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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Do something …

“But soon word was going around in Judah, the builders are pooped, the rubbish piles up; we’re in over our heads, we can’t build this wall.” Nehemiah 4: 10

There are two permanent residents on Whispering Willow Lane where we are spending the summer. One is a young couple with a small child. Early this spring when we arrived, a young man was building a new deck on the front of the cabin, but since that time, the refurbishing project of the old, run-down cabin appears to be on hold. Building supplies are lined up on the porch, which makes me  wonder if they are overwhelmed with the project. I pray for this couple and ways as a neighborhood we can help them. Someday, perhaps God will reveal a plan.

When Nehemiah took on the project of rebuilding the wall around the Temple, he gathered good people who worked hard because “the people had a heart for the work.” (vs. 6) Rival neighbors were furious about the wall repair project and picked a fight with Jerusalem and caused trouble. But Nehemiah prayed to God for strength to finish the project, and then said to his crew, “Don’t be afraid of them. Put your minds on the Master, great and awesome… (vs. 16a).

I pray the young couple hasn’t become discouraged about the big project they took on. I want to say to them, “Put your mind on the Master. He will give you strength for the job.”

Lord, give us strength for all our tasks. Amen.

 

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It’s your choice …

Amaziah interrupted him, “Did I ask for your opinion? Shut up or get thrown out!” The prophet quit speaking, but not before he got in one last word: “I have it on good authority: God has made up his mind to throw you out because of what you’ve done, and because you wouldn’t listen to me.” 2 Chronicles 25:16

There’s only one true authority, as Amaziah announced. God has the last word. It never ceases to amaze me how one incident in the news can travel around the world and become a big issue. You might guess I’m writing about the “knee down” during the National Anthem by a professional football player.

It bothers me that issues have to be seen as personal and/or political and one needs to take sides and kneel or stand on their own sideline. I once was told, “If I want your opinion, I’ll tell you what to say.” It seems this is becoming the norm for all incidents that gather steam behind the news and social media.  And, no one, Linda Gillis nor the president of the U.S., can dictate a universal proclamation for every situation.

God gave everyone a mind to use. Some people over-use them; others under-utilize the ability to think for themselves. As for the National Anthem, more people need to quit chatting during the song and either stand up or kneel down to pay respect for what their country stands for.

Dear Lord, help us make a big deal out of issues that affect the body, mind, and soul. Amen.

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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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