"What He ordains for us each moment is what is most holy, best, and most divine for us." Jean-Pierre de Caussade

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Bitter Root and Sour Fruit

I’ve learned a life lesson in the last week – that a foul attitude can only churn so long in a person before it turns into a root of bitterness. By that point, it’s deeply imbedded and bringing forth sour fruit from the seed and, as the writer of Hebrews says, “defiles many.” Bitterness is nothing short of acid to one’s soul. Left to its raw emotion, this small seedling becomes like a raging river, and it won’t be too long before you open your mouth and all that frustration and anger and disappointment begins to spill over and you begin to verbalize those ugly inward emotions whose fruit is only unkind, sharp, sarcastic, scornful, accusing, and probably the worst of all, wounding.

What a pity we mostly do such to those we love the most deeply.

See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many (Hebrews 12:15).

Thursday, September 25, 2008

A Fresh Word

After I wrote a previous blog entitled “The Core,” I decided I should put my money where my mouth is and begin a disciplined activity of daily Bible reading, and so I selected to use the Disciple Bible study for its reading plan as well as thematic and devotional study. Not only would it keep me on a course for about 34 weeks, it would also take me through a large percentage of the Bible. The down side of that, however, was that the readings – at least at the front – would be so familiar that I was afraid much of it would become rote. For example, how many times have we read of the Genesis account, or the story of the flood, or of the Hebrew children’s exodus out of Egypt? We can practically recite them from memory. Therefore, I decided to pick up another translation and begin my trek: this time with Eugene Peterson’s The Message.

And so I began, having no clue what an electrifying shock it would be to my spiritual system. For years I have read, “And God said, ‘Let there be light!’ And there was light.” And now I read, “God spoke: ‘Light!’ And light appeared. … God spoke: ‘Sky!’ … God spoke, ‘Separate!’” Talk about the wonder. Talk about the power of fiat! -- something out of nothing with only a word. "Prosper!" "Reproduce!” “Generate life!”

And whereas I have read and loved for years David's repentant Psalm 51, “Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts, and in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom;” today I read, “What You’re after is truth from the inside out. Enter me, then; conceive a new, true life.” “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me,” is rendered, “God, make a fresh start in me, shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life.” What a powerful word picture of bringing order out of a chaotic and dysfunctional life. (Jesus is all about word pictures! Just read the red letters in your Bible.)

Don’t get me wrong: I love the “old," but the “new” has aided in getting me out of my rut and, as the psalmist said, has put a fresh wind in my sail. I encourage you to pick up another translation and see what refreshing Word God might have waiting for you today. He might just unbutton your lips so you can let loose with some praise!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Broken Heart Syndrome

C.S. Lewis wrote in his book, The Four Loves, "To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal."

Leonard Sweet says that there are two responses to what is medically known as "broken heart syndrome." It can kill you, or it can birth in you a new heart. He writes, "Jesus' broken heart birthed a new humanity. The promise of The Presence is that it takes a heart broken by love to birth God's love and make the heart beat in sync with God's heart." In other words, out of a heart circumcised by love, God will give a new heart.

In the meantime, both circumcision and birth are painful. Just ask Jesus.

Monday, September 22, 2008

A Special Evening with a Friend

Tonight was special. I had the privilege of sitting with Mr. Malcolm this evening at the nursing home and keeping him company until it was time for him to go to sleep. We go way back – the two of us; getting close to 50 years now, so it wasn’t like we didn’t have anything to talk about. Actually, I did most of the talking and most of the remembering, and he just listened. Such a gentle-man.

Though Mr. Malcolm is confined to his bed and is unable to convey much of his thoughts, there’s one thing that hasn’t changed: his dry sense of humor. When I put a cup to his lips and asked him if he would drink a little nectar for me, he clearly said, “I’ll be glad to do that for you.” When the lady across the hall began her nightly outbursts, he quipped something like, “There she goes again.” And when Ernest T. Bass said, “How do you do, Mrs. Wiley,” he chuckled pretty heartedly. The rest of our conversation was uncertain, but we talked nonetheless, and he truly seemed as glad for me to be sitting next to him as I was to be there.

Each time I leave Mr. Malcolm’s side, there’s always a lump in my throat and normally tears in my eyes. It’s hard to watch time take its toll on a person’s mind and body – even though I’m very confident his spirit is being renewed daily, praise God. But tonight the swell rose a little more quickly. After we had said his prayers, I told him I was leaving and I said, “Goodnight.” To which he said, “Goodnight.” And when I said, “I love you,” he turned and looked me square in the eyes and responded with extreme clarity, “I love you, too.”

