Are You a Name Dropper?

We are all familiar with name droppers.  The official dictionary definition of name-dropping is “the studied but seemingly casual mention of prominent persons as associates done to impress others.”

What if I told you that I once ate a meal at a fast food restaurant with Joyce Meyer? It’s true. It was in her early days of ministry and she was leading a woman’s retreat at my church. She was actually in my driveway as I happened to be riding to the event with the leader of our women’s group and Joyce’s van was to follow us. I also once sat next to the late D. James Kennedy at a banquet. He was a very interesting man to talk with. I enjoyed the evening immensely.

That’s name dropping. It sounds like I know both of those people. But if I were to meet Joyce Meyer today would she remember me? Highly unlikely. And I’m sure that Pastor Kennedy wouldn’t have remembered spending an evening chatting with me either. Those experiences were just brief encounters that I remember because they are well known people.

All of this leads to the obvious question, “So what?” So what if I met either of those people? Does a simple introduction and conversation amount to a relationship? Not at all. I couldn’t take someone to meet Joyce Meyer and introduce her as my friend.

What if you truly were friends with a very important person? What if you really did have a relationship with a president, or a king or even a movie star?  Wouldn’t it be amazing to tell all your friends?  But what would it get you?

You have an even more amazing relationship. You are on a first name basis with the Creator of the Universe. He’s not just an acquaintance, He knows you by name. He gives you His full attention when He knows you want to speak to Him. He’s interested in your problems, your fears, and your dreams. What more could you ask?

Be a name dropper! But not for the purpose of impressing others. Do it as a way to draw others into a relationship with the best friend they will ever have. Speak His name often. Tell everyone that you know Him and then… offer to introduce them.

Jeremiah 10:6  There is none like you, O Lord; you are great, and your name is great in might.

Open Your Hand

There’s a story in a book called “Where the Red Fern Grows” by Wilson Rawls that tells how you can catch a raccoon with a shiny object inside a log. You cut a hole it the log just large enough for a raccoon’s paw and put the shiny object inside. When the curious raccoon puts his paw inside the hole and grasps the object, his paw is now too large to come out of the hole and he is trapped because he refuses to let go of the object.

It’s an interesting story which some say they have proven to be true and others say is just an old tale with no truth to it at all. Either way, it’s a good picture of us, God’s children.

There are many things that we hold onto. It might be events from our past  or unconfessed sin that we can’t seem to let go of. Those things torment us and keep us trapped. The enemy uses guilt, regret and shame as his chief weapons to keep us from letting go.

There are other things that have a completely different kind of hold on us. We might be clinging to what others think of us or habits we just can’t seem to break. We might be holding onto possessions or status. It might be greed, or a stubborn heart that motivates us to hang on, refusing to let go no matter what.

But God wants to set us free from this trap. He has a plan for each of us and we don’t always understand it but if we know God at all, we know that He is good and anything that he asks us to let go of will be replaced with something much better.

I want you to try a little exercise with me. Make a tight fist with your hand, palm side up, and just look at it for a moment. Now think of a problem or circumstance that you are struggling with and picture it within your clenched fist. If you hold onto it, God can never do what He wants to do with it. If you are holding it, you are allowing it to hold you.

Now, open your hand and ask God to take it from you and do with it what He chooses. By letting go, you have freed yourself.

What are you holding onto that you could give to God? Open your hand!

Proverbs 23:26 Give me your heart, my son, And let your eyes delight in my ways.

A Life that Leaves a Mark

1185327_611885915500487_970469722_nA few weeks ago I wrote about being in Florida with my grandfather. We had gone there to say goodbye. At 97 he was ready to leave his earthly body which had failed him and he longed for Heaven. It was a long process that would cause him to be confined to a Hospice facility inching his way toward heaven day by day for six weeks. Finally on a Sunday afternoon, he would leave this life forever.

But what did he leave behind? Nothing he needed but much that we needed. He left a legacy to his family that cannot be measured. He left a mark on four generations of descendants who loved him and tried to live like he inspired us to. He was a quiet, simple man who spent his life trying to make other’s lives better.

If you went to his house and commented that you liked something you saw there, he would try to find a way to send it home with you. It was a good thing, when we made the trip by air instead of car so we didn’t have room to take so many things home with us. He was just as free with intangible things as well. He was quick to share a story from his past in order to demonstrate a life lesson to any of us who would listen. We spent a lot of time listening and learning how to live and love those around us.

