Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Week Forty-Nine - Where Do You Run?

Dottie Rambo wrote,

Where do I go when there's nobody else to turn to?Who do I talk to when no one wants to listen?Who do I lean on when there's no foundation stable?
I go to the RockI know He's ableI go to the Rock
I go to the Rock of my salvationGo to the stone the builders rejectedRun to the Mountain, and the Mountain stands by me
When the earth all around me is sinking sandOn Christ, the solid Rock I standWhen I need a shelter, when I need a friend
I go to the Rock.

My video blog on YouTube this coming Friday is about our reaction to bad news. I hope you'll take time to listen. But I wanted to use our time today to put a bit more of a preface to Friday because bad news has been something in the forefront, hasn't it? 

I began thinking about where we run when we hear bad news or when bad things happen. Let me assure you that no amount of positive or wishful thinking can change the world. No amount of hiding makes it go away, either. The world is what it is, but we are still called to be His light. But sometimes, we, too, need a place to hide, a place of shelter and security, a place to work from or run to that gives us hope.

God's Word is that place, both a place to live from and a place to run to. This thought brought me much meditation. If I am living from God's Word, then I have a solid place to stand. My thoughts and actions will be based on His directives, and I will avoid fear and confusion. I'll be like the man who built his house upon a Rock; when the storms blow and all around me rages, my life will not collapse.

I remembered verses about the solidness of God's Word; it is our final judge and will be fulfilled to the utmost.

Proverbs 19:21 reads, "The counsel of the Lord, that shall stand." Proverbs 21:30 says, "There is no wisdom nor understanding nor counsel against the Lord." God's Word is solid, trustworthy, and consistent.

Ephesians 1:11 tells us God will accomplish all He has planned. "According to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will."  All things! God is fully in control.

My part is to allow His Word to be the light unto my path, to fill my thoughts, and to work within me. It gives me a place to stand.

God's Word is also where I run when things get difficult or fearful. It is my refuge, comfort, and counselor.

As I mused about this, I again began remembering Scripture where the psalmist spoke of God's Word as a refuge, a safe place, a shield, and a buckler. 

Psalm 3:3, 5 reads, But thou, O Lord, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine head. . . I laid me down and slept; I awaked; for the Lord sustained me."

And I love Proverbs 18:10, "The name of the Lord is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe."

So, God's Word is a place to run. 

So here's where I settled. If I want to be effective for Christ and not be blown around by all the bad news, then I must be persuaded that His Word is truth, truth that sets me free. But also, His Word must remain my refuge when bad news comes, and life grows fearful or more challenging. I go there, and He meets me with words of love. Ultimately, I live in and retreat to God's Word in every situation. I go to the Rock! Do you?

Here is the link for this week's video if you'd like an early viewing.

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Week Forty-Eight - Twelve Thanksgiving Hacks

Happy Thanksgiving. I hope you have a lovely time with your family and your heart brims with thankfulness. I will be spending time in the home of one of my sons. It's the first time in years I have been stateside for Thanksgiving, and I'm looking forward to it!

Today, I want to share a post by Shane Bishop that encouraged me to refocus on the holiday, made me giggle, and created even more thankfulness in my heart. I hope some of his ideas also put a spark back in your celebration.

He writes, "There is a lot to like about Thanksgiving. I love the fact we don't buy each other gifts. You don't have to draw names in advance. You don't have to get a loan to celebrate Thanksgiving. You buy some food, make it, eat it, and clean it up. Simple. Come to think of it, this year you may have to get a loan to buy food. Gas to go to Grandma's? Another loan, but I digress.

I love the fact that we have one standardized Thanksgiving narrative (regardless of historical accuracy) and we stick to it. I am glad we don't have fictional stories on Thanksgiving. No one wants to hear about the Thanksgiving Puritan riding in a magical Buggy pulled by anti-biotic and steroid-free turkeys who travel all over the world on Thanksgiving Eve delivering unusually appreciative children cans of canned, gelatinous cranberry sauce and tossing in corporately sponsored can openers.

Thanksgiving is about turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, gravy, your Nana's special dish, and desserts made of pumpkins, cherries, and pecans. It is about family, friends, and football but most of all it is about taking time to remember. Thanksgiving is where we have conversations with people long since gone who sit in empty chairs in the houses of our childhoods. We smile at them and they smile back. We used to sing a song at church called, "Count Your Blessings," and for me, Thanksgiving is a time to do just that. "Count your blessings, name them one by one."

With Halloween out of the way and November upon us, it is time to lock into Thanksgiving. Here are twelve hacks that I humbly offer to you and yours:

1) Make everyone stay at the table for a full hour. Set a timer. No one leaves. No one. "Are you done eating? Who cares? Sit down," and not a bit of dessert or a sip of coffee for forty-five minutes.

2) No phones at the table. None. If you look at your phone, it goes in the turkey carcass with the stuffing until supper. If your phone rings, you are doing dishes. No exceptions. Late violations can carry over to the next year.

3) Say grace. Old fashioned. Heads bowed, eyes closed, holding hands. Have the patriarch or matriarch do it. Kids are cute. Let old people say grace. One person can keep their eyes open to monitor.

4) Remember those by name who are not in their chairs this year. Speak out the names of deceased loved ones. Remember their lives, place in your family and their sacrifice.

