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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

How to Happily Camp with 3 Cats

 There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear expects punishment. The person who is afraid has not been made perfect in love.
                                                                                    1st John 4:18

My husband and I enjoy camping, and we always take our three cats. 

At first, I was very worried about those cats.  They are indoor cats and have very seldom been outside.  They mainly stay away from the doors at the house because we keep shoo-ing them away.  But what if one got out at a campground, ran away, and we never saw her again?  I would never forgive myself.

After some thought, I decided to use an old but useful apparatus called Mr. Behavior Modification.  It comes in a handy spray bottle filled with water. 

So off we went on our first trip with the cats. 

While we were getting organized after reaching the campsite, I placed Mr. Behavior Modification on the outside step.  Meanwhile, Gracie, Trudie and Satin were fascinated by this new location and sat at the screen door while sniffing the air and watching anything that moved.  

When I approached the door from the outside, I would say “Get back!” and spray a little water in their faces.  They absolutely loathed it and would run to the other end of the camper (which was only 24 feet away!).  It took about twice for each cat to learn to move away from that door when I said the magic words, “Get back!”

One more victory for Mr. Behavior Modification!

Basically, the cats were doing something I didn’t want them to do, so I used fear as a motivation for behavioral change.  Normally they’re not afraid of me, but they learned to be when I punished them.  They developed the fear of a face-full of water if they didn’t get away from that door.  Fear expects punishment. 

It’s the same way with the world.  We all live in fear of all kinds of punishments.  When we’ve said something in anger, we fear a broken relationship.  When we can’t pay the mortgage, we fear homelessness.  When we hear of layoffs, we fear losing our job.

How can love drive all of that away?  How can love help pay the mortgage or keep someone employed?

Because God is love.  So if you substituted God for love in that last paragraph, it would look like this:  How can God drive all of that away?  How can God help pay the mortgage or keep someone employed?

And now that we’ve seen it put that way, it’s a little clearer on how this love thing works.  God takes care of everything in one way or another.  Loving God through times of trouble makes the bond between us stronger. 

God’s love is perfect, but he doesn’t expect that from us.  He does expect us to do the best we can while leaning on His Son.  Keeping our eyes upon Jesus gets us through it.    

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Oh, You Shouldn’t Have!

Don’t you just love to get a gift?  I always feel a little greedy as I frantically tear the wrapping off or jerk the tissue paper out of the gift bag.  I never was one to carefully pull the tape off, gingerly unwrap, and then smooth out and keep the wrapping paper.  No, gimme my gift!  Who cares about the paper?

But sometimes it’s hard to take a gift from someone.  If it’s not my birthday or Christmas, why would someone give me a gift?  When I was working at the Clerk’s Office, every once in a while one of my customers would bring me a little something, and it really made my day, week and year!  But I always protested, “Oh, you didn’t have to bring me anything!”  And the customer would be smiling broadly at me because the gift was working its magic of making me feel special.

That’s what we really want, isn’t it?  We want to feel special, we want to be special.  We want to know that someone somewhere is thinking about us, wanting to be with us, praying for us. 

And most of all, we want to be loved.  When we are given a gift just out of the blue, we feel loved.  It feels so good!

Do you know what your spiritual gifts are?  Do you know what your talents are?  Do you know which are spiritual gifts and which are talents?  As Christians, we can get all tangled up in these questions.  We love the Lord and we want to do things for Him out of the joy we have for Him.

There are plenty of books and studies on discovering your gifts and/or talents.  I know people who have taken more than one class on this subject and still are not satisfied that they know the answers.

I think we should forget the questions and just relax.  Why not take everything, gift or talent, and use it for God?  Just assume that whatever it is that you’re good at is from God (because it is) and then use it for God’s glory.

I have said this before and I will say it again and again:  As Christians, we have to be different.  Who cares if it’s a spiritual gift or a talent if it’s used for God?

Anybody can have a talent.  Anybody can do good works.  There are many fine people out there doing just that, but they are not Christians. 

Spiritual gifts come to Christians from the power of the Holy Spirit.  When you’ve done something that satisfies your soul, or something you know is beyond your capabilities, you have tapped into that power.  It’s a glorious thing, and we need to look at it and be aware that we have been used by God. 

Come, Holy Spirit.  Fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.          
                                                                       1 Peter 4:10 (NIV)

Saturday, November 17, 2012

And Behind Door Number 1…

And at the same time pray for us also, that God may open a door to us for the Word (the Gospel), to proclaim the mystery concerning Christ (the Messiah) on account of which I am in prison.         Colossians 4:3 (AMP)

I’ve heard the saying that goes “When God closes one door, he opens another one.”  Or “When God closes a door, he opens a window.”

