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.

 

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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.

 

 

Merry Christmas!

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Merry Christmas, and may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him!

Thanks for reading!

Brenda

Corrie

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Corrie ten Boom.

I hope you know that name. Already an older woman when World War II began, she and her family risked their lives to provide refuge for Jews, hiding some of them in a closet-sized room when the Nazi’s raided their home. I grew up reading The Hiding Place, then watching the movie that carried the same title, then re-reading the book as an adult. Her account of the many ways God worked before, during, and after her stay in a concentration camp inspired me, spurring me on to greater faith in the Lord who loves us.

Fast forward a couple of decades. Today I headed to the gym, Kindle Fire in hand. I know I need to work out, but I don’t like to work out. Watching videos as I sweat on a treadmill makes it all more tolerable. Today, thank you Amazon Prime, I came across Corrie ten Boom: A Faith Undefeated.

I had been listening to the radio as I drove to our neighborhood fitness center. It proclaimed all the awful possibilities facing us now and threatening us in the days to come. Some of those threats are very real. Even now hardship abounds at home and abroad. I was saddened. Then I began to listen to Corrie. I’m keeping this blog short in hopes that you’ll click on that link and watch a bit of the film that documents her story. Spoiler alert, though, here is the closing quote:

Look around and be distressed.

Look within and be depressed.

Look at Jesus…and be at rest.

May you be at rest this week!