God Have Mercy

It’s all over the news.  Hugh Hefner died.  Natural causes.  We know how he lived.  We know what he stood for.  We know what his god was.  What we don’t know is if he ever confessed his sins and became a Christ-follower.  Oh.  It could have happened.  On his deathbed, he could have called out to God and asked for forgiveness.  He could have asked God to have mercy on his soul.

After all.  He was a pimp and a pornographer.  That’s what I read this week.  His goal was to change the world’s view of pre-marital sex.  He accomplished that.  Is that even an accomplishment?  God is his judge.  And he has been judged.  Hugh Hefner is in eternity.  Right now. Forever.  He misguided far too many people down a seemingly attractive fun-filled road.  He may be paying for that right now.  He may be paying forever.

I’ve read several articles and heard news reports about his life.  Some applauded him.  He encouraged people to live their dreams.  To disobey God’s commands of purity and faithfulness.  Why did he do it?  Oh, he was raised in a conservative home where values were taught.  He felt he had been repressed as a child.  He rebelled.  He decided to forsake the teaching of his parents.

He was pronounced a stunning success.  Progressive.  Revolutionary.  An architect of the sexual revolution.

The thing is.  God loves Hugh Hefner.  God created him.  He knew Hugh Hefner before he was even born.  He even knew what Hugh would do on this earth.  He still loved him.  He loved Hugh so much that he died for him.  He had plans for the man.  Plans that never materialized.  Not by Hugh Hefner.  Perhaps God had to find someone else to achieve what Hugh Hefner would have had he not lusted after sin.

All we can hope now is that God has mercy on Hugh Hefner.


As many as I love, I rebuke and discipline. So be zealous and repent. See! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.  Revelation 3:19-20


I’ve never started a revolution.  I’ve never created an empire.  I’m not a pimp or a pornographer.  But I have sinned.  I think of the times this past week when my attitude was bent way out of shape. I think of how my negativity could start a revolution of sorts.  I think of how my frustrations led me to say things I can’t take back.

Too often lately, I find myself leaning toward the negative side of things.  I’d like to blame it on the actions and intentions of others.  But deep down, I know I can do better.  Sure, it’s easy to get frustrated.  No one is perfect.

Frustration.  Negativity.  Annoyance.  Bitterness.  Aggravation.

Why is that the first place my mind goes?  I work for God. I live for God. Why don’t I act like it?  Why am I such a failure at this? How does a person stay positive in a negative world?

I can’t help myself.  Or can I? Sometimes I think I enjoy being negative. Sometimes I want to lash out. Sometimes I want to get even.  If I do, though, then I feel foolish.  Immature.  Petty.  Unchristian.  I feel like a failure. Being negative isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Being human is tough. We were made in God’s image. Why is it so hard to be like him? Why do I fail so often? Will l I ever get it right? I hope he sees that I’m trying.

I’m no Hugh Hefner. But I am a sinner. In God’s eyes, sin is sin. Oh. Some may say there are degrees of sins. I don’t know.  Some may say there are different levels of hell.  I don’t know.  What I know is that sin is sin.  If I disobey God, then I’ve sinned.  The Bible says that everyone has sinned.  Everyone has fallen short of God’s plan.  You.  Me.  Hugh Hefner.  Any unconfessed sin will send a person to hell.

The thing is. I don’t want to go to hell. I don’t want anyone to go to hell.   I have asked God to forgive me.  I hope Hugh Hefner did.  I hope and pray you do, too.

All I can ask is that God will have mercy on me.  and on you.

Available: Forgiveness

She trusted them.  They stole from her.  They thought they had fooled her.  They didn’t.  They created a story of untruths.  What started out as an act of goodwill ended up with stolen treasures, lies, loss of trust and possible loss of friendship.  Was it worth it?  Was it worth the risk to take things belonging to another?  Things that weren’t yous?  For what?  A few dollars?

