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Reminders

 

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In many parts of the United States we were inundated with reminders about moving to Daylight Savings Time this past weekend. Doubtless there were more than a few who still forgot and started Sunday at the wrong time for whatever they had planned.

 

Even though not every state utilizes this switch to accommodate more daylight hours each evening, most do not recall the reason for this event unless they are tuning into the debate on why it was setup originally.

 

The idea of resetting clocks forward an hour in the spring and back an hour in the fall was first suggested by Benjamin Franklin in an essay published in 1784. The essay was entitled “An Economical Project for Diminishing the Cost of Light.

 

f89528f6f2c949819092cc7fa5cd0dc1Benjamin Franklin was always coming up with ingenious ideas, but this one didn’t really get any takers until the World War I era. Then in 1916 the British Parliament adopted the plan and the United States made it official in 1918 despite some resistance. By 1919 the United States had heard the outcry against it and allowed local governments to choose if they would utilize the plan or not. Then in World War II in the United States it was reinstituted again until after the war.

 

Then in 1966 a Uniform Time Act was made law by the U.S. Congress, but this still allowed for leeway for local or state governments to choose to participate or not. It did set that those who chose to do so would do so uniformly on the same days each spring and fall.

 

Reminders are vital for all of us to jog our memories no matter what age or season of life. Information and data come at us at an amazing speed and few of us can hold onto a great deal of it. 

 

Perhaps that is why many of us now rely on our phones or other devices to set alarms and keep our calendars up-to-date. If we avail ourselves of those reminders, we will get kudos from those in our world as we remember appointments, birthdays, anniversaries, and other data.

 

alarm-clock-calendar-close-up-908298Even with the modern age of information overload, I can see that reminders were needed from the very beginning of recorded time.  Even though each neuron in our brains fire about 200 times per second that doesn’t mean it can retain all that it is processing. Hence, the need for reminders.

 

God knows us well. There is a great deal of evidence to support that statement. One obvious place to find it is in the Bible. Themes and things that He wants us to know and understand, to learn and practice, are repeated in multiple ways and contexts. It’s pretty sad that too frequently we still do not keep those truths and tenets of our faith in our memories unless reminded.

 

Reading through the Torah (first five books of the Old Testament) one could wonder why after we plod through Leviticus and Numbers we see Moses repeating the commandments and laws again in the book of Deuteronomy.

 

There are plenty of times we see the children of Israel were forgetting God’s goodness and directives. (Of course that started in Eden with Adam and Eve as well.) Obviously, Moses knew well the challenge of his people, but the repetition now has additional importance attached.

 

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Photo by NeONBRAND

By this time the generation that failed to believe in God’s promises had died off and Moses was reminding the new generation that was about to go into the Promised Land under Joshua’s leadership what would be key to the covenant with the Lord and success for the battles ahead.

 

We can get bogged down in the laws created to keep the covenant and miss that grace came first before the law.

 

What about us?

 

Do we take for granted that the generations behind us know our stories and know His story? The dailyness of our lives means that much of our conversation and communication focuses on details rather than what has guided our course through life.

 

Deuteronomy 13:4 reads:

“You are to follow only God, your God, hold him in deep reverence, keep his commandments, listen obediently to what he says, serve him—hold on to him for dear life!” (The Message)

 

Does the generation after you know why you ascribe to this if you do?

 

Reminders about these values still are needed.

 

Those coming after us need to know what has sustained us during the hard times, the failures, the doubting times in our lives. That can build their own faith and nudge them when they are tempted to believe no one has faced anything as difficult as they face.

 

Reminders to remember…we will always need them.

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The Best News

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Photo by David Ecrement

 

It seems like every day we are bombarded by bad news. Stocks go down, antibiotic resistant bacteria surfaces, tornadoes rip through a small town, a factory shuts down or a business closes its doors and wars or discord seem to be multiplying everywhere in the world.

 

We can be tempted to think things are worse than they have ever been, but if we are history lovers (I am!) we can easily point to other times and eras when people living in those days would have said something like that as well.

 

In the midst of it all, God keeps calling out to us to return to Him, to look to Him and trust in Him.

 

abstract-background-brick-220124That is often not so easy when it is our stock that has fallen, our family member is the one ill, our house has been destroyed, or our son or husband have been called to active military duty.