Love is strong. It rises above and beyond earth’s limitations and finds a place all its own: in the forever alive spirit of one who knows and rests in Jesus. God is love.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

"See Bud"

One of my all-time favorite subjects to teach is spiritual gifts – strictly those which are known as the 7 motivational gifts found in Romans 12. And since I’ve joined the gym and acquired a “success partner,” I think I may have just come upon a classic example of one who fits the “he who encourages” in vs. 8. His name is Bud.

For anyone who knows me at all, knows that exercise does not rank in my top 10 of favorite things to do. In fact, “exercise” and “fun” are very much contradictory terms; that is until Bud. Bud sticks with me during my hour at the gym, and through every press of a weight, every crunch of my abs, every strain of a muscle, he is right there encouraging me: “That was good!” “You can do it!” “Just two more.” “Give yourself a hand.” And he always ends the hour with, “You did really good today. I'm proud of you.” Who wouldn’t want to exercise with that kind of encouragement? Who couldn’t exercise with that kind of encouragement? On a number of occasions, I’ve realized that it was because Bud was standing next to me counting and supporting with a “that’s good” and “you can do it” that I’ve been able to do those “two more” – where otherwise I would have stopped short. But his encouragement pushes me to my full potential. It motivates me to endure something that is hard. It presses me on to a greater level of stamina.

Bud’s great example of encouragement reminds me of Hebrews 3:13 which says we are to encourage one another daily – while it is called “Today.” I like the way The Message says it: “For as long as it’s still God’s Today, keep each other on your toes so sin doesn’t slow down your reflexes.” Later in chapter 10, the writer says we are to “spur each other on.”

I’m thankful for Bud’s presence at the gym. But then again, I’m grateful for all the Bud’s in my life who have spurred me on – those who have encouraged me along the way as it was called “Today.” Those who have held crowns over my head and encouraged me to grow into them. Those who have stood by me and said, “You can do it!”

So I exhort you to give someone an encouraging word today. A grocery store clerk, a child, a co-worker, a Sunday School teacher – the list is as endless as the opportunities. And who knows, it just might be the word they need to get that heavy weight over their head. In the meantime, I think I’ll go look up Romans 12:8 and see if the footnote doesn’t say, “See Bud.”

Hanging by my forearms -- knees to chest!

Bud as Mr. Florida (over 60 and "drug free" competition) at age 62.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Core

Well, I joined PAC last week: Perry Athletic Club. I am “in my 50” you know, and so I decided to get a head start on the fast approaching birthday. Besides, my muscles were already feeling a little too tight in the morning and my first 3 steps out of bed were becoming a little too shaky. (As my friend Wally would say, “Like a newborn calf out of the stall.”) I’m going three mornings a week, and it has been so exciting. I can hardly wait for Monday, Wednesday, and Fridays to roll around! Of course, Bud, my “success partner” is making each day a little more difficult for me; but I think that’s the point. He always starts me off with “the core.” Basically, what that means is I lie down on a mat and do about 60 assorted crunches. And THEN he puts me on an incline bench and “makes” me do sit-ups. (Today I did 20 and he was so proud of me! And quite frankly, so was I.) Lastly, I hang in mid-air by my forearms and pull my knees to my chest and then let them back down. I’m up to 2 reps of 10 each on that, too. And when I’m through with all this, I begin my workout. But over and over, Bud stresses the importance of “the core,” and he will not forego that part of the routine. In fact, all the other exercises for upper and lower body, so he tells me, should be done in such a way that there’s a day in between for rest; but not the core – they can be done daily.

One can probably guess that my mind has been clicking on this one. When it comes to my spiritual exercises, what is “the core”? What is it that is essential to a healthy spiritual life? I’ve come to the conclusion that the core is prayer and daily Bible reading: time spent daily in communion with the Lord in prayer and in reading His Word. Yes, there are many other disciplines of the faith; important disciplines. But prayer and Scripture intake must rank first and foremost or else the rest is weak. And I’ve certainly proven that to be true both in my diligence as well as in my neglect.

One more thing that Bud told me today is that as we discipline ourselves in just coming to the gym at a regular time and partaking of such a strict regimen, everything else will begin to line up, too. Sort of like prayer and Bible reading, wouldn’t you agree?