Now when they see each other, and they will, they’ll remember.  They both will.  The thief and the victim.  They’ll avoid each other.  Unable to look each other in the eye.  They’ll both be uncomfortable.  For different reasons.  Ruined friendships for their children.  All because of greed.  All because of wanting more.  All because of wanting what others have.  Was it worth it?

Then there’s the punishment.  What’s appropriate?  Confront them?  Press charges?    How do you really prove guilt without finding the stolen objects?  Deep down, you know who took the items.  You just can’t prove it.  How do you confront an injustice when you can’t really prove it?  But deep down, deep down you know.  And they know you know.

Imagine the fear of getting caught.  Imagine the stories the guilty have had to create.  Imagine the strain on relationships of those who are guilty.  A mother and child.  Both involved.  Why would the mother put that stress on her child?  Why would she lead her child down a path of wrongdoing?  Were they that desperate?  If so, don’t they know help is available?  Would they accept help?  Wouldn’t the fear of getting caught and being punished be more embarrassing than asking for help?

Have they done this before?  Perhaps this wasn’t the first time they had taken from others.  Perhaps they have a history of unpunished wrongdoing.  Have they taken advantage of others’ kindness in the past without being confronted or punished?

All the victim wanted was to get her possessions back.  No police.  No arrest.  Just right the wrong.  She offered mercy to those who had taken from her.  She chose forgiveness. She decided there was too much at risk to publicize the wrong that was done to her.  Going public with the offense would cause embarrassment to the guilty.  Perhaps.  Going public could break up the guilty family.  Perhaps.   Going public would end the friendship.  Perhaps.  But was it right to stay silent?  Is offering forgiveness and mercy enough?  Should all wrongdoings be punished?


I—yes, I alone—will blot out your sins for my own sake and will never think of them again.                Isaiah 43:25


The Bible tells us that everyone has sinned.  We were born sinners.  We need to right our wrongs.  We need to ask for forgiveness.  If not, we will be punished.  It’s an eternal punishment in the depths of hell.  Who wants that?

We have a forgiver.  One who offers forgiveness for all our sins.  No questions asked.  Mercy is offered for admitting guilt.  Sure.  There may be consequences because of our actions.  Wrongs will have consequences.  Some consequences and punishments are private.  Others public.  But forgiveness is always available.  Always within our reach.  All we have to do is ask.

His name is Jesus.  The forgiver of our sins.  He will wipe our sins off the map.  He will drop them into the depths of the ocean.  He will remove our sins as far as the east is from the west.  He will forget we ever sinned.  Once he has forgiven us.  We’re made new.  New creatures.  Go and sin no more.

Massage Therapy

I was lying face down fully clothed on a floor mat.   She worked with her feet.  Kneading my shoulders.  Her heels would dig into the tightness, trying to release all the pent-up stress.  Attempting to soften the scar tissue from years past.  Working to soothe the aches and stiffness of aging.  At times, she would use her hands to relax the tightness in my body.

She moved to my feet.  Once again, trying to massage out the tightness and pain.  She explained the reason for the discomfort.  She massaged my back, arms, legs – all were tight.

She sat in a folding chair, moving it around me as she worked on different parts of my body.  Fijian foot massage.  That’s what it’s called.  Effective.  Intense.  Unforgettable.

The thing is.  She understands human anatomy.  She can identify problem areas just by touch.  She can manipulate muscles and tendons in a way that soothes not only the pain, but it comforts the soul. She can calm tired shoulders and relax tight back muscles.

At times, the body work was soothing, causing me to relax.  Other times, the pain was intense.  Regardless of the pain, she kept working.  She didn’t work in one area too long, but the work she did was effective.

As I lay face down on the floor mat, I was grateful that she couldn’t see me wince in pain and discomfort as she worked out the tightness.  But when she had me turn over, I tried to be stoic and not show any indication that I was ever in pain.  I didn’t want her to ease up on the pressure.

You see.  I wanted her to work out all the tightness in my muscles.  I wanted her to help me relax, so I would be able to move freely without pain or injury.  I needed this pain as much as I hated it.  It was good pain.  It meant good things were happening.  It was temporary pain.


