this guitar was extremely valuable. The new owner took great care of this guitar, making sure he cleaned it after each use, storing it in a special place - not exposing it to elements that might cause it harm. You get the picture...and I'm pretty sure you see where today's post is heading. 

Photo by Redd Angelo on Unsplash

All this got me to thinking about all the other things that we see as valuable because some great person signed it or used it. In the past, people would claim importance to some place that looked like just a shack to most people...its one claim to fame was that "George Washington slept here." The name of the famous person was used to garner recognition, prominence,  even money. It is not the HOUSE that gave the place value, but who had stayed there.

Tying these two stories together, they both got me to thinking...what makes a person valuable? Is it our gifts? What we look like? The other "houses" around us? No, what really makes a person valuable is who lives within the house...whose "signature" is on it.

Because Christ lives in me, I have value. So do you. I'm not going to "trash" the house, or bring in things that might destroy it or ugly it up. I'm not going to cover my "valuable guitar" with cheap stickers from a gumball machine. I'm not going to allow political ads, product billboards, or just plain weeds to diminish the importance of the dwelling. It's too important. No trash of un-forgiveness can be allowed, no language that paints the house in cheap neon green paint, no habits that block the view like a tacky billboard with lights. The focus isn't even on the house at all. The focus should be on Who lives there.

No, George Washington didn't live here, but the One who DOES is far greater than any man who has ever lived. That makes this house valuable. That makes me valuable...and it's what makes you valuable, too.

Romans 8:9-11 (MSG)

9-11 But if God himself has taken up residence in your life, you can hardly be thinking more of yourself than of him. Anyone, of course, who has not welcomed this invisible but clearly present God, the Spirit of Christ, won’t know what we’re talking about. But for you who welcome him, in whom he dwells—even though you still experience all the limitations of sin—you yourself experience life on God’s terms. It stands to reason, doesn’t it, that if the alive-and-present God who raised Jesus from the dead moves into your life, he’ll do the same thing in you that he did in Jesus, bringing you alive to himself? When God lives and breathes in you (and he does, as surely as he did in Jesus), you are delivered from that dead life. With his Spirit living in you, your body will be as alive as Christ’s!

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Get happy where you are...

The past couple of days a "random thought" has been on my mind. (Re-print from 2014)

Have you ever noticed that some people seem to go from place to place, job to job, city to city, relationship to relationship, even hobby to hobby looking for that elusive thing called happiness? You've heard it before in probably a million blogs and devotions, warning that if you put your hope into a thing or a position or even a person that eventually it will let you down. The problem is, we are all looking for happiness and it is usually best found right where you are. 

I've had more than a few chances to put this whole idea into practice. The funny thing is, when I finally choose to be happy where I am, God seems to move me on.

This came to mind last week when I talked to a friend about the gentle nudge she was feeling about moving to a job in a different area. She stood there explaining to me, "It's not like I don't love where I am...in fact, I've never been happier." I could only nod. Seems like every job I've ever moved to didn't make sense. In one job, I'd tried repeatedly to leave! I couldn't even score an interview! Then, just when I decided to be happy where God had me planted, He moved me....to the very place I had been unable to get an interview for five years! Then God moved me again, but not during a season of discontent, but in a time when I finally had discovered contentment. 

Seems that just when I let go of the idea that I have any right to decide what my life should look like, it starts to look like something so much more than I could have ever dreamed....and sometimes I even get that which I had hoped for.

I won't pretend this is always an easy process. I have an idea of what will really make me happy and I'm certain that if I just try hard enough, I can make it happen. The problem with that is that my life doesn't belong to me. I am His. I'm not really the one in charge here. Now as strange as that sounds, that concept is pretty liberating. It's not up to me. The only part of my "future" that is up to me, is turning it completely over to God. I simply have to start where I am and choose joy. I choose to trust that God knows what will bring me fulfillment far better than I do.

I think the first time I really saw this was while hoping for a child. We had hoped for years for a child, lost one through an adoption that went wrong, faced each passing year without the sound of a child's laughter in our home. Slowly, I released that dream and truly gave it to God. I came to the point where I could truly say, "God, I want a child more than anything, but if You choose for us to serve you without children, I will trust You." My attitude changed. I changed. The one true barrier to my joy was removed and peace returned....and two children followed.

