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Blogs I Follow

The Presidents Club

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The Surest Defense Against Evil

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The Triumph of Grace

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Contemplating God’s Sovereignty

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How Should We Then Live?

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Not a Timid Christianity

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Finishing the Race

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Because the Time is Near

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Revelation Song (YouTube)

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Where The Wind Blows

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Doing Great Things

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Recognizing a False Prophet

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The Power of Forgiveness

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Created for Relationships

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The Only Way I Know

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Faith: The Misunderstood Doctrine

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Our True Home Address

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‘Tis the Season . . . for L-O-V-E

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The Paris Terrorist Attack and the Problem of Evil

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Cherry Picking 101

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Love Sweet Love

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So Goes The Culture

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Idols of the Heart

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Divisions Are Not Always Bad

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The Resurrection of Jesus Christ

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Turnaround

During much of the past four years I’ve been in the habit of getting up early and starting my day by meeting with God through reading the Bible, a few devotions, and praying. And it has revolutionized my life. And, I haven’t stopped during this short trip back to Houston where I continue to look for employment. It has become my lifeblood.

While I’ve been a Christian since I was a young girl, my passion ebbed and flowed over the years. I don’t know how many years have gone by where Jesus Christ was not the “Number One” priority in my life when I first climbed out of bed in the morning. In fact, days and sometimes weeks would go by where I wouldn’t even open my Bible except on Sunday if/when I went to church and if/when I remembered to take it with me. And more often then not, when I prayed it centered around my needs and/or the needs of others but lacked thanksgiving and praise as a meaningful part of it. And, I also wandered my way through a number of prodigal years, too. It wasn’t until I moved to Houston on September 25, 2008, to start that fateful job that has ended in this very long time of unemployment that I clearly felt God’s Spirit wooing me to “get serious” in my relationship with Him. And I did. And my life hasn’t been the same.

I read a couple of short devotions this morning and I want to share them with you. Perhaps you find yourself in a lukewarm lifestyle of Christian apathy that rarely finds any real passion for the things of God in this life, or perhaps you don’t personally know Him even if you do attend church every Sunday but it rarely leads to a changed life during the rest of the week. The first devotion is titled Turnaround for August 31, 2012, and is from Our Daily Bread:

Turnaround

Galatians 1:11-24

Bill was a friend of mine in seminary who had come to Christ out of a blatantly sinful lifestyle. He described it this way: “I was driving down the street drinking a bottle of brandy with another man’s wife at my side. When I saw some Christians on the sidewalk witnessing to passersby about Christ, I drove by and shouted, ‘Fools!’ But only a few weeks later I found myself kneeling in a church and asking Christ to become my Savior and Lord.” Bill’s conversion resulted in his giving up his old ways and experiencing a new life in Christ. It was a life-changing turnaround.

True repentance, which is initiated by the Holy Spirit, includes a real turnaround. Often we see that the greater the opposition to the gospel prior to conversion, the more stunning the change of direction afterward. When Saul of Tarsus encountered Christ on the road to Damascus, he was changed from a persecutor to a preacher of the gospel. Of this many observed: “He who formerly persecuted us now preaches the faith which he once tried to destroy” (Gal. 1:23).

Authentic conversion includes repentance, which is a change of mind and direction. For the follower of Christ, repentance means to keep turning away from sin and turning toward Christ in obedience.

Out of my shameful failure and loss,
Jesus, I come, Jesus, I come;
Into the glorious gain of Thy cross,
Jesus, I come to Thee. —Sleeper

Repentance is being so sorry for sin
that you are willing to give it up.

The second devotion is from Open Windows published by LifeWay and is titled, “Zeal Without Knowledge” (for August 31, 2012):

Zeal Without Knowledge

Romans 10:1-4

“For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge”
(Rom. 10:2)

I used to make New Year’s resolutions–things I wanted to change about myself. If I had followed them, I would be almost perfect! Unfortunately, my good intentions usually fell apart within a week. I had a zeal to be a better person, but I was relying on my own strength or willpower.

Self-help books fill bookstore shelves and often make the best-seller lists. We can long to improve our lives physically and spiritually, but zeal without God’s power sets us up for failure. Any changes we make on our own will be superficial.

Paul yearned for Israel to be saved. They had knowledge of God but didn’t know Him on a personal basis. They were depending on their own righteousness to save them. But we can never make ourselves righteous through our own efforts. Self-righteousness is a poor substitute for God’s righteousness.

Knowledge “puffs up” our self image. We may be impressed with the information at our fingertips. But only God gives us wisdom to interpret data and use it to live for Him.

Father, help me remember that lasting change
can only come through You.

A.W. Tozer (1897 – 1963) once stated, “If the Holy Spirit was withdrawn from the church today, 95 percent of what we do would go on and no one would know the difference. If the Holy Spirit had been withdrawn from the New Testament church, 95 percent of what they did would stop, and everybody would know the difference” (quote source here). He died almost 50 years ago, but this statement is still so very true in many of our churches today. We do a myriad of “things” in the name of Jesus Christ but rarely consult with Him on what really needs to be done. We have lost our first love in order to strive for a life of prosperity and comfort. We place our passion in “things” instead of the Creator of everything.

If this sounds familiar to you, it’s not too late to turn your life around. And you can do it right now. Repentance is the key that unlocks the door to a real and vital relationship with Jesus Christ.

I want to end this post with the words to a song by Twila Paris titled, True North(YouTube Video below):

We lost our bearings following our own mind
We left conviction behind fear of the future
Springing from the sins of the past
Hiding the hope that would last

How did we ever wander so far
And where do we go from here?
How will we know where it is?

True north
There’s a strong steady light
That is guiding us home

True north
In the lingering night
We were never alone
True north

Wonders of nature
Speak to us all of Your plan
Why would we run from Your hand

Laws of the earth
Just like the laws of the heart
Only begin where You are

How did we ever wander so far
And where do we go from here?
How will we find it again?

True north
There’s a strong steady light
That is guiding us home

True north
In the lingering night
We were never alone

“Finding ‘true north’ is essential for accurate navigation . . . . In life’s journey we are often uncertain where we stand, where we are going and what is the right path for us personally. Knowing our true north would enable us to follow the right path” (quote source here). For those of us who are Christian, Jesus Christ is our “True North.”

Are you in need of a turnaround in your life?

If so, won’t you do it today?

YouTubeVideo: “True North” by Twila Paris:

Photo credit here

Two Days in Galveston

Cutest dog on the beach!
Photo by Vadim Troshkin @ Galveston.com

When I ended my last post I was at the Red Roof Inn near Katy, Texas (just west of Houston) and getting ready to head into Houston for the day. However, I got this scathingly brilliant idea to spend a couple of days in Galveston (45 miles south of Houston). So . . . I did it!

Yeah, I know I need to look for a job. What do you think I’ve been doing for the past three and a half years after applying for almost 500 jobs in my field of work, not to mention the other jobs I’ve applied for outside of my field? However, it’s been years since I’ve had a real vacation of any kind. And, yes, I know my money is running out (like “Hello??? What else is new?”)–but I’ve been incredibly frugal for much longer than I thought would be necessary and I’ve learn how to live on a whole lot less and I have no debt, thankfully. Anyway . . . I didn’t know it when I arrived in Galveston but I really needed this break for a couple of days.