I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener.  He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more.  John 15:1-2


I remember times when I felt another type of pain.  Spiritual pain.  Emotional pain.  Loss had occurred.  Feelings had been hurt.  Wrong decisions had been made.  Many different hurts.  Not all at once.  But seeming to never end.

I have a God who continues to work on the parts of me that are troubled.  My unkind words.  My bad attitude.  My ungrateful heart.  My poor decisions.  My lack of generosity.  My failure to spend time with my Maker.  My humanity that needs to be moldable but is like hardened clay.

The thing is.  He understands humanity.  He created us.  He created us to be with Him.  He created us to be like Him.  Yet we resist.  Then our hearts turn to stone.  Our emotions become cold.  Our patience thins.  Our words sharpen.  Our goals and dreams are self-centered.

Sometimes his correction is painful.  Other times, it is a soothing and calming touch.  He’s pruning the overgrowth and shaping my heart to align with His ways.  It’s a difficult task that He has, but He alone can do it.  He knows the correction is temporary, but has eternal consequences.

He continues to caress my heart so I can feel empathy for those in need.  He faithfully draws me to His Word so He can teach me His ways.  His patience is never-ending on those days when my patience is cut so thin.  He massages the scar tissue of past hurts and lost dreams so I can continue to look forward to the future.  He trims the branches of bad attitudes and ungratefulness.  He leads me in the way everlasting.  Not because I deserve any of this, but because of His love for me.  His Son paid the price so I could be made whole.

 

 

Suspicious Characters

He walks the neighborhood. Wearing a hoodie.  In August. Doesn’t turn his head to look at the houses.  Just looks forward.  I’m assuming he lives in the neighborhood.  It’s not a big sprawling neighborhood.  It’s a walking neighborhood.  And he walks.  Hoodie up.  Moving forward.  Looking forward.

I’m suspicious of him.  He seems sinister.  Who wears a hoodie on a summer day?  With the hood up?  Oh, I know it may seem fashionable. I’m not convinced his walks are of a friendly nature, though.  His walk doesn’t appear to be for exercise.  He isn’t exerting himself.   He doesn’t even seem relaxed.  He looks stiff.  He’s walking at a slow pace.   Always looking forward.

He did turn his head once.  He waited as I backed out of the driveway.  He waved.  He turned his head to see if my garage door was going down.  Making me all the more suspicious.  Is he casing the neighborhood?  In my estimation of things, he is.  And I don’t like it.  I think he’s up to no good.

Here’s how my imagination works.  He lives in the neighborhood. He’s begun a walking ritual to appear normal while casing the neighborhood.  He’s memorizing routines.  Watching when people leave their homes in the morning.   He’s waiting to pounce on innocent victims.  Unsuspecting neighbors.  Waiting to break into someone’s home when they least expect it.

Here’s how reality works.  I told a couple of people about hoodie guy.  One laughed.  Made a comment about an old lady who doesn’t understand today’s fashion.  Says A&F is full of young guys wearing hoodies.  Wanted to know if I was stereotyping.

This guy.  I don’t know him.  I don’t know his name.  I don’t know where he lives.  I’m just making assumptions.  He hasn’t done anything wrong.  His actions seem suspicious.  I want to trust him.  I really do.  He just needs to prove me wrong.


So humble yourselves before God.  Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.   James 4:7


There’s someone else who is a suspicious character.  He roams the earth watching everything that goes on.  He notices everyone. He’s not only a watcher.  He’s a doer.  A wrong doer.  He masquerades as an angel of light. He’s known to invite himself to heaven’s staff meetings unannounced.

Yes.  It’s true.  God meets regularly with his angels.  And Satan will pop in at his own convenience.  Check out the story in Job 1:6-12.

But this guy.  Satan.  He has other names.  The devil.  Beelzebub.  Lucifer.