This earthly life passes so quickly. If you’ve had children you know how fast they grow. They are adults and leading their own lives before we know it. My grandfather’s life went quickly too, even though it spanned almost a century. He filled it with meaning every day because he constantly looked for ways to serve others. Each of those lives, and there must be thousands, was changed because he was intentional about how he lived his.

At the end of his life, as he lay helpless in a hospital bed, he was still touching lives. One nurse told me that she’d never met anyone like him and knowing him had changed her. She had only known him for six weeks. How many people does she care for in a year? And yet this one man made a difference.

There’s a story in John, chapter 13, which is very familiar. It’s the story of Jesus at the last supper. He dined with his disciples and then did something none of them expected. He filled a basin with water, took a towel and washed the feet of those he loved. He could have been distracted by what he had to face the next day but he focused on those he was with. He served them in his most difficult hour. He set the example for all of us.

The last time I talked to my grandfather was to wish him happy birthday two weeks before he died.  Our last conversation was difficult. He struggled to find words, he stuttered trying to keep his thoughts together but I treasured every syllable. Finally when he was tired and ready to hang up he said, “Are you doing okay? Is there any way that I can help you somehow?” I was speechless for a moment trying to understand how he could be facing the end of his life at any moment but was still concerned for my welfare. I told him that I was fine and he didn’t need to worry about us. He’d taught us well and we would continue teaching the  generations to come how to live like he did.

After I hung up the phone I realized why that last conversation was so special. I had experienced the same thing the disciples had on that night at the table with Jesus. What I saw in my grandfather’s last words to me was the same thing the disciples saw in Jesus that night. I saw a glimpse of the heart of Jesus in my grandfather’s words, and in his life.

Grandpa didn’t have to do grand things. He just lived his life for others. He made a difference. He left a mark. He inspired me to do the same.

Do You Need to Vent?

2008-10-06 16:59 Photo by Brocken InagloryDo you sometimes find yourself in a situation where you just need to vent? Maybe things haven’t been going your way for a while and you are frustrated or angry about your circumstances. Maybe you need to get some things out of your system so you can take a deep breath and move on. You need someone to talk to that will listen and help you release all that’s been upsetting you.

According to the dictionary, the word vent, when used as a verb, has two meanings. The first is to “give expression or utterance to.” God understands our need to talk through our problems and He puts people in our lives that we can trust to listen to our venting and still love us. We weren’t designed to keep everything bound up inside.

The second meaning of vent is to “expose to cool or cold air so as to cool or freshen.” The vent in your car does a great job of providing fresh, cool air when you need it most. It sure feels good on a hot day.

I think both meanings apply to our need to vent when things aren’t going so well. On one hand we need to express what’s troubling us and on the other hand, we need a fresh perspective.

The important thing to remember here is that when we vent, we are seeking to get rid of what is stale and be refreshed. Only vent to people who will steer you toward a fresh touch from the Lord.  The Holy Spirit is the only true source of refreshment.  He’s that fresh breath of God. Sometimes we need another brother or sister in Christ to walk along with us for a little while, but they can never refresh us like God can.

Ephesians 3:16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man. 

It’s not just about venting what is stale, it’s about breathing in a new perspective from God.

God’s Way or the Highway

Narrow PathWhen my husband and I take a road trip by ourselves we like to take the back roads, avoiding the interstates as much as possible. We meander through the countryside and are in no hurry to arrive at our destination. We enjoy the interesting scenery that isn’t visible from the freeway.

When we go to visit our grandchildren it’s a different story. We have no time for meandering, we have an agenda.  We are interested in only one thing and that’s seeing those adorable little faces that greet us after a full day of driving. We get there as quickly as we can, stopping only when absolutely necessary and then it’s a quick, no nonsense stop and back in the car again.

Why do most people choose the interstates to get around? It’s because we have an agenda and we need to get there in a hurry. No time for delays of any kind. We hop on and set the cruise control and zoom along. Sometimes when we go through large cities there can be eight or more lanes of traffic in each direction.  Everyone  is on autopilot, getting in the zone and flowing mindlessly with the traffic.

Have you ever taken a narrow, winding mountain road? There’s no zoning out or cruise control on this trip! You have to focus on the road as well as keep a close watch on the steep drop off on the side of the pavement. There isn’t much room to maneuver and little margin for error. But there are times when the road evens out and the scenery is breath taking. And the little towns that come along every once in a while are often worth a stop to explore for a little while.

