Don’t try to trump God’s laws …

“David became fearful of GOD that day and said, ‘This Chest is too hot to handle.’” 2 Samuel 6:8

EbolaKing David gave two men, Uzzah and his brother Ahio, the task of transporting the Ark of the Covenant from their father’s home to the City of David. Instead of carrying it on their shoulders (as spelled out in the law), they put the Ark on a donkey cart. While on the road, the donkey stumbled, and Uzzah reached out and grabbed hold of the Ark to prevent it from falling. Uzzah was unaware that God had made a law saying if a human hand touched the Ark, the person would be struck dead.

With the recent Ebola outbreak, the Center for Disease and Control and Prevention (CDC) wrote procedures and policies to protect medical providers from contracting the disease. Two Dallas nurses, who believed they were adequately protected from the virus, were the first victims of the disease brought into the U.S. by a patient.

Recently, I heard of an experiment done with nurses to find out if they could remove protective gear (similar to the ones used by the Dallas nurses) without becoming contaminated. Before disrobing, chocolate pudding was smeared on exposed skin on their necks. Then, they were challenged to remove their gear without getting pudding on their hands. The test proved the task was impossible. The CDC had to come up with a new plan.

King David mourned the loss of Uzzah and learned a valuable lesson: God says what he means and means what he says.

Help us, Lord, not to be tempted to trump your laws with the ones we make up along our faith journey. Amen.

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It is hard to be humble …

After he finished the sacrifice for sins, the Son took his honored place high in the heavens right alongside God, far higher than any angel in rank and rule. Hebrews 1:13

Humble peacockThe lyrics of the song It’s Hard to be Humble, composed by Mac Davis back in the 1980’s, could have been written about Jesus. Verse two goes like this:

To know me is to love me
I must be a hell of a man
Oh, Lord, it’s hard to be humble
But I’m doin’ the best that I can.

Jesus didn’t ask for the honored place in the high heavens next to his Father. But once there, God declared him to be higher than angels and gave him the honor of the position.
The big difference between the words of Mac Davis and the scripture lesson for today is found in Verse 1, lines 3 and 4:

Oh, Lord, it’s hard to be humble
When you’re perfect in every way
I can’t wait to look in the mirror
‘Cause I get better lookin’ each day.

Obviously, this character looking in the mirror was not seeing the humble Jesus.

Dear Lord, remind us that God is in the character we see in the mirror, but we are not God. Amen.

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It all about the heart and mind …

This Son perfectly mirrors God, and is stamped with God’s nature.
Hebrews 1:2


Do you think we look alike?

One Saturday morning, my daughter, Karen, who was about 13-years old, and I stopped by a small local bakery to pick up a coffee cake. An older German woman behind the counter looked at Karen, and then at me, and said, “God liked the first one so much he made another one!” I believe Karen felt a bit embarrassed at the suggestion she looked like her mother.

Because of Jesus, I see God as a teacher, preacher, healer, companion, and Savior, not with brown eyes and wavy long hair, as pictured by artists.

Thank you, Lord, that during Advent we get a preview of what’s in your heart and mind. Amen.

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Who is wandering around in a desert?

As “I’m thunder in the desert: ‘Make the road straight for God!” John 1:23

iPad 6-13 020John the Baptist baptized those seeking repentance for their sins. Curiosity got the best of some Pharisees (who saw themselves as being “above the law”), and they approached John to find out who he was. They had three questions: (1) Are you the Messiah; (2) are you Elijah; or (3) the Prophet? John assured them he was the one preparing the way for Jesus and nothing more.

Today, in the Southwest desert, if someone is hanging out all alone, he or she might be asked these three questions: (1) What are you doing here; (2) Where are you going; and (3) Do you have proof that you are here legally?

Regardless of where you are today, if someone asks you questions about your spiritual life, how would you answer? Advent is a time well spent pondering who we are and where we are going in our faith journey. Happy traveling!

Dear Lord, show us the way so that we will not just wander around in the desert for the rest of our lives. Amen.

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Scammed …

“Don’t suppress the spirit…. On the other hand, don’t be gullible. Check out everything, and keep only what’s good. Throw out anything tainted with evil.” 1 Thessalonians 5:19,20

GullibleOne day while driving home from work, I was approached by a man who said he could fix the dent in my bumper in my own driveway for $600 less than the estimate I’d received from a repair shop. Even though my husband said it sounded too good to be true, I gave the miracle man the task. He labored in our driveway for a couple of hours and then rang the doorbell. “I’m finished. Come and see it.” The dent was gone. Yeah! He had covered the freshly painted area with a thick layer of car wax, and said, “Don’t wash this off until the paint is dry—the wax will prevent the paint from flying insects and dust.”

We paid the guy cash, and got his phone number for any future repair needs. An hour later, Glen cleaned the wax off the bumper and found a sloppy job of patching and painting—the dent was gone, but the bumper looked bad. A phone call to the guy revealed what we had already guessed—there was no such number in service, and we’d been scammed.

