Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Why Am I Going This Way?

Recently I stopped to pick up a someone on my way to church. We left her house and I headed due north on one of the main roads by her house. A road I travel often. A road I had taken recently. After driving a mile or so, I said "Where I am I going? Why am I going this way?" My church is basically due northeast, not due north, of her house and you take a completely different main road to get there. She has lived in the area for years and knows the roads like the back of her hand. I said, "Why didn't you tell me I was going the wrong way?" Her reply? "I thought you had found another, faster way to get there." I made a u-turn and went back to a road that led me back to the road that took me in the direction of church. I still wonder why she didn't at least ask me why I was going in that direction.

Often I meet people on my journey who are traveling in a 'different' direction than I am. People that are not on the straight and narrow path that leads to eternal life with our Loving Lord. Perhaps they are on the 'good person doing good things' path. Or the 'God is in all nature so why do I need corporate worship' path. Or some path that does not acknowledge that our Loving Lord Jesus is indeed the only way to eternal life with God. How sad would it be if I just sit in the passenger seat and let them drive themselves in the wrong direction thinking "they must have found another, faster way to the Savior?"

Little Lesson Life Expression:
What will you do when you encounter people who are using something other than the Word of our Loving Lord to find truth? Will you just let them go thinking that they may indeed have found the secret that answers all their questions? Or will you speak up and dare to ask the simple but difficult question of "Why are you going this way?" Will you be brave enough to share your concern and lead them back to the right path?

Psalm 19:7-9 (The Message)
The revelation of God is whole
and pulls our lives together.
The signposts of God are clear
and point out the right road.
The life-maps of God are right,
showing the way to joy.
The directions of God are plain
and easy on the eyes.
God's reputation is twenty-four-carat gold,
with a lifetime guarantee.
The decisions of God are accurate
down to the nth degree.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Follow-Up To The Challenge

It's harder than you think. Have you tried it? Does it make you want to stop asking the question?

When I issued the challenge I knew it wouldn't be easy. You see, I've done something similar before. In college. A friend initiated the challenge. Said "Next time someone asks you 'How are you?' answer with something off-the-wall." We responded with things like "Fine. Just worried 'bout this malaria." ... and believe or not, we got the 'usual' responses of "That's good." And sometimes, because people thought they heard us say the customary "Good. And you?" they actually responded with "Good, thanks!" Can you imagine consciously replying that way? Probably not but we are all so culturally programed that we do it automatically.

Back to this week's challenge...it's been hard for me. I barely had issued the challenge when I had 'the conversation' with a clerk in a drive-through. Hard to get to the real issues in a quick interaction. But I tried. Since then, I have stopped several people in their tracks. Especially when they start the conversation and I change the rules...

Them: "Hi. How are you?"
Me: "The day is going well. How's life treating you right now?"

Them: "Good."
Me: "Really? Anything particularly interesting going on?"

Most have replied with something like "Not really...things are pretty good." But they also walk away with a smile on their face, knowing someone was listening, someone was caring.

One sweet reader of these lessons even tried to trip me up to see if I would practice the challenge I issued. I think I passed the test. I wonder if that reader has changed their conversations this week.

What I have noticed over these past few days is that this challenge has started to change the way I speak. I've always known that one should think before they speak but this is different. I have considered the words coming out of my mouth just a tad bit more.
On a side note but related to really caring: I have a long-time precious friend that is seriously battling cancer. She is under new treatment that is presenting her with some new challenges. She lives too far away from me. I wish I could be there with her. I hope today that if someone asks her how she is doing that she would share her sufferings with them but more importantly I hope that the listener would really do all that they could to help her whether it's fluff the pillows, take her son to sports practice, give her some ice to help with the fever, or simply pray.

And I ask each of you reading this today to lift her up in prayer. God knows her name...He really does...she is a strong believer, a long-time child of the King. So please stop reading for a moment and say a prayer for her. Pray for her healing, wisdom for her doctors, strength for her caretakers, peace for her family, and whatever else our Loving Lord lays on your heart to pray.

Little Lesson Life Expression
Our Loving Lord wants us to be genuinely concerned about those around us. If all we offer them is idle chit-chat, how will they know we care? How will they know that we are concerned enough to bare their burdens? What will you do with the challenge today? Will you offer idle words or words of compassion and care?

Proverbs 16:21 (The Message)
A wise person gets known for insight;
gracious words add to one's reputation.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

A Different Lesson - A Challenge

Hello my friend...how are you?

