Thursday, April 12, 2018

Warm and Spacious

I’m a little claustrophobic, so I hate being in places where there’s not enough room—like airplane seats, going to your kid’s school and having to sit in a child-sized chair for parent/teacher conference, restaurants where tables are packed in too tightly, and clothes that are too small because, well, maybe I’ve had too many desserts lately. 

This has even been used as a method of torture in prisons. Making people stand in a box that nails have been driven into from every direction. So every time they begin to fall asleep or slump, nails jab into their skin. Or putting them in a slot that’s just big enough to lie down in, but not tall enough to sit or adjust their position in any way. 

I also like to be warm and cozy, so standing outside in the cold is, to me, a form of torture. And have you ever tried to snuggle up in a blanket that was too small to cover you completely? Every time you turn over your feet or back hit the cold air and you wake up.

These are the things I think about when I read: “The bed is too short to stretch out on, the blanket too narrow to wrap around you” (Isaiah 28:20). What is Isaiah getting at here? He’s talking about what life is like when we try to get comfortable outside of a relationship with God.

I don’t mean religion. That’s a cold, hard bed with a very narrow blanket in itself. Turn from the list of man made rules and you’ll end up on the floor and out of favor. No, I’m talking about being a believer in, and lover of Jesus Christ, and following His lead. Walking and talking with Him, and trusting His plan.

That habit, that relationship, that job, that diploma, that sports car—they don’t satisfy for long. You’ll end up feeling cramped and desperate to break free of the confines around you. It won’t keep you warm enough to ignite your stone cold heart. I know. I’ve lived with God and without God, and baby, it’s cold out there without Him. But there is warmth, comfort, security, and joy in the presence of Christ.

If you can’t get a good night of sleep, because of guilt, worry, loneliness, an aching need to be loved and accepted, you know what it feels like out in the cold. Tossing and turning on a space too small to ever get rest. Jesus said, “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly” (Matt. 11:28-30, Message).

If you haven’t tried Jesus, what do you have to lose? In Him is freedom. In Him we rest and are warmed by His faithful love.

#roomtostretchout #bedtooshort #blanketoonarrow #satisfactioninJesus #Isaiah28:20 #Matt11:28

Friday, March 30, 2018

The Best April Fool’s Joke Ever

My late mother-in-law loved a good April Fool’s’ joke. It was Sugar’s birthday and she made it her mission to fool as many people as possible. I’m sad she passed away before I got to meet her, but I love the stories about her and can only imagine what a prankster she was. She and my husband Kelly competed every year but one year she got him good.

Kelly had been on edge all day, waiting for “it” to happen—wary at every turn, suspicious of everything she said, but nothing happened. He went to bed thinking she’d forgotten. He should have known better.

Just before midnight, Sugar rushed to his room in a panic. His best friend had called, she said, and his car had broken down on the pass. He needed Kelly to come rescue him. Her urgency jolted him awake and Kelly jumped into jeans and a sweatshirt and rushed out the door. He was backing out of the driveway when his mom came running toward his car waving her arms.

He rolled down the window, anxiously awaiting some new development. Instead, she stopped, crossed her arms, and smiled. “Gotcha! April Fool’s.” With that she turned and walked into the house and went to bed. 

I’ve been asking around and here’s a few more successful pranks, or prank ideas others have come up with:

Robyn: I have a friend who bought a package of Oreo cookies, carefully opened them all, scraped out the white centers and put toothpaste inside. Then she fed them to a Boy Scout group.

Karrie : I called my dad and told him I found a hundred dollars on the beach. He was so excited. I had him going for awhile until I said, "April Fool’s!” His disappointment showed.

Sommer: My daughter Cheyenne put a rubber band on the kitchen sink sprayer and soaked me.....not just once. Any time I left the room she’d do it again. After the 3rd time I finally started checking. To this day I check it before I turn it on! 
Ona Del: My daughter Kathi was born on April 1. On her 6th birthday we all sat down for breakfast and found sugar in the salt shaker and salt in the sugar bowl. From that day on we knew to watch out for Kathi. And sure enough, she came up with some of the most creative jokes. But I'll never forget the salt in my hot tea. You can't imagine how bad that tastes. And seeing one of her brothers spit out his egg, because of the sugar he'd just sprinkled on know.

Lorna: I once set all the clocks in the house ahead then woke the kids up. I watched them rush around for the ten minutes getting ready to catch the bus for school before I said, “April Fool’s!”just  before they rushed out the door.

Donna shared a great photo from channel 107.9 of Brussels sprouts “cake pops.” Now that would be a culinary surprise!

There is one person though, who has bested every trick ever pulled. April Fool’s Day falls on Easter this year, and Jesus is the winner for making fools out of all who tried to outwit Him.

“Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe” (1 Cor. 1:20-21).

  • The religious rulers of His day thought they could corner Jesus with clever questions, but He repeatedly made fools of them all with His astounding answers.
  • They hired witnesses to testify against Him, but they couldn’t agree, and the evidence didn’t pan out. Even so, Jesus refused to defend himself.
  • The religious leaders tried to push the blame off on the Romans, but exposed themselves as the perpetrators behind the plot.
  • The Roman soldiers tried to embarrass and degrade Him with beating, mocking, and false worship, yet He died with dignity, secure in His identity as our Lord and Savior.
  • Despite their assumptions that they controlled His destiny, God made sure every detail of prophesy was fulfilled—betrayal, crucifixion, darkness, no broken bones, spear in His side, His death at the very moment of the Passover sacrifice and so much more.
  • Satan thought he had finally won the competition and fooled the Son of God. But Jesus had the final word when He rose from the dead and appeared to more than 500 people over a span of 40 days. They in turn spread the word and turned the world upside down.

