Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Sticks and Stones

Whoever said, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” was never the mother of a teenager!

I don’t even remember what the words were, but they were probably not intended to be malicious. They were more the thoughtless words far too often spoken at that age. Nevertheless they were hurtful, and Lisa came home from school upset, crying as only a teenager can. My heart ached for her.

girl-depressed

Our words have great power, and they flow out of what is deepest in our heart. They show either the light, or the darkness it contains. Jesus understood this, calling the crowd to Himself, saying “Listen and understand. What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them…“Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them.” (Matthew 15:10-11, 17-18)

Some words comfort, heal, forgive, affirm, or encourage. I love you. I’m sorry. Great job. I’m proud of you. You can do it.

Other words wound, tear down, criticize, and discourage. You’re dumb. Fat. I hate you.

sticks-and-stones

It’s not a new problem; it has always been like this:

All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.                   James 3:7-1

Hawk Nelson has a song simply called “Words” that illustrates this far better than I ever could;

“Words can build you up , words can break you down;

Light a fire in your heart or put it out.

Let my words be life.  Let my words be truth

I don’t wanna to say a word unless it points the world back to You.”

Praise and cursing out of the same mouth; this should not be. Because ultimately we want to point the world to Jesus, and our words will either do that, or be a stumbling block to it.

Sticks and stones, or salt and light. It’s a choice.

Set a guard over my mouth, Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips.      Psalm 142:3

May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.                                                               Psalm 19:14

Further reflection:

1. Can you recall a time when someone’s words hurt you deeply? How did you feel?

2. Do you remember a time when your own words did the same to someone else? What was your motivation?

3. Based on the words that come out of your mouth, how would someone judge the reality of Jesus in your heart?

Father, forgive me for all the times my words are sharp, and critical, and unloving. They only reveal where I have yet to let Your light shine in my heart. I yearn to better reflect Your reality in my life. Please, set a guard before my mouth, that my words and my faith become consistent.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Because I Said So!

Horrified, I looked around to see who spoke those terrible words. Seeing no one, I realized the awful truth; I had said them!
Growing up I had promised I would never utter them. I had heard them spoken by my own mother too many times, and they always frustrated me. But it was just one of those days. My ten-year-old daughter, Bethany, wanted to have a friend over to play. I had to say no. Not liking that decision, she began the inevitable repetition of “Why?”
I tried to explain that we had to drop her four brothers off at soccer practice, then take her sister to the orthodontist, and pick up dinner before returning to retrieve her brothers. Not satisfied, she again asked in a slightly more agitated way, “Why?”
why
We just didn’t have time, and I attempted to get her to see that it wouldn’t be fun for her friend to be stuck in the car. I told Bethany there would be other days when we would be home, and her friend could come. I preferred reasoning with my kids over the heavy-handed approach, but no matter how many times I gave her my reasons or how many different ways I explained them, Bethany just wasn’t going to accept my answer. After several attempts, her continual “why’s” just got to me.
“Because I said so!” The words I thought I would never say virtually exploded out of my mouth. I’m not sure who was more shocked, Bethany or I.
You know, now that I’m a bit older I realize the simplicity of those words, and the wisdom in heeding them when it is God who utters them. Because there have been many times when He wanted me to do something I absolutely did not want to do, much less understand why He would even ask. Like Bethany, I acted like a ten-year-old, wanting answers without listening for them.
Looking back, I sometimes see the whys in what God has asked me to do. I can see how much poorer my own life would be if I had not done said yes. Because He can accomplish His purposes without me; I would be the one who would have missed out on all the blessings that came from obedience. I would not have seen how qualitatively different life is when I do what He says.
Sometimes we can’t, or won’t, understand what His reasons are. Other times, He doesn’t even give them to us, but instead asks that we love and trust Him enough to obey Him without understanding why.
Just because He said so.

We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands. Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them.                                                                                 1  John 1:3-5a

If you love me, keep my commands.                          John 14:15

Further reflection:
1. Do you recall times when your mom told you to do something, and responded with those words when you asked “Why?”
2. How did you feel?
3. As you look back, why do you think she resorted to saying that?
4. Is it any easier for you to obey God, even when you don’t understand the whys?
5. Why, or why not?
Father, I trust You. I know that You are perfect, that You know all things and have good reasons for what You ask me to do. My heart yearns to obey without question and without hesitation, but my self-will is stubborn and wants what it wants. I need Your help to do what You ask without having to understand all the reasons. Because You are my Father, and I love You.
