Sunday, September 7, 2008

The Heavens Declare His Glory...

... and so does a Wal-Mart parking lot!

The goal of life

Francis Chan, pastor of Cornerstone Church in Simi Valley, CA wrote: “Day in and day out, we find ourselves in the monotony of life; self-help books, work, family, friends, cars, house, medication. Most of us are simply trying to live a 'normal life.' Have you ever found yourself wondering whether or not the goal of life should be normalcy?

"Now is the time to stop and think.”

Saturday, September 6, 2008


Have you ever had one of those mornings when you just couldn’t get out of bed? Where the covers felt better than the floor? I had one Thursday. Actually, I had gotten up at 5:30 to prepare my husband’s coffee and cereal and get him out the door to work. Upon his leaving, I gathered my Bible and study paraphernalia and climbed back up in bed with propped pillows. It didn’t last too long, and before I knew it, I was sunk down in the covers, begging for more sleep. I knew I had a 9:00 appointment, but there was not a thing in me that could make me pull my feet out from under those covers and swing them to the floor. And so I begged, “God, help me!” And, a moment later, another “God, give me strength.” About that time, I received a text message from a sweet sister that simply read, “I pray that u have a blessed day! I love u!” And then a moment later, “If u haven’t been outside yet go check out the cool fall air God has blessed us with!” At that point, I received it as a word from the Lord to get up and go. And so I picked up my coffee and my Oswald Chamber’s Utmost and headed to the deck just outside my bedroom door.

For a moment, I just sat. Indeed, it was gloriously cool. But the incredible thing was how the morning sun was peeking through the water oak, but in such a way that its rays hit me broadly and full. It seemed I couldn’t move – that somehow God was wrapping me in His love. Then suddenly I became aware of the sounds of nature. And the only natural response was to worship. And so that’s what I did. Only after time spent basking in such wonderful light and love did I open my devotional book and see the title of the day’s reading: “His!” His! He just wanted to wrap me in His arms that morning and tell me that I am His! What better way than to wake up in the arms of your Lover.

And to think I almost missed it simply because I was too comfortable.

Monday, September 1, 2008


Recently, I read a small excerpt from Rachel Herz’s book, The Scent of Desire: Discovering Our Enigmatic Sense of Smell. In it she wrote, “Smells become embedded in our minds. They have the ability to take us back to a different time and place.” How well I know that to be true. As I rode through downtown a few weeks ago after a horrible fire, I was immediately taken back some 40 years to when our home became a small inferno; and with that the fear and sickness that still tries to lure me back to that frightful night.

But indeed not all aromas carry with them such disturbance or ill feelings. Baby powder sends me back to days of caring for my own sweet little ones. Estee Lauder’s “Youth Dew” reminds me of Mom and Vicki. Gardenias bring back memories of piano lessons at Miss Pinkston’s. And before my grandfather’s house was torn down, I confiscated the sweet shrub beside the back door and planted it in my own yard, so that now when I swing, I’m reminded of days at Mu’s and Gra’s. And have you ever hugged someone so tightly that you wear their cologne for the rest of the day? Smells indeed have the ability to take us back to a different time, place, and people. Yes, a fragrance is a powerful thing.

A couple of years ago, my friend gave me a collage that the Lord had impressed upon her to make for me. “Essence” was His word. Since the framed art also has a teapot on it, I have it hanging in my kitchen next to my tea and coffee accessories, and so the word stays fresh on my mind. I often wonder what essence is about me. What fragrance do I carry? Oh, if I’m speaking in literal terms, when I exit a room, it’s “Michael Kors” that I leave behind. Sometimes it’s lavender. But what about spiritually speaking?

God’s Word has something to say about this essence. But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of Him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing (2 Cor. 2:14-15). The fragrance of the knowledge of Him; the aroma of Christ. If that’s the case, then why upon leaving a party recently, did I feel more like I had left them with a week’s worth of kitchen garbage rather than any sweet smelling perfume? What happened to the fragrance of Christ of which Paul spoke? Ah, my heart. Maybe that’s the key. Maybe I had not taken the time to scent my heart that morning with prayer. Maybe I had not laced it with His Word. Maybe I had not drawn near enough to allow His fragrance to become mine. All I know is that the “essence” made me sick that day – and still does. Sort of like smelling that smoke.