I didn’t realize how much a 17-hour nonstop drive (except for gas) would wear me out physically. I mean, I was sitting in the car the whole time, so what’s to wear out, right? However, my thighs were so stiff and sore and I was just plain road weary since I didn’t break up the trip into two segments. And that physical weariness stayed with me until this morning (well, it’s still there a tiny little bit).

Another pic of the
“cutest dog ever”
Photo by Vadim Troshkin
@ Galveston.com

As I look back on my first road trip to Houston when I arrived on September 25, 2008 to start that fateful job on September 29, 2008 (the day of the worst Wall Street crash in history–but I digress), I drove to Houston all in one stretch, too, and it took me days to recover from it. I also spent those first few days unpacking my apartment. I had completely forgotten about that until now (e.g., how physically wearing a nonstop trip of that length can be). I did still do my 55-minute exercise DVD twice since arriving on Sunday–and will do it again today–and that has really helped with the stiffness. But I think I’m finally getting back in my groove again. And it’s been great to unwind here in Galveston.

Now it’s time for me to Roll With It (hmmm, sounds like a song by Steve Winwood . . . see YouTube video at end of post) and go back to Houston to see what I can find in the way of employment for the next week or so. Hurricane Isaac hit the New Orleans area last evening so I’m in no hurry to head back to Florida as I can’t even imagine what Interstate 10/12 will be like for the next several days (weeks?).

As I was listening to Roll With It by Steve Winwood this morning, the words are just, well, so appropo . . . (short for appropriate). Let me share them with you:

When life is too much, roll with it, baby
Don’t stop and lose your touch, oh no, baby
Hard times knocking on your door
I’ll tell them you ain’t there no more
Get on through it, roll with it, baby
Luck’ll come and then slip away
You’ve gotta move, bring it back to stay

You just roll with it, baby
Come on and just roll with it, baby
You and me, roll with it, baby
Hang on and just roll with it, baby

The way that you love is good as money
I swear by stars above, sweet as honey
People think you’re down and out
You show them what it’s all about
You can make it, roll with it, baby
When this world turns it’s back on you
Hang in and do that sweet thing you do

You just roll with it, baby
You just roll with it, baby
Come on and just roll with it, baby
You and me, just roll with it, baby

Now there’ll be a day you’ll get there, baby
You’ll hear the music play, you’ll dance, baby
You’ll leave bad times way behind
Nothing but good times on your mind
You can do it, roll with it, baby
Then you’ll see life will be so nice
It’s just a step up to paradise

You just roll with it, baby
You just roll with it, baby
You and me, just roll with it, baby
Come on and just roll with it, baby

Now I don’t know about you, but those words are music to my ears. As the last chorus states, “Now there’ll be a day you’ll get there, baby; you’ll hear the music play, you’ll dance, baby. You’ll leave bad times way behind, nothing but good times on your mind. You can do it, roll with it, baby. Then you’ll see life will be so nice; it’s just a step up to paradise” and I am SO LOOKING FORWARD to that day arriving . . . soon!!!!!

As I continue to look for work while I’m here in the Houston area, I am reminded of the fact that those of us who are Christian do not just work for an earthy employer. No . . . we work for God. And working for God is 24/7. And it’s the most challenging work we will ever accomplish. So you see, I’ve really been employed all of this time I’ve been “unemployed” by society’s definition and standards. My blog posts are just a part of that “employment.” And I may not have received an earthy paycheck during this time, but I’ll leave my paycheck up to God as He knows my needs and He has promised to meet them just as the Apostle Paul stated in Philippians 4:19, “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.”

I am reminded of the time that Jesus fed the 5000 with just five small barley loaves and two small fish (John 6). Human eyes and understanding cannot comprehend such a feat (unless you are witness to it) yet it did, in fact, happen. After this miracle, Jesus’ disciples later “found Him back across the sea, they said, “Rabbi, when did you get here?” Jesus answered, “You’ve come looking for me not because you saw God in my actions but because I fed you, filled your stomachs—and for free. Don’t waste your energy striving for perishable food like that. Work for the food that sticks with you, food that nourishes your lasting life, food the Son of Man provides. He and what he does are guaranteed by God the Father to last.” To that they said, “Well, what do we do then to get in on God’s works?” Jesus said, “Throw your lot in with the One that God has sent. That kind of a commitment gets you in on God’s works” (John 6:25-29, MSG).

Do you want to get in on God’s works? First you have to know Him through Jesus Christ, His one and only Son (click here) and then you just throw your lot in with His and give Him everything. And don’t look back. In Luke 9:62 Jesus said, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” The Message Bible states it like this: “No procrastination. No backward looks. You can’t put God’s kingdom off till tomorrow. Seize the day.”

So, seize the day . . . . and roll with it . . . Roll with God.

And don’t put it off until tomorrow . . . .

YouTube Video: “Roll With It by Steve Winwood:

Photo credits here

While You See A Chance

Downtown Houston

Well, I’m in Houston! Yep, that’s right . . .  H-O-U-S-T-O-N !!! And I have a little storm named Isaac to thank for that!

I’ve been through five hurricanes in the years I’ve lived in Florida. Yes, five . . . . The worst was the very first hurricane that greeted me less than two months after my arrival in Fort Lauderdale to start a doctoral fellowship at Nova Southeastern University. You may remember that one–it’s name was Andrew.  Yeah, A-n-d-r-e-w (for those of you who do remember). Then there was Charlie when I was living in Orlando (I think it hit in 1999 if I remember right). And then right after I took a job at Southeastern University in Lakeland, we were hit by three hurricanes within a six-week period of time in August/September 2004. I don’t remember their names.

And, as if that wasn’t enough, I endured the aftermath of Hurricane Ike that hit Houston in September 2008. I accepted the job in Houston in August 2008 and was scheduled to move there in late September. Well, Ike hit Houston, and hit it hard, mid-September 2008, and my coworkers at Southeastern University asked me if I was still going. I remember telling them I had lived through five hurricanes in Florida and I wasn’t about to let hurricane stop me from going to Houston. And I didn’t . . .  However, navigating through an area so soon after a hurricane hit was a challenge . . . mostly from all of the energy trucks that flooded the highways throughout Houston. And, I also arrived in Houston at the peak of morning rush hour. It took a couple of hours just to navigate to where my apartment was located (and yes, they did have electricity but there were still many areas in Houston including that area around the location of my apartment that still didn’t have electricity).

So, with my previous experiences with hurricanes I decided not to chance it by staying in Florida waiting for Isaac’s impact. I packed up my car and left early Saturday afternoon heading for Houston. Seventeen hours later I was back in the city where this long saga of unemployment first started almost three and a half years ago. Maybe it will end here, too (I did pack my job interviewing outfit).

This was not a “spur of the moment” trip but was planned in advance. My three-day trip to Atlanta in May spurred me on even though I was not successful in my attempt to find a job in Atlanta. Since the trip to Houston required 17 hours of driving, I knew I wanted to stay for a least a week to make it worth the cost of the trip. I thought I was going to go at the end of May, and when that didn’t work out I made plans to go in July, but that particular plan turned out to be way too expensive (I was planning at that time to actually move back to Houston even though I didn’t have a job waiting for me). While I love living in Florida, I just haven’t been able to find a job in the three years I’ve been back, and since I loved Houston, even though my work experience there was, well, disastrous, I still wanted to give it a second chance.  After all, I can’t blame an entire city for one bad job, now can I?