 

These sorts of things can leave us at our worst. Our faith can falter. Our trust may teeter and our mood can become sour or our face downcast.

 

It is no laughing matter. Ask Job.

 

When difficult things happen to us, the state of the foundation of our life will likely determine how well we weather the challenge.

 

The things we practice daily in ordinary moments will automatically kick in when the world turns us upside down.

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What we practice is what we will become.

 

 Because we are finite and very fallible, we will often not meet the hard times in our life operating as well as we would wish. Sadly, we will then start berating ourselves for not doing better.

 

When I look at some of the heroes of the faith in the Bible, more than a few of them could identify with that.

 

Jonah lapsed into believing he knew better than God what should happen to the people of Nineveh. He fled from the Lord, took a ship, and discovered the cost of disobedience was being dumped in the sea. He was clearly at his worst, but God sent a fish to swallow him into less than ideal accommodations. He called on the Lord and the fish vomited him up.

 

Now he was totally prepared to preach up a storm and call down fire on their heads because of the evil in their midst, but he was unprepared to accept God’s decision to forgive them when they repented. When the king repented and called his people to do so, Jonah went off in a pout under a plant.

 

You know the story. When God chooses to spare Nineveh, Jonah is angry. Here is the man of God acting out at every turn. He is missing what the Lord wants him to see. It is clearly not Jonah’s best day.

 

IMG_2624 (1)Peter likely experienced that as well when he had insisted to the Lord that he would never deny him despite what the Lord had told him would happen. The morning in the courtyard while Jesus was being beaten, questioned, and mocked, Peter had one of his worst days. He denied the Lord in front of a charcoal fire before the rooster crowed three times just as the Lord had said He would do.

 

Those few disciples gathered around the cross on that Friday of the crucifixion agonized over what they witnessed. Jesus had told them what would happen, but they could not comprehend He meant this was how it would all end. It was the worst of all days. He was dying. They faced an uncertain future and watched helplessly as His ordeal played out.

 

Saul was the Pharisee of Pharisees and could not believe in this new sect who believed in the man who had been crucified. What crazy stories they were telling about how he had risen from the dead! What blasphemy! He was determined to bring punishment on the heads and bodies of them all. He was blind and unaware he was blind. He was at his worst.

 

Then on the road to Damascus he lost his eyesight so he could finally see the truth about himself, the new sect, and this Jesus who had been crucified, but now lived.

 

Over and over again things happen that are not only bad news, but also leave us at our worst.

 

Here is the key!

 

When we are at our worst, God is at His best.

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He meets us with grace and mercy, pours oil on our wounds, takes us in His arms and wraps us in His love.

 

You see nothing about being at our worst surprises Him. NOTHING.

 

He has always known we would have those times and that life would be turned upside down by any number of things that would happen. He planned for that. He provided for that. He simply loves us that much.

 

Bad news will continue to come and we may be at our worst, but He has a plan for that.

 

So do not lose heart, on your worst day, God will be at His best.

 

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Listening Is Not Enough

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Of all the gifts we can give to another person or receive from someone, few are as valuable as listening. If we are to listen to someone else, we must step outside of ourselves, quiet our internal dialogue, lay aside our electronic devices that hold us under their spell, and be fully present to the person speaking.

 

Listening is not easy and it requires sacrifice.

 

One of the very best books on listening is The Listening Life by Adam S. McHugh that I read several years ago. If you have not experienced this book, I encourage you to be sure it is on your list.

 

One of the starred sentences in my copy of the book states this:

 

 “ Good listening starts with the scandalous premise that this conversation is not about you.”

 

We might easily nod in agreement with this, but our actual conversations may reveal something else. What we recall of what the other person in a conversation shared can give a clue about how well we listened and whether we listened only to the words or if we heard below the surface of the words.

 

But listening, even at its best, is not enough.

 

If we knew Hebrew and looked at the word “listen” we would discover that the word actually means to hear and respond. Those things coupled together equals obedience. That truth deepens the meaning of listen.

 

That understanding helps identify what causes someone frustration when another person has listened to them without response or action of some sort. We doubt that listening has occurred at all.

 

Listening in the deeper sense of the word should change the scene from passive to active.

 

adult-baby-boy-1157398As parents we often admonish our children to “listen” to us about something we want or need to share with them. A generation or two ago parents would have used the word “obey” in this context even though that word seems to have fallen out of fashion. It is nonetheless no less important than ever and the Hebrew word for “listen” makes that evident.

