Listen! Listen

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I grew up in a delightful family. My home was filled with lots of love. I remember spirited games of chess and canasta and paddleball (think racquetball on an outdoor court). We enjoyed good food, frequent guests, and plenty of laughter. Some of the laughter was over the same jokes enjoyed time after time.

When a new and uninitiated guest joined us, my dad would ask, “What’s that coming out of your nose?” After a moment of embarrassed confusion on the part of our visitor, he would continue, “Air! There’s air coming out of your nose!”

Then sometimes he’d say, “Listen! Listen!” After an awkward pause, he would add, “Somebody’s saying ‘Listen!’” We always laughed.

The other day, as I was thinking about my dad’s funny lines, the one about listening struck me in a new way. Taken more seriously, it comes out this way:

Listen! Listen! Because there’s always someone out there practically begging that you listen!

I’ve been doing a lot of listening lately. Some of my hurting friends need me most as a prayer partner and a listening ear. In fact, I often have to remind myself that they need my ear but not my mouth, my empathy but not my advice.

Pride can lead us away from the smaller tasks the Holy Spirit hands us. Becoming a compassionate listener isn’t very glamorous. In fact, it’s a ministry of the nearly invisible. It falls into the “He must increase; I must decrease” part of the Christian walk. But it is powerful. It is a silent language of love. Today I want to encourage you to allow a part of your busy life to be eaten up by the gift of an attentive ear, because if you listen, listen, you will almost certainly hear someone crying out, “Listen!”

Fight Fear by Beth Smith

coat-of-arms-1762562_1280-swordsWe all have fears, but it’s easy to think, “Our fears are rational. Theirs, the fears we see in other people’s lives, just come from a lack of faith.” That isn’t right. We should never make light of others’ fears, for we haven’t lived their lives – haven’t experienced their sufferings or traumas.

I’ve experienced God’s love and faithfulness many times, and I’ve surrendered many fears to Him. I have one, though, that I give to him and take back over and over again. I am afraid in fast, heavy traffic. I struggle with an irrational, gut fear that we’re going to be in a wreck. You may be thinking, “How childish! How very unspiritual of her! Why doesn’t she just trust God?” Believe me, I’m working on it.

May I give you the background of this fear? The night before my eleventh birthday, my beautiful sixteen-year-old sister was killed in a horrible automobile accident. Five of the seven people in the car died instantly. Tragic. But people recover emotionally from much worse, and I recovered from the loss of my sister. My parents, however, kept pictures—8 x 10 inch black and white glossies—of the mangled car in which my sister died. They kept them in our family photo album. I saw that wrecked car thousands of times.

Have I evoked your sympathies? Are you thinking, “Well, then, that’s okay? She has reason to be afraid.” If so, stop it. Don’t sympathize with me. Help me to change with your reminders from God’s Word. We don’t have to be fearful, no matter what our flesh, the devil, or our experiences tell us. We don’t have to panic in the face of our fears. We have God’s power. We can fight fear with faith.

We can push aside the mental pictures, the thoughts, the dread, and the ugly fear.

  • “God has not given us a spirit of fear (timidity or cowardice, of craven and cringing fear), but He has given us a spirit of power and of love and of a calm and well balanced mind and discipline and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:7 AMP).
  • In God have I put my trust and confident reliance; I will not be afraid” (Psalm 56:11 AMP).
  • You did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship whereby we cry ‘Abba Father’” (Romans 8:15).

We don’t have to be slaves to our fears. I heard a Bible teacher on television say that fear is an acrostic for “False evidence appearing real.” Isn’t that very often the case with our fears? We have God as our Father. We can run from the fears into his loving arms, where we will find peace and hope.

Generosity

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Would you agree with me that God is generous? While we don’t need to go any further than the gift of his Son to see his magnanimous nature, certainly the beauty of nature, his constant provision, and the hope of heaven further prove the point. We are called to be like him, which leads to the question, “Are we generous?” Am I? Are you?”

We live in a “me first” world, where more (for ourselves) is always (supposedly) better. The Bible teaches us to live counter to that culture.

  • It’s better to give than to receive.
  • Love your neighbor as yourself.
  • Seek first the kingdom of God.

A truly generous life requires introspection. Gandhi said, “Live simply so that others may simply live.” Stop and think about that for a moment. Are there parts of our lives where even a tiny tweak toward simplicity might free up time or money that would make a great difference in someone else’s life? How much are we willing to do without for the sake of someone else?

Perhaps a trial is in order. Lent is coming (but any space on the calendar will do.) I’ll be giving up my beloved hot tea for several weeks. During that time, I’ll calculate the funds saved by that small sacrifice. Later I’ll send them to an organization that provides clean water in another country.** Will that small sum make a difference? Yes, it will, not to many, but to some. And some is far better than none.

Care to join me? Perhaps you’ll choose a different sacrifice, another beneficiary. Maybe you will be led to tweak your use of time instead, freeing up precious moments to serve or befriend wherever you are led. Let me encourage you, though: God wastes nothing. Whatever your sacrifice, he will use it. And you will be blessed.

‘Hope you’ll let me know how it goes!