Friday, May 17, 2013

A Kodak Eternity

“Kodak moments.” That old series of commercials poignantly depicted snapshots of life; a soldier returning home from war, a daughter’s surprise visit from college, two old friends reconnecting. We all have those memorable slivers of time; their significance is forever etched in our memory. We intuitively recognize those moments as the way that life should always be, but so rarely turns out.

I will never forget one such moment. My husband, Alan, and my brother, Don, had coached my three older boys on a Little League baseball team. Having enjoyed a very successful season, they needed only to win this last game to advance to the coveted city championships.

Our oldest son, Eric, was the starting pitcher that night. Due to his tendency to prefer last-minute wins, Eric had developed a reputation as the pitcher most likely to give the coach a heart attack. This night, however, he sailed through three innings, holding the other team scoreless while our own team produced three precious runs.

baseball for kodak

Then our second son, Stewart, came in as a reliever to close out the game. I could see how nervous he was. And I could barely breathe! It wasn’t that either of us cared so much about winning, but Stewart put a lot of pressure on himself to do his best. He hated to feel like he had let other people down. It would be a long ride home that night if he blew the lead.

He didn’t.

Out of the nine batters that he faced in three innings, Stewart struck out the first eight. On the last play of the game, the batter hit a weak grounder back to Stewart and he easily threw him out at first base.

The stands erupted with jubilant cheering, and all those Little Leaguers were jumping up and down in riotous celebration. My husband and my brother catapulted from the dugout to congratulate the kids.

Spotting his dad, Stewart ran full speed towards him, launching himself into his arms. They turned circles together, hugging as they twirled.

Talk about a Kodak moment! I still cannot recall that picture without tears.

Why? Because for a single moment, life was perfect. There was nothing but shared elation and shared joy in celebrating the victory. It was the way life should always be; picture perfect and full of delight.

Later that night, Stewart walked to the car with his arm around me, and in an unsteady voice said, “I will never forget the summer of ‘87.”

Neither will I. It was a little like heaven.

God has put into each of His children an anticipation of what heaven will be like. We have moments here that are filled with unadulterated joy. When we get to heaven every single instant will be like that. Life then will always be the way it is supposed to be.

I think that when that time comes and I see my Lord face-to-face, my reaction, like Stewart’s, will be to throw myself into my Father’s arms and joyously share in celebrating His victory.

And that will indeed be a Kodak eternity.

Can you picture it?

“He (God) will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Revelation 21:4

Further reflection:

1. Read through these Bible passages: John 14:1-3. 1 Peter 1:3-5. Revelation 5:12-13

2. As you think about heaven, what part of it are you looking forward to the most?

3. In what circumstances of your life do you see glimpses of heaven here on earth?

Father, I am so grateful not just for the hope of heaven, but for the certainty of it. Thank You that when I get there I will see you face-to-face. You will make all things the way they should be and I will get to rejoice with You as we celebrate Your victory.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Beneath the Surface

It was even more beautiful than the postcards. Apart from the sharks.

I’d assumed the colors of the water I’d seen on posters from the Bahamas had been retouched. The ocean here on the west coast is pretty, but nothing like those pictures. But I was wrong; it really is that amazing. So while we were there in Nassau for my nephew’s wedding (http://www.aneverydayvoice.com/2013/05/bahamian-soaring.html), my husband and I just had to be part of the group that chartered a snorkeling boat so we could see more of it.

snorkeling above 2

The water looked so gorgeous from the boat that I could hardly wait to get into it. But as pretty as it was from the boat, it was even more stunning when we looked at what was beneath the surface. There was so much to see!

Color; shades of aqua ranging from a milky green to a more intense deep turquoise.

Clouds of reef fish and corals, French frigate shoals, NWHI

Beauty; the iridescent glow of tropical fish and the neon orange of the coral reef.

There was also danger.

