Brave the Cold (Roberto’s Story)

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Tomorrow would be a big day for Roberto. He would make the thirteen mile drive into town, take the Oath of Allegiance, and become a United States citizen. But tonight it was cold, very cold, and the power was out in a four state area.

For those of you who have never lived in frigid weather, allow me to explain the problem Roberto faced. After sitting overnight in super-cold temperatures, car engines often refuse to start. Modern automotive science has provided a simple solution, a gadget called a block heater. Install it under the hood, plug it in overnight, and bingo, you’re good to go in the morning.

Unless there’s no electricity… Then what?

Roberto’s neighbors came up with a solution. They set up a roster. They pulled together. From midnight ‘til morning, a different neighbor trudged through the cold to Roberto’s home each hour and started his car. When morning came, Roberto was able to become a U.S. citizen as planned.

How willing are we to “brave the cold for our neighbors?” You already know the verse I’m going to quote, but here it is anyway.

Jesus was asked which commandment was the greatest and answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:30-31).

Neighbors aren’t always nice. And they aren’t always right next door. Sometimes your neighbor is actually a sick child (maybe not even your own child), a grumpy friend or a co-worker with whom you just never seem to see eye-to-eye. In all cases, Jesus—the one who died for us–asks us to love them.

Love doesn’t always mean feeling all mushy inside. Love can be inconvenient, difficult or even painful. A lot of the time love means braving the cold.

 

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Halfway There

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‘Covering three more House Rules today:

OFT

OFT stands for Obey the First Time. Obedience is big in the Bible. In Hosea, God said he wanted obedience more than sacrifices. Joshua 1:9 says, “This word of the Lord shall not depart from your mouth, but you will meditate on it day and night so that you may be careful to do all that it says. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.” Obedience is something God wants from us. We need to obey him as soon as we know what he wants us to do. As for our kids, when we require them to obey us the first time we give them instructions, isn’t life better for all concerned? Furthermore, I think the more we help our kids learn to obey us first off, the more easily they learn to obey God without question.

Do to Others as You Want Them to Do to You

We’ve all been taught the Golden Rule, but do we think of it as a scriptural mandate? It comes straight from Luke 6:31. We know the drill; we just need to put it into practice.

  • Be kind.
  • Don’t yell at our kids, or anyone else, for that matter (since, obviously, we don’t want them to yell at us).
  • Smile at grumpy people.
  • Lend a helping hand.
  • Show some grace when people goof.
  • And so on…

Don’t Say Things to Others That Make Them Feel Bad.

James 3 says, “Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.” ‘Hard to add much to that. We need to control what we say, because we can never be sure who is listening, or what effect our words might have.

That’s enough to work on this week, don’t you think?

House Rules

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Long ago, in what seems like another life, I had two small children at home. I loved my time with them, but I still remember one particularly trying day. That evening, my husband sat me down, listened to my complaints, and came up with a document entitled House Rules. He printed it, framed it, and put it on our kitchen windowsill, where it stayed for many years (until my nearly adult children pointed out that it had become something of an embarrassment.) Like any sentimental mother, I stuck it in a closet. I came across it years later and, after taking a few minutes to reread it, realized those rules are as important for me to follow now as they were for me to teach way back when.

The rules I’m going to share with you have their roots in scripture. Our loving Lord doesn’t sit up in heaven waiting for us to mess up so he can pounce on us and mete out punishment. He has, however, given us a Manufacturer’s Handbook. Doing things his way just works better. So, for the next several weeks, in no particular order, I give you  my family’s version of “House Rules.”

1. Don’t Argue When It Doesn’t Matter.

Psalm 34:14b says, “Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.” This rule is essentially about keeping peace. It boils down to getting really good at saying “So what?” For starters, we ought not to be the details police, forever correcting our friends and family about the everyday, unimportant details of life. If it rained last Tuesday and I ordered fish, but someone describes me eating chicken in the sunshine, so what? 