He’s a shady character.  He’s known to walk the earth watching.  People watching.  He pretends to be someone he’s not.  Oh.  He used to be someone.  He used to be God’s best angel.  But he thought he was better than everyone. He wanted to be God.  He was proud.  He was foolish.  He challenged God and God won.  This guy was thrown out of heaven.  So why should I trust him?  Why should I trust what he tells me?  He’s always up to no good.  He doesn’t ever want what’s best for me.  I know that.  Why do I let his voice get inside my head?

He’s described as a wolf.  A roaring lion.  Great dragon.  Serpent.  Sower of weeds.  He pretends to be what he isn’t.  Basically, he’s a liar.  A fake.  A troublemaker.  He distorts the truth.  Twisting words and thoughts.  He’s crafty.  He’s a tempter.  He’s a deceiver.  He’s a trickster. He’s an accuser.  He comes to steal, kill and destroy.  He’s evil.  All the way around.  Pure evil.

He pretends to be someone good.  He’s not your friend.  He’s worse than your worst enemy.  He is the enemy.  Don’t be fooled.

The good news.  God limits what Satan does.  God is more powerful than Satan.  God is bigger and better than Satan.  God is almighty.  God is everlasting.  God is love.  God is merciful.  God is just. God is omnipotent.  He is all-powerful.   God is omnipresent.  He is everywhere at once. God is omniscient.  He knows everything.  There is nothing suspicious or sinister about God.  Only God is God.

Fighting Battles

It wasn’t even my battle.  But I was asked to fight it.  I was asked to fight for someone else’s cause.  It wasn’t a battle that interested me.  Quite frankly, I didn’t even know it was an issue.  It seemed petty once I heard the details.

They wanted certain words to be written to a group of people.  They wanted the sentence worded in a certain way, but they didn’t give me the words to say.  Or the authority.  They just said, “Don’t say it like this”…  They told me how not to say it.

It felt odd fighting someone else’s battle.  I was caught in the middle.  No matter what happens, I wouldn’t be the winner.  It was a very uncomfortable position to be in.  If I’m facing a battle, I prefer to fight my own.  Not a battle I don’t believe in.  I know what my goals are.  I know what my strengths and weaknesses are.  I can’t read someone else’s mind to know how they want their battles fought.

I’ve been asked to fight other battles.  Sometimes it’s a war of words.  Sometimes it’s actions. Sometimes it’s inaction.  Nevertheless, it seems there’s always a battle.  And never mine.  It wasn’t mine to fight.  It wasn’t mine to win or lose.

I’ve wondered what those on the other side of the battle think of me.  Do they recognize that I’m the pawn in the game?  Did they realize my words and actions are sometimes led by the fighter?  I’m only the messenger.  Am I just being manipulated?

My advantage was that I could set the tone.   The “fight” doesn’t have to be nasty.  Perhaps the messenger is the most important soldier.  Trying to please both sides while remaining neutral.  Nevertheless, I was still in the fight.  I wasn’t the general.  I was the messenger.  But does it really matter?  If I’m associated with the fight, am I then a fighter?  I was recruited rather than enlisting on my own.  That only matters at the beginning of the fight.   Right?  Once the fight begins, you’re in.

There’s a difference between picking a fight and facing a hardship.  Getting even or getting your way is picking a fight.  Facing a hardship or loss is a battle.  We pick our fights but battles are another story.  It seems that way, at least.


You shall not fear them, for it is the Lord your God who fights for you. Deuteronomy 3:22


It isn’t in my nature to pick fights.  But I have seen my fair share of battles.  Battles I wouldn’t choose, but they come regardless.  Hardships and trials are battles that must be fought.  They require courage, prayer and faith to see victory.  I can’t fight these battles alone.  I’ve chosen not to.  I know a mighty warrior who fights all my battles.

This mighty warrior has fought battles for many others.

I think of the battle he fought for the people of Israel.  Moses was their leader.  The mighty warrior fought hard.  He brought the ten plagues to the Egyptians when their leader wouldn’t obey.  In the end,  this mighty warrior won.  He delivered his people from a tyrant.

