Sunday, September 20, 2020

Good Medicine


The right medicine can do you a lot of good, and some really good medicine is

free. There's a catch, though . . . you have to look for it. 

Proverbs 17:22 (NIV) says, "A cheerful heart is good medicine." You could take that a couple of ways:  (1) Instead of floating through your day with negative thoughts, make it a point to think positive, or (2) be on the lookout for humorous events and conversations around you.

A cheerful heart is very individualized medicine. I learned to look for it on a daily basis while undergoing chemo, surgery and radiation for breast cancer in 2007. I found this medicine so enjoyable that I kept on taking it.

People are always happy to get free medicine samples from their doctor. Here are some samples of my own:

    (1) I shared this one with a friend just the other day. I was once taking sermon notes when I heard the pastor say, "Let everything that has breath praise the Lord---even if it's bad breath!" He was quoting the very last verse in the book of Psalms, but every time I remember his tag line I have to smile.


(2) In a thrift store one day I was musing over some colorful floral-motif plates. Without thinking I said aloud, "I wonder if my husband would eat off these?" A lady nearby said, "It probably depends on what you put on 'em!"

    (3) A friend shared this one: She overheard her grandson call a playmate "Stupid!" She called him in and said, "You can't call somebody stupid. It's not nice." He said, "I'm sorry, Memaw," and went back outside to play. He surprised her by rushing back in a little while later asking, "But what if they really are?"

You don't always need a full-strength, laugh-out-loud belly buster.
Good m
edicine works in smaller doses, too. Just follow these instructions: To be taken multiple times daily, with or without food.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Your Future is Now


Life is full of changes.
We have just come through a hot summer. Now, almost overnight, it's time for the heater, not air conditioning.

There are other obvious changes. I was telling a friend about a couple of restaurants that had removed all their tables and chairs. Business seemed robust with their take-out options.

I said, "I wonder if they'll ever bring back their seating? I would think their life is simpler without it."

She said, "I think the face of our nation is forever changed." And it's not just us; COVID-19 has changed the world.

I enjoy the devotional thoughts of Sarah Young.
Here's a few comments from her book, *Jesus Calling. The caps are mine for emphasis:  So many people dream of the day WHEN they will finally be happy, WHEN they are out of debt, WHEN their children are out of trouble, WHEN they will have more leisure time, and so on."

Dreams and plans are a positive part of our human experience, but there's a major problem. We are not in control of our lives nor those of the people around us.  

No truthful person would ever say life is easy, but we need to live life in the NOW. It's a choice we can make.

The Apostle Paul explained his approach in Philippians 4:11: . . . I have LEARNED how to be content (satisfied to the point where I am not disturbed or disquieted) in whatever state I am (AMP).

People willing to learn are flexible.

Go ahead . . . dream and plan. But realize your future is now, and learn to enjoy life today!

*Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace in His Presence, Sarah Young, Thomas Nelson, Nashville, 2004, p. 266.

Sunday, September 6, 2020

More Fruit, Please


Life without fruit would be rather bland
. I'd miss the apple crunch in my Waldorf salad and a ripened banana in my icy smoothie.

Fruit satisfies a need even when it stands alone. Who hasn't heard the old adage "an apple a day keeps the doctor away?" At least it's a healthy choice.

I'm a little prejudiced about strawberries and grapes.
That's only because I got to eat so many of them when I lived in central California. But I also enjoy fruit from places I have never seen.

Nutritionists remind us that fruit is important for our physical health. But certain kinds of fruit are important to our spiritual lives, as well.

This spiritual fruit is listed in Galatians 5:13-26.

Fruit produced by a sinful nature requires laws to keep it under control. On the other hand, the fruit of God's Spirit has no laws against it.

This Fruit of the Spirit, or character traits, is available to all believers. Produced anywhere in the world, it would have the same result.

I like the explanation of this fruit in today's *Message Bible. See what you think:
            Love - affection for others
            Joy - exuberance about life
            Peace - serenity
            Longsuffering - a willingness to stick with things
            Kindness - a sense of compassion in the heart
            Goodness - conviction that a basic holiness permeates things & people
            Faithfulness - being involved in loyal commitments
            Gentleness - not needing to force our way in life
            Self-control - able to marshal and direct our energies wisely

It's not hard to see why this Fruit of the Spirit has real value.

An old song says, "They will know we are Christians by our love," but why be satisfied with one fruit out of nine?

When in prayer, don't be afraid to ask for, "More fruit, please."

*The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language, Eugene H. Peterson, NavPress, Colorado Springs, CO, 2002, Galatians, p. 2123, paragraph 3.

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Headlines, Old and New


Headlines are teasers, bits of news to hook our attention
. I always read headlines, but move right along unless I'm really curious.

In our day we have endless resources for news. Take your pick . . . TV, radio, cell phones, newspapers, magazines and even social media. No one ever has time to connect with all, so headlines work hard to grab our attention.

Here's a piece of news: I have seen violence in the city. Day and night they go around it on its walls; iniquity and trouble are also in the midst of it. Destruction is in its midst; oppression and deceit do not depart from its streets.

It sounds like a description of our 2020 city riots: violence, iniquity, trouble, destruction, oppression, deceit.

In truth, it's really old news, written between 1005 and 965 B.C., by the famous King David. After I read those lines the other day (Psalm 55:9-11, NKJV), I thought people sure haven't changed much over time.

