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.

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Put That in Writing


We Keep Track of Important Documents
When people ask us to "put that in writing," they're interested in documentation for future reference. Documents like marriage and birth certificates, deeds and titles have carried legal weight for centuries.

I used to be interested in ephemera, or paper goods. I collected old calendars, valentines, greeting cards, photographs, postcards and advertising items. It was fun to read old messages and analyze artistic styles.

Old cards and postcards showed the receiver valued the message enough to save it. I doubt they thought about a finder like me enjoying a peek into their past years later.

Now I'm more into collecting books. In fact, while going through my files this week, I found a well-worn storybook from my childhood.

Books Can Give Long-term Satisfaction 
I also had a favorite childhood Bible story book. But as I got older, I chose to read the Bible itself. Even in King James English I found it full of adventure, love, mysteries and promise.

Now I enjoy the Bible in modern English, but the bottom line, for me, is still the same. It's the wonder of God wanting us to know Him so well that He put things in writing.

Most anyone can tell you the danger of written messages these days. Even a casual Email or Facebook posting can be used against you forever.

Rest assured God's written communication was not casual. In fact, He was so purposeful about it that He declared it would not return to Him empty. Instead, it would accomplish what He desired, achieving the purpose for which He sent it (Isaiah 55:11).

Theologians and historians have plenty of documentation about how the Bible was written, but its real value is in how it helps us connect with God.

There's nothing top-secret about the Bible. God wants us to know Him and He put it in writing.

All we have to do it read it. Then when something speaks to our heart we can talk to Him about it. 

Two-way communication can be a very satisfying.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Are You Sheltering or Isolating?


Cities, Villages, Townships Were All Affected
Shelter in Place was one of the first directives for dealing with Covid-19. What a challenge! The economy took a big hit as all segments of society were affected.

A friend, whose church was closed, had a sign in her front yard: Sheltered by Grace. That was a very encouraging message. Grace has always been explained to me as God’s unmerited favor.

In other words, God will hear my prayers because of who HE is, not because of any goodness on my part. In fact, 1 Peter 5:7 (NIV) says, “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.”

My church was open, closed, then opened again. The services are streamed online. So far, I have not felt it’s time for me to return. While sheltering in place, however, I am not isolating from my fellow believers or my fiscal responsibility.

Communication Beats Isolation, For Sure
To isolate would be to remain alone, making no attempt to connect with others. Why do that when I can easily text, call, or email? I’ve also kept the post office busy with some cards, letters and packages.

The nice thing is that others have connected with me in those ways, too.

A gathering for me just now is one person at a time. The other day I met a friend at a restaurant where they practiced social distancing, limited seating, and servers wore masks.

A couple of weeks ago I met a friend for a picnic. I said, “Would you like to take communion together before we leave?” She said, “Yes! Where two or three are gathered, right?”

What a great response! We read scripture and prayed over the bread and grape juice as if we were in church. She said she felt encouraged, and so did I.

I Can Make A Difference, But How?
Avoid isolation. Think about the advice in Hebrews 10:24 (NKJV):
         Let us consider (think about) one another
         in order to stir up (get ourselves into action, then others)
         to love and good works.

There’s as much freedom and variety in that as there are people.

Sunday, July 19, 2020

The Power of Little Things


Sometimes We Have To Look For Positive Things
In these days of turmoil, little things can easily go unnoticed. Think about your life in the last forty-eight hours. Are there any little things that have given you a lift, a positive attitude, or a smile?

For me, it would be lunch with a friend . . . sweet dark cherries on sale at my favorite grocer . . . and a long telephone visit with a friend far away.

I have friends who think it’s a little thing to sew face masks to help people deal with COVID-19. As for me, it’s a little thing to actually wear a mask if it will have a positive impact on our economy.

One thing that made me smile this week was banana bread. It’s a favorite of one of our neighbors, and I like to bake. I carefully followed a new recipe but the loaf felt heavy. The neighbor said it tasted great, but I nicknamed it the “banana brick.”

Thumbs Up For The Tongue
When talking about the power of little things, we can’t forget our tongue. What a marvelous body part! It helps us taste, which is a pleasure, and it helps us talk. It’s amazing how the tongue helps form words for every language in the world.

James points out the power of little things: 1) a small bit in a horse’s mouth controls the whole animal, and 2) a small rudder can set the course of a great ship. Unfortunately, there is no such control for our tongue (James 3:3-10).

In this passage, The Message points out some areas of caution:
By our speech we can
ruin the world,
turn harmony into chaos,
throw mud on a reputation,
send the whole world up in smoke . . .

Add some volume to your voice and your tongue can do even more damage. Be alert! Use your tongue powerfully for good things.

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Worthwhile Digs


Does Your Communication Include Digs?
In this age of social media, we seem to encounter a lot of digs. When it comes to language, sarcastic comments, scoffs and taunts fit this category.

Who needs all that negativity? I prefer a more positive focus. The digs I enjoy require both energy and caution.

I'm talking about pain-staking work that sends you home dirty every day, yet dedicated workers pursue it.

