The Ring’s the Thing

The RIng ad 2018Okay, true confessions here: I resist change. I prefer to think of myself as someone who is usually content with the present circumstances. That’s a good thing, right? But, yes, “slow to embrace change” certainly describes me as well. I was the last of my family to get a cell phone, the last of just about anyone I know to upgrade to a smart phone, and still don’t really know how to use hashtags…

And for Christmas, our kids gave Steve and me The Ring. Nope, not the kind for your finger, but the kind for your front door, a newfangled doorbell. They were so excited about it. We travel. We hang out in our backyard. This would be the perfect way for us to keep track of all visits to our front porch by friend and stranger alike.

We delayed. The instructions said, “5 minute installation.” Sure, that’s what they all say.

Then came that moment when we realized that pretty soon one of our kids was going to ask, “How’s The Ring working out?” We were going to look, well, resistant to change!

And so, we installed it. Actually, it only took a few minutes over the promised five. But it was a little difficult to figure out how our newly installed gadget actually worked. After all, this was something NEW! So, leaving our frustration behind, we took a walk. On the way back, our phones told us we had missed a visit from Nick. (Video included.) A quick call, and we were off to see our sweet grandson and family.

Ding! Ding! Ding! One could say that as the doorbell rang, the lightbulb went off. That gadget is not about catching the latest Amazon delivery right away (although it has helped us do that too.) It’s about never missing an opportunity to engage with the other people in our lives. And engaging with others is a big part of what life is meant to be.

So here are my challenges to you today:

Are you embracing change as God puts it in your path? Just do it!

And are you looking for ways to engage with the people he has put in your life? They need you, and chances are you need them too!

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God’s World (by Beth Smith)

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We can get pretty depressed about our planet earth. Nearly every day something happens that causes me to shake my head and wonder, “How did the world get so crazy?” God didn’t create the mess it’s in now. Sin has done that, through man. We can dwell on the negative aspects of our world, or we can proclaim God’s ownership—of the world, of our lives, and of our circumstances. How do we begin?

  • A young boy once told his dad, “I know what the Bible stands for.”
  • The father answered, “Oh, really? Can you tell me?”
  • The boy replied, “BIBLE – Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth.”

Cute, but also true. We begin to place our world in God’s hands by relying on his Word. Here’s an example of what he tells us to do.

“Let the whole earth sing to the Lord! Each day proclaim the good news that he saves. Tell everyone about the amazing things he does. The world is firmly established and cannot be shaken. Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice! Tell all the nations that the Lord is king. Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good!” (I Chronicles 16, abridged).

That’s our response to God.  And what’s God’s response to the world?

“For God so loved and dearly prized the world that He even gave up His only begotten son, so that whoever believes in, trusts in, clings to, and relies on Him shall not perish, come to destruction or be lost, but shall have everlasting life. For God did not send the Son into the world in order to judge, reject, condemn or pass sentence on the world, but that the world might find salvation and be made safe and sound through Him” (John 3:16-17 AMP).

Let’s embrace his love, mercy, forgiveness, and grace. If you’ve never done that, you can do it today. I did it one Monday morning many years ago after all my young children were off to school. Alone in the house at the foot of my bed, I became one of the “whosoever believes” people talked about in John 3:16. It has made all the difference. Let’s put him at the center of our worlds. Let God be in charge and in control. Try it. You’ll love it.

I love the old hymn “This Is My Father’s World,” written by Maltbie D. Babcock in 1901. The last verse reads:

This is my Father’s world, O let me ne’er forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong,
God is the ruler yet.
This is my Father’s world; why should my heart be sad?
The Lord is King; let the heavens ring!
God reigns; let the earth be glad.

I pray that this truth will make us glad this week.

 

Keep Austin Weird

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Georgetown is a far northern almost-suburb of Austin. A few months ago, I stepped out of an elevator and found myself face to face with a friendly woman wearing a bright pink T-shirt emblazoned with the words, “Keep Georgetown normal.” That’s not what most people say around here. The T-shirts I’m more likely to see say, “Keep Austin Weird.”

Yes, my friends, that’s the slogan for my new hometown! Does it mean I must be weird to live here? Probably. Truth be told, we’re all a little weird. I’ve heard a couple of great sermons lately reminding me that, in some ways, we’ve been called to be weird:

Give away money—even if the budget is tight. Who knows how God may use your “widow’s mite”? And many times, when we give, we get to see how God provides for our needs anyway. I’ve been reading about George Muller and the miraculous way he provided for thousands of orphans without ever asking anyone for money.

Give away time—even though life is busy. There’s time enough to do all God wants us to do. (Of course, we may be caught up in a few time-consuming pleasantries that aren’t really part of his plan. I have to keep looking for those and weeding them out.)

Forgive—even when there’s no apology. Apologize—even when it’s awkward. Forgiveness isn’t a suggestion. It’s a command. Bitter grudges only harm us and dim the joy God has for us. If our bodies kept every bruise we ever received, think what a physical mess we’d all be. In the same way, imagine the mess that would come from holding on to every hurt inflicted on our inner selves.

Submit to authority—even when we don’t agree. (I don’t mean we should submit to sin or sinful edicts, of course.) Silent submission may require great strength and courage. The Bible is full of ways God has honored this: Daniel, David, Joseph, Sarah…

Speak with kindness and respect—even when we’re angry. Perhaps this is what “In your anger do not sin” means for many of us.

So, as I close, I’m wondering if there’s a market for T-shirts that say, “Keep Believers Weird.” No? In that case, I hope you’ll simply keep that slogan in the back of your mind this week, smiling as you follow Christ—even if that makes you weird.