I think of four men.  Daniel.  Shadrach.  Meshach.  Abednego.  All four men were captured and forced to serve a king they didn’t agree with. Yet they remained faithful to their God.  The God who created the universe.

Daniel didn’t waver from his beliefs or daily habit of praying to the only God.  Even when his life was in danger.  Even when others meant harm, God did good.  When Daniel was in the lion’s den, this mighty warrior calmed the lions so they didn’t harm Daniel.

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were thrown into a furnace when they wouldn’t bow down and worship their king.  The furnace was so hot that the flames killed the soldiers who threw them in.  Yet these three men survived.  They weren’t burned.  At.  All.  They walked out of the furnace.  Fully alive and well.  The mighty warrior fought for them.  He saved their lives.

I turn to this same mighty warrior when I have battles that need fought.

This mighty warrior will fight our battles.  God is this mighty warrior.  God fights for us.  The Bible says he does that in many different ways.  He knows our thoughts.  He knows our strengths and weaknesses.  He knows our temptations.  He knows the battle is coming before we even feel the first punch.  He knows who he’s fighting.  He knows how to fight them.  He doesn’t fight dirty, but he does fight to win.

 

 

Disappointed Again

This person abruptly changed their plans.  Again.  They’re known to do that.  It’s always devastating when it happens.  What I thought would be a peaceful and relaxing afternoon became filled with angst and caution.  I was no longer free to pursue my agenda.  I had to follow theirs.  It would be a long afternoon.

Needless to say, disappointment sat in.  Big time.  Once again, they changed their plans. They didn’t realize that their initial plans fit perfectly into mine.  The change in plans was so disappointing.  I couldn’t even begin to tell them.

I think of the times I’ve disappointed others.  I didn’t attend an event she had planned.  I didn’t eat the food she had prepared.  I couldn’t say the words they wanted to hear.  I said words they never expected to hear me say.  I wasn’t the friend she needed me to be.  I didn’t buy the product they were selling.  I didn’t laugh at the joke.  I laughed when I shouldn’t have.  The list is much longer.  Longer than I care to admit.

I have been disappointed with God.  Yes, I have.  At times when I had asked for specific help, I was let down.  Help that only God could give.  When everything I prayed for happened opposite of how I had prayed.  Why didn’t God come through when I needed him the most?  Why didn’t he protect me from the hardships that kept piling on top of each other?  Where was he?  Couldn’t he see that I was doing my best?  Was this a test?  Would I still trust him when the hardships had ended?  Would the hardships end?


So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever.  2 Corinthians 4:16-18


I consider all the things God has done for me.

He asked his only son to die on a cross for me. He suffered.  A lot.  He paid a huge price for my sins.

When I asked God to forgive my sins, he did it.  He knew my sins before they happened and he still forgave me.  When he saw I was sorry for my sins, he forgave me without a second thought.  The best part is that he forgot about those sins.  It’s as if I had never sinned.  That’s how great God is.

God has provided for all my needs.  I have a home.  A job.  Plenty of food.  Good health.  Loving husband.  Great friends.  Wonderful family.  There’s nothing I need.

I have made it through those hardships.  God provided strength to get through them.  He showed mercy when I needed it most.

God has created beauty in this world.  Nature.  Seasons.  Galaxies.  Animals.  Architecture.  Music.  Art.  Books.

God is preparing a place for me to live with him.  He’s getting it ready for me.  I’ve read that it’s out of this world.  So full of beauty.  And some of my loved ones are already there.

How can I be disappointed in a God who did all that for me?  How can I be disappointed in a God how loves me deeply no matter what I do?  How can I be disappointed in a God who is so patient with me?

I remember an old hymn that speaks to my soul.

Christ Is Not A Disappointment
I have found no satisfaction in the fleeting joys of earth 
I had hewn me broken cisterns that had mocked me by their dearth 
All the springs my soul had tested failed to meet my deepest need 
Christ, alone, has met my longing, He has satisfied indeed! 

