Saturday, April 30, 2016

Optimist or Pessimist?

I did go to see my sister last week, traveling safely between our recent bouts of severe weather, just missing a big hail storm on my way home. She’s declining in her thought to speech processing with apparent stuttering and repeating of words. Motor skills are beginning to wane, especially walking, which she loved to do, sharing long ones in the park with her dog, Walter. She’s having a hard time with the fact that nothing can be done to correct her health problem and although she appears to be ready spiritually, she been getting deeply emotional, as it seems to be taking forever to get her house in order. Many who love her are sharing much physical and spiritual support.

[Psalm 9:9-10; Hebrews 10:32-39; 1 John 5:1-5] (From Bulletin Digest 2/16) “When your cup runs over, is it a blessing, or a mess? Is your glass half full or half empty? Do you make difficulties out of your opportunities, or opportunities out of your difficulties? Are you the kind that complains about the noise when opportunity knocks? Do you claim to be an optimist who doubts that being one really helps? I was reading Psalm 23 this week, and it occurred to me that King David was a true optimist. “I am never in pastures...peaceful waters...paths of cup overflows...even though I walk through the dark valley of death, because you are with me, I fear no harm...your rod and staff give me courage.” His faith in God enabled him to overcome obstacles that would derail our faith. His faith in God allowed him to see winning possibilities in horrible circumstances. Remember how he faced a lion, a bear, a giant, and a mentally unstable king? Remember how he faced the death of a child, and rebellion within his own family? His faith empowered him to live with optimism and assurance of victory. When faced with setbacks and difficulties, our reactions reveal whether we are people of faith and optimism, or people of pessimism and defeat. There are three basic differences in the way optimists and pessimists react. The first is that the optimist sees a setback as temporary, while the pessimist sees it as permanent. When David’s infant child died, he saw it only as a temporary separation. Even after praying and fasting that the child would not die, his faith in God never wavered. He could not bring the child back, but he said, “I will go to him” (2 Samuel 12:23). Even death is not permanent for those with faith in God. The second difference is that the optimist sees difficulties as specific, while the pessimist sees them as pervasive. David’s sin with Bathsheba was not allowed to destroy his whole life and eternity. He messed up big time, but he dealt with it as the specific sin it was, repented, and went on to live as a man with the heart of God. His failure with Bathsheba did not cause his whole life to be a failure. The third difference is that optimists view events as external, while pessimists interpret events as personal. King Saul’s repeated attempts to kill David was seen by David as rebellion against God, not him personally. He would not raise his hand against Saul because he still saw him as the Lord’s anointed. Difficulties are most often simply external circumstances, not personal attacks. Learn from David to live by faith and optimism. Look upon the inevitable setbacks that you face as being temporary, specific, and external.” I don’t know if I will have to spend days evaluating my life or whether the end will come quickly. I do know that my graduation day looms on the horizon and I pray to my last breathe I’m still learning of my God’s love for me.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Why Are You Afraid?

I’ve been wanting to go to Houston to visit my sister, but I don’t own a boat, so I guess I’ll just wait for the flood waters to go down; maybe Monday. A couple of things have been weighing on my mind of late. Of course my sister is steadily declining as her cancer ravages her brain and will soon end her life in this world. I can’t imagine having to cope with all the destruction throughout this country due to the recent crazy weather and unpredictable storms popping up out of nowhere. The earth has certainly been groaning lately with several major quakes in different parts of the world. But, I think what’s been troubling me the greatest lately is witnessing too many unexpected accidental deaths, wanton destruction of lives and willful death. The world is dealing with their problems in more and more self-destructive ways and departing this world much too soon. Nothing seems to be black or white, only gray and frail. It seems there’s no such thing as truth any longer. Today, truth is based on personal feelings, and legislated law has become a permission slip for immorality. It seems the answer to all our problems has become kill it or take another pill. This world is truly going to hell.

