Matthew Kelly

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Who were the first people who didn’t read the Apple agreement?

Adam and Eve 

A neighbor invited me to a Matthew Kelly conference, and that was one of his opening jokes. I don’t know him well enough to endorse all he says and does, but I want to share a bit of wisdom, gleaned from that conference, with you. (My notes are not perfect, so these quotes are actually paraphrases. The italicized comments are mine.)

“Four signs of a dynamic Christian are prayer, study, generosity, and evangelism.” (Well, that’s enough to work on for a while, don’t you think?)

“Be hungry for best practices.” (So back we go to the Manufacturer’s Handbook to learn how to live.)

“Our lives change when our habits change.”

“Get good at saying no. The only way to say no to anything is to have a deeper yes.”

“God speaks to you daily through three ordinary voices: Your legitimate needs, your talents and abilities, and your deepest desire.”

“Often times God does his greatest work in the midst of our darkness.” (Actually, the credit for that one goes to the conference worship leader, Eliot Morris.)

“If I lived out just one Gospel reading 100%, my life would change radically. We need to work on the gap between that life and the lives we are living now.” (More on this later.)

“There are two ways to live life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” (Matthew was quoting Albert Einstein here. I want to live the second way!)

“Men stumble over the truth from time to time, but most pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing happened.” (That’s from Winston Churchill. Do we live according to the eternal truths we have?)

“When we walk humbly with God, he leads us to exactly who and what we need, to those people, things, and experiences he has designed and intended for us.”

I’d love to hear what you think of Matthew Kelly’s thoughts. Feel free to use the comment box below!

 

Bugs Bunny: A Two Part Tale

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Part One: If you were to survey the artwork in my home, two pieces would strike you right away. One is a giclee of Bugs Bunny playing the piano, a work by Chuck Jones appropriately entitled “Bugs at Piano.” It was a gift to us from Elizabeth when she graduated from college. The other is “Café Terrace at Night” by Vincent Van Gogh. (Of course, it’s just a copy, one we ordered on the internet.)

Part Two: My sister Rebekah was only 7 when I left for college. She lives in Burbank now, and I live in Houston. Despite the distance, we are still close. We had those few short years of living together, and now we keep in touch by phone and text. Earlier this summer, though, I had the pleasure of spending an afternoon at her house. I was surprised to discover that she has one very prominent piece of artwork displayed on her entryway wall—“Café Terrace at Night.”

Rebekah and I have never discussed art. We rarely see one another’s homes, yet of all the options in all the world, we chose the same painting for our walls. Coincidence? Perhaps, but I submit that we are simply of the same mind.

  • We’ve spent a great deal of time together.
  • We converse.
  • We keep each other in mind.

The second chapter of 1 Corinthians talks about having the mind of Christ. I want to be of the same mind as Christ, don’t you? I want to have his perspective, especially when things aren’t going the way I would choose. I want to emulate his love for others and be led by his wisdom. How do we get that?

  • We spend a great deal of time together—sometimes reading scripture, sometimes fellowshipping with other believers in his company, and sometimes just being still with him.
  • We converse—pouring out our hearts in prayer and praise and seeking to hear his still small voice.
  • We keep each other in mind. Well, I already know the Lord has me in mind all the time. Practicing his presence, keeping him first in my thoughts, is another thing altogether, but an important discipline to develop.

I don’t think these three habits should simply be another list of resolutions. Rather, they are items of prayer, choices we can only make and maintain by the power of the Holy Spirit. They will not always be easy, but imagine the joy and comfort that awaits those of us who truly begin to have the mind of Christ!

Remember to Remember by Beth Smith

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I love the old song, “Count Your Blessings.” The lyrics tell us to, “name them one by one” in order to see what God has done. It’s so important to remember our blessings and to be quick to thank God for them.

Deuteronomy 4:9 says, “Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them. Do not forget. We need to remember God, who he is and what he’s done for us. In Psalm 77, David was in a really bad way. He couldn’t sleep. He said his soul would not be comforted. He asked such questions as:

  • Has the Lord rejected me forever?
  • Will he never show me favor?
  • Is his unfailing love gone forever?
  • Have his promises failed?

Haven’t we felt that way? I certainly can identify with David. After those questions, though, comes the word “Selah,” which means pause. Then, as if a light bulb has just gone off above his head, a change occurs, and David says, “I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will consider all your works and meditate on all your mighty deeds.” Your ways, God, are holy. What god is as great as our God? You are the God who performs miracles; you display your power among the peoples” (Psalm 77:11-14).

What a change in David’s attitude, his emotions and his outlook! We need our own Selah—a pause, an interlude to stop and consider who God is and what he’s done for us. Perhaps we need to write down our list of blessings so we won’t forget, or so that when we do forget, we can see that list and remember once again.

Even when we do forget about God and his blessings, he doesn’t forget about us. In Isaiah 49:15-16, God says, “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.”

