{ A Full Cart }

You’ve probably never encountered this embarrassing situation, but have you ever seen anyone come up short of cash at the grocery checkout?

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It could happen to you. You enter the store, hoping only to get a few necessities. You add prices as you go:

Romaine….almond milk….unsalted butter…shredded cheddar — we’re at $12.50 now…

But when you arrive at the checkout tribunal, the cashier pronounces the total and you know immediately that you are convicted. Although you frantically rummage around in the bottom of your purse and find a warped and forgotten checkbook, the cashier shakes her head. “We don’t take checks anymore.”

Moments before, your fellow customers were on your team. You eyed the long checkout lines together, rolled your eyes and waited as one.
Now, you are the criminal, holding up the line, found financially wanting. Although you definitely don’t make eye contact with them, you know they are judgmentally and impatiently tapping their toes.

How have you come to this place?

Somewhere between the frozen broccoli florets and the applesauce squeezies, things started to break down. Perhaps you mindlessly tossed a quart of spumoni into your cart, followed by a bag of artisan coffee beans instead of the generic variety. And maybe your ten-year-old slipped a discounted Lego set in there at the last minute. Either way, your budget has gone unheeded.

Thus begins the humiliating process of deciding what to put back — starting with the Lego figures, followed quickly by the spumoni.

This is highly humbling, which is actually the silver lining to all this. Like a dentist’s drill, it’s something you resist, but it’s good for you in the long run. The flesh cringes at the thought of being humbled, but the God-seeking soul craves it.

This is the point: I woke up at 3:00 a.m. last night, with dozens of thoughts, which tumbled out in rapid succession as prayers to the God who never sleeps.

It suddenly occurred to me that I could keep adding requests to my prayer cart and it would never be too much for Jesus. He is like a welcoming cashier that would be saying:
“Get some more! There’s a BOGO on requests today! Go grab another — right there! Fill up your cart and put ‘em all down! Don’t worry, you have all the time in the world — there’s no one behind you!

A full cart. An unlimited supply. A generous God who has already paid for everything. I never have to decide if it’s too big or small to bring something up to the Throne of Grace…and I never have to put anything back.

~~~
Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it. — John 14:13-14

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. — Philippians 4:6

If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him! — Luke 11:13

{ True Theater: The First Christmas }

 

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Curtain opens / Scene appears peaceful

Middle-Eastern baby in dimmed spotlight

(a real baby, wrapped in livestock rags) 

Nestled in rough wooden feeding trough

Country setting. Clear night with stars. 

Mother exhausted. Sleeping.

Father watching. Thinking.

After miles of sweating and praying

After the end of the journey

After the labor

Just sitting

Just gazing

Now cue the angels.

The shepherds.

The wonder.

The starlight.

Behind the stage and unseen by the audience:

A fierce and ugly dragon – yes, an actual beast – has been trying to walk out on center stage.

He’s been trying to ruin the show.

He grabbed the script and stuffed it into his flaming mouth.

(It didn’t matter, because everyone already knew their lines.)

He tried to tear down the curtain with his talons (that’s supposed to happen anyway — scene three)

His demonic buddies brought an assassin to kill the baby. They stormed and burst down the side stage door. (He wasn’t a good shot after all, and the baby was whisked away.)

The director just sat there. Directing. 

He knew this was going to happen.

It was all actually in the script. 

***Spoiler alert: It has an ending that’s out-of-this-world***

Curtain.

~~~~~

Inspiration from Revelation 12 and Luke 2.

Manger photo:Greyson Joralemon

{ Even Up Above Yourself }

Philippians is joyful letter, written by an incarcerated man of God, who loved his spiritual “children.” They were fellow believers, living miles away, who were struggling to live out their faith in a tempting and dark world.

I especially like chapter 2, though it’s easier to talk and write about it than it is to DO IT.

Anytime it happens, I know it’s only God working it out somehow through me.

Here is my paraphrase of this chapter, and unlike the true inspired words of scripture, it’s peppered with all my favorite punctuation marks — dashes, parentheses, ellipses, etc…

Anyway, it’s from the heart and I hope writing my version of Philippians 2:1-11 reminds me to do what it says:

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~~~~~~

Following Christ brings encouragement, love, comfort, affection and a godly sympathy —

So, encourage me by living and walking together with unity.

Don’t be selfish or proud in your attitudes or actions.

Be humble — and lift people up — even up above yourself.

