Go ahead and try …

“While they were praying, the place where they were meeting trembled and shook. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak God’s Word with fearless confidence.” Acts 4:31

Playing basketball had been my dream since elementary school, and I fretted that I would not be good enough to make the team some day. We didn’t have basketball in junior high, but I seriously started practicing basketball skills in the eighth grade on a concrete slab with a hoop in my neighbor’s yard. Every evening around 5:00, I’d be on that court shooting hoops for an hour because I knew the girls’ basketball coach would be walking home after school. I’m not sure he even noticed my efforts.

When it came time to try out for the team, I still lacked confidence I would make it. Later, I realized any five-foot-ten inches girl who could walk and chew gum at the same time was likely to make the cut. When I found my name on the posted roster, my confidence soared—until the first game and I prayed the coach wouldn’t put me in to play!

There is no way to practice to be more confident. It comes from doing—getting out and trying whatever is making you feel you aren’t capable. You’ll never make a great pie, run a marathon, read scripture in church, etc., without proving it to yourself even if it makes you tremble in your shoes.

Lord, help us move from lack of confidence to trusting our abilities. Amen.

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Whine less, worship more!

“Why didn’t God let us die in comfort in Egypt where we had lamb stew and all the bread we could eat? You’ve brought us out into this wilderness to starve us to death, the whole company of Israel!” Exodus 16:3

Whining has become an American pastime. People sit around in coffee shops, the kitchen table, desks at work, etc., and most often someone has to whine about something. Pastor Mark reminded us this morning that when compared with most people in the world, we have no reason to whine.

My mother’s first two grandchildren were born in Japan. Upon their return to the states as toddlers, mother announced, “I need a washer and dryer for these kids.” She had been using her wringer washer in the basement and clothesline in the back yard until 1969! Mother was a product of the “make do” generation. Better yet, she never whined about the chore.

During the great exodus from Egypt to the Promised Land, the people whined because they were used to their old conditions—working too hard, the poor living conditions, and daily rations. God listened to their whining and sent them quail and manna to sustain their bodies. Moses reminded them when they whined, they were whining to God, not man.

Pastor Mark said whining comes out of being dissatisfied with what we have and being out of balance in our minds and souls. And, he added, one can’t worship and whine at the same time.

Thank you, Lord, for putting us back into balance through your loving grace. Amen.

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Under construction …

“The actual construction of the Temple began in June of the second year of their arrival at Jerusalem. The work force was made up of all those who had returned…” Ezra 3:1

How can I work a story about making pumpkin pie and building a temple have in common? Let’s look at the Book of Ezra for a clue.  Seven months of planning and getting supplies together, manpower, and crew leaders preceded the beginning the Second Temple. They wanted it done perfectly.

This morning before heading to my outdoor office to write, I hurriedly whipped up a pumpkin pie. But before pouring the liquid mess into pie plates, something made me stop and review the ingredients I had added. The first item on the recipe is sugar. “Oh, my! I left out the sugar!” That revelation took me back many years when I served pumpkin pie at a Thanksgiving family dinner. My brother Dean took a big bite of the pie, looked at me, and said, “Sorry, Sis, something is missing.” Sugar. I had missed the first and an important ingredient! The pie was salvaged by burying it in a huge mound of whipped cream.

The Second Temple faced problems during construction, not by failing to prepare for the project, but by interference from Samaria. It took twenty-three years to complete.

No matter how big or small a project–building a temple or baking a pumpkin pie, it takes good preparation to get the job done right.

Lord, help us prepare carefully for all our projects in life. Amen.

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Beautiful fall …

“The moon keeps track of the seasons, the sun is in charge of each day… men and women go out to work, busy at their jobs until evening.” Psalm 104:19,23

Today is the first day of fall…autumn…or as used to be called in the 1300’s—harvest because it was the time for gathering the mature crops. Autumn became a popular term in English writing and stuck. But by the mid-1800’s, the word “fall” became popular to refer to the season when the leaves are falling.

