Brownies and a Dime (or A Little Bit of Sin) by Beth Smith

Brownies Michelle Tsang via unsplash.comI love this story about “a little bit of sin.” Two teenagers wanted to see the latest movie, one their father was quite sure was inappropriate.

“There’s only a little bad language in it,” they pleaded. “There’s almost no violence, and, while they talk about sex, you never see any on screen.” The father was adamant. The teens were upset. Eyes were rolling. Grumbles were rumbling.

But this was a very creative dad who loved his children and wanted to make a point. He headed to the kitchen to bake a batch of brownies. The house was filled with the tantalizing aroma of the coming chocolate treat. The teens soon made their way to the kitchen, begging for brownies.

“Help yourself!” the father said, “But before you dig in, you should know that I added just a little bit of dog poop to the recipe. There’s not much. You won’t be able to see it. I’m pretty sure you won’t even taste it. It probably won’t hurt you a bit.  So go ahead. Have all you’d like.”[1]

They got the point. That’s the way sin is in our lives. It doesn’t matter how much or how little, it’s still there.

First John 1:10 says, “If we claim we have not sinned, we make him (God) out to be a liar and his word is not in us.” Fine! But how about those of us who have really messed up? Some of us have had this thought, “I’ve done so much wrong, really evil stuff. I know I’m beyond redemption, beyond forgiveness.” Not true! Those who are forgiven much love him all the more. None of us are beyond His forgiveness. We’re like the lost coin in the parable that Jesus told. Let me recount it for you.

Suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and carefully search until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15: 8-10 NIV).

The lost coin in this scripture was a silver drachma. It was probably only about the size of a dime, but it was worth about a day’s wages. It was worth the search! And we’re worth the search. If we’re feeling lost, either eternally or temporarily, we can be sure that God desires to find us and to help us find him. He searches for us and joyfully receives us.

Next time you see a dime, let it remind you to cry out, “Here am I, Lord. You’ve found me.”

 

Photo by Michelle Tsang via unsplash.com

[1] http://www.snopes.com/glurge/brownies.asp , accessed 6/2/2015 reported that, “Our earliest sighting of this item comes from a August 2001 web site posting, and it has since appeared in at least one gook. However, even in its earliest incarnation the author was not identified, which makes it difficult to determine whether the story is a true account or a work of fiction.”  This author found it uncredited on several websites.

Advertisements

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

Room for Cream

Hot Tea Anita Austvika UnsplashIt was a crisp but comfortable winter day in Austin. Steve and I were still Houstonians at the time, but had come for a visit and were doing the requisite South Congress walk. We passed all sorts of gift shops and food trucks, none of which merited much of a stop for either of us. Then we saw it—Tom’s Coffee Shop. Tom’s looks like an old but well-loved house, complete with two porch swings and a basket of blankets. Inside, there’s all sorts of coffee and tea from which to choose and a decent array of tempting snacks. Steve saved a spot for us on one of those cozy swings while I placed our order. Remembering that we were on vacation, I asked the barista to leave plenty of room for cream. Then, heading over to the “fix up your cup” table, I added a healthy dose of dairy and agave to each steaming treat and headed outside. We sat. We sipped. We watched the people go by.

I’ve lived in Austin for over a year now. I’ve only gone to Tom’s once since our move, and for a rather quick stop at that. Life fills up. We’ve had other great adventures in lieu of tea on Tom’s porch. But now we’re heading into the holidays and I’m reminded that it’s okay—maybe even very important—to leave “room for cream” more often than not.

Of course, I’m not really talking about half and half. I’m talking about the little extras in life, the non-essentials that actually add a great deal of pleasure to the basics. If you’ve already conquered your type A tendencies, you may not need to read any further. If you’re like me, though, you need these reminders:

Yes, God made us to glorify him, and that often means putting in a great deal of effort as we seek to do his will and follow his lead.

