Bother to Obey?

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Why, when it can be so hard, do we bother to obey the Lord? This (with a good bit of editing and updating) is the answer Hannah Whitall Smith gave over 100 years ago:

“When we choose obedience, we bring joy to our Lord as well. Our deep love for him is perfectly reasonable, but the fact that he loves us so deeply is truly amazing! What does ‘loving him back’ look like? For one thing, it looks like obedience. Jesus told his disciples that the first and greatest commandment is to ‘love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength’ (Mark 12:30). That commandment leads us to ask ourselves:

  • Will we make him our greatest love?
  • Will we follow him, even when there’s no apparent reward, even if following him leads to a life of separateness or suffering?
  • Will we let him have complete control of all we are and all we have?
  • And what if our Christian friends don’t agree with our level of devotion?

“Say, ‘Yes, Lord, yes!’ to each of these questions. Pour out all your devotion on our Lord. Give him your enthusiastic surrender, even if it upsets some of the more moderate Christians around you. Why should you care if some don’t understand your choice? An intimate friendship with Christ is both your duty and your joy. When Christ makes his ways known to us, we have the great privilege of walking in them.

“Your whole-hearted devotion is precious to the Lord. Perhaps others don’t approve, but he does, and that’s enough. Don’t hold back. Lay your whole life open to him and say each morning, ‘Lord, help me to live this day in a way that pleases you. Give me spiritual insight to discover your will. Guide my every step.’ Don’t let a day, or even an hour, go by in which you aren’t consciously following him.”

I’ve loved Hannah’s words for years. They challenge and console me. How do they strike you today?

 

Photo by Jon Tyson via Unsplash.com

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Ambassadors

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I wonder what it would be like to be an ambassador to some foreign place. I suppose at times I’d feel quite important, having been commissioned as an official representative by the leaders of my country. Other times, I expect I’d feel a bit lonely and lost, living in a place that wasn’t my home. Above all, I think I’d carry with me a sense of great responsibility, wondering who was listening, watching and assuming that my daily choices were typical of my countrymen.

The Apostle Paul considered himself to be Christ’s ambassador even when he was in jail. And in 2 Corinthians 5:20, he commissioned us, saying, “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.”

This is an important calling! It’s issued not by leaders of our country, but by the Creator of our universe via his servant and messenger, Paul. Our ambassadorship isn’t an option. We represent Christ, every day, wherever we go and in whatever we’re doing—or not doing, “as though God were making his appeal through us.” God speaking through us is a heady thought.  How do we react to disappointment or mistreatment? What do we do with our spare time? What do our facial expressions convey when we don’t think anyone is watching?

Do you ever feel a bit lonely or lost in this world? A bit out of place? That’s to be expected, and Paul tells us how to handle it—be reconciled to God. It’s only through a closer walk with the Lord who loves us that we can fulfill our calling. When we’re trusting him in all things, we can get through the muck and mire that the world tends to dish out. Our response to trouble ought to be an immediate cry to our Lord for perspective, protection and direction—as long as we’re reconciled to him. If we’ve allowed our relationship to grow cold, to be walled off—perhaps by sin or selfishness—it’s easy to forget that he’s right there ready to help.

Most of us will never be asked to go live in some foreign place and represent our country. We’ve been commissioned, though, to an even greater calling. When you head out today, imagine yourself wearing the badge of a diplomat. (Okay, maybe they don’t wear badges, but you get my drift.)

Let your light so shine!

 

(Photo from Pixabay)

Food for Thought

 

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TRUST

  • When you worry, you’re acting like an atheist.    Rick W.
  • Worry gives a small thing a big shadow.    Richard K.

GETTING ALONG

  • Our judgmental reproaches do not save souls.    Matt W.
  • Sandpaper does its job by coming in contact with rough things.    Matt W.

SELF-IMAGE

  • Don’t let self-condemnation take you down. Jim H.
  • Pride deceives me into thinking I am better than others. Jim H.
  • God didn’t describe the outer appearance of the women of the Bible. Liz H.

PRIORITIES

  • You can tell what’s most important to someone by what they brag about. Rick W.
  • Righteousness is placing value on the same things that God does. Dudley H.

OBEDIENCE

  • Would your life be better if you prayed as much as you text? Rick W.
  • You’ve got enough time to obey God. Dudley H.
  • How do we become old happy Christians? By loving the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, and strength.” Doug W.

Once in a while my quote collection simply begs to be made public. So, today I’ve shared some of my favorites with you. I sure hope you’ll share a few of your favorites with me!

 

 

I Don’t Know! (and Pie!)

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Warning: Bragging grandmother ahead.

Nick’s verbal skills are exploding, but sometimes he’s still a little hard to understand. A couple of weeks ago, he said “Mon hee hee!” over and over. Steve and I remained baffled. Eventually he gave up and said “Pie!” (Which means crustless pumpkin pie, which is now a staple in this Nana’s fridge.) Later in the afternoon, we gave him what our family affectionately calls a “Monkey Cookie,” (recipe below) which he happily took, saying “Mon hee hee!”

Okay. We got it.

Just a make-you-smile story? Maybe, but here’s what I pull from it. Hallelujah!! God always understands what we’re saying! He may not give us what we’re asking for, but he likes that we ask, and he ALWAYS understands. He just knows better. ‘Wish I never forgot that during the more disappointing moments of life.

