God can be questioned …

“For a tree there is always hope.
Chop it down and it still has a chance—
its roots can put out fresh sprouts.” Job 14:7

Sun City, Arizona, was developed on an orange grove. The developers planted a variety of orange trees in the mediums and many homes placed different varieties in their yards. New shoots grow from the trunk each year, and it is common to see them cut back to where one would believe they were going to die. But they survive and become more beautiful.

In Job 14, he is lamenting about how frail and troublesome life is. His life was a riches to rags story. Job continued to talk to God and questioned, “Why?” He knew he had done nothing wrong to make God angry enough to destroy his life. God didn’t do anything except he let Satan experiment with Job’s faithfulness. Through all of Job’s distress, he didn’t give up on God. He knew his real life was with God.

When life kicks you around, there is one thing to hold on to: Hope. Our hope is in knowing that God is for us, not against us. We build our faith on the resurrection of Jesus–proof wants us to have eternal life with him. We must remember God doesn’t pick on us with the illnesses, hardships, and tragedies. It’s the world that is full of sin and evil.

Lord, thanks for allowing us to question your love and yet feel your presence in our lives. Amen.

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Dare to be compassionate …

“God is gracious—it is he who makes things right, our most compassionate God. God takes the side of the helpless; when I was at the end of my rope, he saved me.” Psalm 116:6

Merriam-Webster defines compassion as sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it. Our world needs more compassion.

In the book “Self Compassion—the Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself, written by”Kristin Neff, Ph.D., she tells how we begin the process of becoming more compassionate. First, we need to recognize our own suffering by acknowledging our misdeeds. The fact is, we screw up and make poor choices that cause pain to someone else and to our own self-esteem.

Sometimes a law keeps us from moving into action for fear of a legal ramification. My niece Jana is a nurse and wrote a story about a day when she dared to show compassion. Her teenage daughter caused a delay in leaving the house, and while pulling out of the parking lot, an elderly lady fell two feet into a drainage ditch in front of her car. Jana grabbed her work bag with the supplies she needed to clean the woman’s wounds and bandage her. Then, she helped her out of the ditch and to her car.

I’m convinced God delayed Jana to be an angel to show compassion for another human being. We need to dare to be like Jana and be helpful in whatever way possible when someone is in distress or suffering.

Lord, we thank you for being our compassionate God. Amen.

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God didn’t do it …

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
    naked I’ll return to the womb of the earth.
God gives, God takes.
    God’s name be ever blessed.” Job 1:21

Recently, I had a conversation with a friend about how difficult it is for me to pray for safety and protection for those who face danger for a career: Policemen, fire fighters (including forest fires), and especially our military men and women. The sad fact is that prayer isn’t going to keep all of these people from dying. He reminded me we pray for God’s will in all things and hope those taken did not die without having lived for their cause and purpose in life.

Job had everything until Satan appeared before God and said he was checking out people on Earth. God said to Satan, “Have you noticed my friend Job? There’s no one quite like him—honest and true to his word, totally devoted to God and hating evil.” (vs. 8) Satan took this man on as a challenge and replied, “But what do you think would happen if you reached down and took away everything that is his? He’d curse you right to your face, that’s what.” (vs. 11)

Satan caused Job to lose his incredible wealth and all his family, except his wife. Yet, he didn’t say, “Why me, Lord?” Instead he never sinned nor blamed God for his lose.

Job knew God didn’t cause his loss. We need to remember this when we suffer too.

Lord, give us strength to stand strong when facing trials in life. Amen.

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What good comes from ugly words…

“But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives… things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity…. a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people.” Galatians 5:22

Yesterday I posted a statement on Facebook from a Las Vegas policeman after the massacre. He didn’t brag up his bravery, but used the analogy that a sheepdog springs into action when he sees a sheep straying, and that’s how a policeman reacts in a crisis.

I continued to read from Facebook today and was saddened by postings made by people who were trying to justify their feelings about the big G – Guns—and the violence caused by a mass shooting. Every time there is a mass shooting, the same statement appears—”Guns don’t kill.” Then nonsense quotes, such as “If a truck runs into a crowd, would you bane trucks?”

The bantering back and forth between the pros and cons of gun laws and control gets to the point of verbal violence—name calling such as “communist” and “soulless monster.” I want to know how such ugliness can solve the problem of gun violence or any crime.

At this time we need to reach deep into our souls and find whatever compassion we have for the people who were either killed, injured, or those grieving over their loss. Debating on Facebook will not solve the problem of violence.

Lord, you are the author of compassion. Help us learn from you. Amen.

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Be a shepherd …

“I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd puts the sheep before himself, sacrifices himself if necessary.” John 10:11

I’ve been reading postings on Facebook about the shooting in Las Vegas. The following analogy came from a J Van Dyke, Spring Valley, Nevada, and Las Vegas Policeman, following his shift on the night of the Las Vegas tragic shooting.

“The sheep don’t always want the sheepdog around, because he reminds them there is evil in the world. But, still, the sheepdog is willing to fight in defense of the sheep and at a moment’s notice, he is willing to lay down his own life for the sheep he loves. It is simply who he is.”

This tells how a policeman or other officers can go into duty without debating the consequences. Without saying, this statement parallels  with scripture in which Jesus refers himself as being the shepherd.

“Suppose one of you had a hundred sheep and lost one. Wouldn’t you leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the lost one until you found it? When found, you can be sure you would put it across your shoulders, rejoicing, and when you got home call in your friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Celebrate with me! I’ve found my lost sheep!’” Luke 15:4-7

The shooter in Las Vegas was a lost sheep. If only he had had a sheepdog or shepherd who could have steered him away from evil. We all need to become shepherds in this world.

Lord, we pray for the soul of the lost sheep who commits crime. Amen.

