Super Deflated …

“As far as God was concerned, he [Zedekiah] was just one more evil king… He became set in his own stubborn ways.” 2 Chronicles 36: 12-13

Super bowl partyWe don’t deal with kings and queen in our country, but if you ask anyone in Phoenix, Arizona, today what is ruling our fair city, they would say, “Super Bowl!” All the hype is about to come to a climax tomorrow when the Seattle Seahawks and Boston Patriots and their fans take over the stadium where the Cardinals wish they were playing instead of the Seahawks.

However, the Patriots came to town with a scandal dubbed “Deflate-gate.” The controversy began on a colder-than-average day with an underinflated football intercepted by a Colts player and kept as a “prize.” Later, officials discovered eleven of the twelve Patriot footballs were not inflated to regulation specifications.

Quarterback (King) Tom Brady denied any knowledge of deflated footballs. His boyhood idol, 49ers Joe Montana, responded to Brady’s comment, “Brady is behind the Patriots playing in the AFC Championship game against the Indianapolis Colts with underinflated footballs.” That statement must have deflated Tom Brady.

Tom Brady and the Patriots are not evil, regardless of Deflate-gate, as were many of the Kings of the Old Testament. Deflate-gate will fade into history if the Seahawks win the Super Bowl!

Lord, remind us it is better to play the game of life with a properly inflated ball. Amen.

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Open house theory. . .

Home to“Be a guestroom where I can retreat; you said your door was always open.” Psalm 71:3

In this passage, the Psalmist refers to God as a guestroom. To me, this also means I should be a guestroom provider. When we have been fortunate to have a guestroom, I have felt God intended for it to be occupied by someone who needed a temporary home.

Besides friends and family who stay for a week or so, we have housed three teenage boys, three young women, a mother with a four-year old, a friend transitioning from Nebraska to Arizona, and my favorite guest—my mother who has escaped Iowa winters by staying with us. Currently, a retired female snowbird occupies my guestroom until she returns to California.

I have prepared the spare room to be homey for a long stay—a table and reading lamp, a swivel rocker that reclines and has a nice footrest. Recently, the thought crossed my mind, “If I add a small refrigerator and microwave and put a flat screen TV on the wall, I could rent the room out. I could put a note (like the ones in hotel rooms) on the back of the guestroom door, showing a Visa/Master Card symbol and daily, weekly, and monthly rates.

I’m afraid this idea won’t make me rich. God has my number and refers folks to us who need a place to stay. I doubt if they even have a credit card.

Blessed Jesus, thank you for the offer to retreat in your heavenly home without paying a single penny. Amen.

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A great cleaning

Clean heart“He [Josiah] scrubbed the place clean, Judah and Jerusalem, clean inside and out.”
2 Chronicles 34:6

Josiah became king at the age of eight. By time he was twelve, he had become knowledgeable about the God of David, his ancestor. During his teen years, he cleansed Jerusalem and Judah of shrines, goddess figurines, and any false gods. A big project for a young man.

I began my housekeeping career at the age of twelve. My mother worked full time, and during the summer months, she hired me to clean the house and do the laundry for six people. For these tasks, I received $2.50 per week, not bad when Mother only made $.75 an hour.

As a freshman in high school, I began to clean for Mrs. Sandell, my home economics teacher, who lived across the street. Every Friday after school (or Saturday morning during basketball season), I cleaned for three hours and received $1.00 per hour. She trained me the way she wanted every detail of the housework done. It took me years of cleaning my own home before I decided I didn’t have to sweep under the furniture one week and to vacuum the upholstery the following week. Today, the underside of my furniture rarely sees the headlights of a vacuum cleaner.

In verse 33, it is written, “All through Josiah’s life the people kept to the straight and narrow, obediently following.” Unfortunately, after his reign, many of the leaders and priests turned away from God and created the need for further cleansing.

Dear Lord, “Soak me in your laundry and I’ll come out clean, scrub me and I’ll have a snow-white life.” (Psalm 51:7) Amen.

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Do it over again!