[John 16:5-16] Job's ten children were in the elder brother's house and a wind came and blew it away killing all of them (Job 1:18-19). Many people today can understand because they also have experienced the destruction of a great wind. I remind you of the storms on the sea during Jonah's time. This storm was the results of God's wrath, because Jonah was not obeying Him. There were the storms also on the Sea of Galilee when Jesus was in the boat with His disciples. (Mark 4:35-41) “…A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, ‘Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?’ He got up, rebuked the wind, and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still!’ Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, ‘Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?’ They were terrified and asked each other, ‘Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!’” I remind you also of the storm when the disciples were in the boat and Jesus came walking on the water to them during the storm (Matthew 14:22-33). Jesus gave Peter permission to walk on the water. “…But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink cried out, ‘Lord save me!’ Immediately, Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. ‘You of little faith,’ he said, ‘why do you doubt?’” Are you sinking in the storms of life? Is your faith weak? Do you doubt? “…faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). Jesus promised to send another Counselor, the Spirit of truth, the Holy Spirit, to be with us forever (John 14:15-21). We receive this Spirit through baptism (Acts 2:38). Jesus taught Nicodemus (John 3:1-21) “…no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but Spirit gives birth to spirit” That Spirit is like the wind (v.8), we can’t see it but we can experience its effects. “…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:16-26). With the Spirit of God in control of your life, the storms of life cannot drag you down; because faith has you lifted higher than this life, out of this world, and preparing for eternity. Peace, be still.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Be An Encourager

A group of frogs were traveling through the woods when two of them fell into a deep pit. All the other frogs gathered around the mouth of the pit. When they saw how deep the pit was they told the unfortunate frogs they would never get out. The two frogs in the pit ignored their comments and tried to jump out of the pit anyway. The other frogs kept telling them to stop, that they were as good as dead. Finally, one of the frogs took heed to what the other frogs were saying and simply gave up, fell down and died. The other frog continued to jump as hard as he could. Once again, the crowd of frogs yelled at him to stop the pain and suffering and just die. He jumped even harder and finally made it out of the pit. After he got out, the other frogs asked him, “Why did you continue jumping? Didn’t you hear us?” The frog explained to them he was hard of hearing. He thought they were encouraging him to try harder the entire time, so he did.

I’ve been having some well overdo maintenance done on my house that I simply can’t do by myself. I had it re-leveled and some insulation installed under the flooring. One of the workers pushed on a water line hoping to get it into a better position enabling a more secure fastening of some of that insulation. You guessed it, the line broke! The crew rushed around and got the water shut off before too much got into the house avoiding damage. I got the phone call and went to the house immediately to see what, if anything I could do to help remedy the situation. Of course, the fellow that broke the line was all apologetic and worried I was going to have a big problem with the accident. I reassured him I wasn’t angry with him, just that we need to get a good fix performed. Actually, I told him I considered the broken line a blessing, to which he gave me a questioned look. I explained to him I was more comfortable with the broken water line at eleven in the morning with everyone around than I would have been if he had only put the line in a bind where it broke at two in the morning while I was sleeping and possibly flooding the whole house. Ironically, while plumber was fixing one water line the line next to it, also in a bind, snapped, heightening the blessed moment. Thank God a disaster was avoided and I know He is still watching over me.

[James 3:1-12] “The tongue has the power of life and death…” (Proverbs 18:21). An encouraging word to someone who is down can lift them up and help them make it through the day. “The words of the wicked lie in wait for blood, but the speech of the upright rescues them” (Proverbs 12:6). A destructive word to someone who is down can be what it takes to kill them. We need to be careful of what we say. Speak life to those who cross your daily path. The power of words - it’s sometimes hard to understand that an encouraging word can go such a long way in someone’s life. On the other hand, anyone can speak words, without intent, that can rob another of the spirit to continue in difficult times. Special is the individual who will take the time to encourage another. We desperately need these kind of individuals in the world and in the church of our Lord today. We need more Christians like Barnabas (which means ‘son of encouragement’ - Acts 4:36) to help build up and encourage others in the work of the Lord’s church, which always strengthens the surrounding community. I’m still learning how and when to keep my mouth shut, but I pray I will speak words of encouragement instead of disparaging words. Engage brain before running your mouth.

Saturday, April 09, 2016

Live Under God's Will

I found a scout from our neighborhood cut ant colony in my house the other day. This happens about twice a year or whenever unusual activity is going on. I’ve been having work done around my house and I guess while leveling the house the ground was vibrating from moving big concrete blocks around and the ant’s curiosity brought him around to see what was going on. I’ve observed the colony during one of their food gatherings and it amazes me how many of them there are, how far they are willing to travel for the food they are seeking and how hard they work. I’ve also observed that most of the time the ants work only during the cooler night-time and early morning hours. There are so many ants traveling across the lawn they actually wear a path in the grass. Needless-to-say, in the past, the whole neighborhood has tried everything in the world to eliminate this huge colony, but it seems to just keep growing. Some folks have a hard time keeping them out of their fruit trees and gardens, and it seems any and all deterrents to keep the ants at bay are only temporary at best. It’s hard to win over Mother Nature when nature is determined to reclaim what we’ve upset and modified.

