For your weekend…

Calling all patriots!  This is a ‘read a book’ challenge…just in time for our celebration of Independence Day here in America on July 4th!  Yes, I know.  It’s a little bit early.  That’s the point.  I want you to have time to go to the library, the bookstore, do a Kindle download or whatever it is you need to do in order to read this book before July 4th.

I’ve been an Andy Andrews fan for a long time, but this little book of his is truly something special.  The one I’m referring to is How Do You Kill 11 Million People?–why the truth matters more than you think…and yes, you read that right and no, I have not lost my mind!  Published in 2011, this tiny book is only 80 very short pages long, but the message it contains is absolutely HUGE.SONY DSC

You need to read this.  Whether you live in the US or somewhere else…it does NOT matter.  You NEED to read this book.

Although I heard an interview with the author shortly after the book was published, I didn’t read it until just a few months ago.  Afterwards, I couldn’t believe I had waited so long to do so.  I have waited to share this challenge here for several reasons, but the time for it has finally arrived.

Never before has there been a time when our society has been so thoroughly fractured–with each and every side having so many paid–and loud!–proponents representing each faction.  Opposing political, spiritual, moral and legal issues are center stage for all of us and although I know we’ll never have a day when everyone agrees on every single issue, this book is all about something we CAN all agree on:  the need for truth and what happens when we make decisions without having access to the truth beforehand.

This challenge will take you less than an hour to complete, but I promise you:  it will stay with you much  longer than that and it will make a difference in how you evaluate what you hear for years to come.

I’m not going to tell you anything else for now.  I want you to have time to read this for yourselves…and then…I want you to chime in and tell me what you think!  You can do that here in the comments section, reach me by email, phone, in person or by snail mail.  I don’t care how you do it, just let me hear from you on this one!  This is one of those things we need to do for ourselves and for our nation.

Take the challenge!  Read the book!  Meet me back here to share your thoughts on it!  Oh, yes!  One more thing:  if you’re smart, you’ll go ahead and buy more than one copy so you can share it with others!  It will save you another trip later.

Grace & Peace!

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Provision

It’s early in the day and it’s already been a busy one! Emails and postings, texts and phone calls are coming in and going out at an unbelievable rate.

Each one has contained a prayer request, an updating of a need or just the expression of concern and an awareness of the needs of others.  I just mentioned to a friend that I had been sitting in my chair thanking God for all of His provisions…and being aware of how very different they look for all of us this morning.

  • My husband is taking a 3-hour exam this morning—one he’s spent months preparing to take.
  • A friend’s husband is in the hospital and waiting on the doctors to find out what’s going on and why.
  • Another friend’s family is under attack from someone who means to cause them harm.
  • One friend is looking forward to an upcoming job change and a move to go with it.
  • A high-school classmate is facing cancer.
  • A family I love is facing relationship and legal issues.
  • We have friends and family who are starting their vacations today and they’ll be traveling.
  • A friend’s brother is in need of healing after attempting to end his life.

The list goes on and on.  Both the joys and the sorrows are real.  The questions are different in each and every case…and yet…the answer is still the same:  God.

He’s the One we’re all reaching for today.  He’s the One we’re trusting in for all these different provisions.  No matter what we face, He will be enough.  Actually, He’ll be more than enough.

How do I know?  Well, I could say “experience” or I could say “I have faith and I’m hoping for the best!”  Both of those answers would be accurate, but the real reason I can say that is this:  My God is so much into providing that it’s one of His names!

Jehovah Jireh.  It means “the God Who Sees.”  It means “the God Who Provides.”  It means “The God who sees what we need and provides it even before we’re aware our need of it!”  It means that He has a plan.  For each of us–individually and collectively.  It means that He’s in control.  It means that we can rest…even when facing all of these situations that feel so wrong and uncomfortable for us.

No matter what you’re facing today, you can count on Him, too.  He wants you to do just that.  It isn’t a panacea and it isn’t a crutch.  It’s the safest, most sane thing you can do for yourself.  Trust Him.  He’s got it all figured out.

“And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 4:19

Addendum:  Incidentally, He can even help those who have been so busy preparing for Thursdays that they mistakenly wished everyone a Happy Thursday in their posting…for Wednesday!  Oops!  (Smile!)