 

In our push to be self-actualized and independent we can bristle at the thought of needing to obey someone or something. That response reveals more of the DNA of Adam and Eve than we want to admit.

 

We look at obedience as limiting us, hindering us, and that incomplete definition suggests how deceived we may be.  

 

I am to obey the speed limit when I am driving. Yes, it limits me, but it also protects me and everyone else anywhere near the vehicle I am driving.

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Another aspect of listening with obedience is the importance of not dawdling to act. Not obeying a red light or a stop sign at the immediate point can be and often is deadly.

 

When our daughter became a new mom, she and her husband instituted the rule of “first time obedience” in their home. The rule took into account the Hebrew definition of “listen.”  They did not expect to keep telling the children something they were to do over and over again without an appropriate response. That may sound tough, but consider what response you would want if your child were running into the street. You would want them not only to listen and hear, but also to act and obey… the first time.

 

If we are honest with ourselves, we tend to not be very good with obedience. We often cheat about the speed limit, our diet, and a host of other things if we feel we can get away with it.

 

We don’t live in Deuteronomy. Jesus paid the price on the cross for our inability to obey perfectly the first time and always. He loved us that much. What we missed often was that His call for obedience was out of love for us, to keep us safe, to provide blessings, and to nurture us to love Him.

 

achievement-confident-free-6945He didn’t want us to only feel love for Him in the emotional one-dimensional sense of the word love.

 

Love in Hebrew involved a decision and devotion and obedience.

 

In the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy in the sixth chapter is a section known as “The Shema.”  It is the centerpiece of the early part of this book whose key words include “listen” and “love.”  You may recall what it says even if you did not know the word “Shema”:

 

“Listen, Oh Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord alone, and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your might.”

 

 During this Lenten season as I seek to reflect on the love sacrifice on the cross for my disobedience, I most desire to hear Him and grow in my relationship with Him. I want to listen carefully, but out of love for Him I want to act and respond to what I hear.

 

Listening is not enough.

 

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Pause and Consider Again

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As I walked into the softly lit sanctuary, something in the room appeared to hush the noise of the day beyond the softly falling snow outside. It brought a welcoming quiet, an invitation to pause, reflect, and consider once more.

 

It was Ash Wednesday just a few years ago, the traditional beginning of Lent, the 40 days prior to the celebration of Easter, the provision for our salvation.

 

As the worship music began, it too had been chosen to turn our hearts, minds, and spirits to ponder and examine the relationship at the center of my life. The lyrics and the melodies invited meditation.

 

It can be far too easy not to stop for this day on the calendar in many of our non-Catholic churches.  It also can be too easy to get lost in traditions and lose track of its purpose.

 

Lent is a time for examining my heart.  It is a time to pause in the doing of my life, even the doing for Him.  Lent is a time for being with Him, a time of soberly considering the condition of my life.

 

Lent is a time to remember. 

 

alone-beautiful-view-cliff-954299 (1)It is a time to consider the horror of the cross was necessary for my sin, my unrighteousness. It is a time to remember no matter how long I have known Him that I have no righteousness of my own. And it is time to mull over my human weaknesses that can still tempt me to fall prey to their seductions.

 

What does it really mean to follow Christ, to deny myself and follow Him?

 

I think it is less about denying myself some thing I enjoy and more about denying me, me and all that is not Him within me. 

 

As I enter Lent and approach Good Friday, it means identifying with a dead man even as I recognize the death He suffered was my fate were it not for Him.

 

It is more than going along with Him, following Him in that way, and more about fashion-footwear-grass-631986walking like Him in the very fabric of my being and demonstrated by my attitudes, actions, and affections.

 

As the pastor shared the meditation he had prepared, he spoke of what it means to remove the leaven in our lives as well as what leaven signified.  The yeast in leavened bread decays causing it to rise and symbolizes my sin.

 

Lent is a time to examine my heart for evidences of sin, to quiet myself during this season and repent so that the leaven is removed once more by the sacrifice of His death on the cross.

 

Certainly, I (and likely you) can identify specific places where sin has slipped in, but the pastor encouraged me and all of us present to look deeper and remember “Peas Are Green and Little”.

 

He used the sentence to imprint our minds with the seven deadly sins that so easily can slip into our lives unacknowledged too often. He spoke also of the significance of listing pride first since it holds so much power in each of our lives in obvious as well as subtle ways.

