Saturday, October 22, 2016

For Ruby

I have a friend named Ruby, a sister in Christ, truly; who’s life has been as precious as the gem of her namesake. Throughout her journey, in this world of woes, she has expressed, in poetry and prose, thanks for her every blessing enjoyed, and her love for others, reflecting that of her Savior. Her light did shine before mankind, and her heart has been written down. And as I write this day, Ruby is about to depart this world of woes, to be with the One of her poetry and prose; to live together forever, in a world of precious gems, where for eternity, she can write her praises to God, in heart felt, poetry and prose.

A poet I am not, but I wish to dedicate this week to Ruby Leonard, by sharing a few lines about life and living, just as she has done, for you to contemplate.

UNTITLED by W.J.A Rowe: “When things go wrong, as they sometimes will; When the road you're trudging seems all uphill; When the funds are low and the debts are high; And you want to smile but have to sigh; When care is pressing you down a bit; Rest if you must, but don't you quit. Success is failure turned inside out; The silver lining of the seeds of doubt; And you can never tell how close you are; It may be near when it seems so far. So, stick to the fight when you're hardest hit; It's when things go wrong that you must not quit.”

 “The Indispensable Man” by Saxon White Kessinger: “Sometimes, when you're feeling important; Sometimes, when your ego's in  bloom; Sometimes, when you take it for granted; You're the best qualified in the room. Sometimes, when you feel that your going; Would leave an unfilled hole; Just follow this simple instruction, and see how it humbles your soul: Take a bucket and fill it with water; Put your hand in it up to the wrist; Pull it out and the hole that's remaining; Is a measure of how you'll be missed. You may splash all you please when you enter; You can stir up the water galore; But stop, and you'll find in a minute; That it looks quite the same as before. The moral of this quaint example; Is to do just the best that you can; Be proud of yourself, but remember; There is no indispensable man.”

 [James 4:14] “...What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” This 'quote' was found, scrawled on the wall below a Star of David, by American soldiers searching the cellar of a bombed-out house in one of the war-torn cities of Germany. It seemed very profound in so many ways. It could mean something to so many people in so many different circumstances. "I believe in the sun, even when it is not shining. I believe in love, even when I do not feel it. I believe in God, even when He is silent."

Mahatma Gandhi said, "The difference between what we do and what we are capable of doing would suffice to solve most of the world's problems." Author unknown: "Only when you have caught the last fish in the sea and cut down the last tree in the forest will you realize that you cannot eat money."

UNTITLED by Henry Longfellow: “What then? Shall we sit idly down and say; The night hath come, it is no longer day? Something remains for us to do, or dare; Even the oldest tree some fruit may bear. For age is opportunity no less; Than youth itself, though in another dress. And as the evening twilight fades away; The sky is filled with stars, invisible by day.” Me-ism cannot replace the truth and peace known in Christ Jesus.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

They're Your Buttons!

I guess y’all know early voting has started and I for one am going to take full advantage of the opportunity. I can’t stand all the hoop-la any longer, and I figure if I cast my vote now, I can then don a set of ear plugs, put on some blinders and get back to life without getting all upset about the political mess we’re facing. It seems nearly every conversation I have, I tend to drag it down into “the mud, and the blood, and the beer” of everything that’s wrong with our present political system. Complaining about it over coffee doesn’t do much but relieve my own pressure, but on the other hand I do know a phone-call or a letter to the offices of state and federal representatives can liven things up when enough have been applied. That’s how we’ve gotten into this mess. The wrong people are talking to their elected officials, and their listening! My vote is also powerful.

In one of his graduate classes, a professor made this comment: "Don't blame others for pushing your buttons. They are your buttons." In his article “They’re Your Buttons”, Neil Richey wrote: “If we're not careful we have a tendency to blame others for our thoughts and actions. ‘Well _________ just made me so angry that I couldn't control myself’, we might say. Or, ‘I just had to give him a piece of my mind. He had it coming after all.’ While the decision to become angry and to negatively react to someone who mistreats us (or in general just rubs us the wrong way) is solely ours, it could be the case that we have stressors in our life that contribute to making it easier for those buttons to be pushed. If you find yourself becoming easily agitated, then here are some things to consider. * Try not to set unrealistic expectations of yourself relative to your time. Self-imposed stress makes it easier for those buttons to be pushed. * Let yourself off the hook. It's okay to do something other than work--like have a hobby, play with the kids (dog), or work in the yard. Too much time in the office is likely to make it easier for those buttons to be pushed. * Get to know yourself. You know what makes you tick. You, better than anyone, know what allows your buttons to be pushed. * Be flexible. Life around you is always changing. Learn when and where it's okay to make adjustments. You don't always have to be so rigid with your schedule. A failure to adapt at times can make it easier for those buttons to be pushed.” Nothing I haven’t heard before, but do need reminding of.