I'm not saying that there is some magic formula or equation. "Do this and then all your dreams will come true..." In fact, in a way, it's about giving up your dreams - to God. It's about choosing to find the joy and fulfillment right where you are. It's about looking at what the enemy meant for your harm and recognizing that God can/has used it for your good and His glory.

It's about a choice...a choice to change your attitude and find the joy.

I am reminded of a story Lysa TerKeurst once shared. Her daughter had found some cocoons and was hoping to hatch butterflies and instead from those cocoons, she got moths. Mom expected disappointment, but..."As I watched Brooke’s sheer delight with the rich evidence of life before her, she couldn’t have cared less if it was a moth or butterfly. A creature that once only knew the dirt of the earth had just been given the gift of flight. Reaching- soaring-up- up- and away."

I guess it really is all about how you look at things. In the words of my pastor, you may not get to choose your circumstances, but you do get to choose your attitude in the midst of them.

It's time to get happy, right where you are...and then you can move forward.



Acts 20:24 (NIV)

However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.

Genesis 50:20 (NIV) 

You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.

Philippians 4:11-13 (MSG)

I’m glad in God, far happier than you would ever guess—happy that you’re again showing such strong concern for me. Not that you ever quit praying and thinking about me. You just had no chance to show it. Actually, I don’t have a sense of needing anything personally. I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Can you hear me now?

I have been accused of many things in my lifetime, but being too quiet to be heard has NEVER been one of them...and I have always hated that about myself. 

What? You thought I was loud on purpose? Heavens no! I'm not trying to be loud - it just...HAPPENS!

I can't count the times I've heard, "I didn't know you were here and then I heard your voice." Or, "I couldn't find you, so I stopped and listened to hear your voice." I've even had students that I haven't seen in YEARS come up to me saying, "I was standing over there and I heard that voice and thought - that's Mrs. Sumrall!" Yes, my voice carries.

In the past few years, however, I've learned to embrace my "loud." It is a gift! For example, this past summer, we were in a crowded Cane's restaurant and the young lady behind the counter was trying to call out orders, but her voice was so sweet and soft that no one could hear her. I was waiting for my food, so I stepped up to help, calling out each name after she told me who the order was for. Based on the reaction of the patrons, my voice was welcomed! They even sounded sad when my order came and I decided to sit down and give up my new found "job." Being loud came in handy that day. 

It's also been very handy anytime I've needed to get a crowd (like my students) to hear me. I can be heard in the back of the auditorium without the aide of a microphone. I've used that skill quite often. I joke that I was destined to either be a teacher or an opera singer and since I can't really carry a tune, my fate was decided.

Why tell you all this? Because I think all too often the very gift God has given us to reach the world is one that we feel is a flaw - an embarrassment. The Bible story that immediately comes to mind is Zacchaeus, the wee little man. Somehow I'm not sure we'd have heard about him of his amazing story if he'd been six feet tall.

What is your "gift"? The one that you think is a flaw - a mistake? The one that you so wish you could change? What might happen if instead of trying to cover up our flaw, we took it to the top of a sycamore tree where it really stood out? What if we let that trait the world looks at as a problem and used it to spread the love of Jesus? What if we actually agreed with God that He makes no mistakes and we are created just as He would have us to be? 

What if?

I'd love to hear your thoughts on your "damaged gifts" that God is using. Let us encourage one another the way that only broken, damaged people who are loved by God can do.

Psalm 139:14
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

Genesis 1:26a
Then God said, "Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness...

Psalm 40:5
Many, O LORD my God, are the wonders which You have done, And Your thoughts toward us; There is none to compare with You. If I would declare and speak of them, They would be too numerous to count.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Special cause I'm ordinary...

When I was younger, I desperately wanted to be special in something, but I was just plain ordinary. Now, I've come to realize that it is my ordinariness that makes me special. 

I can relate to others because I'm so ordinary and they can relate to me for the same reason. It is actually my ordinariness that enables me to help others and that makes me special.

For all those, who like me, are just plain ordinary - celebrate! It is by being ordinary that you will find your purpose!

Genesis 1:31(Msg)
God looked over everything he had made;
        it was so good, so very good!
    It was evening, it was morning—
    Day Six.


1 Timothy 4:4 (Msg)
Everything God created is good, and to be received with thanks. Nothing is to be sneered at and thrown out. 

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Trying something a little different for a while.