Don’t wallow in self-absorption; break out and joyfully meet a need…or two…or three!

Because (and only because) of Christ-in-you, you have His mind.

So…do things in the same way He did.

He came as a poor and lowly man…but in reality,

He was — and still is — G O D.

He willingly took on human form, with all of its earthly limitations.  He was a meek and loving servant — empty, humble and obedient.

His obedience took Him to the cross.

(But He didn’t stay there.)

After the unimaginable suffering came the unlimited triumph.

Now and forever, God has lifted Jesus up and given Him a name so powerful

it will make every knee bow

and every tongue admit

that yes —

Jesus Christ

really and eternally–

is  L O R D.

[And He — and we — will forever give God the glory He deserves!]

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Philippians 2: 1-11  ESV

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Photo Credit:michael schaffler

{ No Selfies in Bethlehem }

God had it planned:

Jesus was born into a

non-digital,

less mobile,

less global

earth.

 

That meant:

No shepherds Instagramming.

No angels captured on YouTube.

No Mary & Joseph taking selfies.

No wise men following a GPS.

No paparazzi hovering.

 

How peaceful.

 

 

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“O Bethlehem Ephrathah, you are but a small Judean village, yet you will be the birthplace of my King who is alive from everlasting ages past!” Micah 5:2 (written about 700 years before Jesus was born)

In the Bleak Midwinter

This is my favorite Christmas carol, based on a poem by Christina Rossetti:

“The only people who soul can truly magnify the Lord are…people who acknowledge their lowly estate and are overwhelmed by the condescension of the magnificent God.”

-John Piper

{ Fork in Road & Forgiveness }

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Have you ever disappointed someone when you changed your mind?

Have you ever known the shame of a damaged reputation?

If so, you have something in common with John Mark – the bringer of good news; the writer of the gospel of Mark.

John Mark traveled as an assistant to Paul and Barnabas, when they embarked on their missionary journey.  Halfway through, he opted out and returned home before they were officially finished.  No one knows exactly why:

  • Sickness?
  • Fear?
  • Exhaustion?
  • Spiritual failure?

Whatever the reason, John Mark’s abrupt exit bothered Paul.  It caused a rift between Paul and Barnabas.

Later, Barnabas (whose name means “son of encouragement”) wanted to give John Mark a second chance.

Paul wouldn’t have it.

So, Barnabas took John Mark one way, and Paul went another way with Silas.

In later years, Paul accepted John Mark as a worthy helper; he not only forgave him but praised him in the pages of scripture.

I would love to know what happened between the volatile rift and the complete forgiveness.

  • What’s the rest of the story?
  • Did John Mark have to prove himself?
  • What role did Barnabas the encourager play?

I think God used Barnabas to turn things around for John Mark with his encouraging:

 You still have worth! I believe in you!  Let’s go!

His support must have been life-changing — without it, John Mark would have just returned home.

With that encouragement, John Mark is down in history as being:

  • “Like a son” to Peter (1 Peter 5:13)
  • “Useful in ministry” to Paul (2 Timothy 4:11)
  • Author of the efficiently written gospel of Mark

 

Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.

1 Thessalonians 5:11 

Correction does much, but encouragement does more. ~ Goethe

In the middle of every difficulty lies opportunity. ~ Albert Einstein

Photo credit:Jens Lelie

{ A Do-er or a Cutter?}

Yesterday in church we learned about Josiah, who became king of Judah at age eight.

Who was King Josiah, what did he do, and why does it matter hundreds of years later?

Josiah had a notorious grandfather (Manasseh) – recorded as the most dastardly king of Judah. He had a son (Amon) that walked in his evil footsteps, leaving a poor spiritual heritage to his son, who was Josiah, the young king we are talking about here…

Josiah was eight years old when his father was assassinated.  Early in his young royal life, Josiah was curious about spiritual things. Although his homeland was black with evil, Josiah still began to seek God.

It might be better to say that God drew him.  God does that – and it’s often surprising.  Especially when conditions around us don’t look promising, and we don’t appear to be headed in a holy direction.

All this drawing and wooing and curious interest about God made Josiah’s heart fertile ground.  God was preparing his soft heart for an upsetting, earthshaking event that took place a few years later…

King Josiah told workers to clean out the temple. This was looking like a no-brainer job. Laborers were simply there to de-clutter, dust and organize. They were even told to keep track of their own hours. Things looked easy.