“Get another blank scroll and do it all over again.” Jeremiah 36:27

Keep writingWe learned yesterday that Jehoiakim, the king of Judah, did not accept Jeremiah’s message from God and had the scroll burned. God ordered Jeremiah to repeat the process; this time he added a stronger message, “No descendant of his will ever rule from David’s throne…. I will punish him and his children and officials in his government for their blatant sin.” (vs. 30-31)

I began my writing career as a ghostwriter for an inspirational magazine. During my training the, editor said, “We edit and rewrite everyone’s manuscripts—sometimes heavily.” One time I wrote about a family with eight children, seven adopted from drug-addicted mothers. I submitted the first draft written in the father’s voice, because most stories are about women. Rejected. On the second rewrite, I used the voice of the natural child, a thirteen year-old girl. Rejected, again. For the third attempt, I wrote in the mother’s voice, and the article was published, after heavy editing.

As I write, I picture in my mind an audience or person who might want to read my work. Occasionally, I miss my target. Jeremiah’s effort to write for God missed his target, too. King Jehoiakim couldn’t be bothered by God’s words written specifically to him. God couldn’t be bothered by the king, either.

Lord, thank you for editors that help get the messages written with clarity and purpose. Amen

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Write it down for all to hear …

“Tell us, how did you come to write all this? Was it as Jeremiah’s dictation?”
Jeremiah 36:17

TruthIn this chapter of Jeremiah, God commanded Jeremiah to get a scroll and write down everything he was going to tell him regarding Israel and surrounding nations. God wanted to foreworn the people of the disaster they would experience if they didn’t change their ways.

Jeremiah dictated the message he received from God, and Baruch wrote it down on a scroll. Eventually Baruch read the scroll to the people who took the message to the king. But the king didn’t seem to take it seriously.

While working for the social service agency of our county, there were a few occasions when I sat in on a hearing to take notes of the conversation. It often took a week for me to transcribe the hearing, especially when the discussion heated up and many people would interject their thoughts at the same time. I did my best to descramble the voices, but it would not have surprised me if a lawyer or judge reading the document asked, “Who wrote this down?”

We don’t always like what we hear or read—especially when it makes us take responsibility for our actions.

Lord, help us accept bad news and turn our lives around. Amen.

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Blackballed?

“I’m blacklisted. I can’t go into God’s temple.” Jeremiah 36:5

Rainbow bracelet given to me by my other mother, Jeanne Reedholm.

Rainbow bracelet given to me by my other mother, Jeanne Reedholm.

I can’t imagine what I could do that would get me blacklisted from my church. I would have to be placed behind bars for that to happen, as I know God would never shut the doors to his kingdom from me unless I threw away the key to my faith by renouncing my faith or living an unethical or unlawful life.

In Junior High I was invited to join the Order of Rainbow Girls, a youth organization of the Masons and Eastern Star. I remember the process of applying and being accepted by the assembly. Each of the member were given a white marble and a black marble and had the opportunity to blackball the candidate. Fortunately, I got all white marbles and went through the program until I graduated from high school. I don’t recall any girl being blackballed.

My father did not approve of my association with the fraternal organization. He said, “Being a Rainbow Girl won’t keep any of the girls from getting pregnant!” CRAZY THINKING! In doing some research, I found that Sandra Day O’Connor, the first woman to be appointed Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, had been a Rainbow Girl. Obviously, the leadership she learned from the organization worked for her. And, it worked for me—I did not get pregnant. 

Dear Lord, renew in me a right spirit each day to live in your earthly kingdom. Amen.

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Truth is stranger than fiction …

cat quoteYou’ve just heard scripture make history. It came true just now in this place.
Luke 4:21

While Jesus was in Nazareth, he went to the synagogue. He read from the scroll where he prophesied about the Messiah—and was reading about himself. Apparently, the worshippers were captivated and seemed to understand something special was happening. He confirmed it by saying, “It came true just now.” However, it didn’t take long before everyone reverted to the fact that Jesus was just the son of the carpenter, Joseph.

