Seeds and Fire Ants

A while back, we drove across the  Sunshine Skyway Bridge between St. Petersburg and Bradenton, Florida. 174 feet above the water. I’ve been over that bridge many times but it’s still breathtaking.  A huge tanker was going under the bridge just as we were going over. I wished we could just stop and watch for a while but there’s no stopping on the bridge! I wonder how many people going over that bridge were miles away in their thoughts and didn’t even notice the spectacular view.

After crossing the bridge, we drove for a few more minutes and arrived at our destination, Dooley Groves.  We were on a mission to pick Honeybell tangelos.  When it was our turn to go out to the grove, the guide gave us baskets and some specific instructions. The most important being, “watch out for fire ants.”  The lanes between the trees were filled with fire ant hills and stepping on one would cause the ants to attack the closest foot or leg.  Several times we had to quickly brush ants from the pants and shoes of one of us who, focused on the bright orange fruit, neglected to watch where we were walking. Fortunately, there were no serious bites to contend with.

We picked enough to fill our baskets and headed back across the bridge.  We were eager to taste the fruits of our labors which we had been thinking about all the way home.  After peeling a softball-sized fruit, I had juice running down my arms.  I’m sure I’ve never eaten an orange so close to harvest before. But as I ate, I realized that it would require some concentration to fully enjoy this treat. If I didn’t pay attention, I could break a tooth.  LOTS of seeds–I found four in just one segment.  I took my time and savored the sweet flavor, but I was careful!

Afterwards I thought, could we have just gone to the grocery store and bought oranges (without seeds)  with much less hassle?  Of course. But the experience and the waiting and the effort it took to eat this delicious fruit made it even more special.  And the memories we made in the process will outlast the sweet flavor of the fruit.

I think sometimes we get in such a hurry to get to the next thing on our calendar or our to-do list that we miss the blessings God has for us if we’ll slow down and appreciate the moment. In a lot of ways, I believe God purposely puts fire ants and seeds in our path to cause us to slow down and pay attention.

Perhaps today you can look at the things in your path that seem like a hassle and think about why God may have put them there.  It might just be that a sweet blessing is there waiting for you to notice.

Taste and see that the Lord is good. Blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him.Psalm 34:8

How abundant are the good things that you have stored up for those who fear you, that you bestow in the sight of all, on those who take refuge in you.Psalm 31:19

We’re in This Race Together

During the 2016 Summer Olympics, we saw a wonderful example of sportsmanship. But I think we saw much more than that.

In an incident during the women’s 5000 meter race, two runners, Abbey D’Agostino (United States) and Nikki Hamblin (New Zealand) collided. Abbey stopped to help Nikki up and they continued. Soon, Abbey realized she had suffered a more serious injury and struggled to complete the race. Nikki returned the favor and helped Abbey up and they finished the race together. Because of their example of sportsmanship, they both earned a place in the finals.

I just finished a study of First Corinthians and at the conclusion of the study we tried to summarize Paul’s purpose in writing the letter to the Corinthians. What was he after?

I think Paul wanted them to realize that they weren’t in this world to make a life for themselves. He wanted them to understand that they were all in this together. He taught them to worship together and to work towards unity.

Those two Olympic runners had trained and worked for years to have a shot at competing in an arena most of us would never dream of. They came from different countries but had the same goal on that day. When the race began they were focused on one thing, running that race with all they had and achieving their goal.

But then something happened. A collision of their bodies and their worlds. They both made the same choice to put another’s needs before their own. They both risked losing all they had worked for in order to help a fellow runner.

In First Corinthians, Paul asks the church to do the same thing. To come together, to look out for one another and to serve the body of Christ.

Are you willing to set your own goals aside at times in order to help another brother or sister in Christ?

“Instead, God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the less honorable,  so that there would be no division in the body, but that the members would have the same concern for each other.  So if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.” – 1st Corinthians 12:24-26(CSB)


Biblical Ways to See 20/20 in 2020

During the Christmas holidays, we watched the movie “The Santa Clause.” In one scene, an elf says to Santa, “Seeing isn’t believing, believing is seeing.” Who would have thought that a movie about Santa would have such a profound biblical truth?

Isn’t that what faith is—believing before we see?

I’ve been thinking about that and about the new year. I’ve been asking God what I should focus on for 2020. Suddenly it occurred to me that there was a play on words there. The best way to focus is to have 20/20 vision.

What would it take to have 20/20 vision in a spiritual sense? Here is what I believe the Lord showed me.