The leaves along Dunning Creek have begun to fall and drift away. Some old timers say it will be an early fall, because the leaves are beginning to change color. I’ve always loved the season fall. It’s a peaceful time in nature—even the leaves fall gracefully and slowly to the ground. I love apple picking, pumpkin pies, a quilt tucked under my chin at night, and even the electric fireplace gives our cabin a cozy feeling.

But fall isn’t for everyone. A report written by Elaine Aron, PhD, in The Highly Sensitive Person indicates sensitive people experience more anxiety during early fall, because it’s the season of change. Schools go back into session, the slower-paced summer routines are over, and people tend to begin to settle in with new jobs, houses, etc.

Many people see fall as the precurser to winter. That alone makes me anxious, too, and the reason I’ll be returning to Arizona before the last leaf falls on Dunning Creek.

Thank you, Lord, for the beauty of each season. Amen.

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Waiting for a letter …

“Like a cool drink of water when you’re worn out and weary is a letter from a long-lost friend. Proverbs 25:25

Today I asked permission to share this FB post from a young woman friend from England:

“I wrote a handwritten letter to a family member last week and got a reply in under 48 hours.  It felt JOYOUS to have an ‘actual’ letter. I didn’t realise that I’d missed the dwindling act over the last couple of decades.   My letter wasn’t fancy… just a few sides of A4 torn out of my workbook with big scrawly writing.  Putting pen to paper was such a great feeling and getting a reply – EVEN better… If you fancy getting a letter (it’s worth it… I promise), send me a message on fb private messaging and I’ll give you my address and we can exchange scribings.”

One needs to make it a priority to put love into someone’s day, even something like a hand-written letter in their mailbox, just like Lynsey suggests. Thanks, Lynsey for sharing.

Help us, Lord, to value what is dear to our hearts—something as simple as a letter. Amen.

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Snakes…friend or foe?

Jesus said, “I saw Satan fall, a bolt of lightning out of the sky. See what I’ve given you? Safe passage as you walk on snakes and scorpions, and protection from every assault of the Enemy.” Luke 10:18

I haven’t had much experience with snakes. As a kid on the farm I occasionally a garter snake. Living in Arizona, I’ve had a couple of encounters with snakes; one incident in my own yard when I stepped over a two-foot rattle snake. When my husband said, “There’s a snake,” I reacted by back stepping over it again. Fortunately, it was stretched out sunning itself.

While working at a retreat center, a guest told me there was a big snake by the entrance of the conference room. Being the only staff person on campus, I put on a brave face, got the bucket and pincer on a long handle, and went to do my duty. Just as I arrived a young man swooped his long arms down and grabbed the four-foot king snake and removed it to a safe place. I felt as if God had heard my prayer for help and sent the young man as my angel.

Yesterday, I saw a snake slithering down stream in the river. Fear may keep me from stepping into the river again. But, it would be a shame to let fear of a harmless snake keep me from getting into the river on a hot summer day.

Lord, help me to learn to love and respect all your creatures, including snakes. Amen.

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Wounded …

“Then Jesus made a circuit of all the towns and villages. He taught in their meeting places, reported kingdom news, and healed their diseased bodies, healed their bruised and hurt lives.” Matthew 9:35

Last week while shopping, my Contigo mug fell out of my purse and made a direct hit on the first joint of the toe next to the big toe. The mug was full of tea, and with its sharp edges, it felt as if the joint had been smashed or broken. Immediately, it began to discolor. The pain stopped me in my tracks.

Think of all the times your body has been wounded by cuts or bruises. If every bruise we received since childhood accumulated and remained on our bodies, it would look as if a tattoo artist had gone mad. But God created an amazing body. The moment there is damage to the skin or any other part of the body, it tries to heal itself, and with time, most minor injuries scab over and fade away.

