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2018: A Pay It Forward Christmas

1ab1d1e0550be0eb56556f6449aba62bAs the Christmas holiday season approaches, I am contemplating ways to make it a minimalist holiday season. Those on my buying list have no genuine needs. They might have wants, but that’s not the same as needs.

My grandkids are in their teens or soon to be. They lack nothing and have  a closet filled with clothes, comforts of a good home, food on the table and electronic devices up the wazoo. What they believe to be lacking in their life are expensive items like owning their own vehicle free and clear (you know, that new Jeep parked at the local dealership), prepaid car insurance until they finish college & university degrees (paid for, of course, by someone other than themselves).

It’s the wave of the current generation; the one we helped to create by giving them (our kids and grandkids) everything they desire with little regard to words like: earn, work, deserve, merit or most importantly, saying no.

This year, I have determined that the gifts on my shopping list will be genuinely gifted from the heart.

What does that mean?

I like to think of it as ‘pay it forward’ gifts. It’s not about what you receive, but what you gift to someone else. It could be buying a cup of hot cocoa for the volunteer person who rings the bell for Salvation Army donations. Maybe it’s baking cookies or a Bundt cake for local firefighters or police officers, or dropping quarters in the a laundromat washing machine to pay for someone’s next load.

The agenda

I have posted my agenda, should you want to consider a minimalist Christmas this year. Yes, I am starting early, but the initial planning takes some pre-planning because the thought process involves thinking of others before us.

My grandkids won’t receive any Christmas gifts from Neenee & Poppy unless they fulfill the (15) required ‘Pay It Forward’ items on the list below. Some items can be done jointly; others must be done solo. The agenda will start November 24 and must be completed by December 22.

  1. Deliver indoor plant to someone in a nursing home (jointly)
  2. Buy a cup of hot cocoa for the Salvation Army person ringing the bell (solo)
  3. Bake something for firefighters or police officers (jointly)
  4. Put a quarter in a gumball machine and walk away (solo)
  5. Put enough quarters in a laundromat washing machine for someone to do a load (solo)
  6. Print up some inspiring signs and post around town (jointly)
  7. Leave a card on someone’s door step that tells them you prayed for them today (anonymously). Pray over the card before leaving on doorstep. (solo)
  8. Post a sheet of random ‘Pay It Forward’ tear-off compliment’s at neighboring stores/businesses
  9. Drop off a meal to a widow. (jointly)
  10. Leave a box of goodies in your mailbox for your mail carrier. (jointly)
  11. Spend some time with the elderly. There are many people in retirement homes that have no one who visits them. Ask the local facility staff if there’s someone whose day you could brighten. (either jointly or solo)
  12. Send a handwritten card to someone you know, unexpectedly. (solo)
  13. Put post-it notes with positive sayings on random lockers at school. (solo)
  14. Write a 200 word letter to your parents about why you love them. (solo)
  15. Donate a much loved toy or item of clothing to someone in need within the community. (solo)

I look forward to sharing photos and comments of our Pay It Forward Christmas season.

 

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Opposing Views

opposingviewsI believe it’s a pretty fair assessment that posting our opposing political views serves no purpose but to vent our mindset on the situation. Let’s be honest, based on the Facebook posts I am seeing, you aren’t going to change or persuade anyone’s mind on their political views.

My circle of friends encompasses many that have a political or religious viewpoint that differs from mine. I’m certain you find yourself in the same amphitheater. We cheer on those who support our opinion and cause but tend to separate ourselves from those who voice an opposing view. I have noticed it is not unusual for a verbal confrontation or dissolution of friendship to ensue.

This discord weighs heavy on my heart as this passage of scripture comes to mind,

“Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed upon the housetops” (RSV) Luke 12: 1-3

We must live without any real secrets, because they are eventually going to become public—now, later, or when Jesus’ comes. We will be on full display when we stand before the Lord. The reality of our public persona and true self will be revealed.