1. Take care of your eyes.

“The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light,” – Matthew 6:22

2. Guard your eyes.

“I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless.” – Psalm 101:3

3. Ask for your eyes to be opened.

“Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.” – Psalm 119:18

4. Ask for your eyes to be turned.

“Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways.” – Psalm 119:37

5. Ask for your eyes to be enlightened.

“Having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,” – Ephesians 1:18

6. Clean out your eyes.

“Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” – Matthew 7:3

7. Look beyond what you think you can see.

“As we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” – 2 Corinthians 4:19

8. Lift up your eyes.

“I lift up my eyes to the hills.  From where does my help come?  My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” – Psalm 121:1-2

My challenge for 2020 is to ask God to help me become more intentional about these 8 ways improve my spiritual vision. As I do this, I believe God’s priorities will come into focus.

Will you join me in this challenge?

Mary and Joseph’s Packing List








unnamedThey embarked upon a journey that neither of them had chosen. They were compelled by the government to take a trip that would take them eighty miles from their home. Mary was not just a little pregnant, she was, according to the scriptures, “great with child.” She knew her time was near and yet she had to travel a long and difficult journey that would take about a week to complete.

What did she pack to take on her trip? Only what she and Joseph could carry themselves. There were no luggage handlers to load and unload their baggage. There were no suitcases with wheels and handles. Mary and Joseph didn’t take several changes of clothes, toiletries or reading material to entertain them on their journey. They didn’t take an extra pair of shoes or dress clothes for an evening out while they were away. They likely only packed the bread they would eat on the trip and perhaps a blanket or two if they had an extra. Talk about traveling light!

But they took one other thing with them. They took a complete trust in their Heavenly Father who had told them He would care for them.

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.”Psalm 23:1 (ESV)

They knew God would care for them because He had promised to do so and they believed Him. That doesn’t mean they didn’t fight some doubt but after all, if Mary was in the final days of her pregnancy, they’d had several months to wrestle with their doubts. I would like to think that by this time they were beginning to have some assurance in their hearts that God would keep His promise to them. He’d already seen them through the long pregnancy and the ridicule that they likely experienced from their friends and family.

They knew what a shepherd’s job was. They knew that if God was their shepherd, he would lead them and feed them. He would also protect them, provide shelter and keep them safe. He would care for their every need like he’d been doing since the day the angel had told them of the coming of their son, Jesus.

They were indeed, as helpless as sheep. They were vulnerable and weak. But they knew their shepherd was able to meet their needs. They were in want of nothing.

What do you need from your shepherd? Do you believe He is able and willing to care for you? Spend a few moments this Christmas season thanking Him for all the ways He gently and lovingly cares for you.

For the Lord is your shepherd, you shall not want.

Which Will You Choose?

“Ignorance is bliss.” I’m sure everyone is familiar with this phrase. Or, how about “what you don’t know can’t hurt you?”

I think most of us at times, would like to think that we can hide behind ignorance. If we don’t know about it then we don’t have to worry about it and we aren’t responsible to do anything about it either. But God has a different view of ignorance.

In Ezekiel 45:20 the priest is told to atone for the sins committed in ignorance. It was still sin even though the sinner was unaware that he was sinning.  And in Ephesians 4:20 Paul says that the Gentiles had been “excluded for the life of God because of their ignorance.” That doesn’t sound like bliss to me.

So, if ignorance is not a good thing, what other options do we have? I can see only two.

We can rebel and turn away from what we know or we can be obedient to act in the way God’s Word directs us.

1 Peter 1:14 says as obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance but like the Holy One who called you, be holy in all your behavior.”

In order to step out of ignorance, we must make the decision to become informed. We have to learn what God’s word says, and then we must choose to do it.

Deuteronomy 28 is an entire chapter outlining the blessings the Lord had for Israel if they chose obedience. It also outlines the consequences of choosing rebellion instead.

It’s really very simple. We have three options; ignorance, obedience or rebellion. Only one allows us to receive the blessings God has stored up for us.

Which will you choose?

Help With Your Laundry

Doing the laundry can be an unpleasant experience. When I had a houseful of little boys it was sometimes downright disgusting. It’s not something you would want others to see so it’s done out of sight if at all possible. Sometimes in a separate room or the basement. Far from where you would entertain guests.

We all have dirty laundry. It’s really laughable to think about how we hide that sort of thing thinking it would be inappropriate for others to see.  I’m sure all of us have laundry stories. None of us would be shocked by yours.

I remember a season when I was in a difficult circumstance. I’d just had my seventh child by an unplanned C-section. My husband was self-employed and working long hours. I needed help with household tasks and the laundry for nine people topped the list. While I didn’t relish the idea of others doing our laundry, there were a few close friends that I felt comfortable entrusting that chore to. I knew they wouldn’t love me less when they saw my disgusting laundry!

