Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Discarding the Clutter

"Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, outcry and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and tenderhearted to one another, forgiving each other just as in Christ God forgave you.…" Ephesians 4:21

Bruce and I used to find ourselves glued to the television show dedicated to Hoarding. It is both unbelievable and unthinkable that anyone can allow their home to get to the condition shown on these documentaries. One of the saddest components of this show is the fear to let go of any one of these items. What we view as trash they view as necessity and an attachment to their emotional health. It requires outside efforts which are beyond their ability to achieve a healthier view and environment. Their surrender to bring in assistance to attain something better is quickly reclaimed as soon as they feel threatened. One of the biggest concerns is having the home cleaned out only to collect the clutter again. Change from the inside must be accomplished for the outside to remain healthy. It takes analyzing one item at a time that eventually leads to freedom from our self-made prisons.

If we could see the inside of our hearts we would see the same going on as we see in the homes of these hoarders. We pile up our bitterness, our wounds and our injured hearts and create such spiritual clutter there is no room for forgiveness. We hold on to patterns in our lives that are destructive but comfortable in approaching our trials. We ask God to come in and remove the spiritual clutter of our hearts, but then we quickly snatch back something He has determined needs to be discarded. Worst of all, once He has done the work in our lives to clean up and clear out we begin collecting new emotional clutter instead of filling our home with healthy things such as meditation, service, prayer and focus on God.

If our hearts and minds are to become ‘hoarder-free zones’ we must truly surrender the trash, allow God to throw away what He determines and replace the new found space with God focused treasures.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Open for Business

Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” Romans 12:13 “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.” 1 Peter 4:8-9

Years ago, when I took my mom to her doctor’s appointment I discovered for the first time a mobile unit outside the building where mammograms were given. Not only would they perform these procedures in that vehicle, but they would drive it to other places to give other people the option. It was the original concept of bringing something to the person instead of the person going there. Now every city is peppered with different offerings of this same concept. We have food trucks, beverage trucks, boutique trucks and much more. But I believe that Jesus had the original concept. He was the original vessel of hospitality on the go…

Throughout the New Testament we see that Jesus offered Himself and His time as He moved through the day. Never does Scripture describe Jesus having His own home, inviting people in to dine with Him. His invitations for fellowship were usually on the road, in the homes of other people, by the river and in the towns…just living out His daily life.

So, I began thinking this morning, what would our life look like if we moved through our days with our own Hospitality Trucks? What would be on the menu if we pressed the brakes, shifted into park, and opened our window of offerings? A listening ear? Spiritual food for thought? Grace? Compassion and care?

We create our own calendars and are no busier than Jesus was in His day. We need to understand as did He that hospitality and invitation do not have to be complicated, but it does need to be intentional. When cannot look around without seeing someone who needs a smile, an encouraging word, a prayer or just a listening ear. We need to walk with the same spirit Jesus walked with. ‘We learn to make room for one more because He first made room for one more. We initiate, invite, and gather because He did it first. It’s hard to say no to hospitality on the go when God’s asking you to offer whatever is already on your schedule to Him. Take your everyday, ordinary life – your eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life – and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for Him.Just Open the Door, Jen Schmidt, p. 48

As we each walk out our calendar this week may we keep our eyes open like Jesus did, and discover ways to offer just a little bit of ourselves. God has placed people with needs all around us if we will just tap our brakes and put our lives in park.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Where the Footsteps End

The eyes of the Lord are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good.” Proverbs 15:3

I’m sitting on the screened in porch on the Folly River waiting for the sun to open its sleepy eyes. There is stirring among the clouds as if they are making way for the sun’s grand awakening. The birds are sweetly singing, and I can hear the shrimp popping in the watery grass below me. The water is as still as glass, and one would never know that 2 hours ago there was chaos and chase, helicopters and search boats, flashlights and night vision. Well except for me and Bruce. We were awakened to alternating lights of red and white with a steady light of green on the water. At first my heart sunk for fear that one of the young teens we saw earlier yesterday might be part of a search and rescue…person overboard. I began to pray that it wasn’t that and my mind wandered that perhaps they were searching for a criminal. The police were walking with flashlights up and down our dock pier in front of our building. They were shining their lights in the water, up on our land and in the grass. I noticed that I had a text from my neighbor informing me that I had left our garage door open. I realized that since I hadn’t closed that door, the riverside door was also unlocked. Bruce walked out on the dock where the police were and discovered that after a high-speed chase, a guy stopped his car on the bridge, and jumped off the bridge into the water to escape. They found wet footprints on the floating dock of our pier that led up to our community. For the next hour we watched and waited to see if they discovered the missing man, but they eventually ended their search and things were calm again. This morning as our community comes to life with a busy Friday, little will they know what all transpired while they were sleeping.