 “They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”
Luke 12:53

So, while we all sit back as judge and jury on current political events, let us take pause of our own personal life. What hidden and unrevealed hypocrisies lurk in the shadows of our past? It’s a question that requires serious contemplation because, one day, we will be required to give a full account of our life.

When the big books of heaven are opened and your soul is required to give account for your time on earth, how will it read?

I sincerely pray the proclamation of your life reads: “It is well with my soul.”

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Unexpected Grace

hated_math_1200x627

With all the current mudslinging going on in the political arena, it’s refreshing to post some inspiring news about people who touch our life and often go unmentioned.

One such person is my longtime friend, Charlie, a retired engineer and owner of every foodie appliance on the market not to mention being an expert gardening by Google guru. He enjoys sharing his infinite knowledge, (at least what I believe to be infinite), about making home-brewed beers, sauerkraut varietals, roasted coffee beans and a plethora of ways to smoke meats and cheeses…and so much more.

Charlie grew up in Louisville and relocated to Michigan after college. In that transition our friendship blossomed and he became what I describe as a friend in all seasons. I can consistently count on him to be there whenever there is a need. It’s an unearned, cherished friendship not taken for granted.

Recently Charlie attended an autumn dinner celebration at my home and brought a bountiful variety of sauerkraut for us to taste.  True to form, he shared his usual myriad of information about everything imaginable but it was what happened after dinner that captured my attention.

Olivia, my middle school granddaughter, needed help with math homework.  From the get-go I was useless. Poppy and her mamma threw up their hands even though both were math minor graduates. And then, there was Charlie. The engineer I knew to be a whiz at math, even by today’s new math standards.

My heart swelled with appreciation as I listened to Charlie patiently coach and instruct Olivia in how to solve each math problem. I was reminded why I chose him to be a lifelong friend. It was a moment that substantiated the benevolence of mankind if we take a moment to part the waters of our bigotry, hatred and animosity of our political differences.

With homework finished, a very tired Olivia headed home with a heart full of gratitude for someone who took time to touch her life in an unexpected way. It was just homework to us, but to my granddaughter, it was much more than that.  It was the unearned, cherished help from someone in a time of need. In that moment, I caught a glimpse of the unmerited grace that Christ shows us every day of our life. It may not be help with a math equation, but it is most definitely help with a life equation.

Today’s Prayer:

Thank you, God, for using Charlie to illustrate the true meaning of your grace in the most unexpected place and time. I pray that each of us takes time from our busy life to showcase those individuals that touch the lives of others and go unmentioned.

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When God Lifts the Fog

fog

As the fog lifts from the lake this morning, I am reminded of how God lifts the fog from our life when we seek Him with all our heart.

What does ‘all our heart’ imply?

I believe it is a quest of the soul to discover the depth and breadth of God’s desire to lead us into a personal relationship with Him. It’s that simple. When we allow God to get intimate with our soul, He lifts the fog that hinders us from seeing the fullness of His redemptive powers.

What are His redemptive powers and how does that relate to our life?

In more ways than you might think or have considered.

Jesus’ sacrifice at the cross ransomed us from sin. It opened the floodgates of Heaven so we can stand reconciled before the throne of God. It means God is attentive to every aspect of our life because our soul has been given “sky priority” status and stamped with His seal of grace.

The heart (meaning soul) of mankind is inherently evil due to sin. Sin is our disobedience to God’s plan for us.  All the good deeds in the world will never make amends for that broken relationship. Thankfully, God’s love for us is beyond our comprehension. He gifted us redemption through the death of his Son Jesus on the cross.

It is through the blood Christ shed and His resurrection that we are given access to redemptive powers in our life. They are freely given to all mankind and the only requirement is to genuinely ask Jesus to become the ruler of our heart (soul).

What does that mean?

It means God’s truth must dwell within our heart and we give Jesus full rights to call our heart His home. If you want the fog lift, you must empty your heart of ‘you’ and pursue Jesus. Only then will the redemptive powers of God be operational in your life.