What does it take to convince someone that he or she is really who they claim to be? With TV cameras on our famous people and politicians, one would think it would be easy to identify the truth when we see it. Unfortunately, for all the good press, we have bad press, too, and some people delight in distorting the truth, such as what we see on magazines covers while waiting to check out at the grocery store.

In John 8:32, Jesus told the Jews that if they believe him and stick with what he tells them, then they would experience the truth, and “the truth will free you.” So, why was it so hard for them to believe Jesus? Perhaps it seemed too good to be true.

Lord, you know the truth and want us to follow your directions and examples through Jesus. Amen.

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The cost of money …

“Don’t you care what the nations around here, our enemies, think of you?” Nehemiah 2:9

moneyNehemiah faced a difficult situation during a great famine. Poor people were starving, and the wealthy people took advantage of the poor—including their own relatives. They loaned them money with unfair rates of return. Often the people had to sell themselves or family members into slavery to pay their debts.

The people began to protest, and Nehemiah became very angry. He called a meeting with the rich people and boldly said, “Each one of you is gouging his brother… What you are doing is wrong. Is there no fear of God left in you?” (vs. 7,9) Because of Nehemiah, the rich people agreed to give the money back to save their reputation.

Unfortunately, families continue to be greedy and fight between themselves because of money. I know several families who have splintered over the estate of their parents—usually farm property. In one instance, the mother loaned her son money from one farm sale to keep another farm alive. After she died, the son said the farm was his and he had no obligation to repay the estate for the loan.

Nehemiah would have told the brother, “What you are doing is wrong!” It seems when people are suffering from in grief, they find it difficult to discern what is right and fair, or just plain wrong.

Dear God, help us see what is right in your eyes when we deal with issues of the pocketbook. Amen.

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Sunrise, Sunset …

“God’s glory is on tour in the skies, God-craft on exhibit across the horizon.”
Psalm 19:1

Sunset in Sun City

Sunset in Sun City

The other evening on our way home from dinner, Glen and I made an unplanned stop to look for a new rug for my office. About a half hour later, we pulled out of the parking lot and started west toward our home. There it was! One of the most glorious sunsets I have seen in nearly thirteen years living in Arizona. During the red traffic lights, I captured many pictures of the sunset, and later posted the best one on Facebook.

David, the writer of many of the Psalms, often used the wonders of God’s creation (nature and animals) as a metaphor. Eugene Peterson (The Message Bible) must have delighted in how he interpreted David. The sun as a superdome, the morning sun as “a new husband leaping from his honeymoon bed,” and daybreak as an athlete “racing to the tape.”

I like to think a sunrise is God’s way of saying, “Hello, my child. Embrace me during the day.” Sunsets remind me of God’s grace and love lavished to me throughout the day, and as a way to shut off the noises of the world and to rest.

Dear God, remind us when the sun rises, you are the force that moves us through the day and when the sun sets, to rest. Amen

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Called to serve …

“The Spirit of GOD, the Master, is on me because GOD anointed me. He sent me to preach good news to the poor, heal the heartbroken.” Isaiah 61:7

IMG00228-20100918-1015On Christmas Day, I took one of my Humble Beginning books and a tin of Christmas cookies to meet my new neighbors, John and Marie (ages 83 and 85). A few weeks later, John got double pneumonia and died. That night, Marie said, “We don’t want a formal church memorial service, but would you do a small service for John?” I said I would be honored to do something for the family and friends.

Later I wondered what made me think I could say something to the family and friends that would give them peace and hope during their grief. Then I remembered the small, graveside service I did a few years ago for my mother-in-law when she passed.

I read Psalm 23 from The Message and prayed for her eternal life and for peace for those grieving. Then I offered every family the opportunity to place a rose on the grave and to spend as much time as they needed to say, “See you later, Grandma.” After the funeral home director placed the urn in the hole, the grandchildren spontaneously gathered in a circle. With their bare hands, they gently filled the hole and smoothed out the rich black soil. The funeral home director said it was the most beautiful graveside service she had seen.

Lord, thank you for sending the Holy Spirit to assist me in my ministry. Amen.

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