Can I tell you that this picture is a picture of the church? While it isn’t really appropriate to “air your dirty laundry in public” there are people God has put in your life who will not only still love you when they see the ugly things in your life,  they will pull out their washboards and help you sort it out and scrub it clean.

Sometimes we just need to allow others to see into our lives so they can come alongside us and help us work through our stuff. Maybe they can’t solve the problems but they can listen and perhaps lighten the load a little. And God has just the right people in mind for you. People who won’t be shocked by the things you share but who will roll up their sleeves and start scrubbing.  Be willing to do the same for them.

“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” –
Galatians 6:2(ESV)

“And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.”1 Thessalonians 5:14(ESV)


Do you know of someone that could use this word of encouragement today?

Please share this with your friends. Perhaps it’s just what they need to get through their day.

Sometimes You Gotta Do the Hard Stuff

Several years ago, I sent my 15-year-old son on a plane by himself. I knew it was the right thing to do. But it wasn’t the easy thing to do.

And I don’t think it was a coincidence that at the same time he was changing planes in Chicago, I was working on my Bible study lesson. The lesson was about how difficult it would have been for Paul and Silas to send Timothy to the Thessalonians by himself. He was young and inexperienced but they had confidence that he would be fine.

I couldn’t help but laugh out loud as I thought about how God orchestrated that moment to show me something. As I wrestled with the feelings a mother gets sending her children off on their own, I heard God speaking to my heart.

There are many times that God asks us to do things that seem hard. Many times we feel stretched beyond our capacity to face the challenges that are set before us.

But the good news is that God has full confidence in us as he asks us to do the hard things. He already knows the growth that we will experience by trusting Him as we take steps that might feel a little scary.

What are you facing that seems hard today? Be encouraged! God will walk each step with you. As a mother, I couldn’t go with my son on that plane, but I knew that my Heavenly Father was right there with him.

And who knows what work the Lord did in that young man — and his mother — because we were both bold enough and brave enough to trust Him with the outcome.

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” –Isaiah 41:10 (ESV)

Jesus is Always Out of Reach

Jesus is always out of reach? What? Is that a misprint?  No, it isn’t a misprint. It’s true. But there is a catch.

I believe Jesus IS always out of reach… if we stay where we are. Picture Jesus standing in front of you with hands outstretched toward you. I believe you will never reach him if you refuse to move.

All he requires is that you take one step toward Him.  Just one step to let Him know you truly want Him. And stretching forward without moving an inch from where you stand doesn’t count. He will still be out of reach. We can pretend we want Jesus and lean forward, stretching as far as we can. But if we are unwilling to move toward Him, how serious are we, really?

The good news is that as soon as you take that step, He quickly closes the gap and draws you into an embrace like nothing you’ve ever experienced

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” James 4:8(ESV)

Take the Stairs

At the mall, my husband and I take the stairs as often as possible. We avoid escalators and elevators because we know we need exercise whenever we can get it. Sometimes we get funny looks when we choose to climb a flight of stairs while other shoppers relax as they ride effortlessly to the next level. As they ride, those other folks can casually look around, taking in all the distractions happening in every direction. We, on the other hand, must pay attention to our climb or risk losing our footing and taking a tumble.

I believe our life in the Lord is the same way. God didn’t design our walk with him to be a mindless ride where we glide along without a thought of where we’re going or how we’re getting there. He intended for us to invest some effort into growing in our relationship with him. He meant for us to focus on our daily walk with each step. We aren’t supposed to begin our life with Christ by taking that first step toward him as we take the first step on an escalator and then just relax and enjoy the ride.

The destination is important, but what we invest in the journey we take to get there is of immeasurable value.

Choose today to be intentional in your relationship with Christ. Choose today to take the stairs.

Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 3:12-14(ESV)

One Brick at a Time

 

What if your life was like a brick wall? One brick would represent each day that you live—each one adding to the wall that tells the story of your life.

Scripture has many references to walls. In most cases, they represent the strength of a city or a nation. Some references speak of building up the walls and providing protection while in others the picture is of a nation being destroyed as its walls are demolished. There is strength in a well-built wall.

What if each day you wasted left a hole in your wall? Would you have gaping holes? But let’s not get rigid about this—some holes might be perfectly acceptable. After all, a few windows here and there might add a nice touch.

But, if wasted days are holes and you accumulate too many, you would weaken the whole wall.

What counts as a wasted day? Perhaps one where you spend more time on yourself than on others. Maybe a day where you procrastinate and never really accomplish what you set out to do. Or it might be times when you spend the day nursing hurt feelings or holding a grudge.

We don’t always get it right, but each day we can purpose in our hearts to be faithful and continue building.
One brick at a time.

“Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” – Ephesians 5:15-16(ESV)