I began thinking about how God protects us and orchestrates things when we do not even know it. We can never know what tragedy He diverts or the evil from which He protects us. Little do we know the cancer in our bodies that never emerged. Little do we know that He might have saved one of our children from a horrible car wreck. Little do we know that He might have intervened from a job being lost. Little do I know that He quite possibly steered that man from hiding in our garage.

We may never know the tender mercies God is showing us every day…every hour…every second as we walk out the mundane. But I love reminders like this, that He never sleeps and knows where both good and evil reside. The authorities just might not ever find their guy, but God knows exactly where He is. God is the ultimate judge and whatever justice is not served on earth, will be served in Heaven…that’s a guarantee. God always knows where the footsteps end!

So as you go about your day be sure and thank God for the unseen mercies we are experiencing through His love and protection.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Surrounded by Angels

So he answered, ‘Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them…’ And the LORD opened the servant's eyes and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around...’ 2 Kings 16-17.

This is one of the most encouraging stories from the Bible, one I hope you will take the time to read. There was a man who awoke to discover their army had been surrounded through the night with a greater army. He went to the prophet Elisha who called upon the Lord to open the man’s eyes. God allowed this servant to see the unseen armies of God who outnumbered the enemy. It was a gift of sight and a promise of victory building the young servant’s faith.

A few years ago, I was volunteering at the Hospice House. My responsibilities included visiting with the patients at their bedside and talking about whatever was on their mind. It was a season when I was emotionally struggling and had stepped out in faith and was terrified. It had been a particularly gut-wrenching couple of days, and I feared I would be distracted while visiting these precious people. However, I pushed through my emotions and I will never forget that day. It was a day when heaven invaded my earth, and God opened the eyes of one of His messengers to encourage and comfort me. As I was speaking to this woman about her fears of her financial status, she suddenly pulled me close. Her face took on a different color as if suddenly flushed by the warmth of a fire. She told me that I must stay strong…I must not be afraid…that God was going to act. She said that ‘they’ were all around me. I was stunned and speechless and asked her to repeat herself. She repeated the same message and then laid back to nap. I will always think about the time that the Lord knew I needed something supernatural and personal to me to sustain me.

We all face times when we seem to be surrounded by dire circumstances. We awake to discover that everything seems stacked against us and fear overtakes us. If we could only see things from God’s viewpoint we would always walk in courage. But we live below the unseen spiritual world, having to rely on God for wisdom, guidance and a child-like faith. God will open our eyes to reveal the things we need to know before we need to move forward. He will send those precious people to walk with us through the tough times, and He surrounds us with His armies to protect us. He has sent His Spirit into our hearts to guide and comfort us. We really do have everything we need to walk out the life that God has chosen for us. We must spend time with Him, meditate on what He says in His word and ask Him for sight to see His presence.

Whatever situation you are facing today, you are not alone. In the words of this beautiful woman who now resides in Heaven ‘Stay strong, don’t be afraid and know that they are all around you.' They surround you and will always outnumber your troubles.

The chariots of God are twenty thousand, even thousands of angels: The Lord is among them.” Psalm 68:17

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Rolling in Poison Ivy

Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look not only for his interests, but also for the interest of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 2:3-5.

I remember a story that my grandmother told me when I was younger, a story that blew my mind because it seemed to contradict everything about her heart. She described a time when there was a man in her church who frequently played an instrument (either a banjo or fiddle) during church events. It absolutely drove her insane, and she couldn’t stand to be around the man as he played his instrument. She even went as far as hiding it from him somewhere in the church. My grandfather had to gently remind her that the man playing his instrument was his worship and ministry to God. She begrudgingly placed it back where he had left it. I still cannot connect her heart to this story, but it was true. She was one of the finest Christian women I’ve ever met with a faith like no one else. And yet she also had ‘Christ-minded detours’ just like I have on occasion. Welcome to my occasion, the occasion when Scripture rubs up against me like poison ivy. I try to avoid touching it, but there it is in my path waiting to irritate my heart and soul. One day I’m feeling like a good little Christian girl, and the next I’m rolling in poison ivy.

There is a man who lives in the same community that just rubs me wrong. I won’t go into detail but when he appears, I just want to disappear. He has never done any wrong towards me, he just operates in a different mode of communication. It is no surprise that God has aligned this Bible Study during a time when I am going to see him often. The author of Just Open the Door has challenged me to identify my ‘Plus One’ with whom God wants me to ‘cultivate a spirit of welcome.’ There are zillions of others with whom this would be easy, but God rarely calls us to ‘easy.’ He calls us to more fully understand Christ-minded principles that welcome all people in. “True hospitality comes when we elevate another and shift the focus from ‘here I am’ to ‘there you are.’ The posture we assume in [biblical] hospitality is one that bends low, generously offering our hearts to another despite whatever interruption to our own plans, or comfort. Extending hospitality is about freely giving of ourselves while granting others to be themselves. It treats everyone as guests of honor rather than grabbing at honor for ourselves.” Just Open the Door, Jen Schmidt, p. 28.