This lesson of gullibility cost me $300, but it gave me a good story to share with you!

Dear Lord, help me discern when it is your goodness that is shining through people I meet. Amen.

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Green pastures …

“Go through the country; locate every spring and every stream. Let’s see if we can find enough grass to keep or horses and mules from dying.” 1 Kings 18:5

Kay houseYears ago, my Iowa friend Kay became an Arizona snowbird, along with her husband, three horses, and two dogs. The horses were used to a pasture with many acres of grass to graze. In their new environment, there is only desert dirt, except for some non-edible scrub plants and cacti.

One day while Kay was on a trail ride, the two horses left behind got out of their makeshift corral and roamed around the neighborhood. I’m guessing they were looking for grass and perhaps a spring of fresh water. A neighbor took them home to the safety of their corral.

Many of us wonder around looking for “the grass that’s greener on the other side of the fence.” In Psalms 23:2 we read, “You [God] have bedded me down in lush meadows, you find me quiet pools to drink from.” It’s in the “meadows surrounded by pools of water” that we pause during Advent to ponder the time of expectation, of anticipation, of preparation, and of longing for green pastures for our faith journey.

Dear God, help us get out of the corral that keeps us from feeling your presence around us. Amen.

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How to you show Advent love?

“He sent me to preach good news to the poor, heal the heartbroken…”
Isaiah 61:1

These words are from the prophet Isaiah—spoken 700 years before Jesus was born. Jesus lived these words of Isaiah, and in the process, showed us the way to live our lives.

Christmas letterWhat has God put on your heart this Advent season to follow in the pattern of Isaiah and Jesus? Perhaps it is the greeting cards you send, along with a special hand-written message—“I’ve been thinking of you…miss you…would love to hear from you.” Or, could it be through the cookies you bake and arrange on a small Christmas plate and take to a neighbor you rarely see. The cookies come in second place to your thoughtfulness and presence in their life, if only for a moment. Have you considered whom you might invite to go to church with you on Christmas Eve?

God didn’t pick only preachers, teachers, or doctors to heal the souls of his people. He sent his son, Jesus, who began his life in the most humble of settings, and to be raised by blue-collar parents. Knowing this, I, too, can serve God.

Lord, give us opportunities to serve you by serving others. Amen.

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Watching time…

Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet.” Ephesians 6:14

watch timeNo matter how much I prepare to present a retreat or conference, when it’s over I wish I’d said more about one topic and less about another. Why didn’t I use more illustrations—talk less. I’ll never feel thoroughly satisfied with my results when doing God’s work–there is so much to say, so little time.

Reading Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is like taking a crash course of Christianity 101 through 103 in a few pages. So much to tell the Ephesians, so little time. Paul summed up his message by reminding the Ephesians they needed to hold on to all the weapons he’d taught them (basics of Ten Commandments 101), plus to hold on in faith to remain firmly planted on their feet.

Dear Lord, some days the slightest breeze blows me off my feet. Please prop me up when my faith is weak. Amen

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Going off with a heavy heart …

Those who went off with heavy hearts will come home laughing, with armloads of blessing.” Psalm 126:6

thGEQIDA0YThe scripture for today reminds me of when thousands of troops arrived home to Phoenix from Iraq and Afghanistan. I’d like to think their heavy hearts were lifted when they stepped off the airplane, but in all too many cases, our soldiers come back seriously wounded or scarred for life, and to wives or husbands who moved on to the arms of someone else.

Should history repeat itself, many of the psychologically wounded will become street people addicted to drugs and living out their lives with no joy.

The more fortunate soldiers arrived home to the arms of loved ones and their four-legged friends. For an Advent boost, watch the following YouTube film that shows dogs greeting their master upon his or her return from deployment:

Dear Lord, help us find ways to share joy with those who have suffered—especially our military men and women. Amen.

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Work among us …

God, I’ve heard what our ancestors say about you,
and I’m stopped in my tracks, down on my knees.
Do among us what you did among them.
Work among us as you worked among them.
And as you bring judgment, as you surely must,
remember mercy. Habakkuk 3:2

Bob Long's garden - Colo, IA

Bob Long’s garden – Colo, IA

Years ago, I began my writing career by entering a contest with Guideposts magazine, and have been published a few times in this magazine, as well as their sister magazine, Angels on Earth. I particularly enjoy writing stories for Angels, as it relates to changes in people’s lives that often can only be attributed to intervention by angels—earthly ones.

One such story I ghost wrote was about my brother-in-law, Bob, who ran a small body repair shop on his property in a small Iowa town that had no building codes. A neighbor took issue with the size of the new garage he built and that there would be rusty old cars junking up the lot. Bob couldn’t rest until he made sure his business offended no one. As soon as the dirt settled alongside his new shop, he began to plant trees and flowers. Years later, Bob’s yard has been highlighted on TV, in newspaper, and magazine articles as a botanical cover for his business.

When we work among ourselves, as God works among man, we can accomplish good things.

Lord, keep us mindful you want what is good for all, and it begins by treating others as you would treat us. Amen.

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