Did you just mentally answer that question? If so, was it one of the usual suspect answers such as:

"Fine. And you?"
"Good. Thanks."
"I'm okay"?

How would you have answered if you had been honest with me? Would it have been something like:

"Awful. I can't cope with this anymore"
"I'm worn out from...."
"I have issues at work that are getting the best of me"?

Why did you not elect to be honest in the first place?

What? You didn't think I would care? You didn't think I'd want the truth? Couldn't handle the truth?

Why didn't you give me a chance? ... Oh really? Really? You didn't give me a chance because you didn't think I was really listening anyway? Sadly...maybe you are right.

Let's review a 'normal' passing conversation:

Adam: "Hey Eve! How's it going?"

Eve: "Fine. And you?"

Adam: "Fine. Fine. Just hanging out looking for some new duds to wear out here."

Eve: "Okay well I'll talk to you later. Bye."

WHAT? Adam and Eve fine??? If Adam's looking for clothes then they have already been kicked out of the garden and everything is NOT fine! They have lost their chance to live in that beautiful place. They are acutely aware of their sins. They have to start working the ground and, oh yeah, don't let us forget, Eve has just brought the pain of childbirth into the world. Things are not FINE!

So what does this have to do with us? I want to issue you a two-part challenge for this week. First though, let me be honest with you...this ain't gonna be easy for you ... or for me either!!!

Here is the challenge:
Part One:
When you ask anyone the question "How are you?" this week, really listen to their answer and work with them until they respond honestly to you. Get something you can work with. "Fine" is not an acceptable answer. Ask clarifying questions if need be "How's _____?" Fill in the blanks with things like your kids, your wife/husband, your job, that project, etc.

Once you have really listened you should be able to respond with this simple reply: "How may I pray for you?" Or "How can I be a friend to you through this?" I prefer the former but you may need the latter in some situations.

Part Two:
When you are asked that same question "How are you?" respond earnestly. Startle the person by speaking the truth. It will get their attention. Since they may not be believers, you may want to reply based on the work God is doing in your life. For example, if you are having marriage problems, you may respond this way...

Other person: "Hi. How are you?"
You: "Excited that God is working in some situations in my life."
You: "Thanks for asking. I'm honestly a bit tired from things that are going on at home. However, God is faithful and we are moving forward."

If you know the person is a believer, let them know how they can pray for you.

I promise you fearing the word 'fine' will stop people in their tracks. They will see you in a new way. They will see that they you care about people. Taking on this challenge will allow you to:

Live creatively, friends. If someone falls into sin, forgivingly restore him, saving your critical comments for yourself. You might be needing forgiveness before the day's out. Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their burdens, and so complete Christ's law. If you think you are too good for that, you are badly deceived. Galatians 6:1-3 (The Message)

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Are You Growing As You Should?

Baby gifts. How fun!

I have a baby shower to attend next weekend for a cousin on dear hubby's side of the family. As I was shopping for family necessities today, I found myself in a store where the mommy-to-be is registered. I checked the list and it had some interesting items on it but....I wasn't excited about any one thing in particular. So I perused the baby aisles. I looked a clothes, toys, bottles, all the usual suspects in baby shopping. :-)

Then I got inspired and knew what I was looking for. So I headed to that aisle and carefully picked up and put back item after item after item until I found just the ones I was looking for.

As I looked at these items, I had to keep in mind the actual recipient of the gift. The soon-to-be newborn child. I had to remember that, when she is born, she will only be zero months old. She will not be ready for items that are marked "18-24 months". Nor will she be ready for "9-12" months".

Does that mean I can't buy those? No. It just means that if I had picked out the ones for the older infants, she would not be able to use them for a while. So I compromised. I bought an item that can be used almost right after she is born and another one that she may have to grow into.

The Word of our Loving Lord has a message that fits you no matter where you are in life. If you are a newly born-again believer ... welcome to the family ... there is a message that fits you within the pages of scriptures. Encouraging words that will help you find your way in this new life. If you are young in the Lord, there are supporting passages that help you get up on your feet and start to run the race set before you. If you consider yourself mature in your spiritual walk, there are verses that will challenge you to your very soul and keep you moving until you reach the end of your journey.

Little Lesson Life Expression
Will you do a size check today? Will you see if you are still drinking spiritual milk from a bottle when you know you are ready for the rich meat of the Word? Will you seek our Loving Lord's direction on how to dig deeper to find the rich food for your soul and then share the gems you find buried with the others around you?