[James 1:22-25] So, what does God’s Word have to say about this? Paul addressed the Ephesian elders, "Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers” (Acts 20:28) emphasizing that they must first regularly examine their own spirituality. Jesus had sent out the twelve to preach the coming of the kingdom and to perform miracles among the people. Upon their return they were exhausted and Jesus advised them ". . . Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest" (Mark 6:31).In his letter to the Philippian church, Paul writes, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7). Jesus said in his lesson taught on the mountainside, " not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own" (Matthew 6:34). We all experience stress to some extent. Choose not to let stress make a mess out of you. Remember, they're your buttons and you’re the one who controls what happens when they get pushed.

Saturday, October 08, 2016

He Gave Them Over

“...since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do that what ought not to be done...” (Romans 1:28-32) I’ll admit right up front, I’m about as politically correct as a train wreck. In less than four weeks, voters of this country are going to tell God to hit the road, or, help us to heal our country. Which candidate will discipline, and which will let the country run wild? Every citizen ought to think about this very seriously; pray about it, and vote their conscience.

[Matthew 22:36-40] “’Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’ Jesus replied, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second s like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.’” Rick Reilly wrote an article for Sports Illustrated in 2003 titled, “Let Us Play.” He described in his article how many families in America are opting to engage in recreational activities on Sunday instead of attending worship services. He quoted many religious leaders who have decried the loss of spirituality in our society. Reilly attributed this to parents placing too much importance on the success of their children in sports. He wrote, “For some reason over-caffeinated parents feel they have to ‘keep up’ with the Joneses. They used to do it with their cars and houses. Now they do it with their kids.” Reilly also commented on parents inundating their children with recreation. Again, he wrote, “…I just feel sorry for these kids who get nothing but organized sports crammed down their gullets 24/7.” The Bible tells us what is truly important in this life. We are told to love God more than anything else. We are told to put the Lord first in everything we do. Paul says, “...I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship” (Romans 12:1). The writer of Hebrews makes it plain where our energy should be directed when he says, “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another - and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25). Rick Reilly may not be a person we would normally turn to for spiritual advice, but his article helps to remind us that the Lord expects us to put him first. When we choose other activities over him we are not putting him first, and we simultaneously send the very same message to our children. Reilly made a tremendous point when he wrote, “Just remember, when little Shaniqua has two free throws to win or lose a game on some Sunday morning, good luck finding somebody who’ll answer your prayers.” Let us all remember what is truly important in this life and strive to always put God first. Those children are now in their twenties and so deeply engrained in me-ism they have no respect for their God, their neighbor or the law of the land. Living in a land given and blessed by God we have a generation that complained they were oppressed by the will of God and walked away from Him. Today’s young people say they are oppressed by the laws of the land and are allowing our leaders to rewrite the fundamentals of law to conform to their lifestyle, separate from God, and nation-wide chaos is spreading like cancer - a cancer that will destroy and kill the free republic we’ve enjoyed for more than two hundred years, and so many have defended, even unto death. One morning this country is going to awake to the realization we no longer have the right to worship our loving God, because He’ll be gone!

Saturday, October 01, 2016

Life More Abundant

I find it difficult to take in all that we discover about a loved one after their passing. I’ve heard other people tell me the same thing and having experienced it with the passing of my parents and two siblings, it’s surprising to discover things about them and their life you didn’t know. There are some things they did and places they went; then one also gets to peek into their personal heart-felt parts; their feelings and love for others by the little notes and pictures tucked away in private niches. We only think we know everything about others, until the day comes when we’re sorting out the life they left behind.