June Garden Walk

“And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day…”  Genesis 3:8a

There’s always been a bit of a debate about the exact location of the garden of Eden, but I’ve always wondered if it wasn’t located near here since God Himself knew that you needed to be out in the garden in the cool of the day. (grin)  SONY DSC

It’s a Mississippi summer and that means if you don’t get your yardwork done early, you’ll have a hard time dealing with the heat.  I was out earlier today and thought you might want to join me for a stroll…out the yellow front door…and over to smell the gardenias (Aren’t they just heavenly?!), SONY DSC then around to the back to check out how the sunlight filters through the Japanese maples SONY DSC in their pots by the back porch. SONY DSC Let’s head up the stairs past the new wind chimes SONY DSC and check out both the view from the deck SONY DSC and the new peppers. SONY DSCAfter a short spell of taking it all in, we’ll head out back to see what’s left of the blackberries SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC along with the roses and blueberry bushes.

On to the herb garden where we’ll check out the yarrow SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC  along with the licorice, bee balm, and lemon grass.  Don’t miss the newest fronds on the fennel!  SONY DSC

It’s already heating up.  I think we’d better have a seat SONY DSC and just enjoy the quiet of the morning…

I sure am glad you decided to join me today!  Grace and Peace…and a beautiful Mississipi Thursday to you all!

A higher standard of grace

In my recent searching for the quiet life, I’ve deliberately made some time for some introspection.  I’ve also been reading a bit more lately and was amazed to learn something new about myself the other day as I read a work of fiction.

No, I am not fictional.  (grin)

I did, however, immediately identify with a character that was told that although she lived and proclaimed God’s grace for others, it was something that she often withheld from herself.

Uh-oh.  Ouch.  That hurts.  It’s true, though.  I’ve done that.

I’ve done that a good bit, apparently, even though I never recognized it until I saw it in print the other day.

I was raised to have high standards and I was always told that I could “do better”—and there’s nothing wrong with that!  At least there’s nothing wrong with it until you allow that to somehow supersede God’s own standards for His children and it begins to erode the basis for your relationship with Him.

I’m aware that I can be pretty hard on the people I love, but I’ve always rationalized it away with the knowledge that as much as I pushed the ones I love to excellence, I’ve always pushed myself even harder–much harder.  My husband is aware of this trait in me and has often told me to “lighten up on my wife” when he’s seen it in action.

I’m not going to say that the practice of and search for excellence hasn’t worked for me a good bit of the time.  It has.  I’ve been successful in a wide variety of areas as a result of that driven behavior and so have some of the people I’ve been pushing/dragging along behind me.

And then there’s grace.  Oh, I believe in grace.  I’m convinced that it is real and necessary for each of us to have a relationship with God.  I’ve extended it countless times to others because I knew that was what my God would have me do…and I’ve also denied it to myself.  I’ve punished me further than God has.  I’ve had times when I’ve been aware of my need for deeper relationship with Him and yet held back because I knew some of the things I know about me.  Somehow I accepted that God could easily forgive my sins all those years ago when I asked Him to do so, but sometimes when I would mess up in the here-and-now, I would beat myself up about it instead of rushing to ask for His forgiveness to be extended to me yet again.  I have lived the Galatians 5:4 life at times:  “You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.”  Choosing the law (my standards) over grace…fallen from grace…yes, that sounds right on target.

“Oh, Father God!  Not again!  Aren’t you tired of me asking again?!  I am.  I am so tired of asking your forgiveness for this.  I know better!  I should do better!”  All followed by much mental flagellation…and overwhelming sorrow and a time of withdrawing from the One I need most.

Does that sound familiar to anyone else?  A self-imposed spiritual time-out.  It sounds like a spiritual thing to do.  It isn’t.  It’s the exact opposite.  It is straight from the pit of hell.

Yes, we need to be remorseful when we sin, but it doesn’t need to stop there—or stay there.  Forgiveness isn’t about making you feel “less” or creating distance between you and God.  It is about restoration and healing.  It is about the purifying touch of love that brings with it the desire not to miss the mark in the future.   It is the extension of grace—unmerited favor— to one who needs it so desperately and has no other possibility of acquiring it even with her high standards.