Have you ever noticed how persistent grass and weeds can be? My automotive business has been close now for almost fifteen years and almost all of the asphalt covering the ground around the buildings has been reclaimed by the grasses. This stuff is one to two inches thick and hard as a rock, yet there are small blades of grass pushing the asphalt aside and breaking through the surface all the time. The grass needs to be itself and the only thing holding it back is resistance from outside forces, like being covered over and/or constant traffic wearing it down. Once the resistance is removed the grass begins to grow and live tall, because it never gave up, it never died.

[Matthew 26:39] Who is it that we should live for? Is it to please self, to please others, or to please God? One might say I live for Christ. If that is so, then one must live like Christ. In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus prayed to God, his Father in heaven, “…Yet not as I will, but as you will.” His impending death was not about others (although it was for others). It was not about himself. It was all about living for God and doing God’s will throughout his life. If Jesus lived life this way, we should also live life in the same way. You say it’s hard to live as Jesus did in today’s world with so much resistance toward the Christian belief and the lifestyle that goes with it. So, we must become like the ant and the grass, persistent and willing to be who we ought to be. * If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway. * If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends, and some genuine enemies. Be successful anyway. * If you are honest and sincere, people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway. * If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway. * The good you do today will often be forgotten. Be good anyway. * Give the best you have, and it will probably never be enough. Do your best anyway. * In the final analysis, it’s between you and God – It was never between you and them anyway. “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter; Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14). Dare to live. Push resistance aside and reach for the Son.

Saturday, April 02, 2016

Missed Opportunities

I have not had the opportunity to visit my sister in Houston the past two weeks as my tangled web of life has held me back tying me down at home. My brother has remained at her side seeing to her needs and helping her to adjust and further settle into her new environment. One minute everything is well and the next she’s packing up wanting to go home to her own bed, so the solution is to move her bed to the nursing facility and establish some personal stability to soothe the soul. Meds seem to be working well and helping her a lot. There are times she’s the same ole Carri, and then she can take flight to be in a world all her own. My brother continues feeding me information every day.

I did get to participate in my least favorite activity this past week. Once again I went under the knife to attempt the eradication of bad cells on my right vocal cord which has eluded the surgeons the past four attempts. I came upon an opportunity, a referral, to try a new surgeon with a different super-duper laser almost promised to get the job done and relieve me of my cancer fears. I’ve not passed up any of my opportunities to correct any of my health issues and have always felt the God has sent me to the right people at the right time. The new surgeon did an exploratory surgery of sorts this past December and did a rather more aggressive profile this time with confidence I would do well and tolerate the treatment without fault. I guess we’ll know for sure the 11th of this month when she sticks her camera down my throat for a look-see. I’ve still got my voice, such as it is at this point, and pray it will get better with healing, as in the past.

The story is told of a young man who wished to marry the farmer’s beautiful daughter. He went to the farmer to ask his permission. The farmer looked him over and responded, “Son, go stand out in that field and I’m going to release three bulls, one at a time. If you can catch the tail of any one of the three bulls, you can marry my daughter.” The young man stood in the pasture awaiting the first bull. The barn door opened and out ran the biggest, meanest-looking bull he had ever seen. He decided that one of the next bulls had to be a better choice than this one, so he ran over to the side and let the bull pass through the pasture and out the back gate. The barn door opened again. Unbelievable! He had never seen anything so big and fierce in all his life! It stood pawing the ground and grunting as it eyed him. Whatever the next bull was like, it had to be better than this one. He ran to the fence and let the bull pass through the pasture, and out the back gate. The door opened a third time. A smile came across his face. This was the weakest, scrawniest little bull he had ever seen. This one was his bull. As the bull came running by, he positioned himself just right and jumped at just the exact moment. He reached to grab, but the bull had no tail!

[Acts 24:24-25; 26:25-29] Life is full of opportunities. Some will be easy to take advantage of, some will be difficult. But once we let them pass, often in hopes of something better, those opportunities may never again be available. During the past six months opportunities have availed themselves to giving thanks to God, celebrating the birth of His Son, renewing our life with a new year, and learning of the true meaning of the crucifixion, death, burial and resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ. But alas, most have let these opportunities pass them by because, “I’ll dedicate myself to God after I get my life straightened out.” God’s love and grace straightens out life.