1

THE BUDDY BENCH

BuddyBenchLast week my granddaughter, Olivia, had a melt-down because she was being excluded by one of her school friends at recess time. Apparently, her friend had a new best friend and all former friends, including my granddaughter, were being ignored.

In an effort to promote harmony, I suggested we have a sleep-over for all parties involved. In doing so, NeeNee had a serious conversation with the girls about the emotional upsets they were having at school.

I love the honesty, resiliency and forgiving spirit of kids. As I talked with the girls they were candid about their feelings and in between their tearful sobs they talked about how it felt to be left out and sit on the playground ‘buddy bench’ the entire recess period because no one offers to play with them.

Being excluded at any age causes us to ask ourselves, “What is wrong with me.” Loneliness takes up residency in our spirit and opens the door for resentment, anger and, in some cases, thoughts of suicide. In my lifetime, I have experienced that kind of loneliness. Betrayal, divorce, joblessness, anxiety attacks, death of a loved one; or the loss of or longing for friendship have all taken lead role at some time or another.

The reason for your loneliness may be different than mine, but one thing is certain, loneliness is no respecter of persons; the emotions it stirs within us are the same. Perhaps you are sitting on the ‘buddy bench’ right now waiting for someone to befriend you, to care; to listen. That person is sitting next to you at this very moment. His name is Jesus and all you need to do is take His hand. He longs to lead you to the still waters and restore your soul; He longs to be your friend.

You will always find Jesus on the ‘buddy bench’ waiting to be a friend to anyone who asks.

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” Revelation 3:20, ESV

1

CONSUMED BY CLUTTER

IMG_4873

Clutter has never been a part of my lifestyle; until now. Every room in my house is filled with piles of this and stacks of that. I’m the process of updating my office and in the transition I have created chaos. The addition of Christmas decorations only adds to the mess. Not to mention all the furniture pieces I have been stockpiling in the garage to re-purpose. My husband shows no signs of support and, quite honestly, I don’t blame him.

This once clutter-free wife has become a borderline candidate for an episode on the Hoarders television show. What is going on here; what changed?

My life is no longer ‘all about the bass’, it’s all about the space (and there isn’t much of it).

Perhaps the ensuing clutter personifies my unfulfilled dreams; things I want to do or experience before I part ways with this world. Whatever the motivating factor, it’s time to unclutter my surroundings; not so I can collect more stuff, but to free up space so I can see what I already have.

I no longer want to look around me and feel like the psalmist who said, “My confusion is continually before me.” (Psalm 44:15, KJV)

And so, my goal this holiday season is to clear my life of unnecessary clutter, both materially and spiritually to make room for those things that matter most; family, faith and friendships. I am raking through the transient clutter that encompasses me in confusion.

First Corinthians 14:33 tells us that “God is not a God of disorder but of peace.” And Second Peter 2:19 makes it clear: “A man is slave to whatever has mastered him.”

And so, to my curbside-trash-hunting friends (you know who you are); you are welcome to pick through anything you find at the end of my driveway except for my trash-taker-outer honey-man. He’s not up for grabs.

0

THE POWER OF WORDS

PowerOfWords-800px

“In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
John 1:1

This verse from the Bible is dynamic and clearly indicates when God speaks, His Words are power driven. I have never heard the audible voice of God and, quite honestly, I’m not so sure I want to hear the voice of someone who placed the stars, moon and sun just by speaking the words.

How is it that the Word existed from the beginning? Beginning of what? I don’t have that answer, but I am confident that if the Word already existed before the beginning, it must be extremely important to mankind.

If God spoke the world into existence and created man in His own image there was a purpose; God doesn’t speak without purpose and neither should we. The scripture confirms the power of the spoken word, not just God’s, but it encompasses the words we speak as well.

The words we speak to others can bring life or they can bring death. They can encourage, or discourage; inspire, or uninspire. As a Christian believer, I am empowered to speak the same powerful word that God used to bring the universe into existence. I’m not saying I can create galaxies, but I know great things can be accomplished when I quote the Word of God.

One day we will be held accountable for every word we have spoken.