When I arrived yesterday (Sunday) morning, after getting several “second winds” during my 17-hour drive, one of my first stops was at a friend’s home where I spent some time talking with her and her husband. I first met her at the place where I lost my job (she resigned a few months after I was fired, but the two incidents are unrelated–her resignation was health-related). We had a great time and she helped me locate a hotel nearby that looked like it was fairly reasonably priced for at least my first night (I was looking forward to resting my head on a pillow and my body in a bed at that point in time). So I bid her farewell and headed off to the hotel. I didn’t end up staying there but kept looking around and found a Red Roof Inn near Katy that fit the bill perfectly (in fact, I’m writing this in my hotel room). Since I’ll be staying a week I’m looking into the “extended stay hotels” in the area for the remainder of my time here.

I love road trips–LOVE THEM–but haven’t had the money due to being unemployed to take very many in the past few years. When I first got out on the open road Saturday afternoon, a smile broke out on my face and didn’t stop the whole way to Houston. I was in my element. I felt free–free for a few hours from the hassles and heartbreak of trying to get my work life back together after so many years. Absolutely nothing mattered except being out on the open road and listening to some great music . . . .

And now that I’ve caught up on my sleep after a great night’s rest, I’m ready to see what this week will bring. And I’ll keep you updated . . .

This morning a song crossed my mind by Steve Winwood–“While You See A Chance.” There couldn’t have been a more perfect song for this whole trip (well, sans the romance part of it as I’m looking for a job right now–romance can wait for later). I decided to post the YouTube video below and here are the words to the song: 

Stand up in a clear blue morning
Until you see what can be
Alone in a cold day dawning
Are you still free
Can you be

When some cold tomorrow finds you
When some sad old dream reminds you
How the endless road unwinds you
While you see a chance take it
Find romance, fake it
Because it’s all on you

Don’t you know by now
No one gives you anything
Don’t you wonder how you keep on moving
One more day
Your way

When there’s no one left to leave you
Even you don’t quite believe you
That’s when nothing can deceive you
While you see a chance take it
Find romance, fake it
Because it’s all on you

Stand up in a clear blue morning
Until you see what can be
Alone in a cold day dawning
Are you still free
Can you be

When that old gray wind is blowin’
And there’s nothing left worth knowin’
And it’s time you should be going
While you see a chance take it
Find romance, fake it
Because it’s all on you

While you see a chance take it
Find romance (repeat 4x)

This whole experience reminds me of something the Apostle Paul said in Philippians 3:13-14: “Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” The Message Bible (including verse 12) states it like this: “I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.”

Well, I certainly don’t have it all together either, but I’m well on my way . . . . And, I don’t count myself to be an expert in any of this (either), but I’ve got “my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus.”

And, just like Paul, I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back . . . .

And I’ll keep you posted . . . .

YouTube Video: “While You See A Chance” by Steve Winwood:

Photo credit here

Risky Business

Groupthink–a term coined by social psychologist Irving Janis (1972)–occurs when a group makes faulty decisions because group pressures lead to a deterioration of ‘mental efficiency, reality testing, and moral judgment.’ Groups affected by groupthink ignore alternatives and tend to take irrational actions that dehumanize other groups. A group is especially vulnerable to groupthink when its members are similar in background, when the group is insulated from outside opinions, and when there are no clear rules for decision making” (source: www.psysr.org). According to Wikipedia.org: “The primary socially negative cost of groupthink is the loss of individual creativity, uniqueness, and independent thinking.” 

A classic example of “groupthink” in action which resulted in disastrous consequences occurred in the surprise attack by the Japanese on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. The following information is taken from Wikipedia.org:

“The attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 was a prime example of groupthink. A number of factors such as shared illusions and rationalizations contributed to the lack of precaution taken by Naval officers based in Hawaii. The United States had intercepted Japanese messages and they discovered that Japan was arming itself for an offensive attack. Washington took action by warning officers stationed at Pearl Harbor, but their warning was not taken seriously. They assumed that Japan was taking measures in the event that their embassies and consulates in enemy territories were usurped.

“The Navy and Army in Pearl Harbor also shared rationalizations about why an attack was unlikely. Some of them included:

  • The Japanese would never dare attempt a full-scale surprise assault against Hawaii because they would realize that it would precipitate an all-out war, which the United States would surely win.
  • The Pacific Fleet concentrated at Pearl Harbor was a major deterrent against air or naval attack.
  • Even if the Japanese were foolhardy to send their carriers to attack us [the United States], we could certainly detect and destroy them in plenty of time.
  • No warships anchored in the shallow water of Pearl Harbor could ever be sunk by torpedo bombs launched from enemy aircraft.

“In addition, officers succumbed to social pressures and did not want to face social scrutiny by objecting to the common belief that Japan would not attack Pearl Harbor.”

I got to thinking about this whole concept of “groupthink” from a devotion I read this morning by Dr. Charles Swindoll titled, “Whose Team?” Here it is:

Whose Team?

Joshua 24:14-15; I Corinthians 6:9-11

When the death of Richard Nixon and the twentieth anniversary of his resignation were strangely juxtaposed only a few months apart, the networks were overloaded with revisits to and retrospectives on Watergate.

I was intrigued by a book by Leo Rangell, M.D., a psychiatrist who explores what he calls “the compromise of integrity” in his careful, articulate analysis of the inner workings in the head and psyche of Richard M. Nixon and several of his closest confidants. It’s called, appropriately, “The Mind of Watergate.” Within the book is the transcript of a verbal investigation between Senator Howard Baker and young Herbert L. Porter. Here is just a small portion of it.

Baker: “Did you ever have any qualms about what you were doing? . . . Did you ever think of saying, ‘I do not think this is quite right.’ . . . Did you ever think of that?”

Porter: “Yes, I did.”

Baker: “What did you do about it?”

Porter: “I did not do anything.”

Baker: “Why didn’t you?”

Porter: “In all honesty, probably because of the fear of the group pressure that would ensue, of not being a team player.”

Porter’s answer keeps coming back to haunt me these days. How much of that whole, ugly nightmare could have been prevented if only someone had had the courage to stand alone? If only the fear of doing wrong had been greater than “the fear of group pressure”?

It’s terribly hard to stand pat and buck the tide . . . alone.

All this strikes much closer to home than a break-in in D.C. or a breakdown in the Oval Office. It’s a major motivation behind experimentation with drugs or sexual promiscuity or wholesale commitment to some cult or cooperation with an illegal financial scheme. Group pressure is terribly threatening.

So be on guard! When push comes to shove, think independently. Think biblically. If you fail to do this, you’ll lose your ethical compass.

Watergate is a timeless lesson: It is not as hard to know what is right to do as to do what you know is right.

If being a team player requires doing what is wrong, you’re on the wrong team.