As trinkets were unearthed and dust flew, a scroll was discovered and brought to King Josiah.

This scroll was actually a treasured but forgotten book of the Law of God — given and practiced hundreds of years before.

Back when people followed God.

Back before people exchanged a loving God for a lie.

Reading the scroll aloud put a horrifying spotlight on Judah’s current state of affairs. God’s chosen people had been living in direct opposition to the words of this scroll-book. The nation was practicing child sacrifice and idol worship, even though generations before they had ousted people that were doing these same things.

When Josiah heard the words of the neglected book, he wept and tore his clothes.

Here they were, trying to tidy up the temple, making it sparkle and shine. But the temple – the spiritual heart of the nation– didn’t need dusting, it needed to be stripped down, disinfected, dismantled and rebuilt.

Josiah’s heart was overwhelmed and heavily grieved.

But Josiah wasn’t only stirred.  He was changed.

Josiah turned the nation of Judah around 180 degrees.

(This thorough process involved lots of idols being ground to powder and piles of burnt bones.)

A woman named Huldah gave a prophecy at this point:

Judah be destroyed because of its abominations.  It would be disciplined for the cries of its sacrificed children. But because of Josiah’s repentance and love for God’s discovered Word, Judah’s depressing end wouldn’t come during Josiah’s lifetime.

Lots of personal lessons here:

  1. We should expect to see God’s Word in God’s house.  It shouldn’t be hidden, neglected, unused or unpracticed.
  2. Maybe we feel safe, knowing we will avoid the coming judgment.  That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t warn others. I want to be faithful to share God’s Word within my sphere of influence.
  3. When I am confronted by God’s Word, do I change?  Or, do I continue puttering around, just dusting the externals?
  4. Josiah burned and destroyed the evidence and the promoters of idol worship in Judah.  This made it impossible for the people to return to the former way of life.  Have I made it easy or difficult to return to old, sinful ways? Burning bridges here can be a good thing…
  5. 300 years earlier, a prophet actually named Josiah by name, predicting that he would destroy idol worship in Judah. (I Kings 13:1-10) The Bible is bursting with fulfilled prophecies, confirming its truth.  
  6. After all that Josiah did to reform Judah, his son Jehoiakim went the opposite way. He heard God’s word, and what he didn’t like, he conveniently had cut out with a knife and burned. God has no grandchildren; our children need to surrender to God for themselves. 
  7.  Josiah’s life ended on a strange note.  He felt compelled to fight against Egypt, even though Pharaoh warned him that it really wasn’t his fight. Josiah did it anyway — he dressed up like a common person, was wounded and died.  It’s always good to be reminded that even if a person’s life is resplendent and glorious, he or she is still just a person who makes mistakes. 

    @scissors
    When I read God’s Word, am I a doer– or a cutter (do I effectively *cut out* the parts of the Bible that aren’t comfortable or pleasant?)

Word of the Day: Resplendent

Scripture references:

  • 2 Chronicles 34,35
  • Jeremiah 36
  • 2 Kings 22,23

 

{ My Psalm 30}

 

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Sitting at my desk at dawn /  putting Psalm 30 in my own words /  making it a personal prayer / talking to God this morning/

I will enthusiastically praise You, LORD;

You have drawn me and lifted me up.

You haven’t left me to the mercy of my enemy self, flesh, devil.

Instead, you healed me.

You rescued my soul.

You resurrected me.

Praise God, fellow saints: brothers and sisters!

Give thanks to our God!

God was angry for a time [because of my sin]

Now, His favor stays with me eternally.

Sadness…now joy!

 

You strengthened me with Your favor and grace.

When I do feel distant from You, I am discouraged.

But You always turn my DOWN into UP

You relieve my grieving and fear

You cover me with joy — I can’t take it off, and I don’t want to.

The joy is there so that I will sing your praise.

It’s inside, bubbling out and will not be suppressed!

 

O Lord, you are MY GOD.

I will give and keep giving thanks to You forever

and ever and ever and ever and ever…

 

Photo credit:Paul Gilmore

{Practicing Affirmation}

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“Sam’s book is a healing balm for cranks, misfits and malcontents who are so full of self they scarcely see, let alone celebrate, the simple beauties of imperfect virtue in others.  Or to say it differently: I need this book.” 

— John Piper, from the Forward to the book Practicing Affirmation.