Then we need to reconsider the details that matter to us, but probably shouldn’t. If the hymn they played on Sunday was a little loud for our liking, so what? ‘Same goes for when a kindergartener wants to wear the same pair of jeans to school every day, or a teenager wants to paint the bedroom walls black, or a spouse is running ten minutes late today. So what? Some things we don’t like do matter, but an awful lot of them just aren’t all that important.  Like the guy in the Indian Jones movies says, we “must choose, but choose wisely!”

I’d love to hear your comments in the coming weeks. What are your house rules? How do you keep them in mind? And when have you had to learn to say, “So what?”

What’s Bugging You?

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“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6).

We are instructed by God to submit every aspect of our lives to him. Anything contrary to his will (no matter how cherished or insignificant it may seem) weakens our relationship with him and cripples our spiritual growth.

Just as headaches may actually be the symptom of a physical problem hidden somewhere else in the body, coldness in our spiritual lives may be caused by a problem hidden in some unexpected part of our nature. As the Holy Spirit shows us things we have not yet surrendered, we’ve got to give them up to him. Hannah Whitall Smith explained the need for vigilant submission to the Holy Spirit by relating an unusual housekeeping problem she once had:

We had moved into a new home, and I noticed in the cellar a very clean-looking cider barrel sealed up at both ends. Busy moving in, I left it undisturbed. I did not feel quite easy about this choice, but reasoned away my scruples and left it. Every spring and fall, as I cleaned, I would remember that cask with a little twinge of housewifely conscience which I managed to ignore for two or three years. Then, most unaccountably, moths began to fill our house. I tried everything I knew to do to eradicate them. Nevertheless, they increased rapidly and threatened much ruin. After cleaning and replacing carpets and upholstery and all sorts of things, the thought of the barrel flashed on me. At once I had it brought up the stairs and into the yard, where it was opened. Thousands of moths poured out, and finally the problem was solved.[1]

Innocent looking habits or indulgences, sometimes apparently unimportant and safe things about which we now and then have little twinges of conscience, lie at the root of much spiritual weakness. Some secret corner of our lives may still be kept locked against our Lord’s presence. To prevent spiritual failure, or to discover its cause, we need to ask him to show us what has yet to be relinquished. Then we need to listen to his still small voice.

So, what’s bugging you?


[1]Hannah W. Smith, The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life (Boston: Willard Tract Repository, 1875), 134-135, author’s paraphrase.

Tired by Tuesday?

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Sometimes I find myself looking for the weekend way too early in the week. Most of the time if I think back over the preceding days, I’ll find that I broke a commandment, number four to be exact:

Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest… (Exodus 20:8-10 NLT).

We won’t be saved by keeping the Sabbath, but life might work a whole lot better if we simply stopped one day a week. God has ordained rest for us, yet we all too often skip the Sabbath because we think we have too much to do. Isn’t a full life all the more reason we need a Sabbath?

When we look forward to the Sabbath, it’s easier to work vigorously on the other six days. If we find ourselves tuckering out mid-week, it’s easier to press on knowing a break is only a few days away.

When we prepare for the Sabbath it’s harder for the realities of life to snatch away the refreshment we need. In Jewish law, a Sabbath rest runs from sundown to sundown. This is a much more effective plan than trying to wake up in the morning and do no work until bedtime.

We need to spend part of the day before the Sabbath wrapping up loose ends, clearing the emails, doing the dishes, cutting the lawn. Whatever it is, we’ve got to get it done, or make peace with putting it off. That evening and the following day we are freed from everything that qualifies as work. (The definition of “work” will vary from person to person.)

Enjoy the break! Rediscover rest! I find it helpful to keep a pad and pen handy for jotting down all those “must do’s” that come to mind. Then I try to forget about them until the evening comes and the Sabbath ends.

After 24 hours of rest, we can begin to work again with gusto. Most post-Sabbath Mondays my body is rested, my mind and spirit renewed. I wake up ready for the week instead of wondering how I’ll make it to Friday.

How lovely to have a Lord who knows us well enough to command us to rest! What’s to hold us back from enjoying that blessed rule?