To love God with all our soul requires us to relinquish all ownership of self. It’s a process of realigning our understanding to God’s understanding. That’s not easy and it requires us to die to ‘self’ daily.

How do we die to self?

Prayer and ingesting God’s Word (the Bible) are the tools needed to lift the fog that surrounds our life. It sounds easy, yet harder than you think. The opposing force of darkness (Satan) seeks to engulf us in a mist of fog that prevents us from seeing the keeper of the lighthouse.

Our soul must be replenished and realigned from our understanding to God’s understanding. To lift our spiritual fog is an incremental process and one I struggle with daily. It requires effort, desire and time on my part, but when God lifts the fog, there are no regrets.

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What’s Your Nemesis?

chain breakerWe all have a nemesis in life; something that is very difficult to defeat or conquer. It could be anything from an addiction, to pride in our accomplishments, or shame about our failures.

We aren’t perfect, never will be and there’s nothing we can do about it apart from accepting the saving grace God imparted to us through the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus.

“All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23

Whatever the source of your nemesis chances are good that it will eventually incite feelings of anguish, moments of regret and lead to destructive behavior. Yet, our nemesis can become a powerful tool with life changing results when placed in the hands of God.

Our faith deepens when we confess our weaknesses and genuinely seek repentance and willingly desire to change our ways to avoid a repeat of our current circumstances. As believers in Christ, we are continually learning to follow God’s ways and abandon our sinful nature.

Along the way we are pursued by and often fall prey to our nemesis. We conquer one only to find a surrogate nipping at our heels. Until our last breath, the process of ‘becoming’ like Christ is ongoing. Your nemesis today may not be your nemesis six months from now.

However, what doesn’t change is how God uses our shortcomings, failures and disobedience to reshape, disciple and create us into His likeness. The only requirement is a repentant heart, a desire to turn from sin and the willingness to seek restoration with God.

TODAY’S PRAYER:

Lord, my imperfections and moments of defeat are what draw me near to you. Thank you for sending your Son, Jesus, to redeem me from the consequences of my sin and love me as the imperfect person that I am.

Break the chains of my nemesis to accomplish a divine purpose in my life as I lay it at the foot of the cross.
AMEN

He’s a Chain Breaker song lyrics by Zach Williams

 

If you’ve been walking the same old road for miles and miles
If you’ve been hearing the same old voice tell the same old lies
If you’re trying to feel the same old holes inside
There’s a better life
There’s a better life

If you’ve got pain
He’s a pain taker
If you feel lost
He’s a way maker
If you need freedom or saving
He’s a prison-shaking Savior
If you’ve got chains
He’s a chain breaker

We’ve all search for the light of day in the dead of night
We’ve all found ourselves worn out from the same old fight
We’ve all run to things we know just ain’t right
And there’s a better life
There’s a better life…

 

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Dirty Lenses

dirty_lensesWhen our lens on life becomes clouded and smudged with the filth of this world it’s hard to keep our eyes on where God wants to lead us to fulfill His purpose. The same is true of the 50-plus pair of eyeglasses I own that have fingerprints, dirt and spatters of who knows what that obstructs my vision to see things clearly. I’m amazed I manage to get through the day, drive my car or see the screen of my iPhone and not notice my dirty glasses.

The perception of our circumstances is altered when viewed through dirty lenses and over time, we tend to acclimate ourselves to the dirty filter. Sin is like that. We don’t see the fingerprint smudges of sin in our life unless we hold the lens of our heart up to the light of God’s Word.

I do my best every day to avoid touching my eyeglass lenses, but those efforts prove futile. When I hold them up to the light at day’s end, I am surprised at the accumulated smudges and smears clouding my view.

I liberally spray them with water and use my handy-dandy cleaning cloth to wipe off the filth and my view of the world suddenly changes. Images appear sharper and I can focus with greater clarity.

