Under His Wings (A Month of My Mom)

 

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May is the month of Mother’s Day, and I’ve decided to have Mom as my guest blogger for the entire month. ‘Hope you’ll comment on her wise words. I’ll be sure to pass them along to her!

When the religious leaders of the day asked Jesus to state the greatest commandment, he replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. And love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-39).

The Pharisees had added to the commandments God gave Moses, tacking on so many rules and regulations that the list was almost impossible to remember, let alone obey. Of course, this made the religious leaders seem pious and powerful. Then along came Jesus, who condensed the commandments into two simple statements. Love God. Love your neighbor. In essence, Jesus robbed the leaders of their power and, as you can imagine, they hated him for that.

Jesus didn’t return their hate. He even said, when they sought to kill him, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing” (Luke 13:34). Jesus longed to take care of his people. He still does. He longs to take care of you and me, even with all our imperfections. Picture God as a mother hen and us as his chicks.

  • Some of us stay fairly close to him but often think about wandering off. There’s a bit of something we want to explore over near the barn.
  • Some of us are just pecking away in the dirt, drifting further and further away and feeling pretty proud of our independence.
  • Some of us are almost out of earshot altogether.

When a dangerous storm comes up, a mother hen will call her chicks home and gather them under her wings to protect them. The ones nearby, the strutting independents, and the far off ones all get the same shelter, the same care.

Sometimes we’re like those chicks. We’ve fallen short so many times that we doubt God could care about us. We may be going through such sad, confusing, or painful times that we can barely hear God’s call. We just don’t know where to go for help. Here’s where to go—under his wings. The book of Psalms reminds us of that fact over and over:

“Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings” (Psalm 17:8).

“How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of your wings” (Psalm 36:7).

“I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed” (Psalm 57:1).

I think perhaps this one is my favorite:

“He will cover you with His feathers and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart” (Psalm 91:4).

God longs to cover each of us and shield us. We haven’t wandered too far away to hear his voice. We just need to stop and listen.

House Rules Revisited

Last February, a local MOPS group asked me to talk about the house rules Steve put into place when our children were small. I’ve written about those rules in previous blogs, but thought this might be a good time for a review. Before you take a look, and hopefully click on a few of the links to past blogs, let me reiterate the most important part of what I told those young moms:

These rules, sometimes with a tiny bit of tweaking, apply to us as adults every bit as much as they apply to the children in our lives. So, if you have no kids, have no fear, this blog is still for you! And as we all spend more time at home with our families, perhaps this will serve as a helpful review.

Don’t argue when it doesn’t matter: https://smoothersailing.wordpress.com/2013/07/17/400/

Be happy for what you have, and if you fuss, you lose: https://smoothersailing.wordpress.com/2013/07/24/bhfwyh/

 Obey the first time, and be kind: https://smoothersailing.wordpress.com/2013/07/31/halfway-there/

Pray for someone every day: https://smoothersailing.wordpress.com/2013/08/07/pray-for-someone-every-day/

 Don’t hit, and be respectful (of others, of our Lord, and of your own body.) https://smoothersailing.wordpress.com/2013/08/21/the-final-three/

Got a favorite? A rule you’d like to add? Please take the time to comment.

Flex or Die OR Old Fruit

I learned a lot from our kids’ youth leader a couple of decades ago, but here’s the line that pops into my mind the most:

“Flex or die.”

That’s what Mike used to say when he and his crew were headed out to a service day or a mission trip or even just a fun outing. He wanted them to remember that the unexpected almost always happens. You can bend, or you can break.

How flexible are we? How well do we handle the unexpected, the uncomfortable, or even just the simple change of direction that life can bring? Following Jesus requires a good bit of flexing. We may plan our ways, but he directs our paths, and those paths don’t always go where we expect them to go. For one thing, what he calls us to do today may not even remotely resemble what he’s going to ask us to do next. That brings me to another wise person, Sharmon Coleman, leader of Proven Way Ministries. Here’s what she asked recently:

“Are you serving last season’s fruit?”

I’ve taught math, run a small wholesale bakery, and raised funds for clean water. When in the middle of each of those endeavors, I thought what I was doing might well be what I would do for the rest of my life. In each case, the Lord gently showed me otherwise. I lived in Houston for decades in a house I thought would be my home forever. Wrong.

Hopefully, I’ve finally learned to reign in my assumptions. So, for example, while I’m doing a fair amount of writing and editing these days, I realize there may be a new calling, a new assignment or passion, just aroung the bend.

Yes, there is a place for persistence. But we also have to be ready to flex, to let the Lord take us where we never thought we’d go. The key, in this issue and in all of life, is to stay ready to do our Lord’s will, to follow where we believe he is leading, holding all things with an open hand.

Are you ready to flex? I pray that you are, and that whatever this present season holds for you brings joy to you, glory to God, and blessings to those around you!

photo by Alex Loup via Unsplash

Ouch!

