Do it for God …

“Exercise daily in God—no spiritual flabbiness, please! Workouts in the gymnasium are useful, but a disciplined life in God is far more so, making you fit both today and forever.” 1 Timothy 4:9

While traveling, I missed certain things about home—one being the fitness machines and track at the recreation centers. Today, I entered back into my routine of working out three or four times a week with my friend. We walk the track for a half hour to loosen up and then hit the weight machines. It did not take long to realize I had become out of shape and a bit flabby after a three-month break from working out.

Falling, caused by the lack of physical activity, is one of the leading causes of death among seniors. I have fallen three times in three years, which is average for seniors. My falls have been caused by carelessness, not paying attention to where I’m walking, missing a step, stumbling over an item misplaced, or hitting a wet spot on the floor.
Exercising our faith in God and keeping our bodies strong is a challenge, best accomplished by staying focused on daily routines. This can be as simple as reading a few verses from the Bible, praying, or listening to spiritual music. If you don’t have time to go to a gym to exercise, go for a walk and talk to God at the same time.

Thank you, Lord, for helping us become spiritually and physically stronger. Amen.

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Soggy French Fries

“Careful planning puts you ahead in the long run; hurry and scurry puts you further behind.” Proverbs 21:5

Yesterday morning I flew out of the ranch-style airport at Syracuse, New York, to the super-sized Atlanta airport, where I had a two-hour layover to fly to Phoenix.

The airport corridors at Atlanta were jammed with people coming and going. Halfway to my gate, I stopped at McDonald’s to grab a quick lunch. With no place to sit to eat, I stuck the bag of food into my carryon bag, and without giving it any thought, placed the 16-ounce Sprite on top the food. Anxious to eat the French fries while they were still hot, I took off in a speed-walking pace, dodging suitcases and trying not to run into anyone.

When I arrived at my gate, I found a seat, plopped my carry-on bags on the floor, and noticed a steady stream of clear liquid flowing out of the paper bag holding my lunch. The lid had come off the soda, and half the contents poured into the French fry container and also drenched the bottom half of the bun on my Fish Filet sandwich. I looked at the mess and thought, “Well, I can either eat this $7.25 soggy meal or settle for a bag of pretzels on the airplane.”

I must say catsup is a better condiment for French fries than Sprite. Another time, I’ll pass on the soda.

Lord, remind me “When I “Act in haste; I will lament at leisure …” (Unknown) Amen.

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Welcome everyone …

“I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” Matthew 25:35

(Reprinted from The Donut Theory by Linda Gillis)

I looked at the clock in my office—4:30. I stuffed everything left on my desk into a drawer, picked up my bag, and headed out the door. My daughter Susan had pre-game color guard rehearsal in two hours and I had just enough time to get home and cook a good meal for her before we left for the high school. But first I needed to make a quick stop at the grocery store for lettuce, pasta sauce, and milk.

I dashed into the store, grabbed a cart, and went directly to the produce department. While I squeezed a few heads of lettuce, an elderly man sauntered over and stood close to my cart. He started to speak in a voice little more than a whisper. “My son’s coming to visit.” I threw the lettuce into my cart and said, “That’s nice. Have a good visit,” and turned my cart toward the dairy cooler.

I picked up a gallon of milk and out of the corner of my eye saw the same old guy shuffling over. Before I could escape, he said, “He hasn’t been home for five years.” I gave him an affirming nod and wheeled toward the checkout counter, grabbing the first bottle of pasta sauce I saw. We could use some sodas for after the game, I thought, and detoured to the side aisle. I leaned over to pick up a case of cola and heard a familiar voice. “He hasn’t been home since his mom died.”

“Lord, help me!” I prayed. “I gave myself five minutes to get in and out of this store, and this guy wants to tell me his life story!” At that moment the anxiety in his eyes tugged at my heart. I wiped a stray strand of hair away from my eyes and leaned on the handle of my cart and listened. I heard the story of a father and son so overcome with grief that they had said ugly things to one another. Then he asked: “What shall I say to him?” I looked into his worried eyes and placed my hand on his. “Just put your arms around him and give him a hug. The words will come.”