Source: Day by Day by Dr. Charles Swindoll, p. 225
Word Publishing, Thomas Nelson, 2000

We live in an age of compromise . . . and it’s all around us. Whether in the work setting, or a church setting, or down at the local bar or some other type of social setting; whether conforming to family pressure, or peer pressure, or some other type of group pressure–it’s everywhere. I grew up during the “hippie revolution” of the Sixties and the pressure to do drugs and engage in sexual promiscuity was enormous. ENORMOUS! And that kind of pressure exists everywhere today–cheating on income taxes in order to keep more money for yourself; unethical business practices that scam and steal from their customers; relational compromises made everyday, like adultery; coworkers sabotaging other coworkers to get ahead. And the list goes on . . . .

A devotion titled, Risky Business,” in Our Daily Bread states the following:

As the worldwide financial crisis deepened in 2010, executives of a global banking firm were investigated for deceiving their customers about the risk involved in certain investments they were selling. While promising a high rate of return, the banking firm knew that the investments were destined to fail, leaving those who purchased them with nothing.

Deception is nothing new. Jesus described Satan as one who “does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him . . . for he is a liar and the father of it” (John 8:44). The enemy of our souls tells us, “Live only for the present,” when he knows it will result in our eternal loss.

Jesus, on the other hand, did not offer His disciples a life of prosperity and ease but called them to self-sacrifice and identification with Him. After telling them that He would be killed and raised from the dead, Jesus said, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it” (Luke 9:23-24).

There are two voices telling us where to invest our lives. It’s risky business to follow the wrong one.

When you hear the Shepherd’s voice
As He calls you, “Come to Me,”
In your life make Him your choice
And His faithful follower be. ~Hess

Read Luke 9:18-27

If we hold on to God’s truth, we won’t be trapped by Satan’s lies.

I Corinthians 6:9-11 in The Message Bible states: “Don’t you realize that this is not the way to live? Unjust people who don’t care about God will not be joining in his kingdom. Those who use and abuse each other, use and abuse sex, use and abuse the earth and everything in it, don’t qualify as citizens in God’s kingdom. A number of you know from experience what I’m talking about, for not so long ago you were on that list. Since then, you’ve been cleaned up and given a fresh start by Jesus, our Master, our Messiah, and by our God present in us, the Spirit.”

Those are very serious words, folks. If you call yourself Christian you cannot ignore them. If you are a part of any group, any friendship, any work setting, any social setting that requires you to go along with the crowd to be accepted when you know it is wrong, run from that group, friendship, work setting, social setting or crowd.

To do wrong is never right no matter if you have to stand alone. The consequences are staggering. As Dr. Swindoll states, “Watergate is a timeless lesson: It is not as hard to know what is right to do as to do what you know is right.”

Are you willing to do what you know is right even if you stand alone? And do it NOW? Don’t lose your ethical compass!

But don’t wait, or it might be too late . . . .

YouTube Video: A very good “Groupthink Presentation” showing the dynamics of groupthink at work with background music. It is 5:46 minutes in length.

Photo credit here

What The World Needs Now

“What the World Needs Now (is love sweet love)–if you’re old enough you might remember this song made famous by Jackie DeShannon back in 1965 (YouTube video below). Doesn’t seem like much has changed in our world since she sang that song. This old world is still in great need of “love, sweet love.” And now more than ever.

Of course, this type of love is not the sexual or “romantic” love between two people that we find so often as a theme in books or plays or movies, but an “agape” type of love. Agape love is defined as: (1) the love of God or Jesus Christ for humankind; (2) the love of Christians for other persons, corresponding to the love of God for humankind; and (3) unselfish love of one person for another without sexual implications; brotherly love (source: Dictionary.com). Agape love–at it’s core–is sacrificial.

Compassion travels right alongside agape love. Compassion is defined as “a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering” (source: Dictionary.com). In short, the combination of the two describe what Christian community should be all about–unselfish, sacrificial love for others with a strong desire to alleviate suffering wherever we may find it–and we don’t have to look very far to find suffering in this world.

If you’ve read some of my previous posts you’ll know that I’ve often quoted a devotion I’ve found in Day by Day by Dr. Charles Swindoll, (Thomas Nelson Publishers: 2000, 2005). I discovered this gem of a book several months ago on Amazon.com and my copy happens to be the first edition published in 2000. Well, once again, this morning I found a great devotion on compassion by Dr. Swindoll, so let’s read it together:

Compassion

Colossians 3:12-14; James 5:11

It was one of those backhanded compliments. The guy had listened to me talk during several sessions at a pastors’ conference. All he knew about me was what he’d heard in the past few days: ex-marine . . . schooled in an independent seminary . . . committed to biblical exposition . . . noncharismatic . . . premil . . . pretrib . . .pro this . . . anti that.

Toward the end of the week, he decided to drink a cup of coffee with me and risk saying it straight. It went something like this: “You don’t fit. You’ve got the roots of a fundamentalist, but you don’t sound like it. Your theology is narrow, but you’re not rigid. You take God seriously, but you laugh like there’s no tomorrow. You have definite convictions, but you aren’t legalistic and demanding.” Then he added: “Even though you’re a firm believer in the Bible, you’re still having fun, still enjoying life. You’ve even got some compassion!”

“You’ve even got some compassion!” Like, if you’re committed to the truth of Scripture, you shouldn’t get that concerned about people stuff–heartaches, hunger, illness, fractured lives, insecurities, failures, and grief–because those are only temporal problems. Mere horizontal hassles. Leave that to the liberals. Our main job is to give ’em the gospel. Get ’em saved!

Be honest now. Isn’t that the way it usually is? Isn’t it a fact that the more conservative one becomes, the less compassionate?

I want to know why. Why either–or? Why not both–and?

I’d also like to know when we departed from the biblical model. When did we begin to ignore Christ’s care for the needy?

Maybe when we realized that one is much easier than the other. It’s also faster. When you don’t concern yourself with being your brother’s keeper, you don’t have to get dirty or take risks or lose your objectivity or run up against the thorny side of an issue that lacks easy answers.

And what will happen when we traffic in such compassion. The Living Bible says, “Then the Lord will be your delight, and I will see to it that you ride high, and get your full share of the blessings I promised to Jacob, your father” (Isaiah 58:14).

If you really want to “ride high, and get your full share of the blessings,” prefer compassion to information. We need both, but in the right order.

Come on, let’s break the mold and surprise ’em. That’s exactly what Jesus did with you and me and a whole bunch of other sinners who deserved and expected a full dose of condemnation, but got compassion instead.

Others won’t care how much we know until they know how much we care.

Source: Day by Day by Dr. Charles Swindoll, p. 258
Word Publishing, Thomas Nelson, 2000

Let me run one of his statements above by you again (e.g., regarding “a fact that the more conservative one becomes, the less compassionate”): “. . . When did we begin to ignore Christ’s care for the needy? Maybe when we realized that one is much easier than the other. It’s also faster. When you don’t concern yourself with being your brother’s keeper, you don’t have to get dirty or take risks or lose your objectivity or run up against the thorny side of an issue that lacks easy answers.” Ouch, that one stings, doesn’t it? I know I can feel the pain of what it says.