 

Sultan and the Frisbee

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Since I’ve asked you to share some of your miraculous moments (and please keep them coming), I thought I’d tell you one of my own today.

We were still newlyweds, and hadn’t lived in that first house in northwest Houston for very long. Homeownership was a both a blessing and a burden.

·       We had a big yard, but finding time to cut the grass was a bit of a challenge.

·       We had a dog, Springer, who, despite turning out to be half the size the pound said she would be, brought us great joy for over a decade and a half.

·       And we had terrific neighbors, two of whom had the coolest dogs we had ever seen. (Sorry, Springer!) Steve got his “big dog fix” across the street.

Prince and Sultan were jet black Belgian sheepdogs, gorgeously groomed and perfectly trained. They were also very well fed. One winter weekend, their owners went out of town. We volunteered to care for the dogs in their absence. We learned to prepare the rather complicated meals to which those pampered pooches were accustomed, placing several ingredients into each dog dish and then squishing them together by hand. (Fortunately, Steve didn’t mind. I kept my hands clean.)

The neighbors left. We fed the dogs. Then we stayed outside playing Frisbee until well after sundown. Back inside, washing up for our own late dinner, Steve realized his wedding band was missing. His first thought, of course, was that it might have become an unplanned addition to the dog food. This was not a pleasant thought in any way shape or form, as by then the dog dishes were licked clean. Then we thought about the Frisbee game.

The grass was a bit longer than usual at the time. And rings can be a bit loose on chilly nights. Had that precious bit of gold been flung who-knows-where into the yard? Although beginning to search felt like a needle in a haystack impossibility, we pulled out a flashlight and prayed. God used the very next moment to teach us that he cares about every detail of our lives. No prayer is too big, too small, or too difficult for him. Steve turned the flashlight toward the lawn and there, right there, in the first spot the spotlight lit, was his wedding band. Enough said!

My Precious by Beth Smith

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Jesus told two parables about treasure. They’re recorded in the book of Matthew, Chapter 13. “The kingdom of God is like a treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again and then in joy went and sold all he had and bought the field.”

In Extravagant Love, a wonderful Bible scholar named Derek Prince[1] interprets the parable this way.

  • The man in the parable is Jesus.
  • The field represents the world.
  • The treasure stands for God’s people in the world.

The man found the treasure and bought the whole field. Did he want the whole field? No, but he realized that he had to buy it in order to get the treasure. It cost him all he had, but he gladly paid the high price, because he knew the value of the treasure contained in the field.

Consider John 3:16 in light of the parable. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, Jesus, that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but shall have eternal life.” The “whoevers,” the people who believe in him, are the treasure in the field, the people Jesus died to save. He paid for the whole world in order to redeem the “whoevers.” He bought the whole field for his treasure, his redeemed people.

Jesus died for the whole world. He wants everyone to be a believer. He gave his all for the treasure, for those who believe in him.

Now, let’s look at a second parable about a valuable treasure in Matthew 13:45-46. Jesus said, “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went and sold everything he had and bought it.

Perhaps in this parable the merchant is also Jesus. In the first parable, Jesus was talking about all believers. In the second, he was talking about one single pearl, one believer. Picture Jesus holding one single pearl in his hand. Imagine him saying, “I gave my all, my very life just for you.” Jesus loves each of us that much. Each of us can say, “If I had been the only one on earth that needed to be redeemed, Jesus would have died just for me.”

Do you struggle with a sense of shame or worthlessness? Do you wonder whether or not God really wants you, loves you or cares about you? Stop now. Let this parable convince you that you are a pearl, greatly loved by Christ.

The next time you see a pearl, or any sort of gem for that matter, let it remind you that you are precious, of great worth. Christ proved it. He gave his all for you.

[1] Available on Amazon Publisher: DPM-UK (May 17, 2012) ISBN-13: 978-1908594556

 

Shrek the Sheep

 

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You’ve probably seen the movies, may even have read the book, but have you heard about the sheep? Yes, Shrek is also the name of a famous sheep…on the other side of the world…New Zealand, to be exact, where the sheep population outnumbers the humans six to one.

We can safely assume that New Zealand shepherds are far smarter than their sheep. Thus, their sheep are best off cooperating with the one in charge. However, in the late 1990’s, Shrek the Renegade Sheep thought he had a better idea. Shrek decided he no longer wanted to be shorn. This was a foolish decision on the part of the renegade.

  • Long fleece can lead to overheating, limited mobility, and even disease.
  • Shearing also keeps older dirty wool from contaminating new growth.

Evidently none of that mattered to Shrek or, more likely, he simply wanted his own way and didn’t know any better. Big mistake! Want to know how big? Take a look at this photo. This is Shrek after hiding in caves, successfully avoiding six years of annual shearing.

Now, I ask you, does that look like a happy, healthy animal? When he was finally caught and shorn, the wool removed weight 60 pounds, enough to make 20 large men’s suits. Talk about carrying around extra baggage!

Are we ever Shrek-like? You bet.

  • When the Shepherd is ready to remove what we no longer need, or might even do us harm, how often do we balk, hide, or refuse to our own detriment?
  • When have we tried to hold on to what keeps us from healthy spiritual growth?

Surely we are always better off trusting the wisdom of our Shepherd, fully cooperating with the One in charge.

The next time I’m tempted to balk at what God is asking, I’m going to remember Shrek the Renegade, no make that, Miserable Looking Sheep and choose the Shepherd’s way over my own.