Dear God, thanks for the hot dog stand at the stadium. Amen.

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Until it is our time …

“God, you did everything you promised, and I’m thanking you with all my heart. You pulled me from the brink of death, my feet from the cliff-edge of doom. Now I stroll at leisure with God in the sunlit fields of life. Psalm 56:12-13

Last night another person I’ve been praying for healing, either Earthly or Heavenly, went to be with Jesus. Her body had been consumed by cancerous cells and caused her great suffering. We tell those who loved her, “She is in a better place.” As believers in God’s promise of eternal life, we hang on to the hope we will all leave behind our sick or worn out bodies and go to a “better place.”

Is there something in your personal or professional life, or relationships with family and friends, that is consuming you like cancer and making it impossible to focus on all your blessings?  If you ask someone who is grieving the loss of a loved one, they might say, “Don’t waste your time on Earth living as if you are already dead.”

When I get on a merry-go-round of worry or a Ferris wheel of doubt, I can’t help but think how wonderful it will be some day to leave all this behind. But I’m not ready to quit living. I’ve got places to go, things to see, people to love, and a ministry to complete–all by the grace of God.

Lord, walk with us on our down days and carry us with your blessings. Amen.

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Check you temper at the door …

It’s because of your temper,
        your blasphemous foul temper,
    That I’m putting my hook in your nose
        and my bit in your mouth
    And turning you back
        to where you came from.” 2 Kings 19:28

The last time I threw a temper tantrum was when one of my kids threw one. I was so frustrated at my inability to control my child’s behavior, I went into a childish mode and acted like one, too. My temper tantrum must have made me look like Godzilla—a 5’10” mother over-reacting to a six-year old. No amount of apologizing for my bad reaction to childish behavior could erase this image from a kid’s mind.

I take comfort in knowing I am not alone in having lost control of my temper. In Matthew 21:12-13, Jesus entered the temple courts and threw out  loan sharks and sellers of doves. Quoting his Father, “My house was designated a house of prayer; you have made it a hangout for thieves.” This was a cause worthy of anger. By clearing the temple, it became possible for the sick and crippled people to enter to be healed by Jesus.

It was my child’s strong will I tried to fight, which was not a cause worthy of my outbursts. I learned through child development classes that one needs to mold, not break the strong will of a child. Maybe I should have bought a set of drums for both of us to beat on.

Lord, forgive me for the times I have been mean-spirited to the people I love most. Amen.

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Don’t waste your time …

“And you? Go about your business without fretting or worrying. Relax. When it’s all over, you will be on your feet to receive your reward.” Daniel 12:13

I’ve read that what you focus on grows–especially negative thoughts and worrying about things you cannot control. This week I’m staying in Central New York with my youngest daughter where winter is still raging. Two weeks ago I was in Florida with temperatures in the mid-80’s.

Before I flew North, I knew I would hate the cold weather. I packed for the temperature difference and when I arrived to New Jersey picked up a $5.50 winter coat at Salvation Army and a warm scarf. I fretted about being confined to the house unless the temperature rose above freezing and the wind non existent. I planned on being cold and uncomfortable until I return to Arizona.

Yesterday, the sun shined brightly on Circle Drive, and I put on my warm coat, wrapped my scarf around my neck, and took the dogs for a walk. Afterwards, I built a snowman–the first one I’ve created in over a century. I was amazed at how warm and toasty I felt and how my spirits lifted by the natural vitamin D.

This morning the temperature outdoors is 18 degrees with a  “RealFeel” of 9 degrees. I will not leave the house today. I will find pleasant things to do; cozy in, make a pot of soup, and eat it, too.

Thank you, God, for the seasons and how we can find blessings within all of them. Amen.

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Just drink a Coke?

“All this I observed as I tried my best to understand all that’s going on in this world. As long as men and women have the power to hurt each other, this is the way it is.” Ecclesiastes 8:9

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace: where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.
–St. Francis of Assisi

St. Francis prayed this prayer because he wanted to share his beliefs as to how each person can help bring peace to the world. It’s a contrast from the lyrics of a memorable Coca Cola advertisement in 1971:.