Let’s look at the two Scripture quotations he cites at the beginning of this devotion. The first one is Colossians 3:12-14: “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” Read through that list slowly and let it sink in: “Clothe yourselves with . . . compassion . . . kindness . . . humility . . . gentleness . . . patience . . . bear with each other . . . forgive grievances . . . forgive as the Lord forgave you . . . and put on love.”

The second verse cited is James 5:11: “As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.” I like how The Message Bible states this verse along with the previous verse 10: “Take the old prophets as your mentors. They put up with anything, went through everything, and never once quit, all the time honoring God. What a gift life is to those who stay the course! You’ve heard, of course, of Job’s staying power, and you know how God brought it all together for him at the end. That’s because God cares, cares right down to the last detail.”

They put up with what? Anything! They went through what? Everything! AND THEY NEVER ONCE QUIT! Not one time!!! That’s perseverance in a nutshell, folks! And all the time they HONORED GOD! In other words, no grumbling allowed! And just look at Job’s staying power! I dare say none of us have had to endure all that Job had to endure (see Job 1-42 for the full story), and he still remained faithful to God through it all–and God rewarded Him with twice what he originally had when his incredible trial first started. The Lord is, indeed, full of compassion and mercy!

And we should be, too . . . .

I’d like to end this post with a few of the verses in the greatest chapter on love in the Bible–I Cor. 13:3-8 from The Message Bible:

“If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love. 

  “Love never gives up. 
   Love cares more for others than for self. 
   Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have. 
   Love doesn’t strut, 
   Doesn’t have a swelled head, 
   Doesn’t force itself on others, 
   Isn’t always ‘me first,’ 
   Doesn’t fly off the handle, 
   Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others, 
   Doesn’t revel when others grovel, 
   Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, 
   Puts up with anything, 
   Trusts God always, 
   Always looks for the best, 
   Never looks back, 
   But keeps going to the end.
   Love never dies . . . .”

Love never dies . . . . And, I certainly don’t want to be bankrupt without love . . . .

How about you?

YouTube Video: “What The World Needs Now” by Jackie DeShannon (1965):

Photo credit here

Don’t Walk, Dance

Ecclesiastes 3 opens up with some very familiar words: “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:
~ a time to be born and a time to die,
~ a time to plant and a time to uproot,
~ a time to kill and a time to heal,
~ a time to tear down and a time to build,
~ a time to weep and a time to laugh,
~ a time to mourn and a time to dance . . .

Did you catch that?  “. . . a time to laugh; . . . a time to dance.” Many of us right now are living in very hard times here in America. I know in my own case the struggle with long-term unemployment can literally rip the joy out of my life if I let it. And I have no idea when this struggle will end. Whatever you may be facing right now, you might be feeling exactly the same way. Will this situation, circumstance, health issue, money issue, life issue, job issue, relationship issue (the list goes on) ever improve?

We are all familiar with “. . . a time to weep; . . . a time to mourn,” but when the hard times come and stay for extended periods of time, we find very little to laugh and dance about. Life loses it’s enthusiasm and it’s hard to press on.

A few days ago I wrote a blog post titled, Don’t Wait.” In it I wrote about buying a pair of stilettos for the first time in many years. I used to love to wear stilettos, but due to foot surgery in 1998, I thought those days were long gone. Well, you can read more about my buying adventure by clicking here, but I ended that segment of the post with a comment about what it meant to me to buy those stilettos:

“ . . . it’s a sign of new hope, renewed determination, and it brought more smiles to my face and happiness in my heart than I have known for a long time. There is a change in the wind, and I hope it’s a change that crosses our country from ‘sea to shining sea.’ I cannot lose my hope, and we as Americans cannot lose our hope for better days ahead.”

This morning I was reading a devotion by Dr. Charles Swindoll titled, “Having Fun.” I’d like to share it with you:

Having Fun

Ecclesiastes 3:4; Proverbs 17:22

Al Michaels and his team (e.g., Monday Night Football) turn the Swindoll family room into a stadium on Monday nights. That’s one part of my week when all pressures shift into neutral. Even though I may shout and scream and jump and jeer, it’s a relaxing and rewarding experience I thoroughly enjoy. What’s more, it’s the same for Michaels and those players and the refs and those nutty fans surrounding the gridiron. They’re all having a ball!

In fact, I remember when Don Meredith was doing commentary and was interviewed, he stated that one of the reasons he retired from the Cowboys was he stopped “having fun.” He caught himself getting so all-fired serious about the game that he was no longer able to hang loose, laugh off a mistake, and look forward to that next set of downs. When the fun stopped, so did the desire, the delight and the determination. So what did he do? He got into another phase of his specialty that allowed him to bring back the fun that had departed. He exchanged the uniform for the microphone . . . and started smiling again. Good for him! May his tribe increase!

Now, some frowning, neurotic soul is reading this and saying, “Well, somebody’s got to do the job. Life is more that fun ‘n’ games, Swindoll. Grow up and get down to business! Laughter is all right for kids, but adults, especially Christian adults, have a job to do that’s serious.”

Nobody’s going to argue that life has its demands and that being mature involves discipline and responsibility. But who says we have to get an ulcer and drive ourselves (and others!) to distraction in the process of fulfilling our God-given role? No one is less efficient or more incompetent than the person on the brink of a breakdown. He really isn’t much of an asset to society–or to the cause of Christ. And that’s no a criticism; it’s reality.

Old Solomon knew that. Remember his words of wisdom? “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones” (Prov 17:22). There is no more effective safety valve in all of life than balancing the serious, somber side with frequent flashes of fun, fun, fun!

If you’re not enjoying most of your day, if you’ve stopped having fun, you’re missing more than you are contributing.

Oops, gotta go. The stadium is almost full and it’s kick-off time.

When was the last time you laughed till you cried?
Did you know that a good belly laugh is a proven stress reliever?

Source: Day by Day by Dr. Charles Swindoll, p. 323
Word Publishing, Thomas Nelson, 2000

Now I don’t consider myself to be a morose type of person even in the worst of times. I smile a lot . . . I mean I smile A LOT! I remember a former boyfriend from years gone by getting mad at me because he said I smiled too much and it gave men the wrong impression (that made me smile just thinking about what he said). Hey, I can’t help it if someone gets the wrong impression just because I smile at them! And, I remember another time in my 20’s when I worked a 3-11 shift at a hospital while going to college full-time during the day (from 8-2) that an elderly woman who worked with me used to call me “Sunshine” because I was always smiling so much (I have to watch my definition of “elderly” now since I’m nearing that age myself).

Life is hard and it’s hard on all of us. Sure, I’ve had my days where I’ve cried my eyes out during the past three years and four months of unemployment. There’s nothing fun about applying for almost 500 jobs and being totally ignored. There’s nothing fun about living on an incredibly tight budget and watching what little money I have left disappear every time I spend even a dime because it’s not being replaced by anything. And if you are going through a really rough time right now, you have your own list that could very well be much worse than mine. We are living in very hard times!

However, while I’m not a fan of the shallow “positive attitude” philosophy that tells us to bury our heads in the sand when challenging circumstances come and just “be positive” (Give me a break!!!), there is a great deal to be said for finding real enjoyment in the midst of those very trying circumstances–which doesn’t ignore the hard circumstances we are current facing but helps us to “stop and smell the roses” in the midst of those circumstances. Sort of like what I did when I bought those stilettos. Did it change the fact that I’m still unemployed? Absolutely not! But it helped to change the way I viewed my current circumstances, even if only for a short time. It made me laugh and sing and dance around my little apartment on 4″ stilettos and for a time forget about the fact that I don’t know how much longer this very long time of unemployment is going to keep going on.