I just finished reading Practicing Affirmation by author / pastor Sam Crabtree.  My borrowed library copy is almost due and going back into circulation, but I plan to exchange it for my own purchased copy.

I want to remember this book.  More importantly, I want to practice what I learned.  Here are some thoughts that grabbed me:

—Think about how often we correct / complain / criticize. This causes “drag” on a relationship, especially because corrections / complaints and criticisms tend to outweigh affirmations.

“It takes many affirmations to overcome the impact of a criticism, because criticisms are heavier and sting more.”

–Affirming others acts like a key, with the potential to unlock relationships.

“Many people are puzzled as to why their relationships seem stuck and uncooperative, yet they are not putting the key in the ignition. It’s not too late to use the key.”

–Affirmations should be consistent in a relationship.

–Affirmations should be God-centered. Focus on character, not outward appearance. Look for God’s character seen in people of all beliefs and backgrounds. Commend sincerely without flattery.

“In doing so, we’re pointing to something very valuable, and we’re saying, “I see it in you!  I value it… and the God who is the source of it!”

–When we are affirmed, it makes us happy. But the affirmation giver gains a                         mysterious joy as well.

–Affirmations are for everyone and everywhere. Use them in the workplace.  At home.  Use them in a “stuck” relationship.  Give them to your children.  Give them to your spouse.  Give them undeserved…and give generously.

–One of my favorite parts of the book was chapter 9, where it listed 100 Affirmation Ideas for Those who Feel Stuck.

“When our mouths are empty of praise for others, it is probably because our hearts are full of love for self.” – John Piper

Photo credit: Alejandro Alvarez

Word of the Day Challenge: https://wordofthedaychallenge.wordpress.com/2018/07/17/potential/

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{ Dear Me as a New Bride }

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~~ Celebrating our 28th Anniversary~ 06/23/1990 ~~(We don’t look like this anymore.)

 

Dear Me as a New Bride,

You look really happy and content.

Stay that way.

Right now, your new husband seems as kindred as one of your female friends.

But, he’s a man.  Don’t forget that.

On the surface, you two speak the same language.

But your heart language is different.

When you love him in FemaleHeartSpeak,

he won’t understand.

Speak LOVE in his own language:

Respect

Loyalty

And Intimacy

(The physical kind.)

If you ever get discouraged,

Always, always consult your User’s Manual first.

You will have bad days…

…but don’t wallow in self-pity.

A Christian marriage is not about YOU,

any more than The Christian Life is all about YOU.

Marriage is one big school to make you more like Jesus.

Someday, you will look back and see

the big picture

and the footprints of God

who effortlessly carried you through every joy and trial.

Keep that fresh, dewy, idealistic smile on your face.

With God,

You got this.

Love, Me

 

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful, it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. ~ 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

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6/23/2018

 

https://wordofthedaychallenge.wordpress.com/2018/06/23/possibility/

 

© Lisa M. Luciano

{ Dying Muscles}

People who love to exercise (and I’m guessing here) often start the day:

  • Running or Working Out
  • Hydrating
  • Eating protein for growth and power.
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I am a Christian.
I’m fueling up and getting ready to exercise —
I’m going to exercise my “dying muscles.”
Today, I’m going to do what is harder than a marathon and more challenging than an Iron Woman race.
By the grace and power of God, I’m planning to die to myself.
This feat requires a morning run in prayer.
It takes Growth Food to give me power.
It takes starting every day reminding myself with the basics: “I am a Christian. This is what Christians do.”
It takes gumption and a whole lot of grace to exercise the dying muscles.
It’s easier to sit, veg, and morph into what is around me.
It requires supernatural strength to:
  • Die to myself and put others first.
  • Train my tongue muscles to obey me.
  • Keep running the Christian race.
  • Press on in my marriage.
  • Shun selfishness.
  • Look around and do unto others.
  • Love, love and love til it hurts.
I’m getting ready to die today to self-wishes and sin-centered choices.
Perhaps –like exercise– it gets easier the more I do it.
It won’t make me famous — only God will know.
Today, I’m going to do what is harder than a marathon and more challenging than an Iron Woman race.
In the grace and power of God, I’m going to exercise my dying muscles.
 
“I die every day!  What do I gain if, humanly speaking, I fought with beasts at Ephesus?  if the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.”
Wake up from your drunken stupor, as is right, and do not go on sinning…”
I Corinthians 15:31-34
 
Photo credit:  Bradley Wentzel