Matthew speaks of another narrow road.

Matthew 7:13-14 Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

The freeway is plenty wide and you have lots of company. The narrow way can be lonely and difficult at times. But how much you miss if you take the freeway with everyone else  All of them locked in with their cruise control and moving along without any concern for their surroundings.

The narrow road is more difficult to manage, it has ups and downs, it has tight, blind curves that make you slow down. But if you manage to stay on the road, you will have a much richer experience.

And isn’t it that way with life? God’s road may be narrow, and the gate a tight fit but the things He will show you will leave you speechless. And the people you’ll meet will change you forever. So slow down and take the byway instead of the highway. The scenery is worth it and the destination is beyond imagination.

When is Heaven not Heaven?

We all long for Heaven. Scripture paints a picture of Heaven that makes us yearn for the day when we will be there. We picture the conditions described in Revelation. In Heaven there will be no more pain or tears or death. There will be joy unending. We see it as a place so different than what we experience in our earthly lives that we hope for the day when we will be there. We talk about the streets of gold and a sea of crystal. Living there will be paradise. Or will it?

Is that place we read about, the perfect place? If we were promised a home in such a place would we truly be happy forever? Only with one condition. No matter how beautiful Heaven is, no matter what amazing things we have been promised, it will only be Heaven….if God is there. He is the reason Heaven will be so wonderful. If God designed Heaven to be the amazing place He promises in scripture and if he allowed us to enter the gates we would still not be happy there if God was not there.

In Psalm 73:25 the psalmist says “Whom have I in heaven but You? And besides You, I desire nothing on earth.” There is nothing in Heaven that will satisfy except the Father Himself. The rest is just decoration. Nothing we desire on earth or in Heaven compares to being in the presence of the Lord.

In the 26th verse of Psalm 73, he continues the thought. “My flesh and my heart may fail, But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

What does it mean for God to be our portion? A portion is the part set aside for each of us. Your portion is God.  All of Him. What more can you want? Nothing else will satisfy like the Lord Himself.

And when our flesh fails us and when our heart grows faint, He is the strength of our heart. He gives us strength in times of weakness. He is all we need in every circumstance.

He is all we will ever need, on earth or in Heaven.

Daddy, Can You Hear Me?

Man and DaughterThe little girl looks up at her father and speaks in her soft little voice. Her father leans down, putting his ear closer to her in order to hear her clearly. He wants to hear every word she has to say because he loves her.

That picture is what we need to see when we wonder if God is hearing our prayers. He is that father, who leans down, bending over and turning his face toward us, intent on hearing every cry of our heart…because He loves us.

Psalm 116: 1-2 I love the Lord, because He hears My voice and my supplications. Because He has inclined His ear to me, Therefore I shall call upon Him as long as I live. (NASB)

 I love the Lord because he hears my voice  and my prayer for mercy. Because he bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath! (NLT)

As a child, it is very important to know that someone is listening, that someone cares about what you have to say. As God’s children, we have the assurance that He is listening to us. What we say to Him is important to Him. And because we know He hears us, we love Him all the more.

Our God is a good and loving father!

 

The Shortest Distance Between Two Points

spiral-1_21168872Do you remember geometry class? The shortest distance between two points is…a straight line, right? In a basic sort of way, that’s the correct answer. There are situations that are the exception but they can  get complicated and we could examine them for a long time.

For the sake of discussion, let’s consider the answer to be a straight line.

So let’s talk about obedience for a moment. If God speaks to you and you know that there is something you are supposed to do, or not do, what do you do? Do you respond instantly and agree to follow God’s direction and obey Him or do you stall and make excuses about why you can’t do what the Lord has asked?

I can tell you what I have found myself doing at times. If you’ve seen the movie The Wizard of Oz, you will remember the scene where Dorothy is in Munchkin Land and is beginning her walk down the yellow brick road. She starts at the center and makes a spiral round and round until she’s finally on the straight road to Oz.  Consider for a moment the reverse of that walk, with the goal at the center. What I’ve found myself doing is to start from where I stand, seeing the place God has directed me at a distance in front of me and instead of making the decision to move directly toward the goal, I walk around and around it. Looking at it from all sides, I consider it and gradually move closer to the goal but in a slow spiral. I know I’ll eventually make my way to the center and obey God but I take my time getting there.

