Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Tips For Triumphant Living -- Be Smarter Than A Chicken

Chickens are stupid creatures, but I still enjoy them. They're generally gentle birds who provide us with fresh eggs and sometimes meat. It's fun to listen to a hen cackle her joy and pride to the world after she's laid an egg.

Spring has arrived here in Oregon, which means it's time to build our flock, time to buy chicks. The tiny fluff balls are really cute, but they seem to have fewer brain cells than their parents. Still, God uses the simple things of this world to teach us and my little brood reminded me of an important lesson.

I've been caring for my chicks in a box in the house, but as they grew so did their stink. And after one precocious little bird flew out of the box and ended up on my carpeted floor I decided it was time to move them all to a coop.

I got the coop ready--fresh shavings on the floor, food and water and a heat lamp. When I put the chicks inside they were jubilant. They had room to run and even fly a little. I was sure all would be well. The next morning I checked on them and they still had plenty to eat and drink and seemed healthy so I went on my way. Late that afternoon I looked in on them again. There was still lots of food and water. In fact, it looked as if they hadn't touched any of it. My feathered friends weren't eating or drinking.

I moved the water and food closer to them and they immediately set upon both eating and drinking as fast as they could. Nourishment and drink had been available and yet they hadn't touched either. All they needed to do was move a couple of feet further and they would have discovered their meal. If I hadn't intervened they would have died. Stupid, I thought and then I realized how many Christians are just like these chicks.

God has placed his Living Word within our reach, yet we refuse to consume His spiritual feast. Our Bibles gather dust, and church on Sunday is just too much trouble, and activities crowd out things like Bible study groups or prayer groups. When we don't eat the spiritual food provided by God we risk dying from spiritual starvation.

Gods says in the book of Hosea, "My people are being destroyed because they don't know me." God has provided everything we need so that we can know Him. His Word is filled with glorious promises and words of encouragment and wisdom. If only we will eat, then we will know how to live.

Grace and peace to you from God.


Monday, April 26, 2010

Quiet Moments With God -- Be Kind

Sometimes it feels as if our world has completely forgotten what it means to be kind. I know there are many kind souls out there, but some days it feels like the majority of humans are focused only on self--their comfort, their needs, their desires. And others . . . well their pain and their troubles are of no concern to us. Why waste time being thoughtful or helpful?

I think our awareness of charity begins in childhood. When I was young being cruel wasn't tolerated and if I was caught tormenting anything or anyone my parents made certain I paid a price--often that meant a sore behind or at the very least an apology offered to the one I'd purposely hurt. My parents were also a living example of what it meant to live graciously. Their moral message stayed with me. I live kindly, as best as I can. I'm human so failure is a certainty.

If you weren't raised with the kind of example I was blessed to have, there is still no excuse for intentional cruelty, not if you're a believer. God has adamantly answered this issue. In His Word He states clearly how we are to treat one another. Ephesians 4:31-32 says, "Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead be kind to each other tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you." And Christ is our example.

I don't see that we have any excuse that justifies cruelty. I've witnessed rage, anger and harsh words hurled from one Christian to another. And it's usually over an inconsequential issue. This kind of behavior must grieve our Father.

I want to say, "How dare we injure one another this way? Do we take God's Word so lightly? Have we forgotten that Christ lives in us? Matthew 25:40 says, "I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me." How about to Him?

I know we're imperfect beings. We lose our tempers and react in ways that dishonor God and hurt others. When we fall, as we surely will, we need to seek God's forgiveness and then the forgiveness of the one we've treated badly. I believe in clean slates; it makes life much sweeter. How good it is to know that God's mercies are new every morning.

Grace and peace to you from God.


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Quiet Moments With God -- Let Him In

I am a sinner saved by grace. With my human mind it's difficult to grasp what that really means. I can't comprehend God's love. He sacrificed His son for me and for you. I couldn't give up my child for someone else.

I've been a Christian a long time and sometimes take God's gifts for granted. I forget to be grateful. And yet He never forsakes me. When I look at who I really am, on the inside where no one sees, I wonder why He loves me so much. I guess I don't have to know, but at the very least I should let God have all of me. To do so means I have to let him in.