That’s amazing! And here’s more good news, offered to you in the form of “homework.” I hope you will read Psalm 103, which begins, “Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits” (Psalm 103:1-2). Look at the rest of the Psalm to see how many good things David lists. Since God never changes, those same good things, those benefits, are not just for David, they’re for us too.

Consider making a list of the ways God has blessed you. You’ll be glad you did.

Psalm 78

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I love to talk (and write) about trusting the Lord, worshipping him, honoring him. Today, though, my Bible reading covered the other side of the coin, the dark side, so to speak. The verses below, beginning with Psalm 78:40, point out what happens when we ignore the Lord our God:

“How often they rebelled against him in the wilderness and grieved him in the wasteland! Again and again they put God to the test; they vexed the Holy One of Israel.”

I could try to pass these verses off as ancient history, a simple description of the Israelites as they wandered the wilderness, with no implications for my own life. I don’t believe that’s the only reason they are recorded in the book of Joshua, though. I can rebel. I can grieve him. I can vex the Holy One of Israel. How? I suppose there’s more than one way, but look at the very next verse. It’s the one that struck me this morning as an important reminder of what it means to serve the Lord.

“They did not remember his power—the day he redeemed them from the oppressor, the day he displayed his signs in Egypt, his wonders in the region of Zoan…”

The Israelites lost sight of the power of God. Despite all he had done, all the ways he had revealed himself, they abandoned their faith in him. They fell into fear and a frenzy of complaints whenever the going got rough.

God makes it clear throughout the Bible that he does not ever want to be forgotten or ignored. He is to be the center of our lives and of our thoughts every single day. Do we benefit from that kind of faith and trust? Of course, but that’s not the reason we are to keep him as our focus. We are to remember his power because that is what he demands, what he commands us to do. And when we don’t, we have rebelled. We grieve and vex him. We walk in disobedience.

These are hard words, but only if we choose to ignore them. The brighter side of this coin is that the One who created us, who created all things, wants us to be in close, continuous relationship with him. Joshua had that, and so can we.

Signs of Healing

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Crossword puzzles have become a part of my bedtime routine most evenings. I find that they engage my brain just enough to help me tone down all the other thoughts that clamor for attention throughout the day. A few nights ago, though, the very first crossword clue started me thinking about perspective.

The clue for 1 across was “Signs of healing.” The answer was five letters long. Since I had no idea what it might be, I took a look at 1 down. One down was easy and started with an “s.” So: signs of healing, five letters, starting with an S. Have you got it? I didn’t either. The answer turned out to be scars.

What? Scars? I’ve always thought of scars as a sign of injury, not of healing. I have scars on my belly now, three of them, serving as daily reminders that errant cells within my body demanded surgery. But signs of healing? Well, come to think of it, my body has healed. No bleeding or infection runs along those three little lines. And the small bald spot on my husband’s temple where a childhood fall required stitches? It poses no threat and causes no pain. It too has healed. So has the place on my father’s back where melanoma was removed half a century ago.

Perspective is a powerful thing. We all have scars, some of them physical, some emotional. We might look at them and think, “Why did I have to suffer such an injury?” But even if the scar itches or aches now and then, it is no longer a wound. We can choose to let those same scars remind us that, praise God, we have healed. In that choice, much of life changes.

Do we really trust God to carry us through all hardships? Our loving Lord heals our wounds and uses our troubles (often in ways we would not choose and may not understand.) If we can remember his intervention in our lives, then once we bear scars, they are indeed signs of healing.

 

How are you?

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We were in Delft buying, of course, Delftware, those blue and white ceramic pieces that say, “I went to The Netherlands!” It was late in the day, and the little shop was rather crowded, probably because their prices were so good. I waited in line at the counter, ready to pay for my Christmas ornaments, impressed by the excellent English of the clerk. (I had given up on learning any Dutch.)

When my turn came, I handed the young lady my selections, smiled, and said, “Hello, how are you?” Her response caught me off guard. With nary a hint of incrimination in her voice, she simply said, “May I ask you a question? Why do you Americans ask, ‘How are you?’ when you can’t possibly care how each person really is?”

I’m sure I hesitated a bit as I struggled to come up with a sensible answer to an excellent question. “It’s a greeting we use. We actually do try to care about the response.” (My answer was lame, but the best I could come up with at the time.) Here is my question today, though. Do we care about the answer? Or, in our hurried world, do we ask without thinking, and hope for a quick, “I’m fine. How are you?” so that we can go along our way without pause.

Pause. How often do we pause? How often do we probe a bit for the real answer to the “How are you?” question? And if we do receive an honest response, how often do we take time to listen, to follow up, to offer some sort of related service beyond a quick, “I’ll keep you in my prayers”?

I want to learn to pause, to mean it when I ask the question, to listen when I’m given an answer, to look into the eyes of friend and stranger alike and care. Please, join me. And if you are so inclined, tell me about your own “How are you?” encounters.