We don’t live out our lives by weeks or months or years but moment-by-moment. Now is the only time we really have. And regardless of my circumstances I’d rather live my life with an anticipation that hard times don’t last forever and enjoy the moment (even in the midst of the hard time) in the little ways that bring a smile to my face now . . . like buying the stilettos, or talking with a clerk in the checkout lane, or eating pretzel M&M’s on occasion, or reading a good novel (libraries are full of them), or listening to some great old tunes that make me laugh and dance and sing.

There’s a Three Dog Night song that I just love and it makes me deliriously happy every time I sing it with them. And, I’ve been trying to think of a blog post to write just so I could include that song at the end of it. Well folks, this blog post is it!!!

So . . . no matter what you might be going through right now take a few minutes to listen to this Three Dog Night song and see if it doesn’t put a smile on your face. And, in their own words, let’s . . .

“Celebrate, celebrate, dance to the music . . .”

YouTube Video: “Celebrate” w/lyrics by Three Dog Night (1975):

Photo credit here

Tear Down That Wall!

August 13, 1961 – November 9, 1989 . . . do those dates ring a bell? Today is the 51st anniversary of the building of the Berlin Wall, also known as “The Wall.” “The Berlin Wall was the physical division between West Berlin and East Germany. However, it was also the symbolic boundary between democracy and Communism during the Cold War . . . . The Berlin Wall was erected in the dead of night and for 28 years kept East Germans from fleeing to the West. Its destruction, which was nearly as instantaneous as its creation, was celebrated around the world” (quote source here). That wall came crashing down on November 9, 1989.

Here’s a bit of history on the Berlin Wall taken from an article titled The Rise and Fall of the Berlin Wall” at About.com:

“The Berlin Wall stretched over a hundred miles. It ran not only through the center of Berlin, but also wrapped around West Berlin, entirely cutting West Berlin off from the rest of East Germany. The wall itself went through four major transformations during its 28-year history . . . .

“The Berlin Wall began as a simple fence but evolved over time into a complex deterrent system. By the time the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, there was a 300-foot No-Man’s-Land, an additional inner wall, soldiers patrolling with dogs, a raked ground that showed footprints, anti-vehicle trenches, electric fences, massive light systems, watchtowers, bunkers, and minefields.”

What started out as a simple fence eventually turned into a barrier so foreboding that anyone trying to escape to the other side was almost guaranteed certain death. Freedom, for them, came at a huge price. The Berlin Wall illustrates the depth of human hatred at it’s extreme. Hatred run amok . . . .

Today’s devotion in Our Daily Bread is titled, Tear Down That Wall! and the author compares it to another wall–starting with a brief history of the Berlin Wall and then adds the following:

Another wall needs to be removed as well—the wall between humanity and God. That barrier was built in the Garden of Eden when a man and a woman committed the first act of rebellion against God (Gen. 3). And we all have continued that rebellion ever since! Can you visualize that impenetrable wall? Isaiah 59:2 says: “Your sins . . . have cut you off from God” (NLT).

Jesus’ death and resurrection, however, has made reconciliation with God possible (2 Cor. 5:17-21). All those who accept Christ’s sacrifice for sin will have the barrier of sin torn down and be reconciled to God. Christ’s death has also demolished other restrictive walls—between the Jews and Gentiles, slave and free, male and female (Gal. 3:28).

Don’t let your own “wall” of indecision prevent you from accepting God’s gift of salvation.

The veil is rent; in Him alone
The living way to heaven is seen;
The middle wall is broken down
And all mankind may enter in. ~Wesley

The Bible is a record of man’s complete ruin in sin
and God’s complete remedy in Christ. ~Barnhouse

Just as sin separates us from God, and the only remedy is through His Son, Jesus Christ, it is also sin that separates us from each other. Hatred fuels our world as it explodes in “wars and rumors of wars” (Matt. 24:6) at every turn. But that hatred starts in the human heart–in each one of us individually.

Since my blog posts are written primarily to a Christian audience (although everyone is welcome to read them), let me be brutally honest. There is a lot of division among Christians in America and it’s because we have allowed sin to reign in our camp and it has built a wall between us every bit as foreboding as the Berlin Wall. We demonize each other while smugly asserting our own self-righteousness. We build denominational walls and fences and blast at the culture for doing exactly what most cultures do who live without God. We point accusing fingers instead of extending love–and we do it to each other all the time, too.

At times I know my blog posts have hit a raw nerve, but I address my concerns to a Christian audience, because, folks, we have a LOT of sin in our own camp. When I hit on topics like pride or gossip or porn or sex outside or marriage or the myriad of other “sins” that proliferate among us (e.g. Christians) it is because we need to clean up our act before God and each other. The culture at large is not our problem. We are . . . .

And I include myself as I am just as much a part of “Christian America” as everyone else who considers themselves to be Christian in our nation. Jesus made it plain that we cannot serve two masters (Matt. 6:24) so we need to lay our lives down at the foot of the cross and truly seek to live lives that are pleasing to God through the power of Holy Spirit, and not according to our own desires.

We need get rid of the parasitic sins that infest our own lives and tear down the wall that separates us (e.g. Christians) from each other before we can be salt and light in our culture. Until we do that, we are fighting a losing battle and blaming our culture for being at fault. The fault is ours.

Ephesians 2:14-22 states, “For he (Jesus Christ) himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.

“Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.”

It starts with us, folks, not them . . . .

I am amazed at how often the words in the music of our contemporary culture often ring the truth that we need to hear, and often it is from the lips of folks who don’t claim to be Christian or prescribe to a Christian belief system. That is why so often at the end of my blog posts I post music videos from popular culture, especially from my era–the Baby Boomers–because truth is still truth even when it is embedded in popular culture.

Ringo Starr composed and sang a song titled, It Don’t Come Easy (YouTube video below) and I want to share the words from that song:

It don’t come easy,
You know it don’t come easy.

It don’t come easy,
You know it don’t come easy.
 

Got to pay your dues if you wanna sing the blues,
And you know it don’t come easy.
You don’t have to shout or leap about,
You can even play them easy.

Forget about the past and all your sorrows,
The future won’t last,
It will soon be o’er tomorrow.

I don’t ask for much, I only want trust,
And you know it don’t come easy.
And this love of mine keeps growing all the time,
And you know it just ain’t easy.

Open up your heart, let’s come together,
Use a little love
And we will make it work out better. 

Got to pay your dues if you wanna sing the blues,
And you know it don’t come easy.
You don’t have to shout or leap about,
You can even play them easy.

Peace, remember peace is how we make it,
Here within your reach
If you’re big enough to take it.

I don’t ask for much, I only want trust,
And you know it don’t come easy.
And this love of mine keeps growing all the time,
And you know it don’t come easy.

Folks, “it don’t come easy,” but it would sure help if we tried to get along, don’t you think? “Peace, remember peace is how we make it, here within your reach if you’re big enough to take it.”