Who is your Plus One? Who rubs you wrong as you pass them by? With whom is God calling you to cultivate a spirit of welcome? It dawned on me this morning that I just might be someone else’s poison ivy. God invites everyone into His fellowship and calls every one of us to lay down our own issues and to just open the door. The only way to be able to fulfill this call is to intentionally open our arms through the spirit of this passage. Christ opened His arms on the cross inviting us into the family, so if He can sacrifice everything so should we.

"Lord, thank you for showing us how to cultivate a spirit of welcome not based on emotions but based on the example Christ gave us. Amen."

Monday, May 14, 2018

Tie Your Napkin 'Round Your Neck

Pursue hospitality.” Romans 12:14b

One of my favorite movies of all times is Beauty and the Beast. Even as I type its name I must quickly move on, so I won’t cry. The timeless story of Belle who really knew how to love, a love that was based not on what could be done for her but what she could do for another. But I want to focus this morning on what happened when she needed a friend in her time of need. She entered the castle scared and searching for answers. Room by room she scanned the landscape to determine what was before her. But she gradually noticed that as she pursued, hospitality was pursuing her. And when she allowed herself to be fully engaged with those who were inviting, she discovered the greatest feast and celebration of her life. She was invited to be their guest. ‘You're alone and you're scared…But the banquet's all prepared…So be our guest...Life is so unnerving, for a servant who's not serving…He's not whole without a soul to wait upon... Be our guest, be our guest, put our service to the test…tie your napkin 'round your neck, cherie, and we'll provide the rest…Be our guest…Be our guest…Be our guest.Beauty and the Beast.

When I picture these animated invigorating characters I cannot help but to picture Grandmother Miller. She was given a 100-year-old birthday party and people from every part of her life came to help us celebrate. The cream that consistently rose to the top of this celebration was the testament that no matter with what she was involved or how busy her calendar was she always offered hospitality. Story after story of people who knocked on her door looking for answers and searching for peace. ‘Be our guest,’ her actions showed by allowing her food to grow cold…her fork to remain clean. ‘Be our guest’ her words stated as she opened her home to missionaries who she had never met. ‘Be our guest’ her faith would show as she invited people into a relationship with Christ.

The two greatest commandments are to love God with all our heart, soul and mind and with this love to love everyone else. God’s heart is motivated by both love and invitation to fellowship in all things. Since Eden, God has been inviting people in and creating beautiful ‘tablescapes’ for us to come and join Him at the table of the banquet that’s already been prepared. We are all called to be a servant, for life IS empty when we are only serving ourselves. ‘Every single one of us is meant to be in the habit of pursuing hospitality – opening our doors to love those around us. Opening our doors has nothing to do with the actual physical setting of our tables. Opening our doors is to reflect the heart of God, welcoming others as He has welcomed us... Love is our invitation to act, and our choices launch from this cornerstone.' Just Open the Door, Jen Schmidt, p. 27.

The way we love others reveals something about the way we love God.

So…tie your napkin ‘round your neck, cherie and He’ll provide the rest…we’ll be His guest… you’ll be our guest…they’ll be your guest.

Catching Lightning Bugs

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But not only that, but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has given it to us.” Romans 5:3-5

When my sisters are I were children we enjoyed tons of time outside since we lived in the middle of 5 acres. Hide and go seek, tag and jumping on the trampoline were just a few of the things we enjoyed with each other and our friends. One of my favorite things to do was running around at night collecting lightning bugs and putting them in a jar. On occasion, when the bug would be still I would put it on my fourth ring finger pretending it was a diamond ring. Some of my happiest times were chasing these fiery insects. I am sure you have also had the experience of collecting lightning bugs.

I was thinking about our childhood this morning with Mother’s Day around the corner and I couldn’t help but think about the legacy of Mother. She has watched each of her childhood family members trade their earthly life for their heavenly one. She has had to watch a child go through excruciating circumstances, only to lay her at Jesus’ feet. She has had to say an earthly goodbye to my dad earlier than her heart ever thought. But the way she has lived out her life has been one of the most inspirational things for me and my sisters to watch. She has always shown the grace to embrace whatever God’s will for her life has been. She has endured much but has testified about God more. Her character has been proven the same in the painful times as in the joyful ones. She continues to chase down lightning bugs and collect the lovelies in life.

But God never allows our jars to be too full to fill them with more collectibles...more lovelies… more blessings. What she collected was a wonderful godly man in her 80’s, who has given her fresh hope and love as they walk towards the sunset of their lives hand and hand. It was a beautiful lightning bug that has continued to illuminate and shine. Through her life she continues to teach us to look for the moments that light up, and never stop collecting those lovely blessings that God sends our way.

Whatever you have experienced or are presently experiencing, please don’t stop collecting lightning bugs, those bright and lovely things that God puts in front of you. Reach towards them, embrace them gently and collect them in your heart. Trust in Him and the lovelies that He has for your future.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with the hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13
Image result for jars of lightning bugs