 

Peas Are Green and Little:

  • Pride
  • Envy
  • Anger
  • Slothfulness
  • Avarice
  • Gluttony
  • Lasciviousness

 

I can be tempted at first glance to dismiss the thought that I have fallen prey to any of these seven deadly sins, but that in itself exposes pride.

 

Would it be possible during this Lenten season to seek the Lord for humility to erase pride, contentment to erase envy, gentleness to erase anger, serving to replace slothfulness, giving to replace avarice, fasting to combat gluttony, and purity to knock out lasciviousness? Impossible?  No, not impossible because of the cross, but also not possible without my recognition of those things that are present as well as my repentance for them.

 

As I walked forward to take the unleavened bread and the cup, I sensed the Lord affirming the need to sacrifice and deal with “Peas (that) Are Green and Little” rather than some material thing that could dull my senses about what the real issues are that need to be put to death and sacrificed.

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Gifts from a Wintry Season

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The March calendar announces that spring will be here within a few weeks, but only time will reveal if there is evidence that shows up on the date on the calendar. Winter tends to not let go of her control easily during this month.

 

Even if we see the sun more often and hear birdsong early in the morning as the month marches forward, most days will be overcast. There will be rain and snow will be no stranger, sometimes giving us a display we missed for Christmas.

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Recent storms leave lawns littered with branches and limbs pruned by the windy gusts. Those same gusts resurrect leftover fall leaves from wherever they were hidden and swirl them around garage doors and patios.

 

The best homes in the neighborhood look strained from the wintry months. Paint looks dingier and windows no longer gleam as they wear the grime left from winter’s weather combos. Shrubbery is broken down in places snow rested too heavily or too long. Grass still hides its greenery under the dun color evident now.

 

Winter also reveals the weakness of a house and the land it sets on. No one notices the roof’s leaky shingles or the clogged downspouts in the month of June. Parts of the foundation are now visible that are hidden when the grass is lush and green and an array of flowers appears in the landscape.

 

Winter tries and tests the condition of a house and property. Winter’s wear and tear branches-landscape-snow-4620exposes the truth in March. Only heavy snow (if it comes) can hide the weaknesses winter’s months make known.

 

I think our lives are sometimes a bit like March when the beauty of Christmas has passed, but the hope of spring has not yet come.

 

It is in a wintry hard season that we are tested and our vulnerabilities are uncovered. Whatever the season brings us, reminds us we are mortal. The season brings to light our mettle.

 

It is in winter we learn or rediscover the strength of our beliefs, our relationships, our stewardship, and our character. A wintry hard season strips us of the façade we may think of as real and that others believe is the truth of who we are. This season shuts up our quick solutions and easy answers because they point to how empty they can be.

 

animal-avian-beak-357316Such a season prunes us of the things that are unnecessary and reminds us of what is vital. Such a season awakens an appetite for only what truly nourishes our souls and only words that speak life.

 

It is now we find out the source and depth of our faith and those on whom we can count. It is now we see clearly even though the gray murky weather would suggest otherwise.

 

Wintry seasons gift us with understanding that sustains us for the unexpected storms of blur-close-up-color-1000068spring and summer. Wintry seasons shore up our priorities and point us to what is crucial that carefree summer days never do. Wintry seasons unveil what the showy displays of summer and autumn conceal in their vibrant colors.

 

Wintry seasons can also quiet our souls so we can hear the whispers of the Lord more easily. No sunshine entices us outdoors so we may linger in prayer or the Word a bit longer. We can bask in the warmth of the Lord’s presence and rekindle intimacy with Him.

 

We think of summer as the growing season, but the truth is that it is in the winter that we grow.

 

Hard wintry seasons weather us, develop endurance, and cause the roots of our faith to burrow wider and deeper into the truth it brings to light.

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Sometime soon crocuses will peek above the cold wintry soil and daylight will linger into the evening, but for now I will enjoy the gifts late winter have deposited in my life.

 

But that’s not all! Even in times of trouble we have a joyful confidence, knowing that our pressures will develop in us patient endurance. And patient endurance will refine our character, and proven character leads us back to hope. And this hope is not a disappointing fantasy, because we can now experience the endless love of God cascading into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who lives in us!”

Romans 5: 3-5 (TPT)

 

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