Am I prepared to do that? To allow God to see my core and then to look at what He shows me about myself? Of course God already knows everything there is to know about me, but the difference I'm making is that I choose to let Him see it all. And I choose to see the real me.

God is good and I don't think He will show us what we're not ready to see. But we need to begin. And to do so means to bend our will to His. Until we look at who we are we can't fully walk with Him. When we hide from our sin, refusing to see it, how can we seek God's forgiveness? How can we grow and change? How can we be transformed?

Looking into our hearts can be painful. I don't like everything I see there. I have too much of "ME" there. And too much me means too little of Him.

Galatians 2:20 says, "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me."

How about that -- "It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me." That's powerful. That's what I want--to be made new, to be a light to the world.

Don't be afraid to look, Christ's sacrifice covers all our sin.

Grace and peace to you from God.


Friday, April 16, 2010

Tips For Triumphant Living -- Make Sure To Have Some Fun

I am blessed. I have a job I love. However, like most of you, it's not all fun and games. I spend countless hours alone in front of my computer. I work nights and weekends. And my income -- well let's not even go there.

I do get to create characters. I love that. I dream up plots. I love that. I search for historical tidbits that will make a scene more realistic. I love that too. And I meet the most interesting people. I absolutely love that.

My biggest struggle is my physcial condition. I live with chronic pain. And some of what I do as a writer makes it worse. Travel, though it is something I love, is one of those challenges. It's hard on my body, and sometimes it's hard to fight through the pain. In fact, on my last resarch trip my back went out while I was touring a really nice museum in Yakima. That was definitely not fun.

While in Yakima I took my smarting bones to a meeting I'd scheduled prior to my visit. Mark and Cheryl Barrett (pictured above) were my gracious hosts. What a delight it was to visit with them. Although my body was complaining the rest of me was having fun. The Barrets are one of those treasures writers look for. Their family has been growing fruit in the Yakima Valley for generations. The Barretts know all there is to know about fruit growing and life in the valley.

We sat outdoors on a patio in front of their gift shop, sipping apple pop (I didn't know there was such a thing, but it's very good) and chatting. The gift shop is located on their fruit farm so I had a good view of the rows and rows of fruit trees. The store is chock full of goodies and interesting gift items. I highly recommend it to visitors.

It was one of those perfect spring days, warm and sunny with just a light breeze. We talked about farming, life in the valley and local history. Although I was in pain and technically working, I was having fun. I suppose I could have set my mind on the pain and all the work that waited for me here at home but if I'd done that I would have missed out on the fun.

It turned out to be a super day. I met a couple of very nice people and gathered in information that will make the scenes in the book I'm working on come to life. I'm so glad I made the trip.

God has all kinds of surprises waiting for us. There is wonder in day to day living. We've just got to open our eyes and our hearts so we can see it.

Grace and peace to you from God.


You can find Barrett Orchards at www.treeripened.com

Monday, April 12, 2010

Quiet Moments With God -- God Sees It All

I've been thinking recently about Godly living. In fact, I touched on it in my last blog. But a situation came up just this week, one I've sadly seen many times before. Being unkind to anyone is never okay, but it's especially disconcerting when Christians are cruel to one another. And if we think we can do it in the dark where no one will know that's not true--God sees everything.

Psalm 139:1-3 says, "O Lord, You have searched me and known me. You know my sittng down and my rising up. You understand my thoughts afar off. You comprehend my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways."

Frankly, I have mixed feelings about these verses. My first emotion is comfort and I feel protected. I can rest in the knowledge that God truly knows me and yet He loves me just as I am. But I also feel shame. My Father sees it all. He knows everything there is to know about me, and yet I'm thankful I'm never out of His sight.

I've been witnessing a small crisis. Well, it feels small to me but to one of the people involved it's a heartache and it is being inflicted on her by a friend. Irritability and a short temper feels as if it's aimed directly at her on purpose and it's making her feel that she isn't valued. It's a wound that may leave a scar between her and this friend, which is a true sorrow.