But is that obedience? Not really. Delayed obedience really isn’t obedience at all. As a parent, I expect my children to obey my directives without procrastinating. I believe it’s a sign of respect. Doesn’t God deserve that respect from us in every situation? Doesn’t He deserve immediate obedience in all things?

So back to our geometry lesson. The shortest distance between two points? The place where I am and the place God has directed me to go? A straight line.

Obedience is always a straight line.

Just as a servant knows that he must first obey his master in all things, so  the surrender to an implicit and unquestionable obedience must become the  essential characteristic of our lives.” ~ Andrew Murray

If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.  John 14:15

Sunset, Sunrise

1185570_10202069214277424_889783993_nRecently I had the opportunity to watch a beautiful Florida sunset. I was in Florida with two of my boys.  We’d travelled there from Iowa to be with my 96-year-old grandfather who had fallen and was in the ICU. We’d spent many hours with him in the hospital and then helped him transition into Hospice. We had taken a much needed break from a very difficult week and gone to a favorite pier on the Gulf of Mexico to get some fresh air and rest a little.

As I watched the spectacular sunset, I couldn’t help but see the parallel of my grandfather’s life. He is experiencing the sunset of a life well lived.  He has no regrets and has been heard to say quite often, “I’ve had a good life. No one has had a life like mine.” But now his life is coming to an end and the sun is setting.

As we watched together, my sons and I, the younger one said, “Mom, isn’t it neat that while we’re watching the sun setting, someone else is seeing it rise?” I thought about that and realized that God was trying to tell me something so simple but so profound.

The end of a life is not the end but the beginning of something new for a believer in Christ. It’s also not the end for those of us left behind, but is the beginning of a new chapter where we can continue the legacy of what we’ve learned from someone we love.   We can all choose to leave a legacy to the generations to follow.  Each one of us can impact someone else’s life and leave the world a better place because we tried to make a difference. That’s what my grandfather did.

My grandfather’s last words to my sons were, “Remember fellas, family is important. Make it good.” Perhaps they will be heard to say those same words to their great grandchildren sometime in the future. They can choose to follow Christ and impact future generations. Psalm 103:17 tells us  But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children (NIV)

God has been showing me that this principle of sunset and sunrise applies to all aspects of life. Whenever there is an end to something, whether it be a relationship, a job, or just a season in one place, there is also a new beginning. Something new always follows.

It’s okay to grieve the end of something but allowing yourself to find hope in the promise of a new beginning is what will bring the healing. I will miss my grandfather so much  but I know I will see him again. In that I can rejoice while I begin the next chapter of the life God has given me.

The last part of Psalm 30:5 says Weeping may last for the night, But a shout of joy comes in the morning. 

Indeed, joy comes in the morning, with the sunrise of a new day.

Life is a Maze

Have you ever been to a corn maze? In every direction, all you can see are walls. Walls of corn taller than you are. You move through the paths finding dead end after dead end. Each time you must retrace your steps you wonder if the next choice will be the right one. It’s easy to get turned around and find yourself in the same dead ends over and over again. In a complex maze, it could be possible to wander for so long that anxiety increases to the point of panic.

Our lives are like that maze. We can only see the path we are on. We can only make one decision at a time. We cannot always see whether we are making any progress at all. We just keep moving, hoping we will eventually come out at the right place.

What we don’t want to do is let anxiety or panic take over. What must we do to prevent this? We must make the decision to trust God no matter how tall the walls and how complicated the path. No matter how confused we feel as we wander from dead end to dead end.

You see, God is the designer of the maze. He knows exactly which path we must take to get to the exit. If we could rise above the walls and see it from His perspective we would not be concerned about making it out. We would be confident in each turn because we could look ahead and see the dead ends so that we could avoid them.

But we can’t see our lives from an external perspective. We can only rely on God for guidance.  We can also rest in the knowledge that even when we make a wrong turn, we don’t get lost forever. We can always turn around and try again. That’s God’s grace at work. He will patiently lead us along the path and will bring us out of this maze called life when we have completed all he has designed us to do. Each path teaches us something, even the dead ends.

Keep moving and trust God to guide you. Listen to the quiet voice of the Lord, leading you to Himself one step at a time. You really are getting closer every day even though you can’t always see it.

Your ears will hear a word behind you, “This is the way, walk in it,” whenever you turn to the right or to the left. Isaiah 30:21