Grace.  The very essence of the word washes over me in a different way as I write this word today.  This word that I’ve read and lived and taught and ignored all at the same time.  I am humbled and I am drawn up on to the lap of my God by that word today.  Grace.  It’s time I raised my standard of grace up to meet my God’s…and applied it to myself.  I hope you’ll do the same.  There’s plenty of room in the lap for you, too.

I know who I am. Do you?

I am Paul.  I’m well-educated, from a good family and I’m passionate about what I do here, but I struggle in some areas with doing the very things that I know that I shouldn’t do.  I have seen God do amazing things in my life and send me in directions I never thought I’d go.  There are things I’ve prayed for that God has chosen to withhold.

I am Timothy.  I have a deeply spiritual family legacy and have had the heavy responsibility of teaching others who may be older than I.  I have need of a mentor who will hold me accountable, give me encouragement and tell me where I need to improve.

I am Martha.  I love the Lord and I want Him to reside in my home, but I can become so task-oriented that I forget to stop doing the many things on my to-do list and spend time with Him.

I am Gideon.  Sometimes I wonder if what I’m hearing is really from God and I test Him instead of immediately being obedient.

I am Deborah.  I have a reputation for being wise, but I realize that sometimes actions speak louder than words, so I am unafraid of going to battle when necessary.

I am David.  My passion for God is intense, but I have failed Him in the past and my worship of Him may occasionally make others uncomfortable.

I am Saul.  I have been chosen by God, but sometimes my temper gets the best of me and I have lashed out in anger at the people He has placed around me to give me peace.

I am Peter.  I have spent years with God Himself and still there are times when I let my mouth get ahead of my brain.  I have often run to walk on the water and I know what it feels like to be in way over my head.

I am Abraham.  I am getting older and I am still clinging to some of the promises I heard years ago that aren’t yet visible to my eyes.

I am the woman at the well.  I have a past that some people know and some people do not, but I have met Someone who loves me in spite of it all and I want to tell everyone I see all about Him.

I am Elijah.  I have laughed and made fun of those who call out to man-made gods and I have prayed to the Lord and seen miracles happen.  I have had my own times of self-pity and looked for God in the wind and the earthquake and the fire…and almost missed the still small voice.

I am Ruth.  I am intensely loyal and I am willing to work hard, but I’m grateful for a little romance, as well.

I am Becky.  I am all these things and so much more…and some days, so much less.  I am a beloved child of the One and Only God, the Creator of all things and the Lover of my soul.  I am filled with gratitude and overflowing with praise and I still have days when I whine to God because I didn’t get my way.  I am amazed at how well my God loves me and provides for me and I’m convinced that the best is yet to come.

Who are you?

Sometimes our outsides get in the way

I’ve been studying ‘quiet’ for over a week now and I have to say that as I’ve read and re-read verses that I’ve read and re-read for many years, I’ve had plenty of time for flashbacks…where I read that, when I taught on that, who said what about that…  Today’s verses are just one sample of the many verses that seem to come complete with a permanent flashback for me.

It was years ago and I was teaching a Junior High Sunday School class full of “pretty girls.”  There were weeks upon weeks when I wondered if they even wanted to be there, much less if they were taking anything in that I was trying to teach.  And then…I read these verses:

“Do not let your beauty be that outward adorning of arranging the hair, of wearing gold, or of putting on fine apparel; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible ornament of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.”  1 Peter 3:3-4

Oh, dear Lord, if there was ever a verse my girls needed to hear or would ignore the most, it was probably this one!  Fortunately for me, I had time to plan.  I asked the girls to dress up in their Easter Sunday best for the next week’s class.  You could tell that I’d finally struck a chord.  They weren’t sure what I was up to, but they were happy to oblige.

The next week, I had them do a mini-fashion shoot–complete with photos in front of the bulletin board in our classroom.  They were thrilled.  I still wouldn’t tell them what I was doing.

The following week, they arrived in class to find that I had developed the photos–yes, before digital!–and had them printed and arranged in a big circle on the board.  I left the center of the board blank.  As they ooh’d and aah’d about how great they all looked, I walked over to the bulletin board and started to write those verses in the center.

