Marvelous Mercy by Beth Smith

marvelous mercy m and m robertIn my hometown, you could say anything bad about anybody as long as you said, “Bless their hearts” first, like this:

  • “Bless his heart, he never did have the brains God gave a grasshopper.”
  • “Did you see that outfit Edna Mae wore to church last Sunday? Bless her heart, you know she must be color blind.”

Not exactly the Biblical concept of blessing, huh? And we misused the word “mercy” this way:

  • “Lord have mercy, she looks like a hussy. You’d think she’d have better sense than to wear her clothes so tight.”
  • “Lord have mercy, was that Deacon Jones coming out of the liquor store?”

Sometimes we said “it’s a mercy” or “for mercy’s sake,” or, if we had a lot to say and were in a hurry, just plain “mercy.”

  • “It’s a mercy he hasn’t had a wreck – the way that boy drives.”
  • “For mercy’s sake, you know they don’t have the money for that new car. They’re going into debt again.”

But here’s the truth. “Mercy” and “blessing” are important words when we use them the right way. We are blessed, and God’s mercy is marvelous.

  • Mercy means compassionate treatment. God treats us with compassion when we surrender our lives to him.
  • Mercy means undeserved kindness. Because Christ has paid the penalty for our sins, God gives us mercy instead of justice.
  • Merciful people are inclined to forgive. That describes God, too. It’s a good thing, because we all need his forgiveness.

How do we know God is merciful? In Exodus, when Moses was on Mt. Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments, God appeared and described himself as, “The God of compassion and mercy…slow to anger and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness” (Exodus 34:6 NLT).

Mercy was a favorite topic of David’s. In the Psalms we read:

  • I have trusted in thy mercy” (Psalm 13:5 KJV).
  • I will be glad and rejoice in thy mercy” (Psalm 31:7 KJV).
  • The Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting” (Psalm 100:5 KJV).

David knew God was merciful, that he needed God’s mercy, and that he could ask for it and receive it. So can we, not because of any goodness in us, but because mercy is one aspect of God’s character. His very nature is to be merciful.

Hebrews 4:16 (NIV) says, “Let us then approach God’s throne with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Since we receive mercy, we’re instructed to give it as well. Jesus said, “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36 NIV).

So here’s an unusual challenge for you. Every time you see an M&M let it remind you that you’re blessed by God’s Marvelous Mercy. God is kind and loving. He knows all things and is all-powerful. And being blessed by his mercy is a truly wonderful gift.

Photo by Robert Anasch via Unsplash

 

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Movie Week

 

film-1392143__480 movie week pixabay

I have quite the husband. He joined me in watching all three of my favorite movies last month. All three! Even though we own them—and have watched them multiple times—we laughed and loved every minute. Then I got to thinking, why those three?

Well, first of all, here’s my list of winners:

The Family Man (PG-13 2000) earned a separate blog post at this site in 2013 because of my favorite quote, “I choose us.” This Christmas tale follows Jack (played by Nicholas Cage), a Wall Street Executive who gets a chance to glimpse the life that might have been. Bonus: The kids in that movie are almost as cute as my grandchildren.

A Good Year (PG-13 2006) This cinematic beauty introduces us to Max—both as a youngster and as a wildly successful London stock broker. The adult Max (Russell Crowe), having inherited a vineyard in Provence, is forced to remember his past and re-evaluate his present life. The movie isn’t as heavy as the description makes it sound. There’s plenty of humor woven into the message.

The Kid (PG 2000) This one appeals to the sci-fi/fantasy buff in me. Bruce Willis plays a self-absorbed jerk who doesn’t even realize what he’s missing until a mysterious kid shows up and…Well, I can’t really tell you what happens next. You’ll have to see for yourself. Watching Lily Tomlin as his secretary adds to the fun, though. If you haven’t seen it, don’t let anyone talk to you about it. They might spoil the terrific ending.

Why are these three movies my favorites? Perhaps because of their common story threads:

  • Family trumps wealth.
  • Love softens the hardest heart.
  • Relationships are where the real joy begins.
  • Kindness counts and often pays off rather well.