Psalm 27:3-5 (The Message)

3 When besieged,
I'm calm as a baby.
When all hell breaks loose,
I'm collected and cool.
4 I'm asking God for one thing,
only one thing:
To live with him in his house
my whole life long.
I'll contemplate his beauty;
I'll study at his feet.
5 That's the only quiet, secure place
in a noisy world,
The perfect getaway,
far from the buzz of traffic.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Does Anyone Knock Anymore?

Ahhh Yes! I just retrieved myself from a steaming hot over-sized bowl filled with bubbles and scented water. How relaxing.

More direct...I just finished taking a bubble bath.

As I was soaking and thinking, I was lost in a world of my own.

Suddenly, without warning, an uninvited person was in my bathroom. A man. And he was talking about something to do with the dishwasher water and how it obviously wouldn't mess up the running of my bath water as the tub was already full. So I looked up at my hubby and said, "Don't you know the concept of knocking?" Then I soaked a bit more while my heart returned to it's natural place in my body. I mean really. What was he thinking? Just showing up, quietly, unannounced, halting my deep thoughts, and bringing be back to the here and now?

Shortly after he left, left without completely closing the door, the door slowly opened again. I looked in the direction of the door. I saw a nose. A furry nose. Sigh. "Kitty cat, don't you know how to knock either?" I'm still not sure if it was Tigger or Tiger. I guess they sensed that they were not welcome to enter either if they didn't know how to knock.

In life outside the tub, things happen. Sometimes things happen that we don't like. Job loss, cancer, death, divorce, addiction...you understand. Many times we are just soaking in the bubbles of life and suddenly, without warning or explanation, trials show up unannounced and they don't knock. Our Loving Lord tells us that He has a plan for our lives. He knows these things are coming but still He doesn't make them mind their manners...and knock. We get startled. We get mad. We get embarrassed. We feel alone, ashamed, hurt, and more. God shows up in the midst of our situation but what do we do? How do we react? Do we welcome Him where we are or do we tell him to learn to knock first?

There we are in our circumstances...where God came in and didn't necessarily knock...and He didn't close the door all the way either...so it's still partially open...and, who appears at the door next? Perhaps it's a neighbor, close friend, or prayer partner. What do we do? Do we welcome in the one who came to be with us during our trial or do we push them away, reminding them to knock next time and wait for our invitation?

Little Lesson Life Expression
So what will you do the next time our Loving Lord interrupts your rest and relaxation? What will you do the next time He grabs hold of a thought you are having and leads your mind in a different direction? Will you welcome Him or turn Him away? Will you welcome the brothers and sisters in Christ that He sends to you and let them slip in through the slightly opened door or will you push them away and stay alone in your own little world?

Psalm 9:9-10 (The Message)
God's a safe-house for the battered, a sanctuary during bad times. The moment you arrive, you relax; you're never sorry you knocked.

Proverbs 15:10 (The Message)
It's a school of hard knocks for those who leave God's path, a dead-end street for those who hate God's rules.

Revelation 3:20-21 (The Message)
"Look at me. I stand at the door. I knock. If you hear me call and open the door, I'll come right in and sit down to supper with you. Conquerors will sit alongside me at the head table, just as I, having conquered, took the place of honor at the side of my Father. That's my gift to the conquerors!"

Monday, September 15, 2008

Will You Lift Your Paw For Food?

Tigger and Tiger, my two cats, always have food available to them. Delectable kitty cat food provided in a continual feeding system that holds about five days worth of nutrition. At the bottom of the feeder is a small tray. This is where they actually ‘feed’.

I have noticed lately that the tray is often ... empty. But. But! But…they are not out of food. When this tray gets empty, Tigger and Tiger often sit nearby, stare at me, and wait for me to ‘understand’ that they are out of food. It’s as though they are saying to me, “Get with the program woman and give us more food.”

All they need to do is stick their paw in the back of the tray area and move some of the food in the holder then food will cascade down and fill the tray with enough for a kitty-cat feast. Or…all they need me to do is shake the holder and the food will tumble down. I have sat with each cat and demonstrated for them how easy this is to do for themselves. But they don’t get it. They just want me to keep their tray filled so they don’t have to lift a paw.

How often do I do this to my Loving Lord? I see His Word sitting there, full of nutrition, full of food for my spirit. What do I do? Do I lift my hand and turn the pages? Or do I just wait for the next radio preacher to come over the airwaves and shake my soul?