I didn’t realize that this imagery was in the Bible, but I came across it in this verse.

I can’t help but visualize a scene from the movie Monsters, Inc. where there were seemingly hundreds upon hundreds of doors, all different and all destined for a child’s room with monsters ready to spring from behind them.

One little girl, though, wasn’t afraid of the monsters at all.  Turns out they were afraid of her.  She didn’t mind the door opening.  To this toddler, it meant an adventure, something new to experience. 

All of this door talk is scary, no matter how you look at it.  A door closing can be a very traumatic thing.  I can get really attached to a door (and what it represents).  When a favored door starts creaking shut, I’ll fight to hold it open until the bitter end.  And at times, I am very bitter for a long while.

But then there are the doors that are slowing swinging open.  Oh, no!  I don’t want that, either!  It’s scary and dark in there.  I don’t recognize anything, and I’m sure I won’t be able to get a handle on it before others start their comments on my obvious discomfort. 

Why do I continue to go round and round in circles?  It seems as though I’m never content with the doors as they open and close.  Even when I feel relief as a problem door finally closes, I have a vague notion of defeat.  “You could have handled that better,” I hear whispered in my ear.  “It didn’t have to end.  Why did you let it?” 

The evil one really knows how to stretch it out, doesn’t he?  I was a court reporter for 7 years after going to school for 2 years, so I had 9 years wrapped up in it.  The whole thing, the whole 9 years, was a nightmare for me.  Whatever could go wrong, did go wrong in about seven different ways.  I begged God to deliver me from this horrible situation.

And He did!  That was 17 years ago.  I praise Him for it! I praise Him because He loves me and takes care of me.  But I also still feel a bit of regret.  I really should have done it better. 
To know that I was trying so hard that I ended up with stroke-level blood pressure that could have killed me doesn’t help.  To know that I really, really did my best doesn’t help.  To know that God has used that experience in countless ways for His glory doesn’t help.  The regret is still there.  I’m still listening to the whispers.

I really admire Paul.  In the verse above, he is praying for a door to open so that he can preach the Gospel, even though that’s precisely why he’s in prison.  He had had every single door in his life slammed shut as he collapsed under the power of Christ Jesus on the road to Damascus.  But, oh, what a door that was opened to him!

That I may proclaim it fully and make it clear [speak boldly and unfold that mystery], as is my duty.    Colossians 4:4 (AMP)

Can the rest of us do any less?




Thursday, November 8, 2012

A Chance

This was first posted on my blog
Miscellaneous Ramblings
 on May 8, 2012
Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!
Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!

Psalm 34:8

"Oh, taste…" Well, I don't need anyone to tell me twice.  I'm right in there, tasting away. 

We have to eat, right?  If you have gained a few (or a lot) of pounds by eating too much, then you've got a whole nuther set of problems.

I had gastric-bypass surgery in 2004 and lost 90 pounds.  I can't eat the same things I used to eat.  I can't tolerate much sugar, so I'm constantly checking the labels to see how many sugar grams there are.  It's absolutely astounding how much sugar can be in one granola bar!  I don't know, maybe I was addicted to sugar before my surgery.  I couldn't eat very much of anything for months afterward, certainly not sugary stuff, so that forced abstinence may have broken the sugar addiction.  I'm just speculating here.

One thing that's kind of funny about it is that I don't crave sugar.  I don't miss it at all.  If something sugary looks good to me, I'm just hungry and a little food that I can tolerate will take care of that.  

When I eat, I have to pick and choose what I can eat.  If I don't choose wisely, I can end up very physically sick.  It's so bad, I'd have to feel better to die!  Sometimes pain is the best motivator we've got.

So I look over my options of what will work.  I try to eat slowly and chew every bite very well.  I have to remember that if things don't go down right, they will rebel at some point in my body. 

Because I have only so much space to fill, I reach for the stuff I like best first.  I'll see how things are going and then add something else if I feel I can handle it.  All this took years of practice and hit-or-miss methods of getting what my body needs to function.

So, yeah, I know something about tasting.  But how do you "taste" the Lord?  Our need for Him is even more basic than our need for food.  And yet we look all around Him for things to satisfy us in any way we can.

When we want to know what something tastes like, we take a small bite or spoonful to get a sample of the whole.  We can usually tell by the sample how good or bad the whole will be.

What if we "sampled" God's goodness by giving Him a chance to show us how good He is?  What if we took a sample of His goodness and meditated on it and thought about it.  I'm not particularly thinking of scripture here.  I'm talking about asking the Lord to give you a sample of His goodness and then watch what He does.  And then from His holy "sample," we will know how good the Whole really is.