The Prickly Problems of James Chapter 4

Here’s a challenge (based on a recent sermon by Ky Faciane).

Read these verses from the fourth chapter of James.

“What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?…You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures…Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God…Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to youBrothers and sisters, do not slander one another…Who are you to judge your neighbor?…What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes…As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil.”

It might be easy to read those verses and think, “Well, that’s not talking about me!” Take a second look, though. See if you’ve ever found yourself doing any of these things:          

  • Saying (only to yourself, of course) “I have to make my name well-known.”
  • Criticizing a Christian church you’ve never even attended.
  • Hoping people will find out it was you that accomplished some uncredited task.
  • Praying for the very things that you’re inclined to turn into idols.
  • Claiming deep devotion to God while courting popularity or influence (or pleasure, or ease or…)

Now, having looked into a different sort of mirror, are there changes you might make? Yes, me too. And that’s enough for this week!

*Photo by Alex Furgiuele @furgi via Unsplash.com,

 

 

 

 

 

American Idols by Beth Smith

idols Photo by Denny Ryanto on UnsplashI’m sharing one of my mom’s devotionals today. Get ready! It’s a challenging one.

Today I want each of us to figure out whether we are molding idols, or being molded by our Lord. It’s a tough question to ponder.

God commanded us to put him first in our lives when he said, “Have no other gods before or besides me” (Exodus 20:3).

Most of us would probably say, “There’s nothing more important than God.” But do we live out that truth? Or are we molding idols on the side?

In Matthew 6, Jesus reminded his followers that we can’t serve two masters. We can serve God or we can serve mammon (which means riches, money, and possessions.) In the same chapter, he told us to stop worrying about our lives so much that we ignore God. Even what we eat, drink or wear can become idols if those things are more important to us than God. Sure, we need those things, but God knows that, so there’s no need for us to worry. Jesus promises that if seek him and his way of living first, he’ll take care of all those other needs that often preoccupy our thoughts.

Jonah 2:8 is a verse that continually pricks at my heart. It’s part of Jonah’s prayer from the belly of the fish. As he prays, he comes to this revelation and conclusion, “Those who cling to worthless idols turn away from God’s love for them.” Ouch! I wonder how much we miss when we fail to make God first in our lives.

If we stop molding false gods, then God can mold us. Isaiah 64:8 gives us this prayer, “We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.” Even though God’s process of shaping us into what he wants us to be is painful at times, it’s a good thing. Jeremiah 29:11 assures us that the Artist who molds us has a perfect plan. “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ Declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”

God continually molds us so that his perfect plan, his will, can be fulfilled. Some of us take more work than others.  All too often, we resist his shaping. Hard clay has to be kneaded—pushed and pressed to soften it and make it useable. ‘Sounds uncomfortable, doesn’t it? The faster we recognize the Potter’s authority and his loving hand, the sooner he can mold us into what we are designed to be.

We can love a lot of people. We can enjoy many things. But no person and no thing can become our God! What’s keeping us from letting God be God, giving him the rightful place in our hearts? “Little children, keep yourselves from false gods—from anything and everything that would occupy the place in your heart due to God, from any sort of substitute for Him that would take first place in your life” (1 John 5:21 AMP).

How about it? Are we molding idols or letting God mold us? Frankly, I’ve got lots of little gods to get rid of. Do you? I think we’d better get busy.

Photo by Denny Ryanto via Unsplash.com

Contentment (and Ashland Page Two)

conductor GDJ via PixabayMy pastor asked an interesting question last week:

“When was the last time you were just content?”

Previous verses on contentment are recopied at the bottom of this post, but I’ve added one more here:

Godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6b).

We know God wants us to be godly. I think he’s made it pretty clear that he wants us to be content as well. So here’s yet another thought from my time at the American Band College concert in Ashland:

Those very accomplished instrumentalists took their cues from the conductor, no matter how well they thought they knew the music. They knew who was in charge and followed his lead without reserve—no pause, no questions asked. And you can bet the same was true not only for the performance, but for all the rehearsals as well.

So, do we really believe God has a perfect plan? Do we really believe he is all-knowing and all-powerful and all loving? Then why do we ever question, disobey or talk ourselves into going with our own desires instead of following his instructions and commands?

I can almost hear you saying, “But how do I know what he wants me to do?” Fair question, some of the time, and essays on discernment are for another day. But let’s be honest here. There’s a lot we do know about what he wants us to do—and not do. We act like two-year-olds sometimes, insisting on our own way from either from lack of trust, selfishness or pure ignorance.

And I wonder, can there be true contentment without godliness? Maybe not.

So, when was the last time you were just content? If it was a long time ago, what are you doing about that?

Bible Recap:

But I have calmed and quieted myself, I am like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child I am content” (Psalm 131:2).

The fear of the Lord leads to life; then one rests content, untouched by trouble” (Proverbs 19:23).

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want” (Philippians 4:12).

Be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’ So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?’” (Hebrews 13:5b-6).

Photo by GDJ via Pixabay