Bruised egos and emotional wounds must go through a healing process too. If the wound is deep enough, it may heal on the outside and need additional help. We can ask Jesus, the great healer who had a few scars of his own, to help us heal.

Five days later, my toes  no longer hurts, but the deep red bruise remains to . remind me to be more careful next time I carry a heavy metal object in my purse.

Lord, help us heal all our wounds. Amen.

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Work for the Lord …

“The diligent find freedom in their work; the lazy are oppressed by work.” Proverbs 12:24

Years ago I was a Class A workaholic. The satisfaction I received from working and achieving under stressful conditions fed me to the point where I suffered a serious health crisis. After a three-month recovery, I went back to the same office and into the same bad habits.

About three months later, my husband and I went on a relaxing vacation. After eight hours back on the job, I felt as if I had not been on vacation at all. The next day I went to my boss and said, “I can’t do this anymore. I am going to give up my job.” But being the good workaholic, I gave them a three-month notice!

I learned on my next job—working for the church—that there is a difference between hard work and working hard. One can make any task hard work. Attitudes of perfectionism, “Nobody can do it as well as I can,” and the supposition that the establishment will fall apart if I’m not around is not on any job description.

I learned to enjoy working for the Lord is the best way to keep from burnout. And, I believe anyone can work for the Lord on any job. It’s about approaching work with the attitude you are serving someone other than your own ego. In return, the Lord will show you how to love your work

Help us, Lord, to bring a fresh new attitude to work with us each day. Amen.

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Play on …

“Because you’ve always stood up for me,
I’m free to run and play.
I hold on to you for dear life,
and you hold me steady as a post.” Psalm 63:7-8

Have you forgotten how to play? In the Psalms, David wrote about his sorrowful life. But in Psalm 63, he has found joy—a playful thope of joy in knowing that God was with him.

Playfulness should come natural to us, but often we don’t schedule it into our appointment book to take a break from the seriousness of work and problems. But it is possible to make play out of work, even in our conversations, which doesn’t take you away from your job. Sometimes, when working around the house, I’ll do my own version of “Flashdance” and whirl around, you know, like in the quote “Dance as if nobody is watching.”

In the book “Living Your Unlived Life,” author Robert A. Johnson tells a story about a very successful man whose life was full of richness but lacked joy. One day, out of weariness, he went for a long walk on the beach and came upon a seal. They connected and “danced” on the shore and even swam together. This experience caused him to rethink his life, and he gave up his job, bought a big sailboat, and hit the open seas and became a new person who loved to have fun.

Dear Lord, help us to give ourselves permission to play and to enjoy life, even during the busiest or hardest times of our lives. Amen.

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Listen up …

“Isn’t it just common sense— as common as the sense of taste— To put our heads together and figure out what’s going on here?” Job 34:4

Every now and then I run across something on the Internet that is too good to not share. One in particular was written by George Carlin who was known as a comedienne and author. To highlight a few of the paradoxes he listed:

  • We have taller buildings but shorter tempers, wider Freeways, but narrower viewpoints.
  • We spend more, but have less, we buy more, but enjoy less. We have bigger houses and smaller families, more conveniences, but less time.
  • We have more degrees but less sense, more knowledge, but less judgment, more experts, yet more problems, more medicine, but less wellness.

The observations made by Carlin continue about drinking, smoking, spending, driving too fast, laughing too little…, and my favorite, loving too seldom and hating too often.

OYou don’t have to be a professor to have profound thinking skills and wisdom. Mr. Carlin reminds me that I need to practice being a better person and to be a better steward of my time, money, and relationships.

He also says, “We’ve learned how to make a living, but not life. We’ve added years to life not life to years.”

Let’s spend more time with our heads out of the clouds by the skyscrapers and our noses out of the Internet and embrace life where we are with whom we love.

Lord, thank you for the amazing insight that comes from wise people. Amen.

 

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