“I tell you, on Judgment Day people will give an account for every thoughtless word they have uttered.” Matthew 12:36

Words are powerful, once spoken, they cannot be retracted. Put them to good use.

“…keep your thoughts on whatever is right or deserves praise: things that are true, honorable, fair, pure, acceptable, or commendable.” Philippians 4:8

1

THE EVOLUTION OF RESTORATION

IMG_2577I visited a number of cathedrals while vacationing in Italy. To view these antiquities up-close and stand in the presence of such opulent greatness was overwhelming. Every step and turn revealed intricate craftsmanship and I was left breathless by the beauty of it all.

However, I couldn’t help but notice certain areas of the cathedral were less magnificent than others. There were scaffolds and drop clothes draped in various sections of the building in need of restoration. The contrast between the restored areas and those still in progress was striking and a reminder that restoration of any structure is an evolution of time.

This is not so unlike the restoration process within our Christian life when God seeks to remove the stains and dirt accumulated over time. He power washes areas of our heart with the blood of the Lamb to restore us to His glory. When Jesus died on the cross, He took our shame, gave us His righteousness and restored the glory of God to us.

When we allow God to erect scaffolds to reach areas within our life that need to be restored, he promises we will be praiseworthy, honorable and glorious in His sight. Just as I stood in awe of the restored cathedrals, God wants the world to stand in awe of the workmanship He imparts to the ruins of our life.

The restoration of the cathedrals in Italy happened over time and that is how God works to restore His grace within us; it is over time. I am thankful God continues to move scaffolds and drop clothes to make His glory shine within my life.

Like those cathedrals, I will continue to be an ongoing restoration process until His full glory is revealed within me and I am set free from the decay of this world.

“For I consider the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” Romans 8:18

Nothing can compare with the glory of God, and we have been called to reveal His glory! This glory resides in us because Christ is in us.

0

FAITH OF A CHILD

10730927_10204830557874014_7270004066671990962_nSurrounded by crayons, markers, scrapbook paper and glue my grandkids ages six to eleven, busied themselves with making cards for a close family friend who was hospitalized. With scissors in hand, snippets of colorful paper fell to the floor as they discussed their design plan and card message.

Voices would occasionally shout out for another roll of tape or sleeve of staples as their hands worked to create a card for someone they love. I was in awe when shown the finished cards; not with the design, but with the unprompted message each card conveyed.

Although the sentence was written backwards, you have to appreciate the words of wisdom from a six-year old.

“I love you. God will help you see the power by praying.”

Or, those of an eight-year old,

“Trust God, He will clear your sickness and be there when you need Him. I love you and hope you get better.”

And then, the wisdom of a ten-year old,

“Trust in the Lord when you need Him. I hope you get better soon. I know you will if you trust in the Lord.”

When I read the card messages, I was reminded of two Bible scriptures, both which bear witness to my own personal life.

“Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not turn from it.”
Proverbs 22:6

“Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and your gates.”
Deuteronomy 6:7-9

To raise and train a child within the context of these verses begins with reading the Bible. Even Moses stressed the importance of teaching our children the ways of God. As a grandparent, I will do everything within my power to keep the gates of their heart locked by faith in Jesus, the Son of God.

It will prove to be only life raft they have in the world in which we live.

1

ARE YOU A SERIAL QUITTER?

serialQuitterMy grandson entered my office and positioned a chair next to mine. “OK, Neenee, you need to quiz me on my spelling words.” He placed his spelling list in front of me and with a well-sharpened #2 pencil and pad of paper, plopped his bumper into the chair.

When Carson sleeps over on a school night, he knows a spelling word review is mandatory. Of course, he comes up with plenty of excuses to avoid the inevitable. It is no different with his math homework or anything else that requires he put forth effort and manage his attention.

Carson starts out with great intentions, but his focus becomes misdirected and he is unable to rein in his attention to focus on spelling words. He becomes a serial quitter who embraces a mindset that sets them up for failure.

Serial quitters have good intentions but lack the ability to block out distractions and stay on track. For my grandson, a few misspelled words cause him to lose focus of his task and he snaps into a defensive mode.