No one will ever be able to beat Him for the element of surprise, special effects, or the number of people the Father’s plan encompassed. Some, who don’t know any better say it was a foolish plan; that it never really happened. They refuse to accept it as valid. But those whose lives have been changed forever cannot stop praising the One who pulled off the greatest trick of all. 

Happy Easter!

#AprilFool’s #Easter #surprisesjokes #foolishwise #Jesusultimateplan #deathresurrection

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

From Victim to Victory

Is there something in your life that needs to die? I don’t mean your spouse or children, your boss, or your mother-in-law. Rather, is there an attitude or habit that’s messing up your relationships, finances, health, emotions, and your spirit? It’s got to go before you can thrive; there can be no resurrection without death coming first.
This is definitely the season to begin a new life and new habits—to let go of the victim mentality and put on the mindset of a victor. The earth is bursting with new life: springy white lambs, calves, baby chicks and more. And despite the unseasonal amount of hail and snow we’ve had this year, daffodils and lilac buds are valiantly proclaiming spring is here. I am so ready!

But coming to life isn’t always as easy as it seems. Many babies have to work just to enter the world. Baby birds must peck their way out of the shell, and in so doing develop the strength to survive. If anyone does the work for them and pulls away the shell, they will die. The same is true with butterflies. They themselves must work their way from the cocoon and wait for their wings to unfold and dry before taking flight. 

Baby giraffes get unexpectedly rough treatment from Mom when they first stand up on their spindly, wobbly legs. She pushes them over, not just once, but over and over again! Though it seems cruel, she knows they must develop strong leg muscles quickly to escape predators looking for a giraffic snack.

It’s no surprise then, that we have to do a little work when we are reborn as well. First, comes death. The old self—the sinful, selfish, willful self has to go to make room for the new self (like a caterpillar becoming a butterfly). 

Our tendency though—my tendency—is to expect new life before I’ve died to the old one. We whine and complain about having to die, and get in the way of the abundant life God wants to give us. Debra Jarvis said it well in her article “Down Off the Cross” (Reader’s Digest, October 2016). “With any resurrection story, we know that you must die before you can be reborn…For us, being in the tomb means doing our own work around our wounds and letting ourselves be healed. We have to let our old story go so that a newer, truer story can be told about who we are.”

Jesus, the Son of God, submitted to death so life could once again course through His veins. He suffered men’s jealousy, misunderstanding, cruelty, and betrayal, yet was not a victim. His sacrifice thwarted Satan’s plans to dominate and enslave mankind. Jesus chose to die, submitting to His Father’s plan, in order to rise again as Lord and Victor over death. He did it for us, so we might have new life in Him.  

If we’re willing to let the old self die, we can be made new. “Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness” (Rom. 6:13). The choice is ours—remaining a victim to sin, or accepting Jesus’ victory over sin to rise with Him abounding with joy. Death to life.

#Easter #deathtolife #Rom6:13 #John12:24 #dyingishardwork

Friday, March 23, 2018

The Lamb is Our Shepherd

The best bosses are the ones who have worked in the trenches. They understand how it feels to do our job—the communication challenges we face, the equipment we need to work effectively, and what is actually, humanly possible to accomplish in a day. 

Likewise, the best pastors are the ones who spend time with people—hurting with them, praying with them, and seeing the world at large. Their messages meet people’s needs, because they know them intimately.

We have a Boss and Pastor like that. His name is Jesus. He knows what it’s like to be one of us. He walks among us, and weeps for our pain. That’s why what He says to us fills our souls with wonder. 

I read this recently: The Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; ‘he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes’” (Revelation 7:17). What better Shepherd could we have than One who has been a lamb?

As we approach Easter (next week!), I encourage you to repeat this phrase every day:
The Lamb is my Shepherd.
He gives us rest, calms our spirits, feeds and leads us, walks with us through sorrow, protects, and loves us. 

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Psalm 23

He has faced temptation like we have but without sinning. He gives us the power to say no.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Heb. 4:15

Jesus knows how it feels to be misunderstood by family.

When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.” Mark 3:21

He has been hungry.

Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Matt. 4:1-3

He was homeless.

“Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” Luke 9:58

He grieved over death.

[When His friend Lazarus died] Jesus wept. Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” John 11:35-36

He was rejected and abandoned by those He loved.

A man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”…Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth. Mark 10:17, 21-22

[When the soldiers came to arrest Him] Everyone deserted him and fled. Mark 14:50

He was brutally beaten, mocked and killed, even though He never did anything wrong.

The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.” The soldiers also came up and mocked him… [When] he breathed his last. The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, “Surely this was a righteous man.” Luke 23: 35-36, 46-47

The difference between His pain and ours, however, is Jesus didn’t have to experience these things. He chose to be born into this world; He came on a mission. He came to be the Lamb of God to take away the sins of the world.

When things got too rough, He could have opted out. He struggled with this in the Garden when He asked the Father if there was any other way to save us (Matt. 26:39; Mark 14:36; Luke 22:42), but when there wasn’t, Jesus faced death. 

That is who we worship and celebrate at Easter. Not just because Jesus chose to die in our place, but because He also did something else we can’t choose to do—He rose again! Showing He is Lord even over death.

The Lamb of God is our Shepherd. Halleluia!

#Easter #shepherd #twentythirdpsalm #LambofGod #Jesuswastempted #Jesussacrifice