It is not a secret that people may have a different perception of the same thing. Some people are always looking down only seeing the mud; others are always looking up seeing only blue skies. Now which perception is right? Well, in a sense they are both right because they only see what they are looking for in life. At times when we look at others we only see what we wish to see. We cannot look beyond the flesh and see the heart of a person. Jesus had the wonderful ability to look into the heart of people. Perceptions are often deceptive. They are clouded by our likes and our prejudices. Nathanael said about Jesus, “can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” His perception was clouded by his prejudice of those from Nazareth. A person should not be judged by their clothes, or the tint of their skin, or the size of their house, but by what lies in the heart. Isn’t that the perception we want people to have of us?

[Psalms 34:8] “Taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.” Our main purpose in life is reverencing God and following His directives. However, do we realize that God wants us to enjoy our lives glorifying Him? The devil always wants to make rule keeping and obedience drudgery. God wants to make living for Him a satisfying and joyous way of life. “This is love for God: to obey his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3). Training our hearts to make God our ultimate joy and delight won’t happen if we don’t know Him. Until we commit wholeheartedly to serving God our lives will be empty and lack the enjoyment God desires for us to own. “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalms 37:4). Those who have “eternal life” (John 17:3) know God and Jesus. They understand the depth and riches of living within the righteousness of God (Romans 11:33-36). “I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels” (Isaiah 61:10). Knowing God and the joys of serving Him stays the souls of the world-worn. Knowing God drives us to service. Knowing God causes us to fall out of love with the trinkets and trash of the world and treasure the things in heaven (Colossians 3:1-2). When we truly surrender to God we will long to be in His presence more than anything else. We will yearn like the Psalmist: “One thing have I asked of the Lord, that is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple” (Psalms 27:4). There is no better life than the one lived for God in Christ. There is no more fulfilling satisfaction than doing God’s will. There is no more pleasurable pursuit than becoming like Him. There no deeper joy than serving Him. So give Him (and others) your all today!

Saturday, September 24, 2016

We Could All Do Better

Well, I’ve been to Houston this weekend to attend the memorial for my sister. I can’t tell you about it yet for I’m writing early this week before I go. I do know I will be delivering the eulogy and I suspect many Houstonians, her colleagues of thirty years at Dow Chemical will be present to share some great memories and reverently say good-bye in their own special way. There will be family coming in from far and wide to celebrate her homecoming and share a meal of thanksgiving that will announce that we are all in a better place with Carri at rest in the arms of the Lord. After a few stories, some laughter and some catching up between one another, like a family reunion, we’ll probably promise each other to “keep in touch” through texting, email, Chat, Facebook, Messenger and all that good stuff, which may or may not receive follow-up by one or all parties. Then it will be time to rush back home to our ticky-tacky houses and antivenin world to do whatever it is we do to survive another day in this cruel unfair life. Rest in peace sis.

“Behind Me” by H. L. Gradowith: I'm gonna lay down all of this life's burdens; And I’m gonna lay down all of this life's cares. Yes I'm gonna leave them all far behind me; When I reach that Lovely Country over There! I'm gonna leave all my frowns behind me; And I'm gonna have a heart that never breaks. The Lord's gonna wipe all the tears from my eyes, Up There, in that Lovely Land of no mistakes! The Lord will give me all I ever need, There! Yes, the Lord will call my name and say, Well done! I will never want up There for anything! When, at long last, my Savior welcomes me Home!

[1 John 3:17-18; 4:20]  “If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with action and truth; If someone says, ‘I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.” Don’t we all wish that everyone would be a better person? Do we not hope that some bad people would turn their lives around and start doing good? Do we wish our neighbor would treat us better than before? Do we hope that the people we meet each day would show us respect and treat us fairly? If we expect others to be nicer and fairer, should we not make the effort as well? The Golden Rule is that we should treat others the way we would want them to treat us (Luke 6:27-31). Be a better person now. Do not wait until next year and make a resolution about it. D0 not put it off until next week or even tomorrow. Start right now. Look at the person closest to you and show them love. Pick up the phone and call someone who would appreciate a thoughtful consideration. Help someone who needs it, and even if they do not need help, help them anyway. Perhaps they will return the favor and help someone else. If we would just try, we could turn our society around and make it a pleasant adventure each day to interact with others. Smile. Wish someone a nice day. Be courteous. Encourage others to be good. Tell people about God and His promises and meditate upon God’s Word. Don’t just talk the talk, but walk the walk. Show your love to others. One way to turn your life around is to change your focus. When you focus upon God you become a better person. When you focus upon helping others, you become a better person. Our goal is to get people focused upon God and become people that are better. Our community would be much better if more people were better, kinder, wiser.