They went silent…and they stayed that way as I talked to them about how these verses didn’t mean that we were to ignore the gifts of beauty that God has given to us and we weren’t to deface it or go around looking unclean or dressed in dowdy clothing in an attempt to be super-spiritual.  These verses don’t say that at all.  Instead, they say to me that fixing your hair and wearing nice clothes or having fine jewelry is totally acceptable…as long as you understand those things aren’t contributing to the true beauty of who we are in Christ.  I told them that in our society, sometimes our outsides get in the way.

It happens when we focus on how we look instead of who we’re called to be.  It happens when we fail to look past the surface and see the beauty within.  It happens when we don’t develop beauty within.  It happens when we fail to recognize that treasures take time to create and time to find–what’s laying out in the open for all to see is rarely what’s truly valuable.  It happens when we focus on what we want instead of what God wants for us.  It happens when we place more value on the temporary than we do on the eternal.  It happens.

Flashforward all these years and I’ve had the pleasure of watching those pretty girls grow up.  Some of them got the message.  Some of them didn’t.  That happens, too.  They’re all grown and out on their own now…and the truth is still the same:  sometimes our outsides get in the way and the pursuit of the quiet life always begins in the hidden person of the heart.

Sneaky

“Be still, and in the quiet moment, listen to the voice of your heavenly Father.  His words can renew your spirit.  No one knows you and your needs like He does.”  ~Janet L. Weaver

I had planned to write a weekend challenge on Friday, but…the power went out for the entire window of time I had set aside for writing, so I started in on an even larger challenge…rearranging the furniture downstairs.  Yes, I said “downstairs.”  No, that wasn’t a typo.  I tackled the living room/dining rooms, the area at the end of the kitchen and the computer/workout room…all at the same time.

Talk about a challenge.  I moved furniture.  I rolled up rugs and moved them to storage or other locations.  I deleted some accessories and added others.  I moved the treadmill to a better location in the room.  I cleared the surfaces in some places and filled the surfaces in others.  I found long-lost items and even long-lost furniture that I’ve apparently been walking past on a daily basis!  Truly!  I found all kinds of items that need to go to other homes and I found some things that needed to be grouped together and others, still, that  should never have been purchased in the first place.  I moved artwork and I added to the growing pile for donation.

At some point in the process, the electricity came back on and as I vacuumed and managed the mayhem I had created, I also found a sense of peace somewhere in the process of sorting and rearranging.  Perhaps it was as simple as putting things in order…perhaps it was about being in control.  Either way, I was grateful and I lit a candle and turned on some music and just sat down to enjoy it all for a moment.

A moment was about all I had left.  There were other things to do.  We had a market day early the next morning and afterwards, on the spur of the moment, decided to travel down to explore a “new” area for my husband.  We ended up going even further than we had expected and, when we realized how close we were, we called a friend who graciously dropped her own schedule and came to share ours.  We lunched in style in a great old restaurant and we shopped–in considerably less high fashion–at several other locations as we sought treasures in antique/junk stores.  As we returned home, we stopped to check on a tiny little cat my sister had rescued and bought plants to add some color outside our kitchen window.

Sunday was roast and veggies in the crockpot, making blueberry pound cake, tying ribbons on the books bought for Father’s Day and gathering with family in our home.  We celebrated those who were with us…and missed those who weren’t.  My father-in-law would have been 81 that day.  We missed him and my brother who wasn’t able to be there for the occasion.  It was both a good day and a hard one.  Days that celebrate things you will never be are often difficult.

Yesterday was about returning to the schedule of laundry and other household chores given up for the weekend in place of spending time with people I love and clients who came to the house with collections of their own treasures–some in need of restoration, others in need of creation.  As I listened to the soft music playing in the background while a grandmother and grandfather sorted out ideas for blessing their grandchildren, I laughed inside and thought, “God, this IS the quiet lfe!  All this activity.  All this chaos and all this sorting it out.  All this creativity and the action it produces to bless those we love…this is the quiet life.”

“…that you also aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you, that you may walk properly toward those who are outside, and that you may lack nothing.”  1 Thessalonians 4:11-12

That was the third verse I looked up in my study of being quiet…a life verse…a living lesson…Sneaky, God, really sneaky.  And, once again, I think I heard him laugh…with me, of course, never at me. (grin)