“I can’t do this…I am going to fail…this is too hard,” are common phrases of a serial quitter; they haven’t learned to control their impulses in view of the possible consequences and rewards. At the slightest distraction defeat is claimed and they are ready to move on to something else which eventually generates the same cognitive response as before: I quit!

As a business owner and entrepreneur, I am pulled in many directions with multiple tasks and projects going on at the same time. The desk in my office bears witness to the chaos that surrounds me and working from home brings added distractions. The following steps help me stay focused throughout the day. They have helped my grandson; perhaps they will help you as well.

  • Meditate
    I’m not talking about sitting on the floor with crossed legs and eyes closed while humming a chant. There are many ways to meditate; for me, I focus on a Bible scripture. Each morning starts with 15-30 minutes of alone time with God in prayer and thoughtful mediation to quiet my mind.
  • Get Outdoors
    Allow for 15 minutes of outdoor time each day. The wooded trails on my home property are a perfect retreat to connect with nature and renew my mind. To practice my focus skills, I count steps. When my mind starts to wander, I redirect my thoughts back to counting my stride.
  • It’s a great exercise in training the mind to focus and center attention on just one thing. The more you do it, the more control you will have over daily attention drifts.
  • Pace Yourself
    I took piano lessons as a child and mom made me practice every day. The kitchen timer was set and I couldn’t get up from the piano bench until it went off. Mom knew that a specific time and place dedicated to practice was essential to my short-lived attention span, even if I didn’t.

    There is a tendency to operate in auto pilot mode when multiple projects are on the agenda. We operate by rote until our attention is diverted to something else more pressing or fulfilling. It is easier to stay focused and avoid an auto pilot workday when you work in shorter, timed increments.

  • Know When it’s OK to Quit and When it’s Not
    The true treasure and value in life lies in choosing the right path, the right project, the right job or passion or religion. It’s OK to quit when you’ve made wrong choices; I quit piano lessons with no regrets. It became clear that piano was not the right path for me when I would sneak out from my lesson to move the kitchen timer forward to shorten my practice time.

    To know when to switch directions is a key ingredient between being senseless and sensible in your decision to quit your commitment to a project or task. Obviously, to drop out of high school is not sensible but to stop playing sports because it infringes on your studies is a sensible consideration.

The next time life presents you with challenges and difficulties refrain from becoming a serial quitter. Consider the above techniques to help you block out distractions and stay focused on your goals. It is only when you take charge of your life with effort and determination that your potential to succeed is realized.

1

TOUCHING JESUS

hem-of-his-garmentJesus stopped suddenly and turned toward the crowd that followed him, “Who touched me? Someone touched my clothes. Who was it?” A woman stepped forward and fearfully fell at His feet. “I did,” she confessed.

She had traveled 30 miles on foot to seek out a man who, just by the touch of his clothes, could heal the sick and diseased.

It was an unstoppable mission of faith fueled by an incurable blood disorder that made her ceremonially unclean (according to Mosaic Law) and socially unacceptable. In desperation, she reached out to Jesus for a miracle to relieve her physical and emotional suffering.

This faith empowered woman dared to act on her belief and it caught the attention of Jesus. When the unnamed woman stretched out her arm toward the Master’s garment, she was restored.

“Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed.” Luke 8:7

Perhaps you are considered an outcast by friends, family or community members; someone in need of spiritual and physical restoration. Reach out to Jesus in faith and touch His garment like the woman of Capernaum. God promises that when we do, He will free us from our suffering.

“Daughter (or Son), your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.” Mark 5:34

Jesus used the word ‘daughter’ as a term of endearment. It indicated to the unnamed woman she was no longer an outsider, but rather an accepted family member thanks to God’s grace. That same grace abounds today if we willingly throw ourselves into the path of Jesus and reach out to Him in total faith.

It wasn’t the cloak of Jesus that imparted healing; it was one woman’s persistent and unyielding faith in the power of Jesus that brought about a miracle.
Jesus will do the same for you if you reach out to Him.