On a recent visit, my brother gave me another stack of magazines. I discovered *Biblical Archaeology Review. The cover advertised Digs 2020: An Insider's Look at 8 Excavations.
Clay Is Strong, Yet Fragile

What I found was fifteen pages of brief archaeological reports. College students from around the world were doing the dirty work. More power to the young!

Their joyful faces drew me in. Each article had at least one student holding an item discovered in their dig, or tel

My favorite full-page photo is of two girls holding a large clay vessel. The body is rounded, the neck narrows and has an attached handle, then the mouth is flared.

Their smiles are huge. After reading the photo caption, I knew why. 

How excited would you be to hold an unbroken piece of pottery from the eighth century B.C.E. (formerly known as B.C.)?

Pottery, even small fragments, can reveal many secrets. 
Grecian Pottery  

Scientist look for clues in the type of clay, size, shape, style of decorating, or even the lack of it. By following such clues they can discover trade routes, and discover ancient abilities to both store and transport.

I would not like to go on a dig, but I certainly appreciate the work of those who do!

Deuteronomy 29:29 says, The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but things revealed belong to us and our children forever. Isn't that great?

That's why I enjoy museums. They are filled with items from worthwhile digs, and I, for one, am grateful.

*Biblical Archaeology Review, January/February 2020, Vol. 46, No 1; Digs 2020: An Insider's Look at 8 Excavations, pp 24-39.

Sunday, July 5, 2020

The Importance of Being Civil


Cities Are Civilized By People
People, whether highly educated or not, can still be civil. It is not a play on words to say that being civil is an important part of civilization.

To be civil, in all cultures, is to move beyond a primitive self-absorbed, me-first mentality.

Civilized people create positive cultural climates. Their basic respect for all peoples, enables them to interact with all levels of society. Courtesy and politeness are shown by personal choice, not social pressure.

They are not always on edge to remember rules of etiquette. Their brand of civility means relating to others through an inner thoughtfulness and consideration.

An Angry Crowd Is Like A Cyclone
Lack of civility becomes quite obvious. Rioting in the streets and random destruction of property show a lack of thoughtfulness, courtesy and respect.

An angry crowd can burn up a lot of energy. It also cancels personal choice because it does not leave time for inner thoughtfulness.

But the word “random” brings up a great reminder of how to be civil.

Random Acts of Kindness (RAK) is a great concept. Search the web and you’ll find it was launched in 1995. In fact, RAK Week seems to land in February. But do we have to wait for a special week?

Simply put, random acts of kindness are thoughtful, spontaneous and unpredictable. Reader’s Digest* had some wonderful examples.

Here’s my favorite: A three-year-old was begging for gummy treats in a store. The mom was doing her best to explain that daddy had lost his job and they could not afford any treats.

A stranger walked up and said, “You dropped this,” and handed her a fifty-dollar bill.

A random act of kindness . . . civil, thoughtful, polite and spontaneous.

Small Things Are Important
You don’t have to be an adult to be kind. As a child, I learned Be ye kind one to another (Ephesians 4:32 (KJV). Mom taught the concept by both her words and deeds.

Be civil. Be kind. You may feel like a raindrop in the desert, but a tiny seed of hope might grow in someone from what you do.

*Reader's Digest, February 2020, pp. 82-87, Inspiration, Kindness: Pass It On!

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Three Important Personal Things


Provision: Green Pastures and Still Water
A couple of weeks ago my blog was titled Quiet Restoration. I shared the relaxing picture of being led to rest in green pastures and beside quiet waters (Psalm 23:2). It was such a great contrast to rushing waterfalls and fields full of weeds.

In writing Quiet Restoration, it didn't feel complete until I included the start of verse 3: He restores my soul.

The next morning, my waking thought was He restores my soul! I've never really thought much about that. I'd like to learn more. So, I set out on a quest: My soul . . . what is it?

Joyce Meyer, in her Everyday Life Bible, made a comment that really stuck with me: "We are a spirit, we have a soul, and we live in a body."*

Her commentary on Psalm 23 got my attention with this line: "The soul is comprised of the mind, the will, and the emotions."** Think about it. Would you be a whole person if one of these was missing?
Water Can Restore Green to Dry Places

The phrase He restores my soul began to take meaningful shape for me. 

Being married to a guy who loved car shows, I was quite familiar with restoration. Some owners included pictures of their awesome autos as "junkers" before they were restored.

What I found interesting was my own need for restoration. I'm usually an "up" person, so I couldn't miss the fact that this week I was noticeably "down."

Three things clamored for attention: 1) Negative feelings, 2) negative thoughts, and 3) my personal decision on how to handle these challenges.

The choice was mine. God did not create us as robots, and He cares about every part of us . . . body, soul, and spirit.

After the Storm, A Rainbow of Hope
Are you feeling out of sorts, confused, or disappointed by life? Do you feel a need for restoration . .  a way to get back to the positive side of things?

That was me. I read Psalm 23 and asked the LORD to restore my soul. I later realized my "downers" were gone.

He'll do it for you, too. Just ask.

*The Everyday Life Bible (Amplified Version), Joyce Meyer, Faith Words, NY,NY, 1 Thessalonians 5:23, Life Point, p. 1984.

**The Everyday Life Bible (as above), Psalm 23, God Restores and Leads, p. 835.