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Peace for the process, please …

“The person in right standing before God by trusting him really lives.” Romans 1:17

Today there was another mass shooting–worse than any other in our nation’s history. No one can begin to understand why this guy wanted to kill or injure so many people he didn’t know. All we can say is, “He must be mentally ill” because no one in their right mind would do such a horrific act.

When we go out to a movie, concert, or dinner, we want to trust that we will not be harmed. If we let our fears take over we would be sentencing ourselves to a life bound by the walls of our homes. And, sadly enough, there is no guarantee that we will not experience tragedy under our own roof.

We need to face our fears about violence and understand we are living in a time when crime makes the news almost daily. No matter how we try, there is no control over someone shooting out of a hotel window on the 32nd floor. Even if everyone attending the concert had been toting a gun, it would not have stopped the killer from spraying bullets at the large crowd.

We need faith to trust that the majority of people in our society aren’t going to shoot into a crowd. We have to trust our government will continue to work on controlling the guns that have no business in the hands of anyone other than the military and police.

Dear God, for now give us peace that passes all understanding. Amen.

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An act of faith …

“By an act of faith, Abraham said yes to God’s call to travel to an unknown place that would become his home … By an act of faith he lived in the country promised him, lived as a stranger camping in tents.” Hebrews 11:8,9

I’m camping in Northwestern New Jersey with my daughter and her family to celebrate Nate’s ninth birthday. Years ago they bought a camping trailer with fold down ends (called a hybrid) that makes one think they are sleeping in a tent. The boys love it, and I tolerate it with the help of the amenities of a home cleverly placed in a twenty-one-foot camper.

Abraham didn’t have the luxury of a camping trailer with running water, a refrigerator, and comfortable beds. I’m assuming their tents were nothing more than tarps fashioned into a temporary shelter and beds made from straw or any soft fiber.

When we consider the luxuries we have and those living around the world today in tents in refugee centers or in their own countries after a disaster, it is rather rude of me to gloat about camping in a nice camper. And, as Dave Berry said, “Camping is nature’s way of promoting the motel business.”

I think children should experience tent camping at least once in their lifetime to appreciate what they have at home. And,  when studying the Old Testament, they will understand what the people endured just to survive.

I’m grateful, Lord, for all the conveniences in my life. Amen.

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Finding courage to trust …

“God is a safe place to hide, ready to help when we need him. We stand fearless at the cliff-edge of doom, courageous in sea storm and earthquake…. Before the rush and roar of oceans, the tremors that shift mountains.” Psalm 46:1-3

I’ve had Daisy, a rescue dog, for nearly two years. It took two weeks for my son to capture her in his yard. A veterinarian guessed her age to be somewhere between puppyhood and adult dog, but no one knows her history. By the matted fur and protruding ribs, we could only assume she had been on the streets for a few weeks.

A rescue puppy doesn’t just thank you for taking her or him in. It takes time for the animal to trust his environment and people. Daily used to run and hide under a bed any time someone came to the house. She wouldn’t allow anyone to touch her without seeing the fear in her eyes, and she’d snap at anyone who tried to put a collar around her neck. She was dragged around the block before she learned it was okay to walk by my side, and she had to learn to eat out of a bowl instead of the floor. Fortunately, she was house trained.

Humans can express their distrust and can build courage by challenging their fears. And we can seek help from the ultimate trustee—Our Lord and Savior.

Thank you, Lord, for being our safe place to land while we become more courageous. Amen.

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How about a tea party?

“You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.” Matthew 5:6

Throughout the day, I consume a variety of teas, beginning with British Breakfast and then switching to herbal teas. Marketing experts name teas to get our attention, like Comfort and Joy, Get Some ZZZ’S, and Perfect Energy which is advertised to energize the body and focuses the mind. So far, I have not seen any positive results from this tea.

For my fourth birthday, my Aunt Shirley gave me a children’s tea set with four little plates for cookies (or biscuits if in England), four tiny tea cups and saucers, and a tea pot. It was fragile and so beautiful that I rarely took it out of the box. One day a friend came to play. We set up the tea set on my bed and one of the plates fell to the floor and broke. I cried and my mom glued it back together, but it was never the same. Every time I looked at it, I saw the one patched up plate instead of the other twelve perfectly lovely pieces. I never had another tea party with the dishes.

A cup of tea can give you temporary comfort and joy. But when we encounter disaster or distress of any kind, we need something that can give us strength. That’s when we need to brew a strong cup of faith.

Lord, give us an appetite and thirst for life with you. Amen.

 

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A mantra for you …

“God, who can’t be fooled by any pretense on our part but always knows a person’s thoughts, gave them the Holy Spirit exactly as he gave him to us.” Acts 15:8-9

There are different ways to control thoughts that try to steer your life onto a dead-end street. Gratitude is one of the key ones I’ve practiced. Recently, I read a post from “Marc and Angel’s Hack Life” to use a gratitude mantra to help change your thought patterns.

Many people will hear the word “mantra” and think of it only in the context of the Hindu or Buddhism religions. Even though the use of mantras have its origin back 3000 years as a religious tool, today many use mantras—a word or phrase—as a way to bring about relaxation or a state of meditation.

Marc and Angel recommend recording in a book or journal different mantras to draw upon when you need a spiritual boost. One I like is “God is good all the time; all the time God is good.” Or, state a truth like, “I am happier when I complain less.” Another could be something you know but need to be reminded: “I don’t get all that I want, but God knows what I need.” My favorite from Marc and Angel: “Never let all the things you want make you forget about all the things you have.”

If repeating a few thoughtful words can help put your mind to ease, it’s worth a try.

Thank, Lord, for knowing our thoughts and our desire to change. Amen.

 

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