Little Lesson Life Expression
What about you? Are you enjoying the continual feast that He provides or are you waiting for someone to feed you? Will you choose this day to reach in and grab the food that is readily available to you? Or will you go on starving yourself refusing to lift your own ‘paw’ to bring the food close to your heart?

Psalm 119:15-16 (KJV)

I will meditate in thy precepts, and have respect unto thy ways. I will
delight myself in thy statutes: I will not forget thy word.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Will Your Words Be Poison or Fruit?

I love words.
I love to use words and often use too many at the wrong time.
But I'm not alone in that...not at all.

I wonder what the world would be like if we all had Proverbs 16:24 as a life-directing verse..."Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones."

Lately I have found that many people, including me, say things that are not 'pleasant' or 'sweet to the soul'.

Oh but some people practically put my soul on a sugar high due to their sweet, pleasant words!!!

I met both types of women this past weekend at the North Texas Christian Writer's Conference. Let me tell you about the second person first.

Attendees at the conference had the privilege of sitting, one on one, with the presenters for 15 minute 'consultations'. This was my first writer's conference and I really wasn't prepared but I didn't want to miss out on 'free' advice from successful writers.

So the second day, I signed up for a session with a presenter that, while I didn't recognize her name, I had read at least one of her books...I knew this from the title. Sitting face to face, I shared my passion for writing these Little Lessons. I called them devotionals. I think I should have called them 'Daily Inspirational Pieces'. This day I had some samples which I had forgotten to take on the first day. Asking her to read one may have been a mistake. She immediately went to the writer's rule of 'show don't tell'. When writing, we should show you the story not just tell you the story. I know this rule. I attempt to follow this rule...but I also stay true to the style of writing that is 'my voice'. (I'm hoping I just picked a bad example to share with her.) Next, she zeroed in on 'who are you'? She implied that I had to be some recognized Bible scholar for people to 'respect' me in the published world. She didn't know me. She doesn't know anything about my background, my weaknesses or my strengths. She doesn't know what God has brought me through. Doesn't know if I have degree or not. She didn't know me but she 'put me in my place' nonetheless. So I walked away from that table with doubt. Doubt that I had any words worth sharing or any talent to put those words to use for His glory. There was not one word she spoke to me that would have been "sweet to my soul and healing to my bones".

So step back one day with me...Standing at the sign-up sheets, I read with interest that one of the presenters is also a member of CLASS, which is an organization for speakers. Speakers! Exactly where I feel God is leading me. Exactly why I feel He is allowing me the time to write and develop my voice, both in writing and audibly. I tell her about the kind of writing that I love to do and that I chose to sit with her due to her CLASS association. We chat. She asks questions. In a few short moments, she gets to 'know' me. She helps me to understand that I already am a speaker. I have presented during breakout sessions at women's retreats. I have taught on the corporate level. I have presented special lessons (outside of the curriculum) in Adult Sunday School. She encouraged me to change my business cards to include speaker...which I did that very night (I 'self-publish' my cards, hee hee). She encouraged me to join some of the speaker websites...which I will check out in the next few weeks. So we chatted some more about my writing...about my desire to write on a topic I can't yet write about, one that is very personal. I shared a few of the details with her and she immediately said "There's your pitch!" A pitch is what grabs the attention of an editor, publisher, and the reader. Through her words, I saw that I can embark on this next adventure and reach the right audience without airing all the dirty laundry that goes with it. I'm not promising you a book anytime in the near future...however, I do know see how it can be done and I'm seeking our Loving Lord's help to lay the foundation for that future book.

Two women...one conference...the words of one "Reckless words pierce like a sword" (Proverbs 12:18)...the other like a "honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones."

This morning, a precious friend at church stopped me on the way to our Life Group. Walking along the breezeway, she shared that, based on hearing me share my conversion testimony a few weeks ago, she felt that I was gifted with the ability to be a story teller...I gave her one of my new cards :-) ... WOW! Honeycomb words that confirmed for me the sweet words I had heard two days earlier and were for me words which demonstrated that our Loving Lord is indeed directing the words that I am blessed to be sharing with you.

Little Lesson Life Expression
What recipe will you use with the words you speak? Will they be sweet like honey or will you abandon our Loving Lord's advice and recklessly pierce those you meet?

Proverbs 18:20-21 (The Message)

20 Words satisfy the mind as much as fruit does the stomach;
good talk is as gratifying as a good harvest.
21 Words kill, words give life; they're either poison or fruit—you choose