We do have some good news, however. We can follow David's example.

In Psalm 42 David was doing a little self-talk. Times were tough and he expressed his frustration to God.

We can be honest with God, too. He's big enough to handle whatever we tell Him.

In spite of what headlines may say
 let's appropriate David's words of encouragement: Hope in God; for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God (Psalm 42:11b, NKJV).

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Little Blessings


Children, whether your own or those of others, can be little blessings. In my case, it turned out to be those of others.

When my husband and I married, we planned for a family. It's a long story, but it turned out to be an empty dream. In fact, neither of our families were very prolific in the baby department. But children were still important to us.

In my teens I volunteered as a Sunday School teacher. My class of preschoolers were so much fun. Then after college, I taught in primary grades.

As Ministry Associate in a growing church, one assignment was to organize Sunday School and Children's Church. At that point I was a teacher of teachers. But it was a pleasure to work with volunteers who truly cared about children.

A personal passion was children's choir. Two moms were great assistants. One was always ready to play the musical tracks, the other prepared the snacks.

Our thirty children presented a mini-concert one Sunday morning each month. The impact of these little blessings was obvious. Adult attendance became noticeably larger.

Little blessings, however, did not always come in groups. As young marrieds, my husband and I were blessed by the friendship of a young family with three children. Two little boys and their younger sister helped us create many happy memories.

We were also blessed with a Goddaughter. A family we had known for four generations honored us with this addition to their family. That little baby grew into a lovely young adult and we're still in touch.

One year, during a sabbatical, we lived with best friends for six months. The little blessing there was their three-year-old granddaughter. We enjoyed interacting with her on a daily basis.

People have different reactions to Psalm 127:3,5. It speaks of children being a blessing from the Lord. We missed out on that one. But I still say, "Be open to little blessings, no matter how they come to you." 


Saturday, August 15, 2020

Run With Patience


It's funny how you can read a well-known passage, only to have a new thought pop up. I love it when that happens.

Today's reading was Hebrews, Chapter 11, sometimes called The Hall of Faith. It lists people who, against all odds, "kept the faith" to gain an eternal crown of righteousness.

In the next chapter, Paul wrote of a race to be run with endurance. It was a marathon, not a sprint.

If you say, "Runners," I think speed. That's why "run with patience" caught my attention. People usually say, "Slow down!" when they mean stop rushing around and messing things up. It's another way of saying, "Be patient."

Each of us is running our own marathon. Paul wrote to Timothy that he had "finished his race, kept the faith, and was looking forward to receiving a crown of righteousness" (2 Timothy 4:7-8, NKJV).

He was slowed down plenty of times. His short list included shipwrecks, beatings, imprisonment, hunger, sleeplessness and more (2 Corinthians 11:24-28, NKJV).

In our day, we have been slowed down by a different challenge: COVID-19. Instead of dashing off to work, school or church, we've had to slow down. For some that has meant working at home, for others loss of a job, or lack of childcare. 

As we shelter in place and listen to endless reminders for social distancing and healthcare, there's no doubt about it---we are slowed down!

Are you setting an example of running with patience? Are you enduring your challenges without complaint? Are you creatively using your abilities to endure this race with calmness and self-control?

Consider the example of wagon-train pioneers plodding slowly westward. They had no control over the weather or speed of their journey. Their only control, day after day, was self-control . . . their heart set on perseverance to the end. 

Our world-wide pandemic has no end in sight. Like the pioneers, our only control is self-control. It's a daily challenge, but let's run with patience and stay the course.

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Are You Prepared for the Storms of LIfe?


Forest Fires Hurt Animals and People
You can count on one thing about storms: They are indiscriminate. No one is spared by their economic status, color, culture or level of education.

For example, firestorms not only destroy forests and animal habitats, but also homes of people who may have tried to prepare for such disaster.

Tropical storms, hurricanes and tornadoes also produce damage. Picture roof-high flood waters, or houses blown to pieces by outrageous winds. Beyond the destruction of buildings, gone is food and water, important documents, and things that sustained everyday life.

In the mid-sixties we went to San Diego, CA for our honeymoon. Consistently heavy rain waylaid our plans, so we headed home early.
Mud Can Be Very Destructive

On our way back to the Los Angeles area, we took a side trip through a rainstorm-damaged mountain community. I'll never forget my sadness at seeing mud oozing out of open doors and broken windows.

Preparation for the storms of life cannot be overestimated. Spiritual preparation is as important as any other. It requires a certain amount of personal concern, followed by time and effort.

Jesus told a story about a major storm. Heavy winds and rains caused flooding. The storm hit indiscriminately, but some people were more prepared than others (Matthew 7:24-27).

The point was that Jesus' teachings are rock solid. Wise people, once they have heard or read them, prepare to put them into practice.

I like the explanation in The Message Bible: "These words I speak to you are not incidental additions to your life, homeowner improvements to your standard of living. They are foundational words, words to build a life on."
On What Do You Build Your Life?

Unwise, or foolish people, hear His teachings but ignore them. They go about life doing their own thing. Jesus compared it to building on sand. The Message says, "When a storm rolled in and the waves came up, it collapsed like a house of cards."

If you'd like to know some of Jesus' teachings, open the book of Matthew. If you want a short cut, get a red-letter edition of the Bible. Jesus' words will stand out easily.

Don't wait. To be prepared for the storms of life, start now.