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 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 might just suffer from A.W.D. 
Repost from 2009

Photo by RayBay on Unsplash 

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

What not to wear...

Photo by Seth Doyle on Unsplash

I will admit it. I would gladly go on national tv and be humiliated about my bad clothing choices in order to get rid of my old stuff and be shown what to wear...and given the money to buy it!

I used to love the show "What Not to Wear." I didn't always watch the entire program, but I did like to tune in to at least see the "tips" and the final transformation. I was amazed at the difference you could see in the people by the end of every program - a difference that seems to be not only in their appearance but in their whole being. Can what you wear really make that much difference?

Honestly, I know clothes make a difference. Once, many years ago, I prayed about why it seemed that people did not take me seriously and felt that nudge in my heart to look at how I was dressed. At the time I had on old jeans and a sweatshirt. I remember praying, "but God, the Bible says man looks on the outward appearance but YOU look on the heart!" Then I 'heard' the reply - "What is the first part of that verse?"

Well, man looks on the outward appearance....

"I see your heart but as long as you are on this earth, you will deal with 'man'. How you carry yourself makes a difference."

After that conversation with God, I did change the way I dressed and I did see a difference in the ways others reacted to me; but I'm not sure if it was because I dressed differently or because when I dressed differently, I acted differently as well! Sort of like what you see on that program. I carried myself differently, I walked in more confidence and assurance and people reacted to that difference.

Knowing that people (including me) react to others according to outward appearance, shouldn't it then be very important what we wear? Now, I am NOT the person to give fashion advice, but perhaps I can find a guideline that even I can use on a regular basis on what TO wear. The Bible has some really good advice in that area. "Clothe yourself in righteousness", and "Put on the whole armor of God" are good places to start. Then today I stumbled across this verse: 

Colossians 3:12-14

The Message (MSG)
 12-14So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It's your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.

Finally - fashion tips that even I can understand. 

You know, one of the biggest things I noticed about that show is that they didn't really focus on what NOT to wear...oh they showed the contestants how bad their choices had been up to this point, but the rest of the show was spent showing the people what TO wear. As a Christian, that's how I want to spend my life - not spending all my time shining a light on what others do WRONG, but shining a light on how good things can be.

You know, one of the biggest words used by people at the beginning of that show is "but it'scomfortable" or "that won't be comfortable"...focusing only on physical comfort. By the end, they find something they desire far more than that physical comfort - they find something within that is willing to leave their comfort zone and move into a new comfort - comfort with who they were meant to be. They also usually discover that the new way of dressing isn't really uncomfortable at all!

Don't know about you, but I think I'll have some new things to think about this morning as I get "dressed" to face the day. I have been given a new "wardrobe" and the best part of it all - the price has already been paid. 

Oh, and on a side note, I often tell my daughter, "You are a precious jewel, a gift from God. Don't dress in such a way that it looks like that jewel is displayed on the reduced for quick-sale rack."  You get my point.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Have we bought the lie???

This was written quite a few years ago, but I vividly remember the encounter with this woman. I think it was the first time I really stood up for what I believed in such a vocal way. 

Tomorrow is the 4th of July...a time of celebration! There will be hotdogs, apple pie, and probably a few impromptu baseball games. Water slides, watermelon, and water....okay, I don't have another water word. There will be laughter, honoring of veterans, and hopefully, prayer for our nation, because no matter who you ask, you'll probably hear that despite our celebrating, our nation is in trouble.

Some will say the problem arises from recent court developments. Some will say the problem arises from our lack of reverence for human life. Many will point at the prevalence of government in our lives. Some will say it's the liberals. Some will say it's the conservatives. I'm thinking it may be something different. I'm thinking it goes all the way back to Genesis and a tiny little lie. A question actually.

Recently I had a conversation with someone who is MUCH more educated than me. She is, no doubt, a wonderful person. Very intellectual and has a heart to help others. I will not say a bad thing about her...but we definitely did not agree. To be honest, I'm not even sure how our conversation took the turn that it did, but within moments it became evident that she believed in evolution as opposed to creation. Her arguments were that while God created, He used evolution to do it. (I've heard this argument before.) She also believed much of the Bible to be metaphorical in nature. Needless to say, we disagreed.

Since that conversation, I seem to see articles on creation everywhere I turn! You see, I believe that TRUE science points TO creation...and while I am not a scientist, there are many scientist who agree with that point of view. If one buys into the idea of evolution for creation, there are a number of issues you must then wrestle with. For one, how then did sin enter in through one man? How did Jesus come as the second Adam and die as a sacrifice for that sin? (We disagreed on this as well, by the way.) How can you deal with Jesus speaking of Old Testament writings as fact? Either He was ignorant or a liar...neither of which I can agree with. But all these arguments are really not the purpose of today's random thoughts. It's identifying the root of our problems....