Second Story:

There is a phrase, though, that Nick articulates with perfect clarity. Hands up by his chin, in an adorable semi-soprano voice, he says, “I don’t know!” Because it’s so cute, we look for ways to get him to say it again. (Sorry, bragging. I warned you.)

Second takeaway: Why are we adults so slow to say “I don’t know.” Why do we have to argue the gray areas of life? In matters of theology, should we expect to know very much about the way God chooses to work? And as to more worldly subjects, do we always have to take a hard stand and dig in our heels? Might we benefit from realizing the limits of our own intelligence and information, acknowledging the tiny chance that those on the other side of our proverbial fence could have a few valid points?

One of our family rules, framed in print for emphasis, was “Don’t argue when it doesn’t matter.” Perhaps another way to phrase that could be, “Be willing to say ‘I don’t know!’”

So today I’m asking myself, and you as my readers, to remember your own intellectual weakness and revel in the omniscience of our Lord. Not a bad combination! Have a great week, and feel free to share your responses!

 

Monkey Cookies

  • ½ c. raisins                                                               1 cup oatmeal
  • ½ c. chopped dates                                                  ½ cup flour
  • 1 medium – size ripe banana (mashed)              1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
  • ¼ c. water
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla

 

Combine raisins, dates, bananas, peanut butter, water, egg, and vanilla in mixing bowl. Beat until blended. Add oatmeal, flour, and baking soda. Mix to blend thoroughly. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto greased baking sheet, flatten slightly. Bake @ 350° for about 10 min. until browned on underside. Store in airtight container. Makes about 40 cookies.

 

Get Real

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The April 1 devotional from Sarah Young’s Jesus Calling[1] includes this eye opening statement:

“But I challenge you to relinquish the fantasy of an uncluttered world.”

That tough for me. Is it for you?

  • I want my desk to be uncluttered. (And it often is, for about 30 minutes on Monday afternoon, after I’ve cleared the stacks from the weekend but not yet acknowledged the new ones awaiting for the coming week.)
  • I want my calendar to be uncluttered—balanced perfectly between work, rest and play, time alone and time with other people. Planning ahead helps, but…
  • I want my home to be uncluttered, except now I have grandchildren, who have put a whole new positive spin on having stuff strewn all over the place.

So, I’ll have to agree with Sarah that an uncluttered world is a fleeting fantasy. We can’t have it. Or if we have it, we can’t keep it. And if we try, we’ll probably lose a great deal of flexibility and joy.

What’s a body to do? If you’ve read this blog before, you already know my answer. Trust the Lord! Our “keep life tidy” leanings stem from a penchant to control. Once we let God be the one in control (the pilot, not the co-pilot, as my husband is quick to remind me) then a messy life can be an adventure.

Speaking of which, my grandson is on the way over to make my house messier, so I’m keeping this one short. Let me know, if you would be so kind, where in your life you have learned to relinquish the fantasy of the uncluttered and enjoy the adventure!

“In all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:6).

[1] Young, Sarah. Jesus Calling. [S.I.]: Thomas Nelson, 2004.

 

Founders’ Day

IMG_0507It was Founders’ Day Weekend in Dripping Springs, Texas. Think barbeque (a LOT of barbeque), a big midway sporting rides I can’t imagine strapping myself into, and vendors selling all sorts of items from farmhouse tables and hand-carved knives to kettle corn and batter fried Oreos.

On Friday night we went to a parade that would surely rival any other in small town America. Picture this:

  • a marching band, heavy on the brass section.
  • a chiropractor driving a pickup truck lined with fake skeletons (I kid you not!).
  • simple floats filled with kids of all ages throwing candy and koozies into a crowd of waving watchers with plastic loot bags at the ready.
  • hundreds (thousands?) of people cheering as their neighbors paraded past.

On Saturday we toured the competing barbeque booths, willingly tasting their creations, often for free. I ate more meat than I usually eat in weeks! Tony helped judge the best brisket of the festival. Steve tried smoked rabbit (but don’t tell Elizabeth). That was all great fun, but then came Sunday.

The web advertised, “Join the community as all the churches of Dripping Springs come together to worship our Heavenly Father.” I’ve got to admit, I wondered how that was going to work. But, boy did it ever work! Here’s how:

  • We met outside, sitting on folding chairs, in bleachers or standing to the side.
  • We sang old hymns and new, the words printed on simple pages handed out by volunteers.
  • We prayed, mostly in English, with a bit of Spanish thrown in.
  • We listened to Scripture in a variety of versions.
  • We gave an offering for the poor, collected in plastic buckets.
  • We took communion, served by some in robes and some in shorts and plaid shirts.

And it was awesome. Nobody talked about differences. We just talked about Jesus, and worshiped him and wished we could go on all day. Turns out, no surprise really, that all Christians have a great deal in common, and we celebrated that.

Now, look at that first photo again. Here’s a zoomed in version. Seeing that shirt was one of my favorite parts of the whole festival. It was true on Sunday, and it’s still true today.

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The photo’s a little blurry, but the says words say “The CHURCH has left the BUILDING.”

We are the church. We have left the building. Let’s all go be the hands and feet of Jesus together today!