Are we big enough to admit our shortcomings and “the sin that so easily entangles” us (Hebrews 12:1-2)? Let’s read those two verses together: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

I’ll end this post with Hebrews 12:1-3 from The Message Bible: “Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way (see Hebrews 11), all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!”

So folks, let’s look to Jesus to show us the way, and take our eyes off of ourselves . . .

YouTube Video: “It Don’t Come Easy written and sung by Ringo Starr (Richard Starkey):

Photo credit here

Don’t Wait

I don’t know where you are at right now, but I’ve been in a waiting game for far too long. And, there’s not a lot I can do about this particular game as it is not dependent on me alone. It requires the cooperation of others. I’ve been waiting for three years and three months for a new job to show up since I lost my job in Houston. And after applying for almost 500 jobs during this time, the prospects look pretty grim. No employer out there seems interested, and the economy is still tanked after all of this time.

Psalm 27:13-14 states: “I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage. Yes, wait for the Lord.” As a Christian, I know we are admonished over and over again to “wait for the Lord” and to let Him work out His will in our circumstances and our lives (if we give Him the control to do so). We can try to circumvent our time in the “Land of Waiting” in our own way and power, but it usually has disastrous results–perhaps not immediately but definitely in the long term. God is sovereign–we are not.

So, regardless of how I feel, I will continue to apply for jobs and wait for the Lord to move in my circumstances. Each of us is only a tiny piece in the grand “puzzle” of life, and He has to make sure all the other pieces are in place before He can move us into the right place–if we don’t grow weary and try to take matters into our own hands.

However, there are some things in life that we shouldn’t wait on. Let me give you an example from a devotion I read this morning by Dr. Charles Swindoll titled, “Don’t Wait.”

Don’t Wait

2 Corinthians 6:1-10

Remember me? I’m the guy who promotes waiting. Allowing the Lord to open the doors, clear the way, smooth the path, shove you through. You know, all the stuff you expect a preacher to say.

But I do think we can get so good at waiting that we never act. We yawn and passively mutter, “Maybe, someday” as we let opportunities slip away. Like having friends over for ice cream or going on a picnic. Like using the fine china or celebrating a birthday . . . or slipping away for a weekend of relaxation and romance . . . or sailing for a day . . . or spending a week away with the family. “Not this year . . . but maybe, someday . . .”

Don’t wait! If you continue such passivity, someday will never come–and you’ll regret it for the rest of your days. I realized this anew when I read the following in the Los Angeles Times. Ann Wells writes:

My brother-in-law opened the bottom drawer of my sister’s bureau and lifted out a tissue-wrapped package . . . . He discarded the tissue and handed me the slip. It was exquisite; silk, handmade and trimmed with a cobweb of lace. The price tag with an astronomical figure on it was still attached.

“Jan bought this the first time we went to New York, at least eight or nine years ago. She never wore it. She was saving it for a special occasion. Well, I guess this is the occasion.”

He took the slip from me and put it on the bed with the other clothes we were taking to the mortician. His hands lingered on the soft material for a moment, then he slammed the drawer shut and turned to me.

“Don’t ever save anything for a special occasion. Every day you are alive is a special occasion.”

I remembered those words through the funeral and the days that followed when I helped him and my niece attend to all the sad chores that follow an unexpected death.

I’m still thinking about his words, and they’ve changed my life . . . . I’m not “saving” anything; we use our good china and crystal for every special event–such as losing a pound, getting the sink unstopped, the first camellia blossom . . . .

“Someday” and “one of these days” are losing their grip on my vocabulary. If it’s worth seeing or hearing or doing, I want to see and hear and do it now . . . . I’m trying very hard not to put off, hold back, or save anything that would add laughter and luster to our lives. And every morning when I open my eyes I tell myself that it is special.

Every day is that special day you’ve been waiting for.
Seize it!

Source: Day by Day,” by Dr. Charles Swindoll, p. 67
Word Publishing, Thomas Nelson, 2000.

I’ve been waiting for a “big thing” (a job) for so long that I’ve lost sight of the little things that are slipping by that make life worth living. Things that used to put a smile on my face and a spring in my step. It’s not that I don’t smile a lot–I do–but it’s the little things that put the joy back in living, even in the midst of a very trying circumstance that feels like it has gone on forever.

Let me give you an example. A few days ago I wrote a post titled, Three Free Sin . . . Say What?,” which is about a book titled Three Free Sins written by my very good friend, Steve Brown. One of the endorsements at the beginning of this book stated: “After reading Steve Brown’s ‘Three Free Sins,’ this rotten girl redeemed put on a pair of red stilettos and did a happy dance. ‘Three Free Sins’ is like an old Three Dog Night tune–it makes you sing along, crazy and loud, happy as all get-out. Steve Brown isn’t the old bald guy he claims to be–he’s all heart, graceful and true, and his message is indeed ‘Joy to the World.’” ~Karen Spears Zacharias, author of “Will Jesus Buy Me a Double-Wide?”

Well, I got to thinking about that endorsement after I finished reading Steve’s book, and remembering the days when I used to love wearing stilettos (many years ago). I had foot surgery on one of my feet back in 1998 and I haven’t been able to wear stilettos since then, but it never stopped me from looking at them and remembering days gone by. The other day I was headed to the bookstore (one of my favorite pastimes) when I thought of that endorsement and Karen’s comment about the “red stilettos” and, well, I’ll let you read what I wrote to Steve about what happened next:

My new stilettos!

“ . . . I didn’t set out this morning to buy any stilettos. Wasn’t even on my mind. I just headed out to Books-A-Million to do what I usually do when I go there (look at and read books). However, after I parked my car, I looked over and saw Ross’s next door and decided to go take a look before I went into the bookstore.

Aren’t they beautiful?!

“Well, I went to the shoe section and, low and behold, they had a pair of red stilettos in my size, but when I tried to put them on, they really felt bad, so I just sighed and put them back on the shelf, and was going to leave and go to the bookstore when I spotted the stilettos that I ended up buying. I really liked them immediately and the colors of the shoes were some of my mother’s favorite colors. And, when I put them on, I couldn’t believe how good they felt as compared to the red pair–and they were almost half the price of the red pair. Well, I debated whether or not to buy them as I knew they aren’t shoes I would wear very often so I walked around the store with them in my hands for a while and then I thought of what Karen Spears Zacharias wrote in her endorsement on your book–that she put on a pair of red stilettos and did a happy dance to a Three Dog Night song. And I knew right then I was going to buy those stilettos . . . .

“Know why?”

“Because it’s a sign of new hope, renewed determination, and it brought more smiles to my face and happiness in my heart than I have known for a long time. There is a change in the wind, and I hope it’s a change that crosses our country from ‘sea to shining sea.’ I cannot lose my hope, and we as Americans cannot lose our hope for better days ahead.”

Do you have something you’ve been putting off doing waiting for “someday” when the time is right? Well, don’t!!!  Seize the day, and do it NOW!!!

Which reminds me–the first two verses in the scripture reading at the beginning of Dr. Swindoll’s devotion state the following: “As God’s fellow workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. For He says, ‘In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.’ I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6:1-2). Do you know Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord? If not . . .