But, he also created us to enjoy him, and I think that includes enjoying the world he made and the pleasant moments he puts within our grasp. We don’t need to stay in constant accomplishment mode. Otherwise, he never would have said, “Be still…”

As the holidays come calling, there’s certainly value in answering with gusto the opportunities to bless others and spread the word that Christ the Savior is born.

But maybe this is the year to remember that celebration is meant to be a gift, not a challenge. A few quiet moments here and there (with tea, perhaps?) may be more important than planning or attending a perfect party.

And so, as we move from Thanksgiving to Christmas, I’m wishing you a wonderful holiday season and plenty of moments with room for cream!

 

Photo by Anita Austvika  via Unsplash.com

Thankful?

turkey-1456358_1280

Hello, my friends! I just finished doing my holiday grocery shopping. It is astounding how grumpy people can be while choosing delicious and surprisingly affordable items (eight sweet potatoes for a dollar!) from a clean, well-lit, climate controlled palace of food. Yes, it was crowded. So are parties and sporting events, so… 

Hey, it’s THANKSgiving, not Grumpsgiving. I hope you’ll be the counterculture kid this holiday season, smiling and reminding everyone of all the gifts we already have. And, just in case you need a bit of extra encouragement, please take a moment to watch this video. Yes, I know, it’s going viral, and you may have already seen it. Even if that’s the case, I hope you’ll watch it again. Powerful stuff!

Have a wonderful holiday!

Christ Beside Me

 

pub unsplash Nikola Jovanovic

Franklin, Tennessee is a charming little town. Steve and I went there for a clean water event several years ago. We stayed in an unforgettable bed and breakfast—run down, yet run by a lady delightful enough to make up for the shortcomings of the room she offered. We hiked a long wooded trail and almost got lost. We dined with Jars of Clay in a barn-like venue owned by Michael W. Smith. And, most memorable of all, we spent several hours in an authentic Irish pub.

I don’t remember the menu or even what the live musicians were playing. What I remember is the poem running around the ceiling edge of the walls like an old- fashioned border:

Christ beside me,

Christ before me,

Christ behind me,

Christ within me,

Christ beneath me,

Christ above me.

Those words, written by Saint Patrick over 1500 years ago, often whisper in the back of my mind, reminding me that I am never alone and that all I do is to be done with Christ, in his name and by his power.

How might our daily lives change if we reminded ourselves of those truths every single morning? Wouldn’t they become part of our path to a happy life, one where the enemy could no longer cause us to fear, where stress over our own performance would simply melt away?

And can we doubt a single line of that verse? Isn’t it really just a rewording of the promises of God heralded by his holy Word?

And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).

You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head” (Psalm 139:5 NLT).

For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3).

I need those promises every day, just as you do. And so my prayer for you today, and the prayer I hope you will lift up on my behalf as well, is this, from Colossians 2: 6-7:

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.”

What’s Pulling Your Train?

train-312107_1280 pixabay 10 18

The experts say we have to hear something seven times before we really get it. So, here’s a new way to say what I’ve said before: 

When life throws a curveball and doubts begin to erode your joy, it helps to ask ourselves this question: What’s pulling your train? Is it faith, fact, or feeling?

The most common human order is FEELING FIRST! We make our feelings the powerful engine of our emotional train, leaving faith to follow along far behind as the powerless caboose. When that happens, our shifting moods and circumstances crowd out all the good we know to be true.

But God loves us even when the sun isn’t shining! He’s in charge even when the world looks impossibly broken or cruel.

God asks us to reverse the cars on that train. Faith comes first. We trust the God of the universe, the Lord who loves us, based on all he has told us in his Word and all he has revealed to us as we’ve relied on him. Of course, that means we need to learn the facts about him.

Memorization can help. Here’s a good place to start:

Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23).

Of course, if you’re like me, memorizing Bible verses can be a little tough. Music always helps. So, let me close by asking you to click over to YouTube, where Chris Rice can help you implant that verse and all its promises into your heart and mind.

Great Is Thy Faithfulness sung by Chris Rice