5) Tell your favorite Thanksgiving stories. The year of the huge Thanksgiving blizzard. The year when it was like summer outside and everyone went on a walk. The big family football game of 1972. The sweet potato casserole debacle of 2001. When the dog ate the turkey. Get out the old photos. The kind you don't have on your phone.

6) Laugh. A lot. Tell your funniest family stories. Make them better than last year.

7) Count your blessings. Slow it down. Focus on what you have in front of you instead of what or who is missing. Have people share one thing for which they are thankful right before dessert.

8) Tell the people around your table just how much you love them and why they are special to you. There are no guarantees they will be here next Thanksgiving. Or you either, for that matter.

9) Help clean up and stick around. Clear the table. Watch some football. Remember great Thanksgiving football games past! Google Clint Longley. Take a nap. Go on a walk. Drink coffee. Drink more coffee.

10) Give thanks. Find a moment to get away, drop to your knees, and personally tell God thank you.

11) Don't talk politics. If anyone does, construct them a home-made political button denoting the opposite party and touting the name of their least favorite president of all time. Make them wear it all day. No button, no pie.

12) Make the best of things. Things will never be "perfect." Take what you have and make the best of it. No matter how things go, at least you are not a turkey.

Why do I write? Because you wouldn't want to eat the turkey and dressing, gobble up the pie, and miss the point."

To add to his hacks, I thought of a few other things that could be part of our Thanksgiving celebration.

1 - After the meal, stop again, hold hands, and pray for your family. Maybe ask the Lord to watch over each one and bring you back safely again next year. Praise Him for the beauty and wonder of family and ask the Lord's blessing on each one, including those away from the table.

2 - Before the dessert is served, join hands and sing a song of thanksgiving. The Doxology, Give Thanks with a Grateful Heart, or Thank You Lord for Saving My Soul, came to my mind. But maybe you have a family favorite.

3 - Recite the Lord's prayer together. Or even use this little verse below to express the reason for the season.

Whatever your time looks like, I hope you don't miss the point of Thanksgiving - "In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you." 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Be sure to catch my video blog on Friday - Gobble, Gobble, Gobble - as we prepare our hearts for the final celebration of 2023.

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Week Forty-Seven - Rich Beyond Measure

We spent this past week with my husband's family enjoying five full days of a family reunion in Oklahoma. We are so blessed to have a large extended family and my children are blessed by the heritage of Christian grandparents on both sides along with loving aunts and uncles. As I stop to count the blessings, these rank high on my list: a heritage of faith, a family of love, and a dearness that binds us together. Our week felt like a little glimpse of the heavenly reunion yet to come.

Watching generations mingle, share stories, and enjoy laughter reminded me of the benefit of the Lord that maketh rich. We are rich; rich in love, rich in joy, and rich in fellowship What a blessing. I pray that this richness will continue into the next generation and that they, too, will come to understand the beauty and blessing of what they have been given through their family and through Christ.

I know not everyone enjoys these blessings and that some families are splintered. That saddens me, and my heart goes out to them. If you are in one of these families, I pray that you would be the avenue of change, that you would covet with God in your heart and life to be the peacemaker, to be the one that creates a new path for your arm of the family and thereby become a blessing to your future generations.

While we were there, I was trying to explain the law of sowing and reaping to my nine-year-old granddaughter. We were talking about the benefit of using good words and having a good attitude. She caught the idea, I think! I truly believe this law also applies to our family dynamics. "When a man's ways please the Lord, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him" (Proverbs 16:7). So be that man, that person, implement the law of sowing and reaping in all your decisions and interactions. Choose good words and have healthy attitudes that create happiness and security amid your family. And also practice the Golden Rule, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" (Matthew 7:12). See if God doesn't bless your family with a precious richness. 

Earthy reunions are extraordinary times, but even more incredible; how thankful can we be that God will one day call us home to the marriage supper of the Lamb and a glorious reunion with our fellow saints of God. Are you ready?

Tuesday, November 7, 2023

Week Forty-Six - Sap-full

Every year, nature creates a glorious spectacle of autumnal beauty in shades of yellow, red, and orange. Watching the change of seasons reminds us of the life cycle of nature. Comparatively, my devotion today challenged me to think about the beauty of the processes of the Christian life. 

Spurgeon wrote about sap moving up and down a tree, providing life and energy for foliage and fruit. Then, he made the analogy of the Holy Spirit being like sap in the Christian's life. The Holy Spirit moves within the Christian, prompting him to action, bringing Scripture to remembrance, convicting of sin, and bringing rejoicing to the heart. This is the same Spirit Jesus described to Zacchaeus as the wind blowing where it listeth (John 3:8). We cannot see where it comes from or where it goes, but we see the evidence of its effect. The sap of the Holy Spirit flowing through the Christian is similar. It is a beautiful thing to yield and obey its divine prompting. And when we do, our lives produce rich foliage and pleasant fruit.

Spurgeon wrote, "As the sap manifests itself in producing the foliage and fruit of the tree, so with a truly healthy Christian, his grace is externally manifested in his walk and conversation. If you talk with him, he cannot help speaking about Jesus. If you notice his actions you will see that he has been with Jesus. He has so much sap within, that it must fill his conduct and conversation with life."

So let this be our challenge today: May the sap of the Holy Spirit be so allowed to flow in our lives that it becomes evident in the color of our walk and talk. May we be fruitful and sap-full servants of God in every season of life.