Sunday, July 19, 2009

Thank you, Lord!

Today I played the piano at church again. In my final prep, I asked the Lord to call my nerves and help the adrenline not to flow such that I shake. When I prayed in the middle of the service last time, His hand obviously calmed me. Again, I lifted the prayer and His calming hand took charge.

There is a song based on I Peter 5:7: "Cast all your care on Him, for He careth for you..."

Thank you, God! I give testimony of a living, active and loving God! Thank you for calming my hands and my heart.

May the music and my life be an offering to You!


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Husband encouragement challenge

This concept is a new one for me -- "husband encouragement challenge." I did a little with it several years ago, but my My daughter and my daughter-in-law have been faithfully including ways to honor their husbands. Their joy spills out as they share something special they have done, thought, or prayed for their mate.

Today as I was grocery shopping, a light bulb popped on for me. What could I do to honor my husband -- to participate in encouraging my husband?

Hubby is at a conference right now, scheduled to return home on Wednesday. My Wednesday, however, is packed with meetings in the afternoon and early evening... So what could I do special to welcome him home?...

Well, what about dinner for him -- in the fridge such that he can eat it cold (you know, a salad or something) or warm it up? How about German potato salad with sausage...? Maybe add a lettuce salad with sliced tomato from the garden... And for dessert cherry fruit pizza?

You know what I found as a result of taking the challenge (again)? I found that I was excited about showing someone love. I was excited about focusing on someone or something other than myself. I was excited to think of other things that might show Hubby he is valuable to me.
The best closing to this post would be scripture that ties my actions back to what we are instructed to do or in showing God's love by serving others. But it is late and I'm tired and I don't have a scripture to share. Any thoughts????

Friday, July 10, 2009

Psalms Part 2

The Psalms offer a variety of uplifting praise and yet invoke emotions of torment, sorrow, or frustration. In this study of the Psalms one of the first points for theology brought out in The New Interpreter's Bible - Volume IV (Abingdon Press) is found in the first word in Psalm 1:1. The NIV uses "blessed" and NRSV uses "happy".

Happiness can come through a variety of experiences and situations. We sing "Happy birthday to you.... " wishing a person well on the date of their coming into the world. The Psalms, though, clarify that the happiness is from placing our focus on God. "The 'happy' are those who constantly delight in God's 'instruction'. In short, happiness derives from the complete orientation of life to God, including perpetual openness to God's instruction." (NIB, page 666)

The study continues that happiness is tied to taking "refuge" in God. "In short, happiness derives from living in complete dependence upon God rather than upon self." To take refuge, we must "trust".

Grounds for trust include God's power and strength (Ex. 14:31, II Ti. 1:12), His unfailing love (Ps. 13:5), and salvation that He offers. We respond to what He has done through praise and worship, perseverance in faith, and holding to His promises. The end results for us show in peace, security, protection from danger, freedom from fear, prosperity, strength, and physical life. (Zondervan)

Getting back to refuge, the definition given in Zondervan Dictionary of Bible Themes states, "A safe retreat; a place of healing and renewal; also a stronghold from which to launch a counter-attack." God is indeed our true refuge.

Jesus tells his followers, "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand." (John 10:27-29)

That message continues to the churches as the apostle Paul declares, "... If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?.... For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor power, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:31-32, 38-39)

And as we put our trust in Him, our happiness is filled up. Not with things of this earth, but in knowledge of a God bigger than anything here. The apostle Paul encourages us, "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say rejoice! ... The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which passes all comprehension shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.... whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let you mind dwell on these things. " (Phil. 4:4, 6-8)

The Psalms are encouraging each of us to turn our hearts to the Lord, taking refuge in Him and trusting Him. And we shall know happiness.


Thursday, July 9, 2009

Have a cup of tea

I love tea. For many years I have enjoyed a cup most every day. In the south, iced tea is served “sweetened” with just the right amount of sugar to keep a person sipping for hours. Some places add a slice of lemon to add to the flavors and refreshment. Other places serve tea with crumpets or scones to offer an afternoon tea-break.