For a while, I'm going to try something a little different with my blog. Life has been so busy, I haven't had a lot of time to simply sit and write, (you probably don't really have time to read long blogs either)...but that doesn't mean the random thoughts have stopped coming! So, for a while, I'm going to try posting much shorter random thoughts - I'll leave it to you to make the connections!


In service a couple of weeks ago, I had this random thought...do you know who my Daddy is?

When I was growing up, everyone knew my daddy. We weren't rich, but he had a good name and it opened a lot of doors. I'm so very thankful for the character of my father and for his good name.

On the flip side, we've all seen those characters in movies - the ones who are obnoxious and privileged acting simply because of who their father is. They are misusing their family name, but it does not negate the power of that name.

That got me to thinking - why am I not walking into situations with confidence? Not arrogance, mind you, but confidence. I mean, after all - do you know who MY Daddy is? He has given me His name and it will open doors and save me despite my failings.

How about it? Would you walk through your days with a bit more confidence and daring knowing that you can say, "Do you know who my Daddy is?"

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Along the way...

Yesterday I decided to go for a walk/run...who am I kidding? I knew it would be a walk/walk. It's been a long time since I did any REAL running, but I tied on my running shoes and started out the door. It was a bit frustrating to be walking the route I used to run x 3 on a regular basis, but it is what it is, so I plodded along. I was MUCH slower than when I run, even though I was walking at a fast clip and I actually was a pretty slow runner. I did what I could to keep moving as fast as I could and decided to take the time to "smell" or at least notice the flowers along the way.

That's when I noticed the cup. It was lying there right beside the road. Humfff - how can people just toss their trash like that? Someone should clean up this area. I would, but I don't have anything to carry it in and besides, I've got two miles to walk/run! As I continued along, the flowers were truly beautiful, but I kept on seeing trash. As I neared the end of my route, I spotted a new plastic Walmart bag caught in a bush. I was in luck (or was it simply God getting my attention?) I grabbed the bag and continued on my way. I saw a little trash but decided to "save" my bag for Mt Killamsdonna close to my house where the trash seemed to be the worst. I filled up that bag and then some and had to turn to go home because I simply couldn't hold anymore. Besides, it was hot and I'd already been gone for over half an hour. I posted a picture of my trash on Facebook and got a few "way to go" responses. I said, "Somebody should pick up this mess and since I've always wanted to be a 'Somebody,' I figured it might as well be me."

Today I decided to go out for another early walk since church services  had been canceled (due to uncertainty about what Hurricane Nate would do.) This time I'd go prepared! I took a bag WITH me, stuffed into the pocket of my running shorts. The plan was to pick up at the end of the run again. As I started out, I noted where the trash was worst and made plans to pick up at the end...or maybe a little sooner this time.

As I came to the final couple of turns, I started seeing little scraps. Oh well, they were small and wouldn't really slow me down so I started picking things up. The closer I got to home, the more I started to see. Things that had gone unseen the day before now caught my eye, and I started the process...and the thinking. That's when the random thoughts started.

As I picked up vodka bottles and sonic cups and ziplock bags of something that looked like a piece of old pizza, I thought about the fact that if I'd been running, I'd have never really seen all this - or I'd have been so concerned about my "speed" that I'd never have taken the time to pick it up. Hmmm, seems that getting older and slowing down wasn't such a bad thing. I started thinking, no - I can't do big things, but maybe I can do little things along the way. Just open my eyes and see the opportunities right in front of me. Then, of course, I started thinking about how this applies to other areas of my life. I doubt seriously that anyone will know my name like Cher or Oprah or...okay - there are way too many names to choose from, but you get the idea. I may never be "teacher of the year" or even "teacher of the month" or even "teacher of the last five minutes" but I can make a difference every single day if I just take the time to slow down and notice what, or who is in my path. 

Oh, there are definitely some downsides to this. (I'll let you make any spiritual connections.) My hands get pretty dirty - I sometimes wish I had one of those "picker-upper" things. It can be kind of difficult sometimes - there were some pieces I had to hop the ditch to reach, and the diaper I found IN the ditch almost caused me to become a candidate for America's Funniest Video's (thank heavens no one had a camera!) Then, of course, there is the danger that our garbage men may think I've turned into a chain-smoking alcoholic based on the number of cigarette packs and empty vodka bottles in my trash. He already knows I eat junk food so a few extra sonic cups won't cause any alarm. So what. I know what I'm up to, and if they care to ask, I'll share! Or maybe, just maybe they'll notice things are starting to look a little better in our area. 