I'm almost certain the person inflicting the wounds is not doing so with evil intent, although he's probably aware of his sour mood. If we are honest with ourselves I'm sure we can remember doing something similar. Circumstances in life cause us to lash out at the people around us. Though we know it's not right we still do it.

Wouldn't it be better if we chose to pray and quiet our spirits and then spread a balm on our loved ones instead of acid. We should do so out of obedience and a high regard for God and His family. Maybe knowing we can't truly hide our wrong doings from The One who matters most will help us to turn away from this sin and find a way to love instead.

For when we think no one knows He does.

Grace and peace to you from God.


Friday, April 09, 2010

Tips For Triumphant Living -- Don't Carry Tales

None of us wants to be seen as the type who ridicules others. And I doubt that many of us consider ourselves to be malicious. But let's get honest--we're humans and all humans do bad things some of the time, including being a tale bearer. Perhaps we fall into it unintentionally. Nevertheless if we've taken part we've sinned.

Proverbs 29:8 says, "Mockers can get a whole town agitated, but the wise will calm anger." Seems clear to me that we're called to bring calm to our world not anger. Mocking someone else or gossiping about others is always damaging and stirs up trouble.

I know a person who doesn't intentionally do this, but there is often a cloud of trouble swirling around him. He loves God and serves faithfully and yet he mocks others. He has a tendency to see the worst in people and is quick to share his views. Soon, the word is out about so-and-so and people are quick to judge and to jump on the gossip train.

If we listen to hateful words about someone else and accept them as truth we're part of the problem. It's easy to think we know the "facts" when we don't. Only God knows a man's heart. Only he can judge.

I've seen major storms break out in a church over one piece of misinformation passed along by someone who thinks they recognize a truth others ought to know. We hurt each other, sometimes with eternal consequences. Oh, how it must grieve our Lord.

I've been on both sides of this issue--a tale bearer and the victim of tales. Both hurt, but when I think back to my part in a flood of gossip or judgement I'm filled with shame and I vow--never again.

God says we're to love one another. How much better it is to pray for and to lift up others rather than to tear them down. Love brings blessings.

Grace and peace to you from God.


Friday, April 02, 2010

Quiet Moments With God -- Remember Christ

Many people are struggling. Some fight to make it through one more day. We face financial hardships, illness, aging parents, betrayal and loss of hope and disappointments of all kinds. Our burdens are many and it's easy to get caught up in the uncertainty and anxiety of the world.

We've just been through Good Friday, a day to remember Christ's sacrifice, and then Easter, a day to rejoice.

Jesus walked the way of sorrows and allowed Himself to be nailed to a cross. Very near death he said, "It is finsihed." Our sin has been paid in full, covered by His blood. To receive, we only need to believe.

And on Easter, the day He rose, we rejoice. He covered our sin with His own blood and now waits for us in heaven. He has promised us a place at His table. His sacrifice destroyed the tactics of the enemy and we now have unending days waiting for us.

Our time on this earth is only a blip in eternity. Todays sorrows are less than that.

On Sunday, our pastor talked about many things, but something that stuck with me was his description of the disciples sacrifices and deaths. Some were crucified, even upside down, others beheaded, one stoned, another killed by spears, one exiled. But they would not renounce Christ, because they had seen all that had happened. They knew, they believed--not because of something they'd heard, but because of what they'd experienced--Christ.

In light of this my present sorrows seem small. I carry my hurts and fears to God and I know He cares, but I have not even begun to give what these men of God offered. I am the recipient of their sacrifices and of the greatest sacrifice of all.

Life is full of hope and joy because of Jesus. One day God will carry me home and then I will see clearly how man hours I've spent contemplating the wrong things. I will leave my possessions of this earth behind and will be caught up into heaven with my Lord pure and blameless because of Him.

There is nothing I can do to gain this gift, except to believe in Christ. It is He that should be foremost in my mind and heart, not my troubles.

All will be well. Never forget what has been given for us--remember Christ.

Grace and peace to you from God.