Don’t wait . . . now is the time . . . .

YouTube Video: “Time Out of Mind” by Steely Dan (1980):

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Champions Pray in the Dark

storm-verseWhat a powerful and comforting thought for today (see reblogged post from The Daily Way below), especially for those who are going through a very difficult time right now. I hope this is as encouraging to you as it has been to me this morning. Our help truly does come from the Lord!

Thank you, Jesus!

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The Daily Way

The true test of our character is not measured when we are on stage with the spotlight shining upon us—the true test is when no one is watching but God. Many people make the mistake of wearing their spiritual maturity on their sleeves. But God is not impressed with how many Bible verses we know or how many Sunday school lessons we teach. In fact, nothing we do can impress God.

What God desires from us more than anything is a relationship. He designed us for this. We function best when we have others around us supporting us and challenging us in our relationship with God. No relationship can thrive without communication.

In 1 Samuel chapter 22, we find David tucked away in a cave in the mountains, hiding from King Saul and his army. Day after day, he scampered through the mountains to avoid Saul’s sword. And after days…

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Nostalgic Musings

Nostalgia is defined as “a wistful desire to return in thought or in fact to a former time in one’s life, to one’s home or homeland, or to one’s family and friends; a sentimental yearning for the happiness of a former place or time” (Source: Dictionary.com). We’ve all been there, especially when the hard times come. We long to go back to a time and a place when life made more sense.

Truth is, we usually look back at the past through rose-colored glasses. Sometimes, I suppose and depending on the particular memory, that is good (for example, when we remember loved ones who have died), but most of the time it just makes us unhappy about our current state of affairs if we are struggling under a hard trial right now. Three plus years of unemployment could certainly cause me to look at the past through those rose-colored glasses and long for a better place and time. However, the truth is, I wouldn’t go back and relive anything “back there.” Not even four years ago (August 2008) when I interviewed, was offered, and accepted that Director position in Houston that has lead to this very lengthy time of unemployment. We only have “now” in which to live and yesterday’s “nows” are long gone (the good, the bad, and the indifferent).

Thomas Wolfe (1900-1938) wrote a novel titled, You Can’t Go Home Again,” that was published posthumously in 1940. In it, Wolfe “explores the changing American society of the 1920s/30s, including the stock market crash, the illusion of prosperity, and the unfair passing of time which prevents Webber (the main character) ever being able to return ‘home again’.

“The title comes from the denouement of the novel in which Webber (a fledgling author who wrote a book that included frequent references to his hometown–much to the remiss of those living there) realizes: ‘You can’t go back home to your family, back home to your childhood … back home to a young man’s dreams of glory and of fame … back home to places in the country, back home to the old forms and systems of things which once seemed everlasting but which are changing all the time – back home to the escapes of Time and Memory.’ 

“The phrase ‘you can’t go home again’ has entered American speech to mean that once you have left your country town or provincial backwater city for a sophisticated metropolis you can’t return to the narrow confines of your previous way of life and, more generally, attempts to relive youthful memories will always fail. It has been suggested that the phrase is sometimes spoken to mean that you can’t return to your place of origin without being deemed a failure” (quote source: Wikipedia.com).

This afternoon as I was going down memory lane (particularly thinking about my mother and my stepmother who have both passed on) and also reflecting on this lengthy time of unemployment which I wish would culminate very soon in securing a job or some other means of acquiring an income (I do love writing as you can probably tell), I ran across a devotion by Dr. Charles Swindoll titled, “Nostalgic Musings,” and I thought I would share it with you:

Nostalgic Musings

Jeremiah 6:14; 8:11; Matthew 24:6-7, 11

For over an hour the other day I strolled down Nostalgia Lane with a September 4, 1939, copy of Time magazine. What a journey! Pickups sold for $465 and best-selling books cost $2. Big news in the music world was Bing Crosby, whose records sold for 35 cents a platter. What was most intriguing, however, was the international scene, as presented by the staff writers. The threat of war was a slumbering giant, and Adolf Hitler’s name appeared on almost every page of the Foreign News section. President Franklin Roosevelt was busy calming the troubled waters of our nation’s fear of war, speaking openly of his “lovely hope for peace.” In spite of the Nazi war machine that had already consumed Italy, Sicily, Albania, and was primed to pounce on Poland, Hungary, Belgium, and France, the talk in America was amazingly casual–a smug, business-as-usual attitude.

How naive we were! Little did we know that within months the insane führer would unleash a hellish nightmare from which we could not escape. Before his screams were silenced, acres of soil would be covered with small white crosses, and thousands of American homes would have their tranquil plans for peace invaded by the brutal enemy of grief.

Every so often when we enter such a relatively calm era, it is easy to forget the prophet’s warning to beware of those who superficially heal the brokenness of a nation by announcing “peace, peace” when “there is no peace” (Jer. 6:14; 8:11). And if we feel sufficiently comfortable and relaxed, it’s mighty easy to block from our minds the Savior’s prediction of “wars and rumors of wars” and His warning that “many false prophets will arise and mislead many” (Matt. 6-7, 11).

Who knows? Fifty years from now another preacher could be leafing through a Time magazine yellow with age, feeling a nostalgic twinge and smiling at what we consider modern times. He will no doubt notice the business-as-usual look on our faces, only to be seized with the realization that we had no idea what a ragged edge we were living on in our relaxed American culture.

If indeed there is an America fifty years from now.

We need to be alert.
Sometimes the best of times
may be a breeding ground

for the worst of times.

Source: Day by Day” by Dr. Charles Swindoll, p. 74,
Word Publishing, Thomas Nelson, 2000.

This was written before the events of 9/11 and the two succeeding Wall Street crashes–the first one just days after 9/11 and the second one on September 29, 2008–and the times in which we live are certainly more precarious now. We are, indeed, living on that “ragged edge” Dr. Swindoll referenced. Yet, there is still that “business-as-usual” attitude on most American streets. We think that life will go on as usual tomorrow and the next day, and the next, and we continue to make our plans, ignoring the “ragged edge” that is all around us in this world of ours. The truth is, we do not know what tomorrow holds (Prov. 27:1). The Message Bible states that verse like this: “Don’t brashly announce what you’re going to do tomorrow; you don’t know the first thing about tomorrow.”

As Christians, James 4:13-17 gives us a specific warning about “boasting about tomorrow.” Read those verses with me: “Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’ As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil. Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.”

While musing nostalgically is not necessarily a bad thing (like me remembering pleasant memories of my mother and my stepmother this afternoon), boasting about tomorrow is a very bad thing. While we should never go back and try to live in the past or long for those days again regardless of how unpleasant our current circumstances may be, we should never boast about tomorrow either. And, we should not live our “today” in a daze unaware of what is going on around us in our country and in our world. We can make our plans, but it is the Lord who directs our steps (Prov. 16:9).

The Apostle Paul said it best in Philippians 3:13-14: “Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” If we are going to boast at all about today or tomorrow, let it be like the Apostle Paul–that we are pressing on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called us heavenward in Christ Jesus.

And stay alert . . . .

Now that’s a goal we can boast about . . . .

YouTube Video: “Reelin’ In the Years” by Steely Dan (From the album/CD: “Can’t Buy A Thrill,” 1972):

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