At one point the boat stopped in deeper water and dropped a bait box about 40 feet down. What do you think arrived, expecting dinner? Caribbean reef sharks! We had the option, within very strict guidelines, to float on the surface and swim with them. I confess; I did hesitate. Swimming with sharks? Who does that? Turns out that when I’m in the Bahamas, I do!

reef shark

At first I didn’t see them; there was so much else to look at. Only when someone gestured wildly in their direction did I notice them— three of them swimming around the bait. It was like watching the TV show, “Shark Tank”. While my mind knew they were real, the sharks felt too distant to be frightening. When one of them swam a little closer, some of the people bolted out of the water. I didn’t; they just didn’t seem that sinister. Only when we were ordered out of the water did I comply. I really should have been more afraid.

Temptation is a lot like those sharks.

It often sneaks up on us just like that; while we are distracted, focused on something else. Occasionally someone else points out that it’s approaching, and I really need to pay attention. Because while it often seems innocuous, it poses a real danger.

Like sharks, temptations are stronger than I am, with a killer instinct. They circle around me at first, sensing my weakness but not coming too near. Fascinating, it’s hard to look away. It doesn’t seem possible that they will really hurt me. A little compromise, a little rationalizing, a little giving in…it loses its awfulness, and I allow it draw closer and closer. Until it’s too late to get away, and the damage done to my life, my witness, and my soul is unavoidable.

Because inevitably, when you swim with sharks you will get hurt.

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8

But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. 1 Timothy 6:11-12a

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. 1 Corinthians 10:13

Further reflection:

  1. What is your first reaction when faced with temptation: flee, or stay put?
  2. What has happened in your life when temptation drew you in?
  3. How do you think God would have you handle temptation, considering the verses listed above?

Father, temptation often seems innocuous when I first look at it. Please give me Your eyes of discernment to see the danger of it, and to flee from it, drawing near to You instead. Thank You that with You there is a safe refuge from those things that would do damage to my soul.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Bahamian Soaring

I must have a thing for flying, because that’s exactly what it felt like.

My nephew was getting married, so I had to go—right? Just because it was in the Bahamas was no reason to turn the invitation down. Besides, I am a pretty self-sacrificing kind of person, so if supporting Brandon meant I had to go to Nassau, so be it. Don’t feel too sorry for me…this is the picture from our hotel window.

  Nassau

Anyway, one of the things I really wanted to do was parasail, so the day after the wedding my husband, Alan, and I decided to go for it. A jet ski took us out to the parasail boat, where they belted us up and clamped us to the tow rope. The line connecting us to the boat gradually lengthened, and I really did feel as free as a bird. It wasn’t the adrenaline rush like I’d felt while skydiving (http://www.aneverydayvoice.com/2013/02/free-falling.html), but more of a serene, peaceful experience. Effortlessly sailing through the air, all I could hear was the wind whistling in my ears, and Alan’s deep voice as we pointed out the sights to each other.

parasailing

From about 150 feet in the air I could see many of the same things I’d seen on the ground: the beach lined with sand chairs, the hotel, and the cabana where the wedding had been held. But none of them looked the same. Being so far above it all brought a new perspective. The things that had seemed so big on the ground, really weren’t. And there was actually a lot more to see from up there; other hotels, the tiny island that Eddie Murphy had bought nestled off-shore, the cruise ships anchored in the bay, and all the amazing shades of the tropical Atlantic Ocean. It was incredibly beautiful. It was definitely a bigger picture than I could possibly imagine from the ground.

When I spend time with the Lord, something similar happens.

I recognize that some of the things that seem so big and overwhelming in my life, really aren’t. Circumstances don’t change and challenges are still present, but they shrink in the light of His presence. My own perspective changes because I’m looking at things through the filter of His. I am assured that He sees the big picture as well as all the details, while I only see what is right in front of me.

The small things stay small. It’s all a matter of perspective.

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! “Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?”                                      Romans 11:33-34

Further reflection:

  1. Are there things in your life that feel bigger than they really are?
  2. How does spending time with the Lord change that perspective?

Father, I am so grateful that You welcome me into Your presence. You know all things, and all things are under Your control. Thank You that when I am with You, things assume a right perspective.