Chorus 
Christ is not a disappointment! Every longing in my breast 
Finds, in Him, complete fulfillment, He has brought me into rest 
I have tested Him, and proved Him more than all I dreamed He’d be 
Christ is not a disappointment, He is all in all to me! 

I was tempted not to trust Him for so many things had failed 
But so patiently He waited and His tenderness prevailed 
So, I swung my heart’s door open, and His promises I tried 
Christ is not a disappointment, He has fully satisfied! 

I had tried the world for pleasure, but it could not satisfy. 
Though it promised much, it failed me. All its wells and springs were dry… 
Everything I tried was empty, and I thought my life was vain, 
Then, He came and tuned my heartstrings, 
And I learned to sing again. 

Others will fail me.  I will fail others.  Hardships will come.  Hardships will go.  The sun will rise on a tough day.  The sun will set on a beautiful day.  Through the ups and downs of life, I have found it to be true.  Christ is not a disappointment.

 

Life Isn’t Fair

In recent weeks, I’ve stood with families of two women who were in the prime of their life. Lives cut short. Husbands left widowed. One with young children. One with young grandchildren.  Parents and siblings left behind.

Two women.  40-somethings. Lives cut short by an awful disease.  Strangers to each other but known by so many.  Both lovers of God and lovers of people.  They both loved deeply and were deeply loved.

Taken too soon.  That’s what we say.  But God knows.  He planned their lives.  He allowed the suffering.  He called them home before we were ready to release them.

That’s how it is.  We’re never ready to let go of family.   We’re never ready to let go of friends.   We have memories.  But we want more to make memories.  We want what we had.  The good times.  The face-to-face interactions.  The laughs.  The hugs.  We want more than memories.

I’ve stood on the receiving side of grief.  I know the pain.  I know the heartache.  The whispers of comfort from friends and family.

We may ask why.  Why them?  Why so soon?  Wasn’t there more they could have accomplished in life?  Why wasn’t a cure found for their disease?  Didn’t their families still need them?  Weren’t they too young?

It’s hard to understand when we lose loved ones.  Especially when they’re so young.  It’s sometimes hard to understand why God allows such things to happen.


Life isn’t fair. But God is good. 

Pain is hard to understand. But God is good. 

Loss is tough. But God is good. 

Grief is trying. But God is good. 

The unknown looms ahead.  But God is good.


These women are now walking the streets of gold.  They’ve seen the face of God.  They’ve met Jesus.  They’ve been welcomed into heaven’s gates.  They’ve received their final reward.

My mother used to say. I’m ready to go, but I’m not in any hurry.  After her death, I thought she was probably kicking herself for not being in a hurry.  She was in heaven.  Life’s ultimate reward.

These two women weren’t in any hurry, either.  They were ready.  But they had reason to live.  Family.  Friends.  Faith.  But God called them home.  Their time on earth was short.  Too short in our eyes.

The clock is ticking for all.  Our time will come.  Fair or not.  Will we be ready?

 

Gossipmonger

I remember the interview as if it were yesterday.  In reality, it’s been 21 years.

She became my boss.  I remember thinking we could probably be friends.  We couldn’t.  Her mood swings were the highest of highs and the lowest of lows.  A pendulum of emotions.  I watched every morning to see the look on her face as she walked in.  That one look would tell me how the day would play out.

We had a rocky relationship from the start.  Here, I thought we could be friends and it became the worst relationship of my life.  I was constantly being compared to the person I replaced.   I could do no right.  I couldn’t even ask good questions.  That’s what she told me.

She would tell me about the man who sat across the way from her.  I could never understand their problem.  But she talked about him more than she should have.  She stewed over the fact that he was male and she was female.  Life didn’t seem fair to her.

After many months, she told me the reason.   He knew her deep dark secret.  The one thing she only told a trusted few.  He had guessed.  She had confessed.  From that moment on, she didn’t trust him.  She knew he could out her at any time.  He never did.  But it was the elephant in the room.

Did she hate him because he knew her secret?  Could he not be trusted?  Had he really done anything wrong?  Was she afraid he was going to talk about her just as she talked about him?  Was her fear the enemy of her own soul?