Our Christian walk also requires daily cleansing to avoid the contamination of this world. Failing to do so will dramatically alter our view of what is right and what is wrong. Dirty glasses influence our perception of current cultural trends and popular opinions and hides God’s from our view. It’s the proverbial, “Out of sight, out of mind.”

Are you in a place where you need God’s living waters to wash your spiritual glasses and His word to be your cleaning cloth?

“Show me the right path, O LORD ; point out the road for me to follow.” Psalms 25:4

God can’t point out the right path if we’re looking through dirty lenses. We must allow the Word of God to wash away the daily grime, crude and filth that this corrupt and sinful world throws at us to successfully walk in the paths of righteousness.

Today’s Prayer:

Dear Lord,

When things within this world cloud my vision give my spiritual life a serious wipe down and deep clean with the washing of your Word. Let me never lose sight of your eternal purpose for me when I choose to clean my glasses and seek the right path.

“Wash away all my evil and make me clean from my sin!” Psalms 51:2 (GNT)

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The ‘Forgiveness’ Cocktail

forgiveness.pngThe indisputable truth about an unforgiving mindset is it can (and will) cripple our life spiritually, emotionally and physically. God desires us to be Christ-like in every area and since He has unconditionally forgiven us, I’m pretty certain He expects us to reciprocate forgiveness to others.

“But, you have no idea what he or she did to me and my family!” No, I don’t. I can only speak about my own life circumstances. I’ve had to drink the ‘forgiveness’ cocktail more than once.

Let me share:

Once upon a time I married my prince, or so I thought, but he was actually a toad incognito. Let’s call him ‘Dick’ to protect his identity.  Sidebar: This person is NOT my daughter’s father who remains a good friend to this day.

I gifted this prince my heart. In return, he gifted me a secret life of strip clubs, porn, drugs and lies. Imagine going to work and a co-worker shares, “I’m pretty sure I saw your husband at my in-home nurse visit today. He seemed to be living there.”

It all proved true. Dick’s out of town commercial paint jobs were really nights spent with the ‘other’ woman… or at strip clubs. Once his secret life was exposed, Dick never returned home and the IRS lien notices soon followed. My prince had defaulted on his quarterly business taxes and our home was about to go into foreclosure.

Call it bad choices, ignoring the obvious signs or being blind-sided. The truth is life happens and the ending doesn’t always play out like Hallmark movies.

In the Bible, the Greek word translated “forgiveness” literally means “to let go.” My translation would be closer to this:

I can ‘let go’ after you suffer alive as body parts are dissected for science; or, you experience a forever erection and acquire a disease that requires a lifetime catheter. Yep, you should get what is due you for my pain and suffering.

But then, there is God and His mercy. Hard to ignore when we look at the cross and realize we didn’t get what was coming to us.

“Get rid of all hard feelings, anger and rage; stop all fighting and lying. Put away every form of hatred.” Ephesians 4:31 (NIRV)

God’s ‘Forgiveness’ cocktail doesn’t mean you condom the offense. God forgave King David of serious sins (murder and adultery), but David still suffered the consequences of his actions even after asking for forgiveness. We aren’t the judge and jury for how the actions of others impact our life.

“Let go of anger and abandon rage.” (Psalms 37:8). To partake and reap the full benefits of the ‘forgiveness cocktail’ we must let go.

“Getting over a painful experience is much like crossing monkey bars. You have to let go at some point in order to move forward.” – C.S. Lewis.

I had one brief encounter with Dick after he abandoned us. It was at his mother’s funeral. He gave no indication we had ever been married and shared an intimate relationship, but that’s OK. My decision to forgive rather than retaliate has yielded 23 years of marriage to a man who more than makes up for the guy I thought was my prince.

Prayer for today:

Dear Lord, help me to remember Colossians 3:14:

“Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.”

Remind me that your mercy flows to me in spite of my faults and failures. Guide me into the freedom of forgiveness. I praise you for the work you are doing in my life, teaching and perfecting my faith.