Is it possible that we bought the lie? You know, in the garden that's what started the ball rolling. In Genesis 3:1, "Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’? Did you get that? It started with questioning what God said. The enemy craftily inserted doubt into the legitimacy of God's Word. It was the meshing of an idea that was NOT of God with something that IS of God. Verses 4 & 5: "“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman.“For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Seems he forgot to include the part about the knowledge of good and evil being because they would experience separation from God's presence and the beauty of the life they knew.

Is it possible that the "problems" our nation, even our world...and yes, we ourselves face are due to buying the lie that has woven itself into our books, our tv shows, and our minds. It's a subtle one...just a little bitty question. Did God really say? Or, the idea that God's Word is a collection of metaphors, not to be taken literally? Yes, I realize there are some pretty hard parts of the Bible. I'm thankful that God does not require me to gouge out my does not sin so getting rid of it really wouldn't fix the problem. Plus, and far more importantly, Jesus died for my sin. Yes, that literally happened. It's not a metaphor or just some feel good story. Nothing I can do would "fix" the problem anyway.

I'm sure there's more to all of this than my puny little mind can embrace, but this is really just a collection of MY random thoughts. Maybe we allowed the "lie" to weave its way into our lives and before we knew it, it was like the ferns that looked so lovely in my yard until they took root everywhere and started to choke out my rose. I really didn't think it was any big deal to begin with. It was so tiny and looked entirely harmless. Yeah....tell that to my rose that it killed. (Check out my previous blog, "The Pruning Process...")

I don't want to buy the lie. I believe God's Word is true...and I want it to shape everything I do. I know I have a long way to go...but recognizing that truth is truth is the first step. Maybe then, we can truly ask for God to bless America.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Over the hill...

I was sitting in a meeting and made the statement, "I'm not over the hill yet..." and one of those random thoughts hit me. If this "hill" is my life and I'm around the halfway point, then yes....I AM over the hill.

Okay, this may be elementary stuff to a lot of people, but truthfully I had never thought about what the term "over the hill" actually referred to. It was something that came up at birthdays....usually in the form of black balloons and obnoxious black decorations...usually brought by a much younger, yet equally obnoxious friend. Still, I never really had connected it to any kind of real meaning. Now I'm starting to realize that "over the hill" refers to reaching the halfway point of your life, the top, and then starting down the other side. Since I am now 58, I guess it's pretty safe to say I am "over the hill".

Think about it. If you have ever run up a huge hill, you know what I mean. It seems to take FOREVER to reach the top and the idea of going down the other side never really crosses your mind. You're just trying to conquer the hill. When we are younger, we are trying to make our way in the world, conquer our fears, and reach the pinnacle of our success. If we are lucky, the top of the hill plateaus for a while and we get to jog along at an easier pace allowing our heart rate to adjust....but for every up there is a down.

When you first start running down, you kind of like the new feeling of speed you are experiencing. You actually look kind of fast, maybe even cool! Then, after a few more steps you find yourself accelerating toward the bottom at such a lightning speed you worry a little that you might fall (and can't get up...) The bottom is coming at you MUCH faster than the top ever did....sort of like the feeling you get when you say "time is passing so fast". No, time isn't moving faster, you're just getting closer to the end of the hill. (I heard once that life was like a roll of toilet paper, the closer you get to the end, the faster it goes. This "over the hill" run is just the same thing.)

I guess that in this analogy, my daily appointment with the treadmill or the track must be my attempt to run up the down escalator....slowing down my descent to the bottom. I know I can't stop it, but I'm in no real rush to get there. I don't really want to just "sit and ride" on this trip. I have no idea when I will reach the base of this hill, but when I do I want to be giving it all I've got.

Sitting down and just waiting for the bottom of the hill is, however, not an option. Each new day brings with it a work that needs to be done. In John 9, you find the story of the blind man whom Jesus healed. the disciples were asking their usual stupid questions (which makes me feel much better when I have to do that) and this was the response: Jesus said, "You're asking the wrong question. You're looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause-effect here. Look instead for what God can do. We need to be energetically at work for the One who sent me here, working while the sun shines. When night falls, the workday is over. For as long as I am in the world, there is plenty of light. I am the world's Light." (emphasis mine)

When I finally reach the bottom of this hill, my workday will be over....but for as long as I am in the world, there is plenty of light....cause I'm supposed to allow the light of Christ to shine through me. There isn't really time to sit and wait for the bottom to long as I'm on this hill, I'm supposed to be doing the work of the One who sent me.

So there you have it. My version of over the hill. No matter where you find yourself on the hill of life, I hope you are shining His light for all to see. We'll work together and I hope I can safely say..."See you at the bottom" when we run into the arms of Christ and hear "well done, my good and faithful servant."