He never said a word.  But he knew her secret.

She used to tell me the faults and misdeeds of others, as well.  I listened.  I noted.  I felt she was trying to sway my opinion.  I came to my own conclusions of those being discussed.  And of her.

You see.  One day the truth dawned.  It was a sad and scary truth.

If she was talking to me about others, then she was talking about me to others.  It’s a hard sentence to read.  It’s a harder truth to swallow.

That’s the way gossip goes.  No one is exempt.  You talk about the one you’re not with.  Your confidant is the one you’re with.  At that moment.

It happens all the time.

Innocent fact sharing.  Purposeful venting.  Secret letting.  Fact checking.  Getting the other side of the story.  Comparing details.  Insinuating evil.  Assuming our words are safe with certain others.

Gossipmonger:  A person who habitually passes on confidential information or spreads rumors.


Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord my Rock and my Redeemer. Psalm 19:14


I think about my conversations.  When have I shared facts just to appear in the know?  When have I vented because the situation turned in someone else’s favor?  When have I spilled the beans about someone else’s life because I was with my best friend?  When have I fact checked just because?  When have I compared details because I don’t want to be confused?  When have I assumed my words were safe with others and they’ve come back to bite me?  When have I talked about others because they were different from me?

After the creation, God saw all the wickedness that was happening.  He saw that the hearts and thoughts of man were only evil all the time. He was sorry he had ever made man. (Genesis 6:5-6).  That smarts.  Smacks me upside the head with the truth about my own heart.  My own words.  My own intentions.

Who am I to judge others’ words and intentions when mine aren’t always pleasing to God?

Planted to Grow

She bought the best looking tomato plants she could find.  Two different varieties.  The tomato plants were beautiful.  So much hope.  So much promise.  They were destined for great results.

She planted them with care.  In pots.  She kept those pots on the deck away from stray animals.  Fearful that the deer and other unknown creatures of the wild would destroy her prized garden.

She watered the plants every day.  They began to grow.  And grow.  Stakes were put in place to hold and strengthen the growing stalks.  Soon the stalks were taller than the stakes.  These plants were going to overproduce.  She could just feel it.

The plants bloomed.  The heat of the summer would dry out the blooms.  She would water them more.  But finally.  Finally, she saw the tiny tomatoes starting to form on the plants.  Now the long wait began for ripe red tomatoes.

As the weeks went by, she noticed that the plants had reached their full height.  But they had also stopped blooming.  There were roughly 10 tomatoes on both plants combined.  No new blooms.  No new tomatoes.  How could that be?  These plants should be producing lots of tomatoes.

She continued watering the plants each day.  She began to notice the leaves were withering and dying.  Was she watering the plants too much?  She didn’t think so.  After all, it was really hot and muggy most days.  They needed water.

Then one day, she noticed the roots on one of the plants.  She realized she had planted her prize tomatoes in shallow pots.  The roots had reached their limit.  They had no more room to grow.

She didn’t know that what is seen above the soil is determined by what’s hidden under it. She didn’t know that the roots are the biggest part of the plant.  She didn’t know that a healthy tomato plant needs a lot of space for a strong root system.  If only she had studied about tomatoes.  How to plant them.  How to feed and water them.  How to get them to produce the best and most tomatoes.  But she didn’t.  She just planted them, watered them and left them to grow on their own.

She didn’t know that during the hot, sun-blazing days, the plants would begin to wither and die because the root structure wasn’t able to go deep enough to sustain life and continued growth.

Sure.  These plants are producing tomatoes.  But there’s not an abundance of the crop.  There’s only a handful of pitiful looking small tomatoes.  The fruit of the vine didn’t live up to its potential.  Simply because of the lack of preparation and proper planting.


The seed on the rocky soil represents those who hear the message and immediately receive it with joy.  But since they don’t have deep roots, they don’t last long.  They fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God’s word.  Matthew 13: 20-21


 

She was raised in a Christian home where God’s word was regularly shared.  Her family read the Bible together.  They prayed together.  They had devotions together.