I’d like to buy the world a home
And furnish it with love
Grow apple trees and honey bees
And snow white turtle doves

I’d like to teach the world to sing
In perfect harmony
I’d like to buy the world a Coke
And keep it company
That’s the real thing

What the world wants today
Is the real thing.
(Created by Bill Backer with composers Billy Davis, Roger Cook and Roger Greenaway)

It takes more to satisfy the thirst of the world to be hateful and cruel than sharing Coke around the world. However, it is a sweet idea. We can individually help bring peace to the world by standing in front of a mirror every morning and repeating St. Francis’ prayer out loud.

Lord, let everyone be an instrument of peace. Amen.

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Tell it like it is?

“This is scary: You can tame a tiger, but you can’t tame a tongue—it’s never been done. The tongue runs wild, a wanton killer. With our tongues we bless God our Father; with the same tongues we curse the very men and women he made in his image. Curses and blessings out of the same mouth!” James 3:7-10

There are people who take pride in the ability to say what they mean no matter how ugly it comes out of their mouths, The “I don’t beat around the bush” mentality. They claim people know where they stand on issues, but what they don’t understand is that I, for one, would prefer to hear their opinions in a way that can create conversation and possible negotiations or consensus. I try to avoid spending time with people with this kind of ego.

I challenge people who “tell it like it is” to read the parables of Jesus and study his style of communicating. He did get angry; after all people provoked him just as people provoke us, but he didn’t let his ego rule how he talked to people.

In the book, Self-Compassion, the Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself by Kristin Neff, Ph.D., she states, “Why is so hard to admit when we step out of line, are rude, or act impatient? Because our ego feels so much better when we project our flaws and shortcomings onto someone else.”

Father, help us control our tongues so that it won’t destroy relationships. Amen.

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Mysteries …

“Three things amaze me, no, four things I’ll never understand— how an eagle flies so high in the sky, how a snake glides over a rock, how a ship navigates the ocean, why adolescents act the way they do.” Proverbs 30:18-19

Many things are mysterious, but one I’ve always wondered about, “Do clothes dryers eat socks?” I’ve been folding clothes for children for many years, and when it comes to socks, there is always at least a  pair that doesn’t have a mate. Today, I had four lonely socks. It’s my guess they never got into the washing machine in the first place. But where are they? Did I vacuum one without noticing, is there one hidden in a pajama pant leg? Whatever, it seems my grandsons don’t have a sock fetish anyway, as they wear mismatched socks frequently.

King Solomon had four mysteries that amazed him: How an eagle flies, how a snake can glide over a rock, how a ship navigates the ocean, and why adolescents act the way they do. I would add to that list why people lie, cheat, break the Ten Commandments, ask for forgiveness and then sin again, and why a child runs a high fever and the minute he enters the doctor’s office, the fever is gone.

If we knew all the answers to life’s mysteries, there would be no more life puzzles to solve.

Lord, help us solve mysteries that keep us believing in something we cannot see or touch. Amen.

 

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Homesick no more …

“I’m homesick—longing for your salvation; I’m waiting for your word of hope. My eyes grow heavy watching for some sign of your promise; how long must I wait for your comfort?” Psalm 11:81,82

I was eleven and away at bible camp the first time I experienced being homesick. The camp was a mere ten miles from home, but it seemed like thousands. It was the first time I stayed overnight in unfamiliar surroundings without my parents or other people I knew well. For three nights I quietly cried into my pillow so that no one would know I was unhappy. A counselor assured me I did not want to go home, “Things will get better.” I stuck it out and became a happy camper.

During this past year, I’ve been away from my home for nearly nine months–six months after Glen died and three months while renters are enjoying my home. I am a bit homesick and look forward to going home in a couple of weeks.

The apostle Paul was a traveling man—witnessing, training, teaching everywhere he went. I imagine he felt the same sense of being grounded when he spent two years in Ephesus. His ministry continued from that location. I look forward to exploring where my next journey will take place. Will I finally get into a mission setting? In the meantime, the moment I get home, I’m unpacking my suitcase and storing it out of sight.

Lord, give us purpose while we travel and a place to land to recuperate. Amen.

 

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