These are “secular” movies, and I’ve listed a few warnings about their ratings below. Still, they reiterate lessons many of us learned in Sunday school:

  • Love one another.
  • Be faithful in marriage.
  • Value family and friends.
  • Practice kindness.
  • Enjoy children.
  • Be careful not to love money.

So, if you’re looking for something to do next time the movie bug bites, consider my favorites. And let me know yours. I’ve got plenty of popcorn waiting, and I’m always looking for a good recommendation! Have a great week.

Photo by kalhh via pixabay.com

Love Muscles by Beth Smith (my mom!)

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At the end of 1 Corinthians 12, Paul wrote that we should desire the highest and best gifts from God.  And he said the best gift is love. This love is not some mushy, worked up, pretend or temporary love. It’s real. And if you know Jesus as your Savior, you already have it! I know that’s true because Romans 5:5 (NIV) tells us, “God’s love has been poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit.” It’s poured in. It’s there. All we have to do is use it, exercise it. Here are five areas where we can exercise God’s love – five love muscles we need to use. They come from 1 Corinthians 13:4-5.

  • Love is patient. How can we exercise this love muscle? We could stop being in such a hurry all of the time, maybe stop and listen to someone else’s ideas for a change, or be willing to be uncomfortable in a situation and still keep a good attitude. (Grocery store check-out lines are a place where I need to practice patience.)
  • Love is kind. Kindness is a lost art in our modern world. Simply being nice makes such a difference! What exercises can we do here? Pick up someone else’s mess. Help fix dinner. Turn off the computer or the TV to listen to our mate, our children or our friends. (Just pushing the mute button doesn’t count.)
  • Love is not jealous or self-seeking. Jesus said we should lose sight of ourselves and our own interests. That’s so hard to do, especially in tough times. Do it anyway! Call someone. Send an encouraging email. Help. Give. If, everyday, we would think, “Who can we bless today?” our bent toward self-centeredness would be cured.
  • Love is not boastful or proud. Love is humble. Jesus is our great example of humility. He went from the throne of heaven to a manger and then to a cross. What can we do? Serve others. Look to give instead of to get. This should be especially true in our homes. Sometimes that’s the hardest place to exercise humility.
  • Love keeps no records of wrongs. Love forgives. We need to remember how many times God has forgiven us, and then go and do the same to others. What should we do when we are offended? Just drop it. Let it go.

Exercising love isn’t always easy, but we do it by keeping our eyes on Christ. We can be patient, kind, encouraging, humble and forgiving. The more we exercise these muscles, the stronger they’ll become. When we don’t want to exercise those love muscles, we can still do it for Jesus’ sake. That will be the best muscle building exercise ever!

I’d love to hear your comments here.

Love in Many Forms

love unsplas renee fisher @reneefisherandco

 Love comes in many forms, and one year long ago it came as an abundance of gifts from a classroom of eager fourth graders. It was my third year as a teacher, and those gifts confirmed that I’d finally struck the right balance between disciplinarian and devoted mentor. After spreading my bounty out across our antique dining room table, I left with my husband for the warmth of Florida’s Gold Coast. We were new to the slightly chilly Houston weather and, not knowing any better, left our heater off. (Mistake!)

A week later, love came in another form, as a dear friend and relative cleaned up what was left of our dining room ceiling, which had collapsed onto that antique table. He then proceeded to mop up the water that had flooded our little house as frozen pipes burst. (Goodbye smashed and soaking teacher gifts!) We faced multiple hours of repair work, but it was all made so much easier because someone else had started the process before we even returned home.

Less than a year later, love came in the form of our first child. We moved to another city before she could crawl. Budgets and schedules had to change. Sleep had to take a back seat. I learned just how much I could give in the name of love. I also learned that God’s loving gifts don’t always look like blessings at first. Sometimes they look like chaos or hard work or a big mess.

Case in point: our first home was a small, dated 3/2 until the broken pipes brought down the ceiling and ruined the carpet and walls. Insurance money—and elbow grease—turned that same house into a newly renovated showcase that sold quickly, even in the middle of a housing crisis. The same friends that helped with the clean-up helped with the packing. The students’ gifts, even after they were ruined, helped give me the confidence I needed to teach my own children later on.