Her parents tended to their garden of their 7 children.  They sowed the seed of the gospel.  They planted the disciplines of a godly life.  They watered the Biblical teachings by taking their family to church.  Her parents did their part to allow the Word of God to be fruitful in her life.

As she became an adult, she realized she must take ownership for her relationship with God.  Her parents did the work that was entrusted to them.  They introduced her to Christ, and now she must continue the work in her heart.   Now she must till the soil to remove any weeds and thorns of jealousy, anger or comparison.  She continues to dig up rocks and stones in her heart that get in the way of the seeds her parents planted so many years ago.  She has to continually water her soul with the Word of God, so her roots will grow deep and not be parched and wither.  It’s a daily work in the garden of her heart that will produce a healthy and mature Christian.

She knows what God requires of her.  He tells her what she needs to do to please Him.  He wants to have a close relationship with her.  He wants her to study the words He’s written.  He wants her to grow roots deep in His love.  He wants her to spend time alone with Him.  Reading His word.  Listening to the words he says to her.  Learning the lessons he wants to teach her.  Growing closer to him by spending time together.

After all, they are in a relationship.

In any other relationship, she spends time with the person.  Talking to them.  Listening to them.  Finding common ground.  Learning differences.  Becoming friends.  Wanting to spend even more time together.  Falling in love.

Why shouldn’t her relationship with God be the same?  He’s the friend who will never leave her.  He will never give up on her.  He’s always available when she needs him.

 

 

Dreams Encouraged

The women will swarm the city this week.  They will come in droves to hear speakers, to receive good gifts, to be honored. They will tour the facility.  They will party.  They will worship.  They will be celebrated, encouraged and rewarded.

This event is the culmination of a year of hard work and achievement.  Many of the women have been working for this for years.  Other women have just started their journey.  Some women have reached the heights of success.  Others are still dreaming of the prize.  Many women are leaders.  Most can only hope.

Each of these women have different goals.  Each of them views success differently.  These women are dreaming of a new life.  They’re hoping for a change in their current situation.  A good change.  A change for the better.  A fresh start.  For some, it’s a second chance.

Many of these women have worked very hard to build their business.  Most, if not all, have struggled.  Some have remained faithful and have reaped the rewards.  Others aren’t sure they have what it takes, but they still put forth an effort.  Many more have fallen by the wayside.  Not because the task is impossible, but because they didn’t persevere.  They gave up when the going got tough.  They moved on when moving up didn’t come easy.

To enjoy your work and accept your lot in life—this is indeed a gift from God.  Ecclesiastes 5:19b

I see myself in each of these women.  I’ve tried to be successful at my dreams.  I’ve persevered. For a while.  I get discouraged. I lose faith.  I back off.  I dream again.  I start the cycle once more.  I wonder if I have what it takes to be successful.  I wonder if I have what it takes to achieve my dream.

Why do I have dreams if I can’t accomplish them?  Is it too late?  Am I too old?  Do I have what it takes? How will I know if I don’t keep trying?

I shared my dream with others last year.  They encouraged me.  I dusted off my dream and began pursuing it.  It’s hard work.  It’s tough to stay motivated.  It’s invigorating.  It’s rewarding.  It’s challenging.  It’s fulfilling.

But I’ve started.  That’s the first step.  Just doing it is a great feeling.

Here’s what I wonder.  Am I successful only if I beat everyone else at the dream?  Am I proclaimed a winner only if I get the top prize?  Is it enough to pursue it and possibly never finish?

Here’s what I know.  I need to remain faithful to the dream.  I need to work at it.  Pursue it.  Try to do my best at it.

I celebrate the fact that I have dreams.  I feel empowered to pursue the ideas I envision.

I am encouraged by others to pursue the dream.  It’s my dream and I own it.

I am rewarded with peace and contentment when I am faithful to the dream.  I measure my success by knowing I’m pursuing the gifts God put within me.