So there you have it. No, I'm not running right now (but I hope to get back to it!) I am, however, doing what I can along the way. 

Care to join me? Who knows what little thing that God will place in our path that makes a big difference in the long run. My prayer is "Lord, open my eyes that I may see."

WARNING! Don't watch this video if you don't want to be challenged. Open the eyes of my heart

Colossians 3:23
Whatever you do, work at it wholeheartedly as though you were doing it for the Lord and not merely for people. 

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

A.D.D. or A.W.D....

Today in worship, I became acutely aware of God's presence and I thought about how often I go through my days wishing I could sense His presence more. That's when I started thinking about how A.D.D. I tend to be and decided that in spiritual matters, perhaps I suffer a bit from A.W.D. - Attention to the World Disorder.

Since I am a teacher, I am well aware of how difficult it can be for a child who has A.D.D. to focus on what is important in the classroom. An overload of stimulus makes brains take a detour from what they should be concentrating on just about everything else. They often become frustrated and act out...or they withdraw from the very things that could help them. I heard the lead singer from Casting Crowns say he suffered from dyslexia and ADD which meant it was hard for him to read well and if he somehow managed to read well, his ADD still messed things up. I wonder at times if I am not undiagnosed ADD myself. I find I am easily distracted from what I need to get done, but over the years I have learned techniques to deal with my "random thoughts".....such as using them to write a blog. :)

Back to today's random thought. As I contemplated the fact that God is always with us, but somehow we don't sense it, our pastor began to talk about the very same thing! I was so excited I wanted to raise my hand and say, "I was just thinking about that!" To quote our pastor, "It's wonderful to know God is everywhere, but being in a place where you are AWARE of his presence is a whole other thing. When we focus, we become less aware of our surroundings and more aware of God." Yep, there it is. We are all a little A.W.D. 

A.W.D. is being ADD when it comes to God. Instead of being able to focus on Him, we are so easily distracted by the things of the world. We have allowed the things that are not eternal, things of this world, take our focus off of God....and we start to sink under the weight of it all.

The Bible is full of stories where man got his focus off God and onto the things of the world with disastrous results. One of the most evident was when Peter stepped out of the boat and tried to walk toward Jesus. He did just fine as long as he kept his eyes on Jesus, but the moment he lost focus and started looking at the waves (the things of this world) he started to sink. 

It happened to others as well. Different things pulled their focus from God...sometimes they were problems, sometimes they were things we'd think of as blessings, but once they lost focus - their troubles really began!

To paraphrase today's sermon, when our focus is right, we sense His presence and with that we find Purpose, Power, Protection, and Provision. With these come the greatest benefit - Peace. The key is to FOCUS!!!

I tell my son all the time...Focus Levi, focus! He's a lot like me, easily distracted by the shiny and new, or overly occupied with the one little thing that seems wrong. Once our focus is off, it's really tough to get us back to where we need to be. We're a little like the dog in the movie "UP" who could barely finish a sentence if a squirrel ran past within a hundred yards of him. Before you know it, we're off chasing something that is irrelevant in regards to what we're supposed to be doing! Unfortunately, it doesn't take much to shift our focus from Sunday morning worship when we felt God's presence, to a place where all we can see are the things and problems of this world.

Yep, I admit it. I have A.W.D. but the good news is, G.O.D. is much bigger than any other letters of the alphabet combined! He is patient and willing to help me focus on Him. His GOODNESS OVERCOMES DISTRACTIONS....(G.O.D.)

When I wonder why I don't sense His presence, I can check to see, have I just lost focus. Am I seeking Him in the every day of my life? In His presence, there is fullness of joy!(Psalm 16:11) If I'm not sensing His presence, I'm not experiencing true joy! It doesn't mean that life will suddenly become a big picnic, but it does mean that nothing the world uses to distract me can separate me from Him or His joy if I will keep my focus right....if I'll keep my focus on God.

Psalm 51 gives us a prayer that we can use to help us "re-focus". "Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence, And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, And renew a right spirit within me.

I don't mind being a little A.D.D., but I surely don't want to have A.W.D. As the old song says: Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in His wonderful face. And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.

Take time to focus today. He is with you...you might just suffer from A.W.D. 
Repost from 2009

Photo by RayBay on Unsplash