Yep, love comes in many forms, some a little hard to recognize at first. But look closely. You’ll find it. And dig deeply, because somebody needs you to share God’s love with them today!

 

Photo by Renee Fisher @ reneefisherandco vi Unsplash.com

 

A Level Praying Field by Beth Smith

playing field Henrique Macedo via Unsplash.com
We’re all a lot more alike than we realize. For example, does your mind ever wander in church? Have you ever found yourself singing a praise song while asking yourself one of these questions?
  • What’s for lunch?
  • When is the game starting?
  • Why don’t we ever sing my favorite song?
  • Did I turn off the curling iron? (female)
  • Will there be doughnuts after the service today? (male)

Admit it! We’ve all had a few of those thoughts. One of my children, who shall remain nameless, said he (or she) wondered what it would be like if frogs jumped out of the baptismal bowl. I must admit I’ve never had that thought.

We also all have our differences. Our society tries to compensate for that. Consider the way kids choose up sides for a game. The best players get chosen first for each team in order to even up the talent. (Almost everyone I know claims to have felt the pain of being the last one chosen. I certainly have.)

We might also think there’s a spiritual playing field—a “Praying Field” run by God. (Maybe we fear we’ll be the last one chosen there as well.) Not true! God’s children are all of equal value in his eyes.

For God so loved the world…that whoever believes…” (John 3:16 NIV). We all receive his love. We are all “whoevers.”

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this:  While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8 NIV).  When we come to Him, when we accept his love, we all receive the same forgiveness and mercy.

The Lord…is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9 NIV). Somehow we fall into two ways of thinking about God’s ability and willingness to forgive us. We consider ourselves either too good to truly need it, or so bad that it couldn’t possibly work.

Listen! Sin is sin. We can’t enter into heaven with a single bit of it. We all need forgiveness. We’re on a level field. God offers all of us the same love and the same forgiveness. God equally desires each of us to be His own. As you go about your day today, I hope you’ll make a point of accepting God’s love and forgiveness and sharing it with those around you as well.

Photo by Henrique Macedo via Unsplash.com

You Win the Serve!

 

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I grew up in South Florida, Hollywood to be exact. It was a great place to be a kid. I’ll spare you the long list of delights and simply describe one—paddleball. Paddleball is a bit like racquetball except:

  • The paddle is all wood.
  • The ball is pink and very bouncy.
  • The court is outside, and open except for the front wall.

Good luck finding many paddleball courts, or paddle balls for that matter, now.(I couldn’t even find a photo!) But once upon a time, it was all the rage. There were courts by the schools, courts at public parks and courts by the beach, all of them crowded.

My dad taught me to play paddleball. It was great fun and a great workout. I didn’t realize until recently that it was also a great way for him to instill his positive attitude in me.  As a general rule, my dad did not let me win.

Lesson number one: Life doesn’t always give you what you want.

The rules of paddleball are pretty simple.

  • When your opponent slams the ball off the front wall, hit it before it bounces more than once.
  • Make sure your return sends the ball to the front wall before it hits the ground again.
  • Don’t hit the ball out of bounds. (You’ll lose the point, and you’ll have to go running for it. Remember, no back wall!)

We would play until we were drenched with sweat and out of breath. We’d laugh a lot. I haven’t played in decades, but my imagination can take me back to the court by Hollywood Hills Elementary School in an instant.

Lesson number two: Simple things, done with those you love, are priceless.

My dad is really good with words. He would say silly things as we played like “7- Up, the all family drink” when we were tied 7-7 and “We all need fortitude” when the score was 4-2. But the one I remember best is this: “You win the serve.” In racquetball, whoever loses a game gets to serve first for the next one.  I never once heard my dad say, “You lost.” He always said, “You win the serve.”

Lesson three: A whole lot of life is dependent on how you look at things.

My dad has had his share of hardship. You don’t need to read his list. You’ve got your own list. But he would be the first to tell you that he has lived and is living a life into which the Lord has poured great blessing.

  • He would tell you that sometimes he’s won the game and sometimes he’s won the serve.
  • He would recount the importance of spending time with those you love.
  • He would remind you that you won’t always win, but that will be okay.

My dad is a smart guy. I hope you’ll benefit from some of his wisdom today!