When looking in the grocery store for tea to replenish the shelf, I noted the varieties available. One can get just “tea” – you know, that orange pekoe blend that is what I first think about with tea. In today’s world, that “orange pekoe” can now be decaffeinated to or go with the “Cold Brew” option available both as a single cup or family size. If you want a flavored tea, the options continue to grow. How about honey vanilla chamomile, earl grey, darjeeling or a variety of herb teas like raspberry, orange and spice, or perfect peach? Then we can go to various colors: green tea, white tea, or black tea.

After the “tea” is selected, one can then decide for cream and / or sugar, or one of the many options in the dairy case for an extra within the cream – like French vanilla, amaretto, or hazelnut.I’m not a connoisseur of tea. Believe me, if I were taste-testing I wouldn’t be able to tell which flavor or type of tea is in my cup. But I have learned something about myself related to tea. The preference for tea with milk and sugar is definitely higher than just plain tea. On a cold day I prefer hot day, and on a hot day I prefer cold tea (with sugar like found in the south.) Then it came to preference for cream rather than milk and of course adding sugar was great too. Then I preferred French vanilla over cream and definitely over milk. Then I had to have 2 cups, not just 1.

And then it hit me.

This simple cup of tea could become a cup of sin for me. How- you ask? By letting my thoughts and desires escalate to what I want. For me, that simple cup of tea was not just simple – like turning on the tap for cool water. I found myself thinking of which flavor or addition or hot / cold or which cup to serve myself that silly cup of tea. It wasn’t just a simple cup of tea anymore, but a progression of wanting something more than what I had been having before. How could I make that cup of tea better? Doing things better is fine. I am an educator with goal of helping others learn so that they have something more than they had before. But… that “more” can become an obsession that does not allow satisfaction in the simple.

As I was driving home from Omaha after a wonderful vacation in Denver with family, I heard a message by Jack Graham on the local radio station. He started his message with “We all worship something. Who or what is your God?”

And you know what came to mind for me? That silly cup of tea… For each of us serving Christ, the god that directs us away from worshipping the Most High alone might be something small that just gets bigger and bigger within our thoughts and desires. Of course, I don’t fall down and worship tea – it does not sit on a table and I bow before it. But the thoughts and desires can turn to fleshly desires such that we cross the line of OK to sinful.

Jack Graham points out that idolatry is a serious sin with serious consequences – so if we practice idolatry in any form with our hearts, hands and mind there are severe repercussions. Rather than turning away from anything that takes too much of our attentions, we often change our view of God. He said, “We want a God that will tolerate our excesses and our lifestyles as we choose.” [True Worship, Sunday June 14, 2009 found at ]

Excesses…. That word hit me…. How often am I not a content person with what I DO have? I want something more… something better… or simply something different. Again, I do think progress moves us on from one place to another. But what about the exclusivity of Christ and Biblical standards that are given?

Christ calls us to a life not of personal fulfillment, but a life of self-denial, a life of service to Him. Jesus said, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. “ (Matthew 16:24)Jesus tells his disciples in relation to seeking treasures, “For this reason I say to you, do not be anxious for your life, as to what you shall eat; nor for your body, as to what you shall put on. For life is more than food, and the body than clothing…. And do not seek what you shall eat, and what you shall drink, and do not keep worrying… But seek His kingdom, and these things shall be added to you… For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Luke 12:22-34 selections)

Dr. Graham said, “We ultimately become what we worship. If we are dedicated to food, we will become gluttons. If we are dedicated to drink we will become drunkards… If we are dedicated to self and personal fulfillment we will neglect the compassion and love for Christ...” We ought to have a life of service, commitment, and devotion and worship and love and sacrifice…

Who is God? He is the Lord above. All are directed to “have no other gods before me….” (Exodus 20:3)

Keep watch within your own life to what starts as OK, but then becomes bigger and bigger such that the fine line is crossed. The “self-desire’ becomes too big and our “serving Him” becomes smaller.