**And if you choose clean water as the need you will help meet, consider reviewing one of these websites:

thewaterproject.org

charitywater.org

water.cc/h2oproject

saveadrink.org

The Waiting Game

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As I write this, I am in the middle of a rough month. Multiple friends and loved ones are facing deeply painful circumstances, and I am hurting with them. I’m praying for healing, wisdom, provision, direction… I’m also asking the Lord for encouragement, for them, primarily, but for myself as well. I don’t know yet how our Loving (but sometimes hard to understand) Lord is answering those prayers in the lives of my friends, but here are three ways he has encouraged me in just the last 24 hours.

A text: It read, “Thank you for praying for us. We will be fine!” That hurting friend’s proclamation of faith lifted my spirits.

A reunion: We went out for breakfast while out of town. The manager roamed among the tables, making sure her customers were satisfied. She paused at my table, and our eyes locked. We both froze for a moment, silent, thinking. Then we burst into hugs and tears, finally recognizing one another as dear friends who had lost touch for a decade. She gave Steve and me a brief recap of her life, ending with these words, “The last year was very difficult, but now I know why. It got me here (to a good place and a great job).”

A quote: I opened my web browser, and these words, saved in an old search, popped up, “Nothing touches the child of God without first passing through the will of God.” While I’ve been unable to find a reliable source for that quote, it’s very close to this one by Hannah Whitall Smith, “Not a trial comes except by His permission.” In other words, I believe, if we have heartache, our Lord has allowed that heartache. And if he has allowed it, surely he will see us through it.

And so, I have cried tears of both pain and of hope today. I’ve heard his still small voice say yet again, “Trust me.”

Matthew Kelly

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Who were the first people who didn’t read the Apple agreement?

Adam and Eve 

A neighbor invited me to a Matthew Kelly conference, and that was one of his opening jokes. I don’t know him well enough to endorse all he says and does, but I want to share a bit of wisdom, gleaned from that conference, with you. (My notes are not perfect, so these quotes are actually paraphrases. The italicized comments are mine.)

“Four signs of a dynamic Christian are prayer, study, generosity, and evangelism.” (Well, that’s enough to work on for a while, don’t you think?)

“Be hungry for best practices.” (So back we go to the Manufacturer’s Handbook to learn how to live.)

“Our lives change when our habits change.”

“Get good at saying no. The only way to say no to anything is to have a deeper yes.”

“God speaks to you daily through three ordinary voices: Your legitimate needs, your talents and abilities, and your deepest desire.”

“Often times God does his greatest work in the midst of our darkness.” (Actually, the credit for that one goes to the conference worship leader, Eliot Morris.)

“If I lived out just one Gospel reading 100%, my life would change radically. We need to work on the gap between that life and the lives we are living now.” (More on this later.)

“There are two ways to live life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” (Matthew was quoting Albert Einstein here. I want to live the second way!)

“Men stumble over the truth from time to time, but most pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing happened.” (That’s from Winston Churchill. Do we live according to the eternal truths we have?)

“When we walk humbly with God, he leads us to exactly who and what we need, to those people, things, and experiences he has designed and intended for us.”

I’d love to hear what you think of Matthew Kelly’s thoughts. Feel free to use the comment box below!

 

Bugs Bunny: A Two Part Tale

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Part One: If you were to survey the artwork in my home, two pieces would strike you right away. One is a giclee of Bugs Bunny playing the piano, a work by Chuck Jones appropriately entitled “Bugs at Piano.” It was a gift to us from Elizabeth when she graduated from college. The other is “Café Terrace at Night” by Vincent Van Gogh. (Of course, it’s just a copy, one we ordered on the internet.)

Part Two: My sister Rebekah was only 7 when I left for college. She lives in Burbank now, and I live in Houston. Despite the distance, we are still close. We had those few short years of living together, and now we keep in touch by phone and text. Earlier this summer, though, I had the pleasure of spending an afternoon at her house. I was surprised to discover that she has one very prominent piece of artwork displayed on her entryway wall—“Café Terrace at Night.”

Rebekah and I have never discussed art. We rarely see one another’s homes, yet of all the options in all the world, we chose the same painting for our walls. Coincidence? Perhaps, but I submit that we are simply of the same mind.

  • We’ve spent a great deal of time together.
  • We converse.
  • We keep each other in mind.

The second chapter of 1 Corinthians talks about having the mind of Christ. I want to be of the same mind as Christ, don’t you? I want to have his perspective, especially when things aren’t going the way I would choose. I want to emulate his love for others and be led by his wisdom. How do we get that?

  • We spend a great deal of time together—sometimes reading scripture, sometimes fellowshipping with other believers in his company, and sometimes just being still with him.
  • We converse—pouring out our hearts in prayer and praise and seeking to hear his still small voice.
  • We keep each other in mind. Well, I already know the Lord has me in mind all the time. Practicing his presence, keeping him first in my thoughts, is another thing altogether, but an important discipline to develop.

I don’t think these three habits should simply be another list of resolutions. Rather, they are items of prayer, choices we can only make and maintain by the power of the Holy Spirit. They will not always be easy, but imagine the joy and comfort that awaits those of us who truly begin to have the mind of Christ!